A/N: Just a short Finnick/Annie. I've never written them before, so I wanted to give it a shot and put my own spin on them. Also, this is before Mags has her stroke.
Disclaimer: I don't own The Hunger Games, obviously.
The Girl with the Green Eyes
Today is Reaping Day.
It's days like these when it's hard to fake a smile and be who I'm expected to be.
"Finnick," Mags says when we've made our way onto the stage. The reaping has yet to happen, as our escort Theodora Lighthouse plays with her signature lighthouse earrings. "Finnick, you need to smile. You know your part. Don't forget to play it."
The crowd is restless like the sea that surrounds our district's borders. I have heard there will be a male volunteer this year—a Career, and it shakes me to my core. I was a volunteer once. At only fourteen, I was arrogant and ready to earn the glory that comes with being a victor. But my arrogance paid off because I was skilled and handsome, but the glory I expected was at a price I didn't anticipate.
But Mags is right. I must play my role if I want to keep my family safe, so I shoot the crowd a winsome grin and wave to a few of the pretty seventeens—the ones who are almost safe from the jaws of the reaping, only at risk one more year.
The warm sensation of being watched embraces me and even though the entire audience is focused on me, two dark green eyes stare at me with such an intensity.
Her frame is slender and of medium height, and her dark hair flows down to her waist. Her nose is button-like and her lips are generous. It's those eyes, the dark green ones that look impossibly big though, that make her look two years younger than what she is. She stands with the seventeens, her chin tilted and proud.
If this was a different world I lived in, I would find her after the reaping and ask her what her name is, maybe woo her a bit and take a shine to her. I'm only nineteen now, but I long to be in a relationship with a girl I could love…but that sort of thinking is dangerous. It could get that girl killed.
So instead of thinking of the beautiful girl with the intoxicating green eyes, my eyes roam over to the boys' side and focus on the seventeens. Pax Kelpskin, the boy who works so well with nets and tridents. There are rumors that he stabs the fish almost every time. I've heard a few people say, "Perhaps he's even as good as Finnick Odair. Maybe we'll have another victor this year."
If they say it when I'm around, they emphasize the last part. I haven't managed to bring anyone home, and Snow has wanted me to mentor each year.
Shimmer from One won the year after me. Albion from Two one the year after her. After that, Johanna (which while he mourned his inability to bring home his own tributes, he had grown rather close with Johanna), and then Genista from Two and Balm from One.
I'm starting to wonder if this is how Haymitch feels.
When Theodora steps up, her earrings clacking against the flesh of her neck, she begins her usual speech. By now, I've learned to drown in out. I wink at one of the cameras pointed at me.
"We'll start with ladies," Theodora says. She places her hand inside, her hook-like nails scooping up more than one. When she's finally settled on a slip, she picks it out and reads it.
District Four is big, which is a good thing because I don't know most of the tributes going in beforehand, but the crowd begins to part to let Annie Cresta through. My eyes scan the crowd, looking for the girl when I realize it's her.
The girl with the green eyes.
I almost shake my head on camera, but manage to contain myself.
I don't want to see the girl with the green eyes with the life drained out of them, but no one steps forward. She was so close. She's seventeen. This would have been her last year.
But her eyes, those beautiful eyes, show no fear, and I immediately decide she'll be the one I try to save this year.
It's no surprise when Pax Kelpskin volunteers, but he no longer matters. He is not the girl with the green eyes.
When their families come to say goodbye, Mrs. Cresta grabs me by the arms and sobs into me. "You'll help her, Finnick." She says as if we've known each other for years. "You must help her, please."
"I will," I say.
As the Crestas and Kelpskins prepare to never see their children again, I corner Mags in the hallway.
"Will you mentor the boy?"
"Pax?" she asks, although she knows who he is. This is her way of confirming what I'm asking her to do. When I don't speak again, she nods. "If that's what you want, Finnick."
"Then, like the sea, so it shall be," Mags says and squeezes my hand. "I think this is going to be our year."
When we've loaded onto the Capitol train with Theodora, Annie and Pax sit in the dining car. Pax snacks on cherry croissants, but Annie only drinks hot chocolate from her saucer with a spoon.
"Oh, hi," Annie says when she spots Mags and me. She jumps up from her seat and hugs Mags and then me. "It's so nice to meet you. The weather today is nice."
Her voice is warm like milk chocolate and honey, and she has a way about her that makes me instantly comfortable, that draws me in and makes me want to know her. Who is Annie Cresta?
Such thinking will lead to nothing but pain when she's inevitably killed. There's a reason I try not to get too close to the tributes.
