Chapter 32: No More Time For Loss
Finnick watches her silently as she sleeps. She had incurred some internal injuries and infections during her time in the Capitol, including a couple of broken fingers and ribs and unfortunately, because they were left untreated for so long, they didn't heal quite right. It wasn't even detected until after she had reunited with Finnick.
After their reunion in the hallway, it didn't seem she wanted to ever leave his side, let alone even stop touching him. He felt the same way, so although it wasn't District 13 regulation, they allowed Finnick to be with Annie during all her medical tests and procedures to heal her from her internal damage.
Because of her broken fingers that healed improperly, the doctor on call promptly went about re-breaking them. Finnick couldn't help himself and he yelled at the doctor for not giving Annie something to deal with the pain. The doctor explained matter-of-factly that they had to save the pain medication for those in much more dire need of them. Finnick wanted to slam him against the nearest wall for such a statement, but that would mean letting go of Annie's hand, which she was holding onto tightly with her good one.
Instead, he stroked her hair, wiped her tears, and whispered in her ear as his lips grazed gently against the side of her face.
You're with me.
I've got you.
I love you.
After that was over, they left them alone to rest, to heal and comfort each other.
When the results from her tests came back, it was discovered that Annie was suffering from malnutrition and a kidney infection. The malnutrition was obvious, and the doctor pointed out how he found it astonishing that she was even able to run to Finnick when she arrived. Finnick didn't find it astonishing at all. He always knew Annie had a strong will. He smiled at her then, moved a flyaway strand of hair away from her eyes, and stroked her cheek lightly with his thumb.
It was therefore decided that she stay in the hospital where they could properly medicate, hydrate, and feed her. But Finnick knew there was more to it than that. They wanted to observe her.
Finnick had heard about Peeta's attack on Katniss. Heard that Peeta was hijacked. He knew they wanted to see if they might have possibly done some kind of hijacking on Annie as well. He was almost sure that Snow didn't bother to do that to her. He hoped the president didn't. It was, after all, Katniss that Snow seemed to be after more than anyone. Still, it would've been foolish of him not to let them take Annie into consideration. But it didn't matter to him either way. He wasn't going to leave Annie's side. He would stay with her. He would make sure she was okay.
He would take care of her now. Even if she was hijacked to hate him.
After several hours, the nurses tried to get him to go back to his own bed, but he just ignored them. They even threatened to sedate him, but Katniss' mom happened to come by at that time, and for some reason, she offered to keep watch over them. One of the nurses, who obviously ranked higher than Mrs. Everdeen, scowled at her, but accepted her offer anyway.
"If anything happens-"
"You can put all the blame on me. But nothing will happen," said Mrs. Everdeen assuredly. Finnick could've sworn he saw the other nurse's eyes turn catlike as she squinted before moving past the curtain that provided what little privacy they had from other patients in the hospital.
Finnick looked at Katniss' mom curiously. "Thanks."
"There won't be a problem, will there?" Mrs. Everdeen asked Finnick calmly. He only shook his head. Mrs. Everdeen smiled just briefly before she left to give them privacy.
He caressed the top of the frail-looking hand he was holding, and smiled at the small kindness given to them both.
He caresses her hand again, just as he did back then - just as he does every moment he can. A fleeting thought of the small length of rope that he once clung onto as if it was his life, tying it into knot after knot, enters his mind. He doesn't know where that rope is anymore, nor does he care. The thought passes in the blink of an eye, with the hope that he won't have to tie another knot for a very long time.
Sometimes when she stirs uncomfortably in her sleep, he can't help but lie down beside her, no matter how little space there is on the hospital bed for him. But now, he just sits in the chair next to her, staring at her features. Despite the nightmare that Annie's been through the past couple of months, her face looks no worse for wear now. Her cheekbones are still slightly hollow, but her skin looks surprisingly healthy and flawless. And it feels amazingly soft, as he can attest with all the attention he's been giving her with his hands as well as his lips in the small, light kisses he places upon her.
Although her eyes are closed, he can tell she's awake now, given the change in her breathing and the slightly movement underneath her eyelids. He smiles as he brings the hand he's holding up to his lips. He likes watching her when she's able to sleep peacefully, which hasn't been too often at all these days, but everything within him leaps for joy when he's able to look into her eyes and see that she's staring straight back at him with nothing but adoration.
