Against The Tides

Chapter 25: The Sick and the Twisted

Finnick didn't have time to think about what happened, or how, with Turlach and Mags around, Garcen was able to take his Annie. He didn't dare allow himself to feel guilty about leaving her, either. Self-pity isn't going to do anything to rescue Annie. He will deal with all that later, but now, all his focus is on finding Annie and dealing with Garcen one last time, no matter what it took.

Heat courses through his body as his fury consume him. Droplets of sweat appear on the sides of his face, but he doesn't notice them at all. On any normal day, they would've made him itch until he wiped them away. But this was no longer any normal day, and he wondered in the briefest of seconds if there would be another normal day in his life.

The problem with his anger and his uncontrolled desire to kill Garcen was that it made it hard for him to think rationally. Well, it made it hard for him to think, period. Where would he take Annie to keep her safe? Where would he take her that they wouldn't be able to find her? Where?

All he keeps thinking about is the look on her face. How when she gazed at him, a certain gleam would flit through her eyes at the moment he smiled at her. It would happen so fast that sometimes he wondered if he even saw it, but after so many occasions, he finally convinced himself that it was real, and it was only for him. Like a gift of a part of her soul. And he captured it with the stillness of his heart every time. For that brief moment, he wouldn't dare breathe until that gleam hid back behind her eyes.

That gleam… her face. Her smile. Sometimes her smile would accompany that gleam, and sometimes it would show up when he held her close to him. During days where all they did was walk side by side across the shoreline, he would catch a glimpse of her profile, and he would see the corner of her mouth curl up, as if she knew he was sneaking a peek at her and she seemed to enjoy it. They wouldn't even say anything, but she would smile like that anyway.

One time, he woke up to her calling his name, almost whispering it. He almost thought it was a dream, and when he opened his eyes, he saw that gleam in her eyes and the soft faint smile, and in that instant accepted it only as a dream because she just seemed so beautiful, so ethereal at that moment. It wasn't until she lightly pressed her lips to his that he realized how wonderfully real it was.

Now as her face flickers in his mind, the images of her change from one of utter happiness to one of consuming despair. Unfortunately, there are many images of her with that look as well, probably more than the former. Her indifference after being called in the reaping, her confusion being called as a victor and being pulled from the arena, her many times of anguish and fear, during her breakdown as mentor, after her father's death, and most recently, her time being held captive by Snow.

Those images now crowd his mind. Those are the faces of Annie he imagines now at the thought of her being taken by Garcen. Those are the images that fuel his rage, that tear into his chest and dwell in there, waiting to explode at any second.

"Where?" he says out loud.

Annie can't think straight. Memories in her head mix in with the events of the past half hour. It's today, it's last year, it's 5 years ago, but she's having a hard time knowing which is which. Garcen looks the same. Drunk, angry, sadistic. He smells rancid, too, and she tries not to breathe it in, but she gags anyway.

She also feels the same as she did when she was 12-years-old. Meek, scared, defeated. Two words repeat in her head over and over again, and she's still trying to make sense of it. Not again. She feels herself being dragged, but is having a hard time trying to resist, what with one of his hands squeezing her tightly around her waist like a vice and his other gripping even tighter around her wrist. She wants to scream, but in the whirl of memories in her head, one sticks out quite fresh in her mind. "You scream, you die," Garcen had said to her after knocking out Turlach and shoving down Mags. So, she whimpered and allowed herself to be pulled away from the safety of the place she called her own. Finnick's home.

Surprisingly, he didn't take her far, but not like she could tell one way or the other. If Garcen had taken her all the way to the borders of their district, she doubt she would have been able to tell the time difference of that to the two minutes it took for him to drag her to the house across the green. The Village was oddly darker than usual that evening and to Annie it seems eerily quiet. She wonders for just a brief moment if Turlach and Mags are already dead. And if Finnick is dead, too.

Annie could feel herself letting go of all cognizance, and she isn't sure if she wants to fight it, being that she's with Garcen. Not again. Still, something in the back of her mind is telling her not to give up. The memories of her past with Garcen play out again. Images of him hitting her or grabbing her or worse. A whimper escapes out of her mouth.

"Shut up!" Garcen snaps back in an angry murmur, slamming the door behind him before dragging Annie up the stairs to where he tried to have his way with her the last time. "We have some unfinished business to attend to." His cackle echoes through the empty house, and sends shivers through every inch of her being.

