A/N This alternate ending takes place as Katniss climbs the fence to see the children trapped in by Snow's mansion. Instead of Prim being a first responder, she is among the children. The silver foil parachutes are in fact from Snow in this alternate version. All Hunger Games characters belong to Suzanne Collins.
Katniss climbed the fence. The little children looked up at the Capitol's ships, and even amongst all of the chaos surrounding their entrapment, their faces tilted up with winsome delight at the flurry of silver-wrapped treats raining down.
But Katniss knew there would be no mid-war happy surprise. In an instant, she knew the packages carried death to the trapped children. The evil that was minutes from happening unfurled in Katniss' imagination just like Snow's smile.
She knew she would find Prim among the children. Even if the Capitol fell today, Snow would see to it that his promises and threats to Katniss would come true.
As if thinking her sister's name connected them, Katniss found Prim's eyes among the captive group.
"They're bombs," Katniss mouthed.
It was a testament to her sister's calm, medical mind as Prim collected the children with a quick but authoritative, "Line up!"
The children's instinct to follow the order and form a line overrode their desire for sweets.
Katniss jumped down from her perch, heart pounding, as she took aim at the silver packages. Some were floating lower than others.
To the sides.
It was the best she could do. Katniss let her arrow fly. It pierced the skin of the tiny parachute and lodged it against one of the walls of the house, off to the side and away from the kids. Katniss didn't have time to think, she just kept releasing her arrows as fast as she could. A quick glace let her know that the packages were increasing in number. She scrambled to get a new angle. She had to get the little ones out from behind the fence. The gate was obviously locked tight.
She almost turned her bow on the male that reached for her exploding Cinna arrow. Gale shook his head and stole the weapon from her hands.
He escaped the guards!
There was no time to rejoice. She trusted him to hit the lock holding the children in. If Katniss had time, she would have climbed the fence and told the kids to get down. Prim was one step ahead of her, coaching the children to cover their heads.
Katniss changed her aim again when she saw the capitol guards spilling into the courtyard. She took them down one after another, but she was running out of arrows.
Once Gale was sure the kids were as safe as they were going to be, he let the exploding arrow fly.
The explosion rocked the ground, but Katniss kept up her steady stream of perfection.
If I can do nothing else, let me get those kids out alive. Prim, alive.
The Capitol had already taken too many children; they weren't going to slaughter any more in Katniss' name.
Prim began forcing the children through the smoke towards their escape. The noise was muted now. The explosion had been so close, it felt like her ears were stuffed with cotton. Gale tossed his gun in Katniss' direction. All those years of hunting in the woods had let them think as one. They didn't need words.
Katniss climbed what was left of the pillar. She shot at any Capitol uniform that had the audacity to stagger in the children's direction. Gale bent the fence back to try and make the children's passage easier.
She would recognize the form that forced his way past Gale, any day. Peeta found the scared, crying group of toddlers that Prim was trying to encourage to walk into the smoke.
The silver packages were landing like oversized snowflakes now. There were too many, falling too quickly.
There was no time.
"Run! Run!" Katniss hoped she was shouting, because she could hardly hear herself.
She couldn't take her eyes from the courtyard, but she was praying that there was a shred of human decency left—that among the chaos behind her, there were soft hearts that would shelter the children.
Peeta scooped up the toddlers in a very uncomfortable, giant hug. Prim hefted the last two.
The first of the silver packages Katniss had fastened to the wall with her arrow exploded.
It was everything Katniss could do to stay put. Getting in Peeta and Prim's way was not going to help. Every breath counted.
Gale would help too; he was at the gate.
Katniss picked off four more Capitol guards. She knew there were more hanging back, just inside. They all must have known the impending fate of the children and sought safety from the blasts.
Peeta stepped over the gate; she could see him in her peripheral vision. Once her loved ones were safe, Katniss hopped backwards off the pillar as the rest of the bombs detonated.
Her world became fire, and the noise overpowered her internal mute button and rattled her teeth. She looked over her shoulder in time to see Peeta peering at her from a storefront. The orange glow from the bombs reflected off the faces of everyone—Prim, Peeta, Gale, all the children.
Katniss exhaled as she watched her sister waving frantically. All three wanted Katniss to join them. She looked up and down the street as an eerie calm settled over her. Mutants from nightmares feasted on humans. It was too hard to tell the Capitol citizens and the rebel forces apart. Everyone just looked terrified.
Katniss kissed her fingers and held up two in the direction of her legacy. If this mission could be completed with those three people alive, then all the death she had witnessed might mean something.
She looked from Prim to Peeta to Gale and smiled, mouthing, "It's time."
Katniss pushed her hair out of her face and turned her back on her people. Gale and Peeta knew. Peeta had looked solid enough. He would understand that she needed Prim and those kids protected from the war.
She walked into the courtyard like she lived in the house it surrounded.
Destiny. This is mine.
She didn't need Finnick's screams to spur her on. She didn't need to visualize the people in the hospital that had exploded.
Snow was hers.
Katniss stopped at the body of one of the soldiers she had felled and relieved him of his pistols. She tucked them into her waistband after she checked the ammo.
