A/N: If you have read Rebuild and Recover, this chapter corresponds with chapter eleven of that story. Reading that is not necessary, but the events of Rebuild and Recover chapter eleven take place immediately before the events of this chapter. If you go and read just the chapter, it'll give you a bit of extra information about what's happening between Katniss and Johanna (including what Johanna has already said to Katniss about Gale) here even though it's not necessary.
"Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate." - Albert Schweitzer
It was freezing in this house. District 4 was supposed to be warm. You were supposed to be able to jump in the ocean without a care in the world about frostbite at any time of the year, yet Johanna felt like she was turning into a block of ice in this house.
She wrapped her sweater tighter around her as she glanced around the room she'd been placed in. The quietness of the house indicated that none of the others were out of bed yet. Johanna hadn't even heard Miles cry this morning.
When Johanna had learned that she had vacation time, she hadn't been keen to take it, but Gale insisted that she needed to get away from the military compound for a while. He couldn't come with her, so she'd have to go alone, a prospect that was embarrassingly scary to her. His first suggestion had been for her to visit District 7 again, but she had balked. She wasn't ready for that yet, and if Gale still hadn't set foot back in District 12, there was no way she was going back to District 7.
Johanna's only other options were visiting friends or going somewhere and staying in a hotel all alone. It was a no brainer to visit Annie. Katniss and Peeta were the only other people she could think to visit, and going to District 12 before Gale had been back seemed wrong. What Johanna hadn't been expecting was getting to District 4 and being immediately informed by a very excited Annie that Katniss and Peeta would be there too in just a few days.
Katniss and Peeta were two people on a short list of those Johanna considered friends. Seeing them should have been a good thing, but something about seeing Katniss felt wrong. Maybe it was because Gale should have been the one to see her first; maybe it was because Johanna felt bad sitting in front of Katniss without telling the girl what was happening between her and Gale. More than likely it was both.
She'd called Gale the night she found out, but he'd been largely indifferent about the whole thing. Johanna wasn't sure what that meant. He'd assured her that she should enjoy her time with Katniss. They'd grown close in District 13 after all. Gale wasn't going to fault her a friendship. Johanna knew he was right, but that didn't shake the unease she had felt the entire day before as she was forced into Katniss's presence.
Katniss appeared to guess that something was happening between Gale and Johanna, which was odd considering neither of them had been in touch with the girl since their last time in the Capitol. It was like she picked up on Johanna's discomfort and got the cause of it, which was also odd considering Katniss wasn't the most observant person Johanna had ever met. In fact, she was usually rather self-absorbed and stuck in her own head, traits that were almost universally shared among victors.
The two women were remarkably similar. Johanna had suspected as much from the time she saw Katniss's first interview before the 75th Annual Hunger Games. She'd had it confirmed when she met the Girl on Fire in the Capitol before the Quarter Quell. Whether it was some sort of shared personality they'd each had since birth or the result of similar circumstances, something had granted Johanna Mason and Katniss Everdeen a shared outlook on life, and Johanna didn't like how much the younger woman could sense about Johanna's feelings.
Johanna had left her door open a crack after she'd dressed that morning so that she'd hear the others getting up for the day, but she'd become far too absorbed in her own thoughts to catch on to Katniss's presence before the other woman had knocked on Johanna's door. Johanna jumped in surprise at the noise, turning to glance up at Katniss in thinly veiled trepidation.
"Can I come in?" Katniss asked, head poking into the room.
"Sure." Johanna scooted herself closer to the headboard, leaving plenty of room for Katniss to take a seat at the foot of the bed.
"Yesterday was a little weird," Katniss admitted immediately after sitting down.
"Yeah," Johanna said with a smirk. She always found it amusing when Katniss blurted out what she was thinking without considering how it sounded. "It kind of was."
"It's weird seeing you and knowing you've spent time with Gale when I haven't seen him in nearly a year. We used to be best friends."
"You still are best friends, whether you've spoken with each other or not. You don't actually think I've replaced you. Do you?"
Katniss looked at her carefully before replying. "No, not really. Not as his best friend at least."
