Disclaimer: I do not claim any ownership over The Hunger Games whatsoever. I do not gain anything, profit or otherwise, from writing in this universe.
Please see below for author's notes.
Almost too bright.
Finnick lifted a hand to shield his eyes from the blinding light that shone from above. Taking a quick glance around at his surroundings, he realized that something just wasn't…right.
Wait a minute, he thought, a frown marring his normally happy visage. I was running through tunnels and being chased by mutts. He moved his hand to his neck, where the skin felt just as smooth and soft as the last time his prep team worked on him. Am…am I…?
No no no no no!
This can't be happening.
I'm so sorry.
He wandered in a circle, slowly weaving his way through the wispy outlines of other souls that were traveling to their final resting places. He could hear faint whispers of farewells to loved ones, family, and friends before a clear, richly toned voice broke through and reached his ears.
"Hello, my darling Finnick."
He spun around quickly, searching for the source of the greeting. When his eyes found who they were looking for, his breath escaped his body in a gasp of relief and sadness. Gone was the jumbled speech she had been burdened with below; her voice, strong and pure, had returned, made even lighter by the smile she always wore for him.
He took off like a shot toward her, feeling like a little boy who was seeing his long-lost grandmother again after being separated for years. She opened her arms to him and he fell into them, cherishing the warmth she provided. "Mags," he murmured into the juncture between her neck and shoulder, "I've missed you so much."
From the first time she saw him, when he was reaped for his Games, she had felt a strong need to protect Finnick Odair and his tender-hearted soul. The Capitol may have seen him as fresh-faced boy and turned him into a Victor that all the women – and even some men – desired, but deep down, Mags knew he had an innocence that she refused to let die.
With all of that in mind, she reached up and stroked his hair, holding him close. "I've missed you, too, Finnick."
He inhaled deeply, relishing Mags's familiar scent of faintly briny air that blew in the trade winds before pulling away and sitting down at her feet. He reached up and took one of her hands in both of his, not wanting their connection to be broken again. "I never thought I'd see you again, Mags," he said.
"Well, life works in mysterious ways," she replied. "Yes, we may lose each other at times, but we always find our way back to the ones we love."
Finnick's wide grin faded a bit at her words. "'The ones we love,'" he repeated in a whisper. "Oh, Mags, I wish you could have been at Annie's and my wedding. It didn't seem right without you there."
Her smile turned into a playful smirk as she placed her free hand on his cheek. "What do you mean, I wasn't there?" she teased. "I was watching from up here. Annie looked so beautiful in her dress. Green becomes her."
"You were there!"
"Of course I was, silly boy." She laughed lightly; her soft chuckles made Finnick feel like a warm blanket had been thrown around his shoulders. "What makes you think something as trivial as death would have stopped me from being there? I was so proud of you."
"Yes, really." She settled further into her seat when it was apparent that he wasn't going to let go of her hand anytime soon. "I knew it was just a matter of time before you and Annie could be together. You followed your heart, my boy, and for that, I couldn't be more proud." She winked as his grin grew even brighter. "Well, until I saw how much he looks like you."
Time seemed to stand still – as much as it could, when you were dead – as Finnick stared blankly at the older woman. "Wait," he pleaded, confusion coloring his voice. "Who looks like me?"
Mags quirked an eyebrow at Finnick before reaching down between the two of them and sweeping aside part of the cloud where they sat. She gestured for him to look down through the haze.
Finnick's jaw dropped as his breath left his lungs for a second time. "Oh my god...is that…"
Mags chuckled softly and shook her head. "Don't be dense, my boy. You can see very well who that is."
Gazing down again, Finnick watched as Annie strolled along their favorite stretch of sand in District 4 while a young boy with a very familiar shade of bronze-colored hair ran just ahead of her. "Mags, he looks like he's about five years old! How long have I been…" he trailed off, not wanting to say that last word aloud. He felt like saying it would make it all too real.
