Updated June 1, 2014
My love, leave yourself behind
Beat inside me, leave you blind
My Love, Sia
May 20th 2036. A boy was born to the Caesar family. His proud father was the Games Head Engineer, his mother an illustrious Games fashion designer. Sixteen years later, he's driving fast cars, wearing fancy clothes and banging random hot strangers. After all, what else would a young lad with sharp wit, undeniable charm and dashing good looks be doing? He's just one of the many socialites of the flourishing city.
A millionaire. A bright mind. In every way, the Cinna of the Capitol was nothing but materialistic scum.
He could remember a day in kindergarten when their teacher asked them what they wanted to do. A nerdy kid wanted to be a scientist. An obese bully wanted to be a wrestler. His best friend, Lars Snow, wanted to be the Chief of the Military.
Cinna Caesar can do anything that he wanted. He can be anyone he wanted. But when it was his turn to reveal his grand future master plan, he had no answer but silence.
His father had hoped that he'd be interested in engineering or architecture, so he may one day follow his ingeniously cruel footsteps. When he turned fourteen, his mother decided that his pretty face and smoking hot body was meant for the entertainment industry. Cinna was not fond of building blocks or memorizing some cheesy lines, but he was not much fond of anything else anyway, so he decided that he'd just go with the flow.
Before high school graduation, Lars offered him a slot in the military. This boy, a young, beautiful thing, told him about the glamorous women, the overflowing gold, and, above all, the lifetime of power and glory. If he remembered it right, that day in kindergarten, Lars defined his dream career as "the honor of protecting the peace and justice in Panem" not "heaven".
The Cinna of the Military didn't like brandishing guns or hunting down pesky, illiterate rebels—though he was damn good at both—and soon learned that he didn't have to.
At twenty, Cinna was assigned as Chief Security Officer of 68th Hunger Games. His parents couldn't be prouder. Finally, a task which involved both of their careers. Cinna didn't give a damn. It was unspeakable glory even more unspeakable liaisons. That was all.
She was different from all the Victors he had ever watched. They nicknamed her the Snake, as she stealthily creeps up on her opponents, biding her time silently and strategically, then strikes at the perfect moment. He thought it was perfect. She never fought the Power War, she always fought the Wits War. At the beginning she was just a meek maiden with which he took no interest in and by the end, she was the feisty femme fatale Cinna vowed would be his.
"An amazing game," he told her, clapping as he approached her with his best charmer face.
"Why, thank you," she replied, eyes twinkling. She sipped some champagne, not for one second taking her eyes off of him. Big, bright, piercing brown eyes. "Could I be honored to know my loyal fan's name?"
"Cinna Caesar," he casually said, holding out his hand.
Her smile was saccharine sweet as she accepted his hand and shook it. "A pleasure to meet the head honcho of these brainless, tattling bodyguards. I'm more of a man than them, and, I assume, than you too."
Cinna felt as if he was punched in the gut. That punch was excitement.
"Sweetheart," he leered in a low voice, closing the distance between them. "If you accompany me tonight, I'm confident I could impress upon you how much of a man I am."
The redhead sneered. "We'll see about that."
She was not what he was expecting. She was better. Johanna Mason was a whole lot better.
Johanna laid beside him, cigarette in one hand, bottle of vodka in the other. They were both fully naked underneath the sheets. The dim lights danced on her face and Cinna swore to himself that she was the best prize to ever grace his bed yet.
"This is a very nice room," she commented offhandedly, looking at the wall. "And what do you do for this—all this? Walk around, call the shots, bed hot women."
"That's not all that I have to do," he said firmly, not a little stung. "Some of the sponsors lose millions after the Games. Some are even associated with illegal underground associations. And the people from the Districts…some are just plain rabid. The people upstairs become very vulnerable and if security is not kept uptight, anyone can seize the opportunity. Kidnapping, explosions, blackmail, anything can happen."
"Yet here you are, with me," she said, with a somewhat peculiar smile on her face. "Am I so hot that you decided to leave all your important duties behind to fuck me?"
"You're one to talk. You left everyone out there to fuck me too. And I gave you one hell of a good time," he whispered into her ear, a wide grin on his face. "Who's less of a man than you again?"
Johanna sat up so suddenly that he fell back. With the same out-of-place smile, she faced him. "You."
