Author's Note: No, I haven't died. Might've dropped off the face of the earth for a bit, but what can I say? It's been a crazy year, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a not-so-good way. I have neither the time nor the attention span to work on a very long fic right now (mostly as I'm trying to increase the size of my portfolio and partly because of school and family, although with summer vacation around the corner the former will not be a problem for much longer), and as such have only drabbles planned for the time being. When I feel I'm in an emotionally and all-around stable place, I'll try continue working on my other fics. But for the moment, please relish in my latest obsession: The Hunger Games.
I won't bore you with a breakdown of my life thus far, but I wanted to take a quick moment to thank everyone who has messaged me expressing an interest in both my stories and my personal life, encouraging me to take time for myself while reassuring me that I'd still have an audience and friends on FF when I returned. So thank you, to old friends and long-time followers and even the new ones, for you're the reason I keep on coming back. You guys make me smile.
Annie slapped her hands over her ears when they told her.
At first, nobody did. There had been a period of a few days when they discussed what to do behind whispered hands, casting fretful, anxious glances in Annie's direction as she wandered through the halls, her face alight with the happy glow from her recent wedding and conception. She would smile in the middle of meals, and then express her wishes for her Finnick to return to her. Annie never seemed to notice the alarmed expressions that were exchanged when she looked back down at her meal. Nobody knew quite how to tell her, but eventually someone did, and the entirety of District 13 knew the moment it happened, for they could hear her scream to drown out their story.
Because that's all it was, wasn't it? A story. Another fabrication, another lie told by the Capitol. Finnick wasn't really dead, was never really going to die. They had told her he was dying before, when she lay tied to a bed – a torture chamber dressed in white – and they had been wrong. So they could be wrong again! She turned away from them, refusing to remove her hands from her ears even when her screaming had stopped. She waited for Finnick to rush to her side, to soothe her with calming words, to make her forget about drowning out the unhappy thoughts because she was too busy listening to his beautiful voice.
She waited, and she waited.
It was Haymitch who found her, stubbornly sitting on the bed in the room she shared with Finnick in District 13. They were trying to talk her into returning to District 4 now that it was safe, but she wouldn't; she insisted to anyone who would listen (and not many were left) that she had to wait for Finnick before going home, lest he think she'd abandoned him or given up. And she hadn't given up. She jumped when Haymitch knocked and let himself in, and she stared at him for a long time with wide, deep green eyes before relaxing. Only then did he proceed further into the room, looking at her with something like friendship tinged with pity. Or rather, not "like"; that's exactly what it was. He'd seen the death of too much romance, of too many hearts, at the hands of the Capitol. He didn't want Annie's heart to be amongst the shattered, but for all the Capitol had achieved in the ways of erasing physical flaws from a body, they had yet to figure out a way to reverse the damage dealt by death.
"You're looking peaky," he observed gruffly, unsure of what else to say. "You eating your fair share?"
She nodded. They stayed like that for some time, with Haymitch standing with his hands in his pockets in the middle of her room, watching Annie fiddle with the blanket spread over her bed with long, delicate fingers that had loved the feeling of Finnick's hair as she combed her fingers through the bronze waves. They'd never do that again. Haymitch grimaced. How on earth could they make her understand that?
"I bet you miss the sea. Salty air, lots of sunshine. Can't feel right, being cooped up underground after growing up in a place like that."
She shrugged. "The Capitol was above ground, and it was hell. It doesn't matter where I am, as long as Finnick's here." She looked up at him then, as if realizing he was still there just in that moment. "When will he be here? Everyone else got back a long time ago."
Her tone was reproachful, like he forgot to bring Finnick with him. He was only here to collect a few things, and see Annie. He felt like he'd owed it to Finnick, who'd put himself on the line to perform the favors Haymitch had asked of him. In a roundabout way, he felt at fault for Annie's impatience and misery. He was the one who got Finnick more deeply involved in the rebellion; it was he who asked Finnick to protect Katniss during the Games. And now Finnick was dead. It wasn't his entire fault, of course, but… when he was standing in front of Annie, the argument in his own favor seemed weak and inadequate. But this wasn't the time for laying blame, and whose fault it was didn't matter anyway. Maybe there was a fair share of that to be spread around. All that mattered now was getting Annie home. She had friends there, surely. Maybe some family left, however distant. Someone to look after her now that Finnick was gone.
"No, Annie," Haymitch sighed. It was an impatient sigh, but one signifying his reluctance to persue the subject. But he had to, because everyone else had given up on Annie, and he couldn't just leave her here, waiting… forever. She had to get on with her life, somehow. He'd already watched Katniss, their girl on fire, slip into a depression-spawned madness that had grown severe in recent weeks. He wouldn't allow the same thing to happen to Annie, not when she had a kid to raise coming on the way.
"No?" She frowned and blinked, looking at him with the confusion of a child suddenly finding herself lost when she thought she'd been found.
"He… he's not coming back, Annie. You've worked that out by now, haven't you?"
Her lips tightened into a thin line, and her eyes harden in a way that Annie's so rarely did. "You're lying. He's coming. He's coming really soon. I just have to wait here till he does, then we can go home together," she insisted. "He will."
"Right," Haymitch said, gnawing on his cheek. "Just have to wait…"
Annie's face beamed, proud that someone finally understood and appeared to have converted to her side of the argument until Haymitch added, "But Annie, think about it: when has Finnick ever kept you waiting before?"
Her jaw slackened, and she didn't realize that she was staring at Haymitch with her mouth agape. He shrugged when she didn't reply and turned away, leaving the way he had come. "Think about it, sweetheart. Just… think about it." He could think of nothing else to say, and so he didn't. He just left, shutting the door behind him and locking Annie inside with the words he left bouncing around the walls of her brain and causing such a terrible racket that she whimpered and clamped her hands over her ears again.
Because he was right: Finnick never kept her waiting, not unless something really bad was keeping him away… It was the Capitol, always the Capitol's fault. How she hated them, all of them, the whole damned lot of them! She sank into a ball on the bed, her anger draining her energy until she felt tired and empty and cold. But there was no Finnick to keep her warm, to fill her up with love and comfort and friendship extended to her by few else since the 70th Hunger Games took her grip on reality away from her. There was nothing inside her but a child, Finnick's child, whom he would never see… but who would love her, whom she would love. She wouldn't be alone again, not forever. She wrapped her arms around her abdomen and sobbed, and when no one came she sobbed louder as the realization crashed down around her like the largest waves of the stormy season.
Finnick never kept her waiting. He had survived the Games, those terrible Games, just to die moments away from freedom…from fatherhood… from living a life with Annie, forever till death do they part. But he was dead. Finnick was dead. And she might go on with her life, returning to District 4 and raising and loving her son, but she would never be able to stop waiting for the moment when she could see Finnick again.