The Reaping of the 74th Hunger Games.
"Christ, Haymitch! Did you bother to shower the past week? Did you even get the masking spray I got for you? Of course not, you've taken home in each and every one of the houses in the Victor's Village, god knows which address I send to!"
Haymitch groaned and shook his head.
Twenty four years of this woman.
The first time he met Effie so many years ago, the new escort and host of Disctrict 12, he'd almost wished that Clara hadn't taken his threat so seriously and stayed.
But the more he thought about it... he probably would've killed her. The woman that had the audacity - while knowing that his only family was taken away to be killed, extra leverage to make him behave - to tell him to smile and wave at the welcoming crowd... yeah, he would've snapped her neck with his bare hands.
Which was something he now had to resist doing to the woman standing in front him, whining and bitching as she did each year he arrived at the Hall of Justice; drunk as per usual. She still acted surprised each time.
"That spray was shit, smelled like you," he muttered, stumbling to the nearby drink cart, sniffing the right bottled until he found the water. Instead of pouring a glass he just raised the bottle above him and poured it over his head, sputtering as he dropped it and rubbed the water on his face and through his hair, still in the same cut and style he'd worn to his Games.
Anything different would be a lie.
He would never be a different person than who he was as those trumpets blasted, proclaiming him the Victor.
The murderer. The lucky bastard that survived only to have his family killed and the Capitol holding his life in their hands.
Not that he didn't try to end it.
The year he spent alone, only traveling to the Black Market to get the best moonshine and some food to keep him afloat, he'd tried drinking himself under. Drowning himself in the small fountain in the middle of the Victor's Village. Even drunkenly walking to the border to electrocute himself on the border fence, only to realize that it didn't even work - it was just a fucking fence.
He'd only seen Miriam twice. Each time he was drunk, and each time he mistook her for May. The first time he'd actually attacked her with a sloppy drunken kiss and a bear hug, whispering that they could escape. Miriam had managed to knee him in the groin and cry out that May was gone - that it was just her. The second time, Miriam fought back when he approached her. And while he lay on the ground still smiling at the sight of May, she told him without even looking at him that he was to stop leaving half of his monthly winning salary on the Candy Shop's doorstep.
After that, he knew there wasn't really a way out. Even after he tried President Lannis' patience, showing up drunk to each Reaping, barely mentoring the hopeless kids thrusted into his care. Making ridiculous bets during the Games, even though as a Mentor it was forbidden.
It didn't do anything. He was still there.
He sighed, shaking his head to get rid of any extra water as he sighed and turned back to Effie, a scowl that she only gave him on her face.
"God help us all," she muttered as the main doors opened. Two Peacekeepers grabbed his arms and pushe dhim to follow the others onto the stage and in front of the crowd of new pickings.
He wondered who it would be this year. Kids that were his age when he entered the Games, or youngin's, unlucky bastards whose probability and luck just weren't on their side?
He found his seat and let out a big happy sigh as he rested his legs. The Mayor approached the podium and began reading the same bullshit he spewed each year; the history of Panem, the destruction of what was once known as North America and the new gleaming country lead by the Capitol that 'rose from the ashes'. Then there were the revolts, which lead to the Hunger Games.
Yada, yada, yada.
He yawned, and burped. Effie let out a disgusted sound as she waved her hand in front of her face.
He only shrugged, half paying attention to the Mayor, just waiting for Effie to leave him and approach the podium where she would name the names of kids to be killed this year 'round.
He barely grunted when it happened, Effie shuffling to the podium with her super high heels.
He looked around at the glum crowd, silent, waiting, and then at the Peacekeepers. Maybe if he stood up, started shouting random shit, they'd take him away.
"Ladies First!" Effie cried out before shuffling to the further bowl of names on the stage.
Maybe if he said the word 'Revolution', that would get him shot. Maybe they'd stop the reaping.
Aww shucks, a flower as her name? She was doomed. He burped again, silently this time, his gaze moving from the Peacekeepers to the middle aisle of the crowd, where a lone girl was stiffly walking towards them.
He froze, his eyes growing wide.
She must've been the same age as Finn was before...
She had a tiny body, a thin frame with no muscle whatsoever. She'd barely last an hour...
"Prim! Prim!" another girl screams, the crowd breaking apart as an older girl, her brown hair tucked into braids on her head comes forward, a manic look on her face.
He'd probably be acting the same if Finn's name was called all those years ago...
"I volunteer! I volunteer as Tribute!"
Everyone fell silent but Haymitch found himself standing up.
He blinked, staring at the brown haired girl, giving hushed words to the young girl's name who was originally calle,d now being pulled away by a muscled boy.
She fucking volunteered for her own death?
The Peacekeepers made way as she approached the stage, a look of utter fear on her face, her hands clenched into fists as she climbed the stage and was manhandled by Effie.
"Well, bravo! That's the spirit of the Games!" she cried out and Haymitch snorted. "What's your name?"
His legs felt weak and he fell back onto his chair.
An older sister.
He clenched his own hands into fists.
Yes, he would've been acting manic if Finn's name had been called all those years ago... But would he have volunteered?
He stared at the young girl, probably the same age as he was when his name was called.
But she gave her own name. It wasn't chosen for her.
It was as though he had just taken an icy cold shower - he was alert more than ever, as though he was actually sober.
He continued to stare at the girl, standing with her back straight as she looked over the crowd in front of them, the first ever to volunteer in this District since the Games first started.
He tilted his head.
This was going to be an interesting year.
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