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Repost: The Golden Mean, Chapter 24 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Repost: The Golden Mean, Chapter 24
Oops, there were a LOT of emotional continuity issues in this one, so some fairly heavy re-writing to account for the stronger relationship with Effie, plus smoothing out some super-awkward canon-skimming.

Chapter Twenty-Four
The sound is so real that I almost forget that there's no way they've brought Prim to the arena. Katniss runs into the jungle, calling Prim's name, her eyes wild. Finnick runs after her. I see Peeta rush up the beach, but he's thrown back at the edge of the woods. I hear a solid thudding sound, but I can't see what he's hit.

Claudius brings up a graphic for the audience, showing this wedge of the arena. "This is a new invention for this year's Quell," he says quietly. "A thin plastic barrier, fully impenetrable from either side, but invisible to the tributes. What have we got inside?"

The coverage returns to Katniss, who looks up into the branches of the tree, and I understand, even as she fires her arrow.

Jabberjays.

Extinct in the wild -- except in their prolific descendants, the mockingjays -- but apparently still in the recipe book in the Capitol's twisted labs. In Twelve, during the war, they used to have drills for what to do if a jabberjay was around, what lies you could make it take back to the Capitol. In the years since, kids have made a game of it, coming up with outrageous lies just for the fun of it. I guess they played it during the Games. Danny said that Mom won several rounds. At any rate, you had to start with the reality, then slowly start piling on the absurdities. By the end, everyone would be laughing, except the storyteller, who had to keep a straight face until everyone else had cracked up. Danny was always good at it. It strikes me that Peeta would be even better.

But the fictional jabberjays of the game were spies, and the game was pretending to send them back with misinformation.

These jabberjays aren't spies. They're weapons, and they exist only to destroy.

Along with Prim's screams and Annie Cresta's, they find Gale's, and Ruth's, and many others I don't recognize. I think I even hear myself once. We sound like we're being tortured, and Finnick and Katniss are frantic to make it stop.

These aren't birds you deal with by making your family laugh uproariously.

Which isn't to say there isn't laughter.

There's a lot of laughter. Much of it is nervous and frightened, but I hear some genuine guffaws from Claudius's audience. As Katniss and Finnick scream for their loved ones and collapse to the ground, covering their ears, live feeds of the loved ones are brought up on screen. Prim is yelling something, but she doesn't have sound. Gale is quickly removed from the picture when he makes a violent gesture at the cameraman. Annie Cresta keeps repeating Finnick's name and saying she's all right. Apparently, for some people, it is the height of hilarity to watch Katniss and Finnick mourning loved ones who aren't actually dead.

One of the jabberjays flies right over Katniss, and I recognize my own voice again. Katniss screams my name, her voice hoarse and anguished.

Claudius turns to me with a nasty grin. "Looks like the girl on fire has quite the soft spot for her mentor, doesn't she?"

Jack manages to grab my arm before I can raise a fist, preventing me from ending up in the cell next to Portia's in the holding center. "We all have a soft spot for Haymitch," he says, ignoring the subtext of Claudius's quip entirely.

"I don't," Philo says. "I just met him."

"And I think he's a pain in the ass," Harris adds.

Jack rolls his eyes theatrically and mutters, "Careers."

There's warmer laughter from the audience at this awkward bit of staging, though I can barely hear it over the screaming in the arena, and my sudden anger recedes enough to keep my head. It's no time to let Claudius get under my skin.

Or to let the Gamemakers get to me. This is what they do.

Though once the war is over, I think I'm going to get Plutarch a pet jabberjay to scream at him all night.

Claudius tries to draw us out a few more times, making insinuations about Harris's mother, suggesting that Brutus mentored Philo in more than the Games, and even trotting out poor Mimi Meadowbrook, supposedly as an example of my carelessness with impressionable girls (even though Mimi was more than a year older than me, and exponentially more sophisticated than I was when we knew each other). This was couched as, "You always have been persuasive with the ladies." Luckily, on this topic, he has no real idea where to aim, and I'm able to largely ignore him.

After about fifteen minutes, he gives up. The audience is bored with the action in the arena, which at this point consists of Katniss and Finnick crouching and screaming while Peeta pounds on the plastic barrier and Jo swears at the Gamemakers. There's no audio of the latter, of course, but it doesn't take much skill in lip reading to know what she's saying. Claudius dismisses us, and calls for the president of the Muttation Appreciation Society, who doesn't look happy as he's shoved out onto the stage as we're escorted off. The Games car runs the interview as we're driven back to the Viewing Center. It seems the M.A.S. is annoyed, complaining this is not the proper historical function of jabberjays, one of what he refers to as "the great classics" of genetic engineering. This segues into a documentary that the M.A.S. has made about jabberjays.

