"Don't tell me you haven't noticed the way they watch you, whisper when you appear. They think you're going to save them," Briney sneered and Finnick felt himself tense. "Funny, isn't it?" she continued, "Seeing as how you haven't saved anyone yet."
Finnick knew what Briney was trying to do, knew what reaction she was trying to provoke. This wasn't the first time he'd had to mentor with her and, with Mags growing older every day, it sadly wouldn't be the last. She was constantly, eternally, miserable and every day she strove to pull the rest of them down with her.
(as if they weren't there already)
Years of Capitol servitude had taught him plenty of tricks and he smiled in her direction, covering himself up in his armor of charm.
"Being with me is salvation in and of itself," he said and Briney scowled deep and dark.
"You're disgusting," she replied and he winked, sauntering off to their two new tributes. They were sitting on a couch on the train, looking at he and Briney with awe, reverence but then, District Four was a career district, one that taught all their children to worship their glorious victors.
"You already know who I am," he said, every inch the Capitol's darling. "So who are you?"
"Seamus," the boy answered, all confidence and broad shoulders. He was eighteen and looked promising, a shining volunteer ready to bring honour to District Four. Finnick couldn't help but feel his heart constrict with hope, because maybe this year, maybe this year he would save someone.
"I'm Annie," said the girl and Finnick looked at her, took in her dark hair and slender frame. She wasn't power and strength like Seamus, but she looked capable, her eyes bright with determination.
"Well, pleasure to meet you Seamus and Annie. I hope you're ready to win."
Annie stood on the roof and looked out at the Capitol spidering out below her, glittering and sparkling like a world made of diamonds.
"Are you worried?"
She turned and there was Finnick Odair leaning in the doorway, the wind just teasing the ends of his hair. He was a bit larger than life and so beautiful, beautiful in a way she never would have thought anyone could be. He felt almost unreal, too shiny and perfect and charming, and every time she saw him she almost expected him to disappear, just something she'd imagined.
"Should I be?" she asked with half a laugh and she expected him to smile, to drown all her fears in arrogance and bravado. He paused instead and looked up at the sky, all the stars blotted out by the city's endless lights.
"I think that's what I miss most about home when I come here," he mused, "all the stars."
Annie followed his gaze and nodded, felt almost as if she were dreaming. Could this really be Finnick Odair?
"I've been training for this all my life and I've got you, so no, I'm not worried," she told him, knew her district expected her to be brave, fearless. He frowned, arms folded across his chest and she didn't know who he was right now, but she thought maybe, maybe she liked this him better.
"Yes," he whispered, so quietly she could have imagined the words, "you should be worried. You should always be worried."
Annie stared at him, had no idea what she was supposed to say, how she was supposed to feel but then Finnick grinned, some sort of curtain falling between them.
"If there's anyone who can bring you home, it's me," he said, boastful and proud. Annie nodded, swept up in his current, just like everyone else in Panem.
And for just a moment, she wasn't afraid at all.
Stack the Deck
"Will you do something for me?" he asked, stroking the blue hair fanned out over his chest.
"Anything," his newest patron purred, hands clutching at him greedily.
"Sponsor my tributes," he said with a smile and hopefully, hopefully this would be enough to save them, would give them the edge they needed.
I've trained for this all my life and I've got you to help me, so no, I'm not worried
End of the Rainbow
Annie was sticky with Seamus' blood and Finnick's voice played over in her head, a lie they'd both been foolish enough to believe.
If there's anyone who can bring you home, it's me
Annie watched Seamus' head spin through the air and screamed.
Finnick held Annie as she sobbed, shrieked and all he could think was I saved you, I saved you, why does it feel like I failed you?
Annie woke with a jump, hands over her ears to block out the screams. Nightmares hounded her when she was awake, hounded her when she slept and she couldn't stop the tears form coming, her nails digging hard into the side of her head. She never had any peace, ghosts sticking out of her walls and crawling out from under her bed. Their phantom hands clung to her clothes and pulled at her limbs, the smell of their blood making her want to puke.
Stop screaming, stop stop! her heart wailed but it kept going, loud and real. Annie opened her eyes in surprise and looked over the side of her bed, her hands jumping to her mouth. It was Finnick, thrashing about and screaming on her floor. Her heart shook and shuddered and she lifted her blankets, climbing quietly down to the floor beside him. She had begged him to stay the night, the shadows somehow blacker than usual and how silly of her, to think she was the only one with monsters in her mind.
"Finnick, Finnick wake up," she said softly, cupping his face in her hands. He jerked upright, eyes wild and panting heavily and Annie wanted to kiss away the fear bleeding from his every pore.
"It's alright, you're alright," she murmured and his gaze finally focused on her.
