The Capitol's Secret (Sequel to The Current, a Hunger Games Fanfic)

After being "saved' from an untimely death by the Capitol, Ren has no choice but to live a quiet life, while Mano--Victor of the Seventy-third Hunger Games--knows that any mistake from his side will send the only person he's capable of loving into death.

But how will they balance themselves in a world of secrets, where people can disappear without a trace?

Chapter 2

Love

The Day After The Reaping: Ren's Birthday


She sat on her bed quietly, ignoring the food that'd appeared. It was her new method to defy the Capitol, to show she was a person with feelings, not a mere pawn.
The girl heard the metal door slam shut and her heart gave a feeble splutter. She stood up quickly, shoving a chair in front of her door. Not a second too soon. The doorknob moved. "Ren? Ren, open up!"

Ren didn't answer but closed her eyes instead, sitting down on the chair. Her legs felt weak and black shadows danced in front of her eyes. She ignored her quivering limbs and bit her dry lips.

"Ren, I'm sorry! Please let me in! Is what they've been saying true?"

There was no doubt on Ren's mind with what he meant with his words. Of course the Peacekeepers--and the Capitol--knew about her refusal to eat. Ever since Mano had stopped showing up (three months ago, to be exact) she'd been rebellious. First, in her initial anger, she'd hurled lamps and paintings around, trying desperately to break them. Then she'd gone through phases of yelling at the camera in the living room, and when she'd finally realized nothing would help--yesterday--she'd resolved to stop eating, which had alarmed the Capitol greatly, of course.

"Open up!" Mano repeated, impatient now. "Ren, I swear I had no choice! They made me stay away from you!"

Her resolve wavered for a moment and her hand reached for the doorknob, but then she jerked it back. "Go away," she called, her voice soft and hoarse from the lack of speech.

It was silent for a moment, and then the doorknob twisted again. "Ren, don't make me knock down this door."

She didn't answer and buried her face in her hands, tired already from the effort of keeping the door closed. It rumbled dangerously and opened slightly, though the girl made sure to lean back so it closed again quickly, with a snap that made Mano curse. "Ren Watercress, I'm warning you a last time!"

Again she held her mouth, but this time the door opened widely as Mano hurled himself against it, a loud boom echoeing through the room. The boy came storming in and knelt down next to where Ren's chair had collapsed, the girl with it. "Sheesh, Ren! Are you insane?!"
He kept muttering obscene words as he scrutinized her, eventually picking her up and putting her down on the bed. "How could you?"

She would've glowered at him, but her head was still rather light and she blinked instead. Mano rubbed his forehead, casting uneasy looks at her every few seconds. "Ren...oh, damn you."
He reached for the luxerious food next to the bed and held a cup of soup in front of her mouth. "It's cold, you can drink it."

Ren turned her head away, saliva seeping into her mouth as the aromatic smell wafted up. Her stomach rumbled softly, yearning for the liquid, and Mano frowned at her tenacity. "Ren. Trust me. They kept me away, they didn't want me to visit you until the Games started again. Please, please just eat. I'm sorry, I wanted to see you, I did!"

"Then why didn't you try harder?" she croaked, finally directing her hurt eyes at him. "Why? Do you have any idea how it feels to be alone? To have no one to talk to, to be a mere shadow, and knowing that that's how you're supposed to live for the rest of your life?"

Mano appeared agonized and he set the bowl of soup back onto the table with a rather harsh clang. "I tried! I told them that I wouldn't do anything until I got to see you, but they said they would kill you if I didn't do it! I tried, Ren!"
After these words he wound his arms around the girl's trembling, pale body, bleached by the lack of the sun.

She hesitated and then slung her arms around him in return, knowing she'd forgiven him long ago, breathing in the smell of his shirt, which was strangely feminine. "Mano."

He looked up, and that's when she noticed his blood-shot eyes, the rings under them, the anguished look that no make-up from the Capitol could hide. "Please just eat something," he pleaded, not aware of his wild and exhausted appearance.

The girl slowly took the bowl of soup, nearly nauseus as she took a small, careful sip. It took all of her self-control not to drink it greedily. "What are they making you do, Mano? You look terrible."

He started at her words, his hand making a quick little motion, as if to wave her remark away. Ren eyed him carefully. He looked paranoid, as if he thought she was some sort of spy. He chewed his bottom lip. "I'm probably not supposed to talk about it."

"Yeah, I'm going to tell everyone," muttered Ren sarcastically, taking another cautious sip, glancing around the chaotic room, void of any people except for the two of them.

Mano seemed troubled and he stood up, his fingers stroking the dust on a large closet. "They ought to let someone clean here, it's dirty."

