The weekend before the reaping, Finnick goes fishing. He likes the feeling of the waves rocking his little boat, as if they're trying to lull him to sleep. He could buy a new boat if he wanted – a bigger boat, one with a cabin and a fancy steering wheel – but he doesn't. He built Fair Lady with his father the year he turned twelve, and something about the chipping paint comforts him in a way nothing else can.
When he's home in District Four, Finnick likes to support the local merchants. There's something satisfying about helping those around him, rather than hurting them. Instead of making his own nets, he purchases them from the kind old man whose shop is directly across from the mermaid fountain in the square. The old man always tries to give him a discount, but Finnick always insists on paying full price.
(For the first year after his victory in the Games, Finnick would get terrible nightmares. If he even so much as touched the rope meant for tying nets, he'd immediately flash back to the arena. He'd be trapping those other tributes, preparing to run them through with his trident. He was fifteen then, and hasn't attempted to make his own net since).
He even treats the fish differently – (his older brother taught him how to spear fish in the shallow pools when he was six or seven years old. Most of his afternoons were spent perfecting his craft, and by the time he was ten, he could catch enough cod to feed his entire family for a whole week. Upon arriving in the Capitol, Finnick made the disappointing discovery that there were no bodies of water nearby, and that even if there were, eating food that wasn't prepared by a team of personal chefs was highly frowned upon in the city of riches. He wasn't allowed to cook his own meals, let alone catch the meat for them – not even in the arena. The first thing he did when he returned home was rush to the ocean, fancy new trident in hand, and search for a large and juicy fish to spear. However, it wasn't a fish that the trident went through: it was the sixteen year old girl from District Eight, begging him to spare her. Finnick screamed, thrashing out at invisible assailants and nearly taking his own head off with his weapon. It took a team of nine peacekeepers to sedate him. Afterwards, every fish that passed through his lips was bought at the local market, and murdered by someone else) – he doesn't hunt them with a spear or trident, but instead uses an old-fashioned rod, line, and hook. That way, after the silly little animals nibble on the bait, he can set them free and let them live. He knows some of the other men his age laugh at him for it, but he likes knowing that he's saved a life, even if it's one of a fish.
That Saturday morning, Finnick lights a candle and walks to his shed to inspect its contents. It's finally warm enough to be out on the water again, but he's unsure of whether or not his boat and supplies made it through the winter. It had been colder than usual. Luckily, his boat appears to still be in working condition; but unfortunately, an animal of some sort seems to have eaten its way through his last good net. The shops in town don't open until sunrise, so Finnick packs his fishing rod and live bait up to pass the time. As soon as the sun begins to peek over the horizon, he makes his way to the town square. The old man has been sick lately, and Finnick wonders if he's been well enough to make any new nets or not.
The bell above the door jingles when he enters. A young girl with dark hair looks up from where she had previously been sweeping the floor. She looks to be seventeen, maybe eighteen, but Finnick is only able to see a potential dead tribute. Because that's what they are: they're not children – they're animals waiting for the slaughter.
"Hello Finnick Odair," the girl says. She has a voice as melodic as the bell above the door. Finnick wants to weep. "You're here early."
"I wanted to beat the crowds. These nets sell out fast, you know." The girl glances past him, presumably out the window, and smiles. They both know he's the only one who's going to be in the shop for at least an hour or two. "Tell me, girlie: what kind of nets does Pop have for me today?"
"Just the usual. He actually has one reserved for you in the back. I'll go grab it."
The girl opens a wooden door behind the counter and disappears. Finnick looks around the shop, noticing how little it's changed since his last visit. Whereas the Capitol is constantly evolving and keeping up with the new trends, District Four remains ever the same. It gives him a strange feeling inside.
The girl returns. She's carrying a folded net and spreads it carefully out on the counter for him to inspect. It looks like every other net he's ever received from the old man, but in the bottom left corner, he spots a difference. His name. His name is weaved into the rope.
"He wanted to make his last one special."
Finnick's head snaps up. "His last one?"
"That's what he says. He's convinced the illness is going to take him, but you and I both know how strong he is. He'll be okay."
Finnick feels a little bit like he's drowning. The old man has owned the shop for as long as Finnick can remember – the old man has always been there. The old man can't just die. District Four can't just change.
"Pop told me to force you into paying full price. That'll be twenty-seven coins, please."
Finnick numbly hands over the money, the small bronze pieces barely fitting in the palm of her hand. His fingers entangle themselves in the net's holes, and he clutches the meshwork tightly to his chest. It's almost as if by protecting this web he can protect the old man, too.
