Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Suzanne Collins. It is not intended to infringe on any copyrights held by Suzanne Collins or Scholastic Press. Any original story directions and plot lines herein are the property of the author. This work is written solely for the enjoyment of exploring that world in new ways.
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Drabble Tickler: If he was a prisoner and being tortured, how could Peeta have known about the imminent bombing of District 13? And who was Haymitch talking about when he told Katniss "Covers will be blown" at the end of chapter 11 in Mockingjay?
#21. In Memory of Cinna
I have never been the strong one in our relationship. It was always Cinna. I'm efficient. I'm organized. I'm professional. Put me in a suit and an office, and I'm almost intimidating, but at home I take off those responsibilities like I take off a shirt. At home, I'm less sure of myself.
I'm less sure of myself all the time now. Cinna has been missing for days. I don't have any proof, but the one thing I've always been is a realist... and realistically, this day was coming. I knew it the moment he said he was going to request District 12.
Part of me knows that when I learn the truth, I won't be so rational. When I learn the truth and find that he's... he's... that he's... dead... I won't be able to... to...
No. No, I will not break down. Yes, in my heart of hearts, I know he's gone. I know. But even if there's a shadow of a doubt, I'll cling to it. Right now, though, being rational and knowing he's gone, I will strike while I'm still able to function, while my grief is held at bay by these threads of doubt, of chance.
Since Reeba died, I've come to know the workings of the Public Relations office inside and out, so I know immediately when I'm being kept out of the loop. The first time I saw Portia after the rebels attack on the arena was at the Remake Center. She was scared and tense. I knew something was going on. When I took a step toward her, her eyes went wide with fear and she made a sharp short motion as if saying, no, so I did not approach her. She was whisked away quickly by a frantic Effie, whose polished appearance was frayed. I had no idea what was going on.
I'm at lunch moving beans around on my plate when I hear President Snow address the nation. When I look up, I see a decimated version of Peeta and everything starts falling into place. The last interview, only five days ago, was not done live as I thought. It was taped weeks ago when I saw Portia. As I look at him now, that day in the Remake Center makes sense. Portia was called in to prep him for that interview because Snow was going to use him as propaganda in the war.
The changes I see in Peeta now, though, tell me how blind I have been. He's being tortured.
He's lost so much weight, his cheekbones stand out. His skin, hair and clothing tell me that Portia and her team are still being used. They've done their job hiding the extent of his condition. I can't tell how thin his shoulders and arms have gotten, but I've been with Cinna long enough to know when makeup is being used to hide weight loss in a person's face. No makeup can hide the terror in his eyes or the twitch in his hands as I watch the rest of the interview.
"Is there anything you'd like to tell her?" asks Caesar.
"There is," says Peeta. He looks directly into the camera, right into my eyes. "Don't be a fool, Katniss. Think for yourself. They've turned you into a weapon that could be instrumental in the destruction of humanity. If you've got any real influence, use it to put the brakes on this thing. Use it to stop the war before it's too late. Ask yourself, do you really trust the people you're working with? Do you really know what's going on? And if you don't...find out."
They're using Peeta to get to Katniss. That means she's being effective and they're trying to unbalance her. I can't let them. I can't let them use Peeta like this. Cinna would never have stood for this. I feel my skin tingling all over as I think of him and what he would do if he knew how they were using the boy.
My lunch goes unnoticed as I feel my business side taking over. I feel the drive to get things done. I feel the big picture coming into focus and begin to think outside of the box. I've let myself be boxed up too long without Cinna there each night to help me find balance. I read once that the only way to herd cats is to tip the floor. I know I have a floor to tip now and I'll do whatever it takes to finish the job that Cinna began.
I get my first chance several days later when the president calls me into his office.
"I haven't seen much of you lately, Myka," he says casually.
I smile stiffly. "I've been here every day, sir, doing my best to stop the damage being done by the fools in the districts."
