You still love me

Hugs and kisses, enjoy this chapter! :)

Cinna has asked that he be the only one to prep me today, so a quick embrace and a few whispered goodbyes from my prep team, and they are shooed from the room. Cinna hands me a white cotton blouse and a pair of tan slacks, and I dress quietly with him positioned on my bed and not saying a word.

When I am fully dressed and ready to go, we still have plenty of time to spare before I need to be on the roof, so Cinna and I order some breakfast through the intercom, and I pick at it, not having much of an appetite.

"Katniss, you need to eat. We need you as healthy as possible in the arena, especially for the baby," Cinna sighs.

"Oh come on, Cinna. You know I wont be coming back here! Hell, we all know it. Even the baby knows it. Its been rather dormant, even with Peeta around lately. Usually the sound of his voice is enough to set it on a kicking spree," I say, looking down at my plate.

"Katniss, you at least have to hope. There is no guarantee that we will ever see each other again, but there is still a chance, and you have to strive for it, okay?" Oh, Cinna. You always did have a way with words. I smiled at him.

"Okay," I whisper, now making an effort to eat something. Unfortunately, baby Mellark thought otherwise, because I was rushing to the bathroom before I had even swallowed my first bite of Corned Beef Hash. Cinna rushed to my side and held my hair as I retched, which thankfully didn't last too long.

When I was all clean again, I sipped at some water until the intercom came on and told us it was time to leave.


I stand on the roof of the training center, just below the ladder hanging from the visible hovercraft that will take me to the arena when I remember that I've totally forgotten to say goodbye to Portia. "Cinna! I forgot to tell Portia-"

"Don't worry about it," He cuts me off. "I've got it covered, okay?"

I nod. "Okay." The electric current freezes me in place and I feel the sting of the attendant placing my new tracker. God forbid they lose a tribute in the arena somewhere. When the current lets me go, I walk over to a seat and strap myself in, trying to clear my head. The hovercraft takes off and Cinna tries to get me to eat again, but I know that it will only end badly, so all I manage to get down are a few cups of water. So many things are running through my mind though, that even those few futile cups of water feel like even they will have no effect on my chances of living, so I settle on trying to think of ways to keep Peeta alive in the arena.

When we reach the Launch Room, I shower again. Cinna braids my hair and helps me dress in the simple undergarments. This year's tribute get-up is some sort of fitted blue jumpsuit made of almost sheer material, with a zipper up the front. A purple plastic belt and a pair of nylon shoes with rubber soles complete my look.

"What do you think?" I ask, peeling a bit of the stretchy suit away from my skin for closer examination.

Cinna frowns as he rubs the thin piece of material between his fingers. "I really don't know," he says a bit flustered. "This material will offer little in the form of protection from well, anything. I mean, unless it's been treated with something, but it doesn't feel that way, so…" He said softly, losing himself in his thoughts.

I guess he gives up, because he just shrugs and puts his hand in his pocket, only to produce my golden Mockingjay pin.

"My dress was amazing last night, by the way," I say as he fixes the pin to my suit.

He smiles, "I thought you'd like it." And then he walks me over to my launch tube, and we hug for what feels like forever and only mere seconds before the intercom comes on, saying that it is time to load the tubes. He pulls away and motions for me to get into the tube. "Remember, girl on fire. I'm still betting on you." He kisses my forehead then, and steps away as the glass door closes and encases me.

"Thank you," I say, even though I know he cant hear me. I lift my chin and hold my head high like he always told me to do, and wait for the metal plate to lift me into the arena. But it doesn't. And then it still doesn't.

I turn and look back at Cinna, raising an eyebrow in confusion, hoping he might have an answer to this odd problem, but he just gives his head a shake, just as confused as I am.

Suddenly, the door to my launch room bursts open and several armed and angry Peacekeepers enter. Two pin Cinna's arms behind him and bind him with cuffs while another hits his temple with the butt of his gun with such force that he is knocked to his knees.

I start shaking, I can feel the sweat forming on my brow. No, no, no. This shouldn't be happening. This cant be happening. He hasn't done anything wrong! I start banging on the glass tube, trying to get their attention to tell them that I am the one in the wrong, not him. But they don't hear me. They continue to hit him, opening many wounds on his face and probably seriously bruising the rest of him. Still, I scream at them, hoping I will gain some superhuman ability to break the glass with just my voice, but nothing happens.

