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Challenges 7 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Challenges 7
I would love to see Haymitch and Effie visit Peeta and Katniss around the time they all have kids. Maybe just having a conversation, maybe funny, whatever you want. Thanks so much! for Maeve

Indigo started running up and down the length of the train somewhere near District Nine, but I guess even that was too much confinement, because as soon as we're on the green of the Old Village, she runs wildly for the duck pond, then darts toward Katniss and Peeta's place, then tries to catch one of the many cats in the area that bears a suspicious resemblance to Buttercup.

She turned five last week.

I'm fifty-nine. Too old for a five year old, at least if I'd stayed out here. But one of the wonders of the Capitol is the long list of ways there are to reverse physical decay from age and self-abuse. I should have realized that from Caesar (and Snow, but I don't like to think about doing anything that Snow did). The same treatments they use for healing injuries in the arena, in a slightly modified form, help keep cells from degenerating as we age. As a result, while my hair has gone about half-white, I don't feel much different physically than I did twenty years ago. Beetee says that it's about right, since I insisted on staying sixteen years old for a quarter of a century, so it's fine to get the time back. He hasn't opted for it, and he looks ancient, even though he's only ten years older than I am. He's never out of the wheelchair now, and spends a good deal of his time in the rapidly emptying District Three, talking to the tribute monument and planting flowers on a monument he made for Wiress in Victors' Village. He claims to be tired.

I'm not.

It's not just the treatments, either. They help me not look absurd carrying Indigo around, though I still get asked if she's my granddaughter from time to time. Mostly, it's that I'm with younger people all the time, working with the other parents of five year olds. It's that Effie and I play in the parks with Indigo, and I tell them stories. I honestly forget that I'm too old for this most of the time. Without the Games to remind me of what year it is, my age has mostly become a number that I only keep track of in the vaguest of ways.

The front door of Peeta and Katniss's place opens up, and Peeta leans on the door frame, grinning. A toddler with black hair, done up in curly pigtails, leans around him, then grins brightly and holds out her arms. "FEE!" she calls.

Beside me, Effie smiles widely, and runs up to the porch, scooping Pearl up and covering her face with kisses. She's wearing a bright purple wig today, because Pearl loved it when we talked to her on the phone last week. She's even brought a little one that Pearl can play in. (Indigo won't touch the things, which disappoints Effie deeply.)

I swerve to catch Indigo as she passes, and sweep her up onto my hip while Peeta makes his way out to us. His grin broadens, and for a minute, he looks like the boy who won over Caesar Flickerman's audience so long ago. He still has burn scars, but they're faint now -- a little unevenness in his eyebrow, a patch of slightly lighter skin on his forehead, and the little licks across his arm that might be from the bombing, or from life at the oven in his new bakery. He doesn't look exactly like Danny, but he's not far off, either.

"How is she?" I ask, giving him a one-armed hug.

"She's okay. Everything went great. Now that he's born, the nightmares stopped again."

"Katniss has nightmares?" Indigo asks, stunned. "I have nightmares. I dreamed a haunt was under my bed. Does Katniss dream about haunts?"

"More or less," Peeta says. "But I'm going to have nightmares if I don't get a hello hug pretty soon!"

He holds out his arms for Indigo, and I hand her over easily enough. She hugs him and gives him a big smack on the cheek as he carries her inside.

We haven't really come up with a definition of the relationship between Indigo and the older kids. They were well into their twenties when she was born, so it gets strange to call her a sister, but since they consider me something of a father substitute rather than a brother, they aren't aunt and uncle. For now, they're just Katniss and Peeta, and Indigo loves them without the benefit of any particular definition.

"There's a new person?" she asks when Peeta opens the door. "Daddy says there's a brand new person."

"There sure is. His name is Charlie. He's only been here for two days. He's very small. If you can be good and quiet, you can hold him later."

"I could?"

"You could."

She slithers down off his hip and runs into the living room, where Effie is sitting on an ottoman with Pearl on her lap. Katniss is in a deep, soft armchair, cradling a tiny baby wrapped in my parents' quilt, which each of the babies has had for a few months. It's too big for a receiving blanket, but no one seems to mind. The babies mostly inhabit the top foot of it, anyway, while the rest spreads around whoever is holding them.

It stays here, in my house. Indigo had it until she was four months old and we moved back to the Capitol. I offered it to Katniss and Peeta for both of theirs. I think Mom and Daddy would approve of the tradition.