Not again.

As they get to her former room, he pushes her inside and she barely has a chance to turn around to face him when the full force of his slap across her face whips her head sideways. The shock comes before the pain, and she can't help but feel surprised at it even though she's experienced this before from the Head Peacekeeper.

She gasps at the painful grip of his hand on the back of her neck, and is forced to face him. Garcen's breath is in her face, and she can't help but breathe it all in as she's still gasping for air from the slap. She can almost taste the bile reeking from deep within his throat and she would gag if Garcen wasn't holding her neck so tight.

"That's for your father, but since he's not here to receive it, you'll have to do," he sneers. "That little scratch he gave me last year took a while to heal, but as you can see, I'm all better now."

The memory of her father lying dead on the floor enters her thoughts. She remembers the blood seeping out of him, just as the life in his eyes dulled and he stopped breathing. She chokes back a sob at the memory, which makes Garcen laugh.

"Awww, poor baby," he says contemptuously. The hand that was previously on the back of her neck slides to the front of her neck, forcing her face closer to his. "Don't be sad. I can make you feel better." His lips crush violently against hers and she tries to push against his chest with her hands, but his other arm wraps around her waist and pulls her body right up against his. She can't help but wonder how someone's breath can smell so unbelievably vile. She instinctively slaps the side of his head. Hard.

The sudden reaction prompts Garcen to bite down on her bottom lip, breaking the skin, before he pulls away from her. He shakes his head slightly, stunned at the force of a slap from someone much smaller than himself, but his recovery time is quicker, despite being excessively drunk. "You whore!"

Emotional pain always lingers long after it's been introduced, however, she has a hard time imagining that she will forget the pain of being hit in the face with a closed fist anytime soon. She doesn't remember ever being hit in the face like this before, and a new fear creeps into her psyche.

His punch literally knocks her to the floor this time, and before she has time to get up, Garcen is already on top of her, straddling her waist. This time she sees his fist, and it's almost as if it's coming to her in slow motion. As if she can count in seconds how long it will take for his white knuckles to come into contact with her face, and as slow as it seems, her hands are even slower in blocking it. The pain from the first punch is compounded with the second one. When the third one hits her, she wonders if she has reached her pain threshold because she can't feel it anymore, or if she is now dead and she is just reliving the nightmare of being beaten to death.

She hears a moan and is confused as to where it's coming from until she's forced to focus on Garcen's face as he pulls at her chin. Somehow the image of him looks distorted and her mouth feels odd. She doesn't even realize she's now laughing until she feels the pain in her chest. Oh, I'm not dead, she thinks to herself.

"You like that, huh?" Garcen's voice is husky and spiteful. He practically puts all his weight on top of her, and he's nowhere near light. "You like me beating your pretty little face?" She can't smell him anymore, and is attentive enough to be thankful for that respite. His fingers roughly stroke the side of her face, and she moans in pain at the touch. A part of her thinks she would rather he punches her again instead.

Not again.

Annie doesn't notice the hot tears flowing, but she feels them trickling down one side of her face, eventually falling into her disheveled hair. Garcen is ecstatic at the result of his force on her and he shows her just how much by kissing her roughly, shoving his tongue into her mouth and squeezing her chest with his forceful hands to the point that she screams in pain, only to be muffled by his slobbery and foul-tasting maw.

No amount of struggling on her part can move him off of her. He's lost in his angry drunk lust that even if she tried to slap him again, it probably would do no good. But she tries anyway, to no avail. She even tries to scramble away, but his weight on her keeps her legs from being able to do any damage to him at all. She doesn't even bother to try to scream for help. It never came before, so why should it come now. She's 12-years-old again and hidden away in some private room in the community home.

Her one hope in all of this is that Finnick will be able to find happiness without her, because after this, she has a feeling that Garcen will be rid of her. This is his way of sending her off to her death.

She closes her eyes, wondering if death was always the only option for her since the Games, and she was only prolonging the inevitable. Will she accept it now? Should she?

A voice in her head whispers, "I'm right here."

She opens her eyes and Garcen is leering at her. "I knew you'd come around," he snickers.

And with all her force, she tries again to push him off of her, forcing a ragged scream to come out of her already aching throat. He budges a little, but his hands grab at her wrists and he pulls them above her head, keeping them solidly in place. Using one hand to hold her wrists, he pulls the top of her blouse, trying to ruthlessly rip it away. The moment she hears the familiar sound of cloth ripping, her eyes widen and she gasps, feeling the sheer panic of being exposed to this monster.

