Chapter 23: Returning Home
Annie hadn't stepped into her house since she moved into Finnick's house the year prior, after her father had died. She didn't tell Finnick she was going to visit, but it wasn't like she realized it herself, and now that he was spending time accompanying his brother to town for work almost every day, she had some time alone.
Well, not necessarily. If Finnick knew she was walking alone, he probably wouldn't be happy, but she didn't want to bother Mags, who had fallen asleep on the sofa after coming over in the early hours of the day. At least she had enough sense to leave a note for Mags so as not to worry her.
But now she wishes Mags was there with her as she steps up the stairs to her bedroom. It's odd to her how the house seems so dark even though there's plenty of light coming in the windows from outside. It is a rather nice day and inside the house is seems warm with all the light being let in through the windows, but for some reason she shudders. It's cold. Or she's cold. She can't tell which is which.
Annie's heart beats rapidly and she feels its inconsistency like splattering rain on a window. As she works her way up the steps, she hears the creaks of the stairs and tries to remember if that sound was always there when she and her father were living there. Once she arrives at the top of the stairs, her hands are shaking and she takes a step forward just to avoid falling backwards and down the stairs. She can feel the panic about to set in, but tries to concentrate solely on breathing for a minute. Why did she come here alone, she gripes to herself.
A few moments later, she finds herself in her father's old room. She doesn't remember the last time she stepped foot in there, either. She always felt it was her father's private space, so she never allowed herself in it before, but now, being that the house is the hollow shell of what used to be her home, she doesn't feel that sense that she's intruding on someone's privacy any longer. It is so odd to her now that even though there are things in there that belonged to her father, the room doesn't feel like her father's room at all anymore. Even though she didn't enter it when she was living there, she was always able to see in it, because her father only had the door closed when he needed to change clothes. Even at night, he kept the door ajar as he told her he would so he can be sure to hear her if she was having a particularly bad dream. Now the room looks and feels unfamiliar. It doesn't smell the same either. The air is stale and the scent of what she now realizes was her father no longer exists.
This place is nothing anymore.
She notices something on the top of the five-drawer dresser in her father's room and moves to get a clearer view of it. As she moves closer, the item reflects a little bit of color with the light of the sun peering through the window, and realizes it's a shell, with iridescent shades of blue, green, pink, and yellow merging beautifully together and around the shell. There is a long cord looped through the top of the shell so that it can be worn as a necklace. Annie has never seen her father wear this, though, and realizes that it was probably her mother's necklace. A keepsake that she never knew her father had. It just lay there on the dresser as a piece of a room that served no one's purpose.
Annie closes her eyes to try to recall a memory of her mother with the necklace, but she can barely remember what he mother looked like anymore. She closes her eyes tighter to no avail, and huffs in frustration.
She tries again to recall anything about her mother, and finally a memory does come to her.
"Mommy's gone, Annie."
Annie's father tried to hug her as he sat down next to her in the little wooden bench that decorated the hall of their little house, but she moved away from his touch and stood up, her back to him, her arms folded tight against her chest. She didn't want her dad. She wanted her mom. Her father must've known, because he didn't attempt to hug her again. They didn't talk for a long minute, and they didn't move either.
"Annie," her father finally said. She didn't budge. "Annie, mommy wanted you to have this."
Annie turned her head just enough to see what her father was talking about. She first looked at his face, and then looked down to what he was holding in his hand. It was a necklace with a single shell attached to it. It had a shimmer to it when light hit it, with hints of different colors. She wanted to be in awe of it, but she was still upset. She had lost her mother, after all, and a pretty little shell necklace wasn't going to replace her.
"Do you want it?" her father asked. Annie just shook her head and turned away again. "It was your mom's. She wanted you to keep it-"
"NO! I don't want your stupid, ugly necklace! I want mommy!"
With that, she ran out of the house, planning to never return…
Annie grabs hold of her father's dresser as she wills away the pain in her chest at the memory.
