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HG: Golden Mean, Chapter Eighteen - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
HG: Golden Mean, Chapter Eighteen
End of part two. Woo-hoo.

Haymitch is feeling alone as the kids are whisked off for prep, and is getting very nervous for their lives.

Chapter Eighteen
Effie comes to collect me for a few more sponsor meetings while the kids are being prepped. The first several are brief, because they were last year's sponsors, and have already told me their stories. Lonely old women with houses full of cats, mostly. I don't judge. At the rate I'm going, I'd ask for starter kittens if I didn't think I'd end up stepping on them while I'm stumbling around drunk. No sane person would give me a pet.

These ladies give me promises of solid sums, and want to cry a little about Katniss and Peeta losing each other. Unlike the rich older people who patronize Finnick, these women don't want to have a participating role in anyone's love life. They are just living vicariously through Katniss, wishing someone loved them. They're decent people, and they remind me weirdly of Effie, which may be why Effie is so uncomfortable in their houses. I take her out to lunch and get people to fuss over her, which perks her right up.

After lunch, the meetings are all at the hotel. I meet with a few gamblers who just sign and leave, then with a disgusting old man who will get an arrow in his throat if he ever comes close to Katniss. I check the sponsor boards from home and find a small donation from the Mellarks (huge, by Dannel's standards, but about the same size as what the kids at the fair gave me yesterday). Ruth is in control of Katniss's money, but tributes' personal assets are frozen while they're in the arena, supposedly to prevent disparity in available funds. There was never cause for me to know this rule before.

The last meeting is with the Gamemakers, where they examine my sponsors to make sure I haven't done anything crooked. They sneer at Aurelian's and Dannel's contributions. Not much for them to skim off the top on gifts.

Effie and I meet Katniss and Peeta back at the training center. They both look miserable in their wedding clothes, and Katniss says that Cinna has forbidden her to raise her arms, and that the dress is very heavy. As we walk over -- the big stage is attached to the training center, to stop tributes from making last minute bids for freedom -- Effie reminds them not to do or say anything crazy in the interviews.

"Have you both thought of what you're going to talk about? Because I didn't have anything to give Caesar when he asked."

"I know I’m supposed to twirl," Katniss says, and doesn't elaborate. Peeta just shrugs and says he's going to wing it.

"Any surprises this year?" Effie asks.

"Not if I tell ahead of time."

Katniss laughs nervously, and slides comfortably into the crook of his arm. It would look like a perfectly normal wedding picture if they weren't both seventeen years old and heading off to be murdered.

Effie and I are steered to the mentors' section in the audience, where cameras will be trained on us. I can see Cinna and Portia with the stylists, and I want to run over and demand that he tell me what will happen when Katniss raises her arms and twirls. Whatever it is, I have a feeling it's dangerous.

Jack Anderson is the next to be deposited in our area, and he sits down beside me. "Wedding clothes?" he says. "Cinna did that?"

"Not by choice."

"Oh. That's what Johanna thought. She's angry."

"At Katniss?"

"For once, no."

Lyme arrives and sits on my other side, watching the stage nervously. "I hope they're sober," she says. "At this point, that's all I hope."

I think that, with Berenice and Paulin, this may be more than anyone could hope for, especially if she's given them any time off today. I don't say so.

There's no chance for further talk, as the studio is filling up quickly. The stage lights come on and Caesar comes out, welcoming everyone to the Seventy-Fifth Annual Hunger Games interviews.

"We know our tributes this year," he says. "They hardly need introductions! But here they are!"

He calls them out one at a time to occupy the seats spread out in their usual arc. Gloss and Cashmere get polite applause, Enobaria gets wolf whistles, Brutus gets a huge cheer. The welcome for Mags is sort of puzzled -- her Games were so long ago that she's been largely forgotten -- but Finnick's is deafening. I think a girl in the next section over from us might actually faint.

Districts Five and Six don't get great welcomes, though Berenice and Paulin don't really care. Johanna gives the audience a two handed wave and a whoop, and they whoop back at her, some waving imaginary axes. Cecilia has something of a fan base among young families. Chaff's and Seeder's Games, like Mags's, were too long ago. Then Katniss comes out in her wedding dress.

