So here it is, the promised sequel to From Fearful to Fearsome. This is in a different narrative POV and a shorter length than my usual chapters because it's a prologue; normal chapters will be back next update.
New readers – although it's a sequel, you probably don't need to be familiar with my previous works to get this.
Johanna Mason strides up the stairs, head held high, glaring at anyone who dares to look at her. Everyone knows she's been forced to come here, but she's not going to give anyone the satisfaction of letting them see her be cowed. She acts like the tough as nails Victor, not like the weakling she pretended to be, and the change, like her short hair, is still new enough that it works. No one ever expects her, of all Victors, to be the one glaring daggers at them.
She's still not over Rowan's death, but she won't let them see that.
So she marches straight up the outer steps of Snow's mansion, acting like she owns the place. And it sort of works. Her plain District garb contrasts with the decadent design of the mansion, the brown and green fabric like a patch of mossy dirt against the immaculate whiteness of the marble. Even so, it fits in a twisted way, the girl from the Districts and her place in the palace.
She doesn't know how twisted yet, but she soon will.
She has a knife in her belt. It's never left her side since her Games, exactly six months ago. She still dreams of falling most nights. Of falling endlessly into the blue void. In reality it was Abbie, the heartless girl from District Three, but in her dreams it is always her. They end, without fail, before she hits the forcefield.
Vince pretends not to notice and keeps up his unceasing optimism. It's the only thing that keeps them both sane.
In turn, she pretends not to notice the way everyone looks at her now – like she's something other than human. Before the Games, they'd always thought of her as Vincent Somers' older cousin; now she's a Victor, she should be thought of in her own right. But people are people. Vince is more likeable, more recognisable, more relatable. His cousin might have their respect – and gratitude for a years worth of food – but Vince has their genuine affection, even more noticeable now that it contrasts with how they treat her.
Johanna glares at the first attendant to try to show her on her way and it takes more than one subtle threat before she finally resigns herself that Snow wants to play the power game. Well if he really insists on showing what they already know, then fine. She's not going to like it, and he's going to see she doesn't like it, but there's no point in pissing off the most powerful man in Panem. It's not like he can have her killed or something.
The message she got was phrased like a request, but it was obviously an order instead. The president would much appreciate your company in his mansion. Please arrive at your leisure. It doesn't take a genius to figure that 'at your leisure' is Capitol-code for 'right now', but even so Johanna made sure to dawdle a bit. She wants to show Snow that she's not completely at his beck and call.
So now, an hour and a half later, she's standing outside the doors of his office and trying not to show how intimidated she really is. If the president wants to see her it can't be good. She goes through a mental file of what she's done recently – no, nothing that could be this serious. Johanna Mason has been a good little girl since her Games. No, not a peep out of her.
"Ah, finally, Miss Mason. Do come in."
He's speaking, and he's actually trying to be cordial. If anything, this sets Johanna even more on edge. Snow has no reason to be nice to her, has no reason to want her company that isn't bad. At first she speculated that he just wanted to congratulate her, but almost immediately ruled that out. She isn't that naïve.
But she can't really do much else, can she, so she comes in and takes a seat without being asked.
"Why am I here?" she asks him bluntly. She never has been one to mince words.
"To get my sincerest congratulations on your Victory, of course. And for… others among your benefactors to offer their best wishes."
"Snowspeech," she responds immediately, forgetting exactly where she is.
Snow just looks amused. "While I am exceedingly honoured that my name has found its way into the common vernacular, we are not here to discuss linguistic developments, Miss Mason. As I was saying, there are many in the Capitol celebrating your Victory."
"Maybe, but that's not why you called me here. If you just wanted to tell me that then you would have sent a message. So hurry up and get on with it, will you? I'd kind of like to be off home now, thanks."
The president does not react. Johanna thinks that's worse, really, than anything else he could do. This way is just unnerving.
"I do appreciate the nature of time nowadays. There never does quite seem to be enough of it, does there? I can imagine you would be quite eager to reunite with your cousin, would you not?"
He's right, but she knows better than to affirm it. Snow's up to something – she just wishes she knew what.