But before she can even scream again, an arm clutches around Garcen's neck and he is suddenly pulled off her body completely. Annie scrambles back, able to breathe fully as she crawls backward as much as possible, only stopping when she hits the wall with her back.

Finnick didn't have any weapons with him when he entered Annie's house. If he had been thinking clearly, he might've thought it to be some kind of trap. Because what idiot would be that stupid enough to kidnap someone only to hide just a few minutes walking distance from where the kidnapping took place?

Apparently, Garcen is that idiot.

He meant to go to his house to find out more from Turlach or Mags, but since the village was oddly quiet, it was easy for him to hear the haunting scream that broke the silence. He knew exactly who it was and where it was coming from.

From his position halfway between his house and hers, he backpedaled and charged into the front door of her house. He could hear the struggles coming from her old room on the second floor, and in no time, his arm was squeezing with all his might around Garcen's neck, pulling him off and backwards, away from Annie's small, beaten frame.

"You should've left her alone," Finnick says through gritted teeth. He tightens his grip on Garcen, hoping that he can at least weaken him, but Garcen isn't making it easy, even if he is drunk.

Even with Finnick's rage empowering him, that same emotion makes it hard for him to think strategically and he leaves his left side open for Garcen's elbow to find its way to his ribs. Finnick doesn't release the grip he has around Garcen's neck, but it hurts him enough that when the second blow to the same spot comes, he yelps, and loosens it even more.

With that advantage, Garcen is able to pull out of his grasp. Regardless of the alcohol still coursing through him, Garcen is alert and even smirks a little at Finnick. Finnick knows that this is Garcen's opportunity to finally be able to kill him. He knows that no one will be able to question Garcen's reasoning for it now. And that's if anyone else bothers to investigate.

Garcen hurdles toward him, crashing into Finnick's chest with his shoulder and effectively pushing him against the wall by the bedroom door.

Even though Finnick is taller than Garcen, it would be foolish to underestimate Garcen's strength, and being hurled to the wall just reminds him of that. Finnick feels Garcen's fist hit him in the same spot where he was elbowed. Then again. Garcen swings in for another punch, but Finnick blocks it just in time with his left arm and immediately pulls Garcen's shoulders down, getting him in a bent-over position and knees him in the gut. Garcen groans and steps back a few feet.

"I was wondering if you'd show up at all. Wasn't sure if you'd be able to figure out where we'd be… and I really wanted you to come watch," croaks Garcen. He makes a guttural laugh that is so full of haughtiness that it only fuels Finnick's hatred of the man.

Finnick glances to the far wall where Annie crouches against. He can see one of her eyes is swollen shut and her lip bleeding. Her hair is matted and tangled all around and on her tear soaked face. The sight of her in that state makes his stomach churn violently, and it takes every ounce of effort on his part not to run straight to her and hold her in his arms until all the pain is gone.

The one thing that keeps him from doing that is the seething rage erupting inside of him, ready to end Garcen however he can. He moves toward the head peacekeeper, ready to tackle him, choke him, and watch the life drain out of him as he takes his last breath.

"That's going to be the last time you ever touch her!" shouts Finnick. With that, he lunges toward Garcen like a madman.

Garcen is ready and before Finnick reaches him, he pulls out his baton. Finnick does see it, but for some reason, he doesn't stop. He doesn't care if the baton hits him. He doesn't care if he's within an inch of his life at this very moment. As long as he's able to take Garcen down with him to the afterlife, then he'll be fine. Annie will be fine. But his body defies him and he crumples to the floor when the baton connects with his side. Finnick hears a crack of a bone, or was that the creaking of wood? He's not sure.

"I think you're wrong on that, Odair. I think I will be touching her again. And again. I'm going to make her like it," hisses Garcen, emphasizing the word 'like'. "And when I'm done with her, I'll be sure to send her your way."

Garcen hovers above Finnick's bent form and right when Finnick tries to get up, he feels the crushing blow of the baton on his back, then his shoulder, then his side again, hearing another crack. He hears Annie screaming.

Through all the blows, the only thing that really hurts him to realize is not his death, not even Annie's death, but the fact that he couldn't stop it. He couldn't stop Annie's suffering any more than he could stop the waves of the ocean from crashing. All this time, he thought he was helping, but he was only delaying the inevitable.

