Wrong From Right.
A/N: How does one know right from wrong, wrong from right, good from bad, bad from good... if no one's there to tell you? A better question, how do you tell if it's wrong if that's all you've ever known? The insight of the Games from the eyes of a Capitol citizen, Cinna.
What began as a really short drabble morphed into a monster one shot. Damn you, plot bunny! *Shakes fist at creature*.
"I do not think there is a word for evil in Buddhism. [...] But we speak of ill will, we speak of ignorance, we speak of greed, but we don't speak of evil as such. There is no evil, just stupidity."—Aung San Suu Kyi, recipient of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.
Disclaimer: I play in the sandbox and borrow the toys of Suzanne Collins. However, at the end of the day, they're her stuff, not mine.
Cinna grew up like any other Capitol child; comfortable and a little bit spoiled. He attended the best schools and learned the pledge of allegiance to the city-state before he could write out his full name. Food, a roof over his head and a warm place to sleep were things he all took for granted. As a child, he never was in need of anything. His parents weren't rich by Capitol standards, but they fared well in the stock trade.
When he broke something, instead of fixing it, he simply threw it out and demanded for a new one. His parents never questioned the behavior and delivered the requested goods without batting an eyelid. It was a normal Capitol mindset; throw it away, replace it, do not try and fix it, do not bother. Compared to the other kids though, he was certainly more quiet and subdued, but at that age, he was no better than them in any sense.
He continued into the optional secondary education, pursuing a career in politics. Practically from birth, every child was instilled with the mindset that the Capitol and its government could do no wrong, and ultimately were the personification of kindness and peace. The government was so generous; why else would they allow the continuing prosperity of the outlying Districts, even after they'd rebelled? Cinna wanted to be a part of that.
Then young Cinna started to read. He read the giant dusty volumes that encapsulated the laws and regulations of his world and the world of those outside. Studying, taking notes, eyes strained from the fine print; it all paid off in the end, but he wasn't dull enough not to notice the bigger picture being painted. He was horrified. It made sense, then, why this library was restricted to all but those in politics or already studying for it.
The Hunger Games was a giant lie. That, perhaps, was the biggest shock of them all. Before, he admittedly found entertainment in the fights to the death, like any proper Capitol citizen was meant to. However, that's when he thought that it was voluntary—as fun for the players as it was for the watchers.
When he was in the first grade, he had alongside other students studied the Games, and was told that the Districts were barbarians that loved the blood and the pain. They wanted to fight, the drawing nominations ceremonies done to even out the odds of receiving the honor of representing their home city-state. It was something that began as a punishment for uprising that soon became as enjoyable for the Districts as it was for the Capitol citizens.
There was no guilt involved. Cinna had laughed with his friends about the idea of entering the Games; how idiotic to want to die, only the ignorant and dumb of the Districts would join in. He supposed they were also in it for the glory. Winning the Games made you an instant celebrity, and in the Capitol, fame was sometimes more important than your health. People destroyed their health for social standing, even though that was only a momentary distraction because the science and medicine was advanced enough to fix that. No one in the Capitol felt illness or pain when they could help it.
Anyway, everyone assumed the Games were voluntary. Even when an eleven year-old child took to the stand, tears running down their face, it was merely pointed out by commentators that the parents would've encouraged the child to enter, and would pay the price for their pushy nature. It made sense. Capitol parents were far better than the backwards, animalistic caregivers in the Districts, after all.
Cinna paled and nearly lost his lunch when he learned the truth. The Games were no joyous occasion to most of the Districts, instead a curse leeching them of morale and their children were paying the ultimate price. He read about the voting process, how it actually worked, about something called a tesserae that coerced the hungry and starving to put in more slips, essentially opting to put more votes for death.
He finally lost his lunch when he learned about the living conditions. District Eight were whipped for the smallest of infractions, District Three, the electronics district, were electrocuted on a daily basis, and the citizens of the lumber district were caned as a regular occurrence... Dear Lord, the Peacekeepers, the honored policemen of the Capitol were the instigators of all this!
Possibly the worst district was Eleven; the females were ordered by law to produce no less than three children before they were twenty-one. The harvest needed numbers, and they'd attempted a sterile rebellion over three decades ago – refusing to give birth to children who would grow up to be slaves.
The word 'slave' felt wrong to Cinna. It indicated that they did not deserve their punishment. Didn't they? Those who fought against the majesty of the Capitol had to be bad, wasn't that the truth? But the human side of Cinna could see the wrong, the sickness of strapping down women and forcing men to impregnate them—not always a husband or a trusted male, either.
