Title: The Flames Rose Higher

Genre: Angst, Romance, Friendship and Hurt/Comfort.

Setting: Canon up until around the end of chapter 12 of Catching Fire. Story starts with the 76th Hunger Games. The tributes just got their training scores.

Characters: Katniss, Cinna, Haymitch, Peeta, and President Snow (though he's mostly off-screen).

Pairings: Mainly Cinna/Katniss. Some Katniss/Peeta, mentions of past Katniss/Gale, mentions of non-consensual various Victors (especially Katniss and Finnick)/Others. Background pairings include Finnick/Annie and Gale/Madge.

Length: There will be approx. 10 chapters total.

Rating: T for off-screen suggestive adult themes (though there is some kissing and light groping on-screen), mostly off-screen violence, and minor rude language. Nothing explicit.

Warnings: T for reasons stated above. SPOILERS for entire HG series. AU. Mentions of forced prostitution (which is where the non-con comes in). Mentions of past spousal abuse and homicide.

Notes: I wrote this fic because there's just not enough Cinna/Katniss on this site.

Disclaimer: Suzanne Collins owns the Hunger Games trilogy. I am not Suzanne Collins.

The Flames Rose Higher

Chapter One – Cinna

"We should have realized from the very beginning, you know," she murmured.

"Should've realized what?" he asked absent-mindedly, gaze fixated on her. He'd always found himself drawn in by the little things. Not how long a woman's legs were or the way a man flexed his arm to show off his muscles. But the little things. How Katniss' dark silken locks, unbraided for once, contrasted with her pure white nightgown as they spilled onto her shoulders. The way her head was tilted back, baring her throat and allowing her eyes to catch the moonlight, so that they almost seemed to glow silver.

Not that he was attracted to her, of course. He'd seen her naked about a hundred times by now, and for the most part the sight of her unclothed body just made him think of how thin she had been when he first met her. Besides, she'd only recently turned eighteen, which meant he was nearly five years older than her.

It was the artist in him that allowed him to appreciate those slivers of her beauty. It was perfectly natural for him to examine her so thoroughly, for his curious eyes to want to memorize every inch of her skin, every curve of her body, so that he could—design. Her outfits. That was what he wanted. To design her outfits.

"That I was always doomed to cause more harm than good. I'm the girl on fire. And fire burns, Cinna. It burns away everything it touches until there's nothing left but smoke and ashes to choke on."

That certainly snapped Cinna out of his daze. "That's not true at all," he protested gently.

"It is," she said. "I burn anyone who gets too close to me. Rue. Gale. Peeta."

"What about Prim? What about me? You haven't burned us. You've never done anything to hurt either of us," he told her firmly, brushing his thumb across her cheek. "And you've done a lot of good. You rescued your sister from certain death. You gave Rue peace and happiness in her last moments. You saved Peeta's life, Katniss, when even Haymitch had given up on him."

"Right," she said. "Except now my sister will be killed if I so much as breath the wrong way, and people in Rue's district are dead because I couldn't keep my mouth shut on my Victory Tour, and Peeta was forced to marry me even though I broke his heart into a million tiny pieces by pretending to love him."

If they hadn't been on the roof of the Training Center where the wind drowned out their quiet voices, he knew she wouldn't have dared to utter a single word of what she'd just said. The implication that Snow had threatened her sister, that an uprising had almost started in District 11 not even two years ago, that Katniss didn't really love Peeta—all of that they were forbidden to mention where the Capitol might hear them.

Cinna's next words were so dangerous that, despite the volume of the wind, he leaned in closer to Katniss until his forehead was pressed against her hair and his lips grazed her ear.

"Katniss, none of that was your fault. It's the Capitol that's responsible, you can't forget that. That's why we're fighting. You can't forget that," he repeated, his voice so low that even his own ears could barely pick it up.

He was about to pull away, but she turned her head so that her cheek was pressed against his, and he could feel her breath on his ear. "The more time I spend in this place, the more I feel like I'm just another Capitol fake. I follow their fashion trends and go to their events and sleep with their men—"

"Because you don't have a choice," he interrupted, his whisper coming out harsher than he'd intended it to.

He was aware of a well-kept secret: Snow sold desirable victors to the highest paying customer, and the families of the victors who refused to go along with it were killed. He knew this not because he'd ever paid for a night with a victor—he'd shoot himself in the head before he ever did anything that despicable—but because Haymitch had told him, insisting that he needed to know, considering Cinna would be the one dolling Katniss up for her almost nightly visits and then when she came back, removing or concealing the scars and bruises and burns that her "lovers" had inflicted on her.

It had started when the third Quarter Quell began. The tributes had all been disabled in some way: blind, deaf, crippled, or somehow mentally unsound. Katniss and Peeta had been the mentors because everyone knew Haymitch would be wasted the entire time. Katniss had been seventeen and married to Peeta for barely over a month. The star-crossed lovers strategy, instead of exempting her from being sold, made her more attractive in the eyes of the Capitol men. Other than Finnick Odair, there wasn't anyone more in demand than her. President Snow had decided that making people believe her love for Peeta was real was a lost cause and that the best way to undermine Katniss' influence in the districts was to turn her into a Capitol puppet, someone who appeared to embrace their lifestyle.

