Many many thanks to Magic Amethyst for Betaing! If she hadn't looked this over, it never would've gone up :D
There was a dark spot on the side of the building. It moved, catching Finnick's eyes away from the city lights and halting his lazy daydream.
Senator Crassus was sleeping, finally, twisted up in the blankets like some kind of burrowing crab. He'd kicked in his sleep, leaving Finnick awake and restless. He was long past the stage where he felt like he needed to shower after; Finnick knew by now that the filthy feeling would not go away until he got home and Annie smiled at him. Drowsy but sleepless, he was resting his elbow on the windowsill, chin on his fist, looking out at the lights of the city.
The shadow crept up the bricks. Finnick eyed it as it ascended, watching white hair flash in the night. He smiled grimly.
The moving lights had been nice to look at, at least. District 4 had no such lights. At night the place was dark and quiet, except maybe for lovers who built fires on the beach. He smiled again, though this time ruefully. The Peacekeepers didn't like it, but he and Annie did it anyway—
There was a clump and a clatter. That shadow really wasn't as graceful as he pretended to be.
"Hello, Spike," Finnick greeted wryly as the monster clambered up onto the windowsill.
"Odair," was the growled response. The creature crouched there, man-shaped and fierce in a Peacekeeper's uniform, and regarded Finnick out of his inhuman yellow eyes.
Finnick knew better than to invite him in, but he met that angry stare evenly.
Spike's eyes were blue, in reality. Creatures such as he had two faces: the one with teeth, and the one that was almost human. The only one Finnick ever saw was the one with teeth.
He knew why, of course. He knew Spike longed to bury those fangs into Finnick's own throat, but he also knew that the monster wouldn't.
Spike had tried to kill him, once, but only the once and never again. It had been a starry night, back in District 4, and he'd built a fire on the beach with Annie. The night frightened her, and she'd been so hesitant to build that fire – she got confused, sometimes, hardly believing that her Games were in fact over. Finnick had thought that the fire on the familiar beach might help, and the night had been lovely. She'd just started to relax when she'd seen something flash and shouted; when Finnick had followed her finger, he'd laid eyes on Spike for the first time.
His hair was brighter than the moon, and those awful eyes reflected the firelight like a saltwater crocodile. The forehead and nose were almost human, close enough to be frightening, ridged and distorted and awful. But it was the teeth that Finnick remembered – elongated and jagged and wrong, like a serpent's fangs in a man's mouth. He'd thought it was a mutt, like someone had sent a mutt to kill them for—what? They were champions, they couldn't be killed without the Capitol noticing. But the creature was dressed in white, the distinctive uniform of the Peacekeepers.
But the moment Annie opened her mouth again in terror, the snarling yellow-eyed beast on the sand had changed. By the flickering light of the fire Finnick saw the creature's eyes fix on Annie and turn blue, the ridges on his forehead smooth, until there was nothing at all remarkable about the man standing before them except for his Peacekeeper uniform and the poleaxed look on his face.
"You're not a Peacekeeper," Annie had whispered, meeting those blue eyes so bravely that Finnick had felt a pang somewhere in his heart.
"No," the creature had replied, looking defeated.
The story had come out, then, as though pulled by a fishing line. The beast was called Spike, and he was centuries old—a monster called a vampire, a vicious predator. Finnick had killed the last member of the human family he'd guarded for generations. Mourning, at a loss, Spike no longer knew what to do.
But there was something about Annie that gentled the furious creature, though Finnick could hardly blame him. Annie seemed to have that effect on everyone. They'd ended up sitting by the fire, the three of them, light glinting off the monster's disturbingly human eyes. Spike was a beast with a heart; he took care of those he loved, even though they'd been human, his natural prey. Shiv had been the last in a long, long line of humans that Spike had nurtured from the womb to the grave. The boy had been chosen as a tribute to the Hunger Games, taken far from District 8, where Spike could no longer protect him.
Finnick remembered Shiv. He'd been thirteen, just a year younger than Finnick himself. Dark hair, wide eyes, nervous laugh. He'd been hurt – fallen down a wire trap. Finnick had followed the blood trail, thinking that he was doing him a favor. It had been as quick as he could make it, though tridents were meant for fish, not humans. The boy had been so scared.
District 8 was a city, filthy and smoggy, this Finnick knew, but Spike said that Shiv had liked flowers. Spike had gotten him a little pot for a birthday and Shiv had grown dandelions year-round. You could eat dandelions, Spike had explained, but mostly they were pretty and cheerful, and Shiv had been a boy with a gentle soul.
Finnick had apologized. Not that an apology meant anything – the boy was still dead – but he'd wished he could have saved him. Annie had begged Spike for Finnick's life, and the vampire had looked away, unable to kill either of them.
Now, Finnick looked straight into the yellow eyes that he'd met on that beach three years ago, and there was no Annie to gentle them back to blue. That was alright, though. Spike could not come into the room unless invited. Even so, it was unlikely that he would kill Finnick anyway, though hatred simmered there, clear for anyone who really looked to see. Finnick always looked. It was almost a relief for someone to actually blame him for his crimes.
"Who's the screw?" the vampire asked, nodding to the form on the bed over Finnick's shoulder.
"Crassus," Finnick replied easily. "Mostly harmless." Crassus wasn't sick like the Gamemakers or cruel like the Peacekeepers. He was just rich, and spoiled, and a fool.