"Have a nice day, Finnick Odair," the girl calls after him, sounding entirely too cheerful for someone whose grandfather is already giving out parting gifts.
Finnick doesn't pay much attention to his surroundings while making the familiar walk back home to his house in the Victor's Village. He's glad most of the district is still asleep, because he doesn't think he could handle fellow fishermen waving hello or young girls fawning over his good looks. He just needs to be on the water as soon as possible.
When he reaches his house – and by extension, his shed – Finnick carefully places the brand new net in his boat and starts to push her along the sand. They hit the water quickly, and it doesn't take more than a few minutes for him to paddle out to where the waves are calm.
Finnick doesn't fish.
Finnick wraps himself in his new net, lays down on the bottom of his boat, and stares up at the sky until it begins to bleed pink.
On Reaping Day, Finnick's stylist picks out a shimmery aqua-coloured shirt for him to wear, and orders that he leave the top three buttons undone. A team of makeup artists smudge some eyeliner on his lids and brighten his already too-white teeth. Knowing that he won't be returning to District Four for at least a month, if not more, Finnick asks the Peacekeepers that are assigned to escort him to the town square if he can make a quick stop. They allow him.
Finnick takes a small vial from a box on a shelf in his shed, also grabbing a piece of cork and some string as well. He makes his way down to the beach, reveling in the feeling of the sand between his toes. Bending down, he scoops some sand and a few tiny shells into the vial, closing it with the cork. As he walks back to the Peacekeepers, he slides the vial onto the string and ties it around his neck, making sure it's hidden inside his shirt.
He might have to leave District Four, but District Four doesn't have to leave him.
When all the citizens have filed in and the recap of the war has been finished, District Four's escort steps up to the empty space between the two large bowls full of names. The woman, dressed in a bizarre costume probably meant to resemble a shark, sticks her hand in the bowl on the left and pulls out a slip of paper with her talon-like fingernails.
Watching as a skinny boy with mousy brown hair pushes his way through the crowd, Finnick feels the urge to vomit. He knows this boy. Their families had been neighbours before Finnick won his own Games and moved into the Victor's Village. He remembers when this boy was born.
(Finnick had only been five or six years old, but he knew something was wrong when he came home from the beach and saw the crowd of people in front of the house next to his own. There were faint screams coming from inside the other house, and every so often a grim face would peer out of the window. His mother ushered him through the front door quickly, and once they were cut off from the outside world, she explained that the woman who lived next door was having her baby. Finnick recalled how the woman had grown plump in the stomach over the past few months. Eventually the crowd outside dissipated and the screams ceased. He asked his mother if they could go over and say hello to the new baby, but she only shook her head and told him that the other family needed time to mourn. He didn't realize until months later that the woman had died so that the child could live).
The escort congratulates Clifford as he climbs the stairs, trembling, and then places her hand in the bowl on the right. Once again, she pulls out a slip of paper with her talon-like fingernails.
Watching as a young girl with dark brown hair pushes her way through the crowd, Finnick feels the urge to vomit. He knows this girl. He has been buying her grandfather's nets ever since he won his own Games. He spoke to this girl two days ago.
The moment the Reaping is finished and the citizens of District Four are dismissed, Finnick rushes towards the Justice Building. He stumbles into a bathroom and vomits – he vomits and he weeps and he mourns two children who haven't even died yet.
His tributes team up together in the arena. Neither of them managed to make any alliances in training, but they also avoided making any enemies. As soon as the bell sounds in the arena, Clifford sprints towards the Cornucopia and grabs two backpacks before turning around and returning to Annie. They escape into the woods and run for a mile or two before stopping. Clifford might not be very strong, but he's agile and quick on his feet.
Annie can make a net out of anything, so it's not a problem when they discover that rope isn't included in either of the packs. Annie simply picks some long blades of grass and begins to weave them together. She uses the makeshift net to catch a rabbit while Clifford starts a fire. After they finish eating, they stomp out the flames and run far away from the smoke.
By the end of the day, fifteen tributes remain, and Clifford and Annie are safe, sleeping in a tree.
The Games are relatively mild this year. The bloodbath was one of the bloodiest seen in years, but none of the remaining tributes have managed to come across one another since. The gamemakers have thrown in various obstacles, such as fire, which kills three tributes, and hungry cougars, which kill two. Capitol citizens are growing restless, complaining about the fact that tributes haven't been killed by other tributes in days. Finnick knows something big is coming, and he can only hope his two kids survive it.
Some years Finnick sells himself to rich Capitol gamblers in return for sponsorships. He's willing to spend an evening or two tied up to a bedpost if it means his tributes can be given clean water or a weapon. No one from District Four has won since he became a mentor, but he feels a bit better helping them, if only a little.
