Chapter 27: To Be Safe or To Be Stupid
No sooner had the announcement been made than the uprising around the district had taken a setback. Two trainloads of Peacekeepers had entered the town square of District 4 early the very next morning. Several hovercrafts full of more Peacekeepers were sent to the outlying zones as well. President Snow was making himself very clear. This uprising was not going to last very long at all now. Snow had given them a false sense of victory, and came in with more than enough Peacekeepers to fill the plaza of the town square.
The town was split between those who fought and those who hid. Unfortunately, there was no real combating plan for those in the revolt and thus the fighting, fueled by anger with not much thought or skill, was destined to be futile and short.
Because the Victor's Village was at the end of a small peninsula, two dozen of the incoming Peacekeepers had been ordered to guard the path that connected the Village to everyone else. Twelve were faced in the direction of the village. The other twelve were faced in the opposite direction to prevent anyone from trying to get to the victors. Apparently, whoever had ordered this troop had thought this an effective way to make sure the victors were kept away from the rest of the people. And it did. There were only 14 victors alive left, after all. It would only take a few seconds for the Peacekeepers to silence them all with their guns. Plus, not all the victors actually wanted to be part of the rebel cause.
The victors were ordered to stay within the village for the time being until the situation, as the Peacekeepers called it, with those who insisted on rebelling, and the seafood cargo, was resolved. Of course, Bruma, Finnick and a few other victors knew the meaning behind it. The extra Peacekeepers were there to control any citizens that decided that rioting was the best option, and to kill the ones responsible for causing such a problem for the Capitol.
Two days after the arrival of the additional Peacekeepers, it happens. An explosion louder than any previous ones, echoes in the air. And with that, in their very secluded part of the district, they know. Their little rebellion is falling.
Bruma and his mother Vangie, as well as Mags, sit in the living room of Finnick's house, looking at each other nervously. Finnick holds onto Annie as she covers her ears, trying to block out the sound.
"What was that?" asks Finnick, looking at Bruma. Bruma goes outside to check, and when he comes back, his face is somber.
"One of the buildings," he says gravely. "I think it's one of the canneries." He stares at Finnick, indicating to him something that he doesn't want to say out loud. Finnick closes his eyes in understanding. If Finnick understands Bruma correctly, the cannery that was just blown up is the one that Turlach used to work in. It would be the one building where they many of the leaders of the rebellion worked at. Somehow the Peacekeepers knew, and attacked that specific building.
Later that night, Finnick's thought go back to the escape plan that he and Turlach had been planning before. But as he contemplates the idea in his mind, the thought of escaping, especially now, doesn't seem so cut and dry anymore. Especially after all the Turlach had done to try to rally the district, and despite what had just happened earlier with the cannery, knowing that retribution against those rebels would happen very soon, Finnick knows there is something not right about just running. Despite what he said to Annie about trying to find a way out, he just couldn't find it within himself to leave these people and his district in the state it's in now. Call it stupidity, call it cowardice, call it bravery, he had to stay. Even with the eventual reaping so close at hand.
He wants to help, but he wonders how he can do so and still keep Annie safe. The thought of leaving Annie again, even though Garcen is no longer around, terrifies him to his core. Goose bumps rise on his arms and he takes a deep breath to try to relax himself.
"Annie, I told you I'd try to find a way out," he says. Annie stands in front of the closed doors of the balcony, her arms folded in front of her, as she gazes out toward the town square. There are faint glows of fire in random areas of the town.
"Yes," she replies solemnly.
Finnick sighs, his head going into his hands as he sits on the edge of his bed. "I think we'll die if we try…" he pauses, unsure how to continue.
"We'll die either way," counters Annie. He looks up at her and she's still staring out the balcony doors. "He's going to make an example of you. Of us."
"What?" asks Finnick, nervous about what Annie's going to say next.
"You defied him, didn't you?" she turns her head toward him, but her eyes stare down at his feet. She doesn't question it angrily, but more with curiosity. "You didn't go when you were supposed to. The phone rang, but you didn't answer it. You didn't go."
It always surprises Finnick how much she's able to grasp of what's going on around her at times. He wonders if she knows the things he doesn't want her to know. Like details about the uprising. About the possible deaths of those who are leading, or led, the revolt. Does she know everything?
