AN: So before the games can actually begin, here is a quick check in with Katniss. Sorry for the wait and I hope you enjoy.

Disclaimer: this is fanfiction ;)

Cinna's golden eyes met mine, the unbearable sadness that seemed to dwell in them more prominent than ever.

When my eyes first met his gaze, I had been naked as the day I was born and despite having been that way for many hours, his gaze felt like it was trying to strip off another layer, pierce even deeper.

It had made me feel even more actutely aware of the fact that I was naked: it was also, perhaps for the first time since stepping on the train, made me feel human - more than just a thing, than an object, but a individual of value.

Cinna's sad eyes have always made me feel that way. A moment of reality in a world of wonder and illusion. Odd perhaps as the colour of his gaze was so surreal and his job was to make me the prettiest object for the Capitolites to gaze on. Yet there was an awareness, a sadness that seemed more real than everything else in this strange world I found myself in.

More real than Haymitch's sober distance, more real Effie's manic enthusiasm, more real than the avox's knowing gaze. A gaze that required no apology, knowing in the end I had been dealt the worse fate and even dared to offer sympathy when they thought they went unseen.

Cinna's eyes were the rock in the middle of a mad world, where I was the only object of interest to bored Victor's waiting to kill each other.

As I gazed in them now, I'm still not sure what his piercing gaze makes of me: what does he see?

Does he really see a raging fire that can take on this challenge and come out victorious – his clothes, that he carefully draped my body in, made me feel that, made me believe it for a moment, the possibility of triumph. Then the numbness would set back in, as the impossibility of the task ahead knocked at my awareness, with fear treading doggedly in its footsteps. A fear that I refuse, even now, to acknowledge.

Or does he see a weak desperate girl, too desperate to acknowledge the truth, too desperate to believe in even the possibility of her delusions that she is consumed by it – like every other Capitolite that dwells in this city of wonders. Is two horrid weeks all it takes to become one of them? Is that what the flames mean?

It certainly feels sometimes like a strange being has come and consumed the girl in the woods, the simple girl I was before, who did not know how to appreciate what she had and is now so far away from everything that is good, that they almost seem like a dream.

Or does he see me? The girl that has learned to fight to survive, survive for her sister, survive at all costs for her.

Any Capitolite might think that just surviving makes the task ahead seem possible. Just keep breathing, how hard could it be? But I know agony of surviving, and it does not sway me away from doing everything, giving everything to win these games.

Is that why he looks at me with such sadness? Does he know the agony of surviving too? I'd ask what a Capitolite could know of surviving – but the avox's last penetrative stare before I boarded the plane lingers too heavily in my mind, our position's reversed so perfectly from our first meeting.

As I wonder what story lies behind those sad eyes, Cinna's hands add the last adornment to what may be the last outfit he will dress me in.

A golden mockingjay pin.

'A token from district 12'

Cinna's quiet affected voice barely reaching above the whine of the glass elevator waiting for me, yet it still whisks me away from my musings, as I desperately try to ignore what is happening, and holds me in the present.

A mockingjay.

It is the second time he has dressed me using that motif.

'A mockingjay .. ?'

My voice as quiet as his, not daring to be louder.

'Something bigger than the Capitol'

His voice so soft now that I'm not even sure I heard the words right. They echo so perfectly Beetee's.

Something bigger, something more. It seems to be a theme.

'We are not the enemy Katniss, if I may call you that' his polite voice juxtaposed with the alarming image of children's bodies shaking violently in his electric traps, slowly being guided to death.

'We are just like you'

And they are in a way. Just like me. Willing to do what it takes to survive. I was scared for the first time of that desire, as Beetee's soft steady gaze seemed to try and impart some coded message. I was scared of what it made me: that even with this realisation, even with this horrid glimpse at where this path might lead, I have not even an ounce of desire to stray from it.

'We could be allies, you know'

I would have scoffed and walked away, had I not been so tired of running. More Victor's than not had made an allusion to forming alliances, the ones who didn't like to whisper brutal ways by which they planned to realise my nightmares. The latter was easier to ignore, they weren't half as imaginative as my mind and their words were honest.

The sweet honeyed words, that tried to hide the killers, scared me far more and annoyed me too. Did they really think I was so stupid?

An easy kill! That is how they see me. I know that. Do they think they are showing mercy? Offering to gently stab me in the back? Sparing me from the horror? I am stronger than that! ... or at least I'm going to try to be.

And yet ... it feels like there is more to the offer. Simply being an easy kill doesn't quite stack with Beetee's word, with Cinna's sad eyes.

'... bigger than the Capitol'

I echo his words, as if by saying them they will suddenly make sense. My voice barely a whisper, but then it doesn't need to be louder, Cinna is standing so close, as he rubs a thumb over the pin he so carefully added to my attire.

Cinna's eyes seem to blaze at my echoed whisper, as he leans in closer still, as though there is some terrible secret on the tip of his tongue.

Yet whatever that secret may be, whatever words that may have been carried on the warm breath that caresses my cheek and shakes the few strands of loose hair behind my ear, it was lost to the sound of the buzzer that signalled my fate awaited.

Even though it was a sound I'd been waiting for since I'd enter this small sterile room, its grating wail shocked me. I jumped, almost hitting the glass door behind me had it not started sliding open. The timer above it now flashing its countdown.

I think a part of me had hoped to drift in this safe limbo forever, shying away from the fight to return to my normal life, wondering if the fight could ever be worth, wondering if it is even possible, hoping to stay safe and resting for just a few seconds longer.

Yet that buzzer announced it was not to be, its repetitive shriek corralling the adrenaline that it initially sent through my system, to find every bit of courage, strength and determination that exists within me and ready for the fight ahead.

My lungs feel tight, my breathing uneasy, my head light and dizzy.

I all but fall into the glass cage behind. Cinna's hands catching me, guiding me, so he is almost in half in the lift with me.

Capitol guards appear in the doorway, but Cinna's eyes hold mine.

His gaze more piercing than ever.

'I let my art speak for me'

The words are clear and loud, and seem to imprint upon me, as Cinna's leans forward to press his lips against my cheek ensuring it is so.

I draw back to find his eyes again, hoping that they will hold the answer to the riddle, that I'd all but forgot at the sound of the buzzer. Yet all I see is Cinna being pulled roughly away by the Capitol guards. Continuing to drag him and brutally manhandle him, even after he is out of the lift.

Something inside me scream 'this isn't right.'

But before I can register it, before I can even think of going to Cinna, the glass doors have closed and I am locked in this cage.

This isn't right. None of this is right.

Yet, it no longer matters: their riddles, their offers, their threats, their Capitol games.

The whine of the elevator engines increases and I am slowly thrust up into darkness.

Now all that matters is I survive.

Survive at all costs.

My lungs feel tight, my breathing uneasy, my head light and dizzy.

A final burst of speed and I am in the arena. The sun blinds me.