The Hidden Law
AU; Johanna, Katniss
One, the martyr for a cause she didn't realise she created; the other, a victor who lived her life from one day to the next, not really caring if she reached tomorrow.
Its utter patience will not try
To stop us if we want to die...
...These are the ways we're punished by
The Hidden Law.
'The Hidden Law' by W.H Auden
Johanna looks up from where she sits on her bed to find Katniss leaning against the door frame. She's been out hunting, for her two hours per day that President Coin has allocated and her skin is covered in dirt, her tank top rank with sweat. Neither says a word, choosing instead to study the other. One, the martyr for a cause she didn't realise she created; the other, a victor who lived her life from one day to the next, not really caring if she reached tomorrow.
Slowly, Johanna rises and crosses the few feet across the room. Katniss doesn't move a muscle and Johanna closes her eyes for a moment and breathes in the familiar scent of pine, the smell of sweat and for a brief second she can believe she is home again. The home she shared with her mother, father and two brothers. The family that was killed within months of her being crowned victor because she wouldn't sell her body like the pawn Snow wished her to be.
She doesn't know that Katniss has closed the gap between them until she feels her breath against her neck.
"I close my eyes too," she whispers, the sound lost on Johanna's skin.
She rests her forehead against Johanna's shoulder and slowly she reaches up and tangles her fingers in Katniss' hair, unravelling the elaborate braid that has become her trademark.
Her hair cascades down in waves.
Johanna places her other hand beneath Katniss' chin and forces her to look upward, her intention clear. They understand each other too well, she thinks, as she brushes away a lock of Katniss' hair that had fallen across her face. The other woman stills, unsure, and Johanna draws away for a moment before dipping her head down and pressing her lips to Katniss' neck. She can feel her pulse beneath her skin, quickening as she runs her tongue down her skin to her clavicle.
It's Katniss who drags her back up, pushes herself closer and nips at her shoulder, pulling away the fabric of her shirt to expose scarred skin. Johanna pauses, embarrassed and mutters something about her treatment at the hands of the Capital. Katniss places a finger against her lips, says 'shh' and puts her hand flat against Johanna's chest, above her heart.
Peeta is rescued a few days later and Johanna sees Katniss for a second as she rushes through the corridors. Johanna follows and finds Katniss in an empty dorm room. The marks on her neck tell their own story and Johanna approaches slowly until she can place a hand on Katniss' shoulder. Her breath hitches as she turns and all-but-throws herself against Johanna and breaks into sobs.
Johanna holds her tightly until the tears subside and Katniss draws back until they're nose-to-nose.
"He's forgotten," she breathes. "Forgotten everything."
"Maybe that's good," Johanna responds.
Katniss laughs bitterly. "Maybe."
They don't speak to each other again for a fortnight. Johanna goes about her everyday business; talking with Finnick, laughing with Gale and pretends not to notice how Katniss backtracks the instant she glimpses Johanna, makes a quick getaway.
"Fuck this," Johanna mutters when this happens once too often, on her feet in a second and into the winding corridor. Katniss is ahead of her, a light shadow on the walls, and doesn't notice that Johanna is behind her and gaining ground with every passing second. Finally, Johanna reaches her and grabs her elbow and pushing her around until they're facing each other.
"What?" Katniss demands.
Johanna doesn't answer, noticing the way that Katniss' hands have curled into fists, the tight jaw and those hard eyes that seem to look straight through you.
Johanna falters and one corner of Katniss' mouth turns upward in a sarcastic smile, like she's won this particular verbal bout. Irritation flares through Johanna's veins and she spits out her next words. "Don't tell me Peeta still doesn't remember anything? Not one moment of the star-crossed love affair?"
She doesn't see Katniss' hand before it whips across her face sending her staggering back with its force.
"I thought not," Johanna says, wincing as she presses her hand against her cheek to ease the stinging.
Katniss doesn't respond as she turns on her heel and stalks away, her footsteps echoing in the tunnel.
