Chapter 33: Beyond Forever
Finnick would have married Annie the day he asked her. But he made the mistake of announcing it to quite a few people, including Plutarch Heavensbee. And now Plutarch had plans for how he wanted it to go, to make it a special affair.
"For the cameras, of course. People love a good show," Plutarch had said.
Finnick immediately wanted to object, but somehow Plutarch convinced him that it would be a great metaphorical slap-in-the-face to President Snow to have something like a wedding between two victors, who were very close to death more than once, were able to escape from his clutches only to marry that same year.
Also, Plutarch did mention that it would be something very lovely for the people of District 13 to be involved in, as they have not had the opportunity in quite some time to put on such a celebratory affair. So, Finnick asked Annie if she was willing to make it a public affair, and surprisingly, she did not object to the idea at all.
A couple of weeks later, Katniss was flown back from District 2 after having been shot at. A part of Finnick did want to see her, but now that Annie was out of the hospital, he couldn't bear the thought of leaving her when she was still unfamiliar both with the people and with how things went around here. He was still adjusting to the stringent procedures that District 13 had enforced upon everyone.
The wedding came and it was as wonderful as they could've imagined it to be, despite the fact that they weren't even in District 4. It didn't matter, though. They were together and bonded to each other now as husband and wife. Ever since his name was called for the Quarter Quell, it wasn't something he even hoped for at the time. It was just too impossible an event for him to hope for.
But it happened anyway. He could see it in Annie's eyes, and in her smile, and in the way that she spoke her vows. She was as lucid as any sane person could be, speaking the words confidently and without any concern for anyone else who was watching them. And she was beautiful beyond words. His eyes were on her and her eyes on him and it was perfect.
They kissed. They danced and ate cake. They laughed, and held each other's hands as if they were glued to each other.
And then it was time to move into their new room. Once Finnick and Annie, formally Mr. and Mrs. Odair, entered their room, they wondered if they would ever want to leave. Ever.
Annie feels his body all around her, as if he is a protective shield. A warm, strong shield that keeps her safe from anything and everything that threatens to hurt her. She edges her back firmly against his chest, closing the millimeter of space that brought in the slightest cold air right in the middle of her lower back. His arm that lay still across her waist now squeezes her even closer to him to ensure the air doesn't enter again between them. To ensure not only protection for her, but comfort as well.
She slowly caresses the arm holding her, feeling every curve of his muscles with her fingertips. The short hair on his arms never felt so soft and lovely to her. Maybe she had never noticed it before, but she notices it now.
Annie knows it's not a dream, nor is it a made up notion in her mind. He told her enough times that night.
You're here, with me.
I'm not dreaming.
No, you're not.
This is real?
Yes, my sweet Annie. This is all real.
I'm not crazy.
No, you're not. We're together.
I do. I will. Forever.
She knows forever isn't possible, but she didn't contradict his statement then. She was in bliss when he said it. She is in bliss now just thinking about it. Recalling their intimate time together on their first night as husband and wife makes her heady and breathless just thinking about it. The gentleness in his touch, the desire in his eyes, the scent that is distinctly him – it made her feel alive being wrapped in his arms, and truly and passionately loved, just as it does right now. Finnick squeezes her lightly around the waist again and she squeezes his arm back. His lips press against the back of her head, then against the top of her shoulder.
It is still much too early in the morning for them to be up. Although their room doesn't have a window, Annie has a feeling the sun hasn't even risen yet. She wonders how close they are to the coast. Would they be able to see a sunrise from the waters on this side of the nation? Not that they would be able to travel there anytime soon, but maybe when the war ends, she and Finnick can go there. To District 13's beach and see a sunrise. Maybe. The idea makes her anxious for the future.
She wonders if they would make District 13 their permanent home on this side. But if she were to honest with herself, it really doesn't matter where they make their home, as long as they're together. She'll stay here, underground, for the rest of her life if they have to to stay together. These people in 13 have been able to do so all these years, so she knows it's possible.
Her only wish is for this war to end. For the fighting to stop. For the Games to stop. She knows her nightmares may never stop, though, but she will be glad for all that they do now if it means an end to the Hunger Games. For all that the Games destroyed, the one silver lining is that it brought her and Finnick together.
Looking back, she never would have thought that Finnick Odair, the most beautiful man in Panem, the supposed sex symbol, who spent all his time during each of the Games after his own victory, charming and womanizing as many as possible, whose flirtatiousness she deemed unworthy of attention, would end up being the one man in the world who opened his true heart to her and showed her all his vulnerabilities, sensitivity, and love. She prided herself in being able to see through people, and she probably did see through his façade, but was scared of it. Scared to open herself to him, for fear that she could be wrong. That he could hurt her. Or worse, that she could lose him.
She did lose him. Several times now. But he always came back to her. And she to him. She wants to feel confident in knowing that after all they've been through so far, they seem to always find a way back to each other. As much as she feels safe and loved in his arms at this moment, she will always have that fear that one day… no. She refuses to let that thought continue. Not today. Not now. A cold chill runs up her spine and her body shivers involuntarily from it.
Finnick places another kiss on her, this time on her neck, squeezing her even closer to him. She feels herself warm under his lips and she smiles, expressing her approval through a soft moan. "Cold?" Finnick whispers. She shakes her head no. He presses his lips against her shoulder again.
"My sweet Annie," he mumbles with his mouth still against her skin. "Annie Odair."
