I wrote this after a reviewer suggested I write a chapter about another character struggling with jealousy. I haven't wrapped my head around this girl yet, but here you go anyways. SquirrelLOVA, I hope this is (sort of) what you had in mind.
Tie-in with Surviving—while Gale and Katniss are having their talk, this is what I picture Johanna doing.
The Hunger Games belong to Suzanne Collins, not to me, though I do enjoy playing with her characters.
Johanna Mason is pissed off. She knows that Gale loves her, and that as much as she can love anyone anymore, she loves him too. And honestly, when it comes down to it, neither of them is interested in love, per se. They're interested in survival. They're interested in fulfilling needs. And he has that down pat. He hunts, he makes money, and as for other more…intimate needs she has, he's exquisite. But she's still pissed off that he needs to run off into the wood with Katniss Everdeen. Because, though they may be best friends, they've still got a history, and she' s never trusted Katniss farther than she can throw her.
But she lets them run off, says nothing, really, at least nothing that hints at discontent or, God forbid, jealousy. Partly because she doesn't want Gale to know just how much she needs him, how unhappy she'd be surviving on her own. Mostly because she doesn't know where she'd get off, telling him he can't be with his best friend. Their relationship simply doesn't work like that. Functional relationships, in her extremely biased and under-educated opinion, don't work like that.
So instead she wakes up Haymitch Abernathy, pulling the knife out of his hand before throwing a bucket of water on him. A trick learned from Katniss. Damn, she's thinking of that girl more now that she did in their Games. For her, falling in love has tended to bring out the same emotions as fights to the death: desperation, hope, debt, gratitude, need…
Haymitch lets out a string of uncreative expletives as he jumps out of his chair, soaking wet. She raises an eyebrow at him.
"You're gettin' old," she tells him matter-of-factly. "A few years ago, I would've had a black eye."
"Not getting old," he mutters angrily, grabbing a dirty tea towel from beside his oven. "Maybe you're getting faster, ever think of that?"
"Nope, I'm not," she explains, but she can feel a grin surfacing.
She and Haymitch have almost too much in common: they both have this unfortunate tendency to mock the most serious of issues with a combination of sarcasm and wit that masks the fact that they want a happy ending just as desperately as everyone else.
"You look good," he mutters, blushing slightly. She raises an eyebrow at him.
"I'm too pretty for you," she teases. "And way too young."
She's going to break down if she accepts that he's really just saying that she looks nicer than she did the last time she saw him: covered in scars, her hair all fallen out, unable to go into battle because she couldn't handle water. She hopes the significance of how she woke him isn't lost on him. Of course not, nothing's lost on him after he's been mentoring those morons for so long.
"I'm not old," he snaps, and then he heads up the stairs to change into dry clothes. She looks around his disgusting kitchen and finds all kinds of food: cheese buns, croissants, meat pies, rabbit…his kids have clearly been looking after him. She's helped herself to a third brownie by the time he descends the stairs, dry but still pissed off.
"Don't remember saying you could eat my food," he mutters, joining her. She shrugs. "It's implied. I came all this way to see you." He snorts.
"Yeah, we both know you're here to see me," he drawls, taking a brownie as well.
"You wanna talk about him or the Capitol?"
She glares at him. "I'm not talking about him with you. You're not my mentor. And besides—"
"There's nothing to talk about?" he finishes sarcastically, mouth full of chocolate. Peeta's a pretty amazing baker; she'll give him that. It surprises her he'll go near an oven after what happened to them.
"There's not," she insists. She feels the jealousy raging in her, threatening to boil over and poison everything close to her. But she's always been a master at concealing how she feels. He snorts.
"I don't really get how I wound up with the two least feminine girls in the country," he mutters. She can tell he really wants to pour himself a drink, but he knows that if she's here, they're going up against the star-crossed lovers, and soon. He sighs.
"At least you've got Peeta," she tells him. "That boy's got some feminine tendencies." He snorts with laughter.
"Wasn't complaining," he tells her. "I like that we never have to talk about dresses or boy troubles…oh wait. I have to talk about both of those things with you two. Fuck."
"You don't swear like that in front of him, do you?" she asks, trying to keep her tone conversational. But she's started to shiver, and it's not cold in his house. He looks at her in sincere regret.
