a/n [For the lovely Estoma for Caesar's Palace's Secret Santa Exchange. Merry (late) Christmas!
This oneshot is made of twenty 100-word drabbles in chronological order. I wrote one or two per day in a random order to hope that the tense, voice, and style would alter slightly with each one to achieve some kind of effect of time passing.]
The first time the world crashed onto his shoulders, he didn't think it would ever get back up into orbit. It would grow heavier and heavier until his knees cracked and collided with the hard pavement he had scuffed with his shoes so many times. He almost hung his head in defeat, but somehow, through all of the confusion and panic, he remembered to keep his chin high.
It all started because of that little paper slip and that high squeaky voice and that one name out of hundreds.
It would grow to be much more than that.
Finnick learned three things while fighting for his life.
One. He overestimates people too much. They really aren't as spectacular as they make out to be.
Two. Everyone else seems to underestimate too much. He thinks that it could be a real problem for them, but he's caught in a game he's determined to win, and helping the opponents doesn't help him too much.
Three. He doesn't actually have a third thing in mind, but his English assignments always required answers to come in threes. He could see his teacher subtracting points right then, asking him to be more creative.
He was still so young; he didn't understand his own power. He just knew that the world was getting denser, and he wasn't growing any stronger. He tried, though, so much. He pushed until the little volcanoes all erupted and the little lakes spilled their water like tears and the little trees shook off enough food to feed the world twice over.
And he almost fell under all that weight. He tripped and tumbled, but always managed to stay upright. It was burden given to traitors in myths from his childhood, and Finnick couldn't figure out what he did wrong.
The sun shone brighter, the birds chirped louder. Things were finally looking up for him. If he closed his eyes, he could almost forget about the different tributes—girls and boys with a life, a family, a dream—that were dead because of him.
Finnick could almost pretend that he didn't wish he were dead. Almost.
Cool water flitted between his toes, jarring him away from his thoughts. He was home, where no one was trying to kill him. It was as close to peace as he could get, and he cherished it while it lasted. Though nothing can stay.
He saw demons on his Victory Tour. He witnessed spirits drift past him and flash him a smile of wicked sharp teeth. But the worst part was the ghosts. He could see them in the families of the other tributes, in the costumes of the Capitol citizens, and even in the plain, random faces of every crowd. They reflected in everything. Everything haunted him.
Home was the worst. Waiters trotted around with trays of some alcohol, and Finnick grabbed one of the small glasses each time one passed. By the end of the night, he just grabbed the entire tray.
Finnick managed to live two years of what Mags called bliss. It was, in fact, better than what he thought it would be, but warily, he waited for things to turn south.
History classes taught him that the end of the world used to exist; that the oceans were rumored to have spilled over the edge of the world and disappeared into an empty void. He felt caught in a boat at sea; just waiting to fall where could never get back up again. And, if he thought about it, the calm before the storm did imitate bliss rather well.
It turns out Finnick Odair had learned a third lesson after all. He could see himself quickly scrawling it onto the paper before the teacher entered the room.
Three. Always obey orders. (Especially when they come from bloated lips and a false smile.)
That was it. Short and sweet and tear stained because of course he had to learn it the hard way. He had to learn that blood is redder when spilled from someone you know. That blood is thicker when it comes from someone you love.
Extra credit: Four. Things are never easy once you are a victor.
Finnick Odair honestly hated the sixty-seventh Games, not like he watched much of it. Instead, he spent his time learning how to keep Snow happy, and doing some other things he would rather not think about. And he lost something there, hundreds of miles from his home, that he would never get back.
And that weight on his shoulders returned to his shoulders because so much was depending on him. He just wanted it gone.
He never told anyone, but he cried on that first night. He had spent so much time being strong that he forgot he could break.
He was older when he met her, wiser too. But he was still just a child, and, in the scheme of things, barely beginning. She was a little girl who still saw the brightness in the sky, who wished upon falling stars.
He disregarded her easily, underestimating the little strength she did have. He trained his own tribute, trained him to win. The boy died only six days in. Finnick Odair was distraught. He sat with his head in his hands, his feet planted on the ground but not rooted.
But then the girl returned to him, broken in two.
"The sky looks so dark."
"That's because it's night time, Annie."
"But it's usually much lighter."
"Maybe it's a new moon. Come on, you need to get home."
"But where are the stars?"
"They're all there."
"How do you know?"
"Would you like me to count?"
He said it jokingly, but her eyes lit up immediately.
"Please?" she whispered.
And somehow Finnick Odair found himself waking up on the sand by the shore with Annie pressed against his side. Her hair was sprinkled with sand and a little drool slipped past her lips. He found that he didn't really mind.
