kawuli (kawuli) wrote,

The Capitol

The Victory Tour ends in the Capitol, and things get worse.

Spoilers-slash-trigger warning for rape/forced prostitution which is not explicitly described (This is Phillips POV and nobody wants to talk about it, including me), and general just awful Capitol-ness. I'll be over here with the kittens when you're done.

The morning they arrive in the Capitol, Rokia's whisked off and put through a full Remake that takes hours. While she's in an Avox comes to Phillips with a message: a time for their meeting with President Snow. Phillips takes a breath, lets it out slow, fighting the knot in his throat, and waits.

She comes out ready for the party later, dressed in something flimsy and white, her skin polished and painted and she looks utterly strange. He tries to smile and she looks at him strangely.

"The President wants to meet with us," he says, and her eyes go wide.

"Oh," she says, soft and scared, and she never told him what he said to her after she won, but she doesn't sound surprised. There's a car waiting to take them to the Presidential mansion and they wind their way through the corridors until they're standing outside President Snow's office.

The President wants Phillips first. He squeezes Rokia's hand and walks into the office and tries to remember how to breathe.

"Mister Phillips," the President says, "Welcome back."

"Thank you sir" Phillips says.

"She's done well," Snow says.

"Yes sir." Phillips says, uncertain.

"Brutus gave you some good advice," Snow continues, and Phillips freezes.

"Yes sir." Of course inter-district phone calls between Victors would be monitored. Phillips runs through every conversation he's had with Brutus and can't come up with anything dangerous but his blood still runs cold at the thought.

"I have gotten some requests," Snow says, smiling, snakelike, "from her sponsors and a few other highly placed officials. She will be requested to provide certain services." Snow looks at Phillips with that sly smile, and Phillips' mouth goes dry. "I trust she will perform her duties in service to the Capitol. You understand the consequences of disobedience."

"Yes, sir." Phillips chokes out.

"Good. Now send her in."

Phillips walks to the door and has to pause for several long seconds until he can breathe normally and school his face into something neutral. He steps out and sees Rokia standing, back to the wall, face blank. "The President wants to see you," he says, and his voice doesn't crack but it's a near thing. Rokia looks at him, puzzled and faraway, then blinks quickly and pulls herself together, curling her fingernails hard against her palms and turning towards him. Phillips takes a deep breath, puts a hand on her shoulder and squeezes just a little. "I'll be right here when you're done," he says, and she nods, squares her shoulders, and goes in.

When she comes out Phillips isn't sure if it's been seconds or hours, his mind shying away from everything, his breath rasping in his ears. She leans against the wall opposite him, presses her hands back against the wood panelling, and he can see her chest rise and fall as she breathes, eyes fixed somewhere faraway.

He doesn't know what to say. "Rokia?" he says it soft but she still startles a little, drags her eyes toward his. He moves toward her and she shies away, eyes dropping to the floor, shoulders hunched in. She's shivering. "Rokia, come on," he says, and he can barely keep his voice level, "let's at least get out of here." She nods, looks up at him again and steps forward to follow him out to the car. It takes him a minute to realize they're not going back to the Training Center, and when he asks, the driver says he was told to take them to the end-of-tour reception. It's dark out, already, and Phillips isn't sure when that happened, and all he wants to do right now is hold his girl and take her home, but here they are. Phillips tastes bile in the back of his throat, forces it down. Rokia laughs, harsh and bitter, and when Phillips looks at her her mouth is twisted into a parody of a smile.

"Of course," she says, "we have to celebrate." It's the first thing she's said since she came out of that room and her voice is knife-edged sarcastic and she looks back at Phillips, sets her shoulders, and tucks a thin braid behind her ear. "Don't worry, Phillips," she says, in that same taunting sarcastic tone, "I can take care of myself."

They've arrived. She steps out of the car and meets Linsea and her face sets into the pleasant mask from the Tour and they walk into the ballroom as though the world isn't falling apart around them.

Phillips hates these parties even under ordinary circumstances, and tonight it's insufferable. He watches Rokia smile, polite, shake hands, watches her freeze momentarily anytime someone touches her, grits his teeth when she takes the drinks she's handed and sips at them, nibbles at things people bring her and smiles, smiles, smiles with those wide, scared eyes nobody else notices under the makeup.