Her father kept the necklace all these years, of course. She had not known what happened to it since that day, but she never saw it again until now. Thoughts of the last time she saw her dad alive come rushing in.
She held him as he lay on the floor of her bedroom, his breathing shallow. She was badly beaten, but she didn't feel any of her own pain. It was her father who was dying now, and she didn't know what to do. So she just held him.
"I'm sorry." Her voice trembled.
"No, sweetheart. I'm sorry. I'm sorry… for ever… leaving you there. I should've… never left… you there in that place. If I… wasn't such a coward… then you would've… never had to deal with…" He squeezed her hand tight as he tried to breathe through his pain.
"Don't, dad. Please just stay with me. It'll be okay. You have to stay with me." The blood didn't stop flowing out of him, though. And within minutes, her father was gone. The wound in her father's side was too deep and in that moment it almost seemed like the knife pierced into her, too. "No. Don't leave me. Don't… please…"
"Don't leave me," she whispers. Forgive me.
"What are you doing here?"
Annie opens her eyes, looking around, not focusing on anything in particular. She doesn't remember where exactly she is anymore. She is sitting on the floor, her back against the end of a bed. Focus. Her father's bed. In her house. The light in the room seems brighter and she tries to remember what brought her to this place, so she closes her eyes, but once she does, the face of her attacker appears, first attacking her, then her father-
"No! Dad!" Annie's eyes open wide, searching frantically for her father. Hands hold her steady and at first she wants to pull away from them, until she realizes it's Finnick's voice.
"Annie," he says in an urgent, but firm tone. "Look at me."
Annie's eyes immediately move in the direction of his voice, searching his face, then his eyes. Her eyes water at the sight of him. "Finnick."
He moves one of his hands to cup her cheek while using the other to push some of her hair out of her face and behind her shoulder before cupping her other cheek. Annie's heart is racing and it takes a few seconds before she can relax in his hold.
She finally places her hands over his and Finnick pulls her face close to kiss her forehead before pulling her head against his chest.
"What happened? What are you doing here?"
For a brief moment, a fear that Finnick might get mad at her comes across her mind, but she's not sure what else to say. Actually, she's still not sure what brought her there, either.
"I don't know. I… I didn't… I'm sorry…"
"Shh, it's okay. It's okay. I'm not going anywhere. I'm not leaving."
She wants to tell him that she wasn't talking to him about not leaving, but she's not ready to explain all of what she was remembering just yet. So, she doesn't say anything. She just allows herself to be comforted in his arms.
Later that day, Finnick finally brings the subject up again as to why she was alone in her home, the one place both of them thought she could never go into again.
"I really don't know why I went there. I wasn't planning on it," she says as they walk along the shore in the late afternoon as they often do to watch the sun set. To Annie, watching the changing colors in the sky never seems to get old, even during the coldest of days, because sometimes that's when the most amazing sunsets occur. It didn't matter how cold it was though, because Finnick would always make be sure to keep her warm, even at the expense of him getting a little chill during those cold days.
Finnick stops her from moving forward and he plops himself on the sand, pulling her down in front of him, wrapping his arms around her as she leans back into him. He plants a soft kiss on her shoulder before resting his chin there. She can't help but smile at the gesture. Just his touch sends a warmth through her, but when his lips touch hers, it's like she remembers who exactly she is and where she belongs and nothing can break her. Even if he kisses her on her shoulder, or her neck, or her forehead, she still feels at least a part of that, and however brief Finnick's kiss is, it always feels right. She always feels whole.
"You cold?" He rubs his hands up and down the sides of her arms before clasping them with hers. "So, can you tell me what happened this morning?"
She knows he's trying to be sensitive about her breakdown earlier, as if he's afraid that she'll have another breakdown if she recalls what it was that she imagined. She wants to tell him, though. She wants him to understand as much about that night as possible. The night she was attacked. The night her father died. She steels herself, taking a couple of deep breaths before speaking.
