This is a commission for Floracat. Thanks for being such a loyal reviewer of WLBAG!
There are several concepts, characters, and real life things that I use and/or mention in this chapter that I don't own. These include but are not limited to the Hunger Games, Finnick Odair, Annie Cresta, Five Hour Energy, Caesar Flickerman, Nike, and Mags.
Lyrics from the song "The Only Hope For Me Is You" are featured in this chapter. The song was written by lyricists Gerard Way, Frank Iero, Ray Toro, Mikey Way, and Bob Bryar, performed by My Chemical Romance, and produced by their record company, in using them in this chapter I am in no way claiming ownership or involvement in the writing, producing, and selling of this song.
A/N: Hey guys! No I'm not dead, I've just been terribly busy! I want to finish up these review commissions (I have at least started all of them), and then finish editing WLBAG, and then you'll get a new chapter. I'm hoping for March, but no promises. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this 4000+ word oneshot!
If you don't read my multi-chapter When Life Became A Game this is written assuming you're familiar with those characters, so you might want to read that first. If not, then here's a short character list:
Jayde: Annie's Stylist
Elesah: Annie's Escort
Lallie, Ira, Aliss: Annie's Prep Team
Korey: Finnick's district partner from his Games
IN THIS CHAPTER: STRONG adult language (older, more cynical Finnick then When Life Became A Game), moderate sexual references, moderate violence, moderate intense/frightening scenes
Where, where will you stand / When all the lights go out /Across these city streets
Where were you when / All of the embers fell /I still remember, there
Covered in ash / Covered in glass / Covered in all my friends, I still / Think of the bombs they built
If there's a place that I could be / Then I'd be another memory
Can I be the only hope for you? / Because you're the only hope for me
And if we can't find where we belong / We'll have to make it on our own
Face all the pain and take it on / Because the only hope for me is you alone
The Only Hope For Me Is You - My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
youtu. be/ cX8tVy4Xxyo
No copyright infringement intended
I stand at the end of the hallway pacing in a tight circle.
"Finnick, would you quit it?" Elesah snaps. "You're making me nervous."
"Join the club," I mutter before going right back to what I was doing.
"Finnick, chill," Jayde says before turning to Elesah. "You chill too. This is his first victor."
"It's my first too, and I'm not freaking out."
Both Jayde and I give her the you're a freaking idiot look, and she asks defensively, "What?"
"I'm pretty damn sure I was your first victor."
She turns beet red. "Shut up, Finnick."
I raise an eyebrow and return to pacing when I catch a glimpse of my victor turning the corner at the end of the hallway. As soon as she sees us she starts sprinting, and once she gets close enough she launches herself into my arms with absolutely no warning. I barely manage to shift my weight forward before she crashes into me. I twist slightly to wrap an arm around her; not that it's necessary with how tight that she's clinging to me. Her head ends up in between my neck and shoulder, and one tear becomes a steady stream that becomes sobs that wrack her body, and her breaths turn into gasps.
"Shh, shh, shh, Annie. You have two days here, both of which you can totally BS if you want, and then you're done. You'll never have to come back again."
Until the Victory Tour. And although I've known for days now that if she somehow won she'd never be able to mentor, I never cleared that with anyone else. I suck at this.
She bites her lip trying to hold in the sob rising in her chest, but fails, and it explodes with twice the vigor that it would've otherwise. I free one hand and rub her back, just letting her cry until she has no more tears left. When she reaches this point, I put her down and put both hands on her shoulders.
"Are you going to be okay?"
She quickly nods, and then looks back to the ground.
I turn to Jayde. "Do you want me or her first?"
"Annie. You're probably going to be stuck with just Lallie 'cause I can do base makeup on Annie without her, and she can do your hair and makeup. Wardrobe for you is already set, and you can dress yourself."
The three of us begin down the hallway and I ask Jayde, "Please tell me I'm in something semi-causal? It's hard to pull off a tux when you haven't slept in three days."
She raises an eyebrow. "You haven't slept in three days?"
"You have not slept in the last seventy-two hours at all?"
"Then how are you still up?"