There is an audible gasp in the audience, and someone screams her name. She looks up and gives an absolutely perfect sad smile. More people scream for her. I only know Peeta has come out because a few people manage to call his name as well.

"They do love them," Effie whispers, then sighs.

Caesar gets control of the audience, then starts the interviews.

I don't know what I expected, and glancing at Jack and Lyme, I think they didn't, either. But it's obvious that there was some kind of illegal tributes' meeting, because all of them are sticking to the same storyline -- the Quell is cruel, the Quell separates the Capitol from its friends, the Quell may be (according to Beetee) entirely illegal. Finnick reads a poem to his "true love" in the Capitol, which I'm sure anyone who was with him while he mentored Annie would recognize... but that doesn't include anyone in the audience except those of us in the mentors' section, and we're not talking. Berenice manages coherence for her three minutes, though it's strained, as she talks about how the Capitol is like butterflies that fly up from the lake, and she knows everyone is a beautiful soul. Paulin isn't quite as coherent, but manages to convey that he's got friends here. Most of them are morphling dealers, but that goes unmentioned.

"Can't something be done about this?" Johanna demands when her turn comes. "Whoever created this Quell never suspected exactly how much I'd love all of you!"

"Oh," Jack says beside me, "I think they probably knew exactly how much you'd love them, Jo."

I laugh. Much of the audience is a wreck, crying, and the sound fits right in. Effie looks confused.

Cecilia uses her three minutes to talk about how much she loves her children, and how she knows that people in the Capitol understand that. Seeder and Chaff both wax eloquent about how powerful District Eleven thinks President Snow is -- why he could just call the whole thing off, but he must not think anyone cares.

"Oh, but the Games are ordained by history," Caesar says.

"But we live now," Chaff finishes, causing someone in the audience to actually wail with pain.

Caesar moves to Katniss. I don't know if she's been involved in this, but I somehow suspect she wasn't, not the way she and Peeta have been keeping to themselves. I don't know what she'll do or how she'll play it.

She plays straight to the audience, pretending that somehow, the great tragedy of her presumed upcoming death is that they won't be able to come to her wedding. "I'm glad you at least get to see me in my dress," she says. "Isn't it just... the most beautiful thing?"

She raises her arms and twirls.

At first, I don't recognize what's happening. There is a haze of smoke, then someone screams. A flicker of flame has come up from the skirt, and is now wrapping itself around Katniss. She looks stunned, but keeps twirling. Beyond the flame, the skirt turns black and... feathered.

I look at Cinna, who is watching with a fierce expression on his face. Beside him, Portia has her hands at her heart.

The flames engulf Katniss completely, then fade away.

The dress is black, with white patches on the drooping sleeves. Black and white wings.

The mockingjay. Live and in person.

What none of the rest of us have done, Cinna has done -- he's brought the rebellion to the stage. No one in the districts will miss the meaning of this. Snow won't miss it, either.

Caesar looks pale. He hasn't missed it, either. He carefully guides her to her chair and gives her a chance to claim surprise -- which is true -- then very deliberately calls out Cinna for it. Supposedly to receive his applause, which he does. The Capitol loves his magical clothes. But I know where Caesar's loyalty is, and what he meant to accomplish. He has made absolutely sure that the blame for this does not fall on Katniss.

I don't know whether to thank him or kill him.

He moves on to Peeta, and does not address the immolation of his bride-to-be, which would be strange in any other circumstance. Peeta himself also doesn't acknowledge it. I wonder what he makes of it, actually. The symbolism of choosing the rebellion over their supposed life together is pretty stark. He manages to steer Caesar into asking him about his reaction to the Quell, to get back to the storyline that everyone else has made. And he asks if the entire nation of Panem can keep a secret. Caesar promises that we can. Which may be true, since, as this is mandatory viewing, there will be absolutely no one to tell it to.

"We're already married," Peeta says.

I frown. Caesar looks puzzled, but he seems inclined to let Peeta spin whatever story he wants. This one involves a secret, and the traditional District Twelve marriage practice, the toasting, which he claims they did shortly after the Victory Tour.

