So, I've been writing this for forever and I can happily say that I am now finished! The timeline might be off, I wasn't sure how close Annie/Jo's games were to each other and just committed to the version you'll see in the story. I'm not nearly savvy enough to put together a mixtape but if I were it would include be: The Chain by Ingrid Michaelson, Holocene by Bon Iver, Blood by the Middle East, Constant Knot by City and Colour, and I Can't Make You Love Me/Nick of Time by Bon Iver. A million thanks to electrumqueen and abvj
the thing is you can get used to anything you think you cant you want to die but you dont you cant you just are
They were looking for a stable, but we didn't have one. In fact, we weren't very stable ourselves.
Finnick said, “Cheat to the camera,” out of the side of his mouth. His smile was stretched tightly at the edges where his lips curled back to bare his gleaming teeth, wrinkling lines around his mouth.
Jo rolled her eyes and turned away, the curve of her shoulder blade sharp underneath her skin. The cameras caught a glimpse of her profile, the slightest second of her mouth turned downward, her jaw set on edge.
Cut back to Finnick, someone in an editing room said, and they zoomed in on his too-handsome face.
That should tell you everything you need to know about them both.
During her interview, Ceaser Flickerman simpered at her, “What are you most upset about, dear?”
Johanna’s shoulders hunched, her hands constantly wringing, an impressive stream of snot flowed from her nose that she would pathetically wipe at with the heel of her hand.
“I only ever wanted to be normal,” she sobbed, “To fall in love and get married and have children someday.”
There was a general murmur throughout the stadium. Caeser offered her a bright pink handkerchief and Johanna whispered her thanks, voice still trembling, hiccupping unevenly.
In her winning interview, dressed in black, fabric tight against the barely there curves of her body, Caeser leered like he was in on the secret the entire time.
“So Johanna,” he addressed, leaning forward in his seat, “are you going to go home now to fall in love and get married and have children?”
The crowd roared.
Johanna grinned but it was wicked. There was no little girl hiding in the corners anymore, only an animal. The cut of her mouth was a little more savage, alarmingly predatory now.
Her dress was black and tight and her lips were painted blood red.
“I did whatever I had to do to win,” she defended, “Love is not high on my list of priorities right now.”
And that Finnick saw. That he remembered.
Finnick tells Katniss once, “She crept up on me.”
Romantics will sigh, chin in their cupped hands and eyes shining. They will say, “He could be talking about Johanna, too,” with thoughts of Victors in love and a preference for the underdog. They will be wrong.
Nothing about Johanna Mason crept up on Finnick. She barreled her way in with sex and drugs and alcohol, with a smile that was shattered around the edges and her sarcasm that cut him to pieces. He could always feel her bones when she pressed into him- sharp, lonely. Sometimes it hurt. They were both so, so young and that’s easy to forget. It was tragedy that brought them together and tragedy that pulled them apart in the end, and they were too young for all of it.
To Johanna, he said once, tongue licking at his lips, “I have Annie,” because he couldn’t think of the right words to describe the impossible amount of everything he felt for her, wound into knots tight in his chest.
They were at a dinner, an event , and Johanna’s dress was backless and silver. Her stylist picked it out. They were barely even friends, and he meant it is a warning, as a sign. He had meant to avoid all of this.
To Finnick, Johanna had said, “Who’s asking?” She continued, the laughter in her mouth mean, “Don’t flatter yourself, pretty boy.”
Nothing about Johanna crept up on Finnick, but she’s still there anyways. He didn’t expect her, and he certainly didn’t ask for her, for someone broken in all the same places, for someone with matching scars, but it happened anyway and it changed them both and that’s the important part.
The romantics would be right about that, if nothing else.
“Finnick Odair,” he said, teeth glinting white. Haymitch was standing in between them, eyes slightly glazed but darting between the two of them.
Johanna stuck her chin out and didn’t shake his hand. There were other people around, Victors and Capitol residents pointing with exaggerated scowls and garish smiles. Johanna fought the urge to snarl at them. Her skin was new and pink and polished. It didn’t feel like hers; she had to restrain herself from scratching her way out of it.
“Johanna Mason,” she spit out, the words hard in her mouth. Finnick glowed in the light, and Johanna thought she might hate him. Her nails were still painted green. The space between them is tight, filled with Haymitch’s odor and her anger and Finnick’s beauty.
“I believe congratulations are in order,” he leered.
Haymitch brayed once, too-loudly, lilting to the side. Finnick raised an eyebrow, setting one of his hands on Haymitch’s shoulder. She sees his hand wrapped around that trident in her mind, the look on his face when he plunged it into someone’s chest. The tines always came back red, the color garish against the bright gold of the weapon, of Finnick’s skin, the spots on the victims chest evenly spaced and uniform. A corner of her mouth twitched up, but she wasn’t smiling.
“Haymitch told me you were charming,” Finnick purred, mouth frozen in that smile, “but I had no idea you’d be this pleasant.”
Jo stole Haymitch’s bottle of whiskey and sauntered off. A teenage boy, pale blue and hairless, leapt out of her way.
Later, she will learn, much later, too late almost, that she is devastatingly, heartbreakingly wrong. There is a thin line, after all.
Haymitch threw up all over Finnick’s shoes.
Johanna was pulled out of the arena a Victor, covered in blood, limbs thrashing, teeth bared.
Finnick would know; he was there. She looked too small in the doctor’s arms, curling in on her herself and bursting out again, the blood too red.
