A/N This is one of the two one-shots I contributed toward Fandoms Fight Floods. They were able to raise over $16,000 toward the Queensland, Australian floods. I've also contributed a piece to Fandoms Fight Tsunamis which you can still donate to. I'll also be adding a piece to Fandom For Sexual Assault Awareness. Find out on how to help these two great causes in my profile. And now I'll shut up and let Cinna take it.
The designers all sit down, chattering amongst each other. I take my seat without calling attention to myself. I've never been one to want the spotlight. I prefer shining it on others.
As I glance around the room, I wonder what I'm doing here. Why let myself be part of these horrible Games to begin with? I'm trying to end them, not encourage them. But Plutarch had somehow convinced me to join the designers in the Games.
"Why?" I'd asked him. "What purpose will my joining them serve?"
"We need as many people in the loop as possible," Plutarch said. "Do you really think I enjoy coming up with traps and tricks for these poor children? But the information I gather, the connections I make, those are worth my discomfort."
"The designers aren't in the political arena, you know that," I said.
"Regardless, you will have access to people you wouldn't otherwise have," Plutarch said. I remained unconvinced, and showed it in my wary expression. Plutarch sighed. "Look, why don't you just submit some of your work? No harm in trying."
For a designer looking to work in the Games, he had to create a costume for the opening ceremonies for three districts. He would draw the plan and then present it to the Design Committee. Most designers chose districts One, Two, and Four, since they were Careers. Most designers dreamed about designing for them, the most prestigious ranking any designer could get.
When I designed my costumes, though, I couldn't see the point of doing these three. They wouldn't stand out, and those districts will of course go to the seasoned designers. The three districts that were least popular were, of course, Eight, Eleven, and Twelve.
I began sketching out ideas randomly for each district. This is how I worked, sketching until something struck me as just right. Sometimes I had to blend two costumes together. Eight and Eleven came to me, and I had them pinned within the day. But what about Twelve?
With no inspiration, I packed up my work and left my study for my living room. Snow danced across the window, the first snowfall of the New Year. I put some of the coal in the fireplace, then struck my match and lit it. As the coal ignited, the flames slowly spreading across and flickered upward, rising, an idea planted itself in my head. The coal…we light it on fire.
I rushed toward my pad again, in my study, and soon my head flew across the page. After a few hours, the final design came down. A black unitard with fabric mimicking the appearance of fire streaming behind. I'd studied designs for The Hunger Games costumes, all the way back to their first appearance, and never had anyone thought of this. How could that have been?
I submitted my work, and then presented it to the committee.
"Everything is excellent work, Cinna," said the head. "Your take on District 12 is especially refreshing."
"Thank you," I say, smiling slightly.
The next month I received my acceptance of one of the two open positions as designers in The Hunger Games.
Sitting here, waiting for the meeting on our district assignments, among the most affluent designers of the Capitol, I feel more out-of-place than I usually do walking the streets. The designers are always trying to top each other, so that an array of colors and textures, tattoos and piercings, flaunt in front of my eyes. One woman I notice isn't as garish as everyone else. She still has bright blue lipstick on and an unnatural shade of white-blonde hair, but this is tame in comparison to everyone else.
Marcus, an elderly designer with his hair dyed a deep green, begins the meeting.
"Welcome everyone. We're glad to have you back and of course, welcome our two new designers, Cinna and Portia." Marcus nods to us. "We'll begin by first letting you all submit your first choices for designing."
We have our electronic pads set up. Twelve numbers run along the bottom. I slide my eyes over to my neighbor, a man with tool wrapped all around his neck, and see that his top three choices are District 1, District 4, and then District 2. I look the other way and see that my other neighbor is putting down a similar request.
I'm here to gain insider knowledge on the Games and the government. I don't really want to do this. Just sitting here makes me feel despicable. But following these people, choosing the Career districts…I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror. They are almost as bad as the Capitol itself, encouraging their young children to train of such an event, of dream of winning at the cost of their humanity.
And so, I press the button for District 12. This is the last district anyone wants, between the unsavory theme of their Opening Ceremony costumes, to the lack of any skills, to their drunken mentor, it's enough to make any of these people bawl at the though of designing for them. And because what they want is what I don't want, then what I want must be what they don't want.
The meeting continues. We discuss schedules, budgets (the designers from District 1 last year get into trouble for spending too much money), and then, the assignments come out.
It's no surprise who gets the Career districts, although nearly everyone else at the table but me and blue-lipstick woman looks upset at the announcement anyway. Some satisfactory smiles are given when secondary districts like Seven and Three. When District 11 is given to two unhappy looking individuals, Marcus announces that Portia and I would be the designers for District 12. I will be designing for the girl, while Portia does the same for the boy.
I find my eyes meeting the grey ones from the blue-lipstick woman, and somehow I know that this is her. She gives me a little smile, which I return with a nod.
"Now that you have your assignments, you may continue into the banquet hall for lunch," Marcus says, gesturing to the doors being opened by two Avoxes.
I don't feel like eating anything with any of them. Their rich food always made me sick, anyway. Match it with those who are the most empty-headed in the Capitol, and the prospect lost any ounce of appeal.