Hell, for all I know, they actually did it. Who knows what they were up to while her foot was broken? But given the look on Katniss's face, I kind of suspect that Peeta is making it up from whole cloth. Unlike last year, however, she manages to arrange her surprise into a sort of demure modesty, staring at the black feathers on her skirt.

I have no idea what Peeta is doing, but the audience is watching intently. He's letting himself get upset.

"I didn't know they were married," Effie says. "Oh, they should have told me, I wouldn't have put them in separate rooms!"

"Well, they didn't stay in them, did they?" I whisper, and wonder again if he's telling the truth. I don't think so -- before the Quell, he wanted to put the wedding off a few years -- but I'm just not sure. He lies so easily, he might have lied to me. It's possible. Maybe they wanted to go a little further than they could go on the train, and Peeta's just the sort of person who would decide to "do it properly" if they did. I've certainly made every effort to avoid knowing about that part of their lives.

They sure weren't acting like it after the Quell was announced, though -- Katniss was still flirting with Gale while we were training, and I remember that Peeta wanted me to make the Capitol stop the business about the wedding clothes just this morning.

Which could be because he didn't want them making his marriage into a mockery.

On stage, Peeta is working himself into a fit of agony about how they never should have gotten married, a line I don't understand until Caesar says that he ought to be glad they had some time together, and he manages to top everything everyone has said so far:

"Maybe I'd think that, too, Caesar," he says, "if it weren't for the baby."

Beside me, Effie grasps and clutches at her heart. There are screams from the audience, tears and keening.

This is where I know for sure that he's lying, of course, because I've spent sixteen hours a day with them for the last several months, and I know they went home to separate houses. But at the same time, I also know he's telling a truth that everyone in the districts of Panem knows: That the Games are nothing but child sacrifice. He is driving that home to the Capitol audience in terms they understand -- the child of their darlings, a child they feel they have a stake in, is about to die. I think of him holding his niece, of the way he tried to protect her from all of this, and I know that, somewhere under the lie, Peeta is expressing his real fears... the fears shared by every adult in Panem.

And now shared by the Capitol.

I look at the shot of Katniss, half-expecting her to be furious. She isn't. She looks fiercely angry, yes, but not at Peeta. She is every inch the protective mother now.

Caesar makes motions of trying to get control of his audience, but he isn't trying very hard. This is what he wants. He is, as he threatened, rubbing their faces in the dirty business. With Peeta's help, he has managed to pull out the foundation on everything they want and believe.

Someone in the back finally notices and starts blaring the anthem. Katniss stands and takes Peeta's hand.

And Chaff's stump.

Chaff takes Seeder's hand. Seeder takes Earl Bates's. He takes Kate Markez's. Gloss and Cashmere join hands. Finnick and Mags are already holding hands, and reach out to Five and Three.

The victors stand across the stage, hand in hand. Some seem confused, others just caught in the moment, but many -- not just those from rebel districts -- are glaring out defiantly.

Someone cuts the feed, and the studio is thrown into utter chaos. Lights go on and off. Mentors are pulled away from escorts. I see Effie dragged away with a crowd of other Capitol citizens, then a Peacekeeper shoves me none too gently, back towards the exit into the training center. In the street beyond the window, I can see Capitol citizens screaming and crying. I am passing through the small open air section when an announcement goes out that the re-airing has been canceled, and people are to return to their homes and calm down. This has absolutely no effect on the crowd. The sound is cut off when I go back inside.

I can't see Katniss or Peeta, but I am pushed into Chaff, who grabs me and throws me into an elevator. We're with someone from Nine, but no one talks. At the eleventh floor, Chaff drags me out, and Seeder holds the door open with her foot.

"There's no time," he says. "They won't let us say goodbye tomorrow."

I shake my head. We're rescuing everyone.

Chaff smiles. "It's the arena, Haymitch. No guarantees. But we already won. Tonight, on that stage. We won. Did you them outside?"

I want to say something, but I can't seem to speak. I'd trade everything I have for Peeta's silver tongue right now. But it doesn't work that way. I manage to choke out, "Thank you."

He embraces me and whispers, "Take them down."

I nod. "Right. And what you told me, when I said I wasn't sure how to keep going... you remember it, right?"