Before Cinna could make some sort of comeback, she laughed and stood, leaving him lying on the bed. "Don't screw with me, you bitch."
The cutting remark only made her grin wider. He finally understood what it was. The grin of someone who won. "You have a dirty mouth. It was indeed a great night, pretty boy, but it's not because of the sex," Johanna tapped a finger on her chin and as if as an afterthought, added, "Which was lame actually."
Johanna shut the door behind her and walked out with her head held high, not caring one bit that she had absolutely nothing on.
Johanna Mason was just another girl in his hit list. Aside from the stars of honor on their uniforms, women are what soldiers, protectors of justice and peace, consider as badges of glory. But Johanna was different from all the women Cinna had met and fucked and fucked up.
He followed her throughout the Victory Tour. He requested to be assigned as the Head Peacekeeper of District 5. Lars sneered at him about something along the lines of getting stuck up in some hick town with primitive nobodies because of a girl.
"Get too close to a snake and you'd be bitten and dying before you know it," were his best friend's parting words.
One thing to be said about Cinna was that no matter how many medals he had hanging in his quarters, no matter how good a sniper he was, behind the swagger, he was still just a boy. He had never been outside the Capitol, except during Victory Tours—where the situation was always under strict control. He had never seen children on the streets, begging for a chunk of stale bread. He had never seen people who looked nothing else but flesh and bone, said flesh rotting with open sores. He had never seen men working their backs off and getting meagre salaries just enough to get by one more day—if they were lucky.
It only took one man, one little whisper, to confirm the doubts which had been eating at him.
Of course, it didn't take a long time before Cinna made sure that this Peacekeeper will never speak of him that way again—will never speak at all again—but it was said and done and once confronted by the truth, he had no choice but to face it head-on.
He was not a sympathizer, no, Cinna Caesar was a full-fledged citizen of the Capitol. He had no mercy for disgusting, worthless scum. It didn't matter that it was Johanna's best friend who vowed to sabotage the next Reaping in one way or another. One hundred slashes in the height of noon at the central plaza. If that was enough to convince everyone else, then it had to be enough to convince him. Nothing else mattered.
But that night, the only thing which mattered was the look in Johanna's eyes, the betrayal and the hatred in those wide, bright eyes as four men carried the body away from the square. It was then that he realized that he'd been bitten and wasting away a long time ago.
She was killing him.
He drank until those eyes disappeared from his vision, until he could tear out the compassion and the guilt and he could crush them under his foot. The raindrops were thudding on the ground and thunder was breaking through the silence but all he could hear was his heartbeat. Johanna came knocking on his door and proceeded to reward him with a big slap across the face. In return, he gave her everything he was and everything he felt and everything he knew. He didn't quite know himself anymore and wanted to make her know him. And she accepted.
After everything, Johanna grabbed the bottle of vodka on the bedside table, in startling reminiscence of that night so long ago. She looked away and said, "It's over."
Confusion broke through the blank of Cinna's mind. "What?"
A small, regretful smile appeared on her face. "I'm done. My part's done. Can you believe it? All this time. It's all a lie."
His blood ran cold in Cinna's veins and froze his heart. "A lie."
"Do you think I came with you at that stupid party because I wanted you? Don't flatter yourself," Johanna said. Then she laughed, in startling reminiscence of that night so long ago.
"Ash said it was all part of the plan. I had to shake you, to make you tell me everything you knew."
"Ash," even to Cinna, his voice sounded hollow. "He's your best friend. It was your intention to let him die."
She sounded so dispassionate, so detached, that when anger suddenly flashed in her eyes, he inwardly struggled for breath.
"Yes," she said, as hard as stone. "He had to die. The death of one for the lives of many. He'd be happy to die for this. I've learned in the arena that no one can win without collateral damage. You should know that better than I do. The Capitol always wins, it doesn't matter who pays the price. It doesn't matter who suffers."
She stood up from the bed and faced him squarely, eyes as cold as the night. "I love you, Cinna. But it doesn't matter. You're just collateral damage."
The Cinna of the Capitol is gone. It was the Cinna of Johanna who shed tears.
The next day, Cinna went back to the Capitol. The first thing he did was hand in his resignation.
