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Adventures In Babysitting - The Hunger Games; Haymitch/Effie; 3,400 words; post-series. In which Effie decides that it's a marvelous idea to babysit Katniss and Peeta's daughter, and Haymitch gets to watch the disaster unfold. Featuring resolutely chipper Effie, snarky Haymitch, a two-year-old bundle of endless energy, and a showdown with a wig-stealing goose.



“I’ve just had the most wonderful idea,” Effie declares, tapping Haymitch’s shoulder for emphasis. They’re sitting at the table, enjoying a breakfast of coffee and toast from a loaf of freshly baked bread Peeta brought over the day before. Neither Haymitch nor Effie can brag about any particular culinary skills, but it’s hard to screw up toast.

Effie has been back in District 12 for three days now, and frankly, Haymitch can’t imagine a more wonderful idea than keeping up their current pattern. Namely: spending most of their time in bed.

“Oh yeah?” he asks warily, and takes a bite of toast. “What’s that?”

“Why don’t we take Willow for the day? Katniss and Peeta always have their hands so full; they deserve some time to themselves, don’t you think?”

“Why? So they can get their hands fuller?”

Effie gives him a Look.

Haymitch, who’s had some experience watching the little Mellark, decides he needs to bring some perspective to this situation. “I thought you said you had a wonderful idea.”

“Those two need a break, Haymitch. Can’t you see how they’re running themselves ragged?”

“They’re raising a kid, not toppling a regime.”

“And which would you rather do?” Effie asks knowingly.

Haymitch stares at her. Effie arches her eyebrows.

“Fair point,” he admits grudgingly.

“Besides,” Effie says, lighting up, “I absolutely can’t get enough of the little darling.”

Haymitch snorts.

“What?”

“Easy for you to say. You’ve seen her for, what, two hours altogether?”

“How dare you! I was there when she was born. I helped out Katniss for weeks afterward.”

“Newborns are easy,” Haymitch says, unimpressed.

“Easy? That little girl spit up all over my favorite cashmere wrap, remember!”

Oh, he remembers.

“But I didn’t make a fuss,” Effie persists heroically. “All of those years of being thrown up on really prepared me to keep my cool when it counted most.” She gives him a significant look.

“I haven’t thrown up on you that many times.”

“Three times,” Effie reports. “Shoes, lap, cerulean wig.”

Haymitch squints, the dim memory coming back to him. “But you weren’t wearing the wig.”

“You pulled it off my head in order to throw up into it,” Effie informs him.

“Oh yeah,” he says, frowning. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“Charming,” Effie huffs.

"No one's hair should be blue. I was doing you a favor. I was doing the world a favor."

“I'm not going to dignify that narrow-mindedness with a response. The point is, I’ve dealt with you at your most inebriated, and you weren’t nearly as adorable as a darling little baby.”

“Ouch,” says Haymitch.

“And she’s much older now, so she’ll be much easier to take care of!” Effie reasons cheerfully.

Haymitch is almost tempted to let her discover how wrong she is on her own. But he guesses he’s got an obligation to help her out. Stand by your woman, and all that. “You’re forgetting one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Newborns stay in the same place. She’s in the terrible twos now, princess. Anything can happen.”

“Oh, don't be dramatic.”

"Have you ever actually watched a toddler?"

"I've seen plenty of toddlers."

"Effie, seeing a toddler isn't the same as watching a toddler."

"Haymitch, must you always be so pessimistic?"

Hey, he tried.

“Tell you what,” he says. “The kiddo can come hang out for the day, but you’re in charge of babysitting.”

“Fine,” Effie says regally. “I’m sure we’ll have a glorious time.”

“I’m sure you will,” Haymitch says, giving her a peck on the lips.

Effie hmms triumphantly.

Haymitch settles in and waits for the storm to hit.


+


It all starts out perfectly cheery.

“AUNTIE EFFIE!!!!!” Willow cries, dropping Katniss’s hand and throwing her arms around Effie’s legs. Frankly, it baffles Haymitch that the sight of Effie doesn’t scare the shit out of the kid – even though it’s settled down a bit over the years, Capitol fashion is still an acquired taste, and definitely not a look that you see around 12 – but Willow has always treated an Effie appearance like a visit from a fairy godmother.

