When Katniss got back to her apartment there was a familiar looking redhead outside smoking a cigarette, gazing out into the street. They caught eyes and the girl managed a smile and turned to face her. Katniss approached her warily. The girl recognized her uneasiness and held up her hands in a gesture of surrender. "I come in peace. Jo asked me to bring over some of my playlist ideas for the wedding. My brother is your DJ."
"Oh." Katniss fiddled with her keys in her hand. "Jo isn't here."
Emerson tossed her cigarette on the sidewalk and stubbed it out with her foot. She eyed Katniss up and down, narrowing a set of green eyes at her. "You don't look so great. Is something wrong?" She laughed a little, awkwardly. "To be honest, seeing you without Jo is strange, so I know something's up."
Katniss really didn't want to confide in one of Johanna's many ex-lovers, especially since Emerson had been particularly rude to her. But she was emotionally exhausted and unable to censor herself. "It's fine. We went to Beaufort Park to see if we could hold the wedding there. Ran into someone from Jo's past I've never heard of."
Emerson smirked. "Kathryn?"
Katniss blinked a few times. "How - how did you know that?
Emerson cackled and ran her fingers through her long, red hair. "Because that's the only person in Jo's past that means anything."
Katniss opened the door to their building and ushered Emerson inside. They walked up the two flights of stairs to the apartment and Katniss let her in, tossing her keys on the kitchen table. Emerson placed her laptop bag on the counter and sat on one of the bar stools. "She didn't tell me what happened. Only that they dated."
The redhead nodded knowingly. "To be frank, I'm surprised she never told you."
"I'm more surprised she told you."
Emerson chuckled and nodded. "That's because a few times when we got drunk Johanna told me bits and pieces of the story." She hesitated for a moment. "If she didn't tell you it was probably for good reason. I'm not even sure she remembers telling me. We never mentioned it again."
Katniss sighed and rubbed her temples with her fingers. After talking with Madge, it seemed unimportant to know all the details. It wasn't about Kathryn, it was about Johanna's reaction to her. But she needed to know. In spite of that, she didn't want to ruin one of Jo's friendships, even if it was with this girl she never liked. "If you don't want to tell me, I understand."
Emerson shrugged. "It's not like she told me in confidence, I guess. Just inebriated. Have a seat." Katniss sat across from her, swinging her legs on the bar stool. "When Jo was a freshman in high school, Kathryn was the long-term sub for her science class."
"Physics," Katniss interrupted.
"Right, Physics. Jo was like, immediately infatuated with this woman. Idolized her. Doing extra credit, staying after class, going to this chick's apartment to help with projects and grading papers. And you know Jo, if she wants something, she goes for it. Evidently, so does Kathryn. I mean, one day they're doing equations, the next day, they're fucking. As far as I can remember, it took less than two months."
Katniss nearly swallowed her tongue. Her stomach knotted and dropped, stinging with pain. "She - she what?"
"Exactly like it sounds, Katniss. Their relationship became very physical, very intense, very fast. This chick's like 21, 22? Johanna was 14. She was sure that Kathryn was the woman she was going to be with forever, or least that's how she tells it. She'd sneak away and see her for long weekends, they'd hang out over the summers. Jo lied to her mother and said Kathryn was a student this way she could even hang around the house. Got to know the family, went on vacation with them once, too." Emerson sighed and rubbed at an invisible spot on her jeans. "I genuinely think they were in love. They dated for three years."
Katniss braced herself with one hand on the counter. All of this history and Johanna never mentioned it. Not once. "I don't understand why she wouldn't tell me this." Katniss knew she possessed quite a jealous streak, but so did Johanna. It never overflowed into anger or resentment, only into little pockets of possessiveness and some impulsive passionate embraces.
Emerson looked at her sympathetically. "It ended badly. Jo's senior year Kathryn cheated on her. And I mean like, full-on dramatic, soap opera cheating. Jo walked in on them having sex. It destroyed her." Katniss's heart ached for her Johanna. Poor, teenaged Johanna with her heart open getting crushed. "So you gotta understand, that messed her up. She put all her trust into that woman and had her heart ripped out. Granted she should be over it by now, but everyone's different. Some people never get over that first big heartbreak. Because we're never really the same after that, are we?"
Johanna was her first love, Katniss realized. If the same thing were to happen to them - and she nearly threw up at the thought - she would be damaged too. "She totally shut down when we saw her. It was eerie."
"Yeah no shit," Emerson mused, nodding her head. "I don't think Jo's seen her since that day. Walked out of that apartment and never looked back. A lot of who Jo is now, Kathryn made. Including, of course, the girl who swore she'd never commit to anyone ever again." Emerson met Katniss's eyes. "Until you came along." Katniss took in this information in silence, staring down at the tile of their kitchen floor. "And let's be real, this girl took advantage of Johanna something fierce. That whole relationship was statutory. Not that it wasn't consensual, but Jo was too young to know better. This woman took her virginity, took her heart, and then fucking tossed her out. So then, you know the rest. Jo explores her sexuality with anyone willing to lay down and is emotionally unavailable to nearly anyone who tries to reach her."
