Turned out a lot longer than I thought o.0 but here you go xx
"She's dead," and it's the last piece of information Finnick is ever going to have to process about Annie. "We're sorry," he hears afterwards but doesn't consider, doesn't remember, because apologies are meaningless and Annie is dead.
He wakes sometime later – a day or five minutes, it's all the same to him now – when his mind dredges up another name, another person that he thinks he might have cared about, once upon a time.
"Katniss?" Finnick whispers-rasps, and Peeta turns to look at him with cold blue eyes and a patchwork of scars on his face, warping his expression into something that Finnick refuses to believe is a smile (but it is, because the Capitol has done something more to him, something worse than taking everything he loved).
Peeta tilts his head to the side, and a lattice ripples around his neck – strangle marks, bruises, bite marks (he should care, he should but he can't Annie and he's sinking again, sinking and falling into the dark relief of the recesses of his mind but no you need to hear this). "She died in the rescue attempt," bread-boy says with a smile in his voice and tears in his eyes.
Just before he falls (again, always), Finnick sees Peeta raise a bandaged hand to his cheek, brushing away moisture with befuddlement in his expression.
Now that Katniss – mutt-whore-bitch-slut – is gone, President Coin wants him to stand in her place; a leader, a figurehead, a Katniss with blue eyes and no fire, with cracks inside that Peeta can't stop from prodding, no matter how dangerously wide they get.
"He can't do it," Haymitch says flatly (Peeta should hate him, hate Haymitch for leaving him in the arena and taking the mutt instead, but he's too busy hating (lovingmissing) Katniss, the bitch of fire and compassion who played him and saved him, and he doesn't know which was more cruel of her).
Noises of protest from other members in the room; but Coin stays silent till they've died down. "Can you?" she asks Peeta bluntly. He's tempted to answer honestly no, not lie like Katniss must have done because bitch or not, they were both broken and scarred before the Quarter Quell.
"Yes," his treacherous mouth says. "Yes, I can."
For Katniss, that mouth insists when his head cries out no, not doing anything for her, but the silent weeping part of him behind the cracks and deep in the chasms screams out yes, for Katniss, anything for Katniss.
When Finnick next comes out of the darkness in a way that doesn't see him pinned to the ground as he grapples uselessly for the knife he's managed to steal, he wakes into a bedroom; sparsely furnished, small, and in no way remarkable from any other District 13 bedroom, apart from its inhabitant.
It takes him a while (an hour a second) to think, to wait for the right memories to resurface.
Beetee, chattering away at Finnick's side as he stands in the tech room, a living ghost of bone and skin and pain, and they have a new Mockingjay now, though that's not what they're calling him, they're not playing on strength but on fragility; on the bruised, battered, tortured young man who loved and lost and honestly Finnick, I know they're doing what they can but this…this isn't right.
Finnick's voice comes out clear for the first time since the rescue team got back, missing a member and a survivor (not fair not fair not true not Annie) and there's anger in his tone as well, anger and determination because he's not succumbing till he's destroyed this thing that wants to replace Peeta, replace Katniss.
The Peeta-thing wheezes beneath him, broken half-words that piece together to say can't kill me till I've answered the question, you weak fool, and Finnick doesn't remember leaving the entrance of the room to straddle the boy's hips.
He lets go faster than his hands can tighten, and so they're left clutching at empty air rather than snapping the fragile neck, purpling in the aftermath of his touch.
"Why?" Finnick asks again as Peeta (not-Peeta) heaves laborious breaths, bare chest rattling as air enters his lungs. Watching, fascinated in a strange way he can't explain, he almost fancies he can see every movement of air through that pale skin, fluttering under bread-demon's ribcage like a dozen butterflies, wings like gossamer and invisible like-
Love, Finnick, don't you think that love floats through the air? Annie asks him, eyes shining in the light of the setting sun, rippling like the ocean. Wouldn't that be simply marvellous, Finnick, if we were touching it right now and we didn't even know, what do you think it looks like-
"I've got to do something," a broken whisper tells him and he looks down to see those blue eyes, hazy with sleep and sharp with fear (fear, and something else Finnick can't quite identify). "You know that, Finnick, you know I can't just sit here and do nothing, not now that there's no m-Katniss to ha-lo-"
Those lips stop abruptly, eyes shuttering.
"Peeta wouldn't be able to do nothing," Finnick corrects him, and part of him is aware that he's still trapping slender thighs under the weight of his legs, that his hands are gripping the boy's shoulders tightly, the way he still wants to wrap his fingers around that column of pretty bruises.
