He was seventeen, almost eighteen, born in the autumn right after Haymitch Abernathy won the Second Quarter Quell. That meant that Haymitch had been dealing with his dead family and the business of being bought and sold virtually as long as Finnick Odair had been alive. It had been bad enough meeting him last year and seeing the obvious toll it had taken, but this summer, after enduring a really bad Games last year, Haymitch was even worse. He’d come back to the Capitol probably ten pounds heavier and barely making an effort to put down the liquor, even for his tributes or his handful of remaining patrons.
So while they’d sent Finnick here to this club with its pounding bass and flickering lights and encouraged him to drink and party and be young and fun, the bartender was sympathetic and so, he was drinking mostly fruit juice with a splash of rum. But the patrons had started up again already. Second day of the 68th Games and he’d kept close to a dozen appointments already since arriving barely a week ago. He thought of Haymitch and what a gradual ruin he’d become, how he’d apparently finally lost the last of it, wondering with a shudder if that would be him in fifteen years. Maybe it would be better to drink and to feel nothing, because he’d spent the entire year carrying it like a cancer inside him, unable to tell anyone in Four the truth and have them really know him, dreading coming back and having the vicious cycle of it start all over again.
“More rum this time,” he said grimly, shoving the empty glass back, accepting the fresh drink.
“On me,” came a lazy answer as Gloss Donovan leaned on the bar next to him. Gloss had won the year before him, District One’s golden boy in both looks and manner. They’d never talked much, though, given that Finnick had been kept away from the Capitol until last year, and Gloss seemed to stick more to his sister Cashmere and to the winner of the 61st, Enobaria.
But still, One, Two, and Four were traditional allies, so it paid to be nice, right? “Thanks,” he acknowledged. “Though you know we don’t pay for it anyway, right?”
Gloss grinned, teeth shining white in the lights. “Of course not. But let’s give them a nice photo op, huh?” Finnick didn’t glance over his shoulder, knowing the cameras were there. They always were.
He didn’t count the drinks after that, but it was enough that he had a decent buzz. He did remember Gloss actually having a decent sense of humor, and cracking some jokes about patrons and the like. The thought of having to go back to the Training Center and tomorrow, after his shift, after he left the console to Mags, go back for prep to be plucked and groomed and prepared for some other Capitol citizen to touch and to possess made him suddenly furious. I’m mine, not theirs, he thought fuzzily, who are they to tell me who I should fuck?
His lips were pressed up against Gloss’ before he could think, and he wasn’t surprised the man was a good kisser, he got sold all the time too. He must have been trained. “Oho, what are you doing?” Gloss said, his hands sliding down to grip Finnick’s hips, cocking his head and giving Finnick a silly, sloppy grin. His eyes were such a bright blue, had Finnick ever really noticed that?
It wasn’t like kissing patrons, where he wanted to wipe off his lips every time. It wasn’t like kissing Johanna either, that desperate need they had for each other, keeping each other sane and whole as best as they could. And it sure as hell wasn’t like with Haymitch last year, sensible advice along with a practiced but empty kiss. It just felt good. He felt good kissing someone , which was more than Haymitch could say, and he didn’t ever want to be Haymitch, did he?
“Giving them their stupid photo op,” Finnick replied with a lopsided grin in return, kissing him again. Tongue, this time, and he let out a gasp as Gloss reached down and gave his cock a gentle squeeze. The flash of the cameras seemed to pulse in time with the lights in the club, too much. “Let’s get out of here.” He’d show Snow, he thought angrily.
After that, back at the One apartment, painted in gold and white, Gloss said, “Cash is out on an appointment, it’s OK,” pushing Finnick eagerly towards his bedroom, and that was the last thing either of them said for a long time except the likes of yes and more and wordless, guttural groans. It didn’t hurt, unlike it usually had with his male patrons.
He woke up in the morning amidst tangled sheets, with a roaring headache, draped over Gloss’ chest. Nudging Gloss awake, realizing he probably had to cover things for Cashmere, he barely had time to scamper up to the Four apartment, shower and dress, in time to relieve Mags at Mentor Central.
“Anything new with Ekman and Conch? Are they still with the pack?” he asked, avoiding her eyes because he felt weirdly like she’d know by looking at him, and he didn’t have anything to feel guilty about, did he? It was a stupid question, it was only the second day, of course their tributes were with the pack still. Chances were nothing had happened overnight and Mags had been able to get much-needed sleep in her chair or in the lounge before going out and drumming up more sponsorships today. Mags was old, and usually Capitol people were horrified by that, but she was such a Games institution by now that her name still carried plenty of weight with potential Four sponsors.
“Ah, boug, quite an evening you had,” she said with a sigh, shaking her head vigorously and sending her long grey hair flying. He cringed, sensing that she was disappointed in him.
In the next chair to his right, at Five’s station, Laurence Talbot chuckled and said, “Man, oh, man, Finnick. Quite the celebrity newscast you and Gloss made there. Those pictures?” He let out a low whistle between his teeth.
“Get a room!” came the joking shout from down the line, Rye Laaksonen from Nine. Next to him, Clover Anden reached over and smacked her district partner upside the head.
“They already did, look at those love bites,” Laurence yelled back. Finnick’s cheeks were burning bright red, and he thought, flustered and a little upset, I could just kill him and his big mouth, towards Laurence. Then he looked over at the One station to see Gloss looking equally sheepish and embarrassed. Next to her brother, Cashmere’s eyes were staring holes into him. If she’d been in his arena looking like that rather than her tribute Angora, Finnick didn’t doubt even his trident wouldn't have saved him.
