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THG fic: "Spin Control" [18/24]
THG - Haymitch - thoughtful
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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; anorexia and exercise addition
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.
“Spin Control” on LJ: Prologue -- Chapter 1 -- Chapter 2 -- Chapter 3 -- Chapter 4 -- Chapter 5 -- Chapter 6 -- Chapter 7 -- Chapter 8 -- Chapter 9 -- Chapter 10 -- Chapter 11 -- Chapter 12 -- Chapter 13 -- Chapter 14 -- Chapter 15 -- Chapter 16 -- Chapter 17
Fic on AO3


Chapter 18: Secrets Shared And Secrets Kept

It was early in December when Effie called Haymitch but happened to reach Finnick, preparing dinner for the two of them. Fortunately, Effie started prattling at him obliviously, never wondering why neither of them had picked up the phone half an hour ago.

“I,” her chirpy voice announced, “am having the most terrific news. A very lucky district has been cleared to hire two new stylists!”

It turned out that their firmly mediocre stylist couple had finally decided to retire, now that their health wasn’t up anymore to the stress of inflicting makeup on two doomed little children once a year.

“Of course, we cannot expect a miracle,” Effie warned, “a district such as Twelve will traditionally be receiving applications by recent fashion school graduates only, but I have already seen some applicants’ portfolios and I think we will have quite the broad array of choices, even though they will all be from beginners. I’m sure their skill will just mature over time. A first selection is already on its way to you. Tell me what you think! This is a big, big, big opportunity on our path to success!”

The applications arrived after a week. While Haymitch gave them a distasteful look and muttered that “as long as I can find excuses” would be the appropriate timeframe to delay looking at them, Finnick shook the folders out of the envelope on his way back into the house and sifted through them for a first cursory look at the future of Twelve in the Games. Everything could rely on a good stylist who supported their strategy for them; the districts with gifted stylists willing to collaborate with the mentors had a huge advantage.

He found his eyes glued to a parade costume draft by one Bonbon Canella, who had forgone the use of fabrics altogether to paint her models in delicate smears of coal dust patterns, covered only by strategically placed smoky black plastic. It was horrible and modernist and beautiful, and imagining it on twelve- or thirteen- or fourteen-year-old, starving bodies, imagining it on his own at that age, painfully twisted something in Finnick’s guts.

***

He woke up that night, startled and shaking, still starkly feeling those hands on his chest, on his ass and inside of him, muffling his last breathless “no” into the pillow. Everything prickled on his skin as if electricity was crackling in the air. Finnick thought he was possibly crying, but arousal was burning all through him, and his hand was clutching his cock even as he was curling into himself, wanting to be gone but especially, wanting that desire to be gone. It took no more than one, two harsh, perfunctory strokes until he was coming, shaking as he did, sobbing while he emptied himself into the sheets.

He hadn’t had one of these dreams in months. It was unfair. That was all that he had time to think before sheets rustled and Haymitch turned around with a sleepy, muttered, “You alright?” and it hit him that he hadn’t been alone.

He hadn’t been alone and Haymitch would find out, like Finnick had feared all along.

Rational thought made way for panic. When Haymitch reached out, his hand grazing Finnick’s shoulder, he flinched away so hard that he hit the bedpost, the bed creaking loudly under his weight.

They’d kept the ceiling lights turned on for the night like always, the soft shadows covering absolutely nothing.

“Shit, Finnick,” Haymitch was saying somewhere, suddenly much more awake, the bed groaning again when he sat up abruptly. “Calm down. What’s going on?”

It usually was Haymitch who startled awake from nightmares, relying on Finnick to talk him out of it and to remind him where he was. It rarely ever was Finnick. If it was Finnick, it didn’t take long for him to come out of it, and he always knew that it had only been a dream. The trident on the wall across the room usually served to calm him down.

Now, everything happened so fast that he couldn’t even process it, and he wasn’t looking at the trident. He was breathing too hard, hyperventilating already, blindly holding onto the bedpost, needing to suck in more air. His chest seemed to be bursting. Sweat formed on his forehead. Haymitch was so close and Finnick was reeking of sex.

I was talking in my sleep. He got off on rape and Haymitch knew.

“I…” he tried to manage, but then he was leaning over the edge of the bed and everything that had been in his stomach hit the ground.

He was shaking and vomiting and crying at once.

Haymitch had somehow gotten out of bed, apparently, because he was standing in front of him now, grimacing and rubbing his face and looking like he wanted to reach out but didn’t dare.

“I’m… shit, Finnick… you got to calm down, alright? We’re in your house in District Twelve. It’s gonna be months until you have to go back there. It’s not happening to you now. Shit, you gonna let me touch you? You look like you’re about to fucking burst.”

But Finnick was flinching away again, just at the suggestion that Haymitch might get close to all that proof of what a pervert and a slut he was, sperm all over his fingers, and Haymitch was taking a breath.

“Alright,” he said. “Alright. You stay put. I’m gonna clean this up. It’s gonna be fine.”

But nothing would be fine again. Finnick was still clutching the bedpost with his one hand, the other, dirty one curled up under the blanket, left alone in the room to his breathing, breathing into his belly, holding it in, exhaling. Instinct kicking in. Breathing like that was like swimming.

The world calmed down, though clear thought refused to reappear, and that terrible fear clung to him along with the cold sweat.

Haymitch returned, a bucket and rag in hand.

“I should be doing that,” Finnick managed. Haymitch, getting on his knees next to the mess, snorted at him.

“It’s this very special victor’s talent I have,” he said. “Cleaning up puke. And it ain’t even the next morning with a hangover right now, so this is like beginners’ class.”

His bizarrely casual tone tore at Finnick’s perception, bullying its way past the panic and the disgust and the fear so sharply that he threatened to shake again. He stared at Haymitch. It occurred to him, for the first time, that Haymitch hadn’t even noticed what had happened. Finnick had said things in his dream, but Haymitch had still been asleep or not known to take them for anything but a nightmare. Finnick still felt hands crawling all over him, the residual arousal at least washed away by the nausea, but Haymitch couldn’t see any of that.

The stench of vomit covering up any stench of sex.

Haymitch paused in his work to look up at Finnick, who still hadn’t moved.

“Wanna talk about it?” he asked and Finnick, without missing a beat, breathed “no.”

He could ask Haymitch to leave the room, and Haymitch would. He could change the sheets and take a shower, he could make every last detail like it had never happened, and Haymitch would acquiesce. He thought it was a nightmare. He’d accept that. He’d accepted anything Finnick decided he needed to do to cope. That was how they did it.

Haymitch nodded in acknowledgement. Finnick watched him continue his work.

A strange and ancient fatigue was settling in his bones, forbidding him to get up.

A reprieve, he thought.