"Open your eyes for me, my sweet Annie," he whispers to her. Annie blushes, almost laughs even. Finnick can't help but chuckle at her, his lips still against the top of her soft hand. "Please."
It may as well have been the light of dawn breaking for Finnick as her lids open slowly and he's enveloped in the beauty of her emerald green eyes. The smile never leaves her face as she pulls his hand closer to her, urging him to meet her lips with his. They've kissed so many times before, but the overwhelming warmness of this feeling has yet to wane and he smiles in their kiss.
After only a few seconds, the familiar sound of hunger grumbles between them. The funny thing is neither of them seems to know whose stomach is grumbling.
"I guess that's a hint," mumbles Finnick through their kiss, and reluctantly moves to stand. As he's about to release Annie's hand for the first time in hours, she squeezes it, bringing his attention first to her hand, then to her face. "What is it?"
Annie looks at him curiously for a second. "Say it again?" she says quietly.
Finnick's face softens as any slight concern for her person dissipates on hearing her request.
It wasn't a well-thought out poem. It was just words he put together in a desperate moment. He knew the chance of him getting out of the arena alive during the Quarter Quell was slim to none. And he didn't want to leave the world without letting Annie know one last time how much she meant to him, how much he was thinking about her, how much he loved her. He just put simple words on paper. And even after he read it aloud in front of the cameras during his interview with Caesar, he regretted not being able to make it sound more than what a 12-year-old boy might write to his first crush.
But every day since the day they rescued her, Peeta, and Johanna, she'd ask him to recite his poem.
He actually blushes at the thought of it, as he does each time she asks. "Again?" he asks, even with a slight boyish whine.
He looks down on her for a second before the smirk creeps onto his lips, and slowly moves onto her bed to lie next to her. Annie doesn't hesitate to give him room. They lie on their sides, facing each other, while he gently places his hand on her waist. Lately, he's been trying to be so careful with the pressure of his touches, not wanting to aggravate any soreness she may have. "You really want to hear it again?"
She only nods.
"Tell me why first, and I'll think about it," Finnick teases.
Annie's eyes seem to shine a little brighter, then focus on Finnick's lips and suddenly her fingers are touching them. He opens his mouth slightly to allow her to feather her thumb across his bottom lip first, then the top. For some odd reason, he tries to keep perfectly still, not even breathe, as if he thinks any sudden movement from him will stop her actions, and right now, even this little action feels so good. He holds in his breath until he can't anymore, and he exhales as slowly as he can, allowing the warmth of air from his mouth to tickle her fingers. She looks up to meet his peaceful gaze.
"It's not that I don't remember the words. I remember all the words. Every single one," she says. "I remembered them after the first time I heard them."
"You did?" he asks. Annie nods, and Finnick adds, "But it was so… unoriginal, though. You deserve better."
"Don't say that," says Annie, her brow crinkling in discontent while her hand that so delicately touched his face now pushes firmly the side of his face, almost pushing him into the pillow his head is on.
"But it's true. You deserve the most beautiful love poem out there. I'm not a poet. I'm just a fisherman who's in love with an amazing girl," he says. He feels a rush of heat in his face, and draws his eyes away from hers, to some undefined spot on her chin.
"Yes, you are," she says, blushing. "Just a fisherman, I mean." Her confirmation at first surprises him, but as he looks back at her eyes, the shine in them did not fade. "That's what makes it so much more… significant than you think. A poet knows how to write poetry, he knows how to draw out emotion from others even though his own heart may not truly be in it… because it's not connected to someone he truly loves. He just knows what words to use and how to make it sound right." As Annie places her hand over his chest, just where his heart is, he covers it with his own. "But someone who writes a poem because his love is real, someone who may not know much about poetry and doesn't care about how silly it sounds, as long as he's able to feel it within him and know that it's true…" she pauses, as if unsure how else to complete her thought, then continues, saying, "that's why I want to hear it. Because every time I hear it, I feel it, and I feel you with it. I don't want to just remember the words, Finnick. I want to remember the emotion that came with it. And I want that emotion and your voice and the power of your words to live and breathe inside of me every time I think of that poem."