"They're afraid someone will recognize me."

"Avoxes won't tell anyone. And besides that, you've...changed. Have you even looked into the mirror yet?"

"No," answered Ren, her interest in the soup increasing as she tried to avoid Mano's probing eyes. Her fingers traced the edge of the white bowl. White as the snow in the Arena.

"Why not?"

"I'm scared," she admitted, glancing up briefly, afraid he'd be staring at her.

He frowned, brushing the filth attached to his fingers off on his shirt. "Scared of what?"

"What I look like."

A knowing, sympathetic look came into Mano's eyes, and he fell silent, sitting down on the bed and brushing the hair out of her face. "I'll be here more often, now that this has happened...plus it will be easier, because of the Games. Finnick can train the tributes. Just try to get back to your old self, Ren. Or as close as possible, at least. Then we'll face the mirror together."

The girl couldn't bear to think of how ugly she'd probably be, or what would be even more likely, that she wouldn't be able to recognize herself. Instead she put the bowl away and stared at Mano's tired eyes again, worried now. Her stomach churned. "Tell me what they're making you do."

"No," he said fiercely, scooting away from her until he rested at the edge of the bed. "No. You'll hate me."

"Are you murdering people?" she asked, her heart skipping a beat, frightened at the response. What could ever make her hate him more than she already did?

"Only myself, in a way," he replied bitterly, turning his back on the girl.

She crawled towards him, burying her face in his neck and twining her arms around his chest. His breath was uneven as she kissed his jaw. "We'll talk about it later. You forgot something, by the way."

Mano was relieved at the change of subject, and a small smile lifted up the corners of his mouth as he leant his head against her body. "No I didn't. Happy birthday, Ren."

She hesitated, her nose under his chin. She raised her mouth to his ear, brushing it softly as she spoke. "I'm sixteen, now. An adult, really."

"And?" he prompted with a smile, turning around at last.

Ren kept her eyes fixed on his as she slipped her hand under his shirt, her breath coming a little more quickly. The happy look on his face disappeared, and he stood up, taking a step away from her. "No."

She blushed fiercely, embarrassment and rejection flooding through her. Ren turned her face away quickly, trying to hide her feelings. She expected him to embrace her, to give her reasons without her inquiring after them, to apologize, but instead she heard his footsteps move towards the door. She whipped her head around, alarmed. "Where are you going?!"

Mano's face was frustrated, angry even. "I can't do this. I need a break."

The girl couldn't fight her tears and her voice broke as she tried to raise it from its raspy tone, "A break? From me?"

"Not this again! Ren, listen up, I'm only going to say this once. I love you--in fact, you're the only person I've ever really loved--but I can't do this, not right now. I can't explain what the Capitol wants me to do. I can't make love to you. I just can't. You're only sixteen. Just...eat and take a shower. I'll be back tomorrow."

"Why can't you?" she blurted out, only to have the truth hit her in the face as soon as her words had left her mouth, as painful as if someone had truly punched her. She should've known. Mano's handsome face, his strong body. The exhaustion he always radiated. The bloodshot eyes, the reluctance to touch her in an intimate way. The way he avoided the subject, the perfume lingering on his clothing.

The Capitol was selling Mano Curek as a prostitute.

He must've seen the look in her eyes, the despair, anger, grief and disappointment. "So now you know, don't you? Mano Curek, your best friend, Victor, the boy that loves you; a mere pawn for the ladies," he said mockingly, a look of fresh bitterness coming over him.

She reached for his hand, trying not to cry or scream or curl up and disappear, knowing that he would never be hers, that dozens of girls had felt his body before she could've had the chance; that they'd enjoyed him.

He stepped out of her reach. "I'm going now."

"Don't! This is exactly what they want, Mano! Don't let them win!"

"The Capitol always wins!" he yelled, fury racing over his face. He grabbed a painting and hurled it across the room. "They've taken everything!"

"No, they haven't!" Ren burst out, reaching for him again, ignoring the violent motions of his arms. "They can't take our feelings away! I love you, I hate your guts; nothing, no one can change that, not even the Capitol!"

In a sudden fit of passion Mano gripped her and pushed his lips against hers, gripping her waist roughly. She kissed back just as wildly, ignorant of her surroundings as chills shot through her body. The pained tears streaming down the boy's face mixed with her own, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, breathing heavily as his hands crossed her body. "Make love to me," she whispered.

He picked her up and carried her to the bed again, bending over her athletic body with a graceful movement that somehow expressed all his hate, all his love and all his pain as he shed her of her clothes.

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