Annie loves pretty things.
This is something Finnick noticed in the training center before her games when he was her mentor. She had a small collection in her pocket of pearls dug out of the oysters from District 4 (she kept these especially hidden because, back in four, anyone caught stealing sea-treasures would be whipped). She also kept a magnificently purple piece of sea glass in that pocket. And other odd things; a shiny barrette that had belonged to her grandmother, a smooth seashell.
For her games, he had pressed the stylists to let her wear the shiny barrette in her hair as her token. It didn't take much convincing; the stylist was one of Finnick's satisfied customers.
But Annie took it out of hair at the last minute and clutched it tightly in her hand. Finnick held her by the shoulders and told her to keep it in her hair. She should keep her hands free (to collect with, to kill with, but Finnick knew from the moment she had been reaped that Annie Cresta would do no killing that year).
"Hold on to it for me," she said, pressing the shiny emerald encrusted clip into his palm. He looked down at the pretty thing and then Annie stepped slowly onto her platform, waiting to ascend into her death.
He meant to give it back to her before the platform rose, but somehow he was holding it all through Annie's games; turning it around in his hands as he watched the other victors die; almost breaking it in two when he saw the head of the boy roll to Annie's feet. He set the barrette down as he watched his tribute go mad.
The cameras had abandoned her because she spent almost all day mumbling to herself, unmoving from a hiding spot in between two rocks. Finnick spent the days watching the screen for any sign of her. Fucking sponsor after sponsor. He was able to routinely send food and water, which she sometimes nibbled at, but as though eating was a brand new concept.
When the flood came and he watched Annie swim and swim, he pressed Annie's barrette against his lips. If she died, he wouldn't be able to keep it. He'd have to drop it into the middle of the ocean.
But Annie didn't die. She came back, spluttering, wide eyed, screaming on the floor of the hovercraft. She was like newborn that had been ripped from the womb. Annie's mother had died in childbirth. He knew this because gossip always frequented around the women of District 4. They talked of how that young Cresta girl died trying to give birth, and how the midwife had to cut the bastard daughter out of her. Finnick wondered if Annie had looked this tortured when she was born. If she had known, somehow, that she came from a dead body. She looked like that on the floor of the hovercraft- like she'd been living inside death.
They took her away to fix her body.
Cancelled the interviews.
Called it an "unsuccessful games".
And because Annie had won by no fault of her own, and because the flood had been an error in the game maker's design, they killed Annie's grandmother and sent her to live with Mags.
They didn't fix her brain.
Finnick visited his tribute (victor) as much as he could. Sleeping in his old boat that was still docked in the same place he'd left it. Often times, he slept on Annie's couch because Mags insisted it was too late to go home. Annie seemed to enjoy his company…or at least, she'd grown used to it. She didn't seem to know (or want to acknowledge) that he'd been her mentor in the games. She treated him like her friend, like who he had been before his games, when he was just one of the Odair boys. She was mad and beautiful and Finnick wanted to protect her.
She sometimes wouldn't emerge from her strange hiding spots. She sometimes talked about her grandmother as if she was alive, just at the docks. She sometimes helped Mags bake seaweed bread. She sometimes cried for days. She sometimes talked to Finnick about things, and they would walk and look for seashells and sea glase. Those were good days. She no longer swam, though, and he could imagine why.
Finnick couldn't go more than a few weeks without seeing her. He was afraid that their friendship was tenuous, that she would forget him if he stayed away too long.
While in District 4, he pretended that he was young again. He pretended that he was just a fisherman's son who had never set one of his bare feet in the Capitol.
He couldn't pretend there was no eye in the sky.
President Snow knew why he made such frequent visits to his district. He'd seen how Annie had become more than just Finnick's tribute, somewhere along the line. He even pulled him into his office one night during a long stretch of Capitol visits, babbling about "young love".
"I hope, Mr. Odair, that you still have enough of that love to spread around," he said before dismissing Finnick.
Finnick reached into his pocket and held the shiny barrette that he kept there. "Of course."
