Brace Yourself

Epilogue: Haymitch Abernathy

Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games.

Warnings: Majour character death, minor character death, suicide, homosexuality referencing

Epilogue: Haymitch Abernathy

For you, for you
Baby, I'm not moving on
I'll love you long after you're gone
For you, for you
You will never sleep alone
I'll love you long after you're gone
And long after you're gone, gone, gone

-Gone, Phillip Phillips

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"Why are you interested in obtaining this axe?" Paylor asks curiously, her dark eyebrows knitting in confusion.

Haymitch rolls his eyes, gesturing wildly with the flask in his hand. "Don't know, Paylor. It's obviously my fascination with lethality." When she raises an eyebrow at his sarcasm, he slams the flask down onto the desk, scowling. "I dunno! Damn thing almost killed me forty-odd years ago. Forty-four, if you want to be precise. Does it matter? Maybe I don't have a reason. You tell me why I'm interested in obtaining the axe."

"I'm not going to concern myself with answering your mockery, Mr. Abernathy." The president clasps her hands on the desk in front of her, her fingernails noticeably bitten raw. "I want a straight answer. The FCA is holding another meeting tomorrow and they require me to fill out a stack of paperwork prior to that, so I'm not going to listen to an old man rave about the axe he took to the stomach decades ago when there's work to be done. In addition, according to article thirty-seven of law no. eight, one must have a legitimate reason to come in possession of dangerous paraphernalia (e.g. this axe), all of which will be permanently stored in the GA locker."

"GA?"

"Games Apparatus," Paylor clarifies. "I assume you remember the retrieval squad we sent out to collect GA from the Capitol's congregation of museums and galleries? No? Well, I didn't expect you to- it's been fifteen years or so. I'd rather not reminisce the daunting days of earning a warrant to search Sopaipilla Merrythought's mansion for Finnick Odair's trident… anyway, we managed, and the security measures are nearly impossible to breach. To obtain access to the locker, Mr. Abernathy, I must grant you my permission, and I will not grant you my permission to acquire the axe without a genuine reason."

Haymitch leans back in his chair, smirking before he takes a long drink from his flask. "Miss Selvage," he slurs nonchalantly, "What do you know about love?"

"What?" Paylor recoils, taken aback. Her gaze suddenly turns stony as she processes his words. "I don't see how that pertains to this situation, Mr. Abernathy, nor do I see how the situation pertains to me."

"'Course it does, sweetheart. Why would I mention it otherwise?"

"Because you are a drunk old man who couldn't form a coherent thought to save his life?"

"Now that's just rude," Haymitch says, eyebrows raised as he screws on the cap of his flask. "My drinking may affect my coherency, but I'd like to think my coherency is immaculate when speaking with anyone of presidential status. …Anyway, if you don't know anything about love, Selvage, I don't know why I bother."

Paylor rolls her eyes impatiently. "The paperwork is waiting, Abernathy. If you really are capable of forming a coherent thought, explain why love pertains to obtaining an axe."

Haymitch uncaps his flask once more and overturns it, pouring the rest of the contents in his mouth. "Don't know if you watched my Games live, Paylor," he begins, "but if you did, you wouldn't remember the half of it. What seven-year-old watches the Games? And besides, Eight didn't last long. They wiped out Calico and Bolt during the eruption. 'Course, if you watch reruns, they weren't exactly the 'stars of the show.'" He grunts. "She wasn't either. Why would she be? We never announced having anything special, so when the editors discovered our subtleties, they deleted the scenes entirely. …Allies. We were allies. Allies until she broke it off and I let her, knowing it meant more than separation."

"You're speaking of… Maysilee Donner?" Paylor questions.

He nods grimly before staring mournfully at his empty flask. "I told her to stay alive… but how the hell was she supposed to do that? She'd be broken if she went up and won it all. So call me cruel, but that's why I let her go on alone. And now I'm the mad one. Madder than a post-arena Annie Cresta." He looks up, and Paylor's eyes are barely comprehending. "I see her in my sleep, Selvage, every fucking night. So why can't I sleep forever? If you give me the axe, I'll see her for eternity."

Paylor Selvage, president of Panem, closes her eyes in alarm. "Just give me a moment," she says, inhaling deeply for a few moments. When her eyes open once more, they are focussed and unyielding. "I have one last question. Why the axe? Why the irony?"

Haymitch Abernathy, alcoholic Victor extraordinaire, smirks. "Certainly you have gathered that I have quite the ironic persona, Paylor?"