"We're together," Annie says in amazement. She feels his lips curl up in a grin, kissing another spot on her neck. Then he moves up, propping up his other arm to rest his head on his hand and look down on her face. Annie turns to look up at him. Even though they don't have a window, she can still see his eyes in the soft light of the candle near their bed. Their bed. He moves the arm that was around her waist up to her face, cupping her cheek.
"Yes, we are. This is real. You know that, right?"
Annie nods first, then says, "I do. I think- I just think I need you to remind me every so often."
She doesn't remember seeing Finnick's eyes glisten like they do at that moment, but she hopes it's not a one-time thing.
"I'll remind you as much as you need me to," he says softly.
She turns herself until her back is flat on the bed and she's looking straight into his eyes. She allows herself the enjoyment of admiring the beauty of his face, first touching his cheek, feeling it against her palm, and sliding her hand down so that her fingers touch his lips, grazing over the bottom one. He closes his eyes and kisses her fingertips.
"This- this night- this should have been my first time. You should have been my first," she says, her voice slightly trembling. Her face goes flush from embarrassment from revealing something so sensitive from her past. She senses the tension in his body as his eyes and corners of his mouth turn downward.
"I know. I'm so sorry. It hurts me so much knowing what you had to go through alone. I wish-, I wish I had done more. I wish I had known you sooner. I wish we grew up together," he tells her. She feels her heart flutter at sincerity of his words, all the while feeling the dull ache that comes with bringing up bad memories. She pushes the thought quickly aside as Finnick gently grasps her hand in his. "But I'm with you now. I will do anything and everything I can to keep you safe. You believe me, right?"
"Yes, I believe you," she says. And I'm scared for you. "I love you, Finnick. I love, I love, I love you."
He lowers his head to touch his lips with hers and that exhilaration engulfs her again, as well as a sense of being safe from the terrors of the world. Her hand slides to the back of his neck, and she holds him tightly to her, wanting his warmth to cover her completely. I love you, my Finnick.
In the moments before they fall into slumber again, without even her requesting it, he whispers the words of his poem into her ear. Not that she needs to be reminded of his love and admiration for her at that moment, but she welcomes his words all the same, allowing them to soothe her rapidly beating heart. She can't remember ever having a better night than the one she had just shared with him.
Too soon. It's all too soon before Finnick is already requested – no, required – to show up for training. It's only been a few days since his wedding, and that he should be grateful that they even allowed him that much time to spend with Annie alone. He is grateful. He owes a great deal to District 13 for sending out a group to save Annie. To him, it didn't matter that the main focus was on rescuing Peeta for Katniss, but he knows they risked more danger with adding Annie and Johanna to the list.
Still, he can't help but want more time to spend with Annie in complete bliss, with no one else bothering them. But he knows they can't stay in their room forever. He also knows that in order for them to continue, to live freely and without consequence, he and Annie will have to do their part to make it happen.
His part is already set. It literally hurts him to think of being away from Annie again, but he wants to be there when they get Snow. He doesn't care if Snow is alive or dead, he just wants to be there.
So, despite his mental protestations about going into training, he will do it if that's to be his reward. He tells Boggs his conditions if they want him to continue to fight, which is for him to be on the team that gets to take down President Snow.
Boggs gives him a curious look, and says, "I'm pretty sure something like that is in the works. Just get back to training as soon as you can. The sooner, the better."
Finnick wants to say more, to get confirmation that he will be on that team, but it might be pushing it, so he just nods and leaves to join Annie back in their room. By the time he gets to their room, he thinks he's ready to talk to her about it, but when he enters and sees her face brighten upon his return, all thoughts of training go right out the door before he closes it.
It isn't until later that night, when she's wrapped up in his arms, does the thought linger again. He needs to tell her now because there's no point in waiting for a "right time" when there really isn't such a thing. But will she understand? Will she fall back into her haze again? She's been doing so well lately.
Annie still has brief moments of murmuring and ill-timed laughing, but he's always been able to get her to focus when he speaks to her, sometimes reciting the poem in her ear. It's his way of getting through to her when no one else can. He hates that she has these moments - a reminder of what she's been through, and even though he feels guilty for thinking it, a little part of him relishes in the fact that only he can bring her back, that she needs him. That he's important in that way, instead of just a victor, a sex symbol, or a rebel fighter, makes him feel worth much more than any of those labels ever could. Loving husband, loyal friend, faithful companion, those are the labels he'll readily accept. And it's all because of Annie. It's all for Annie.
"Annie…" he starts, waiting for her to respond in some way where he knows she's listening.
"You're going to fight, aren't you?" says Annie. With her back pressed up against his chest and his arm around her, she laces her fingers with his, as if to keep him from letting her go.
He doesn't say anything at first, but he plants a kiss on the back of her head, taking in the scent of her hair that reminds him of home even though they haven't been to District 4 in months. "Are you angry?"
It's her turn to keep silent now, and he's afraid of what this will mean for them, for her state of mind. He continues. "It'll be a while before they actually call me to an assignment. We'll still need time to train and that'll be a few weeks still-"
"It's okay," says Annie, cutting him off.
As if he didn't quite understand what she meant, he continues, saying, "I know it's not okay, Annie, but it won't be okay until-"
"Finnick," she turns around in his arms and touches his face to stop him mid-sentence and get his full attention, which he finally gives her. There's a rare look in her eyes. It's a mix of fear and certainty and he only barely remembers the last time he's seen it on her face. It was the night he went to help rescue the rebels who were caught and taken in to the town square of District 4.
Something twists in his chest at the sight of her face now, at the sight of her fear that she's trying desperately to hide from him. To be brave for him.
