AN: So... here it is. My little one-shot idea, which sprung up to me when I re-read my story 'Another Epilogue'. Conception to finish in less than three days, a bit erratic I must say, but I guess I just had to get this out of the to-be-written queue in my head.
Basically, at the end of 'Another Epilogue', Johanna was still pretty afraid of water. And I couldn't let her be afraid forever, thus this story was born. It's a bit like a sequel to 'Another Epilogue', though you can really read this as its own. The main idea was to have Johanna conquering her fear of water for someone else, not to have someone else conquering her fear for her (which is the trend of Johanna-conquering-fear-of-water stories out there, I must say). Why? a) Just to be different, and b) Because Johanna was strong, simply that.
Disclaimer: All are Suzanne Collins'. I'm just borrowing. Oh, and yes, Johanna's daughter counts as an O.C... well, in that case, she's mine.
What The Water Gave Me
Fear, Year 0
There were flashes of lightning in the sky as she brought her precious bundle of joy out into the open for the first time.
"It's gonna rain," she told her husband, who walked closely behind them, the emergency umbrella she'd been so particular about in hand. "Shield us."
To the outsiders, who walked past and stood around them, it sounded like an order. But no, it wasn't. It was a plea, and he knew that well. Sixteen years of marriage had taught them enough about each other. More than enough, perhaps, for them to love and respect one another.
So he simply opened the umbrella and held it above them. It was a big thing, really. Enough for the two of them - three, counting that wisp of a thing in her pink baby sling, who was coming home for the first time today. Their long-awaited second baby girl, two months of birth age yet closer to a newborn than other babies her age. Born ten whole weeks early, after a challenging and terrifying pregnancy.
Luck had it for them. Seconds after the umbrella went up, the rain went down. Not in drizzle, but in whole buckets. Enough to make this mother flinch and tighten her grip on her daughter, who'd started fussing.
"She doesn't like it," the mother told her husband in frantic hisses. "She doesn't like the rain."
She knew he was mentally rolling his eyes at that. She had been the one scared of the rain and water, not their daughter. One of the many lessons she'd learnt from raising the baby's big sister was that your kids fed on your emotions. Whatever you were scared of would scare them off, too. Whatever you hated, they would hate. Whatever made you happy, they would enjoy. At least for those first few years of their lives, when you were all they knew.
So she tried to be brave, for the sake of the baby. Although admittedly it was hard.
Something splashed under her feet. Water. Water in a puddle. Water in a brown puddle. Just like...
She took a deep breath and still her heart, as the panic started creeping in.
"You're fine," her husband said behind her. "You are fine. They're dead. They can't hurt you anymore. It's twenty years ago."
Twenty years. That was how long it had been since then.
"Yeah," she responded, knowing it would help the panic which had slowly rose in him too. "Twenty bloody years."
"Jo," he warned her, sounding stern but amused. "She can hear already."
"I know," she replied, glancing down at the little face pressed onto her bosom. "I'm just not gonna censor myself around her."
He chuckled at her remark.
"You haven't changed," he concluded. "Thirteen years, and you're still the same mother you were."
"I sure am," she cockily told him, throwing a smug smile over her shoulder. "I'm the fun parent. You're the strict one. That's been the deal since Cy, right?"
Cy, who was now thirteen years old, was the little girl's big sister.
The father didn't answer. The mother smirked to herself as she slid into the backseat of their jeep and put the baby down on the capsule. They would be driving around in his car today. She'd insisted she didn't want to drive, and he'd insisted that he wouldn't drive her sports car with their baby at the back seat. So, the jeep it was.
There was a few minutes of silence as he slid behind the wheel and folded the wet umbrella. Then the engine started, and off they were. Through the city streets of District Two. Through the downpour.
Johanna looked down at her little girl Juniper, who looked back up at her from her capsule with her big baby blue eyes. The kid was trembling in what looked like fear, little whimpers escaping her little pink lips.
"Ssh," the mother tried consoling, patting her child gently on the leg. "Ssh. We're fine. We'll be fine. It's just the rain."
Now, that was a lie. And it was apparently unconvincing enough for the baby, that she'd just started wailing.
Fear, Year 5
They were all in District Four, when the thing happened.
No, not all of them. Johanna and her daughters, to be more exact. The girls' father - The President - was busy attending to some urgent matter about Districts Five and Six that he had to bail out of the plan on the last minute.