I look at my handheld. Katniss's screen has a red light on it, indicating that it is temporarily impossible to send her a parachute, due to her circumstance in the arena. She wouldn't see it anyway, with her eyes squeezed shut. From the looks of Peeta, he wouldn't notice if a nuclear bomb went off beside him, he's so focused on trying to reassure Katniss without being able to reach her. It doesn’t seem to be having any effect. Jack shows me Jo's screen. She's frantically trying to break the barrier with her axe. It's no more effective than Peeta's strategy.

When we get to the Viewing Center, the documentary is still playing, but none of the mentors are paying attention to it. Toffy has been watching our screens, and his district partner, Mindwell, is nearby, keeping an eye on Chaff and Earl. The Career mentors are in conference. Enobaria and Brutus have made a temporary truce to try and figure out what the issue is with our group. Luckily, Enobaria wins an argument, and they don't use the opportunity of the distraction to attack Peeta, Johanna, and Beetee, though I'm not sure why. By their usual Games strategy, it would be an ideal shot. Maybe they're gun shy after the Cornucopia. Or maybe Eno's tiny flicker of conscience is sending up flares. I don't know, and I don't care enough to guess.

By the time the documentary is over, the wall has disappeared. I don't know how. I'm guessing it's generated in some way, like the forcefields, but I don't know enough about engineering to figure out how it works. I promise myself that we'll get Beetee out, and I'll get him to explain it.

In the meantime, Peeta is holding Katniss, trying to convince her that the sounds were fabricated. Beetee backs him up convincingly enough. Johanna starts ranting about how it would cause an uprising to kill Prim, staring up at the aerial cameras as she does it, though there was no way this would make the airwaves. Even if it weren't open treason, it's a new hour, and that means a new horror for the cameras to focus on.

The main coverage goes to Chaff and Earl, who are waking up not far away to a swarm of tracker jackers.

"Stay down," Chaff hisses. "We have these sons of bitches all over in Eleven. Someone hits a nest, they swarm. If they don't think we're the ones who disturbed them, we'll be fine. Just move slowly."

"Move where?"

"East," Chaff says.

"They were screaming over there," Earl says. "I heard them. They were screaming, then they stopped."

Chaff nods grimly. "Then west. We know what's there. Maybe we can get past the mutt. There's only one. I hope."

Together, they start to crawl along the ground. The tracker jackers spot a tree rat and attack it, but move on. I don't know how they're going to track Chaff and Earl, but I don't trust them. They start to settle on their nests, on the trees, turning the jungle gold.

"Don't touch anything," Chaff hisses, moving slowly and quietly toward the beach.

They almost make it.

At the last row of trees before the beach, Earl brushes the trunk of a tree. It's not much of a brush. But the wasps that now line the branches and leaves go deadly silent for a moment as the leaves shake, then explode down toward the jungle floor.

Chaff gets to his feet and drags Earl.

"Run! Run, dammit!"

They manage to get to their feet, and Chaff almost makes the beach. The tracker jackers don't stop. Earl screams as he's stung. Chaff runs back and grabs him, taking a few stings in the process, pulling him further along the tree line. They should run for the water, but they're confused and in pain.

They cross into the six o'clock zone, and the tracker jackers form a buzzing wall at the edge of their territory.

Chaff starts pulling stings out of his arms and face. "You okay, Earl?"

Earl grunts something. He looks up. Large pustules are swelling all over him. His eyes are wild with pain.

Chaff reaches toward Earl and he screams, running off into the jungle.

"Earl! Earl! Get back here!" But Chaff has taken stings as well, and he sinks to the sand, not unconscious, but close.

Claudius comes on with his breathless details about how deadly tracker jackers are (this is accompanied by before-and-after images of Glimmer from last year), and reminds the audience that Chaff and Earl are now in the dragon's territory. Of course, the dragon has another half an hour or so before it wakes up, and they aren't doing anything interesting, so the main coverage cuts to analysis. On my little screens, I can see my team resting on the beach. They're planning to wait for the wave to pass through ten o'clock, then take that section of the beach. Peeta tells Katniss about Annie Cresta. I guess Katniss wasn't paying much attention to the Games that year, given that her father had just died.

