Chapter 82

Despite the promise she had made herself over and over again, Annie found herself in front of her television night after night while Finnick was in the Capitol. It wasn't because she was jealous of whoever had paid for his time and company, it wasn't the women, or sometimes men, that he was seen with who interested her. Annie watched to see Finnick, to reassure herself that he hadn't been broken, not yet. She watched his face, his expressions, the way he held himself, as she sat with shells and jewellery spread across the table in front of the couch. Annie kept her hands busy as she watched, her eyes fixed on Finnick.

Whenever he was asked a question, he sounded confident. At least outwardly. They didn't know him like Annie did, however. She knew that they couldn't hear the underlying hurt in his voice. They couldn't hear the revulsion. They couldn't hear the weariness. But she could.

Her eyes followed Finnick's fingers as they grazed the collar of his shirt and traced the tibia shell necklace he wore. His green eyes flicked directly to the camera that was on him, and Annie knew that he was thinking of her.

"I see you, Finn…" she whispered.

It would still be several days before he would be back in District Four, but when he was, Annie was going to ensure that they celebrated appropriately. Perhaps they could take a boat out again. They could find somewhere nice to spend the day, this time just the two of them. Annie would, of course, let Mags and whoever else have their time with Finnick when he was back, but she was also definitely claiming more than a little time for just herself. Somewhere they wouldn't be found or interrupted. Somewhere she could remind him that he wasn't to blame for whatever had happened while he was away, that he had nothing to be sorry for.

She watched as Finnick and the woman clutching tightly to his arm headed inside whatever event they were attending and then she returned her gaze to the shell in her hands. It would make a pleasing necklace, she decided, moving several other pieces around on the table. There would be plenty of new additions to her shop window by the time Finnick was home.

It was past two in the morning by the time Finnick was able to stumble into his Capitol apartment. Without pausing, he walked straight into his bathroom and stripped his clothes off. He hadn't been required to do anything this evening except accompany a new acquaintance to a charity event, but still he needed to shower rather badly.

There had been more than a necessary amount of sickly perfume in the air at the event, and he knew that it was in his hair and probably the pores of his skin. Finnick wanted it all off. He stepped into the shower gratefully, closing his eyes as the hot water stripped all traces of them from him. He blindly pressed at several buttons and gave a relieved sigh as soap covered him entirely, washing it all away and swirling down the drain as he watched.

By the time he got out of the shower, Finnick was humming to himself. He couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to have Annie in one of the Capitol showers. He imagined they would have all kinds of fun with the endless options of soaps and bubbles to choose from. Smiling for a moment, Finnick wrapped a towel around his waist before coming to stand before the large mirror. The smile fell from his face as he looked at himself. Why would he want Annie near any of this? What was wrong with him? He should loathe anything and everything to do with this place. There was definitely something wrong with him. "Whore from District Four…" he muttered, his eyes moving over his reflection.

He hadn't taken any money since arriving this time. Instead, he had learned a few things concerning rather prominent members of government. Tonight's event had proven rather interesting, and although he didn't think anything he had learned was of immediate use, there were perhaps several things he might use later to learn even more interesting stories.

Turning, Finnick strode for his bedroom. He dug around in his bag for several moments before pulling out a small notebook. Before he could forget, Finnick began to write down everything he had learned during the evening. Then, flicking back through several pages, he quickly scanned what Raella had told him when he first arrived. When Finnick slipped the book back into his bag he paused for a moment. He would have to be careful. He would have to ensure that nobody in the Capitol ever saw the book. Not even for a moment. It was important that nobody here knew it existed if it was to be where he kept the secrets he was going to collect. Secrets were only valuable if nobody knew about them. And he needed them to be valuable. Finnick wasn't sure yet what he would end up doing with what he learned, but knowledge was power, and he would develop his knowledge until it did give him some power.

By the final day he would spend in the Capitol, Finnick was well and truly ready to go home. He was beyond drained and no amount of rest was able to revive him. He had slept for twelve hours straight yesterday, having the morning off, and he had awoken just as tired as when he had gone to bed. He missed the ocean. The scent of the beach, the feel of the sand between his toes. He missed being able to wrap his arms around Annie of a night, he missed the comforting thump of her heart against his chest as he held her close. He missed the feel of her hair sliding between his fingers as he watched her dreaming of a morning before she opened her eyes to meet his gaze. He missed those eyes.

Annie was right. There was no doubt Finnick had about that anymore. They only way that Snow would win was if they kept their lives on hold waiting for a time when they would be free from obligations and manipulations from the Capitol. He wasn't going to allow that any more. There would be no more holding back once he got home.

The morning that Finnick was due to return home, Annie hurried downstairs to the television and turned it on as she flung herself down on the couch. They always televised Finnick's departure from the Capitol and she wanted to be able to see him get onto the train herself. That was she could be sure that he was on his way home to her.

She was surprised to see Caesar Flickerman standing by the train when she found the correct channel. He had changed his hair from the disconcerting red he had worn during her games to a deep purple, and Annie watched as the man flashed his usual wide smile as Finnick approached. Unable to keep a smile of her own in, Annie almost held her breath, seeing Finnick so close to the train that was about to bring him home.

"Finnick Odair…"

"Caesar…" Finnick's voice was smooth, and Annie knew that he was eager to be on the train himself.

"Do you know why I'm here seeing you off this morning?"

"It is unusual…" Finnick replied, and Annie watched his eyes flick to the train before returning to Caesar.

"Indeed it is, but do you have any guesses?"

"Well, I suppose it has something to do with the next Hunger Games…" His green eyes turned on the camera then, and Annie's breath caught in her throat. Surely they couldn't be thinking about the next Games already.

"Just a little…" Caesar waved a hand at the crowd nearly who were all watching with interest and excitement, "We're all dying to know if you'll be back as a Mentor again this year…"

"I suppose it's likely." Finnick said with a small shrug.

"And of course Miss Annie Cresta will be returning with you."

"Probably also likely…" Finnick's voice had taken on a stiff note at that which Annie did not fail to pick up. She frowned when Finnick looked to the camera again as his fingers traced the tibia shell necklace he wore, and she knew that she was what he was thinking about.

Annie watched Finnick answer several more questions about how excited he would be to return for the next games, and then Caesar had made him promise to visit for an interview when he had the time between mentoring duties. When he was done, Finnick walked onto the train and then the doors closed behind him and Annie lost sight of him altogether. She waited until the train was shown departing the station, and then she turned the television off, sitting and staring at the dark screen for several minutes. She had known that she would be made to mentor, but she knew that Finnick would be with her, and that they would deal with that when it came to it. For now, she would only focus on him coming home. She would have him back by this evening, and she needed to be ready.

Getting to her feet, Annie set about organising herself. She would be ready.