"I…I know," he says grimly. "I couldn't leave you…not again." Annie finally looks up to his face, into his eyes and steps in front of him. She's close enough for him to embrace her, but his arms don't move. He just grasps the edge of the mattress as he looks up at her as she looks down at him.
"It doesn't matter what we do anymore, does it?" Annie asks rhetorically. "Either way, we always end up in pain. We always end up hurting ourselves or others. Finnick, it's getting too easy… to easy for me to block things out. I don't want to get lost, but sometimes I want to give in. To just not feel anymore."
Finnick reaches out to her, but she steps back a bit. His surprise turns into hurt and he looks away from her. "Wait," she says. "I need to say this first, and I can't if… you're holding me. You distract me sometimes." Finnick is still a little wounded by her small rejection, but he can't help but smile just barely.
"I've been selfish," she says, and Finnick looks back up at her questioningly. "I have. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one that has problems. And I act like I'm the only one that's been through the Games. I mean, I know my mind plays tricks on me sometimes, and I do things that I don't even know I'm doing at the time, but there are other times when I do realize what I'm doing and I should try to stop myself, and yet I don't. I don't, because I wait… for you to help me. I wait for you to hold me and speak to me in that soothing voice of yours, telling me that you love me. And that's selfish of me. And I shouldn't be selfish, because I know that I'm not the only one that needs you."
Finnick would never consider Annie at fault for anything that she did when it came to her psyche. He knows enough about her to know that everything she's had to face ever since she was 10 years old would be more than enough reason to allow herself to be selfish, if he ever considered her as such.
"You're not selfish, Annie. Do you even know what you give me?" he smiles at her before continuing. "You give me a purpose; you give me a reason to hope for something better. You know, I thought my life was going to be just about getting by – being a paid servant to women's desires, pretending to be someone I'm not. Forgetting who I am. I wasn't sure how long I'd be doing that until people would get sick of me and toss me aside because I was too old or some other guy was better looking. I thought that would be the pinnacle of my life right there. I didn't even think love actually existed. It just seemed so unreal because of the women I had to be with. Some of the women were even married or were already with someone else, and they didn't care!"
Finnick looks up at Annie and holds his hand out to her. She slowly moves forward, and he tenderly curls his fingers around her hand, pulling her close to him. As if it is the most natural thing to do, he hold both of her hands and guides them around his neck until her arms are resting lazily on top of his shoulders and he placidly puts his arms around her waist with ease. From his seated position, he rests his head comfortably into the crook of her neck, feeling her heart beat against the side of his face. The scent of sweet fruit and lavender on her skin relaxes him and he literally sighs out loud.
"Everything about you reminds me of what love is suppose to be, Annie," he continues. "And I love that you want me to hold you, as much as I love holding you. If that makes you selfish, well, you won't hear me complain about it."
He can feel her relax and he smiles, imagining the look of peace on her face. He pulls his head back to look at her again, and her face is just as he imagined. Then she tightens her lips, and he knows there's something else she wants to say.
"What is it?"
"Finnick… I need you…"
"I need you, too," he says back.
"No. I mean… I need you…" Annie pauses and turns her head as if to look at something behind her. "I need you to help them." Where she turned her head gives him the clue of what she means. "You can help them. You know how to fight."
He shakes his head slightly. "I'm not bringing you into that."
"I won't be going with you," Annie says, her eyes showing something of a mixture of fear and courage at the same time. She swallows before saying her next words. "I'll stay here."
He pulls back even more, his hands now holding her at her hips. He shakes his head again. "No, I don't want to leave you alone again. It's too dangerous." As much as she tries, he can still see the pain in her eyes.
"But what about them? They need you, too. They need someone to help them. Can't you see that? They're a part of us," she says, her eyes full of sorrow for those people out there, even though she barely recognizes any one of them.
Finnick moves her back a little so he can stand. He walks toward the balcony doors, puts his hand up against the frame to lean forward a bit, and looks out at the town across the water. From here, it seems oddly quiet, knowing that out there, people are hurting, dying. He knows what she means. They are a part of them. They all live in the same place, they all grew up with the same restrictions, and even though District 4 is somewhat a little more privileged than other district, such as District 11 or District 12, they all still live in fear. They all have to deal with the Games. Still, he's one person. What can he do to help his district? He knows he's lost a lot already, and even the thought of losing Annie can bring him to his knees.
