Chapter 30: Games No More
Finnick is lost in a haze. He knows what he saw, he knows what he said, but it all felt so surreal. He wasn't even sure if it was real or a dream. But he knows now.
He's pushed onto the train with Mags trailing behind him, and before he realizes that he may not live to see Annie again, the train is already moving at 200 miles per hour. Finnick doesn't even know if he can make another move from where he is standing without breaking apart completely. He feels his heart pound painfully in his chest the farther the train speeds away from his home, away from her.
He tries to take a deep breath, only to feel it catch in his throat. A choking sound. Hot tears still burn behind his eyes, and he chances a look around the rest of the car that he's in and notices Tessa a few feet away from him with a confused look on her face. Before she can say anything, he finally does move and makes his way to one of the rooms and closes the door.
Finnick sits on the bed and rocks back and forth unconsciously. He goes through the last hour in his mind. How he heard Annie's name being called, seeing her frantic and crazed as her mind seemingly grasps what that means before Mags steps up to take her place. His fear for Annie was replaced with absolute relief in knowing that she wouldn't have to participate in the Hunger Games, but at the same time his relief is overshadowed with confusion and despair in seeing that Mags will be going in Annie's stead.
He can't help but feel a little guilty for how he's reacting to all of it. Elation for Annie because someone had taken her place, yet horror in seeing that that someone is Mags. Should he have felt differently if it was someone he wasn't as close to as Mags? Would he have felt differently?
He ignores the soft knock on the door, but the door opens anyway. His first instinct is to yell at the person entering, but the cane that catches his eye clues him in to who it is. So, he stays silent as he watches her work her way to sit next to him on the bed. She sighs.
"I didn't even tell her, Mags." He bends forward to rest his elbows on his knees and looks down at his hands to avoid looking anywhere else. He hopes Mags knows what he means by it. She doesn't say anything though, so he continues. "I didn't even kiss her one more time."
He then puts his head down to his hands, wanting to cry, but refusing to all the same. Still Mags says nothing.
"Why did you do it, Mags?" Finnick says it so solemnly, knowing that her volunteering to take Annie's place will more than likely be the end of her.
"Look at me," she says slowly. Finnick rubs his face with the palms of his hands first before straightening back up and turning his gaze to his surrogate mother. Mags holds her chin up, not just to look him straight in the eyes, but also to prove her boldness. A sliver of a smile creeps onto her face, so slight that only people who really know her could see it. "She is my family, too… as much as you are, my dear." She says it in a way that lets him know that it should have already been obvious.
"I will gladly risk my life to save both of you," she adds. The words come out muddled through the good side of her mouth, but he understands her, not just with the words that she said.
He understands the extent to which she means. That she didn't volunteer just to keep Annie from the Games, but also to keep Finnick focused on keeping himself alive. She did it to give him a chance to come out of the Quarter Quell as a victor for a second time. There's a look of pain in his face that he can't quite hide, because he knows that even with Mags' unrelenting faithfulness in him to win the Games, he may have to willingly give up his life for a girl that he's not even met before, all for a rebellion that he's barely been a part of. Just the thought brings a tightness to his stomach.
She stops him with a shake of her head and reaches for his hand to squeeze it before saying her next words. "Don't worry about me. I am already a victor." She smiles as best as her half-paralyzed face will let her. "Do what you have to do."
Finnick isn't sure if she knows the task ahead of him, but her statement is clear. She will accept her fate without regret, no matter what he does in the arena. But will he still be able to go through with it, knowing that he might not be able to protect her and him as well as Katniss?
He comes to grips with what he has to do. He knows that Mags will be sorely disappointed in him if he allows his emotions to get in the way of what needs to be done in the arena. Still, he doesn't know if he'll be able to ignore Mags if she needs him once they're in there. He doesn't know if he'll be able to choose Katniss over Mags. So, for now, he just smiles half-heartedly back at her.
"But it's not real! Everyone aside from these Capitol idiots know it. Even Snow knows it!" he whispers angrily at the person.