It worked. People were disgusted with her, and felt betrayed. In the other districts, in her own. In the town, in the Seam. Her old friends who used to frequent the Hob, back when there was a Hob. Her own mother. Katniss got into fights with Mrs. Everdeen almost weekly about the way she behaved in the Capitol. Katniss' former friend Gale was even worse. He didn't talk to her, didn't even acknowledge her existence, and he flew into a rage if anyone in his family did.

But the very worst part was that Peeta, of all people, didn't know she was being blackmailed. They'd given up the choice of who they got to spend the rest of their lives with, and Peeta thought she'd thrown that sacrifice away like it was nothing so she could sleep with people she didn't even care about. That was part of the deal with Snow. If she told Peeta the truth, he would be forced into prostitution, too. It had made them both unbelievably bitter towards each other, although Peeta tried to ignore it as best he could, and Katniss tried to remember that it wasn't his fault that he didn't know. Cinna tried to remember that, too, but it was hard when Katniss came back bruised and bloodied and empty and all Peeta could do was stare at her accusingly and storm out of the room.

The one bright spot was that her sister didn't treat her any differently. Prim seemed to know intuitively that there was more going on than what she was told and what she saw on the screen. She didn't blame Katniss, and even defended her to people who insulted her behind her back or to her face. Katniss had once said, rather ruefully, that Prim's support was probably the only thing stopping her from drowning in self-pity. Well, that and the knowledge that there were still victors who had it worse than her. Like Finnick and Annie and Johanna and Haymitch.

"I'm sick of it, you know," Katniss said suddenly, startling Cinna. Her cheek was still pressed against his. "I'm sick of never having a choice. With Peeta and Gale and now all these Capitol scumbags."

He wasn't sure how Gale fit in, but he knew better than to ask. He pulled back a bit, so that he could see her face. Her eyes. Fierce and lost and heartbroken. She was right. She'd never had a choice.

The thought came to him unbidden.

"I could give you one," he said, before he could stop himself. Her eyes widened, and he hastily added, as though he was just joking, "Unless I count as a Capitol scumbag."

She didn't answer. She was still staring at him like he'd told her the sky was green. Rejection seemed to make her closeness sting, so he scrambled to his feet. She stood up, too, and he wracked his brain for an excuse to leave. He could tell her he needed to work on poor Clementine's interview dress, which he'd finished two days ago, but Katniss would believe him if he told her he needed to alter it and she wouldn't ask any questions because she had no interest in fashion—

She was kissing him. Her lips were moving against his in ways that made him dizzy and he realized that despite his shock, he was responding automatically, tangling a hand in her hair, his other pushing aside the thick strap of her nightgown so he could touch her bare shoulder.

Cinna had kissed plenty of people before, both men and women, and it had never felt anything like this. He felt the way she must've felt on that chariot years ago. Like he'd been lit on fire.

He needed air, and he was sure she did too, so he pulled away. She let out a hiss of protest when his mouth left hers, and the hand that had slipped under his shirt to trace patterns on his chest curled into a fist. Possibly she planned to punch him in the gut, but he didn't give her the chance. He lowered his mouth to her pulse point, and, hearing her breathing hitch, allowed his lips to trail down her neck until they reached the hollow of her throat.

He lingered there, lips tugging at the sensitive flesh, teeth scraping her skin.

She whispered his name.

He lifted his head back up and then her tempting lips were on his again. Why had he even tried to deny it? Of course he was attracted to her. Of course he wanted her. And from the way she was kissing him, she wanted him, too.

Or did she? There was a difference between choosing to kiss someone you wanted to kiss and choosing to kiss someone to prove you had the choice. Maybe she was just desperate to be in control of her life for once, and he was taking advantage of that, of her. If he let this go farther, how was he any better than those men who paid Snow so they could have the Girl on Fire for a night?

He jerked away from her so suddenly that she stumbled a little. She stared at him in shock as he blurted out something about Clementine's dress and practically sprinted for the door to the stairs. Just before it swung shut behind him he looked back, and saw that the shock on her face had transformed into something very like hurt.

When he reached his room, he collapsed onto his bed and put his head in his hands. And realized he'd fled from Katniss as though her touch had burned him.

Author's Note: It never says in the books how old Cinna is. He's just described as a young man, which I figured meant he was most likely in his late 20s/early 30s. However, I wanted him to be closer to Katniss' age so I made him 23, meaning he would've been 21 when he first met her. I figure if anyone is talented enough to land a position as a stylist in the Games at 21, it's Cinna.

Reviews are appreciated, especially if they contain constructive criticism. I don't have a problem with flames.