"I don't know why I went there. But I guess I missed my dad, and my mom, too. I just didn't know it until I was there." Annie explains the memories that she had that morning, pausing every once in a while to keep from choking up while recalling everything that had happened including the necklace and her mom's death, as well as her dad's death, although trying not to get into the details of the attack on her or who the attacker was. Finnick listens, waiting patiently when Annie pauses, and sometimes kissing her neck or her shoulder again, which calms her down. She feels him stiffen a little when she briefly talks about the moment she was attacked, but she squeezes his hands, reassuring him that she's okay. When she finishes, he doesn't say anything immediately after, giving Annie a little sense of worry.
"How do you feel about it now?" asks Finnick.
Annie turns her body around a bit to face him more easily. "It hurts, Finnick. Part of me knows I shouldn't have gone there, because, you know, of how I would… and part of me is proud for being able to go there and deal with it, I think."
Finnick is quiet again for a minute, and they just look ahead at the horizon.
"Why?" Annie is confused.
"I should've gone with you at least. I know that my going with Turlach into town lately probably bothers you-"
"No, Finnick. You should spend time with your brother. I can't expect you to be with me everywhere every second of the day."
"But I want to."
"But you shouldn't have to. I know I scare you sometimes. I scare myself sometimes, well, maybe a lot of times… but your brother is part of your life, too."
"And you shouldn't have to face these things on your own." Finnick adjusts himself to look at Annie more face-to-face, and she adjusts herself again, too. "You remember how I promised you that I would get us through this, through our problems?" Annie nods. "And I asked you to promise me you'd stay with me?" She nods again, shyly this time. "Do you still promise that?"
She looks at him, and understands what he's getting at. She went into that house alone, unguarded from anyone, even herself. Many things could've happened, and even though nothing major really happened, the thought still lingers that something could have.
"I do, Finnick. I'm sorry. I'll try harder." She touches his cheek with her fingertips, but she's the one to shiver at the connection. As if on instinct, Finnick reaches up and behind him to grab at the collar of his shirt, pulls it up and over him to remove it, and swiftly drapes it around her shoulders.
She has seen Finnick shirtless many times before and she has definitely glanced at his bare chest before, but only for the briefest of moments. This time, though, her eyes linger a little longer at him, and she can't help but put her palm up against the area where his heart is. She notices his skin react to her touch and is stunned a little by it.
"Annie," whispers Finnick, and he tilts her head with his finger to look up at his face.
Annie blinks a couple of times, clearing her head. When she sees his eyes, she notices something in them that she didn't notice before, either because she really didn't pay attention or because this is the first time that look is there. She can see concern, confusion, longing, and love, but there's also something else, and it takes her a moment to realize what it is, but when she does, it takes her back a bit. She thinks she should be scared, because she's seen in that look before. It was never a good thing, too, when she saw it. It practically disgusted her. The look of lust.
That look always dominated whenever she dared to stare into Garcen's eyes, which was hardly ever unless he forced her to. But she didn't want to think about him, especially not now, while she was practically wrapped up in Finnick's arms and body in a way that shielded and protected her.
Even though Finnick did have that small amount of lust in his eyes, the combination of it with all the other emotions swirling in them makes her feel not only loved, but desired as well. It makes her feel good in a way she had never felt before.
She averts her eyes, embarrassed at her own thoughts, and looks down to where her palm still lay, right on his chest. "Sorry," she mumbles as she pulls her hand away. But Finnick is quick and grabs her hand to pull it up to his lips, gently kissing her fingertips. A breath escapes her.
"Don't be," he mutters through her fingers.
Her heart beats a little faster and her breaths become shallow as her nerves get the better of her. Before she can stop herself from voicing her thoughts, she says, "You really are beautiful."
His eyes shift to her in surprise for a moment, and he pulls her even closer to him before brushing light kisses over her cheeks, then eyes, then forehead. "That's what I'm supposed to say to you," he says before placing the softest and sweetest of kisses against her lips.