It was holiday season, the last big one Cy would have before the final examinations which would determine whether or not she could follow her dreams. The girl wanted to study Medicine in that famous university Johanna's godson Dylan had just graduated from. The thing was in District Twelve - worlds away from District Two, worlds away into Cy's father's past - but Johanna figured out there was nothing she could do to deter the girl. Cy had always wanted to be a doctor. A Head Doctor, to be more exact. So much for having parents with ongoing Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
Dylan was too back in District Four, with his mostly-well mother Annie. They went back here as much as possible, having moved to District Twelve for Dylan's education. This year, they were too joined by some old friends from District Twelve. The Mellarks: Peeta and Katniss, and their young children Willow and Rye.
Johanna was sitting on the beach with her old torture buddies Peeta and Annie. Dylan and Cy had disappeared into the water, playing some kind of game Johanna was sure would set Cy's overprotective father off like anything had he been here. Katniss was teaching her little girl Willow how to swim in the shallow water, all giggles and happiness and things. And the younger children - who were born on the same day - were sitting together building sandcastles. More exactly, Juniper built them and Rye decorated them. Peeta joked that he could see a partnership forming in the future, and Johanna must say she agreed. The kids just worked together really well.
The three ex-prisoners were talking about cooking, of all subject, when Dylan and Cy ran back to join them.
"The water's getting weird," Dylan explained, looking at the sea. "I've told Katniss and the kids to come back here."
And sure, Katniss followed not long afterwards. With Willow in tow.
"Where are the kids?" Peeta asked, scanning the coastline frantically.
"They should be..."
Willow's sentence was cut short, as she spun around and realized that her brother and his friend hadn't been following them.
"Rye's coming," Annie said, squinting her eyes towards the ocean. "And... that's Juniper. On the water."
Before she even finished the sentence, she'd run to get the girl. And before any of the rest of them could react to anything, something had happened.
A huge wave crashed right onto the shoreline, where Juniper had been standing.
With that, Dylan Odair ran over to the water. Johanna sprung up and ran after him, just like Cy and Katniss did. What happened next, though, stopped her.
Lightning. Flash of white parting the sky, crashing into the water in the horizon.
Water. Flashes of white.
Johanna's chest constricted, as her legs gave way to this full panic attack with took her over.
The next thing Johanna remembered was laying on a bed in Annie's old house they were staying in. Out of the shorts and light shirt she'd been wearing for the beach trip, and in her pajamas. With this small, snivelling thing pressed to her body. Juniper, looked freshly washed and also in pajamas.
"June. June, Baby."
The girl looked up at her, big grey eyes and red, tear-stained cheeks.
And that invoked, in Johanna, this guilt for crumbling down into pieces when her baby girl was in grave danger, instead of springing into action like the mother she was supposed to be.
"Baby, Baby, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
Now, they were both crying.
The President arrived at District Four an hour later, and straight away headed to Annie Odair's old Victor's house, where his family and their friends were.
He did his best attempt in delegating - as much as he hated not being in control over what was happening - and joined their group for the holiday, though the mood in general had never been the same since the near-accident.
When it ended, they had all gone back to their respective lives, just as planned. Though, something had changed. After that successful first term in the office, The President made a life-altering decision of retiring to his childhood home in the Appalachian Mountains, instead of running for re-election as many had expected.
When they all mobbed him and asked him why, he just answered,
"It's for my girls."
Perspective, Year 12
Johanna put the newspaper down and turned to her daughter. Now in the first year of reaping eligibility - had the thing still been on, of course -, Juniper was no longer a baby. Her genetics - Johanna's genetics - dictated that she would always be small, but she wasn't exactly a kid anymore. In a blink of an eye, she would have been a woman.
"Well," Johanna finally said, after two seconds of consideration, "bad luck, Wisp."
In all her honesty, she'd wanted to say she understood. She'd wanted to say she was, too, scared. But she knew she couldn't. She wasn't going to let her daughter live in constant fear, like she did. To make it happen, she had to help Juniper conquering it. Not embracing it.
"Why do they have to have it on the beach?"
'It' referred to the wedding of Johanna's older girl Cy, who would marry Johanna's godson Dylan Odair later at sunset that day. That day on the beach seven years ago turned out to be the start of something else. In life's funny ways, Finnick Odair's son had harboured this love for Johanna's eldest daughter since the girl was sixteen. And Cy, in turn, had started seeing him in a different light the moment he dived into the ocean to grab her precious baby sister from the clutches of the waves. The triangle created one generation ago was finally a full circle.
So, with that in mind, Johanna answered again. This time, in all honesty.