He turns his face slightly to peer at Garcen through the corner of his eye, only to feel Garcen's spittle on his face. He doesn't bother to wipe it off. There's no point.

He surmises how easy it will be for Garcen to turn this story around to his advantage. To make it seem that Garcen was protecting Annie from him and to force her to agree to that story by threatening to kill Mags and Turlach, unless they were dead already. It would all make sense to the other Peacekeepers. He doesn't believe anyone would challenge him.

He can't hear what Garcen is saying, although he sees Garcen's mouth moving, telling him something. It's nothing important, though. What he does hear is the sound of her cries. Of her whimpers. He thinks he can even hear his name being whispered. Then he feels another blow before he blacks out.


At first the voice sounds so far away that he wonders if he's dreaming. No, he should be dead.

The realization that he's not dreaming, or dead, comes when the pain rushes into the back of his head. And it's not just the back of his head, but everywhere. He tries to groan, but even that hurts.

"Finnick," the voice says. It sounds just as rough as he feels. "We have to get out of here."

When he finally dares to open his eyes, there is nothing but blackness. He blinks a few more times and finally notices some light, which is coming from the window. Moonlight. He also notices a stick lying next to him. Garcen's baton.

"Finnick, get up," he suddenly realizes the voice is actually right above him, and it's literally pulling his arm. He turns his stinging head to look at the face.


Turlach pulls on his arm again and Finnick finally, slowly sits up. "What happened?"

"Not right now. We have to go," says Turlach. Finnick recalls the moments before he blacked out and realizes that Garcen was close to killing him.

"Where's Garcen?" Finnick asks urgently, a slight hint of panic in his tone.

Turlach shakes his head. "He's dead. C'mon. We can't stay here."

Finnick's eyes widen, but upon Turlach's insistent pull on his arm and his weakened state, he agrees that maybe now is not the time for all the questions to be answered. But when he finally gets up, he sees the large body of Head Peacekeeper Garcen flat on the floor.

His body partially covers the path that leads from the door of the bedroom to the balcony doors, narrowed by the bed in the center of the room. If one were to look from the neck down, that person would think that Garcen was merely sleeping off a hangover; his Peacekeeper uniform soiled from dirt and grime and liquor, untucked and unbuttoned. One piece of evidence that could construe a struggle was that of him holding a knife.

Finnick looks at where Garcen's face should be and is met with something very familiar to him. The three prongs are buried deep into Garcen's face at an odd angle, right through one of his eyes, although the neither eye can be seen anymore because of all the blood. He tries to remember, but he's having a hard time piecing things together. What happened? Did I bring my trident? How did Turlach get here? Where is Annie?

"Annie!" he says loudly, only to grab at his side from the sharp jab of pain.

"She's right here," Turlach says gravelly, and he pulls Finnick around to see Annie leaning against the wall near the door. Her face is hiding behind a tangle of hair, and she's staring straight again of her, gazing at nothing in particular. Her hands are folded up against her chest and her fingers scratch at her collarbone.

Finnick walks as fast as his damaged body can move to her side and he whispers to her. "Annie? It's me," he says softly, grazing her arm. She stiffens slightly, but doesn't retreat.

Her eyes stay unfocused, and he can see she's muttering something, but he can't hear her.

"C'mon, let's get out of here first," urges Turlach, squeezing Finnick's arm.

Finnick moves closer to Annie, close enough for him to whisper in her ear. "We have to go, Annie."

His fingers close around one of her hands, and even though she doesn't acknowledge him, even though her eyes stare into nothing, he knows some part deep inside her mind hears him and trusts him, because she allows herself to be led by his hand.

It's a slow, but rushed process, walking down the steps of Annie's house, across the green, back to his home. To their home. Finnick wants to do more for Annie, to carry her even, but his own body is still throbbing from the beating he received, and he's pretty sure his broken ribs won't be too happy with him either. Even his focus is hazy, and he has to rely on his older brother for support and direction.

When they get to Finnick's house, Bruma is there tending to Mags, who luckily only suffers from a bruised hip from when Garcen shoved her away. Bruma had her sit down on the sofa.

Finnick finds it odd that all of a sudden another victor decides to help. More proof that people, including the victors, may be anxious for things to change, he wonders.