It takes a good five seconds for him to say anything after that, and when he finally does say something, the only word that comes out is, "Wow."
Finnick can see Annie's eyes shine brighter with satisfaction. "Now will you please say it again?"
So he does, reciting every phrase by memory, as he's facing her, his hand now gently rubbing small circles on the side of her waist, more confident in its movements, the fear of hurting her gone. He inches himself closer to her, close enough to see the different shades of green that design her eyes so uniquely. Even after several times of previous recitations of the poem, he can truly see how much it takes her in, how she anticipates each word that follows. He no longer feels embarrassment for what he will still probably deem as a silly, childish poem, but he proud in knowing that Annie loves him all the more for it.
Finnick might've felt guilty for ignoring everything else that was going on around his and Annie's little world, but Annie was still physically weak, and he was the only one she really knew. Plus, since her return, and probably during her imprisonment, she was back to retreating into the haziness of her mind quite often. Enough to where he didn't want to leave her alone for too long.
However, one time, during one of Annie's naps, Finnick decides to walk around a bit in the hospital. He isn't really looking for anyone in particular, but he runs into Mrs. Everdeen as she is doing her rounds. She tells him that Katniss has left for District 13. He isn't quite sure what to make of that, but his gut feeling tells him it has something to do with Peeta.
Peeta is still being treated in the hospital, but in more secluded area and no unauthorized personnel are allowed to see him. When he turns to look at Katniss' mom, who is walking alongside him, he sees a peculiar look in her eyes. He's not as intuitive as Annie, but he's pretty sure that there is some shade of regret hovering behind Mrs. Everdeen's blue eyes. He should know; he's all too familiar with it. He had seen it in many eyes before, but this time it reminds him of one set of eyes in particular. That of his brother, Turlach. And if Mrs. Everdeen feels the same regret as his brother did for things he didn't do, things that he felt he could have done, then he knows that Katniss' mom will always have regret. For this reason, he can't help but feel sorry for her and whatever regrets she has, because he knows that at least part of it has to do with Katniss.
Finnick places his hand on her shoulder, and says, "She loves you. Katniss. She does." He doesn't believe it is within Katniss to not love her mom, whatever it was that she did wrong. She cares too much, that he knows.
"Thank you," she says, breaking into his thoughts about the 'Girl on Fire.'
A few minutes later, Finnick finds himself standing just outside the curtain of another patient he knows. He had asked about Johanna when the realization hit him that there were three of them that were rescued from the Capitol. Mrs. Everdeen's face smiled a little when he mentioned her, saying that maybe it would lighten Johanna's mood if she saw a familiar face. Finnick doubted that, but agreed to see her. He realized he did want to see her, to make sure she was okay. She is a friend, after all.
After announcing himself and hearing her okay to do so, he pulls the curtain aside to enter her faux room, and steels himself for what he sees. He had forgotten how much suffering they had actually gone through. Annie's torture bore only the slightest physical impairments compared to Johanna. Annie still has her hair, and even though she has bruises all over, she doesn't have all sizes of scabs and bruises. At least the scabs are healing well enough and it does look like Johanna is gaining back the weight she lost. Still, Finnick has to consciously prevent himself from gasping.
"So, they were finally able to pry your vice-like grip around Annie and force you to pay your good ol' friend a visit, eh?" says Johanna. At least she didn't lose her attitude as Mrs. Everdeen had hinted at, Finnick thinks.
He chuckles at her, partly because he knows if he had shown any sympathy at all right then, she most likely would've jumped right out of her bed just to prove she didn't need any of that. He knows Johanna well enough to know she doesn't seek or want people to feel sorry for her. And she doesn't care to be treated like some helpless little girl. She respects people more when they don't tiptoe around her.
That was one reason why he was able to throw her in the water in the Arena without getting so much as a slap from her. Of course, it helped that not only was Finnick much stronger than her, but that Johanna also knew she was letting out her frustrations at the wrong person. With thoughts of the Arena back in his head, his chuckling stops.