"I've told you numerous times about Finnick, haven't I?"
Juniper let out a small sigh and sat down on the chair across her mother. Shoulders slumped, head bowed above the dining table. At times like this, it was hard for Johanna not to wonder how on earth this girl could be their kid. She was fierce. And her husband was on fire. How on earth they'd ended up with this sensitive, tender creature?
The guilt inside her rose again as she raised her voice against the girl. She pushed it back to that hidden corner, staring straight at the top of the girl's dark-haired head. She had to set her daughter straight on things.
Juniper looked back up, slowly. Looked like she knew her mother well, after all.
"The ocean's not gonna swallow you whole every single time you stand near it. Can't you just face it and see?"
There was another sigh. Then, a nod.
Juniper had learnt, long ago, that when her mother wanted something done, it had to be done.
Some hair and makeup session and a rushed dash out of the rented holiday house later, they were all in that little beach cottage. Waiting for the cue to walk down the aisle.
Cy was just her usual self, Johanna observed. Calm, composed, and collected on the outside, though you would definitely be able to feel her inner panic. Her father sat next to her, quiet like he usually was. And somewhat sad. It would only take anyone a single look at the two to tell how much he loved his eldest. Cy was more than a daughter to him.
Cy was his redemption.
At the other corner of the room, hidden far from the window and the sight of the ocean, Juniper was playing one of her building games. This time, it was a packet of straws she was playing with; a tower of some sort she was building - crisscrosses of white plastic, high up above the table. She was being careful, really careful not to ruin her hair or makeup or the knee-length, sea-green bridesmaid's dress she had on.
The girl was stressed out, way more stressed out than her bride-of-the-day sister.
And, call Johanna a softie, but she actually felt horrible looking at her youngest.
Juniper didn't look at her. Well, actually she did, if that fleeting sideways glance counted.
"How's your tower going?"
They fell back into silence afterwards, for the question wasn't really an icebreaker.
"You'll be fine," Johanna eventually said. She couldn't help but feeling remorseful that she didn't have anything better to say, but that was the best she could do. "You'll be fine."
"I know," Juniper responded. "Dylan promised me he'll jump and get me in his wedding suit if that thing happens again."
So, after all, the girl had gone and talked to her soon-to-be-brother-in-law about the situation. A smart move, Johanna must say. Juniper really knew how not to be alone.
Unlike her parents. Unlike her sister.
"See?" Johanna heard herself saying, somewhere far away from where her head actually was. "You'll really be fine."
"Will you be fine, though?"
Now, that girl was smart. And eloquent, in the simplest, most straightforward way.
"I will," Johanna heard herself saying again, distant and unconvincing. "I'll be fine."
This time, the girl really tilted her head and looked at her mother.
"We'll both be fine."
And surely they survived that walk down the sand aisle and the whole ceremony by the sea. Whether it was because it was all sunshine and no lightnings; whether it was because of that little conversation, Johanna didn't know.
If there was one thing she was sure about by the end of that day, though, it was that as long as she was still afraid, Juniper would still be afraid.
She needed to heal herself, to heal both of them.
Her Head Doctor in training, newlywed eldest daughter looked at her across her District Twelve home's dining table.
She'd called Cy home for lunch earlier, just so that they could have a private chat. Just the two of them. The man of the house was out helping with some district administration matter, never still as he always was. The little girl was at school, probably having her own lunch with Rye Mellark and their other friends.
Johanna had decided against having those two others around when she talked to the knowledgeable person about how idiotic this idea of hers was. She was planning to have her and Juniper dunking themselves in the lake outside the district centre.
"Look, Mother," the young woman eventually said, shaking her head a bit. "You're most probably the most outlandish person I know in the world. But yes, that might actually work. Just let me know whenever you're doing it. Just in case you both have panic attack and can't save each other."
And that was the official birthday of Johanna and Juniper's little Lake Ritual, which would see them in the lake at random times for the next few years to come.
Reassurance, Year 17
Juniper let out this happy, relieved sigh, as she lowered herself down into the lake. Johanna almost rolled her eyes, before she decided it was totally justified and that the eyeroll wasn't necessary. It was a hot day, after all.
"Spill," she simply ordered her daughter, as the girl wadded her way towards where she was. A slight shiver travelled down her spine as she took in her daughter's face and features. If not for the dark hair, grey eyes, and olive skin Juniper got from her Seam-born father, Johanna surely would think she was looking at a younger version of herself.