"Do you mind if I take a nap?" Effie asks. "It's been a long day."

Selfishly, I almost ask her to stay up. I don't like Chaff being almost helpless, half an hour away from the dragon attack. If he dies, I don't know if I could stand being alone. But Effie looks exhausted, and the night ahead is going to be as long as the day has been. I squeeze her hand and say, "That's fine. When do you want me to wake you up?"

"Whenever you can't keep your eyes open," she says. "Or if..." She looks at Chaff on Toffy's screen. "Well, if something happens, and you need me." She sees some out of place curl on my head that annoys her, and moves it to a new position. "You come get me if something happens."

I nod, and she gives my shoulder a quick squeeze before disappearing into the lounge. I'll send for her if something happens to Chaff, but I don't think I'll feel like sleeping for a long time. My head is swimming, but I don’t think I could sleep if I tried. My mind is on Chaff, and the kids, and Finnick and Jo and Beetee. Beside me, Toffy is trying to arrange to have some medicine sent in, since the jungle plants aren't ones Chaff would know from home. Finally, I see a parachute go down. Plutarch has that stuff at the ready and wasn't supposed to be waiting for real sponsors. It should have been immediate.

Unless that's just for Katniss and Peeta. It never occurred to me that Plutarch might not be seeing to everyone's needs, but, thinking about it, it seems plausible.

Chaff puts the medication on his stings and starts calling for Earl. The sound attracts the attention of Brutus and Enobaria, who are on the eight o'clock wedge. They venture into the next one when suddenly there is a screech from the jungle. A blast of flame comes up through the canopy. Brutus jumps back, swearing.

The coverage goes to Earl, swollen and crazy, wielding a stick like a sword. "Come on!" he yells. "Come on if you're coming! Took on a buncha your grandfathers, and I can take you!"

He can't.

The dragon swoops down from the treetops and grabs an arm and a leg in its talons, and his head with its giant beak. With a sickening ripping sound, Earl is torn to pieces. The cannon sounds. A couple of tables down, I hear Mindwell Larue choke back a sob. She heads for the booths.

Chaff runs east, back to the now quiet tracker jacker wedge. He frowns at a silent nest, then light dawns. He understands the arena.

Coverage comes back to the studio. "And now," Claudius says quietly, "we are down to our final eight, more than half of whom are in the power alliance of districts Three, Four, Seven, and Twelve. Also remaining, Chaff Leary of District Eleven, and our District Two tributes, Brutus Emmett and Enobaria Fells. Our production teams are interviewing their families now. Let's bring out our analysts..."

The analysts appear on cue. Most expect that Enobaria, Brutus, and Chaff will be dead soon, and the final act of the Games will be a full on fight to the death among the members of the alliance. Beetee is counted out as a contender because of his wounds, and Peeta because of his reluctance to kill, though it would be exciting, they intimate, if he and Katniss fight, so we can see the duel we were denied last year. On the street, weeping Capitol citizens remind reporters that Katniss is pregnant, so she has to be saved somehow. After all, the Games are meant to kill twenty-three, not twenty-four. The same people then start to argue about why Peeta should be saved (he will be a good parent and he already loves the baby so much), or why Johanna should be (she's lost enough, and she's a young woman with her life ahead of her), or why Finnick should be (he's been so kind to the others, and he's so loving). It's becoming increasingly clear that the responders on the street aren't processing the questions they're being asked -- unlike other years, they simply can't seem to pick a favorite or analyze anyone's strengths or weaknesses as a player.

I go over to the shadowy lounge off to the side, where the mentors of fallen tributes -- at least the ones who stayed -- are talking quietly. The District One mentors, Miracle Brea and Wealthy Gibson, aren't really watching the Games. They've just gotten off the phone with Gloss and Cashmere's parents, and are drowning whatever feelings they have at the bottom of very large cocktails. Mindwell is still on the phone with Earl's family. I hope his grandkids didn't see too much of what happened to him. The mentors for Five and Nine are playing a lazy game of cards. A few other victors mill around, as usual. No one is paying attention to the commentators. Security guards are standing against the wall, looking bored.

They've just cut away to an interview with a young man in a Peacekeeper's uniform, identified as Enobaria's brother, when Cinnamon Calabray -- one of the mentors for Two this year -- shouts, "Hey, Abernathy! You order up some company?"