She killed one of his Tributes, a thirteen-year old boy with dark hair and thin wrists. Finnick knew he wasn’t a Victor. Johanna found him sleeping underneath a tree, finished him off with an angry slice of her ax down his back. The audience could make out the white bone of his spine through all the slick red mess, the messy chords of muscle, and Johanna had smiled, pieces of long brown hair catching in between her teeth. That’s how legends are born in Panem.
There’s a shiny pink scar down her leg, catching the light. Her skin peels away on her face, a drooping slab of flesh hanging down, the pink muscle underneath convulsing. There was an angry red bloom coming from her stomach, a stab wound, he thinks. Her nails are filed to a point. They catch on someone’s skin and there was even more blood. Finnick watched until she was out of view, strapped to a gurney and rolled down a bright white hallway.
Johanna was still screaming.
“There are better things you could do with your time.”
Johanna’s head snaps up, eyes narrowed at Finnick Odair. They are in a dark corner of a dark club, the music so loud she almost doesn’t hear him. A tall glass tumbler of something purple and smoking is in her hand, half-empty. Every once in a while it hisses, bubbles splashing against her skin.
The world is off-balance, but she doesn’t want to tell him that.
“Really,” she bites at him, the tip of her teeth sinking into her bottom lip, “because I think fucking Capitol citizens for sport is a waste of time, but I’m not criticizing you.”
She’s wearing a green skirt that is too short on her, legs long and scar free, unnaturally smooth. Finnick turns his head away from them and Johanna notices.
Someone turns the bass higher and she thinks her heart might explode out of her chest.
Finnick sits down next to her, grabbing her drink and finishing it before she can move. Everyone around them watches, eyes burning in jealousy. Johanna lazily flips them the middle finger. They can have Finnick Odair if they want him so badly.
“You owe me a drink,” she yells at him. The lights change to blue, staining their skin. Finnick is wearing gold, a tunic strategically draped in the front so everyone can see the swell of his muscle, the ridges in his shoulders.
“Fair enough,” he responds. A snap of his fingers and they are surrounded by them, big and small and bubbly and orange and clear and blue and salty and sweet on jeweled trays that reflect their fractured, multiplied faces.
Her head falls back against the couch, and she laughs.
“I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship, Finnick,” she concedes around the straw of something fruity. It burns a little less going down but hits twice as hard. It’s her third already, and Finnick looks shiny in the shifting light.
“Don’t make a promise you can’t keep,” Finnick says. “You’ll break my heart.”
His smile is so wide and large; it looks like he could eat her.
“My, my, what a lovely mouth you have.”
Her hand is on his knee. The music changes, but they don’t move.
There is something too sharp about her face now, cheekbones protruding and dangerously clicking into place whenever she smiles. It never really looks like she means it. Her bones shift underneath her skin, pressing tightly against the barrier. The shoulder blades are pointed, clean curved lines rising out of her back, and in the Arena the girl tribute from Two almost snapped her spine clean in half with her bare, meaty hands. Johanna survived that, slithering out of her clammy grip. She killed the girl two days later. Axe to the face, and the crowd went wild.
Back in Seven, before she was reaped, she was considered, by some, pretty.
The first time it happened, Johanna was sixteen and Finnnick was nineteen. They were in his apartment, a bottle of white liquor on the nightstand and two full shot glasses sitting in a puddle of the liquid. It would stain.
(Later, days later, Finnick is watching TV and notices the splotch, an uneven amoeba of a stain, something he rubs at for too long before realizing it’s permanent, there forever now.)
There is a knock on the door in the middle of his dinner, and when he answers it, there she is, leaning against the doorframe with the bottle in her hand, eyebrows cocked, cheekbones sharp enough to be a weapon.
“Can I come in, princess?” she asks, the edges of the words slurred, the long line of her back ramrod straight. Her t-shirt is white and fraying and her every move made it inch farther up, the tanned skin exposed and covered in goose bumps. The TV blares in the background. She doesn’t wait for an answer. She brushes past him instead and slams the bottle down on the coffee table.
“How rude of you to start without me,” he teases, a friendly smile settling into his face easily, two glasses clinking against each other in his large hand.
Now, the bottle is almost empty and there is space between them on the couch. Her legs stick to the leather.
Johanna says, “Fuck it,” and kisses him first, reaching over the small space between them, her fingers crooked underneath the bottom of his shirt as they press flat against his lower stomach. Her teeth snag on his bottom lip and she straddles him then, his cock half-hard against her already, their breathing ragged as she grinds her hips closer to him.
She kisses him first but Finnick lifts her off his lap, pins her arms over her head, the taste of her skin sweaty, curls his tongue against the roof of her mouth, removes her clothes with his teeth, doesn’t stop even though the world is spinning and sometimes his mind trips up, confusing Johanna for Annie. Annie, Annie, always there in the back of his mind. Annie was back in Four and he missed her something fierce, he misses the innocence of her, everything about her, really, and the world is spinning and Jo is pinned beneath him naked and glorious. Her hands had committed the same sins as his and maybe it’s more important than he thought to have someone else who understood that.
There is a moment, his pants riding too low and her chest heaving, when he thinks maybe we shouldn’t, but Johanna smiles, mean, and kicks her underwear under the couch, the black lace skidding out of view. “Well,” she says, naked, dim light skimming over her tanned skin, limbs draped over his couch like an accident, “let’s see what you can do, Odair.”
“I guess I wasn’t flattering myself after all,” he hums into her spine as she squirms underneath him, her limbs sticking to the leather, the air thick with the smell of sex and sweat and them.