I go over to Katniss and lean over to kiss her cheek and have my first look at Charlie Mellark. He has fine blond hair. His eyes are currently closed. Other than that, he looks like any other baby. People told me for years that, once I had kids, I'd be able to tell babies apart, but that turned out not to be true. No matter how instantly I loved my daughter, until she was a few months old, the truth is, she pretty much looked like a baby to me. The most attractive baby in the history of humanity, of course, but one who didn't start to physically differentiate from other humans any faster than other people's children. It was just the feeling that was different. She didn't actually start to look like Indigo for a few months, and it wasn't until she was almost a year old that I knew she was going to look like me. With Effie's blue eyes, but still. I remember my brother when he was a little kid, and if I'd put him in dresses and tied bright ribbons in his long-ish hair, he'd have looked exactly like my daughter looks, except for those eyes.

"How are you feeling, Sweetheart?" I ask Katniss, as Peeta goes to the kitchen to get lunch together.

"Tired. Happy. All right. I glad you could come."

"Wouldn't miss it."

We smile at each other for a minute, then she gestures slightly with her laden arms. "Do you plan to say hello to my son or not, Haymitch?"

I carefully take the baby up, putting one hand behind his head and gathering the quilt with the other, pulling it up off of Katniss's lap. "Hello, Charlie," I say. "Good to meet you, big guy."

Charlie pushes some spit out of his mouth. His eyes open. I know that at this point, he's not focusing on anything (Effie and I spent a good deal of time studying together while we were going through our various procedures), but I still feel like he's trying to look at me. His eyes are gray, but so were Pearl's when she was first born. Peeta was excited to think that she would look like Katniss, but as it turned out, they'd become a brilliant blue before she was six months old. The combination makes her look like she could be Indigo's sister, though her hair is less curly. If Charlie's eyes turn, he'll look like Peeta. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

"I want a turn later," Effie says, but she's in no hurry. She's taken off her necklace to let Pearl look at it.

Indigo takes the opportunity to slide into the chair beside Katniss and snuggle up against her. Katniss, as always, looks surprised to be a destination. Gale and Jo's son, Caleb, didn't really take to her, which she took as a matter of course, but Indigo has always adored her. "Hey, Indigo," she says. "Your momma says you're taking dance classes."

Indigo nods excitedly. "My teacher says I could be a ballerina!"

"And that's… that's good?"

"It's lace tutus and toe shoes!"

"A tutu… those are the big puffy skirts, right?"

"My teacher wears a blue one. I still have to wear a leotard so she can always see what I'm doing, and I can't have toe shoes for a long time, but I'm going to be in a recital in December."

"Well, I'll have to make sure your daddy records it and sends it to me."

Effie laughs. "I don't think there's any danger of it being forgotten, Katniss. Indigo is a well-recorded child."

I give her a sheepish grin over Charlie's head. Effie was the one who bought the video equipment, but I've been a little obsessed with it. I think it was realizing that the only images I had of Lacklen and Digger were in the buried Games filler footage that Plutarch found for me. I can't seem to get enough proof that Indigo exists.

Peeta comes out, pushing a little wheeled cart from his bakery. He's got lunch on it. Venison stew, salads, cheese buns (of course), and freshly pressed apple juice. "Lots of apples this year," he says. "There'll be pies and tarts later."

"I didn't marry him just because he's a baker," Katniss says. "But I do love the perks."

He kisses her head, then takes the baby from me and puts him down in a little bassinet.

"Doesn't Charlie have lunch?" Indigo asks as Peeta puts out the bowls on their large coffee table.

"Charlie already ate," Katniss tells her. "Do you think you could be a big girl and help Pearl with her napkin?"

Indigo preens at being acknowledged as a big girl, and sits down ostentatiously beside Pearl, arranging her napkin neatly, then starting a mostly incomprehensible lesson about what spoons to use.

Effie smiles at me over their heads.

I settle in for lunch with my family.

In an expanded carolyn\haymitch I'd like to see them touch on how haymitch saved finnick from the arena in the edited GM it would be interesting also to see how gias reaction to haymitch drinking still but then orchestrating the rebellion. That conversation happening at haymitch and Effie's wedding would be great!. (expand on "Under the Pier") for Liam

The wedding is completely dry. There's water and tea and other sweet, nonalcoholic drinks, but there's not a drop of liquor in the whole Village.

I thought the neighbors might sneak booze in. It's not like anyone in the district is being kicked out of the pavilion. But young Peeta Mellark told me that there's been an active conspiracy to take care of Haymitch. The specifics of it don't matter to me, but the sentiment behind it does. These people do actually care about him.

