Chapter 2: All Over Again
That's how long it took for them to finally release Annie from her bed, from her restraints, from her plug. She had been so hysterical the first two days, they kept putting her under. On the fifth day, Finnick finally had enough of it and told them that she couldn't get any better if they continued drugging her, so they removed the tubes from her arms.
Normally, they would have the victor get up and out of bed on her own to find her team, but Annie's reactions so far since her return from the arena caused them to rethink their idea. Finnick and both Annie's escort and stylist are all allowed to be at her bedside when she wakes up from her stupor for the last time. Annie cries hysterically for several minutes and they are all there to comfort her.
"You won, Annie."
"You're done with it."
"We can go home soon," Finnick says assuringly. Softly.
Annie's mind focuses on those words. It's those words that bring her back from whatever dark place her mind was being held in. It is only then that she feels the touch of their hands on her. It is the first time since before going into the arena that anyone tries to physically comfort her before going into the arena. Before the train ride. The last time someone touched her like that was her dad at the justice building in District 4.
Annie's mother died when she was 10 years old and her father could no longer care for her when he suffered a shark attack that severed his arm. There was no concealing that type of injury; her father had to be sent to the medical center. After the third night in the hospital, the staff called the peacekeepers to send her to the community home. She was never able to move back in with her father after that. He would visit her any chance he got, but his visits were less and less frequent with the passing of time. Eventually, the mess of a father that she had would only come to visit for a few minutes during special occasions, which wasn't often. Of course, her name being called in the reaping was a special enough occasion for him to visit her in the justice building before she left for the Capitol.
"I'm sorry," her father said. "Maybe… maybe…"
"It doesn't matter, dad," Annie said, her arms wrapped around her father, who smelled of rotting fish. She didn't care, though. She was just happy to see him. He had been working as a janitor at the cannery since he could no longer go out to sea himself. It was a job only one person could live off of. "I love you, dad."
"I love you, too, my Annie," her father said. Then the peacekeepers took him out of the room. She had no other visitors.
Annie's senses start coming slowly back to her again. The sense of touch is the first, with Finnick's arms around her shoulders. She only realizes she is hugging him back when she releases herself from him.
"Home soon," Annie repeats. Her stylist and escort laugh with a sigh of relief at the words that Annie speaks, as if it's a sign that Annie is going to recover quite splendidly. Finnick does not join in their joy, and Annie feels comfort in him, at least for now. At least for today.
When Annie is finally able to make her way out bed, her stylist and prep team make her as presentable as possible for what's to come. The highlights ceremony. She is reminded of what she will have to sit through and it takes so much strength for her to control her emotions during the prepping, that when her team is finally done and she looks in the mirror, her eyes glazing back at her, she can't stop the tears from breaking through the thin-veiled wall in her mind. They come gushing forth uncontrollably. Her prep team is in hysterics as well, unsure of what to do and her escort comes in, frantic.
A doctor finally comes in the room with Finnick following, and before Finnick can object, Annie is injected with something, not to knock her out, but only to calm her down. They place Annie back in the prep chair, and Finnick pushes the doctor away, squatting down to face her. Annie is calm, all right, but she is also unavailable to the world, in some drug-induced haze between consciousness and unconsciousness. No doubt, the Capitol is anxious. They want to see the victor and they want to see more of the games, and the president wants Annie there, regardless of the state that she's in. No amount of pleading from Finnick will prevent them from continuing with the show. But he knows that at least now, she probably won't be coherent during the show, so Caesar will forego many of the questions, if any, and go straight to the highlights of the games.
"Annie," Finnick says. Her eyes are elsewhere, so he pushes her face in his direction, forcing her eyes to his. "Annie, listen to me. I'm right here. Whatever happens, just keep your eyes on me, and we'll get through this. Do you understand?"
Annie blinks slowly, her mind barely registering the face in front of her. She sees his lips move, but only hears a murmur. She knows he is trying to say something to her, and she suspects Finnick is repeating himself now.
"Annie … liste … ere … eyes on me … derstand?" Annie finally nods.
Annie doesn't know how she got there, but Caesar Flickerman is there again, standing and making some humorous comments about things she's having a hard time comprehending. Her mind races to find out why she's there. The games are over, aren't they? The fog in her head clears somewhat, but she's having a hard time gathering the scene around her. When she looks around, she sees him. Off to the side, Finnick Odair is looking at her, and it looks like he's been trying to get her attention for a while. He is patting his hand to his chest and saying something to her. Look at me. That's what she gathers after several attempts at reading his lips.