"I'm sorry," he said, dropping his eyes and Annie frowned. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry," she told him, stroking the hair away from his sweaty face. He trembled all over and closed his eyes.
"I didn't mean to wake you," he apologized and she shook her head.
"I'm glad you did."
He opened his eyes to blink at her in confusion. Annie smiled.
"Let's be brave together," she whispered and tugged her blanket off the bed to cover them both. Finnick stared at her like he'd never seen her before, like she was something shiny and new.
"Strength comes in numbers," she reminded him and finally he smiled, something sweet and soft, unlike anything she'd seen him show the Capitol.
Pie in the Sky
Annie scooped up the excess flour from the counter and held it up to Finnick's face. He leaned in, forehead creased in uncertainty and then her eyes lit up. She blew at the pile in her hand, a white cloud billowing up and covering his face and Finnick coughed and reeled back, Annie entirely unable to stop her giggling.
"I'm never baking with you again," he declared but he was smiling and both his hands dove into the flour bag.
"You wouldn't," she said but yes, he would. Finnick cackled as he lifted his hands, a mound of flour cupped between them. Annie spun around and attempted to flee, Finnick chasing after her.
"You started it!"
Annie laughed and continued to run, Finnick trailing after her, his own laughter joining hers.
Foul Weather Friend
Some days were better than others, but then, some were worse.
There were days Finnick could feel fingers that weren't there sliding over his skin, some days when the mere thought of someone touching him made him want to vomit. There were days he couldn't get out of bed, days when he stared up at his ceiling and imagined a million Capitol ceilings, each one pressing down on him and turning him to dust. There were also days when he tried to scrub himself raw, wanted to peel off his flesh and burn down his house, erase every trace of the Capitol's existence.
Some days, Finnick wished he were dead.
Today was one of those days.
Annie found him curled up in the bathtub, the shower running and the distinct smell of blood and puke lingering in the air. She didn't recoil or leave, she merely sat by the edge and started to sing, the same sort of lullabies his mother used to sing to help him sleep.
Hush-a-bye, my little child,
Hush-a-bye, though winds blow wild;
While the storms rage o'er the sea,
You shall sleep in serenity.
He'd felt like he'd been drifting before, like he wasn't real, like his body wasn't his but he sunk into the sound of her voice and let it pull him back down to Earth.
Sea winds whistle a lullaby;
Sea winds whistle a lullaby.
He could suddenly feel the hot water burning his skin, could feel it stinging tender flesh and he let her song drive away all the ghouls clinging to his body, let it smooth out his jagged edges, at least for now.
Child of fisherfolk by the shore,
Winds shall sing to you evermore;
Winter gale or summer breeze,
Fill your dreams with their melodies.
"Mags sent me with this," she whispered after awhile and he could smell it, Mags' famous tuna casserole. He sat up, body aching but Annie smiled at him, even as he was dripping with water and something worse. She held up the casserole and a fork and they dug in right there, using the ledge of the bathtub as a table.
Sea winds whisper a lullaby;
Sea winds whisper a lullaby.
Annie pressed her forehead into her knees, the day's events rising up and trying to eat her alive. It had been her very first speech of the Victory Tour and she'd collapsed on stage, too many memories crowding up behind her eyes. The Peacekeepers had tried to pull her back up but their gloved hands had made her scream and she'd had to be hurried away inside the Justice Building, lest she continue to make a scene.
Snow would be so mad, he had told her, in no uncertain terms, that she was to hold herself together. The Games were supposed to be glorious, but there was nothing glorious about a sniveling mess that could barely string two words together.
"You feeling any better?"
Annie lifted her head and Finnick was standing in her doorway, his face softly lit by the moonlight. She wanted to nod but couldn't and bit her lip instead. Finnick came inside and closed the door, a few of the shadows she'd felt chained to her starting to drift away. He sat down on the edge of her bed and took her hand, his skin pleasantly warm. For a moment he didn't say anything and Annie was glad, didn't want to drag the memories back up to the surface.
"I'm thinking of buying a boat," he murmured and Annie blinked.
"I bought one for my family as soon as I'd won, but I think I'd like one for myself too. Not to fish, but just to go out on the water," he continued and Annie felt a little lighter already.
"I think that'd be nice," she said and Finnick nodded.
"Would you like to go with me?" he asked and she smiled.
He started talking about what kind of boat he wanted, what it would look like and Annie felt warm all over. Finnick was handsome certainly, so very handsome but he was funny too, could make her laugh even on her worst days. He was sweet and kind and insecure and a little bit bent out of shape, but Annie looked at him and all she could think was you're perfect. They had no future of course, but sitting like this with Finnick, she wasn't Annie Cresta the mad girl any longer, she was just Annie, just a regular girl from District Four and he was just a boy, not the Capitol's favourite plaything.
