It should not work, but somehow it does. Most of the time. They are both used to thinking in blacks and whites, so the shades of gray take some getting used to. Letting go of the past is hard, and sometimes Johanna feels suddenly wracked by all of her old fears. She packs her suitcase on three different occasions, certain she'll find a way to ruin things in the end anyway. But she never leaves. Gale finds her each time, perched on the edge of the bed with her head in her hands. He gently pries her fingers away from her face and lifts her chin.
"I love you," he tells her simply, planting a soft kiss against her forehead.
"I love you too," she whispers back, the words less strange with every passing day.
They always unpack her suitcase together.
Annie arrives after a few weeks, and they find a little house for her just up the road. When she's feeling cranky, Johanna mutters about the ridiculousness of it all - these two symbols of death and destruction now harboring life inside of their swollen bellies. But Annie just smiles serenely, while Gale rolls his eyes and laughs with affection.
"It's time," Annie says one day. Johanna holds Annie's hand the whole time, and they cry because they both wish that Finnick were there to hold her hand instead. The little boy is healthy and perfect; he looks so much like his father that it steals their breath away. Johanna glances at Annie, worried for a split-second that it might be too much for her - that she might slip away again.
But Annie just holds the tiny, precious bundle to her chest and smiles, her eyes clear and bright.
"I've been waiting for you," is all she says, as she presses her lips to the soft bronze hair.
They have a boy too. He comes out with an angry wail - a tangle of dark hair and tiny, balled-up fists - and they both think, of course. Gale says that he looks like a Seam kid, but Johanna insists that he's District 7 through and through. Annie points out that the districts aren't separated by fences anymore, and they all agree that maybe he just looks like a new world.
They have another boy a year later. He looks exactly like the first, and Johanna laughs because even their mixed together DNA is too stubborn and intractable for its own good.
Later, the boys tell stories of good guys and bad guys. Gale doesn't have the heart to tell them that in real life the roles are far more complicated. Some of the bad guys have good inside of them. And some of the good guys commit unspeakably bad acts.
"Maybe they'll never have to learn those lessons," Johanna says one night, as she watches them sleep. "Maybe our war got it right."
Gale wraps his arms around her from behind. "I think you've finally gone soft, Johanna," he teases.
She elbows him in the gut sharply. "Shut up, Hawthorne," she whispers with a smirk, as he chuckles against her quietly. Then she turns her head to catch his lips with her own.
They live for a long time. Long enough that the things they are proud of far outweigh the things that bring them shame. There are still moments when the weight of the past threatens to crush them - moments when their toes just barely catch on the dark edge of the abyss. But they learn to twist their hands together into a knot that traps the light between them.
It's not a perfect world, and theirs is not a perfect life. But the world is a far, far better place for their children than it was for them, and after a long time, they finally learn to take a little bit of credit for that. The historians and the textbooks call them many things - heroes, revolutionaries, Victor (the title still sticks even though the Games are now nothing but flat words on crisp pages that future generations will never truly understand).
But in the quiet moments that come just before sleep, they shed the world's titles and perceptions. They listen to each other's quiet breathing, and they remember exactly who they are - they remember exactly who they fought so hard to become.
They are Johanna Mason and Gale Hawthorne.
In the end, it is enough.