“Sweetheart!” Effie effuses, scooping Willow up into her arms. “Oof—you’ve gotten heavy, haven’t you?”

“Not polite to comment on a lady’s weight,” Haymitch contributes. “Bad manners.”

Effie tsk tsks at him.

“You really don’t have to do this,” Katniss says, watching them warily.

“Oh, hush!” Effie orders. “You and Peeta go have some alone time. We’ll be just marvelous over here.”

“Marvelous, huh?” Katniss says doubtfully, catching Haymitch’s eye.

Haymitch shrugs. “Look at it this way: kid’ll definitely do more damage to Effie than the other way around.”

The corner of Katniss’s mouth twitches.

“Laugh all you like, you two,” Effie says. “This afternoon is going to be a smashing success.”

“Okay,” Katniss says. “If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure,” Effie says. “Now shoo!” She waves Katniss away impatiently.

Katniss throws one last skeptical expression Haymitch’s way, then departs with a wave.

Meanwhile, Willow doesn’t waste any time; she starts pulling at Effie’s wig, fascinated by the strands of pink woven into the blonde.

“Oh!” Effie cries, shocked.

Willow’s eyes light up with diabolical interest.

Haymitch knows that feeling himself. It’s hard to begrudge the kid for wanting to mess with Effie Trinket.

“Oh—” Effie cringes, trying to steer Willow’s tiny hand away from her wig. “Nope—now, don’t do that, darling—”

Willow laughs hysterically, pleased with the results she’s yielding.

Haymitch smirks, watching the struggle.

“Need a hand?” he asks.

“No thank you,” Effie says loftily. Then, to Willow, she coos, “Now then, sweetie! We’re just going to go take this wig off. After all, they aren’t at all the fashion here, are they? One must pay attention to the trends in one’s surroundings! Shall we try the au naturale look? What do you say? That sounds splendid, doesn’t it—ooh! Ouch!”

“You sure?” Haymitch calls after her, grinning.

“We are terrific, thank you!” Effie yells obstinately.


+


Effie reemerges from the bedroom with her wig out of sight, her hair in a braid, and Willow propped on one hip.

It takes about two minutes for her to find the flaw in that course of action.

Ow – oh – you certainly have your mother’s fierceness, don’t you?” Effie remarks with a strained smile as Willow tugs repeatedly on her braid.

Willow giggles.

“Updo it is, then!” Effie announces with that classic Effie Trinket forced cheer. It’s not quite May the odds be ever in your favor!, but it’s close.

Haymitch chuckles and sips his coffee.


+


“What do you think?” Effie asks, coming back out of the bedroom. She’s arranged her hair into some sort of complicated arrangement of braids that circles her head.

“Beautiful,” Haymitch says, and watches Willow sprint past them, Effie’s wig in her hands.

“Thank you,” says Effie, smiling and oblivious. “I figured if I was going to start showing my real hair, I might as well figure out how to do it with some style. I’ve been researching all the old coiffure trends—”

“Effie?”

“Yes?”

“Where’s the kid?”

“Oh! I swear she was here just a minute ago!” Effie frowns, putting her hands on her hips, and then gasps when she spots Willow. And, more importantly, the wig. “How in the world did you get that??”

Willow runs by, shrieking with delight and dragging the wig behind her.

“Willow Primrose Mellark, you get back here right this instant!” Effie cries, chasing after her.

“You tell ‘er, honey,” Haymitch contributes, raising his coffee cup. Call it a gesture of moral support.


+


By the time Effie catches up to Willow, everyone’s outside and the wig has been commandeered by Haymitch’s grumpiest goose. Willow is watching the goose peck at the wig with a mixture of awe and unease on her little face. She’s a smart kid. Messing with that goose leads to one thing, and that’s doom.

Effie lacks Willow’s level of poultry awareness.

“That is a one of a kind design!” she shrieks, hurrying into the pen.