“Oh, shut up and fuck me already,” she gasps, pulling him towards her.
In the morning, Johanna’s hair is long and dark against his pillowcase, too.
She never watches him sleep, or anything stupid like that. She’s never been an easy sleeper. In the middle of the night when she’s torn out of sleep by a fresh nightmare, she makes a strong drink and sometimes, just sometimes, her gaze falls onto Finnick’s bare chest and his steady, constant breathing and it’s not a big deal.
Joanna wakes up one morning and strolls into her kitchen. Haymitch is sitting on a chair, running a thumb over the white rim of the ceramic mug.
She frowns, one side of her face dragged down, and mutters, “Fuck, Haymitch, you could give a girl some notice.” She tries to shake the sleep out of her limbs, rubbing at an eye lazily.
The t-shirt she’s wearing brushes the bottom of her ass; she steals his coffee and adds a dash of rum. Finnick is in Four.
Haymitch slides backwards, the chair screeching in protest. The high-pitched noise makes Jo jump a little, her hand hitting the top of the bread cupboard as she lets out a string of impressive expletives.
She pulls a piece of bread out when Haymitch corners her. A gust of wind blows through the cracked window. Goosebumps run up her legs.
“This is a terrible idea, Jo,” he says. His fingers rap on the countertop, anxious.
Johanna is all innocence, eyes wide and mouth parted as her fingers rip the slice to little shreds. Every once in a while, she slips a piece into her mouth, tongue darting out to lick away crumbs.
“Oh,” she says, innocently, too innocently. “Whatever are you talking about?” Her voice is mocking, unnaturally high and clear. She looks at him from underneath her lashes, long and spindly. Haymitch steals his coffee back.
“Do not fuck around with me.”
It’s like that moment when you hit your elbow too hard – it stings and it hurts and it feels serious. The mug is empty. Johanna feels the press of the wall against her back, cornered like an animal, shoulders rounded and hunched.
“Leave me alone,” she manages. The line of her back is straight again. “Who the fuck do you think you are? My dad?”
They are face to face now, and Johanna can see the yellow underneath the skin, the extra skin hanging from his chin and the earliest peeks of stubble, an unpleasant odor seeping through that wrinkled skin, his eyes slowly being eaten up by the doughy pouches underneath his eyes. She doesn’t stop.
“You know better than anyone, Haymitch. My father is dead and my mother is dead and my siblings were murdered, too.”
Anger twists her features into something grotesque, her mouth split open and teeth bared.
Haymitch looks too tired, too worn, like he’s being rubbed away at the edges, and his fingers grab at her wrist.
“Don’t bitch at me because you know I’m right. You may not have anyone left, but Finnick does.”
“As if I didn’t already know that,” she adds, "and I think I'm old enough to take care of myself, asshole."
Haymitch says, "Sweetie," the word dripping in condescension, "the only reason I know you believe that is because you're too young to know any better."
Johanna throws him out of her apartment.
(Johanna hasn’t been home yet. Finnick has one hand palming her ass and the other was occupied with her breasts, his mouth smearing sloppy kisses along her neck and her voice cracked when she said, “I miss Seven.” It was a mistake, something that slipped out underneath the influence of his mouth and hands.
He stops then; chin resting on her chest, the sharp bone digging into an opening between her ribcage, a clink in her armor.
“You’ll go back when you’re ready,” he says, impossibly understanding. The thought makes her sick.
Johanna kissed him to make him shut up. She leaves a bite mark on his shoulder and he bruises his handprint onto her thighs. )
Three fingers move around inside her, desperate, thick. They aren’t Finn’s. Johanna turns her face into the pillow and forces the bile back down.
She doesn’t remember his name, but they say you never forget your first.
Johanna is sixteen and lists every type of tree to pass the time.
She was standing afterwards, arms braced against the wall in Finnick’s bathroom and her skin scrubbed pink, the shower blasting water down her back so hot she thought it might burn. There was a ring of hickies dancing around her neck, bursting dark and ruined.
Finnick eyed her cautiously from the doorway, back leaned against the frame and his arms crossed tightly in front of him.
Johanna tries to breathe, the inside of her legs still sore and it still feels like that monster’s still in her, dripping down her thighs, even if it is only too-hot shower water, even if it is only in her mind. Her hair hangs down her back, heavy and wet and god so heavy she feels like – she doesn’t know what she feels like so she takes the knife from underneath the sink and slices off an entire ragged chunk in one swipe.
“That’s a good look on you,” Finnick deadpans.
She scowls at him in the mirror but when she tries walking out of the room, he pulls her into a hug. Finnick smells like salt and then she was sobbing, into Finnick and his arms and his heart that loves Annie Cresta. There wasn’t enough air in the room.
She lets go first, dark grey splotches spreading all over his t-shirt. He teases the ends of her short hair, the ragged edges and uneven cut of it. It suits her.
“Dinner’s on me.”
Johanna half-laughs. There is a bottle of something dark on his counter. Challenge accepted, she thinks. She’s not especially fond of her brain cells, anyways.
The note had said, You will report to the penthouse at the Capital Phoenix. Mister Thaddeus Quicksilver has purchased you for the evening. Congratulations!
Thaddeus was an older man, dense with age, his hair exploding from his temples gray and thin. He had tattoos along his arms, royal purple, inching along his flesh like a disease. He rolled up his sleeves to show her and grunted with effort.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun,” he wheezed into her ear, one hand wrapped tightly around his cock and another pawing at her breasts. “You can call me Thad.”