In the Capitol, there was no word for rape. The citizens were protected and severely sheltered from what happened outside their little world. Cinna didn't know the word for the act, but he knew it was surely immoral. It was disgusting.
It went against everything Cinna could accept. Yet he continued reading, learning, questioning teachers and professors. Usually he was brushed off, but occasionally, a slip of tongue was enough to learn of what was really happening. The Districts were not rebellious barbarians. They were suppressed humans that were almost-but-not-quite slaves.
Did it say a lot of how paranoid he was now that he did not speak to anyone about his findings?
Cinna thought he had quite a good deal of friends, but he found no one that he could honestly say he would trust with his life. Not even his family. Who knows what they would do if he started speaking of dissent or anything other than the Capitol's perfection? According to Regulations of Free Speech vol.2, those who mentioned anything negative about the Capitol or its treatment to the outlying districts would face 'mental rehabilitation' at the Government Clinic.
Cinna wondered whether that was as close as they could to officially legalizing brainwashing.
He did finish his degree in politics, but then, to his parents' surprise, turned to the fashion industry. It wasn't surprising, the sudden changing of careers. Capitol citizens were like birds; free to jump from tree to tree as the feeling struck them. However, since Cinna never showed an aptitude for self-modification, it was assumed he didn't particularly warm to the fashion industry.
Strangely enough, he took to that like a fish to water. His designs were revolutionary in a sense, elegant and simple, stripping down to the essentials and enhancing the natural beauty of the model. Such ideas were rare—natural wasn't beauty; plastics and metals and warped glass were beauty, not blue skies and green grass and soft pale skin. Passing design school with flying colours, he was registered to become a stylist for the Games automatically, as he was top of his class.
For a few years he was repeatedly passed over, his appearance far too simple; short brown hair, pale skin without tattoos or alterations of any kind, and eyes a natural green. He had his real body, no facial insertions or plastic surgery, but no one in Panem wanted real, they wanted amazing. To be a stylist was to become a star, and stars had to shine brightly with false illumination.
But to be honest, he didn't mind that much because being a designer of the Games would mean having to talk to children before they died and he wasn't sure whether he could handle that… so he freelanced across Panem, making any art he could from huge canvases of angry splashes of paint to the tiniest of fragile glass bracelets. Rather quickly, his reputation built and he could ask for more and more for every piece he made.
While he was working—though he used the term quite loosely, because in the greater scope of things, his art had no real meaning and it was still a meandering hobby rather than anything truly laborious—he met Portia. She was a librarian, and he met her when he was reading. He was reading books on the Dark Days, disgusted by their now obvious bias towards the Capitol and was striving to read between the lines when she came by and slipped him a small book, just placing it on top of his pile of textbooks dedicated to paint and material manipulation.
The action was almost unnoticeable, but he picked up the thin book and flipped through it. Cinna's eyes widened when he realized that this book was a thin collection of what must have been obscure government files during the Great Rebellion. If he was a leak, someone who regularly reported to the government, she would have been in trouble. Her gesture held a great risk on her behalf.
Two minutes later, Cinna found her in-between the shelves of the architecture shelves and asked her out to coffee.
He only noticed later the curve of her neck, the slant of her eyes, her plump lips and how they formed an almost perfect heart shape. Portia was beautiful in that she was as natural as he. Her only concession to make-up was shimmery blue eyeliner and silver tipped eyelashes. She was the one who introduced him to golden eyeliner.
"Avox are traitors to the government," Portia commented casually as their hands cupped steaming mugs of high-quality coffee saturated in sugar and dashed with cream. "Tongues ripped out so they can repent in silence."
How vulgar, was the usual response. Those with the cheek to defy a utopia deserve it! The normal response was as disgusting and dripping with ignorance. But it was a safe answer; a Capitol answer. Cinna eyed the girl calmly, before he replied, "Yes, and how odd is it that there are so many of them?"
Portia's eyes lit up before her expression went neutral again. "Who would want to break the rules?" she asked innocently, quietly, eyes checking around to make sure there was no one dangerous in ear shot.
They were walking on the pathway, surrounded by metal and concrete and as close to open space as they could get, the sound of the traffic nearby helping cover their voices.
"Who would want to spread dissent?" Cinna had Portia's book in his messenger bag, nestled in with another half-dozen books he bought from the library. No one in Panem borrowed books, after all. They all had enough money to buy them. Libraries differed from bookstores only in the fact that you could read the books before you bought them and there was a wider range with a more limited supply.