It's not behind his back, either. The dry wedding was Haymitch's call. He says that, while he's entertaining the idea that it might be possible to have a glass of wine without ending up in the gutter (he's read conflicting reports on the subject), he's not going to chance it. It took ten years to get here after the war because he kept falling back into the bottle, and Effie wisely didn't reward him for it. Now, he intends to not lot anything spoil it, least of all him.

This all came in a long, nervous flow of words two nights ago, while I was arranging his wardrobe and making sure that he'll get to see everyone in the course of the celebration. I have easily fallen back into the role of escort. I didn't expect that. When I first saw Haymitch after the war, I told him that I barely remembered Gia Pepper, that I was Carolyn Odair now.

I still am, but, as it turns out Gia is never far away. In fact, she may actually be Carolyn Odair.

I don't say the name out loud. Haymitch did once, in the course of his ramblings, but has been careful in public.

The actual signing of the wedding papers was yesterday, at the high table in the pavilion. It was followed by the District Twelve ritual. Apparently it was Effie who demanded the toasting. And demanded to have the wedding out here. Haymitch had assumed she'd want it at home in the Capitol, and was prepared to go to war to get them to allow Katniss Mellark to travel to it, but Effie wouldn't even consider it. ("I don't want a Capitol marriage," she told me last month, when Annie and I brought Finny up for a tour. "Neither does Haymitch. So it seems ridiculous to get married here.") Haymitch, in turn, surprised her by insisting on the full three day celebration, on the logic that they'd waited almost thirty years to get the party; he wanted to make it a good one.

Yesterday, everything was formal, and everyone was in stiff, formal dress. Katniss and Peeta (of course) stood up at the wedding. The president officiated, because Effie's been her right hand man for so long, Paylor joked in her toast, that the presidency might well fall during the honeymoon. Paylor had to go back late last night to deal with some political crisis, but everyone else is still here. Today's attire is more for dancing and games, so Haymitch doesn't actually need help with it, but I wait in the prep room anyway. Peeta is supervising the food for the day. He, Katniss, and Haymitch are essentially feeding the entire district for three days.

The door opens and Haymitch comes out in a clean pair of jeans and a soft blue sweater. He looks younger than he's looked in years. He's still barefoot, and sits down on a low sofa to start pulling on his socks.

"You really don't need to babysit me through this part," he says. "I can handle a sock hop and a game of darts. Well, maybe I'll leave the darts to Katniss. I think Beetee brought the chess board."

"I like babysitting you."

"You do understand that I'm…" He blinks. "I'm over fifty. Right?"

"You're fifty-two, Haymitch. I know that, because I'm sixty-two."

"Ten years used to be a much bigger difference."

I laugh. "Nigh insurmountable." I sit down across from him. "You look great. Happy."

"Yeah. It feels strange. How long does it last?"

"Happiness? From the wedding or the marriage?"


"The wedding giddiness will go away, and you'll be your regular taciturn self in a few weeks. The marriage happiness? Levels will go up and down, but that permanently miserable, crotchety, curmudgeonly, depressed loner nonsense? Get used to the idea that it's gone."

"Unless I do something incredibly stupid?"

I nod. "Unless that."

He pulls his second sock on and starts fishing around under the sofa for his shoes. "That's not out of the question. I have a bad habit of doing stupid things."

I don't answer.

He looks up with a wry grin. "No argument?"

"Lots of arguments about you already starting to hit yourself over the head with it, but… Haymitch, I watched you on television. All those years. I don’t know how many times they showed you passed out or acting like an idiot with Drake or Chaff." I laugh. "I still can't believe you ended up partying with Drake. I was a little worried that you'd gone off and joined his side. But he joined your side, didn't he?"

"Yeah. Yeah, he did."

"I should have known you wouldn't be compliant."

"Me? But I'm so easy to get along with!" He grins and finds his shoes, but gets more serious before he puts them on. "Maybe if they'd let you stay. Maybe if things hadn't gotten so bad. I loved the Capitol as much as I hated it. Snow knew that. But the idiot kept pushing me into rebellion. It started out with this crazy idea he had that I helped my radical escort escape, and knew where she was. I was already defined as a rebel. Might as well go with it, right?"

"I don't think he could have ever made you a loyalist. Not after…" I don't bring up Rhona and Lacklen and Digger, though he spoke freely about them yesterday at the first reception. "But I worried that he'd defanged you with the booze."

