A/N: I'd call this AU, but I don't accept Mockingjay. In the words of Suzanne Collins, Not real! Thanks to Medea Smyke for reading this and spurring me on. Enjoy.
Word to the Wise: This is slightly risqué. Not graphic, but, well, they are young and in love and married. Make your own conclusions.
The heavy material of my bedroom curtains abrades my fingers as I push them back and peer outside. It's gray, even for an afternoon in District Four. A white, wooden fence separates my backyard from the shore, and I search the rocky terrain. Down below I can just make out the brown, black, and white mottled clump of feathers carefully picking its way on stilt-like legs along the pebbled beach as she scavenges for food. For the last month, she and her mate have taken up residence in our backyard. Finnick swears this same set of birds -christened Bobbin and Weave for their air and land acrobatics—has visited him yearly since he moved into his Victor's house. As proof, he showed me their nest, hidden in the vegetation skirting our fence.
It wouldn't surprise me if he were right. Every spring the dunlins return to breed along our shores, though for the past few years I've missed them. There were no birds in the Underground, and when we were finally able to resurface, it was to different climes. Different birds.
The brisk winds that have descended on District Four in the last week buffet the poor bird, and she gives up on feeding and darts back to her nest, where her mate sits, incubating their eggs. I pull up the collar of my thin shirt up and dab at my eyes. I don't know why this sight makes me weepy. I guess I'm just glad to be back home.
After the Capitol fell, there were still skirmishes in the individual districts between the rebels and Capitol hold outs. Finnick would not entertain the thought of us moving anywhere remotely dangerous, so we relocated to District 13's above-ground settlement. Nestled in the woods and mountains of East Panem, the small town was a lovely alternative to the sterile air and winding white corridors of the bunkers we had inhabited for nearly two years. But all our attempts to make a home there were useless. Finnick and I were raised in gray skies and barren shores, salty winds and churning waves. The instant District Four was declared safe, we returned.
During those three years of absence, our Victor houses remained unoccupied, so we moved into Finnick's old house, letting my parents stay in mine. The house next to us, Mags's, remains empty.
Situated on a bay, the Victor's Village affords some of the most breathtaking views in Panem. On a clear day, you can see the water and mountains for miles from this very window. At times, the water so perfectly mirrors the towering earth, it is impossible to tell where the land ends and the sea begins. A beautiful, but disorienting sight. To the north, the land curves inward, an arm of rock that is alternately shaded white or green according to the seasons. To the west, an endless expanse of ocean. I can't see it from my window, but further down the southerly coast lay the docks. Where Finnick would normally be.
Since our return, he's taken up with a group of older men who spend their days in the shallows, digging for clams. The quiet life, as he calls it. But not today. A dense fog descended last night, blanketing Four in a cloud of vapor so thick I could barely see my hand in front of my face. While this ruined the prospect of Finnick's latest hobby, it paved the way for what will most likely be his newest obsession. Gorton, one of Finnick's clammer friends, used to work in the lighthouse nestled in the rock of the mountains. As soon as Finnick discovered this, he extracted a promise that should the weather turn foul, Gorton would show him how to operate the lighthouse. Something Finnick's been dying to do since he was a boy. So at five this morning, I bundled him up and sent him on his way. I haven't slept since, though it feels like it's been days instead of eight hours.
Resting my forehead against the chilled window pane, I close my eyes and listen to the even sounds of my breathing. The silence wraps around me, and my shoulders gradually fall down from around my ears as the tension drains out of me. Opening my eyes, I watch as the condensation formed by my breaths fades, taking with it some irregular markings. It's too high for the fingerprint smudges I normally clean from these windows. Carefully holding myself from the glass, I breathe onto the larger area to reveal more of the mysterious markings.
Finnick + Annie
He must have written it this morning while I was still asleep. My eyes turn toward the mountains, trying to spot the lighthouse. When I can't find it, I settle on inscribing my own addition: a heart to surround our names.
The picture of Finnick frosting the window and drawing his message warms me inside, but does little for my toes and fingers. Until now, my day has been one of ceaseless activity, which explains why I haven't felt cold in my t-shirt and pants. But now that I'm not doing anything, a chill settles in my bones. Especially as the quiet whir of the heater dies and the light from my lamp extinguishes. Another power outage. It's nothing new, a relic of the Dark Days of Capitol rule that didn't disappear and isn't likely to go away anytime soon. The outages can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. They're tiresome, but I've learned to adapt.