Portia laughed, "Who would want to be so rebellious?"
"Why would you, when the Capitol is so perfect?" Cinna replied slyly, the touch of sarcasm not lost on his companion's ears. If she was a leak, he'd be in trouble, but there was something about her, something wholly honest and clean that he instinctively trusted. It helped that she freely gave him such an incriminating book earlier.
"You are a designer?" Portia's accent seemed to thicken as she aptly changed the subject when two Peacekeepers walked past, unobtrusive to the hustle and bustle but something to be weary of regardless. The background noise was thinning, so they made sure their conversation remained innocent enough.
Cinna learned that Portia was once a lawyer. When he mentioned that he'd originally pursued a career in politics, her eyes flashed and she mentioned that the textbooks were too straining on her eyes. Of course, Cinna agreed amicably, leaving the unsaid hovering in the air between them. Both of them had seen the truth for the ugly face of terror it was, and couldn't step back.
"Take me on as an apprentice," Portia requested without prompt one fall evening. They'd been meeting up for a fortnight and Cinna liked how her mind worked. They were thinkers of the same plane and values. "I'm sick of being a librarian," she added.
He didn't even blink before he agreed and started reciting basic information about fabrics. Once she knew the simple things, the more difficult things came to her naturally, her affinity with thread and her nimble fingers allowing her rapid completion of several designs that Cinna wholly approved of. Her skill lay with fabrics and textures, whereas Cinna was a wonder with colours; they balanced each other out.
It had been a year, and they were not together in the sense of an official relationship—official partnerships recognized by the government were arranged marriages put in place by parents—but they were lovers. Biting her lip, she was in his bed and the cloth slid around their naked bodies and she sighed, "Why is it you favor blue?" The satin sheets matched the night sky when the lights were dimmed, and he assumed that without the light pollution, the shade would have been even darker.
"I don't." He wanted to say he liked the fiery orange of Portia's hair, but instead replied, "Anyway, red is much more eye-catching." Somehow, she heard what he didn't say and smiled. They were almost telepathic; it was scary, but so exhilarating to have found someone whom he did not need to hide from.
The next morning, Cinna got the call that he would be added into the draw for the 74th Games and that he had a month to submit a blueprint for the judges to look at. There were openings in several of the Districts; 1, 2 and 4—because those three changed stylists every year—and 8, 10 and 12 had their designers retire. It was hinted at that submission was mandatory.
If he had to enter, he was going to enter to win a spot, because he'd seen games where the designers had saved the kid's life by getting them some sponsors. Perhaps he could be one of those revolutionary workers. Still, could he look at a child, dress them up, and know that there's a high chance they'd die?
The dial tone of the phone jolted him back into reality, and as quietly as possible – so as not to disturb his slumbering bedmate – he started to work, blank sheets of good quality sketching paper in front of him, an inking pen hesitating as he tried to figure out what he was going to do.
Cinna immediately scribbled out the first three options. The competition would be too great to even consider applying. Seasoned artists normally got the job for those special districts, and for someone who hadn't even been commissioned by the government yet (not that he wanted to be), it was best that he aimed for 8, 10 or 12.
Eight's main industry was textiles, ten had livestock and twelve had coal. None were especially appealing. Then Portia turned in bed, the sheets slipping down further revealing pale skin, the red of her sleek hair catching Cinna's eye from where he sat at his metal desk, and suddenly his pen was circling 'District 12', his plans already half-formed.
Rebellious; the outfit he painstakingly created after so many false starts seemed to jump from the paper, the stark blacks and reds and oranges and yellows glaring and defiant. He was skipping the conventional coal miner attire and heading towards fire.
He had learned many years ago that in District Seven, they would burn down the forests full of old growth to make way for the new. Fire was cleansing, purifying and stunning. Cinna would set his tributes on fire and make the Capitol see them as victims.
Done with his drawings, ideas filling his head for the technical aspect of creating it, he signed the piece with his jagged signature and noted for the judges, 'Give me District 12 or nothing.'
Cinna wanted to play with fire, regardless if it burnt him.
A/N: Why is it that so much Hunger Games fanfiction is dedicated to Katniss, Peeta and Gale when there is such an abundance of interesting yet obscure side characters?
I was trying to make my version of Cinna's history a little less… cliché and a bit more real. Hope you enjoyed! Please leave me a review; I want to know what you think.