He puts on his shoes. "Gia, there are a lot of things in my life that I can blame Snow for. But the booze, I got into without his help." He shakes his head. "Sorry. Carolyn."

I consider pointing out that Snow's interference was what made his life miserable enough that he wanted to kill himself, either quickly or by the slow route of long term alcohol poisoning, but I decide not to. "But you were working it, even drunk, weren't you?"

He nods. "I wish to hell I'd done more. Faster. Before they got their hands on Finnick."

"I wish I had, too," I say. I keep my voice even. I've gotten better at it. I can think of my charming, smiling boy now without imagining his bloody severed hand on a table, at any rate. I can think of him without hearing the horrible stories he told in his calm, reasonable way, carried over the airwaves. I knew what they'd done to him, of course, but hearing it… I shudder. "But you did everything you could. If you hadn't gotten him out of the arena, I don't want to think what they'd have done to him after the Quell."

He frowns. "You know about that?"

"They were still trying to figure out what was going on. There were flashes on television for a long time before they just cut to -- " I don't finish. What they cut to was the burning of District Twelve, but I don't want to bring that up. "I saw you helping him to the Cornucopia. I saw you defending him. Getting him onto the hovercraft. It's bad enough what they did to Johanna and Peeta. Finnick… " I close my eyes. "I think you might have saved him from a lot of pain. I'm sorry. I…" I sniff. "We should get you finished up. I can do something with your hair…"

"My hair's fine, and you don't need to apologize for thinking about Finnick. I think about him, too. I wish he were here today."

"Me, too. He'd have loved to dance at your wedding."

Haymitch smiles. "Well, then," he says, "I guess we'd both better dance a little more to cover for him."


11 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 25th, 2015 06:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I love these so much.
beceh From: beceh Date: August 25th, 2015 08:25 am (UTC) (Link)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 29th, 2015 04:05 am (UTC) (Link)
From: liam Fitzpatrick Date: August 25th, 2015 06:50 pm (UTC) (Link)


Both were fantastic loves the carolyn/haymitch one. Thank you for it. I love these short fics because they open up a view of semi peaceful post war panem
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 29th, 2015 04:06 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Amazing

It's nice to imagine them actually managing to build a functional world from the ashes.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: August 26th, 2015 05:01 am (UTC) (Link)
They're both good, but I'm especially happy to see more Gia/Carolyn. I was surprised for a moment at her take on Drake and Haymitch, but of course she's not a victor -- she didn't get to hear most of what they said to each other and couldn't really have understood the relationship they had. I need to reread your early Haymitch stories, but I got the impression that ultimately Drake was a little bit like Treebeard in the matter of not altogether being on anyone's side (except, of course, victors).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 29th, 2015 04:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Drake's more or less apolitical, but he does join the team of "decent human beings," at least. She knew him for a very short time, too, and he was definitely putting on something of a character for everyone's benefit.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: August 26th, 2015 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nice set of stories here. I really like the sense of family and community that both have and the way Haymitch is constantly surprised and in awe of it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 29th, 2015 04:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Being accepted, after all that time alone, as a part of a family, as a cornerstone of a community -- it's got to be a headier brew than any of the moonshine he'd been slugging over the years.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 27th, 2015 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
This first one is everything I hoped for. Thank you so much for writing it. I loved the family feeling for all of it; that there isn't a word for what Katniss and Peeta and Haymitch (and Effie!) are, but they know that they're family, that Pearl adores Effie and her wigs, that Indigo adores Katniss and Katniss, even after years is still kinda shocked that she is adored (very typically Katniss and endearing), their easy affection for each other that clearly shows how much they mean to one another, Charlie was beautiful, of course. There were also parts that made me laugh; Haymitch admitting he loved Indigo but she looked like a regular baby. Indigo giving a little etiquette lesson was hilarious. Haymitch admitting that he was the one taking all the pictures, even though Effie bought the equipment for it, also brought a smile to my face. Of course, that was tinged with a bittersweetness considering he wanted it because he had so little record of the rest of his family. I love this so much because none of them really have biological family left (Except for Ruth and maybe Effie's parents) but they have made their own little family. Thank you.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 29th, 2015 04:11 am (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome. I enjoyed that one. Katniss and Haymitch have that thing in common, where they're both stunned at the idea of being happy.

I've always mistrusted people who claim that an emotional experience changed actual sensory input, so I figured that would be fun to put in with Haymitch.
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