On the fourth day of the Games, Finnick is watching from inside a lounge. He's surrounded by girls and fancy drinks, but his attention is focused on his tributes. They're alone in the grass, talking and laughing after having just finished a meal. He notices the Career pack before they do, and pushes himself up off of the couch abruptly.
The boy from District One takes Clifford's head clean off his body, and really – the poor boy didn't have a chance. Finnick knows it was quick and painless, but he is still going to have to face the Morrissey family when he returns to District Four.
Annie is screaming, but isn't fighting. Finnick prepares himself for her impending death, but it never comes. Instead, a huge tidal wave sweeps them all off their feet and sends them spinning underwater. Finnick's not quite sure where the surge came from – there's a river in the arena this year, but there's no way it could produce this much water.
Annie cries for three days. Annie swims for three days. Annie survives for three days.
On the train ride back to District Four, Finnick stays with Annie in her compartment. (After the hovercraft pulled her out of the water, the doctor noticed she wasn't responding to anything he was saying. He performed a psych evaluation. The results came back inconclusive. The Capitol wasn't sure what to do with a mentally unstable Victor, and sent her home without conducting a victory interview). She doesn't talk much anymore, and when she does, it doesn't make much sense. Usually she just hums a verse from an old nursery rhyme every mother in District Four sings to her children. Sometimes she covers her ears, even if no one around her is speaking. Her eyes remain glassy and unfocused.
Finnick's not sure if he can even say that his tribute survived.
A few weeks after Annie's victory, Finnick goes to see the old man who sells the nets. The market is in the square that day, and he notices Annie staring intently at the various types of fruit as he walks by. He also notices that she doesn't move out of her grandfather's line of vision from inside his shop. Finnick smiles, happy that someone else is looking out for the girl.
The old man smiles at him from behind the counter. His eyes are crinkly and his smile yellow, and Finnick wonders what it would be like to grow old imperfectly.
"Hello, Finnick. How are you today?"
"I'm good, I'm good." The old man gestures for him to take a seat in the chair next to him. He does. "I never got to thank you for that net."
"No need, my boy. Think of it as a premature thank you for bringing my Annie home."
The two of them turn to face the windows. Annie has placed a few apples in her woven basket, as well as a bundle of grapes. Finnick remembers a conversation from the train during which Annie had expressed her distaste for grapes. He wonders if she even knows what she's purchasing, or if she's simply going through the motions.
Looking the old man in the eyes, Finnick whispers, "I'm sorry I couldn't save her."
The old man squeezes his hand and pats his cheek before excusing himself to use the restroom.
The old man dies three days later.
A few weeks after the death of her grandfather, Finnick strolls through the market and spots Annie. She's in front of the fruit stand again. She's always in front of the fruit stand. Finnick wonders if Annie knows her grandfather is gone and is simply following a habit, or if she still expects him to be in his shop watching her.
Annie seems to be having a bad day – every few minutes she covers her ears and squeezes her eyes shut. Finnick decides to find her something pretty; something shiny; something that reflects the sunlight. Annie likes things like that. He hands over a few bronze coins in return for a piece of glass blown in the shape of a conch shell.
As Finnick makes his way over to her, a boy her age approaches Annie. Finnick can't hear what he says, but Annie covers her ears while he's speaking. The boy must not know how delicate Annie's condition is, because he grows angry and starts to yell, which only makes Annie more anxious. Finnick rushes over there just as the boy pushes Annie into the fruit stand, sending pomegranates and watermelons to the ground. Annie screams at the top of her lungs. The boy stumbles back, crushing a pomegranate and smearing its juice all over the cobblestone. Annie becomes more frantic, thrashing and sobbing and still screaming. Finnick knows what she sees when she looks at the crushed fruit: Clifford's head. He reaches Annie and pulls her close, shielding her from the prying eyes while also removing the pomegranate from her vision.
Eventually Annie calms down, the boy is scolded, and the cobblestone cleaned up. Finnick helps Annie to her feet and walks her home. Their houses are next to each other in the Victor's Village, with a pretty grassy area in between. He leads her there, sitting down next to her and pulling the glass shell out of his pocket. He hands it over to her wordlessly and she takes it in her nimble fingers. She holds it delicately, rotating it so the sun shines through and creates a rainbow on her leg.
So does Finnick.
A/N: okay so i feel like there are two finnicks: capitol finnick is a peacock and district four finnick is just broken
Disclaimer: THG belongs to Suzanne Collins, but Pop and Clifford are mine
Note: honest to god catching fire is probably the best book adaptation i have ever seen and sam is a fucking fantastic finnick