Days passed. Then weeks. Johanna steadily went stir crazy in 13. She was discharged from the hospital a few days after Katniss's departure and cleared for heavily modified exercise as well as her normal scheduling. For Johanna that meant mostly tying knots with Annie Cresta or hanging out with Prim in her downtime. Her therapy sessions were doubled in the wake of her flashback. She was miserable. She was desperately lonely.
Then the storm rushed in. Finnick had been torn apart by Snow's mutts and met his end in some dank sewer. Annie was inconsolable and Johanna was incensed. Their shared grief didn't bond them. It couldn't. Johanna's grief was a raging forest fire and Annie's came to her in tidal waves and crashed on the beach of her fragile mind. There had been a promise between she and Finnick years ago, after her family died and she'd taken refuge in Four that if something happened to him she would make sure Annie was okay. Now was not the time to fulfill that promise but it nagged at Johanna's brain.
News on the offense trickled in as Coin saw fit to inform them. Haymitch was a much more reliable source of information. Most of the team had been killed. Boggs was dead. They were now following Katniss's orders. Peeta was there. Haymitch, Plutarch and Johanna had tried to make the case to keep him in Thirteen but President Coin found him expendable. Johanna found it ludicrous and it sparked a deep flame of jealousy inside her. Peeta and Katniss in a life or death situation meant one of two things: Katniss would end up dead at his hand or in his arms again.
President Coin and Plutarch left ahead of everyone in anticipation of the end of the war. Johanna was in the cafeteria with Annie when somehow Prim had gotten permission to go with the rebel medics and came to hug her goodbye. Instinctively Johanna tucked in her duck tail in the back before letting her go. Perhaps the only part of Katniss she'd have is whatever was left of her inside Johanna's brain and the stupid ribbon she refused to take off. Prim smiled and broke Johanna's thoughts. "It was fun having you as a sister, Jo." That teasing Everdeen smile. Sadness selfishly ached in Johanna's heart.
Johanna swallowed it down and smirked back at the youngest Everdeen. "It was fun to be one again, little duck." Prim pulled in her chin and raised an eyebrow.
"That's what Katniss always calls me." The teasing smile came back on her lips. "She's not still inside there, right? Should I give you a quiz?"
"Thankfully no," Johanna replied and patted her chest. "All Mason. I guess some things just stuck around," she offered lamely. Her eyes darted to the ground and Prim, ever the observer, picked up on the small bit of melancholy.
"Hopefully you can stick around too. It'll get really lonely in Twelve with so many people gone. I'm sure it gets lonely in Seven, too." Johanna nodded absently. Prim added, "And I think Katniss would want you there with us."
Johanna snorted in disbelief but Prim put on her best 'stubborn Everdeen face' and placed her hands on her hips. "I think I'm gonna be the last thing on her mind once this is all over. With Bread Boy on the mend and the handsome cousin a war hero, she'll be busy, I'm sure."
Prim scrunched her mouth to the side and the placed her tiny hand on Johanna's shoulder. "She's still in there a little bit, right?" Johanna nodded her head again. "That means you're in her brain too. So even if she wanted to forget about you, she can't. That's something right?"
No wonder Katniss volunteered for her. Prim was everything good in the world. Hope. "That's something."
Johanna didn't need to be told that Prim died. It was in her dreams - the sight of Prim's golden hair and the duck tail, the whoosh of flames engulfing her, her name on Katniss's lips that was never spoken. Or maybe it was. Maybe she screamed it, Johanna woke up before she was forced to watch it again. She made a mental note to tell Beetee about the shared dreams that she knew she'd never follow through on. Johanna and the rest of the victors, Mrs. Everdeen, and a few other 13 residents flew on the hovercraft to the Capitol following the parachute drop. Coin had instructed everyone to be on hand for the next few days or weeks, depending on how long Snow's trial lasted and how long Katniss needed to convalesce. Johanna insisted on being allowed into Katniss's hospital room.
Haymitch didn't think it was necessary. "She's out of it," he explained calmly but drunkenly. The loss of lives had impacted him too. Possibly even the damage to Peeta and Katniss specifically. And Prim, well, even Johanna felt some of the sun's warmth disintegrate in the wake of that loss. "They won't let anyone but family in. She's stark naked, floating in some kinda gel to keep her skin from falling apart or something. She won't even know you're there."
Johanna hadn't followed a Capitol rule since Claudius Templesmith announced her as the winner of the 71st Hunger Games; she snuck in at night into Katniss's room. Mrs. Everdeen was slumped in a chair on the far side of the wall, looking twenty years older than when they left District 13. Johanna entered the all white Capitol room, wincing at the memories it brought. White sterile rooms. Guards. Shocks. Water. But she reminded herself that she had to be strong, just like she was in the torture cells. There was no Peeta here to calm either girl; he was nearly as badly burned as Katniss. Saved her life is what Haymitch said to her. He somehow managed to get to Katniss and put out her flames but he was singed by them too. Girl on fire indeed.
Selfishly, as she stared down at the incoherent girl resting on the foamy substance that was healing her skin, she thought of how she'd never be able to compete with Peeta. He would always have a hold on Katniss. Gale was out of the picture. The bombs looked like his creation, the intent not for Prim but she suffered nonetheless. But Peeta saved her life. More than once. What he was now, close to his former self but still pained, that would be what drew Katniss to him, just like in the cave. Johanna really thought it was all an act but deep down, she knew Katniss felt something for him. Maybe hers and Katniss's attraction had just been because they were so physically close all the time, maybe a lot of it was to do with the body switch. Maybe it was all wishful thinking on Johanna's part. She didn't wish that kiss though, she thought to herself. She didn't wish the look in Katniss's eyes when she earnestly asked if Johanna would be there when she got back.
She stood at the edge of Katniss's weird tank and stared down at the young girl. Katniss looked even younger like this. Johanna traced her fingers along the unburnt parts of Katniss's skin that floated above the water. She was so soft, so young, so insufferably innocent with her eyes closed and her mouth shut. It was when Johanna got caught in her snowstorm gray eyes that Katniss seemed older than her teenage years implied. "Oh Mockingjay. Didn't I tell you not to do anything stupid?" Johanna asked in a low whisper. Her hand came to rest on the side of Katniss's face. "But it was your sister, I know. You couldn't have saved her, stupid girl." Johanna shook her head and used her shoulder to wipe the few tears that had fallen from her eyes.