Later, Johanna is in the bathroom, rubbing ointment onto the rising bruise to her cheek. Footsteps make her look up into the mirror and she sees Katniss in the door-frame. She doesn't say anything as she closes the door and locks it behind her. Johanna rolls her eyes and returns her attention to her cheek, to the broken blood vessels just beneath the skin, the purple discolouration.
"That looks like it hurts," says Katniss softly.
Johanna laughs as she rubs in the cream into her skin, leaving it shiny and smooth. Katniss leans against the closed door and looks at the ceiling, exhaling a long breath.
"He thinks it's all fake," she says, not turning her gaze away from the ceiling.
"Wasn't it?" Johanna responds.
Katniss jaw clenches as Johanna gives herself one last glance-over and walks to the bathroom door, coughing to hint for Katniss to move.
"Am I manipulative?" Katniss asks.
Johanna sighs and turns so she too can lean against the wall.
"I just wanted to keep us alive," Katniss breathes. Johanna doesn't respond and Katniss finally looks to the side. She shifts slightly so she can face Johanna entirely, only one shoulder against the closed door.
Johanna sighs when the silence stretches too long. "'Us' or yourself?"
Katniss doesn't retaliate, verbally or otherwise, as Johanna pushes her aside, unlocks the door and walks away.
Johanna sits in the corner of her room, her knees tucked beneath her chin, her chin to her chest. She can still feel water trickling down her spine and bites the inside of her cheek to stop herself screaming. A pool of water spreads from beneath her, soaking into the carpet but she doesn't move. She hadto volunteer to invade the capital, she thinks; they had to flood the street with water; she had to still be so weak.
She bites the inside of her cheek until she tastes blood and flinches when a hand touches her knee. She looks up from between her fingers to find Katniss before her and the concern in the other woman's eyes is overwhelming.
"You should see the other guy," she manages.
Katniss smiles gently. "I'm sure he's a mess," she responds.
Johanna tries to laugh but they soon turn to sobs and she doesn't protest when Katniss shuffles forward and moves one arm around her back while her other hand rests at her hip. She presses herself against the other woman and digs her fingertips into her shoulder blades so hard she's sure she's left marks. Katniss doesn't say a word, doesn't make a sound as she rubs circles on her skin.
"When do you leave?" Johanna asks into Katniss' neck.
Johanna nods and finally pulls away. The sudden movement makes Katniss lose her balance and she places her hands on the wall behind Johanna to stop herself falling. Their limbs are tangled, with Katniss between Johanna's thighs; Johanna caught in Katniss' arms as she looms above her and maybe that's why she presses her lips against Katniss' collarbone, her hands moving to the bottom of her tank-top and pulling it over her head.
Katniss stares down, impassive, and Johanna can feel the weight of her eyes, can feel herself becoming embarrassed, when Katniss drops her hand to Johanna's breast and cups it in her hand, rolls her nipple between two fingers. Johanna moans and Katniss does it again, harder.
"Please," Johanna breathes, as Katniss drops her other hand between her legs, above the fabric of her shorts. "Please."
Katniss comes back from the Capitol and doesn't speak to anyone, instead disappearing into apparent thin air. Johanna hears of Prim's death via Gale and she wants to hit someone, anyone, for not telling her earlier. She walks the corridors, to apologise, past Katniss' room, past her mother's and eventually finds her in the centre of main communication area. Tables surround her and Johanna clambers over them to reach Katniss who hasn't moved a muscle.
"I heard about Prim," she says simply.
Katniss nods, her bottom lip trembling, and Johanna puts an arm around her shoulders and draws her close, not caring that her shirt becomes soaked with tears. It's the first time she hasn't flinched at the touch of water and part of her can't help but appreciate the bitter irony.
"I'm sorry about Finnick," Katniss says softly, her words barely distinguishable from the silence that surrounds them.
