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Hot Dog/Gaeta


one big cosmic joke

Orgasms end. Good lines stay forever.

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THG fic: "Spin Control" [2/21]
THG - Caesar Flickerman
Title: Spin Control
Pairings: Finnick/Haymitch, Kat/Peeta
Characters: Finnick, Haymitch, Chaff, Peeta, Gale, Kat; plus appearances by Mags, Johanna, Caesar Flickerman, President Snow, Effie, Claudius Templesmith, Beetee, Prim, Thresh, Rue, District Twelve ensemble and various OC
Rating: adult
Warnings: forced prostitution & non-con; people dealing with sexual trauma; rape fantasies; self-hate; canon-typical violence; minor character death (of major canon characters); implied physical abuse of children (in the Mellark household); alcoholism & drug abuse
Summary: When Haymitch Abernathy’s alcoholism makes the prime time news, Finnick Odair is sent to live in District Twelve to pick up the pieces. But it’s hard to save a friend if you can barely stand looking yourself in the eye. And it might become impossible once that friend decides to move hell and high water to bring two of his tributes home at once, even if it should cost him his own life.
Where’s My Victor? If you’re looking for the Peeta/Kat bits but don’t want to bother with the whole story, I’d recommend starting at around Chapter 17, where that gets going for real, though they do make their share of appearances before that too. Gale’s appearances will be scattered through the fic more evenly. Gale and Peeta both are scheduled to make their first appearance in Chapter 6. Kat, probably Chapter 11. Chaff will be featured prominently as well.
Prologue -- Chapter 1

Chapter 2: Arena Talk With Flickerman

It was later that evening on the Four floor of the Training Center when an Avox arrived carrying a note. Finnick accepted it without much thought, since it had just been a matter of time until his schedule of clients for the Training Week would arrive. It was only at the second glance that he noticed the instructions differing from the usual format of name and day, so he said, “Hang on for a moment” before the Avox could leave and leaned against the window sill, studying the order. A late-night edition of Arena Talk, Flickerman’s show had been scheduled on short notice and apparently Finnick was to appear as a guest.

“I’m sorry, did you bring Caramel one of these, too?” The woman shook her head. “Mags?” A nod. “Thank you,” he said, adding the hand sign for it too and she waved, scuttling off.

However, while Finnick’s first instinct would have been to go and find out which other victors would be dragged onto the show tonight before he drew any conclusions, fact was that there had only been one event of importance today beyond the Reaping and only one topic that afforded the extra attention. A Hovercraft had taken Haymitch to a Capitol hospital shortly after the broadcast had concluded. A doctor had released the information that “Mr. Abernathy” was conscious and oriented now, though lacking any memory of recent events. He had a minor concussion and a broken arm from how he had fallen down the stairs while drunk, but those small injuries would be healed within days.

Finnick wondered why he, of all victors, had been chosen to appear on the show and if there was anything he’d be supposed to do except sit at the round table and look beautiful while other people used the big words.


The answer to that question was no. Looking beautiful and aloof was exactly his only job that night, since the public storyline went that Finnick didn’t have anything to share on the topic of substance abuse. The fact that clients had expectantly handed him his fair share of party drugs wasn’t exactly what he’d call common knowledge, it didn’t count in the eyes of the Capitol anyway, and he had a pretty good idea that President Snow wanted to keep it like that. It was a show of trust, obviously: The President felt sure that Finnick would know not to go there. Flickerman had probably been instructed not to go there, as well.

After a remake session with Cherry, his stylist, and her team, he was trying to get comfortable in his chair despite the excuse for a pair of pants he wore, while the studio lights burned down on him and Flickerman discussed Haymitch Abernathy’s alcoholism, which was still a disease. He’d also been joined by a concerned Chaff, a knowledgeable Mags and old Terence from District Six, who had been through addiction as a young adult himself before the Capitol had saved him with its love. Finnick tried to avoid looking at Terence’s long sleeves, such an uncommon styling choice in a boiling hot television studio, covering up puncture wounds of Morphling needles. Before the show, Finnick had walked in on him shooting himself up in the men’s room. As far as he knew, Terence had never once sobered up since he’d won the 26th Games with a knife and a garrote.

