Sorry for not posting yesterday, but I had to get up early and I was volunteering to pack christmas boxes for children in other countries so I was gone all day. Just so you know it was for a good cause :)
Anyway, I've been thinking about how I want this story to go, and I thought about where to stop it, and then my friend and I are going to start writing Annie's games, so that will pick up where this story left off. One thing that's been bothering me though is after Annie wins her games, I don't know what we're planning for that, we might end the story when she wins her games.
I need to talk to Emma Lane about that :-\
Anyway! Here's the chapter :D
Song is "Iris" by The Goo Goo dolls.
Chapter Fifteen: Peace.
The only thing I remember is floating on my back in the perfectly calm ocean, watching the clear blue sky above me. I know I'm dreaming...or dead, I don't know which. I don't know why I would be dead, the last thing I remember is fighting in the alley, then I saw Annie. Everything is perfectly calm and peaceful.
Suddenly my heart skips a beat, and my eyes snap open.
I'm in the hospital, my forehead hurts, and my chest is horribly sore. I lift up my arm, and see a needle sticking in it, clear liquid drips steadily through the tube into my arm. I sigh and gently lower my arm back to the bed. I reach my other arm up and feel the bandage around my forehead, my wavy hair is laying over it, partially hiding the bandage. I try to sit up, and wince as a sharp pain shoots through my chest, I carefully hold a hand to my ribs, and try again. I cry out in pain, and drop back onto the mattress, closing my eyes tightly and gritting my teeth as pain spreads across my chest and back.
I hear the door open, and the most beautiful voice I've ever heard moves quickly across the room until it's beside me.
"Finn! You're awake!"
I open my eyes, tears from the pain starting to fill them. I look over and see Annie standing beside me, her beautiful and wild brown hair flying around her in its usual thick waves. She's still wearing the dress that she had in the alley.
"Annie."The name is peace and hope and comfort just to say. She has tears running down her cheeks as she smiles, and leaning down she carefully kisses my bandaged forehead.
The tears fall out of my eyes as unbearable pain shoots through me again. I squeeze my eyes shut and clench my jaw tightly. I feel Annie's hand nestled in my wavy hair, and her other one is holding mine tightly.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."
I feel the tube connected to my arm quiver, and after a moment the pain slowly fades away. I take a deep breath, and open my eyes.
"Annie...don't be sorry."She has her forehead pressed against my hand, and I can feel her tears dropping onto it. I stiffly sit up, and put my hand on her head, then I kiss the top of her head.
"You're safe, and that's all that matters."
She looks up, tears streaking her cheeks.
She whimpers, lightly touching the bandage around my head. I shake my head.
"It doesn't matter."
She drops her head, more tears falling on the bed.
"It's my fault."
I lift her chin so that she meets my gaze, and I smile. Wiping away her tears as I say.
"It's not your fault. I would die to keep you safe."
She sobs and wraps her arms gently around my neck, being careful not to lean her weight on me. I wrap my arms around her, and lean my head against hers.
"Annie Cresta you are the most important thing in my life."
Her shoulders shake as she cries, and she manages to say through her tears.
"You are mine too."
We sit like that for a while, just holding each other. We haven't been together in several months, and holding her is pure joy and peace. Everything about her is familiar and lovely. The smell of her hair, the sound of her voice, her smooth skin, the familiar sound of her heartbeat.
After a long time, Annie reluctantly pulls away, and wipes the tears off her face. She takes a deep breath.
"I've missed you so much."
I lean back on the pillows, feeling a little like I'm floating.
"Me too. How's Lily?"
Annie brighten up."She's doing just fine. After you passed out Poseidon had to carry you all the way to the hospital, The doctors said you have a slight concussion, and five of your ribs are broken."
"Well that would explain the pain in my chest. How long was I out?"
She shrugs."Not long, you were brought into the hospital last night, and it's only nine o'clock."
"Have you been here all night?"
She holds up her hands halting me.
"Finn, it's fine, they rolled in a cot for me to sleep on."
I look skeptically at her."Did you actually sleep?"
"I couldn't sleep with you hurt! I had to be awake in case you woke up and needed something."
I sigh heavily and shake my head.
"Annie you should have known I would want you to get agood nights sleep more."
She crosses her arms and rolls her eyes.
"Oh please, like you wouldn't have done the same thing."
I smile slightly.
"See? Don't worry I'm fine. The important question is how are you? We got a call that you were in the hospital, then a few days later we got another call saying you were coming home. Johanna never said what was wrong."
"Um...I blanked out..."
Annie looks concerned.
"It could be because of the concussion. Johanna said something about excessive bleeding?"