Katniss hadn't thought of that. This woman was not just some ex, she was Johanna's only ex. And her only ex was a woman who took advantage of a young girl who adored her. "That's why she doesn't talk about it. Because it makes her look weak."
Emerson nodded. "Among other things. But yeah, the whole Kathryn debacle brings up a part of Jo she doesn't like people to know about. The part of her that's still some idealistic 14 year old with her heart on her sleeve." Katniss met Emerson's bright eyes, fuzzy now since her own were welled with tears.
"But she told me none of this."
"Because she doesn't want your pity, Katniss. You know her well enough by now to understand she hates pity. Jo's only allowed two people into her heart. Kathryn, and you. And you're telling me she saw the woman who emotionally raped her while she's planning the wedding to the woman, who despite all her efforts to the contrary, she fell hopelessly in love with?"
Katniss frowned. "I made it worse by demanding she tell me everything, instead of just being there for her and letting her tell me on her own."
"Ding ding ding." Katniss shot Emerson a look and the redhead smirked. "Look, I wouldn't worry about it. Johanna's fucking crazy about you. You have no idea." Katniss quirked an eyebrow. "You guys got any good liquor? If I know Jo she's probably got some awful Canadian beer in here. Her family loves that crap."
"Ugh, I know," Katniss lamented, sliding off the stool. They did, in fact, have a six pack of some terrible stout with a French name in the fridge, but Katniss preferred something lighter. She withdrew some hard cider from the cabinet and poured each of them a glass. Never in her life did she expect to get helpful advice from Johanna's formerly nasty roommate. "Thank you," Katniss said finally after a few sips of the cider. "For talking to me. And telling me Jo's story, though I'm positive she's going to chop your head off for it."
Emerson shrugged her bony shoulders, sipping the cider. "She can try. If she wants a DJ on the cheap who will bend to her every musical whim, of which she has many, she'll keep her axes in the closet."
Katniss nodded, holding the glass of the amber liquid between her hands. The pair drank together for over an hour, chatting idly about what they'd been up to for the past few years. Without seeing each other as threats, Katniss realized that they had a great deal in common. Similar childhoods - they both lost fathers young and had to grow up fast for their younger siblings. Katniss wondered why Johanna never took to her - Emerson was smart, witty, and definitely not unattractive. Katniss was glad Johanna didn't reciprocate, though. Even though Emerson and Johanna's relationship was basically just a friends-with-benefits deal, Katniss knew the redhead harbored some feelings that were not returned.
The door behind them opened and closed and Katniss whipped her head around to see Johanna. Her big brown eyes were wide as she looked between the two women. Finally, they narrowed in suspicion. Her shoulders sagged. "You told her."
Emerson placed her cup on the counter and slid off the stool, hauling her laptop bag over her shoulder. "Yes. Which you should've done already, doofus." Johanna flared her nostrils but didn't respond. "I'll e-mail you the playlists we put together. Now's not a great time. You have some explaining to do."
"Great. Goodbye, Emerson," Johanna replied flatly.
"Later Jo. Bye, Katniss. It was nice seeing you. Hopefully I'll see you again before the wedding," she called, patting Jo on the back as she left. She closed the door behind her and Katniss gulped the remaining few sips of her drink.
"Hi," she said shyly, looking down at her wringing hands.
"Hey," Johanna replied, raising an eyebrow. Johanna's lips pursed as she chewed on the inside of her cheek nervously. Her eyes closed and it looked to Katniss like she was hardening her resolve. When her eyes flew open, they were more determined. "I owe you an explanation."
"And I owe you an apology."
"Yes, you do," Johanna stated, sitting on the stool Emerson had just sat on. She took Katniss's hands in her own and let out a deep, full-body sigh. "I'm sorry I walked away from you. I know that's not how we do things. I haven't seen Kathryn in ages. I never expected, or wanted, to see her again."
Katniss nodded. Johanna seemed to look much younger in that moment, not at all like the sultry older coed who had unknowingly seduced her. She looked more like the 14-year-old Johanna she had just learned of. "Okay."
"Assuming Emerson told you everything I told her, you know what happened. I let someone in and she broke my heart." Katniss's own heart ached painfully at Johanna's admission. "She was the only person who understood me. She didn't think I was weird or different like my parents and brothers did. Still do, I guess. Whatever."
"She took advantage of you."
Johanna rolled her eyes. "I was 14 but I wasn't stupid, Katniss. I knew what we were doing was illegal, but I was in love with her. As much in love as I could be." Johanna paused thoughtfully and brought her eyes to Katniss's. "I'm sorry I kept this from you. I shouldn't have. Not just because we're honest with each other, but because it gives me an opportunity to tell you how much I love you." Katniss twisted her face in confusion and Johanna smiled with affection, running her fingers through Katniss's hair. "Because yeah, a lot of who I am, Kathryn influenced. She piqued my interest in physics, in traveling, in tattoos. But she broke my heart and made me not want to trust anyone ever again."