"Shh," Johanna whispers in her hair. She glances down and studies her in the dim light, the rising bruises and scrapes to her face and neck, thinks that if she had been there, maybe, just maybe, Prim and Finnick would be here with them. Then again, maybe she gives herself too much credit.
Katniss buries her face further into Johanna's chest and she places a hand to the back of her head and moves back and forth slightly, not stopping until the tears have subsided.
"I just can't-" Katniss breathes.
Johanna nods, still silent, and closes her eyes as Katniss splays her hands against her back, kisses her shoulder, bites at her neck. She doesn't protest when Katniss pushes them downward until she's pressed hard against the stone floor. Katniss isn't gentle as her teeth graze Johanna's skin, nearly hard enough to draw blood.
Johanna pulls her closer and makes her do it harder.
Katniss spends her days with Coin, discussing Snow, his execution and other such topics. Peeta is back with the medics, loaded with medication, recovering well and all Johanna can think is 'I am going to lose her.' It's as if she's a teenager again, lusting over someone with other responsibilities, other loves; someone out of reach.
But, when the sun has set and darkness envelops District 13 and Johanna has gone to bed, Katniss slides in beneath the covers beside her; neither speak, not wanting to disturb the silence, but Johanna's arm snakes around Katniss, pulling her as close as she can. Katniss doesn't break away, instead curving herself against Johanna until they may as well be one body.
Peeta remembers more and more each passing day until, finally, he is released from hospital. Johanna watches as he and Katniss laugh over breakfast, how he holds her hand tightly as if she's going to run away, how his eyes follow her wherever she goes. Soon, Katniss stops coming to her room at night, leaving her bed feeling empty.
"He'll want to put a tracker back in your arm," Johanna says snidely one day as they pass each other in the corridor; so dim, so impersonal.
Katniss hesitates, then stops and pulls her into an adjoining room, her hand a vice around Johanna's wrist. Its an empty hospital room, with a trolley and containers of steri-tape lining the walls. Johanna pulls herself away and takes a step back.
"I never expected … this," Katniss says, running a hand through her hair. "It just..."
Johanna inhales sharply and the sound resonates in the otherwise silent room. Katniss stares at her as if seeing her for the first time and steps forward until they're less than a foot apart. Something keeps Johanna in place and she doesn't move as Katniss reaches out, runs her hand through her shorn hair, over the raised scars on her arms. Johanna flinches away and turns her head to the side but Katniss forces her to look to the front. Slowly, she leans forward and presses her lips against Johanna's, so so softly.
They've never kissed before, Johanna realises as Katniss forces open her mouth with her tongue. But here was Katniss, after everything, breaking their unwritten, unspoken rule. She puts her left hand on Johanna's cheek as she slides her tongue into her mouth, pulsing gently over her own, over and over again. Without moving her mouth from Katniss', Johanna moves them backwards until Katniss' back is against the trolley. Her hands glide over her body, until they are behind Katniss' legs. She gently nudges her upward until she sits on the edge of the trolley, Johanna between her thighs.
She's taken control and Katniss looks hesitant as Johanna tugs at her singlet, pulling it over her head and throwing it into the corner. She folds her arms across her chest, as if embarrassed, and Johanna plants a kiss above her breasts as Katniss arches her back, her hands moving to the back of Johanna's head, pushing her closer. She takes it slow, takes her time and explores every inch of exposed skin – with her hands, her lips, her tongue. Katniss just moans, her toes curling into the white sheets. Her fingers fist in Johanna's hair as she travels down; between her breasts, over her ribs, the flat expanse of stomach.
Katniss' breath hitches as Johanna pushes her down until her back is against the trolley's mattress, her legs bent. She hooks her fingers at the top of Katniss' shorts and pulls them and her panties down. Katniss moans as she leans down, grazes the inside of her thighs with her fingers, feels goosebumps rise in their wake. Katniss moans again as she flicks her tongue and reaches into her; Katniss shudders and she trails upward and finds her clit. She hears Katniss swear softly, and runs her tongue against her as she pushes one finger inside, then another. Katniss pushes her hips upward, in time with her movements, and she moves faster, bringing Katniss closer and closer.