He glances at me, but regards me longer than a glance would allow. "And your partner? How is he faring knowing that his young protégé is leading these traitors?"
I know this is a test so I snort derisively. "He's gone. I haven't seen him for weeks." I pause for effect. "We had a falling out before the victory tour last spring. I never thought he should have requested District 12, but..." I let myself trail off, waiting to see if I've gotten his interest.
He studies the papers I have given him, and he signs where I've marked, but let's the silence linger. "But...?" he prompts me almost lazily as if it's of no small consequence to him, signing another line as he speaks.
"Sir, I don't want to trouble you with my personal life," I add meekly.
The president pauses and looks up at me with great concern. "Myka, don't be silly. I care about everyone on my staff. You've been a loyal and constant man, finally allowed to shine with your own personal strengths now that you're out from Reeba's shadow."
Wow. That almost sounded convincing. Then I remember that this is the man who ordered my Cinna to be killed.
"Cinna and I never agreed much when it came to politics, sir. He was always much more... lenient toward the districts than I would have preferred. He was... well, sir... suffice it to say that 'learning from the past' was not something he was accomplished in. It's like the uprising seventy-five years ago never happened."
Snow leans back in his chair and nods at me, now openly regarding me. "And Katniss Everdeen?" he says, fishing for more information.
I roll my eyes and huff. "A major point of contention. Frankly, sir, I..." and I stop on purpose and look away as I shuffle my feet.
"Yes? Go on?"
"Well, sir," I say, trying to sound uncomfortable. "I never really believed the love story. It was all too... tidy. Too perfect." I make a disgusted look by wrinkling my nose.
Snow smiles broadly at me. "I fear you are correct," he confesses. "Why else would she escape with the rebels and leave him behind?"
"I wish I could say I was surprised," I sneer effectively. "At least we have Peeta. We'll be able to uncover their lies and keep the people's confidence in our government. Can you imagine it, sir? How the rebels would feel to learn of their deceit?" I pretend to puff with excitement at the mere thought of it.
Snow's smile is like cursed gold in my pocket. I'm back inside.
I use my new influence well, but I have trouble getting any rebel contacts to believe me. When I learn of the impending attack on District 13—being amazed to discover the rumors are true and that District 13 not only still exists, but is flourishing—I try to get word to Haymitch or Plutarch because they know who I am and what Cinna and I shared.
I get to work early each morning, using the breaking of dawn to get access to things that would be questioned if anyone knew. I find Snow's itinerary on my desk when I arrive in the darkness before dawn and see that the attack is being planned during a presidential address to the nation. There's nothing I can do to make the rebels believe me. There's nothing I can say...
I know who they will believe. They won't listen to the words coming out of my mouth, but they might believe Peeta. I'm left with only one recourse. It might be the end of me, but it might save Katniss' life if she truly is with the rebels in thirteen. My nerves overwhelm me and I sit at my desk and shake.
Cinna, I have to do this. Please give me the strength to do this.
I slip my ID into my pocket, push myself away from my desk and hurry to the elevator. I descend into the tunnels and catch one of the quickcars. The underground rail system speeds me away to where I know Peeta is being kept. The transmitter in my ID disarms the traps and even though I make it into Peeta's cell without a problem, I'm shocked by what I see.
He's strapped to a table with a green liquid dripping into his arm through a needle. A virtual reality visor is over his eyes and ears, and even as I watch I hear an electric crackle and Peeta's body jerks violently. I feel myself getting sick, but there's nothing I can do for him right now.
I remove the visor and I can hear a tin voice from the headset. Peeta's eyes are wide open, rimmed in red and unfocused. He's terrified and I can't stop the sob that tears from my throat as I think of him walking across the ground, dazed and stoic, when he name was called during the reaping just a year ago.