Misery hangs heavy in the air and despite the soft words that they exchange between each other, it feels as if there's a silence that will not go away. Only a few minutes pass, but no one registers the time ticking away. Garcen is dead. And everyone else is still alive. Finnick almost can't believe his luck.

That is, until Turlach collapses on the floor.

"Oops," mumbles Turlach.

Finnick, although weak and in pain and very tired, practically falls next to him, feeling another sharp jab on his side. "Turlach," he groans. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," grunts Turlach, then he chuckles a little. "Just a little cut."

Finnick looks down to where Turlach's eyes shift to. He wonders why on earth he didn't notice this before. Turlach's right hand is pressed firmly against his stomach, but now that they are in his lit house, he can see the blood seeping out and covering Turlach's hand. Finnick blinks and the image of Garcen's lifeless body holding the small knife in his hand flashes into his mind. The one thing he didn't notice before when he saw it now comes into play. There was blood on that knife. Too much blood.

"No," says Finnick. He pulls away Turlach's hand from his midsection, and he blinks. "Turlach, what happened?"

Turlach takes a breath. Then he takes another, his chest heaving in the effort. Finnick helps him lie down where he fell, in the space between the kitchen and the living room.

"I didn't see the knife," Turlach chuckles again, then curses at the pain his action gives him. "Wow that hurt."

"We have to get you to the med-" says Finnick, but Turlach stops him.

"No," croaks Turlach, shaking his head. Finnick can't be sure, but he thinks Turlach's eyes are glistening. Wait. "I don't think… it's okay. I'd rather stay here."

For some reason, Finnick feels his chest tighten. "But you need a doctor-"

"No. Not anymore. I need to stay here," Turlach says, closing his eyes, "with you, little brother."

Finnick turns his head to those that are around him, and he finds Mags' face. Ever the stoic mother figure, she has made her way to them, slowly kneeling by Turlach's head. Mags can't hold her emotional strength up and he notices the tears brimming in her eyes, ready to fall at any moment.

"Mags, we have to do something," says Finnick. But Mags just looks at him sorrowfully and shakes her head, mumbling something about being too late. The tears escape her eyes, but he turns his head to look back at his brother.

"No, you can do this, Turlach," Finnick says vehemently. And he tries to pull Turlach up by his arm, just like Turlach did for him back at Annie's house. "C'mon, you're stronger than this!"

But Turlach doesn't budge and only groans in pain at Finnick's pull. "Stop, Finnick. Stop," he says weakly. "I can't… It's better this way." He takes a shallow breath. "They'll need someone to blame for Garcen." He takes another. "They'll want someone to pay for it." He blinks between heavy lidded eyes. "It's my turn." Wait.

"Never again," whispers Annie through her swollen mouth, sitting on the sofa, her legs folded up against her chest with her arms wrapped around them tightly.

Finnick swallows to get rid of a lump in his throat, but it stays there. "Turlach… hey, big brother. We were supposed to get out of here, remember? We had a plan, right?"

Turlach nods. "I'm sure you… can do it without me," he utters. "Listen-"

"No, I need you. I need your help-"

"Okay, but listen…" says Turlach.

His voice sounds different, thinks Finnick. Why?

"What?" he asks quietly. And why won't this lump go away?

"This… isn't your fault, okay? And mom, dad, that's not your fault. Remember that. I should've told you when I realized how you felt-"

"It doesn't matter…"

Turlach shakes his head slightly and his eyes widen, and Finnick notices how dark and wet they are from tears. He doesn't remember ever seeing Turlach cry before.

"I shouldn't have let you hold onto that pain. Finnick…" Turlach takes a breath before he says his final words, "I love you, little brother." He takes one more shallow breath, and then his body goes limp.

The only movement that can be seen from Turlach in the seconds after are the tears that finally break away from the corners of his open eyes.

Finnick blinks. "Turlach?" He doesn't realize he has been holding Turlach's hand until now as he feels Turlach's bloody fingers slowly release their grip on him. He shakes him, refusing to let go. "Turlach? Turlach!" Wait. Please wait. Finnick calls his name again and again, but in his heart, he already knows. He sees it in the blackness of his eyes and in the lifelessness of his gaze.

Finnick isn't sure what to do now. Should he let go of his hand? Should he close his eyes? Should he clean up the blood? Should he go comfort someone? Mags? Annie? Should he cry?

Bruma is standing there, keeping a safe distance away from them, his face full of sadness, concern, and something else. Frustration? Bewilderment? A sudden need to occupy himself? Maybe he should ask him for help.

