Chapter 24: Revelations
Finnick opens his eyes to see the dark, wavy tresses of hair splayed out on the pillow next to him. Annie had come in during the middle of the night, obviously after another unsettling bad dream. He would've gone to her, but this routine was becoming a regular occurrence ever since she asked him to sleep on his bed a month ago. Nothing happens, though. At least nothing more than his protective arm around her person, and maybe a chaste kiss or two in comfort. After confirming more about her past and the fact that she was a victim of sexual abuse, he would never presume to try anything with her without getting actual verbal consent.
Besides, he may be called at anytime by Snow to attend to some extremely influential socialite. He has been lucky enough so far to not receive any such call since they left the Capitol almost six months ago. Still, if he had been called, he knows it would probably devastate them both to try anything more intimate than kissing in the knowledge that he had just been with someone else. He couldn't do that to Annie. He won't allow her to be part of his repertoire, so to speak.
If he was going to even try to get into the more physical part of a relationship with Annie, he was going to make sure he was exclusive with her. That's his plan anyway, but first he had to get out of Snow's grasp, and he and his brother were already working on a way of doing that, taking time during their walks to town often to discuss how exactly that was going to happen.
And now that he knows District 13 is still active, there is hope that they could find asylum there. At least, that's what he believes. He didn't have any proof himself of District 13 actually being occupied, and it isn't like Sapphire was one to be trusted considering he holds no particular love for any citizen of the Capitol. Still, it didn't seem that Sapphire had any reason to lie to him and their last meeting was almost sympathizing on her part. Even so, even if District 13 wasn't their haven, he still needs to get out of District 4, along with Annie, his brother, and hopefully Mags, too.
For this morning, though, he doesn't want to leave his bed just yet, what with Annie still sleeping next to him and his arm lying tenderly over her waist. He breathes in the scent of her hair, which smells lightly of sweet honeydew, which is odd, considering that he is pretty sure Annie uses the same shampoo as he does. He wonders if he just never noticed the smell of the shampoo before, then an image pops in his head of Annie bathing in a tub of fruit, and he chuckles at the thought.
"Are you laughing at me?" she says with delicate and beautiful tone that almost sounds like it belongs with the warming sunlight.
"Never, my sweet." He has to smirk at himself for using such a term to call her, but for once it sounds appropriate for him to say at that moment. "How did you sleep?"
He feels her delicate fingers lace over his own fingers of the hand that lies just across her stomach, and squeezes them slightly in acknowledgement. His sigh moves some of her hair that is directly in front of his face like a gentle breeze.
"Good. Well, after the one dream." She turns her head around as much as she can to see his face, and he lifts his head off the pillow, using his bent arm and hand to rest his head on and get a closer look at her face. "Sorry if I bothered you."
Finnick smiles at her and places a kiss against her temple. "Oh c'mon. I know you know I don't mind."
He sees the slight blushing in her cheeks and even in her eyes. It is true, though. He hasn't been one to sleep soundly through the night ever since he became a victor almost ten years ago, and just that thought alone could give him another restless night of sleep if he dwelled on it too long. But he has definitely noticed that his mind and body feel more rested on the days after Annie is asleep in his arms. Add to that the feeling of pleasant relief in waking up next to the sweetest, softest, loveliest person that he was ever acquainted with, and most likely will ever know in his life. Of that, he is sure.
"I know, but it still must be a little...," she makes an unfamiliar face. "Frustrating. You know, since you're kind of… used to that."
His chest clenches and he has to prevent himself from squeezing his hand into a tight fist, the one holding Annie's. Instead, he lets her hand go and sits up on the bed. Finnick bends his legs to place his elbows on his knees and rubs the palms of his hands against his closed eyes before running them through his hair once. He turns to look at Annie, and sees her about to get up from the bed.
"Annie, wait." She stops, barely sitting on the edge of the bed now, her head down. Finnick moves himself to her and places a hand on her shoulder as he makes himself comfortable behind her. His lips are close enough to her ear to where he can whisper. He takes a deep breath. "Annie, you're the only one that makes me feel worth something because you give me more of yourself than any of those people ever do."
Finnick grazes her cheek before cupping it to turn her face to him. His sea-foam eyes are full of light and hope and gaze unswervingly into hers, and he's sure he feels exactly what she feels - a fervent heat that courses through her whole body into her soul. "I want to be with you. Only you. I meant what I said before. I'm not leaving."
His eyes look down to her lips, drawing him closer to her, but before he is able to touch them with his own, she says, "My sweet?"