He observes Johanna as she reaches up and squeezes the clear bag full of liquid that is attached to her arm. From what he's heard, aside from the obvious, Johanna didn't care to divulge a whole lot of information as to what exactly happened to her in the Capitol. He isn't going to press the issue, either. He also figures that Johanna will spit it out when she feels the need or desire to.
"I'm pretty sure it's giving you the right dosage already," he says, nodding toward the drip bag that Johanna is still squeezing.
"Just speeding up the healing process is all," explains Johanna. "Besides, I need to get out of here. I've already been cooped up long enough."
"I doubt that's going to help," he says. Johanna scowls, but lets go of the bag, leaning back and pushing the back of her head farther into the pillow in a huff.
There is an awkward silence, and Finnick thinks maybe that's all there is to be said right now, that it's time to leave. He's already been away from Annie for a good thirty minutes now and that is about as long as he wants to be away from her for a single period of time.
"How is your mad girl, anyway?" asks Johanna. For a moment, he glares at her, but he can tell by the look in her eyes and the redness in her cheeks that she probably regretted asking it the way she did.
"Getting better each day. She has an infection in her kidneys, but the doctor says that she'll be fine," he says.
Johanna nods. "Good. Good." She pauses, at first staring at the ceiling, then glancing in his direction, not really at him, but past him. "She was next door."
"In the room, next to me. We talked sometimes. Sometimes she talked by herself."
Finnick cringes at the thought of Annie going half-mad in there. "What did she say?" He tries not to sound too concerned.
"I don't know, really. I know she mentioned you a few times. Well, more than a few times, I guess. And something about ocean breezes or tides pushing and pulling or something like that." Finnick turns his face downward, the heat rising in his face, knowing that Annie apparently had been reciting the poem during her time there. "You guys are really into all that stuff, huh? Thinking about the water and beaches." He hears her scoff. "Pointless."
Finnick looks back up and squints an eye at her, wondering if she really means that. He is tempted to argue with her about it, and explain that it isn't really about just the water and the sand, but about the fact that it is the comfort that home brings to him and Annie. Plus, it does help that they had fallen in love with each other on those beaches.
But he really doesn't want to get into a debate about it, especially not now. For one thing, he knows that Johanna, as she stated in the Arena, has no one that she loves anymore. All she has is herself, and that even if she has friends in District 7, she apparently isn't all that close to them anyway.
He decides that after they get through this whole war, maybe he could debate to her about how not pointless it is to think about the simple extravagances that home brings to his and Annie's peace of mind. He hopes that he maybe he'll be able to remind her of the beauty that her own district, District 7, holds. Finnick does he remember a little bit about it, such as the magnificence of their surrounding mountainous terrain and the trees that covered them.
"Gotta tell ya, though, I can't say I'll miss it," said Johanna. "Trying to talk with tortured souls isn't quite a pleasant experience, to say the least."
"I'm sorry, Johanna," says Finnick, pity in his tone. "If only there could've been another way-"
"Quit it, Finnick. We're still alive. That's good enough for me," says Johanna abruptly. She squeezes the drip bag again. "And as soon as I can get out of here, I'll be good enough to finish what we started. Right?"
The way she's squeezing the bag, he thinks she might bust it open. "Sure," he says. As he makes his way to the opening of the curtain, Johanna calls back to him, "Hey, Finnick? Look, I'm sorry about Annie. They shouldn't have done that, you know? She shouldn't have been there with us. She wasn't a part of it."
Finnick turns back to look at her. "I know." But in his mind, he doesn't believe that entirely. The fact is she was supposed to be there in the arena with them all, if Snow had gotten his way, which he nearly almost always does. But just because Annie wasn't there in the Arena in person, it didn't mean that she wasn't a part of it. As long as he was in the arena, so was she.
As he walks back to where Annie's room is, he mulls over his conversations, first with Mrs. Everdeen. Mrs. Everdeen and the way she tries to keep herself busy, as if trying to forget the pain of what she's lost and what else she could lose, knowing that Katniss is still out there, fighting in a war that was pretty much instigated by The Girl on Fire.
And then with Johanna. Johanna and her seemingly detached attitude to what has happened to her, during her time in prison, and probably also her time before the Quarter Quell. I'm not like the rest of you. There's no one left I love. That's what Johanna had said before. The words clenched at his heart then, and it does so now. As bad as he feels for Johanna and what she's been through, he can't help but think about the fact that, as she pointed, he does still have someone to love.