Finnick managed to sneak away to an unoccupied hallway of the Remake Center, and although they know the area is not monitored by cameras, they still try to remain quiet so to avoid any wanderers. But still Finnick can't help but show his irritation at the latest request from him.
"You don't know her like I do," the man says. "Without him, I doubt we'd be able to get her support, and they say it's crucial that we get it."
"And who's 'they'?"
The man shrugs, then stumbles a little, as if that little motion has caused him to be dizzy. Finnick has to prevent a chuckle from leaving his mouth. He's still angry at this additional challenge presented to him.
"They! Them! The ones in charge of this whole… insurgence." The man lowers his voice even more when uttering the last word, so much so that Finnick has to guess what it is.
"And why are you so sure about this? Not even you, Haymitch, can honestly say that she loves him," says Finnick.
"Well, despite what you think, I actually know her." He pauses, then scowls a little. "Look, you don't have to believe all that love stuff, just do it. Keep. Peeta. Alive. Please."
Finnick stares at him for a moment, tightens his lips and breaths through his nose. He still doesn't think it would matter, but if that's what Haymitch is asking of him, as a friend, he'll do what he can to do what is requested of him.
"Fine." Finnick shakes his head after. "If you think it will help, then fine."
As Finnick is about to leave without saying another word to his irritating friend, Haymitch places a heavy hand on his shoulder to stop him. He turns his head to look at him again, only to be met with just as heavy eyes.
"This could save us, you know. All of us."
Finnick sighs, letting his annoyance subside. He remembers there is an ultimate goal in all of this, and it's not just to keep the two victors from District 12 alive. But he knows that what little hope they still have in the so-called insurgence lies rooted in the fact that those two victors inspired it. Of course, they'll now be called, unknowingly, to be the face of the rebellion. They have to survive.
"I know," says Finnick reassuringly. He pats Haymitch's shoulder twice and nods before leaving to make his way to the chariots.
As he walks over there, he knows he's going to have to put on the best act of his life in front of the Capitol. No weakness can be shown. No feelings of loss or sorrow can be displayed. He's going to put on the faux mask he's perfected for years since he won the Games.
Finnick grabs a handful of sugar cubes in the bowl set aside next to the first set of horses he sees as he enters the room. He shakes the cubes around in his hand and eyes the rest of the victors-come-tributes, waiting for Katniss to arrive, so he can make his own assessment of her.
"Okay, girl on fire. Let's see what you're really about."
Annie sees him standing there, but she doesn't look at him. She's not afraid of him, even though most people would probably think she should be. He is a Peacekeeper, after all. The Head Peacekeeper at that. Still, she's not afraid. She could tell he is different.
"Interviews are tonight," he says.
She continues to rock slightly, holding her knees up to her chest.
"Don't you want to see your boyfriend?" he asks in an oddly sociable manner. For the slightest of moments, she furrows her eyebrows in confusion, then composes herself back to indifference, refusing to allow her emotions to be shown to him.
"Lies." She says it so quietly that she's sure he didn't hear her. Then she laughs, causing the hair in front of her face to move.
"Lies," she repeats. "It won't be him. Not the real him." She's almost singing it like a melody, her voice light and airy and sad at the same time. Yes, a sad song. She repeats it again to herself, in her head, or so she thinks, and laughs again. How odd my voice sounds.
Then Pearce's voice brings her to reality again, and she wonders if he knows how his presence is distracting her from her chance of going completely mad, or of dying a slow, painful death by starvation. It also doesn't bode well for her that she subconsciously prefers seeing him over any of her fellow victors.
Those fellow District 4 victors friendly enough to come visit her always show up with a guilty look on their face, acting as if they're sorry for her, when really they're just glad they weren't the ones called. She knows it's not fair to them to think about it that way. Each of them have been through their own version of the Games and have been affected by it.
She knows they truly are sorry for her, but their faces are a constant reminder to her of all that she's been through and all that she's lost.
With Pearce, it isn't like that. If he's sorry for anything, he doesn't show it, at least not to her, and for that she feels a slight gratitude. Just a slight. But then she reminds herself that he is not her friend. Regardless of how he's acting now towards her, his job still controls some of his actions. Like when he had Bruma killed right after the reaping. It was another warning to those seeking to rebel again.