He looks back up to her eyes, confused. Then he remembers his term of endearment, now feeling a little flush of embarrassment for using it. "I know, it sounds ridiculous doesn't it?"
"It's a little funny," Annie says softly. He could feel insulted, but he doesn't. He chuckles instead, finding it amusing himself.
"Is there something else you'd want me to call you? Something less… fruity?" he asks playfully.
Annie shrugs, "'My love'? I'm not good at this."
"You know, I don't think even that word would be enough to describe all that you are to me," he says, and finally dips down to kiss her soft lips.
Ever since that morning, Annie made it her secret goal to make herself better, to find healing somehow, so that she could feel confident enough in herself and her ability to spend a lifetime with Finnick. It took a couple of weeks, but she is finally able to pull within herself the courage she needs to open up to him about what she never thought she'd be able to talk about to another soul.
It's been a while since they've been out on the water, and Annie closes her eyes to feel the breeze on her face and hair. She had asked to go out on the boat the previous night. She wanted to make sure they were alone, so he obliged her. After Finnick anchors the boat, he places some blankets on the aft deck for them to relax on, seeing as it's a nice day although there's a slight chill in the air being that it's winter.
It takes several minutes for Annie to start talking, and it seems that Finnick knows that she wants to talk about something important and has been waiting patiently for her to start. Her fingers tap across her chin and lower lip, though, trying to find a place to start. Her mind flutters from what words to use, what sentence to form, whether she should sit up, lie down, or stand. At the moment, she is standing, slightly pacing, but only taking one step here and another step there.
"Annie," says Finnick, firmly placing both hands on her shoulders. "Relax. Whatever you want to say can be said sitting down, at the very least." He squeezes her shoulders, massaging some of the tension away from them. Annie nods and sits in her usual position.
"Victory Tour is coming," says Annie. She doesn't know why she said that, because it has nothing to do with what she wants to actually talk about, but at least she spoke, which is all she can be grateful for at the moment.
"Is that what's bothering you?" asks Finnick, a concerned look crossing his face.
Annie shakes her head. "No. I don't think so, but… Katniss. She's pretty, isn't she?"
Annie notices his concerned look turns into what she can guess as slight confusion. He smiles faintly. "Yes, I suppose she is. Why?"
"Would they make her do what you do?" Annie asks bluntly, as if she didn't hear Finnick's query. Finnick presses his lips together and shrugs.
"I don't know," says Finnick. "Maybe."
"There were two victors," says Annie, almost as a question. Finnick nods and lies down on his side, propping his upper body up on his elbow. "Why did they let both of them live?"
He looks down at Annie's fiddling hands for a moment, admiring her slender fingers as she mindlessly works her way under each nail, extracting whatever kind of residue she thinks is there.
"I guess they thought it better to have two victors instead of none," says Finnick.
"You think they love each other so much they'd rather die than live without the other?" asks Annie, wondering if Finnick believes that. Finnick lets out a laugh, lying down on his back in the process. Annie just looks at him indecisively. When he finally stops laughing, his eyes, full of light and amusement, make their way to her and he smiles.
"No, I don't think they love each other," he says.
"I think he does," Annie says quietly. "Peeta. He loves her."
"Really?" asks Finnick, surprised. "Why do you think so?"
"I could see it," says Annie, her fingers making a third trip through her nails. "Just like I see it when you tell me you love me."
Finnick gently grabs one of her fiddling hands and slowly pulls her to him. She doesn't resist, but allows herself to be pulled, lying beside him with her head on his shoulder, just below the crook of his neck. She places her free hand on his chest as she feels his hands rub up and down her back, keeping her warm from the chill of the air.
"Well, I guess I can't argue with that, then, can I?" Finnick says.
"No, you can't. Peeta loves her, and you love me," Annie says. He chuckles, making Annie smile.
"And what about Katniss? Does she love Peeta?" he asks curiously.
Annie pauses for a moment before answering. She shakes her head. "I don't know," she says honestly.
"But yet, they both are victors. I guess there are people who do believe that, or else they probably wouldn't have both survived, don't you think?" he says as his hands continue to work their magic on her back.
She could fall asleep like this, in Finnick's arms comforting her, but she still hasn't gotten to the part that she really wants to discuss with him.
"I was 12 when it started," says Annie, hoping that Finnick would understand what she means by 'it'. "During our Pool Days on Sundays, people would visit us at the home. He was one of them." Annie can feel Finnick's chest rise higher than usual now with each breath he takes. "At first I thought it would be really nice to have an adult friend outside of the home. I thought that maybe he could encourage my dad to come visit more. But it didn't turn out that way."