Katniss nodded, brushing over Johanna's knuckles with her thumbs. "She was very important to you."
"She was. And I thought she always would be, until I met you. You have outshone her in ways I never knew were possible. In every way she may have loved me, you love me more." Johanna tightened her hands around Katniss's. "You, Katniss." Johanna smiled. "You're my touchstone. And that... that is frightening to me. That's why I stormed off. Not because of Kathryn, she can get sucked into a cement mixer and made into a sidewalk for all I care."
"Wow, okay, that's intense and specific." But I don't disagree, Katniss mused internally.
Johanna sighed. "I just never imagined myself getting married, not after leaving 'Ryn. I'm a nomad, you know? Emotionally and, um, geographically. This is the longest I've been in one place since college. I guess seeing her just shook up these feelings I've had, that it's scary to settle down because I could get hurt again. When you're a moving target, no one can hit you."
Katniss withdrew her hand from Johanna's to dab at her tears. "If you were having doubts about getting married, you could have told me."
Johanna shook her head. "I wasn't having doubts. I can't imagine life with anyone else. Seeing her made me realize I had felt like this once and it turned out so shitty. But this time it's different. It's scary because... because I know this is it. You're the only person I want to get married to. If this doesn't work out, I'm done, you know?" Katniss opened her mouth and Johanna placed her hand on her cheek. "You're my Haley's Comet. Once in a lifetime."
Katniss grinned widely. "I don't want you to feel like I wanna own you. I mean, I do, but I don't want to own you, own you." The brunette placed her hand over Johanna's on her cheek. "You're still you. You get to own everything Johanna Mason was and is. Just because we're married doesn't mean we're not gonna go on crazy adventures or that we're not gonna quit our jobs one day and live in a villa in Thailand. It just means that we're sharing it."
Johanna brightened. "I know! That's what I realized, especially after getting a talking to from Cress. She can be really scary when she's angry. And also very right and kind of irritating when she's right." Katniss smiled. Cressida interfering on her behalf has had a very good track record. She seriously considered naming their first kid after her. "I gave you shit about not trusting me, but clearly I didn't trust you with my past. I won't make that mistake again."
"And I won't force you to."
Johanna smiled shyly. "We're good at this thing. This relationship thing. We fucking kick ass at it, babe."
Katniss smirked as Johanna wiped the tears from her eyes and cupped her face. "Softie," Katniss replied, laughing and crying in one breath. She leaned into Johanna's hands, kissing the inside of her palm.
"Shut up," Johanna sassed, leaning in to kiss Katniss lightly on the lips. Katniss pulled away and narrowed her gray eyes at her soon-to-be-wife. "What?"
"You smell like smoke," she accused. Though it made her nostalgic for the beginning of their courtship, Katniss was surprised. And disappointed. Johanna's eyes fell to the floor. "You smoked?"
"I got stressed!" Johanna looked just about everywhere in the room except Katniss's face. "I only had one." Katniss took Johanna firmly by the chin and forced her to make eye contact. "Just one." She pouted. "And it made me sick," she confessed begrudgingly.
Katniss huffed out a few short laughs and shook her head. "Oh, baby, come here." Katniss drew Johanna into her arms and nestled into Johanna's thick black hair. "I love you, you big idiot."
"I love you too, brainless."
Johanna scowled in the back of the rows of seats that were neatly lined up for the upcoming nuptials, Converse-clad feet planted firmly on the tile floor. Effie had asked them to come dressed somewhat like what they'd be wearing for the wedding, so Johanna put on a tailored suit and Katniss wore a white sundress. They both stood in the back of the rented hall as Effie pushed and prodded their wedding party. Katniss nudged her gently. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know why we have to practice," she spat out, crossing her arms over her chest. "It's getting married. Idiots do this drunk in Vegas all the time."
"It's not practice," Katniss reminded, "it's rehearsal. And it's not just for you. It's for everyone." They had a lot of practicing to do, since they weren't having a traditional wedding in any sense. Johanna didn't want a long processional, just a short walk for all the bridesmaids and bride..servants? Katniss didn't know what to call Johanna's brothers, or Gale. They weren't groomsmen, for sure. They preferred the term bridesmaids, and Johanna referred to them as such. In any case, they needed practice because, like Johanna, their attention spans were short and they liked to fool around.
So they practiced walking up the aisle; Madge taking Katniss' bouquet and Cressida pretending to fumble with the rings. Johanna had a point, though, they were doing the same routine ad nauseam. Effie was fluttering around, adjusting seats and telling everyone where to stand to create the perfect photos. Even Primrose, the pinnacle of patience, was beginning to tire of Effie's perfectionism. Katniss grinned at Prim when she caught her yawning. Effie was running everyone ragged.
Katniss, Johanna, and Johanna's father all waited in the back until Effie got Johanna's brothers to stand in height order and at "just the perfect angle." She flittered down the aisle toward the girls. "Now, we've made sure the aisle is wide enough for all three of you to walk down together. Johanna on the right arm, Katniss on the left arm." They each linked arms with Johanna's proud father. "Remember, chins up, smiles on!"