The memory returns in an instant, and I shudder as I remember."Oh yeah...I got a toxin in my blood somehow, and when I got a bloody nose it triggered the toxin."
She looks horrified."You were poisoned? How?"
I brush my thumb against the scab on my fingertip, and shrug.
"They don't know, they're not even sure what the toxin was."
She nods slowly.
After a moment of silence, I ask."So you talked to Jo on the phone for a little while?"
She nods, remaining quiet.
"Well what did you think of her?"
I ask, wondering what Annie's view of her was. After a long pause, she says.
"I think something terrible happened to her, and that's why she acts so harsh towards everyone."
I nod slowly, and Annie adds quickly.
"She was nice to me though. Although some of the things she said sounded kind of funny."
I look at her interested."Oh? Like what?"
Annie's forehead creases into a bunch of little lines like it always does when she's thinking.
"Well, she said something about us...I can't remember exactly how she put it, but it was something like 'Finnick is starting to realize it, but it's going to take you a little longer to.' Does that make any sense to you?"
I think for a minute, then shake my head.
"No. Jo talks kind of weird sometimes, I wouldn't think about it too much, it could make your brain hurt."
She laughs, and just that makes me feel ten times better.
"Oh! I almost forgot to tell you. Ariel is pregnant!"
She nods, and I laugh.
"That's wonderful! Poseidon is going to be a dad."
"Everyone is really excited."
I stare at her as she talks about random things that happened while I was gone. Her eyes laugh and dance as she smiles, and I love the way they light up when she looks at me. Her lips are constantly in her beautiful smile, which I haven't seen in a while.
After about an hour, the doctor comes in to check on me, and then I am visited by Poseidon, Ariel and Mags. The rest of the day is happily spent talking and laughing with everyone, and the doctor announces that I will be able to go home as long as I rest and take it easy. he gives me some pain medication, telling me to take the pills only when I have extreme pain.
Annie walks me all the way home, and makes certain that I'm able to take care of myself before she finally leaves.
"You call me if you need anything okay."
She doesn't say it like a question, she's not looking for argument. I laugh.
"Promise. You get sleep okay?"
"I'll see you first thing in the morning."
"I'm looking forward to it."
She hesitates, then reluctantly starts walking towards her house. I watch her until she is inside her house. Ever since last night, I'm paranoid about her safety. That night I can't sleep, it's not because of the pain, I don't really have any, I can't put my finger on what it is.
Sighing, I sit up and adjust the tight bandages around my chest. Then I sit on the edge of the bed, and try to find the source of my restlessness. I finally decide to take a walk, I slip on a pair of jeans and quietly walk downstairs. It's not long before I find myself on the beach, breathing in the salty air and listening to the quiet sigh of the ocean.
It feels good to have the sand beneath my feet again, this is where I belong, this will always be my home. I could walk forever on the beach, just never stop walking until I reach the district limits, then I could get in the ocean and swim away, far away from everything. I sigh and kick some sand ahead of me. That will never happen because I unfortunately have to stay here, and face my problems.
Bruce would say that this was all part of being a victor, and a part of growing up. I can hear his voice in my head.
You can't run away from your problem Finnick, you need to face them and do the best you can to solve them.
"Yeah, great advice Bruce."
I say to the air, shaking my head slowly. It's rather comforting to speak aloud.
"The only flaw with that plan is I don't know exactly what my problems are."
I think over the past couple years.
"Well, being a victor is one of them. But that's not what's bothering me, I've learned to deal with being a victor, I don't like it, but I'm dealing with it. It's the other problems that I can't solve. Because I don't know what they are."
I sigh, and let my head drop to my chest. Standing still and listening to the ocean. My hair ruffles in the slight breeze. I should probably be cold because I don't have shirt or shoes on, but I'm not. Maybe it's the morphling pills they gave me.
"How do you solve the problem of not being able to figure out what your problems are in the first place?"
I start walking along the beach again, walking at a gentle angle so I gradually start walking on wet sand. A wave rushes up and swallows my legs up to the ankle. The water is cool, but not too cold. I walk slowly up to my waist, and take a deep breath, then I dive under the surface.
Since it's night, I can't see anything underwater, so I just lay on the sand and move back and forth as the waves come and go. After a minute, I stand up, and break the surface. Taking another breath I repeat the system.
As I'm lying under the surface, I relax and let my mind wander. I hope Annie is following my instructions and getting sleep. Will she be alright? I shouldn't have left, what if something happened? I wouldn't be there to protect her.
I wonder what Johanna and Leo are doing right now, probably sleeping. That would be the logical thing. Is Jo having nightmares still? I feel bad that I'm not there to help her, but she has Leo, he's probably the best comfort to her anyway. he's a good kid, I know he'll take good care of Johanna.