***

Autumn passed quickly, and when Finnick started making noise about wanting to sleep in his own room at night, Haymitch never so much as blinked, obviously assuming Finnick was trying to deal with his upcoming return to the Capitol for Wintermas, with Timber Doyle’s upcoming Victory Tour. Finnick didn’t rid him of the notion, although his mind was preoccupied with bigger things. Haymitch would probably have thought it was that Finnick finally had lost interest in him, like Haymitch had always claimed Finnick eventually would, if it weren’t for the fact that they still spent just as much time with each other through the day. But it was his dreams Finnick was aiming to hide. He still wanted to have sex. He craved sex, some days, the safe kind of sex where Haymitch allowed him to keep him at arm’s length all Finnick wanted, where he let Finnick call the shots. Finnick felt guilty about it, guilty about how all of this was about him. Haymitch kept claiming it didn’t matter, joking that he collected all the spoils without any of the work, but Finnick remembered how Haymitch had shut his eyes that one time he’d guided his hand to wrap around both their cocks, Finnick’s hand over his directing their speed, how much he’d enjoyed even that small opportunity to touch Finnick and how quickly he’d come from that. Finnick had enjoyed it, too, the feel of Haymitch’s hand on him there, the two of them rubbing against each other, but he’d felt antsy about it, still. He’d imagined Haymitch taking over and pushing him onto his back, being rough, like the nameless people in his dreams, but it hadn’t worked. It had just made him queasy in a faint, nauseating way.

He’d expelled it by going on more runs, like he had used to do in that awful time just after the Games, fueling everything into what he ate and how he processed it and how he felt it turning into muscle, into living, breathing danger. Except this time around, Haymitch was right there, instead of licking his wounds holed up in his house, so it didn’t take long for him to notice.

It was one morning before breakfast, when Haymitch was setting the table while Finnick made coffee, reaching for the sugar pot, and Haymitch’s hand settled onto his wrist.

“So how much of that stuff will make you run the extra mile tomorrow?” He said it almost like it wasn’t a big deal, except for how he was clearly waiting for an actual reply, his eyes on Finnick’s face.

Finnick froze.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, eyes on the sugar pot so that he wouldn’t have to look at Haymitch.

He still remained aware of him in the corner of his eye though, of the way Haymitch was hardening his jaw in hesitation. He looked a little helpless, and it tore at Finnick.

“Yeah, you do,” Haymitch said. “I mean, sure, I don’t know where exactly this is coming from right now. I don’t know what’s different about this Wintermas. But this is getting out of hand. You can’t start doing that once a year, or one day, you won’t be able to stop anymore.”

Finnick pressed his lips together. “Cherry’s diet plan…”

“…ain’t saying anything about sugar in your coffee, it says eat your greens and see about some red meat once a week.” Haymitch’s voice left no room for arguments. “You’re twenty-four, you’ve got the metabolism of some sort of sports mutt, and the stylists know we’ve got a food shortage in the districts. You couldn’t fuck it up if you tried.”

Finnick softly exhaled the breath he’d been holding.

Truth was, he didn’t want it to be a problem. He had enough real problems already. The Victory Tour stop in Twelve would take place in a week. He didn’t want to acknowledge that he’d done this food thing once before and that it had turned into that terrible trap, where he couldn’t control it anymore. In a corner of his mind, he was afraid of what it meant, of what it did to him, because he knew he couldn’t not notice what he ate and it scared him. But it also felt good, like he was making something happen, and he didn’t want to lose that.

“You ever throw it up again?” Haymitch quietly said, maybe thinking of Gloss, who hadn’t grown up in a starving district and who did that, probably without feeling quite as shitty about it as an outlier district’s victor would.

“No,” Finnick said with revulsion, focusing on the Capitol’s emetics that Gloss used for that.

“Good,” Haymitch breathed. “That’s good.

“I thought maybe when you didn’t want to stay over anymore at night… never mind.”

He let go of Finnick’s hand then, leaning back against the kitchen corner as if a little spurt of energy had suddenly drained out of him, and it occurred to Finnick, with a start, that another victor who’d struggled with food had been Ralda Cavalera from Six. She’d been a close friend of Haymitch’s and she’d killed herself just after the 71st Games, when the 72nd had been when Haymitch drank himself into unconsciousness at Reaping Day. She’d poisoned herself with a stew that she’d cooked.

Biting his lip, he suppressed a small whimper when he suddenly felt so bad because this had to have been causing Haymitch so much pain to witness and think about, all because of Finnick. Just because he’d been trying to… he wasn’t even sure, to feel better about himself somehow, something stupid like that.

Haymitch was still looking at him, carefully studying his face.

He sounded hesitant and concerned when he said, “So how about… how about if three spoonfuls of sugar is okay and four isn’t anymore, you stick with three and don’t run yourself into the ground the next day. That alright?”

“Okay,” Finnick agreed in a quiet voice, hanging his head and admitting defeat.

Haymitch paused.

“You know that if there’s anything you need to get out, anything you need to talk about…”

“Okay,” Finnick whispered and Haymitch reached out, muttering, “C’mere” with a lost sigh and drawing him close, hand cupping the back of his neck. “You know you’re not doing anything wrong, right? That’s not what I’m saying.”

Finnick buried his face in the crook of Haymitch’s neck. He thought about how he was this terrible person, how he’d somehow found himself becoming this awful thing that should rightfully flip out of existence, instead of taking up Haymitch’s compassion and time.

***

Timber Doyle and her District One entourage breezed into Twelve for their Tour stop and left just as swiftly, paying more attention to the media exposure of the tour than to Haymitch and Finnick, making a statement about what they thought of Twelve’s attempt to become a more serious contender. In retaliation, the two of them gave a courteous little interview about how it never paid to become too complacent, not that they didn’t understand where One was coming from. They reminded the journalists of District Four, of how everybody had thought District Eight would turn into a powerhouse in the early days of the Games, of how nothing about Games success was paved in stone.

Then, Wintermas came; Finnick spent his prerequisite ten days at the Capitol, full of parties and celebrities and television interviews, a couple of regulars from the days before he’d moved to Twelve. Another terrible appointment alongside Gloss, Gloss’ warm lips wrapped around his cock and Finnick coming down his throat – Finnick involuntarily wondered if he threw that up after, too. Another Wintermas cake waiting for him in his kitchen when he returned, the heat turned up so that a warm house welcomed him home, but Haymitch lounging in his living room this time as if he owned the place, watching nervously while Finnick ate the first piece. Their children wary of him for a couple of days, all of them reminded of what exactly he was, having seen the television coverage. Haymitch resolutely telling them once that Mr. Odair was too sick to teach today and to get over it already. Feeling faintly nauseous from it all. Haymitch telling Gale to suck it up when he made comments, at least once that Finnick heard through the window.

Haymitch was always there these days when they taught, having resurrected his knife throwing skills and knowing exactly what it was like to be too starved to fight or run or hide. He was uneasy about it some days, Finnick knew, though he thought the problem wasn’t teaching so much as it was interacting with his district, in any way, making commitments in his relationship with the people who’d always been so ready to assume the worst of him. The fact that those interactions evolved around the Hunger Games just made it worse. But he kept attending, no matter Finnick had tried telling him more than once that this would never have to be about Haymitch; he seemed to have decided that he was sick of staying stuck, that he wanted to be going somewhere with his life again.

It helped that the children, ultimately, didn’t care about either of their reputations. The children who’d joined them were the ones whose parents trusted Gale to pick the right allies, the ones who’d rather prepare their children for the Games than believe in the gossip about the two victors nobody ever talked to directly, anyway. Once or twice, a parent showed up to watch, worn and exhausted after long shifts in the mines, making up their minds for themselves, but none of them withdrew the kids. Some of them, Finnick queasily thought, probably quizzed their children about the victors, how they touched them during lessons. None of those withdrew their children, either.