Chaff took control of the conversation without prompting and did what needed doing on the victors’ end to keep Haymitch alive, swiftly building on the news coverage by weaving a story of loneliness and fame and social responsibility, a term Finnick hadn’t been aware the Capitol actually ever used for anything.

“Truth is, I should have seen it coming,” Chaff was saying, sprawled all over his chair as if he owned the world in that way he had and yet still looking supremely unhappy. “Everybody here is blaming themselves now, what with how often all the victors are featured on the television, but honestly, I’m his best buddy. Sure, yeah, we go out for drinks all the time. How could anybody else have seen it coming if I didn’t?”

“Now, now, Chaff, you were only seeing him once a year,” Flickerman chided him gently.

“Well yeah, all the signs were there for me to see though and I didn’t, right?” Chaff replied. “All the signs were there, but I didn’t want to see. I didn’t realize how hard it must be for Haymitch, only victor of Twelve and all and always the only mentor for the two tributes, too. He never gets to sleep properly during the Games until they’re both out, did you know that? Probably used the alcohol to stay awake.”

After delivering that last statement with a sorrowful face as if it actually had made any sense, he paused.

“And it doesn’t help that the Capitol drinks are so damn good. Easy for me to get distracted, too,” he added with chagrin, and the audience laughed.

Mags gave him a fond look before she turned to Flickerman. “The public often underestimates how stressful the life of a victor can become,” she said very seriously, careful to adopt something resembling the Capitol accent like she always did on the television, making sure she would be understood. When some of her teeth had been punched out in her arena, they had been replaced by the old-fashioned prosthetics they would spare for victors in those days, but she refused to have them adjusted anymore now that she was old, demanding people should just start listening more carefully to what she had to say. “It is especially hard for victors if they are supposed to be performing as mentor but failing. It is a great honor to be a mentor, victors are always anxious to succeed. It can be too much, honestly. I have seen this playing out many times. We put ourselves under pressure. One can get overwhelmed.”

“That’s what it was like for me, too,” Terence agreed with his grainy old voice, having aged prematurely. He could as well have been Mags’ age instead of only sixty. “The responsibility was weighing down on me. Not just to the Capitol, who I owed so much, but also to my tributes.”

“We all want to be at our best during the Games,” Chaff concluded.

“What do you think, Finnick?” Flickerman addressed him with a face of rapt interest. He usually adopted that same expression when he told Finnick to get on his knees and suck him off in his dressing room, as if it was a great adventure they were undertaking together. Suppressing a shudder, Finnick adopted a mildly inquiring look; the ancient host had the gall to wink at him. “You are spotted celebrating at parties more often than you are following the Games these days, are you not?”

A chuckle rolled through the audience, while Finnick graced him with a lazy smile, casting for something non-committal to say. “It sounds like I should probably start listening to Mags,” he settled on replying after a moment. The chuckle rose to a laugh.

“We should all listen to Mags Swanton,” Flickerman agreed with fake severity, then adopted a more honestly serious face again, moving through his moderation industriously as he addressed the camera. “Talk of advice brings me to the latest news that we received from White Feathers Rehabilitation Center, where the Head of Patient Support, Dr. Remus Quirm has told us that he will very likely not be able to release Haymitch in time for Day One of the Games. Indeed, Dr. Quirm warned us that it would be dangerous for Haymitch’s recovery if he were to continue his duties as mentor without making considerable changes to his life first. You’ll already have seen this on the news, but have another look at the footage.”

Alongside the others, Finnick dutifully turned to look at the massive holo screen behind their chairs, where the image of an ageless medic with mint green patterns tattooed on his bald head flickered to life. “I am worried about Mr. Abernathy, I am. This is going to be a difficult case,” the doctor told the camera. “As therapists, we see this every day. Yes, we can help this patient to detoxify and send him on his way. Will he have lost his attitude problem? No. He will drink again, and we cannot blame him for that. It will be almost impossible for him to not drink without undergoing extensive therapy first. It would even be so if he was a Capitol citizen, held to our higher standards of restraint. In my professional opinion, Mr. Abernathy is not fit to fulfill his duties by himself and he will not be for a long time to come. You cannot expect this man to act as the sole mentor for his district any longer.”

