Against The Tides

Chapter 4: Before the Tour

"Do you want me to show you?" Finnick asks, looking for any indication from Annie's face for an answer. He had been working on a fairly complicated knot and she was staring at it. Annie's eyes meet his for a split second and she nods slightly.

It took a couple of days for Annie to be comfortable with Finnick to where Mags didn't have to be around. Finnick still doesn't know what had happened to her when they came back to cause her to ignore him for the past 6 months, but at the moment, he figures it doesn't matter. He is just grateful that she's actually communicating with him, even if it is with just a nod here or a mumble there. The first step is talking. This is the second.

He gets her a small piece of rope and hands it to her. He goes through the process slowly, showing where the rope loops around and circles, and she follows. Her fingers tremble just enough for him to notice, but he doesn't say anything. When he looks at her face, it seems as if she's trying to say something, but if she is saying something, she's not saying it out loud. He just continues to show her the knot, twice, three times. She's quick about it, too.

"That was good. Try it again by yourself this time," he says. She does so, but stops halfway through, the look on her face contorting with confusion. She just needs a little hint as to what to do next, so Annie looks at Finnick, and this time she holds his gaze a little longer before looking down again. He moves his chair closer to her in as friendly a manner as possible, looking down at the piece of rope in her hand. He smiles slightly.

"Just… like this-," Finnick says, and slowly guides her fingers with his own to move the length of the rope correctly around. He feels her flinch slightly at his touch, but relaxes enough after a few seconds. Even so, Finnick lets go, not wanting to discomfort her in any way. He isn't sure what to make of her reaction and ignores it for now, even though it bothers him. He smiles to Annie anyway, trying to put her back at ease.

He comes back the following day, this time with some beef ribs that Mags had cooked up again, which she insists Finnick bring to Annie and her father. Annie isn't hungry at the moment, but her father welcomes the tasty dish and its appetizing scent, so Annie tells him to eat as much of it as possible. Despite living in the Victor's Village, it isn't too often they eat beef, considering that Annie prefers food from the ocean or the ground.

Annie graduallys makes her way to the sofa, with Finnick following, seating himself on the armchair. With silence as their barrier, Annie looks out the window, onto the flowers growing in the green. Finnick isn't sure how to start an actual conversation with her, and he is short of topics to discuss that don't involve the Victory Tour or the weather.

"Finnick," Annie says. He looks at her, her face still looking out the window. He isn't sure whether to acknowledge her, but he doesn't want to disturb her train of thought until he finally can't take the silence anymore.

"Annie?" Finnick says. Annie shakes her head slightly, as if to jar herself from whatever trance her mind was in. She turns her head to him and her eyes peer through the breaks in her unkempt hair. He doesn't notice anything but the piercing color of sea green. He can see it, the despair, and something else that he can't quite put a finger on. "What, Annie?"

Her eyes shift downward. "They're coming tomorrow." Finnick purses his lips as he lowers his head.

"Yes," Finnick says softly.

Minutes pass between them in yet another round of silence, except for the sound of waves crashing on the shore, but neither of them hear it. It might as well be complete silence for all they care. Finnick wants to say something to try to cheer her up, but he doesn't know what he can possibly say that will actually be an encouragement.

"I'll be alone?" Annie's voice is barely a whisper, but Finnick hears every word clear as a bell.

"No. You'll have Tessa and your team," Finnick says reassuringly. Then he does something that he momentarily forgets he isn't supposed to do. He smirks in that all too knowing grin seen on television at times as he says "And me!" The tone of his voice is filled with a slight smugness that's not undetected by Annie.

Annie's eyes turn even darker than usual and her face hardens at his smile. Finnick's jaw drops at the realization of his manner, but he doesn't say anything immediately. He doesn't have to. Finnick knows the second that the words came out of his mouth that he had said, and done, the wrong thing completely. He sighs and closes his eyes, partly because Annie's glare is that of anger and the anger is directed towards him once again.

"Annie-," Finnick regains his speech and starts to apologize, but he is too late. Annie gets up off the sofa and goes upstairs and he has a feeling she won't be coming back down anytime soon. It had been going well, but he messed it up, and he finds he's angry, too. Angry at himself. He stays angry at himself as he leaves her house. As he walks across the green. As he passes his own house and gets on his boat. As he sails out to the water. To his solace.