"Energy shots, caffeinated drinks, energy wristbands, caffeine patches, and a high tolerance for running on no sleep."
She shakes her head. "You're insane, Finnick."
"Hey, it's not like I chose to be up for three days in a row. You do what it takes to get the job done."
"Yeah well, don't be up all night tonight, like I'm sure you will anyway."
I give her the you're forgetting something look and say, "It's not like I have a choice . . . duty calls."
She shakes her head again and turns on the lights to the studio. Lallie's waiting at the door.
"Oh, it's not as bad as she made it seem, thank the Lord. Although you kind of look like shit for you, but whatever."
"Hey, you be nice to Finnick!" Jayde yells from across the room. "He hasn't gotten any sleep in three days! Literally!"
She looks me up and down again. "In that case, you look great. Now come sit down because I actually have work to do for hair and makeup. This is upsetting, Finnick."
I roll my eyes but take a seat and she gets to work. Jayde and I reach a compromise yelling across the room, a dress shirt that is apparently the same color as Annie's dress and a black tie with jeans and work boots. I'm sure I'll be in a suit tonight, but I probably won't be in anything for that long.
"Finnick! Can you come here a second? We're in the cosmetics studio!"
I hop up and walk over to find Jayde with Annie, wardrobe, hair, and nails already finished. Annie Cresta is the sea. Jayde has worked the colors and movements of our home into her makeup, hair, clothes, even her skin.
"So?" she asks.
"It looks amazing."
She smiles. "Liquid or pencil eyeliner?"
"How the hell would I know?"
"Liquid's more dramatic, fierce, sexy, victor. Pencil would be more understated and natural. Calm."
"Liquid. And waterproof, the lights up there are ridiculously hot."
She applies it liberally, adds some eyeshadow, and steps back. "I like it. Thoughts?"
I nod. "Perfect."
"Do you mind showing her launch, I figured you'd want to do a debrief anyway and I have to go get ready."
"No problem. What time do they need me backstage?"
"Umm…they have to teach you the dead mic system, so probably twenty 'till, fifteen at the latest."
I look down at my phone. I have ten minutes. "Alright, let's go Annie."
I take her hand as she gets her balance in a pair of glass wedges almost identical to the ones Korey was wearing at our Pre-Games interviews. Korey. Not now.
She walks surprisingly well in them, and I quickly lead her to the pre-launch room.
"Here's the deal. Completely and totally neutral. Don't completely shut down, but…you're old enough to have seen mine right?"
She looks up and nods quickly before her eyes return to the floor.
"Yeah, like that. Minus the almost throwing up part."
She gives me a weird look but doesn't bother to ask. Maybe you couldn't tell that's what I was doing?
I sit down next to her and gently turn her head to face me.
"Annie, you can do this, okay? This really doesn't require interaction at all, just keep it flat. If you really can't keep it in, then shut down completely, just try to stay semi-aware of what's going on. Try to avoid biting your lip. The inside of your cheek or your tongue. With your lip you run the risk of biting through the thin part."
She nods again and tries to turn away, but I don't let her.
"I've gotta get backstage, but remember, you've already won. You don't actually have to do anything here. Okay?"
She nods and I stand up taking a look at my phone again. Ten minutes till. Shit, I stayed too long. I sprint upstairs and head to the main stage where a sound tech is waiting for me.
"Alright, I know this is your first victor but you're here a lot, have you ever used the dead mic broadcast system?"
"Nope. We're on in seven minutes, better start talking."
To her credit she ignores my comment. "Okay, these are your in-ears. Annie's mic, Caesar's mic, the digital announcer, all the dead mics, and the track from the video are broadcasted through here. Put them in now."
I do, and she continues.
"Good, thread the cord through the back of your shirt and clip it onto your belt loop, and then let me see your phone."
She furiously types out commands on the phone and then hands it back to me. "It's Bluetooth-ed to the mic and will serve as a control panel. Okay, to talk, tap and hold the speak button on your phone. When you're starting a conversation make sure you start by naming whoever you're directing the conversation too. Broadcasting team, sound tech, lighting tech, screen tech, the support team…Ceasar'll have in-ears too, but not Annie. Tributes don't need to hear everything that goes over that system. Or victors that is."