"But you are," she says with an airy voice as his lips trail kisses down her neck. Her breaths are a combination of light and heavy and her fingers run through the fine hair on the back of his neck. She can feel him shiver now at her touch and she smiles in knowing she has that affect on him. Even though they have kissed many times before, she always seems to act like it's the first time she's ever felt his touch and vice versa. Or maybe that she always experiences something new about their connection. But this is definitely something more than their previous kisses. She can feel it swirling around in her gut, a warm, tingling feeling.
Her actions somehow seem to urge him on, and his hands slowly run up and down her back, pushing his shirt off her back, then they slide down to the side of her legs, gripping at her thighs and pulling them closer to him. She doesn't want this feeling to end, but suddenly as his kisses become less gentle and more passionate and his hands feel more aggressive on her skin, especially as they return to her back, this time under her shirt, rubbing circles on her skin with his palms, the warm, tingling feeling she had only moments ago is replaced with uneasiness. A sense of discomfort creeps into her chest, and she stiffens. "Finnick…" she croaks.
He stops immediately and pulls away from her, looking at her face. "Oh… sorry. I… uh… I didn't mean to- sorry." He sighs in exasperation, and looks away in what she recognizes as the face of shame. Before he is able to push himself away from Annie, she stops his movements by tightening her arms around his waist and resting her head against his chest, effectively leaning her body against his and keeping him in place.
"Don't leave me."
At first, Finnick doesn't move a muscle, but his arms slowly respond by closing in around her back and she feels him press his lips to the top of her head. "I won't leave you. I'm just sorry for…"
"I love you, Finnick."
Nothing is said for a mere five seconds, but time slows enough for her to take in everything around them. She can hear the sound of the waves crash, a bird's call in the distance, and the thump of Finnick's heart against her ear. She can smell someone's fish cooking from one of the victor's house, the sand, and Finnick's familiar aroma that is a combination of sea water, sage, and his person. She can see the orange hue of the sky, the flecks of sand that shimmer in the remaining light, and Finnick's hint of stubble on his jaw. It's seems so surreal how much she's able to take in that she wants laugh.
"I love you so much, Annie. I love you so much it's scary. Maybe too much…"
Then she does laugh. She doesn't realize it, but she does laugh.
If it was anyone other than Finnick, that person might've been upset at that moment. The rudeness of her interruption with laughter during such a heartrending confession - but luckily it's not another person. It is Finnick, and he's neither sad nor angry about it. Instead, he actually laughs with her.
He pulls away from her and cups her face in his hands to see into her eyes, and smiles as she finally gazes at him after her laughter fades. "You have a beautiful laugh and a beautiful smile. You are the one who's beautiful."
She clears her head of all of everything that surrounds them and focuses on his words. What made him say that, she wonders, somewhat hazy to the fact that she said it first only a few minutes ago. And she absent-mindedly looks down again to his chest, suddenly surprised to find her hand there again, right where it was before, right over his heart.
Before she can say anything, Finnick pushes himself up off the sand and holds out his hand to her. She holds onto him and he pulls her up, then bends down to grab his shirt and shakes off the sand from it.
"C'mon, it's getting dark and it's cold." He reaches for her hand, lacing his fingers with hers as they walk back toward his house.
"Aren't you going to put your shirt back on?"
Annie notices the smirk on his face. "Mmm, not yet."
"Why not?" she asks. "I thought you said you were cold."
"Well, I'm not that cold. Besides, how often is it that the woman I love tells me that I'm beautiful when I take my shirt off?" His smirk is even more prominent now as he glances her way. Her mind clear now, she takes the bait and plays along.
"You? Beautiful? What woman in her right mind would ever tell you such a thing? She's obviously completely insane." She says it as a joke, but Finnick comes to a dead stop, pulling Annie back to face him. At first, she's afraid that he'll be upset at her for even joking about such a thing. But his look is contemplative.
"Not completely." He pushes Annie's hair back behind her ears with both hands. "But maybe a little."
"Only a little?"
"Well, she would have to be to use the word 'beautiful' on a guy, don't you think?"
