A/N: Here's the epilogue. You can thank CaffeineConnoisseur for it. =D And of course, Medea Smyke who cowrote this with me. Hope you enjoy.
"There you are!"
I finally find Mags sipping tea and gumming on shortbread in the little salon adjacent to the dining room. I've been storming up and down the fourth floor of the training center looking for her: my one source of consolation these days.
"Oh. It's you." Mags doesn't look up when I step through the doorway, just keeps working on that cookie.
"Someone's circulating pictures of me in that net all over the Capitol," I say, almost accusingly as I slam the door behind me. "Annie's going to see it."
"You think?" Mags mutters as I cast myself down on a divan. "Good afternoon to you too, Finnick."
I'm in such a bother that I ignore the barb. "It's not fair. You got to wear actual clothes to the opening ceremony. You don't have a…" I remember that the Capitol is always listening, "…a friend who's last memory will be of you trussed up like a fish, drooled over like a god by the lowest grade of modified humanity –if you can even call them humans." I turn to her, hoping to see her agree with me, but it looks like her eyes are lolling around in the back of her head. Is she rolling her eyes at me? Or falling asleep?
"Mags, are you listening to me?" 'Eyes bugging out of my head' is definitely not one of my better looks, but this is important!
I can't decide if the 'blah, blah, blah' sounds coming from her mouth is her mocking me or a result of the speech difficulties brought on by her stroke. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.
"Of all the costuming blunders Agrippina could come up with – the net was a beauty. I had such hopes for that fishnet in an entirely different situation. Well, that's ruined. Now all I can think about are the things Annie and I will never get to do like…" I scratch my head, "like…" Should have planned that out a bit better. Thankfully Mags is an old woman and as such, has no idea about the hopes and desires of a 24-yeard old male.
Mags mutters something into her tea.
Contrary to popular belief, I do blush. As I try to keep my jaw from unhinging, I marvel about how her mind went to the same place mine did. I expect that from me, but from Mags? Annie and I have been… together, but I was fairly sure we kept it well-hidden. So to find out that Mags might know, or at least advocates our 'togetherness' is disconcerting. And disappointing. I should have taken full advantage of my opportunities.
I cough. "Well, that crossed my mind, but uh, there hasn't been a lot of privacy for that sort of thing."
"That's what closets are for, dear boy," she burbles. Then her eyebrows lift in genuine astonishment. "I'm surprised you didn't know that."
"How did you—" The idea that Mags knows more than me about the multiple uses of closets makes me shudder. Who is this woman, and what has she done to my Mags? It's like thinking about what your parents do behind closed doors. Or in Mags's case, your great-grandparents. Can they even still do that?
Mags clears her throat, drawing me out of very disturbing mental contemplations just seconds before there's a knock on the door. Uncanny how she does that.
The Capitol man-slut mask I perfected long ago snaps back into place as I study the perfect white crescents resting above my cuticles. To think my stylist Agrippina wanted to cover them up with painted on fish scales. Not the most cringe-worthy idea she's concocted, but still. A man as beautiful as me must have his standards. I am distinctintly non-fishlike. And while I might never see Annie again, if I do, the less she has to make fun of me about, the better. I still don't know how I'm going to live down my golden net outfit.
We can hear someone awkwardly pawing at the doorknob before a man with two baskets of hot-house flowers bumbles into the room. Capitol hybrids judging by the glittering paisley patterns on the heart-shaped petals.
"Er, District Four tribute—" he starts to read from a card.
Mags garbles something at the delivery man, which he doesn't understand. His impatient eyes flick in my direction.
With a languid flourish I indicate a corner of the room, which has been the designated resting place of all my fan mail and gifts. He sets the two baskets down on the side table there and leaves without closing the door.
I huff, "Well, that's rude—"
He immediately returns with a dolly overflowing with baskets and vases of more floral mutations. It stinks to high heaven.
"Must be for me," Mags mutters when the door closes behind the man.
I'm content to ignore my pile of gifts, but Mags always gets a kick out of the things my fans send me. Especially their attempts at poetry. I always bring them home after every Games. Her favorite was called "To Finnick, who dares to spear my heart." She praised the poet for her remarkable skill with word play. I wasn't such a fan.
My interest already lost, I find other ways of entertaining myself. My mind is back on Annie and, courtesy of Mags, some wonderful combination of golden nets and closets.
In the corner of my eye, I see Mags drop something, and I put the brakes on my train of thought. As it slowly comes to a halt, I look up to find Mags shaking. My heart is somewhere in my throat as I race over to her.
"Mags, are you alright?"
Tears are streaming down her face, and I'm just about to yell for some help when I feel her hand at my elbow.
"You have to read this," she orders, in between gasps.
Is she nuts? Have me read some obsessive stalker's ode to Finnick's powerful trident as she lies dying? But the more I look at her, the more I realize she's not dying. And not crazy. Probably.
Picking up the dropped box, I read the card that rests on top. Usually, the script is more loopy and feminine. I can barely make out this chicken scratch.
"Finnick, I wish I could drown in the sensitive depths of your sea-green eyes. Here. Wear this. Haymitch."
What?! After reading it a few times, it still makes no sense. Haymitch knows about Annie, and I was pretty certain he had something going on with his District's escort.
By now Madge has finally stopped laughing hysterically. "Seems he managed to get that stubborn girl to be your ally in spite of you all your lip-licking and sugar-cube munching," she says with a congratulatory slap on my back.
I nod, pretending like I knew that all along. Removing the card, I slip on the bracelet that was hidden underneath. I look at the thick band of gold that has flames are embossed around its circumference.
"What do you think?" I ask, modeling it as I flex my bicep. "Is it me?"
"Yes. Completely, utterly, 100 percent flaming."
"Excuse me?" I blink. Could it be that she isn't taking me seriously?
"Like your hair," she adds.