Johanna Mason slips the sunglasses off of her eyes as she takes the familiar pathway through District Seven toward the Victor's Village, tucking them into the pocket of her military fatigues' jacket. She had not planned on coming back to this place. It just sort of happened somewhere between hating being cooped up in Thirteen and not wanting to return to the Capitol.
The Hovercraft leaves before sunrise, taking military transfers and refugees alike to the once wooded (now burned) district, but the tension and nerves in her body combats any feelings of exhaustion that the sleep loss should have caused. The war is over, and Johanna is returning home for the first time.
As she walks through the rubble, the piles of ash and concrete that once were her home district, she feels the air around her hum with anticipation. She hasn't walked these streets since her name cameout of the Reaping Ball for the Third Quarter Quell. And yet, here she is. Even without the familiar buildings, even without the faces that used to nod astutely as she walked by, Johanna knows precisely where she is going. She knows how many steps it takes to the place where she used to live alone.
And it too is gone. When she stops, having taken seventy eight steps from the end to the top of Victor's Row, she sees nothing but rubble, debris, and the Arbor shining like beacon of life in the distance. As she steps between the rubble of what once was her prize for winning, she sees familiar pieces of her past. Broken seashells from a frame that Finnick once gave her during their time in the Capitol. She sees her distorted reflection in mirror that fell from the wall and cracked into a million pieces on the floor.
And, in the back, behind what was once her porch which leads to the Victor's Arbor, her axe lay dangerously still, covered in black soot. She bends down, the knees of her pants landing in a pile of ash, and brushes it off with care. The blade is sharp as ever. The metal handle refused to warp even under the heat of the burning home. When she uses the hem of her shirt to rub the black blade silver, she is reminded all the more of the blood that once stained it.
She took no token into the arena during her first games, so they let her take this one out. She swings it into her grasp as she stands to her full height, letting its weight hang familiarly in her right hand. Like Finnick and his trident or Katniss and her bow, this feeling of the weapon in her hand, that is the feeling of a sickening kind of home. It can kill, it can maim, but Johanna feels no more herself than when she has her brutal friend clenched between her thin fingers and her calloused palm. She squeezes until her hand throbs.
And then she begins walking.
Her eyes are set dead before her, never wavering, and if anyone were to see her, they might have thought by the set of her shoulders and the determination of her eyes that she had planned to do this all along.
But, as she walks to the Victor's Arbor, she thinks less about the walk and more about her surroundings. The Capitol cultivated this forest for the victors, a green, biochemically engineered series of identical trees that cave at the top to create a roof effect. The trees are planted to create a long hall, with the trunks forming walls and the leaves building a domed roof. A beaten path cuts up the middle of the trees, bisecting the Arbor. It is a Capitol construct, and it is built only for the Victors of District Seven. Johanna swings the axe over her shoulder and walks down that path now, feeling claustrophobic as the trees seem to close in around her. She cannot see the sky. Only the green tops of the trees that bend and weave together by Capitol design. Only brown bark that will never rot or decay.
The Capitol attendant who gave her the tour during her first day as a victor told her that the Arbor was created so the victors could still feel apart of the district even though they are not able to work there. But Johanna knew better even then. The Capitol created this place to keep victors from getting restless. Keep victors indebted to Snow. To keep victors placated and calm, so the government wouldn't have to worry about them trying anything stupid. This peaceful place is supposed to keep victors in their place.
Of all the things in this District, this is what survives? Not the homes. Not the families. Not the children. This is the place that lived through the bombings. Anger bubbles in her from the bit of her stomach all the way to the tips of her fingers, and Johanna takes an uncontrollable swing at the nearest tree and misses for the first time since her training for her first Games. Her shoulder throbs with the long-forgotten effort, but she stumbles to catch her balance once more.
She thinks about her father, whose destroyed house she passed without a second glance. This tree before her survived, and yet her father is buried in a shallow grave delivered courtesy of President Snow. She sets her body solidly and grinds her jaw, adjusting her hands around the arm of the axe. She takes a deep breath and then pulls back. This swing lands satisfyingly in the thick of the bark, making a resounding thumping noise at it buries itself there. Then, she yanks it out with all of her strength to observe her handiwork. These trees can't rot, but they can certainly be cut down. The penalty for this used to be death, and even if that penalty were still in place, Johanna wouldn't care.
She takes another step and finds herself before three trees whose branches are intertwined. Three trees like her three brothers. Three brothers who were slaughtered because she couldn't give the Capitol her body after she gave them her soul. These three trees get to thrive, but her brothers will never see the blinding sunlight that beats down through the branches. She takes three swings in a row, refusing to miss. A scrap of wood flies and lodges itself into her arm. Her swing only gets harder, more precise, and more frantic.
And then, she stops thinking. A red haze clouds her vision. She sees the faces, she hears the names, she feels her chest sting at their memory, and she takes the swing. Finnick's kid will never have a father. Chop. Annie will never have her husband. Chop. Gale will live with guilt forever. Chop. District Twelve is gone. Chop. District Four is gone. Chop. District Eleven is gone. Chop. Primrose. Chop. Mother. Chop. Mags. Chop. Chop. Finnick. Chop. Chop. Chop.
Chop. Turn. Chop. Turn. Chop. Turn. Chop. Chop. Chop.
When Johanna pulls her axe out of the last tree along the stretch of trodden dirt through the middle of the arbor, the force of her own pull knocks her backward, ruining her rhythm and knocking the righteous anger from her lungs. When she is finished, she is not crying. There are no hot angry tears, there are no body-wracking sobs. She is covered in sweat. Her hands are bleeding from the new callouses forming there. Her chest rises and falls rapidly as she struggles to angrily catch her breath. She rights herself, standing up as the axe hangs from her hand.
She looks around. The trees are broken, the bark is fractured, and the chopped pieces lie scattered across the lush green floor. Broken. So broken.
"No more," she mutters to herself.
Johanna lets the axe fall from her hand carelessly, and she hears it cut through the stagnant air and fall to the ground as if in slow motion. She begins walking away before she even hears her once coveted weapon clatter against the hard packed ground.
And, as she walks away, making her way over the path and past the shattered remains of the Victor's Arbor, layers upon layers of rage, guilt, and pain that had built within her fall away. The Capitol is gone. And with it, so is the Johanna Mason that they created.
I want to apologize in advance because I have never read Johanna fanfiction, I have never written it before, so I am totally new to this subset of Hunger Games fanfiction! Please be gentle! And please review!