A/N: This is a prompt to Beside You by Marianas Trench. Enjoy.
It's about five in the morning when Annie starts to scream.
Finnick jolts awake and falls out of the hammock, hitting his left knee painfully on the floor so that something cracks—the floorboards or his bone, he neither knows nor cares. He scrambles to his feet and runs toward the sound; she's in the room over. This little beach shack has only three rooms: a bedroom, a living room/kitchen, and a bathroom. It's his dad's old fishing shack that he used to use before he passed and Finnick and Annie hide away in it sometimes when they want to be alone.
He dives through to the living room. The sun's barely coming over the mountains, making everything look washed out but brand new at the same time, but all Finnick can see is Annie rocking back and forth on the couch, holding her ears and howling.
"Annie, Annie, it's okay, look at me," he says, dropping to his knees before her immediately (pain shoots through his left one; he guesses he'll have a lovely bruise there by the end of the morning). Annie sniffles and trembles, her face streaked with tears and snot.
"F-F-F—" she stutters. She can't get his name out. "F-Finnick, th-they—I couldn't—I didn't—"
"I know, I know." He pulls her head to his chest. "I know."
Eventually she calms down and falls asleep a little against him. He guesses she must not have slept at all last night. Without him noticing she must have gotten out of their hammock and come out here so as not to wake him up with her restlessness. For Finnick it's always been that he can't be without Annie, or else he loses it; when he's taken to the Capitol, as he is every few months, he has to grit his teeth and take pills to get off with women because he's so focused on keeping his cool around people that only remind him of the torture he endured. He ties fishing knots in any piece of rope he can find just so he stays preoccupied. But as long as he's beside Annie, everything's fine: he's safe, he's secure, and, most importantly, he's sane.
But for Annie it seems to be different. He doesn't understand why she thinks she needs to leave him whenever she feels distressed. It's as if her burden is so great that she doesn't want to be around him when it happens. Because she gets it, Annie—she understands what has happened to her. On her good days, when she can talk to him normally, they've had conversations about it. She never seems particularly interested in the idea of being near him when she has an episode. He wishes she would reconsider. He knows he helps her because he knows she helps him.
They stay curled up on the couch until the sun's fully up and Annie stirs awake against his bare chest. She extends her fingers over his collarbone, stretching them, watching her skinny knuckles bend and straighten as if amazed at the way they function. When she looks up at him he says, "Beach?" and she nods.
They don't grab anything—towels or extra clothes or anything like that. They just go out to the water and Finnick submerges himself immediately, rolling around in the shallow waves, holding his breath for a long time until he feels Annie kick him, at which point he knows she's scared he's not coming up. Annie doesn't sink down as far as he does, just wades waist deep, the frayed skirt of her dress floating up around her so that she looks like some sort of bizarre, dark-haired octopus, half-protruding from the water. She has tied her hair back in a ponytail with a piece of fishing rope, but Finnick sneaks up behind her and undoes it, which gives her reason to splash him.
They play like that all morning. Annie catches fish for them to eat for lunch with a spear she's had since she was little. Finnick starts a small fire and they cook them, setting them on washed out rocks for plates.
Finnick and Annie never go into town on days like this. Finnick's pretty sure it's a Saturday anyways, but even if it weren't, who would he have to say hello to other than Annie? Mags, maybe. But his family's dead. He doesn't have anyone but Annie to report to today. And she doesn't like the town anyways; Annie isn't a very popular Victor, since she can't play along and be charming and cute for the audience. As far as Finnick knows, she's the only one who has gone any sort of mad from the Games. Most people just get depressed and moody and drink themselves to shit, but they put on faces when they have to. But not Annie. She could, if she wanted to—not that anybody knows that but Finnick. Sometimes he thinks she purposely acts madder around people just so they'll stay away from her.
