After eight years as an escort -- several of them rather intimately involved with Ollie -- I thought I knew victors. They're usually smart, often a little cocky, and very damaged. I was prepared to help Finnick through it, to steer him the right way, to help him heal.
I was not prepared for my laughing son.
He was also not prepared for me. Once it became clear that I couldn't avoid the cameras altogether -- at the moment, it's like avoiding salt in seawater -- I hacked off my red hair and let Lulla Kells dye it as dark as she could with her seashell paste. It's so black that it's almost purple. I compare myself unfavorably with Haymitch's new escort, who has a lovely lavendar wig. If only we wore things like that in Four. It's much easier to change your look in the Capitol. I could also be wearing heavy makeup instead of having deliberately broken my nose and rubbed my skin raw with gritty sand to age it.
Of course, if I were back in the Capitol, I wouldn't be the mother of a victor. Or wanted for murder, most likely, though if I'd had to deal with Glass much more, that might have happened anyway.
I suppose I know where Finnick gets his talent for not dwelling on things like that. I did what I had to. I'm sorry about it, but I'm also not constantly thinking about it, any more than I'm thinking about the Peacekeeper outside the train.
Finnick keeps looking up at me across the kitchen table in the lovely beachfront house. Behind him, I can see the gulf keeping time in its endless motions. I can also see the reporters on the beach, with their cameras trained up at our picture window. Doolin wants to accidentally drop something on them.
"I'm going to try a new room tonight," Finnick announces.
"I thought you liked the master bedroom," Doolin says. "It is the one you're supposed to have."
"It's my house. I want to sleep in every room. Besides, maybe you guys should have the big room. There are two of you. And I still want that sister!"
I roll my eyes. "Finnick, really."
"I think I'll try the one that looks out on Harris's yard. He goes out at night and has a campfire. I can try to throw things into it from the balcony."
"I wouldn't do that," I advise him. "Harris doesn't have much of a sense of humor."
"I'll get him to lighten up." Finnick bounces up and goes to the window, where he waves to the cameras. They flash like a lightning storm. "Or the sun porch," he says. "Those nice, screened windows... it'll be cool at night."
"You know you can control the temperature in the house now," I point out.
"I keep forgetting!" He pats the wall fondly. "Good house. But I still want the fresh air. When do you think they'll leave?" He points at the reporters. "I wish they'd go. I want to go swimming."
I go and stand beside him, putting my arm over his shoulders. Up close, I can see that, while he's not as damaged as Haymitch was, he is tense, and I wonder how much of his manic good cheer is just his way of expressing it. "I'm not sure when they'll go. Mags says this has been an unusual year."
"Because they think I'm good-looking," he says, and shudders. I've asked him about what happened while he was recovering, with the man who broke into his hospital room, but he won't discuss it. "I was looking at some of the pictures people have made of me. And stories."
"You shouldn't read the stories, Finnick. That's got to be odd."
"Tell me about it. There's this one about me and Cecelia -- the victor from Eight -- and she's bringing down canvas for sails. Then there are a lot more ropes on the boat than I've ever seen." He shakes his head. "There was another one with Enobaria Fells. Lots of biting. And someone else thinks I'm going to make Haymitch Abernathy stop drinking. From the looks of it, by putting other things in his mouth."
"What's wrong with these people?" Doolin asks. "You're barely fourteen. Abernathy's got to be thirty by now."
"Thirty-one," I correct him automatically.
"Old, anyway," Finnick says, bemused. "I don't know when they think I've had time to do any of that."
"Why would you even read those stories?" I ask.
He shrugs and heads back to the kitchen. "They're pretty funny. But judging by the art, there are some people out there who'll be awfully disappointed if I ever drop my towel." I hear a door open, and look over to see him going through a little storage closet off the pantry. "Hey!" he says. "It's filled with games. Brand new. You guys want to fire the projector up and see who can fly a plane through a canyon first without crashing?"
