Here's the final bit. Please enjoy, and review!
"I like it in the city when two worlds collide. You get people and the government, everybody taking different sides. Shows that we ain't gonna stand shit, shows that we are united." –Adele, "Hometown Glory"
The 74th Victory Tour
Johanna Mason had threatened not to go to the fancy dinner for Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. She hates the Hunger Games, she hates the Capitol, she hates the star-crossed lovers (nicknamed 'Toast' by insolent teenagers in the Capitol), she hates everything and anything. Just showing up for the Victory Tour's festivities would be showing support for the Capitol, and that is the last thing that Johanna wants to do. Not to mention that she hates parties.
But as the only female victor from District 7, Johanna is required to go. She decides that she doesn't want to risk Annie's life, as much as she hates Finnick, by refusing Snow's orders. And so Johanna gets dressed in a floor length green—which her prep team insists is emerald—dress complete with heels, which she is sure to ditch as soon as she can. Johanna can't help but admit that she feels beautiful, as impossible as that seems. Looks like she has to make up for it by being a total bitch.
The dinner is extremely boring. It always is. Yes, the food is much better than usual in the district, but not quite as good as in the Capitol. And the place is crawling with cameras, filming the victors and invading their personal space. If they want to make out while slow-dancing, let them do it without having a camera shoved in their faces.
Johanna grimaces as she feels a hand slide around her waist and lead her onto the dance floor. Expecting the worst, she is actually pleasantly surprised to find Haymitch Abernathy as her new dance partner. Well, compared to who could have grabbed her. "What the hell do you want?" she demands, raising an eyebrow at the shockingly sober drunk.
"I was just curious on what you thought of our two victors this year," Haymitch says lightly.
She narrows her eyes. "Personally, I think Snow's going soft if he's letting lover-boy and his annoying girlfriend both win. No offense."
"None taken," Haymitch says with a smile as they awkwardly dance. "I know you haven't been happy with the Capitol in the past—"
"Damn right," Johanna interrupts but then lets him continue on.
"And I have some friends in high places who might feel the same way. Friends with influence who are able to tip us off about things, such as the upcoming Quarter Quell. Would you be interested in what they have to say?"
Johanna purses her lips. "I'm not going to the Capitol if that's what you're asking."
"No, no, of course not," Haymitch says. "But if the life of a person representing your personal cause was, say, in danger, and your own freedom depended on their safety, would you help them to stay alive?"
"If it meant that the Capitol would fall," Johanna pauses to think, "absolutely. What do you have in mind?"
Haymitch looks around briefly to make sure no one is listening. Of course, no one is. "Some victors share the same opinions and we might have a job to do soon."
Another sweep of the room with their eyes. "The Quarter Quell. Our sources say that this year is the most deadly, but we'll find out for sure in a week or so."
Johanna grimaces. "How many people are involved?"
"A few. We won't mention names, for their safety, of course."
"Of course," she repeats dryly. "What's my job?"
"Nothing yet. Just be prepared to make alliances with those whom you do not like." Johanna frowns and opens her mouth to argue, but Haymitch cuts her off. "And if things were to go wrong, you could be captured by the Capitol for information, which you must not give."
"All for my freedom?" she asks, raising her eyebrows, wondering how great the price to pay would be.
Haymitch tilts his head to the side. "For Panem's freedom, therefore, your own."
"I'm in," Johanna says, pressing her lips tightly together. Sensing that this meeting with Haymitch Abernathy is over, Johanna shoves him off of her and screams, "Get away from me, you asshole!" Just for good measure, she slaps him before stalking off to a corner. Johanna can't believe that the districts are finally coming together as one to fight the Capitol and bring them down.
Causing a scene? Check.
Joining a rebellion? Check.
Yes, Johanna's glad she came to the dinner.
"Let's join forces; we've got our guns and horses. I know you've been burned, but every fire is a lesson learned." –Ellie Goulding, "Guns and Horses"
The 75th Hunger Games Training
She hates being back in the Capitol. There are too many painful memories of everything terrible that has happened in her life, and she could never be happy here. She could never be happy anywhere. Johanna hates the Training Center, she hates the chariots, she hates the stupid costumes, she hates the training sessions.
However, stripping in front of Katniss Everdeen to make her uncomfortable was one of the best things Johanna Mason has ever done. It was a spur of the moment decision, but it was worth it. The look on the Girl on Fire's face was priceless, and it was funny to see lover boy try to keep from laughing at Katniss and try to keep his eyes in an appropriate place. She knew that Katniss would confront Peeta about it later, and that was the best part. It isn't like Johanna has any shame. She's way past that.
Katniss ignores her, which doesn't bother Johanna one bit. She can't stand the selfish brat, and doesn't understand why Peeta can tolerate her. Obviously, they are not in love, but Johanna seems to be the only one who can see that.