“So there is the pressing matter of District Twelve’s participation in this 72nd Hunger Games,” Flickerman continued when the feed was cut off, addressing the four of them. “There are two young tributes at the Training Center now, anxiously waiting for a mentor to prepare them for the Games as we speak. It doesn’t seem like it will be Haymitch. Furthermore, there is the matter of Haymitch handling mentorship in the future. Mags.”

“Well, there is precedence, of course,” Mags said. While she answered promptly, Finnick could see that a guarded expression had crossed her face. She wasn’t clear on what angle on this topic would most likely help the victors and Haymitch. Haymitch, who would have to step in front of a camera once the hospital released him, working with what they delivered right now and telling the public whatever Snow expected. Haymitch, who wouldn’t retire because none of them were allowed to retire. “District Twelve is special even now, it’s the only district with only one mentor. I remember a time when there would always be a district or two that would not be able to provide their own mentors at all. District Twelve was the most recent district without a district victor as mentor, actually, before Haymitch himself won the second Quarter Quell. Four years before, Twelve’s first victor, Swagger – he had died in a terrible accident, I remember…”

“Oh, of course.” Flickerman shook his head sadly. “He fell and broke his neck, I believe…”

“Yes,” Mags agreed with a nod of gratitude, although the way Finnick had been told the story, Shane “Swagger” March had fallen and broken his neck only insofar that he had kicked away the chair he had been standing on, a noose wrapped around said neck. “Swagger had died, so Lyra Ingram from District Two moved to Twelve as substitute…”

“I remember this, too,” Terence remarked. “It was expected that Lyra would stay at Twelve as second mentor even after Haymitch’s victory, as would have been common …”

“…but she returned to District Two at around the 53rd Games to mentor her daughter, who had decided to volunteer that year,” Mags finished with a nod. “Haymitch has been on his own since. Honestly, he has been doing commendably, all that considered. I also remember how District One used to mentor both Six and Ten, that was in the very early days when we had just started putting the mentoring system in place. It is the only district that has ever mentored three districts, including its own, at the same time.”

“So was there a call for mentors and they volunteered?” It took Finnick a second to recognize his own voice, because he hadn’t known he would open his mouth before he heard himself say the words. This wasn’t really supposed to be his show. Uneasily, he sat up in his chair, the cameras all on him now, while he spoke on, the words still just tumbling out of his mouth. “How did it work? Were they just chosen?” In the corner of his eye, he could see the other victors’ eyes turning towards him briefly when they wondered about his angle.

“Now Finnick, that would be quite cruel,” Flickerman laughed. “Forcing a victor to move to another district and leave their loved ones behind just like that.”

Finnick forced an unconcerned smile on his face, shrugging it off. “Seems to me like it would be a great honor,” he replied, half automatically, following the victors’ cardinal rule – when in doubt, call it an honor. “I’m sure a lot of victors would be greedy for the opportunity.”

“It is a great honor to be granted the chance,” Mags jumped in, her frail old hand grasping the arm of her chair ever so slightly. It hurt Finnick to see, knowing she was trying to help him out before he could do something stupid. But he didn’t want to be stopped. He suddenly really didn’t want to be stopped. Something was taking shape in his head – a wild opportunity opening up in front of him, one he couldn’t quite believe he was making out. “It is such a great responsibility, representing another district. So yes, Caesar is quite right, of course. Each of them volunteered.”

It was punishment for all of them. Finnick knew that was what Mags’ eyes would tell him if he wasn’t refusing to look; he was focusing on Flickerman instead with an expression of casual interest. They had said or done something wrong, their district had loved them a little too much, journalists couldn’t ignore their lovers anymore when they were supposed to stay available for the Capitol. Lyra Ingram from District Two – a Career! – could only have been sent to District Twelve for punishment. And when she’d had the gall to get the job done, producing a victor that quickly, she had been punished again by seeing her daughter off to the Games.

