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HG: The Narrow Path, Epilogue - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
HG: The Narrow Path, Epilogue
Made it! I actually got to the end. This is the same day as Katniss's epilogue, in a different part of the world.

The Capitol Lake is smooth and the sky is clear. Late afternoon sunlight bounces off the water in bright starbursts, turning the ten-year-old girl dancing on rocks into a glittering silhouette, along with the gulls that sweep the air around her. Her name is Indigo.

Down at the shoreline, Johanna Mason is trying to teach her thirteen-year-old son, Caleb Hawthorne, how to skip stones. Gale is sitting on a rocky outcropping, watching them fondly while he tries to finish a million things so that people will leave him alone long enough to enjoy the day. This is probably a lost cause. In all likelihood, Johanna and Caleb will ambush him at some point and force him away from it, but the moment hasn't come yet. He'll be grateful when it does. I sometimes think he brings work to these things just to give his family something to scheme about.

Beside me, Effie stretches out her legs and wiggles her bare toes. Indigo spent an hour last night carefully painting each toenail a different color. If there has ever been a great, consuming love in Effie's life or mine, it is Indigo. When Effie came to me twelve years ago, saying that she didn't have any more time to "dither around," I still almost said no. The idea of me being someone's father has never stopped seeming ridiculous to me, like one of the empty-headed comedies Plutarch keeps putting on television about adorable moppets and their hapless parents.

The idea that not only am I someone's father, but that Effie and I carefully planned this and went through about a million embarrassing treatments because neither of us was young anymore... that's left the realm of mere ridiculousness and gone into full-fledged lunacy. The whole time we were visiting doctors, I kept expecting someone to show up speaking softly and offering me a nice long stay in a padded room. I probably would have accepted the invitation. It would have been a lot less scary than what I actually did, which was to get cleaned up and sobered up for good. (At least so far. Every day, I expect this little experiment to fail, but it's been almost twelve years, and my wife and daughter trust me to make it through the day, so somehow or other, I do it.)

Amazingly, Indigo is a perfectly normal kid. She likes horses and dinosaurs. Some days, like today, she wants to be a ballerina. She's very talented, at least in my opinion. Other days, she is an archaeologist, and still others find her wanting to be a coal miner, of all things. She wears her hair in two long, curly pigtails, and likes to have glittery strings mixed in with them. She looks more like me than like Effie -- with the exception of her wide, pale blue eyes -- but she has somehow managed to avoid my personality. She thinks it's funny when I'm Grumpy Dad, though, so I play it up for her, and she laughs.

Effie still dresses in her fine clothes when she has business and she certainly enjoys them, but she just as often now wears easy, comfortable things. The wigs she once wore went out of style, but she is still uncomfortable with people seeing much of her hair. She is currently covering most of it with a fisherman's cap that Finny Odair gave her years ago. A small fringe of strawberry blond curls gently brushes the back of her neck.

We argue a lot and drive each other (and probably Indigo) crazy, but there are moments when I look up at her across the table and realize that not only am I happy at the moment, but that I have been for days at a time, sometimes even a week. She is there when I wake up in the middle of the night from my frequent horrors. I am there when she panics at what she sees as the chaotic world around her. Sitting here beside her on a quiet summer day, I feel like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Maybe it's love. Maybe it's comfort. Maybe the great secret in life is that, in the end, there's no real difference between the two.

Caleb and Johanna run out of patience with Gale and rush in on him, taking his computer and his personal comm device. Caleb wrestles him into the water, where they immediately get into a splashing fight. Indigo runs over to join them. Johanna doesn't go in, though she settles herself comfortably on Gale's rock to watch them and taunt them. She will probably never go into the water. That scar has faded, but it will never really go away. There is no such thing as perfect.

Effie nudges my shoulder and we get up to go sit with Johanna. It's a pleasant walk, and there is a cool breeze coming over the water. Later tonight, we'll likely go home and watch something inane on television. Indigo is particularly fond of a show about a District Ten girl and her trusty horse. She will try to insist that she's old enough to stay up another hour, and I'll tell her she's not. I'll call Katniss and Peeta and hear stories about their kids, and Delly's family, and my other friends in Twelve. I'll ask about the latest building projects, and tease them about the statue that the other residents of Twelve have insisted on putting up in the square -- two teenagers, their hands raised to the sky and filled with berries.