His hands lift not-Peeta off the bed, shake him the way Finnick's dad used to do to misbehaving puppies; grip them by the scruff of the neck, hoist them up, shake them till they whimpered. Not-Peeta doesn't whimper, just bites his lip till red runs down his chin as Finnick growls, "you're not Peeta."
Peeta loved Katniss, almost as strongly as Finnick loved Annie (but not as strongly because even Finnick doesn't know how he could love Annie the way he did, all fire and rain and hopeless rage and nights with trembling girls whose parents wanted them to lose their virginity early and well, days spent chained to walls and crying out in time to the sting of whips on his back and clamps biting at his nipples and fingersdildoscocks at his entrance-
"I'm Peeta," the boy whispers beneath him. "Just because I hate that mutt, Finnick," and he freezes because he doesn't know how much of what he thought emerged from his lips and no one can know any of that, "I'm still Peeta."
"No," he shakes his head, harder and faster. "No. You're the Capitol's weapon."
Incredibly, a smile curves not-Peeta's lips, and Finnick never saw a sincere smile directed at him during the Quarter Quell, but he'd watched with amusement and more than a little jealousy the way Katniss and Peeta had looked at each other when they thought no one could see them.
This looks too much like one of those smiles, and Finnick doesn't understand why he'd be smiling like that.
"Maybe," Peeta – not-Peeta, but how not-Peeta can smile like Peeta, eyes soft and sad but warm, so warm – allows; Finnick feels the thin, bony shoulders shift under his hands in what is most probably a shrug. "But we can be two things at the same time, can't we, Finnick?"
You were goes unspoken.
The night before Peeta's big debut as the Phoenix – that's the name they've chosen for him, flashy and fiery and not him with his blue eyes and pale sandy hair and the way he's never risen out of the ashes, just crawled – he wakes, alerted by some sort of animal instinct that must have developed during the Games (not before, not when he was the baker's boy and well-fed) to find Finnick straddled over him again, pinning him to the bed.
It's the seventh time this has happened, and Peeta braces himself for the question, tries to relax so he can answer in that sincere, unedited way that leaves Finnick confused and slinking away back into the dark. He can't stop the sick-excited feeling of anticipation though, the understanding that tonight might be one of those nights where the taller man uses his weight to trap Peeta till he can't breathe, wraps those long, still-dextrous fingers around Peeta's neck.
(It's another mark the Capitol has left on him, one that he knows he should hate but doesn't, because if he's aroused by pain, by the adrenaline of fear, then that can only serve him well.)
But Finnick doesn't speak for a long moment, and his hands aren't bruising on Peeta's shoulders; they rest gently, warm but almost reassuring.
It's the first time Peeta's broken the silence, the first time Finnick's new question or worry or agony hasn't burst out to hang in the room, oppressive and dark.
Finnick starts, hands quivering slightly, but he doesn't respond.
Peeta is about to try again when Finnick breathes his words into the air. "Did she die quickly?"
His first thought is Katniss, the mutt (he doesn't think that with heat anymore, merely as a dispassionate fact) and the way she screamed as fire from a flamethrower engulfed her form, the way she reached out to him almost unconsciously, features melting grotesquely from their expression of fear and pain and pleading.
"Peeta, are you alright?"
For some reason that question, murmured with an undercurrent of concern, strikes Peeta as hilarious. Here he is, the Capitol's play toy who would have been screaming in pleasure instead of pain if Katniss hadn't thrown herself in front of the fire to save him; and Finnick Odair, who spends his days in catatonia, training with weapons he's never going to be allowed to use, or hovering around as a haunting spectre of broken beauty, is the only one who's asked him since Katniss did while she hauled him from his cell if he's alright.
He doesn't realise he's laughing, hoarse and humourless, till Finnick's fingers tighten and press into his bruises cruelly. "Stop it," Finnick growls, but the dangerous tone to his voice only sends a throb of pleasure to Peeta's groin, and he gasps, unthinkingly arching his back
(pushing his erection into Finnick's thigh.)
Finnik is smart, and realisation dawns on him quickly; Peeta sees it, as the man's eyes harden in the dim light and heat rises in his face as he turns his face away, pressing his cheek to the pillow and staring fixedly at the wall.
He hasn't felt this in a while, not since humiliation under the hands of Snow's torturers (prettythi- respons-tigh-slu-goodboy) was swallowed by fear, and then hate, and then hate for the m-Katniss (and for the first time he's wondering whether she really deserved that, whether it was her fault that at least once a week he'd have to wash dried blood from his ass, shivering in a tiny white shower cubicle with clear glass.)