She weaved in and out of the rows to make sure that anyone, who sat anywhere, had a perfect view of the ceremony. Effie was high-maintenance, but no one could say she was bad at her job. "Isn't this exciting?" Charles pitched in a high tone, squeezing each of their arms. "Both my girls getting married. My baby and my Mockingjay. It's like only yesterday I was changing your diaper. Well, not Katniss's diaper, though I would have had I been there. I bet you were an adorable baby."
"I know, Dad," Johanna responded with a roll of her eyes. But despite her protestation, she was smiling. Katniss was happy to see their relationship improve; Johanna's parents were overbearing, yes, but also very loving. Besides, it was Michelle that gave Johanna a hard time, and even on that end she had let up considerably. Katniss liked to think it was her mediating influence. She softened Johanna's rough edges, at least a bit.
They reached the makeshift altar and Charles grinned. "I love you both very much. And I couldn't be putting either of you into better hands." He kissed each of them on the top of their hands and took their hands and hooked them together. Katniss smiled as she watched him wipe a tear from his eye and take his seat next to his wife.
They went through the procedure a few more times before Johanna's loud sighs of impatience finally wore on Effie, and they were allowed to excuse themselves to dinner. Katniss stood near the dessert table afterward, munching on a cheese danish by herself. Johanna was having an arm-wrestling match with her youngest brother, and the rest of the wedding party were chatting amongst themselves.
Charles came up beside her and pinched her in the side, nabbing her pastry with a grin. "Nervous?" he inquired, mouth full of the flaky dough.
"A little," Katniss admitted, snatching the pastry back from the man.
Charles shrugged his shoulders. "You shouldn't be. The getting married isn't the hard part. It's the staying married that seems to trip people up."
Katniss hummed in agreement. "Not for you and Michelle, though," she noted, nodding toward the woman who was talking with Katniss's own mother.
His lips spread wide, his smile identical to Johanna's. "We've tripped plenty of times, believe me. We disagreed on how many kids to have, how to raise them, even what kind of car we should drive. Painting the living room? Forget it. I have an easier time doing heart bypass graft surgery than picking out a paint color with Michelle." Katniss chuckled and swallowed the last bite of the pastry. "Bringing up Johanna almost caused a meltdown between us. Then there's three damn boys."
"Not exactly an encouraging speech, Dr. Mason."
"Charlie, please, and I know, it's not what I meant to say." He cleared his throat and his broad chest heaved in breath. "Marriage is a job. You have to work at it to make it stronger, to get better at it. Michelle and I disagree, but at the end of the day, we love each other and we support each other. We never disagreed in front of the kids. You've got to be a team. I know Jo is as stubborn as a mule. Which, if you haven't noticed, she gets from her mother." Charles grinned conspiratorially. "But you two are a great team."
"Thanks," Katniss replied, and Charles brought her into a tight hug. For a fleeting second, it was almost like being hugged by her own father. Katniss swallowed the lump in her throat and held on to him for a moment longer.
"No, thank you," Charles said, pulling back from Katniss. "Johanna drifted from us for a long time. Michelle and I were so caught up in raising the perfect kid that we pushed Jo away. But you've brought her back to us, and I am grateful for that. You've helped bring her back into the fold." He turned to face her, his brown eyes boring into hers. "I know she's taking your last name, and I want you to know I support that one hundred percent."
"Really?" Johanna's mother had called her incessantly to try and change her mind. "Michelle seems pretty upset."
"Michelle gets upset about everything at first," Charles dismissed. "Johanna's emotional impulsivity is also Michelle's fault," he teased. "But I think it's perfect. It'll be her own identity, which she's always been searching for. And you're both part of the family regardless. Christmas Monopoly games have gone much smoother since you've been around," he joked. Katniss hoped her naturally darker skin tone hid her blush. "I'm very proud to have you both in the family. And, pardon me if this is over-stepping my boundaries, but your father would be very proud of you. He and your mother raised a fine young woman."
"I think so too," Katniss agreed in a small voice. Charles wrapped his arm over her shoulder.
"And, like I think of you as another daughter, I want you to think of me as another dad. Not to replace yours, of course, but just another guy who can make terrible jokes and embarrass you publicly." He grinned widely and Katniss chuckled.
"I like that idea." Johanna strode up to them, rubbing her hands together. The sour look on her face, plus how gingerly she was holding her hands, made the outcome of her arm wrestling obvious. "I hope you didn't hurt yourself."
Johanna shrugged. "I gave Luke dead arm after he beat me." Charles made a sound of disapproval and Johanna looked up at him. "He started it."
He shared a look with Katniss and released his hold on her. "I better go check on his pride," he said. His brown eyes narrowed at Johanna. "And his arm."
Once he was out of earshot, Johanna wrapped her arms around Katniss's waist and leaned up for a kiss. "Can we ditch this?" Johanna whispered against her lips, her eyes wide and desperate.
"Our own rehearsal dinner?" Katniss replied with a raised eyebrow. "I doubt it."