He nods. "Stay alive."

"Yeah. That. Remember it. Do it."

"Our game is keeping everyone alive," he says. "And that includes us. Hopefully. We're out of time. They'll be looking for you soon."

I am gently prodded back to the elevator, where Seeder gives me a hug. "You'll be fine," she lies.

The doors close, and I am shut off from them.

I gather myself in the short ride up to the twelfth floor. I suddenly want a drink. I want the detoxers out of my system, and I want to be completely and utterly numb. I don't want to have a war. I don't want the Games. I want to go back to my house and drink myself to death.

The thought comes easily. I don't mean numbness. I don't even mean a stupor. I want to drink until the poison shuts every single thing inside me down, and I don't have to think about anything ever again. I can even imagine how it will feel -- first the dizziness and a sick stomach, then the world slowing going gray around the edges, then black as I slip under.

But the door opens, and Katniss and Peeta are at the far end of the hall, holding each other up. They need me. I can't just check out. Not yet.

"It's madness out there," I tell them. "Everyone's been sent home, and they've canceled the recap of the interviews on television."

Peeta and Katniss go to the window and look down on the crowd. Peeta asks, "What are they saying? Are they asking the President to stop the Games?"

He looks so hopeful that I hate to point out the obvious, but I have to. This may be a big win in the long run -- bigger than we could get by force of arms -- but in the short term, it doesn't mean anything. These people don't even know how to oppose Snow, and even if they did, he'd hold the Games to punish them for it.

Katniss accepts this stoically. "The others went home?" she asks.

I nod. "They were ordered to. I don't know how much luck they're having getting through the mob."

"Then we'll never see Effie again," Peeta says, and he's right -- I plan for them to live, but they'll never come back to the Capitol, and Effie will never leave it. "You'll give her our thanks?"

Katniss nods enthusiastically. "More than that. Really make it special. It's Effie, after all. Tell her how appreciative we are, and that she was the best escort ever and tell her... tell her we send our love."

I nod. I think Effie will appreciate that, if I see her again. I'm not sure I will. I expect fully to be pulled in for questioning tonight after Cinna's little art project, and "questioning" in the Capitol frequently ends in disappearances. I won't tell the kids about this. They don't need to know. Once they're in the arena, contact will come from remote communications, and they won't know whether it's me or not. One of the other rebel mentors will volunteer for them.

I hope.

Even if I'm not dragged in for questioning, their doors will be locked, and so will mine.

"I guess this is where we say our good-byes as well," I tell them.

Peeta looks up, first surprised, then realizing that it's true. "Any last words of advice?" he asks.

I know what they expect, and I say it: "Stay alive."

There's something to be said for ritual. They both find smiles somewhere, and I tell them to go to bed.

They just stand there. I just stand there. Any one of the three of us could be dead in twenty-four hours. Katniss bites her lip and looks at Peeta, who says, "You take care, Haymitch."

I hear his voice in my mind this morning, saying Katniss and I both love you a lot. I want to say that I love them, too -- that I've been more alive in the last year than I've been since the arena -- but there doesn't seem to be any hook to hang that on, and in the end, I can't do it. I just hug each of them. I'm not sure they know how rare that is for me. They turn to go to their room, to spend their last night before going into the arena alone.

"Katniss!" I call.

She turns.

I feel a lot of things I want to say, but the words don't come. What I say is, "When you're in the arena..." I fight for words. I want to tell her everything. But we're bugged here, and there is no way.

"What?" she asks.

I settle for, "You just remember who the enemy is. That's all. Now go on. Get out of here."

I watch them disappear into her room, and as soon as the shower starts, I hear the door lock.

They're gone.

I don't go to my room. I wait in the living room for the Peacekeepers, and let them in quietly when they arrive just past midnight. I don't want them making noise and disturbing Katniss or Peeta.

I go with them without protest.

The car takes us away from the training center, to a dingy blue and white building in a dirty part of the Capitol. There are no windows. Inside, I'm guided through a labyrinth of halls to a small room with a single table and harsh lighting. Cinna is already there.

He looks up when I'm pushed inside. "Guess I got their attention," he says. "Sorry I didn't tell you anything. I guess it was a huge surprise." He looks at me meaningfully. We are bugged.