This elevator can't move fast enough. Johanna leans her head back against the walls and closes her eyes. The elevator makes a beeping noise and it stops before the doors open. She groans audibly at the delay and once again when she sees the passenger.
She had been doing such a good job of ignoring him, too.
"Johanna," Finnick says firmly, standing on the opposite side of the elevator, and moving to press the button, only to see it already illuminated.
"Finnick," she replies curtly. Once the elevator is moving again, Johanna stares at the numbers on the wall, watching them count down the floors and wishing it would move faster. It seems to last an eternity, but they finally hit the ground floor and the doors open. She releases a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. Without another word to her ex-lover, Johanna exits the elevator and passes through a set of double doors that lead to the training areas. Even though this is the given training time, no one really puts for effort to show up save a few, so Johanna won't really be missed.
Careful to not be followed, Johanna passes through the training areas, leaving through another set of doors. The hall she is deposited on is gray and somewhat creepy even. No need to explain that she walks as fast as she can to reach her destination. The hall winds and winds throughout the basements of the training center until she is sure she is in the intestines of the dragon. Finally, Johanna reaches her destination: an old training room.
Even though there are already others in the room, Johanna doesn't pay attention to them and looks at her surroundings, wondering if this could be a trap. It's not like it really matters; Johanna has no one to live for, not anymore. The walls are covered in mirrors and the floor is a large mat like the one upstairs to practice wrestling. Lighting in the room is odd because of the fluorescents hanging on the ceiling that flicker like in the districts. No wonder these rooms aren't used anymore. They don't live up to Capitol standards.
"Johanna!" cries a voice from across the room. She turns and sees Haymitch Abernathy waving her over to the group of chairs that are slowly being occupied by people. Johanna grimaces as he approaches her while she walks and asks, "Were you followed?"
"No." Best to leave it as solid and plain as possible. No one likes hearing Johanna Mason speak because it always ends badly somehow. She takes an empty seat between one of the morphling addicts and Seeder. At least they'll be quiet and leave her alone. It seems that no one is able to do that these days.
Haymitch takes a seat on the other side of Seeder, and Johanna tries to take note of who all is here. Herself, Haymitch, two morphlings, Chaff, Seeder, Nuts, Volts, Mags, Blight (surprisingly), and several others who Johanna doesn't know, including several who look like they're from the Capitol. How did they get involved? One Capitolite stands and Johanna recognizes him as one of the gamemakers, Plutarch Heavensbee.
"Welcome, all. I think we—" he begins, but is interrupted by the sound of a door opening and footsteps walking toward the group.
"Sorry I'm late. I got lost."
"It's not a big deal, Mr. Odair," Plutarch says as Finnick takes his seat across the circle from Johanna. They stare at each other for a few seconds, but then release eye contact as they both look at Plutarch. "I was just saying that I think we know why we're all here. For those of you who have not been personally briefed yet, please be patient. It is hard to schedule times when we are able to meet in private. Today, I just want everyone to understand that, while in the arena, you must protect Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark at whatever cost. We will send you messages in the form of gifts from sponsors, so pay attention to those, because they will tell you when we will be able to break into the arena. Unfortunately, we must keep this brief or you will be missed."
At this point, they go around the circle, each proclaiming their allegiance to Panem's freedom and protecting Katniss and Peeta. When they get to Finnick, he merely says, "I do," and Johanna can't but help wonder if he has said those same two words to Annie yet. She feels bitter just at the thought.
And then it's her turn. "Johanna Mason, do you promise to give your life for Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, as well as any others in danger if they support our cause, and, if captured, die before repeating sensitive information?"
She gives a quick glance toward Finnick, but then says, "Yeah, I do. Let's get these Capitol bitches."
"She mourns beneath her moonlit sky, remembering when they said goodbye." -Greta Salome & Jonsi, "Never Forget"
The night before the 75th Hunger Games
She sits on the roof, staring at the dark sky and wishing she could be anywhere but here. It's hard to remember her life before the Games. Her family died so many years ago; she's long forgotten her mother's face, her father's voice, her sister's height. It burns in her heart that she was the reason for their deaths, that she just as well shot them herself.
Another presence sits down next to her. She can smell him, can taste him on her tongue. His body heat is familiar to her, igniting her heart into searing flames while drenching her stomach in ice water. She thinks she's going to be sick. Pulling her knees up to her chest, Johanna rests her head on her kneecaps and closes her eyes to stop the tears from flowing.
A reassuring hand is pressed against her lower back. He is strong, warm, and there. She loves him so much that it hurts. He can't love her how she wants him to, can't spend the rest of his life with her. One of them is going to die soon, if not both. She regrets every hateful thing she's ever said to him. His very presence is a white flag in their long-standing war of hearts.
If Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark could keep their baby, then why the hell couldn't she? Another wave of tears attacks her, shoulder shuddering from the force of her tears.