No matter how much he tells himself that things will get better, Finnick finds himself trapped. He winds up in the Capitol every year mentoring dying children and sleeping in beds that aren't his own. The routine is engrained in his mind, which he's thankful for because he'd rather not try to think.
He'll think about the waves breaking violently over rocks before lazily drizzling in closer before receding. He'll think about the brilliant colors and different worlds that hide tide pools. He'll think of the dock that sways in the wind, threatening to collapse.
He never thinks about Annie.
He and Annie built a sandcastle on the beach in the morning. They stenciled in bricks on the towers and flowers around the doorway. She added shells to the roof. He hung seaweed from the sculpted windows like flags.
In the afternoon they try baking, but really just have a war with wooden spoons and flour and a few eggs. He cleans it up while she showers.
There was a televised program scheduled for the evening. She sat with her feet over his legs and her head on his shoulder.
Three minutes later, Finnick's world crashed all the way down.
He was curious as to why the entire District was crammed into the square as if this was just a regular reaping. Surely there only needed to be a crowd of a hundred or so people to look good for the cameras.
A different hand from the one ten years ago reached into the glass bowl for the male names. A different squeaky (also shaky) voice called out his name. The same voice from Annie's reaping called out her name. She screamed. There was a volunteer before Finnick could fear for Annie. She screamed louder. He wanted to scream too.
Finnick couldn't remember how many times he had felt stuck. He was sure the number was endless, stretching into infinity; his whole life was one giant trap. But this time, he was literally—and also figuratively, if he thought about it—trapped.
He was surrounded by invisible walls, but he couldn't break them. He was surrounded by her screams, but he couldn't help her. The Games became real then. Before he could pretend he was that coldhearted killer he tried to suffocate over the years. That was impossible now.
The weight returned to his shoulders, a little heavier than before.
Everything is gray and drab and dark and deep underground. Except for the hospital, which is white, bright, and light. Finnick often travels between the two of them just to notice the stark contrast. Do people think that white is calming? Healthy? Sterile? It's just a color that he finds more annoying than anything. The lack of color is bothersome, too. There aren't any blue shirts, red birds, or those green, green eyes. She had enough light in her to turn these fading people into something wonderful. He was sure she would find every wonderful thing in this bland district.
He was waiting, and the longer he sat there staring at the clock the slower time seemed to pass. Eventually he gave up and looked at the ground; he traced the path with his eyes to the door, where someone would come in and inform them if the mission was successful or not.
Katniss was managing her time better than Finnick was. She accomplished losing herself in thought, rather than having her own brain take control of her. His own mind was taunting him, tricking him to believe that the rescue would fail. That his Annie would be lost forever.
She had her arms around his waist, and her face pressed into his stomach. He was attempting to braid her hair.
"There's no sky here."
"How do you know?"
"I can't see it."
"Because your eyes are closed. You can't even see me."
"But I can feel you."
"Well, maybe I can feel the sky."
She fell silent for a while. He smiled as he completed the braid, albeit messy.
"What does the sky feel like, Finnick?"
"Warm. Bright. Peaceful."
"Even if it was a storm?"
"Because I am here with you."
He could feel her smile.
Back home in Four, brides wear white. It's a tradition that is hundreds, maybe thousands, of years old. It was meant to honor purity or something. Most of the district associates it with sea foam, something created that's new and wonderful. To him, sea foam is annoying and gets dirty quickly. It is something fragile that is stomped on and whisked around.
Yet for some reason he always pictured his wedding as white and pure as it could be.
Today is far from his expectations, but, as far as Finnick is concerned, Annie has never looked more beautiful in green.
There were obstacles from every side. Finnick was cast in the middle of a war.
He remembers training—and waking up at six o'clock in the morning—then being assigned a team with familiar faces.
He remembers telling Annie, and the reaction that was less than pleasant.
He remembers leaving her with the impossible promise of his return.
And now he is caught running in circles, taking in orders, and fighting for his life for the first second third time. It was worth it, though. Snow deserved it for all that he did. Revenge wasn't kind, but it was fair.
There was a register of pain. Finnick blinked, and then it was over. His fingers reached out to grasp something, anything, but he couldn't reach. He started falling, and he couldn't pull himself back out. He was spinning around in broken promises and dizzying regret. His memories were hazy, like a dream.
The weight on his shoulders had finally lifted. If he could stand, he would stand up straighter. But empty skeletons can't do anything but wallow in deep thought. In fact, he spent every last second thinking of only Annie and her kind smile.
She was his whole world.