Finnick nudges her off so he can sit up and look at her, even though she's not sure she wants to look at him while she's telling her story. Instead, she keeps her head down, but she knows he's paying attention to her face and to what she has to say. There they sit face to face on the deck of his boat, his hands holding hers while he lovingly moves circles over the top of them.
"Annie-" he says, but she stops him.
"I want to tell you, Finnick. I want you to know everything about me," she says. He just nods in acceptance.
She continues to tell her story, first with her abuser's lewd words, then of his hands on her, and then the physical and emotional pain of her first time with him and how, even though she came to the nurse's office with telltale signs of abuse, they chalked it up to a tumble down the stairs and treated it as such, giving her a dose of sleep syrup after telling her to shower. Annie told him of how she tried to fight back many times after, which only seemed to make things worse for her because she would be the one punished for being so clumsy, as they called it. She told Finnick of how she finally gave up, succumbing to the fact that no one was ever going to come to her aid and she was going to have to deal with him until he or she died, or until he got tired of her, which she felt would be never.
"Then my name was called at the reaping," she says with a slight nervous laugh.
By the end of her story, both their hands were gripping each other tightly, holding onto each other for support in different ways. She for her anxiety in having to relive the tale in her head, and he for his anger in realizing the true pain Annie had gone through at the hands of some monster.
Annie didn't shed any tears while telling Finnick about her abuse, but her voice was shaky and even now her lips, as well as her whole body, tremble as she takes in stuttered breaths.
"I'm so sorry, Annie," whispers Finnick. He releases one of his hands to slowly, carefully touch her cheek with the lightest of grazes. She doesn't flinch, but she doesn't dare look at his face either. How can she when she knows that he'll be able to see the utter shame and fear in her eyes after such a confession. "Will you look at me, please?"
Annie just shakes her head no, frightened of what she'll see.
"Annie, you trusted me enough to tell me about the darkest part of your life, and I want you to see how much that means to me," says Finnick. His voice is an echo of love and sorrow at the same time, and the lure is so strong she can't help but look up to finally see his face. The tears that pour from his eyes are all that need to be shown from him to let her know how much it affects him, but it's his eyes themselves that show her the truest meaning of his love. There is too much of everything in them that his sea-foam eyes seem to swirl in an array of colors, as if each one translates to all the good emotions one can hold. It is light and dark - love and sorrow, just like in his voice. Absolute in its entirety. And it's all within him.
She closes her eyes, finding herself unable to bear the fullness of his emotions with her own. But she can still feel his touch, his hand on her cheek, and the light caress of his thumb. And all she can think of at that moment is how wonderfully soft his thumb feels.
"Thank you for telling me," he whispers, his face closer to her now. She leans into his palm.
"I needed to tell you. I need you in every part of my life, including my past," says Annie.
"So we could move forward," he adds. Annie nods as she takes in a breath. "Would you ever be able to tell me who it was?"
She swallows before answering, knowing that this could get dangerous, but also realizing that it can no longer be avoided for her sake. "I think you already know who it is, Finnick."
Finnick sighs. "And I guess you don't want me to do anything about it."
"You would die," says Annie. She could see no other way around it if Finnick were to ever confront Garcen, even if it was just to warn him to stay away from her.
Finnick pulls her to him again, enveloping her in his arms. She places her head where it was before, just under his chin and feels the warmth of his body surround her. One of his hands strokes the back of her head down to her neck over and over again. It's as soothing to him as it is to her, she gathers. She wraps her arms around his chest in return and it feels so good to have something so strong and beautiful against her person that she now understands why it was important for her to tell him. Her secret kept her in mental bondage. Now she feels that bond breaking, because now she knows she won't shatter from it. She didn't fall into some deep chasm in the pit of her mind like she thought she might, because he's there. Finnick is there to catch her, to help her find her way back. To help mend her spirit as well as her mind. He has always been there. He was just waiting for her to realize it.
"I can't lose you now," says Annie. "I need you."
"I know. I need you, too," says Finnick. His kiss on the top of her head sends another rush of heat all the way down to her toes. "Besides, who else is going to tell you how sweet you are?"
The corners of Annie's lips curl upwards. "Is that all I am?"
He laughs lightly. "You're beautiful, just like me."
It's Annie's turn to laugh. "You're just trying to make me feel better."
Finnick pulls back to look at her in the eyes. "No, no, no," he says with mirth, pushing away some hair from her face before cupping it in his hands. "You are sweet," he says and kisses her forehead, "you are kind," he adds and places another kiss on her cheek, "and you are definitely the most beautiful person anyone will ever know… if they ever cared to pay attention," he concludes and kisses her on the lips.