Finnick was called away to the Capitol more and more.
Snow was torturing him with the longest weeks, the most demanding patrons. It was dangerous not to submit. Annie was in danger, but Finnick had faith that keeping up his end of the bargain would keep her safe. And it did. Annie stayed alive, there was no "boating accident" or drowning. She was always there when Finnick came back. On the beach, collecting sea glass.
One day, Annie asked him why he ran away to the Capitol so often. He told her he had work to do.
Then she took off her clothes, begged him to stay in the District with her. She wasn't a girl any more, but she looked so small and childish, shivering as the sea breeze came in through the window of her bedroom. Crying, he tried to wrap the sheets off the bed around her shoulders, but she just pushed them away. He fumbled out some sort of explanation, blubbering about protecting her. He let her kiss him, but he made her put her clothes on.
A few years of drifting back and forth had become a routine. And Annie had gotten better, but not quite. She no longer hid, but she covered her ears whenever she needed that hiding place. Finnick loved her, but couldn't love her. It was all sadness sometimes, like when Finnick came back from the Capitol with bruises from rough patrons and Annie cried herself to sleep. She liked to pet the sores, wish them away. Other times it was lovely and almost perfect. Like when Annie went swimming for the first time since her games and emerged from the water, smiling and glistening. Finnick decided that he needed to marry her. Though, of course, he couldn't. The marriage license wouldn't even be filed. Snow would kill them both. He'd kill any of their future children. For now they just had to keep up appearances. He was a whore, she was a madwoman.
He started listening to the the drunks at the local District 4 pub who complained about the state of things. The angry women whose children had died in The Games. He thought constantly about assassinating Snow. Spilling out all of the dirty, Capitol secrets to the whole of Panem.
All anyone wanted was a better world. A better life. All he wanted was Annie, and his body to be his own.
It was almost too convenient that Finnick would end up sitting next to Haymitch Abernathy in a deserted Capitol bar one night. It was the 74th Hunger Games and Finnick's tributes were dead. The television set behind the bar was showing the two District 12 tributes kissing and lying close together in a sleeping bag. Haymitch was quiet and angry. Finnick knew him because he was the only living victor from 12. The only mentor.
"Those your kids?" he asked Haymitch, pointing to the lovers. He thought of Annie.
"Still alive," he remarked.
Finnick watched the two carefully. "They in love or something?"
Haymitch glanced toward the television and took another swig of his drink. "Head over heels."
It was too much for Finnick. He watched the lovers on the screen and knew that they would both end up where he was or worse. They'd take this little romance and blow it out of proportion, flaunt it around like it was a piece of fashion and then exhaust the two lovers in some kind of horrible way.
He figured a drunk, angry bastard like Haymitch wouldn't care if Finnick was just as bitter. He nearly smashed his glass against the wall, but instead let out a dangerous stream of anti-Capitol rage in a low voice. He kept looking to see what the drunk would say, but Haymitch Abernathy stared blankly at him, blinking as Finnick broke down. When Finnick was quiet, Haymitch leaned in closely.
"Can I let you in on little secret?"
Finnick didn't tell Annie about the revolution. He only told her that he was going to try to make everything better. It was the night before the Quarter Quell reaping and he told Annie, who was nervous, that they could get married. They could have kids. He spilled out fantasies of a future world, a happier life and Annie just closed her eyes and listened. The reverie was soothing, it nearly lulled them both to sleep, but they stayed up and he kissed her and kissed her and kissed her until his lips ached. The next day, his name would be reaped and it almost killed him, knowing what danger was ahead. Knowing that he might not see Annie again.
He shut off those thoughts, reaching into his pocket to hold onto the emerald barrette that he still had. He remembered how Annie had given him her token, as if it was a small promise that she'd come back for it.
"Here," he said, pulling it from his pocket.
Annie didn't seem to recognize it yet. She turned the barrette over in her hands, smiling wide as if she'd just found a particularly bright colored sea glass.
"Pretty," she said.