Don't even ask me where this came from...
I don't own The Hunger Games, and, frankly, Fate has made it so that I don't really want it.
Not a Drop to Drink
Johanna Mason has always had a strained relationship with water.
Her family was by no means a wealthy one. She had three siblings, and only she and her younger sister shared a father. Her mother denied each of her children the privilege of learning who their fathers were, but Johanna couldn't help but see herself in the wide-set brown eyes of the Head Peacekeeper, who was wiry but capable and had a sadistic streak a mile long. Just like her.
At a young age, Johanna understood what her mother was doing when she woke in the middle of the night with only the steady breathing of her two sisters and a brother as company in their little shack of a home.
Children in District Seven started work as young as eight, inhaling wood-shavings into their lungs or staining their fingers in the paper mill or straining their muscles chopping trees. Johanna was uncommonly small for her age, so she was charged with climbing the highest trees and ridding them of their potentially hazardous branches before they were to be cut down. Johanna grew strong carrying axes and hatchets up and down those trees. And she tried to ignore the concern coloring the Head Peacekeeper's voice when he yelled for the woodcutters to be sure that she was out of the tree before they started chopping.
One day, when she was cutting the branches of a tree just beside the river, Johanna fell. On the way down, stray twigs scratched at her face and arms, and she hit the fast-flowing river with a loud splash.
She struggled with her hands and feet to break the river's surface, but she didn't know how to swim, and she could already feel her lungs beginning to grow heavy with water. It was only luck and sheer willpower that she managed to grab hold of a bobbing log and make her way to shore about twenty feet downstream. Between hacking coughs that dispelled water from her lungs, she couldn't help but notice that the Head Peacekeeper had somehow lost his jacket and his boots.
Years later, when Johanna was fifteen and had grown a wicked tongue, Juno Boutonniere chose her name out of many from a great, glass bowl. Despite the fact that her older sister had insisted on taking all the tessarae until she was eighteen and that her older brother had taken over that responsibility for the two years after.
The first tears – streaks of salt water down her cheeks – had been real and selfish. Johanna hadn't been thinking of how her family could compensate when her meager earnings were gone. Or of how her ten year old sister would have to take out tessarae every single year. She had been thinking that she didn't want to die. But when the boy tribute mounted the stage – a bulk of a boy who she had seen but never spoken to – she remembered all that the old man who made moonshine from tree sap had told her.
Since she was thirteen and her brother was fifteen, they would go to the old man's rickety house and get as drunk as they could on the nasty stuff when they could. Her older sister – who was far more responsible than even their mother – had always disproved. But even stick-in-the-mud Louise couldn't deny that the old man was a clever observer, and Johanna had learned as much as she could from him. He showed her how to tell a lie from the truth by simply watching for small movements. She learned how the slightest changes in stance could affect others' perceptions.
Johanna would learn later – after she was crowned a victor – that the old man was Blight's brother. But at the time of her reaping – standing next to the eighteen year old bulk of a boy and knowing that she looked like she was twelve – all Johanna knew was that she looked pathetic.
So she played it up for all it was worth, slumped her shoulders, mumbled when speaking. She even managed to make a fool of herself during the interviews by eating too much beforehand and puking on Caesar Flickerman's shoes. And throughout it all, her eyes remained watery and tears were her only constant companion. The other tributes – even the two frightfully skinny seventeen year olds from District Twelve – made fun of her, saying that she would die of dehydration at the rate she was crying. Johanna had to bite her cheek to hide her resentment. They all thought they were so funny.
Until they rose into the arena.
Johanna's Games were the year after Annie Cresta's, which had been full of rain and ended with a flood and had gotten poor ratings. So Johanna's arena was so dry that the earth was cracked. There was no obvious sign of water, even among the plants. Johanna hadn't thought to, but her district partner drank the juice of one of the many cacti. He ended up high on peyote and managed to accidentally kill himself with his own ax. Johanna gladly took it from him. All she had managed to get from the Cornucopia was a mesh hat that kept the sun from her face.
By the second day of watching Johanna and a few others drink their own urine to survive as others died of dehydration, the Gamemakers gave them one good, long thunderstorm that provided them with water that would have to last them for the rest of the Games.
The first thing Johanna did when she was lifted from the arena was chug two gallons of water, puke it back up, and down another gallon.
About a month later – on her sixteenth birthday – President Snow himself called to "wish her well" and give her the ultimatum. She though her was bluffing – she couldn't tell a lie from words like she could from nonverbal actions and he was on the phone – so she refused.
When she found her little sister dead, that was when Johanna agreed.
But the sadistic streak she might or might not have inherited from the Head Peacekeeper was pursuing her – now more than ever following her six bloody murders in the Games – and she was too rough. And everyone else ended up gone too, even the Peacekeeper.
That first night – not the first night she had spent alone in her house in the Victor's Village but the first night she lay in her too-soft bed knowing that they were all dead – there was another thunderstorm. She rose from her bed and nightmares to splash through the rain and to howl and wail through the streets of District Seven until she was drenched and kneeling before her old shack.
Only a couple of years later – the Quarter Quell – Johanna grew so impatient watching Juno Boutonniere dig around in the glass bowl that she cursed out Snow and climbed onstage before the escort could even walk up to the microphone and announce her name. Watching the recap, she was disappointed to see that they had heavily censored her speech due to excessive use of profanity.
The Quell arena was much worse than her first. Not dry but insatiably wet with undrinkable water. When she and Blight and Beetee and Wiress saw the thunder in the sky, Johanna had been inevitably reminded of her first Games and let out a joyful cry. She cursed the Gamemakers when the rain came down as blood and she got it in her mouth and she couldn't see and Blight died running into the force-field. She would never forgive Finnick for later – after she had finally found the others – when he dunked her head-first into seawater until she stopped cursing out Katniss Everdeen with the same words she had directed at Snow.
After the crash and kidnap and rescuing of those Games… Johanna tried to remember as little as possible.
But her body couldn't forget the feeling of suffocating under a tight-knit cloth as a pitcher of water was poured over her face. Or shivering from cold and something brighter and much, much more painful.
Now – half sitting and half lying in a hospital bed with only a bundle of needles and an IV drip for company – Johanna wants to laugh and cry. She remembers how her brother had so often taunted her for being so slow.
How has it taken her this long to realize?
Johanna Mason has always had a strained relationship with water.