Disclaimer: I do not own or claim ownership to any content related to or included in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I write this story purely for my own enjoyment and the enjoyment of others, with no intent for making money.
Life Through Sea Green Eyes
I stand at the bow of Hortensia, leaning against the railing as I contemplate the endless expanse of sapphire sea before me. Annie insisted on the name, as a tribute to the woman who saved my life. We sent her a picture of us on the ship before we left, although I imagine she'll have to keep it under lock and key – Plutarch told us that he wouldn't release details of our voyage, or even admit to the existence of this ship, until we accomplish our mission.
My last ship, Gemma, was fairly impressive as fishing boats went, but Hortensia is a proper ship, with two masts, a large engine, three decks, and enough supplies to keep us going for years. Our mission is simple. Panem, the powers-that-be reason, can't be the only human settlement left on the planet. We know for a fact that there are massive land masses to the south, although we have no idea what might be on them. So it's my job to sail down the coast, and just keep following it until I find civilization.
I'm not alone, of course. A ship this large needs a proper crew. There are a dozen sailors with me from District 4, weary men seeking a new life. And then there's my family. Natare and her baby girl, Mara. Annie and our son, Blake.
Nurse Everdeen comes with us as well. She tells Katniss that she's going to open a hospital in District 4, but that's all part of the ruse. This kind woman has lost her husband and her daughter – both daughters, some would argue – to Snow's cruelty, and she wants to get as far away from it all as possible. I'm pleased to have her along, partially because she's my friend, but also because she's as good as having a doctor on board, and I'm worried about what will happen if someone gets sick out on the open sea, with no hovercraft around to evacuate them back to Capitol. Plutarch stocks the ship with all the latest medicines and medical tech, so we're set if anything goes wrong.
I try to convince Johanna to come, but despite her delight that I'm alive, she can't bear the idea of being surrounded by so much water. The last I saw her, she was settling into a little cabin in a forest in District 2. Gale, she admitted, stops by at least once a week for "a cup of tea", although I somehow doubt it's tea they're drinking. Or, indeed, that drinking is quite all they're doing. We have one last naked party, strolling through the thick grove of trees surrounding her cozy new home, and then I hug her and say my goodbyes.
Plutarch also lets me contact Haymitch. His response isn't as jubilant as the others I've experienced. When I dial his phone number and say, "Hello, Haymitch. This is Finnick. I'm alive," his first words are, "Why doesn't that surprise me?"
I offer him a spot on Hortensia, but he declines. He wants to stay – needs to stay – with Katniss and Peeta. They're the only family he has left. I suggest they all come with us, but he shoots that down as well. "They need stability," he explains. "Solid ground, a sturdy home, a place to call their own. Not floating off with some pretty boy, likely to end up sailing straight into a hurricane and getting torn to pieces."
I then suggest that he let me speak to Katniss and Peeta, tell them that I'm alive, but Plutarch, who's in the room with me, snatches the phone away. "Do no such thing," he barks into the phone at Haymitch. Then he turns to me. "I've been in close contact with Katniss' therapist," he says. "She's on the road to recovery, she doesn't need a shock like this."
"A happy shock can only help her," I counter.
"Dr. Aurelius vetoed it," Plutarch says with finality. "She has enough trouble trusting the government as it is, how do you think she would react if she found out we'd lied about your death? Besides, the girl can't keep a secret to save her life. She'll find out with the rest of Panem in a few decades. Once we've milked your heroic death for all its worth. Then we can reveal you as the great ambassador of our nation, and you can go down in the history books for a reason that doesn't involve killing people."
I feel a pair of arms wrap around my waist from behind. Looking over my shoulder, I see Annie gazing up at me, a small smile tugging at her lips. Out here, on the open water, it's like she never went into those Hunger Games. Every breath of salty air is soothing for her, every night we spend lying on deck, gazing up at the stars, like a dosage of morphling shot straight into the heart. Behind us, the sounds of men fiddling with the rigging, tightening ropes, swabbing the deck, fill our ears.
"Blake and Mara are playing in the nursery," Annie says softly, moving around me to the front so that she can look at the sea with me. Her arms around me are replaced by mine around her. "I can't believe they're almost a year old. It feels like forever. But at the same time, like no time has passed at all. You know?"