Sometimes Beetee calls me, sometimes Annie does. Finny won't -- he's taken Annie's boat, the Trident, and gone sailing with about a dozen of his friends. One of these friends is a beautiful girl with shiny black hair, and Annie doesn't think they're going to keep the "friends" act up much longer. Plutarch has likely been calling me all day, and I'll ignore his messages. He's determined to make a movie about my Quell, and I am determined to pretend not to know anything about it.

Some things don't change.

Plutarch still has no idea how he sounds to other people. Effie still has an infuriating tendency to say exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time, and I still tend to say nothing at all even when I know I should. Gale still has a great capacity for taking offense where none is meant. Johanna still has a cruel streak, though it's buried deeply beneath her better qualities now. Ruth and Katniss still barely talk to each other. Peeta still tends to spin elaborate lies for the fun of it. We all muddle through anyway.

It's a prosaic life, occasionally a boring one. There are even moments when it's actively ridiculous, like when I'm the designated bag-holder on Effie and Indigo's shopping trips. There are still times when I wake up certain that it's all a dream and they're all about to be taken from me, and I want a drink so badly that all I can do is lie in bed sweating and staring at the ceiling until morning comes, and I have to go off alone somewhere to make sure I don't spend the day barking at them.

But for good or ill, it's my life, and these crazy, ridiculous, and broken people are my family.

We reach Johanna and I sit down beside her. She leans comfortably on my shoulder as she instructs Caleb to show Gale no mercy. Caleb complies, dunking him with great gusto. Gale comes up laughing and spitting water in a fountain at his son.

No -- there's no such thing as perfect.

But there's such a thing as enough.

The End
31 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 29th, 2013 03:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

First One

To Post? Awesome!

So, just to clarify, Indigo is their biological daughter? One of your previous fics seemed to indicate that she was adopted. (Not that you aren't perfectly entitled to make tweaks in your own fics :)

It wasn't awkward for Effie to name her daughter after Haymitch's lost love?

Also, just lovely to see the place they've all made it to.

Thanks so much,

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 29th, 2013 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: First One

I changed my mind, and decided to have her be their biological daughter. The challenge fics are always open to complete obliteration. ;p

I think there was probably a long talk at some point, about what they'd lost, and Effie understands... and she suggested the name.
Re: First One - (Anonymous) - Expand
valerie_valerah From: valerie_valerah Date: May 29th, 2013 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
There is simultaneous weeping and applauding. This is the perfect ending to such a heart-wrenching story. Thank you, Fern! Now, what's next?! Haha.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 29th, 2013 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Other than the traditional challenge call, I have no idea what's next. Scary, eh? I've been thinking of either going into the future for a story with Katniss's kids, or back to the past for Haymitch's generation.
dragonzair From: dragonzair Date: May 29th, 2013 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
ooh God i shouldn't have read this in a room full of people. Fern, thank you for writing all of this.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 29th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome. I had fun... thanks for reading!
barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: May 29th, 2013 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
But for good or ill, it's my life, and these crazy, ridiculous, and broken people are my family.

When I was younger, I wouldn't have appreciated this ending at all. All those happy endings, where everything is *perfect*, warp the reader/viewer. (It's rather like the ending to Scarlet Letter, where the "A" stands for "Able" and there's no exoneration...I didn't understand or appreciate it when I read it in school. But I do now.)

Thank you, Fern. For mercy.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 29th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
The older I get, the more I start realize the truth of the old adage, "The perfect is the enemy of the good."
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 29th, 2013 07:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hooray!! Great story. I enjoyed it all the way through. And yes, you definitely have given readers a little mercy where SC gave so little...at the end of Mockingjay I tried to tell myself that Katniss's narration was resentment at having to share the happiest parts of her story rather than the voice of a life-long depressive, but even that explanation didn't stop me from feeling let down.

