Against The Tides

Chapter 3: Waiting

Finnick wakes up to the swaying of the ocean waves. He had anchored his boat a few miles off shore to spend some time alone. It isn't that he can't spend time at home alone, but he always seems to get distracted there. Either by things he felt he needed to do or just knowing that there were people around. And it isn't that he doesn't like people in general, despite having only a few trustworthy friends. The ocean just always seemed to calm him down. And he needed to calm down.

There is still about a week left until the Victory Tour. It's Annie's Victory Tour, and of course Finnick is to accompany her, along with the rest of Annie's team which includes her escort Tessa, stylist, and prep team. They will be going to each district and Annie is going to have to make a speech in front of all of them. Given her inconsistent emotions the days after the games ended, Finnick isn't sure what her state of mind has been lately and could only assume they haven't gotten better. He only hopes they haven't gotten worse.

Ever since they returned from the Capitol about six months ago, Annie had been avoiding him. After Annie had first moved into her new home in the Victor's Village, Finnick tried to visit her, to see how she was doing, but she refused. After several attempts, it became evident to him that she no longer needed or wanted his help. He didn't question it. He knew that each victor dealt with the ramifications of such an event in their life as the Games in their own way. Some are proud of their accomplishment. Some are shameful. And some are indifferent. Usually, all are just glad to be alive. But even being alive has its consequences. Annie is a prime example of that.

Annie may have come out of there physically whole, but mentally, she's broken. Finnick knows that, and so does his friend from District 12. Haymitch Abernathy is in a similar boat as Annie - whole, but not all there. People always lose a part of themselves in the arena, a part of what makes them the person they are, or at least had been. Most of the time, losing an intangible part of your body is more devastating than losing a tangible part. At least, that's how it is for most of the districts' victors. Many people in this state of mind usually have something or someone to turn to. For Haymitch, it's alcohol, basically because he has nothing, and no one else, to turn to.

Finnick supposed that was always part of the Capitol's agenda for the districts. He concluded the idea was for the victors to suffer more than those who died in the arena. Another method of reminding those who dared defy the Capitol, that even if you happened to be career, you were still to pay for your misdeeds. Haymitch said that, but not in so many words. Finnick had a feeling about it though, and Haymitch just confirmed it for him.

At least Finnick still has his brother. Turlach Odair is the older of the two and was 18 years old when Finnick was picked as a tribute 5 years ago. Turlach was no doubt upset at the thought of 14 year old Finnick going out there and possibly getting killed. Turlach loved his brother, of course. He would've never wanted him to get killed, and would've probably volunteered if he was confident enough to think he'd get out of the arena alive. But Turlach wasn't. Finnick was. Finnick had all the veracity, all the physicality, all the appeal of a victor that Turlach never considered himself a good enough replacement to represent District 4. Their father had taught them the skills of fishing and spearing and throwing, and Finnick took in those skills admirably. So admirably, in fact, that Turlach was at times jealous of his younger brother. Still, Finnick's likable charm always softened Turlach's heart and they often ended up talking or joking late into the night, up until their mom or dad yelled at them to go to sleep.

Even now, through all the trials they've had to endure the past few years, their relationship stood fast. They are not only brothers, they are best friends. Turlach ended up living in Finnick's house in the Victor's Village, even though Turlach originally argued against it, but Finnick wouldn't have any of it. He insisted that Turlach move in, along with their parents, or he wouldn't move into the Victor's Village either. Their parents were more than delighted to make the move. It was only when Finnick threatened to not do so, did Turlach finally give in.

When their parents were both killed in a supposed boating accident, Turlach knew that he couldn't leave now. Finnick and Turlach were the only ones left of their family. Mags, Finnick's mentor during his time in the games, became somewhat of a surrogate mother to them. Luckily, she only lived next door to Finnick's house, so it was easy enough for her to look on them once in a while. In fact, she looked in on them every day, checking that they ate enough, that the house wasn't in complete ruins, and, Finnick speculated, that they were still alive. Forever my mentor, he thought.