I understand that you have a message for somebody out there. A special somebody out there. Can we hear it?
My love, you have my heart for all eternity...and...if...If I die in the arena, my last thought would be of your lips.
If she used all of her imagination, she could almost pretend that those words were meant for her, and not for Annie Cresta. Of course, so did every person in the Capitol who had ever met Finnick Odair.
She wonders if she should tell him about the baby that would have been, but then decides that maybe that would not be wise. It was in the past, a reminder of that terrible argument they'd had. They hadn't really spoken to each other since then. Her nature was too stubborn and prideful to admit that she was wrong. Johanna had been very harsh and angry; he didn't deserve it.
Time had passed, and Johanna had grown truly happy for Finnick and Annie. Unfortunately, the odds were not in their favor; Finnick would die much too young. Giving in to her heart for just this night, her last night in freedom, Johanna turns and rests her head on Finnick's chest, allowing him to wrap his arms around her. She wonders what to say, if anything at all.
To her surprise, Finnick is the first to whisper, "I'm sorry."
Shocked, Johanna looks up, reminded of the night they met. "Me, too," she says, humiliated that they're even having this conversation. Nothing for them would ever be easy, would it? "I don't hate you."
"I don't hate you either."
Finally, Johanna meets Finnick's eyes and wishes that if she had to die, she could die drowning in that ocean of color. "We're really dumb, aren't we?"
Finnick uses his thumb brush away a piece of fringe in her face away. "Yeah," he nods, staring at her lips. Johanna knows what's coming and wishes it wouldn't, but she doesn't have the heart to stop him. Not when they could both die tomorrow. He ducks his head to press his lips to hers, and Johanna knows that he's crying now, too. It's chaste, especially for them-a kiss of friendship and longing for better times.
He loves Annie, Johanna reminds herself. Still, she wishes he meant those words for her.
"She's twenty years of snow falling; she's twenty years of strangers looking into each others' eyes." –Regina Spektor, "20 Years of Snow"
The 75th Hunger Games
Johanna is convinced that this arena sucks. Since when was having the skies rain blood considered a good idea? First of all, that isn't even sanitary, and second of all, it's just wrong. And she lost Blight from it, not that she really cared about him. But he was from home.
She rolls her eyes at the sight of Peeta comforting Katniss after that ordeal with the jabberjays. Since it lasted an hour and obviously Katniss and Finnick are shaken from the ordeal, Johanna doesn't even ask what it was like. There would only be one screaming for her, and she didn't want to know who he heard. Annie, no doubt.
Looking around to be sure of their surroundings, Johanna is only half listening. She doesn't pay attention to the conversation until she hears Beetee say, "Oh, yes. It's not even that difficult, Finnick. Our children learn a similar technique in school."
She can't resist jumping in. "Of course Peeta's right. The whole country adores Katniss's little sister. If they really killed her like this, they'd probably have an uprising on their hands." Her mind is whirling while contemplating whether challenging the gamemakers is a good idea. With nothing to lose, everything is a good idea. Like they say, a man who can't die has nothing to fear. Johanna lifts her face to the sky and shouts, "Don't want that, do they? Whole country in rebellion? Wouldn't want anything like that!"
It makes her proud in a vain way, and she loves the shocked reactions clearly displayed on everyone else's faces. She can already hear the boom of the cannon signifying her own death. Unfortunately, the Capitol is probably already editing this out so that the districts don't begin thinking on their own. What a pity. Johanna senses that they think she's lost her mind, and can't help thinking that that happened years ago.
She picks up some shells from the warm sands and starts walking to the tree line of the jungle. "I'm getting water." It's clear she isn't wanted here. Anywhere.
Katniss grabs her hand as she passes. "Don't go in there. The birds—"
Johanna yanks her hand away as she says, "They can't hurt me. I'm not like the rest of you. There's no one left I love." She hopes Finnick heard, but knows that he's probably too busy worrying about Annie to care. She comes back and passes out shells of water to everyone and then goes to collect weapons that are scattered around the beach. All she wants is to be left alone by these obnoxious allies. Well, maybe except Finnick.
But Johanna gave up on him long ago. He was too much in love with Annie to ever care for her. They were perfect together; they deserved each other. Johanna knows that because of the terrible things she has done in life, she deserves no one. Sometimes being alone is the safest. It's impossible to have your heart broken.
Even better, maybe she should just carve her heart out of her chest. After all, it's impossible to feel heartbreak without a heart. She could walk around without a heart. She's already dead. Love is weird.
"Weep for yourself, my man, you'll never be what is in your heart. Weep, little lion man, you're not as brave as you were at the start." –Mumford and Sons, "Little Lion Man"
After the 75th Hunger Games
The knots are second nature. Length of rope doesn't matter, fishing knots are fishing knots. Finnick has grown up tying these. And now he sits here in a white room in a hospital gown with a plastic medical tag on his wrist, perfect face full of worry and confusion, tying these simple knots over and over and over again. Tie, pull, fall. Tie, pull, fall. Every damn moment of every damn day.