"Not allowed in the viewing center!" someone else calls. "Not unless there's enough for everyone."

I frown and look out of the shadowy lounge, so I can get a view of the entrance. Tazzy Vole is standing at the door of the viewing center, wearing a short trench coat and heavy makeup. She looks considerably older than she did at the street fair. All I can see of her outfit is a pair of very high heels. Her hair is in an exaggerated clip-on braid with flame-shaped designs in it, and one of the guards is playfully grabbing at her. "I'm a sponsor!" she declares, indignant. "I'm sponsoring District Twelve!"

This gets cruel-sounding laughs, and a few catcalls from locals saying, "Sure you are, honey! Wanna sponsor me later?"

I go up to her, put a firm hand on her elbow to lead her away, and say, "She is a sponsor. She and her sister are sponsoring Katniss." I speak to her deliberately with the same formal tone I'd use for a rich old woman. "Did you need something, Miss Vole? Please come over."

She straightens her shoulders and follows me to the District Twelve table, glaring at the attendants and mentors who leer at her. Finally, she sits down in Effie's vacated chair and says, "Nice friends you've got here."

"These are my friends," I say, pointing to the other alliance mentors, who are giving her exaggeratedly polite smiles (Jack's with no small degree of sympathy). "What did you need?"

She looks around quickly, then whispers, "Junie got herself tanked to check on Portia."

It takes a minute for me to understand this. "Wait... Juniper's in jail?" I shake my head. "You kids need to stop doing this. I didn't call Aurelian to ask him to head up an errand squad. Especially errands that land you in jail."

Tazzy brushes this off impatiently. "Just a two-day thing. It's not the first time she's been there. I went to visit her. She saw Portia this morning in the yard. Portia's all right, except that they're making her wear district clothes." Tazzy smiles nervously. "The problem is, they're going to have the hearing tomorrow morning. If Effie Trinket doesn't clear up her status, they'll send her back to District Three... or... well..." She bites her lip. "Junie says that Portia told her there were accidents that might happen."

"Tomorrow?" I repeat.

Tazzy nods and leans forward. "Is Effie Trinket here? She has to come!" The coat opens enough that I can see she's wearing something black and sparkly with flame patterns on it. I hate the Capitol. I hate the people who thought I would order this as "company." I hate the men who do pay her for it. I don't hate Tazzy. It's probably the best money she'll make all year.

For a minute, I try to figure out how to put it off. If it could wait until after the Games, when there's not so much going on, when Effie could take care of things like she always does.

Then it strikes me again, as it did the day I walked away from my conversation with Plutarch: There is no "after the Games" this year, and the end could come at any time. If Portia is still in jail, she's dead. And if Effie isn't with me, I don't know what will happen to her. I can't very well kidnap her and put her on a transport to Thirteen if she's down in the Justice Building with Portia. But if she doesn't get Portia out of there…

It either has to be midnight or noon. I keep that in mind. There's time. If she can just get it done by noon.

"Wait here," I say, and get up to go find Effie. Jack Anderson strikes up a conversation with Tazzy about hairpieces, and starts showing her the little bits he has clipped into his for texture.

In the lounge, I have to check a few of the beds before I find the one where Effie is sleeping. I open the curtains. She is curled up neatly, her knees tucked up against her chest, sleeping in her clothes. Her shoes have been set neatly into a box in the headboard. She's slept in her wig -- she wouldn't risk having to get up quickly without it -- but it's a bit askew, and, I think for the first time, I see a bit of her natural hair. It's a kind of strawberry blond, and even as short as it is, I can see it trying to curl beside her ear. I reach over and smooth it down, suddenly not wanting to wake her, wanting time to stop long enough for me to figure out what to do.

She opens her eyes and blinks at me calmly, then sits bolt upright and straightens her wig unconsciously. "Haymitch! What is it? Is it Chaff? The children?"

"No." I shake my head. "We lost Earl, but Chaff and the kids are still all right." I watch as she tucks the last curl under her wig, and becomes fully Effie again. "Someone to see you," I tell her. "About Portia."

"Oh. Oh, my, who is it? What's happening?"

I answer her questions as well as I can while she straightens herself out and gets her shoes on. By the time we get outside, Toffy has had one of the attendants bring his long overcoat for Tazzy, and Harris, for some reason, has given her his fisherman's cap. Jack has undone her fake braid and clipped in a few of his orange and yellow extensions. The braid is curled up on the table like a snake. She and Philo are engaged in a conversation about concealer.