Katniss's mouth moved and formed soft whispers. Johanna leaned down close to Katniss's face to hear her. "Let me die," she begged in a hoarse whisper. "Let me follow the others." Johanna didn't have to imagine who was haunting Katniss's dreams. When she went to sleep that night in one of the many plush mansion bedrooms she shared Katniss's dreams. White and pink doves, Rue, a man with the same snowstorm eyes singing a song, even Cinna. Johanna didn't return to visit her when she was finally in a normal hospital room, her new skin able to withstand clothes and sheets. There were many others who went to see her over the weeks that followed as Coin stepped into power. Johanna snuck in at night again for a few nights content to watch Katniss sleep, keeping guard over her. One night she tied Prim's ribbon to the wrist that didn't have her medical bracelet on it.
As Snow's trial was nearing its end, Johanna chose to visit Peeta instead.
The Capitol doctors seemed to be having much more success reversing the tracker-jacker torture and going through his therapy than in Thirteen. Haymitch said he was finally speaking every day like himself and the images and memories of Katniss didn't throw him into fits. Johanna hated the mixture of jealousy and elation she felt at his progress. She hated herself for being so selfish. He looked up from his lap when she walked in the door, stilling his hand on a painting. It was fire - the entire palette was a brilliant collection of bright and subdued oranges. Johanna raised an eyebrow as she walked further in. "Wow Twelve, that's pretty fucking morbid."
Peeta let out a chuckle and gave Johanna a wry grin. His skin was in patches like Katniss's, new pink skin trying to blend with his sickly beige tone. "They think it's therapeutic for me to paint what I see in my dreams. This is the least horrible of all of them," Peeta replied with a shrug. He placed his paintbrush in a nearby cup and put the painting on a table beside his bed. His burned hands folded over his lap. "I'm surprised to see you here."
"We're torture buddies," Johanna joked, hoping the morbidity would be welcome. Peeta's hearty laugh indicated that it was. "Hey, I came to visit you in Thirteen," she reminded.
Peeta nodded. "I remember. When you and Katniss were roommates. I gotta say I'm surprised how well that worked out. You're both so similar. I thought for sure they'd come tell me one of you had offed the other."
"Which one did you hope it was?" Peeta's chest puffed out in short laughs. Johanna let out a high-pitched laugh and sat down in the chair next to Peeta's bed. "Me and the Mockingjay? Similar? Did that fire burn your brain too?"
He shot her a suffering look. His eyebrows were singed off but he was still very expressive. Much like the boy she had met in the training center. The boy she wanted to hate and couldn't. "You're both stubborn, loyal. Protective of those you love."
"You're all of those things too, Bread Boy."
Peeta raised a hand to brush through his unkempt blond locks. "I'm not as stubborn as you both. And you didn't let me finish." Johanna rolled her eyes but nodded for him to continue. "Impatient," he said with a forceful intonation but a smile, "and you're both fighters. You're both jaded and guarded. It's a miracle you two even speak to each other, the way you put everyone at a distance."
"That's because we're also both cowards," Johanna pointed out. Peeta's non-eyebrows scrunched in bewilderment. "C'mon you've had enough therapy to know the drill. 'People who keep others at a distance do it for themselves.' Because we're selfish cowards who can't face rejection."
Peeta's blue eyes met hers and they took on an intensive quality Johanna wasn't sure she had ever seen him take since the torture. It was pensive, like he was before. "You let some people in, so does she."
"Well yeah, that's because your rejection doesn't mean anything," Johanna replied dismissively. Peeta's gaze dropped to his blanket and Johanna felt a small measure of guilt. "Not like that. You and me, we're good. We're square, kid." The corner of his mouth twitched upward. "And I didn't mean it about Katniss. She let you in because she loves you."
"Loved," Peeta corrected. "Like I used to love her." He let out a laugh before Johanna could question him. "Well, not exactly like how I used to love her. She loved me a lot less."
Johanna groaned. "I am not here to be in your one man pity party, kid," Johanna warned. Peeta looked up at her in amusement. "What? Everyone's afraid to throw you off your crazy train but I'm not. You're not gonna hurt her. If you were, you'd have done it when you were armed with a rifle not sitting here in this bed with your paints. She still loves you. Trust me. I spent a lot of time with her." In her, Johanna mentally corrected, though not in the way I want.
"Even if I believed you, it wouldn't matter. How I feel for her now, it's not the same. It's confusing and painful, to be honest. Even the memories they didn't mess with are painful. Seeing how much I loved her and how indifferent toward me she was a lot of the time." A shadow crossed over his features. "There were times when she loved me I think. Maybe if we hadn't had to go through the Quell or the torture or whatever we might have had a shot. But now? What's stopping her from getting back together with Gale?"
Johanna rolled her eyes and looked down at her nails. "The fact that it was probably his parachute snare idea that killed Prim," she stated matter-of-factly. Peeta looked up with wide eyes. "What, no one told you what happened? Hovercraft came in with a big, honkin' Capitol seal on it and dropped some parachutes. They exploded everywhere, killing Snow's Capitol kids. When the rebel medics rushed in they went off again. It was Gale and Beetee's brainchild for sure."
Johanna watched Peeta's chest rise and fall more rapidly as he came to understand that information. "How can you be sure? Why would Coin okay the murder of rebel medics? And children, even if they are Capitol."
Johanna scoffed. "Oh come on Peeta you're smarter than that." Johanna crossed her legs. "Because Coin and Snow play by the same rules. It's why they hate each other. You think Coin loses sleep over Capitol kids getting their legs blown off when she watched her own kid and husband die of pox? And trust me she's not crying over a few medics. Even if one of them was Prim."
Peeta sat back against his pillows, deflated by all this new information. Johanna watched him closely for a few moments, her gaze narrowed. "So Katniss hates Gale now?"
Johanna shrugged her shoulders and tried to look indifferent. "I don't know I haven't talked to her, but it stands to reason she's not gonna be marrying the guy. This war took a toll on them anyway. He was all gung-ho about killing everyone if it meant the end of Snow's presidency and our freedom and Katniss never bought into any of it."
"Because it was drastic," Peeta cut in. "The thing with the Nut? Killing these kids, the medics. I wasn't lying when I was on the TV and said we'd wipe each other out. We almost have."
"It was worth it," Johanna replied.
Peeta looked exasperated. "You just said Coin and Snow play by the same rules. By that logic, nothing will change."
"The devil you know." Johanna sighed. "I don't trust Coin as far as Annie Cresta could throw her but what we will have is better than what we had. Us? We're fucked. You, me, Katniss, Haymitch, Beetee, whatever. We were all fucked from the beginning. But the next generation of kids who will never get reaped? Kids who won't starve? They'll be all right. That's the change."
Peeta's expression became thoughtful as he looked at Johanna. His eyes traveled down her body to her wrist and his steely gaze honed in on her ribbon. "Is that a bracelet?"
Johanna's other hand quickly came to rub over the ribbon, half hiding it, half protecting it. "Uh, yeah."