She would be ready for anything now.
Gale was crouching next to her as she rose, getting a pistol of his own.
She shook her head, silently disagreeing with his decision to come with her.
"Katniss." Gale looked at her eyes to see if she could hear him.
She nodded that she could. You never played games with a hunting partner.
"Peeta and Prim have the kids. It's always better when we work together." He nodded at her to lead.
He was right. When things needed to get done, or people needed to be fed, they did it better together. But she couldn't let him march into what was surely a death trap.
"There's no getting out of this one alive. I need you to take care of my family, and that includes Peeta now. That's a promise we have to keep. It's just another one of his Games, Gale." Katniss took an assessment of her working parts.
Her hearing seemed to be restoring itself. The noise of all the fighting in the Capital was a beast of its very own.
Gale walked closer and lifted Katniss' chin with his finger. "We're doing this together. I wished every damn day that I could have been in those Games with you. Today, right now, I have a choice."
Katniss had to smile at his stubbornness. If the situation had been reversed, she would have done the same for Gale.
As she took point position and walked cautiously through the gaping front door, she felt the trickle of sureness. With Gale to back her, she would get this bastard for sure.
Gale tossed an innocent-looking ball into the foyer, and as the walls popped with gunfire, they both rolled for cover in different directions. The Capital guards were descending the large set of stairs that had impressed many a visitor in times past.
They had obviously been waiting for all the silver packages to deliver their charges. The ball that Gale had tossed began to vibrate. Gale motioned to her from behind the settee for her to plug her ears. She did as she was told and watched the ball. Gale's homemade bomb would be devastating.
It began to hop forward with its tremendous vibration. When it burst open, a beautiful rainbow-colored haze filled the room. The guards fell one on top another with a single trail of blood coming from their nostrils. Obviously, whatever noise the ball emanated was deadly.
Katniss locked eyes with Gale. He still had his fingers in his ears. She waited and couldn't stop staring into his eyes. How many times had they held each other in a gaze like this when they were children? It had been just as important. They had to save their families then, too.
Her heart clawed at her chest with anticipation. His endless eyes seemed to know what she was feeling. He pulled his fingers from his ears with a purposeful nod, showing her it was now safe to do so.
Katniss made her way carefully to his side, ignoring the want in her soul. He grabbed her hand like he never did when they were hunting and pulled her away from the stairs and the main entrance. She snagged a curtain tie that was as sturdy as rope and stuffed it in her pocket.
Gale pulled her into a doorway and held her waist, looking past her, around her for enemies. Katniss owed him more than she ever knew. He was her childhood. He would make a very wonderful husband someday, to someone.
She reached up and touched his tense cheek.
"Hey." She waited until he looked down at her in surprise. He covered the hand touching his cheek like it was vitally important.
"Katniss?" There were so many questions in her name on his lips.
"This? You? You made getting up in the morning worthwhile. You made my fear of watching my family starve a whole lot more manageable. When we kissed? It felt inevitable." Katniss took to her tiptoes to place a sweet kiss on his lips.
Gale refused to let her back away. Cradling her head in his hands, he deepened the kiss. When he ended his declaration of passion, he rested his forehead on hers.
She removed his hands and smiled while pulling them easily behind his back. She kissed him again, but as he kept his eyes closed, she was watchful. The snare she had created was ridiculously elementary, but effective.
Katniss had bound Gale's hands behind his back. The rage and knowing filled his face as he felt the ropes close. "What the hell? No. No! You're not doing this alone."
Katniss pushed him quickly into a nearby coat closet before he could get over the shock of being trapped.
Before she closed the door. she touched his chest. "I only have room for Snow's death right now in my head, and you have to live. That has to happen. Don't hate me." She closed the door on his angry face.
She took off running. Gale had done well and had led them both to the servant's quarters.
The hallways were skinny and sparsely furnished, so each glance let her know what she was in for as she ran as quietly toward her goal.
She knew Snow would be hold up in the center of this place. First, he would be surrounded by the thwarted death of children, and second, his guards would circle him.
She stopped running and just listened. It was as if she could hear the sickly heartbeat of the evil building. She started walking instead of running, letting destiny choose her next turn.
It was like she could feel her Mockingjay wings unfurling behind her. They were made of the hopes of the people, the spirits of those who had lost their lives trying to get her to where she was right now.
She happened upon a guard. Maybe it was kismet, but he didn't hear her coming. She pulled out her Rebel-issued knife and inserted into the guard's exposed temple. His body fell in a pool at her feet. She stepped over his body and focused on her new, imaginary wings.
Four guards in total were slaughtered on Katniss' path to Snow. Two more protected a grand set of double doors. She had no need to be quiet any longer. She had been delivered to him by her wings.
A brief volley of gunfire ended those last guards' lives, granting Katniss entrance to inner sanctum of the man that had been more of a killing force than any natural disaster.
Katniss pushed on the gold levers. They were locked. She stepped back and removed one of Cinna's arrows. She placed a solid shot in between the two door handles.