"Okay, for the control panel—"
"Finnick!" Jayde's panicked voice comes over my in-ears.
"I'm with sound tech getting my dead mic setup. I'll be there in, like, thirty seconds."
"Finnick, we're on in three minutes!"
"Thirty seconds is less than three minutes Jayde. See you soon."
The tech is on the system, so I figure she heard it and don't bother to explain.
"Once you're replying like that you don't need to, but just at the beginning, like how Jayde called for you. That was actually a perfect example. Okay, control panel. First the mute conversation button. That will mute that specific conversation in your in-ears. That's why it's so important to tag at the beginning, it makes it a new conversation so that the people who muted the conversation before yours will still hear you. Next you have track volume. You can raise, lower, or mute a specific person, the entire mic system, the video track, whatever. You can also point-to-point with one person, but don't unless you're saying something you have a problem with everyone else hearing, because most of the things you say will be relevant to everyone else. There's a support team only group if you want to exclude the techs, don't worry it doesn't offend us. You're set, and you're on in…two minutes and thirty seconds! Good luck."
I nod, thank her, and sprint off to our starting position backstage. Jayde looks relieved at first sight of me, but that quickly morphs into annoyance. "Finnick, I have half a mind to—"
"But you won't because you love me," I interrupt with a smirk.
For a second she looks like she's going to smack me, which would really bad for me, but very good for my image; but she just sighs and shakes her head at me.
"Hi support team, this is broadcast tech. The recaps will be played nationwide at a seven second delay starting in one minute. Remember, while you are on stage your mics are live to all the house speakers regardless of whether you have the speak button on or not. Once you get off and the recaps actually start they'll die."
Elesah hobbles over to me, looking like she's about to have an aneurysm and I can't help but wonder if she was this messed up at my recaps.
"Tie straight, t-shirt tucked it, real shirt out, good. Be obnoxious, you're obnoxious anyway, and this is your first victor in only five years."
"This is the broadcast team, we're going live in five, four, three, two." The lights, sound, and screen teams simultaneously fire their opening media. The digital announcer starts welcoming the audience, and over the mic system I hear, "Lallie, Ira, and Aliss, in that order need to start walking behind the screen in five, four, three, two." They depart, and seconds later they are announced and I can hear the crowds screams even though that's the one thing that's not in my in-ears. "Next Jayde in five, four, three, two." Jayde leaves and gets even more cheers. The broadcast team waits a moment before sending Elesah out. "And Finnick, five, four, three, two."
I join Elesah on the stage, working the crowd as always. The sound techs boost the master volume on the in-ears to compete with the crowd as the digital announcer presents Caesar Flickerman.
"Let's hear it one more time for the support team; Lallie Renshaw, Ira Aderson, Aliss Wallcraft, Jayde Papillon, Elesah Gage, and Finnick Odair!"
Cue more screaming, stomping, gushing, and fainting. Yes, fainting.
"Exit prep team in five, four, three, two."
With one last wave they return backstage to take the back way to the box where the support team sits.
"Exit Jayde and Elesah in five, four, three, two."
About twenty teenage girls in the front scream in unison, "Don't leave us, Finnick!"
"Don't worry, you'll see me plenty tonight," I say with a wink.
"Finnick, five, four, three, two."
I exit and head back to the box.
"Now presenting your victor of the Seventieth Hunger Games, Annieliese Isabel Cresta!"
The plate begins to rise from below the stage, spinning, which I haven't seen before, until Annie is standing on the stage looking even more gorgeous under the stage lighting.
The crowd cheers for her as she walks over to the victor's chair and takes a seat. Jayde looks alarmed at taps her speak button.
"Caesar. Ask yes or no questions."
He doesn't respond seeing as the screens have him on a close up right now, but he must've heard because he asks all yes or no questions, and Annie gets by without speaking at all, just nodding or shaking her head.
"And, let's start!"
Here goes nothing.