Peeta's intense gaze never wavered. "That's one of Katniss's hair ribbons. Green." His eyes flicked up to her and he watched her worried gaze with intent. Johanna could feel herself being scrutinized. That was Peeta's true gift: being able to read people. Katniss didn't take enough time to get to know anyone but Peeta had the uncanny ability to look straight through you. "And I thought it was Gale I had to worry about," he remarked amusedly. He leaned back and looking at her knowingly. "She has no idea, the effect she can have."
Her cheeks flushed a faint pink. "She's pretty brainless." Peeta's face remained emotionless though his hands clenched and flexed a few times on his lap. Briefly Johanna worried for her safety but she figured she'd probably be able to dodge him if he tried to attack her. His eyes closed.
"I just want her to be safe. And happy," he said finally after several long minutes of silence. He opened his eyes and settled on Johanna. "I was always jealous of Gale because of their history but I reckoned I had a chance because Gale was too..." Peeta trailed off. "I don't know. Like you said he was sold on this rebellion and she wasn't. I could always count on Katniss's more practical, patient side. The side of her that was always protecting Prim. And me." Johanna nodded in understanding. "And the part of her that was in that arena. He'd never understand what that was like. To sell yourself on the Capitol's doorstep and kill people. I had that going for me."
"You still do," Johanna murmured.
He shook his head. "Yeah, but, I know why Katniss could never choose between Gale and me. Gale said to me when we were on the offensive that Katniss would choose whichever one of us she can't survive without."
Johanna rolled her eyes. "I really don't wanna go over this nauseating love triangle bullshit, Twelve."
"She can't choose," he pressed on, "because she can survive just fine without either of us. She could never choose because neither of us was everything she wanted. Everything she needed, at least. I don't know she has any idea what she wants but she knows what she needs. Someone who was in that arena who understands the heavy cost of being a victor, of being a tribute. Who can tell her that everything will be okay even if it isn't. But she needs someone uncompromising like Gale who will tell her what she needs to hear even when she doesn't want to hear it."
"And?" Johanna inquired tiredly.
Peeta's eyes rolled high up in his head. "Don't you see? You're both of those things, Johanna. If Katniss doesn't see it right now she will eventually. And if you care for her, which I think you do, you'll go after her. Because that's what we all have in common, you, me and Gale. We have a weakness where Katniss is concerned."
"I'm not gonna be some fourth point on this love square," Johanna announced, standing up from her chair. "I'm not like you and the cousin. I'm not going to pine after some girl who shows me hot and cold affection. I don't play games."
Peeta gazed up at Johanna in bemusement. "We don't have a choice," he said in a low tone. Johanna stared down at her boots. "We're all pieces in her games."
Katniss blinked rapidly at her reflection in the mirror. The prep team's effort made her look somewhat presentable in spite of the vast nothingness inside her body. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine the girl in 2 up on the projection screens, or the girl in 8 telling Snow off. Anybody but who she was now. She tried desperately to gather some of the strength she had been holding on to during this rebellion but none of it was forthcoming. Her eyes dropped down to the baby blue ribbon on her left wrist. The prep team had inquired about it but she had mumbled that it was Prim's and the team went quiet.
A tap on the door broke Katniss from her reverie. To hers and the prep team's surprise, Johanna stepped in. "Can I have a second?" Johanna asked, looking around Katniss to the prep team. They bumbled around for a moment and Johanna rolled her eyes impatiently. "Alone."
The prep team shuffled out the door and closed it behind them. Katniss turned to completely face Johanna. She hadn't seen her since their kiss in 13. Well, that wasn't entirely accurate. She saw Johanna in her dreams and heard her voice when she slipped in and out of consciousness in the hospital, but she hadn't seen her since that day. She looked less miserable but not entirely well. Her hair was in messy little ringlets that came down just above her eyebrows, a much lighter shade of black-brown than it had been in the Quell.
Katniss couldn't help the accusation in her tone. It was selfish and pitiful and she allowed it to happen anyway. "You didn't visit me in the hospital."
Johanna scoffed loudly. Haymitch had tasked Johanna with giving Katniss the arrow to launch at Snow and instructed her to give Katniss a 'pep talk.' She had barely responded to anyone since Prim's death and Johanna knew that slow, steady comfort was not going to give Katniss the fortitude to stand in front of the entire country and kill the president. "You didn't visit me when I was in the hospital either, Twelve," Johanna reminded tiredly. "Do you want to go tit for tat about how much we owe each other?" So no cozy reunion, Katniss thought to herself. She couldn't handle one anyway. Her emotions were basic at this point, raw. Katniss's expression changed into melancholy. Johanna deflated just slightly and looked away from Katniss. "Please don't cry."
Katniss glared at Johanna's impassive expression. "What the hell is wrong with you?" Katniss was surprised she could drum up enough emotion to be mad at Johanna, but the older victor had a way of pulling a range of emotions from her. "I just lost my sister," she said incredulously.
"So did a lot of people," Johanna dismissed, looking away to prevent Katniss from seeing the trace of pain in her eyes. She didn't want to marginalize Prim's death but an angry Katniss was a better representation of the rebellion than a sorrowful one. Katniss needed someone uncompromising right now. She could be comforting words later. Besides, Katniss was being given an honor that 75 years of previous victors didn't have a chance to do: avenge the people they loved. She could at least act like that meant something. "Present company included. But we all don't get to be the one who exacts revenge for it. Suck it up, Everdeen."
"Fuck you!" Katniss yelled, pushing Johanna backward. "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you," Katniss repeated, balling her fists together and banging them against Johanna's collarbone. Johanna fought the winces at Katniss's aggressive hits and instead let Katniss wail on her. Eventually Johanna was backed against the door of the bathroom with Katniss's tight fists resting on her chest, her raggedly panting mouth just a few inches from her own. She looked up at Katniss's eyes and shook her head.
"No, don't you dare fucking cry, not now." Johanna used the tips of her fingers to roughly wipe away the two tears that had fallen from Katniss's eyes. "Hate me all you want, cry your eyes out later, but you have a job to do and you are not letting that bastard see you cry." She held up the single, plain arrow that Haymitch had instructed her to bring Katniss. "Firing the last shot. Symbolic or whatever. Make them pay for what they did to Prim."
Katniss took the arrow from Johanna and moved it between her fingers. She slipped it into the sheath on her back then returned her hands to Johanna's chest. "Make who pay?" she asked softly, looking down into Johanna's beautifully expressive brown eyes. She wondered how Johanna managed to get her to feel anything, even the anger and now the ache of longing, just by looking into her eyes. No one else seemed to have that effect on her.
Johanna placed each of her hands on either of Katniss's shoulders. Katniss's hands flexed open and felt the warmth of Johanna's body through the gray rebel uniform. They stood like that, holding onto one another, for a spell. "Trust your instincts. They haven't failed you so far, right? You're still here. I mean you look like shit but you're alive."
