I am so very sorry that this took so long. That's all I can think to say. Well, that and that I hope you're all okay, and that I hope you like the chapter. I've been meaning to write this for a very long time.
Big love to all of you! Your support means the world... you have no idea. I have surpassed 130, 000 views - do you know how astonishing that is?! My mind is blown. Thank you so, so much, loves! xoxox
Finnick always seems to know when I need him most. Or, he used to. Now, since we aren't on a very personal level, it seems he doesn't.
That, or he pretends he doesn't.
Now, though, as we wait in the hall where Logan's celebratory banquet is being held, it seems the role has changed. He is next to me - as in, right next to me, touching me, comforting me in ways that the public eye wont notice because, obviously, that could stir some questions and cause devastating ripple effects if the people of the Capitol were to ever even think we are in a relationship. So, we simply stand next to each other, drinking in each other's presence as if it could not poison us like the wine we hold in our hands.
"Where is he?" Effie says, stirring uncomfortably at my side. "I told Portia and her team to have him here ten minutes ago!"
Haymitch snorts. Once again, he is cradling a glass of whisky and I realise that it is his third within the last half an hour and something in my blood spikes. He has been drinking more recently, I realise. He is beyond all of this; he has had enough of the Games and the Capitol and it hurts me inside, hurts like an ache, because he has probably done so much for people in the time he has mentored; felt so much guilt; seen so much death... I'm surprised he isn't drinking more, if I am honest. It is his coping mechanism, after all.
"Don't twist your knickers, sweetheart," he says. "He'll be here. The boy just lost his sister for Christ's sake!"
I don't know what the sentence is meant to accomplish; Effie is too worried to be compassionate. I remember Peeta saying that he thought she had OCD, something he'd heard of in his spare time in the Capitol and found out more about because he thought mental illnesses would interest my mother, and I'm starting to think he is right. "Oh, yes, and that is such a pity," is all Effie says on the matter, "but the guests are getting restless to see him!"
"Sweetheart," Haymitch starts impatiently, "you're the only restless one here!"
Ignoring their bickering, I decide, is probably best for my sanity: after all, it will not make Logan magically appear. So, I turn to Finnick, smiling weakly. "I'm worried about him," I say.
Finnick looks like he wants to reach out and touch me but refrains from doing so, instead supply a, "I know, Kat; but he's a fighter. He'll be here."
"It's not just that-"
"I know. I mean he'll stay here. Don't worry about that."
The fact Finnick knows I am worrying about Logan killing himself is something I am grateful for; a) because then I don't have to say it out loud; and b) because it means he truly understands me, and it makes me feel both sad and elated. "He's just - he's been through so much and Snow is going to..." I can't finish the sentence. "I'm not going to let him. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure Logan doesn't have to go through what we go through."
Finnick, looking at me in a that makes his eyes sparkle, says, "I know you will, and I'll do whatever I can to help."
I smile gratefully at Finnick, soft and sure because I know he'll help - or, I thought he would - but it's always so nice to hear him say it; to reassure me. What scares me most about Finnick - or, rather, my relationship with him - is the fact that I am so reliant on him. I've never been reliant on anyone; I'm independent and I like it that way. If anything, people have been dependent on me. Even in The Games, I was there for people and tried to get them through it.
Thinking of that at this moment, however, only makes the sensations zapping through me more violent, more unpleasant. So, I try to look at Finnick and forget. To simply admire, and appreciate, and feel thankful to have him with me.
"Ah, here he is!" Effie says. "Finally!"
Effie can be sweet, and I know she means well but her enthusiasm seems so out of place that it stuns me for a moment; the announcement isn't even needed because the moment Logan steps into the room, flagged by Cinna and Portia, everyone in the room hushes, their words whispered, and begin to clap wildly for the 'Winner from District 12!' If there is a title more vile than that, I will never know.
Well, besides being the President of Panem.
Logan looks very handsome in his dark suit; it looks almost navy, shiny and soft with a crisp white shirt and skinny tie. He looks very normal, something I'm thankful for; attending events like these when you're wearing something that makes you feel worse than you are already feeling is a hell unlike any other. Thank God our stylists have some sense, and are not against looking normal.