Cinna can't pretend anymore. He can't pretend that those people didn't have dreams and hopes and lives because they simply weren't entitled. They deserved those things, more that he ever had and ever will.
Some things had to be stopped. Some battles had to be fought even after they were lost. The Cinna of the Districts had left everything behind and took the chance given to him.
Cinna didn't look up from the sketchbook in front of him. He didn't even wince when the door banged shut after that flat statement.
"Don't you fucking ignore me!" Lars raged across the room and grabbed his collar. More than a hundred pencils fell on the floor. God, he knew he should've listened to Portia about updating his prehistoric tools.
"Quitting the military was stupid. You were on top. People would kill to be there, do you know that? But that was fine. I could take that. You were never really keen on becoming a soldier in the first place. But this? This job where you sew some goddamn clothes like my great-grandma and hold some fucking pencils instead of guns? Are you insane?"
It was clear that the question was rhetorical. Cinna kept his silence and calm countenance.
"What happened, Cinna?" Lars asked him, frustrated concern plain in his red-irised eyes. "What happened in five?"
Cinna answered with an even stare. He knew Lars and his nasty fits. The solution would not be screaming back.
"You could tell me…God knows you can tell me." All traces of anger were gone from Lars' voice.
Oh, but he couldn't. Cinna knew he couldn't.
Realization slowly dawned on Lars' face. "It's her, isn't it?"
He didn't answer.
"It's her," the soldier repeated, almost breathless. "Johanna Mason. Did she talk you into this? Brought you over to her insolent group of rebels? Is that it? I knew it. I knew I never should've left you with those stupid barbarians. Cinna, It's not too late to-"
"Yes Lars, it's too late," Cinna grabbed his collar and lifted him an inch or so off the ground. Who cared if raging on like a bull wasn't the perfect way to fend Lars off? "It's too late for you to waltz in and tell me that I'm being stupid and that I'm throwing away everything that I have and could've had. It's too late for you to change my mind. It's too late for you to try to convince me that these people deserve to be whipped and abused and killed and that I should be happy to fucking do that myself."
For a few seconds, the brazen Lars was rendered speechless. A first. Then, after a few heartbeats, he broke the spell. "How could you have changed this much?"
"People change. I've changed. You've changed. Don't you remember how you ran around, flaunting toy guns and wearing a military uniform back when we were four year-olds? Do you remember how you used to say that you will become an honorable soldier, a protector of justice and peace when you grew up?"
Cinna allowed himself a short, derisive bar of laughter. "And look at you now. General Lars Snow. You are nothing but a glorified womanizing bastard."
Before Cinna knew what was happening, he was on the floor, nursing his aching jaw.
"Say what you want to say, Lars," he said, calmly picking up the coloring materials and putting them back to his case. "But this is who I am now. Everyone else doesn't matter."
"How about me," the huffing man said point-blank. "Do I still matter to you?"
He stared long at his friend. "Even you," Cinna replied. "Even you don't matter anymore."
The stylist continued drawing nonchalantly, even as he heard the door shut close gently. Collateral damage—that's what Lars had become.
There are moments in a person's life that he will remember until he dies, small moments that didn't seem climactic enough at its conception, but sent a tickling sensation down the spine.
That sensation is an inkling of an explosion ready to ignite.
"This is our girl." Beetee announced, starting the video.
She grabbed a branch and, very nimbly, swung her way to the top. She effortlessly balanced herself on a slim branch and took a knowing look around. After a minute or so, she climbed down just as swiftly and started to hunt. She was silent. She was stealthy. She was strategic. She striked at the perfect moment.
Cinna tried not to think of who she reminded him of.
She stopped when the sun went down and, looking a few times around, she emerged from the fence. But she's looking at the wrong place.
"So they gave you District 12."
He laughed inside. "I chose District 12."
Here she was, right in front of him, with her demanding voice and cold grey eyes. So different, yet so the same. He saw the sadness, the disgust, the ruthlessness. She was unforgiving. Cinna wanted to run away, to drink until those eyes disappeared from his vision, just as he did all those years ago.
And for one moment, he allowed himself to forget his mask—the role he had to play as impeccably as possible so all the plans will not go to waste. He allowed himself one moment to truly feel his hatred. For the Capitol. For the soldiers. For his parents.