Effie goes to her and says, "Tell me what's happened, dear."

Tazzy tells her what she and Juniper learned, editing a bit about their particular crime (she claims shoplifting), though I doubt even Effie is fooled. "So I just came to tell you," she says. "You have to be there first thing in the morning, or they'll just... I don't know. I've heard of them starting things at five, just so people don't get there in time, and you'll have to have the papers filled out and everything in order and -- "

"Of course I'll be there," Effie says. "Haymitch, I need to go home and get a change of clothes before the hearing, and get my paperwork done. All of my documents are at home. I'll sleep there, but you know how to reach me there -- "

"I'd rather you came back here. You can bring your documents, and we'll get things in order."

"It's better if I do it where I can reach everything I need. You'll be all right. Chaff's past the place where the clock is ticking, and so are the children." She turns to Tazzy. "You can come with me, honey," she says. "We'll get you a good night's sleep, and you can wash up, and I'll have a dress for you to wear tomorrow if you'd like to come with me and get your friend out."

Tazzy bites her lip again, then says, timidly, "Could my little sister come? I left her with a friend tonight." I don't know what her game plan is, but I have a feeling that she knows something is going on, and is trying to at least get pieces in one place. Maybe she has some notion of keeping Effie safe. It's all I can think of.

"Of course she can come! We'll have a girls' night," Effie says.

I pull her aside. "Effie, I wish you wouldn't spend the night away."

"I know, but you can call in a speller if you need sleep. I'm sure someone could help. With your alliance -- "

"It's not about that," I say. "I just... I want you here. Portia, too, as soon as you get her out. Even if her hair is a mess."

"I can't do anything for Portia until tomorrow morning," Effie says. "The courts aren't open during mandatory viewing. And Haymitch..." She lowers her voice and looks at Tazzy. "That girl shouldn't be out on the street dressed like that."

"Well, she's, um..."

"I know what she is," Effie says. "And we both know she shouldn't be."

Since I've said the same thing, I can hardly argue. Effie knows it. She's heard my diatribes about Cray over the years, not to mention Finnick and Jack's "social" lives.. "I know," I say miserably.

She gives me a puzzled look, and I can't help it. I pull her to me and hold her tight. I don't know why. She smells like the sweet, expensive perfume she uses on her wigs. She hugs me back, then pulls away, looking even more confused, which I really can't blame her for now. Even I'm not sure what I'm doing. "Everything will be okay, Haymitch," she says, and gives me a kiss on the cheek, running her thumb over the spot to wipe off her lipstick. "Don't worry."

I catch her hand and hold it. "Be careful, Effie. I mean it."

"All right," she says, and disentangles herself. She starts to take a step away, then, very suddenly, she turns back, puts her arms around my neck, and kisses me. It's not a comforting peck on the cheek. It's the way she kissed me that day at the lake -- spontaneous, full, and warm. It's so quick, and I'm so completely unprepared for it, that I can't even begin to fight it. Every defense I've carefully built up over the years falls without the slightest protest.

I try to break away, but I can't. As soon as my lips leave hers, I lean in again, pulling her closer to me. I can't seem to get close enough. Finally, I have to pull back for a breath. I lean against her, forehead to forehead, but I don't raise my eyes to look at her. "I want you to stay," I say.

Her warm hands come up to my cheeks, and she makes me look up. Her face is flushed. "I can't stay right now," she says, then gives me another quick kiss. "Portia needs me there. But when I come back… I'll stay with you." Another kiss. "I'll see you tomorrow. I promise."

She takes a step back, out of my arms, and I'm suddenly very aware of the people around us, watching all of this. I feel strangely naked. Effie is trembling a little. She turns away firmly and leads Tazzy out of the Viewing Center.

I sit down, trying to re-orient myself to the Games.

At least I didn't make her cry this time, though I guess that's right ahead of us if I kidnap her away from the Capitol. Unless she really does know what's going on. If that's what she meant when she said she was willing to stay with me. I hold on to that idea, and just keep my fingers crossed that she can take care of things tonight, get Portia here, and be ready to leave when we are.

Philo is looking at me curiously.

"Mind your business," I tell him.

He shrugs and complies. Harris rolls his eyes. Toffy smirks. I'm very glad that the reporters aren't allowed in here anymore. I don't want to catch the recap on screen, though I'm pretty sure I'll be recapping in my head for a while.