Johanna and Finnick having a conversation about Katniss volunteering after they arrive in the capitol during the 74th games for mariachillin
"Is Twelve in yet?" Jo asks as soon as she gets her tribute -- a sullen-looking seventeen-year-old wearing flannel -- into prep at the Remake Center.
I shake my head. "Train's not due for two more hours. They're almost always the last in."
"Did you catch the show?"
"You mean Haymitch taking a dive into the audience?"
She rolls her eyes at me. "Really, Finnick? That's the show you caught? I caught the one everyone's talking about. The volunteer."
"We have volunteers every year."
"Not from Twelve." She pulls herself up onto a metal crate and dangles her legs over edge, swinging her feet. "Haymitch came up on stage and started saying that he liked her and she had spunk. Then they switched to a panoramic view of District Twelve for a few seconds, so I wonder what else he said before he fell. If he fell. I bet they pushed him."
I laugh. "Jo, I don't think we need to postulate foul play with Haymitch falling off a stage. He was pretty smashed."
She shrugs. She doesn't like to admit that Haymitch is often falling down drunk. I don't mind. I like him anyway. And I think he can accomplish more three sheets to the wind than most people can stone sober... for instance, taking people's attention off of a tribute for a few seconds so she could get her emotions under control. They've shown the fall a dozen times, and I took a second to look at the out-of-focus girl behind him. She takes the opportunity to pull in a harsh, shaky breath before the next name is drawn.
"So, what do you think?"
"I think I'm curious. Did you see her in the background?"
"What about her?"
"Making sure she didn't cry. She took a breath. It was pretty quick and really efficient, but she did it. She's already playing the Games."
"Aren't we all?" Jo muses. "And besides, she could have taken a cue from a master, and cried her eyes out! It was a great tactic."
I pretend to go along with Jo's bluster about faking her debilitating fear during her Games. She needs it. Who am I to take away something she needs? "Yeah, but it's going to be another century before anyone forgets about you, Jo. They'll probably be keeping a close on every tear from now on. Is she going to be the next Johanna Mason?"
"You think I've only got a century? Have some faith in me, Finnick." She watches District Nine come in -- their mentors don't even stay long enough to see them off -- then looks back at me. "Do you think the boy's trying the Mason Maneuver? He looked pretty puffy on the way to the train. I don't think it would work for a boy."
"Maybe he was just upset."
"Not playing, then." She sighs. "Too bad. I got a good look at him. I wouldn't mind having a look for the next few decades. And a baker. All that kneading. Probably knows how to use his hands."
My stomach turns over. "Let's hope the sponsors don't get that far in their thinking."
She looks away, embarrassed. "Do you think Haymitch and Cinna are going to go through with what they were talking about? Visually pairing the tributes?"
"Oh, yeah. Especially after the girl got so much airtime."
"Do you think it'll matter?"
I consider it. "It might. It'll depend on them, though -- the tributes. If they can pull it off, it'll make a huge impact. If not..." I shrug. I can't really say anything, of course. It will be one more failed psy-op, like the taming of Butterfly Skaggs or Jack's one man crusade to get out news about the plague in Jo's arena. Even Jo doesn't worry about that anymore. I'm not even sure what Haymitch's endgame is with this. The only people it's going to affect are in the Capitol, and they're not going to rebel, no matter what his fondest dream is. (He thinks we don't know that, in the world according to Haymitch Abernathy, the war will ideally end with the Capitol being exactly like it is, only less bloodthirsty and without Snow's cadre of idiots. He may actually believe we don't know that the Capitol is the only place on earth where he even approaches being happy.)
Jo snags a drink from a passing Capitol Dreams runner, and sucks most of it up through the narrow straw that's supposed to be for stirring. "Well," she says, "maybe it'll at least be interesting." She glances up at a screen, which is again playing the moment when Katniss Everdeen volunteered. "But she better not steal my designers. That's all I have to say."
whatever happened to Jack's partner?? for Anon
(I'm not sure if this is the same anon who I was talking to in the thread, but that's the scenario I'm going to go with.)
