Title: An Alliance of Convenience
Fandom: Hunger Games
Genre: friendship, hurt/comfort
Disclaimer: I don't own them.
Summary: Johanna finds one of Katniss' hiding spots at the President's mansion, and Katniss doesn't mind.
She found me in the back corner of a closet in the Blue and White room underneath of pile of furs. How she tracked me down in my latest hiding spot was a mystery, but why she made the effort was even more baffling. At the very best Johanna and I were acquaintances before the end of the war, and afterwards we'd gone back to virtually being strangers. But that didn't seem to matter much to Johanna.
Ignoring my hostile, suspicious glare, she crouched down beside me and picked up my hand so that she could see the bracelet once again secured around my wrist. Hers had been clipped off before her arrival in the Capitol, but through the haze of morphling I had been wandering around in, I had noticed her compulsively touching her wrist as if she still thought it was there.
"Mentally disoriented, again," she breathed out, "But you still find the cleverest hiding spots. Mind if I join you? I'm tired of talking to head doctors."
I didn't really want any company, but she had found me and I was too lethargic to get up and find a new hiding spot so I grunted something vaguely affirmative and kind of pushed one of the furs on top of me in her direction.
"Cozy," she murmured after wiggling her way underneath the pile so that she was resting beside me.
"Yeah," I agreed listlessly.
She didn't say anything after that for a long time. She was quiet for so long in fact that I began to wonder if she had fallen asleep.
Something like curiosity arose in me at the thought and I managed to roll my head to the side so that I could see her.
She was motionless expect for the rise and fall of her chest, but her eyes were open. Her eyes were on the ceiling of the closet, but despite their fixedness they were blank; vacant in a way I had become very familiar with through looking into the mirror.
Johanna might not have been classified as 'mentally disoriented' any more, but she certainly wasn't functioning regularly and that made me feel somewhat better, horrible as that sounds.
"Does it get better?" I asked suddenly, my voice hoarse from lack of use.
If there was one person who understood loss and loneliness, it was Johanna hadn't needed to fear the forest of jabberjays because there was no one left she loved whose sounds they could torture her with.
"Is this about your sister?" she asked without looking over at me.
"Yeah," I nodded.
My life was full of miseries, but Prim's ... what had happened to Prim was what tortured me most these days.
"No," Johanna said a few seconds later. "It gets manageable I suppose," she continued, sighing tiredly, "There are bad days, but eventually you learn how to soldier on. It never gets better though. You never get back to who you were before. The world never looks the same as it did when they were in it. The ache never goes away."
A twisted, painful looking smile touched her lips.
"The pain means something though," she went on, her voice thick and rough with emotion. "It's memory. It's love. The truth is if the pain ever truly went away I think I'd finally swallow a handful of nightlock."
"What happened to your family? To the people you loved?" I asked watching her as she stared at the ceiling.
If I wasn't so doped up and devastated I might have felt bad about not asking her before, but I was doped up and devastated and was lucky my mind focused enough to ask the question presently.
"They died," Johanna stated in a voice so flat that even in my drugged up stupor it made me shiver.
I thought about saying I was sorry, about reaching out and grasping her hand, but people had been offering condolences to me and trying to touch me since ... since Prim, and all it did was make me want to scream. I suspected that Johanna was enough like me that she'd feel the same way, and that the kindest thing I could say was nothing at all, so I kept my futile 'I'm sorry's' to myself.
"They don't understand," Johanna began a minute later, her voice a knot of anger and frustration. "Surviving isn't the hard part. Living is. Living is the hardest thing of all. Surviving was easy. The rest of it ..." she released an aggravated sort of growl and relaxed into the furs again as if her outburst had used up all of the energy in her body.
"Yeah," I murmured letting my eyes drift up to contemplate the ceiling. "The rest of it ..."
That was the real problem. I was only seventeen and Johanna wasn't much older. For the two of us there was a lot of 'rest of it' left to get through.
"Can I hide with you tomorrow?" Johanna asked a few minutes later. "Everyone around here pisses me off so much I almost ate lunch with Enobaria."
A sound emerged from me after she said that and it took me a moment to realize it was a bark of laughter.
"That's bad," I drawled, and I think I was smiling.
"Tell me about it," Johanna muttered. "I think the head doctors took my bracelet off too soon."
Silence descended between us once more, but I found myself marginally less miserable than before. I still didn't really want to talk to anyone, but I hadn't realized how lonely I had become until I had someone beside me. Back in 13, Johanna and I had formed an alliance of convenience and I supposed it couldn't hurt to form another one. Johanna and I didn't mind each other, but we didn't care about each other enough make nuisances of ourselves. We were indifferent enough to each other not to poke, and prod and probe each other about our feelings, but we'd spent enough time together to be comfortable around each other even in silence.
"Tomorrow I'm going to hide out under the bar in the piano lounge," I found myself saying before I was consciously aware that I was speaking.
"Lovely," Johanna said through a yawn. "I'll bring pudding."
And with that pronouncement she achieved the impossible for the second time that day by making me laugh again.
"I'm really going to bring pudding though," she continued when I'd quieted down again. "I like it."
I couldn't find it within myself to get excited over the possibility of pudding, but with the strange craving the morphling cocktail I was on gave me, I'd probably eat some if she actually brought it.
"I'm gonna take a nap," I told her, suddenly wiped out from our conversation.
I'd talked more over the last half hour than I had over the last week and it had depleted me.
"Whatever," Johanna muttered as I shifted under the furs to get comfortable. "Me too, I guess," she continued a few seconds later before moving around underneath the furs as well.
When she settled our arms were brushing against each other, but I was too tired to say anything about it and Johanna didn't seem to care, so we fell asleep side-by-side in the closet of the Blue and White room and when I woke up bleary eyed a few hours later, for the first time in weeks it was because I was rested and not because of a nightmare.