Aleese’s little brother Mitchy kept tagging along, playing with a depleted ball in corners and developing an infinite curiosity about his namesake without any of an adult’s sense of self-preservation, having decided in his mind that the shared name made them some kind of relatives; he tried to befriend Haymitch like a puppy would try and befriend the most intimidating member of the pack first. The little boy’s attention bemused the adult Haymitch, Finnick knew, then started making him more nervous by the day when Mitchy, Finnick eventually understood, kept reminding Haymitch of his brother, who had died at that age. One afternoon, he grumpily succumbed to picking Mitchy up, carrying him around propped on his hip, and that experience really freaked him out afterwards, him snapping at Finnick all evening and resorting to a double dose of sleeping pills at night. Then, there was the one night Finnick returned from a late meeting with Gale to find Haymitch crying – and he’d never even once seen Haymitch cry – angrily, sitting at Finnick’s kitchen table, shoulders shaking and wiping away tears in defiance. He told him he needed a drink. He told him his brother’s name had been Jackson, and he’d always piled ridiculous amounts of sentences on top of each other, and he’d wanted to be a fucking Peacekeeper, of all things. He’d thought Peacekeepers were great. Still, Haymitch didn’t bow out of their little school, showing up again the next day, and he allowed Mitchy to follow him around in that grumpy way he had, struggling against that sense of familiarity with the role of big brother that Finnick could sometimes virtually see settling in. Then, out of the blue, he fed Mitchy one of Peeta Mellark’s expansive, colorful cupcakes. Finnick could make out the exact moment when he became Mitchy’s hero, the boy licking frosting off his fingers and answering attentively to questions such as, “So what’s the first thing you do on the platform?” – “I stand very still and don’t explode!” When Finnick opened his mouth to comment on it later, Haymitch said, “Don’t,” followed by, “I mean it, Odair. Don’t” which meant he’d finally realized he was a nice guy at heart but refused to acknowledge it. It probably disturbed him to be coupling the whole business with teaching a little child how to survive in a Games, too. Mostly, it wasn’t a thing to be talked about. Finnick was slowly learning to recognize those things. It was a thing Haymitch needed to deal with on his own.

Effie was still sending them stylist applications, which kept pouring in because everybody wanted to work at the Games, but nobody of real skill and talent wanted to work for District Twelve. Stylist positions were considered a great honor in the Capitol, they were often for life; nobody wanted to get stuck where they didn’t want to stay. Effie was panicking slowly, since parade costume design processes should be reaching second draft stage, and they weren’t even working on theirs. Finnick and Haymitch agreed that it wouldn’t matter if they ended up with ridiculous costumes that had taken only three months to prepare instead a year. Cherry, unfortunately, had reacted to Finnick’s effort to lure her to Twelve by giving him a startled, disbelieving laugh. She was flattered, she told him as if she was anything but, and she considered Finnick hers for life, but apparently, there were lines. She matched Four’s ocean themes too well to leave, anyway.

Finnick stopped dreaming altogether in winter and started again in March, when swimming season was still too far away to allow working himself into a frenzy of exhaustion in his favored way; he knew he’d started obsessing about food all over again, struggling when he couldn’t tell Haymitch why. It worried Haymitch, so he tried, reducing the sugar and not overdoing the running, but it was hard. It made him nervous; he tried focusing on the children instead. They’d decided they would take them swimming this summer. Swimming was a necessary basic skill, and Gale knew a pond, closer by, that would take a shorter hike. If Katniss had vetoed showing it to Finnick, he never said. Though Finnick didn’t think Katniss was actually malicious about their project, just protective of the few things that she had any control of. She greeted him with guarded hellos when she saw him in the Hob these days, face blank and head ducked, as if she’d rather not acknowledge his existence, but she also wouldn’t hide.

The dreams made Finnick restless, anxious, skittish. They at once filled him with an urge to run away and hide and a need to somehow act.

He made out one day with Haymitch on the bed, Beetee’s gadget buzzing away on a shelf, straddling Haymitch’s lap and asking him, breathlessly, if it was alright, when he’d grabbed his neck a little tighter, drawing them together more roughly, pushing Haymitch against the head rest of the bed. Haymitch was clutching the sheets in an abrupt surge of arousal, and his lidded eyes when he looked at Finnick, inconceivably, said yes even before he did it in words.

Finnick prepared himself with the oil they used for lube and ripped open one of the condoms he’d brought from the Capitol, pressing his eyes shut and sinking down onto Haymitch’s cock, and the long, throaty, helpless noise Haymitch exclaimed at that would forever be about the most arousing thing Finnick had ever heard. He moved, pulling Haymitch closer so he could rub himself against the other man’s belly, shuddering and trying to chase that ugly, awful thing inside his chest away.

Haymitch’s hands were on his thighs then, running up and down in that way that usually was okay but not today. Finnick heard himself muttering in a small voice, cheek pressed against cheek, “Don’t, please, don’t do that, please,” and Haymitch breathed, harshly, “Never beg, never do that again, shit, just tell me what you need me to do.” It sent a confusing mix of arousal and anxiety down Finnick’s spine, because he’d known he got off on saying no but this was different, the same and not the same. He came just as hard, though, abruptly, like floating, feeling Haymitch inside of him, all over him, his fingers buried in Haymitch’s hair and his tongue in his mouth, as if they’d crawled into each other.

They showered together afterwards, then lazed around in bed, never bothering to get dressed again or dry their hair, because it was a Sunday and none of the children would show up. Finnick hadn’t shaved in the morning, stubble scratching when he rubbed his chin; it felt strangely liberating to sometimes decide to just not care. It was early afternoon. He had a run scheduled for before it got dark. He couldn’t cover real distance if he had Aleese in tow, and he’d promised himself to do the whole length of the district at least once a week. But he’d promised Haymitch not to go whenever something nice came up instead, too, so he tried to ignore the little voice in his head nagging at him about it. He preferred huddling under the blanket with Haymitch, he told himself.

He tried to ignore how he’d sprawled out all over Haymitch’s chest, how that weight had to be pushing him down and how Finnick’s arm, so close to his throat, had to be feeling like this latent threat to his life. Or it would anyway, if Finnick was the one on his back.

He thought back to the sex they’d just had and a shudder of that mad arousal ran down his spine all over again, until he remembered how he’d pushed Haymitch around, how he’d just taken what he wanted without caring about how maybe that had just been okay for Haymitch to do. He suddenly was sick of it, the whole selfishness of it, and he couldn’t bear it anymore; it was bad enough that he’d built this whole relationship on a lie about himself.

He pushed himself into a sitting position, blanket sliding off his shoulders.

“What would you like to do if I wasn’t making the decisions all the time?” he asked, looking down at Haymitch, who was squinting at him, propping himself up on his elbows.

“What’s that?” he said.

Finnick pressed his lips together. “When we have sex,” he said. “It’s always about what I want to try. It’s never about you. But there have to be things that you’re really waiting to do.”

“Ah,” Haymitch said. “That conversation again.” He relaxed a fraction. “It’s fine. Stop mother-henning about that. I’m not having any complaints. This is not me inwardly complaining to myself.”

“I know. But that doesn’t mean it’s got to be about me all the time. Maybe there’s something that you want that we can still try out. I don’t even know anything about what you want exactly. I mean, I guess I’ve never really asked. But maybe if you tell me, we can figure something out. I want to do something you’d like, too.”

Haymitch shook his head resolutely. “I ain’t gonna push anything on you when…”

“You wouldn’t. I want to know. I thought you liked what we did just now, but I don’t know why and now I’m not even sure that you did.”