Pax is more of a nodder than a talker, so whenever I dish out advice, he only nods like he's heard it before, which he probably has. He's a typical Career, just like I was.
"Pax," I say. "What are your skills?"
He tells me what I've heard. Nets and tridents, but I also learn that he's good with spears.
"Annie," I say. "What are your skills?"
She thinks for a moment, her eyes sly as she glances at Pax. "I always win at Hide and Seek."
I stare at her for a moment. Is she joking?
But the twinkle in her green eyes makes me certain that she's hiding something, keeping the truth to herself.
So it comes as a surprise to me when Pax says, "We'll be allies."
What's even more strange is that Annie's not even slightly surprised by this.
"Alright," she says.
And since I like to collect secrets from everyone I encounter, I wonder how exactly to figure out hers.
She's not pleased by her parade outfit, but laughs it off. Seashells cover her breasts, and a skirt of conches and clam shells rests over her legs. Pearls and nets drape over her shoulders, and even more shells have been placed in her hair.
Nectar must like her because she hasn't styled a tribute this well since, well, I honestly can't remember.
Pax's even less pleased with his bared chest and netted groin.
"It happens to the best of us, Pax," I say. "Great job, Nectar."
Nectar is ecstatic when Annie heaps praise and smiles as well. Annie's a good liar.
When Pax has already stood up on the chariot, I pull Annie aside and ask her what she really thinks.
"I feel like a mermaid," she says with a smile.
"A beautiful sea creature. I can see that," I say, and then I wonder why I said it. "I didn't mean-"
Annie shushes me. "Don't ruin the moment, silly."
As the chariots trot down the path, it's not long until they scream for Annie. Her smile is modest yet charismatic, and her blush is noticeable on the television screen but the audience loves it and screams even louder.
After the first day of training, Pax is frustrated and shouting at Annie.
"I thought you had more skills than…well, nothing!"
"I'm good at hiding," Annie says quietly. She is not insulted. That much is clear to me. Instead, it appears she's gauging Pax's anger. "Annie, how am I supposed to bring you back to Four if you don't have any skills? I can only stay alive for so long."
Annie looks up from watching one of the recaps of the parade. "Give it time. I just might surprise you."
I find Pax later, alone on the rooftop, after I've met with Cashmere from One and Lyme from Two.
"What did you mean?" I ask. "Why do you want to bring her home?"
"She's my brother's fiancée," Pax says. "Look, I've been training all my life for this. I've been going out of my dad's boat since I was six, learning how to spear just the right way with a trident for fish. This is my life, and I'm expendable. My family has three other sons. Lux is my best friend. He's a good brother. If I don't make it out, I want Annie to."
I search his eyes and find no deceit within them. I can only help the girl with the green eyes so much, and it'd be good to have help in the arena.
"Then stay her ally," I say. "I don't think she's as useless as she pretends to be. I've already talked to One and Two. As long as you get a good training score, you'll be in."
"You can tell me," I say, when I'm all alone with Annie. "You can tell me what your skills are."
She shakes her head. "But I like my secrets."
Pax gets an eleven.
Theodora and Mags congratulate him, and I do as well and hope it doesn't sound as half-hearted as it is. But this is good, I tell myself, I want him to have a high number to be in with the Careers. As long as I bring home the girl, he can score infinity for all I care.
"Annie Cresta," Caesar Flickerman says, his hair bright yellow this year. "Nine."
Pax's mouth dropped open. "How'd you do that?"
Annie gives him a flirtatious wink. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
"Congratulations, Annie," I say, my mouth dry.
The chances of bringing her home have just doubled from what I had previously expected.
Caesar Flickerman loves her.
"So, Annie," Caesar says as they sit down. Annie's a vision of perfection, her dress flowing and blue like the sea. "You look beautiful tonight."
"Thank you," Annie says. "You look very handsome yourself, Caesar."
"You're too sweet, dear," Caesar says. "So, Annie, tell me about your life in District Four."
"I have my parents and a sister and a brother," Annie says. "They're the best family I could hope for."
"Wonderful," Caesar says, "and do you have any hidden talents you'll be using in the arena?"
"Of course I do, Caesar," Annie says, and then she leans forward, gives him a wink. "But if I told you, they wouldn't be a secret, would they? Besides, I want to surprise the audience. Keep them on their toes."
"Not even a hint?" Caesar pleads, and the crowd goes wild.
Annie purses her lips as if thinking very hard, and then she says, "Well…I suppose so," she says, and that's how I know she was always going to reveal it. That she never wanted to keep it a secret for too long. "Back home, on my father's boat, my brothers catch fish. I'm the one who prepares the fish."
"How so?" Caesar asks.