Maybe he can help him do something about his broken ribs or the pounding in his head, or ask him for a cup of water to get rid of the lump in his throat. Yes, that would be a good idea. Maybe later.

But for now, he just sits there, waiting.

The Peacekeepers found Garcen the day after he was killed, but oddly enough, the Peacekeeper in charge didn't question any of them further after it was explained to him that Turlach and Garcen got into a heated exchange that just went overboard.

There were no questions as to why this fight occurred in Annie's home. No mention of Finnick's trident, which was actually never retrieved, being the weapon that was mercilessly embedded into Garcen's skull. Not even the obvious detrimental physical state of Finnick and Annie had been brought into the conversation.

The Peacekeeper in charge, named Pearce, which Finnick dryly thought to be a fitting name, merely smirked after Bruma, who left that night only to return an hour later, explained what had happened. No one else was really able to explain it.

Finnick hadn't been able to make out whether Pearce was actually sympathetic to them, or if he was planning on something very cruel for all of them and he was just biding his time for the perfect scenario. For all he knew, Pearce might have actually been ecstatic for being rid of Garcen so he could try to get the Head Peacekeeper position.

Even if Pearce was sympathetic to them, he didn't want to take the chance of that being the case and decided that maybe he should try to seek out the others that wanted to start some kind of rebellion. He also thought maybe escaping was still a viable plan, and a part of him still wanted that, but he didn't know if he could leave anymore.

Plus, what was the point of escaping now that Annie was on what he was sure to be a permanent mental collapse.

"We're going to have to take the body, though," said Pearce, eyeing Finnick coolly. Finnick, who Bruma managed to bandage up in the early morning hours, was sitting up against the kitchen wall closest to his brother's body.

Finnick had the sudden urge to stand up to Pearce, yell at him, fight him, to show how much he detested the idea of leaving Turlach's body to them. But a voice in his head whispered him to be still, and Finnick barely had the strength to nod is compliance.

Just like that, Turlach's body was gone.

He hears her yelp, but he doesn't move. He stopped trying to jump out of his bed a week ago because Mags had chastised him for not taking the time to heal, and she decided to house herself temporarily into his home. He still had at least one more week of recovery from his broken ribs. Besides, it wasn't as if Annie was calling for him anyway. And she hadn't tried to seek comfort in his bed since the incident three weeks ago. But he would always hear her.

Finnick tries to go back to sleep, but he knows it is futile. His mind is too awake now, wondering if she was dreaming about that night. Ever since it happened, he had been trying to piece it all together, but the problem was there were only three other people in that room. Two of them are dead now. And the third…

He's tried asking her, but it's been so hard to get her to talk about it when half the time she didn't seem to even hear him. Sometimes she would mutter words, but nothing really understandable. This was always a fear for him. That she would revert back to how she was when her father died, or when she was pulled out of the arena almost five years ago.

The other half of the time, when the haze actually left her eyes and he was there to see it, the pained expression on her battered and swollen face prevented her from wanting to utter another word. The swelling went down eventually, but then she bore the rainbow of dark colors all over one side of her face. Every time her eyes actually met his, he struggled to keep his emotions in check, willing himself not to break down in front of her and beg her to forgive him for not coming to her aid sooner, for even leaving her. He knew that wouldn't help either of them.

But she didn't look too long at him anyway. She would shake her head vehemently. Or lay down on her bed and curl up. Or cry silently. It's those times he thinks he would prefer that she not notice him at all.

"No. No!" Annie shouts. Finnick can hear Mags trying to shush her now. He closes his eyes, wishing to all of Panem that he could just hold her.

"Please," he whispers, pulling his arm over his eyes to block out the moonlight.

"Stop," she whispers. "Never again."

Annie jars herself awake, sits up, and looks around. Her arms are in front of her, her fingers spread wide to block what she dreamt was coming, but the image fades quickly and she's left with and empty room and silence.

She wants to cry, but she's too tired, both physically and emotionally. She's not sure what time it is, but she can tell it's close to dawn. It's not completely dark outside and she can see the faint lighting of the sky as she turns her head to look out the window of her room.

Still alive, she thinks.

"That's nice," she mumbles.

Annie is conscious of her surroundings. She wonders how long it will last this time. She lies back down on the bed, facing the window, watching the sky change colors from dark blue to light blue to soft orange to yellow. She doesn't remember ever watching a sunrise before, but it doesn't mean she hasn't. Her mind is so screwed up, and she knows it.