He shut up abruptly, closing his mouth. Saying that aloud had sent a sudden wave of anxiety through him, but he wasn’t sure if it was the kind that would eventually make him curl into himself from sheer self-loathing, or if it was the kind where he wanted to cry. He felt a lot like crying, these days, though he couldn’t have said why. Everything felt unsteady, as if the ground might start shaking.

It didn’t help his nerves that that statement had done something to Haymitch as well, who was in motion yet again, pulling himself up to prop himself upright against the headboard, blanket securely in his lap. He looked supremely uncomfortable now, glancing at Finnick sideways in an unhappy way. Finnick knew that expression; it was the one that said changing the subject immediately wouldn’t quite be soon enough. Haymitch tended to answer rather a surprising amount of intimate questions, but there still were plenty of things he was loathe to talk about.

Eventually, Haymitch said very carefully and in a very final way, “Who cares why it worked if it did, huh? That’s what I want to know.”

“Well, I care,” Finnick said. “I think it’s important that I know what you want.” I think that’s how normal relationships work, he wanted to add self-depreciatively and laugh, but he didn’t want to hurt Haymitch.

“There ain’t a need to be discussing this, though,” Haymitch disagreed immediately. “Things are working out for me, and that’s an awful lot better than I’ve had before. I know it’s the same for you. Wouldn’t want to change something that works.”

Finnick took a breath. In and out, he told himself.

“But there are so many things you could want. I don’t know, anything. I mean, I know there are some things that would take time. Most things would, I guess, I mean most things we try do. But maybe if I knew what you’d like me to work up to, maybe if I know in advance I can prepare myself…”

“I’m not gonna have you prepare yourself, alright…”

“I just meant if I’d get used to the idea in my head first, I would…”

“…that’s exactly what you shouldn’t be doing, getting stuck on a thing like it’s the one thing you need to be able to do, I mean, how sick would that be if you fucking made yourself…”

“I don’t think it’s fair if I don’t even know. It’s like I’m fishing in the dark. I could do something wrong all the time, I could trigger you somehow…”

“Not gonna happen that way, I’ve told you that you don’t have to worry about that…”

“I don’t even know if you’d rather be on the bottom or top, if you could choose.”

Finnick said it with exasperation. His skin was crawling again. Haymitch was shutting him out, and it hurt, except a part of him knew he’d never told Haymitch what he wanted himself. He tried clinging to the belief that this was completely different. Finnick just wanted to make Haymitch happy, both by quizzing him now and by hiding his own secret desires that he dreamt about.

Haymitch had shut up at that last one. An expression of awkward bemusement had crossed his face, as if he’d never considered that anything like that might be important to Finnick.

Finnick pressed his lips together. “I think you just don’t want to tell me.”

A pained expression on his face, Haymitch glanced at him warily.

“Maybe I don’t, yeah,” he eventually said, dropping his gaze.

Finnick shut his mouth again, caught off guard.

“Maybe,” Haymitch said, stopping himself and taking a breath, like giving in, changing gears. “Maybe I don’t know what I want, maybe I’m not wanting to put words to it, when I’m not sure why I want it. Shit, this is just real hard, alright? Can we just not have this conversation? Or have it some other day?”

“You don’t know what you want,” Finnick repeated blandly.

Haymitch grimaced, painfully awkward, giving Finnick a long suffering look that said he loathed this conversation. He liked giving off a vibe that nothing ever really bothered him, and quite obviously, everything about this was bothering him very intimately. This was not the kind of conversation Haymitch Abernathy had with anybody.

“Yeah, I don’t know,” he admitted after a moment of waiting for Finnick to say something more that would allow him to change the subject, then corrected himself immediately, “No. No, that’s not, that’s not exactly… Aw shit.” He rubbed his face awkwardly. “I know I want to be here with you, alright? I like the things that we do. It just really ain’t… I’ve never had to do this before. Sure there are things we do and they seem plenty fine to me, and trust me, that’s more than I ever expected from my life to begin with. I mean, you could say I’m just happily riding that wave, alright? I’m assuming I’d know if we hit on something bad, not that I think it’ll happen. I mean, you’re young. You go out and do all that stuff all the time just because it occurs to you that you’d wanna do that now. Me, I just spent the last twenty years letting life pass me by in the hopes that I’d look up one day and find myself dying of old age. It’s all this mash of things in my head. I do things, they feel good, I try to not question it too hard. I like it when you make the calls. It’s good.”

“You know I want to make you happier than that, right?” Finnick quietly said, relaxing a little. This was unexpected, but maybe he could handle it.

Haymitch heaved a small sigh. “Yeah. And I promise you that that’s really got nothing to do with anything, alright? It just ain’t that big a deal.”

“Somebody should make a big deal about what you want.”

“Appreciated,” Haymitch said. He seemed to be regaining some of his equilibrium, getting more agitated. “Listen, I can’t just point at a thing and say, yeah, that’s it, that’s what I need to have done with you for my personal growth or whatever.”

Finnick reached for one of Haymitch’s hands, taking it between his own hands, playing with it. Haymitch had very strong and sure hands, so that it sometimes was hard to remember a time they had been shaking from phantom withdrawal, how that had made it look as if all of Haymitch was coming apart.

“What about the people you’ve been with before me?” he said cautiously. “I mean, there have been people. There’s been Beetee. And didn’t you say you did it with Gang Chen that one time?” Haymitch had told him that much, some friends-with-benefits thing he’d had going with Beetee for a while when they were younger, some sort of one night stand with District Seven’s Gang, which Finnick had remembered because most victors had never even talked to Gang, who was living at the Capitol. “Maybe you could tell me what you liked doing with Beetee, and with whoever else there was…”

Haymitch gave him a nervous glance, but he still replied. “Just Beetee, mostly, yeah. Never really came up much in my life, apart from what Snow made us do, I mean.” He cleared his voice, contemplating for a moment. “Been a long time ago, though,” he eventually said. “Not sure what that’s got to do with you and me.”

“Would Beetee be okay with it if you told me about him?”

“Oh, yeah, he’s such a publicity whore.”

Finnick opened and closed his mouth.

“I’ll never be sure if we’re really talking about the same man,” he said after a moment, and to his surprise, Haymitch replied with a nasty chuckle. He sometimes transformed straight back into an eighteen-year-old when he talked about Beetee and “Conny” – not so often about Chaff, these days.

“I’ve got all the dirt on Beetee,” Haymitch said. “I could tell you all his secrets.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Finnick said with a weak smirk.

Then he turned sober again, thinking of Alsey – Haymitch’s girlfriend back when – and Lyra Ingram. Haymitch’s romantic history as far as Finnick knew it had mostly been about women so far, so he was surprised that Haymitch hadn’t listed any. “Has there ever been a girl?”

After the slightest beat of a pause, Haymitch continued as if he’d never heard the question. But suddenly intel was pouring down on Finnick, when he’d been expecting it the least.

“We didn’t really get around to doing much, Beetee and me, and with Gang neither, I guess. I mean, Beetee’d done it with half of Central at some point in those days, but I was still pretty freaked out about the whole doing it with men thing, and it was more, it wasn’t about that. It was more about reminding myself of what it was supposed to be like. We, uh, there were some handjobs, blowjobs, that kind of thing. I fucked him, once or twice.”

Finnick blinked.

