This wasn't the first time Johanna Mason had gone against all reason. It only made sense, that when she lay on the floor, with bruised and battered limbs sprawled out in each direction, she dreamed of the first time she consciously rebelled against Snow. It wasn't in the basement of Cinna's studio; it wasn't even in one of Plutarch's gigantic walk-in closets. If anything, it should have happened in Beetee's computer lab, as that's where rebellions usually started, at least highly orchestrated ones, like the one Johanna eventually joined. But that one wasn't her first.
Johanna's fall from Snow's favor came not when she was in public, and not in any of the homes of her favorite people. Her time arrived, at the least likely of all places: at the dinner party of one of Finnick's "clients."
Oddly enough, Johanna had expected a white, linen table cloth and silver platters filled with the latest delicacies. Every Capitol-sponsored party she'd gone to involved some nauseatingly rich feast. Then again, this wasn't an official party, but a private one. Really, Johanna should have seen this coming, since she wouldn't have been invited, except for Finnick.
It was an accident. One of Finnick's highest-paying clients, a Capitol official's wife, had spotted the two of them at a bar. It was less than a week after Finnick's first "lesson." Every so often, the Capitol's favorite plaything would pull Johanna into the shadows to review what he had taught her. Johanna would be lying if she tried to say she didn't enjoy it. How couldn't she? Some women around here had to save up for months just to hold his hand, and Johanna got to shag Finnick Odair for free! He had just pulled Johanna back from the dance floor when the middle-aged woman stumbled into his arms.
"Finnick!" Her breath reeked of vodka and artificial flavoring. "I've been looking everywhere for you!"
Odair definitely tensed, whether it was for his dislike of Cleo's touch, or the fact that Johanna was there to see it, she never did find out. "Oh, hello, Cleo." And just like that Finnick's winning grin was plastered on his face. "What are you doing here? On a Tuesday?"
What the hell? Did this lady have a drinking schedule? Cleo nuzzled Finnick boldly, pulling him closer, clumsily tucking her charge card into his hands. "My husband decided to have his party tomorrow night, and he invited Cashmere of all people. Publicly!" Cleo hiccupped into Finnick's neck.
"Oh?" Finnick played dumb, though Johanna had the feeling he knew exactly what was going on in this lady's trashy personal life. "I thought he had one last week."
"He did!" Cleo held his cheek firmly and her sharp nails grazed his cheek. Johanna wanted to tear the trash off of her friend, but the look on Finnick's face as he glanced at her stopped her cold. "But he decided to have another, and he mailed that bitch an invitation!"
Finnick didn't say anything, focusing on keeping the drunk woman from tumbling to the floor.
"So I'm going to have my own party! At my apartment. Tomorrow night." Cleo wagged her finger in Finnick's face as she nearly poked his eye out. "You 'member where it is?"
Finnick nodded, still smiling like he did for all his fans. "Of course I do."
"Be there at 6 o'clock." Cleo stumbled back, noticing Johanna for the first time. Finnick visibly flinched, watching them both with his eyes wide. "Who's your friend?"
"Nobody." Finnick said quickly. "Shouldn't you be heading home? It's late." He tried to lead Cleo off. She wouldn't have it.
"You're the girl from Seven!" Cleo lit up like a fire cracker, gushing as if they were old friends. "You were amazing this year. I couldn't stop watching as you hacked that guy off, piece by piece. Who knew he'd scream like a girl?"
Johanna frowned. She usually put on a playful face when people brought up her Games, but this was something she never talked about in front of Finnick. Shrugging, Johanna answered, "They usually do."
"You should come with Finnick tomorrow! My guests will be so happy to finally meet you!" Cleo pulled her into a hug, only to be pulled away by the man behind her.
Finnick wrapped an arm around Cleo, holding her away from Johanna. She really had to hand it to him, he made it seem more like a half-hug than a vice grip. "Really? She's not their type. Trust me. Besides, I'm all they need, aren't I? You know I go both ways." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Johanna's stomach twisted into a knot. She hadn't thought about his clients much, assuming they were all lonely trophy wives with nothing better to do then pay for fucks with Finnick. Never, ever had she considered the idea that some of them were men. Had Finnick ever…? Did he even like guys?
"Nonsense! She'll be the life of the party!" Cleo laughed.
Finnick paled. "Cleo…"
The woman in question charged out of Finnick's arms. "Be there tomorrow at 6 with your friend. I'll accept nothing less."
And so, the two of them stood in Cleo's living room, or perhaps it was her dining room. Honestly, Johanna's upbringing hadn't much to say about multi-room houses. Back at her childhood home, a person was thrilled if his cabin had one private bedroom. Only the victor village had running toilets.
Finnick took her by the elbow, guiding her subtly away from the guests who had already arrived. They passed platter and after platter of hors d'oeuvres and treats, but it was the far end that caught Johanna's eye. The bottle of champagne. Johanna grinned as she snagged herself a glass, much to Finnick's disproval. He, however, still took his own glass, pretending to sip it as the night went on.
Everyone wanted to talk to him, the female guests, and their dates. Finnick took it in stride, chatting it up on a myriad of topics Johanna didn't even know he was interested in. Johanna found the sheer amount of small talk stifling. Several times she tried to excuse herself, and every time Finnick held her close to him, as if he didn't want her out of his sight.
Soon enough, Johanna found out why.
