Chapter 22: Home
Haymitch followed Cassie's advice well, and played stupid as he answered multiple questions on his walk towards the train to take him home. Finally, home. No more of the Capitol... for now.
"I thought only something as light as the rocks would come back over; nothing like an axe!"
"I was ready for the end but I couldn't go down without a fight, that's why I thought I could try with my knife. She had only one eye, her depth perception was off."
"I thought if I could bring her to the edge, I might push her over, nice and clean."
It worked well enough. People snickered at him, shaking their heads, frowning as though they thought he might be lying... but they finally left him alone.
Mackie and Cassie both shook his hand and gave a final nod, both showing plastered smiles.
Haymitch had said his separate, personal farewells back at the Penthouse. Both Cassie and Mackie had gotten teary, which freaked Haymitch out, but he still let them hug him.
"See you at the Victory Tour, Haymitch," Mackie said now as he stepped onto the train, the doors closing behind him.
It was the food compartment, the same he had boarded when he was on his way to the Capitol. Back then, there were three others to keep him awkward and silent company. Back then, he was on to face forty-seven other kids in the Arena.
Which he had survived.
And now... he was alone.
He walked to the drink cart, picking a random purple liquid and pouring himself a generous glass.
He had just rested in the chair, taking his second sip when he heard the door slide open.
"Can you give me an hour, Clara? I need some time to prepare myself."
"For what, exactly?" President Lannis replied.
Haymitch froze in the chair, blinking as he closed his eyes. He opened them as he turned to watch the Capitol President walk to the drink cart and choose a brown drink, pouring himself a small glass.
Dressed in a blue and green pinstriped suit, his night black hair slicked back and down his neck, ending at his shoulders, he had an air of violence and power as he came and sat across from Haymitch.
"Mr. Abernathy," President Lannis said, his voice dripping with deadly charm, a continuous grin on his face.
"President Lannis, what a lovely and unexpected surprise!"
The President only smiled some more, watching Haymitch squirm as he sipped his drink. Haymitch took a big gulp of his own.
"That's quite a drink you've got there. Even I can't really handle it," President Lannis finally spoke.
Haymitch shrugged, taking another gulp.
"Tastes like chicken," he replied.
The President's smile grew wider and Haymitch swore he heard a chuckle.
"Mr. Abernathy, however pleasant a visit, I'm afraid we have a problem."
His heart skipped a beat, but he managed to mirror the President's relaxed posture.
"And what might that be?" he asked.
"Your little… trick with our border force field makes a mockery of the Games... a mockery of me." His eyes grew dark, his smile staying still.
"Sir, I didn't even know about the force-"
"That's a lie, and we both know it. What is your... angle, Mr. Abernathy?"
"Did you think to start a new rebellion? Giving ideas to future tributes, how to manipulate us in the games... or even a chance to escape?"
Haymitch fought to keep his expression neutral. The way President Lannis had framed it... that meant he actually had a chance of an escape!?
He blinked, and shook his head.
"Sir, I didn't-"
"We all know what happened the last rebellion. And the one before that... the one before that. Surely you paid attention in History at school; it's quite an important subject."
He put his drink on a nearby table, trying to hide his shaking hand. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees to look the President right in the eye.
"President Lannis. Watch my face right now, and know that when I say I didn't have any hidden agendas when I used the border, I'm not lying. I was insistent about it because I knew it could be a good hiding place. And then the Volcano erupted, who knew if it would become active again and wipe out the forest..."
He ran a hand through his hair, shaking his head.
"I didn't know it would come to this… I played stupid, I -"
"Of course I know that, Clara and Cassie are the best at what they do: keeping the Tributes in line. Unfortunately, it seems you were too much of a wild card."
"Sir, I have no intention of whatever resistance you have in mind. I just want to go home and live peacefully with my brother and my dad, nothing else. I have no rebellions on my mind, I swear. I will put on my mask again for the Victory Tour, and then that is the last you will hear of me."
The President's smile twitched, but he shook his head.
"That is where you are wrong, Mr. Abernathy. Now that you are the only living Victor of District 12, you are to be the mentor for the Tributes for the rest of the Games until another one comes along."
Haymitch stopped, frowning.
He grabbed his glass and took a big gulp, coughing lightly.
"Therein lies our problem. I need to be certain enough that you won't raise trouble with me, or my Capitol," the President continued.