“And then Gang, let’s see,” Haymitch was saying, scrunching up his forehead in thought, as if the topic required all his focus, clearly avoiding the other question. “Uh, they’d already sent him to live in the Capitol at that point, you know they had him perform music with that orchestra, but that was long before Johanna won. He’s a good ten years older than me, pretty sure. He won, uh, the 43rd, I think? They’d sent a bunch of us to this party, and we met there and it just happened, in the bathroom, real quick. Don’t know who of us was more surprised that it happened, him or me. I sucked him off. There, maybe that’s something we could do.” He bumped his hand against Finnick’s. “I could do that for you, if that’s something you’d like. I’d get you off. If that’s something you’d like me to do.”

Finnick looked away at that, instantly uncomfortable at the thought, momentarily distracted from the confusion about what his question about the women had just made happen in Haymitch’s head. A blowjob by Haymitch would involve hands on his hips, holding him still, it would involve…

“Or maybe forget what I said,” Haymitch grimaced at him, instantly retreating, but Finnick shook his head.

“No,” he breathed.

Taking Haymitch in his mouth at the same time, lying aligned with him on the bed, or getting on top of him, if Haymitch would let him. Moving his hips, cautiously. Maybe that. Rearranging the pieces of the image in his head, he thought, maybe that. He wanted to let Haymitch do it.

“We could do that,” he told Haymitch in a slightly shaky voice.

“Whenever you’re ready,” Haymitch replied warily, as if he wasn’t so sure he should believe Finnick. “In a year, for all I care. In two years. Only if it’s something you want.”

“And you don’t have to tell me about the women you’ve slept with if you don’t want to…” Finnick started saying, trying to clear his head and to return to the present, but Haymitch ran right over him.

“So I slept with Chaff’s escort that one time.”

“What?” Finnick said.

He stilled.

So had Haymitch, his hand between Finnick’s fingers heavy like lead. He withdrew it after a second, placing it securely in his lap, looking stiff and uncomfortable in a new way, like he couldn’t quite believe he’d just blurted that out.

He looked vulnerable, suddenly, his gaze on anything but Finnick, naked except for the blanket, except he was such a strong, steady person who to Finnick mostly felt safe. Like somebody strong enough to hold a person.

Finnick wasn’t sure what he would have expected, but this wasn’t it. He’d never at all heard of a victor who’d slept with one of the escorts, their closest and most familiar jailers. The victors had to work with the escorts whether they wanted or not, but they still freaked most of them out – being exactly what the mentors had to pretend to be like but for real, enthusiastically volunteering to participate in genocide.

Finnick had never been able to grasp how a person could get so close to the tributes every year, get to know them, then see them die on a big screen and still think that was okay
The idea of Haymitch in bed with one of them was completely chilling.

“What happened?” Finnick asked, anxiously. This wouldn’t be a pretty story.

A foreign expression had settled on Haymitch’s face, telling him that this was a story Haymitch had been resolved to leave buried forever until a minute ago, when he had suddenly reconsidered, because Finnick had asked.

Haymitch took a very deep breath.

“Her name was Catriona Wink,” he said. The name meant nothing to Finnick – Eleven hadn’t won since the 45th Games, so none of their escort had made it into any recaps he had seen from that time frame. And these days, they had a male escort, Finnick was reasonably sure. “She was new. Uh, this was the 54th, just me mentoring without Lyra for the first time. She – Catriona, I mean – she’d just finished college, had known someone important to get the job, I guess. Chaff hated her. She kept looking at his stump like he had a disease she could catch. We made fun of her. She was this dumb kid, star-struck, we were all some kind of heroes to her, except Chaff, hadn’t noticed yet that we were all just dumb kids ourselves. Kept trying to flirt with Conny. She’d have done anything if you just gave her attention.

“We, uh, the others weren’t involved in it, this was just me, I ran into her one night at the bar,” Haymitch continued after a moment. “And I don’t even know what the fuck I was thinking, I mean, probably just thinking with my dick. She was there. She was interested. And me, I felt attracted to her, on that physical level, but I was disgusted with her, what she stood for, disgusted with myself maybe. Shit, I don’t know,” he said, rubbing his face.

He paused for a moment, staring into space. “So she takes me to her room, tells me to do her hard, and I hit her. Don’t know why. Just hit her, can’t think of what else to do with that order, except it wasn’t an order, of course, she can’t give me any orders, not like this. She gets scared, but tells me to do it again, like she was being brave or something and like she thought this was, I don’t know, the celebrity kink thing of the season. So I fuck her, bent over her desk, and I just leave her there, after.

“Next day,” he said, more vehemently, as if he needed to get it all out in one go, and still not looking at Finnick, “next day, Chaff knocks at my door with this shit-eating grin and tells me he doesn’t know what I did, but he thinks it’s the best joke. She’s apparently breaking into tears whenever he mentions me, so he’d spent all morning doing it on purpose, of course. Talks about control group experiments and shit. Needs to consult Beetee, he says, like… yeah.”

He grimaced. “Couldn’t look at myself in a mirror for weeks, even after I got home. Shitty Games, too, both of them dead at the bloodbath. So.” He took a deep breath, like he was trying to cleanse it all out of his body. Finnick could have told him that that didn’t work. “So that’s how I slept with a woman.”

“I’m so sorry,” Finnick said, when nothing else occurred to him to say, struggling to find the right reaction.

Immediately, Haymitch shook his head.

“I’m not proud of that, that’s not what you should say,” he muttered, when that expression etched on his face so obviously was nothing like pride, it was just ancient shame and pain. Like he’d destroyed who he was that night.

“Uh,” Haymitch continued. “I’m not sure it even had much to do with sex, what I did with her, looking back… I mean, there’s one thing I’d … never… want to do again, with you or otherwise, but… but there. Maybe it ain’t a good idea to let me make the calls, if that’s what came from it that one time. I mean, that wasn’t a good thing. I wanna say it wasn’t even me, like it was some other person, except of course it wasn’t. It was me alright.”

Finnick just looked at him for a moment, trying to sort out his reactions. He wasn’t even sure what he should be focusing on, the bare fact that this had happened, or the drawn and shaky way Haymitch was sitting in front of him. He knew the man in front of him; he didn’t know the escort, had never met her – that was one thing immediately clear to him, although he wasn’t quite sure yet what it meant.

“She was older than you,” he eventually managed.

The non sequitur startled Haymitch enough to blink up at him. “What?”

“She was older than you,” Finnick repeated, voice getting stronger again. “You were twenty at the 54th, and if she was right out of college, she was twenty-five at least.”

“It doesn’t matter how old she was,” Haymitch replied in a tone as if he thought Finnick had lost it.

“I’m just saying,” Finnick said. “It wasn’t rape. You make it sound like it was rape, the same they do to us, but it wasn’t like that at all. She wasn’t even your age. You were young and confused and lonely, and she was older and she should have put herself in charge, and she could have said no. She should have known better.” We never get to say no. We should have the right to be confused. “So maybe it wasn’t okay, but you were lonely…”

He wasn’t entirely certain why he was so sure that this should be an acceptable excuse, when objectively it wasn’t; he wouldn’t let it count for his clients. But he had an image of Haymitch at twenty in his head, still so slender from the past starvation and painfully young, still being sold to people, Lyra suddenly gone and leaving him alone with the tributes he was supposed to save – possibly alone forever – and surrounded by Capitol citizens babbling about honor and entertainment, using him. Catriona Wink, young and dumb and part of a system that was using him, like Haymitch’s pain was wonderful if it just screen-tested well. She’d been using him, too. It made him angry.