I force my mind away from it. I can't let this under my skin any more than I could let Claudius under. We're too close to the end now.

At seven, Chaff, who's been wandering -- bored, probably -- finds himself in a fog and surrounded by harsh hissing noises. Claudius describes it as total sensory deprivation. It is obviously horrible for him, but not interesting to the audience, as they go back to my team, where Katniss is having a swim and Finnick is weaving a basket. Peeta is talking to Beetee about some invention he saw in District Three, and Johanna is throwing axes.

At eight, Brutus and Enobaria discover that the vines in their part of the forest are intertwined with mutt snakes, which wake up right on schedule. They have obviously figured out the clock -- or at least that the threats are moving in a circular direction -- because they run counter-clockwise into the wedge where Chaff is still trying to recover from the last hour's torture. He spots them before they spot him, and runs for the dragon's lair.

At nine, they show the day's dead. I want Effie here to whisper like she did yesterday, but she's gone. We've lost two thirds of the tributes, which Johanna notes with disgust.

The first shipment of District Three bread comes. They count the rolls. Twenty four. I'm guessing that the rescue craft will be there at midnight tomorrow, since there wouldn't be much warning for tonight.

Whether they can survive another day is a different question altogether.

After the wave passes at ten, they cut across to the ten o'clock wedge and make camp on the beach. Katniss and Peeta take the first watch together, and Peeta brings up the one thing I wish he wouldn't -- not because I think they shouldn't know, which I'm long past and wishing I'd told them everything down to the name of the rescue craft -- but because there are people in the Capitol who will realize I don't mean to keep either of the two promises he brings up: the promise to let him die for her, or the promise to let her die for him. They are, of course, on the live broadcast. Last year, if they'd decided to be this honest with each other, I'd have been delighted. Now, it could be a disaster.

It looks like it's the first time it's occurred to Katniss that I might have lied to her.

Peeta tries to get her to agree to let him die by showing her that his district token is a locket. I have no idea what's in it, and none of the cameras get a shot of it. Whatever it is, Katniss doesn't like it.

"Your family needs you, Katniss," he tells her. "No one really needs me."

Katniss looks at him, wide-eyed and disbelieving, and I think that -- at this late moment -- she's actually figuring out what everyone around her has known for a very long time. "I do," she says. "I need you."

"But you -- " Peeta begins, but she doesn't give him a chance to finish. She kisses him desperately, pushing him down into the sand, petting him, holding him.

I look away from all of the screens. This isn't my business. It's no one else's business, either, but there it is, live. I wish I could turn away my ears as well, since I swear they've turned the volume up on their microphones to catch every slurp. I have no interest whatsoever in what will happen when she discovers he can't do much more than give an empty promise right now. Around me, several of the mentors and attendants, including Jack, of all people, are hooting and hollering and cheering Katniss on.

Thankfully, the clockwork of Plutarch's arena is still working and when the lightning breaks their concentration on each other, it also wakes Finnick. Embarrassed, he offers to take the watch for both of them so they can "get some rest" together, but Peeta refuses, and promises to come back to take a watch.

He carries Katniss off to the shelters and tells her she'll be a good mother, then comes out to sit with Finnick as she drifts off.

"Sorry to interrupt," Finnick says.

"It's okay," Peeta says. "Some things really aren't for the whole country to watch, anyway."

Finnick pulls his knees up and looks out across the water. "She really loves you."

Peeta gives him a guarded look. "She's my wife."

"When you hit that forcefield, I thought she was going to go crazy."

Peeta doesn't say anything, though I can see him turning over this idea in his head, this notion that Katniss actually loves him. He can't very well say anything about it with the cameras rolling and most of Panem not thinking that there's the slightest doubt about it. He changes the subject. "So, fishing..."

"Fishing?"

"Yeah. Do you fish from a boat, or just with nets on the beach, or..."

Finnick laughs. "Fishing. You want to talk fishing."

"I've never been fishing. I have no idea how it's done."

Finnick tries to answer, then starts laughing again.

"What?" Peeta asks.

"It's just... I just interrupted... and you want to know about fishing?"

Peeta catches the laugh. "Well, I don't actually need lessons in anything else right now."

They try to carry on a conversation about fishing, but Finnick manages to lace it with so many double-entendres involving spears that they're both cracking up on the sand, and most of us watching are laughing as well. Finally, they taper down to an occasional hiccup of laughter, and Peeta says, "Haymitch told me you're one of his other kids."

