Nightmares are as steady a part of life post-victory as the new house and the visits to the capitol. Most of the time, Finnick can't remember if they were about dying or killing.
Finnick grew up a fisherman's son. That's nothing special, in District 4. It's slightly better than growing up the child of a factory worker, not comparable to growing up in the family of an official. After the games, the victory tour and the alliances, he knows that it's the same everywhere in Panem. There's the lower class, the upper class, and a whole lot of indistinguishable middle. That's how their world works.
The houses for the victors are so far from the sea that he almost can't smell it. The kicker about that is that the people who built them probably thought they'd do them a favor, taking them as far away as possible from the dirt, the stink and the noise of the area around the haven. They were wrong. Finnick misses it like he'd miss a limb.
He's sixteen. His world changed forever, two years ago, and in an unintentional added act of cruelty the Capitol made sure it doesn't even smell and feel like the one he remembers from before the games.
As often as he can, he leaves behind the victor's village, wanders through the gate and down the road towards the sea. He gets strange looks, like he doesn't belong, not anymore, and that stings more than he'd ever admit. But he walks past all of them with his head held high and his hands in the pockets of the old coat he inherited from his father. Let them look, let them think what they want. If the arena taught him one thing, it's to never show that he's hurt.
When he was little, early mornings by the sea were his favorite. He loved the smell of salt and wet sand in the cold air, the faint swoosh of waves crashing gently towards the beach. Boats being made ready to leave is noisy business, but after they're gone and before the fish canneries become busy, in that small window of time, it's almost peaceful.
Finnick had another nightmare. He can't remember this one either, but he knows it was vicious enough to make him get up in the middle of the night and stroll through the dark. It's a reflex, to come here and see the sea; his feet almost carry him without his involvement.
The sun has just started to set, piercing through thick, grey clouds when he sees the first glimpses of the water. The last boats are just putting out to sea, some of them already disappearing from sight on the horizon. To his left, someone's yelling, the rough baritone of a sailor who spent more time at sea than on the shore. Finnick doesn't pay attention to the words. He just sits down on a post at the end of the pier, coat falling open so the chill air can find its way in underneath the threadbare fabric, and loses himself in the familiarity of it all. He gets lost in it, sense memory, dating back to a time when he thought his worst worry was whether or not he'd get caught climbing around in the mast of the boat his father worked on at the time.
He's rudely brought back to reality when the yelling that lulled him is overshadowed by a scream. Agonizing, unmistakable, bringing back a whole different set of memories; the desperate cry of a human being in pain. Finnick wants to run, get away. He can now; he's not in the arena this time, he's got a choice.
Only he doesn't. Not really. Deep breaths, two of them, three, and then he's upright, running to the boat he thinks the scream came from. It's still towed and being loaded, likely the reason for the captain's yelling earlier. Every hour at the shore means less fish, less to sell, less food on the table of every single fisherman's family.
The captain runs past him, bloody rag in hand and cursing a blue streak under his breath. There's a doctor not far from the station, not an official one, but good and affordable. It's bad, if they consider shelling out money for him instead of self-medicating, stitching each other up while biting down on thick leather belts. Finnick once again considers turning away to spare himself, but he's not that kind of person. Now less than ever before.
He's taken the lives of others, kids as innocent as him. The least he can do is try and help out where he's able, put the first-aid lessons he got from Mags to good use.
His eyes search for and find the person who got hurt, who screamed. He's not much older than Finnick himself, possibly even younger, and he somehow managed to shoot a spear through his thigh. The end of it pokes out of the flesh. He's staring into the distance, biting his lips. Two of the boy's fellow sailors are by his side, hovering but useless. They're about the same age, panicking as much as he does.
Finnick steps closer, shoos them away. They stare at him for a second, probably wondering why he's here, at this hour, so far from his little compound. But they obey, get up and out of his way.
The wound is bad. The spear severed an artery, it looks like, judging from the amount of blood that runs past the kid's leg and pools underneath it to leave a dark stain on the worn wood of the boat's planks. It's risky to pull out the spear, but he's losing too much blood. They need to stop the flow, or the life will seep out of him before the doctor's back with thread and needle.
"You," Finnick yells to get the attention of one of the young fishermen. "Get me sheets and rope."
The kid stares, but takes off. His friend turns towards Finnick, eyebrows raised, silently waiting for instructions.
Finnick's mind races. "We need something to cut off the spear. A wire cutter? Do you have one on board?"
A curt nod, and that one takes off to, leaving Finnick with the injured sailor. He's getting pale, with fear or blood loss Finnick doesn't know, and there's so much fear in his face that it sends a chill up Finnick's spine.
He's seen that look. The person who wore it begged him to be left alive. Finnick killed her anyway.
Blinking the memory away, Finnick reaches for the kid's hand, squeezes it hard; it's all he can do until the other two are back.
As soon as they are, Finnick prods the kid into position, makes him draw in his leg so they can get at both ends of the wounds. He prepares the sheets and the rope, places them within reach. Both of the sailors listen intently as he explains what he plans to do: one of them will cut off the ends of the spear, then remove it as quickly as possible. Finnick and the other will try to stop the flow of the blood immediately, by pressing on the wound, until the first one managed to apply the sheets and the rope as some sort of makeshift tourniquet. He'd do that himself, but he doesn't know how to handle the cutter, and he doesn't want to risk taking his hand away for just a second once the spear is removed.
They work quickly, and Finnick loses track of time afterwards, while they try to stay as still as possible while they wait for the doctor to come and take over. His stomach rolls with nausea at the smell of blood in the air, warm and coppery, invasive and impossible to ignore. It's everywhere, his hands are covered in it, his pants, his coat. More tries to pulse out underneath his hand, every heartbeat bringing the kid a little closer to the end.
It's not a new sensation, being covered in blood, but the intent is different this time around. So will the result, hopefully.
Finnick doesn't resist when he's pulled up by strong, gentle hands and steered aside. He watches the doctor get to work without really seeing much of it. He's too captivated by his own hands, covered in the slowly congealing blood. He stands there long enough for it to start to dry up and flake, and it itches. His first coherent thought is to find a stream to clean up, and he doesn't remember where he his, when he is, until he's made a few steps forward.
The captain catches his arm, shakes him a little, bends down to meet his eyes. "Son, are you alright?"
Finnick nods, feels his face heat up with shame, can't really pinpoint what for. He looks pointedly at where the man's hand is wrapped around his arm, holding him back, and hopes that's enough to convey that he can't, that it's too much, that he needs to go. He needs to clean up, get the smell of blood out of his nostrils.
He's released, and doesn't spare the scene on the boat so much as look over his shoulder. The coat is dumped in the bushes by the beach, ruined, and Finnick bends down to wash his hands and arms in the current. At the last second he thinks twice of it and strips down to his underwear before stepping into the water. It's chilly, just this side of comfortable, but he stays in as long as he can stand. By the time he climbs back out, sits on a patch of grass to dry off before going home, he's numb and shivering. Above him, the sky has darkened, no rain yet but thunder rolling in the distance.
He looks at his hands, turns them this way and that. The blood is gone, but he doesn't feel clean. Hasn't in two years. Won't ever again, most likely.