I come up for more air, and wince as a wave breaks against my chest. I guess the morphling is wearing off. I should probably get back to victors village. I walk out of the water, and splash through the shallows. The bandages around my chest are completely soaked through, and I just peel them off. It's rather painful, but I finally get them all off.
After about twenty minutes of walking, I start to shiver. Adding to the fact that I'm soaking wet, and the morphling is almost completely worn off, I am feeling very cold. I push the cold from my mind, and focus on other things. What was it that refused to let me relax and fall asleep? I guess I'm just still anxious from being on the victory tour, then there was the whole poisoning thing, add that to the drama awaiting me when I returned home, I would say I have a great excuse to not be able to sleep.
But there's still a nagging in the back of my mind, something trying to enter my thoughts, but refusing to step over the line. I sigh and scratch at my head bandage. I wish my brain would just tell me already, at the rate it's working right now, I'll go crazy before I figure it out.
It takes me about an hour to get back to the district, and by that time I'm wincing with every breath because of my broken ribs. I wish they would just heal already. On the bright side of all this, I won't be able to go back to the capitol for a while, I have an excellent excuse. I am not physically fit to travel anywhere. Ha ha, take that president Snow. I grin as I think this, and temporarily am thankful for the pain.
As I walk through the streets, I find myself wandering away from victors village. I just let my feet take me where they will, and for a while I just wander around certain streets. I seem to be gravitating in a certain direction, so I turn and walk that way. My pace speeds up when I see the small stone chapel. I know where I'm going now.
I walk around the small building, and walk a dozen yards to the large iron gate in the long stone wall. It opens with a slight creak, and I leave it open as I walk inside the wall. I pause just inside the gate, and let my eyes wander over the many headstones marking final resting places. I slowly walk through the graves, making my way past the wooden crosses, and on to the large stone markers. Before long I reach the one I'm looking for. I drop to my knees beside it, and brush away the sand that has built up around it.
Bruce O, Gilroy.
Victor of the 50th hunger games, and friend.
"Live the best life you can, because we all die in the end."
I smile at the quote put underneath his title, he would have that on his headstone. I sit for a while beside his grave, thinking over everything that's happened to me since I became a victor, around three years ago. It's amazing how much can happen in so short a time.
I glance over at the headstone on my other side, and stare at the inscription.
Felicia C, Triton.
Loving daughter and friend.
"True love is the most powerful thing in the world, no matter what happens, you can not destroy it."
I slide over to her tombstone, and tears fill my eyes. I clear away the weeds that have grown around the stone, and brush the sand off. I trace the letters of her name with my fingertips, my tears falling onto her grave. Bruce was buried beside my mother, surely it couldn't have been from coincidence. Mags maybe?
"I don't know what to do."
I say slowly, shaking my head as more tears fall onto the graves. I take a deep breath, the pain in my chest steadily growing worse.
"I am afraid that no matter what I do, one time I'm not going to protect Annie. I'll never forgive myself if anything ever happens to her."I tilt my head back to look at the stars.
"She is my life."
That's the only way I am able to describe what she is to me, and a sense of calm falls over me. The anxiety gone from my mind. I have found what my problem is.
"Annie."I breathe quietly. She is my cause for restlessness, she is everything to me, and for the first time I realize just how much I need her.
At first I think I am dreaming, but there's a certain reality to the voice.
"Finn what are you doing here?"
I open my eyes and painfully sit up. I must have dozed off. I turn my head to see Annie dressed in pajamas with a robe wrapped tightly around her shivering body. I turn to look back at the headstones, then back at her."What are you doing here?"
She repeats, her eyes flickering around the graves nervously. I sigh, and painfully stand up.
"I was just...looking for answers."
She notices the headstone, and nods sadly.
"You never really got time to...get closer."
I shrug, then wince.
"What are you doing here Annie? It has to be around two o'clock in the morning."She shifts her bare feet on the ground, and rubs her arms.
"I fell asleep, but I couldn't rest. Something was bothering me, I went to see if you were asleep but you weren't there. I got worried so I went looking for you."
I sigh, and walk over to her.
"You should have just gone back and fallen asleep. What if something happened to you?"
Her teeth are chattering, but she manages to reply.
"Finn, I can't sleep if I don't know where you are."
For a moment, I wonder if there's something else in what she's saying.
"Annie, I can't let anything happen to you. Please don't go wandering around at night by yourself, just wait at my house until I come back, and If I don't then go get Poseidon or someone okay?"
She nods, her teeth chattering too much to answer. I walk forward and offer my hand, she takes it quickly, and I wrap my arm around her."Let's get you back inside."