"I—I don't, no," he assures her. "I didn't know that I shouldn't."
"That's a common word during the Capitol's electrocutions," she tells him, mock carelessly. As if this isn't what keeps her up at night. She doesn't know why she bothers faking it with Haymitch anymore, since he knows it all, and is so used to Katniss' less-than-verbose communication style that he watches for tells like eye twitches and shivering. Force of habit, she guesses.
"They like to tear that word out of you if they can, and I'm pretty sure they never got it out of Peeta. Made 'em try harder."
"Pretty sure she's getting it out of him now," he mutters, and she almost chokes on the fourth brownie.
"What?" she asks, her body shaking with laughter. "Really? Already?" He nods, shrugging.
"I have a lot of hallucinations when I'm drunk, but none of em include those two laying on top of each other on the kitchen table." He shudders and she giggles.
"Atta boy," she mutters. "I didn't think he had it in him, after they did to him."
"Didn't think he had it in him, period," mutters Haymitch. She smirks, which was a mistake.
"So, let me have it. You been saying that word a bit yourself lately?" He raises an eyebrow at her and she blushes. She wishes she could write him off, pretend he's an old drunk who's nosing into her business, but she knows he's not. They had a bond even before Finnick died, and it's stronger now, because she needs someone to be her big brother. She has people she loves now.
"I said that word a lot before him," she mutters, to give herself a few moments to think. She doesn't know why she bothered: maybe she mistakenly thought it'd get him off-topic.
"Were they a thing before?" she asks, after a pause. She considers adding the nouns for a moment, but he'll know whom, and what, she's talking about.
"Didn't pay her a whole lot of attention before," he mutters. "She told me they weren't. The boy didn't believe her, not really. I think I did. She's a terrible liar."
Haymitch comes to his senses, remembers who he's talking to. "What'd he tell you?"
She shrugs. "That they weren't. But he…had a thing for her. Before."
She can't bring herself to tell Haymitch that Gale had broken down, told Johanna everything: that though he may have had a crush on Johanna since her Games, he fell in love with Katniss for reasons that were real, not based on some fantasy from the TV. He loved Katniss for her strength, her courage, her fierce devotion to her family that mirrored his own. Johanna had none of those things: had no family to be devoted to, anyways. The only thing she had in common with Gale was being unusually good at setting traps.
Haymitch snorts. "Don't know who didn't have a thing for her," he mutters. "She might be a pain in the ass, but she's got a lot of things guys look for, here." She glares at him.
"Sorry, are you trying to help?"
He laughs. "Thought there was nothing to talk about, sweetheart?" he laughs. She sees his hands twitch, realizes he's still hoping for a few drinks before their dinner.
She glares him down. "Don't call me that. You call her that."
"And you don't wanna have one more thing in common with her, is that it?" His gaze levels hers. His eyes are bloodshot: he's hurting, badly. You can't depend on a substance for that long and not hurt when you try to go without it. Her morphling experiences have taught her that much.
"I don't have anything in common with her," she manages to stutter out. Damn it, now she wants a drink. He snorts with laughter. He laughs too much for a Victor.
"You two are always gonna more in common than either of you likes," he tells her.
She's realizing that he was never the gentle kind of mentor. That's fine. She hates gentlemen anyways.
"You're always gonna be girls who won your Games by bein' tougher, smarter, better than everyone else," he begins.
"I didn't have any parachutes. I'd say that's an unfair comparison," she tries. He raises an eyebrow at her.
"You also didn't take a handful of berries and start a rebellion. May I continue, or would you like to annoy me some more first?" She shrugs. She wants another brownie, but the kids are probably gonna feed them later. She should be hungry: the boy's a good baker.
"So, the Games are always gonna connect you," he continues as if she'd never spoken. "You also both fought the Capitol, trained for war when you were way too young and way too weak to do so. You both wanted Snow dead. He killed both your families—"
"She still has a mom!" objects Johanna. He scoffs.
"Not really, not anymore," he tells her. "I'm the closest thing that kid has to a parent."
"Well, at least she has you," mutters Johanna. She doesn't know why she's trying so hard to win this argument.
"Yeah, and you don't," Haymitch scoffs. "I'm sitting here not drinking because I'm not here for you. Can I finish, or do you have any more stupid objections?" She sighs, silences herself with some kind of cheesy concoction. Screw being hungry for supper.