Then I remembered Plutarch's advice. The reason I even took this stupid job was to be a spy for the rebels. Being a spy also meant being social with these people. I grit my teeth for a moment and let out a dissatisfied sigh.
"Unhappy with our assignment?" A female's voice came from behind me. I turn around to face Portia.
"No. Just not really in the mood for…" My eyes follow those designers leaving the room for the buffet up ahead. Some already have their glasses ready with the drink that would make them throw up. I focus my attention back on her. "Why? Are you unhappy?"
"I expected it," Portia shrugged. "Being new and all. I put District 12 as my first choice, because I knew I'd get it anyway."
"I put it as my first choice as well," I say, smiling at her. Off of this first impression, I do rather like Portia. But I still won't admit to her why I decided to put District 12 as my first choice.
"I've tried to come up with designs," Portia says. "But I can't come up with anything good for Twelve."
"I do have one idea…" I begin. Portia turns to me, her eyes widening with curiosity. I tell her my idea, and she smiles.
"We light coal on fire," Portia whispers. "Cinna…what if we lit them on fire?"
I tilt my head and squint my eyes, but I can't stop the smile from spreading across my face. We're both mad. And it's fantastic.
We spend most of our time trying to get down the synthetic fire. Of course we'd known we couldn't actually light them on fire, but from what we found, it would work. There's an eighty-five percent chance of it at least.
The day of the reaping comes. My stomach churns, like it does every year. Only now the feeling is a thousand times worse as the pink-wigged escort for District 12 pulls out the name of the girl I will be dressing.
I look for her to come forward, and after a moment, she does. She hardly looks older than ten, fair and frail. Her hands are clenched, but she's scared. No. I put my hands in my face. Not someone so young.
"Prim! Prim!" A distraught call comes out. Then, lacking an steady breathing pace, "I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!"
I raise my gaze and a small but firm girl, about sixteen, stands with blazing eyes in front of the small Primrose. After some bustle with the escort and mayor, then the poor girl forcing Primrose off of her with the help of a young man, the escort finally asks the girl her name.
"Katniss Everdeen," she answers, her face blank.
And there, I can see it in her eyes. Katniss Everdeen, on fire. She already is.
The prep team calls me from my quarters. They've finished with Katniss. With a pause behind the door, I prepare myself to meet this young woman who volunteered for her sister. Already, she's shown more bravery than anyone who's ever been thrust into these Games.
I walk in and she stands there, in nothing. She toys with her braided hair, and then lets it drop as she sees me. Her eyes narrow slightly, but I don't think in malice, at least not totally. Confusion, probably. I already know how I stand out here.
"Hello Katniss. I'm Cinna, your stylist," I say.
"Hello," she says, not trusting me. Not yet.
"Just give me a moment, all right?" I ask and begin circling around her. Obviously the prep team did their job. She's hairless everywhere but her head, and her eyebrows have been plucked into smooth arches. Although her skin is olive, it's obvious from the parts of her body that has been always covered up she spends a lot of time in the sun from the contrasting tones. Her skin is toughened, too, but that's good. Finally, I take in her hairstyle, struck by it. For some reason, she didn't seem the type to sit down and do her hair this way. "Who did your hair?"
"It's beautiful," I say. "Classic really. And in almost perfect balance with your profile. She has very clever fingers."
Her gaze on me softens, just a bit. Not quite trusting yet.
"You're new, aren't you?" She asks. "I don't think I've seen you before."
"This is my first year in the Games."
"So they gave you District Twelve," she says, as if this was an obvious conclusion.
"I asked for District Twevle," I say. "Why don't you put on your robe and we'll have a chat."
Katniss takes the robe and slings her arms into it, knotting the tie around her waist. I walk out into the sitting room, where we have a view of the city. She's been worked on all morning and probably hungry, and so I push the button for the food to come up. I see her eyeing it all in amazement. Then she squints, and her face turns dark.
I imagine the life Katniss had. Twelve is the poorest of the districts. She's probably spent most of her life starving, fighting her way to live even just to this point. And I can just press a button and get enough food to feed her for a week. Even without drawing her sister's name for the Games, this would be reason enough to hate us, the Capitol.
When her eyes meet mine, I say, "How despicable we must seem to you."
She doesn't respond, doesn't even blink and I continue, "No matter. So, Katniss, about your costume for the opening ceremonies. My partner, Portia, is the stylist for your fellow tribute, Peeta. And our current thought is to dress you in complementary costumes. As you know, it's customary to reflect the flavor of the district."
Her frown becomes more pronounced. "So I'll be in a coal miner outfit?"
"Not exactly," I say. "You see, Portia and I think that coal miner thing's very overdone. No one will remember you in that. And we both see it as our job to make the District Twelve tributes unforgettable. So rather than focus on the coal mining itself, we're going to focus on the coal. And what do we do with coal? We burn it." She blinks, startled for just a moment. I smile. "You aren't afraid of fire, are you Katniss?"
She lifts her chin up a bit and I know that I couldn't have asked for a better district.