"How wonderful for Panem," Katniss replied, her voice thick with sarcasm.
"I'm not complaining," Johanna muttered under her breath. Her fingers manipulated the small pocket on Katniss's left shoulder and her forehead creased. "What's that?"
Katniss looked down at her hand and gave a small smile. "Cinna's last gift. A nightlock pill just in case we were captured in combat."
"An easy way out, you mean," Johanna derided with a roll of her eyes. Her eyes clouded over in a tortured haze. "Though the alternative isn't pretty, I guess." Johanna staved off any pity from Katniss by taking each of her wrists and pulling them off her body, placing them back at Katniss's sides. She let her fingers linger longer than necessary on the delicate bones of Katniss's wrists. Their eyes locked hard before Johanna looked away again. "We've gotta get going. Coin wants us for a special meeting before the execution."
Katniss nodded and swallowed audibly. "What about?"
Johanna's shoulders bounced and she stepped around Katniss and back toward the door. "Hell if I know. All the victors left are required to attend." Katniss stood frozen in the room as she watched Johanna leave. A thousand things were on the tip of her tongue but none of them came out. Apologies, sympathy, anger. More strangely than those emotions, the urge to kiss her was overwhelming. As usual, Johanna seemed to understand. "No more mushy talks, remember? I'm not one of the boys, and this is not the time. You can thank me after it's done."
Katniss managed a ghost of a smile and followed Johanna out after retrieving her glass with Snow's rose in it.
"What?" Johanna was certain she hadn't heard President Coin correctly. The shock of the statement absorbed into her skin and chilled her to her very core. There was no way she was suggesting what she was suggesting.
"We hold another Hunger Games using Capitol children," Coin repeated calmly, looking around at all the victors. Johanna hated the way Coin looked at them. In some rooms there'd be fear - a room full of killers would inspire that. When Snow would meet with them he'd look at them like a fucked up proud father. Johanna almost preferred that to Coin's angering indifference.
They sat there in relative silence until Peeta finally spoke up. "Are you joking?"
Coin shook her head, the unbroken curtain of gray hair around her head waving in the effort. "No. I should also tell you that if we do hold the Games, it will be known it was done with your approval, although the individual breakdown of your votes will be kept secret for your own security."
Haymitch rubbed the stubble in his chin. "Was this Plutarch's idea?" Johanna shot him a look out of the corner of her eye. He wasn't asking; he was clarifying. He wanted to know who was ultimately responsible for this.
"No, it was mine. It seemed to balance the need for vengeance with the least loss of life. You may cast your votes."
"No!" Peeta immediately shouted and slammed his palms on the table. "I vote no, of course! We can't have another Hunger Games!" His blue eyes searched the room for approval but all the victors had their eyes elsewhere. No one else could claim the selflessness that came so easily to Peeta.
Johanna mused on the thought. "Why not? It seems very fair to me." She sat back in her chair, rolling up the sleeves on her uniform. "Snow even has a granddaughter. I vote yes." Her eyes locked with Katniss's from across the table but the younger girl revealed no emotion one way or the other.
"So do I," Enobaria agreed with indifference. Johanna shot her another glare. "Let them have a taste of their own medicine." The slight trace of anger in her tone took Johanna by surprise. She knew Enobaria had been part of the Capitol rape circus but her situation was much prettier than Johanna's or Finnick's. But maybe, if she did hate the Capitol, Johanna wouldn't kill her when the execution was over. Maybe.
Peeta's eyes widened with alarm. "This is why we rebelled, remember?" His eyes desperately searched the room. "Annie?"
"I vote no with Peeta," the redheaded girl agreed with a small nod. Her hand rested on her abdomen. "And so would Finnick if he were here."
That statement irked Johanna more than she thought it should. She wasn't so sure Finnick would vote no. He had a lot to be angry at the Capitol about. Possibly things he hadn't told Annie; surely she hadn't watched his propo. Delusional girl, Johanna thought to herself. "But he isn't because Snow's mutts killed him," she reminded Annie in a harsh tone. Katniss met her eyes for a moment and tried to convey sympathy but Johanna pointedly looked away.
"No," Beetee said finally. "It sets a bad precedent. We have to stop viewing one another as enemies. At this point, unity is essential for our survival. No."
"We're down to Katniss and Haymitch," Coin said passively, looking to Katniss.
Katniss's eyes were trained on the rose in the glass. Trust your instincts. Katniss lifted her gaze to meet Johanna's. It slowly dropped until she got to Johanna's hands which were flat, palms down on the table. Her fingernails looked clean, perhaps she was able to withstand some baths now, Katniss mused. Then she saw the pretty silk green ribbon. Her ribbon. Her green ribbon that Johanna had wrapped the pine needles with was tied around her wrist with a tiny intricate knot. Katniss's eyes went to her own wrist where she saw Prim's ribbon tied the same way. Johanna had come to visit her, she realized. She should've known by the graceful, beautiful knot that was woven just over the pulse of her wrist. All the times Katniss heard Johanna's voice, she was really there. She gave her Prim's ribbon to remind her why they were fighting. And to remind her she was there for her. Katniss felt a brief wave of guilt for having assumed the worst of Johanna when she had come to deliver the arrow. Even after living in Johanna's skin she still fell into that bad habit. Johanna learned to see through her but she hadn't quite figured out how to do the same. At least that was one thing the rebellion had given her: a chance to know Johanna better. She was going to take it.
"I vote yes," Katniss said slowly, her eyes on the rose in the glass. "For Prim." Briefly she side-eyed Johanna who seemed to be wearing an impressed expression, both eyebrows raised upward. Was she impressed or surprised? Katniss didn't know. As Peeta hammered into Haymitch about his vote Katniss's eyes never left Johanna's. She was hoping some part of the switch made them able to read each other's minds. No such luck. Johanna was impassive, if not distracted. Haymitch agreed eventually and Katniss handed Coin the rose to put in Snow's lapel.
It was all set.
Katniss took in (former) President Snow's pitiful appearance as he hovered on his knees tied to the pole on the terrace. Her eyes moved around to the people overflowing the city circle. All the rebels and victors she had befriended. The people she had come to love in the various ways she was able. Her mind burned with the image of Prim on fire as she squeezed her eyes shut to concentrate. When she opened them Snow was staring at her expectantly, a smile on his face.
Katniss lifted her bow, aiming at his rose. Blood spewed from his mouth as he let out a slow chuckle. Trust your instincts. She raised the bow and let the arrow fly and sink into President Coin's chest. Her body fell limply over the balcony and landed behind Snow. He keeled over in laughter and blood poured forth from his mouth.