"Why are you saying this?" he asks in a low voice.
"Because… wouldn't he have wanted you to?" she replies in similar tone. "He was like a brother to me, too."
The image of Turlach lying on the floor, breathing his last breath, forces a gasp out of his mouth. He moves off the doorframe and pushes both palms of his hands into his eyes, forcing the tears to stay back. So this is what it comes down to. Stay here in the confines of the village to make sure Annie's safe, or find a way to go out there in the town and risk getting killed, risk getting Annie killed, risk getting everyone killed, for the sake of seeing that the uprising his dead brother planned out would gain freedom for District 4. It is only obvious what the best option is.
He turns around to see that Annie is now sitting where he sat minutes earlier. With all humbleness, he gets down on both knees in front of her and lays his head on her lap. He knows he will never get enough of having Annie close to him, next to him, touching him.
"I love you, Annie. Promise me you'll stay safe. I can't afford to lose you because of this. Helping the people out there would mean nothing if you're not here," he says.
"I promise," she whispers. He feels her fingers run through his hair and he closes his eyes, giving himself this moment to delight in the feeling of her touch.
It only takes thirty minutes for Finnick to get to Bruma's house and explain the plan to him. Finnick's plan is to swim to the other side from their beach, since trying to fight through the two dozen Peacekeepers is pretty much suicidal. The docks are also being guarded, so they can't use the boats.
"It'll take about 15 minutes to get there," Finnick estimates, taking into consideration that he would have to make as little noise as possible, thus not going as fast as he can.
"I'm going with you," says Bruma. Finnick is about to argue with him about this, but Bruma stops him. "I'm older than you, not decrepit. I can still swim well enough. And you'll need help."
Finnick decides it's not worth trying to argue with him. Besides, he could use help, and there isn't a better way to get help than from another victor. For a brief moment, he's reminded of his temporary alliance with Districts 1 and 2 in his Games.
Finnick goes back to his house to get ready. He grabs his swim gear, and puts on his swimsuit. He knows he has to say goodbye, but he tries not to make it sound final.
"I'll need some breakfast in the morning," he says to Mags. Mags purses her lips slightly and winks at him with her good eye.
"Be safe," she says. He smiles back at her nervously as she turns away. For a moment, he thinks he sees her eyes glisten, but shifts his eyes to the person now in front of him.
Annie looks at him solemnly. He cups the side of her face and strokes the cheekbone with his thumb.
"You're right to tell me to do this," he whispers.
"I know, but it doesn't mean I'm still not selfish. I still want you to come back to me, alive and well," she whispers back to him. He smiles.
"I have every intention of coming back," he says and leans in to give her a small kiss. But after that, he realizes it wasn't enough. He pulls her up against him as he kisses her a second time, prolonging it, trying to memorize every crevice, every curve of her lips on his, searing in his mind the feel of her delicate fingers running through his hair and the scent of her sweet skin and silken hair. It's almost enough to make him change his mind and forget about everything else. Almost.
When they finally pull apart from each other, he slowly backs away from her without looking. He fears that if he looks straight into her eyes, he will change his mind about the whole thing. He can only say one thing before he steps out the door into the darkness.
"I love you."
Then he's gone from her sight.
Annie knows that she did the right thing. She knows that no matter what he promises, sometimes those promises cannot be kept, no matter how hard the person tries. He promised he would find a way out, but it was abundantly clear to her that Finnick knew he wouldn't be able to go through with it.
Despite his reluctance, he is too much like Turlach in that way. He wants to help. That's what she loves about him. That's why she had to push him to go.
Still, it doesn't make the fear and longing in her heart any less painful. But he once told her she was strong, and she holds onto to that statement. That's what will get her through this night, and however many other nights there may be to come without him.
Finnick and Bruma make it safely and quietly to the rocks near the dock of the town square. The smell of ash and smoke and of burning rubber and gas is strong. Even the smell of fish and shrimp, and mussels permeate the air, wafting through from the cannery building that was bombed earlier that day.
As they stealthily make their way between the back of two buildings, they realize it is eerily quiet. Whatever melee had happened earlier has now stopped. Finnick fears they might already be too late to do anything. Bruma looks at him, and jolts his head to the side, communicating to him to keep going. As they make their way closer to the square, they scope the area, looking at the aftermath.