"How despicable we must seem to you."
Cinna didn't want her to shoot him.
It was all going as planned. The associates from District 12 were able to place both Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark in the Games. Sure, it was Prim whose name was drawn, but that was just part of it. Wouldn't it be too suspicious if it was Katniss' name in that piece of paper? They were sure that the girl would sacrifice herself for her younger sister anyway. Haymitch was able to encourage the boy to use a romantic angle as his primary strategy. Plutarch was able to push enough sponsors to keep the two alive. And they were right—of course the Capitol would fall for this bait.
There was only one more factor. One more gamble. Would Katniss be able to get both her and Peeta out alive?
Cinna knew everyone else was hoping, but he knew they didn't feel the way he felt. Because he wasn't just rooting for her so the plan will be completed.
Katniss' decision symbolized something else for him. It symbolized what-could've-been. What they could've been. Peeta would not be Katniss' sacrifice—her collateral damage. He trusted her not to repeat his mistakes, and hers.
'I'm betting on you, fire girl.'
You came thoughtfully, loved me faithfully
You took my hand, added a plan
"Was it always this heavy?"
"I had to make some slight alterations because of the lighting," he lied smoothly.
It didn't make sense to her, that much he knows. After tonight, everything will make sense. To Katniss, to the Capitol, to the Districts, to her.
"Now, Katniss, because this bodice is so fitted, I don't want you raising your arms above your head. Well, not until you twirl, anyway."
"Will I be twirling again?" she asked, unknowing and unsuspecting.
"I'm sure Caesar will ask you," he replied with a smile. "And if he doesn't, you suggest it yourself. Only not right away. Save it for your big finale."
And a big finale, it most certainly would be.
You gave it all, gave into the call
You took a chance and you took a fall for us
It was not a question. The tone was empty, the voice deadly soft.
The voice was the one he'd been waiting to hear, and now it was so close that his heartbeat stuttered and the hair on his nape rose.
"Johanna," he said just as softly.
"It didn't have to be this way," she said after a few moments. She shook her head and tears came flying off. "So why."
"Because." It wasn't an answer. It would never be enough of an answer, of an end, of a goodbye. Now, Johanna had no one. But whatever it was that they were had become his sacrifice.
"Because winners always have collateral damage."
Now I am strong
You taught me honor, you did it for me
"My dress was fantastic last night," Katniss said, eyes alight with understanding. 'Fantastic and reckless,' Cinna knew.
"I thought you might like it," he answered with a tight smile. If he wasn't smiling, he would be doing something else. Maybe trembling, maybe punching walls, maybe crying. And he didn't want her to see that.
Cinna couldn't let her see that.
He sat beside her, holding her hand, letting her think that he was there for her and not her for him. Even as he walked her to her launch pad, he didn't let go of her hand.
"Remember, girl on fire," he said with all the strength he could muster, with all of him that had come that far. "I'm still betting on you."
He kissed her forehead, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. Moss, evergreen, life which will not die. He stepped back as the glass barriers rose around her. He hoped that it would only separate them physically, that he can stay with her.
"Thank you," she mouthed. In his head, he thanked her back.
Johanna Mason gave him his first chance, and he took it. Katniss Everdeen gave him another chance. The last.
The metal plate didn't rise.
He was afraid. He knew. There was not an announcement, not a single hint of any threat. But he knew.
'Today is the day I die.'
It could be said that Cinna died, if he'd ever lived. If he hadn't only existed to be another pawn of the Capitol. If he'd ever become a person who had a soul. And he had. Because he didn't want to die without really living.
When the door behind him burst open and three Peacekeepers sprang into the room, he knew with mixed despair and relief that his part was done. When they pinned his arms behind him and cuffed him, he wished that Katniss would know why he did what he did and how it would all be in vain if she didn't win, not against the other Victors, but win against the real enemy. When they hit him in the temple with such force that he's knocked to his knees, he tried not to see the horror in her face and tried to picture a hopeful smile in its place, knowing that it would someday come to reality. When the pain started to kick in and fill erase almost all conscious thought, he spared one. His last one.
'Fire will never die.'
My love, you have found peace
Tonight you will sleep for good
You gave all you had and now I am home
Leave yourself behind
Beat inside me;
I'll be with you