"It's okay," continues Annie. "I know you have to. They need you, I know that." She pauses, but doesn't seem to want to finish. He tilts his head to try to look at her face, and he sees the corners of her mouth fighting to keep from frowning, her eyes looking anywhere else but straight into his eyes.
"Annie, look at me. Please."
When she does, he just stares at her, looking into them, searching for what she's truly saying in her heart, what she can't say with her mouth. And when he sees it, he exhales in realization.
He sees her. He knows how she's feeling, as much as he knows his own feelings in the matter. She is scared for his safety, that is obvious, but it's more than that. Even though he's survived two Hunger Games, it doesn't assuage the fact of what could still happen to him. She's not just scared of him being killed – no, that would be too easy after all that they've been through – but if he understands his wife correctly, she is ultimately frightened of how the war will affect him as much as how it will affect her, maybe even more so.
She's scared of what he may end up like after the war, and not just physically. In many ways, the mental deterioration of a person would be more devastating than death, especially to Annie. He knows she would ultimately not be able to take care of him as much as he has taken care of her. Could he even allow her to deal with such an issue? The subject of her fears is as clear as the rays of sunlight through the clouds in District 4 in the early morning hours - what if he's too lost in his mind to continue taking care of Annie? What if he's too lost in his mind to love her as he has grown to do these past five years?
With this understanding, he gives her the lightest of kisses, like a soft feather that brushes against her lips. He looks at Annie with confidence, not the kind that he used to display to the people of the Capitol, but the kind of confidence that comes with knowing who he truly is. "Oh Annie, you won't lose me. Not that way." Her eyes widen just a bit for a split second. "Not that way. You know why?"
"Why?" she whispers, almost afraid to know.
He gently cups the side of her face, his thumb softly grazing her cheek. "Because I'm only complete when I'm with you. Nothing will change that."
"But what they did to Peeta, he couldn't help it-"
"That won't happen. I promise you," he says, his voice unwavering.
This time, Annie shakes her head, even though Finnick's hand is still touching her face with gently caresses. "You can't promise that."
His hand stops and he looks at her, now unsure of what to say to help ease her mind about what he has to do. "Annie-"
"I know you have to," she repeats her statement from before. And he realizes that even though she is still scared of his assignment, she won't stop him from doing what they need him to do. She pulls his head to hers so they are touching. "You can only promise me that whatever you do… you'll try to come back to me."
Finnick's eyes flicker back and forth from hers, as if trying to make her understand him this time. "Annie, I promise I will try… and I will come back to you. You're the only thing I have left in this world. I wouldn't be able to do any of this without you, without knowing that I have something, someone, to come back to. I will always come back to you, because you are my home."
Annie's eyes glisten with tears that stay on the edge until she blinks. As Finnick wipes them away with his fingers, he follows their trails with kisses, eventually finding their way to her lips again.
Yes, he says to himself. This is home.
Despite not having done any real physical work since they escaped the Quarter Quell, it doesn't take long for Finnick to get back into shape and the training is easier on him than he thought it would be. He won't admit it to Annie, but a part of him is quite happy having to do something useful and that requires hard work – after all, he hadn't really been anything but a nuisance since they arrived in District 13.
At the same time, he takes every chance he gets to spend with Annie, no matter how short the amount of time is. She is always on his thoughts when he's not with her, including in training, but luckily it hasn't really distracted him in a bad way. In fact, it seems to help him somehow get through the days faster, which is unusual, but it does. He has found his balance through it all.
It's no surprise that they haven't really found something for Annie to do, as everyone does their share of work around the district, but her doctor didn't feel it would help her case at this point to charge her with any sort of routine, so when Annie is actually alert, oddly enough she tends to make her way to the hospital.
No sooner had she come in the first time after being released from the hospital that Mrs. Everdeen noticed her wandering the area. It seemed that Mrs. Everdeen had known Annie wasn't required to be anywhere specific once she glanced at the bracelet around her wrist that explained her condition. She really wasn't allowed free reign everywhere in District 13, but nobody in the hospital ward made her leave. As long as Annie wasn't in the way, she supposed there would be no problems with her there.
It is during one of these walks that she finds a section that's not as busy as the other sections. Rows of cribs line up each wall, but only a few are actually occupied by a newborn. The nurse in charge of that section looks at Annie warily.
"Are you supposed to be here?" the nurse asks.
Annie doesn't look at her, but stares at the sea of cribs. "It's so quiet here."
"Annie?" a familiar gentle voice utters behind her. "You can't be here. Only the parents of the babies are allowed in there. Let's walk somewhere else."
Mrs. Everdeen puts hands on Annie's shoulders and guides her in a different direction, away from the quiet baby ward. They walk in silence for a few minutes before Annie's question finally pops out of her mouth.
"Aren't there supposed to be more?" asks Annie.
Mrs. Everdeen doesn't look at Annie, but the tension in her face tells Annie that she's trying to come up with some answer.
"I don't think it's really my place to say, but yes, there are supposed to be more. But many of them can't have children anymore. So, there are less than half that are able to still have babies."
Annie's mind doesn't quite know how to respond to that. The idea of a whole district watching their population dwindle down to nothing, without being able to do anything about it… unless you found more people outside your district.
"They want to keep us here," says Annie. It's more of a statement than a question. Mrs. Everdeen doesn't say anything, but Annie knows it's true, at least partly. Annie is mindful enough to know that it isn't necessarily the kindest motive for District 13, or President Coin, to have in helping the rest of them out in this war, but whatever the reason, it's what brought her and Finnick back together. "I don't care as long as I'm with Finnick."
