First THG fic. I wanted to do something to get my feet wet with Finnick/Annie, so here's a little ficlet to start the ball rolling.

Paper Chains

They broke down the door to her cell. "Annie Cresta? My name is Gale Hawthorne." Told her she was free. "We're taking you to District 13." Her wrists bore thin, deep ligature marks and a metallic feel, but she buried her face in Finnick's chest and felt like she'd been Remade.

The old wounds healed. Every scar scrubbed clean. And his skin next to hers was soft and soothing, a poultice for her heart as they lay side by side.

Yet over time Annie discovered there was a strangeness to her newfound freedom. And the strangeness, she decided, must come from the sameness. Everything changed while everything didn't in the confines of District 13. She could walk where she pleased, except when she couldn't, could do whatever she wished as long as her wishes were approved and notarized by an authority not her own.

It took two days for Coin to mull over their request, approach them to declare that a wedding was, "probably a very good idea – would make a perfect propo, actually," and that she would allow it.

"When do you think we'll be able to stop asking permission to live our lives?" she wondered aloud one evening.

Finnick sat trimming his hair by the mirror. From the bed she watched his hand slowly descend as he set his scissors down on the table. "I know this place can be a little…stifling."

"It's not the place. It's not the walls or the ceiling or the air…" Her gaze lapsed. She stared and stared at a locus known only to her, on the blank wall opposite seeing nothing much at all, or perhaps far too much to bear.

"Annie? Annie?" When she snapped back she saw Finnick laying by her on the bed, felt him shaking her arm. He picked up the pieces of her thoughts and handed them back to her. "What were you saying? About District 13?"

She shook out the cobwebs, rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes. "Some of the people here scare me. They remind me of the Capitol. Not the lights and glitter and all that, but what's underneath. Take off the makeup and wigs and they look the same as the Captiol, and that scares me." Her head rose and fell with Finnick's chest. She envisioned ebbing tides, a boy with barley colored hair swimming out to sea, spearing fish, spearing flesh. Red seeping into blue waters, and Coin laughing over a pile of glamorous bodies. "What do you think, Finnick?" she whispered. "What kind of nation would they make out of Panem?"

"I don't know." He paused. "I'm not always sure I want to find out. But, Annie… it has to be better than what Panem is now." He sighed. "Just wait, Annie. When everything's over we'll take out our boat and never come back, find a nice little island and set up our own damn country."

Annie laughed. "President Finnick?"

"President Annie." He spooled a bit of her fanning hair over his finger. "You'd be a much more benevolent leader."

"I don't know." She drew up so she could see his face, kiss his lips. "I might be too nice. I might let you get away with anything."

They kissed. And despite the subtle underbelly they were happy. Deliriously so. But then that had always been the case as long as they were together, even back in Four where they had the sun and the beach and could watch the gulls circling unchained above and think – one day.

Here they lived in a stone mine under artificial lights, and a future like jelly. They never spoke of it directly, but as time skipped by Finnick began to spend more time with the others. He ran laps and sparred, spent more and more hours on the range, wielding weapons designed solely for him. Oh no, his actions screamed, they were not out of the fire yet; perhaps they hadn't even left the pan.

And the unspoken question that carved a small sliver of doubt between them: "What comes next?"

"The invasion of the Capitol," Finnick finally told her after a meeting with those Important People Annie couldn't name and never really wanted to learn. The ones with hunger in their eyes. The ones who scared her. He pulled her close and whispered into her hair. "They're drawing up the final attack plans now."

"An invasion…" The dramatic conclusion to this tale. She could see it written as clear as the stars on a calm night. It had all come down to this; there could be no other ending. There was no other choice.

"It'll be a little while yet, but…. it's what everyone's been training for."

"What you've been training for." She fixed her eyes to his.