They made her wear white.
In the morning light, that moment pre-dawn when the world decides, yes, we will do this all over again, there will be another day, Johanna’s skin looks gray, lavender almost, against the pale blue of his sheets.
There is no TV, no music quietly sifting through speakers, just the two of them and the way she doesn’t jerk away when his limbs brush against hers.
The mattress is too soft against her back. Johanna prefers it hard, has never enjoyed that feeling of sinking into cushion before sleep. The sheets have been twisted out of their neatly tucked in corners. Now, they lay wrinkled and long forgotten in a pile on the floor.
She says, “How do I know you won’t give me a disease?” carelessly, as if she doesn’t know the exact effect her words will have, as if she doesn’t understand Finnick and the way he operates as well as herself.
Finnick’s eyes narrow - no, they sharpen, dangerous and angry. Jo rips off a stray hangnail with her teeth and sucks gently at the wound. Her mouth tastes metallic and Finnick laughs but it is not kind. Johanna gets chills.
Thaddeus is her first and he won’t be her last, but Johanna’s not in high demand. This gives her some false sense of superiority, and she will take whatever she can get.
In his shower, her face pressed against the glass, Finnick growls, “How do you know I haven’t already?” and she wishes she were looking at his face.
Her fingers pressed against the curve of his jaw, exploring his bones thoroughly, mouth slightly parted. In the back of her throat, she hums, some song that used to bring fisherman home. It didn’t always work.
His breath caught in his throat and he leaned into her touch, hands on her waist and he couldn’t do anything except worry.
“Annie.” He pressed his forehead against her stomach, her hair falling onto his face. For a moment it was just the two of them. It was this moment - Annie’s fingers tangling in his hair, that is the worst thing he has ever experienced. Annie lifts her head and panic climbs into his throat, his hand shooting out to keep her close, keep her close, and his knees ground against each other from kneeling but he didn’t dare get up.
“Annie,” he says again, because there’s nothing else he can say.
“I’m not as broken as you think I am,” Annie says, completely lucid, the words shocking Finn into silence.
She pulls her head back, braiding her hair into tiny strands, and keeps humming to herself. Finnick starts calling sponsors.
“Oh,” Annie said, head tilted up towards him, “the stylist is dressing me in sequins, Finn. Blue ones.”
Then she breaks into hysterics.
act one, scene two
Annie comes out crazy.
Johanna’s not surprised.
(During the games, Annie’s blob of brown hair, damp and long, stayed above the water line, her eyes wide, searching, and Johanna knew that Finn would do anything for her, then. She had no Tribute that year, and when she had asked Finn if she could help, she watched the slab of muscles in his chest tighten, a barely perceptible shiver underneath his skin.
“No,” he said, eyes darkened, hooded, and for the first time he looked pained, like his own body was fighting against him, and it was the first time she truly realized the importance of Annie to Finnick, the importance of Annie to them all.
“Don’t be a jackass,” she responded, and put in some phone calls.
Let it never be said that Johanna Mason is selfish.)
Finnick spends all his time with her, drawing pretty patterns on her back and talking her down from her fears.
“Stars,” Annie screams in the middle of the night, “there are too many stars sticking inside my brain and they all want to come out.” The tops of her knees peek out from underneath Finnick’s shirt; they are knobby and pale, bruised yellow around the edges and a sickly purple from knocking against each other too hard.
The walls are painted blue. Johanna thinks that was a terrible idea.
Annie’s hands are clamped tightly to her ears, legs curled into her chest and rocking onto her heels slowly. Finnick paces around the room, sweatpants low on his hips, hair sticking out on end. He looks just as crazy.
“I don’t know what to do, Jo,” he rambled, eyes bloodshot, hands shaking, reaching an open palm to the small of Annie’s back before he shifted and stared at Jo, blankly, other hand hovering in the air.
Annie is taller than Jo thought she’d be. Thinner, too.
Johanna says, “Oh, fuck.”
The hours turn into days, in Seven by herself. Blight lives across the street. Surprise, surprise, there was no welcoming committee. Her house is decorated in golds and creams, accents of blue and green. She didn’t pick out any of it.
Haymitch calls sometimes; Finn calls even less.
In the living room, there’s a dark cherry bookcase, four long, even shelves that tower over her and most of the other furniture. Her father’s books are lined up, organized into genres, further ordered alphabetically by author’s last name. When she’s bored, she runs her finger along all of their spines, picking up dust as she travels from one side to the other. She recognizes the names but breezes over them anyways. There are the Ancient ones, texts salvaged from the first war, the Greatest War, the bindings cracked and printed on yellow paper.
She reads about gods, about lightning bolts and peacocks, the book creaking when she opens it, pictures painted in faded colors, gilded with gold that’s not as bright as it used to be.
If Panem had gods, Finnick would be one of them. She doesn’t think as highly of herself.
Her bed is smaller than his, the walls painted a deep purple that she hates. The apartment is mostly glass, and while some may find it beautiful, Johanna has always preferred solid ground. She likes her views eye-level, her houses built low and sturdy to the ground.
The bed is smaller and they are not used to it, Johanna’s head ramming against the wall, the dull throb of pain, Finnick’s legs dangling off the end of the bed, toes almost touching the floor.
Finnick’s tongue curls against her, wet, wanting, and Johanna bites down on nothing, her fingers threaded into his hair, falling slack with pleasure. When she comes, it is always just noise that escapes from her mouth, never names, never Finnick or Finn. She couldn’t bear to give him the satisfaction.