And that, in the end, was what mattered most.
Castle in the Air
Annie smiled, the sun just touching her eyes and making them shine. Finnick felt the air leave him, felt like Annie had knocked him over and for the first time in so long, he felt young and free.
They were out on his boat, no one around to see them, no eyes prickling over his skin and cataloguing his every move. Just him and Annie, untouched for a moment by the Capitol and all its evil. He never would've guessed it when he first met her, but moments with Annie felt more and more precious every day, the Finnick he thought he'd buried long ago rising up in her presence. She was working her way beneath his shell, winning a place in his heart just beside Mags.
"It's amazing out here," she said and he nodded, wanted to say you're amazing. Annie grinned suddenly, looking mischievous and Finnick felt a happiness he'd assumed forever out of reach burning inside of him. She launched forward, knocking them both out into the water and they clung to each other as they laughed, her body fitting perfectly against his.
The Hunger Games were the worst thing that ever happened to him.
But even in the dark, it seemed, there was light to be found.
The stars were out, the sand was cool on her toes and even though she knew it was stupid, even though she knew Snow would never allow it, Annie turned to Finnick and said
"Can I kiss you?"
He stared at her, first in surprise, then looking shy and finally moon bright and glowing.
"Yes," he whispered, that word so fragile and Annie leaned over and did just that.
"Love is pointless in the long run. In 200 years, will you remember her eyes?" Johanna asked, voice like a knife.
"Yes," he said, "I couldn't forget them if I tried."
Annie's eyes were like the ocean and Finnick would gladly walk straight into them and drown.
"You're an idiot," Johanna accused and maybe he was, "Snow will make you pay for this."
"I know," and he did but he was selfish and life without Annie didn't really seem like life at all.
Children of Fire
Annie sobbed and wished she could stop, wished there was some way she could be strong and courageous instead of weak and broken. The bathroom tiles were like ice beneath her and she had to pull herself together, had to strangle the guilt and panic writhing inside of her.
Mags was going back into the games for her, had volunteered to save her and it was because they all knew Annie wouldn't be able to handle it, too fragile and shattered to manage. All she was, was a burden, a means to punish Finnick, and now a death sentence to Mags.
They'd all be better off without her.
"Can I come in?" Finnick asked, his voice brittle and terrified. Annie thought about turning him away, refusing him but she never could, was too selfish to ever let him go.
"Yes," she wept and he slid inside, sinking down to the floor beside her. She fell into him and he held her tight, his own tears wetting her hair.
"Don't be afraid, it'll be alright," he swore and she knew he was referring to the rumours and half made plans of rebellion, ones she was far too jaded to truly believe in. Finnick and Mags were going back in and it was her fault and when they died, it'd be her fault too. Her stomach tossed violently, blood rising up and clouding her vision. Seamus was standing before her, his head gone and all those drowned tributes, bloated and waterlogged, crammed inside the bathroom and this time they were going to make sure she drowned too, clammy hands clawing at her skin and hair.
"Hey hey hey, don't leave me. Stay with me Annie, stay with me please," Finnick murmured into her ear and she could feel his fear, could taste it. She grabbed onto that, the hectic beating of his heart next to hers, and dragged herself up out of the dark.
"I'm sorry" she said because he was the one going back in and yet here she was, falling to pieces.
"I need you Annie," he said, voice nearly choked by tears. Annie squeezed him.
"You have me," she promised and even though she could still feel the demons scrabbling at her mind, trying, always trying, to break in, she knew she had to keep them out.
Rebellion or not, they could only make it through this together. She would be his courage and he would be her strength and they would make it out of this. They would.
They had to.
Tie the Knot
His room in Thirteen was dark, too dark, but tonight at least, it felt as bright as the moon. Annie was back in his arms, he felt whole again and never again he swore to himself, they'd never be apart again.
"I love you," he told her and finally felt like he could breathe again after too long gasping for air.
"I love you too," she said, fingers tracing hearts on his chest. He leaned over and kissed her and this time, this time they'd be together forever.
Annie had always hated goodbyes.
She'd thought they were done with them, thought she'd never have to watch him leave for the Capitol again and yet here they were. It was different now of course, Finnick was going to fight, not to do Snow's bidding, and most importantly, he was her husband now.
(she'd never ever get tired of thinking that)
"I'll be back," he promised and she nodded, squeezing his hand. "I'll always come back to you."
Annie kissed him and made herself believe every word. After all, in all their years together, with all the obstacles, he had always come back.
Why should this time be any different?
The sky was bluer than blue, the sun hazy and warm while the waves lapped softly at the shore. Annie and Finnick sat side by side in the sand, shoulders touching and pinkies linked.
"I wish we could stay like this forever," Annie whispered and Finnick nodded.