Pulling my arms into the sleeves of my shirt, I ball the ends of the sleeves over my hands and rush through the gray-lit room over to our closet. My grimey clothes come off, and my teeth chatter as the cold air prickles my skin. After I remove my pants, I hurriedly dig through the dresser drawers and grab a particularly bland pair of thermal underwear. Ugly, but warm. After I'm covered in the oatmeal-colored long johns, I take a deep breath and dart towards our bed, running on the balls of my feet and jumping into bed.
I bring my feet together and rub them for warmth, but they might as well be two blocks of ice. I should have grabbed some socks. Gathering all the pillows and blankets, I curl into a tiny ball right in the middle of the bed and bury myself, head to toes, under the layers of insulation. My own island of warmth in a sea of frigid air and heat-sapping floors.
Just as I'm about to doze off for my own afternoon nap, the front door slams below. Finnick. My body tenses as I wait for another eruption of noise, but the seconds pass and nothing happens. I sigh at the reprieve, but too soon. The door reopens. He's most likely forgotten to take off his boots outside. Usually he's good about that. He must be distracted.
After a second loud banging of the door, he bellows, "I'm home," at the foot of the stairs, and then tramps up the lot of them. Each groan of the floorboards makes me cringe. By now he must see the closed doors, because his tread quiets. A few minutes later, our door opens with a creak. "Annie, you would not believe-"
The words stop as quickly as they came. I try to guess the reason for this, but I'm so tired, I don't come up with much.
"Annie, where are you?" A finger gently pokes at the pile of blankets, right into my thigh, then my back, and finally my shoulder. "Is that you?" he says around a laugh.
When I don't answer, the blankets are peeled away, and his fingers tickle the bottom of my foot. "Brrrr. Your feet are subarctic," he says as he proceeds to rub them. With great effort, my eyes open and through the haze of blurriness I watch my husband. His hair lies flat atop his head, probably from the cap he was wearing. In the back, a shock of bronze stands up straight. The wind left his cheeks ruddy, and his time in the lighthouse made his eyes bright like sea glass. The corners of my mouth lift in a faint smile as I snuggle deep into the comforter.
"Hi, Annie," he says softly.
"Hi," I murmur and close my eyes.
There's some rummaging around the room. The opening of drawers. The faucet turning on and off. Finnick brushing his teeth. As I debate whether I want to leave my cocoon and ask him to bring me socks, Finnick grabs the edges of the blankets and shakes them high in the air, slipping in as they fall back down on us. My eyes crack open a smidge. He's clad in only a pair of pajama pants, slung low on his hips.
Two powerful arms wrap around me from behind. "Power out again?" The low rumble of his chest reverberates against my back as he continues speaking. "I turned on the portable heating unit in the other room, but it wasn't even cold in there. Do you want me to move it in here for a bit?" he asks.
I shake my head and turn into the warmth of his body. The smell of salt and sea breezes tickle my nose. "That's'ok. How was the lighthouse?" I mumble, as I move closer.
"Illuminating," he chuckles. "No, I really liked it, and you would too. They made me an honorary lighthouse keeper and even gave me a key to the place," he says with unmistakable pride. "We can go anytime we want."
"That's great." I keep my sentences short, because my teeth would chatter otherwise. But stifling it just sends the shivers down my body instead.
"You're really cold, aren't you?" Finnick says sympathetically.
His fingers brush my hair over my shoulder, and his nose presses into my neck. "I can help with that."
"That's alright, Finnick," I say, patting his chest with the flat of my hand. "I'll be fine. Just need to lie here and sleep."
"Aren't you worried about catching a cold? Or hypothermia?" His hand rubs up and down my outer thigh, fisting the dimpled fabric of my pants, then smoothing it out repeatedly. "As your husband, I'm required to do something about this. It's in the vows."
"Where?" I ask through a yawn.
"Oh, you know...somewhere in that part about holding and having." The mattress shifts as he raises himself on his side, and I lose my human pillow. My brows draw down in a glare, and that is the first place his lips ghost over. The small, warm kisses are next applied to my forehead, nose, and temple. His mouth finally comes to rest at the spot just behind my ear.
"Sleepy," I murmur, but I turn my head away, granting easier access to his searching lips.
Eyes half shut, I watch as his hands continue to rub my long john-covered legs under the blanket. The movements are unseen but with devastating effect, like the tiny creatures that live in the sand and cause it to shift and buckle every time the water pulls away from the shore. "Nice outfit," he grins. "Where did you get it?"