Johanna shot forward and elbowed her way toward Katniss until she finally reached her, before the rest of the rebels. Her hand clamped over Katniss's left shoulder and winced as the girl's teeth sunk into her flesh. Katniss looked up at her with unfocused gray eyes. "Let me go!"
"I can't," Johanna replied in a plaintive voice. In spite of the pain throbbing in her hand and the slickness of blood through her fingers she tore the pill out of Katniss's pocket and tossed it on the ground. It immediately got crushed beneath the boot of a guard as the rebels broke them apart. Johanna stumbled backward into someone but she watched as Katniss clawed at the guards and screamed for Gale. Her eyes went up to the screen where Katniss's insanity was on display for all of Panem to see. "Stupid girl," Johanna muttered as they dragged Katniss out of the pandemonium in the city circle.
Weeks passed. Katniss had no bearing on time but the snow on her windowsill in her cell/room in the Training Center collected and vanished. Meals appeared every day as she attempted to starve to death or kill herself with morphling. Neither worked. After what seemed like agonizing slow death Haymitch materialized in her doorway. "Get up," he said gruffly. "Your trial's over. You're going home."
Katniss blinked in confusion. Home. Where was that? There was nothing left of her home anymore. Haymitch left no room for any protestations and Katniss couldn't offer any alternatives. So after being rehydrated and bathed and fed Katniss was hauled onto the hovercraft that quickly took to the skies. Haymitch and Plutarch sat strapped in across from Katniss. The plump white-haired man clapped his hands on his knees. "You must have a million questions," he said.
She didn't have any but nodded anyway. "The trial," she offered lamely.
"After you shot President Coin there was pure chaos. It took us a while but we threw together an emergency election and we put Commander Paylor in charge of Panem." Katniss smiled weakly. She liked Paylor in the brief time they met. At least someone had a say in who took power as opposed to Coin sauntering in after everything was done. "I'm in charge of communications," he said proudly, puffing out his already large chest, "so I televised your trial. During which I was a witness." Katniss raised her eyebrow. "In your defense, of course."
"As was everyone else," Haymitch interjected. "Dr. Aurelius basically pegged you as a crazy person which isn't exactly inaccurate." Katniss would've soured at this assumption but he wasn't wrong. Only a crazy person would be able to assassinate the new president within weeks of her ascension to power and still be alive. "You had some other friends on your side too."
"Oh yes," Plutarch added eagerly. "Your mother was instrumental in painting a picture of your grief over losing your sister. She was quite brave." A nagging thought cropped up in Katniss's brain. Her mother wasn't present on this trip. Her eyes looked briefly to Haymitch but he didn't return the gaze. "And Johanna Mason was quite helpful."
Katniss perked up. "Johanna? I guess she'd love an opportunity to go on TV and tell the whole country I'm brainless. She's always telling me," Katniss grumbled but her annoyance was mild. Johanna's support came at the unlikeliest of times but always when Katniss needed it most.
Plutarch chuckled and shook his mop of white hair. "Not exactly. Though she did do a spirited impression of you, I'll give her that. But no, she had two things to say that helped. First, that she's lost her family, too, so she explained that to the jury. Her being a victor places her close to you, emotionally, you know. Peeta wasn't considered reliable and the other victors didn't share your experience." Katniss nodded solemnly. "She told them she said to you that she thought President Coin dropped the parachutes."
Katniss's eyes widened to comical levels. "She what?"
"She said that when she gave you the arrow, she told you she thought the hovercraft was orchestrated by Coin," he repeated to her. If it had been Coin, surely Plutarch would've known. Katniss searched his face for some sort of reaction but the former Gamemaker showed none. "They gave her hell for that one but she was convincing. She went on about how close you two became as roommates which was evident in that she saved you from taking that pill. And she said you trusted her opinion. She wasn't a fan of President Coin so she thought she'd suggest to you that perhaps Alma had been responsible for your sister's death. Surely anyone can understand you wanting revenge for that."
Katniss was speechless. Johanna basically told everyone she was the traitor in Panem, not Katniss. "What did they do to her?" she asked fearfully.
Plutarch waved his hand. "Nothing really. Paylor practically pardoned her. Something about all the victors getting a clean slate. Though I don't think Johanna will be welcome in the Capitol any longer. Or in Thirteen. They were mighty mad, some of them." The hovercraft began its descent into District 3. "I've got to work on some of the comm. technology with Beetee but don't be a stranger, Katniss, okay?"
Once Plutarch had disappeared and they were back up in the clouds, Katniss looked to Haymitch. "My mother's not coming back, is she?" Katniss asked.
Haymitch handed her an envelope from across the aisle. Katniss looked down at the graceful lettering. "She's setting up a new hospital in Four. You know why she can't come back. She said to call once we land." Katniss examined the letter and tucked it into her jacket.
"And you're my mentor again, huh?" Katniss raised an eyebrow. Haymitch shrugged.
"They don't have a use for me in the Capitol, either," he replied. Katniss took the sandwich Haymitch offered and chewed on the bread's burned edges. Her eyes went to the fading ribbon around her wrist and they began to sting. "I don't know where she went."
"Who?" Katniss asked thickly.
"You know who. Once they let her go she took off. Nobody's heard from her since. Not that she's got any friends to keep in contact with anymore." Katniss took another bite of her sandwich and gazed out the window at the whizzing clouds. Somewhere in the land below Johanna was alone, cooped with her hydrophobia and her nightmares. Branded a traitor by rebels and Capitol alike. She had staked her life on deception before and had done it again, but this time not for her own survival, but for Katniss's.
Maybe that's how she was going to 'be there for her.' Go behind her back again to save her life. Katniss suddenly wished she had taken the pine bundle with her. Instead she tilted her head back and rested it on the swell of foam behind her. Her eyes closed and she tried, desperately, to conjure up one of Johanna's memories still inside her brain. Something real. Not some nightmarish rehash of her family dying. Anything else. Suddenly she was back in the Training Center. Through the pane of glass she watched herself take out the digital orange block targets. As she finished her gaze went briefly to Wiress who was clapping, then back to Katniss. Katniss smiled at the emotions she felt at Johanna's memory: arousal, the indication of being impressed, a pang of jealousy, admiration.
There were many things to do first but she knew she had to find Johanna.
Fifteen days. Katniss counted fifteen days. Greasy Sae showed up twice a day, unbidden but clearly paid by someone, to cook her meals and talk at her. Katniss sat in the kitchen and stared mutely.
Day 5 she found Buttercup - torn up little thing - and screamed at him. Cantankerous Buttercup looked up at her and he knew it wasn't the time for a fight. Instead he took her abuse, allowed her to clean his cut and thorny paw, and kept vigilant watch as she slept.