"The Capitol's the same old thing," Juniper began blabbering, seeing that she'd gotten the green light. "Still the same museums and places Pa and you took me to when I was thirteen. Except..."
She trailed off a bit, looking at Johanna with a slight fear in her eyes.
"Go on," Johanna commanded coldly, looking down at the water, at the reflection of her own aging face.
"They took us down to your jail cell."
Well, that wasn't unexpected. Katniss had told Johanna, four years earlier, that Willow Mellark's class had also been taken down there as part of their History of Panem Study Tour to Capitol. It was a standard part of any Study Tour to Capitol, really. Or one of those tours promoted to foreigners who visited Panem for holidays. It was pretty much a touristy place nowadays. Such a disturbing concept, Johanna thought, but she must admit that it actually amused her.
Tourism had really been taken up to a whole new level.
"You know that there's where I first saw your Pa in person, right?" she then asked the girl, tilting her head slightly.
"Yep," Juniper answered, sure as fire. There was this little giggle escaping her lips, as she added on, "they had this little passage about the rescue mission there. All those girls from the other districts swooned and sighed over Pa's heroic act of carrying you out of there, despite having been shot in the back."
"Don't you dare imagining things, Wisp," Johanna scolded her daughter, rolling her eyes. "It wasn't fun and games, just so you stupid kids now. A little mistake, and none of us would have been here now."
"But it was romantic!" Juniper exclaimed in her youthful innocence. "You guys really got married! It's better than movies, you know."
Johanna snorted, for there was no way her so-called love story was better than movies. If only Juniper had known how confused they were those first few years of their marriage, if only she'd known they were still both pining for different people...
But then, Johanna loved Juniper's innocence too much to be able to burst that bubble. She wouldn't admit this to anyone, for innocence was a weakness which wouldn't help you in the battlefield, but she was both happy and jealous that her daughter was able to maintain it until now. Sure, she'd tried really hard for it, invested so much on her daughter's happiness and wholeness. Sometimes, though, she wondered how her life would have been had she been allowed to remain that innocent, had her experience of the world not been tainted by everything which happened those thirty-something years ago.
"One of Rye's crazy friends wanted to try the electric shock thing," Juniper babbled on, rolling her own eyes this time. "Well, he wasn't allowed anyway, but I made a point to let him know how much he would regret it later."
"Glad you did," Johanna responded, ruffling her daughter's hair. "You're smarter than you look, you know."
"Of course!" Juniper exclaimed, laughing. "I'm your kid! Surely I have your smarter-than-it-looks genes!"
"And apparently the snarky genes too," Johanna added on, smirking. Over the years, she'd come to realize how similar Juniper actually was to herself and to her husband, beneath that bubbly exterior which set her apart from the rest of the family. The girl had inherited her wit and her husband's talent for engineering and planning. Cy might have gotten all the fire and the angst, but Juniper had gotten their strengths.
... and their weaknesses. Juniper's mouth was quick, but her brain was often indecisive. Take now, for example. It had been a year or so since Rye Mellark started airing out his attraction to Juniper in public, yet the girl herself hadn't even decided whether she'd wanted to be with her childhood friend. Talk Katniss's karma, perhaps. Or Johanna's somewhat weird example of love and marriage. Or just high standard in general. Perhaps Juniper was really waiting for someone who would carry her out of a burning building, or someone she could carry out of a burning building.
Whatever it was, not that important now. The important thing was that Juniper was happy. And brave.
They hadn't been completely at ease with water, of course. The sight of lightning and water still sent Johanna into these temporary freezes at times, and until today, Juniper hadn't been able to take a dip in the ocean without at least five other people in the water around her. But they'd slowly gotten more and more control over their fear, gotten stronger with each passing day.
And gotten closer, so much closer, through their bonding sessions in the lake.
Then - of course - Juniper had to start speaking again, shaking up this inner peace Johanna had slowly gotten herself into.
"What should I do with Rye, Ma?"
Finally, that question.
"Whatever you want, Wisp," she answered her daughter, glancing sideways at the girl. "What do you want?"
Juniper looked down at her own reflection in the water.
"I... I can't decide," she whined out, exhaling loudly. "Some of my friends went out together, then broke up and never spoke to each other again. I don't think I can go through life never speaking to Rye again."
Aha, so that was it. Fear, straight to the core.
With that knowledge, the mother turned to her daughter and put an arm around the girl's shoulders. That wasn't what she'd wanted, really; if she was to be true to herself, she would just slap the girl on her face and chide her for being such a coward. However, she knew how it felt. She knew that feeling too well, to be able to ignore her daughter's silly plea.