My nose wrinkles as I remember my drab thermals. And the messy hair and the fact that I haven't showered today. "Finnick, stop. I'm tired and gross," I complain and try to draw away. My fists push feebly at his chest.
"But you look beautiful," he counters.
"You can't even see me. " My index finger pokes at the underside of the blanket, tenting the covering wherever I make my point. I'm about to say something else, but the words lodge in my throat when his hand drifts to my backside.
"My mistake. You feel beautiful."
It's so tacky, but instead of rolling my eyes, I giggle.
Contrary to popular belief, Finnick Odair is not irresistible. The Capitol would speak of his enchantments and seductions, but it was all bilge water. And as the only person who's actually experienced his undivided attention and devotion, I would know. I've withstood the onslaught of his charms numerous times. When I'm late for appointments. Cleaning the house. Making dinner. Or like now, when I'm dead tired and feel like something the sea spat up on shore. No, it's not impossible to deny him, but as I stare up at his gorgeous face I wonder why I'd want to.
The desire to sleep has been replaced. Even my feelings of grossness have disappeared. It's hard to feel unattractive when the handsomest man in Panem can't keep his hands off me. A lazy smile tugs at my lips, and I surrender to whatever else Finnick has in mind.
"Did you find my message?" he asks hopefully.
My eyebrows rise, feigning confusion. "What message?"
"The one on the window."
The firm line of his mouth puckers in disappointment, but bounces back into an even grander smile when he realizes I'm joking. His cat-like eyes gleam with triumph, and he pins me beneath him. "You little liar," he nearly purrs.
"I wasn't lying. Just asking for clarification."
His fingers dance along the bottom of my palms, which he's pressed into the mattress though I have no plans to leave anytime soon. Then his lips capture mine. The slow movements of his mouth steal my breath and when he draws away I feel dizzy.
"Alright, Miss Smartylongjohns, was that clear enough for you?"
My shoulders shrug. The movement is slightly impeded by his chest pressed against mine. "Maybe."
The glint in his eye makes my stomach flip, but I regret nothing. Just lift my chin and wait for him to exact his retribution.
His mouth lowers to the shell of my ear and rests there, unmoving. The action is familiar, habit after all our years together. How many times has Finnick pulled me back from the darkest recesses of my mind? How often have his words anchored me to reality, served as my lifeline in my most terrifying nightmares? Too many times to count.
But when he finally speaks, it's not with the usual quiet assurances. His messages are chosen carefully. They are not calming and soothing. Each one is meant to inflame and incite. They serve their intended purpose. Quite admirably.
His fingers release my wrists, and he waits a second to see what I'll do with my hands. This is it. My last chance to put an end to Finnick's overtures and take my nap. Instead of turning over and falling asleep, I bite my lower lip. His breathing quickens in understanding.
The blankets are no longer warm, but stifling, and the long johns cling uncomfortably to my skin. Thankfully, Finnick kicks the blankets to the floor as he moves down the bed. I lift my head slightly from the pillow, prop myself up on my elbows and watch his head disappear under my shirt.
"Finnick, did you make sure to—"
And then I can't remember what I was saying. I'm convinced it was important. My head falls back on the pillow with a gasp. I try to lift it, try to remember that very pressing matter I was just about to bring up, but quickly abandon the lost thought. Instead, I focus on his hair, which is peeping out of the collar of my shirt. The deep bronze makes the beige seem even more muted, but I don't have to put up with the lackluster sight of my pajamas for too long. Not when I can't keep my eyes open any longer.
There are teasing comments from Finnick about messages and lying and being cold, and I manage to offer some kind of answer. But as the minutes pass and my mind is overwhelmed by Finnick's mouth and hands, everything devolves into labored breathing and incoherent utterances.
So when I hear a tremulous "Mama?" and "Daddy?" I know it hasn't come from either of us. Which means we are no longer alone.
The words are like ice water down my back. I bolt upright, but the action is slow. My body is sluggish, lethargic under the weight and heat of my husband, who is suddenly still. Dreading but knowing what I'll see, I raise my eyes. Past Finnick's broad shoulders, down the length of his pajama-clad lower half and beyond the edge of our bed, just inside our door stands our three-year old son. Our beautiful, sweet, formerly innocent son. Wavy dark brown hair sticks to his forehead, just over contracted brows. His sleep-filled green eyes stare back at me, confused.