Peeta showed up on day 10. He made a garden of evening primroses around the side of the house as Katniss watched from a nearby tree stump. His presence was a comfort.
Day 11 she finally took a shower and peeled away all the dead skin and cleansed the smell of roses from her skin and hair.
Day 12 she practically begged Haymitch to let her know where Johanna was. He drunkenly insisted he had no idea. Katniss was pretty certain he was lying.
Day 13 she called her mother. Not only to check on and see how she was doing, to grieve over Prim, but to ask if she knew where Johanna Mason might be. It was a long shot but her mother was on a short list of people Johanna knew who were still alive. "She was here," her mother said, surprise in her tone. "She was in Four with Annie."
"With Annie Cresta?" Katniss repeated into the phone.
"Yes," her mother confirmed. "Johanna showed up a week or so ago and helped Annie get settled in her home. They took some damage here but the Victor's Village was mostly unscathed. She helped her move Finnick's things into the new home. Annie's pregnant," her mother revealed. Katniss blinked in confusion. What the hell did that have to do with Johanna? Either she murmured something along those lines or her mother knew her well because she sighed into the phone. "I believe that Miss Mason was here as a duty to your mutual friend Finnick. She didn't exactly look thrilled."
Katniss managed a small smile. "No, I'm sure she's not. She's not the picture of patience."
"Only with you."
"She's the picture of patience with you. That poor girl probably got a twist in her back from sleeping hunched over by your bed almost every night you were in the hospital." Her mother's tone turned teasing. "Not that she knew I was awake."
"Are we talking about the same Johanna Mason?" Katniss inquired into the phone, disbelief pervasive in her voice. She had realized Johanna visited her when she was asleep because of the ribbon but she had no idea it was every night. It only made the longing worse.
Her mother's light laugh came over the line. "Yes. Anyway she left sometime yesterday to back to Seven, I think. I could call Annie and ask her if you'd like."
"No," Katniss interjected glumly. "That won't be necessary. Thanks Mom. Love you."
"Love you too."
Day 14 Katniss tried to reach Johanna in her dreams. She battled the nightmare of being buried in ashes and tried to wipe away the forest with Rue. She wanted to be somewhere with Johanna. To see her again, to talk to her. Peeta's sporadic presence was helpful; he'd come by and do some painting every now and then to keep her company. Greasy Sae and her granddaughter did what they could but Katniss knew what she wanted. What she needed. What she craved, somehow, though she could scarcely drum up any other emotions, was Johanna. She never materialized in her dream world.
Day 15 a knock came at her door. Greasy Sae had left for the day and Peeta didn't usually knock. A brief fear shot through Katniss as she thought it might be someone to take her away for killing President Coin. Her fears were abated when she opened the door to reveal Johanna as she had never seen her. Not in a dress or a uniform or stark naked. She was wearing a red and black oversized, thick flannel shirt over a pair of worn men's cargo pants and a pair of scuffed black work boots.
Her hair was windswept around her head and partially covering her eyes. Katniss stepped back from the doorway. Her mouth opened and closed a few times in shock. "Gonna let me stand out here all day? What would Effie Trinket say?"
Katniss stumbled backward a step and let Johanna inside. As Johanna passed by Katniss saw the large duffel bag slung over her shoulder. Johanna's eyes took in the room closely, just as she had done when they moved into their compartment. Katniss had assumed it was a natural curiosity or jealousy that made Johanna inspect their room but now, with her dressed like a lumberjack, she realized it may have just been her natural instinct to assess furnishings and architecture. "What..." It was the beginning of a lot of questions Katniss had.
Johanna tossed her bag on the floor of the formal living room which made a loud thump and clang against the wood. She splayed herself on the couch, crossing her legs over one another and clasping her hands over her stomach. "Nice digs."
Katniss took a look around at the furniture. She sort of hated all of it. They were all Capitol furnishings with too much shine and they were all places Prim had sat. "I hate it."
Johanna smirked at her. "The whole house? That's rather spoiled of you, Mockingjay."
"No," Katniss objected, still stood immobile in the middle of the room. Johanna was here. In her home. Her mind was sluggish to respond about the furnishings of her home but it was easier than tackling why Johanna was there. "The furniture. The things in here, they're all from the Capitol. And they remind me of..."
Johanna nodded and pressed her palms against the plushness of the couch. "No problem, I'll just make you new stuff."
"Oh? You're planning on staying?" Katniss bristled with sarcastic inflection. She crossed her arms and her gaze dropped to the floor. When she looked up Johanna was appraising her with narrowed brown eyes. "You said you'd be here when I got back and you-you weren't here."
"First of all, brainless, I called you. Maybe pick up your stinking phone every once in a while, hm?" Katniss's eyes diverted to the ground in shame. "And I know what I said," Johanna admitted. "I made a promise to Finnick a long time ago that I would look after Annie. She told me she was knocked up so I knew I had to make sure she was okay. And she is, oddly enough. The baby has given her some focus I think. Irony, right? Most women are idiots when they're pregnant - I mean you were and you were pretending - but Annie Cresta gets her shit together. Life is weird." Katniss still looked unsatisfied and Johanna rolled her eyes. "It's not always about you, Mockingjay."
"Stop calling me that!" Katniss demanded, her voice cracking from underuse and emotion. She hadn't said more than a few words in over two weeks and nothing that loud. Her fists clenched at her sides but she released one hand to tuck her hair behind her ear. Johanna slowly rose up into a sitting position, her elbows on her knees. "Just stop it! Stop acting like everything is okay. It's not. She's gone."
"You're right, she's gone," Johanna replied flatly. "And nothing we can do or say will bring her back. Trust me, I've tried." Johanna stood up and brushed her hands on her pants. She took a tentative step toward Katniss. "You cry and you scream and you throw shit. But you keep on living because to act like you're dead is a disservice to those who are. You can't bring back Finnick or Prim or anyone else on your guilt list. I'll never see my parents or my siblings. But I live every day because they can't. You get it?"
Katniss compressed her lips for a moment with a curt nod, then ran her tongue along her lips and nodded again. "All I wanted was to protect my sister."
"And instead you overturned a corrupt government, prevented another one, and brought life back to the entire fucking country. The world doesn't begin and end within arm's reach, brainless. Prim is gone but because of her and you, life goes on," Johanna said, stepping closer to Katniss. She took Katniss's hand and placed it flat against her chest, above her heart.
If someone had told her months ago she'd be hugging Johanna Mason for emotional support she would've thought they were crazier than a strung out morphling from 6. But there she was, embracing Johanna tightly and letting the tears absorb into her warm flannel that reeked of pine. Johanna's strong arms enveloped her as she placed her head on Katniss's shoulder. After a few long moments Katniss pulled away and Johanna instinctively wiped the tears from her cheeks. "My trial, you... why did you say those things?"