Turlach sometimes felt that Mags was being just a bit too conspicuous, as if she was spying on them instead of helping them. But Finnick knew better. During the time that she was his mentor, she learned about him, about his strengths and his weaknesses. She said Finnick had to be open and honest with her in order for her to keep him alive, and he did just that. She opened up to him as well, just as Finnick did with Annie. Turlach didn't understand because he never had to open himself up to anyone outside of his immediate family before, but he let Mags come and go as she pleased, mostly because Finnick appreciated her. Also because Mags did help them both out after their parents died, in their grief and in their survival of it. For Finnick, their parents' death was one of the worst tragedies he had ever experienced in his life, which was saying a lot considering what he had to do in the arena. Turlach later admitted that he thought Finnick would've thought killing all those tributes during the games would've made him less sensitive to death. It actually came as a surprise and a relief to Turlach that he was wrong about Finnick in that situation.

Now it is Finnick's turn to wonder how the games have affected Annie. Unfortunately, without her cooperation, Finnick isn't going to get any closer to helping her. Despite the fact that Annie doesn't seem to want his help, he still wants to help her. He just doesn't know how exactly to get her to see that.

He dives into the water, immersing himself in the silence of the sea before jumping back onto his boat. This is what he wants. It isn't true silence, of course. The depths of the ocean have their own kind of sound to them, like music of the sea. He loves how he feels in the water, so fluid in motion, as if he's in a different world away from his own, away from the harshness of the land. Away from the nightmares that keep him restless at night. Away from the shallowness of the people he once thought he wanted attention from.

Yes, he's grateful to be in District 4. He had seen how other districts lived when he was on his own Victory Tour. He had seen the hardened look on the people's faces, and the sorrow he had put upon those families of the tributes he killed. But there was nothing he could do for them anymore, and nothing he could say to make things better. He made his scripted speeches in each district, keeping his eyes strictly on the paper or at some spot in the distance beyond the crowd. It was the only thing he could do to keep from revealing his true emotion and displaying regret for what he had done in the arena. For what he was forced to do to stay alive.

Then there was the big banquet at the Capitol, where President Snow had welcomed him. After his tour through each district, he felt weak and emotionally tired from all that he had seen. The last thing he wanted to do was entertain the shallow-minded citizens of the Capitol, but he did. He pushed his emotions aside and perfected his act, just like he did in the arena, and everyone loved him all the more for it. He was what those at the banquet considered the perfect model victor.

Finnick stays in the water as long as he can without air, then breaks the surface, taking in a deep needful breath. He glances over to where he sees the beach. Along the beach, he can see the row of houses on the west side of the village. He didn't yet clear all the water from his eyes, but he thinks he sees someone standing on their balcony, looking in his direction. He quickly gets himself up on his boat and looks again towards the balcony while drying off. Whoever was there did not stay there, but the doors to the balcony are still open because he can see the curtains moving just inside the entry. He knows exactly whose house it belongs to. Annie Cresta.

Annie's house is across the green from his house. From this side, he has a clear view of the back part of her house. The balcony on the second floor of the house connects to the main bedroom. He only knows this because all the houses in Victor's Village were built the same, with only a few slight differences in color. The windows are tinted so that anyone standing on the outside won't be able to see inside. Every once in a while, he would catch her standing there, and even though he's too far from the shore to know if she was actually looking at him, he still tried to grab her attention with a wave of his hand. She had yet to wave back.

Even when he doesn't see anyone there, sometimes he feels as if Annie is peering out from one of her windows, looking out toward him. He doesn't put much thought into the idea, though. Annie, after all, has not attempted to contact him.

But now, with the Victory Tour looming over their heads, regardless of whether she ever wants to talk or see him again, they are going to have to face each other. It's mandatory for the victor's team to be involved throughout the whole tour, so he'll be accompanying Annie and the rest of the team through each of the districts.