"But I wanna go home," Johanna whined petulantly. Her pouty expression gave way to her extremely persuasive bedroom eyes. "I want to ravish you one last time before we get hitched."
"Oh yeah? No wild oats to sow?" Katniss teased, prodding Johanna in the ribs.
"Nah, I did that all during the bachelorette party." Katniss gaped at Johanna, who merely smirked in response. "You were the one who insisted we go!"
Cressida planned a huge joint bachelorette party for them, which began at a bowling alley, and ended in drunk 4am karaoke in a Japanese bar. Somewhere in between they had gone to a burlesque show and a strip club, and at the latter Johanna had gotten nearly naked after "taking over" for one of the girls working there. Katniss initially had been angry, but watching Johanna strip around the pole had actually been one of the hottest things she'd ever seen. "No regrets," Katniss replied with a wistful smile.
"No, as I remember you thoroughly enjoyed my little show," Johanna remarked with a sly grin. "So did a lot of other women, and men, as a matter of fact."
Katniss captured Johanna's lips in a kiss that was just a touch on the possessive side. "But none of them got to go home with you, did they?"
"Nope. Unfortunately for them, I sow my wild oats with one lady only." Johanna pecked her on the nose with a small kiss. "But seriously, we need to get out of here." Johanna moved to Katniss's side, looking out into their waning amount of guests. "If we can get out of here, I'll put on one last pre-marriage show for you." Katniss's head whipped to the side to see Johanna's salacious grin. "Music, stripping, but this time I'll go full monty. And, if you're lucky, a happy ending for you."
Katniss had never said goodbye so fast in her life.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Katniss stood inside the small tents she and Johanna had set up for them to change into their dresses in. She could see the sun peeking through the small slit in between the fabric doors and she smiled. The weather was holding up for their wedding, thankfully. Katniss thought Effie would've had a heart attack if it had rained. "Isn't it bad luck?"
She heard Johanna's impatient sigh from the other side of the fabric and her lips moved up into an endeared smile. She could practically picture Johanna's wide brown eyes rolling in her head. "Do you know why they say it's bad luck to see the bride before the wedding?"
Katniss rolled her eyes. "No, but you're going to tell me."
"Because they thought grooms would get cold feet, or not like what their bride looked like, and bail. Especially in arranged marriages. So they made up this bullshit about it being bad luck. It's as asinine as astrology," she scoffed.
Katniss smirked. Johanna hated astrology. It 'flew in the face of science' as she put it. She felt very strongly about the subject. "So you're not gonna Runaway Bride it?"
Johanna chuckled. "Where would I go, brainless?" Katniss steeled herself. She was wearing her mother's wedding dress and she felt good in it. It was a little bit of her mother, a little bit of her father, but wholly her own. Hopefully Johanna would think it looked good as well. With a deep breath she stepped out into the sunlight and her breath caught in her throat. Johanna was wearing a dress! They hadn't talked about their outfits ahead of time, but she was certain Johanna was going with a suit. Instead, she was wearing a beautiful off-white dress with no straps that hugged her slim figure and tapered just above her feet. "Holy shit," Johanna breathed softly.
Katniss looked up to see Johanna's eyes welling with tears. She could count on one hand the amount of times she had ever seen Johanna cry. Even when they watched moving films, Johanna rarely shed a tear. "Don't cry, you'll make me cry. And Madge'll kill me for ruining the make-up she so painstakingly applied."
"I'm not crying," Johanna denied hotly, pressing her fingers to her eyes. "You look incredible. Fuck."
"So do you," Katniss replied, stepping forward to take Johanna's hands in hers. "You're beautiful, Johanna."
"It's my grandmother's dress," Johanna explained with her eyes on the ground. "My mother refused to wear it for her wedding but Grammie really wanted me to wear it. And you know how she is."
"Relentless, like you?" Johanna bit her lip and nodded her head in agreement. She still looked somewhat insecure, which was not an emotion Johanna wore typically. "You're stunning, Jo, truly."
Johanna smirked. "You don't have to compliment me, brainless, I'm already going to marry you." Katniss chuckled softly and threw her arms around Johanna's neck and pressed her forehead against hers. "I don't know why you want to marry me, but I'm not going to ask and jinx it."
Katniss leaned down and kissed her gently on the lips. "Oh, so you don't believe in bad luck or astrology, but you believe in jinxes?"
Johanna laughed with mirth, circling her arms around Katniss's waist. "I believe in the capricious nature of the human condition."
"Your nerd," Johanna added.
"Mm," Katniss hummed against Johanna's lips. "And a hot one."
Katniss had to admit: Johanna and Effie knew how to plan a wedding. The sun was twinkling off the surface of the lake, the brilliant white tents ruffled gently in the wind, and the altar Johanna's father built was beautiful. It was a bright white podium with a mockingjay carved in relief on the front. Johanna's father gave them both away at the same time, giving them each a kiss on the crown of their heads and linked their hands before taking his seat. Even though they had practiced that exact move the night before, actually taking Johanna's hands from her father in front of the officiant was more moving than she imagined.