"Say," she started, looking up at the sky. "You keep everything hanging like this, and he just starts liking another girl one day. Would you be sad?"
There were several seconds of unusual silence.
"Yeah," Juniper finally admitted, already looking a bit sad. "I'll be sad."
"Then why are you waiting for the world to end?"
"Listen, silly kid," Johanna cut in, growing impatient of the girl's indecisiveness. "I'll make your decision for you, just this one time. Go and try it. Make him sign this thing which says you'll still talk to each other if things go bad, or whatever, if that's what you're worried about. But for bloody hell's sake, please try it. You'll regret it if you don't. I can guarantee."
Again, silence. That completely silenced Juniper, too.
"Ma," the girl finally said, turning to her mother. "You and Dylan's father. Pa and Katniss. Were they all true?"
"Yes," Johanna answered, without a slightest hesitation in her voice. "And that's why you should bloody hell try. It's just like this lake thing we're doing, Wisp. Conquering fear. Maybe it'll work, maybe it won't, but who knows, really. Just try it."
She didn't know where her daughter took that advice to for nearly two years afterwards, until the girl came back with a confession.
Reassurance, Year 19
"Ma I need you to come to my room now. Please."
A scared, whispered phone call in the middle of the night, when she was sleeping and her husband was sleeping next to her. Looked like she had no other way to get around this but to actually do as asked.
She picked her nightrobe up and put it on, carefully making her way out of the bedroom. They'd both been sleeping better and better with each passing year, but still, she knew better than to stomp her way out. Whatever kind of shit Juniper was in, she surely didn't want her father to know. Hell, if it was good news, Juniper would have stormed straight into their room and jumped on them on the bed. Sometimes the girl forgot that her parents were just some short years shy from their sixties now, and that their bodies had been wrecked by the rebellion in some sense.
Juniper's door was locked, but she was immediately let in upon knocking. To say Juniper was distraught was an understatement. The girl was a wreck; eyes wide and wild, hair down and mussed up around her face.
"What is this?" she demanded the girl. "Has the world just ended or something?"
"Huh?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. "What appointment do you have?"
Of course, she knew what the girl meant. Hell, she'd been late that way twelve times in her life before, although she'd only managed to carry two of her babies safely to delivery.
"No, not that late!" Juniper barged in, panicking even more. "I think... I think I'm pregnant."
All Johanna managed to say was, "oh."
Seriously, what else she would say? Shit happened. Fullstop. Juniper was nineteen, and had been physically capable of carrying a baby for years now. Mentally, her readiness was still questionable, but no pregnancy would wait for you to be ready for it, really. Either you got yourself ready first, then got pregnant. Or, try to get yourself ready once you were pregnant. Things didn't just fall into place effortlessly.
"What do I do?"
Again, another fearful question.
"Seriously, Kid," Johanna chided her daughter again, shaking her head. "You should have thought about this before you let him stick it in. Really."
"I know," Juniper responded, between an eyeroll and some tears. "But what do I do?"
"You deal with this, of course," the mother answered, shaking her head again. "Running around like a headless chook like that won't solve your problem. I can't just take that pregnancy over for you. You've gotta finish this, Wisp."
Juniper couldn't answer that.
"Well," Johanna decided, "let's get ourselves into the water, then."
Their backyard pool was just this tiny thing. The man of the house had installed a year or so ago after Juniper went to Capitol to study Civil Engineering, just so that Johanna could have her little water time without having to be alone and far away from home. Tonight, though, it would suffice.
Johanna discarded everything she had on as she crossed her dark backyard. She didn't even have a look over her shoulder at Juniper, not even once. Juniper should do whatever she wanted to do. Whatever it actually was, they ended up as two naked women in their backyard pool, huddling in the dark as the waxing moon and sprinkles of tiny stars shone above them.
"So," Johanna started, once Juniper was snuggled comfortably against her shoulder - a bit like those early days, when Juniper was just this tiny premature baby trying to survive, she realized -, "if the shit is real, who on earth is the unlucky guy?"
"You know who it is."
Now, Johanna knew she shouldn't laugh, and that it might not at all be funny for poor Juniper, but she couldn't help but cackling as she realized what kind of tangled relationships mess they were all in.
"Wisp," she told her trembling, quiet daughter afterwards. "You're telling me that the son of that-girl-your-father-once-loved and the-other-man-who-ended-up-with-her has knocked you up?"