There are other Victors at the party, making small talk, eating and drinking and telling stories, and Phillips shakes himself loose to say hello to a few people, tries to be nice. Brutus comes up to him, friendly, and Brutus has two Victors and all Phillips can think is that neither of them will ever, ever have to stand in Snow's office and listen while the President tells them how he's planning to sell their bodies. So when Brutus asks "How's she holding up?" Phillips clenches his fists at his sides and bites his tongue hard enough to taste blood.

He opens his mouth, closes it, unable to string together anything like an answer to that question that won't get him killed. Brutus gets it, backs away, and Phillips schools his breathing back to normal and waits, watches as Rokia gets passed around the room, from Gamesmakers to government ministers, to all kinds of people he doesn't recognize, all of them smiling and congratulating her and complimenting her. She's polite and keeps smiling but he can see the tension in her shoulders and the moments when someone touches her arm and she freezes, just for a second.

Finally, Linsea comes to tell him they can go, and he finds Rokia standing with a drink in her hand and a strange man's hand on her back and he tries not to glare when he tells Rokia it's time to go. She has interviews tomorrow.

She leans against him in the car, lets her head fall against his shoulder as her eyes slide closed. There's alcohol on her breath and his jaw clenches, but what is he going to do, take the drinks out of her hands? She was still steady enough on her feet, so she can't have had much, and of all the things to worry about Phillips can't focus on this right now.

She comes out to the common room once she's showered. She looks like herself again but it makes the fear on her face stand out clear. She sits on the other end of the couch and pulls her knees up to her chest.

"What if I can't?" she asks, barely loud enough for him to hear. "I don't know how."

Phillips freezes, takes long breaths because the alternative is putting his fist through a wall or throwing up and he can't do either.

She huffs a quick almost-laugh. "Nevermind," she says. "Shit." She drops her chin onto her knees and stares out the window at the lights of the Capitol. Phillips looks at her, really looks, and she's all sharp elbows and knees and she looks so, so young, curled into herself like that, until she looks over at him and her mouth twists up and her eyes drill into him. "People always said I was going to grow up just like my Mom," she says, and when she reads Phillips' confusion she looks away. "Forget it," she says, and goes quiet. He's not sure she really knows what she's saying, weeks of bad sleep and whatever she was drinking and the President messing with her head. Her voice is soft when she finally continues. "He said it's because people here love me so much," she says, "he says if I'm good we won't have any problems." He has to strain to hear her. "He showed me pictures of the girls. Says they were real good while I was gone." She looks up at him again, lost and scared and alone, and Phillips reaches out towards her. She curls against him, lets him put an arm around her, and she's shaking and wrung out and there's nothing, not a damn thing he can say to make this better. She's quiet for a long time, curled up against him like a child, and every time he looks down he hopes she'll be asleep but she's just staring out toward the city. Finally she stirs, sits up, presses the heels of her hands into her eyes. "Sorry," she says, in something like her normal voice.

"Don't be," Phillips says, surprised at how fierce he sounds. She notices, gives him a tired smile.

"I'm going to bed," she says, and he nods.

"Goodnight, Rokia," he says, and she looks back over her shoulder.

"Good night."

He stares at the ceiling a long time before he manages to fall asleep.

Linsea bubbles in with the schedule for the day at breakfast, just like she has every day since the Tour started. Interviews, packed one after another, promotional photos with a company that makes fast cars for Capitol buyers, another party and then--Linsea's eyes go wide and Phillips hopes for half a second that she's developed some kind of conscience, but no. "Oh my!" she says, excited, "Rokia, you have a personal appointment with Gaius Luna!" Rokia's been staring at her plate, pushing the eggs around with her fork, and she stops to look up at Linsea, no sign of recognition on her face. Linsea shakes her head. "He's an Assistant Gamesmaker. Very handsome! Well, isn't that something!" Rokia's looking back at her plate, shoulders hunched.

"Is that all, Linsea?" Phillips snaps.

She glares back at him. "Well!" she says, "There's no need to be rude." Phillips just keeps watching her. His ability to be polite will stretch as far as keeping silent instead of yelling profanity, but not much farther. "Yes, fine," she says, flustered. "I'll just go and--check on things. Don't be late!"