She feels Mrs. Everdeen's stare and she turns to see her smile. "Of course."
Annie gazes at his face. She's made it a point to memorize as much of his features as possible. She likes being able to close her eyes and still see him in her mind, exactly how he looks. She loves the way his hair changes color when he moves under the lights in the dining room. It's a horrible kind of light, though. Not like the natural light of the sun or the moon, but his hair is still able to change color under them.
She's entranced when she sees the shades of sea foam green swirl in his eyes, as if they were of the sea themselves. Her heart thumps just a bit harder when she notices the corners of Finnick's mouth turn up and his cheeks turn a darker shade, as if he's blushing for some unfathomable reason.
It's not that she hasn't seen these nuances in her husband before, but they mean so much more now. They are a part of her world, a world she thought she would never have again. She doesn't want to take it for granted. She wants every second with Finnick to be as memorable as their first touch, their first kiss, their wedding night.
Mornings like this one, where she's the first one awake, gives her a chance to take it all in. Sometimes she has to ask him, especially after a trying day or after being away from him for too long because of his training, if they're really married.
Yes, we are, he would say with his most sincere look. Sometimes she wonders if it hurts him that she asks that question, as if she had forgotten. As if she had lost that part of her memory. But it's just the opposite.
It just seems too perfect, too much of a dream for it to be real. I remember, Finnick. I remember it like a dream that I never want to wake from. And it's real. She told him that once before. And she remembered his smile then, too.
Being lost in her memory of that moment, Annie at first doesn't notice that Finnick is now awake and gazing right back at her. But when she does notice, it's as if she's in a dream again, watching the corners of his mouth turn up and the swirling green in his sleepy eyes.
They don't speak for a long time. They just soak in each other's features, Annie's fingers gently running through his hair. He moves in closer to her, and her heart suddenly beats stronger in her chest, faster. He pulls her to him until, feeling his warmth against her skin, and he kisses her, softly on the lips, trailing more soft kisses from her lips down to her neck and then finally stopping just below her ear.
Annie lets out the breath she didn't know she was holding, and she sighs in his embrace, knowing that she will never tire of his touch, whether it is a soft caress of her skin during quiet moments or the tight hold of his arms as they're enveloped in each other's embrace in uninhibited passion. Either way, it always felt right, just as it does at that moment.
It's not until about an hour later, as he holds her with her head resting on his chest, that the thoughts of babies come drifting into her mind, her subconscious bringing back the memory of the many empty cribs in the hospital's baby section.
"Is it bad that I want a baby?" she asks in a low tone, almost too low to hear.
"Is it bad that I want a baby?" she repeats, then adds, "Knowing what could happen to him when he- when he turns 13? I'm selfish for wanting it, aren't I?"
"I am," she says as she sits up to face her husband. She's almost embarrassed to look at him, but she forces herself to stay put. "I'm bad for even thinking of wanting a baby now, with what's going on – with everything. With me. Aren't I?"
Finnick sighs, sits up to look straight into her eyes and slides his hand behind her neck to pull her head closer to his, almost close enough to kiss. He gives her a crooked smile and her stomach churns just a little from his reaction, knowing that he's going to agree with her. He's going to tell her that she's being completely selfish and it's a horrible thing to think of.
"Annie, you are not bad." He enunciates each word with precision, as if trying to make himself clear even though he's literally an inch away from her face. "You are not selfish. You have always been true to yourself and everyone around you. It's not bad to want a child. I love you for wanting one."
Annie almost asks him to repeat himself, but she just lets out a breath in relief and smiles, moving her head forward just that one inch more so their foreheads touch.
"Although," he continues in a lighter tone, "the timing could be a little odd."
She laughs, a little louder than she means to, realizing that it's still a little too early yet for such a burst of noise, but that only makes her laugh again. The look on Finnick's face is at first of surprise, but as she continues laughing out loud in a way that he hasn't really heard from her in a long time, he has to laugh with her. Annie can't help but fall back on the bed in laughter. She knows she should stop because she doesn't want to bother their neighbors in their rooms, but it just feels so good to laugh and smile and feel genuinely happy.
When she finally is able to stop, she takes a big breath and looks up at her husband, who's looking down at her with a content expression on his face. He strokes her hair, and just that motion brings tingles to her cheeks and down her spine, right to the tips of her fingers and toes.
"I love you, Finnick. I want us to have a baby," she says decidedly. "But I'm scared."
She purses her lips a little, hesitant to say it aloud for some reason, as if saying it aloud would make it true. Finnick repeats his question, a little softer than before.
"What if…what if I can't have babies?"
"Why would you think that?"
Again, Annie hesitates, looking away from his curious eyes. She hears him suck in some air, and even though she wants him to know the reason why she would think that, seeing that comprehension dawns on him makes her cringe anyway.
"Because of- of him," Finnick croaks, not saying Garcen's name aloud, but knowing that's exactly who she's thinking of. She had spent more than a couple of forced moments with the former Head Peacekeeper of District 4, and yet she had not once been impregnated by him. Annie had never thought about this fact until she had her conversation with Mrs. Everdeen earlier that day, after she had seen the nearly empty baby ward. Ever since then, throughout the day, the thought kept popping into her head.
What if I'm sterile, too? What if I can never have children?
Of course, that thought hid itself away as soon as her eyes met Finnick's later in the afternoon. Yet here it is, popping itself back out again, forcing her to face it. The thought that she may never be able to create a human life with her husband, one that would be evidence of their union - of their love – threatens to rip through her heart like a dirty, jagged, rusty knife.