Johanna rolled her eyes. "You know why." Her gaze settled on the taller girl and she found she couldn't keep Katniss's inquisitive stare. Even after looking at everything else in the room, Katniss was still staring at her when they locked eyes again. She huffed an exasperated sigh. "Same reason I didn't let you kill yourself in the city circle."
Katniss attempted levity. "Because I was the best looking person in Thirteen?" Johanna's cheeks blushed faintly at her tease and Katniss's lips spread in a smile. "Did I make the shameless Johanna Mason blush?"
Johanna sucked in her cheeks and tucked her tongue between her teeth to bite back a response. Katniss got under her skin in a way no one else could and Johanna abhorred how much she enjoyed it. "Can it, Everdeen." Johanna's teeth briefly tugged on her bottom lip before she let it go and looked up at the girl. "So what's the deal? Can I stay?"
The brunette pretended to mull it over and Johanna cocked her head to the side. "I suppose as long as you're going to make yourself useful and make me all new furniture I can be burdened with the plucky District Seven victor of the 71st Hunger Games."
"Oh really?" Johanna bantered playfully, giving Katniss a short shove backward. "How generous of you. If only the cameras were here now to capture this moment of selflessness. Or would you still need a script? I'm surprised Cressida didn't realize what was going on the second I got up on that stage as you and was able to actually say something useful."
Katniss growled and poked Johanna underneath her ribs with a short jab of her pointer finger. "I hate you," she remarked with a grin, crossing her arms over her chest.
The older girl licked her lips and rubbed at the sore spot Katniss just created. "No you don't."
She hefted a sigh and Katniss looked over to the door, then back to Johanna. With just the hint of a smile on her face she replied, "No, I don't." Their bodies moved closer again and Katniss felt the radiating heat of Johanna's body against her own. Suddenly she wanted to drown in that heat, like she had been cold her entire life. Whatever emotion was in her eyes Johanna must've caught it because when she looked down at her the brown-eyed girl looked surprised but hopeful. "About that talk, I don't - I don't know if I can."
"I'm not here to chase you," Johanna said. "That's not why I came. To be honest I don't have anywhere else to go and with you seemed better than being alone at any rate." Katniss's lips scrunched in the wake of Johanna's half-truth. A feeling of anxiousness rumbled in her stomach that felt familiar but not her own. A few moments of the anxiety made Katniss realize she was still feeling Johanna's emotions. Her eyes flicked down to the guileless brown ones and she smiled. Johanna was nervous. "I'm not here for any promises. I'm not here to solve your problems with my dick like those idiot boys think they can."
Katniss blinked a few times at Johanna's crassness and humorously masculine use of the phrase 'my dick' but her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "Then what are you here for? You won't settle for friendship and you don't want promises."
Johanna shrugged. "I"m here for first place," she replied, like it was the simplest thing in the world. "The boys waited and sat on your porch begging for you to throw them a scrap. That's not me. I'm here because you want me here. Isn't that right?" Johanna's confidence was so overwhelming Katniss had little to do but agree. "So you're not going to string me along. You're not going to come in and out of whatever-this-is between us whenever you feel like it. We're gonna fight. We're gonna argue and you're going to be a pain in my ass and I'm going to be a pain in yours. Because that's what we do. That's what we need." Johanna's resolve hardened. "And sometimes we're gonna need to cry and throw shit, and we'll do that too. I'll tell you when you're being a self-pitying little shit and you can tell me when I'm being an obnoxious ass."
"I'll lose my voice at that rate," Katniss interrupted with a grin. Johanna shot her a look and she closed her lips.
"And everything else, well," Johanna lips widened in a catlike grin and Katniss blushed a deep crimson, "I can remember pretty vividly that you wanted that too. I knew that prudish little girl act was a put-on."
Katniss shot her arms down at her sides petulantly. "You're being an obnoxious ass."
"Yeah? Okay, then what are you going to do about it?" Johanna posed cockily. "We both know I can put you in your place. But what we don't know-" Johanna said as Katniss began stepping toward her. Johanna took equal steps back until she hit a random armchair and she fell into it. "Is if you can-" Katniss's legs came around her thighs and she sat on her lap, her hands cupping either side of Johanna's face. Johanna's heart thumped loudly and her breath stuck in her suddenly dry throat and mouth. "If you can put me in mine," she finished in a whisper as Katniss's lips hovered just over her own. She felt the slightest brush of her skin as Katniss's mouth ghosted over hers, then slowly ran across her cheek to her ear. Her hands unconsciously gripped the sides of the chair.
Katniss placed her lips right over Johanna's ear, breathing a long breath directly on to her skin. Johanna shivered beneath her. "I think I just did," she drawled.
Johanna let out a slow, shuddering breath through her nose and Katniss pulled up, running her fingers through her thick brown hair and cocking an eyebrow at Johanna's aroused and frustrated expression. "I hate you."
The younger girl took Johanna's hands in her own and laced their fingers together. "No you don't," she sing-songed in a teasing voice.
Johanna rolled her eyes in defiance but she was soundly defeated. "No, I don't," she replied glumly. The gloominess was gone as Katniss pressed her lips against Johanna's with a quiet gasp. Katniss relinquished her hold on Johanna's hands to instead grip the sides of her face again. Johanna's hands criss-crossed up her shirt and around her back and held her closely as her tongue darted out to plunge into Katniss's mouth and taste her breath.
Antagonizing Katniss had been an incredibly satisfying pastime for her in Thirteen. Getting Katniss riled up and frustrated was one of the few highlights of her day. But as her lips kissed their way down the hollow of Katniss's throat, she knew that this was a much more pleasurable way of antagonizing her. As their kiss slowed Katniss repositioned herself so she sat across Johanna's lap, her shins dangling off the side of the chair. She wrapped her arms around Johanna's middle and the older girl cradled her in her arms.
And this... this was good too. Maybe even better, Johanna relented silently to herself. She'd never admit it aloud.
"Miss Katniss Everdeen!" The booming voice came over the video phone that was situated on the newly built coffee table in the middle of the living room. Katniss had not wanted to agree to installing one of Beetee's newest inventions - a phone with a built in camera that projected a hologram of the receiver - but Johanna insisted.
"Hey Plutarch," Katniss greeted with a smile. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Plutarch chuckled and fiddled with an unseen knob on his phone as his picture came in clearer. He was in some sort of stainless steel laboratory. Behind him where several cages in which Katniss could just make out that there were animals. "Beetee has been coming up with something amazing and he told me that you might be familiar with the technology."
Katniss's forehead creased in mild confusion. Technology? Maybe something to do with the intuitive bow. It had been returned to her - along with all her other things from the Capitol and 13 - but she hadn't used it. She preferred her own hunting bow now when she went out in the woods for game. "I doubt it."