He didn’t even look over at Johanna, knowing she’d probably bust his chops something fierce and mock him too. One glance at Haymitch and he saw he had his feet up on his console and his headphones on and wasn’t even paying attention, though whether he was focusing on his remaining boy tribute or the bottle of whiskey in his fist, hard to say. He kept his head down and hastily asked Mags again for another update, and after she left he kept his headphones on so he didn’t have to listen to the teasing.
Though when the pack settled down to make plans and he figured he could take a break in the lounge, he walked in on Johanna and Cashmere fucking each other on the couch.
“What, anyone ever teach you to knock, pretty boy?” Cashmere said with a snort, raising a perfect blond brow at him as she sat back.
“Jo?” he said uncertainly, all at once furious and guilty. How could she? She had to be doing it just to get back at him, right? Cashmere had done it also just to get back at Gloss. He knew the two of them were close. Too close, really, so close they apparently had no room for anyone else in that, but that was the Capitol’s fault.
“Yeah, what?” Johanna said boredly, as Cashmere smirked and ruffled the short spikes of Johanna’s brown hair. “You wanna come back later when I’m done, Finn? I don’t think Cash here would let you join in.”
Just then, the door opened and Haymitch walked in. He looked at Finnick, then his eyes went to Cashmere and Johanna and for all the interest he showed in two virtually naked young women, he might as well have been made of stone. “Oh for fuck’s sake,” he thundered at them, “I know I’ve told you horny idiots we have an apartment for this, and you have your own damn rooms at the Training Center!”
Cashmere gave a snort of irritation, languidly reaching for her clothes in no particular hurry. “You think just because Chantilly likes you that you can boss—“
“I think you and that damn brother of yours both have enough mentors to know better,” Haymitch cut her off abruptly, and something in his face, the hard-eyed flinty grey stare he gave her, shut Cashmere up. As she passed by him, Finnick heard him adding lowly, too low for the microphones, “And you two got a raw deal, no question, but that ain’t an excuse.”
Johanna, in contrast to Cashmere, was scrambling for her clothes now, her hands almost shaking. Finnick edged towards the door but Haymitch barked, “You stay here a minute. Sit down.” Mutely, Finnick obeyed, perching carefully on the couch. He didn’t look at Johanna, not sure what he would say to her. Haymitch waited, arms folded, until Johanna was dressed again and sitting beside Finnick. He noticed she didn’t touch him.
Then he leaned in and if the alcohol fumes on his breath were almost enough to make Finnick’s eyes water, the intensity in his bloodshot eyes and the blazing fury on his face were enough to make him realize Haymitch was more than sober enough for this. He’d never seen Haymitch anything but nonchalant or sarcastic, so obviously this was something that mattered to him in a way sex or the Games or other things hadn’t. “There are,” Haymitch said softly, and his words had that thick Twelve twang but the crisp precision of rage rather than the slurring of drinking, “only a few dozen people in this entire country who can really understand you. The arena, the mentoring, the whoring, all of it. We’ve got enough damn people out there in the Capitol seeing us like we ain’t anything but theirs to use and throw away. We don’t do that. We don’t deliberately hurt our own. So go on and fuck your friends, since it helps keep you together, but don’t you dare fuck ‘em over.” He glanced over at Johanna, something that might have almost been a moment of gentleness creeping into his tone. “Especially for you, when the victors are all you’ve got left.”
He hadn’t thought about Johanna last night when he was flirting with Gloss, he was thinking only about making a point to Snow and to the Capitol. The guilt and shame of it sat heavy inside of him suddenly. But she’d hurt him right back, accepted whatever Cashmere had probably offered her, and had she done that here intended that he’d walk in on it, or at the very least hear about it from whoever did interrupt?
“Yeah, fine, Dad,” Johanna said finally, though her tone wasn’t quite the studied boredom she was going for. He knew her too well and knew she was upset. “Can I go now?”
“I ain’t your father, Johanna,” Haymitch growled at her in irritation.
"Hey, that’s a plus,” she said, glancing up and giving Haymitch a smile that with her crimson lipstick was thin and sharp and red as a knife that had just struck home. Her voice was quiet to avoid being overheard—the older victors trained them well—but the fierce fury in her eyes meant the words fell with the weight of a shout anyway. “I know Cash and Gloss like keeping it in the family, but well, you and me, wouldn’t that have made things real awkward last summer?”
He couldn’t say how he knew, what faint alteration of Haymitch’s stance or expression said it, but he sensed Johanna had just cut him deeply. “Jo,” he said warningly, knowing she was doing it because she hated feeling put upon or vulnerable, and so she wouldn’t stand for Haymitch making her feel ashamed. For his part he was regretting Gloss already, wished it had never happened. Snow probably didn’t care. The only people it had made fools of were those he hadn’t intended. The pleasure of it, the defiance, hadn’t been worth it. Haymitch and Johanna were both living examples of how rebellion cost those it wasn't meant to hurt.
“Whatever,” she snapped, getting to her feet, slipping her feet into her black flats.
Haymitch blocked her path for a moment. “Have the sense to set some ground rules between you two so nobody gets hurt,” he said tersely. “That’s all.” He nodded to the door. “Now beat it, both of you, so I can get some sleep.”
After his appointment that night he went and knocked on the door of the Seven apartment. He wasn’t sure she’d answer, but she did, obviously having just showered the touch of a stranger off her own skin just as he had. He saw the dark bloom of the bruises on her throat, nothing like the hickey Laurence had joked about Gloss giving him. “Oh, Jo,” he said helplessly, feeling like nothing he could do would be right, nothing he could say would make up for how stupid he’d been. She was his friend, his best friend, and he’d hurt her maybe even worse than that bastard who’d been choking her.
She grabbed him and said hoarsely, “Just get in here and fuck me already, OK?” though the way she clung to him, burying her face in his hair, fingers moving restlessly over his back, said more than enough. She didn’t need Cashmere and he didn’t need Gloss; they needed each other.