"I'm the one who guts them."
And then the crowd's screaming again, chanting her name, and she has the good graces to look humbled by it. They love the beautiful girl with the mysterious edge to her and the underlying danger that she's now alluded to.
She stays up late even though she'll need her sleep tomorrow, watching her interview over and over with her lip in between her teeth. This is the first show of insecurity, nerves, and fear that I've seen from her since I first saw her.
"Do you think that's a good enough angle?" she asks.
I nod. "It works for you. Not too sweet, not too dangerous. So, that was your secret. You can gut fish. Is that what you did for your meeting with the Gamemakers?"
She nods. "They were eating fish, and did you know that there's no protective barrier between the Gamemakers and the training area? I'm telling you, that's going to end badly sometime in the future. So I just climbed up to where they were sitting, grabbed a fish from this huge aquarium behind them, and gutted it."
"Still," I say, "that seems like they would have scored you lower."
"Seneca Crane said something along those lines," she says, and I wince at being compared to him. "But then I told him to imagine what I could do to an actual person. Oh, and I did some other things too. Ran a bit, hid too."
"Annie," I say, "why didn't anyone volunteer for you? You're not a Career."
"I don't know," she says, "but when I'm in that arena, I'm going to do what I can to protect Pax. I know it's not much, but if I can make them think I'm one, maybe one of us can come home."
I only half understand her logic.
"Then keep your secrets, Annie Cresta," I whisper. "Don't let them know who you really are, and who you aren't."
"Finnick Odair," Annie says, seemingly seeing through my words, "what secrets are you hiding?"
Then she taps my nose, like she's playing some childish game and heads off, singing one of lullabies parents in Four used to get their kids to fall asleep.
I haven't heard it in years, and it makes me feel youthful, as if I don't have to face the corruption and impurities in the world that I do. In the morning, Mags finds us curled up with Annie in my arms, her back to my chest. It's the first time I've woken up in five years without the nightmares that normally plague me. There is something that I don't quite understand about this girl, the one with the green eyes, but my goal strengthens to bring her home.
When I bring her down for the last time I'll probably ever see her, I don't want to focus on the terrible facts in front of us.
"If you go home," I say, "what's the first thing you'll do?"
"Hug my family," she says, "and then break up with my fiancé. My parents forced me into it, you know, but if I survive this then I'll be a victor and no one can tell me what to do or who to marry."
I can't tell her that it doesn't work that way, that when you become a victor you become Snow's pawn. I don't want to think about that for her.
When the Peacekeepers begin to gather outside the still closed door, I know our time is growing shorter.
"Annie," I say seriously, "if you don't think you can take out the Careers when the time comes, don't bother allying with them. Break it during the bloodbath. Run if you aren't hiding some wicked ability to murder."
She gives me a smile and leans forward. "Oh, Finnick Odair, always so serious and brooding, even when you're smiling on camera." But I'm not smiling now, and I realize she means the first time I saw her. Then she brushes her lips against my cheek softly, so softly that I don't react to it because I'm so stunned. "Your act doesn't work on everyone, Finnick, but that can be our little secret."
The girl with the green eyes has won the Games, but it seems to have broken her.
She looks up at me, blinks a few times, and then stares at the window. I sit motionless at her bedside for hours because any movement I make tips her off, causes her to cover her hands and eyes and rock back and forth.
Sometimes the doctors come in and sedate her. I don't like her this way. It takes away that spark in her eyes.
It wasn't suppose to happen. I'm not supposed to feel this way towards her, but she creeps up on me somehow. Even as the doctors whisper that she's mad, I know she'll come back.
Then, one day, when the doctors are long gone to bed and I've managed to sneak in, her eyes open and shine as they look at me.
"Can you keep a secret, Finnick?"
I laugh to myself, but nod.
"I'm not really mad."
I know she believes it, and I don't believe she's mad either. She just gets lost in her thoughts, scared if she's not reassured. She grabs my hand, eager for me to believe her and I nod my head as she places a kiss on my lips.
Days later, my lips still burn with her kiss, but neither of us mention it.
She sings the song, the one from my childhood, one day when I visit her.
She sings, slightly out of key but she keeps singing even as water crashes into her mouth. "If you call me down to the shore, then, like the sea, so it shall be. I'll come to meet you—the secret you, only for me."
Except that's not how the last line goes.
It's I'll come to meet you as the breaking sunset meets me.
In those moments, the ones she has on good days, her eyes will spark up as they look at me, and that's how I know. Underneath everything, she is still the same girl— the one with the green eyes, and I'm no longer able to walk away from her.
A/N: So there you have it. Please review. Constructive criticism is always welcome.