"He did?" Finnick asks. He looks pleased. I wonder where Peeta is going with this.

"Yeah. When he said you should be our ally. What's the story there?"

"What is it with you and stories?" Finnick asks.

Peeta shrugs. "I just like them. They tell you who a person is. I never heard you tell one on television."

This is true. Finnick played his games with his pretty face, not his compelling narrative, and he's been close-mouthed about his life since, for good reason.

"I'm not much of a storyteller," Finnick says.

"Okay," Peeta says. "I just wondered."

I figure this will be the end of it, but after about half a minute, Finnick says, "I was fifteen the first year I was a mentor."

"Didn't District Four have any older mentors?"

"Yeah. But the Gamemakers had a special request for me to be the mentor for the boy. I guess people wanted to see me again."

"Well, who could blame them?" Peeta asks.

"Who, indeed?" Finnick looks up at the moon, and for a minute, I'm afraid he's going to feel it necessary to follow Peeta's lead and tell his entire story. He shouldn't have to air that. He doesn't. Instead, he says, "My tribute was three years older than me. Really, they were my age or older until Annie's year. Mags traded with me because she thought Annie'd listen to me more." He shakes his head. "Anyway, I didn't know anything about how to mentor. Haymitch was in the same boat when he started, so he kind of looked after me. Taught me how to work the sponsor boards and keep my paperwork in order and all of that stupid stuff. And when I lost my tribute, he... he helped me."

What I did was guard the door and keep off the cameras while he wept for an hour and a half in a broom closet, but of course, that's not the sort of thing you say in the arena. I never stopped a single bad thing from happening to him. I've never understood why he gives that one thing so much importance.

Peeta, on the other hand, seems to understand perfectly. "So you've just stuck around with him."

"Yeah. There've been a few other times I've needed help. He's always there. He's not always the most pleasant person to be around, but you can trust him. You know that, right?" He twists my bracelet around, and it catches the light of the strange moon. "You should trust him."

Peeta is quiet for a long time, then says, "I do."

They don't talk anymore.

I excuse myself to get some sleep.
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Comments
redrikki From: redrikki Date: July 13th, 2015 02:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Another great chapter. I need to re-read the original because I honestly can't remember all the changes to the character beats.

I do have on quick correction: Around me, several of the mentors and attendants, including one of my ostensible Jack, of all people, are hooting and hollering and cheering Katniss on. The clause about Jack is confusion in this sentence.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 13th, 2015 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ack, didn't erase the whole original line! Thanks, I'll get that.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 14th, 2015 01:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Ay, Claudius

As you write Claudius Templesmith, he is really, really annoying. What eventually happens to him, either in _Mockingjay_ canon or in your augmented version of _Mockingjay_ canon?

-- Tom
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 14th, 2015 01:34 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ay, Claudius

He gets executed with the other Games workers by D13. Maybe I'll give it a little focus when I re-write Narrow Path, since I've made him a little more despicable.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 14th, 2015 06:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Liam Fitzpatrick

Finally i know what happened to Templesmith. His way of presenting the games must have infuriated victors. This chapter was well built upon with Haymitch and Effie worrying together but only haymiych knowing the endgame. Haymitchs worry for Chaff was well portrayed and i hope that more emotion by haymitch follows his death at brutus sword. I was a little disappointeded by haymitchs reaction in the original. Great Chapter
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 15th, 2015 05:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Love so many things about this. Haymitch and Effie kissing was the sweetest thing ever. I love that they just couldn't quite let each other go and both were trying to reassure each other so much. It's going to make what happens in Narrow Path so much more poignant.
I really liked the part where Claudius was needling Haymitch while Katniss was screaming. It adds another level of evilness in him. The only suggestion I had is that since Haymitch claims that he "maybe heard himself once" and Katniss is screaming for all those she loves, Claudius claims Katniss has a soft spot for Haymitch (I know he's just being an ass) but would it have more impact if Katniss had just reacted to Haymitch's "voice"? Maybe she just whimpers or moans a little. Then that would springboard Claudius's response instead of coming after all the people Katniss loved and picking out Haymitch.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 16th, 2015 04:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I think you're right. I was busy expanding, and I maybe needed another sentence there. By fifteen minutes in that segment, it's not like Katniss was recording her every action, anyway.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 16th, 2015 02:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Great chapter.