She looks at him questioningly. "What word should a girl use to prevent herself from being called 'a little insane'?"
Finnick turns her around and puts his around her shoulders as she puts hers around his waist. "Hmm… well, there's 'handsome' for one, or 'gorgeous,' or 'stunning.'"
"I see. Well, what if she likes the word 'beautiful' because if fits who you are both inside and out? Is she still a little insane?" Finnick stops short again, and Annie turns to face him. "What if she doesn't mind being a little insane if that's what it took for you to accept the compliment?"
Annie places a hand around the back of his neck to pull his face close to hers while she tiptoes to meet his lips with hers. She's lost in the moment and he picks her up by her waist, lifting her off the ground so that she's now eye level with him as they continue their kiss. It's electrifying and Annie swears she can feel his heart beat with hers, however impossible that may be. She is a little insane, after all.
Being lifted off the ground, the sensation of floating is even more empowering and she can't help but imagine that nothing else exists but her and him and the sound of the water crashing around them as if they're surrounded by the sea, never touching, but protecting them from everything. It's wonderful.
When they finally break for air, she's still in his grasp, looking down on him now, and she brings her forehead down to touch his, breathing in his scent.
"Well, she would have to be insane to love me, and as long as she loves me, I can handle a little insanity. I can be beautiful for her, and she can be beautiful for me."
Annie smiles, her eyes glowing bright with adoration for the man holding her. "She does. She loves you more than anything."
"I love her." He kisses her again, softly, but with that same electrifying feeling that she felt before. "I love you, my little insane, beautiful woman."
She lay on her bed for almost two hours now and she can't get her mind to stop thinking. She keeps going back to that moment on the beach when their kissing turned from a feel-good moment to a panic-filled moment for her. She stopped him before anything really happened. They were at the beach anyway, and he probably would've stopped himself soon enough, but where his hands were roaming, she felt the panic inside her and called him on it.
Sure, Finnick was embarrassed by his own actions, and sure, he stopped immediately when she said his name, so obviously, he was conscious of what he was doing. It wasn't like he was drunk, or mean, or spiteful. He isn't Garcen. Definitely not. Finnick is everything Garcen isn't. So, she couldn't understand why she felt as uncomfortable with Finnick as she did with Garcen at that moment. It wasn't the same. His touch didn't feel the same at all. Finnick, has aggressive as he was getting, was nowhere near calloused or brutal as Garcen had been in her encounters with him. So why did her body and mind act like he was?
Even now, as she's thinking about it, the feeling of unease goes through her again. Annie knows she won't be able to sleep at all if she doesn't deal with this now. So she gets up and walks towards Finnick's room. She knows he's probably only half asleep anyway.
Even in the dark, she can see his eyes open. Finnick moves to turn on the light next to his bed.
"Can't sleep?" Of course he would know that, she thinks. If it was a nightmare, he would be by her side, in her bedroom.
"Not really." She's completely dressed, with long flannel pants and a long-sleeved top, but she feels somehow naked, unprepared. This is the first time she's actually come to him, and stood by his door. "Can I come in?" She asks meekly.
Although Finnick makes a face she's not familiar with, he gestures her to come in. He sits up on his bed, moving a little to give Annie space to sit down as well. When she does, she sits sideways on the bed, one foot on the floor, the other folded in underneath her, and faces him. She's close enough to him that he reaches out and grazes her cheek with the back of his hand.
She looks at him, trying to figure out how to start what she wants to say.
She's not even sure what she wants to say. But she has to say something. Anything.
"I love you."
Something flickers in his eyes, and he smiles lightly. "I love you, too, Annie." He grabs hold of her hand. "But?"
"I don't know. What happened earlier today…" she pauses, seeing Finnick pursing his lips and releasing her hand to rub the back of his neck.
"Annie, I'm really sorry about that. I shouldn't have done that."
