Against The Tides

Chapter 10: Missing

Without a moment's hesitation, Finnick's hand is on Mags' pulse point, and he brings his ear close to her mouth, checking for signs of breath. He can barely hear it, but Mags is definitely breathing. She just isn't responding. How long has she been like this? Just a few minutes, right? He thinks to himself, considering the liquid that still drops steadily from the sofa to the floor, but it's slow and is no longer warm. Finnick doesn't notice the subtle sound of whimpering behind him. His focus is completely on Mags.

He knows how far it is to the medical building and he has to move fast, so he takes Mags' unconscious form in his arms. She's doesn't weigh much at all, and that makes her seem more frail now. Since he's never dealt with this kind of thing before, he decides to play it safe and just carry her in his arms, hoping with all his might that he can make it there fast enough.

When Finnick turns around, he acknowledges Annie standing there, looking helpless and upset at what is happening. She has her eyes on Mags' face.

"Annie! Go home! Go home now! I'll come see you when I get back, okay?" says Finnick loudly. Annie doesn't respond. "Annie! Annie!" he says again, louder. Annie's eyes finally give way to look at him. "Go home, please! I'll see you when I get back. I'm going to take Mags to the doctor, so please go home," says Finnick, loud, but slower for Annie's sake. Annie finally nods, but is slow to move.

Finnick is out the door with Mags, running as fast as he possibly can, yet trying to be careful with Mags. He can't afford to fall or trip on anything, so he keeps a pace he can handle.

With only a half mile left to go, his legs begin to stiffen up on him and he feels the pain of his tired calf muscles. The adrenaline is giving way to his body's lowering tolerance. Five minutes later, he's at the hospital entrance, and it takes all he has left to keep from retching until the medical staff retrieves Mags from his arms.

Stroke. It's not an unfamiliar word, but it's not something that Finnick has ever had to deal with before. Suffering from a stroke is somewhat uncommon around this district. He supposes it can be the same in other districts. People usually die more from unnatural things than natural – massive loss of blood, gunshot wounds, accidents at work, and drowning. Those are the deaths most common to District 4.

But Mags isn't dead. She'll be okay, the doctor tells Finnick, after what seems like a lifetime of waiting. She may not be able to move around as much or talk as much due to partial paralysis in her facial muscles, but she's alive and Finnick is able to ease the tension in his muscles a bit. The doctor tells him that they will keep her overnight just to keep an eye on her, but that she will probably be released the next day. People don't usually stay in the hospital for too long, especially not victors. They don't have the room for extended stays, especially when there are other people suffering worse fates.

When Finnick enters her room, Mags is connected to an IV and has an oxygen mask on, but is conscious and looking very weary. He knows she's not going to accept any kind of sympathy, but he can't help but feel bad for her. Even though he smiles, his look is remorseful and Mags tries to give him a disgraceful look to show her disapproval. The only problem is that she can barely move her face at all the way she wants to and she really can't talk, so she lies there waiting for Finnick to get closer.

"Hey Mags," says Finnick quietly, yet trying to sound upbeat. "Who told you you could go and get a stroke, hm?"

Finnick pulls a chair close to her bed, grabs hold of her hand and kisses it. Mags moves her hand to his face to give it a light slap, but can only manage a pat on his cheek before it falls lazily on the bed again. Even that simple movement takes great effort for Mags. Finnick sighs.

He gently places her hand in both of his again. "Mags?" She looks at him, her eyes halfway open. "Mags?" Finnick repeats. The remorse is setting in his face again. "I'm sorry," he whispers. "Sorry I wasn't there today. I should've…"

Mags pulls up her other hand in front of him in an effort to stop him from continuing, and gives him a stern look. She doesn't blame him and he knows she won't allow him to blame himself. Not while she's still alive. That's exactly what she would say, too. He nods in understanding and tries to find something else to talk, but he figures his mind must still be in shock because he can barely think past seeing her slouched-over body on the sofa. Still, an image of Annie smiling at him at the beach flashes into his memories.

"Annie and I, we wanted to tell you… we went to the beach today. Can you believe it?"