She gazed down into Johanna's big brown eyes. Her hair was down, as it always was, with a tiny white headband wrapped around her head and under her hair. Her own hair was down in a very loose braid, tapering at the center of her back. "You ready?" Johanna asked in a low whisper.
Katniss grinned. "Very."
Primrose, Gale, and Madge stood behind Katniss in succession. Madge and Prim's golden hair were pulled up into similar ponytails, their dresses a deep forest green. Gale's brown locks were slicked back, his bowtie and handkerchief matching the girls' verdigris dresses. Behind Johanna stood Cressida and Johanna's three brothers, looking like large, male Johannas in suits. But Katniss couldn't keep her eyes anywhere but on Johanna. The officiant's words were all a blur. Her eyes moved to the seats where she saw a mingling of both their families on both sides of the aisles. There was a tiny ache in her chest that her father was not there, but she felt him in the little arrows Johanna's father had whittled from wood and placed in her bouquet. She felt him in the mockingjays they had in gilded cages across the field, ready to be released once they had finished their vows.
For now it didn't quite matter that she had little family of her own to contribute. Families are not only born, families are also made. And between her own small portion, and the league of Masons that had descended upon them for the wedding, she had made quite a large family.
She could barely remember her vows. They each had written their own - at Johanna's insistence - but Katniss knew she would never have done their relationship justice. But she recited them from the small, worn square of paper she kept in her dress pocket, and even got Johanna to shed one tear from her beautiful, earnest brown eyes.
Johanna's vows she knew she'd never forget. The older girl didn't even have a piece of paper to read from. She just took Katniss's hands in her own and sucked in a deep breath. "Katniss. Back when Cress was first filming our wedding preparation, you asked me my story about how I felt when we first met. I will tell you now, because you promised to marry me and there's no turning back." The guests laughed softly and Katniss took one of her hands away to wipe her tears, then brought it back down to Johanna's trembling fingers. "It was this exact day, in what feels like a lifetime ago, that I watched you walk into the coffee shop. And I wanted you to be mine from that second forward. For a minute, for a year, forever. For however long I could manage to hold on to you. I basically begged Madge to bring you to the open mic night. I made sure Emerson had left for home early before Thanksgiving so we could be alone. I practically promised Gale my firstborn to get you to go to that frat party. While it seems like some kinda cosmic event that you and I met, I actually tried really hard to make our paths cross. Because even then, just like now, you were the first thing on my mind when I woke up, and the last thing I thought about before I went to sleep."
Katniss looked over her shoulder at Madge who grinned devilishly. Gale purposefully avoided her gaze. Johanna cleared her throat and continued. "I was, and am, kind of obsessed with you. With your voice, your laugh, your eyes, your amazing mind, with everything you are, you have taken hold of everything I am." Johanna's voice broke a little toward the end of her sentence and Katniss squeezed her hands in support. "So thank you, for marrying me. For not only being my partner in crime, but my best friend. And honestly, for the greatest sex I've ever had." Brown eyes enlarged in alarm and never broke from Katniss's gray hues. "I forgot anyone else was here just now and I'm really sorry I just mentioned how great the sex is in front of our families."
Katniss's eyes widened and she looked briefly to her mother and grandmother in the front row, then back to Johanna. "Jo!" she admonished, her face turning a deep shade of beetroot.
"I'm so glad we're filming this," Cressida whispered, giggling behind Johanna.
Johanna shot her a glare over her shoulder and returned her attention to Katniss. "But seriously, it's the greatest."
"Johanna Elizabeth Mason," came Johanna's mother's warning voice from the front row of seats.
"It's the 21st century, get over it." Katniss gave Johanna an impatient look and Johanna's severe expression softened. "Sorry. I'm done."
The officiant hid her smirk and continued with the services. "The rings, please." Cressida pretending to panic, checking her dress for them, then grinned cheekily and took them out of her pocket. They had chosen little silver bands that were made of meteorite (Johanna's choice) and some silver metallic putty that was magnetic. When their rings got close to one another, they'd automatically connect. "Do you -"
"Yeah, yeah," Johanna said, waving off the officiant with her free hand. "I take her. She takes me. I just told everybody how great it is," she cracked with a grin. She slid the ring on Katniss's finger, and Katniss returned the gesture as quickly as she could.
"With these rings, in witness of your friends and family, I now declare you lawfully and faithfully married. You may now kiss the bride." Before Johanna could move in, the officiant placed a hand on her bicep. "But only kiss, okay?" Johanna rolled her eyes, but her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
Katniss held her breath as they leaned in toward one another, Johanna's hand gently cradling the side of her face. She pressed their lips together in a chaste, but passionate kiss to the sound of cheers and applause and the flap of newly freed mockingjay wings. When Johanna pulled back, Katniss couldn't help the goofy grin on her face. This was her wife now. The beautiful girl who had stolen her heart over the counter of a coffee shop was hers forever.