"Oh, god-" Katniss breathes, and finally, finally, she clenches around Johanna's fingers, her head falling back, sweat at her temples, her hairline.
Johanna looks down at Katniss, normally so composed, gasping for breath. "You okay?"
Katniss doesn't respond as she pushes herself up onto one elbow and she reaches out with the other arm, grabbing the front of Johanna's shirt and pulling her so hard she stumbles forward. Katniss doesn't let go as she shuffles back, dragging Johanna until she is also on the trolley, holding herself up, her hands at either side of Katniss' face. She lowers herself down gently until they're side-by-side. Katniss' hand lingers at her waist as she curves forward so her forehead rests above Johanna's breasts and Johanna can place her chin above her head.
They don't sit together at dinner. Johanna sits with Haymitch who eyes her over his bowl of mashed vegetables.
"What are you up to?" he demands.
Johanna tilts her head to the side. "I don't know what you mean."
She makes a point of not looking at Katniss and Haymitch 'pfft's' lightly as he pushes his half-empty plate to the side. "You're not fooling anyone," he says.
"Maybe I don't want to," Johanna responds, remembering how Katniss' lips felt as they kissed for the first time.
He rolls his eyes as he leans back in the hard, metal chair. "She's the mockingjay, Johanna," he says. "Do you really think she and Peeta can end now? With the Districts still rebuilding themselves they'll need their star-crossed lovers centre stage, telling them what to do." He sneers as he pulls out a flask from within his jacket. "After everything, they still need direction."
He raises the flask in her direction before taking a swig. "Just keep that in mind."
Maybe he's spoken with Katniss as well because when they see each other it's awkward. Neither can look the other in the eye and are relieved when they're called elsewhere. Johanna sits in her room, holding the bundle of pine needles Katniss had brought her so long ago and inhales deep.
They remind of her outside, of home, of Katniss.
Her body shudders as she keeps her emotions in check and after a few moments she shoves the bundle back into her clothes drawer and leaves the room.
She avoids Katniss as often as she can and tries not to listen as everyone talks of Peeta's remarkable recovery, of the possible wedding, how Katniss rarely leaves his side. Instead, she signs up for relocation to District Two. Gale is next in line and he frowns as he reads her name scrawled above his own.
"Not District Seven?" he asks.
Johanna shrugs, pretending not to care. "There's nothing there for me any more."
He laughs bitterly. "I guess I can understand that."
The wedding invitation arrives, with painted flowers down the side, no doubt by Peeta's hand. Johanna scrunches it in her hand and throws it across the room, into the fireplace. Its edges burn black until it bursts into flames and Johanna watches as it turns to ash. Not really caring, she turns on the television to find the execution of President Snow taking place. There was Coin, reading a long list of his crimes; there were Katniss and Peeta behind her. The former stares straight at Snow, their gaze not leaving the others while the latter looks at Katniss from the side, studying her face in the sunlight.
Finally, Coin steps away and takes her place at the podium as Katniss takes the bow and arrow that is handed to her by a faceless assistant. She strings the arrow and Johanna watches as she inhales and exhales, keeping Snow in her sights. She frowns and closes her eyes and Johanna leans closer toward the screen, sure that something is going to happen. Then Katniss moves her sights to Coin and fires, the arrow piercing the other woman's chest and presumably her heart. There are screams from the crowd and Peeta pulls Katniss away from the fray and inside the Justice Building away from the mob that forms below.
Johanna realises her mouth has fallen open as she wonders what on earth was Katniss thinking.
She takes the train to the former Capitol and talks her way into the hospital where Katniss is being kept. She looks inside the bare, bright room where Katniss sits at the centre, staring straight ahead. The hospital gown looks like a straight jacket from the back; a mess of string, ribbon and white fabric all designs to keep her there, keep her in place as they continued to use her as a pawn in their latest unspoken games.