"Why are you here?"
"Don't you eat?" he asks, acting as if he didn't hear her question. He opens a few cupboards to see what remains of her food stock, huffs in what can only be presumed as disapproval, and pulls out a bag of her favorite snack – dried seaweed.
"You're not like the others," says Annie. Pearce glances over at her, but she's not even looking his way.
Suddenly the television activates on its own, showing the Capitol seal, and all conversation between them halts as they both glue their eyes to the screen and the people that are shown on it.
Only after the interviews have ended, and the screen shuts off abruptly after the District 12 tribute, Peeta, goes back to his place next to the District 12 female tribute, Katniss.
Whatever was said by any of those tributes never registered with Annie. Only Finnick and his words, his voice, reached her heart and her mind totally and completely.
Finnick had read her a poem, in front of everyone. Of course, he didn't outright say the poem was for her. He didn't call out her name, but she knows all the same that it was for her. Her elation at his words of love for her are overshadowed by the thought that she will not be able to reciprocate those feelings of love back.
"Against the tides…" she mumbles, repeating a part of the poem that Finnick had spoken.
She had forgotten that someone else was with her in the room. Even when a hand goes on her shoulder, she can't figure it out. She turns her head, half-expecting it to be Finnick, only to have her chest tighten to where she feels she can't breathe is when her mind allows her to see that it's Pearce.
Annie quickly shrugs his hand off her shoulder. "No! Don't touch me!" For a moment, she realizes that her actions might cause Pearce to retaliate against her, and punish her, and for the first time since Finnick was taken away, fear finally grips her. She turns her head back to the blank screen, closes her eyes, and wishes for Finnick to come back to her. Or even Mags.
She stays in that position long enough that when she finally opens her eyes, the house is quiet again, and the moon shines high through the window. She would have thought it all just her imagination, that Pearce being there wasn't real. That she just thought him up for some odd reason, and willed him away after the interviews showed.
She would have blamed it on her less-than-sane brain and would have laughed about it, if not for the box of dried seaweed left on the floor next to her… along with the necklace she thought she lost ages ago. The iridescence of the shell faintly visible in the dark.
She laughs anyway, the kind of laugh that holds no mirth. The kind that makes people turn away uneasily. She continues to laugh like this until the physical need for sleep finally overpowers her, lying on the floor in front of the television.
It's not that Finnick expected her to survive through the whole thing. He knew there was a slim chance of that happening, even if he didn't have the responsibility of keeping the tributes of District 12 alive. He knew.
Still, it didn't make him feel any better. It didn't take the burden of grief away. She was not his mother by birth, but she was just as good as, and that only made her death worse for him to deal with. He had experienced the death of a mother twice now.
Finnick knew the moment it happened, when Mags grabbed his face and kissed him, that he wouldn't be able to hide his pain over losing her, too. His cup of emotions was already filled to the brim when the Peacekeepers in District 4 pulled him away from Annie.
This is why he needed time alone. He didn't care if Katniss could see his pain. He was tired of holding it in. She let him be by with his thoughts, and he was more grateful to her than she probably realized.
I'm sorry, Mags. He doesn't know why it's necessary to think such things now, knowing that she can't hear or see him, but he does it anyway. I know you'd probably be mad at me for being so weak at a time like this. But I can't help it. You were like a mom to me. How can I not cry over you.
Finnick tries to take a deep breath, but it goes in shaky and it goes out as silent sobs. You'd probably smack me over the head if you could right now. Finnick chuckles slightly at his own thoughts. But you can't, and I'm sorry about that, too. He pauses and wipes his nose. I hope it didn't hurt, Mags. I know it's too much to wish for, especially now that it doesn't matter, but I hope it didn't hurt. Even if it didn't, I'm still sorry. You shouldn't have been here. But I know you would ask me who it should be then if not you. I don't know. I guess no one.
His thoughts somehow go to Annie, and he wonders if she saw it. The thought that it's most likely that she did causes that cup of emotions to overflow even more. A new set of tears stain his cheeks, knowing there's just so much pain, too much pain everywhere.