He looked away. "Annie." He opened and closed his mouth several times, gathering each word one by one. "It's not as if I'll be a foot soldier. I won't even be involved in the actual invasion. Squad 451…. we're the face of the rebellion, the morale. They want us out there, but not in danger, just a steady force offering support, keeping the spirits alive. So there's the Mockingjay, of course, a few of the regulars from District 13. And me." He flashed one of his wide, expensive smiles. "They want to keep my face on the cameras. I can't say I blame them."

She sniffed and wiped her eyes. "No jokes, please. Not now."

"Annie…."He put her arms around her and pulled her close. "You don't want me to go."

"I never want you to go. But I would never ask you to stay."

"No. You never do." Because he had to go, he had to go, and it was hard enough to do what he had to do without her pleading.

"If you had a choice…"

"But I don't. Someone has to go."

He had invoked the impassable. "Yes." The District 4 motto. Someone has to go, and fight, and die. And if it must be someone, let it be someone with a fighting chance. I volunteer. And what better fighter than Finnick Odair, born and bred for killing? He was strong and smart and cunning, and the odds were always in his favor.

"You'll go," she told him. "You'll go."

The countdown started that day. But they never talked about dwindling time or what lay beyond the farewell. They were accustomed to basking in the happier things and ignoring the prods of the future.

When the sun rose on the morning of the squad's departure Finnick hung back in their room till the last possible second.

She watched him pace and fidget. "I thought Coin doesn't like tardiness."

"Coin doesn't like me."

She doesn't seem to mind using you, Annie thought, but didn't say, because she saw the fear creeping on his face and one day they would have their own island. "Come sit here," she told him. He obeyed. "Look what I've made for you." A paper shell lay in her palm, threaded with a cord made from her hair. "You'll wear it against your heart. Just make sure it keeps beating."

He looked up at the ceiling, tried to balance the swaying waters. "I don't have anything for you, Annie." She laughed. He never did. Finnick was at a loss when it came to mementos.

"What about a message?" She smiled. "One meant only for me?"

"They're only ever meant for you." But he agreed to the exchange. He never had a shortage of things to say. "What should it be? Another poem?"

"No. I think you'll be too busy for long verses. Just wink at the camera, and I'll know you love me." They snatched their last, heated kisses until someone called for him from the corridor. "Finnick," she said.


"They're calling for you."

He nodded, kissed her once more, and turned to leave.

"Finnick?" She gripped his arm. Finnick looked at her, waiting, wondering what her final words to him would be. Annie wondered as well. She never kept secrets from Finnick, but she carried a secret now, inside of her she carried a secret that might make him stay. Would she choose to tell him? Seconds passed and then minutes. She contemplated wringing her words into the right pitch, the right shape, into the truth that he did not know which might make him stay.

"Just come home, Finnick," she said. "Just come home," she repeated, and repeated.

"I will. I will." He smiled and brushed both of their eyes. "I always do." He winked once, and then he was gone.

And then he was gone.

The sun rises over waves that remind her of his eyes, so she moves to a place without water.

"Let me tell you a story," she begins one day. "A story of a revolution."

How does it end?

"With heartbreak." But something else, too, and she will get to that part later. Right now she simply rocks him in her arms, bathes him with love and a shower of tears.

The wells haven't dried but they sink deeper, draw up less and less with each passing year.

Curls of barley colored hair call out to her, splash at the shore, kick up sand and spray and laughter. He has no darkness in his eyes or wariness in his dreams. And Annie thinks, this, this, is how it ended. And she consoles herself that there was no other way.

Was there? What would have changed if Finnick had stayed? If she had told him her tethering news and he had stayed? Perhaps he would have lived. Perhaps he would have died. Perhaps they would have all died, he and she and everyone else, the Capitol still in power and the seventy-sixth hunger games broadcast round the world.

"How did it end?" Green eyes stare up at her.

"I'll get to that part later. First I need to tell you how it started." With a boy and a girl and a country on fire. With Finnick – her Finnick – her sad, broken boy from District 4 who always put the greater good above his own. Who died the way he had lived.

She felt free.