Only in sleep is Finnick free from the knots.
But he would rather be tying knots than trapped in his nightmares. It's always the same. He is forced to watch as Annie is tortured constantly for information she doesn't have, has never had. Finnick tries to get to her, but he can never make it until she is bleeding out. She always dies in his arms. He swears to kill everyone in the Capitol—man, woman, and child—but then is taken prisoner by the Peacekeepers and Snow personally begins to torture Finnick. It's only when he dies that he wakes up.
At least the repetitiveness and monotony of the day is better than the terror and pain of the nightmares. That is, until he realizes that the terror and pain is really going on, just not in the same way. Annie is still being tortured at the Capitol. Finnick still can't reach her. She will probably die, as much as Finnick hates to admit it. And the pain is the heartbreak: knowing that he is willing to risk his life to save Annie's, and not being able to do anything about it.
His doctors would never allow him to leave District 13, not to mention the hospital wing. Finnick sees nothing but the white walls of his room, day after day after day. Tie, pull, fall. His attention span is nonexistent. He thinks about everything while only tying knots.
In reality, Finnick knows that he is a coward. If he were really brave, he would have openly defied the Capitol and killed so many more people when he had the chance. He's already a murderer. Surely hell can't get much worse than it already will be. If he had been as brave as so many others, Annie would be here, safe in 13, and Finnick would be held captive in the Capitol, tortured for information regarding the resistance. He would never break, that he did know.
How much worse could the Capitol be than this? At least here, Annie would be safe and taken care of. Who knows what was happening to her in the Capitol? She could already be dead, not to mention being slowly killed or raped. She had already lost her mind, must she lose everything else, too? Finnick hated himself for it, but he knew that he would stand a better chance in Snow's hands than Annie Cresta.
They haven't even gotten married yet.
That is what Finnick wants more than anything. Mr. and Mrs. Finnick Odair. Annie Odair. Nothing would make him happier. Tie, pull, fall. Tie, pull, fall.
"Yes, I am prepared to stay alive, and I won't forgive, vengeance is mine and I won't give in because I choose to thrive." –Muse, "Survival"
Screams rip across the silence, shattering the tense peace. A shock runs through Johanna's fragile body and she can't help but shriek in pain. She took a vow of silence regarding information about the rebels in District 13, but she was free to taunt her torturers and scream to deal with the pain. The ongoing, never-ending, eternal pain.
Even when they aren't torturing her, Johanna feels pain.
It's only been what she thinks is three weeks, but Johanna feels like she was born and raised here. The Games, the Capitol, Finnick seem lifetimes away. Her days consist of lying against the dark, rough walls of her prison cell. She hasn't slept in who knows how long. Food is delivered occasionally, but there is no indication of time. Her only will to live is the thought of someone coming to save her, but she hardly believes that anymore.
The bleeding, shaved head covered in cuts that are replicated all over her body and bruised—maybe broken—ribs are in so much pain, Johanna doesn't know what to do. Any free moment of this terror is spent huddled against a wall, naked, praying that they don't come and torture her until she is healed. Of course, that will never happen.
Johanna Mason fully expects to die here with the dark walls as the only witnesses.
Sometimes she hears Peeta Mellark scream in the cell next to her, and only recently began hearing the screams of Annie Cresta. Finnick would kill Johanna if he knew that she wasn't doing anything to help her. It's not like she could, anyway.
Why is this cell so cold? The water they pour into the room is ice cold, and then the electric currents come, striking fear into Johanna's heart. How long will it be until she dies? Maybe she'll be lucky and they'll use too much electricity and kill her automatically. Her mind tells her that she isn't that lucky.
Every so often, Johanna will feel brave and begin to scream things at her attackers when they have left her alone for an unnaturally long time. While this might seem to be an act of grace, Johanna knows that it means that they are coming up with something to make her talk. Well, they'll always fail because Johanna has no one to live for. There's no one they can use against her, except maybe Finnick indirectly through Annie, but that's unlikely.
"What's taking so long?" shouts Johanna, hearing the sound reverberate from the corners of her dark cell. She struggles to stand, knowing that there must be cameras in here somewhere. A sliver of light comes in through a tiny window on the cell door, and she is careful not to step on the drain in the floor. There are too many disgusting things that could be on that grate to think about. "I'm starting to get bored in here! There's no one to talk to! You should try it some time! At first it's peaceful, but then it starts to get old."
She hears water begin to flood into the room. It's loud, like the ten o'clock wave from the arena. Johanna puts her hands over her ears because the water is deafening. It begins to pool around her ankles, rising faster every second. She doesn't get worried until the water is up around her waist. Yes, she can stay afloat, but only barely. Are they trying to drown her? She would prefer the shock.