And anger. Anger at what these Games have cost them. Not only them, but everyone. It has cost everyone something. It has cost many of them their lives. Or their minds, which is probably even worse. It has cost some their self-respect, but mostly it has cost them their humanity.
We aren't human anymore, Mags. We're animals. No, worse than even that, because animals don't think like we do. Mags, we're monsters. Even me, even Annie. Even you. We should just…
Finnick stops his train of thought. He doesn't want to think that way, and he knows Mags would be outraged at him, especially after what she just did to help them continue on. She sacrificed her life for him, and he can't allow his grief to change his mind about helping the rebellion. He still has to keep Katniss and Peeta alive. He can't just give up now.
He knows what he has to do and he knows there are others out there who are probably relying on him as well. The other tributes in the arena included, those involved in the rebellion. They're all relying on each other.
No, I won't give up, Mags. I won't. But I need to let this out. I need this time. So, he does. He lets his cup spill out and he tries to shed as much of the tears that he's been holding back as he can before the dawn approaches.
He goes through his losses over the last few years like a slideshow, or more like a video overview in his mind. His parents' deaths. Annie's father's death. Annie's horrible years of abuse. Turlach's death. Annie's mental breakdowns. His own nightmares. Annie's solitary confinement under Snow. Him and Annie being separated from each other. And now Mags' death. Each image in his mind he sends out through the tears he sheds until he can't cry anymore.
He does so with the intent to complete his time of mourning, and to do what he needs to do to stop this type of pain from happening ever again. To anyone.
"Why are you here?" Annie asks him again in her sing-song voice. She asks him the same question every time he visits, but he gives no answer. She doesn't look at him, though, when she asks.
"It's a shame about Mags." He says it not to taunt her with his statement. She can tell he feels genuinely bad, which only confuses her more.
He stands slightly to the left of the television, careful not to block the screen, as if he knows that she's watching it to see where Finnick. But it's obvious that he wants her attention. Somehow he gets closer to her without her realizing it, and he's holding out something to her. Annie glances briefly at what Pearce has in his hands. Tissue.
The coldness of the wet streaks on her face finally hit her. She has been crying. She wonders if what she thought was a dying cat only minutes ago was actually her.
Finnick's voice through the television brings her back to reality. He's talking to some bloody girl – that Johanna victor. When the view shifts to the other people, Annie takes a moment look at Pearce, and he's sitting on the armchair eating. He looks back at her.
"You really need to eat," he says, nodding his head toward a spot next to her on the floor. She looks at the spot to find a plate full of fruits and a sandwich with some kind of meat in it. As if on cue, her stomach growls assertively. Or maybe it's been growling for days and she only just notices it.
She wants to scarf it down, all of what's on her plate, but the fact that she senses Pearce watching her and that Finnick is on the screen keeps her from doing so. Two hours later, her plate is empty and Pearce has left to do whatever a Head Peacekeeper is supposed to do.
She whispers in her sing-song voice again, to no one. "Not like the others."
Annie pulls at her hair, screaming at the top of her lungs. Screaming at the TV. She feels as if she truly is going mad this time. No! It's not possible! I'm not there! I'm not there!
I'm here! Annie laughs. She laughs at the ridiculousness of it all. She doesn't even know anymore where she's at. But she hears herself there, and she hears herself here. And she hears Finnick calling out for her. She sees him running to where he thinks she is. Annie watches with crazed eyes, wondering if she will actually see herself there, in the midst of the jungle, screaming, just as she's screaming right now.
Then she hears someone else call out her name. Another male voice. It's closer to her than the Finnick on TV. It's so odd for her to hear, and she can't understand what's going on. It doesn't sound like Finnick, but someone is definitely calling her where she's standing.
As the Finnick on TV relaxes, still not fully comprehending what just happened there, she relaxes. Then she laughs and sobs at the same time. Her eyes have turned to that crazed look, peering just enough through her wildly loose tresses.