This is the Capitol, and this is incredibly stupid of them.
Clove has knives in her jacket, lined up by size, her face locked in a maniacal grin whenever she runs a thumb over the edge gently. The cameras watch her carve a map into the chest of Johanna’s tribute, the heavy flow of blood rivers running down the sides and staining the ground. Clove’s eyes flutter open and shut as she slices the girl’s throat open, her breathing increases. Somewhere off camera, Cato’s pupils dilate and his stance widens.
Finn puts the bottle in her hand before she can say anything. He lost his boy tribute five minutes after the countdown, neck snapped by the hulking black kid from Eleven. Finn muttered, at least it was painless, and there was a soft hiss as Johanna opened a bottle.
She is spread out on his couch, legs ramming up against the end, toes burrowing into that lost place in between the cushions. Finnick’s hand rests slightly above her knee. Her neck arches back and she sees blood dripping down the inside of her eyelids, thick.
Jo recognizes herself in Clove more than anyone else – the axe and the shine of its blade, the beauty in the wood-polished handle. A shiver runs down her spine. Finn is kind enough to ignore it.
During her Games, the axe never left her side and she killed easily, too easily, smirking at the cameras mid-stroke, laughing at the last gurgle of bloody breath. In her Games, Johanna had been small and everyone thought her weak, thought her spineless, and with every kill she saw the weak spots faster, the exact spot the blade would sever away at the flesh, the warm, wet insides of her victims pouring all over her. She had never stopped to wonder what her mother would think, what her father would say. It was a luxury she gave up for the price of living.
“Jo,” Finn breathes out, arms resting on his knees, eyes torn away from the TV.
“I’m fine,” she snaps, white liquor buzzing through her veins. She wonders if he sees what she sees.
She was the villain in someone else’s story once, too.
When Johanna finds out about the Quarter Quell, she is alone, finger swirling around in her glass of whiskey.
“Well,” she says to no one, Snow leering at her from the TV screen, “I guess that’s that.”
She’s licking the last drop off her finger when the phone rings.
“Jo,” Finn says, “We have a plan.”
She can see him in Four, sitting on a beach, leaning back onto his elbows, his mouth set in a grim line while Annie listens to the sound of the sea in shells. She imagines a sunset, bleeding red and beautiful into the water. A branch scrapes against her window and Johanna glances at it warily.
“Dibs on that cunt Enobaria,” she says, too casually, her teeth grinding against each other.
“That’s not what I meant,” he corrects. Jo leaned back onto the back two legs of her chair and waited.
“We’ll talk later,” and then the line went dead, two legs still in the air and an empty glass.
Finnick is not doing any of those things. He is on a secure line, in a building with no windows, his shoes tapping an inconsistent rhythm against the grey concrete floor. Annie is at home, sleeping. Even Johanna suffers from idealism sometimes.
On the phone, Finnick told Haymitch, “Johanna doesn’t need me.”
He had meant to say, “Johanna doesn’t need my protection,” but they mean the same, in the grand scheme of things.
He knew it was a lie the second he said it.
Haymitch, sober and serious, said, “If you believe that, then you are as dumb as you look, fuckface.”
This is District Four, days before the Quell.
His hair is not thinning, not yet, they are still too young for that, they are still younger than they seem - they will always be younger than they seem - but there is an ache in the way he moves sometimes, a tilt in his walk where he used to stand painfully straight.
Johanna says, mocking, her mouth quirked and pink, “Keep up, old man,” as she steps out of her pants. The sun is shining outside but Johanna still thinks of death, of bodies decaying, of someone reaching inside of her skin with sharp, painted nails and tearing out her vital organs. She shuts the blinds.
Finnick, tired, looks at her and shakes his head.
“Not today, Jo,” he says, firm, the set of his mouth stiff, and if she is surprised, if she is hurt, she doesn’t let it show in that moment. Johanna has realized lately, rather inconveniently, how twisted her heart is with Finnick Odair’s.
(Haymitch had cackled when he called two days before, saying, “I don’t think I have to remind you about the kind of revelations death can bring.”
Johanna was expecting revelations, but she was expecting them in an arena while her small intestines spilled over her and onto the ground, her hands sticky with her own blood. She was expecting them when she was already weak, spent, expired at the murderous hands of another. She was not prepared for them while she was still living.
Before he hung up, Haymitch wheezed, “Good luck, kid.”)
It makes sense, really. They met when they were young and vicious, when they were Victors, hormones coloring their decisions with lust, that terrible need to reach out, to touch and be touched. Johanna has never said the words out loud, but Finnick knows he was her first. He’s never sure it was better or worse that way.
They were friends before they fucked, and she thinks that was her biggest mistake, that she was able to look at him in her bed, his hair mussed, eyes lazy with sleep and think Finn with any sort of familiarity. Johanna has never forgotten that they don’t truly belong to each other, has never even entertained the thought, but Finnick throws an arm around her on the couch, their minds hazy with alcohol, and she hates him for it, mostly.
Johanna’s grip tightens around the discarded pants, her nipples still small, pointed peaks through the thin cotton of her tank top and when she says, “Annie doesn’t understand which way is up, Finnick, let alone that I suck you off on a regular basis,” on her way out, well, she is allowed that, at the very least.