And he understands without a doubt what needs to be done. This reign under President Snow needs to end, and he needs to find a way to do just that. To be rid of the Hunger Games, and of President Snow. To make sure that there will be no more Johannas or Mrs. Everdeens, or even Haymitchs, in this world to feel pain of loss in this way. He has to find a way to help end this so this will not happen to anyone else ever again. He has to before he ends up being like one of them.
But he also wants to do one other thing as well. Something that is so completely opposite of revenge and hate and death.
Finnick bends down to rest his arms on the side of her bed, close enough so he can stroke her face. She is tired, even after a nap, as can be seen by the dark shadows under her eyes, but she smiles at his touch. He moves his face close to hers so that their lips are only inches apart. He opens his mouth, then closes it along with his eyes, to make sure he's ready to say what he wants to say. He takes a deep breath and opens his eyes to look at Annie again. Her face is questioning, head tilted in curiosity, but before she can say anything, he finally speaks.
"If I asked you right now to marry me, would you? Would you marry me today?" he asks in a low voice so that no one passing by can hear.
"Of course," she responds without hesitation, as if it's the most normal thing for him to ask her. For a second, he's not sure what to say, and is somewhat surprised at how easily it was for her to agree to it.
He knows there's usually some kind of prepping involved when one asks such a life-changing question, and for a moment, he wonders if he should wait to formally ask her. But why? He knows what he wants, and now he knows that she wants it, too. For them to be together. Would it be foolish for them to try to marry during such a time as this, when they're at war and people are dying, or starving, or being tortured? Or would it be more foolish to wait for it all to end? What if this could be their only piece of ultimate happiness? What if, in the end, everything is lost and they've changed to where they no longer feel that same love? Wouldn't it be better to wait, and make sure they're all safe and free from all this pain?
No. Not for Finnick. He has been through enough, and he wants this happiness, and he knows he cannot wait for the end of this war. Waiting for things to change has done them no good so far. And he wants this to be good for both him and Annie. No, he's done waiting. He wants to start a new beginning with Annie, and he wants to start it now.
"Marry me?" he whispers the question to her. She grabs the hand that's stroking her face and kisses his fingertips, leaving her lips against them.
"Yes," she murmurs, allowing him the pleasure of feeling her soft lips move against his fingers as she does so. Her warm breath flows through the spaces in between, and it is as if he is revitalized by just her air, and it is wonderful.
"Really?" he says, in an almost goofy manner. She nods, squeezing his hand in reassurance.
"Yes… as long as you say it again." The poem.
He smiles at her. A smirk, really.
"I love you, my sweet. My Annie. I will yell out anything you want me to for all the sea and all the creatures under it to hear, as many times as you want, as long as you'll be mine."
Annie laughs lightly, unable to physically do much more than that. At least her eyes gleam emerald green with what Finnick can only describe as a gold shimmer in them. He moves in closer to her, wrapping his arms around her as hard as he can without doing her harm, which isn't hard at all, but only because he's afraid to hurt her. He's whispering in her hair now, which strangely smells of sweet strawberries, and feels of the finest silk against his lips. "Annie, my sweet, sweet girl. I love, love, love you and I will never let you go."
"I know. I love you, too, my beautiful Finnick. And I will marry you and be with you with all I am. I promise."
He can't help but whisper her name again and again, as he feels her name, like everything else about her, is rejuvenation to every part of him. Annie. Annie. Annie Odair.
Later that night, Annie is sitting up, staring at Finnick as he returns from getting something to eat. She has an odd look on her face.
"Annie? Are you okay?" asks Finnick, immediately by her bedside.
"You asked me to marry you," she says cautiously, as if trying to confirm the events of that afternoon.
He's not sure whether to smile to reassure her, or if she's having second thoughts.
"Yes, I did," he says.
Two long painstaking seconds later, the corners of Annie's mouth turn up and she nods.
"Okay, good. I was scared I dreamt it all. That it wasn't real," she says squeezing the hand she didn't realize was holding hers until that moment.
"Not this time. This is real."