There was probably half a second of silence, before Juniper bursted out laughing as well.
"Oh God," she gasped afterwards, ducking her head playfully under the water in between, "that's just so wrong! Pa..."
It was only then the subject of her father apparently hit her. She was quiet once more, trembling even more than she did.
"Wisp," Johanna told her daughter, blunt and honest. "Your Pa would need a hell lot of time to come to terms with it - if it is real, which I'm yet to be sure of. But he would, eventually. It's just your father after all."
"But what if Pa hates me?"
"Then he's just a loser," Johanna answered. She didn't know whether she meant it - she surely loved her husband, and didn't think he was still a loser - but in all honesty, that was the only possible reason for Juniper's hypothetical scenario to happen. Whoever let their pride get in between themselves and those they loved was a loser. A lesson she'd learned the hard way when she was younger.
"What if Rye hates me?"
"Then he's a loser too."
"What if Rye hates the baby?'
"Juniper, have you even told him?"
"Then stop overthinking it and just do it. If he's yours, he'll stick around. If he's not, he won't, but doesn't mean you're screwed. You'll find another way of surviving, you'll try again. Be brave, Juniper. It's no different than the water, really."
Well, as they both discovered when they came out of the water later, it was nothing but a false alarm. But it actually did something.
Juniper and Rye came out as a couple a few days later, to their families and everyone else.
Freedom, Year 24
Today, yet another love triangle would come into a full circle.
It took Juniper and Rye eleven years of secret crushes, three years of uncertainty, and five other years of making sure they were happy with everything to get to this point. But they got there eventually, to everyone's happiness. And most importantly, to their happiness.
The couple had been back in District Twelve for around two years now, having finished their studies in Capitol. Peeta's prediction those nineteen years ago turned out to be very accurate, for the kids had started a small building and architecture firm. Juniper was the civil engineer, the builder. Rye, the architect, the artist. True to what they had been since they were just little kids playing on the beach.
They got married on their twenty fourth birthday. A decision which benefit the parents, Johanna must say, for they could just skip birthday presents this year for the sake of the wedding gifts. Of course, Peeta, being his kind self, straight away objected the idea. He proceeded with baking three cakes for the kids - a wedding cake, and a birthday cake for each of them. At the end of the poolside party held in Juniper's parents' backyard, every guest took home huge chunks of cake, for there was just too many for everyone to finish.
It was a good day, right from the morning ceremony by that lake outside the district, to the party, and way into the family-only toasting which happened much later in the day. Though, weather-wise, it wasn't ideal. It was, in fact, thunderstorming.
Yet, it wasn't until her husband pointed it out, later in the night when they'd stalked back into their bedroom quietly, that she realized the water and the white flashes were all there. And the knowledge didn't disturb her, much to her joy.
She'd been freed.
Juniper handed her parents a stack of (family-friendly) honeymoon photos, two days after she arrived back at District Twelve.
Like most newlyweds of their day, they'd gone out of Panem for the honeymoon. Somewhere out there, in the middle of lands destroyed by humans' greed and arrogance, was this nice group of little islands, with white beaches and clear oceans and blue skies. That was where Juniper and Rye spent three or so weeks of their lives. Mostly at it, Juniper later told her smirking mother and her grimacing father who'd wished to know much less. But sometimes they would go out and do things. On the beach. In the water.
As proven by the photos.
One of them now stuck permanently on Johanna's fridge. The one in which Juniper had taken paddle-boarding, standing tall and strong and happy on her board on the water. Now spending a fair amount of her time in the kitchen - the place she'd never dreamt of finding herself in, forty or so years ago -, Johanna spent some moments staring at it every day. Reminding herself what the water had finally brought both her and her daughter.
And they had both been freed.
Thanks for reading and making it here! Hope the story's good enough, and hope I'd gotten the kind of mother Johanna was across well.
If you notice that I didn't refer to Johanna's husband by name in this story, it was all intentional. The bits and pieces and descriptions would have surely told you which canon character it was (and so does the prequel to this story, 'Another Epilogue'), but I've deliberately refrained from referring to him by name. Because the focus of this story should be on Johanna and her youngest daughter, and I felt that the mention of his name would be somewhat a distraction from the main point of the story.
The inspiration for the title came from that song by Florence and The Machine, though the song itself wasn't an inspiration for this story. It was actually their other song, 'Never Let Me Go', which I listened to when drafting this story. The title of that one song just fits, I guess.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed this! :)