Rokia's disappeared down to the Three floor again, ashen and exhausted and wide-eyed and blank-faced, and Phillips watches her leave and wants to scream. She's his girl, his one miracle in twenty four years, forty seven dead kids and she walked out brilliant and strong and alive, and it's not the Arena that's left her jumping at shadows, cowering away from him, hidden deep inside her own mind where he can't begin to pull her out. Doesn't even know if he should, even if he knew how.
There's no manual for this, he hasn't felt this out of his depth since he got on the train in 49 with two kids looking to him to save them and Poppy smiling and sleepy eyed and utterly fucking useless. He wasn't much better that year and he's not much better now, when it's his miracle girl slipping away from him with every time she steps out the door. Unlike mentoring, though, he doesn't know who to watch, where to find ideas that lead to plans that help him understand what he has to do. So he's sitting on the couch watching someone's analysis of how the Games are playing in which demographics, trying to bring himself to care because it should matter, he owes next years kids the best information just in case there's some chance it will matter, but it's all just so much noise to him right now.
It's all noise until Mags shows up to talk about District Four's two tributes, taking a backseat in the coverage to the girls who've turned the whole Games into cheap pornography. Phillips hasn't seen her since her stroke, and her face has changed, lax on one side, and she's struggling a little to make herself understood, but she's there, straight backed and head high, telling the interviewer that while she's got to let the younger ones take their turn mentoring, she's not too old to come help out.
Phillips figures it's more about Four's sponsorships being a little thin, pulling Mags in will up the interest and maybe get them some more resources to play with, but he's watching anyway and so will everyone else. Finnick is sitting next to her, attentive enough to seem like he's fussing, fingers just brushing her arm as though he's afraid she'll disappear if he doesn't keep track of her. Phillips doesn't think Finnick really notices, and for someone so used to the cameras that's saying a lot.
Phillips remembers Finnick's games, because everyone does, but he remembers, too, just how much the kid's changed since he walked out, since Snow twisted him into the perfect Capitol plaything, and if Rokia is the latest Victor to be caught up in this filthy game, Finnick is still the model. And Mags is still his mentor, and watching them on the screen something clicks, the veiled hints he's heard from the Fours and once from Beetee after the 70th, the way Mags always watches, never trusting the Capitol to be anything but the pit of vipers it likes to pretend it isn't. He's never thought it was worth thinking about before, too much risk for no reward at all, but that was before he got Rokia out only to lose her anyway.
Now the anger he'd thought he'd gotten over years ago is back, guilt and pain aren't enough for forty seven dead kids and one who lived only to get chewed up by the people who claim surviving their Game makes you a Victor as though that was something good. No, the guilt is still there and the pain hasn't left but he's furious, too, not the hotheaded frustrated rage of a teenager who's discovered how the world works, but something colder, quieter, that isn't likely to burn out when the Games end. Something has to change, he refuses to allow for a world where Rokia spends twenty four years sending kids to die, then going out to be fucked by the Capitol's rich and famous. It has to end, and he's got no illusions about what it's likely to cost, but right now at least he does not care.
He sits in the room for a long time, wondering what to do, while Rokia appears, vanishes into prep, leaves again. Finally he scribbles a note and hands it to an Avox. The reply comes quickly, the single word "Yes" and a time tomorrow morning.
The next morning Rokia's in her room, asleep, and he doesn't like leaving her alone but he damn well hopes she'll sleep at least another hour, so he goes up to the roof, sits on a bench under the windchimes, and waits.
He doesn't have to wait long. Mags moves slowly, but when he gets up to help her she glares at him and waves him away. She sits next to him and turns to look him in the eye. "So," she says, when the silence stretches as he struggles for words.
Phillips takes a breath, looks at her. "It has to stop," he says, barely above a whisper, and he doesn't know if she heard, but she nods. "It has to," he says, and it catches in his chest when he looks at her. There are some things you don't ask, though, and "how do you send your kid out into this and live with yourself" is one of them. Mags nods as though she understood it anyway, puts her hand on top of his, and sighs.
"Yes," she says, simply. "And it will."
They sit, silent after that, and Phillips has a thousand questions and doesn't know how to ask any of them, hasn't thought much about what on earth he could actually contribute to a vast criminal conspiracy, but for right now it doesn't seem to matter as much as sitting here looking out over the city and knowing. Knowing that if nothing else, he isn't on his own.