Mags looks on him now with eyes open wide. If she didn't have the oxygen mask on, she would be able to show that Finnick just given her something to be pleased about. But Finnick does know, because he sees it in her eyes. Finnick smiles back.

"Well, we didn't get very far, really. We just sat on the sand about 10 yards from her backyard. But it's something, right? I wish you could've been there, Mags," says Finnick. After a moment's pause, she moves her fingers in his hand, urging him to continue, so he goes on about what they did and what they talked about. At first it doesn't seem like he'll be able to say much more about it, but then he details almost everything about the morning he spent doing "nothing" with Annie. By the time he's finished, it's well into the evening and one of the nurses is telling him that he has to go home now. He can definitely see it in Mags' eyes that she's tired, but she never let on until now.

"I'll see you soon. Don't go anywhere," jokes Finnick as he leaves Mags into the care of the doctor and nurses. As Finnick walks down the corridor towards the exit, the emotions that he was able to control while with Mags cannot be held any longer and tears well up in his eyes just as he's out the door. The tears feel hot, like fire burning his eyes, but the familiar feel of a chill follows the streaks on his face.

He doesn't understand how, what seemed to be, a really good day turned into a really bad one so fast. Annie had literally taken her first step onto the beach and yet, they can't enjoy even that small feat for 24 hours before something else comes up. And what's worse is that since he can't blame anyone for what has happened to Mags, he is still blaming himself despite what Mags thinks.

How could I be so stupid, so careless? He thinks to himself. To overlook Mags' sickness in favor of having a day at the beach? Wouldn't she take care of me if I was sick? How can I not do her the same favor?

For 2 miles, he wallows in regret, mixed in with thoughts of living without Mags around. Mags, the one who took care of him like he was her own. Mentored him through his Hunger Games. Kept watch over him and his brother. Even chided him when he needed chiding. And now, taking in Annie also, as someone else who needed help being looked after. There were times that not even Finnick could figure out how to calm Annie, and apparently a woman's touch was the answer.

As Finnick walks back to the village, he wipes his eyes and face free of the tears he shed. Mags is alive and he needs to remember that. She wouldn't want him bawling over her for what she would probably consider a minor inconvenience. He shakes himself free of all the fear of the last few hours and takes a deep breath.

"Get over it," he tells himself sternly.

As he enters the village, he can see the lights of each house on and several people are standing around in the green, whereas some are standing in the doorways of their neighbors.

It's an odd sight. The victors do not necessarily gather together on the green like there's a social occasion nor speak so openly in the front of houses as they are doing now. However, Finnick suspects news of Mags' situation has been spread. How any of them found out, he's not quite sure. The only other one who was there when it happened was Annie. Did she go around telling everyone, he wonders. He doesn't believe that to be like her, though. Granted, Annie barely talks freely to anyone aside from him and Mags and, of course, her father.

Then a thought occurs to him. Maybe this isn't about Mags. Turlach is there on the green as well, talking to a couple of the friendlier victors. When they catch sight of Finnick, Turlach jogs up to him.

"Finnick, where did you go? Where's Mags?" asks Turlach with concern.

"I took Mags to the medical building. She had a stroke," explains Finnick exhaustively.

"Is she okay? Was Annie with you? Is she still at the medical building, then?" asks Turlach anxiously.

"No," says Finnick. The news of Mags' stroke was definitely a surprise to those listening, but then a realization comes to Finnick's mind. If they're asking about Annie's location, it means that for some reason, Annie hasn't been seen since he left her hours ago. "Why? What's going on?"

"Annie-," says Turlach. Before Turlach can say anything else, Finnick rushes towards Annie's house. "Wait, Finnick. She's not there."

Finnick enters the house, as if he does not hear Turlach at all.

"Annie!" he calls out. "Mr. Cresta!"

Turlach enters the house after Finnick.

"Finnick, they're not here," says Turlach. Finnick still wants to check, still needs to make sure, so he immediately goes into Annie's room. He checks the closet, the bathroom, her father's room. He checks every space he can think of, even under her bed, not that he's ever seen her hide under there before. He calls out her name and listens for any movement or any sound of breathing, whimpering, or crying. But there is nothing.