"Thanks for the bath!" she shouts, staring at the ceiling. "I really needed it."
Johanna starts to panic when the water hits her chin. The rate at which it's coming in has dramatically decreased, but she can't swim and doesn't know how long she will be able to hold on. And then the torture begins.
"Johanna?" comes a voice—the one that they all knew would break her.
"Finnick?" she cries, unable to control herself. It's been so long since she's heard him. Johanna knows that it isn't really him, but she can't help it. She needs him. "Where are you?"
"I'm here, Jo. I'm right—" But then his voice is cut off by a scream. Annie's screams, long and in pain. "Annie?" he asks.
"Finnick!" Johanna screams, not knowing if the wetness on her face is tears or the flood.
"Sorry, Jo, but I have to go help Annie. She needs me, and I love her. I'll always choose Annie over you. You mean nothing to me, really. Bye, Jo."
Unable to tell the difference between reality and torture, Johanna screams, "No! Finnick, wait! Finnick!" The water rises over her head, and she feels her lungs burning. The world turns even blacker, and she quickly loses consciousness.
It's a jolt of electricity that reminds her that she's in hell.
"'Cause I need freedom now and I need to know how to live my life as it's meant to be." –Mumford and Sons, "The Cave"
Johanna can't help but admit that Annie looks beautiful in that green silk dress she borrowed from Katniss. And the way that she and Finnick stare into each other's eyes would make anyone jealous, let alone the 'other woman'. As soon as they begin the traditional District 4 wedding rituals, Johanna begins to feel uncomfortable. A net woven from grass is draped over the couple, and they touch each other's lips with salt water. Children from Districts 12 and 13 sing the ancient wedding song from 4.
It's when they kiss after being pronounced man and wife that Johanna has to avert her eyes to the floor. She's seen them kiss and hold hands, but knowing that he is officially someone else's is hard to swallow. Any hope that Johanna ever had of being married is gone. Part of her wishes that Finnick would glance at her so she could smirk at him, letting him know that she doesn't give a damn about him anymore. He won't, of course, because he only has eyes for his wife, Annie.
As soon as the folks from District 12 begin to dance to the music of an old violin, Johanna moves off to the side, avoiding the cameras as best as she can. She doesn't want to be on camera anymore. Only after hearing a laugh to her right does Johanna realize that Katniss is standing next to her. Johanna pinches her arm and smirks at the startled girl. "Are you going to miss the chance to let Snow see you dancing?" she asks, knowing that this would make her tormenter furious. Katniss shows realization on her face and goes off into the thick crowd to start dancing.
Eventually, Johanna is roped into the dancing. She has no idea how to do any of the fancy steps, and it gives her a good excuse to look down at her feet instead of the bride and groom in the center. Not that she cares, of course. After a while, Johanna is laughing and smiling with the others around her. Maybe being happy isn't so bad, she realizes.
Johanna can't deny that she's happy for Finnick and Annie, even though she has memories of Finnick's terrible past that Annie will never find out or understand.
The humongous cake that was decorated by the deranged—hijacked?—Peeta Mellark is one of the best foods Johanna has ever had. Or maybe it just seems that way because of the quality of food she had while tortured and now in District 13. Either way, Johanna goes back for seconds twice, fully aware that she'll regret it in the morning.
While the crowds begin to line up to brush the couple with long blades of grass as they pass, Johanna looks for someone familiar to stand with. For once, she hates that no one likes her. Then she sees Primrose Everdeen and wonders if the girl would mind a crazy line neighbor. Prim smiles up at Johanna when she moves next to her, and hands her a long piece of grass.
It makes Johanna happy that when Finnick and Annie walk by, she doesn't really mind that neither noticed her. In fact, it makes her kind of glad.
"I'm not the same creature that I was back then. A slight touch and an honest glance, I'm never coming back, never going back there again." –Apple Trees & Tangerines, "Can You Save Me"
Finnick is blind-sided when Haymitch comes to see him and Katniss after their tests in the Block, saying, "Johanna's back in the hospital." His stomach plummets to the floor out of worry for one of his best friends. What could have happened? He regrets not seeing her very much since she was rescued, especially after everything she's done for him and Annie in order for them to be together.
Katniss is the first to react. "Is she hurt? What happened?"
Haymitch is quick to explain, "It was while she was on the Block. They try to ferret out a soldier's potential weaknesses. So they flooded the street." Finnick felt his knees weaken. He had heard that Johanna was tortured by water and electricity in the Capitol and nearly drowned a few times. There was no doubt in his mind that he was part of the torture process.
"So?" asks Katniss, clearly not understanding.
"That's how they tortured her in the Capitol," says Haymitch, echoing Finnick's thoughts. "Soaked her and then used electric shocks. In the Block she had some kind of flashback. Panicked, didn't know where she was. She's back under sedation." Finnick doesn't know what to do, so he just stands there in silence until Haymitch presses, "You two should go see her. You're as close to friends as she's got."