I nod. "Yeah. Guess you shouldn't have spoiled the president's favorite dress. Matches her pin, though."

He frowns. "Haymitch..."

"I figure the way it's been popping up all over the Capitol... great way to speak to the trend. Turn her into her own district token... it's clever. And the fire again."

"Haymitch, they know--"

I sigh in frustration. "Okay, they probably picked up that you think she's too young to get married. But they beat you to it."

He blinks at me dully, and he seems annoyed, which I understand -- he made a huge stand for the rebellion on that stage tonight, and I'm turning it into fashion mixed with a little personal concern. But we are not going to be better off if he ends up thrown in jail.

"It was... a lot of work," he says.

"And all just to show how much you care about Katniss. She's grateful for it, even if you were a little late on the marriage business."

He stiffens in fury, then finally relents. "Well, I still think she's too young. But I guess I missed that protest by a few months."

"She'll probably want a present now that you know. Baby present, too. Burning bunting or something."

"I'll make that baby anything it asks for."

Now that we're on the same page, there's no point for the eavesdroppers to keep listening in. We beat them. So they come in and ask intrusive questions for three hours. One of them implies that Cinna has done more with Katniss than dress her, and that he and I might "pass her around," and proceeds to ask a lot of explicit questions about it.

I grab him and shove him into the wall. "If you ever say anything like that again--" I start.

"You'll what?" someone says at the door.

I look over my shoulder to see Snow himself, smiling unpleasantly.

He comes into the room. "I'm very curious, Mr. Abernathy. What will you do to Officer Jordan?"

I let him go and say, "Maybe have a nice, quiet drink with him."

Snow laughs. "Maybe we should all dispense with the fiction," he says. "It would hardly do for me to have either of you disappear at the moment. District Twelve will need its mentor, and I'm sure Miss Everdeen would be utterly bereft without her stylist tomorrow morning. We wouldn't want to upset her."

"I'm sure that's your greatest concern," Cinna says.

"Oh, but her feelings are of the utmost importance to me. I wouldn't dream of not having you there with her before her launch." He turns to me. "And Haymitch -- may I call you Haymitch?"


"Mr. Abernathy, then. There are so many people depending on you. Cinna here, of course, and his partner. The lovely Miss Trinket. The equally lovely Mrs. Hawthorne." He smiles unpleasantly. "Oh, yes, Mr. Abernathy, I'm well aware of why she was removed from your employ. And it would be a terrible shame if someone were to look to closely at your young tribute's brother. Or father. So I'm quite sure that you'll refrain from any statements about Miss Everdeen's personal life, which of course, as you said, that unfortunate incident with the dress was." He turns to Cinna. "You are certainly expressive. I can't imagine anyone who saw that show tonight didn't understand exactly how you feel about Miss Everdeen's choices."

Cinna and I look at each other. There would be a time to die to make a statement, but this isn't it. Not with District Thirteen and war only days away.

"I see you understand your position," Snow says. He looks at the Peacekeeper. "See to it that Cinna is brought to his tribute at the appointed time, which is... goodness, how time flies. Twenty minutes. Take him now."

The Peacekeeper frowns. "But sir--" He looks at me.

"Oh, Mr. Abernathy and I are capable of a civilized conversation, then I will return him to the viewing center."

There is no arguing with a direct order, so the Peacekeeper leads Cinna out. He looks once over his shoulder at me, then is gone.

"Tell me, Haymitch," he says when they've disappeared. "What's happening here?"


"I could spare one of the children. Order Plutarch Heavensbee to protect one of them in the arena. The public would love it if it were Katniss, of course, especially in her delicate condition, but you could even choose which. I'm sure there are any number of young women in the Capitol who would be happy to ease Peeta's pain."

"Like they ease Finnick's?"

"Well, Finnick will hardly be available, will he? Though I do have women lined up who want his DNA harvested for them."

"You're a piece of work."

He leans over. "You will stress that Cinna's art school design project was exactly what you've said here. Katniss is a loyal citizen of Panem, and that little stunt was just about her personal life. If it seems to be anything else, there are any number of dangers in this year's arena, no matter how many of your friends you've gotten to protect her."