Johanna couldn't help but frown as Katniss demonstrated again how observant she was being about Johanna. "But you do think I've replaced you some other way?"
Katniss nodded. "And I'm thankful for that. I really am. You're a much better fit for him than I ever was."
"That's odd since I think you and I are more alike than most people."
"Maybe." Katniss shrugged. "And maybe that's why he liked me in the past, but we were terrible for each other. Gale and I are really similar too, and it was all wrong. You and Gale are similar as well, I think, so I guess all three of us are kind of alike. But we're our own people, and you and Gale are way more compatible than he and I ever were."
"How so?" Johanna asked.
She'd been very interested in Katniss's answer, but all the other woman did was shrug.
"You just are. I don't know why. I'm not good with that kind of thing. It must be true if even I can pick up on it though."
"You haven't seen us together since we were back in District 13."
"I know, but I know Gale better than almost anyone else. And I think I know you too. Trust me. You're good for each other. I've never been more sure of something like that except with Peeta and me. I just know the two of you work."
"Feel free to not answer this," Johanna said. "But what exactly do you think Gale and I's relationship is like at the moment?"
Katniss shrugged. "I can't know for sure, but something's happened. I can tell by the way you're acting. You're nervous, and it was only towards me, not Peeta."
"Maybe you just bring up bad memories."
Katniss frowned. "I do for a lot of people. Probably do for you too. But that's not it in this case. It got worse when the conversation got anywhere near Gale."
"We've kissed," Johanna blurted out.
Katniss's expression didn't change, but she did let out a quiet, "Oh."
Johanna waited for the other woman to voice her disapproval. Instead, she got, "Just once? I was expecting more than that."
"Uh, no," Johanna admitted, confused that Katniss sounded curious instead of angry. "We've kissed more than once but nothing more than kissing. Not even all that eventful kissing really. Just kissing."
Katniss was stifling laughter now. "It's okay, Johanna. I really don't care."
Johanna raised an eyebrow, causing Katniss to shrug.
"It may be a bit weird, I admit," Katniss said. "But I'm not upset by the kissing part. All I want from Gale is friendship. If I'm jealous of anything, it's that you get to talk to him every day. I'm more jealous of that than any kissing you're doing."
"Katniss, you're still his best friend. I'm just the girl he makes out with occasionally."
"'Just'?" Katniss asked in disbelief. "It's more than that, and we both know it. You wouldn't be that worked up about my reaction if it didn't mean anything to you."
Johanna blushed. She felt a bit of anger over the fact that Gale and Katniss were the only people capable of making her flustered like this. Maybe the three of them really were similar to each other in many ways.
"Okay. Maybe he does. Maybe he means a lot to me, but think about Peeta. He hasn't replaced Gale for you, has he? It's completely different. This is like that. Peeta didn't replace Gale for you. I'm not replacing you for Gale. Does that make sense?"
Katniss nodded, expression thoughtful. "It does, and you're right."
She looked up at Johanna from where she'd been picking at the sheets on the bed, taking in the awkwardness the other woman still felt.
"I'm not angry at you, Johanna. I never was. I want both you and Gale to be happy, but I'll admit I felt a little weird about it. You two are good for each other. I accept that completely, and of all the people in Panem, I'm pretty happy you and Gale chose each other."
Katniss allowed herself a smile along with her nod. "Really. As awkward as I feel admitting this to you, you and Gale are two people on a very short list of those I care about. I want you both to be happy."
Johanna wanted to groan at the cheesiness of that, but she couldn't stop her smile or her words.
"For what it's worth Katniss, you and Gale are both on that same list for me."
"That's good." Katniss smirked. "This would have been even more awkward otherwise."
Johanna allowed herself a laugh before standing up. She may have allowed this conversation to go on for this long, but she couldn't allow herself anymore emotional confessions.
"Come on," she said. "Let's go see if Annie and Peeta are ready for breakfast."
As the two made their way to the kitchen where Peeta and Annie sat eating and chatting, Johanna had already forgotten about the coldness she had felt in the house earlier that morning.