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?
"What are the tributes like this year? Any good?" asked Ren, some slight hesitation in her voice.
"No. They're stubborn and refuse to listen to Finnick whenever he's talking about survival. They're not going to last long out there," he responded, his voice stiff.
Ren bit her lip and then started dressing herself. "How are they, anyway? You know, Finnick, Annie, Mags..."
"Finnick and Annie are just fine. Mags is detoriating. She's even bonier than last year and usually doesn't even bother prattling. Finnick says your death hit her pretty hard."
His voice was harsh, and Ren cast her eyes down while buttoning her shirt up. She hadn't known the woman at all, but apparently the Victress had felt responsible anyway. The idea made her eyes sting.
Mano turned his back on her and put on his final shoe. Ren crawled towards him and put her arms around his chest, while resting her head on his strong shoulder. "Look at me."
He did so reluctantly, and the girl was taken by suprise by the fear in his eyes. She eyed him carefully, a worried frown making her forehead crease. "What are you so afraid of?"
He took her face in his broad hands, his features a bit embarrassed as he slowly admitted his fear to her in a soft voice. "Ren, what happens when I start loving you more than I despise you?"
The girl smiled faintly, but broke out of his grip and touched his jaw with the tip of her nose, her breath creating goosebumps on his skin. "Then you'll hate yourself for loving me, just like I hate myself for loving you."
He didn't smile at her words, but turned around to face her instead, pulling her body close until Ren could feel his heartbeat vibrating through her. "I think it's happening," he whispered.
She lifted her mouth to his ear, her breath warming it slowly as she brushed her lips back and forth across it. His hands tightened around her hips and he shuddered, but then leant away, releasing her abruptly. "Stop."
Ren took his hands and placed them on her hips again. "Don't be afraid of love."
He closed his eyes and buried his head in her neck, breathing in and out slowly, his nose skimming along the veins while his hand explored her left leg. "I need to go soon."
Ren's hands knotted into his hair, and it took sometime to compose her features into a calm mask as she searched for words that'd make him stay. "Don't."
He kissed the hollow of her collarbone and pulled away, his hypnotic eyes boring into hers, and Ren knew she could make no pretense of being in control of herself. "I'll be back tomorrow, I promise."
She released him reluctantly, knowing she had no choice. Mano looked up again and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "I'll bring a flower with me."
"A flower? What for?" she asked, a slight laugh escaping her lips.
He gave her a smile but remained quiet for a short moment, taking her in once more. "Take a shower. Get some sleep. Eat," he finally said, standing up abruptly and turning his back on her.
Ren stood up as well and put her arms around him a last time, apprehension rushing through her, turning her blood as cold as ice for a moment. "Please be careful."
He glanced over his shoulder, warm, careless amusement dancing over his features. "Of course."
She let him go and leant against a wall, holding her eyes shut firmly as she heard him leave her underground home. How long would she be here? Probably until Mano grew unattractive. They'd kill them both when they had no more use for them. But why was she thinking about this? It was utterly pointless, after all.
Ren paced around, eventually deciding to follow Mano's advice and take a shower. She ran a comb through her hair swiftly (its edges were soft so she couldn't hurt herself with them), tugging harshly through any knots, and then walked towards the bathroom, ignoring the large mirror that'd been covered with a black cloth there. Now was not the time to go looking at her own reflection. Though it was a bit of a private thing, she wanted to have someone--that person being Mano, of course--by her side when she pulled that cloth away.
Just when she stepped out of the shower and on to the mat she heard a door open. Ren paused, confused. "Mano?"
No answer came, except for the sound of footsteps coming towards her. The hairs on the back of Ren's neck stood on end, and goosebumps appeared on her now-dry skin. "Who's there?" she called out in a shaky voice, dressing herself rapidly as the footsteps came closer.
The door opened and she nearly laughed in relief. It was an Avox girl, cleaning supplies in her arms. She looked at Ren with shock that made her cheeks turn a bright crimson, matching her blonde hair.
Ren was about to skip out of the room quickly--well aware that the girl had recognized her--when she noticed the mirror. She came to an abrupt stop and suddenly knew she was ready, that she had to do it now.
She turned to the Avox slowly. "Could you uncover that, please?"
The girl turned even redder and ripped the cloth away, quickly focusing on cleaning the floor as soon as she'd done so, ignoring Ren's sharp intake of breath as she spotted her own reflection.
She was barely capable of recognizing herself. Her face was angular, her cheekbones sharper..she looked older, grown up. A feverish color tainted her sallow cheeks and her hair--light brown and straight as always--hung smoothly past her shoulders; a supple, discolored wave. They had somehow fixed her nose, which was strangely straight and even normal. All her scars were gone, leaving her bleached face smooth. In the past year her eyebrows had grown back, which made her dark eyes--the color of the sea during a heavy hose--look even more desperate, wild and feral, her pupils dilating wildly, clearly defying the fact that this sickly-looking, soft-cheeked girl was her. Her mouth was trembling slightly, raw from the amount of times she'd bitten it. Her pointy chin moved as she slowly unclenched her jaw. She watched her nostrils flare as if accusing the girl in the mirror of being a fake, of it being a miserable, failed duplicate. Her shoulders were hunched in protection, her bleak skin stretched taut over her somehow still athletic figure, despite the lack of exercise.
She ripped her sharp gaze away. "I'm ugly," she told the Avox, who looked up carefully, brushing the blonde hair out of her large brown eyes, "aren't I?"
The girl bit her lip and touched Ren's hair, shaking her head and smiling slightly as she pointed at her face.
"I am. You can tell me the truth."
The Avox shook her head more firmly and forced the corners of Ren's lips up with her slender, rough fingers, her throat uttering a strange sound. She pointed at the mirror and made a show of flipping her hair and then pointing at Ren, who couldn't help laughing at the gesture. "Thank you. My skin...can you believe I used to be tanned? I used to be sort of pretty."
Ren paused. "What's your name?"
A grieved look came over the girl's face and she breathed on the mirror, before writing on the damp surface in neat (though wobbly) handwriting:
"That's a pretty name," whispered Ren, smiling at the girl. "Will you be here often?"
Suesie nodded, smiling as well and displaying a row of perfect, pearly white teeth while she bent over and started scrubbing at the floor again.
The other girl froze for a brief, painful moment. No one from the Districts had such teeth; not even the mayor's family in District 4. The girl must be from the Capitol, though Ren wondered how that was possible. As far as she knew, there was no reason for someone from the Capitol to break the rules. Didn't they have everything their little hearts desired already?
Ren left the room quickly, making sure to avoid looking into the mirror. She settled down on the soft couch in the living room and turned the television on to watch the re-caps of the opening ceremony from yesterday. She couldn't help raising her eyebrows, impressed as she saw the two tributes from District 12 come by, both seemingly aflame and holding the other's hand. It was a painful reminder of her days with Mano a year ago. Were those two destined to end up the same way? Or was it just a strategy to intimidate the other tributes?
After another couple of minutes of watching her head started to throb, and eventually she pressed the off button rather harshly, her heart pounding in a loud and uneasy way.