A part of Johanna will never forgive him for running off with Katniss like that, leaving her with Nuts and fucking Volts, carrying the crazy ones around. She killed two people at the Cornucopia, suffocated one under the water and crunched another one’s skull, the sound sickening. Nuts and Volts grabbed wire but then stared at her, wide-eyed, and one said, “The forest provides the highest probability of food, shelter, and protection.”
“No shit,” she yelled at them, a knife tucked into her belt and pressing against her navel, hacking away plants when they reached the edges.
He washed the blood off her in the water, after she thrashed against him and his hands gripped at her waist, his grasp weak and slippery because of all that blood. She said, “Fuck you, Finn,” the words garbled through a mouthful of salty water and he said, “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry, forgive me,” softly into the pink whorl of her ear, his fingers brushing away the water and blood underneath her eyes.
Jo, on dry land, says, “I guess this means I win,” so quietly the sand almost absorbs it all, and feels sick to her stomach, hears the fragments of bone grinding against each other and giving way, the last, desperate gurgling noise for air.
Finnick was the one who taught her how to swim, in a Capitol pool late at night.
She stood at the edge of the water, peering in, seeing the bottom, and then he pushed her. The bottom was blue and green and orange, swirls of color in all that water. The lights shined at the bottom of the pool and she had kept her eyes open in the panic.
That’s what she remembers when she’s spread out against the cold metal table of the Capitol’s torture chambers, her face dunked into an ice-cold tub of water, lungs expanding.
Finn said, “You need to know what it feels like to drown before you learn how to swim,” and then lifted her out of the pool, soaked to the bone, shaking, coughing.
“Sadist,” she yelled at him when she finally got her breath back, heaving on the slippery black and white tiles framing the pool.
“Fucking jackass,” she said again for good measure, arms propping her up but barely, a catch in her voice from too much effort.
The executioner flips the switch. The surge of electricity races through her veins, tingling, cooking her insides. She wishes they would just hurry up and kill her already.
Johanna feels crispy, fried and doesn’t say anything. Her head hangs limply, her pulse beating weakly. Someone frowns at her, and Johanna keeps breathing.
She hasn’t seen Peeta in a few days.
Next door, Annie is singing to herself.
It is a blur, the rescue mission. Johanna only knows that she was still wet, that the wires were sparking, and then there was the sound of gunfire and her knees gave in.
She remembers a man, heavily armored, his arms wrapped around her back and underneath her knees, she remembers height, that he was tall, and then her head swiveling, rapidly, voice hoarse as she screamed, “Annie, don’t forget Annie.”
Peeta yelled then, too, something unintelligible, something horrible, a noise that Johanna was too used to.
The man in armor nodded towards a different door, and Johanna saw Finnick, face buried in Annie’s hair, tears streaming down his face.
She remembers enough, is the point.
What she doesn’t remember, after her mind gave out, after they were on their way back to Thirteen is this:
Annie’s bed was next to Johanna’s, and it was done for a reason.
Johanna doesn’t go to the wedding. She steals Katniss’ morphling instead, rides the high through too-bright colors and a memory of Finnick’s mouth kissing his way messily down her navel, a tweak of his fingers as he whispered, Jesus Christ Jo into her inner thigh.
Finnick says, “Jo,” scolding, his shoulders set back. The pockets of his pants are too small for his hands, barely holding his fingers, a stray thumb hooked around his belt loop.
“I didn’t have anything to wear,” Johanna responds, the words tripping out of one corner of her mouth as she turns her back to him, lips crooked up mischievously and her mouth sucking at the straw.
He looks good, handsome, happy.
“I’m surprised you’d leave your batshit bride alone for even a minute,” she says, eyes pressing together tightly. Something in her body cracks back into place as she adjusts in the bed. A bone in her knee, maybe. Finn wraps his hand around her ankles and her eyes wrench open. She jerks away and he sighs.
“Shouldn’t you be living out your happily ever after? Have you put your precious Humpty Dumpty back together yet?”
Finn recoils as if he’s been hit.
Johanna wishes she had.
“Fuck, Jo,” he sputters, “well, fuck you, too.”
Finnick sits next to her on an uncomfortable chair, limbs stuffed into the plastic barriers, hand threaded into hers.
She stares at the ceiling. All that white could drive a person crazy, she thinks, fiddling with the wires dipping underneath her skin.
Finnick says, “Jo, you know that I-”
She rips her hand from his.
“Don’t you dare,” she growls. There is anger, so much anger and she thinks it might swallow her whole. There’s love, too, but that hasn’t gotten her half as far. Finn is leaving and she failed her test, anyways. The monitor beeps evenly next to her.
He sighs then, his face hidden by the sheets of her bed. She runs her fingers through Finn’s hair. When he comes up for air, she ignores his tears.
“I am so, so sorry,” he whispers into her collarbone, fingers spread wide on her ribcage. He can feel all of them through her skin, locking her heart away in its cage of bone. Johanna still arches into his touch after all this time, a habit, she has a sneaking suspicion, that might be impossible to break. She clenches her jaw and tries to shift away but Finnick’s crying again and she can’t bring herself to move.
Johanna wonders how Finn cries so much when she’s the one that survived torture. Sometimes she still feels freshly electrocuted, hair standing on end and nerves fried. Sometimes everything still hurts.
She opens her mouth to say something, anything and she starts, she really does, she manages to whisper, Finn quietly, her fingers resting on the inside of his elbow gently, but he shakes his head.
“I know,” he says, jaw squared. Her heart leaps into her throat, her tongue too heavy in her mouth.