"Have a nice swim?" Turlach asks as Finnick enters the kitchen through the back door, where Turlach is cooking up a freshwater trout for lunch.

"Nice enough," Finnick says.

"Did you see her?"

"Who?"

"You know who. Annie," Turlach says matter-of-factly.

"Not sure. But I will," Finnick says, hinting at the impending reunion with her and her team. Turlach nods in acknowledgement.

"She'll come around," assures Turlach.

"Not likely. It's been six months. What would be her reason after all this time?" asks Finnick, not understanding exactly why Turlach would think that.

Turlach knows his brother cares about others more than he lets on. Maybe it's because of what Finnick had to change into since becoming a tribute that he feels the need to keep that persona going, at least outside of his circle of close friends, which surprisingly enough given his popularity in the Capitol, isn't many. Turlach knows what his brother did in the Capitol each year, even though they never really talked about it. From what has beem seen in the television, Finnick made his way around with several women. He knows it isn't by Finnick's choice, but he also knows that for Finnick, there was no other choice.

What worries Turlach, though, is the idea that with each year that passes, Finnick may get so lost in that false identity that he will lose the identity that he grew up with. The one that their parents knew. The one that Turlach still knows. Maybe even Mags knows that Finnick, too. But outside of that circle, he knows no one else had seen the true Finnick. The one that hopes for better things to come.

Turlach shrugs. "I don't know," he finally says. "For one thing, you helped save her life."

"Yeah, I guess so. But maybe she doesn't see it that way," Finnick suggests.

"How does she see it, then?" Turlach asks. Finnick turns to look at his brother, tries to come up with some obviously thought out answer, but he can't come up with one. Finnick just shakes his head. "Well, maybe you can ask her in a few days. She can't ignore you then, right?" Turlach jabs at Finnick's shoulder in a sign of brotherly affection and takes off for the cannery again, leaving Finnick alone with his thoughts.

In a few days. Yes, in a few days, Finnick and Annie will be off on a train with the Capitol escort, her stylist, and prep team to 'celebrate' Annie's victory. Finnick isn't particularly looking forward to the actual tour, and he can only guess that Annie isn't necessarily jumping up and down with excitement about it, either. He hopes his brother is right about one thing. Annie can't ignore me then, he thinks to himself.

"Have you eaten yet?" asks a familiar, slightly ragged female voice.

"Good afternoon to you, too, Mags," says Finnick. Being that Mags was Finnick's mentor, then friend, then caretaker, it was only natural she'd have a key to his house, but she probably came in when Turlach left, because she always knocks or rings the doorbell first before she resorts to using the key, which she has yet to use. Mags gives Finnick a nod and holds a dish out for him. "What's this?"

"Beef," Mags says. Finnick's eyes raise slightly at the idea of cow meat. He lifts the plate closer to his nose to smell the aroma. Yes, it's definitely beef, along with the scent of something sweet and tangy. Sauce. He smiles at the thought of digging into the meaty barbeque ribs.

"What's the special occasion?" Finnick asks. Meals regularly consists of the animals from the sea. Even though the peacekeepers are quite strict when it comes to taking food from the sea for themselves, they are allowed a small portion of what they fish for, being that this district is a career district. So it's not quite common to feed on some good beef, even for a victor. For it to be cooked by Mags is also a treat, because for some reason, it reminds him of his mom's cooking. Maybe it's the way Mags has always been there for him and his brother since their parents died, or maybe it's her actual cooking. Either way, he never refuses Mags' dishes.

"Does there have to be one?" asks Mags indifferently.

"No, I guess not," says Finnick. He immediately puts half of the ribs onto another plate and sets it aside for his brother. Mags takes a seat at the kitchen table and pushes one out with her foot for Finnick to sit in. Only when he takes his first bite into one of the ribs does he realize he hadn't eaten yet. He does wonder sometimes what he and his brother would have done had she not taken care of them in the days after his parents' death. Probably starve to death, he presumes. "Thanks," he says after clearing his mouth.