Finnick finally manages to steel himself just when the sun is setting. He has to get back to the dock before sundown or he will be in trouble. No one is allowed on the boats at night. If anyone were to get caught doing that, the punishment was not only severe, but sometimes even fatal. Finnick had once been witness to one such event when the father of one of his classmates had fallen asleep on his boat and woke up to the sound of peacekeepers boarding his deck after nightfall.

The head peacekeeper, Garcen, who was rumored to be with a young woman that night, was so infuriated by the violation that he had the other peacekeepers bring the man's wife and son to the side to watch as he whipped the man to death. Unfortunately, Finnick was at the square with his own parents when it all happened. Needless to say, he made his father promise him he wouldn't go to sleep on the boat.

The funny thing about it now is that Finnick had fallen asleep on several occasions on his own boat, but he always woke up well before sunset, and he was not usually out on his boat during this time of the day. This was an exception.

He looks out to the shore again, not expecting to see anyone. It's a cold day and getting colder, so people should be inside by now. But he sees her there, her long, black tresses moving in the light wind.

"Hey Annie," he says blandly, very well speaking to himself. "Sorry for smiling at you. Sorry that I can act like a total idiot. Sorry that you met me, even though I helped save your life." He pauses, and thinks back to the words he just said. "Okay, maybe I'm not sorry about that." He looks in her direction again, but she is gone. "I guess we'll finish up this conversation tomorrow, eh?"

He speeds up his boat as much as he can to get back to the dock before it's too late. The patrol boats will be getting ready to head out themselves, he assumes, and he's right. As he slows to the dock, he sees several of the peacekeepers, including Head Peacekeeper Garcen, prepping their speed boats to do their nightly patrols on the water. Finnick has about 30 minutes of sunlight left. Garcen eyes Finnick coolly as Finnick docks and anchors his boat.

"Taking a little risk, are we, Finnick?" asks Garcen snidely.

"No more than usual, Garcen," answers Finnick as he passes him. Finnick despises Garcen, mainly due to the way that Garcen treats women. He treats women as if they were property. But being that this is District 4, even Garcen has to be cautious with the way he deals with them. Garcen won't chance his position as head peacekeeper by being careless. So, he only takes in those that he knows will not give him a problem.

Garcen had actually tried to befriend Finnick before, since Finnick's reputation around Panem was something that Garcen envied. But Garcen had neither the looks nor the persona that Finnick embodied. If anything, Garcen was the antithesis of who Finnick was. Although Garcen was just as tall as Finnick, he wasn't quite as agile, but what he lacked in swiftness he made up for in sheer strength, and that's saying a lot considering Finnick is not weak by any means. Garcen reminded Finnick of some of male careers in District 2. The ones who he knew had taken to training even though they weren't supposed to. Finnick had guessed that Garcen probably was from District 2 and had trained to be a tribute, but was never reaped, so he took to being a peacekeeper instead.

"Just as long as you don't get caught, right?" Garcen says to Finnick. When Finnick stops to give him a questioningly look, Garcen bellows out a howl. Finnick doesn't really understand what Garcen means, but he isn't about to let Garcen get to him – to give Garcen the satisfaction of knowing he actually can irritate him. Not now. Finnick turns back toward his house and walks away. He can hear Garcen yell out even as Finnick is at his door, "Have fun with your victor during the tour!" Then another howl of laughter. Turlach is at the door, and even he's frowning in disgust at the sound of Garcen's voice, but his main concern is Finnick. Finnick looks at him apologetically before going in. Turlach knows not to give Finnick any grief about coming back so late, but only silently hopes that it won't happen again.

Annie can hear Garcen, also. If Finnick had looked, he would've noticed Annie standing at the door of her own house, her eyes watching him as he walks from the Victor's Village dock to his house. The sound of Garcen's laughter causes the hairs on every part of her body to shiver and stand. She sees that Finnick isn't reciprocating any kind of pleasantries to what Garcen is saying.

Annie sighs in relief and goes inside her own house to try to sleep that night, the night before the Victory Tour.

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