What do I say? How do I explain this?
True, we haven't removed any clothing, but Finnick is unmistakably under my shirt, the outline of his head clearly delineated by the clinging weave of the thermal underwear. I remove my hands from behind his head, and try not to wring them around his neck. This is why we lock the doors. Always!
As I try to gather my wits, I notice Finnick trembling. At first, I misunderstand. But then the rapid bursts of hot air over my skin bring everything into focus. He's laughing! My knee nudges Finnick's ribs. Hard. This is not funny! This is a nightmare.
"Finlee, is something wrong? Why aren't you still taking your nap?" I ask, pretending like his father's head under my shirt is the most natural thing in the world. My only comfort is that our boy's too young to know what this means. I hope.
"My room is hot," he says, rubbing his eyes just like his father does when he's sleepy.
The heater. Maybe I should have had Finnick move it into here. "Alright, go back to bed. Daddy or I will be there in just a second to turn off the heater."
I expect our son to return promptly to his room, though what follows makes much more sense.
"What's Daddy doing?" I look down at Finnick again and blush at the red marks along his back. The Hunger Games thoroughly sated any thirst I had for violence, but I can't help thinking Finnick deserves much worse than some light scratches on his skin. Does he expect me to carry this conversation on by myself? And does he ever plan to leave the confines of my shirt?
"Daddy's just playing Little Fishies with Mommy," Finnick answers, still silently shaking with laughter.
Little Fishies! This bears no resemblance whatsoever to the childhood game I play with Finlee's toes. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. What does come out of my mouth sounds more like a strangled cough.
"But that's not how you play it," Finlee informs us. Of course he wouldn't fall for that. He's a very bright young boy. His father's pride and joy.
"I know, sweetie," I say soothingly as I nudge his father in the ribs once more. Get out! Get out! Get out! The thought is so loud in my head, I'm surprised no one else can hear it. Especially the man for whom it is intended.
"Is Daddy being silly again?"
"Yes, dear. He's trying. Your dad thinks he's very funny."
"But what is daddy doing?"
Finnick finally emerges from under my thermals, hair at all angles and crackling with static. I reach over the side and quickly yank the sheets around me.
"I was just checking to see if your mommy is going to have another baby."
If Finlee didn't believe Little Fishies, I don't see how this stands a chance either.
Finlee frowns, chewing on his lip as he ponders Finnick's revelation. "But you just had 'Wora."
"That doesn't mean we can't have another baby. Don't you want another sister, Finlee?" Finnick's persuasive voice pitches just a tad lower as he lowers the boom. "Or maybe a brother?"
As expected, Finlee's eyes go wide as sand dollars. "I want a brother," he whispers excitedly. "Mommy, can I have a brother?"
"What do you think, Annie? Should we give him a brother?" Finnick asks.
We've had this discussion already. There will be more children. But I just gave birth to Aurora three months ago, and I'm still adjusting to having two kids. There are so many things to consider, so many things that need to get done. Feedings, changings, wakings at all hours of the night. And, as today horrendously proves, during afternoon naps. Fortunately, Finnick helps. He's wonderful, and eager to assist in any way he can. But being a parent to a baby and toddler is terribly exhausting.
"We'll just have to wait and see, Finlee." I shoot Finnick a look, but it makes no impression on him whatsoever.
"Daddy, I want to see," Finlee says as he ambles in his footie pajamas over to our bed.
"If mommy is having a baby."
I glance over at Finnick, who is watching me from the corner of his eye, beneath lowered lashes. His pearly teeth gleam against his golden skin, and smugness radiates off him in waves. "No, only daddy can see."
"Because it only works for daddies. All you would see is mommy's belly button."
"Oh." My sweet little boy nods, accepting the lies his father is feeding him with the simple faith of a child who adores his dad. "What do you see?"
"Well…" Finnick pauses, and I pull the covers over my mouth so Finlee can't see me laughing. Serves Finnick right. I wait to see how he will worm his way out of this one.
Finnick clears his throat. "When mommy was having you, I saw a little boy with brown hair and green eyes, just like you. And he was strong and smart. He could swim for miles and hold his breath underwater for ages."
Finnick nods solemnly. "Really."
"And what did you see with 'Wora?"
"What do you think I saw?"
"A girl with red hair and gween eyes?"
"Yup." Finnick leans in close to his son and whispers. "And she had a mermaid tail too."