He pulls away for a quick breath before Annie pulls him back to her and they share a kiss that makes them forget for the time being that they are two separate people.
"Maybe we won't have to escape."
"What do you mean? What's the problem?" Finnick asks his brother.
Finnick and Turlach had been discussing a way to escape from District 4 ever since Finnick, Annie, and Mags had returned from the Capitol. Finnick would take the opportunity to walk to town with his brother to plot out where and when that would happen. Turlach, for his part, would try to find the areas where the peacekeepers occupied or surveyed the least. There were issues of course, including how they would make their way through the other zones of District 4. But they knew that this was the most occupied zone, since this is also where the reaping takes place each year. They figured if they could escape this zone, the other zones won't be as difficult, although there really was no way of telling until they got there.
"It's not that. It's just that ever since the last Games, it seems that people around town are actually getting anxious," says Turlach.
"Really? How so?" asks Finnick.
"Just people talking, really. But rumor's spread that there was a riot in the district that the little girl who died was from. Is there any truth to that?" asks Turlach.
Finnick nods. "Yeah, I remember seeing it on one of the televisions at the Capitol. But it was stopped as soon as it was started, I think," explains Finnick.
"But it did happen," says Turlach, excitement in his voice. "What if somehow we were to somehow do something here. Maybe not like full-on riot, but… I know people around who are working on ideas-"
"We don't have time, though," says Finnick. "And it's too dangerous."
"Too dangerous? C'mon, Finnick," says Turlach. "You aren't the only one that wants to get away from this all. There are other people-"
"Yeah, right," scoffs Finnick. "It's not like they have to kill each other in the cannery, though. Maybe they have to work harder for more, but-"
"Finnick, you don't know what they've gone through," says Turlach. "A lot of them have lost someone they know or something they cherish. Don't pretend to know what they've been going through."
This stops Finnick, and he stares at his older brother.
"Are you seriously trying to compare them to what I've been through? To what Mags or Annie have been through?" asks Finnick, his voice rising in irritation. Turlach sighs.
"Of course not, but-"
"No! I need to get Annie out of here now! I can't wait around for some plan to happen-"
"Why? Are you seriously so blinded with love that you can't see everyone else's pain? Or are you purposely ignoring everyone else's desperation to stop the Capitol's hold on us because you don't want to get involved? Because either way, Finnick, you're being completely selfish!"
Finnick's eyes widen in complete ire, and before he can stop himself, Finnick shoves him hard. Luckily, they're still a half a mile away from town and no one else is around to hear them because Finnick can't keep the volume in his voice down now.
"Selfish? Are you kidding me? You're telling me that I'm selfish, after all I've been through?" yells Finnick. "You're a joke, Turlach! You always were." Finnick knows he should stop, but the hurt look in Turlach's eyes for some reason just fuels Finnick to continue. "You know what, I'm glad you didn't volunteer for me, because you would've been pathetic out there. You would've gotten yourself sliced open once the canon went off to start the Games." Turlach turns his face away from him. "So, don't feel guilty for me about it, but go right ahead and do your penance if you want to. Just don't include me in it, because I already played my part. I'm still playing it! Don't tell me I'm being selfish, big brother!"
Finnick storms off, going back to the Victor's Village, knowing that there's no way he'll be able to talk to Turlach more about anything at the moment. He doesn't want to think about it anymore, but the walk back, with nothing else to occupy his thoughts and no one else to distract him, makes it all the more difficult. He's not sure if he can go on this escape without the help of Turlach, and he really can't let Annie in on the plan until it's time, but he has to try something.
After ten minutes of walking, he's still so irate about his argument with Turlach that he just needs some more time to calm down before he thinks more on it. And he still can't believe that Turlach told him he was being selfish. Of all the people to tell him that, Turlach was the last person he expected it from. He knows he's right, though. Those people that Turlach works with in the cannery don't know even half of what Finnick has been through, nor have they experienced any of it. They don't know what it's like to be in the arena. Sure, they might have watched a friend, or even a family member die, but to actually be in there. To experience the tragedy of death, to feel the complete guilt of killing someone, let alone a child, and living with it for the rest of your life. They can never understand that.
Then, even after all that, to be sold to people for their pleasure. Not even Turlach knows that, or at least he hasn't told Turlach directly. And he only agreed to it to save Turlach, his last living relative. His blood. Now his blood has turned this whole thing around on him and decides that he wants to be brave and start a rebellion? Finnick clenches his hands into fists so tight his knuckles are white.
It doesn't matter what Turlach said, Finnick concludes. Regardless of what the rest of District 4 is planning on doing, Finnick has to find a way out. He has to for both his and Annie's sake, or they could die.