"In which case, I will attempt to convey this message as quickly and succinctly as possible. There are those among my populace who were very glad at the outcome of the Sixty Ninth Hunger Games. Several of these people have taken a special interest in you, and would like to celebrate your success further. With you."
Special interest. Something about the phrase sets Johanna on edge, but she's not quite sure why. After all, the phrase is completely innocent – yet there's something about it. Something threatening. She just can't figure out what yet.
"Then let them come along to one of those parties I keep getting forced to go to. They can celebrate there. Don't see what's stopping them."
"I am afraid the celebration intended by them is not of the type commonly seen at that type of party."
Now she's just confused, and it must show on her face, because President Snow sighs.
"They wish for you to… how should I put it? Consummate the special relationship between sponsor and tribute?"
It takes almost a minute before it clicks. Even then, she starts with the denial. No. No, he can't possibly… No way. This kind of thing just doesn't happen anymore. Right?
Then she realises the truth and it takes all her self control not to pull that knife out of her belt and throw it. It probably wouldn't do much – she always was terrible at knife throwing – but it would at least make her feel better. Though it would end up much worse for her in the long run, so she for once in her life thinks before acting impulsively if not before speaking.
And Snow laughs. The bastard just sits there and laughs. "Oh, Johanna, I hardly think it is me you will be fucking."
She snaps. Her hand tightens around the hilt of the knife, but she doesn't draw it. It's a new, cold anger, snapping, and she sees with more clarity than she ever has before.
He's taken aback, she can see it. Good, she thinks viciously.
"I beg your pardon?"
"No. I'm not doing it. And you can't make me." Her voice is cold, firm, and flat. Resolute. Because she's not doing it, she's not anyone's whore, and there isn't a thing Snow can do about it.
"On the contrary, Miss Mason, I rather think I can." He picks up a remote lying on the desk next to him, and a television screen that had gone unnoticed switches on. Images start to flicker over it, all images of one particular person with dark hair and green eyes. Over the images, Snow begins to narrate.
"Vincent Somers. Twelve years old – thirteen in exactly a month and three days, I believe. Your only remaining relative, and I have heard the two of you are very close. It would be such a pity if he were to die at such a young age – but be assured, Miss Mason, that it can and will happen if you do not obey me."
"No. No, it's not going to happen."
He smirks. "Ah, so you do choose my way after all."
"That's where you're wrong," says Johanna, an icy calm settling over her. In the back of her head is a tiny voice screaming at her to stop this now and to just go along with the president, but she ignores it. "If you have such good records on Vince, then check them again. What do you know about Vincent Somers, Snow? Do you know what will happen if you kill him?"
She continues without waiting for an answer. "You'll have an uprising on your hands, that's what. The District doesn't care what you do to me; they might respect me, but none of them like me. But Vince… Vince is another story. Everyone knows him. Everyone. Anyone who knew me before the Games would've known me as his cousin, most still think of me as that, I bet. Vince's cousin who won the Games. Everyone knows him, and everyone likes him.
"And if you kill him, you'll have an uprising on your hands. It won't take much – all I have to do is tell the truth of what goes on here, tell everyone that Vince died because you tried to force me into being a whore at sixteen, and you'll have all of District Seven in rebellion. And once one District gets started… I'm no expert, but I reckon you'd have the whole country in rebellion. Whole country in rebellion, wouldn't want that.
"So I don't whore myself out for you, and you leave Vince alone, and you'll be fine. But if he dies… if he dies now, if he dies in six months time, if he dies in three years. I'll tell people, and they'll believe me. So you chose – me, or Panem."
She storms out of there without waiting to be dismissed, stomping down the steps like she owns the place. It's only once she's out of sight of the mansion that she lets herself break down, shivering uncontrollably at the thought of what she's done. She's just gambled away her cousin's life. It had better have worked.
And it does, surprisingly enough. For almost five whole years life goes on for Vincent and Johanna. He hears about what she did, listens as understandingly as a twelve year old can. They have a few years of happiness.