The goose punishes her with a honk so loud and full of hate that it damn near sends a shiver down Haymitch’s spine.
Effie makes a grab for the wig. The goose fluffs out its feathers and hisses. Effie screams. Willow, remarkably, just seems to think the whole thing’s hilarious. And she has the good sense to back up several feet.

“You know what, I take back what I said before,” Haymitch remarks placidly from the porch. “Babysitting’s delightful.”

“Quiet, you!” Effie snaps. Then she goes back to negotiating with the goose. “This wig was very expensive, young man!”

“Did you just call the goose ‘young man’?” Haymitch inquires innocently.

“Did I or did I not say quiet, Haymitch Abernathy?”

“They’re all female; that's all I’m saying.”

“Well, she is not comporting herself like a young lady!!” Effie cries furiously.

“Maybe she wants to try out the world of fine Capitol fashion for herself. Would you really begrudge her that?”

Effie ignores him. She’s a woman on a mission. “Bad goose! Bad goose!”

Willow scurries over to Haymitch and takes a seat on the bottom porch step. She watches the scene for a minute, then giggles delightedly and looks up at him.

“Funny,” she declares.

“Right?” Haymitch says. “Classic.”


+


After a very dramatic half hour, Effie gives up and relinquishes her wig to the goose, and she and Willow come back inside.

“I’d gotten tired of that wig anyway,” Effie says with great dignity. “Pink and blonde. So passé!”

“You know,” Haymitch replies, “I didn’t wanna say anything, but I’ve been thinking that for ages. Get with the times. You know what I mean?”

Effie narrows her eyes at him. He responds with a shit-eating grin. Ordinarily it’d be the kind of moment that led to either Effie storming out or sex on the table, but today they’ve got other things on the agenda. Shame.


+


It goes without saying that lunch winds up all over the walls.

Since Effie made it (or, well, tried), that’s probably for the best.


+


“Maybe she’ll nap,” Effie theorizes a half hour later as she watches Willow bang on a pot with a wooden spoon. It was the closest thing to a toy Effie could improvise on short notice. “Children nap, don’t they? That’s a thing children do?”

“Some children, in theory,” Haymitch agrees, wincing as the pot-banging gets louder. “Not sure about this one.”
Effie wilts.

“You want to take a break?” Haymitch shouts over the noise. “Let Uncle Haymitch take over? Because I’d be—” Willow starts banging the pot with a level of ferocity that confirms, yep, she’s definitely her mom’s kid. He clears his throat, feels thankful for once that he decided to embrace this whole life-of-sobriety thing (that noise would not go pretty with a hangover), and tries again. “I’D BE MORE THAN HAPPY TO HELP.”

Effie frosts over. “CERTAINLY NOT,” she retorts. He has to give her points for trying to yell with poise. “I’VE GOT THINGS ENTIRELY UNDER CONTROL.”

“RIGHT,” Haymitch says.

“RIGHT,” Effie agrees stubbornly.


+


The next Effie Trinket’s Signature Style items to go are the shoes. Willow decides that running around the house is a great idea, and Effie decides that running around the house might lead to Willow getting sleepy. (Effie doesn’t admit as much out loud, but Haymitch knows how to read her.)

Effie valiantly survives a few laps in her heels, then pauses for a moment to kick off her shoes. And then pauses for another moment to straighten them so one of them’s not knocked over sideways on the floor.

Classic Effie.

“Don’t judge,” she orders, pointing sternly at Haymitch.

“Judge what?” Haymitch asks, leaning back on the couch. “You’re giving me so much to choose from.”

Effie apparently gives up on sparring with him, which is a true testament to her distress levels. Seemingly to herself, she mutters, “Children nap. I know that children nap. She just needs to get tired, and then she’ll nap.”

“You sure you don’t want me to join in? Help out?”

“No, no!” Effie says with forced brightness. “This is girls’ time!”

“Oookay,” says Haymitch.

And that is how Haymitch spends an hour sitting on his ass watching his insane girlfriend chase a two year old.
Really magical stuff.


