Disclaimer: I don't own the Hunger Games. I know, I know, you're all shocked.
Finnick and Hamitch are two of my favorite characters, so I just wanted to write a story with the two of them together.
Both of my tributes are dead. Well, that's no surprise. They both decided to go for the cornucopia this year, the morons. They might have actually had a chance if they had just run away. Oh who am I kidding? They never stood a chance, coming from 12. We've only won the games once in 66 years, and this year has a particularly strong batch of Careers. Chaff claps me on the back, muttering an apology before turning back to his screen and waiting for his kids to die. I get up to go to the bathroom. Most of them go before hand, making sure that they can sit and watch and help their kids for as long as possible without a break. Me? I don't bother. It's not like there's anything I can do for them anyway.
When I push open the door, I hear someone throwing up. It's not unusual here in the Capitol. People here throw up just to eat more. It's such a common practice that they even have sinks specially designed for vomit. They sit along the back wall of every high end Caiptol bathroom and always have a bowl full of breath fresheners sitting next to them to mask the smell. The unusual part of the situation comes from the fact that the person vomiting into the sink, but into one of the toilets. I walk around the stall so that I can see who it is.
All I can see is bronze hair and an outfit obviously chosen by a stylist. It must be the new kid from 4. His head is resting against the bowl of the toilet, like he's nursing a bad hangover. I can relate. "Hey kid," I get his attention. I'm not sure why. I don't really have a plan, but I'm drunk enough to know that plans are overrated, so I press on.
His head snaps around so fast I expect him to get whiplash. He stares at me in horror, but he doesn't move. I hate that my mind immediately likens him to a twelve-year-old tribute encountered by a Career. I resolve to drink until I forget that thought once I get back to the control room. I grab one of the breath fresheners and throw it to him. My aim is off, but he comes back to life just fast enough to catch it before it falls into the toilet. He puts it in his mouth, not taking his eyes off me. He stands up jerkily, like he could fall over and start throwing up again any second. Instead of moving out of the way as he tries to walk past me, I step in front of him. "You alright?"
He opens his mouth a couple of times, like he doesn't know the answer to the question. After a few seconds of this, he nods his head, making it bob uncontrollably. He takes a breath then, and it occurs to me that he hasn't seemed to be breathing since he stood up. He puts on one of the most painful smiles I've ever seen as he finally answers my question, "yeah, I'm good."
He tries to pass me again, and I put a hand on his shoulder. "Kid, there is no place in all the districts where this is good." I gesture to his whole body, but his face is really the only part that looks broken.
He doesn't know what to say for a second, and he takes a deep breath, ducking his head and closing his eyes. When he looks back up, he's wearing the blinding smile I've seen on all the posters. It's the smile he wore when he gutted the girl from his district and they crowned him victor. It's the smile he wore when he told the citizens of District 12 that their tributes had fought bravely. It looks exactly the same. He almost managed to push the dead look out of his eyes. I wouldn't be able to see it if I didn't know what to look for.
"No really, I'm fine."
I'm so startled that he starts to push past me before I grab his arm. "You're not going to fool me with a little fake smile. I'm in this boat too, remember?"
He sighs and his face drops back down. He doesn't say anything, and I don't let go of his arm. I still don't have a plan, and I'm starting to think that maybe I should come up with one, because holding this boy's arm all day isn't really my idea of a good time. I start to let go, and he starts talking. "It used to be real, you know."
I just look at him, unsure of how to respond to that. I don't let go of his arm.
"I used to just smile like that automatically. I didn't even have to think about it. Even when I did, even when I had to remind myself to smile, it was just so easy. It was the most natural thing in the world." His voice is hoarse, probably from the vomiting, and he's the complete opposite of the kid we watched in the games. I can't believe they made him mentor. He's younger than some of the tributes.
He laughs, and it's such a bitter sound I can barely believe it came out of his mouth. "A lot," he doesn't elaborate, but I can see that he wants to.
I pull him down to sit against the wall, and he lets me. "Wanna tell me about it?"