Cressida tapped her spoon against her wine glass impatiently, waiting for the tent of people to come to attention. After a few moments everyone settled down and the blonde smiled. "Thank you. When I met Johanna, she was a doe-eyed freshman at the university, looking for a job. She was irritable and flirtatious, much like she is now. When I introduced myself and gave her my name, her exact words were, 'If your name's that beautiful, what's your phone number sound like?'" Cressida paused for the room's laughter, and Katniss looked to her left at Johanna. Her head was buried in her hands, little groans coming through her fingers.
"I hate you," Johanna mumbled into her palms.
Cressida patted her on the back. "No you don't, dear. Anyway, it was a good line and if I were gay, I'd probably have gone for it. Fortunately for us all, I'm not, and I didn't. But I did give her a job. And for the next three years, she worked beneath me, though not in the biblical sense, and we grew into great friends. Through those years we worked together, I watched her plod through her life, unable and unwilling to give her heart to anyone. And that was such a shame to me, because she's got this huge, beautiful heart that she lets nobody see. She mended my heart after it was broken, supported my interest in filmmaking when everyone said it was pointless, and she always spoke from the heart. Johanna will always give you the truth, and tell you what you need to hear, whether you want it or not. It's her greatest flaw and her greatest strength. She worked hard, and played hard, and all of that came to a halt the second Katniss walked in our coffee shop. Johanna talked about nothing else but 'that gorgeous girl with the gray eyes' for days, weeks even, after she came in there. It was nauseating and frankly, rather annoying."
"I'm honestly going to murder you," Johanna glared up at Cressida, who blatantly ignored her.
"It was interesting to me, because I had never seen what someone with an arrow through their heart actually looked like, metaphorically speaking. Maybe some of you have never seen that look. It's this faraway, stars-in-the-eyes, glossed-over expression? Those of you that know Johanna are probably wondering what that looks like on her, considering she's such a goddamn pain in the ass most of the time." Cressida grinned. "Look no further than right here, right now. Because the most extraordinary thing about Katniss and Johanna is not that Jo found someone patient enough to deal with her, or that they get along so irritatingly well. It's that they both still have that look in their eyes like they did when they met. Every time I see them, they look at each other and I want to tell them to get a room, and they're not even doing anything." Johanna looked over at Katniss and smirked. "Most people don't find a love like that, never mind able to keep it. I'm thrilled to not only be able to call Johanna my friend, but to now call Katniss one as well, and witness this amazing spectacle they will now call a marriage. So if you'll raise your glasses, please." Cressida waited as everyone brought their glasses up. "To Katniss and Johanna, may their love forever make me want to puke in its earnest fervor. May they someday learn to get a damn room."
Their guests toasted to their union and Johanna got up, giving Cressida a quick hug. Though she and Johanna did have an incredible bond, Katniss knew that the people at their wedding table were very responsible for the success of their relationship. Gale for choosing their meeting spot and always being a patient, kind ear to her troubles. Madge for encouraging her to go after Johanna. Cressida for steadfastly offering her advice and guidance. Each of them she'd been able to touch upon to help keep them together. This was her family.
One of the few things Katniss had chosen for the wedding was the song for their first dance. She had chosen "We Found Each Other In The Dark" by City and Colour. The slow tune picked up as Johanna led Katniss on to the dance floor, drawing her into her arms as closely as she could be held. Their foreheads pressed together as they swayed in their dresses, arms looped around each other's shoulders.
"Did you really orchestrate all of that just to see me? Back in college?" Katniss asked in a whisper, drawing Johanna's attention back into the present.
Johanna grinned and kissed her lightly. "Maybe."
"I thought it was just me," Katniss confessed. "You were so aloof. Playing hard to get when secretly you were going behind my back to try and see me."
Johanna shrugged. "It was much more subtle than your showing up to my job every day like a little lovesick puppy." Katniss pretended to look offended and balked.
"Whatever, you married me. I win."
"So competitive," Johanna murmured, threading her fingers in Katniss's hair. "It's sexy when you get competitive."
Katniss blushed under Johanna's salacious stare and looked down at their feet. "Don't hit on me in front of my family! I think you've done enough of making me blush for one wedding."
"It's your fault," Johanna derided, "for being so fucking hot."
Katniss gave an indignant huff. "This is our first dance as a married couple. It's meant to be romantic. And now all I can think about is getting you to the hotel and out of this dress."
"Patience, baby girl," Johanna cooed, brushing her lips against Katniss's again. "I'll make it worth your while tonight, I promise." Katniss grinned against Johanna's lips and captured them in a searing kiss. She didn't care if all eyes were on them now. All that mattered was Johanna, in her arms, kissing her. Being hers, always.
Somewhere in the back of the room, she could hear Cressida's voice. "Didn't I just tell everyone about them getting a room?"
The reception got rowdy pretty fast. Johanna and her brothers obliterated themselves at the bar, engaging in drinking contests that nobody ever seemed to win. It was, however, one of the first times Katniss ever saw Johanna really enjoy her siblings. They had cut the cake and served the coffee (no tea), and they had each taken a shot of espresso instead of a slice of cake in honor of how they met.