Just friends, wonders Finnick? They used to be more. He twists the wedding band on his finger around and around without realizing it, but catches himself and stops before anyone could infer anything about their past. To this day, Finnick isn't sure who all knows what happened between him and Johanna.
Katniss wants to talk to Boggs again, so Finnick goes down to the hospital alone. There is a nurse in there when he arrives, but she quickly leaves the room to allow them privacy. Johanna is staring up at the ceiling, unaware of her changing surroundings. Finnick leans up against the doorframe, watching her with a half-smile.
After some time passes, Johanna asks, "How's Annie?"
Instantly, he realizes that Johanna knew he was here the whole time. "How are you?"
Finnick realizes how much she must still care for him if she's asking about Annie while she's in the hospital for a mental breakdown. "I asked you first," she says stubbornly, raising an eyebrow and folding her arms across her chest.
He sighs. "I came here to see you, not to discuss my wife." She cringes and he regrets it. Change the conversation, he commands himself. "So how are you?"
"What do you think?" she demands bitterly.
Finnick approaches her bed and sits on a chair next to it. "If I were you, I'd feel kind of shitty."
She gives half a laugh and a smile. "You have no idea. I can't believe that I can't go to the fucking Capitol and give that son of a bitch what for. It's only what I've been training for since I got back. What are the odds of the Capitol flooding while we're there? And I think I'm probably used to electric shock by now, as much as I hate the fucking water. At least I'm open about it! It could be worse. I mean, I'm not trying to kill anybody, like someone we know. And—"
"Jo," Finnick interrupts, "calm down. I know the morphling is wearing you out. You need to try and get some sleep."
Her eyes widen and reveal her fear, not power. She whispers, "But then the nightmares come."
Finnick takes one of her hands in his. "Remember what I said to you all those years ago, when we first met?" He would forever be grateful that she approached him that night on the roof. She is silent. "I said that the nightmares never go away. It's true, isn't it? But as always, you'll get used to it and get over it. Just sleep through it."
"Easy for you to say," she says. "You won't be sleeping alone. The only time I ever slept well was when I was with—someone else." Johanna quickly looks away, knowing that she's said too much.
"Y'know, I really did care for you, Jo," Finnick says softly. "Loved you even. But only as a sister. You're like the sister I never had, Jo. You're my best friend. I'm glad that we helped each other get through hell and back all those years ago."
"Me, too," Johanna says. After a few minutes, she looks up and adds with a smile, "I really am happy for you and Annie, Finnick. You really are a beautiful couple, and perfect for each other. I can't see you with anyone else but her. And I mean it."
Finnick doesn't just smile, but glows, radiating happiness that his best friend has finally accepted his wife. "Well, we just found out, and I'm not supposed to tell anybody, but I know I can trust you. Annie's pregnant. I'm going to be a father!"
Johanna's smile grows, but there is still a hint of sadness. "That's wonderful! I couldn't be happier for the two of you! You'll be a great dad, Finnick."
"Thanks," he says, but then his eyes turn more serious. "Look, Jo, if I don't make it—"
She shakes her head. "Don't say that—"
Finnick stops her. "Please. If I don't make it back from the Capitol for whatever reason, will you please take care of Annie and our baby? You're the only person I trust to take good care of them, the way I want. There are others who could, but…I want you to help them, okay?"
"You're going to be fine, Finnick," Johanna reassures him. "They wouldn't let anything happen to you. That in of itself would have Panem in chaos. Whatever would we poor, unattractive souls do without the most beautiful man on earth?" They both laugh at her dramatics before returning to the magnitude at hand. "Seriously, Finnick, I'll see you soon. But if it makes you feel better, I promise that I will do my very best to take care of your family."
"Thanks, Jo," he says with a smile. "Well, I should probably get going. I think Annie will start to worry if I'm away too long. She never does well being alone, even if Prim Everdeen or Katniss' mom is there." He stands and begins to head toward the door. Finnick turns and smiles at Johanna. "I'll see you soon, Jo."
Johanna smiles and gives a weak half-wave. "Bye, Finnick."
"Here's your ticket, welcome to the tombs." –Regina Spektor, "All the Rowboats"
Panic has already set in, and running through the catacombs of the Capitol is madness. It stinks because of the sewers and danger is everywhere. However, the largest threat posed is the one following them through the dim passages. Mutts.
"Katniss," they hiss, causing Finnick's skin to crawl. He tries not to slip as they walk along a thin ledge along a wall above a pit of toxic waste. Death behind, death below. What lies in front of them? They reach a bridge and cross as fast as they can. Pollux makes gestures towards a ladder and the group prepares to climb.
Katniss looks around, confused. "Wait!" she cries. "Where are Jackson and Leeg One?"