Even though he just sat down with, I assume, the intention of talking about it, he still stops to consider before nodding slowly. "Yeah, yeah I do." He takes a deep breath, leaning his head down and closing his eyes like before the smile, before he starts talking. "After my games, I went home a hero. It was like a sign to them that their training centre was the best in Panem. If a fourteen-year-old with only a year of training could win the games, then we were going to sweep the board. We would never have to lose our tributes again. Everyone wanted to hear about the Games and how amazing they were. People wanted to hear about the Capitol and the people I met. Everything was all about me for a while, and I loved it." He laughs again, and I almost shudder at the sound. "My dad was even around. He always hated being around people, and I was always a momma's boy, so he didn't really care that much about me either, but he didn't have to work anymore, so he didn't have an excuse to be gone all the time. Everything was really good for a while.
"After a little while, the Games started getting to me. Like, it didn't really hit me right away. I didn't really realize what I had done. In my mind, I had just won the games, like I was supposed to. I hadn't done anything wrong." He pauses, but I'm sure that's not my cue to add anything, so I stay silent. "The nightmares started a few weeks after I got back. I woke up my whole house with the screaming. My mom would come in to wake me up and make sure I was alright. It happened almost every night. My brothers started to think I was crazy, especially after Caden threw a net at me and I screamed and almost threw a knife at him. My dad got fed up eventually. He came to wake me up instead of my mom one night, and I guess he tried to slap me awake. I just remember waking up to see him furious with blood coming out of his nose. He beat me up, and I tried to fight back, but he's pretty big, so I didn't stand a chance. The next morning, he acted like nothing had happened. I flinched whenever I got close to him, and I was scared of being in my own house.
"I started sleeping at Mags's so I wouldn't wake him up. I didn't go home as much, especially if I knew that he was there. It was easier to talk to Mags. I didn't have to be a victor or anything. I didn't have to try to come up with impressive things or to talk about the arena. I could just sit there in her living room and talk about how the sky was blue, and she would listen and work on one of her projects. It got to the point where I would spend days at her house without going home." He pauses and takes another deep breath, like he's trying to stop himself from crying. I want to reach out and try to comfort him somehow, but being comforting isn't really something I know how to do beyond offering liquor, which I don't have on hand, so I don't do anything. "One time, I went home after I hadn't been there in a while, and they were packing all of their stuff into boxes." He lost the battle against the tears, and they rolled down his face as he continued the story. "They moved out, and they just left me. My mom told me that I should keep living with Mags, because it was good for me. My dad said that I was a monster, and he didn't want me to hurt my family. He said that if I was going to fight him like a man then I could act like one. I was fourteen, and he moved out to protect my mom and older brothers. They didn't even say anything to me. They just pretended I wasn't there.
"By the time we left for the victory tour, I had lost my family and my friends. I didn't have anybody left besides Mags. The tour was really hard. I had to look at all of the families of the dead tributes and tell them that their kids were brave. My nightmares got worse, and I dragged a couch into Mags's room so I could sleep there and she wouldn't have to walk through the house to wake me up." His voice, already hoarse, drops into a whisper. "I feel so bad. She never asked for any of this. I just dropped myself into her life and started bothering her constantly. I talk her ear off all day, and I wake her up with the screaming at night. I don't want to be a burden, but I can't make myself stop. I need her. I don't have anyone except Mags, and I'm awful and selfish, but I don't know how to be by myself, so I just keep bothering her. She's got her own life, at least she did before I dropped myself in the middle of it and started taking up all of her time. I try not to talk about my problems with her because I know she doesn't want to hear it, but it's really hard and I think I'm about to explode and... I definitely can't tell her this, and it's killing me. I feel so gross and disgusting and I just want it to stop."
He starts crying to himself, and I decide that this is probably my cue, "You know, I think she already knows all that. I mean, she was there for it."
"I'm not talking about my family."
"What are you talking about, then?"