How just a thought can do such a thing is beyond her.
She feels the tips of his fingers slide along her jaw and gently turn her face to look back at him again. When she does, she sees his half smile and a slight sadness in his eyes. He opens his mouth as if to say something, but then closes it again. His half smile turns into a half frown and a vertical crease between his eyebrows form.
She wonders if he's disappointed or just unsure of what to say. Before she has time to hope for the latter, he lowers his face closer to hers and presses his lips right in the center of her forehead, holding it there. It is the gentlest kind of kiss he can give her at that moment, the kind of kiss that tells her that she means more to him than he can say – the kind of intimate kiss that goes beyond the physical. She doesn't know a word for that kind of intimacy. But she feels it.
And it gives her hope.
Finnick stands outside the door. He thinks that maybe he should've gotten Annie, but then again, Annie might not be able to handle this. He's gotten really good at reading Annie's thoughts before, and even more so now that they've spent so much time together, holding her in some way or another. Listening to her breath in her sleep, the way she walks, the way she looks away when she's not sure of how he's going to react to her. As if he could ever be disappointed or upset with her. He's been slowly getting it through to Annie that it's just not possible for that to happen, but Annie is still mending. Too many past hurts still haunt her. He knows he's getting through, though.
So, even though he would like to bring Annie with him everywhere he goes when he's not training, he knows that this time it's best to have do this without her. For both Annie's and Johanna's sakes.
He knocks on the hospital room door, waits a couple of seconds, and turns the knob. For some reason, he has a feeling that Johanna won't tell him to come in.
"Johanna?" he says low but firm. She doesn't answer, but he sees that she's lying in bed, awake. Her mouth is closed tight and she looks… defeated. He has never seen her like this before – her shoulders slumped over, her eyes red and sunken in a little, her chest caved in. Johanna may have looked tired or even sad before, but never defeated. Yes, he's definitely glad he didn't bring Annie.
Johanna turns to look at him and straightens herself up, forcing intensity in her weary eyes. "Why do you look uncomfortable? You're not the one stuck in this bed like a sick-in-the-head pathetic wimp of a person."
Finnick's insides twist and it probably shows on his face, because Johanna curses quietly to herself. "Sorry, Finnick."
"It's okay. I'd be upset, too." And he would be if the situation were reversed. "Look, Johanna-"
"Finnick, don't. Don't say you're sorry or that you wish things were different or anything like that. The best thing you can do is end this thing. Kill Snow. Kill them all, I don't care. I'm just tired of it."
"We all are."
She looks at him with hard eyes. If Finnick didn't know her, he probably would've thought she'd jump out of bed and pummel him into the ground, but no part of him is trembling in fear of her. He just looks straight back at her, his eyes alert and wide with assurance of their bond as friends. She relents and takes a deep breath in, then out. "So you'll do it?"
"That's the plan."
She gives him a nod. "Good."
Immediately after that, her shoulders somewhat slump over once again and the look of defeat returns in her eyes, now clouded over like a dark storm. A dark, sad storm. He faintly remembers seeing her when the rescue team came back. She was the first one they brought in. Her whole body looked beaten and distorted, her hair ripped out of her head, making her look more like a disfigured muttation of the real Johanna. Finnick never thought about it before, but he would admit to her being pretty. Yes, Johanna was very pretty, and they took her beauty away.
But he's not talking just about her outward beauty. There was beauty in her fierceness, too. That's the best of what they took from her. They tortured the ferocity out of her and instilled fear and uncertainty instead.
He wants to give her her beauty back. "Johanna," he says, putting his hand firmly on her shoulder. He didn't remember taking steps toward her. She looks up at him in surprise. "We're going to do it. We're going to win. We have to."
She finally gives him a crooked smile. It's not the same sassy smile she normally gives, but it's good enough for now. He hopes to see her old smile again after this. "Thanks."
Just as he's about to leave her to rest, she calls him, this time with a softer tone. He turns to face her, just as he did the last time he visited her in the hospital.
"Sorry about what I said." Finnick looks at her, confusion set in his face. "During lunch that one time. I said that thing about the screaming. I shouldn't have said it. I knew you guys were there, and I said it anyway. So… sorry." Finnick chuckles under his breath. Clearly Johanna doesn't say the word "sorry" often as he can tell by the way she mumbled it out. Just then a thought occurs to him.
"Would it be too much to ask you to make up for it by keeping an eye out for Annie while we're out there?" he asks somewhat shyly.
She sighs in exasperation. "You've got to be kidding me."
Two steps and he's kneeling next to her, giving her the most pleading look he can. "Please, Johanna. I know you hate being here and you'd rather be out there with us, but I'm asking you… as a friend… to… just look in on her every once in a while. Make sure she's doing okay."
"You know, I think I liked the self-centered flirtatious Finnick better. I hate it when people beg. It's pathetic."
Finnick would not be dissuaded by her comment. He keeps his pleading eyes on her and shakes his head. "It's too tiresome being that guy. I'm done with playing games. And I'll be as pathetic as possible if I need to," he says, this time grabbing her hand and squeezing it.
Johanna tries to pull her hand away half-heartedly, but he holds on. "C'mon Finnick. She's probably doing better than me right now-" It's probably true, but he doesn't care.