Not all people from the Capitol were evil, after all.
"Pity," Spike growled. Finnick shrugged.
"Still," he said airily, "I do have some information for you, if you like."
"Just get to the bleeding point, Odair, I don't have all night," Spike grumbled, bad tempered as always.
"Peacekeeper by the name of Otho," Finnick told him, all business, as Spike liked it. "From District 9. Likes little girls."
Those yellow eyes flashed. "Does he, now?"
"That's the word," Finnick said. He jerked his thumb back at Crassus, out cold on the bed behind him. "As it turns out, he comes down to the Capitol once a year, every year, to fill out some paperwork with Sleepy over there. "
Spike regarded Sleepy, an unsettlingly hungry light in his eyes. "Thought you said he was harmless," he growled.
"He is. It's taxes."
Spike huffed. "Whereabouts in the Capitol does he stay?"
Finnick shrugged. "No clue. Somewhere." This was a lie. Spike had other sources, and a good eye for evil. Besides, it would take him longer to find this Otho, and the longer it took, the less likely that anything would get back to Finnick. This was a dangerous game, but Spike was good at what he did, and the names Finnick gave him would all, eventually, turn up in obituaries.
Finnick just had to play it right, so his name wouldn't show up in an obituary – either by Spike or by one of his clients, whom he hated to call lovers. Someone had to take care of Annie, after all.
"Melena is dead," Spike stated flatly. Finnick nodded.
Melena. The Gamemaker who had designed the wire trap for poor Shiv, and parts of the Game Finnick had won. Finnick had found her name—actually, Finnick had slept with her. That hadn't been a fun night, for multiple reasons. "You eat her?" he asked.
"She tasted like chemicals," Spike growled. "All the Gamemakers do."
Finnick nodded, feeling a little sick. She'd been truly evil, Melena, of that he had no doubt. The way she'd hurt him that night, the way she'd designed his Games, whispered secrets so poisonous that it felt as though her breath had burned the skin of his ear – there were few people Finnick truly hated, but she'd been one of them. Still, his life was filled with so much death. The Games, year after year after year… he swallowed. Spike's inhuman eyes were as expressionless as coins.
Finnick leaned his chin on his palm, elbow on the windowsill. He looked out thoughtfully, and Spike sat silent beside him. The city lights twinkled like living stars. "Tell me a story," he requested at last.
"What?" Spike demanded, thrown.
"Tell me a story," Finnick repeated, more firmly. "I can't sleep, and now I keep thinking about death. Tell me a story."
Spike looked at him for a long moment, and then relented. "I don't know any happy stories, Odair."
"Doesn't matter. Tell me about the world before this happened." He gestured behind Spike, out the window, to the Capitol. "Who did you love, before the world died?"
Spike said nothing for a moment. And then, slowly: "There were five." He paused, and then went on, stronger, "Five that I loved. One was my mother. One didn't matter. One was evil. One saved the word, and the last was her sister. After that, the world went to shit."
"Who saved the world?" Finnick asked.
"She was strong," Spike sighed. "Stronger than any I'd met, and kind… but that's not the one you want, Odair. You want the evil one."
Finnick snorted. "Do I?"
"Alright then," he said gamely. "Who was the evil one?"
"She made me," Spike murmured. He looked back, down at the city and away from Finnick. "She found me as a man and made me into a monster. She was madder than your Annie ever was, my Dru. "
"What happened to her?" Finnick asked, attention caught with the mention of Annie and madness.
"Same thing that happened to every other vampire in the world, 'cept me. She died. But this was before that, before the end of the old world and the rise of the new. She wasn't just a monster—she was a broken monster. Rat bastard had shattered her mind. She saw the future, mixed it up with the present, like looking through cracked glass. Spoke in riddles half the time, though she had a way with words. She turned me in a back alley, from a mouse of a man into a lion, and together we traveled the world and painted the streets red. I was evil, then, too," he reminisced. "There was a city called Prague, though who knows what's happened to it now, probably all ruins. But she insisted on visiting there, for one reason or another, and we stayed because the people tasted sweet."
Spike was a surprisingly good storyteller, and Finnick was a good listener, especially these days, when evil men and women spilled their secrets into his ears. The story was a fascinating one – there was a mob that somehow weakened Spike's mad lady, and Spike barely got her out in time. He spent three long years caring for a sick, insane lover, before finding the cure – Sire's blood, the blood of the vampire who had made her and driven her to insanity in the first place. And there was another girl, there, guarding that Sire, blonde-haired and bright as the sun—the other girl that Spike loved, though he refused to give her name. He said that she turned him from a monster back into a man, but he wouldn't go into detail.
By the time he'd finished, the sky had turned from black to deep blue, and Spike departed with a nod, slipping down the side of the building and onto the street, at last down to gutter and into the pipes. Finnick slunk back to the bed, even though Crassus was hogging the sheets and he was not tired.
He thought about Annie and Dru, and wondered what it would be like to be evil. How much easier it would be, if some part of his heart didn't break with each new year of the Games, with each time Annie awoke screaming from her dreams. He thought about Spike, and the hatred and compassion that burned in his expression whenever he looked at Finnick, and how those eyes were never blue unless they were on Annie.
And as the sun rose over the Capitol, Finnick thought of vampires and monsters, and how much easier life would be if evil always had fangs.