They ignore me completely, still beating Cinna senseless. What little I had left in my stomach is gone now, covering my shoes and the metal plate I stand on. My throat is dry and raspy, but still I continue to scream. Only when they have dragged his limp body from the room, leaving nothing but smears of blood, does the last Peacekeeper turn and smile maliciously as he shuts the door behind him.

I fall against the glass, sobbing uncontrollably when I feel a kick in my abdomen. No! Not now! This is all your fault. ALL YOUR FAULT! I think to that stupid thing. Yes. It must all be the baby's fault. It's the only way I can rationalize it. None of this would have happened if you hadn't been created.

My sobbing ebbs and I am still leaning against the wall of the launch tube when suddenly I'm rising. The breeze catches my hair, and I force myself to stand straight and tall, and I try not to act like I've just witnessed anything close to what I just had.

The glass retreats and I am standing free in the arena, but something seems to be wrong with my vision. The ground is far too bright and shiny, and it keeps moving. I squint down at my feet for a closer look when I see that my metal plate is surrounded by deep blue-green waves of sea water that lap up over my feet. Slowly, I raise my eyes and see that this water is spread out in every direction.

Only one clear thought can form in my mind, and it's that this is no place for a girl on fire.

Claudius Templesmith's voice rings out into the arena, announcing the start of the Quarter-Quell, and then the timer is ticking. 60 seconds. That's all I have to decide what my plan is. I cant think straight. Images of Cinna's mangled body are coming to mind and I cant deter my thoughts. Where is he right now? What are they doing to him? Is he dead? Are they turning him into an Avox?

Obviously they staged his assault just to throw me off, just like Darius's presence in our penthouse had. All I want to do is collapse here on the metal plate and let it blow me to bits, but can I really do that after all I have just seen? I owe it to Cinna, who risked everything by going against Snow and turning my Bridal Silk into the Mockingjay. I owe it to Peeta to try and keep him alive. I owe it to my family, my District, my child.

Oh cripes. I think to myself. I'm sorry, baby. I didn't mean anything I said, even though I really only thought it. But you cant read thoughts so… But I didn't mean any of it. I love you, and I'm sorry, okay? We are going to get through this. For daddy, especially.

My refusal to play these Games on the Capitols terms will be my last act of rebellion, so I grit my teeth and will myself to be a player.

Where are you? I still cant make much sense of my surroundings. Where are you?! I demand an answer from myself and slowly my world starts to come into focus. Blue water. Pink sky. White hot sun. Where is the Cornucopia? There. Its shining gold form sits on what seems to be an island in the middle of this sea of blue. When I look closer, I see thin strips of land that link the little Cornucopia island to some land behind me. Between each strip of land, there are two tributes positioned equidistant from eachother and the strips.

I scan the tributes faces, looking for Peeta, but he must be blocked by the golden horn. I bend over then and catch a handful of water as is washes over my toes, and I touch the tip of my wet finger to my lips. Of course it is salt water.

There are no boats or ropes or even a bit of drift wood to cling to. There is only one way to get to the Cornucopia, and when the gong sounds, I don't even hesitate as I dive into the waves. It's a longer swim by far than I am used to, but I seem to be doing alright. I pull myself up onto the sand of the Cornucopia island and sprint the few yards to the horn. I'm thinking like a career now, and when I reach the Cornucopia, I see that all of the supplies are piled at its mouth, much unlike last year when everything was spread out around it. Instantly, my eyes home in on a gold bow just an arms reach away, and I yank it free.

Someone is behind me. I don't know if it was a shift of sand or a difference in the breeze that alerted me, but my heart is racing already and I grab an arrow from the sheath and arm my bow as I turn. Finnick stands glistening and gorgeous a few feet from me welding a trident, poised to attack. With a net in his other hand, he smiles rigidly, anticipating his first kill. "You can swim, too," he says.

"Yeah," I exhale shakily. "We had a big bath tub."

We're frozen for a moment, sizing each other up. Our weapons, our skill.

"D'you like the arena?" He asks.