So they stay on the beach all day, talking about things they've talked about over and over but never seem to get old. Each other. Fond memories. Friends. They don't talk about the other Districts or the Games or how Finnick's going to have to leave in a few weeks to go play prostitute for President Snow's many wealthy clients in Capitol. They just stay beside each other on the beach and in the water, rolling around in sand and sea, kissing, holding each other. Once upon a different day, because nobody comes to this corner of the beach, they would strip and make love on a blanket on the sand, or else under the waves, which usually involved much affectionate splashing and giggling. But today Annie seems to think it's best if they just relax. So Finnick is romantic instead of rushed, loving instead of lustful; anything Annie wants, Finnick provides.
For dinner she goes out to fish again. Finnick lies on the blanket in the stand, chewing on a piece of grass and watching the sky grow slowly pinker as the sun settles into the hands of the horizon. Everything is very quiet for a while except for the gentle lapping of the waves, and then Annie says in an excited whisper, "Finnick, look!"
He lifts his head up wearily. "What, Ann?"
"Otters." She throws a delighted grin over her shoulder and sinks down into the water a little more.
A few feet away, two otters seem to have swam around and now roll about, their pelts sleek and smooth looking, batting each other. One of them has shellfish in its paws and rolls on its back to start eating them. The other goes under again and again until he finds some, too.
They're near the edges of the dock that protrudes from the shack's front steps. Finnick never used the dock anymore because the Capitol took away his boat when he tried to sail as far into the horizon as he could and they caught him. But the otters bask in the shade, filling themselves with shellfish until eventually they calm down and grasp paws, laying there under the wood, immobile.
Before Finnick knows what has happened, Annie's on top of the dock—or, rather, she hopped up and then laid on her belly so that she could put her head upside down—the edges of her hair trail in the ocean water—and peek beneath it to get a closer look. She was so light on her feet with this transition that she didn't disturb the otters at all; they lay there still and content, the left over shells resting idly on their full bellies.
"Come on, Finn," she whispers, looking sideways at him. He joins her on the dock, being as quiet as possible.
They watch them for a few minutes before Annie sits up and puts her feet over the edge instead. Finnick rolls over onto his back so that he can look up at her. She runs a hand through his hair thoughtfully.
"You know, they're holding hands so they don't drift away from each other while they sleep," she says. Finnick didn't know this; all he knew about otters was what money he could get for selling their pelts, but that was before he was crowned and he had to make money wherever he could.
"I think it's really adorable," Annie continues after a moment, still spiking Finnick's hair with her fingers. "It's like they don't want to lose each other."
Finnick reaches up and stops her hand, bringing her fingers down to his lips.
"Sounds a bit familiar, doesn't it?"
She only smiles at him.
That night, after dinner, when the moon shines through the window and pulls up the tide so that it snuggles like a blanket against the chin of the shack, Annie climbs into the hammock with him. Finnick has one arm around her shoulders and the other hand on hers. Somewhere in her slumber, she turns her palm over and grips Finnick's hand tightly. Her eyes shut very tight, her body tenses, and her mouth opens just slightly to release a noise of pain, but then it's over.
A lot of people say he's unlucky to fall for such a deluded girl, but they don't realize that she's not deluded at all. She's just scared. It's his job to be there for her. After all, he's scared, too. Nobody gets that they're both just as terrified as the other. Annie's braver than he is, though. She's braver, more curious, more willing to explore her pain. That's why she lets it show. That's why she went mad. And that's why she doesn't like him seeing her in her grief and madness: she knows how deeply it cuts him to not only see her experience such hurt, but also that it reminds him of his own. So she protects him from that.
She doesn't let go of Finnick's hand. He tries to sleep but instead watches her, the way her chest rises and falls, the way her fingers tap every now and again in her sleep, a song of slumber in tempo with the ebb and flow of the ocean. They remain beside each other all night and Finnick thinks that he'll remain beside her every night after that, because he needs Annie like he needs air, water, and good fish to eat. And he needs her hand in his, because without it, he might just float away for good.
As always, R&R.