"I'm not even at the most important part." She wonders how the hell childhood death battles, torture, and war aren't the most important parts, but she stays silent.
"Those boys are always gonna connect you," he says, throwing down the gauntlet. "You fell in love with the same idiot. And he's strong, too strong to just be thrown out of the mix for either of you, no matter what happens."
"He killed her sister," she whispers. And now she feels tears threatening. Haymitch sounds a thousand years old when he answers.
"We've all killed a lot of kids, Jo," he reminds her. "Murdering children's hardly a determining factor."
She finds the knife she'd been using to spread butter on her cheese bun thing between his fingers before she's realized what she's doing. He merely raises an eyebrow.
"I should add good aim to my list," he mutters, pulling it out of the table and handing it back to her.
"She wasn't just another kid, Haymitch," she whispers, horrified. She can't bring herself to say Prim's name aloud, but she detests him for suggesting that she was just another tribute.
He shrugs. "She wasn't," he agrees, "but that girl has let go of a lot, and I mean a lot, of stuff the boy did to her. She's learned to forgive him through all this hell. Don't think that the boy doesn't connect you, too, by the way."
Johanna shakes her head. "Peeta never did anything as bad as killing-"
"He tried to kill her. You know that, Jo."
"But she loved that kid more than she loves herself. You know that, brainless." It's the first time she's let that term of endearment out. He sighs.
"She did," he agrees, "but I just—Jo, I'm not trying to diminish Prim's death. I'm trying to tell you that she wasn't gonna choose your man no matter what. And you were never gonna choose hers."
"So you're telling me I'm the runner-up? Great. Thanks. I wasn't feeling that way already."
He sighs, clearly has had his fill of temperamental women already, and it's not even noon.
"I'm telling you the opposite," he whispers. "He was never choosing her either."
"So, what are you trying to tell me?" she snaps, lashing out. She's done being mentored. Was done being mentored a long time ago.
"That you're connected by more than Games, more than the revolution. You've both worked harder than any girls I ever met to let someone love you. Most girls don't have to work for that."
"And we do, so we're star-crossed sisters? Is that what you're saying?" she demands. Her throat is tight: she's going to start crying if he doesn't knock it off. "Because that's bull. Anyone, male or female, who went through what we went through knows what it's like to work for this. Look at the boy!"
"Oh, get your panties out of a twist, I was getting there," he scoffs at her. "I'm just sayin, not only should you lay off her, you should trust her. She's more like you than anyone else will be, even your tall, dark, and idiot boyfriend."
"We're more alike than anyone else, hey?" she demands. Tears, hot and salty, are spilling out of her eyes. Her throat is threatening to close, she's sure her cheeks are red. Why is he saying this? "Because I'd say I have more in common with the boy, and they have more in common than she and I. They provided for their families, learned to hunt, learned to fight together. And Peeta and I are always gonna fight the same kind of nightmares. I have no idea how he's lighting fires after what happened to him, because there's days where I can't even turn on a fucking light switch!"
Her voice has risen, a bubble of hysteria rising with it. "So if you're trying to tell me that Gale and I are soul mates, that the star-crossed idiots are soul mates, that she and I are just misplaced sisters, try something else!"
She's screaming at him now, and it's pissing her off even more that he's sitting there, taking it, not yelling back as Finnick would've, not trying to get her to see reason, but just letting her yell. She cracks, grabs an empty bottle and flings it at the wall.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" And then she's throwing more stuff: not at him, exactly, not that he couldn't dodge it if she did, but at the walls, the cupboards. His place can take it. It's a mess already. She collapses onto the floor, sobbing, and after a few moments, he slips down beside her. He doesn't try to touch her- thank God, just sits beside her noiselessly.
"What the hell am I doing here?" she demands. She doesn't want to be here. He sighs, offers her an empty bottle. She tosses it at the wall, but her rage seems to have melted away.
"You fell in love, Jo," is all he says. "That's why you're here."
"Finnick would be proud," she mutters, wiping the tears away. Shit, she'd promised herself she wouldn't cry.