"I know," I agree. Then I squeeze her teasingly. "Ready for a second one? I'm thinking Mags for a girl, maybe name a boy after your father. What do you think?"
Annie scowls up at me. "You try having a baby, see how it feels."
I laugh loudly. "So maybe wait a little longer?"
"I should say so." Annie returns her gaze to the sea, and then suddenly lunges forward, shooting her arm out, pointing to something on the horizon. "There, Finnick! Did you see?"
"See what?" I say, squinting as I try to pick out whatever's gotten her so excited. "Land? We're following the coast, angel, that's not exactly a surprise."
"Not the land," Annie says. "What was on the land. I thought I saw a glint of something, like metal or gold!"
It takes me a few seconds to understand the implications of this. Then I'm running towards the crow's nest, shimmying up the rope ladder, climbing up into the basket at the top. I seize the telescope and aim it toward where Annie had pointed. And then I see them. Domes. Golden, glittering domes, nestled amidst a cluster of stone buildings. We aren't alone after all.
Everyone joins us on deck, even the children. I hoist Blake up in my arms to give him a better view as we approach the coastal city. He looks just like me - bronze hair, sea-green eyes - although there's a gentleness to his features that is all Annie. The city isn't large – maybe a few hundred buildings – and none of them are over three stories in height. A glance at the tiny fishing boats swarming around the dock tells me that this society isn't nearly as advanced as our own. Still, it's more than we could have ever hoped for.
As we float nearer, and the small city looms up above us, we start to hear gasps and shouts from its denizens. Almost all of them have tanned skin and thick black hair, quite different from the panorama of colors we have back in Panem. When we get even closer, we can make out their words, although the language is nothing like I've ever heard. A few words sound like they could almost be the Panem language, but the accent is so thick that it's impossible to tell.
Fishing boats clear out of our way as we approach, leaving us the entire dock for ourselves. By the waterfront, donkeys clip clop along pulling rickety wooden carts. The air smells of exotic fruits and freshly-caught fish. When we get close enough, my sailors jump down onto the pier, securing Hortensia to the sturdy wooden boardwalk with massive coils of rope.
We've brought along all manner of weaponry, of course, should the people we meet prove to be hostile. But the shouts we hear are friendly, the smiles genuine, and when we lower the plank and I step down onto the deck, a man in lavish clothes and opulent jewelry, who I assume must be their leader, approaches.
His words are indecipherable, but the sentiment behind them is easy for me to understand. Who are you? Where are you from?
"My name is Finnick Odair," I tell him. "I am from Panem, a country to the north."
The chief clearly has no idea what I'm saying, but one of the men with him, a wizened old man in long robes, claps his hands together in comprehension. He says something to the chief, and then steps forward.
"I am Julio, helper of King," he says. The accent is thick, but I can understand him. "Welcome to our city."
"I am Finnick Odair," I repeat. "How is it that you speak our language?"
The old man pulls out a thin tome from his draped sleeve. It says, "A Tale of Two Cities". "Many more like this in library," he says, gesturing towards one of the domed buildings. "We thought old language, dead. But no more."
We are escorted up to the King's personal residence, a glittering palace topped with the largest gilded dome in the city. I take three men with me, leaving the others to guard the women and children back on the ship. I don't anticipate any attacks, but I didn't get this far by being careless.
Inside a massive chamber, we sit on patterned cushions and enjoy a feast that would put the Capitol to shame – slow-roasted lamb in tangy spices, platters of fruits I don't recognize, the sweetest hot chocolate you can imagine, everything mouth-wateringly delicious.
After the meal, I explain to the King's adviser – the one who speaks my language – that I need to contact my own leader and let him know that I arrived safely. I pull out the small data pad that Plutarch gave me to contact him by, and the high-tech object sends the King and his advisers into a flurry of astonished shouts. I get the King's adviser to say a few words of his language into the recorder, to corroborate my story, then give Plutarch a brief summary of the trip and send off the audio file.
I receive Plutarch's response maybe an hour later, halfway through a dessert comprised entirely of chocolate in every consistency, flavor, and shape imaginable. It isn't an audio file like the one I sent, but full video. The King is so taken aback by the moving pictures that he nearly falls off his cushion.