"You like this." Peeta hears the words, but they're not important because he feels the undercurrent of you're sick and it's true, it's so true; but when one hand moves from his shoulder to grasp his chin (roughly, but with too much pain for him not to buck upwards again) and his eyes are forced to meet Finnick's, there isn't disgust in his gaze.
Just compassion, painful in its gentleness as Finnick leans closer towards Peeta, body not so much pinning as blanketing.
And then there's no more softness; Finnick's mouth crushes against his, all teeth and skin and the tang of copper, metallic and bitter. Peeta gasps, begins to say something, he doesn't know what, and Finnick takes advantage, tongue scraping along the insides of Peeta's mouth as he shifts his body and slowly, deliberately, grinds down against him (and the other man is hard, so hard).
Finnick pulls back for air, and Peeta can't help what comes out of his mouth – "but Katniss", and he doesn't understand why he's talking about the mutt when he can barely breathe through the smell of blood, so intoxicating and oh God he's disgusting.
A hand wraps around his throat, and Peeta can feel fingers pressing, with unerring accuracy, into the bruises Finnick made the night before last. "You like this," Finnick says again, murmurs in a soft, seductive caress; but it's not a statement so muchas a question, a request.
Permission, he realises. He wants permission.
"Annie," he whispers.
Finnick's mouth tightens slightly, eyes flaring, and for a moment Peeta thinks he's gone too far.
His eyes soften though, and the lips soften into a smile, wistful and bittersweet. "I betrayed her too many times when she was alive. Now…"
Now it doesn't matter.
"Do you want this?"
Peeta opens his lips, cracked and dry, and it takes him two tries to say it, tears running down his face.
The fingers tighten, and his vision blurs with something else other than water as he chokes and his lungs sear with delicious pain that stings and burns his nerves. The hand around his cheek tightens before releasing him, returning to fist around his cock as Finnick nips at his nipples, teeth sharp and it feels like an age since he's been this hard without hate coursing through his veins.
For the first time in his life, Peeta doesn't come thinking of Katniss.
Finnick doesn't think about Annie for an hour a day.
For the twenty three others, she stands beside him as he watches District 1 filth fuss around Peeta. She tells him how pretty the makeup is, the miracle product that hides the scars and old-new bruises that Finnick leaves on bread-boy's arms and around his neck.
He nods and smiles in agreement, even though he thinks that Peeta is never so beautiful as when he's writhing in his bloody sheets, wrists tied to the headboard with soft rope from the armoury (and sometimes it's Finnick's bed instead, because sometimes Finnick's only just stripped down to sleep when Peeta, flushed and nervous, knocks on his door with a knife in his hand).
Annie hides with him behind the rubble of District 8, rubs her hand through his hair as he rubs Peeta's – the Phoenix's – back comfortingly.
They find Annie's body, crumbling and decaying in the torture cells of the Capitol, and Peeta hasn't seen Finnick go since the first couple of weeks after Peeta let him (begged him to) tie him up and hurt him in a way that only makes him want more.
But Finnick doesn't.
Instead, with an unfathomable expression in his eyes, he bends down and presses his lips briefly against the corpse's rotting mouth before stepping back and setting a match alight. The body burns quickly, and Peeta watches it, imagines it's Katniss.
He can't hate her anymore, because he's watched the tapes of the Quarter Quell and he knows that her falseness in the 74th Games is matched only by the genuine warmth in her eyes, the panic when he's knocked out cold. Gale came by in the beginning to rage at him, to blame him for something he rejoiced in. They still talk now, but it's softened between them, and it was Gale who defended Finnick when he was hauled in front of Coin, still naked and sweating after Primrose walked in on Peeta gasping as his loved carved strange symbols into his chest with a careful, unwavering hand.
He loved Katniss, he hated Katniss, and now he loves her with a careful distance and regret because he couldn't bear to hate her again.
As Finnick steps off the train to see District 5 for the first time in five years (all sun and sea and the smell of salt in the air) he feels a familiar warmth wrap around his waist, pulling him close.
Finnick turns Peeta around in his arms, to face him, and his sea-green eyes flutter closed as he leans forward to place a soft kiss on Peeta's forehead.
It feels like home; the warmth, the salt, but most of all the boy in his arms.
"I love you," Finnick murmurs, smiling against the scarred skin.
As Finnick straightens, Peeta leans forwards and reaches up to thread a hand into the soft hair.
I love you, Peeta mouths through the kiss, and Finnick can feel the curve of his lips, a promise of forever.