“Are you crazy?” Haymitch was saying in a disbelieving voice. “You don’t do that to people, Finnick, escort or no, or you’re no better than them. It’s not a competition of who manages to be the bigger asshole, that doesn’t give you a free pass to fuck up.”

“You can’t be beating yourself up for something that happened twenty years ago!” Finnick said in exasperation, confused about why this was hitting him so hard. It was starkly reminding him of the last Games suddenly, of what he’d done to Chaff by threatening him. He’d used his disability against him, too, like Catriona had. It was absolutely not about the dreams he had, dreams were different from actions; dreams were about real desires rather than confused accidents. “Do you really expect me to judge you for something you did when I was four?” Haymitch cringed at that, like he always did when their age difference was pointed out to them, and Finnick wanted to laugh in a bitter way. He felt like he was a hundred years old all the fucking time.

“So it was a bad thing, so what,” he said. “I think if anything, the fact that it’s still bothering you even now shows what a good person you are. I bet she’s not looking back feeling guilty about how she helped children die.”

Haymitch hardened his jaw. “I could think of a thing or two much longer ago that are still bothering me,” he said in a scathing tone that clarified without words he was thinking of the execution of his family.

“Completely different thing,” Finnick informed him, disbelieving. “You get to want things. Just because there was one time in your life you hit someone doesn’t mean you don’t get to want things anymore.” Automatically, he checked mentally whether Beetee’s gadget was still running, no matter he wouldn’t have minded for the whole world to hear. There were quite a lot of thing he would have liked to shout at the world right now. “You deserve better than having to handle a situation like that in the first place. You get to screw up once or twice in your life.”

Instead of instantly shooting something back, Haymitch threw him an uneasy look.

“I’m just saying, maybe this is a good opportunity to reconsider this thing between you and me,” he muttered.

Finnick gave him a hurt look. “I’m reconsidering how I can get you to understand that it’s okay to say it aloud if you want to touch me, or if you want me to touch you in some particular way. I’m not her, I’m not going to act like I want something when I don’t.” Then and there, he made a decision that he would try his hardest to never do that, now that he knew one big new reason why the idea grossed Haymitch out to that degree.

“You’re changing the subject.”

“No, I’m just trying to tell you that a thing you did one time in your life doesn’t change how I feel about you. I wouldn’t even want to change anything about it, not when it means it’s a part of who you are now. I trust you,” he said, reaching out to rub Haymitch’s thigh through the blanket. “I want you exactly the way you are now, gory past and all.”

“Shit,” Haymitch exhaled, sagging back into the pillow propped against the headrest. It didn’t seem to Finnick like he had won this inane fight, just as if they’d hit a wall, but Haymitch still seemed to be admitting defeat. Finnick wondered what Haymitch expected from him – if he was asking forgiveness, which seemed ludicrous, because Finnick hadn’t been wronged. If he was waiting for Finnick to agree, that it had been wrong and an unforgivable thing to do and Haymitch just needed to live with Finnick knowing about it as a permanent wedge between them. He felt like there was something that Haymitch wanted from him, maybe even in a specific, sexual way, but he’d flat out told Finnick that he wouldn’t be telling him about it.

Remembering how good it had felt when Haymitch had held him after that talk about his running habits, Finnick made a questioning sound, waiting while Haymitch squinted at him, eventually making room under the blanket for Finnick. Finnick got comfortable in the crook of his arm, all that warm skin pressed against his own, feeling Haymitch’s hand reluctantly settling on Finnick’s back. He kissed Haymitch’s throat, and Haymitch leaned in in a way that felt involuntary, as if he was desperate for the confirmation that everything was still okay.

Maybe there was still a way of figuring out what Haymitch needed even without telling him. Maybe Finnick could do that, like solving a puzzle. Maybe that was what he needed to do. Haymitch should get to be happy.

Holding Haymitch close, forehead pressed against Haymitch’s cheek, Finnick tried to ignore the little voice in his head nagging at him to go on a run, to keep moving, reminding him that nothing was resolved; he tried to ignore the louder one that informed him that nothing would ever be okay, no matter how many secrets Haymitch shared with him, as long as Finnick hid so many of his own. But the conversation had also left him feeling strangely safe and warm.

So what if I just do it? What if I just tell him?

The thought popped into his head for the very first time, just appearing there out of the blue like this perfectly logical thing to consider – so frightening that he trembled for a second when he fought to not push it away, tentative and marvelous and uncharted idea that it was.

on to chapter 19

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Hey, nice to see them again! ...Which I sort of feel like is a weird thing to say, all things considered, but I always enjoy the updates.

Beetee had quite a wild-sounding past, huh? :)

...and a tangent of interest to me:

"of how everybody had thought District Eight would turn into a powerhouse in the early days of the Games" <- this is an interesting tidbit!

I know you had the first victor from Eight too, which also interests me- just what you see the first victor and her circumstances as being like in general...

Definitely nice to see you comment again, too. ;) :)

Beetee ... hah, Beetee is not actually my Beetee, I must admit. He's the young adult Beetee written by millarific in her Haymitch Victory Tour fic and he's a bit of a younger version of Tony Stark / Iron Man. I betaed that fic, and I was so fascinated by the idea that he might have been such a different person but that he just changed over time, because of the experience of mentoring for so long. I mean, sometimes people just do and I enjoyed getting to point out those differences in my fic. :) It gave Haymitch a bit of backstory and it was just really amusing to me.

Oh right, I remember we talked about your first victor from Eight! Ah, I can't tell you all that much about her. I can tell you her name was Wendy Button and basically, after they'd finally managed to drive these kids in the arena crazy enough to start attacking each other, she bashed a couple heads in with a rock, acting on pure instinct, in a panic. She was maybe seventeen and happened to be pretty strong and well-fed and going mad in there. She got out of there, pretty much catatonic, never fully recovered. Never really talked to anybody anymore. Eight just happened to not be as starved as other districts because they'd been very aggressive in the districts' uprising and they'd conquered their natural resources back first thing. So Eight fared pretty well in the first ten years of the Games or so, never winning again but always getting far. It was a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy for a while with Eight kids going in with a lot of determination to survive, knowing it was possible and just pissed and determined to beat that system. But victory didn't come, so there were no additional food rations, and eventually people became frustrated and tired and starved, and Wendy became weirder every year and proved useless once the mentoring system was introduced. So that was Eight's fleeting shot at glory in the Games. :)

^_^

Yeah, I thought you'd mentioned there was some influence at least from Millari there. It's definitely true that he could've changed and I think it's pretty amusing too.

That seems like plenty of information to me! That's very interesting. Thanks for telling me about it! I was writing a bit about Woof and his relationship with my first victor from Eight recently so I guess I have a lot of Eight in-the-old-days(?) thoughts swirling around in my head.

Oh, interesting. I really need to get around to read your fic.

Gah, I can't believe that on the one day I forget to check LJ you give us an update! I'll have to check back in with comments tomorrow because I just have to sleep. This chapter...they are both really getting into the nitty-gritty of it now, confronting all the stuff they have buried. I love how you bookended the chapter with Finnick's most closely-hidden demon, progressing from absolute meltdown to the vague idea that he might be able to talk about it....As for the next chapter, I'll be over here under the table.

Awesome stuff! Well worth the wait, as always.

Well, you know I'll always look forward to your comments, but take your time. :)

I'll be over here, working on Finnick talking about it, trying to not reach into the fic and shake him and ask him to please start listening to himself.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, eyes on the sugar pot so that he wouldn’t have to look at Haymitch.