Then, the dancing. Johanna changed out of her grandmother's dress after pictures and into a suit, which, a few hours in, she was down to just her button-down shirt with her sleeves rolled up, her tie hanging loosely down her chest. She had opened a few of the top buttons just to the top of her lace bra, and it was all Katniss could do not to take her in the kitchen. Instead she danced with Jo and Gale and all their other guests, imbibing drinks as she was offered throughout the night.
Katniss watched as Johanna bent down and scooped up her nephew, tickling his bulging toddler belly and making him giggle out of control. They had casually discussed kids, and Johanna never really expressed a desire to have any, but she was rather effortless with children, her baby nephew included. Katniss leaned over to Gale, using his strong shoulder for support. Perhaps she had too many drinks. "I'm gonna - hic!" Katniss hiccuped mid-sentence, drawing Gale's attention. "I'm gonna put a baby in her," she confessed drunkenly, with a small nod.
Gale chuckled and looked down at his friend. "Oh yeah?"
Katniss nodded. "Mhm. I'm puttin' a baby in my wife." Gale wrapped his arm around Katniss's shoulder and held her close, and steady. "I don' care, I want a hundred lil' baby Johannas. Everywhere," she motioned around her feet, "a litter of Johannas. Boy Johannas, girl Johannas."
"That's some pretty big talk from a girl that couldn't even speak to Johanna when she first met her." Gale's handsome features lit up with a grin as Katniss glared at him indignantly.
"Whatever, you heard her, she was crazy 'bout me." Katniss smiled proudly as she gazed up at Gale. "All these years, I had no idea. How did you all keep that from me?"
Gale shrugged. "To be honest, I completely forgot. After she made her speech I remembered. She basically cornered me in class and said that she was going to be at this frat party and I had to get you to go. She can be kinda intimidating."
Katniss scoffed. "Maybe to you." Gale quirked an eyebrow at Katniss and she rolled her eyes. "Okay maybe at first, but now, not so much."
"Nope," Gale agreed. "Now you're gonna 'put a baby in her.'"
Katniss nodded her head, leaning against Gale's strong arm for support. The liquor was making her head spin, and the only thing in focus was Johanna. "I'm gonna get her so pregnant. And she's gonna have the cutest little baby bump and she's going to be so insanely irritable for nine months and I'm gonna love every second of it."
Gale chuckled and patted Katniss on the head as he held her closely to him. "Maybe let's just work on getting you both through tonight, okay?"
Katniss made a small noise of agreement and kept her eyes on Johanna, who was somehow still lively and dancing with Prim. Even through the haze of alcohol in her system, each time they caught eyes it shot a spike of arousal straight through her, as if she were stone sober. She made a vow to herself not to drink for the rest of the reception, because she wanted to be very aware when she and Johanna were finally alone at the end of the night.
And somehow, it was better than she imagined. Every moment played so clearly in her mind, she knew she would be able to dream of it for years to come. The look of pure adoration in Johanna's eyes when she got her out of her dress. She was free from the hungry expression Johanna usually had when she saw her naked. There was hunger, of course, but more affection than just arousal. Tumbling into their hotel bed, plush and inviting, ignoring the bucket of champagne in favor of drinking from each other's lips. Besides, they didn't need any alcoholic lubricant to get things going between them. They never did.
It felt like Johanna's lips never left hers as they moved together, inside and all over each other. She reveled in making Johanna cry out in pleasure, screaming her name until her voice was hoarse. Johanna reciprocated, bringing her to orgasm as many times as her body was capable, until they were both exhausted. Their lips touched, unless otherwise occupied in more interesting places, near constantly until she wasn't sure she had any breath left in her lungs. Johanna's breathless, scratchy voice was in her ear, grunting and swearing, but also gentle and reverent. Katniss had lost track of how many times she heard "I love you," but it never failed to make her swoon.
Hot, sweating, and exhausted, Johanna curled into Katniss's embrace, swinging her leg over Katniss's own. She sighed and stroked Johanna's hair, smiling into the crown of her head. "You know when I was little, I never dreamed about getting married. Never fantasized about a wedding, never really cared. So I never bought into your wedding day being the greatest day of your life." Johanna murmured something that sounded like she agreed. "But I gotta tell you, today was close to the greatest day I've ever had."
"Every day with you is the greatest," Johanna mumbled against her skin. "Yesterday, today, tomorrow." Johanna let out a loud yawn and snuggled into her closer. "But you're right, today was one of the best."
Katniss drifted off into a near sleep listening to her new wife's little breaths getting shallow and feeling her skin pressed against her own. It was just as fulfilling as any night of passion that they had shared in the past, and would share in the future. There was the honeymoon to look forward to, of course. And, knowing Johanna, nearly every day of the rest of their lives.
Author's Note: Joniss Wedding! *tosses confetti* This is not the last for this story, though it may be a while for another update. I mean, Katniss has to get Johanna pregnant, right?
Thanks to Johannas-Motivational-Insults for her continued beta-reading and her very helpful suggestion that markedly improved this chapter.
And a big thank you to everyone still reading and enjoying this story. You guys rock. :)