"Time moves a little differently here, my boy," she explained. "What seems like a few minutes or even seconds up here can be the passing of years down there. We could actually watch a person live an entire lifetime within an hour, if we so wished."
He nodded in understanding and swallowed past the lump growing in his throat before speaking again. "Do you know-"
"His name is Dylan; it means 'son of the sea,'" Mags revealed. "You might be surprised to know that your friend Johanna Mason helped Annie select his name."
Finnick's eyes, now wide with surprise, moved up and focused on his mentor's face. "She did?"
"She did. From what I've seen, Johanna was present just before Annie gave birth and remained to help for the first year of Dylan's life. In fact, I believe she still visits the pair of them from time to time."
Placing a hand over his heart, Finnick bowed his head in gratefulness.
You're her…their family now.
I will forever be in your debt.
Just…no stripping in front of the boy, even when he's old enough. Keep it wrapped up, Mason.
Finnick sighed and closed his eyes as he felt a tear slip down his cheek. He didn't see it fall to the earth and land gently on Annie's forehead. He missed the way Annie glanced up towards the sky and smiled, as if she knew he had seen them. When Dylan ran up to Annie, tugged on her hand, and asked what she was looking at, Annie just shook her head and continued to smile as they moved further down the beach.
With pride and sorrow tumbling together in his heart and soul, Finnick leaned against Mags's legs and rested his cheek against her knee. "Mags?"
"Yes, my boy?"
"Why couldn't I have been there to watch him grow up?" He winced upon hearing the pain in his own voice. "It doesn't seem fair, that I had to die and miss out on a life with Annie and Dylan…and maybe even more children." He shifted so he could look at Mags, his whole countenance begging her for an answer. "Why me?"
She paused for a moment before answering; she knew that she could not deny this young man before her, with his heart open and wounded, anything less than the truth. "You haven't seen the changes that you helped bring about, have you, Finnick?"
He shook his head, wondering what the older woman meant. "How could I?"
"Come, my boy," she answered, offering both hands to him so he could help her to her feet. "I want to show you some things."
Once they were both standing again, they moved amongst the clouds, pausing every so often as Mags dipped her hands into the soft wispiness and cleared a space for Finnick to look down at the new Panem.
He saw the rebuilding of a power plant in District 5.
He saw a group of volunteers planting trees in District 7.
He saw some children laughing and playing together in District 8.
He saw an older couple sharing a freshly picked apple in District 11.
And in District 12, he saw a girl with long, dark hair and a boy with bright blond curls playing in a meadow before running towards their parents.
He smiled to himself as a comfortable warmth spread in his chest when he saw two more people he believed he'd never see again. He could clearly see the numerous scars that marred their skin, but he knew the real emotional scarring would run much deeper.
War did that to people. Being hijacked did that to people.
But he knew that they were stronger together than they could ever be apart, so he was happy they had found each other again. Yes, they looked older, but knowing what Mags had told him about time passing, he could tell they would have many more years together.
Mags reached out to take his hand and give it a gentle squeeze. "None of them will ever forget you, my boy. They will always remember you and your sacrifice to make the world a better place."
Finnick nodded, his emotions running high at the moment. Keeping his eyes focused downwards, he asked, "Can we still watch from up here, even though we're apart from them?"
"Of course we can, my boy. Even though we're separated physically, all of our hearts are still connected."
Feeling the corners of his mouth turn upwards into a small smile, he turned his head towards the wise old woman. "How do you always know the right thing to say, Mags?"
She reached up and cradled his face in her hands. The twinkle in her eye sparkled as she answered him. "Once a mentor, always a mentor."
This story was written from a pseudo prompt from streetlightlove, who reblogged a picture of Mags and Finnick on Tumblr and added some tags about them meeting again in the afterlife. Her tags got me thinking, and this is the result.
Many thanks to streetlightlove for the inadvertent but lovely prompt and to madefrommemories for her stellar beta work.
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