"Please! If you want, I- I'll get one of Katniss' dresses for you." Johanna rolls her eyes. He knows that was actually a pathetic offer. "Okay, I'lI- I'll bring Snow's head on a silver platter then." He knows lying isn't really a better option, either, but he didn't know what else to say to convince her. Johanna, as standoffish as she is, just seems to be the best way he could keep Annie safe while he's off fighting this crazy war. And maybe a little subconscious part of him thinks that giving Johanna something to do, even if it's something as simple as keeping an eye on Annie, would help her. Maybe.
She scoffs. "That's a waste of a silver platter. Why would you think Annie would want me around? I'm the girl with the bad manners, you know. I'm the one that says the wrong things, remember?"
Of course he remembers, but he's not going to let that hinder this plan of his. She's still the best option.
"Johanna," he says her name so calmly that she has to look at him. "She won't have anyone when I'm gone. You know how that feels, don't you?"
He hopes his final statement sparks some sentiment in her. Johanna rubs the palms of her hands into her eyes while muttering something unintelligible. Five seconds later, she quickly removes her hands and slaps them down on her lap.
He suddenly finds himself with his arms around her neck, practically choking her before he releases her, clumsily getting up off the floor. "Thank you! Johanna, I owe you!"
"Yeah, a head on a silver platter!" She huffs as he gives her a wink and a smile before he leaves.
"You're lucky you're so freaking handsome, you idiot!" Johanna yells through the door, but Finnick can only chuckle at that.
It had been a few days since Finnick asked Johanna to be his "eyes and ears" for him for when he leaves to fight in a war that they started, a war that Johanna wants to be in more than he does. Especially now.Ever since he was reunited with Annie, whom he still cannot believe is now his wife, his beautiful wife, the thought of leaving her alone, this time voluntarily, pierces at his heart every time he thinks about it, like a white-hot dagger stabbing into his chest repeatedly. It's sometimes so painful that he wonders if he's actually bleeding, and he has to grip at his chest just to make sure he doesn't feel blood on his shirt. This morning is one of those times. Lying there in the bed with her, gazing on her as she sleeps, he sees the strains that have permanently imprinted themselves on her face. They are deeper than they were before... before she was taken from him.
Strands of her hair fall across her face, and he's tempted to brush them away, but he doesn't want to wake her. As much as the lines of past pain show on her face, he still is able to see beyond that and see how beautiful she truly is. He doesn't care what anyone thinks of her, even if she does odd things, or laughs in off times, she will always be beautiful to him. He will always love her. They've been through too much through the years, both before they met and after. He thinks that maybe from the very beginning, when she first gave him that terrified yet fierce face, he had already started to like her.
"My sweet Annie," he whispers. Her eyes shift underneath her lids, unconscious to his words. "You're so strong. You always have been."
His wife breathes silently in front of him. He wonders if she even knows just how much she affects him; how, to him, even her sighs seep into his skin, saturating him with wonderful warmth only she could give, the kind that melts his heart like nothing else can.
Does she even know?
He thinks to himself why some words sound so simple, but mean so much that even the word itself is not enough to really define its meaning.
"I love you. I love you so much," he continues in his lowest, softest voice. "You are my one reason, my only reason to be hopeful for our future. I can't wait for us to go back to our home. I can't wait to have children with you... because you will. I know you will. And we can name our children after..." he takes a deep breath before continuing, "after those who also loved us. We can honor them that way. You and me, Annie."
The hair that so lazily fell across his wife's face threatens to tickle her nose at the mention of her name. She doesn't wake, but she unconsciously moves herself closer to him, and he does what comes naturally, wrapping her arm protectively around her. He does not want to wake her, but at the same time, he wants her to hear him.
Finnick was never scared to open up to Annie about his feelings before, but for some reason, he found he couldn't say what he had just said to her while she was awake. Maybe because that was too much to hope for in a future that wasn't really set, during a time that's dangerous for them all. And maybe it's because it's a statement that is meant for himself more than for her.
Two more days and he has to leave on a hovercraft with Katniss, Gale, and the rest of the Star Squad. It doesn't matter that the group he's in isn't going to be on the front lines. There's still a war out there, so there's always the possibility of danger. There was no point in trying to tone down the assignment to Annie. The fact that he was going to be away was already more than enough to make this hard on both of them anyway. He's going to have to make the most of their time together until then – spending it together as they were right at that moment just makes sense.
He bends his head down to press his lips against her head before closing his eyes to sleep in the comfort of their bed. But as he does, Annie's arms slowly move out from between them and her fingers gently slide up his back and pull him closer to her, as if waking from a restful slumber.
Maybe, he smiles, sleep isn't in his immediate future after all.
It isn't long enough. But then again, it didn't matter if they had a lifetime together before he had to leave to go with rest of Squad 451, Annie would still feel that it isn't long enough.
She didn't have enough time to show him how much he means to her, as if he doesn't know, but it doesn't matter. Not at that moment. Today is the day. In a few hours, he'll be off on a hovercraft, away from her, for who knows how long.
"It'll be done before you start missing me," he tells her as they lay facing each other in their bed, wrapped up one last time in each other's embrace. She pulls herself as close as she can to him, leaning the side of her face against his chest as he kisses the top of her head.
She doesn't know what to say at first, because she doesn't want to tell him that she already misses him. It would hurt him to know that, and to have him leave with that thought would not make either of them feel good. That's the last thing she wants him to feel before he goes.
"Remember," he says as runs his fingers through her hair soothingly, "this is just one more assignment, then we can go home, and we won't have to deal with assignments or the Capitol or Snow or anyone else ever again. Just you and me, Annie."
"You and me." She pulls back to look up at him. "That's it?"
A smirk crosses his face. "And our future."