Jack got word to me through Plutarch Heavensbee fifteen minutes before he died, and I got out just before the bombs started to fall, just before everything that mattered to us in the world was smashed to splinters. There were matters of great import in the house, but it's the silly things that I miss more. My wooden ducks. Jack's crazy art collection, with priceless masterworks hung up beside local kitsch. The origami butterflies that the town children gave him after he won the Games, which flew in a swarm around the living room. The picture of us when we were boys in the logging camp, which he drew from memory one night. In it, we were mugging for a camera that was never there. Jack was standing on a rock in Deadman's Pond, balanced precariously on one foot, about to topple into the water. I was already in waist deep, splashing him. It was the least romantic picture I could imagine, but for some reason, looking at it always made me love him just a little bit more.
I spent the first few months in the woods thinking I should have just stayed in the house and been crushed, if Jack wasn't going to come back to me, but that would have been selfish. Victors' Village wasn't the only place in Seven that was destroyed. They left the town alone, but two logging camps were burned out, along the forest that was their livelihood. I fell in with the refugees.
If there's one good thing about District Seven, it's that you can disappear into it, at least when the government is preoccupied with other business. Our little band of about thirty people went deep into the forest, past all of the heavily logged corridor, with its forests in various states of growth. We went into the old forest, where the trees are bigger than houses, and stretch high into the sky. These trees were here before Panem, and before what came before Panem. They'll be here long after I'm gone.
No one cuts into them. They're too big to handle easily, even we didn't have a superstitious dread about it. We built our cabins from smaller, more common trees, and simply hide in the shadows of the giants. At first, it was temporary, but we were so tired -- bone deep, soul-crushing tired -- that we just stayed.
There's no contact with the outside world. I assume the war is still going on, since Snow's troops haven't come in to crush us yet and the rebels haven't come to pull us out, but I really don't know. For all I know, we're the last people left on earth. Certainly, some of the young couples have been operating on that principle. Our group of thirty has added twelve over the past five years. One of the young widows wants me to help her have a baby ("No strings attached, obviously"... as if I wouldn't feel a few strings for my own child), but I can't. I know there are a few men like me who think of it as something like a charitable donation, but I don't seem to be capable of viewing it as anything other than than a betrayal and a false face.
Still, I'm Uncle Linden to all of the little ones who've learned to talk. One is even named after Jack. There are worse things in the world.
We keep a close guard every day, someone hauling himself up into the big trees -- we've put up a rope ladder -- to look out over the surrounding countryside, but until a day late in the summer, I have no idea what we're going to do if someone shows up. We have an elaborate alarm system, but no actual plans.
The whistle goes up from the guard, and is passed along among us. We climb the lower trees. Parents with small children go for the underground shelters we've dug. High up in the watch-tree, I see Helen Draper cock her rifle.
I see the two people enter the clearing. They're wearing uniforms I don't recognize. The smaller -- a woman, by her voice -- says, "It's cabins, all right. That's what surveillance say. Yoo-hoo!"
"We could set off fireworks, too," the man beside her says. "Just in case there's anyone left not watching us."
In the tree, Helen aims.
"Oh, shut up, Gale," the woman says. "Nobody's going to shoot us out here. Right?" She looks straight up at Helen, and takes off the large hat that's been shading her face.
I drop out of the tree. "Jo-jo?"
For the first (and probably last) time in my life, I see Johanna Mason genuinely surprised. She runs to me and throws her arms around me. "Linden! I thought you were dead! The Village...!"
"He got me word."
"I don't know how, in that mess, but bless Jack." She pulls away and looks at me. "You look great! Gale! Come here. This is my neighbor, Linden Anderson. Jack's husband. Linden this is my... Gale."
"I hoped you'd find a Gale someday," I tell her, and hold out my hand to the young man who's looking at me extremely oddly. "Nice to meet you."
"Um, likewise," he says, and shakes my hand.
"This is amazing! Who else is here?" Johanna looks around. "Well, come on. Get out here and say hello. Snow's gone. War's over. You can go anywhere you want. You can do anything you want. Except for calling me Jo-jo. I will insist on a law about that." She winks at me. "Well, unless you're an old friend, of course."