There’s a glass of water on the table, full, and he throws it in her face. While she is sputtering, gasping for air, flailing, Finnick laughs.
She says, “You better come back so I can kick your ass.” Her voice cracks only at the end, the back of her hand swiping at the water dripping down her face.
Finn smiles at her. Johanna tries to remember every line in his face.
“You got it, kid,” he jokes. They have never been kids.
He wipes the water off her face, and then he leaves.
Wait, she wants to say, a sense of panic building in the back of her mouth. There was so much she wanted to say, so much she needed to say but she was cold and wet and Finnick was gone. He left without her in his armor and she is only a somewhat sane girl with dark eyes and dark hair, dripping wet. She is not Annie.
That is the last time she sees him.
She had wanted to say, I love you.
He would’ve said, I know. He wouldn’t have said, I love you, too but he would’ve thought it into her, would’ve pressed it tightly to the crown of her forehead with a kiss and Johanna would have felt it, deep in her bones.
It wouldn’t have meant much. They both knew that, anyways.
“Finnick’s dead,” Peeta says.
He’s not back to normal yet, but he doesn’t react to her, for whatever reason. Johanna thinks that’s hilarious. In the torture chambers, in the few moments they had together, before they ruined him, he would say, “Remember, we’re doing this for Katniss,” with ragged, uneven breaths and Johanna thought, I’m doing this for so much more than Katniss, but for Peeta, there wasn’t anything else.
Johanna mulls over how he got stuck telling her. She’s surprised it wasn’t Katniss, honestly. Thinks about Annie and then tries not to.
“Ok,” she shrugs, one shoulder higher than the other. The morphling trickles into her blood and she gnaws at the inside of one cheek. The IV itches at her veins. She ignores it. Somewhere else in the wing, there’s a series of beeps. Too loud for good news, she muses.
Peeta stops at the doorway, one hand pressed against the frame, the set of his shoulders tense.
“You used to scream in your sleep. I know I remember that,” he says. “You always said his name. I know that’s real.”
Johanna’s voice is ice cold.
“Get the fuck out of here.”
Peeta has always been good at doing what he is told, and Johanna does not cry when he leaves.
(She does, however, wake up in the middle of the night, limbs twisted into her single, scratchy sheet, her grief physically trapped by it, tears streaming down her face. A wire tears out of her skin and something goes off. A doctor appears within minutes and Johanna yells, get away from me. He doesn’t. She punches him in the face and hears something crack viciously along her knuckles.
The next morning, a psychiatrist stares at her, a sheaf of papers in her hands and Johanna doesn’t say a word.
“I can do this all day,” Jo claims.
The doctor sighs, her mouth slanted downwards, and scribbles something into her notebook. )
The sun is high in the sky the day she leaves the Capitol. She tells herself, time to go home. She takes a wrong turn and ends up in Two. They need people like her, apparently. Rome wasn’t rebuilt in a day. Johanna never paid attention in school and then she was a Victor – she doesn’t remember what Rome is.
Gale Hawthorne does a double take, her hair still shaved short like a soldier and frail bones poking through tightly drawn skin.
He says, “You look like shit.”
The laugh rattles around in her lungs.
She says, “Thanks, Casanova,” and then invites herself into his apartment, ducking underneath his arm. Gale looks handsome, if skinny.
“Really, please come on in,” Gale mutters sarcastically. Johanna pours them each a glass of scotch, the bottle tinkling loudly against the rim of the glasses.
“A toast,” she declares, lips already spread on the glass, tilting it just enough to get a drink. His couch is brown and lumpy. Johanna sits down and then stands back up, restless.
Gale’s brow knits, the muscles in his arm tense as he raises it towards her. She angles herself towards him, head leaning right and innocently looking up at him.
Johanna smiles terribly, eyes glinting, knuckles white around the glass.
“To…,” her voice drops, teasing the words out of her own mouth, “Primrose Everdeen.”
Gale’s face drops; the glass does a second later. She almost wants to laugh. His shoes crunch on the shards while he stormed out. Her clothes feel too tight.
She never apologizes for this. More importantly, Gale never asks her to.
Three nights later and he says, “Johanna, what are you doing here?” like he doesn’t already know. She twists around on the couch cushion until her back gives a satisfying cascade of cracks; Gale flinches, slightly.
“Two’s as good a place as any,” she snaps, “I could ask you the same thing, you know.”
Gale shoots her a sideways gaze, fingers drumming on his table absentmindedly.
She says, “What’re you going to do, Gale? Kick me out?” her mouth perfectly round, eyes open. It’s a truly unsettling mask of innocence; Gale looks at her and sees anything except that.
His apartment has an extra bedroom, the bare bones of a room really, just white walls and a single bed and one dresser. He tells her as much.
“Thanks, kiddo,” she snorts into her bottle of beer, her legs tucked tightly underneath herself. The TV rumbles in the background, some special about a well-known candy maker in the Capitol, and Johanna rolls her head around slowly on top of her spine, scratches at her arm.
On a dry night in the fall, Gale palms Johanna’s hip slowly, the pads of his fingers pressed against the jut of her bone, smudges kisses along her jaw and finally makes his way to her mouth, her bottom lip caught between his teeth.
Johanna kept her scars this time, white raised marks marring her skin, and Gale’s fingers find them, tracing the outlines with more care than she thought he had.
One of them makes a desperate kind of noise, a whimper even, but it’s swallowed up moments later and then she says, “Let’s get to the point then, Hawthorne,” and takes off her pants, fingers slipping underneath the waistband of her underwear as she walks towards his bedroom.
