And then I pulled a Lora and wrote 1000 words without getting to either baking or painting.
I still haven't actually written the doing of the things, but I don't know how to paint and I do know how to bake but that part didn't actually seem that interesting. BUT WHATEVER HERE IT IS.
Peeta gets off the train in Four, and the first thing Finnick thinks is "damn, he looks young."
Which he is, of course, but for all the months of the war he didn't look it, hollow-eyed and drawn and furious or terrified or lost.
Now though, in loose jeans and a T-shirt, hair mussed and blinking in the morning sunlight, he looks even younger than he is. And a little hesitant, looking around until he finds Finnick and relaxes.
"Hi Peeta," Finnick says, walking up and taking his bag. "Welcome to Four."
"Thanks," Peeta says, looking around with more interest now. "Nice to be someplace warm."
Finnick laughs. "Not warm yet out in Nine?"
Peeta shivers theatrically. "Not even close. Wind damn near takes your skin off." Spring is well under way here, hibiscus and honeysuckle scenting the fresh breeze off the water. Peeta's relaxing as they walk away from the station, down through the streets toward what people still call the Victors' Village. "How's Annie?" Peeta asks, "And Rory?”
Miraculous, Finnick wants to say, but settles for "Wonderful." Peeta looks a little wistful, and those kids never stopped confusing the hell out of Finnick. The baby was as fake as the marriage, but those kids love each other, and well, who knows. “They’ll be glad to see you,” Finnick adds, and Peeta looks down, shy and pleased.
Annie’s sitting on a rocking chair on the front porch when they arrive, Rory curled up on her lap, half asleep. Until he sees Finnick and Peeta, and then he sits up, all big eyes and bright smile. Annie sets him on his feet on the porch. “Papa!” he calls, and maybe someday Finnick will stop being amazed that that’s him, but not today. He runs up the steps to pick Rory up before he manages to topple down the stairs again, and Rory wriggles so he’s looking over Finnick’s shoulder at Peeta.
“Hi,” Rory says. Finnick glances back at Peeta, who’s frozen at the bottom of the steps.
“Rory, this is Peeta,” Finnick says. Then sets Rory down, turns to smile at Peeta. “He’s a pretty rambunctious kid, but he won’t bite,” Finnick says, and Peeta blinks quick, shakes his head and comes up the steps.
“Hi, Rory,” Peeta says, quiet, reaches a hand down, tentatively. Rory takes it in both of his, shakes it up and down, hard.
“Hi Peeta,” Rory grins up, tugs Peeta over towards Annie. “Mama, say hi!”
Annie stands up, gives Peeta a warm hug, and the kid melts into it. There’s an edge of wariness when he pulls back, like he’s trying not to accept this all the way in case it gets yanked away, but otherwise he looks happy. “Welcome,” Annie says. “Do you want to rest? Long trip, from Nine.”
Peeta shakes his head. “Slept on the train,” he says.
“Sit then,” Annie says, gesturing toward a chair. “Catch me up a bit.”
Rory looks back and forth between the two of them, climbs back on his mother’s lap. Annie smooths his hair back, and he snuggles close.
Finnick ducks into the kitchen, puts water on for tea. Picks up the tray Annie’s laid out with the scones he made last night. When he brings them out Peeta’s telling Annie about Nine, about the rolling hills around the town that’s going up, the wide open prairies where they grow wheat and corn and everything else, about learning to make bread with half sorghum flour because it’s hardier than corn or wheat.
“Here,” Finnick says, when Peeta pauses passing him the tray. “I put water on, what kind of tea do you like?”
Peeta looks at him blankly. “There’s kinds?”
Annie chuckles, soft. “Around here, anyway.”
“Oh, you mean like…mint and stuff? Yeah, I…whatever’s fine.” Peeta looks down at his hands, embarrassed.
“Yeah, we’ve got mint,” Finnick says, “But even with regular tea, there’s different blends.” He shrugs. “Capitol tourists used to come down. Wouldn’t do for them not to find what they’re used to, some of it trickled down to the rest of us.”
Peeta twists one corner of his mouth up in what might be an attempt at a smile. “Just the one kind in 12,” he says. “If you could find it. Never thought to ask…after.”
Always the new kids, Finnick thinks. He’d only had to be the wide-eyed fresh Victor for a year before someone else came along, but these two, well, there’ll never be anyone else, and Finnick hadn’t thought of that before. How they’ll always be the ones being explained to, never the ones explaining, and how annoying that’d been, and maybe part of that was him being 14 and dumb enough to think he was smart, but…well. It sucks to be the one who’s always in the dark.