The clapping rages on a Logan, after Cinna claps a hand down on hsi shoulder, tries out a crooked smile at the audience and gives a little wave. The appreciation grows louder, wilder, and people whoop and cheer in the background as Logan makes his way down the steps. The Gamemaker, up on stage, begins to settle everyone down and laughs a little, before beginning his speech and beckoning Logan to approach.7
The whole time he is on stage, it's hard to feel anything other than empathy - empathy, sadness, and pity. I don't mean to pity him - I hate being pitied, myself - but I can't help it. Logan looks like he hasn't slept for days and I know the feeling. It scares me that he does, too.
"What can we do for him?" I ask, staring vacantly at the Gamemaker as he makes his speech, involving Logan and thanking him, congratulating him. It makes me feel sick; acid runs through my veins.
I see Finnick look at me from my peripheral vision but I don't look back. "We can't," he says. "Just trying to help him get through the night is enough."
And even though I wish we could do more, I know Finnick is right. I just don't want to admit it.
"Congratulations, Logan! Oh my, don't you look handsome?"
Effie needs a sensor; she needs to know when what she's saying is inappropriate because Logan looks close to snapping. Can she not see how overcast his eyes are? How sunken his cheeks are? How distant his expression is? Does she not realise that he is so consumed in sorrow that there is barely enough for the rest of us?! His pain is ravaging him; devouring him from the inside out, and spreading thickly like acrid gas around us all, dancing and billowing in a sick sort of waltz.
How can a person be so blind as not to see such blatant anguish?! His despondency is so strong that it is tangible, and it makes me angry that she cannot feel it, too.
"Effie, do you know that man?! I think I just saw him meddling with the canapés..."
Effie immediately bristles, her mouth tightening as she looks in the direction Finnick points. "Oh, and after so much effort was put into all of this!" She takes a deep breath, exhales, then says, "Excuse me for a moment, if you will," before marching off in the given direction.
Logan looks at Finnick. His hand runs through his hair, musing it. "Thanks," he mutters, a little less distressed.
"I'll try to keep her at bay," Finnick promises. "We all will."
Haymitch snorts. "Speak for yourself."
I don't know why it surprises me, really, his inability to express his sorrow. It does, though. I guess drinking copious amounts is how he shows that he's not coping, and we'll just have to deal with it. He could, however, have a little more tact; a little more concern. Then again, Logan never liked to be fussed over.
"Just say when you want to leave," I tell Logan. "I'll make up an excuse."
Logan looks at me, his eyes glassy and dark. "Okay," he says. "I want to leave."
Really, I should of expected it. Somehow, I didn't. "You can't leave just yet. Wait an hour or so." We don't want to be attracting any more unnecessary attention, after all.
Finnick winces, and says, "Unfortunately, she's right. Forty minutes at the least."
"At the least," Logan mutters. "Great."
I can't help but think the same thing. I'm to be here for longer so I may thank people for sponsoring my tribute and engage in small-talk, whilst also talking to my clients and, from what I can gather, arranging a certain video shoot with Mr. Rhineheart. His presence is ludicrously palpable, caught in between an attempt to be obvious and a natural flare to be obvious. I guess Mr. Rhineheart is simply one of those men that always stand out, no matter what.
He probably bathes in his power. He's a man that has, and likes to have, influence over many. Judging by the failure that was our attempt to anger Snow and make it so he stepped in to cancel the production of the 'adult film', well, it was apparent that Mr. Rhineheart's power went beyond what we'd thought. And what we'd thought had, already, been considered very influential.
After half-an-hour of mind-numbing conversation and socialising, and drinking enough to try and see me through this awful evening, I'm approached by a client at long last. If only it wasn't the worst I'd ever had.
"Mr. Ingot," I say, smiling politely at him. I can already feel myself being tested and, as the woman I was talking to walks away with a short, "Excuse me," I'm almost tempted to follow. I know I can't but, still, the temptation is almost irresistible.
"Miss. Everdeen," he says smoothly, those snake-eyes watching me with intense precision. "How very... delightful you look this evening."
I do not bristle but offer him a slightly colder smile, cocking my head to the side. "Does that mean I can expect your company sometime soon?"
Mr. Ingot laughs, and the very sound makes my skin prickle uncomfortably as if he'd just doused me in oil. "Oh, not too soon. I'm sure you're devastated."