When Plutarch speaks, though, it is in a stunted version of the language my hosts use. It seems that, just as they have ancient books in our language that they've studied, so too do we have books in theirs. I don't know what Plutarch says, but the King looks absolutely delighted. I find out later that Plutarch has named me the official ambassador of Panem, and that he will send boats filled with goods and technology south within the month, to help establish positive relations between our respective nations. If someone had told me ten years ago that I was going to be Panem's first ambassador, I probably would have punched him for having a go at me.
We are set up in a palatial house that is nearly as magnificent as the King's own dwelling. There are dozens of rooms in the place, more than enough for the crew of Hortensia, as well as whoever else Plutarch sends to join us. The King stops by often with his adviser, eager to learn about my strange land, language, and customs, and he brings along his children. His Highness and I become fast friends, despite the language barrier, and his older daughters grow as close as sisters with Annie and Natare.
I'm standing with Annie on our private balcony, looking out over our exotic yet welcoming new home, when the first of Plutarch's ships appears on the horizon. It isn't a sailboat like Hortensia, but a proper cruiser, with a metal hull and seven decks. The name on the side reads, "Mockingjay". I wonder if Katniss knows. Somehow, I doubt it.
I look at Annie, my beautiful wife. She has adopted the local dress over the last few months, a long, fringed tunic of bright colors and geometric patterns that is cinched tightly at the waist with a wide, gold-thread belt. At her urging, I've started wearing the male equivalent – a skirt of sorts, with the same wide belt and eye-catching fabric. It isn't long enough to hide my gleaming metal foot, but that's fine, as all the people here are fascinated by my prosthetic limb.
"So," I say, putting my hand on Annie's waist and pulling her close. "What do you think? Is this the place where we settle down and grow old together?"
I hear bubbling laughter, and look down. Below our balcony, Blake and Mara splash around in a beautiful marble fountain in the center of a lush garden. The King's youngest grandchildren play with them, and their giggling brings a smile to my face. I've never known true peace, true contentment, until I came to this land, and it continues to astonish me every day.
Annie gazes up at me, and her sea-green eyes meet my own. "What I want," she says, "is to be with you forever."
I gather her up in my arms and kiss her until we're both seeing stars. "Forever, my love," I promise. "Forever."
A/N: Unbelievably enough, we have finally come to the end of Life Through Sea Green Eyes. I just wanted to thank everyone who reviewed, and in particular I wanted to thank those kind souls who made a point of reviewing every (or nearly every!) chapter that I posted. I won't name names, because I'm afraid I'll miss someone, but I imagine that if you're reading this epilogue, you probably know who you are! I know who you are too, and I appreciate every review you've given, every bit of support and optimism you've sent my way.
Every time I open my inbox in the morning and find such glowing praise of my work, it boosts up my self-confidence and makes the coming day look a heck of a lot more promising. I wrote the second half of this while living in South Korea, and though I've fallen in love with the place, let me tell you that there are some days where the whole being-halfway-across-the-world thing can get tough. Writing Life Through Sea Green Eyes was both a way for me to give Finnick the fate he always deserved, as well as an escape from when life got a little too crazy. And your reviews and kind words were an integral part.
If you've read the story and never had the chance to review, I urge you to drop me a line now. It may be the last chapter, but I'd still love to know what you thought of the story.
A note on story itself. I'm sure that most people reading this were partially drawn to the fic because they hated what happened to Finnick in Mockingjay. If you'll notice, throughout this story I've made a point of conforming precisely to what happened in the books. This was done for a very specific reason. In my mind, Finnick survives. Obviously I know that Suzanne Collins intended him to die, but I like to think she was just playing a joke on us, and that she secretly knows that Finnick is really alive. His death in the book is vague, and I choose to believe that the events of this fic are what really happened – that his association with a genius weapons developer, his determination to return to his wife, and his love of life in general led him to survive. Call me a dreamer, or accuse me of missing the point of the books entirely, but I can't stand it when my favorite characters miss out on their happy endings.
Also, if you enjoyed the story and are interested in seeing what else I've written, check out my author page. I've recently entered the scary world of self-publishing, and while my original fiction sadly doesn't feature Finnick, I think you'll get a kick out of it all the same :)
So to conclude, thank you so much for sticking this thing through with me! I will miss hearing from you every-ish day, although, let's be honest, I will probably delve into the Hunger Games world again at some point in the future. It's just too brilliant a masterpiece not to. So thanks for everything, and may the odds be ever in your favor!