Homes brushes off the subject by saying, "They stayed at the Grinder to hold the mutts back."
"What?" she shrieks, leaping toward the bridge to help them.
The conversation briefly continues, but stops when Gale Hawthorne shoots one of his explosive arrows at the bridge, not allowing the mutts to cross. They are white clawed creatures that seem to be a mix between lizards and humans. Finnick feels like choking because of the overwhelming smell of blood and roses. The smell of Snow. Yes, the mutts are definitely after Katniss, and anyone who gets in their way.
Everyone begins shooting at the mutts as they begin to come across the toxic sewers. Unfortunately, the star squad (or what's left of it) is greatly outnumbered and the mutts are practically indestructible. They won't stop until they get the blood of the Mockingjay. Finnick and the rest of the team are forced to retreat, screaming at Katniss to get back because the heinous lizards are mere feet away from her.
Finnick continues to shoot at the mutts while Katniss and several others begin to climb the ladder leading to the above world. He doesn't know which place is more dangerous. When the others are safely on the ladder, Finnick begins to climb. The mutts begin tearing at his legs, and he shouts in surprise and in pain. There is light above, if only he could reach it.
The mutts continue to bite at his leg, pulling him down. It stings at first, but soon he loses awareness of any pain in his legs; it must be the adrenaline. Finnick loses his grip with one hand, and is hanging onto the ladder only by the other. He has lost all hope of escaping, and now is focused on allowing the others to escape. Finnick is pulled to the mutt-covered ground.
He thinks of his home in District 4, the sun rising over the ocean in the east, and setting over the ocean in the west. Waves crash on the sands of the beach. He walks into the water, where Annie is waiting with a smile, having returned to her former, happier self. Finnick kisses her and then hears a shout on the beach. It is Johanna, afraid to come into the water. "You'll have to get over your fear at some point!" he shouts to her, laughing and shaking his head. Turning back to Annie, Finnick smiles and says, "I love you so much, Annie. I always will." She smiles and kisses him again.
Finnick slides into the dark water and allows the waves to crash over him.
"Forgive, sounds good; forget, I'm not sure I could. They say that time heals everything, but I'm still waiting." –Dixie Chicks, "Not Ready to Make Nice"
Life goes on, and as time passes, so does grief. Johanna can't say that she was surprised to hear that Finnick sacrificed himself for the others. That's the exact sort of stupidly courageous and noble thing he would do. But now Johanna is spending more and more time with Annie, rather than being alone. She doesn't want to go back on her promise.
Not much happens in Panem. Snow is taken captive; Coin takes over the government. Katniss, Peeta, and others are in the hospital. Gale has vanished to District 2. Haymitch returns to a drunken stupor. Too many people are gone, lost forever. There aren't many people left.
The grief has struck everybody. Katniss lost Prim—and Gale, because she doesn't know if it was his bomb that killed her sister—Annie lost her husband, Johanna lost her best friend. Panem lost the war against itself. Then again, it won, too. Funny how things work out to be like that.
Johanna hates these gray uniforms that everyone is forced to wear. Sure, she doesn't have anything to call her own, but the clothes are old and everyone matches. It's like prison. Everyone Johanna has seen has been wearing these uniforms, but she hasn't seen too many people.
Enobaria was found. She was brought to the Capitol—all the other victors had been killed by Peacekeepers and rebels alike. Saying that war was ugly is the understatement of the century. Everyone is wounded, mentally and physically. How can the world survive like this?
The Victors were a dying breed. Only a handful were left, each injured in their own ways. It's lonely; so much blood on their hands that no one else can relate to. God, Johanna thinks she sounds miserable. Her fucking life is miserable.
President Coin places her hands on the table, continuing the conversation Johanna had been ignoring. "What has been proposed is that in lieu of eliminating the entire Capitol population, we have a final, symbolic Hunger Games, using the children directly related to those who held the most power."
Shock registers on each victor's face. Johanna is the first to speak up. "What?"
"We hold another Hunger Games using Capitol children."
"Are you joking?" asks Peeta. Johanna can tell that the room will be divided. Yes, the Games tore apart the lives of all the victors, and payback would be wonderful. But is this a humane thing to do? All the grief and pain that Johanna has suffered throughout her life makes her believe that torturing the people of the Capitol is the best punishment ever. They killed her family, she'll kill theirs. It's called karma, bitch.
"No," Coin says. "I should also tell you that if we do hold the Games, it will be known it was done with your approval, although the individual breakdown of your votes will be kept secret for your own security."
That makes Johanna a little uncomfortable, but she realizes that she doesn't really care. Payback is payback, and the Capitol deserves it. "Was this Plutarch's idea?" asks Haymitch.
Coin looks too smug as she says, "It was mine. It seemed to balance the need for vengeance with the least loss of life. You may cast your votes."
