Peeta's dead. He was dead the moment he got that wound. Rue – brave, dead little Rue – told her Cato didn't clean his sword, just sharpened it and smiled. And even with the Capitol's fancy medicines, Katniss has seen more than enough wounds go bad to know when there's just no saving someone.
That's why she kisses him, why she promises him she'll stay.
That's why she doses him with enough sleeping syrup to make sure he doesn't die in agony – the boy with the bread will just slip away in his sleep.
She couldn't save Rue, but she can do this for Peeta.
She kisses him one last time and slips out of the cave, headed for the feast.
She doesn't look back.
Clove smiles and laughs and presses her knife harder and harder—
Then Clove is screaming, begging for mercy and calling for Cato until Thresh's hand comes down like the hand of an angry god, rock held tight in his fist.
She won't go back to the cave, and Cato and the girl from Five are still out there. They head to the fields.
The tall grasses whisper around them – in every whisper, she hears their names.
Rue. Peeta. And threaded through the litany of the people she's lost to the Games, she hears her sister’s name. Prim. Prim. Prim.
Her heart is beating too fast in her chest, but her head is clear. She knows what she's going to do.
She knows what she's going to do, until Thresh's deep voice cuts through the murmured names, sounding over the heartbeat echoing in her ears.
"In Eleven," he says, his voice quiet, "they'd never let you out in the fields."
She stops. He does the same.
"We have songs," he says, "and the Capitol wants to keep the fire in Twelve."
Slowly, she nods.
They keep walking.
Foxface tips her head towards their hiding place before she swallows the berries. When they check to make sure she is dead, they find her hand resting above her heart. Her fingers, stained dark with juice, are curled in Twelve's salute.
Thresh brushes her eyes closed with gentle fingers, and they keep going.
The muttations come.
Cato is waiting for them at the Cornucopia, blade in hand and murder in his eyes.
Night gives way to morning. They sit and wait for Cato to die.
Awful sounds drift up from the slaughter below, but Katniss does not reach for her bow.
"He killed Peeta," she says.
Thresh does not disagree.
Seneca Crane's voice echoes in the heavy silence left behind by the mutts' departure.
"Congratulations, Katniss. Congratulations, Thresh. You have both made it to the final fight of the 74th Hunger Games. Unfortunately, you are not from the same District. Only one of you can win. Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor."
All across Panem, the Districts are silent.
Snow orders extra Peacekeepers to be dispatched to Eleven and Twelve.
Back in the arena, somewhere in the distance, a mockingjay trills Rue's song.
There is no fight.
There is only the stark truth that Thresh tells, his deep voice firm and unyielding.
"Coal burns slow and steady," he says. "But put a spark to a field of wheat, and you set the world on fire."
There is only the song that Katniss sings, her voice pure and fierce on the old words that Thresh taught her in the whispering field.
God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water but fire next time
No more water but fire next time
It starts in Eleven.
It is their song, from a time long before the Capitol, long before Panem. It is a song about freedom. It is a song they all know.
The Peacekeepers move forward, weapons drawn, but they cannot stop the singing.
The chorus of voices drowns out even the sound of gunfire.
It continues in Twelve.
All across the District, in the mines and the Seam and the merchant's quarters, hands raise in salute.
The air is charged and heavy, and a child begins to cry.
A shot rings out, and Twelve ignites.
There is no precedent for this. There is no protocol for the Gamemakers to follow.
There is no announcement that will salvage these Games.
Seneca Crane can only watch helplessly as the 74th Hunger Games crash down around him.
He doesn't know it yet, but they will take the Capitol down with them.
Their fingers twine together as they lift their hands aloft, the same way that Katniss and Peeta did during the opening ceremony.
Snow crushes a rose in his hands, lets the thorns draw blood. He has always appreciated the power of symmetry.
They swallow a handful of nightlock each.
He lets the rose fall, bent and broken, to the floor.
This, he thinks, is how a country dies.
Katniss and Thresh die, their fingers still twined together. In every District, people scream. In every District, people weep.
Every District rings with their names, voices hailing Moses and the Mockingjay, the girl on fire.
Katniss and Thresh die.
Like a field set to burn, Panem goes up in flames.