“I’ll bring the jars,” he says. “You can see which one smells good.”
That gets him something closer to a real smile, so he’ll count it as a win. He pulls out a handful of jars, sets them on the low table between Peeta and Annie, goes back in to check the water. When he comes back with mugs, Annie and Rory are helping Peeta choose. Well. Annie’s helping. Rory’s chattering about—Finnick is honestly not sure what, but it doesn’t really matter.
“These are good,” Peeta says, turning one of the scones over in his hands. “How’d you make them?”
“Oh dear,” Annie says. “Don’t get him started unless you want to be here for a while.”
Finnick laughs. “I could show you,” he says, “Probably easier, and then we’ll have tomorrow’s breakfast, too.”
“But Papa you said we could swim!” Rory stands up on Annie’s lap, one hand on her shoulder for balance, and Annie’s hand comes up to steady him as he wobbles. “I wanna go swimming!”
Peeta’s face falls, his hand going to his leg, somewhere around where the prosthetic starts. “Rory,” Finnick says, “How about you go swimming with your Mama and Peeta and I will bake something for when you come back.”
Rory scowls, cocks his head on one side. “Will you make chocolate-chip cookies?” he asks.
“Sure thing,” Finnick says, grateful that he can buy a peaceful morning that cheaply.
Rory nods then, jumps down and grabs Annie’s hand again, pulling her into the house. “I wanna go all the way to the deep part,” he says, “and maybe we can see a shark that would be awesome, or um a jellyfish but not get stung just watch and did you know if you pee on a jellyfish sting it gets better? Darren told me and he’s five so he knows stuff.”
The chatter trails off as they go inside, and Finnick sits in Annie’s recently-vacated chair and shakes his head. “If you want to swim sometime, the beach is pretty private,” Finnick says, glancing over at Peeta and then out towards the ocean.
“Yeah,” Peeta says, voice a little distant. “I haven’t been swimming since…y’know.”
It bothers Finnick, on a pretty basic level, that the Capitol managed to twist the ocean into something painful. He loves the water, fighting the waves, being cool and clean and weightless and strong. After Annie, after Johanna, he understands the aversion, but he still doesn’t get it, not really, can’t understand the feeling.
“Well, it’s up to you,” Finnick says, keeping his voice light. “Meanwhile, we’ve got some baking to do.”
Just before it’s time for Finnick to take him to the station, Peeta comes out onto the porch holding something close to his chest and looking furtive.
He glances between Finnick and Annie. “I made something for you,” he says. “I mean, if you want…”
“What is it, Peeta?” Annie asks, smiling.
Peeta turns it around and Finnick grins. Annie’s breath catches, and her eyes well up. “I painted it when you guys were swimming the other day,” Peeta says, shy. “You looked so happy.”
Finnick takes the painting and Annie pulls Peeta in for a hug. “Thank you,” she whispers. “It’s perfect.”
Finnick looks down at the painting. Annie’s holding Rory’s hand, walking back toward the beach while Finnick looks on. The sun hits Rory’s curls so they light up his face, and Annie’s hair gleams like burnished copper.
Finnick doesn’t like getting his picture taken, doesn’t like posing, doesn’t tend to like looking at images of himself—but this is different. He’s standing further out, water up to his hips, out of the sun, and he’s watching over them, his family, the one thing he never thought he’d have. And it’s perfect.
Annie takes the painting, bends down to show Rory with admonitions to be careful, not to touch, and Peeta looks over at Finnick. “Thank you,” Finnick says, and Peeta stands a little straighter. Looks Finnick in the eye for once.
“Least I could do,” Peeta says. “Thanks for saving me.”
Finnick thinks of the jungle—a flash of green, of panic because at the last minute the plan had dissolved into chaos, of not knowing, of finding out Peeta and Annie were both in the Capitol, of weeks and weeks of waiting and wondering and trying to hold himself together, and—
“We save ourselves,” Finnick says. Peeta looks startled. “We’re Victors,” Finnick goes on. “That’s what we do.”
Peeta starts to say something, closes his mouth. Cocks his head, thinking. “Well,” he says eventually, “then thanks for being an ally.”
Finnick claps a hand to Peeta’s shoulder, squeezes. “You’re welcome,” he says. Glances down at Annie and Rory. “Come on, let’s get you some snacks for the train.”