I have been juggling a few ideas for Johale-related fics, and after throwing off a few one-shots (see "Progress" and "The Talk") I have it down to two different storylines. One is a serious romance/ drama. This is the other one...

Gale arrived at Johanna's hospital room with a single hydroponically-grown rose. "Hey, there's my gorgeous!" she said, holding up her hand in an "OK" sign. "Come here, you." He set down the rose and embraced her.

"What we all want you to know," Gale said as he sat down, "is that this isn't your fault. If anything, it's ours. We thought you were ready for duty, and obviously we were wrong. We probably should have known as much when Katniss told me you weren't showering."

"It was the stress, really," she said. "Training. Following orders. People looking over my shoulder. Danger. Katniss and Peeta. You. I guess it just brought everything back up, and then I fell in that cold water..."

"Yes, we should have been ready for that," Gale said. "I should have been. And... I'm sorry if I hurt you. The fact is, you really do scare me, Jo. I've never met a woman like you, and I've never had a woman treat me like you. Maybe I should have kept more distance, maybe I should have done more to let you in. But I didn't know, and I still don't. The one thing I know is that I never wanted to put you in any more pain."

"Gale, it isn't your fault," she said. "You did everything right. Don't worry, I'll be fine." She waved for him to come in for another embrace. Then she whispered, "Seriously. I am fine. Worry about yourself."

He started to pull back, but she drew him in for a kiss. "What... do you mean?"

"You know what I mean. You know what they're calling `star squad'- the suicide squad. What else do you call a unit that has a washed-up propo girl, an actual brain-washed double agent, and a commander who inexplicably went from the president's right-hand man to babysitter? A unit you were offered a transfer out of? And now we're headed for Capitol... That's when I got out. You can, too. You wouldn't have lasted this long if you couldn't smell set-up."

"But that's why I can't pull out," Gale said. "They need me."

"No," she responded, "it's because you still think you need her. But you don't. Please believe me, you don't need her, and she doesn't need you either. And please, promise me, when you get back- I have to think when- you will give me a chance."

"I promise," he said. He pulled back, and turned to go. He paused in midstep at the door, and anyone watching might have sensed the course of history wavering on a heel.

This heel turned.

"They do need me," Gale said with a tear running from his eye. "But maybe they need you, too. Maybe I need you. If you show Dr. Aurelius you've gotten better, I can have you back on the squad by the time we leave for the front."

"What about the promise?" Jo said. "Is that still good?"

"Oh yeah," Gale said, no longer trying to hold back his tears. "It's good."

Half the Capitol was in ruins. President Snow's mansion was in flames. The President himself staggered in front of the camera, covered in dust, blood and soot. "Citizens of Panem," he said hoarsely, "I am announcing my complete and unconditional surrender... to Gale Hawthorne and Johanna Mason!"

Even in the halls of the mansion, the cries from the streets could be heard: "Freedom!"

Gale and Johanna stepped up behind the president, with arms around each other. "Thank you," Gale said. "Now, it should go without saying that I am the new President of Panem." The cheers subsided just a little for just a moment, and then rose again. "I would also like to announce that Ms. Johanna Mason has just agreed to be First Lady!" The cheers came louder than before.

"Thank you, all of you," Jo said. "Now, there's one more thing I should probably mention... Don't think of yourselves as freed, so much as... under new management."