Steeling herself, she swings the door open and steps inside. Katniss doesn't move and Johanna crosses the room and moves around until she's directly in front of Katniss' chair,
"Hey," she says softly.
Her voice seems to pierce something and Katniss looks up through bloodshot eyes. Her skin holds the look of the over-medicated and she is unsteady as she raises her hand toward Johanna, only for her arm to fall back down as if it is too much effort.
"You've made a few headlines," Johanna continues, crouching down so Katniss doesn't have to look up.
"Ha," Katniss breathes.
She looks back down, at her thin hands and Johanna reaches out and takes them within her own. Neither speak and Johanna shifts until she's sitting on the ground. She rubs her thumb in small circles against Katniss skin and a brief smile tugs at her lips before her eyes close and her body goes limp.
"That's enough," a voice says over the loud-speaker.
Katniss looks to have fallen asleep and doesn't notice as Johanna rises to her feet and leaves the room. Peeta is standing at the window.
"I don't get a response," he says, off-hand.
Johanna shrugs a shoulder. "Maybe you're too close to her."
He laughs, unamused. "Maybe."
Katniss improves, slowly.
Johanna watches from a distance as the medication is decreased incrementally and the girl-on-fire she had once known begins to break through. When not at the hospital, she goes to court and hears Plutarch Heavensbee on the witness bench speak of Katniss' 'fragile state' and her 'apparent belief that President Coin was on the side of the previous government.' All of which Johanna knows to be false. But if means that Katniss can leave this place and go home, then who was Johanna to argue?
After one such session, she trudges back through the street and goes up the familiar steps to Katniss' room. Peeta is, as is frequent, staring inside at Katniss and doesn't spare Johanna a second glance as she stands beside him.
"How is she?" Johanna asks.
"She should be coming home soon," he answers.
Bile rises in Johanna's throat and she swallows it back down. "Home with you?"
He finally turns his head towards her. "Unless you have a better idea."
Johanna shakes her head, already backtracking towards the exit. She sprints down the stairs and away from the hospital. People don't spare her a second glance as she weaves through them, only stopping when her lungs burn and its difficult to breathe.
"Unless you have a better idea."
Peeta's words circle in Johanna's head as she keeps her distance from the hospital and makes a deliberate effort not to listen to the radio or television which proclaim stories of the 'Girl-On-Fire's miraculous recovery.' She orders food from hotel room service and leaves the dirty plates outside the door, not wanting to venture outside lest she see further news of Katniss.
She leans against the edge of the windowsill, picking at her dinner and staring out at the rain as it pelts against the ground. Visibility is low, the streetlights unusually dull within the downpour. Still, Peeta's words resound in her mind. Perhaps he hadn't meant to be mocking, but surely he knew at least something of the twisted relationship that had evolved between herself and Katniss. It started out of a mutual need, but then grew, festered, until Johanna knew that there was no way in hell that they could stop unless one of them simply went away. And perhaps that's why she was doing what she was doing. Peeta was good for Katniss, with his boy-ish devotion and would treat her well. She and Katniss on the other hand … she and Katniss had the potential to simply explode.
She wriggles forward until she sits on the window ledge and stares out at the street. And that's when she sees it, the outline of someone standing across the road in the pouring rain, staring up at her hotel room window. She leans forward, peering closer through the wet, just to make sure she isn't seeing things. Then, without hesitating, she sprints out of her apartment, down the two flights of stairs and outside onto the street, bare-feet and all. The light from the streetlights is almost non-existent because of the torrential rain but she hurries across the road without incident to find Katniss standing there, soaking wet, her arms crossed over chest.
"What are-?" Johanna asks, stuttering, one hand hovering over her shoulder.
Katniss doesn't move, her eyes boring into Johanna's. "You didn't come back," she says, her voice flat and unemotional. "Why not?"
"When were you released?" Johanna asks, choosing not to answer.
Katniss laughs humourlessly and that's when Johanna recognises the hospital gown, almost transparent in the downpour, the red tags around her wrist and ankle. "I wasn't."
