Everdeen: Chapter 1
A/N: Those of you who know me, know I generally write for Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries. However, I recently read The Hunger Games series and loved it. I adore Suzanne Collins’s work, but I wished for a different ending. And so, here it is.
I don’t own these characters or this universe.
Today, District 12 changed its name to Everdeen. When the name appeared on the ballot, I almost objected. The days of my being the Mockingjay are far behind me, and I have no desire to be a leader, even here in my own district. But then I thought of my mother and Prim. Aren’t they both Everdeens as well? And haven’t they contributed more to this community than I have? And of course, my father lost his life in the mines here. So, I said nothing and considered it an honor for my whole family—not just me, the least deserving of us all.
Several of the districts have already changed their names from the impersonal numerals to more meaningful names, even if the nation’s name lacks any kind of imagination. The United Districts Republic was born the day President Snow lost his life, even though technically, it took a little time to work out the first kinks. We’re still working them out, come to think of it. Forming a new government takes time. It’s messy and bumpy and imperfect, but it’s ours now, and that’s the most important thing.
I wasn’t terribly thrilled when President Coin stepped into the shoes vacated by Snow, even though we knew it was temporary. I was never a fan. And I was happy to see her go after that first election. Now she’s just a private citizen with no more power or status than I have. And of course, I’m very pleased with our current choice for president, Peeta Mellark.
I always knew Peeta would be a natural leader with his way with words—his ability to move a crowd. And his heart is as pure and honest as they come. He’s the opposite of Snow.
It’s hard to believe now, but of course, there was a time I was afraid of Peeta. In the first Hunger Games. And then after he’d been hijacked. It was tough for me to remove his handcuffs and load his weapon with live ammunition that day in our hiding place in Tigris’s store. I knew he could kill me in a confused moment, but then I knew my time was running out anyway, and I couldn’t live with the thought of his being captured or killed, unable to defend himself just because of my fear.
We all set out that day afraid. Even though we were mere blocks from our mission, the likelihood that we’d all survive the day was dim. We had to leave Finnick behind in Tigris’s care, sparing our first aid supplies so she could tend to the very deep wounds on both legs. It was a miracle we were able to pull him from the clutches of the mutts beneath the city.
After that, it was just Pollux, Gale, Cressida, Peeta, Finnick and me. Gale was badly wounded with a neck bite and Finnick couldn’t walk with both calves chewed up.
On our short but terrifying walk to the City Circle, I lost everyone. Pollux and Cressida were ahead of me somewhere in the sea of people. Peeta was behind me, also out of sight. And Gale was captured, saved by the collapsing street pod only to be dragged away by Peacekeepers, begging me to shoot him before he disappeared.
I was sickened by the thought that Gale was likely dead or worse and equally disturbed that I wished I could have killed him. I marched forward in the freezing weather, determined to kill my last human being—President Snow.
Since becoming a tribute in the first Hunger Games, I had become numb to killing, and I hated that about myself. I knew that once I’d killed Snow, I’d likely be killed myself and I deserved it. Snow and the Hunger Games had made me a monster, and I saw no way for me to have a life beyond that. Redemption was an impossibility.
As I approached the president’s mansion, I saw a rectangular barricade surrounding the entrance, holding a crowd of children. I realized that Snow had placed this human barrier in front of the mansion in a coward’s protection.
Suddenly, rebel troops began to appear from several directions. The crowds of citizens dispersed to let them through and as the space cleared a bit, I could see beyond the barricade to the front steps of the mansion and my heart nearly burst at the sight of dozens of rebel soldiers swarming all over the building.
We’d taken the Capitol.
The children were herded away, and I made a beeline up to the front door. I removed the scarf over my face and drew back my cloak so my weapon was in view, and I passed into the building unquestioned.
I came to Pollux and Cressida almost immediately, and they gave me a nod and a look of relief.
“Glad you made it,” Cressida said. “We’ve just been cleared.”
I had no idea who could have “cleared” us, but didn’t argue as I followed them down a hallway and up a grand staircase.
I started to remove my layers of clothing. Pollux took the clothes from me and I removed my wig and handed it over as well. I wondered what kind of ridiculous makeup I might be wearing, but didn’t want to take the time to clean my face.
When we came to the third floor, we started down another hallway, and as we rounded a corner, I saw soldiers guarding a double door. Paylor was standing with them.
She nodded and simply said, “You have five minutes.”
The soldiers stepped aside and opened the doors to allow me to enter. The smell hit me right away and I fought a wave of nausea.
Snow was sitting in a wing chair with his legs crossed. He could have been just comfortably resting in a chair except for the handcuffs. I took a quick glance around the room. Every surface was covered with vases of roses. There was a bloodstained handkerchief in his hand.
“Miss Everdeen,” he said with a smile.
I heard the doors close behind me and I drew my weapon, aiming an arrow at his heart.
“I was hoping to see you here,” he said.
This is it, I thought—what I’ve been waiting for, hoping for. I finally get to kill Snow.
He just kept smiling and I heard the beating of my heart in my ears. My hands began to shake. The rage filled me. I thought of how this man had ruined lives, manipulated a nation, killed countless people. And then I thought of what he’d done to Peeta.
“I understand how you feel,” he said. “The satisfaction you crave.”
I felt beads of perspiration form on my upper lip.
“We’re not so different, you and I,” he added with a sigh.
It was at that moment I knew I couldn’t do it. Because I knew that yes, I was like him. He’d made me like him—a ruthless killer. Driven to destroy. I hated what he’d made me—what he’d made us all, and I knew if I let my arrow fly, I’d never be able to regain my humanity. Even if I only lived a moment longer, I was ruined. I had become the same as Snow.
I lowered my weapon. Snow raised his eyebrows in question and cocked his head, still smiling.
And then he was on his feet and lunging forward faster than I could track. I took a step back in shock and sensed something behind me just as I heard the gunshot.
The smile left Snow’s eyes as soon as the bloody hole appeared on his forehead. He slumped to the floor, clearly dead.