Finlee's mouth drops open. For the next year, he'll be watching Aurora's chubby legs, waiting for them to sprout scales.
"So is mommy having another baby?" Finlee asks.
Before I can respond, Finnick moves down again and sticks his head under my shirt. Before he comes back out, he presses two small kisses just below my bellybutton. One for Finlee. One for Aurora. "Nope. Not yet."
Finlee opens his mouth to ask another question, but stops when Finnick hops out of bed and picks him up by the ankles. "Time for your nap, little Finster."
They tramp out into the hallway to a chorus of Finlee's delighted shrieks, which are promptly answered by Aurora's wails. Perhaps I'll get my nap after all, because there is no way Finnick will be back any time soon. I sigh as I sink back into bed. Naturally, I'm not tired. And I'm hot.
When Finnick returns half an hour later, he's smiling like a shark. Insatiable.
"No! No more!" I laugh and chuck a pillow at his head. He ducks and catches the lofted cushion, then tosses it back on the bed.
"Shhh, Annie. We wouldn't want to wake the children, now would we?" he whispers. "Not after I spent so long putting them back to sleep."
Hmph. He didn't seem to care earlier.
Now that he has my full attention, he makes a big production of locking the door and jiggling the handle to make sure we won't have any more surprise visitors. Satisfied we are safe from intruders, he struts over to the foot of the bed.
"You are so bad," I say, and lightly dig my heel into his thigh. "I can't believe you said that to him."
"What's the harm? My parents told me stuff like that all the time."
My eyebrows lift in surprise. "Did you make a habit of walking in on your parents?"
He chuckles in remembrance. "Once, I found them struggling under the sheets, and they told me they were practicing how to escape fishing nets." He smiles at the sound of my laughter. "And look how well I turned out?"
"If anything, that's an argument against what you just told Finlee."
"What would you rather I've said? That daddy is making wild, passionate, outrageous love to mommy so he should come back in an hour?"
"Of course not!" I hiss, as he tickles the arch of my foot.
Finnick's taps his finger against his chin in consideration. "You're right. I'll need two hours at least. Now where were we?" Strong fingers wrap around my ankle, and I'm pulled down the bed towards him. "Ah yes, making the last fishie go weee all the way home."
I glance down at my forlorn thermals. They were never fancy to begin with, but now they look positively homely. The shirt gapes, stretched out by Finnick's big head. When I point this out, Finnick's solution is to remove the shirt entirely.
"Now where is that last fishie?" His fingers move to my bellybutton. "Is it in here?"
The fabric of the sheets rustles underneath as I shake my head. "You do realize that this is not-uhhn," my voice wavers as his hands run along the ridges of my ribs. Then higher. I try again. "This isn't how you play Little Fishies."
"Found it!" he says. My toes curl, my eyes roll back into my head, and there are stars. Lots of stars bursting behind my eyelids. "This is so wrong," I whimper.
"Not wrong, Annie. Just different. Besides, don't you like my version?"
"Yes, but now every time I play it with the kids, this is what I'll be thinking about."
"How is that a bad thing?
"It isn't," I concede. Though I might have to start wearing one of Aurora's bibs in case I start drooling on myself.
We don't get two hours. We don't even get one. Soon afterward, I hear the cries of my baby girl, muffled by the doors. Or maybe not. Perhaps I'm just hearing things. I press my ear against Finnick's heart, listen to its strong beat and hope that her wails were just a figment of my imagination. After another minute, it becomes evident they aren't.
I groan and push myself up, but am stopped by Finnick's hand on my back.
"I've got it." He gently pulls himself out from under me and tucks the covers under my chin. My hair is swept from my face, and I feel his lips press against my damp forehead. "Sweet dreams, Annie."
I sink back into the bed in relief. The door hasn't even closed before I'm fast asleep.
I dream of Finnick and fish.
The idea of the game of Little Fishies is Medea's. She introduced it in a fic we co-wrote called Peeta's Honeymoon Survival Kit.
The mention of mermaids comes from my other Finnick/Annie story, Mad with Hunger. Also, probably an explanation for why their first daughter is named Aurora.
Finnick's lighthouse friend is Gorton the Fisherman, purveyor of frozen fish sticks. His last name is most likely Van De Kamp.
I picked the dunlin birds because the breed in the place I imagine District Four to be. They also mate for life and return to the same nests every year. They also split the duties of incubating their eggs.
Thanks for reading.