The color and design of the Peacekeeper uniforms is unmistakable. There are several spread out throughout the perimeter, but luckily Bruma and Finnick are hidden well within an unlit area at the side of one of the buildings.
In the center of the square there are five Peacekeepers spread evenly around in a circle. Finnick knows that within that circle there are a handful of people, mostly men, tied up and sitting on the floor. Bruma nudges Finnick and indicates that they go back to the rear of the building. But just as they try to formulate a plan, another thundering explosion on the other side of the town square moves them into action.
Bruma and Finnick are again near the front of the buildings and they can see that half Peacekeepers that were guarding the perimeter of the square are now racing towards where the explosion is. Suddenly, another explosion goes off, this time near the dock. One of the fishing boats is now on fire, and more of the Peacekeepers start shouting orders as they chase after the unknown rebels that are now running in a direction away from Bruma and Finnick.
The only Peacekeepers left now are the ones surrounding the prisoners and a few others that have stayed to guard the perimeter.
Not more than a minute passes until Finnick hears gunfire from a different area of the outlying buildings, and the gunfire is directed towards the remaining Peacekeepers.
They have guns now, Finnick realizes.
Again, maybe out of complete bravery, or more out of just plain stupidity, Finnick launches himself towards one of the distracted Peacekeepers surrounding the prisoners, knocking him down before any of the others know what's happening, and knocks the gun out of the Peacekeeper's hand. Now it's hand to hand combat and Finnick finds himself on equal level with the Peacekeeper as the other Peacekeepers are too engrossed in their own gun fight to deal with him.
Dodging one blow, then another, Finnick manages to grab hold of one of the Peacekeeper's arms and then the other when the opponent swings at him. Finnick pulls both arms down, forcing the Peacekeeper to bend forward, and Finnick brings his knee up until it connects with the Peacekeeper's gut. He then grabs a hold of his opponent's helmet and yanks it free from his head, only to knock him out on the side of his head with said helmet.
When Finnick looks on, he realizes that the rest of the Peacekeepers have been shot down by the hidden rebels. Bruma comes running towards him with the gun that Finnick knocked out of the Peacekeeper's hands.
"That was really idiotic, you know. I thought you wanted to live to see your Annie," huffs Bruma.
For a second, Finnick feels annoyed that Bruma just reprimanded him for his actions, but then grits his teeth in knowing that Bruma is right. That was most assuredly idiotic.
Before he can apologize, Bruma chuckles. "Amazing, but idiotic."
Finnick half-heartedly smiles back, then makes quick use of the knife he brought and unties the prisoners, one of them even thanking Finnick by name.
Finnick follows the group as they make a quick getaway northeast of the square. Because of the size of the group, they have to be extra quiet as they snake their way towards the closest border of District 4, a good five miles from the square. It's also slow going being that it's the middle of the night, but luckily the moon gives them some light. Leaving District 4 this is their only option now that they've been identified by the Peacekeepers.
How ironic, Finnick thinks, that this is exactly what I wanted to do with Annie, and she's not even with me.
"The fence is wired, but there's an opening in the bottom that should be big enough, but just be careful," says one of the men.
"You knew about this?" asks Finnick.
"Yeah, your brother was the one who sent me to scope this side," the man says. But the man is barely a man, and even in the dark, Finnick can see the man cannot be any older than 17. He stares for a second longer than he should before the young man clears his throat. "You two coming?"
Both Bruma and Finnick shake their heads no.
"Well, thanks. Good luck to you, then."
The young man is the last to pass through and they watch the group through the fence for a couple of minutes to make sure they're okay. When they see the young man enter some thick trees and disappear altogether, Finnick sighs in relief.
"Do they even know where they're going?" asks Finnick.
"I don't think it matters to them at this point," replies Bruma. "C'mon, we need to get out of here. The Peacekeepers will be on the hunt now."
Finnick nods and they both turn around to head back, only to find quite a few guns pointed in their direction. Bruma curses under his breath.
"You should've stayed in the village," says a voice that Finnick hadn't heard since his brother's body was taken away.
It was the voice of Head Peacekeeper Pearce. And it sounded absolutely vile.