"Shut the fuck up and leave her alone," shouts Hayden, Annie's ally and district partner. Who's about to get his head cut of in about a minute and a half. The broadcast team puts Annie on screen and her face is neutral except for the fact that she's biting her lip. Dammit, I told her not to do that.
"You think you're So. Damn. Honorable. Her knight in shining armor," District 2 snarls while thrusting a short dagger at him.
They fight, at which point high energy, angry music begins, and then District 1 comes up swinging a new sword. Dear God.
"Can we end this already?" Her and District 2 double team and trap Hayden on the ground. District 2's about to put the dagger through his heart when One says, "No, too easy."
She takes the sword to his throat and begins to saw.
My eyes go to Annie just as she bites through her lip and blood starts pouring down her chin. She puts her hand up to try to stop it, but it runs right through her fingers.
"Get Annie off the screen. Now."
"But that's the best part! The drama! What everyone wants to see!"
Seven second delay, not enough time to be diplomatic. "I swear to God if you don't get her the f—"
"Okay, okay, we're taking it out!"
Her face disappears from the screen here, and I suppose it never went through on the broadcast.
"Thank you," I say dripping venom, and shut the mic off.
The rest of the recaps goes by pretty fast, and once Annie gets her lip to stop bleeding she actually does pretty well. A couple times you can tell it's taking everything in her mentally and physically to keep from screaming, but she manages to keep it in until the end. Snow gives her her crown and she bordering on runs off the stage as soon as she is released.
The same sound tech comes and collects our mics before releasing us to go meet Annie backstage. Time for the banquet.
FML. I had to down another five hour energy to get tonight's work done, and now I won't be able to sleep for the next two hours, at least. I try to call my mom but she doesn't answer, so I sit down and check my email which I have ignored for the past three days. The three hundred fan mail messages are all marked as read without me opening a single one, and then I go to deal with the other twenty. Photo shoot requests forwarded to me from Jayde, the schedule for tomorrow, stuff from other victors, and a threatening email from Snow telling me to keep my ass in line at the Banquet tonight. A bit late for that, but I did anyway. Now that I have a victor that's one more life on the line if I screw up. I'm about to reply to Jayde about Abercrombie and Fitch wanting a shoot before we leave tomorrow when a raw scream rips through the air. Annie. I shut my laptop and walk down to her room, twisting the door handle. It's locked.
No response. She's probably asleep and having nightmares
My finger goes to the force unlock button in the door handle, and the verification tray slides out. Since there have been incidents with tributes locking doors to do . . . things they shouldn't be doing, now each mentor has the ability to force-unlock the door for their one tribute. Just their one. I couldn't unlock it for one of Mags tributes or vice-versa. Just mine.
"Place your right pointer finger on the screen and hold for five seconds."
"Bend down so that you're right pupil is in line with the crosshairs and hold still. Scanning retina…"
"Blink only when the screen turns red."
"Repeat the sentence displayed on the screen."
I'm sexy and I know it.
Very freakin' funny Snow. I spit out the sentence anyway, and the lock clicks.
I twist the door handle and it opens. I rush to Annie who is asleep, but thrashing and screaming.
"Annie! Annie!" I yell. We're the only ones in the whole damn training center right now, so I'm really not worried about waking anyone up.
She doesn't respond and I shake her shoulder until she finally wakes up. She immediately shrinks away from my touch, looks confused, and then bursts into tears.
I sit down on the edge of the bed and pull her into her arms.
"I-I can't sleep. I can't get through the night. E-Ever. But I can't wake up either. I can't. I can't ever wake up!"
I rub her back and try to think of something to say. I want to tell her that it'll go away, that soon she'll be just fine, but it doesn't go away, and she'll never be fine, and I think I've lied to her enough for one day.
"It happens to all of us. You get used to it."
She just cries harder, and I stay silent. I suppose it's good she's coming to terms with it now; it was a couple months before I had this meltdown. I think every victor does at some point.
She pulls away a stares at me for a moment, thinking about something. And then her lips meet mine.
I thoughtlessly react the same way I did with the other nine girls who've kissed me today, three appointments and six random make out sessions, and I force her lips open while one hand ends up tangled in her hair and the other slowly travels slowly up her shirt. Except when I reach for a bra clasp I just get the stretchy material of a Nike sports bra. And that's when I remember who's throat my tongue is three-quarters of the way down.