+


When naptime finally comes around, it’s mostly because Effie has taken the lap-running into the bedroom, and then lap-running turns into taking a breather on the bed, “just for a minute,” and then Effie can’t quite seem to get up again. Haymitch watches from the hallway, smirking.

Willow gets curious and raises her arms in a request. Effie lifts her up onto the bed, and that seems to be the last of her energy gone.

“Do you ever take naps at home, Willow?” Effie asks faintly.

“Nah,” Willow says.

Haymitch watches as all the hope drains right off Effie’s face.

Willow starts wiggling around on the bed, bouncing up and down to the best of her ability. Effie seems to decide that this is as good as it’s going to get, and watches blearily as Willow’s bouncy reign of terror commences. Haymitch thinks about sneaking in there and grabbing the kid so that Effie can get some rest.

But before he can, the miraculous happens: Willow settles down.

She crawls up the bed until she’s sitting next to Effie. “Story time?”

“You like stories?” Effie says, seeming surprised that the kid likes anything that doesn’t involve maximum speed and maximum noise levels.

Willow nods.

“Well, I suppose I can come up with something ...”

“Good,” Willow says, and snuggles against Effie.

Effie looks down at her and smiles in surprise.

“Well,” Effie starts after a moment of contemplating, “once upon a time, there was a grumpy old gander who lived on his own, and honked at all the other geese who came by until finally they left him alone. He was such a frightening old thing that no one wanted much to do with him—which was a shame, because he really was a very nice gander, underneath it all. Then one day, a beautiful peacock crossed his path. Now, this peacock was very witty and charming – not to mention very stylish – and the gander couldn’t help but like her, even if he would have never admitted it to any of the other geese, or even himself...”

Haymitch rolls his eyes affectionately and leans against the wall to listen.


+


Fifteen minutes later, the impossible has happened: Willow’s asleep.

And so, apparently, is Effie.

“Nice story,” Haymitch says as he comes into the room, keeping his voice quiet. “You know the pretty peacocks are the boy ones, right?”

“Must you thwart me at every turn?” Effie demands, not bothering to open her eyes.

“Well, yeah,” Haymitch says. “Wasn’t that our agreement all those years ago? It’d be a shame to switch things up now.”

She smiles just slightly. He admires the sweet curve of her mouth, and how pretty she looks with her hair sneaking all wild out of those meticulous braids. “You have a point,” she says.

Haymitch sits on the corner of the bed, and Effie opens her eyes to smile groggily up at him.

“She's asleep," Effie announces. "I knew I would triumph eventually."

“You’re unstoppable, that’s for sure.”

“And it’s taken you this many years to admit it?” Effie clucks her tongue softly, then turns her head slightly so she can watch Willow sleep. “You’d hardly believe what this girl can get up to, looking at her now.”

“Yeah,” Haymitch agrees, chuckling.

She smiles and touches her fingers lightly to Willow’s dark curls.

“You’re starting to seem pretty fond of this whole child-nurturing gig,” Haymitch remarks nonchalantly. “Whaddya say we keep her for another day?”

Effie stops with the poignant hair-touching. Instead, she flops her hand in his direction in an attempt to smack him. It doesn’t land – her form’s a little too sleep-sloppy – but he gets the message. “Do not even joke about that,” she orders.

“Eesh.” Haymitch catches her hand and kisses it. “Yes, ma’am.”


+


There’s a rap on the door that evening. Haymitch opens the door and lets Peeta in.

Peeta takes in the sight that meets him with surprise. Haymitch can’t blame him. For a lot of reasons.

Effie and Willow are sitting on the couch as calm and companionable as can be, Effie trying various hairstyles on Willow’s dark curls while Willow investigates the results in Effie’s sparkly compact mirror.

Turns out, naps work wonders.

So does hairstyling time. Effie let Willow have a turn as hairstylist, which mostly involved Willow enthusiastically tugging on Effie's hair and putting in barrettes at random. Haymitch swept in to rescue his girl, figuring she could at least be spared the scalp pain after a long day. But then Willow got it into her head that she didn't want to do Haymitch's hair. Oh, no. She wanted to watch Effie style it.