He looks at me like he's trying to figure out if I can keep a secret. He seems to decide that I can, because he looks down at his shoes and starts talking again, "I went to an interview with Caesar. It was just standard stuff. I mean, they always have the victor from the previous year come on to give their opinion of the tributes. We joked and did the whole bit, just like the rest of them, but after..." there's that deep breath again. "He pulled me into his dressing room and told the car to wait for me. He... he pushed me onto my knees, and he... he started saying things about how I'm just what he likes in a victor, and... and how kissing my after the games wasn't enough. He said it got him hard for weeks, and he..." the kid buries his face in his arms so his voice is muffled, but I can still make out every terrible word, "he made me suck him off, and he kept talking to me, like it was a totally normal thing to do, like it was something I was supposed to do, and he made me swallow it, and it made me feel so gross, and then he said that he'd have to do Snow another favour once I was officially on the market, and I don't know what that means, but I'm scared because that made me feel so disgusting, and he said that he would see me again soon, and I don't want to see him again soon, but I don't think I have a choice. What if they make me do more stuff like that? What if Snow wants me to do more stuff like that? I don't want to. I don't want to do it."
The kid seems to be running out of air, so I decide to try my hand at comforting. I wrap my arm around his shoulder awkwardly, and I flinch as he automatically wraps his arms around me like a vice. He starts sobbing into my shirt, and I settle in for the long haul. After a few minutes, his arms loosen, and he stops shaking. He stays where he is, though. I pat his back awkwardly, and that's obviously the wrong thing to do, because he automatically jerks back.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." He looks at me, and I can see fear and embarrassment in his face. "I ruined your shirt. I'm really sorry." He doesn't seem to know what to do.
"Kid, it's okay. It's not like I wasn't going to ruin it anyway. You gonna be okay?"
I regret the question as soon as I ask it, because he seems to take it as some sort of dismissal. "Yeah, I'll be fine. I should probably go... clean up or something." He stands up and goes to the sink to splash some water on his face.
I stand up too, eager to get back to Chaff and the liquor so that I don't have to process everything he said. Before I leave, I turn back to where he seems to be filling the sink with water. "You know, we're all in the same boat here. We're all victors. You don't have to be embarrassed about not being able to handle it. That's why we drink. If you ever want to join us, you're welcome to."
He smiles. It's different from the other two. It's pained and unsure, but it's real. "Thanks. I'll keep that in mind."
I let the door swing shut behind me. I really need a drink.
The next day, the boy from 4 dies, and Mags rubs his shoulder, and says something to him, trying to comfort the boy, but the first dead tribute is a hard thing to shake, and he's too young to have learned how. He responds to whatever she said, and she pats his shoulder. He stands up and starts to walk away, and I remember what he said about feeling like a burden to her. Worry is written all over her face as he walks towards the door, and I can tell that he couldn't have been more wrong. I've seen Mags work with a lot of tributes, and I've even seen her work with a new victor before, but I've never seen her act the way she does with Finnick. She's like a poor mother back in 12, only wanting what's best for her child, but knowing that she can't protect him from the horrors of the world.
I wave a bottle at him as he gets close to us, "how about that drink, kid?" Chaff gives me a look like I'm crazy but doesn't say anything.
Finnick stops in his tracks and looks at me before looking back towards Mags for permission. She's pointedly not looking, leaving the decision up to him. He nods, and I pull up the second chair from my station while Chaff gives him some of the weaker stuff. He winces as it goes down, and I realize that this kid's alcohol tolerance will be much lower than we're used to. I resolve to keep an eye on him.
"Was he yours?"
The boy nods, still looking at the bottle in his hand. "I knew him from training." He doesn't say anything else, but he doesn't have to. His first tribute is dead. We've been there.
I don't know what makes me say it, but I lean towards the two of them, Chaff in his thirties and Finnick still a teenager, and say, "at least he won't have to be a victor."
Chaff gives me the same look he gave me when I offered Finnick the drink, but the teen just smiles, small and genuine. Chaff and I start to talk about one of the crazy new foods the Capitol put on our trains, and Finnick chimes in occasionally. He takes a few more sips of his drink, but ultimately decides it isn't for him, much to my relief. He looks spent. After the crying earlier and the strong liquor running through his system, I can't say I'm surprised. He's way too young for all this shit. He looks even younger as his eyes start to droop, and he just looks wrong sitting in the control room surrounded by trained killers, but he's one of us now. It's not right, but this is exactly where he belongs.
I catch Mags's eye over his head as he starts to drift off to sleep, and she smiles at me in her sad way. It's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be fun, but this kid is going to make it. She's going to see to that.
I hope you guys liked it. Please review with glowing praise or constructive criticism or whatever strikes your fancy.