While I'm spreading out the postings for "Angel On My Shoulder", I decided to try another Johale-related one-shot. I have been kicking around a couple ideas for longer projects, and in the process I have written a fair amount of material without a definite idea where it would fit. This, along with "Progress", is one I decided was better by itself.
"Hey, gorgeous," Johanna said with a wave. "How's Catnip?"
Gale sat down next to her at the cafeteria table. He steepled his hands and gave her a funny look. "Let's not talk about her," he said. "Let's talk about you." He leaned in and whispered in her ear. "I know. She told me. She wasn't the first."
"I see," Johanna said. "So, she finally noticed...?" Gale shook his head sternly. "Oh, the other thing."
"People notice," Gale said softly. "They don't want to have to do anything about it, but they will have to soon. Someone told me to warn you. They won't do it again."
"Well, I suppose even Katniss was bound to notice," Jo said, cheerfully and far from quietly. "Wouldn't've taken her that long, if she wasn't so full of herself. She's like angst-coated angst with an angst-flavored filling. Hey, want to go to the closet and make out again?"
"I don't think I can do that any more," Gale said. "We agreed to be friends, remember?" They finished their meals in silence. She was first to finish, but she stayed at his side until after he was done. As he rose, he leaned in and whispered, "Give anything you haven't used to me, and I can return it. No questions asked."
"All right," she said, flashing a smile. "Come to my room in half an hour!" A wave of smiles and whispers immediately ran through the cafeteria as Gale stalked out.
Gale knocked at the door of the room Johanna shared with Katniss Everdeen. "Hello, gorgeous!" Johanna greeted Gale with a kiss through the half-open door and then pulled him inside.
"Please don't do that," he said. "Do you have it?"
"I'll get it."
"No. Show me."
"All right..." She led him to the dresser, and opened her underwear drawer. She made a show of throwing all the drawer's contents on the bed. "Hey, would you like to see me in this?" She held up a Capitol-made nightgown. Gale only furrowed his brow, and she tossed it on the bed. Finally, she reached to the very back, and pulled out two bags of clear fluid and a six-pack of needles.
Gale took the items and said, "Is there any more." It was assuredly not a question. Jo lfted her mattress, reached under a covering, and took out another, smaller bag. She placed it in his hand, and he only gazed at her. She went to the bathroom, and he followed. She pulled out the retractable sink, and reached underneath. There was a sound of sticky tape unpeeling, and she pulled out a plastic bag with two dozen pills in sheet-and-bubble packaging.
"They didn't tell me about these," Gale said. He took a close look at one half-used sheet. "These aren't restricted. If you talk to Dr. Aurelius, I'm sure he would consider giving you a prescription."
She shrugged. "I guess I like doing things on the sly," she said. She sighed and pulled another small bag from behind the lid of the folding toilet.
Gale seated himself at the little desk, and Jo flopped on the bed. For ten minutes, they just looked at each other. "Look, I only take what I need, okay?" Johanna said. "I hadn't taken anything in a little while. That was why I was scrounging around for the odds and ends, so I could save what I have for when I really needed it."
"You don't need it, Johanna," Gale said sadly. "I know you don't."
"You know... long as you're here... you might as well make it a strip search," Johanna said, starting to stretch. She met Gale's eyes, and relaxed. "Okay, that was the worst come-on ever, and I'll just fall back. Still, it wouldn't hurt either of us to have some company."
"We could try," Gale said, "but then I don't think we could still be friends." He got up to leave.
"Gale," Jo said, "I think you're right. About... the stuff. I want believe it. But hasn't it occurred to you, maybe you can see it because we have the same problem? You think you need her. But you don't. You don't need her, and she doesn't need you either. Please try to believe me, Gale, the same way I'm going to try to believe you."
"Drop in any time!" Jo called out as Gale walked away. He was so flustered, he ran into a woman he didn't see coming. He looked back, and glimpsed her face as she looked over her shoulder, and he froze.
He had just brushed past Katniss.