He still remained aware of him in the corner of his eye though, of the way Haymitch was hardening his jaw in hesitation. He looked a little helpless, and it tore at Finnick.

“Yeah, you do,” Haymitch said. “I mean, sure, I don’t know where exactly this is coming from right now. I don’t know what’s different about this Wintermas. But this is getting out of hand. You can’t start doing that once a year, or one day, you won’t be able to stop anymore.”


I wanted to comment and meta on this part a little. I love how Haymitch brings this up even though he's having a hard time figuring out how to do it -- it's a great portrayal of the way people struggle when they see someone they love engaging in self-destructive behavior. It's a fine line between helping and coming on so strong you have the opposite effect. What really struck me is that Haymitch really knows what he's talking about when he says that one day Finnick won't be able to stop. Both substance abuse and eating disorders are a form of self-medication that can morph into addiction -- they start out as something you can do to feel better now and then and for some people they just snowball out of control. With eating disorders you can get addicted to the rush you get from starvation, the sense of control, the endorphins from exercise, etc. Anyway, I tend to take a broad view of self-medication: there a lot of different things humans do to self-medicate, many of them seemingly benign, and many things can transform themselves into addictive behaviors that start interfering with your life. I see it as having three parts: the issues causing the painful feelings, the feelings themselves (anxiety, depression, whatever), and the behaviors you use to self-medicate those feelings. Many people never have a problem -- whatever they are doing doesn't venture out of bounds and they cope just fine. Then there are the other people who lose their grip.

So that was a long-winded way of saying I like the way that Haymitch is able to get what is happening in a more abstract sense. Even though Haymitch and Finnick are very different, they have both found the drug that helps them self-medicate. Most people don't see that parallel, I like that you have used it in this fic.

Finnick pressed his lips together. “Cherry’s diet plan…”

“…ain’t saying anything about sugar in your coffee, it says eat your greens and see about some red meat once a week.” Haymitch’s voice left no room for arguments. “You’re twenty-four, you’ve got the metabolism of some sort of sports mutt, and the stylists know we’ve got a food shortage in the districts. You couldn’t fuck it up if you tried.”


Yeah, I pretty much assume that Finnick could actually eat whatever he wanted. It's true you don't stay in shape without effort, but nobody is able to look that good unless they have a significant genetic advantage. A gifted athlete in his early twenties is not going to have to diet much, it's more about exercise. And at this point Finnick could probably stand to gain some weight, he's probably a little underweight. This is based on my observation of all the people I know that could eat all sorts of ridiculous things when they were younger, and still don't have to watch it even now, like my husband. Bastard. :)

Finnick softly exhaled the breath he’d been holding.

Truth was, he didn’t want it to be a problem. He had enough real problems already. The Victory Tour stop in Twelve would take place in a week. He didn’t want to acknowledge that he’d done this food thing once before and that it had turned into that terrible trap, where he couldn’t control it anymore. In a corner of his mind, he was afraid of what it meant, of what it did to him, because he knew he couldn’t not notice what he ate and it scared him. But it also felt good, like he was making something happen, and he didn’t want to lose that.


That last part? NAILED IT. ;)

Your comments will always just make me happy.

I agree on so many things you said, I could basically just nod along.

it's a great portrayal of the way people struggle when they see someone they love engaging in self-destructive behavior.

Hell yeah. I wrote another fic in another fandom once where character A discovered that character B was planning suicide, and all he could come up with was a falsely casual, "So how's readjustment (to losing a leg) going?" Haymitch is doing comparatively well. ;) He doesn't have the perfect solution at hand either, so he makes this careful suggestion here that could break the circle. But he doesn't know enough and he's not sure if it would work like that.

I see it as having three parts: the issues causing the painful feelings, the feelings themselves (anxiety, depression, whatever), and the behaviors you use to self-medicate those feelings.

Yeah, and the bad feelings about self-medicating if you know that you shouldn't be doing it like that, which starts everything all over again.

Ralda's issues are definitely very different from Finnick. However, Haymitch's only experiences with this are a) Ralda who killed herself so that's the only outcome he knows, and it scares him something bad and b) bits and pieces of victor gossip about victors he doesn't know well who puke stuff up. Which is just foreign enough a concept to scare him, too, since that's just crazy behavior that he can't grasp.

Most people don't see that parallel, I like that you have used it in this fic.

Aw, thanks. I was thinking more in terms of, what are ways of coping that endanger them, and what are ways of coping that end up helping them. Naturally, they'd both have both kinds in their lives. The ED thing sort of developed on its own account anyway. It's a bit of a mix of the self-image issues I explored in MOTR, his love for sugar and the fact that a man with such perfect muscles must be quite the sports nut.

And yeah, he could eat what he wants, at that age. You're probably right that he could do with gaining some weight, although I imagine that district people generally don't have much sense for what's a healthy weight to have. (since it's either starved in the districts or fashionably starved in the Capitol) In MOTR, there was one point where I even had him thinking that he could start eating what he wants, drink beer, anything - he'd still be looking perfect in the end. (this might be one of the reasons why his exercise obsession started out as a thing that he doesn't connect to the way he looks)

He sounded hesitant and concerned when he said, “So how about… how about if three spoonfuls of sugar is okay and four isn’t anymore, you stick with three and don’t run yourself into the ground the next day. That alright?”

“Okay,” Finnick agreed in a quiet voice, hanging his head and admitting defeat.

Haymitch paused.

“You know that if there’s anything you need to get out, anything you need to talk about…”

“Okay,” Finnick whispered and Haymitch reached out, muttering, “C’mere” with a lost sigh and drawing him close, hand cupping the back of his neck. “You know you’re not doing anything wrong, right? That’s not what I’m saying.”

Finnick buried his face in the crook of Haymitch’s neck.


I loved this part, my heart grew three sizes again ( and yes, that's a Grinch reference. ;)). Just the way Haymitch tells him that he isn't doing anything wrong, implicitly saying that he emphasizes with the struggle going on in Finnick's head -- that's so important. And the way he comforts him, which leads Finnick to realize that it feels good, and try to give some of that comfort back to Haymitch at the end of the chapter. I can't think of two people who need a hug more than these guys.

Regarding the comparison between Ralda and Finnick, while eating disorders can develop for very different reasons and serve very different purposes, depending on the individual, the end result can be the same. People with ED can just lose their ability to eat normally. I've read of people ending up afraid of food, afraid of feeling fed and healthy, feeling like they personally are not allowed to eat....obviously it varies, but the end result is just not being able to stop killing themselves. So Haymitch has that right.

I see Finnick's problems as developing very gradually, and really jumping to a whole new level when he came to 12. He's feeling more overwhelmed than ever, he's isolated, he's in unfamiliar surroundings...and the food tastes all wrong. As you point out during the fic, he's used to lighter, spicier foods and then he ends up stuck eating meat and potatoes instead of fish and rice (for instance). And then he really does love sweet things and as his stress level goes through the roof he craves sugar more which set up the whole exercise bulimia loop in a big way. So yeah, I am sure that right now bland foods feel a lot safer to him. Hopefully with Haymitch's help he will be able to pull back from that when his stress level isn't as high. I'm glad he has Haymitch to feed him cake once in a while. :)

I just have this image of Finnick stuck in that awful costume (or lack thereof) for the QQ parade and being like, "FUCk my life" and grabbing a handful of sugar. :)

I ended up commenting on the Ralda thing above, for some reason, so the rest here:

The moment when Haymitch says to Finnick that he isn't doing anything wrong was so important to me. It would be so very easy for Finnick to use this whole eating issue as a basis for beating himself up all over again, and while Haymitch still isn't privy to a lot of issues Finnick has, at this point, he already knows that Finnick tends to do that. I just love him to pieces for having the ability to say that.