When Finnick finally comes down the stairs, he looks to Turlach. "Where is she? Where's her dad?"

"Mr. Cresta is looking around town. He came by the house, but neither of you were there. Nobody's seen her since she was with you at the beach. I hoped she was with you-,"

Finnick shakes his head. "I told her to go home."

He goes over in his mind the last time he saw her. He remembers Annie's reaction clearer now than when it actually happened. The shock on her face is much more disturbing now in his memory. He takes in the full detail of her eyes, and it reminds him of another time she had that same wild and dark look in her eyes, but before Finnick can let the memory of Annie in the arena overwhelm him, Turlach grabs one of his arms.

"Finnick, let's go find her," says Turlach. With those words, Finnick is pulled back into the present. Annie is lost and he has to find her.

The first place they look is back at Mags' house. When they enter, Finnick again calls out Annie's name, but the only thing that greets them is silence. The sound of dripping liquid has long past, but the evidence is still there. The cup now lays on the floor, probably having been knocked off the sofa when he picked up Mags. The puddle of the liquid has saturated itself on the wooden floor as well as the cushion of the sofa.

Finnick flashes back to an image of Mags, unresponsive, slumped over, now that he's able to go over the details in his head without the rush of adrenaline coursing through him. He remembers how he had been so excited to share some good news with her, and he has to really confirm with himself that it really did happen only just that afternoon.

"Our house," says Finnick. Turlach tells Finnick that he has already looked there, too, but agrees to search again. And again, she's not there. As they leave the house, they see Mr. Cresta entering the village area from town, but he is not alone.

Behind him are three people in the familiar white uniforms that classify them as peacekeeper, all holding flashlights. One of them in particular brings a scowl on Finnick's face. Head peacekeeper Garcen's eyes are hard, but he also seems to barely hide a smirk on his face.

"So, we hear there seems to be a victor missing," says Garcen. The look on Garcen's face gives Finnick the notion that Garcen would love to find Annie himself, just to see what kind of punishment he can dish out on a victor. It would probably be a punishment that would prove to the rest of District 4 that even a victor can be disciplined if caught doing something illegal.

"She's not missing. She just didn't tell anyone where she was going," replies Turlach coolly as Finnick grinds his teeth.

"Isn't that a bit unusual for Annie to do? Go wandering about by herself and not tell anyone? Not even you, Finnick?" asks Garcen, all too menacingly.

Finnick glares are Garcen, and it's just the reaction that Garcen wants, because Garcen would be more than happy to have a reason to remake Finnick's face. Turlach just grabs Finnick's arm before Finnick can react. It's all Finnick can do to lunge towards Garcen. Turlach pulls even harder on his brother's arm, as if to remind him again that they still need to focus on looking for Annie, and the more attention they give to Garcen is less attention being spent to look for Annie. Finnick's muscles tense once more before relaxing slightly, and unclenching his fists.

"Don't bother wasting any of your peacekeepers' time on this search. We'll take care of Annie," says Finnick through a smile meant to show Garcen that he'll have to wait for another day to lay out a punishment on any of them.

"Fine, keep her to yourself then. But you know the rules. If we find her where she's not supposed to be-," says Garcen.

"You won't," interrupts Finnick. He doesn't need to hear the head peacekeeper's attempt at a threat.

Garcen and Finnick look at each other, which can be somewhat comical given the extreme contrast in physical appearance between the two – one is tall and amazingly beautiful and young, the other is short with a protruding belly and looking close to 50 years old even though he's actually in his mid thirties. Still, Garcen should not be underestimated, which is the one reason this standoff is not giving anyone a laugh.

It's not until Turlach starts pushing Finnick away that the two break off their stares.

"Come on, little brother, we don't have time for this," reminds Turlach.

As Finnick backs up, finally agreeing with Turlach, Garcen gives out a menacing chuckle. It takes all of Finnick's willpower and a reminder to himself that they still have to find Annie to prevent from turning back around and showing Garcen what he is truly capable of. Turlach is right, they don't have time to entertain Garcen, but Finnick knows this standoff with Garcen isn't over yet.

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