She doesn't even realize the hands that are gripping her wrists until they let go. She stands there, looking at her hands, then at the screen. Back and forth, as if trying to see where she's at.
Pearce places a soft cloth on her collarbone. "You scratched yourself up a little bit, girl."
She grabs the cloth and pulls it away, and sees the small spots of blood on it. She touches the area where the scratches are and feels swelling of skin from where she scratched herself. She hears Finnick's voice through the TV again and turns her full attention to it.
From that point on, she stops asking Pearce why he's there.
Finnick certainly didn't know how exactly it was going to happen, and he certainly wasn't planning on things turning out like this, but it was too late to worry about it now. It happened and now they have to try and get Katniss out of there. If only he could find her!
He calls for both Johanna and Katniss, but there's no answer, and things are getting really dire.
He actually didn't want Katniss and Peeta separated, partially for the fact that it would be easier for him to protect them both if they were together, but also because Johanna and Beetee had explained that it might be the only way for Beetee's plan to work and they needed to take the risk. He reluctantly agreed.
Now he regrets that decision. Because he knows how the plan was supposed to go, and this wasn't it. Peeta's gone off, and he can't find Katniss or Johanna. And he knows that somehow Beetee still needs to break the force field that surrounds the arena, so they could be rescued. But with everyone all scattered about, he's not sure how he'll get them back together in time.
Finnick searches around until he hears Peeta calling out for Katniss. Then he hears Katniss shouting back. He's closer to Katniss than Peeta, near the lightning tree. He has to get to her before anyone else does. If there's one thing he's going to do after all of this, he's going to keep Katniss alive. He can only hope that Peeta and Johanna will get there in time, too.
But once he reaches the lightning tree, he realizes that Enobaria is also there. He stands there, staring at Enobaria, and she glares right back at him, with her wicked smile and her sharp, pointy teeth shining through.
Before either of them can do anything, lightning literally strikes the tree they're standing near, forcibly knocking both of them down in opposite directions.
He wonders how death can be this simple. Just a flash and a last breath. The pain is for the others to deal with after.
Annie, I'll be waiting for you.
Then it all goes black.
The TV screen goes black for a moment, and then all that is shown now is the Capitol seal. What just happened?
Annie scratches the scabs at her collarbone, and starts pacing back and forth in the living room, waiting, hoping for the TV screen to come back on. Ten minutes go by, then twenty, and still nothing.
Another ten minutes and Head Peacekeeper Pearce enters the house.
She's seen him more than a dozen times in the past several days, and she's grown accustomed to his presence. She's always known that he wasn't like the other Peacekeepers, and although she never really consciously welcomed him, she accepted his company.
But this time, as he stares at her, she senses something unusual about his demeanor and the expression on his face. He looks more serious than he has looked recently, and… regretful. She knows something bad is going to happen.
"They've come to take you."
The statement is as clear to her as the sun, and something in her snaps. She runs up the stairs to the second floor, into Finnick's bedroom, and locks the door to stall for time. Then she runs to the balcony and looks down, seeing if she can jump down to safety.
It's strange to her that she had never really looked straight down from there before. Always looking out or up, but never down.
Is it too late for Finnick? Did he die already? If she jumps and breaks her neck, and Finnick is still alive only to be told that she killed herself… she couldn't do that to him.
But how can she willingly go back to the Capitol? Or is that even what they want from her? Maybe they'll just kill her.
She doesn't know what to do anymore. Confusion and despair take over as she hears the bedroom door being forced open. Guards come and she tries to fight them, but they are too many and before she knows it, there's a blow to her head that forces her to her knees.
She can't fight it anymore and they drag her down the steps. Just as they pass Pearce, she mumbles something.
"Hold on!" commands Pearce, and the guards hesitate for a moment, wondering if they should listen to Pearce. "Just wait."
He pulls his head closer to hers and she looks him straight in the eyes. "You're not like the others," she whispers to him. Something flickers in his eyes and disappears just as fast. She forces a laugh out as they drag her away, and onto the hovercraft.
Her laughs turn into ear piercing screams, until one of the guards smashes the side of her head with the butt of his gun and she blacks out.