Say Goodbye, Never Look Back

"But in the real world,

We must say real goodbyes,

No matter if the love will live,

It will never die,

In the real world,

There are things that we can't change,

And endings come to us,

In ways that we can't rearrange,

I love you and you love me,

But sometimes we must let it be,

In the real world,

In the real world…."

-Roy Orbison

"In the Real World"

Cinna's excited. Katniss' dress is a masterpiece surpassed only by the lithe beauty that wears it. And he's certain that no one will be able to forget her, Katniss Everdeen, Girl on fire. Cinna knows she's nervous, but he has faith that if she shows the audience just a glimpse of the girl he has seen, the girl that volunteered for her sister, they will all adore her.

As Cinna idly taps his fingers on his leg, he wonders briefly where said beauty has gone. He glances at the group of well-dressed tributes. Peeta's talking to little Rue who glows with whimsical delight. Junoesque Glimmer flirts obscenely with her district partner who goes along with it good-naturedly. Haymitch's off to the side discreetly drinking from his flask. It looks as if everyone's there except for Cinna's Girl on Fire and the brutal Cato. Cinna chews on his lip thoughtfully. Just then Effie flies by in a flurry of excitement. Cinna reaches out to grab her arm. She looks at him with tense surprise.

"Where's Katniss?" He questions as he releases her arm. Effie relaxes and flashes him her manic smile.

"She went to the lady's room," she responds chirpily as she darts over to berate Haymitch for his drinking. Cinna nods.

"Thank you," he calls after her. Effie waves her hand at him in acknowledgement. Cinna sits in his chair for a minute before he decides to walk around a bit.

As he wanders around the building he finds himself in a nearly empty hallway near the restrooms. He hears a rustle and a quiet sigh from somewhere around the corner. The rustling increases and he hears the murmur of a man's voice. Cinna decides to investigate. He quietly creeps closer until he's at the corner, and then slowly sticks his head around it. He gasps. It's Katniss, and Cato.

They stand facing one another. Cato's left hand is caressing Katniss' cheek tenderly and Katniss' right hand is settled on the back of Cato's neck, her fingers curled in the short hairs there. Their other hands are intertwined and Cato's forehead is leaned against Katniss'. Cinna holds his breath, stunned, because he's surprised that the first word that entered his head when he saw them in such in intimate position was, love. That's what love should look like. He thinks numbly.

Katniss' grey eyes scan Cato's face hungrily, as if she's trying to memorize his features, and Cato looks at her softly, so softly, and with such love. Cinna thinks back to the deadly, heartless boy who volunteered for this and realizes that he can't see any of that boy in the man who caresses Katniss' face as if she's the most precious thing in the world. Katniss has been transformed as well, her face, usually indifferent and harsh, all angles—is soft, her lips turned up ever so slightly at the corners. But there is sadness there. It clings to both of them. The way she devours him with her dark eyes looks like a farewell and the way he squeezes her hand tight speaks of dread.

"What would you do if we didn't have to say goodbye?" Katniss asks suddenly. Cato's eyes widen slightly but then he scrunches his nose in contemplation. Cinna watches them both in silence.

"If we didn't have to say goodbye, lovely, I'd love you for forever and a day, and even then I wouldn't be able to look away long enough to ever stop," Cato finally replies. Katniss smiles sadly. "But since we do have to say goodbye Kat," he continues sorrowfully. "I need you to know, that I love you, no matter what happens, I love you," he says desperately. Katniss smiles brokenly.

"And I love you," she whispers hoarsely. Cato smiles.

"I know," he says quietly.

Neither speak for a moment and Cinna finds it hard to breathe for a second, he's never seen anything quite so terrible, the Girl on Fire and her Career Tribute, in all their tragic beauty.

"In a different world," Katniss begins desperately, "We'd never have to say goodbye." Her voice trails off wistfully. Cato's lips quirk up in understanding.

"But we live in this world," he reminds her gently.

"I know," she says bitterly. They stand together in silence as she scans his face for something. Cinna isn't entirely sure what though.

"Goodbye Katniss," Cato says, speaking her name with absolute reverence.

"Goodbye Cato," Katniss says, his name a prayer between her ruby lips.

They part slowly, Cato heading in one direction, and Katniss in the other. They don't (can't) look back. When they're gone Cinna slowly heads back the way he came, his head spinning.

Cinna sits numbly in his seat, smiling and trying to look interested, but his mind is still trying to process what he's just seen. He glances over at Katniss; she's looking down at her lap and nervously twists her hands. His gaze shifts over to Cato who is talking animatedly to his district partner, Clove. They never glance over at one another.

It's as if there is a wall between them, as if they severed their hearts from their chests and then refused to bleed. Cinna is amazed at their restraint, and if he hadn't seen them together only minutes before, he would have never guessed that they love each other. Peeta leans forward and says something to Katniss, and she stops twisting her hands and answers distractedly. The interviews begin. Cinna turns his head away from his Girl on Fire, and tries to pay attention to the overly sexed Glimmer.

When it's Cato's turn, Cinna is momentarily surprised by his attitude. He's cold, and comes off as a killing machine, but Cinna quickly reminds himself that this is the way Cato normally acts, that the man he saw in the hallway with Katniss was only for the eyes of his loved one. When Katniss shyly steps on the stage he looks for the soft features of the girl in the hallway, he doesn't find them. He wonders if it's hard, holding all of that in. Katniss spins and she's on fire, Cinna's eyes flicker over to Cato, and he appears unaffected. But for a second his eyes are unguarded and Cinna has to look away from the awe—and from the anguish—lurking behind them.

When it's Peeta's turn Cinna is almost relaxed, and laughs with the rest of the audience. But then Caesar's asking him about a special girl and the words come out reluctantly.

"Because she came here with me." Cinna glances over at Katniss, she's looking at her lap, her cheeks red, her hands tremble and Cinna knows it's with barely concealed rage. His eyes seek out Cato, whose eyes are flat and cold, and Cinna knows with certainty that Peeta has signed his own death certificate. Cinna knows it's unfair but thinks that he might hate the polite son of District 12's baker.

They hear a crash and Cinna rushes into the room with Effie, Portia, and Haymitch. Peeta's on the ground a broken vase surrounding him, his hands bleeding. His blue eyes stare up at Katniss with confusion and hurt. Katniss is barely holding it together; her grey eyes filled with tears and barely suppressed rage. Cinna wonders how much more she can take. Everyone else is fussing over Peeta and Cinna approaches Katniss slowly.

They calm both of them down, and the rage is once again hidden in Katniss' dark eyes. She opens her mouth and asks, "Did you think I could be in love with him too?" She directs the question at everyone except Peeta.

They are all quick to respond, to tell her "yes, of course!"

But Cinna thinks of the girl in the hallway, her face soft and her words desperate. He thinks of the girl on the stage looking at her hands, her cheeks red. Yes, to someone who didn't know, she looked like a girl in love. But he saw the girl in the hallway, and knows better. He doesn't answer. Because he knows the truth, she isn't a girl who could fall in love; she is a girl waiting for her heart to be slaughtered.