She didn't flinch as the doors blew open. She stepped over the guards and through the smoke. Finally, finally, there was Snow.
He was doing his best to look regal, but his sickly frame folded in an elaborate velvet chair was almost a letdown.
Katniss loaded her bow with yet another arrow. This one was plain with no outstanding markers on it to designate it as a weapon that would end this man's reign.
"Katnissssss," he hissed. Snow's lips were soon flecked with blood. The disease that was killing him slowly wasn't moving fast enough for Katniss' taste.
He continued. "I always knew it would be you and I. Did you get to see Prim die? Please tell me you made it here for her dying breath?"
He shifted and began coughing in a debilitating way.
"You brought a lot of fire power with you to attack an unarmed man." Snow blotted his mouth with his kerchief.
Katniss said nothing. She moved to the side, arrow still notched, so no one could come up behind her.
This is what she wanted. This is what everyone needed. Snow was going to kill children, had killed children, so many times before. She didn't know what was causing her to stall in her delivery of justice.
"What I like best about you, Katniss, is that you remind me of myself. Truly, you could have been a daughter of mine. Do it, Katniss. Be just like me. Kill. Make this my final command to you. Kill me, Katniss." Snow had to take a few deep breaths, his emotion taking more energy than he was ready to expend.
He was a self-serving, demented old man. But now, at least, Katniss knew what was stopping her. She didn't want to be like Snow. Not for a minute, not for a day. He wanted to use her again. The Rebels were taking a huge toll out of the Capitol's defenses. From this day forward, everything was going to change. Katniss didn't want to give Snow a dignified way out of the mess he had made. He needed to see the faces of the parents whose children he had used and to feel their pain.
Dying by her arrow was a majestic way to pass into the next world. So many animals have died to feed her family the exact same way. She lowered her bow.
"Will you leave now? So desperate to defy me that you will walk away and leave me free to plan and plot against you and yours? Peeta? Your cousin Gale? Your half-witted mother? And if you managed to save your sweet, gorgeous sister? I'll have nothing better to do except plot." Snow was trying to stand, managing a half crouch.
Katniss sneered and turned her back. She began to walk out of the doors when Snow's haggard voice was as loud as she imagined he could ever get it.
"Your beloved? Peeta? Has he made it through the tracker jacker poising to the other side yet? Because I've even prepared for that. One word from me and Peeta will tear apart any child he can reach. Even if they are his own! Isn't that brilliant?" Snow began coughing again.
Katniss stopped in her tracks. She could hear frantic footsteps running and gunfire in the distance.
He's probably lying.
Katniss could feel her heartbeat in her throat. She had slain so many to get here. She had made so many decisions that had hurt others.
She slid her arrow back into the bag and wore bow over her shoulder. She pulled her stolen Capitol's pistol from her waistband and cocked the hammer.
As she closed the distance between them she could smell the sickly-sweet white rose on his lapel.
Snow's snakelike eyes widened in fear and delight. "Yes! Yes, Katniss. You will do as I say. Play this final game with me. Be like me."
The flower's scent that had turned her stomach so many times now reminded her of Rue. Katniss felt her Mockingjay wings span even further to include her lost friend as well. Now Katniss could smile.
"You're going to die by your own gun." She tilted her head and placed the gun against the papery skin between Snow's eyes. "And guess what? You've never been like me."
Katniss pulled the trigger, and the horrible man came to his end.
She was covered in his splattered blood. The noise behind her made her turn around. Gale stepped over the guards' bodies, holding a gun in each hand. Katniss moved so he could see what she had done.
He nodded solemnly. She nodded back.
"Do you feel better now?" He seemed to know this dead man's existence had been the hole in the center of her soul, the cause of the hardness she had that no one could get around.
She glanced at the man's small frame, curled into fetal position in his velvet chair. She stepped away from the corpse and nodded.
"Yeah. That's the only death that's ever made sense to me." Katniss stumbled a bit.
The weight of what she had completed made her feel dizzy.
"Well, Catnip, we better get back to Prim and Peeta." He grabbed her hand again and pulled.
She didn't miss the bitterness in his voice when he mentioned Peeta's name, but at this moment she didn't care. She was drunk on the euphoria, and shaking from the sadness of the war she had fought to kill Snow.
As Gale dragged her through the mansion, they ducked and hid from the others that were starting to crowd the newly-still heart of the Capitol.
When they were outside, the sounds of battle were further than they had been before Katniss had killed Snow.
I killed Snow.
I killed Snow.
She took a knee, and Gale stopped. She was overwhelmed.
Out of nowhere, Peeta was on his knees in front of her. "Are you okay?"
She wanted to nod, to tell him everything was fine, but instead, tears began to fall. With Peeta she could fail to be brave. Even if he was broken, he knew what she needed.
He scooped her up, ignoring Gale, and rushed her across the street to the storefront where Prim opened the door.
After her sister had given her a cool drink of water, she had the three faces in front of her that she never thought she would see again. All Katniss could do was nod.
It was right.
It was going to be all right.
A/N Thanks to the amazing shalu for the beta! ~MTK