Little surges of adrenaline were being released into his bloodstream steadily, Finnick could feel it from the way he suddenly felt vigilant and awake, goose bumps appearing all over his body although he outwardly appeared calm. In a way, he even felt calm on the inside – the way he had felt calm when he threw that net and sent that trident after it, knowing that that tribute would die and he’d win.

This will work.

Something important was happening here, something earthshaking. It was just that nobody except Finnick was seeing it. But he was acutely aware that all the cameras around him were capturing the way he was lounging in his chair, every twitch of his face. Nobody had seen the opportunities in his arena except him, either. Nobody had known how to play that field except him. He had had to wait twenty-three excruciating days for those opportunities to blossom, but when they had come, his aim had been steady. He’d been prepared in ways the other tributes hadn’t been; they’d thought him just a little fourteen-year-old non-volunteer.

The studio lights were burning down on him, so hot that he might as well have been back in Four at the height of summer, the trickle of a small pearl of sweat running down underneath his perfectly styled hair. If he moved his head slightly, it would change direction and run past his ear towards his Adam’s apple, prompt the camera to capture it. Everybody’s eyes would be on that.

Every motion appeared larger than it should be. Finnick was used to playing to the cameras, he did it instinctually by now – Snow had made clear to him early on that it would be his duty to entertain, to satisfy, or people would die. So entertain Finnick did.

But that just meant that he knew exactly what angles to play and what results to expect when he did. All victors did. President Snow had never forbidden him this.

President Snow had never forbidden anybody to volunteer.

His heart was pounding in his chest, no matter the little image of the studio camera next to him showed him that he still looked perfectly casual.

A victor would be made to leave their native district.

Later on, Finnick would remember every second of these moments the way he still remembered every second of his Games, circling that tribute, throwing that net, the way the vines had slid over all the right callouses of his palm.

He would try to tell himself he was doing it for people like Mags, with her wife Dana and their crowd of children that they’d all adopted from the community home, never meaning to but then still falling in love with another little one every time they went there. His district’s Annie Cresta, who he barely knew but who he still knew wasn’t in any state to travel, tucked away safely on Victors’ Rock and insulting Snow by existing, because she couldn’t be sold. Haymitch, who deserved somebody who liked him rather than some snobbish failed Career who’d committed the crime of being too bland.

All of that would be a lie, though.

He was doing it for himself.

Because any victor, given the chance, would have taken the opportunity to run away.

“It was different in those days, I imagine,” Chaff idly said. “It’s pretty hard to imagine mentoring a district not your own.”

Flickerman chuckled. “Are you telling us you aren’t that sportsmanlike, Chaff?”

Chaff gave him a lopsided grin. “Didn’t win my Games with good sportsmanship, now did I?”

“That wouldn’t be true for any of us,” Finnick cut him short.

It was only in moments like this anymore that he felt like his body was his own, starkly aware of how it still was such a powerful weapon, how he could still use it to kill if need be even seven years after he’d won.

Very consciously, he drew a breath and released it again like he would before he attacked.

Chaff was throwing him a sharp look, his face guarded now – the expression of a tribute suspecting that his alliance was falling apart.

Finnick relaxed into an even more casual stance, giving him barely more than a glance.

In his Games, the world had been a tunnel as well. He’d seen everything, but nothing except his opponents reactions had penetrated. All of him had geared up for that wild power rush he knew was coming, fourteen-year-old menace poised to scream and scream and kill and to be in perfect control of the world. Of everything and everybody in the whole world.

Mags was glancing at him now, concerned and alert, in the corner of his eye.

He didn’t turn to reassure her, though.

Flickerman laughed.

“Careful, Finnick,” he teased. “It will sound as if somebody here is trying to apply for the job.” He winked at the audience, who laughed with him.

Finnick smiled at him.