"Peeta," I whisper to him. "Peeta." I take his face in my hands trying to get him to look at me. "Listen to me. You have to save them. The president is going to put you on television again. You can save them. In thirteen. You can save them or they'll be dead by morning." I looked at him, but he still didn't seem to be hearing me. I hold him by the shoulders and give him a gentle but firm shake. "Peeta, please. You can save the people in thirteen or they'll all be dead by morning."
I'm thrown across the room with a violent cracking sound and Peeta's body jerks off the bed. Both of our screams echo in the room. I can't see. I can't get up. I can't stop shaking. My muscles jump and twist and cramp. I feel like my brain is boiling in my skull. I smell burning rubber. I try to gasp for air and feel like I'm drowning when my diaphragm doesn't work the way it's supposed to. I don't know how long I am slumped against the floor when my vision slowly comes back in popping white light.
As the muscle spasms wane, I find myself staring at the legs of Peeta's table. They're made of wood, wrapped in some black rubbery substance and copper wires trace down to a grounding strap. I hear the electric crackle again and Peeta's body twitches. The soles of my shoes have been ripped from the bottom of my feet and I realize I've been electrocuted. By touching Peeta when he was shocked, I created a path for the electricity to go and electrocuted us both.
I try to get up and find my hands are burned. My watch has also stopped. I check the machine that has been shocking Peeta and it seems to be on a timer, giving him regular shocks at fixed intervals. When I check him, he doesn't appear to be burned but now I have to get out of here and only pray he knows what to do.
"Peeta, I'm so sorry," I gasp, "but you have to do this. Please. Try to remember. For Cinna. Warn them. In thirteen. Or they'll be dead by morning."
I hate myself for waiting for him to be shocked again, feeling hot tears stream down my face, as I let the timer reset itself. "I'm sorry," I whisper, and put the visor back over his eyes and ears.
I stumble out of Peeta's cell, hating myself for leaving him in there. My rational side insists that he would sacrifice himself for all of them. If it meant saving all those people, he would. I hate them for not believing me, for not trusting me, for not protecting Cinna, for putting me in this position to be made to make this decision on Peeta's behalf.
Every part of my body is in pain, but somehow I manage to get to street level. I flag down a cab. As I climb in, my vision blurs again and I see the black and white outline of an ornamental mockingjay dangling from a mirror and then a dark cloud pulled me into its folds.
When I open my eyes, all I see is white and I immediately think of my temporary blindness after being shocked. My mouth is dry, but I can breathe now without pain. I flex my finger easily. My burns have been treated and healed. A teal cloud swims into my vision, but my brain cannot make sense of it.
"Myka," a soft voice says.
"How did I get here?" I ask.
"You were unconscious in the back of a cab," the voice says, and I begin to realize it's a woman's voice.
"Yes. And you're lucky, you know, that he was a very special cab driver. He called me and I had you brought here."
"I'm in a hospital," I say, but it's actually a question.
"Yes, but under the care of a certain doctor who thinks like we do. Do you know who I am? Do you remember me?"
I crush my eyes closed hoping the action will somehow correct my vision, and am surprised when it seems to work. The teal cloud now has outline and form. The woman's voice now has a face and while she does look familiar, I'm having trouble remembering much of anything right now. Confused, I shake my head.
"I'm Marina. I'm a stylist for District 4. Cinna was a friend of mine. We've met once or twice."
I blink hard again. Marina. I try to place her, but every thought in my head feels like it's moving through mud. She's a beautiful woman with pale skin. Her eyes and hair are aquamarine. Her eye shadow and lipstick have a silver blue hue, and the gems inlaid in her eyebrows and ears sparkle like the sun on waves.
"I called your office and explained you'd had an accident in my home while you were helping me install lights in my living room." She smiles at me and brushes the hair from my forehead. "Do you remember having dinner at my place a few years ago? Before Cinna became a stylist for the games? I have an entire wall of the living room that's one large fish tank?"
All I can think at the moment is too many words, but I nod. I do have a vague memory of a wall with fish in it.