As a result, his hair is currently sporting a bunch of little braids. It's possible there's a sparkly butterfly-shaped barrette or two.

"Nice look," Peeta greets him.

"Don't start," Haymitch grumbles, and sets to work tearing his fingers through his hair. There's a definite gleam in Peeta's eyes that means Katniss is gonna hear about this, and they're gonna laugh.

Swell.

“Oh, hello Peeta!” Effie trills. “Has the whole day really gone by already? The time has simply flown!”

“Oh yeah?” Peeta says, grinning. He's thoughtful enough not to mention Effie's hair situation. The injustice is staggering.

“Daddy! My hair!” Willow says gleefully.

“Very pretty,” Peeta compliments. “I’m glad to see you all had such a good time, Effie.”

“Why wouldn’t we have?” Effie asks. A dangerous undercurrent sneaks into the words.

“No reason,” Peeta says easily.

“I do hope you and Katniss got some time to yourselves!”

“We sure did. Mommy and I got to rest and relax.” Peeta goes over to Willow and sinks down to his knees so he can meet her eye level. “Did you rest and relax?”

“No,” Willow reports proudly.

“No?” Peeta repeats with a mock-gasp.

“No!” Willow giggles devilishly.

Peeta casts a cheerily doubtful look Effie’s way. “You sure she wasn’t too rowdy?”

“She was a perfect angel!” Effie insists.

Haymitch lifts his eyebrows, but doesn’t say anything.

“Well, I’m glad to hear it,” Peeta says, picking Willow up. “Say goodnight, Wills.”

“Night!” Willow chirps obediently.

Haymitch catches Peeta before he can go out the door under the guise of giving the sparkly butterfly barrettes to Willow.

"You sure you don't want to keep them?" Peeta asks with a perfect straight face.

“Cute," Haymitch glowers. In an undertone, he adds, "You and Katniss were watching out the window all day, weren’t you?”

“No,” Peeta says, his eyes wide and innocent.

Haymitch stares him down.

“A little,” Peeta relents. “Mostly the goose thing.”

“Hey, I’m not blaming you. How could you resist?”

“It sounded pretty chaotic over here. We thought the house might fall down.”

“Not this time, kid,” Haymitch says.

Peeta smiles and shakes his head. Abruptly, he goes back to Effie and leans down to give her a kiss on the cheek. “Thanks, Effie.”

“Any time, sweetheart,” Effie says, pressing a hand to his face and sounding worryingly sincere. She does always tend to melt where Peeta’s concerned.

“Really, Eff?” Haymitch says. “Any time?”

Effie strives to death glare at Haymitch and smile winningly at Peeta all at once. The resulting facial expression sure is interesting.

“Tell you what, Effie,” Peeta says, “We’ll leave you to keep an eye on Haymitch for the next few days. We all know he’s the biggest handful.”

“Peeta my dear, truer words were never spoken,” Effie praises.

“Excuse me?” Haymitch demands. “I’m a peach.”

“You’re something,” Effie says darkly. “That’s for certain.”

Peeta laughs. “Goodnight, you two.”

Willow waves merrily goodbye over Peeta’s shoulder on the way out. Haymitch notices that in spite of everything, Effie looks genuinely touched.

“Well?” he asks once the door’s closed and it’s just the two of them again. “What’s the verdict? Are you heartbroken you don’t have a dozen of your own little hellions running around?”

“I’m glad,” Effie replies, resting back on the couch, “that our little family is just the way it is. Aren’t you?”

There’s still something in him that bristles on instinct at the word family, that doesn’t want to trust it. But the war is over and they’ve all got some peaceful years behind them now. Not easy years, necessarily, after all they’ve got to remember—but peaceful. And maybe it’s about time to start trusting that.

“I am,” Haymitch admits.

Effie gives him a smile.

“With that being said,” she adds, resting her hand on his thigh, “it is nice to have a little private time.” Her eyes are bright and flirtatious.

“Amen to that,” Haymitch says heartily, and pulls her in for a well earned kiss.



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