As the sky gets brighter and brighter, she thinks about how lovely the day is going to be, and if it's going to be warm enough to wear a skirt. Her fingers scratch at her collarbone.

She closes her eyes and decides that now is as good a time as any to try to and work through the pain of the last few weeks. Her heart pounds in her chest, knowing that doing this recollection exercise could set her back psychologically. But all her efforts have been to get her back to Finnick. Since the incident, she hasn't been able to be with him. She has hardly been able to speak to him and she knows why, but her stupid mind prevents her from staying alert for longer than several minutes before she loses herself.

Annie wants to tell him that she does hear him, but sometimes her mouth refuses to open, and when it does, it doesn't say what she wants it to say. Half the time, it's like he's a dream and his voice is there, begging her to hear him, but she ends up being lost in another haze. And she's only recently been able to break through it, but just barely.

Mags shuffles into her room, but she doesn't turn her head around toward the door. "Mags…" she mumbles and suddenly furrows her brow.

A blanket is thrown over Annie, and she realizes only then that she has been shivering.

"Like ice!" mutters Mags.

"Oops," says Annie. "Oops… oops…" Something twists in her chest.

"Shh," says Mags, rubbing Annie's arm and back over the blanket.

Annie looks out the window, wondering what happened to the day as the darkened sky tells her it's time for another restless night of sleep.

He had planned to find the people who wanted to start an uprising, but with his injuries and the almost involuntary unwillingness to be away from Annie for even a minute prevented him from going anywhere. He had a feeling that Bruma might be able to lead him in the right direction as to who to speak to, but he no longer felt compelled to do anything except wait for Annie to talk to him.

It didn't seem to matter though, because he knew something was happening, and it was without his help. He noticed the boats that usually went out first thing in the morning were still there. It started happening only a few days earlier, but as to anything else going on, he couldn't tell. Not very many people from town come to visit victors in the Village. If they did, they were relatives, and he didn't have anymore of those.

Finnick takes a deep breath and clears his throat, smiling at the woman sitting in front of him.

"I'm feeling better, by the way," he says blithely, "thanks for asking."

Annie shifts her eyes from one spot on the carpet to another. She still hasn't said a conscious word to him, but just her subtle movements, like her eyes shifting, make him hopeful. Even though Annie still carries around some slight bruising around her cheekbone, the swelling is completely gone. Luckily, nothing was broken, either.

"Want a strawberry?" he asks, holding out a perfectly ripe red one in front of her, as if to tease her with it. He gives her a flirty smirk. "They're very sweet," he takes a bite from it, vocally expressing his pleasure in the taste of it. "So sweet, yes, but not as sweet as you."

Her eyes shift to the bowl of strawberries he's holding, but her face still holds the same expressionless look.

"Ah, I can tell, you want one, don't you?" he says. "A sweet for my sweet."

She shifts her eyes down to the carpet again, and his flirtatious smirk drops from his face.

"Okay, I'll stop with the teasing. But they really are good. Just try one. If you don't like it, then I'll give the rest to Mags," he pleads. Her eyes slowly move to the bowl again. Finnick smiles and pulls one out.

He pulls the ottoman he's sitting on a little closer to her and then edges himself forward so he can comfortably put the strawberry right up to her lips. At first she doesn't move, but slowly, she opens her mouth to bite into the strawberry and finally chews it.

"I hear it's good with chocolate, too," he says, using a napkin to gently dap at the excess on her lips.

When he looks up, his heart stops and he feels as if time has stopped with it. For the first time since he left her to meet up with Haymitch after the Victory Tour dinner, her eyes truly connect with his. Not for just a mere second or two, but they stare right into his, as if searching for something within in. They are as beautifully green and alert as he's ever seen them, and he literally sighs in awe.

"Annie?" he says softly. But time moves forward again and she turns her head, her fingers scratching at her collarbone.

Never again.

That's what she remembers saying right before she plunged the trident right into Garcen's face. She wasn't even sure if it really did happen, and it took weeks for her to start remembering the details of it all. Still, regardless of whether she felt it was a nightmare or a reality, it was hard for her to ignore the heaviness in her heart everytime she thought about it, which included everytime she heard his voice.

She wonders if this is how Finnick felt all those times he felt guilty for not being there for her. What shame we bear.