It takes everything I have not to stamp on his foot, really dig the heel in. "Why, I'm simply dying inside." If the sarcasm is evident to even myself, I'm sure it is to him. It must be. Now, Mr. Ingot, if you'll excuse me-"
My attempts to walk away, to join Finnick whom I can see watching me from where he stands a few meters away as he entertains a few women, are in vain. Mr. Ingot grabs my arm the moment I move, gripping it so harshly I can feel new bruises forming, deep in my skin. I bite my tongue against the hiss of pain as he tugs me back and I stumble ever-so-slightly, right into his chest.
"Be careful where you tread, Miss. Everdeen," he says, his eyes boring through mine. "You never know where your careless feet could take you."
I'm holding my breath, not that I'd realised. I'm holding my breath and watching him intently, both of us staring one another down, to try and work out who has the upper hand. It is obviously him; if his grip on my arm isn't enough proof, then his ability to report me certainly is. However, before I have the chance to back down to try and mend what I have broken by even this small challenge, Finnick appears and saves me the shame.
"Mr. Ingot, I believe?" Finnick asks. He's wearing a smile that is so convincing even I would believe it, were it not for the tightness around his eyes. "How very nice to meet you."
"Oh, please," Mr. Ingot says, looking to Finnick in a way that insists he is trying to remain in power, "the pleasure is mine."
Finnick laughs but I can hear it's restrictions. "On the contrary," he replies, "if you are half as delightful as your wife, I'm sure that the pleasure is all mine."
And then they are the ones staring one another down because the insinuation is clear, so clear that it rings in my ears. I look between them for a moment, waiting with bated breath and tense muscles, before Mr. Ingot's grip slowly relinquishes and, with a hard look back at us just before he leaves, he says, "If only pleasure could last half as long as suffering."
In his absence, I feel myself sag and my lungs whoosh from me in relief. Finnick still looks tense, staring after the vile man with a rancorous gaze, his jaw clenched and hands balled up into tight fists. "Finnick," I say, putting a hand on his arm, "calm down. I can handle him."
"He grabbed you," Finnick says darkly. He blinks as if breaking out of a daze then looks at me, grabbing my elbow gently and inspecting the red marks. "He's the one that bruised you before, isn't he?"
Finnick shoots me a look, one stern enough to shut me up. "I can't stand to see them look at you like they do!" he mutters, and his voice sounds like low hiss. "The amount of people I have seen undress you with their eyes, Katniss-" He cuts himself off, frustrated. "I can't stand it, Katniss. I can't stand it!"
Quickly, I laugh, though it sounds fake even to my own ears. "Oh, Finnick," I say with a secret desperation because people are staring at us, at us and him and attempting to listen to his protest, "don't be so negative. Humus isn't that bad!"
That evicts a laugh out of those who watch us and, shortly, then return to what they were doing. Finnick immediately attempts to calm himself, taking a step back and maintaining that excellent mask of utter indifference. "Of course," he says, loosening his shoulders and taking a look around. "I'm overreacting..."
And no matter how distant he now seems, I must resist the urge to do something to comfort him. "Overreacting," I agree, "yes..."
We both look around, avoiding eye-contact, listening to the bustle of the guests as they chatter and eat, glasses clinking, laughs resounding in time with each other. The Capitol is a finely tuned machine - a machine that must remain, I realise, under heavy guard; heavy control. Who knows what chaos so many people could unleash?
I'm knocked from my thoughts when a man brushes by Finnick. I watch him deftly sneak a piece of paper into Finnick's suit pocket then walk off in the continued direction. With a frown, I look up at Finnick, whom I see has also noticed the note. He pulls it out very slightly, unfolding it and reading it inconspicuously by his hip. Then, without showing any emotion, he hands it to me. "I believe you dropped this," he says, and his eyes hold mine for a fraction too long.
I take the paper with steady hands, mumbling a choked, "Thank you," as the stench perfumed roses clogs my throat. It takes me a moment to unfold it, too caught up in whatever Finnick's gaze might hold, before I finally do and, with a sense of foreboding, read:
Two days time at nine PM, outside of the Tribute Tower.
Do not disappoint me.