Caesar is still chattering away, unaware that Annie isn't paying attention to him at all. But when the lights dim, both Annie and Finnick become distracted by the Capitol seal appearing on the screen. The first part of the highlights, Annie sits there watching. The drugs in her system don't prevent her from registering what was being shown, but they do prevent her from seeing images of herself as her. For Annie, she is watching this film unveil as if it isn't her, but someone else. Someone familiar, but not her.
Then the highlights segue into the arena, and Annie stiffens. To her, it looks real and now, almost too real. The smell of the arena comes into her mind, lingering and pestering her. The scenes cause a flicker of images to pulse through her from a first person point of view. Was she there? She knows she was, but the haze is confusing her, making her question everything that she's seeing on the screen. Images in her mind are now pounding her, as if each flicker is pushing deeper and deeper into her heart, beating faster and faster. She doesn't know what's going on anymore and once the screams in the highlights start to emerge, Annie's voice breaks through a wall of silence into a trumpet of sound. Her scream matches that of the scream sounding out in the highlights. Her hands cover her ears to stop the sounds, but the sounds are inside her head now. There's no stopping it.
When Annie opens her eyes, she finds herself lying on her back. Finnick is holding her hand, with concern written all over his face. The flirty smile that often produces itself on his face is taken over by a frown that not even Finnick's beauty can hide. The highlights are still being shown somewhere in a different area, but Annie can still hear it, and as the tears swell in her eyes, her hands again move against her ears. Finnick immediately pulls her up to her feet.
"Look at me. Look at me!" Finnick demands, grabbing her attention. "Now listen to my voice."
Annie is still not as clear-minded as she would be without the drugs, but she complies. It takes all the strength she has to do it, but she does because she's able to comprehend one that. That if she doesn't listen to Finnick, the only person she feels comfortable with at that moment, he will be taken away from her. She will not let that happen.
"Okay," Annie whispers, her eyes drowsily look at him.
"Okay, when I tell you to, close your eyes and think of something good. Think of…" Finnick pauses, unsure of what she can possibly think of that will be good. All he knows about her is that she's from the community home. He suddenly realizes he doesn't know much more than that. All this time that they've been here in the Capitol training, it dawns on him that he doesn't really know much about who she is aside from what she could do to fight and what he could do to keep her alive. A pang of guilt hits him in his chest.
"The beach," Annie says, her eyes already closed. "The sand on the beach." Finnick lays his hands on her shoulders.
"Yes, the beach. The soft sand and smell of the sea and the breeze gently blowing on your face, through your hair. The sun on the horizon as it sets. Picture it in your head. Have you got it?" Finnick's voice is now as calm as the lapping waves on the shore in her head. She sees it, clearly. Annie nodds.
Finnick continues to speak to her, and holds her hands to lead her to an empty chair where he has her sit down.
"Now, don't open your eyes until you feel comfortable enough to do so, okay, Annie?"
"Okay," she says in a relaxed tone.
Finnick counts the minutes that pass as he waits for her. The highlights are finally almost done because he can hear the sound of the earthquake rumbling and the gasps of the audience during what he determines to be when the tidal wave hit.
"Finnick!" Annie utters.
When he looks down at Annie, her face has lost all relaxation and is creased with a frown, her eyes still closed, but tightly. Her nails dig into the soft, leather armrests of the chair and he immediately takes hold of her shoulders again.
"Remember, we're going to be home soon. You'll be able to feel the breeze on your face again. To smell the ocean air, right?" he asks, but comes out more like a factual statement.
"Yes," she says, a few tears forcing themselves out of the corners of her closed eyes. He hopes they are the last of her tears for now. He really doesn't want her being tranquilized again.
She does get through to the end of the highlights, despite not being on stage anymore. Caesar Flickerman effortlessly gives some closing words and ends the evening without a hitch. Caesar doesn't even bother with finding out what happened to Annie, because it's not quite so unusual. Finnick knows it's happened a few times before. Some victors are just not strong enough to deal with the aftermath of surviving the games, and he wonders if Annie is going to be able to get through.
Even Finnick finds it hard to get through many nights. He often wakes up from nightmares of those killed by him in the arena, their agonized faces imprinted into his memory. Often times, even after he jars himself awake and opens his eyes, the images are still there, not fading fast enough. It would take an hour or more for him to finally fall back asleep, but it always ends up being a restless night. A night filled with pain, guilt, and grief for his victims. He was never able to show his true emotion during the games, but even now he would still hide the pain from many of those that think they know him.
"Finnick?" Annie says, her voice all of a sudden sounding less grief stricken. Finnick looks at her and sees her face harden. "I want to go home. Now."
"We will. Very soon."