"I know you didn't mean to. That… isn't supposed to make me feel uncomfortable, I know. I just got scared. Maybe because I was at my house before that, and… it brought back some bad memories. I just… I don't want you to think it's because of you, I guess. It's not like anything happened. You didn't… do anything bad to me."
"But things did happen to you, Annie. I know that." He moves in a little closer to speak more softly. "I of all people know what it's like to be… used."
Annie looks away, shuddering. She's never spoken to anyone about this before and having Finnick talk about it to her, as if she already told him all about her past with Garcen - she feels shame wash over her now. Tears threaten to come, but she shuts her eyes, willing them away.
"But I never told you anything." She hears him sigh and shift a little more.
"You didn't have to. There were… times, the way you acted about certain things. I know it's not something people like to talk about… even me. I didn't have to tell you about me, but you knew."
She turns her head slightly in his direction, and nods.
"But what if… what if I don't… can't… be with you? In that way, I mean."
"No, I mean it. What if we get married or something and I… I can't do it? What if I'm… too broken?" Annie's voice trembles at her words and the tears that she tried to hold back finally make their escape, falling down her cheeks.
Finnick moves closer to her side, and somehow she finds herself comforted in his arms, leaning her back against his chest, her hands hanging onto the arm holding her to him. She feels his lips press against her temple.
"Shhh, please don't cry. Remember my promise? Remember what I said about getting through this? I meant it. I meant it for everything, Annie." He presses his lips against her temple again, keeping it there for a while as he rocks her gently.
When she finally stops crying, she sits herself up, but close to him. His thumbs sweep across her cheeks to wipe the last of her tears away. She looks up at him and sees that his face is stained with tears as well, and she wipes his away with her hands.
"See," he says with a sad smile. "We can get through this together."
She still feels a little defeated about the whole thing. "Finnick-"
"Hey," he says, preventing her from expressing more of her doubts. He firmly, but gently, places a hand on her shoulder. "Annie, no matter what you say, no matter how many times you tell me how broken you are, or that all you'll ever want to do is kiss for the rest of our lives – I'm not going anywhere without you."
"No matter what?"
"No matter what."
Annie looks at him, really looks at him, and realizes that he means it. And with that, a weight is lifted off her and the corners of her mouth turn up. She lets out a light chuckle, leaning her head to the hand that moved from her shoulder to her face.
"So, even if we were to kiss and not do anything else for the rest of our lives?"
He nods without hesitation.
"Is that really all you would want to do?"
Finnick laughs a little uncomfortably.
"Well, um, if you really want me to be honest, Annie, no, of course not. If I were to spend the rest of my life with you, I would want to show you how much I do love you and I'm not sure that even a multitude of kisses can show you that. But seriously, I would never force you to do anything you didn't want to. Okay?"
She nods, thankful for Finnick knowing when to end the topic of conversation where she realized she shouldn't have even started.
"See, you really are beautiful," she confesses.
She can tell through his eyes that he's blushing now.
"And handsome," he replies back to shake off the embarrassment.
"And gorgeous, too?"
Finnick shrugs. "Well, if you say so."
Annie giggles, and it makes Finnick laugh in response.
Once their laughter dies down, Finnick asks, "So, how do you feel now?"
She smiles. "Better." She sighs in relief, then a yawn escapes her mouth.
"You think you'll be able to sleep?"
She chews on her bottom lip, unsure of herself.
"What is it?" asks Finnick.
"I'm sorry to ask this, especially after what we were just talking about, but… can I sleep here?"
"Oh, with me?" he asks, seemingly looking a little awkward about it. Annie nods.
"It's just that, with what happened this morning at the house. I just have a feeling that-"
Finnick apparently knows where she's going with her statement and the awkward look is replaced with complete understanding and concern for her. "C'mere."
She crawls into the bed and lies down on her side, facing away from him. Finnick turns the lamp light off on his side and then she feels his arm drape over her waist and she moves back just a bit to feel the warmth of his chest. She feels safe here.
"Is this okay?" he asks her.