Do I like the arena? Of course I don't like the arena. I'm going to die here! Why would I like it?! "Not particularly," I say. "But you must. I think they built it just for you," I continue with an air of bitterness.

Suddenly, Finnick grins. "I guess it's a good thing we're allies, right?"

Mere seconds before I let my arrow fly, his wrist shifts and I see something gold catch the light. A solid gold bracelet patterned with flames, strikingly similar to the very one I remember Haymitch wearing the morning we began training. I briefly consider Finnick stealing it, but I suspect it is Haymitch's way of telling me that I need to trust Finnick.

I hear the footsteps approaching, so I need to decide. Enemy or Ally? I don't think Haymitch would let anyone steal from him, so he MUST have given the bracelet to Finnick. Fuck it. "Right!" I snap, because even though Haymitch is my mentor and is only trying to keep me alive, it angers me. Why couldn't he have told us about his arrangement?

"Duck!" Finnick commands as his trident sails from his grip. There is a sickening sound of impact as it finds a target; it's the man from District 5. The man sinks to his knees in front of us as Finnick says "don't trust One and Two," and I don't question it.

"Should we each take a side?" I say. He nods and I dart around to the pile. I work a sheath of arrows free from the cornucopia's mouth and say "There's nothing here but weapons! That's it!"

"Same here," he says. "Grab what you want and lets get out of here!"

I shoot an arrow at the now fast approaching Enobaria, but she's expecting it so she dives out of the way just in time. Gloss is coming up close behind her so I launch another arrow his way. He isn't nearly as swift as Enobaria, so the arrow sinks into his calf as he attempts to lunge away. I sling an extra bow and another sheath of arrows over my back, and stick two long knives and an awl into my belt before meeting Finnick back up at the front of the weapons pile.

"Do something about that, ehh?" He says, pointing to a now sprinting Brutus. His belt is undone and stretched out infront of him, like he is using it as a sort of shield. I shoot at him and he manages to deflect my arrow with the belt, but the puncture starts to spew some icky purple substance that ends up covering his face.

While I reload, Brutus flattens himself to the ground and then rolls himself back into the water where he is completely submerged. I hear a clang of metal falling behind me, and I say to Finnick "Lets clear out."

The other tributes have been given plenty of time to reach the cornucopia, and all I'm thinking about now is getting as far away from them as possible. Peeta. Where's Peeta? "Finnick! Peeta, where is he? We have to take him with us!" I take off towards the water, hastily trying to remove my weapons so I can swim out to get him, when Finnick's hand lands on my shoulder.

"I'll get him," he says, and suddenly a fit of suspicion fills me.

"No, I can," I insist, but Finnick has already dropped all of his weapons to the ground.

"Better not exert yourself, not in your condition." Finnick says with a slight smile as he places his hand over my slightly distended abdomen.

Oh my snot I didn't even think it were possible to forget you were pregnant… How did that- well. Of course. Right.

"Oh, right. I'm just not used to-"

"No, I get it." Finnick cuts me off. "Cover me," He says, and then he dives deep into the waves. I raise my bow to ward off any attackers, but it seems as though no one is interested in pursuing us. Gloss, Cashmere, Enobaria, and Brutus are all gathered at the pile in front of the cornucopia, picking over the weapons. A quick survey of the arena tells me that most of the tributes are still trapped on their plates.

I don't dare take an eye off of Finnick, who's now helping Peeta into the water, for fear of him drowning him on the way in, but I guess the baby has other plans. As always.

The heat and humidity make it hard to breathe, and all at once I am on my knees nursing a dizzy spell. Everything around me is spinning, which only results in my vomiting. Not like there is really much else left in my stomach to retch up, but that didn't stop the little monster from turning this hell into something much worse.

As always I would like to thank my wonderful beta! Charlotte is my beta again, so super thank you to her, and well wishes to my normal beta who is still going through some crap and yippydoodah which makes her unavailable for betaing.

I hope you guys enjoyed this extra long chapter, and as a gift, I will be *hopefully* posting another- much shorter- chapter in another day or two.

My internet is still a poopface, but I do plan on participating in Camp NaNo for July, so maybe just maybe that will REALLY help me get the willpower to write moving along nicely.

Annnnnnnd I guess that's enough talking.

Its not like you guys read the author's note anyways xD