She feels it now, that heaviness, but she fights to stay cognizant. She has to, because she knows the longer she allows her mind to drift, the harder it is for her to hear his voice. Her fingers unconsciously scratch at her collarbone again, but she notices this time she pulls her arms to her sides.

"It's gone," she mumbles to herself.

Sitting on the side of her bed, she closes her eyes, and her mind again wanders back to that night. She remembers the pain, the physical pain of Garcen's fist, and the emotional pain of seeing Finnick beaten to near death. Then she remembers Turlach, coming in with weapon in hand. But it was very evident to Garcen that, although Turlach was adept with the trident, he was not a fighter.

Turlach saw Finnick's body, and instead of charging Garcen while his back was to him, he yelled at him. Garcen turned and swung his baton, knocked the trident out of his way, and laughed menacingly, berating Turlach for daring to even try to challenge him. But Turlach didn't back down. Instead, Turlach swung back with the trident, and actually knocked Garcen's baton out of his hand, surprisingly both of them.

Turlach thought he had the upper hand and charged straight on with the trident. Garcen was strong and was able to grab the stick just past the metal prongs. He shoved it far enough to one side of him and pulled it the stick to him so that Turlach was pulled as well, and Garcen lunged forward with the knife, right into Turlach's stomach.

It wasn't deep, but it was enough. Garcen pulled the knife back out as he stepped back, trying to keep himself balanced, and was about to lunge forward again for the final kill when Annie had said the last words Garcen would ever hear from her.

"Never again." She didn't care where it landed, just as long as it ended him. So, when she felt the prongs of the trident hit him, she pushed as much as she could until the trident left her hands, and she heard the loud thud of his body hit the floor…

She opens her eyes with a gasp, looking around. She looks at the clock and relaxes, seeing that only a few minutes have gone by. But the heaviness is still there, and she knows why.

"I'm sorry, Turlach," she says softly. She chokes back a sob, but a tear still falls from her eye, and she hastily wipes it away.

Going to the bathroom, she splashes her face with cold water, shocking her senses awake even more. As she wipes her face dry, she looks in the mirror and can still see just a hint of a bruise on her cheekbone. She wonders how Finnick's injuries are.

She slowly, quietly walks to Finnick's bedroom. His door is open, as it usually is. She enters and notices how empty it looks, or maybe just feels empty. The balcony doors are open and he stands there in his pajama pants, holding onto the railing and looking out. The air coming through feels warmer now than the past weeks, at least that's what she surmises.

Annie doesn't say anything, but it's obvious he hears her walking closer to him because he turns his head slightly to the side before turning it back to look out at the water.

She's at the balcony doors now, staring at his exposed back. She thinks about how he looks so strong on the outside, even with the bandages that cover one side of his torso; how he just looks like the perfect sculpture of a man. It's no wonder many women adore him. But they only see the outer beauty. She can see his inner beauty. Turlach had that same kind of beauty, she thinks.

"I remember what happened," says Annie.

Finnick stiffens at her words, but he still doesn't turn around.

"I remember everything," she says calmly.

He sighs. "It doesn't matter now," says Finnick. "Doesn't change what happened."

"It doesn't," she repeats and steps closer to him. "Finnick…"

She gingerly touches his back, feeling the heat of his body warming her chilled fingers before she places her palm flat against his back. He doesn't move, only breathes.

"Are you still here? Are you still with me?" he asks. Her chest twists painfully from the inside at the guttural sound of his words. She nods and does something that he usually does to comfort her. She wraps her arms around his waist, holding him close to her, leaning one side of her face against spot right between his shoulder blades.

"I don't want to be anywhere else. I can't be anywhere else but with you."

She feels his hand cover hers and their fingers lace together as he lets out a breath, as if exhaling for the first time in a long while.

"Good, because-" he chokes back a sob before continuing in a low, broken voice, "because you… and Mags… you two are all I have left."

When she feels his body tremble in her embrace, she wonders if he had even cried for the loss of his brother yet. Had he been waiting for her?

"I'm sorry, Finnick," she whispers, squeezing him a little tighter, being careful not to do so over his injury. "I'm here."

She moves their joined hands over where his heart is, feeling it beat heavy against the palm of her hand. With the side of her face still resting between his shoulders, she listens as he finally lets go and allows himself to cry, and she lets her tears fall as well, knowing that they will mourn together.

"I'm right here."

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