The Capitol loves me, he reminded himself, steeling himself for battle. It’d let me do anything if I’ll just be on camera for them to see. President Snow would have to start letting him mentor regularly soon to satisfy that desire, he knew. Public dates wouldn’t suffice forever. Last year had been his test run, and they’d have him do it for years to come starting next Games. Mentoring for Twelve, though, would be even better. That was exactly why Snow would let him get away with it.

All the crowd needed was an introduction to the idea, a nudge in the right direction and it would all work out on its own. Finnick knew how to give them that.

Leisurely, Finnick made sure the cameras would capture him at his most beautiful. His hand idly gliding over his chest, he took care to move up his shirt, exposing just an inch of skin as if it was by accident. From the other side of the circle of chairs, Flickerman’s eyes fluttered there.

It was his strongest weapon; he’d long since moved past feeling anything about it. There was nothing that could ever transform him back into a decent human being again, anyway.

“Actually,” he said, rolling the word off his tongue like it meant nothing. “I for one would absolutely love to get the chance.”

“Oh?” Flickerman said indulgently, leaning forward in interest. It was surprising, considering how good that man was at his job, but he truly didn’t seem to see it coming.

Finnick shrugged. “I’d be so honored.” The words were like honey. “And just thinking about what a great challenge it would be. District Twelve hasn’t won in how long, twenty years? About time the next generation gets to try their hand.

“You’ve said it yourself, Caesar, I haven’t been contributing enough. But I don’t get overwhelmed easily. I’m up for it. I haven’t got a tribute this year, I’m in the Capitol. You want me to mentor for Twelve?” He threw the crowd a lazy smile before turning back to Flickerman. A roar of applause was their reply. “Sure. Why not?”

He said more then, working his way through stock phrases of challenges and honor and an opportunity to prove himself to the city he loved. None of it was new. It was like using a weapon he’d practiced with all his life, knowing exactly how it was balanced. Like yielding his trident.

Making love to the Capitol with words.

Once he’d reached his little climax of, “Let me volunteer for the job here and now,” there was no stopping the crowd anymore.

It’s like I never left the arena, he thought when applause crashed over him like a wave.

He would, without a doubt, find himself moving to District Twelve.

Very slowly, Finnick relaxed back into his seat.


“Finnick,” Mags said softly, reaching up to take his face into both of her hands. “Finnick, lad, what did you just do?”

Instead of replying, Finnick closed his eyes and turned his head away.

Never again, he thought. Mags, his parents, Keanu and Perri – his older brothers who both looked at him as if he’d gone Capitol – Coral, his kid sister who was of Reaping age now and slowly figuring out what exactly it meant when he was shown with all those movie stars and politicians on the television. All these people who meant so much to him that it hurt to think about. Soon, he would never have to look at any of them ever again. So he had become … he’d become that man, so what… at least his family wouldn’t have to see it.

They’d never learn his secrets, how fucked up he’d become. The things he thought about when he was alone at night, waking up from those dreams he’d never told anybody about.

It was in the backstage of the Arena Talk studio, a minute before Mags would have to leave as Chaff and Terence already had, her car waiting to bring her back to her tribute at the Training Center. A small television was running in a corner of the room, a crowd of journalists already searching the streets for the common man to interview about what they thought of the idea, Finnick Odair mentoring for Haymitch Abernathy’s futile district. Everybody seemed to love it. People were calling him competent, referring to last year’s Games, though all that was code for ‘hot.’

He had thrown a snowball on the show, but like he had foreseen, it was already growing into an avalanche – into a media event. The reporters had greedily picked it up. It hadn’t even been half an hour. But the Capitol had always been quick on the uptake.

Mags sighed, sounding helpless and tiny and old. “I don’t understand at all,” she professed. “But I wish I could come with you at least.” As if she didn’t have a family back home.

“I’m not a child,” Finnick said back, reflexively.

“No,” Mags replied sadly behind him. “I wish you had been allowed to be, though.”

A car was waiting for Finnick, too. His would be driven by Peacekeepers however, and they wouldn’t be escorting him to the Training Center, either. It would bring him to the Presidential Mansion, and it had already been waiting for him when he left the stage.

President Snow wanted a word.

on to chapter 3