She wants to be brave for him, but she can't help herself from this one relapse in confidence. "Finnick… I'm scared." She could see the lines between his eyes grow deep with concern, but she looks away immediately. "Can I be selfish and ask you not to go?" She instantly regrets saying such a thing, but she can't deny that a part of her really wants him to stay with her, even though she knows he can be useful in this war. She hates to think of him in any sort of danger again, especially after having to see him in the Games and only just getting back together with him. Sure, they were able to get married and they've had nothing but a blissful time together since, but they haven't had enough time. Not yet. Not even close.
He pulls her closer to him, not saying anything for a while.
"Do you really want me to stay?"
"Yes," Annie says abruptly. And right at that moment, the image of the near-empty baby ward invades her mind, reminding her that they are not the only ones risking their lives. That there are many others whose lives are at stake here, whose futures may be lost, or worse, may continue in something even worse than the Hunger Games, takes hold of her conscience. If Finnick's part in this could help restore a hopeful future not just for them, but for everyone else, shouldn't she let him go?
Could she be so selfish as to want her Finnick to stay while the rest of them fight? So many people have been lost in her life, and she knows that she isn't the only one. She knows if she can help it, she won't allow other people to suffer as she did. "But no. I can't be that way, can I? I know this isn't just about us."
She feels Finnick breathe a sigh, almost of relief. It makes her both proud and heartbroken at the same time to have such a husband, who is willing to fight for them and their future. Someone who is willing to fight for them all.
"No, it isn't. But I really am doing this for us… more than anyone else. Because I love you, Annie. You deserve a better life, and I want to give that to you."
Annie moves herself up so she can be face to face with her husband, her green emerald eyes meeting his sea green eyes. "You'll come back to me then, as you promised. Right?"
Finnick smiles before closing the space between them to kiss her lips over and over again, saying "yes" in between breaths.
"Say it again, the poem, just like you do every morning."
This time, Finnick doesn't hesitate. Because this is routine. This is normal. This is not a goodbye.
Against the tides that push and pullNot one is strong enough to partNo force can keep me away from youI will always keep you in my heart
The strongest wind, the hardest waveWill try to break me, to fall apartBut not them, no one can tear awayYour love I keep deep in my heart
Even now, be strong, remember stillBelieve that I love youNothing can be more real
Believe that I love youBeyond forever and always I will
Three hours later Finnick stands at the door, dressed in all his soldier gear and seemingly ready to take on whatever they have planned for him and his squad, while Annie is back in their bed, laying there watching him, memorizing every movement, every flick of his hair, every expression on his face, especially when he smiles at her. He looks on her one last time.
"I want to remember you this way. It'll give me something to look forward to when I come back," he had said earlier. So, that's what she does. She stays there, looking at him, smiling a sad smile. Even though every part of her wants to run to him and hold him tight and never let go, she will not do that. She will be just as brave as her husband, because that's who he needs right now. A brave wife, one to be strong for him just as he is for her, as the poem says.
"I love you, Finnick Odair." This is about as close to a goodbye as she could probably say without actually saying it. He didn't object. He just looks back at her with a look of what can be perceived as genuine and absolute adoration. It's as if his whole face is radiating love just for her.
"I love you, my sweet Annie Odair. Beyond forever."
With that, he opens the door, walks out, and closes it behind him, only giving Annie a side profile of his face before the door completely closes. They both said what they needed to say, and she gave him that final image of her for him to fill his thoughts with when he needed. He gave her his words, with which she could repeat in her head in just the same way, giving her a reason to smile when she needed.
I love you, my sweet Annie Odair. Beyond forever.
Even though her heart pounds with an aching sadness, she can't help but smile at the memory.
She couldn't stop shaking. Her heart was pounding so hard it hurt.
Squad Four Five One was lost. Something happened and Beetee lost all communication with them. They probably would've avoided telling her this if she hadn't been walking around hearing all the commotion.
Somehow Johanna finds her wandering around in a haze. "…only lost. We don't know if anything has happened to them yet, Annie." Johanna says more, but Annie doesn't register the words. She doesn't register anything at all. Her Finnick is lost, and so is she.
Annie. His voice is smooth and calm as he calls to her. Annie, my sweet. Please wake up.
She opens her eyes to find his sea green eyes staring back at him. Everything else looks hazy around him, as if he's the only thing in focus. It seems odd, but she dares not look at anything else but him. Just him.
Hi, my beautiful wife. I've missed you.
"I've missed you so much, too." She wants to wrap her arms around him, but for some reason she can't. It's as if her arms refuse to move. She tries to move her legs, too, but they don't budge. Every part of her feels heavy, too heavy for her to lift. She feels her heart beat faster. "Finnick-"
You know I love you. I always have. Please be strong for me. Please.
"I know. I love you, too. Help me… I can't move-"
I love you, my sweet Annie Odair. Beyond forever. Remember that.
"Finnick… help-" she looks down only a brief second to see what could possibly be holding her down, but there is nothing keeping her arms and legs from moving. When she looks back up, the sea green eyes of her husband no longer stare back at her. Finnick has disappeared.
Suddenly, the real memory hits her, and she feels her stomach churn.
She jolts up, awake in her bed. Not their bed. Annie is back in the hospital again.
The tears started in the dream and have not stopped. Her whole body shakes with overwhelming sadness. The announcement of Finnick's death is still fresh in her mind. Snow was victorious in his speech. He was heartless.
She must have been saying something in between sobs, because someone tries to tell her that it could be a lie. That they don't know if it's true since it was Snow that said it. But Annie is certain more than ever now, after her dream, that her husband – her Finnick – is dead.