"Doubt what?" Johanna asked, flopping down on the couch. She stretched her legs cross-wise over Katniss's and held herself up by encircling Katniss's arm in her own. She rested her head on her shoulder and looked at Plutarch. "What's up?"
Plutarch looked at them with a smile. "Johanna Mason, just the other girl I was hoping to talk to. How have things been in Twelve?"
"Oh you know, same old. Clearing out dusty bodies from the meadow. Building that medicine factory. Making sure ol' Sharpshooter over here doesn't go crazy and off another president." Katniss shot her a shocked glare and Johanna merely grinned in response. "I'd trade sawdust for this soot that's still everywhere but," she gave Katniss a warm look, "can't really complain." Beetee rolled onto the screen and Johanna smiled. "Volts!"
"Hello Johanna, Katniss," Beetee acknowledged. "We called because I have gotten my hands on some technology that you both have some experience with." Johanna's confused expression mirrored Katniss's.
"Yes," Plutarch cut in excitedly. "Some old Capitol technology Beetee said he found in Thirteen. It sounds very promising." Plutarch held up a small metal triangle in his hand. "Beetee here says this thing can make two people switch bodies. It's even got a name now. The Draconian Katra. Neat, no?"
Johanna nearly fell off the couch in shock. The pair of them sat on the furniture and they both felt the world spinning around them. Their ability to share emotions had waned over the last few months but sometimes it came back with startling clarity. In moments of intense emotion Katniss was sure she felt whatever Johanna was feeling. If it was raining, Katniss felt Johanna's anxiety. If Katniss had a nightmare, Johanna was holding her even before she began crying out. Sometimes they would even experiment to see if they could figure out what the other person was feeling from different rooms. It helped pass the time.
One particularly interesting time Katniss sat in the living room, Johanna in the kitchen, and Katniss had felt a sudden, sharp electric jolt of arousal. After a minute or two she realized it was not her own libido and went running into the kitchen. Johanna was cackling heartily with her back against the counter, one of her hands down the front of her open jeans. Katniss had wanted to be angry but it was an overwhelmingly erotic image with Johanna's face flush and her lip tugged within her teeth. Katniss swallowed down her raging libido, sat calmly on the chair in the kitchen across from where Johanna stood and crossed her legs, then hardened her gaze. She said one word in the lowest tone she could manage and she thought Johanna was going to melt, her skin went so red. "Finish." Johanna never teased her like that again.
When they - Katniss flushed involuntarily at the memory - when they were intimate, their connection was extremely heightened. Katniss wasn't sure if that was common as she had nothing to compare it with, but Johanna insisted sex was never like that. Katniss liked to do those experiments most of all. She wasn't sure if it was Johanna's lingering presence inside her or the fact that her attraction to Johanna was far and beyond what she had experienced previously, but she found herself a much more sexually aware person in the older girl's presence. It was certainly not unwelcome. Johanna's voice broke her increasingly distracting thought train. "You can't be serious."
Plutarch nodded his head enthusiastically. "He told me all about what happened in Thirteen. How fascinating!" Katniss felt the dread spreading in her stomach and knew Johanna was feeling it too. "Beetee has come a long way with figuring out how to operate this thing. We were wondering if you guys would want to give it another go?" Plutarch hesitated a moment. "It would be worth it! I mean, you ladies have never heard of Jean-Paul Sartre, I'm assuming?" He didn't wait for an answer. "This device will force people to see themselves as others see them. Sartre's Look. You see yourself from another's perspective. It could really be a breakthrough in psychological therapy!"
Both sets of eyes widened nearly to the point of pain. Johanna felt her throat go completely dry. After a few moments of shocked silence Johanna piped up. "Are you fucking kidding me?"
Beetee and Plutarch shared a glance and both men erupted in laughter. "Of course we are!" Plutarch said, placing his hand on his rounded belly. "We've got animals here we're trying it out on. Mr. Latier thought it would be funny to tease you guys."
Katniss groaned and let her head drop to the back of the couch. Johanna's expression soured as she looked at the two guffawing men on the screen. "Very fucking funny Volts. I should've left you in that godforsaken jungle."
Beetee adjusted his glasses and chuckled. "Oh no you wouldn't. Then you wouldn't be sitting where you are now, with that person right there." Johanna looked at Katniss and felt the heat of the blush appearing on her cheeks. "I know you've been building her new furniture but don't forget I was the first gift you ever gave Katniss."
Katniss chuckled and shook her head. "Actually the first gift was in the elevator before the Quell," she replied before slapping her hand over her mouth. Johanna, Beetee and Plutarch all looked at Katniss in surprise. Her face turned a deep shade of beetroot and she buried her cheeks in her hands. "Okay time to either kill me or turn this thing off."
"Have fun girls. Stay out of trouble!" Plutarch called before reaching forward and ending the call. Johanna rolled her eyes and turned the phone off from her end, then snuggled back into Katniss's side.
"So," she drawled in a light, teasing tone, "you enjoyed my elevator introduction?" Johanna pulled Katniss's hands away from her face and scrutinized her. "I mean I know you did. That was like the first memory of yours I sort of filed back to watch."
Katniss slapped Johanna's legs playfully. "I don't know if that's more perverted or self-centered." Johanna shrugged. "Obnoxious ass."
Johanna kissed Katniss on the cheek, then waited for Katniss to turn to her to kiss her fully on the mouth. "Mmm, but you love it. And don't say you don't because remember," she pointed to her chest, "I can feel that you do."
"Oh you're gonna feel somethin' all right."
Johanna wiggled her eyebrows. "That's the best you've got, Mockingjay?"
Katniss smiled as she recalled this conversation from right after their switch. When she had tried out calling Johanna 'Jo' and Johanna had said, by not saying it, that she was the best-looking person in Thirteen. Katniss wondered how oblivious she had been to all of Johanna's advances. The body-switching opened her eyes into Johanna's guarded, intimate world. It revealed how they saw each other, and themselves. And luckily, she thought as Johanna's warm lips kissed below her ear, revealed how oddly fitting they were together.
Gale had been right. She would pick the person she couldn't survive without. Fortunately, it happened to be the person she loved. Weirdly, it happened to be Johanna Mason. Miraculously, it worked perfectly.
Author's Note: Fin! Thank you all for the incredible support for this little story. 2,000 points to anyone who realized the Draconian Katra is the name of the device from the BtVS episode I took this concept/story title from. Which, in case anyone did know, is a season 4 Buffy episode called "This Year's Girl." Which, yes, I can recite by heart. I know, ladies and gents, calm your loins. There's only so much of me to go around.
Thanks again to Johannas-Motivational-Insults for her always immensely helpful beta reading. And her startlingly excellent memory. :)