Rokia looks up at him, pushes her plate away and gets to her feet. Before he can say anything she shakes her head. "Don't worry about it," she says. "It's fine."

The only advantage to the whirlwind they're dragged through is that it doesn't give him much time to think, until they're in the car on the way to the next party. The first one was the President's Ball, this one is the Stylists Guild Ball, there's a Mutt Designer Society Ball and an Arena Architects' Society Ball, and a Citizens' Ball (all proceeds to benefit a cause Capitol Citizens can vote for at the door), all culminating in the Sponsors' Gala where the Victor has the opportunity to thank her sponsors face-to-face. Phillips has always rolled his eyes at the whole thing but staring down the barrel of days of nonstop activity when it's his girl getting dragged through it makes it less funny and more like elaborate, gilded torture.

Rokia sits close beside him in the car over, not leaning against him, just close enough that their shoulders touch. Her fidgeting fingers are the only sign she shows of nerves, tugging at her hair, then pulling away, fingering the hem of her dress, dragging silver, pasted-on fingernails down her arm.

It stops when they arrive, she climbs out of the car only to be blinded by flashbulbs as she greets Linsea. Linsea's fairly vibrating with excitement as she introduces Rokia to Gaius Luna, who is a tall, well-built man who looks about 25--but who knows, in the Capitol. His smile sets off the photographers' flashbulbs but Phillips can only see it as predatory. The man kisses Rokia on both cheeks, one arm around her. Phillips forces his hands open at his sides and breathes deep, nearly choking on the perfumes everyone around him seems to have bathed in. There's only a few cameras pointed his direction but he needs to look like he's having a good time. That might be impossible, but he manages something that he hopes is at least appropriate, and follows the rest of them in.

The Presidents' Ball is always fairly dignified, as Capitol events go. Here, less so. The music is loud and pulsing, the lights dim, the bar packed and dim corners occupied by people discreet enough to look for an out-of-the-way place before sticking their hands down each others' pants. There aren't any victors he knows here, Brutus and the other, more sober-minded mentors he knows stay as far away from these kinds of events as they can. So he finds a barstool, orders a club soda, watches to make sure nothing gets dropped in it and tries to keep an eye on Rokia. Linsea is having a great time, some of the prep team are having drinks bought for them by jealous-looking colleagues, and Rokia is pulled away from what's-his-name to dance with a parade of men and women in costumes that are elaborate even for the Capitol.

It's well after midnight when Linsea brings Rokia and Gaius by "to say goodnight," as Linsea says, giggling, a little drunk. Gaius shakes his hand and gives Phillips a blinding, cinematic smile. "I'll make sure she gets home safe," he says, pulling Rokia closer to him. Phillips bites his tongue to keep his jaw from spasming too tight, and looks at Rokia, whose face is flushed and won't meet his eyes.

"See you later, Rokia," he says, the words like ash in his mouth, and she glances up at him. Her eyes go wide and scared just for a minute before she blinks and smiles, saccharine-sweet.

"Don't wait up," she says, and Gaius chuckles low in his throat while Linsea gasps in mock-surprise and giggles.

Once the two of them have left Phillips looks at Linsea. "I assume I can go now?" he asks, and Linsea sighs.

"You're always so serious, Phillips, you should have some fun!" Phillips just glares at her until she shakes her head. "Yes, I suppose it wouldn't be uncouth to leave." Phillips nods, heads for the door, and finds the car to take him back to the Training Center.

He sits on the couch in the common room and stares at the wall for a while. It's too quiet, and he can't stand the idea of seeing the entertainment shows talking about her and the cheesy romances the Capitol shows late at night are almost as bad. He tries looking at the papers on his desk, gives up, thinks about calling Brutus for about half a second before dismissing that, and ends up back on the couch, watching the lights of the Capitol out the window until to his own surprise he drifts asleep.

He's awake instantly and on his feet when he hears the door slide open, and Rokia pads in, barefoot, her shoes in one hand and her clothes and makeup mussed. She holds her hands up toward him. "Don't," she says, flat. "Just don't." Phillips stops dead as she ducks into her room, and he hears the shower run for a long time.