"Mmhmm," nodding her assent as well. After a minute of silence, she turns her head back towards him so she can be heard. "Finnick?"
"I really don't plan on doing this every night."
He chuckles softly. "I know."
"I just feel that-"
"I know. I'll take care of you," he says. She turns her head back.
"I shouldn't have gone to the house."
"It's okay," he assures her with a chaste kiss to the back of her head. "Just promise you'll try not to go there alone again, okay? Or anywhere else alone."
"Okay," she says.
She closes her eyes, and sure enough the bad dreams are there. But they leave just as fast as she hears a whisper, a murmur, a voice that calms her and erases the images of evil and sadness away from her mind. She can feel his words lulling her back to sleep and the safety of something warm and comforting holding her close. She holds on to it, to him, and falls into a peaceful slumber for the rest of the night.
Annie opens her eyes to see the sun well up into the sky and she looks at the clock on the opposite side of the bed. It's 10am, quite a bit later than she normally wakes. Of course, she's usually up earlier because she hardly ever gets a good night's sleep. But she did last night.
She remembers telling Finnick that she wouldn't make this a nightly habit, her sleeping in the same bed as him. But after her one nightmare was quickly pushed out of her mind with what she can only presume were his voice and his arms protecting her even in her sleep, she's starting to reconsider. She laughs to herself, and then realizes that she's alone in the bed.
Of course he's up. It's 10am. Finnick would've already come back from walking with Turlach to town.
Annie stretches and gets out of bed and although she can smell food cooking below, she hops in the shower to warm herself up from the cold morning. When she finally makes her way downstairs, Finnick already has a plate ready for her.
He smiles playfully at her. "Good morning."
"Good morning," she says with a smile of her own.
Annie nods. "Thank you," she says and walks over to him and gives him as tight a hug as she can. She feels him kiss to top of her head.
"C'mon. Sit and eat."
They both sit and eat together, something that hasn't been done in a while ever since they came back from the most recent Hunger Games, basically because of Finnick's walks with his brother in the morning, and even sometimes in the afternoon when Turlach returns to eat lunch at home. She never questioned it when Finnick started spending more time with his brother, and actually found it endearing, but she knows there's more to their walks together than Finnick or Turlach would ever let on, especially to her. She knows they're planning something, but even she would rather not know until Finnick is ready to tell her. She has a feeling that it has something to do with what happened during the last Games, and his promise to her, that they would get through "this," whatever "this" is.
"I have something for you," says Finnick, as Annie finishes the last amount of her hot chocolate.
"You do?" He nods, then looks around nervously, avoiding her eyes. "What?"
"Well, I'm actually not sure you want it, but if you don't, I can always put it back."
"What is it?" she asks curiously. She notices the lump in his throat move up and down as he gulps.
"Please don't me upset, okay? Like I said, I can always put it back."
"What is it?" she asks again, this time with a little more urgency.
He pulls out his closed hand over the table and slowly opens it to place the item in front of her. The iridescence the shell had the morning before is even more colorful and brighter now, probably because Finnick had cleaned it, she believes. Her mother's gift to her. The necklace that she once thought lost years ago now lies before her and she can't help but cry tears of joy at the sight of such a beautiful item.
"So I take it you want it?"
She nods. "Yes, yes! Thank you, Finnick. Thank you for getting it."
"Are you sure? Because if not, I think I saw some kelp on the beach that matches your eyes perfectly," says Finnick, his eyes smiling playfully again. She laughs, pushing him in the shoulder feebly.
"This is perfect," says Annie as she holds it up in the light. Finnick gets up and stands behind her, taking the necklace from her hands, untying the knot from the cord, and placing it around her neck so that the shell hangs just below her collarbone line, before tying a new knot.
Finnick comes around to face her again, sitting back on his seat diagonally from her. "Beautiful, just like you."
"Thank you, Finnick." She reaches over to kiss him and his lips meet hers. When she breaks from their kiss, she looks straight into his eyes and sees contentment in them. "I love you."
"I love you, too."