She huddles close to my side, and I can feel her body shivering. I keep my arm around her, trying to protect her from the cold as much as possible.
We reach a small opening in the street, it opens in a circle courtyard and it has a fountain in the middle of it. Annie pulls me to a stop beside the fountain.
"Look up Finn."
I tilt my head back, and see the countless stars twinkle in the sky, I can see the milky way stretching from one end of the horizon to the other. As Annie and I watch, she wraps both her arms around me, and rests her head against my chest. I wrap my arms around her, and we both watch the stars. our hearts beat in time, and her soft breath brushes across my chest.
I say quietly, pointing to the sky. She follows where I'm pointing, and she gasps. A shooting star bright and quick flashes across the sky, followed by another, then many more.
Annie says quietly.
"Make a wish."I whisper quietly. I watch as she closes her eyes, her head still tilted back, she smiles and opens her large green eyes. I can see the reflection of the stars in them, and it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
"Know you make a wish."
She says to me. I look up, and close my eyes. Wishing desperately that she will stay safe.
I open my eyes, and Annie grabs my hand again. We start walking back to victors village.
"What did you wish for?"
I ask Annie. She laughs quietly.
"I can't tell you that Finn, or else it won't come true."
"Alright then, don't forget, because I want you to tell me if it ever comes true."
"I will if you will."I nod.
We walk the rest of the way in silence, and I realize that soon she is going to be starting school again, and I'm going to be going to the capitol more. We won't have many chances to be together. maybe that's for the best, the less time we spend together, maybe the less the president will be interested in her.
I start, wanting to tell her my worries and problems. She looks up at me with happy eyes, that beautiful smile on her lips. I smile.
"Nevermind."I can't burden her with my problems, she can't know my pain, and I won't taint those beautiful eyes with worry.
"You shouldn't do that."She says with a light laugh, and then she covers her mouth as the sound echoes around the street. She holds back a giggle, as I glare at her sternly. In a few minutes we reach victors village, and I drop her off at her house."Goodnight darling."
I say teasingly. She smiles.
I turn and start walking to my house, as I reach the door, I hear a quiet call.
I turn around just as Annie runs up and hugs me, I don't even feel the pain as she whispers quietly.
"Please let me stay."
I pull her away from me, and keep my hands on her shoulders.
"Annie what's going on?"
She shifts slightly, and folds her arms together tightly. Dropping her head.
"I've...been having...problems lately."
I hold her arms firmly, and sink to my knees so I can see her eyes.
"What kind of problems?"
I ask concerned. She avoids looking at my eyes, and she starts to tremble slightly.
"When you're not here...I get confused..."
I shake my head.
"Annie what do you mean? You're not making any sense."
She covers her face with her hands, and shudders as she says.
"Sometimes I don't know what is real."
I gently pull her hands away from her face, and hold them tightly.
She still won't look in my eyes.
"After we heard you were in the hospital...I thought I saw Robbert on the beach."
I stare at her speechless, and her voice becomes desperate."He was so real Finn! He waved and smiled at me..."
She shakes her head at the memory.
"I can hear your voice sometimes, in my head...I don't know what's wrong with me."
I brush the hair out of her face, and make her look at me.
"How long has this been going on?"
"After Robbert died...you snapped me out of it and I thought I was better, but at the next reaping I heard his name called again...and when I saw you, I thought you had volunteered again and well...It got a little better after that, but it's been bad lately."
Her voice trembles as she holds back tears."I have nightmare all the time..."
I stand up slowly.
She rubs her arms, and sighs heavily.
"Mostly about your games, the reaping, Robbert, but you're always in them...sometimes you try to kill me..."
She says guiltily, and I wrap my arms around her tightly."I would never do anything to hurt you."
I feel a tear slide down my chest as she starts crying.
"I know...I'm fine when I'm with you."
I kiss the top of her head.
"Do you want to stay here tonight?"
She nods, and I open the door. In a few minutes she is fast asleep beside me, holding onto my hand tightly.
I lay awake for a long time, my heart pounding quickly. I thought Annie was fine, she hasn't acted strange since I got back from my games, now I know she's just been hiding it. She says she is fine when I'm around. This is going to make it even harder to leave her to go to the capitol. I can't leave her...but I have to, otherwise she will be hurt. But I'll be hurting her by leaving, but the president will kill her. I have no other choice.
I wrestle with myself for a long time, trying hard to find a solution to all of this. I feel Annie shift next to me, and I turn my head to look at her.
She has my hand in hers, and she has the back of my hand pressed gently against her lips, I can feel her soft breath on my skin, and her hands are relaxed. Her hair is spread all across the pillow and her shoulders. I brush a small strand out of her face, and fall asleep with my hand resting lightly on her cheek.