"How are you?" Mags asks in motherly fashion.

Finnick doesn't hesitate to say that single word. "Fine." He takes another piece into his mouth while looking at Mags, waiting to see what she'll say next, but he remembers something that he wants to ask Mags. "Mags, can I ask you a question? About the games?"

Mags doesn't bat an eye; she just says "Go on."

"Did you… struggle, I mean, afterwards? Was it hard for you to talk to people?"

Mags thinks about it for several seconds, purses her lips while looking at a spot on the wall behind Finnick. "Yeah, I struggled, I suppose. I could talk to people, though, just not about anything important or about the games. Only people I talked to 'bout the games were those that had been in the games. And at the time, there were only two other victors before me. But yes, those are the only people who you can talk to about it, don't you think?"

Finnick nods. "How long did it take for you to recover?"

"Recover?" Mags shakes her head. "If you had a decent heart and mind, you don't recover now, do you? But if you're asking how long it took for me to finally get back to living, well, I can't say exactly. It was a while ago, you know. I think I just started doing things day by day. Of course, I had my parents and sister to help me a little."

"How did they help?" The eagerness in his question was not lost on Mags, the corners of her mouth curl upwards.

"Oh, just by being there. By asking for my help with things, I think." Finnick just nods again, thinking through her answer, and trying to formulate it into a way to get to Annie. But Mags stops his train of thought. "You can't think of her as a machine that needs to be fixed."

"What?" Finnick again looks at Mags, this time with confusion in his eyes.

"It's not like that with girls," Mags says. Finnick's brows furrow with concern. "I'm just saying, you men seem to have this idea that whenever a girl has a problem, it's your responsibility, or your calling or something, to 'fix' it. It's not like she's a broken rudder. You can't just replace what's broken inside of her and she'll be all good again. Girls don't work like that."

Finnick frowns when he realizes that Mags is right. Boys aren't like that, either, he thinks, yet he forgets about that. Anyway, if girls were like that, then he probably wouldn't be having this conversation with Mags, and Annie would've been fine months ago, and she would be just as good a friend as Mags and his brother. At least, that was what he was hoping for after they left the Capitol six months ago.

"What do I do, then?" Finnick asks dejectedly. Mags grabs his hand and squeezes it, forcing Finnick to look at her.

"You talk with her," Mags says.

"But she won't let me," Finnick explains even though Mags already knows.

"Don't get whiny. It's been long enough. Get on over there and knock on her door," Mags grumbles slightly. He looks in the direction of where her house is, the front door is almost directly across the green from the front door of his house. The last time he actually knocked on her front door was about two months after she moved in.

"Should I call her first?" Finnick asks.

"Call her? She's not across town! She's right there, boy!" Mags grumbles even louder this time.

Finnick has to laugh, because he knows that's ridiculous. Mags never uses the phone, even though she is certainly entitled to given her age, but she is not one to use that excuse to avoid visiting people who live only a few houses away, so why would she approve of Finnick doing so.

"Okay, okay, I'll go. Just let me finish eating this. You're a doll, Mags," Finnick says in all his flirtatiousness. Mags cups one side of his face before slapping it hard enough to sting just a bit.

It takes less than 10 minutes for him to finish his plate and he and Mags are out the door. "I'll come by afterwards, which will probably be in 5 minutes."

"I'm coming with you," Mags says as she steps behind him. Finnick stops to look at her, his brows forrow again. "Let's go, boy." As she pushes his arm forward, he decides it'd be best not to question Mags about her interest in going and walks in step with her.

As they get to the door, Finnick moves ahead and walks up the steps to ring the doorbell. When it opens, Annie's father is standing there, looking at Finnick. Finnick smiles sheepishly at him.

"Hello, Mr. Cresta-," says Finnick, unable to complete his sentence, because that's when the door slowly closes on him.

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