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10:00:47 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy entered President Paylor Selvage's office

10:01:21 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy introduced Topic of Conversation to President Paylor Selvage

10:04:52 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy had the audacity to mention "Love" to a surprised President Paylor Selvage

10:06:02 - President Paylor Selvage asked Victor Haymitch Abernathy if he was referring to Tribute Maysilee Donner

10:08:38 - President Paylor agreed to grant Victor Haymitch Abernathy permission to obtain an Axe originally used by Tribute Platina Cleve

10:17:16 - GA locker was opened and Axe retrieved

10:20:59 - Axe was presented to Victor Haymitch Abernathy by President Paylor Selvage

10:23:24 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy successfully sneaked Axe from Presidential Building of D13 to Train Interior

12:39:15 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy ate lunch in Train Interior

13:42:44 - Train arrived in D12. Victor Haymitch Abernathy dismounted

13:48:07 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy entered Home and casually chucked Axe, contained in Duffle Bag, onto couch

13:49:31 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy successfully poured himself a drink

13:49:49 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy successfully finished off said drink

15:18:11 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy showed Pet Shop Owner Billy Olsen cage containing Geese

15:19:23 - Pet Shop Owner Billy Olsen shoved Wad of Money into Victor Haymitch Abernathy's hand in payment for Geese

15:20:01 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy took Wad of Money and covertly stuffed it into cage containing Geese for Pet Shop Owner Billy Olsen to find later

15:35:55 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy went to visit Victors Katniss and Peeta Mellark, and Daughter Pearl Mellark

15:56:29 - Pregnant Victor Katniss Mellark gave Victor Haymitch Abernathy a certain Mockingjay Pin

16:02:18 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy left Mellark Residence without saying good-bye

16:47:32 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy successfully poured himself another drink

16:47:44 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy successfully finished off said drink

16:50:06 - Axe was removed from Duffle Bag

16:50:09 - Axe was admired by Victor Haymitch Abernathy

16:50:51 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy lay on couch with Axe in one hand and Mockingjay Pin in the other

16:51:00 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy drove said Axe into Stomach, committing suicide

16:52:35 - Victor Haymitch Abernathy died.

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18:28:27 - Victor Peeta Mellark walks into Victor Haymitch Abernathy's Home, box of Cheese Buns in hand. Upon finding Person of Interest, box of Cheese Buns is dropped.

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"Did you know about his intentions?" Katniss Mellark née Everdeen exclaims heatedly, upon walking into President Paylor Selvage's office. Somehow, even six months pregnant, she can still pull off an intimidating stance- accompanied with a glare. Her husband, Peeta Mellark, enters silently; his head bowed and his eyes haunted. Their daughter is in District Twelve, being looked after by a local sitter.

Paylor looks up from her digital comms device, which she stows away when realising the time has run away from her. It's two o'clock, and their previously scheduled meeting is due to run its course. "Whose intentions?" She asks calmly, tucking a strand of gray-streaked black hair behind one ear.

"You very well know whose intentions I'm speaking of and what happened in consequence," Katniss hisses, slamming her hands down on Paylor's desk. "And I know plenty about the matter. The day of Haymitch Abernathy's death, he visited District Thirteen to speak with you about some affair or another. I dismissed it as politics, but clearly, it was a different topic entirely." She pauses dramatically. "…Peeta found Haymitch in his house with an axe buried in his stomach. The only way to obtain an axe these days is to gain access to the GA locker, or break into it, which I'm sure he was physically incapable of doing. So, tell me, Paylor… did you grant Haymitch permission to remove that axe from the GA locker?"

"I did," Paylor Selvage says. "And if it counts for anything, I was the one who retrieved it myself."

"How could you?" Katniss shouts suddenly, slamming her hands on the desk once more. "How could you give Haymitch a reason to commit such an act? He was doing just fine. He had geese to look after! We stopped by every day so he wouldn't be lonely, and Pearl called him 'Uncle,' and Effie would visit once a month to give him company and clean his house up a bit! Haymitch was drunk, yes, but he's been an alcoholic since his Games, and old habits die hard. He had plenty of people to make him happy! Why would he... why would he do that?"

She bursts into sobs and Peeta wraps and arm around her shoulders, comforting her. Paylor looks on stonily. When the news of Haymitch Abernathy's death reached her, she wasn't the least bit surprised, but the tears wet her pillow, anyhow. However, she's a strong woman, and the river she'd cried won't turn into an ocean anytime soon. "Mrs. Mellark, are you accusing me of being responsible for Mr. Abernathy's death? By giving him the axe, I wasn't giving him incentive to commit suicide. He had the incentive already. Surely you realise that Mr. Abernathy wasn't altogether happy, despite your efforts?"

"He wasn't?" Katniss chokes out. "But- but we tried so hard to make him happy-"

"The only way Haymitch Abernathy was going to be happy was if he actually tried to pave a new path for himself. However, despite his many opportunities, Mr. Abernathy was past the point of no return. I am led to believe he was miserable enough to think he didn't deserve the happiness," President Selvage sighs. "Life was intent upon wrecking that man since his early childhood, and didn't provide him opportunities to live happily until he was thoroughly broken. Had opportunities arisen early on, he'd probably still be alive today."