He doesn't answer this directly, and doesn't really have to. I saw what happened to my family and to Digger. "Now, we have a deal on the table. Tell me what's going on. Tell me where my leaks are. And I will give you the life of one of your tributes. Whichever one you want."

I'm glad he chose this tactic. Last year, if I'd been offered this, I might have given him any information he wanted. This year, I have a better chance of getting both of them out and unharmed if don't say anything. I stand up.

"What's going on is the Quarter Quell," I say. "You're planning to murder my friends and my kids in your arena. As to your leaks? Ask your damned plumber. I have no idea."

"As you wish," he says and sweeps out, locking the door behind him.

Four hours later, Peacekeepers come and lock me into the back of a car. They drive me to the viewing center and escort me upstairs. Effie is waiting there. She looks confused. I don't offer her information.

"Katniss and Peeta wanted me to tell you goodbye," I say. "And that they love you."

She bursts into tears, and I comfort her until the other mentors start to arrive. We each sit by our district phones, to contact sponsors as we need to.

The anthem plays, and the camera, as it traditionally does, switches to the point of view of one of the tributes. This year, they've picked Faraday Sykes. She rises up, and the screen is filled with glare. The arena is full of water.

Each tribute is shown as the clock winds down. Peeta, who can't swim as far as I know, just stares at the water around him. Johanna rolls her eyes. Finnick and Mags look pleased.

The camera goes to Katniss. Her eyes are wide and her hands are shaking, and she looks like she can't catch her breath.

The phone beside me rings. I pick it up. A woman is weeping on the other end.

"Haymitch! Haymitch, it's Portia."

"Portia! What is it?"

"There's been... there's been an accident."

"An accident?"

"Haymitch... Cinna's dead."
12 comments or Leave a comment
beceh From: beceh Date: January 30th, 2013 06:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh Cinna :-(
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 30th, 2013 06:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I know. That was brutal.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 30th, 2013 02:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

long time lurker here...

I never comment, but... I cried. I actually was crying after Katniss's dress changed, and I was close to sobbing when they all took hands.

I *never* do that.

Well written, and I think it's official: Your stories are my canonical companion pieces, and this story in particular is so flat until you tell it again.

Thank you.

- alianne
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 30th, 2013 04:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: long time lurker here...

Thanks! I'm glad you decided to de-lurk. It was a very good scene, and I have to admit, I'm a little morally unsure about Cinna doing something so huge without consulting Katniss about it, but then, she didn't seem to mind.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 30th, 2013 03:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Such a good chapter. I got choked up a couple times. I always wondered what would have happened if Haymitch had just managed to tell them that there was a plan to rescue them both. I know he tells Katniss she would've messed the plan up but I don't know. Anyway, I'm really excited about seeing the games now! Thanks.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 30th, 2013 04:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think after the fact, when Peeta's captured, he's probably making up reasons for himself. There's no reason to think Katniss would have screwed things up. She's not a great liar, but she can do it when she needs to, and he knows it. (And she couldn't possibly have done anything more obvious than Johanna yelling at the cameras about people revolting against Snow if he killed Prim.)
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: January 30th, 2013 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh what another angst filled chapter! I'm loving this story.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 31st, 2013 04:43 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm loving writing it.:D
maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: January 31st, 2013 01:01 am (UTC) (Link)

This reads even more tragic from Haymitch's POV. Every time he thinks about Chaff and Seeder, in particular, I want to cry. :-(

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 31st, 2013 04:44 am (UTC) (Link)
The business of watching not only his tributes, but his oldest friends, risk death (and, in many cases, actually die)... It's no wonder he's in bad shape in 13.
torturedbabycow From: torturedbabycow Date: February 1st, 2013 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Dear lord you are spoiling us right now. I love everything about this one.

It especially makes me want to sew a mockingjay dress, because Cinna!! (And it plays right into my cosplaying tendencies...) After I stop re-reading the descriptions of the Capitol audience's reactions, tho.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 1st, 2013 06:54 am (UTC) (Link)
If there was ever a fandom that begged for cosplay, it has to be this one. Because, Cinna!!
12 comments or Leave a comment