He kissed her first and it was gentler than she expected.
He kissed her first because for weeks, she stalked around the apartment with an impressive amount of attitude, even for her, usually drunk, usually cursing, wishing for morphling, and most nights he slept out, anyways, with some pretty little thing from the night before.
Gale woke up that morning alone, the imprint of her small body on the left side, the actual Johanna at the foot of his bed with an eyebrow raised and she said, “Get the fuck up, I’m making breakfast,” before tossing him a shirt.
He said, “I didn’t realize burnt toast counted as sustenance.”
She said, “Well, in that case,” and stole the piece out of his hands, crunching viciously on a blackened corner.
They were sober, when he kissed her for the first time. They were growing up, or dealing with survivor’s guilt, and they never talked about Finnick or Katniss.
The sex was great, obviously.
“Finnick ruined you,” Gale yells at her, his eyes crazed, gesturing across the room towards her wildly.
The apartment looks like a war zone. There is the remnants of a chair splintered all over the kitchen, shattered dishes all along the floor.
This is their first fight. It will also be their biggest. Neither of them can remember how it started, but the ending, the quick dart of Finnick’s name aimed towards her, is something Johanna will never forget.
Johanna stills, and there is something trapped in her chest and it feels like rage but maybe it’s disappointment, maybe it’s too complicated for one emotion or maybe she was wrong and it is just rage, rage and fury and anger, pure and simple.
“Katniss did a really great job on you,” she sneers, turning on her heel and out the door before he can get another word in, before she leaps across the room and strangles him with her bare hands.
In the morning, she comes back, and the house is clean. Gale is sitting on the couch, legs propped up on the coffee table, and when he sees her, he pops up. He has the decency to look guilty.
“I’m sorry,” he says, and she accepts it because all of a sudden she is too tired to fight for Finnick anymore.
They get married in Two. She wears a grey dress and no one comes to the wedding. Peeta sends a card and money; it's signed good luck, our love but only his name is underneath.
They move back to Seven. Gale feels at home among the forests. Her talent was whittling, on her victory tour, and she whittles a new home for them. Chairs, a bed, a kitchen table.
The knife moves surely against the wood – pine, this time – and Johanna presses her nose to the block and inhales deeply. There are almost always shavings on the floor.
Gale finds a job in the Architecture department. It’d be shame if there was all that wood and nothing to build with it.
Johanna sits in her pine chairs and reads stories of Gods and sometimes she shows up on TV. Her mouth is always in a grim line, palms flat on the desk, and she says, “Remember what happened to me.” Peeta is usually next to her, eyes pained, when he reiterates, “Remember the Tributes. Remember the lost.”
Twelve was never really an option, anyways.
Their daughter is named Athena.
Johanna’s always been small, and when she got pregnant the doctor said, “Delivery will be difficult for you,” and Jo scoffed, thought everything’s been difficult for me, asshole but this is something she doesn't understand.
It took twenty-two hours for Athena to rip her way through Johanna’s small, frail body – twenty-two hours of screaming and cursing and Johanna’s lived through a lot, more than most, but she will not go through that again, that feeling that something else is controlling her insides. Even when Athena was tucked safely in her arms, Jo couldn’t forget the four hours she spent pushing against her own body. Gale held her as he whispered encouragements, while she was fighting against the waves of exhaustion and complete and total pain. The midwife said, “Great pushing, Jo, I can see the top of the head,” and Johanna’s body was swollen, voice hoarse as she screamed her way through each push, naked and sweaty and worst of all, terrified, and she thought never, ever again.
Athena has her father’s eyes, Katniss’ eyes (that she is sorry for, sometimes she looks at Gale and tries to love him more, she only ever calls Katniss when he is gone), dark grey and smoldering. Everything else, she gets from Johanna.
Annie and Teddy visit, once.
Johanna can’t bring herself to go back to Four. Finn is a hero there, of course. There’s a stamp of his face that thousands lick quickly and slap onto their mail. There’s a stamp of her too, in Seven, but she tries not to think about that.
Teddy is a tall, lean thing. He is all Finnick, at least in appearance, the square jaw and broad chest, long fingers and a smile to tear your heart out. His eyes are sea green and his hair is bronze and Annie, wonderful Annie, slips her hand into Johanna’s and whispers, “Sometimes he just breaks my heart,” as if she knew what Johanna was thinking.
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” Teddy tells her, and Johanna’s chest aches.
Annie nudges Johanna’s shoulder gently, says, “I’ve always referred to you as Aunt Jo.”
“I can assure you,” Johanna manages, her mouth sore from smiling, her hand dwarfed in his, “that everything she’s told you is true.”
Gale interrupts, pats Teddy heavy on the shoulder and over compensates for Johanna’s stiff hand, the unexpected catch in her throat.
Athena is fifteen and more beautiful than Johanna. She is slim, but sharp in all the same places as Jo, in the edge of her cheekbones, the fire of her spirit. Annie plants kisses on her face, fusses with her hair. Athena smiles politely.
Finnick’s eyes light up in Teddy’s face and one side of Athena’s mouth quirks up, careful but coy.
Teddy says, “It’s nice to finally meet you,” and Athena laughs, the sound echoing around the room, a blush of pink creeping into the highest points of her cheeks.
Athena’s mouth blooms into a smile and she says, “The pleasure is all yours, I’m sure.”
Johanna turns away.
People say that history has been known to repeat itself.