Johanna nods, thinking quickly, and wraps one arm around Katniss and pulls her across the road toward the hotel. She keeps her head down, hoping concierge doesn't recognise Katniss, but they're in luck and make it up the two flights of stairs without incident. Katniss shivers and Johanna strips off her hospital gown, leaving her naked and tiny in the centre of the room. She doesn't seem to notice and Johanna ushers her into the adjoining bathroom and turns on the shower until it billows steam.
"You need to get warm," she says, pushing Katniss inside.
She doesn't respond which Johanna takes to mean assent. The room has a small kitchenette and Johanna makes a pot of tea and puts out two cups on the small table in the corner. Katniss appears a few minutes later, clad in a fluffy hotel dressing-gown. Some colour has returned to her cheeks but she still looks far too pale as she takes the tea without argument and seems to savour the hot liquid when it touches her still-blue lips.
"Better?" Johanna says, leaning back.
Katniss replaces the cup onto the table. "You haven't visited for eight days," she says, ignoring Johanna's question.
"Why would you do that?"
She juts her chin forward and her eyes burn fiercely into Johanna's until she is forced to look away.
"Peeta said you'd be going home shortly. I didn't think me being there would be beneficial for you," Johanna says, staring at the wooden table between them.
Katniss smiles sarcastically, her fingers fisting in the material of the dressing-gown. "You're infuriating, you know that?" she says, letting her hands splay out onto her bare knees.
"Loves the idea of me," Katniss interrupts angrily. She leans across the table and wraps her fingers around Johanna's wrists, pulling her forward. "You know what Gale said? When he thought I was asleep and he and Peeta were talking about which of them I would choose?" Johanna shook her head, wondering what this was leading toward. "That I would choose whoever I couldn't survive without. And I thought, could someone really be so callous? The answer, when it comes to me, is 'yes.' Violent. Callous. Manipulative. All perfect descriptions of me."
She releases one of Johanna's hands and places a finger against her lips, silencing her. "Which then got me thinking further," she continues as if Johanna hadn't spoken, her tone taking that of the well-rehearsed and Johanna realises she has gone over these words time and time again during her time in hospital. "I can live without Peeta, I can live without Gale but I can't live without you."
Silence descends on the room until only the rain outside can be heard. Johanna doesn't look away, completely dumb-founded, and Katniss lets go of her wrists and rises from the chair.
"I should get back," she says, taking a final sip of tea.
She pushes in the chair and turns, walking across the room as if she hadn't just thrown an emotional bomb into Johanna lap.
"Wait-" she says finally as Katniss reaches for the door-handle. She lays her hand over Katniss', preventing her from turning the handle. "Wait." Katniss doesn't say a word as Johanna pulls her forward until they're inches apart. The Girl-On-Fire looks fragile in the dim light and Johanna cups her cheek in her hand, then smoothes her fingers through her hair. Katniss stays silent as Johanna dips her head down and presses her lips to her pulse-point, then trails kisses along her jaw until she reaches her lips. There's desperation in the way Katniss kisses back and she allows Katniss to wrap an arm around her back, arching her upward while the other hand fists in her hair not allowing her to move away.
"I can't live without this," she breathes, shrugging off her dressing-gown, "I can't."
Johanna lies on her back with Katniss turned toward her, tracing circles on her shoulder. The rain has ebbed and light shines through the open window. Katniss' hospital gown hangs on the open wardrobe drawer; the red tags on the desk in the corner. Outside, a crane is visible, lifting blocks of concrete onto a building site. The work that carries on to rebuild the fallen city.
"Peeta will be upset," Katniss says softly, breaking the silence.
"No doubt," Johanna responds. Katniss smacks her fist lightly against her stomach but says nothing as Johanna dips her hand down and catches Katniss' within her own. "What are we going to do?" she asks.
"I have no idea."
She chuckles. "No, me either."
Author's notes: Hope you enjoyed. Please review!