Katniss wilts into a chair, while Peeta takes the one adjacent to hers. The sobs are now gone, replaced with a heavy aura and the occasional hiccup. "Did he give you a good reason for it?" She asks meekly.

"Of course he did. I wasn't about to up and give him the axe upon request," Paylor lets out a melancholy chuckle. "'What do you know about love?' he asked me… and it just so happens that I have experienced the death of a loved one, and could understand the feeling of loss precisely. He lost many more than I, nevertheless. According to his file, Mr. Abernathy's father drowned face-first in a bowl of alcohol when he was six. His mother, brother, and girlfriend burned in a fire two weeks after he refused prostitution. Not to mention he survived his Games when forty-seven others did not, one of them being Maysilee Donner, who was… special to him."

"Maysilee Donner? Special?" Peeta speaks for the first time. "But weren't they just allies? And he had a girlfriend, didn't he?"

Paylor nods knowingly. "I might have been young during the Fiftieth Games- seven years old, in fact- but I remember quite a lot about them, and the editors cut out many scenes." She stares into Katniss' eyes, which look broken, despite the small spark of curiosity. "I distinctly remember his interview. He mentioned having two girlfriends. It was a joke, of course, but there was more truth to that than met the ear. There were scenes between Mr. Abernathy and Miss Donner that were quite friendly- for example, the evening they split a package of candy found in the pack of the tribute Haymitch killed. After that, I hoped for one of them to win, because they seemed much more humane than the rest of the surviving tributes. Needless to say, I never saw that scene again."

"But… how does this pertain to Haymitch's death?"

"Imagine, Mrs. Mellark, if you experienced Peeta getting stabbed through the neck by a Gamemaker-controlled bird-mutt. Imagine living forty-four more years afterwards, only getting the chance to see him in your dreams. Imagine that you still aren't happy forty-four years later, and there's nothing for you to live for anymore. Would you kill yourself?"

"But I love Peeta, and he certainly didn't-"

"Stop with your 'buts,' Mrs. Mellark. Of course he loved Maysilee Donner. You're a fool to think otherwise." Her tone is piercing, but not unkind.

Peeta clasps Katniss' hand, while cocking his head to the side. "And how do you know this? How do we know that you're not just putting words in Haymitch's mouth?"

Paylor turns away, fishing for her digital comms device in her desk drawer, where it was previously discarded. "How did you know you loved Katniss? How did Katniss know she loved you? Some things, my friends, require intuition and background knowledge to know the real story. And why would I put words in Haymitch's mouth? There's no reason for me to. He might not have told me everything directly, so I am using my history and a few aspects of his as reference, as well as an open mind." She smiles. "Excuse me for spouting nonsense. The answer is that you don't know. You don't know if I'm putting words in his mouth, so use intuition and historical reference to distinguish whether or not I'm right."

Husband and wife ponder this, and then get up to leave. "Thank you for your time," Katniss says boldly. "And thank you for sharing your knowledge, Paylor. I'm sorry for accusing you of Haymitch's death- you didn't deserve it." She turns to leave, grabbing Peeta by the wrist, but Peeta restrains.

"One last question," he says. Paylor raises a sculpted eyebrow in his direction, only briefly looking up from her comms device. "What is your history? What do you have in common with Haymitch?"

The comms device clatters to the floor. Paylor Selvage squeezes her eyes shut. There is a distinct pause as she gathers her words, and the two Mellarks wait in silence.

"She never loved me like I loved her," she begins. "Straight as a needle, she was, with a husband and three children to prove it. Now, she's gone. Dead. Died nineteen years ago. That's when I began to fight for my freedom. Her death was my incentive, and now she'll always provide the fuel behind it, even buried six feet under the ground. Who knows? Maybe one day the fuel will burn off and I'll be left to suffer the suicidal thoughts." Her eyes open, and they reflect sorrow. Katniss and Peeta lean forward, hanging on to the president's every word, unsure whether or not to brace themselves for the name of the person. "She was a great woman. Gifted with intellect and an admirable beauty. Adaptable… like all Victors are. Were.

"Her name was Cecelia Reyes, and she died in the Seventy-Fifth Annual Hunger Games."

They probably should have. Braced themselves, that is.

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There's nothing left to love
No one left to give
There's a below but no above
There's no point trying to live.

Wipe the coal dust from my eyes
Write a note with my good byes
Bet there's nobody who cries
When they tell them that I'm gone.

Brace yourself
And care no more
Don your jacket, walk out the door
In the fields of strife
You'll take a life
And that life you'll take is yours.

~finem~

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