"He's not gonna leave me, is he?" she whispers. A part of her is disgusted with herself: Johanna Mason, fearless Victor, sobbing on the floor over a boy with the drunk, washed-up mentor of the girl who seems intent on destroying her life. But most of her is just desperate, sad…broken.
"He's not leaving you," Haymitch whispers. He looks like he wants to take her hand but thinks better of it.
"Not even when you can't turn on the lights, or when you won't shower because you start panicking," he continues. A few minutes ago, she would've made a crack about him thinking about her in the shower, but her tears haven't run dry quite yet. "And she's not leaving him, even when he can't light fires for his ovens or when he can't sort through reality and asks her the stupidest questions."
She smiles at his estimation of Peeta's insanity, though frankly, she's amazed he can even hold it together to ask her questions.
"You need him, and he needs her."
She nods, still crying. It was the only thing she was ever certain of as she listened to his screams: that she could never make him feel better. He was never screaming for anyone else.
And she does need Gale, now, much as she hates to admit it. He holds her together on days when her Capitol torture seems unending because she's not getting better, on days where grief over losing her family and Finnick and every other damn person threaten to overtake her.
"They need each other," she agrees, sniffling, "but I don't think Gale needs me."
Haymitch scoffs and then she's laughing, through her mess of tears. "He wouldn't be here without you," he tells her, "so I'm gonna go ahead and say he does. More than that, I'm pretty sure he knows he does."
Despite the fact that she's happy with Haymitch, sitting on the porch discussing the least favorite district from their own Victory Tours (he says Seven to piss her off and she almost stabs him, then realizes he probably gets a too much practice dodging knives with the girl around for it to be worth her while), she's still glad that Gale's alone when he comes to get them for supper. Haymitch mutters something about changing for dinner and disappears. Gale wraps her in his arms, sighs into her hair. She's a much better height for him than Katniss.
"How was your little talk? You two solve everything, then?" she asks, smirking at her own cleverness. She's come to appreciate that Gale can see through her sarcasm, though it's taken a while for her to feel that way.
"Yeah, only took a few minutes. Wanna know what we did with the time left over?" She kicks him so hard in the shins that she's pretty sure a lesser man would be limping for a week. He might, too, except he'd never give her that satisfaction.
"Sorry. Sorry! Not funny!" She glares at him. He shakes his head. "Someone needed to lighten the mood. Pretty sure Mellark's gonna lose what's left of his brain now that I'm here."
"I knew there was some reason I liked you," she mutters, "but I forgot it was your sensitivity." He smirks. She hits him.
"What's wrong with you? Do you have any idea the afternoon I've had? Any idea how much you're crossing the line with Peeta by even being here?" He shakes his head, pulls her into his arms again.
"I'm trying to make you smile," he whispers. "I'm sorry."
"I'm not gonna smile. I've been chasing off visions of you two disappearing all afternoon." He pulls back, tilts her chin so she has to look at him.
"You have not." She snorts. "I mean, you didn't think I'd do that to you?"
"None of us have it all together, moron," she tells him. She meant to call him gorgeous, but it didn't come out like that. She's still pretty pissed at him.
"I would never do that to you," he whispers, and she hears that annoyingly sexy determination enter his voice. Why does she have to love him so damn much?
"Well, if you did, I'd end up with Mellark, and I'm pretty sure he's into some weird stuff after the Capitol," she mutters, mostly because she's not willing to have a conversation that ends with her telling him how much she needs him.
He throws his head back and laughs. "Sorry, who's crossing the line?" he demands, and she lets a self-satisfied grin grace her face.
"C'mon, let's get Abernathy and get to the real party. I'm starving." Hardly, she's been gorging herself all afternoon. Shit, she was supposed to stop lying to him.
He nods, but pulls her in for a kiss, a real one that speaks volumes about lust and devotion. He loves her, she reminds herself as he pulls her flush against him, his hand arching her back. She reaches up to touch his cheek, feeling how firm he is, how warm, and she reassures herself that however much she might've messed up in the past, this is probably the first thing she's got right.
"Why is this my life lately?" snarls Haymitch as he pushes past them, purposely knocking them into a wall. They pull apart not because they're done, but because they're laughing too hard.
"This is what mentoring women's all about, brainless!" Johanna calls out to him as she hears him rummaging through bottles in the kitchen. She's not sure but she thinks she hears him laugh.
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