With each touch, and brush against Finnick's body, a slip of paper slid into his hands, or sometimes in his pocket. Swallowing, he would pause and compare the slip the others already in his grasp, scanning each of them quickly. Johanna peeked over his shoulder and only saw a series of numbers, some larger than others. Finnick also nodded as he counted the stack after an hour. He sank when the number matched the number of lady guests, Johanna excluded, of course. Turning it over, he saw the personal stamp, and he met the eyes of Cleo herself. It was then Johanna realized what the slips were.
Finnick smiled, but his grip on Johanna's arm shook. "What time?" He asked his host.
Cleo blushed, walking over to them, sliding her charge card into his hand again. "Is now too soon?"
Finnick's eyes darted across the room, to a shadowy figure that Johanna noticed for the first time. Her friend's grip tightened on her arm, so much that it hurt. Their eyes met.
Johanna mouthed, "You don't have to go with her."
Finnick smiled ruefully at her, and replied softly. "Please stay safe, and do not leave this room without me." Finally, he released her.
"Finnick?" Johanna said in alarm, completely forgetting that the fluted glass was still in her hand.
"Be careful, Johanna, please." Finnick gave her one last glance as the door shut behind him with a final hiss.
Johanna knew that there were more people in the room besides her and that guy, but at the moment she felt very alone. Even the hum of the room had been drowned out by the sound of her own heart pounding in her ears. With each blink the man was closer, and closer, until Johanna could feel his hot breath against her neck.
"A word, Miss Mason?" He said it so politely, but Johanna could tell his intentions were anything but. Despite all the food and drinks, he looked hungry. Very hungry. Hungry for her.
"You can't say it out here?" Johanna gave him a calculating look, not pulling out of his grasp, but not allowing him any closer either.
"Afraid not." His thumb brushed across her arm, as if he were testing the firmness of her body. "How about that room over there?" He pointed to a door across the room from the one Finnick was in.
Johanna knew then that she had to make a choice. She could be like Finnick, selling herself to the Capitol citizens, keeping everyone she knew and loved safe from President Snow's wrath. Or, Johanna could be herself. In the end, that's all she ever really had anyway. No matter how hard she tried, her friends and family had to make the effort to protect themselves; Johanna couldn't do it for them. The more she tried to play by Snow's rules, the more time he would have to threaten those she loved.
"No." For Finnick's face, Johanna really did try to be polite. She stepped back.
He stepped forward, blinking in confusion. "What?"
"I'm not interested." Johanna stopped herself before the word 'Sorry' came out of her mouth. She didn't care who this guy was; she had nothing to apologize for.
"Miss Mason, I'm afraid you don't understand." And, just like that, he was in her face again. Unfortunately for him, his cologne failed to cover the sour smell of garlic on his breath. He whispered, "You're new. You won't likely get another opportunity tonight." Then he took her hand. "I promise I'll pay you handso—"
Johanna decked him right in the nose. Funny how he'd been so focused on getting her alone, he hadn't even noticed Johanna pulling her fist back for a solid straight punch. He tipped over and fell flat on his back, too stunned to catch the blood running down her face. Looking down, Johanna took inventory of her knuckles to make sure none were bruised; they weren't. Looking back up, she realized that the entire room was staring at her.
Oops. Somehow Johanna knew that this was the opposite of careful, at least in Finnick's mind. On cue, the door across the room from her slammed back open, and out tumbled Finnick, with his shirt unbuttoned and his eyes wide in horror. For the first and probably last time Johanna could remember, Finnick had no words. Even as he pulled her out the door, so hard that her arm had a bruise the next day, Finnick said absolutely nothing.
The memory, like all of Johanna's thoughts at the moment, slipped away in a haze. Light beams slipped across the floor, sweeping from one end to the other. Distantly Johanna heard footsteps, and it seemed as if someone else's body was being lifted up one limb at a time.
"Shit. Is she-?"
Fingers touched Johanna's neck, pressing into her skin. "Yeah, she's alive." Ever so carefully, they turned her over, like a thread-bare rag doll on the verge of falling apart. "But she's in bad shape."
"You aren't kidding."
That voice. Johanna had heard it before. Where? Something…something about a screen. And grey eyes.
"We're running out of time. We need to get out of here."
Strong hands wrapped something around her, something warm. Though her nostrils were still burning from the gas, Johanna could have sworn she smelled something familiar. It smelled like the woods.
Wow guys! It's finally finished! Sorry it took me so long. I spent like…three weeks of November sick with a cold, then bronchitis. Not to mention I was writing a brand new novel for NaNoWriMo. I managed to finish that on time, barely. It was awesome to get so many reviews and alerts while I was writing that. You guys are so encouraging.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed the story. I certainly enjoyed writing it…well, most of it. Those rape/torture scenes were pretty brutal to write. This fic really provided an outlet for me. Since in my novels, I have to adopt a certain voice early on, and in my first novel the prose is very different from this. Very elevated and such. In Splatterlog I got to swear and write all the short phrases, sentences, and paragraphs I wanted. And it was a blast.
Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, I'll get to work on the sequel to Splatterlog. The working title right now is Fragments; I'll try to update this A/N if that changes. If nothing else, you'll be able to find it via my profile. Speaking of sequels, anyone catch onto the foreshadowing in the last scene? *laughs manically* I can't decide if the next novel will deal solely with Johanna's time in Thirteen, or if it'll go beyond that. We'll see.