Finnick wouldn't have believed it if he didn't see it himself. He could actually feel the anger in the crowd. If he didn't know any better, he would've thought it was directed towards the two victors that stood before them, but after the argument with Turlach a couple of weeks ago, he now realizes that maybe Turlach was right about how the people feel about the Hunger Games and that they might actually do something about it. The peacekeepers seem to think so, too, as they try to keep the people at bay, having to beat down a few to make them understand.
Annie's grip on his hand tightens and he looks to see her. Sure enough, her eyes are wide with fear and her other hand is holding onto the shell hanging around her neck. She's mumbling something, but he can't hear her. Finnick pulls her behind him and turns to face her, holding her shoulders.
"Annie, look at me," he says, but her eyes shift off to the side now. He has a feeling he knows what or who she's looking at. When he turns in the direction she's looking, he sees Garcen. Fortunately, Garcen is too busy dealing with the irate crowd that he doesn't notice them staring at him. If he did, Finnick is sure they would've been greeted by a smug look. Finnick turns back to look at Annie and moves in close to her to whisper in her ear. "I'm here, Annie."
He pulls back and touches her cheek with his knuckles. Slowly, Annie's eyes focus on him, and she nods.
"We're done here," says Finnick. "Let's go." They leave none too soon as the crowds are cautioned to dissipate. Finnick turns back briefly to the stage and sees Haymitch looking at him. They nod at each other, and Finnick makes it a point to see him later that night.
When he finally meets up with Haymitch in the after-dinner celebration at the Justice Building, they talk just outside the door of the room in which the dancing is held to avoid being overheard by too many onlookers. There, Haymitch is able to indirectly confirm that District 13 is indeed occupied with people, but how they are able to hide is still a mystery to him. He was also able to gather from what Haymitch hinted at that many of the districts apparently reacted much like District 4 reacted during the ceremony earlier in the day.
For the first time since he had argued with his brother, he feels remorse for acting out the way he did towards him. They had not spoken much about it after their heated exchange, with the most recent conversation being a request that he and Mags watch Annie as he goes to the after-dinner dance at the Justice Building to talk to Haymitch. Even thought Finnick still wants to leave as soon as possible from District 4, to escape with Annie and Turlach and Mags, he is now willing to hear Turlach out on what the people are planning on doing to rebel.
As he promised Annie, Finnick doesn't stay long at the dance. He only wanted to get the information he could from Haymitch and see how things were going, but it's been almost an hour now and he wants to get back home to try and sort everything out.
"How's Annie?" asks Haymitch. Finnick smiles.
"She's hanging in there," says Finnick, then decides to let him in with a little hint, "it'd be nice if we could go on a… vacation, though." Haymitch looks at him for a long moment, then nods.
"Yeah, it would be nice. If only that were possible," says Haymitch.
"Yeah, if only," says Finnick quietly. "So, I guess you'd better head on back. They'll be looking for you soon enough."
"Unfortunately," says Haymitch. Finnick is about to leave, then thinks of something else.
"So, those two," says Finnick, nodding towards the dance hall. "Love really saved them, huh?"
Haymitch just smirks and raises his glass toward Finnick. "They aren't called the 'Star-crossed lovers from District 12' for nothing," says Haymitch, then chuckles a little before downing what's left in his glass.
"Bye Haymitch. Until the next Games," says Finnick, grabbing Haymitch by the shoulder, hoping Haymitch understands that he doesn't really plan on seeing him again.
"Yeah, until then," says Haymitch, giving him a look of understanding.
Finnick is now sure that things seem to be happening all around Panem, and he's not sure what to really think about it all. One thing for certain is that he needs to talk to Turlach, which he will probably do in the morning. For now, he just wants to go home and spend time with Annie.
He barely makes his way on the road that leads to Victor's Village when, on the path ahead, appears someone from the Village. Another victor named Bruma, whom he's greeted maybe once or twice before, and who lives in the house on the opposite side of Mags' house, rushes to meet him.
"Finnick," says Bruma breathlessly, obviously having run for some time. "I heard a fight from your house. Mags was crawling out of the door…" he pauses to take a breath, and Finnick grabs onto his arm, partially to keep him steady, but also to urge him to continue.
Finnick is half-panicking just hearing this much, but he can already feel the air being sucked out of his lungs. They've found out they're trying to escape! Snow is making his attack!
"He took her," says Bruma on an exhale. "He took her. Garcen. He took Annie."
Bruma only shakes his head. "I don't know. I'm sorry. I don't know."