I see Finnick's problems as developing very gradually, and really jumping to a whole new level when he came to 12. He's feeling more overwhelmed than ever, he's isolated, he's in unfamiliar surroundings...and the food tastes all wrong. As you point out during the fic, he's used to lighter, spicier foods and then he ends up stuck eating meat and potatoes instead of fish and rice (for instance).

Yes, to everything you said here. I've occasionally talked to people who wrote in their comments that they'd never considered Finnick might have an eating disorder. I tend to answer that it's not a thing I consider for Finnick in canon either. My mind doesn't immediately jump there just because he likes sugar. (although it's suspicious - he's a rape victim, he's scrutinized a lot for his looks, he's still really muscular although he hasn't got a reason to work out anymore, and he overdoses on sugar on not one, but two occasions in canon. It would certainly make sense for a writer to go there) But I think it's an issue on his scale of potential issues that he might developed because of his personality, and the situation of this fic just brings that out. It's a good thing in a way. New issues mean that something is in motion, he isn't stuck in one place.

And then he really does love sweet things and as his stress level goes through the roof he craves sugar more which set up the whole exercise bulimia loop in a big way. So yeah, I am sure that right now bland foods feel a lot safer to him.

Yeah. I think there's also a quality of, "There has to be something wrong with getting a thing that I like / I don't deserve to feel that good about food." Fortunately, this issue is still in the beginning stages. He's still at a point where he can get things back under control fairly easily as long as he has a strong enough motivation (which would be that he's scaring Haymitch, mostly) and somebody who supports him. It's also still a thing that's coming and going, depending on his stress levels. Like Haymitch says, one day he won't be able to stop. But currently he still can.

I just have this image of Finnick stuck in that awful costume (or lack thereof) for the QQ parade and being like, "FUCk my life" and grabbing a handful of sugar. :)

I love that image. It is now officially what happened, in my head. :D

Your reference to Gloss having bulimia did not escape me -- and yeah, I can imagine that the thought of throwing up your food would be repulsive to people who were more attuned to the starvation many suffer in the districts, as well as someone like Finnick who has had to be at too many parties with vomitoriums. It makes sense that Finnick would use exercise instead and frame it in his mind as a way of training himself to be more dangerous -- I liked how you put that. But I digress. I imagine that Gloss' ED comes rom a somewhat different place than Finnick's. I have this idea that the victors from D1 were groomed to be pretty and entertain the Capitol in whatever capacity necessary, which leads to mor of their self-esteem to be tied up in looking good and remaining appealing to patrons. A whole different sort of mind fuck. That's one possible take, anyway.

That leads me to the last bit of meta I was thinking of. Finnick has a whole other relationship to his looks, which I don't think he fully understands. He would rather not be attractive to the Capitol, but he doesn't know how to get to that point, as he thinks more than once in this fic. He would just as soon be invisible, but obviously following Cherry's diet plan and exercising compulsively has the opposite effect. I was thinking about the whole question of why he doesn't make that connection. Of course, on one hand he feels safer if he is in shape and ready to fight, it gives him a sense of control he needs. On the other hand, I think there is a lot of other stuff tangled up in there. It occurred to me that his looks are the only power he has, or the only power he thinks he has. It's the only thing the Capitol values in him. His looks trapped him in the Capitol's gilded cage, but now that he is trapped in there and can't see a way out (I bet that if he did try to mar his appearance, Snow would crack down on him immediately, which would be even more humiliating) his looks and his physical abilities are the only things that have allowed him to exert any small measure of control over the situation, at least in his mind. I don't think he sees himself as being very smart, when it gets right down to it -- I remember the scene early on where he thinks that his role is going to be to sit there and be beautiful while other people use the big words -- he probably can't help absorbing some of the Capitol's feedback.

So, that's all my ED meta. Thoughts? ;)

I imagine that Gloss' ED comes rom a somewhat different place than Finnick's. I have this idea that the victors from D1 were groomed to be pretty and entertain the Capitol in whatever capacity necessary, which leads to mor of their self-esteem to be tied up in looking good and remaining appealing to patrons. A whole different sort of mind fuck.

That's pretty much exactly where I was coming from. I couldn't tell you much about Gloss, and I didn't want to use Cashmere here because I didn't want to put canon!Cashmere bitching about Kat's wedding dress in a context of pathological self-image issues - her bitching is perfectly justified without that. :p Plus I dig the gender role switch. So I used Gloss. Since Ralda and Finnick's eating issues are both pretty rare versions of ED, I thought it would be a good thing to allude to more of a textbook case of bulimia here.

Hmm, Finnick's relationship to his looks. The way I picture it, it all started with the fact that he was originally a young, handsome man who was told that all his family would be killed if he didn't stay a handsome man available to the Capitol. Now, Snow has that way of giving very vague orders. "Make people stop rebelling" he says to Kat, then can tell her at any time that his expectations weren't met. "Haymitch shall be sober and entertaining" he says to Finnick in SC, and two years later, Finnick is waiting on Reaping Day to find out if Gale will be reaped for punishment because Snow decided that starting a Games training class isn't what he meant. "You'll give the Capitol exactly what it expects" he tells fourteen-year-old Finnick, whose stylist makes up a diet plan the first time she sees him eat candy. And even all without that massive, terrible threat looming over his family where he can't afford taking the wrong step, Finnick tends to overperform. He doesn't know how to not do things perfectly. At one point in the fic, there's this line, "Give him a set of rules, and he'll play." So he's supposed to stay attractive, and he's supposed to diet. Plus, he'd think "better safe than sorry" when in doubt. Add to that the fact that he used to work out even before the Games. It's a hobby. It makes him feel good about himself. He's good at it and it got him a lot of praise in (Games) school. He associates it with Games preparation, which means he associates it with being safer / more likely to survive. So for the longest time, those two things had no connection with his looks. It was only when he started internalizing the fact that he keeps being hurt because he's beautiful that he started struggling with the way he looks.

But yeah, in his head, there's being "strong" and "powerful" and "able to defend yourself" which has to do with muscle and strength and workouts. And there's being "beautiful" and "desirable" but it's in a different category in his head. A dominant part of him doesn't want to make the connection between those two things. He doesn't want to lose the positive experience of sport. It's a very important part of his life. It makes him feel good, it gives him something to do and it gives him a routine to follow.

What you're saying about his looks being a way of regaining control and absorbing the Capitol's feedback is all great observations. I tend to look at those aspects as recent developments that started becoming real issues at around the time of MOTR, a year or two before SC. That was a point when he suddenly hit a wall in how he looks, what it all means, whether he's a slut and a bad person. He only started growing really aware of how he can wield his fame as a tool of power during the 73rd Games, just before this chapter, when he threatened Chaff to tell the media that Chaff is a drunk. His developing eating issues right afterwards is probably not a coincidence. He's struggling for control and a sense of power in ways that are different from that particular power. It's probably good that he hasn't figured out how all these things are connected, or he'd just start feeling very helpless.

Enough thoughts? ;) Tell me what you think. :)

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