Peeta is the first to shout, "No! I vote no, of course! We can't have another Hunger Games!"
Johanna stares at him in disbelief. "Why not? It seems very fair to me. Snow even has a granddaughter. I vote yes."
Shockingly to Johanna, Enobaria agrees. "So do I. Let them have a taste of their own medicine."
Peeta is clearly outraged. "This is why we rebelled! Remember?" She has to admit that he has a point. But her mind has been made and her vote cast, so Johanna remains silent. "Annie?"
"I vote no with Peeta," she says softly, rubbing her stomach. "So would Finnick if he was here."
That strikes a chord in Johanna. She isn't so sure that he would. "But he isn't," she says a little too fiercely, "because Snow's mutts killed him." Because of all the terrible things that happened to him, he wasn't here. Johanna bites down on the inside of her cheek to keep herself from crying the tears she hasn't allowed to fall. Annie would never know the truth about her husband.
The rest of the votes are cast, with Haymitch deciding that he agrees with Katniss: there will be a final Hunger Games. Johanna smiles to herself as they get ready to watch the execution. Finally, the Capitol will get what they deserve.
"I hear in my mind all of these voices, I hear in my mind all of these words, I hear in my mind all of this music and it breaks my heart." –Regina Spektor, "Fidelity"
The waves crash onto the hot sand, rushing over Johanna's feet. She had brought Annie back to her home in District 4 after the fiasco in the Capitol, and had offered to stay with the grieving woman for a while. It has been a week, and Johanna hates it here. She can see Finnick everywhere. Johanna isn't naturally loving or equipped to take care of others, so trying and failing to help Annie is the most difficult thing she's ever done.
Even though Johanna has no home, she wants to leave. But where would she go?
Johanna stares out at the water, gripping the shell-covered box in her hands. It's been in her possession for four days and she still hasn't opened it. This is the one thing that Finnick left to her in his will. It seems like a normal box, but is covered in beautiful white seashells. It seems almost too pretty to be in Johanna's possession. But finally, she has something to call her own.
Maybe opening it won't be so bad. Maybe it won't unleash the wrath of hell. Maybe it could bring her comfort. She could put her feelings inside the box and no one would ever have to know. Johanna could keep to herself for the rest of her life.
Biting her lip out of nerves, Johanna's nimble fingers lift the lid on the box. The only content in the velvet-lined box is a sealed envelope bearing her name. It's Finnick's handwriting. She musters up all the courage she has left and opens the envelope carefully, knowing that the last person to touch this was Finnick. She smiles at the sight of his scrawled handwriting as she unfolds the letter.
Jo, (and Johanna rolls her eyes because he knows she hated when he called her that. And by hated, she means loved.)
Thanks for bring Annie back home. I mean, obviously you did, or you wouldn't have gotten this. Just so you know, I made the box. So if it sucks, you can chuck it. But you know, you could keep it if you want. I don't care. Anyway, I just want to tell you what your friendship has meant to me. I would never have gotten through this hell of a life without you.
I never told you this, but that night that you found me on the roof when we first met was supposed to be the last night of my life. I had been sitting there, about to go to the edge and throw myself off, but then you came and anchored me to the ocean of life. Thank you for saving me.
This is really weird. I mean, I guess I'm dead now or you wouldn't be reading this. It's a strange thought. Please take care of Annie for a little while longer. I know that you're probably sick of District 4 already, and really sick of taking care of my wife. Bringing her home is more than enough. And taking care of her puts me forever in your debt. I can never tell you enough what it means to me.
I suppose the whole point of this letter is to thank you for everything. You allowed Snow to prostitute you out to the Capitol citizens so Annie wouldn't have to. You took care of me in my darkest times. You were my best friend. I could not be the person I am without you, Jo.
And I feel obligated to tell you how I felt for you for all these years. I loved you, Jo. I really, truly loved you. But Annie needed me. You're so independent; you don't really need anyone to take care of you. Marrying Annie was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, but so were all those nights spent with you. If she hadn't needed me or hadn't made it through her Games, you better know that you would be the one I would want to spend the rest of my life. But you're strong. You can survive on your own. I know you'll do beautifully for the rest of the time you're on earth.
See you someday, Jo.
Johanna wipes tears from her cheeks and knows that she can't leave Annie. Yes, she hates being surrounded by memories of him, but how else to honor Finnick's memory? Besides, maybe she can tell baby Odair all about his daddy when he is older. About how great a man he was, how nice he was, how much he loved his wife, what he did to help his country.
Smiling to herself, Johanna looks out at the waves and the setting sun. It really is beautiful, probably the most beautiful thing she's ever seen. It's no wonder that everyone says that District 4 is the most beautiful place in all of Panem. Johanna really wouldn't mind staying here forever. And if she forgets the world around her and focuses on the ocean, she can almost pretend that Finnick is sitting right beside her.