"Plutarch sends his apologies for not knowing your position, but word has gotten back to him now that you tried to warn them about the attack before Peeta was put on television with Snow."
Some part of me knows how dangerous this conversation is, and I'm feeling a little stronger. I try to sit up when I see the white-air device on the table beside my bed. Even without seeing that, I know I can trust her.
"Peeta?" I ask.
Marina's expression falls and she shakes her head. "That's why it's important for you to get back to work."
"They're going to try to rescue him. Him and all the other victors who are being held prisoner."
"What? When?" I need to know as I swing my feet off the bed. I feel stiff and a little weak, but there's no pain now.
"They're on their way now. They'll be here in a few hours."
I'm shaking my head and the room wobbles a bit. "They'll never get to him. He's in the tunnels beneath the city. The entire place is booby-trapped, like the arena."
"Can you help them get inside?"
"I don't know. What were they planning?" I ask, reaching for my clothes and getting dressed.
"They were going to break into the facility at noon, and-"
"In the middle of the day?" I ask, stunned.
"They felt most of the traps would be off during the day when people are out," Marina explains.
"Yeah, of course, at street level, but he's below ground. They won't be able to get inside without clearance."
"That's why we need your help," she says and hands me my shirt. I shake my head again, trying to organize my thoughts. "Myka, they have Annie. She's one of my victors. She's a friend. They're going to try to get all of them out. Please. Can't you do this? For Cinna? In his memory? It's what he would have wanted."
Ice fills my chest and I spin around to face her. "What?" My reaction makes her pause and she doesn't answer. I reach out and grab her arms. "What did you say?"
Her face fills with understanding and sorrow. "I thought you knew." I can't answer her. I just stare in shock. She clucks her tongue against her teeth and puts a gentle hand to my cheek. "I'm sorry, love." She shakes her head.
I can't breathe. I start gasping. "You're sure?"
She nods slowly.
"How?" I ask, not really wanting to know how, but still needing to know. A darkness falls over Marina's face and I know she knows, but she doesn't want to tell me. "How?" I snarl.
She pauses, but finally says, "He was beaten to death."
I slowly fold in on myself, unable to stop myself from imagining what they did to him. Fists and boots fly at him in my mind's eye as I picture them beating my Cinna. I raise my shaking hands to my face, touching my brow as I picture his bleeding, touching my eye as I picture his swollen shut.
Marina pulls me into her arms as I feel myself come unwound. "He was a gentle man, a beautiful soul."
She holds me as I cry, soothing me with her words and her hands. I've always known, but I hate actually knowing. I see his smile in my memories, hear his laughter, feel his hands. I think of all the things we planned to do together, all the experiences we wanted to share. Now there's only one experience left that I can share with him.
"I'll get them in," I tell her quietly. Sniffing and rubbing the tears from my face, I step back to compose myself and finish dressing. I check my pocket and find my ID. I know I can either get them in or get them out, but not both. If they die trying to get in, we've lost before we've begun. "I'll get them in," I say again.
Marina looks hard at me like she's trying to figure me out, but it doesn't take long for her to put the puzzle together. She stands on tiptoe and kisses me on each cheek.
I'll do this. I'll do it because it's the right thing to do. I'll do it because it's what Cinna wanted. I'll finish what he began. I'll do it for him. And then I'll be with him again.
~ The End ~
A/N: SURPRISE! I'm posting one day early for the holiday, and because I simply couldn't wait any more. This chapter has been written for over a month because I had to know how everything ended! If you have been reviewing, I hope you enjoyed my replies and thanks to each of you whether your sent one... or if you reviewed every chapter. I wrote this for everyone who enjoyed "The Hunger Games." Thanks to the passionate people who run the fan sites , .cc, , and . I hope we'll find each other again if and when the Hunger Games movie comes out.
Be sure to check my FF profile for my other "Hunger Games" fiction.
I couldn't have done any of this without the following people who have my continuing thanks and friendship: Songster, IrishGirlTaken and masenvixen