I drop both hands and pull away to see that I'm getting the WTF look.
"Force of habit. Pretty much every girl who kisses me wants that. The nine women today sure as hell did."
She looks mildly disgusted, but I don't bother to tell her that I've showered and brushed my teeth since then. She initiated this.
"Your turn," I tell her and she says after a moment's hesitation:
"They said it made it fade away."
"Too many pronouns. Define 'they', 'it', and 'it' two."
"They is some random teenage girls who were talking in a corner, it is kissing you, and it two is everything."
"Some random teenage girls said kissing me makes everything fade away. I don't get it."
"When they were kissing you, nothing else mattered, like everything faded away."
"And your point is…"
"I wanted it to go away, Finnick. I just wanted one moment where it wasn't hovering in the back of my mind threatening to take the last shreds of sanity I have left."
"Did it work?"
"Yeah…although that was probably more due to shock than anything else."
I smirk. "Then that was a productive exercise wasn't it? Glad to be of service."
For the first time since…before the reaping probably, Annie and I just talk. She's not what she was before, and probably never will be, but she's a hell of a lot better than I expected. The five hour energy slowly runs out until I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open.
I yawn and stand up. "I'm literally about to fall asleep, I'm going to bed, night Annie."
I turn back to her. "No what?"
"No don't leave me."
"Annie, I have not slept in three days. Now that I am not under the influence of dangerous amounts of legal stimulants nothing is going to be able to keep me up."
"Can't you just stay until I fall asleep?"
"Annie, I'm going to be asleep way before you are. So if I don't leave now, I'm going to end up here all night."
"Fine! Just…stay. Please. I don't think the nightmares will come with you here."
"Fine. I don't care if you fall asleep. Just stay here. Please."
I sigh. This is the one thing that might help the girl. What right do I have to deny her that?
"Fine. But I'm going to my room to get my pillow. And my alarm bracelet, because I have an appointment at six-thirty tomorrow morning. Who hires a fucking prostitute at six-thirty in the morning?"
"Someone who wants to cheat on their spouse who goes to work at five-thirty," Annie answers. Of course she has a logical answer to that. I give her the look, and go to my room to retrieve my pillow and bracelet. Due to my "job" I have a jacked up sleep schedule, so Mags bought me this alarm system after I woke up the entire D4 floor at two thirty in the morning one year for a four o'clock appointment. Four o'clock makes sense, here that's still night time. At home we get up for work at four, but here it's still the night before. People are out at parties and such until about five. Unless you work with the government. Each night I set the time on my phone and put the bracelet on before I go to bed, it'll vibrate to wake me up, and then send my sleep stats to the phone. Quite nice.
I bring my stuff back to Annie's room, set the alarm, tell Annie goodnight, and go to bed.
I think I'm asleep before my head hits the pillow.
I wake up to my vibrating bracelet and shut off the alarm, trying to be quiet. Annie doesn't need to be up for three hours, and I don't know how well she slept last night because according to my phone I got the best sleep I have in years last night. Figures. In my effort to be quiet, I'm watching the floor to make sure I don't step on anything loud since I know the layout of the room and where everything is. Except for the small detail that I was too lazy to find a good outlet for my phone stand last night so the cord stretches across half the room. I run into and manage to pull the stand down, of course waking Annie. I curse under my breath, pick up my phone and stand, and turn to Annie. "Morning. And sorry. How'd you sleep?"
She looks confused for a moment and then smiles. First I've seen since the arena.
"Great. I didn't get nightmares. At all."
I smile. "Good. Jayde'll be over at nine so you have three hours to do what you want and the whole training center to yourself . . . don't do anything too incredibly rash though because there are cameras everywhere."
She nods and heads to the bathroom to take a shower, and I return to my own room to do the same.
No, we'll never be same.
But, we'll be okay.
A/N: Well, that's it. Hopefully you enjoyed it, and I'll get more up ASAP.
Please review, I really appreciate the feedback!