One line that you may want to edit--"Chaff reaches toward him and he screams, running off into the jungle." Maybe it's just me, but on my first read through, I thought the "he" in "he screams" was Chaff, not Earl.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 16th, 2015 04:26 am (UTC) (Link)
A good point. Pronouns: They should refer to something!

Edited at 2015-07-16 04:26 am (UTC)
From: queen_bellatrix Date: July 19th, 2015 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Long Overdue Catches/Feedback

Sorry for vanishing for a bit; I've had intermittent computer/internet problems for the last couple weeks. One of the only silver linings is that at least when I got full access again, I came back to two really substantially edited chapters.:d

bunch your grandfathers Think you may have a missing of here, though you may've also just meant for that to be buncha, to better convey how wild/crazy he is?

his has clipped into his Think that first his should maybe be a he?

first shipment of district If I'm not completely off, didn't Haymitch have Plutarch send one shipment before, to see if it meant anything to Finn?

Also, and I only say this because I know sometimes you wait and archive two or three chapters at once: in the last chapter, there's a rather large continuity issue with what I think is an edit holdover. So, you have Haymitch explaining Philo's story, and then you have Philo explaining some excellent Brutus psychology and admitting that Brutus essentially hated him from day 1. And then, you still have the old exchange where Haymitch asks if he has warm fuzzy feelings for his mentor. Erm, the only trouble is that by repeating that exchange, Philo ends up repeating everything Haymitch has just explained and they've talked about. :)

I'll try to leave a more substantive comment about the things I loved in both chapters later. But the cliffs notes version for now:

Okay, that kiss scene was incredibly beautiful. You have one of the most sensual ways of describing kisses etc. etc. I've ever seen; it's really fabulous because I feel like I've gotten all the intimacy of an actual sex scene without actually having to wade through one; you've given us a full meal in the moment that too many writers use as an appetizer. And oh, Haymitch, thinking that she *knew* what was going on. Oh, honey; no matter how things went, he was going to be in a mess one way or another. Some absolutely wonderful callbacks to that first kiss by the lake, which was another beautiful piece of writing, and their past generally in this chapter. And she was really doomed from the moment she came fully out of the re-education haze and said she'd stay with him, wasn't she?

I also really appreciated the Gordian knot you made for Haymitch/the rebellion. Because like you were saying before, Haymitch is one of those people who'd go to the limit for a stranger on the street; of course he's not going to prioritize his own happiness over the well-being of a friend, particularly when that friend's partner got killed for the same rebellion. Letting Effie go felt as inevitable and calamitous as a rockslide, but it's so understandable, especially with the edits you've made here. Also really appreciated that, without knowing that Snow knew, it really looked like they had a safe window. What sucks even more is that since Tazzy wasn't officially old enough to sponsor, and it was just Aurelian on the paperwork, her coming may've set the last pieces in place, but there was nothing else to be done if they wanted a chance in hell of saving Portia.

All the extra detail about Philo was awesome; you did that thing I admire so much where you set up in just a few sentences exactly why, personality wise, they'd be likely to trust one another and work well together. And Claudius, you went from awful to a despicable bastard in edits; I've been sitting back and admiring that feat because again, it just took a few well-placed additions to accomplish it.

Just some really well-done edits; especially strengthening the sense of how long these people have known one another and just how devastating these games really are for them.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 24th, 2015 03:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Long Overdue Catches/Feedback

Eh, it happens. I was headdesking chapter 25 so much, I actually forgot I hadn't posted this one yet! So I can definitely use the notes.

I like first kiss scenes. I know the "true love's kiss" silliness is frowned upon, but I think there are moments in a relationship, physically speaking, where there's a real change in understanding, and a lack of ability to spin it in the head to something else. First kisses (or first kisses after a long time) are like that. Haymitch has been pretty good at keeping her at an arm's length, telling himself that it's not there, but then, there's a moment, and he realizes that he can't very well pretend that he's not actually more intimate with this woman than he is with anyone else on the planet. (Not that this won't stop him from trying in NP, of course, though by then, he's not trying very hard.) Just, every now and then, there's a moment of, "This changes things." Or, in this case, "This clarifies things in a very forceful manner."

The Capitol had to know something, even before someone screwed up. They didn't beat Cinna to death over a dress -- they did it to screw with Katniss, which was the mistake, because she was one of the few who didn't know... but they certainly did it to undermine whatever the plan was. I think the only thing that blindsided them was that a trusted Gamemaker made a deal with an enemy that Snow thought safely sidelined.
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