She comes out in her clothes from home, smuggled from the train against Linsea's admonitions, curls into a chair with one of her notebooks and starts sketching something. She won't look at him. After a few minutes she gets to her feet, paces restless, over to the window, back through the strange, cold Capitol rooms. The sky's just starting to turn grey when finally she spins to face him.

"I need to get out," she says, and her voice is rough and desperate. "Just--I need to walk around, run for a while, something, I can't stay here."

Phillips nods, thinking. "I don't think you should be out on the street on your own," he says, and she glares at him, crossing her arms over her chest. "They probably won't let you anyway," he says, trying to keep his voice mild, not sure what the rules are here. Tributes can't leave the building, mentors can come and go as they please, more or less, but fresh-out Victors on Tour? Probably shouldn't be out on their own, and whoever makes the rules likely knows that.

"Phillips, please," she says, and he sighs. She never asks him for anything, and it figures the one time she does it's something he can't give her. "I think there's treadmills in the gym," he says, compromising. "Down in the basement, I can show you."

Relief washes over her. "Lemme get my shoes," she says, and disappears into her room.

He takes her down in the elevator to the mentors' gym. It's deserted, not surprising for this hour of the morning, and once Rokia figures out the settings on the treadmill he leaves her to it. Doesn't go upstairs, just sits outside on the floor, half-asleep and miserable until he hears the door open and she comes out.

She laughs a little when she sees him, shakes her head. She's sweaty and breathing hard but there's a little more light in her eyes when she reaches a hand down to pull him up. "Come on," she says, "Linsea will be looking for us soon."

She's not wrong. It's another packed day and Phillips is exhausted, sucking down cups of horrible coffee in the green rooms at every entertainment studio, and Rokia is jittery and closed-off and pulls away from him in the cars between meetings, curling against the door and letting her eyes slide closed. There's another party, another "private appointment" and this time despite the coffee he's asleep when she gets in. When he jerks awake, sore from sleeping on the couch, it's full daylight and she's sleeping curled into an armchair in her running gear, shoes on the floor beside her.

He didn't realize how much he'd gotten used to the late-night moments when Rokia would drop her guard a bit and talk to him. There's none of that here, when she's not in front of the cameras she's half-asleep or jittery-tense and even if he is awake when she comes in she ducks away and heads for the gym, sometimes coming back in time to collapse for a couple of hours, sometimes not. She manages well enough in public, keeping her Games-face on despite everything. Until finally, finally, the last morning arrives and they get on the train. She gives a last speech on the platform, smiles for the last pictures, and there, just at the last, she stumbles as she turns to walk toward the train. Phillips is standing close enough he can reach out and catch her elbow, then keeps a hand on her shoulders, steadying, as he walks her to her room.

He hesitates there until she looks up at him. "It's okay, Phillips," she says, exhaustion leaving her voice flat. "I don't need a babysitter." He sighs, turns and heads for his room.

When he comes back out one of the crew foremen is standing in the lounge. He's taller than Phillips, broad-shouldered and tough and his arms are crossed over his chest and he's glaring, thunderous, at Phillips.

"She's sleeping in the crew bunks," he says, as Phillips scans the room for Rokia. "She looks like hell."

Phillips is too tired to mince words. "I know," he says, "I don't make the schedules."

"Ain't you supposed to be the one looking out for her?"

Yeah, he is. And a hell of a job he's done too, but somewhere under the guilt is a spark of fury he's been burying a long time. Just now he doesn't care enough to keep it hidden. "There ain't a damn thing I can do" he says, fists clenching at his sides. "I'd keep her home if I could."

The man looks at him, eyes narrowed, assessing now instead of angry. "Yeah," he says, "I guess you would." He turns to go, then looks back. "We'll be in Six tonight. I'll keep an eye on her till then, go get some sleep."

Phillips nods, hesitates, then reaches out to shake the man's hand. "I'm Phillips," he says, as though it wasn't obvious, but the crewman takes his hand with a bemused smile.

"Joe. Crew boss."

"Thanks," Phillips says.

Joe's mouth curls up. "She's one of ours," he says, solemn. "We look out for our own." He leaves, and Phillips, exhausted, finds his bed.
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