So I like this version, where characters did change and did find some version of happiness, and it wasn't all just one halting slog to the grave...

Looking forward to whatever you do next!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 29th, 2013 07:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I always took Katniss's epilogue as just sort an, "Everything's okay. Not great, but okay, and my kids are happy and my husband and I are happy" sort of thing. Being depressive means she doesn't always appreciate it, but she seems to be making an effort to appreciate it, and that says something.
beceh From: beceh Date: May 29th, 2013 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great fic. I think I'm going to go back and re-read it all now :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 29th, 2013 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Let me know if it holds together!
redrikki From: redrikki Date: May 29th, 2013 07:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
As satisfying as this is as an ending, I am sad to see the last of this series. Quick, start a new one so I have another reason to check your journal first thing every morning.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 29th, 2013 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll see what I can do.
lollapulizer From: lollapulizer Date: May 29th, 2013 09:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Loved it loved it loved! I've been waiting each day to see if you update so it's bittersweet that this fic is ending. I can't wait to see what you write next.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 30th, 2013 02:26 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm interested to find that out myself. ;p (Well, I'll do my habitual challenge call. I just don't have anything up my sleeve for a long project.)
sonetka From: sonetka Date: May 29th, 2013 11:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is wonderful -- I love seeing them all at peace (if not necessarily perfect peace) all that time later. Sad that Ruth and Katniss still don't talk much, though -- Prim's death really sank their family once and for all, didn't it. (As for Indigo being Haymitch and Effie's bio-daughter, I think of it as Katniss just being in mild denial that the two of them have ever had enough to do with each other physically to produce a baby -- they do have a quasi-parental role to her, after all, and who likes to think of their parents like that? :))
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 30th, 2013 02:27 am (UTC) (Link)
The family wasn't all that strong to start with, and Prim was apparently the only glue that was holding it together.

Alas, I believe the piece where I mentioned Indigo as Effie's adopted child was Haymitch's POV, so all I can say is, "Well... I changed my mind." ;p
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: May 30th, 2013 01:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Loved the end of this story and I'm glad to see that Haymitch and Effie ended up together, especially since after all you've put Haymitch through he deserves to be happy.

I love that they named their child Indigo.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 30th, 2013 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)
When I read the books, my head didn't immediately go "Hayffie!" but when I perused the fandom and realized it was a thing, suddenly it completely clicked in my head that these two people have been together longer than anyone else we see in canon.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 30th, 2013 03:22 am (UTC) (Link)
This has been... sublime. Thank you for writing

Kobe G
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 30th, 2013 03:51 am (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome. I'm glad you liked it!
rosaxx50 From: rosaxx50 Date: May 30th, 2013 03:46 am (UTC) (Link)
This is a lovely ending to a wonderful read. You've redefined Haymitch for me. Thank you for a lovely read these past few months.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 30th, 2013 03:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you liked it. I was kind of defining Haymitch for myself as I went.
rocky_t From: rocky_t Date: May 30th, 2013 05:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Long time lurker, first time commenter...

Thanks for making the entire "Hunger Games" trilogy more palatable for me. When I read the books last year(because my teenage daughter was reading)I was appalled at how unrelentingly bleak and dismal and tortured, and well, dystopic, their entire world was, with almost gratuitous brutality just for the sake of being brutal. I found nothing redeeming there. Through your various stories, particularly the longer ones from Haymitch's POV, you've made it more accessible, and showed some glimmers of light. I went back and reread the books, and I'm glad to say you've made me see them a bit differently.

Looking forward to seeing your next work.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 30th, 2013 06:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! I'm glad that the books are more palatable to you now, too. For me, the thing that made the books seem less dark was that Katniss ultimately chose the boy known for his kindness, symbolically choosing the kind of human connection that so much of the world worked against instead of the endless, relentless conflict that Gale represented. She chose the dandelion -- and because she did, I got the impression that she finally understood what life was about, and maybe she wasn't the only one who did.
patita_fea From: patita_fea Date: June 4th, 2013 05:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
You've made something really beautiful, and you should be incredibly proud.

Thank you so much for a wonderful ride!
31 comments or Leave a comment