"You can be certain, sir," Haymitch said tensely. The train halted for a second, making him spill part of his drink, and then it started slowing down, coming to a silent halt.
President Lannis stood up, finishing his drink before putting the glass on the table. He straightened his suit and brushed something away on his arm.
"Your word is not enough, Mr. Abernathy. You will be seeing me soon."
The exiting doors opened and two Peacekeepers stepped forward, flanking the doorway as President Lannis left without another look bav. The Peacekeepers left, the door sliding closed behind them.
A few moments later, the train started moving again.
Haymitch chugged the rest of his drink. He stood up to get more, but tripped over his feet and fell down. He groaned and turned onto his back, staring up at the impeccable metal ceiling above him, giving him a distorted reflection.
He stayed that way, unmoving, unthinking, until Clara burst in to prepare him for the coming home event.
The train started slowing down, a loud whistle piercing the silence between him and Clara.
He closed his eyes, shaking his head.
Clara didn't fail to mention a dozen times that he was now the only living victor of District 12… everybody would be there to welcome him home.
But he could only think of President Lannis.
"Your word is not enough…"
Would he punish his family?
"It's time, Haymitch!" Clara said excitedly.
He sent her a disgusted look and he swore he saw her smile falter for a split second before she stood up, bright face back in place. He stood as well as the train came to a stop.
"Smile! And remember what Cassie said-"
"Got it," he interrupted as he walked to the doors.
He took a deep breath before they opened and he was blinded by blinding flashes and greeted by a large roar of a crowd. He blinked and stepped down onto the platform, smiling and raising a hand to wave.
His eyes adjusted as the flashes diminished and he saw a large crowd, all crammed as close as they could get. The amount of people was endless - he suspected the entire District was there.
He looked to the front, and his hand faltered as he spotted his dad and brother, cheering and jumping up and down.
Nearby, he spotted Mrs. Donner, the genius chocolatier.
Then his heart stopped, and his hand fell.
It was May.
Smiling awkwardly and cheering halfheartedly amongst the crowd, watching him intently.
Her gaze wasn't like May's…
Of course it wasn't her… she died in his arms.
It was Miriam, her twin sister.
"Haymitch!" he heard someone whisper behind him.
He raised his hand again and waved some more, smiling as the crowd continued to cheer. His eyes wandered over everybody, and he did a double take as he noticed President Lannis, standing on the sidelines, grinning evilly.
He turned his head and raised his hand to give a small flick of the wrist, his index finger pointing into the crowd.
Haymitch looked to where he pointed... right at his dad and his brother, both crying happy tears as they continued jumping up and down as they waved and cheered.
Haymitch's eyes flitted back to President Lannis, who shook his head and turned, disappearing into a blockade of Peacekeepers.
He looked back towards Finn and his dad, feeling his own tears coming.
That's when he saw the two peacekeepers pushing their way through the crowd, heading straight towards his only family.
His hand fell, and he took a step forward, intent on beating the men who were now restraining his father, and picking up Finn, his cries of distress lost in the cheering crowd.
"Haymitch I will kill you myself if you don't stand still and smile! Wave!" Clara hissed.
"But Clara, my-"
"Reacting to it will only make it worse, Haymitch. SMILE!"
Haymitch only stared at Clara. Her plastered smile twitched at the corner, and then she turned her head as though she couldn't look at him anymore.
She knew, and was still telling him to smile.
He looked back towards the crowd, his brother and father nowhere in sight.
He didn't even get to say goodbye, talk to the them, hug them one last time-
"Haymitch!" Clara snapped.
He continued staring, and took a step towards her. She faltered, her eyes widening, scared.
Instead he reached forward and hugged her.
He felt her body relax in his arms, but he moved his mouth to her ear.
"You knew. You're just like them: you don't give a shit about any of us. Get yourself reassigned to another District, Clara. Because if I see you again, I'll kill you."
He pulled back, not even bothering to look at him as he turned back to the crowd and raised a hand to wave. The crowd erupted into louder cheers, but to him they sounded as though he was miles away.
He was alone.
Finn was gone, his dad was gone.
May was gone.
He had nobody.
What he had fought for, who had fought for to survive - were gone.
It was all for nothing.
He looked at the crowd, his arm waving absentmindedly.
He should've let Remy finish him off.