He knows what happens to young and attractive Victors because Mags told him so, matter-of-fact and to the point, before he turned sixteen. He doesn't remember what he thought afterwards—shock or disgust or fear. He remembers an emptiness in his chest, heavy and aching. His mouth going dry like sandpaper. A lump in the back of his throat that made it hard to swallow, that might have been tears but he didn't cry.
Finnick doesn't remember much about that night. When he thinks about what it means to be a Victor he remembers the night of his sixteenth birthday. He remembers a letter.
Finnick takes a train to the next Hunger Games. He is not a mentor, but he is going to the Capitol as a spectator. The people of the Capitol love him, love and want him, and he knows that they can have him now if they can pay the price.
There is a letter lying on his bed the night of his birthday. Both the actual letter and the envelope are made of the same thick, cream-colored paper. It's written in navy blue ink, large and loopy. It's an invitation to a party before the Games begin, from someone named Vienna.
It's this Capitol woman's name drawn at the bottom but the paper reeks of roses and something else, something sharp like copper.
He shows it to Mags and she shakes her head and he thinks of some nights before and is filled with a sense of dread.
"It's so wonderful to meet you in person," Vienna says, quiet like a secret against the shell of his ear. She stands close with one dainty hand on his shoulder. Bright gold tattoos stretch from the palm of her hand and up her exposed arm to curl to an end at the same side of her face. They make her eyes look almost gold too, unnaturally so (or maybe those have been altered too).
He nods, not sure what he should say, not sure if he should say anything.
She sips from a tall, clear glass of something that smells like alcohol and citrus. "You were so amazing in the Games. I knew you were going to win right away, you know. I could tell you were a survivor."
"Thank you. That means a lot." He smiles, charming, and her expression melts into one of awe and desire. Her hand drifts from his shoulder to his hand and she begins to lead him away from the ballroom, towards an ornate staircase, towards the bedrooms.
"Did you even know who I was before you received my invitation?" she asks. "And, be honest."
He tentatively shakes his head. "I'm sorry. No."
"It's fine. I don't expect district citizens to know much about Capitol notables," she laughs, and it's too high-pitched, too trilling. "I'm very important around here. Very rich. I bought you you're trident."
He doesn't know what to say, but he doesn't get a chance. She pushes him through an open doorway and presses their mouths together and there is no talking for a long while.
After, as she's lying beside him and taking a drag on a long cigarette, she turns her face to him and asks, "Is there anything you want?"
"What do you mean?"
"Money isn't a problem. I could get you anything you like." She looks troubled, a noticeable crease between her thinly drawn eyebrows, a thinning of her lips.
"I don't really need anything."
There's a long silence between them. "How old are you?" she asks.
"Are you sure there isn't anything you'd like?"
While he thinks she finishes her cigarette and grinds the burning stub into a golden astray held in her palm.
Finally, he says, "Tell me a secret."
"Tell me something nobody else knows." He smiles, all teeth, all bright eyes. "I'm sure you know a lot."
She places the ashtray onto her nightstand. "Alright." She leans over, mouth grazing his ear like before, and begins to talk.
He gets numerous invitations over the next two years, from all sorts of important Capitol people. Some don't offer him anything but many do, guilt tugging at their expressions and anxious to assuage it with their money. He doesn't take their trinkets or their money—they'd make him feel more like an object than he already did, like a whore that could be bought for a few dirty coins, like a crying child who could be placated by a new toy.
Each one tells him something that has been hiding in their heart, dark and hidden, unknown to anyone else, aching to tell and sure that he is someone who can do nothing with it. He can't, not that he particular wants to, but relishes the power it gives him to be the only one who knows, the outside party who holds all the secrets that could fall them.
It eases the tension inside him, just a little.
He gets an envelope with nothing inside it but a card with an address and a key.
When he goes to the Capitol, when he goes there, he finds a house, small by Capitol standards, indistinct. The key turns easy. He goes inside and inside is President Snow.
He hasn't seen the president in person since he first won the Games years ago. He is just as unnatural-looking as he had been before. Narrowed eyes. Smug smile. When they are close he can smell the stench that never left him, of roses and blood.
"Hello," he says. "It's been quite a while hasn't it?"
"Yes, it has," Finnick says. Unsure. Afraid. "What's going on?"
"You've done nothing wrong if that's what you mean," Snow says.
"Why am I here then?"
"You should already know that," he replies. "I would have been the first, but even I wouldn't do such a thing to a child."
He wants to run, but he can't move. It's like his feet are glued to the floor, like his whole body has been numbed except his eyes, frantically flitting around the house, except his heart jack-hammering against his ribs so hard he fears they might crack.
President Snow draws in close to him. His fingers are too soft against his jaw and his breath reeks of blood.
"And, don't expect any secrets from me," he says, before he closes the distance between them.
When they kiss Finnick tastes nothing but blood, like when he bit his tongue too hard or when he bust his lip during the Games, thick and warm and sharp like a penny, making his stomach curl with the urge to vomit.
President Snow tells him nothing.
He leaves Finnick, spent and used and dirty, with a smile on his face like he's taken everything Finnick could possibly have, like a victory. He leaves Finnick with the rose from his lapel draped across the pillow, like a parting gift to someone he loves quite deeply.