It wouldn't have worked if she were anyone else, Johanna knows. But she's Johanna Mason, and someone who can act as convincingly as she does scares people, as does the real her she's barely been allowed to show. And she's not that attractive – not hideous, but certainly nothing special, and she doesn't try to be any better looking than she is. Definitely no Finnick Odair or Cashmere de Montfort. If she'd been one of them neither Vince nor her would have stood a chance.
But as it is, she gets away with it. Not enough people want to buy her to be worth it, so she and Vince get a few years of peace. Until the Seventy Fourth Hunger Games, anyway, where Snow takes his revenge. By now it's late enough that no one will take anything Johanna tells them about that night seriously. So Vince goes off to the Games, and leaves Johanna alone.
She still doesn't do it – Snow's run out of people to threaten her with. He tries Minty, but the two of them have drifted apart enough and Johanna has enough blood on her hands already that it doesn't work.
Small consolation, that.
Now hear me out, before I get all the messages yelling about how things wouldn't have gone that way. I have tried to make it seem as believable as possible, but I am well aware that Johanna getting away with what she just did is pushing things.
I'm only sixteen. I honestly just don't think I have the emotional maturity to handle having to write the aftermath of forced prostitution, which in this case is basically institutionalised rape. This is a subject that needs to be handled sensitively and maturely, and I don't think that I would be able to do justice to any of the scenes. This would not only offend actual rape victims and probably take away from the actual severe impact something like that would surely have on the person involved, but also detract from the overall quality and emotional depth of the story. Some things can't be trivialised, but I'm afraid that if I tried to write this happening to Johanna then it would be.
So that was the reasoning behind my decision to get Johanna out of having to sell herself. I think – well, sincerely hope – you can at least see where I'm coming from there. But at the same time, I did have to deal with the issue – so a scene where Johanna confronts President Snow only to end in all her family dead, while cliché, is pretty much the best – and only realistic - way to go.
But this is where my Johanna differs from a lot of the other portrayals I've seen of her. This Johanna has been traumatised by an awful childhood far before her Games. From Fearful to Fearsome opens with her and Vince in the District Seven Community Centre, orphaned. And honestly, I think that a slow wearing away at her works better to make her the character we see in the books than all of her family dying at once. So unlike some others, all I have to work with is Vince.
Now here comes the bit where I must admit I'm quite a big fan of keeping things in continuity. With the exception of Named, all of my THG works fit in the same continuity as each other, as well as slightly more loosely into the works of Caisha702 and PK9. These multi-chapters spanning Johanna's life slot into my oneshot No One Left, which was written far before anyone predicted what bombshell Mockingjay would drop on us. I could have just ignored it, but it wouldn't feel right.
A big part of my Johanna's character is the fact that Vince dies in the same Games Katniss Everdeen wins. I'd had it in the back of my mind while writing FF and while planning this one out. I didn't want to lose that plot point, both because it would significantly change a lot of both Johanna's characterisation and parts of the plot as well as taking this out of continuity. So I compromised, and used bits of Vince's characterisation that had already existed ever since his conception – not yet as Johanna Mason's cousin – way back in Cripple, and combined that with the fact that not everyone's a supermodel; despite the fact that we tend to imagine everyone who isn't specifically stated to be ugly as good looking, most people aren't, especially District people by Capitol standards.
So President Snow doesn't call her bluff – and bluffing she is - because it's not worth it to him to do so. Johanna's abrasive personality and nothing more than average looks mean he wouldn't get that much money on her, so he doesn't get revenge, not straight away. Yet at the same time he does need to show her that disrespecting him won't be tolerated – it's no coincidence Vince gets Reaped that year. In fact, he deliberately stretches it out to hurt her more once she lets her guard down.
Most of this last part is in the story anyway, but I figured it would be worth restating. This is why I chose to act how I did; feel free to tell me if you still take offence to it, but I don't want to have to explain myself over and over in review replies.
And just to rephrase this again: I'm not a believer in ignoring the bits of canon I don't like, but at the same time I know I don't have the emotional maturity to deal with it realistically. This is the best compromise I could come up with while still maintaining internal consistency. I hope it came off alright.