She screams louder than she ever has before, unable to utter actual words through her cries of sorrow. Annie doesn't know how to stop the pain, doesn't know how to stop her heart from hurting her with every single beat. Her whole body feels like it's being crushed under an invisible force and she is too weak to stop it.
Suddenly, she is overcome with nausea, and her body reacts, retching from all her sobbing. She vomits on the floor, not caring enough to tell them how much her throat burns as she continues to mourn for her only love. They try to hold her, she presumes, to prevent her from falling over or maybe even intentionally hurting herself, she doesn't know which. But she knows she cannot hurt herself more than she is hurting already. They could torture her like they did Johanna or Peeta in the Capitol prison and it wouldn't hurt as much as it does right now.
Snow has already taken everyone from her.
She thinks back to their last conversation before he left.
Please, please, please! I change my mind. I want to be selfish. Please don't go, Finnick.
But in her permanently damaged and aching heart, she already knows, it is too late. There is nothing left but the pain.
She stares at him from her bed. He stands there in the corner of her hospital room. It's just as she remembered him when they were still in District 4. His bronze hair, slightly messy from being out on the boat, flows around his head, as if blown by a breeze, but there is no breeze underground. His sea green eyes bright, and his pupils large as he stares back at her, smiling.
She smiles back before realization hits her that he isn't really there. But that doesn't stop her from wishing it every time she imagines him in her haze. So she continues to look at him, because as long as he's around, she'll choose to be in this haze. Even if it means not eating, or not sleeping.
She would rather forego sleep anyway, because images of him in her dreams tend to change into nightmares of his death. She doesn't know how he died as no one knows, so her subconscious finds its own version and reenacts it for her, sometimes in such a gruesome manner as to make her sick enough to keep her in the hospital.
He's still there, standing in the corner. She wants him to come closer, so she hold him, but something is keeping him at bay. Then he begins to open his mouth, as if to talk.
Annie, you need to listen to him.
The doctor. It's important.
That's when she hears it. At first it just sounds like a soft and low mumbling, but as the mumbling gradually gets louder and more comprehensible, she slowly comes out of her haze as well, and she finally realizes that the doctor Finnick was referring to is standing right beside her bed. Just beyond him is the corner that she had just seen Finnick at not a moment ago.
"…would be best for you to stay here for a while, Annie."
The doctor looks at her with concern before opening his mouth to answer. "Annie, I'm sorry for your loss. I truly am, but we need to get you on a regular diet now," he says. She looks into his eyes. They are weary and dark from lack of sleep. She wonders if he's lost someone, too. "We've had to keep an eye on you since…that day. You've been losing weight recently and we ran a few tests just to find out if there was something more to why that is, to make sure that you weren't physically ill… and…well, do you know why you've been sick lately?"
She ponders his words for several seconds. She doesn't know how long she's been in the hospital. From what the doctor has just said, it could have been several days, even weeks. The loss of Finnick brought back her hazy moments, losing track of time, she knows that much, not that time mattered to her anymore. There was no reason to keep track of it anyway, nor was there any will to fight the haze when Finnick was in there. But for some reason, the vision of Finnick this time, and the illusion that he was speaking to her to listen, brought her back to reality and kept her there to hear what the doctor had to say. And she did.
It can't be, she thinks. Can it?
It can. She can't see him now, but doesn't need to to know when Finnick is speaking.
"Tell me," she says to the doctor.
"Well, it does seem that you are pregnant, Annie."
This is your future, Annie.
Our future, she corrects.
She doesn't know why, but even though he is gone, he is still with her, and she doesn't want to question it. She doesn't care if she is crazy now, especially when he looks so much like he's physically there.
"…under the strain of everything. We hope you understand that staying here in the hospital is best option for you… and the baby growing inside of you, at least for now."
Annie nods in agreement before the doctor leaves, her face an expression of disbelief, but not of sorrow. The emotional pain of loss is still there, but now, to know that she's carrying a baby inside her, gives her a new reason to fight through her grief.
She closes her eyes and slowly, she can see her lying together in their bed, facing him as they did in the mornings after their wedding day. Annie smiles.
"Our future," she says to him out loud. Finnick smiles back.
The struggle would be tremendous, she knows. But she knows that even though Finnick would never physically be there for her again, he didn't break his promise. Not really. A part of Finnick was always with her, both in her heart, and now in the life that's growing inside her.
She remembers the last lines of the poem, in his voice, and smiles.
Even now, be strong, remember still
Believe that I love you
Nothing can be more real
Believe that I love you
Beyond forever and always I will
"I miss you, Finnick, so much," she whispers to her husband. A tear, one of many before it, runs down the side of her face, as she gives a bittersweet smile to her vision of him. "I understand that I can't keep losing myself in my mind just to see you. I do, but I just miss you. I don't think I ever will. But I guess I have to control myself. Because I have our child to raise now."
Annie looks down at her belly and gently places her hand there. "I have to eat more. I don't even know how long it's been since my last meal. I'm sorry. I will take care of myself. I know you'd be upset if you actually could see me right now, so sorry."
She grabs the cup of water that's been sitting on the table next to her bed, and sips. It's a start.
"I so can't wait to tell our baby about you and what you did for us. I don't know what else to say right now but 'thank you, Finnick.' Thank you for choosing to love me beyond forever. I will never stop loving you. And I promise to love our child enough for the both of us."
With her final vow, she closes her eyes and sleeps with hope in her heart once again.