The first time I wake after sharing the same bed as Johanna, I think she’s trying to kill me. During the night the dreamless sleep I have been mercifully treated to shifts into a dream in which I am being buried. Crushed. It is a familiar enough theme of my nightmares but I have not had this exact one before. I am trapped between two solid slabs of stone and they’re being pushed steadily together, the already non-existent room for my limbs and body and air being squeezed and tightened second by second. I hear Effie Trinket’s voice and she’s saying “What did I tell you? Put enough pressure on coal and it becomes pearls”. I’m trying to tell her that she’s got it all wrong, that you can’t make pearl out of coal and that anyway it’s me that’s being crushed, not inanimate black rock. But my chest is already being compressed. I can’t move my arms. My bones are surely about to break, my joints ready to pop.
It takes me a moment to realise when I am awake, because the pressure does not recede. It is not quite as strong as in my dream but it is still present, solid and weighing down on top of me. I am lying on my stomach, my face buried into a pillow, making it still more difficult to breathe. My laboured breathing presses part of the cotton against my tongue and I nearly choke, thinking of being gagged. I wriggle my head to one side and press my cheek against the warm pillow as I gasp for air.
There is a dim light starting to make its way in past the curtains which indicates early morning but other than that the room is still in shadow. What I can see looks unchanged though. I am still in my room, in my house in the victors’ village in twelve.
And I am still being pressed into the mattress.
As my senses return I realise that the weight above me is warm and soft where it touches my skin. It’s human. A new kind of panic washes over me before I remember that there is only one person who currently has access to my bed. The chair we’d hastily dragged in front of the door last night remains in place. We hadn’t wanted to be disturbed. It’s just her and me.
Of course I assume she is trying to kill me. Why else would she be smothering me with her body like this? I never expected me and Johanna to ever have what you might call a loving union. I knew full well that neither of us was exactly stable. It is obvious, really, that now that our flirtation, or attraction, or drive or whatever you wanted to call it had reached its climax, that she would tire of me.
I get ready to fight. I brace my body for the effort it will take to pitch her off. I buck my body, pushing off from the mattress to give me leverage and it is with surprising ease that Johanna’s body is pitched backwards. She rolls across the bed and lands on the floor with a hard smack and a yell. She sets to struggling into an upright position, her muscles tensing like mine as I prepare for whatever she might do next. But Johanna is looking around, taking in the room just as I had and there is a bleary look in her eyes that makes me realise she was asleep until she hit the floor.
“What the hell happened?” She asks, rubbing her ribs.
I’m still shook up, somewhere between wired and half asleep, so I feel little sympathy for her own rude awakening.
“You were on top of me.” I snap.
Johanna smirks, trying to get back to her normal self. “Wouldn’t be the first time tonight. I thought that was rather the point.”
I glare at her even as I feel a traitorous blush cross my face. I am thankful for the darkness.
“You were…” The more awake I am getting, the more it feels over dramatic to say ‘you were crushing me’ or ‘you were killing me’. “I couldn’t breathe.” I finish, lamely. I flop back down and tug the sheets up to my shoulders.
This should be the end of it. I have thrown Johanna from my bed very literally. Now should be the moment when she gets up, dresses and leaves, perhaps with a few insults thrown at me as she goes. Instead I catch the movement from the corner of my eye as she shrugs. It’s such a small gesture of her dark outline but I have the instinct of someone who has been both hunter and prey and small movements don’t slip my notice often.
“Alright,” Says Johanna. “Won’t happen again.” And she crawls back into bed beside me without another word. She gets close, but leaves a few inches gap between our bodies. I’m not sure if it’s for her benefit or mine.
I fail to fall into the deep slumber I had attained previously and wake at the smallest movement beside me. I get the feeling Johanna isn’t sleeping well either now.
When the sun rises high enough that I can properly call it morning I slip out of bed, trying not to disturb Johanna who seems to have finally drifted off. I tiptoe across the room and ease the chair aside from the door as quietly as I can. A floorboard creaks. Johanna doesn’t even stir and I’m sure she’s faking sleep now but I still try to stay quiet.
I don’t know how long I stand beneath the shower for. I slip into one of my dazes, where it could be hours, as the warm water rushes over me. I touch the bruises where Johanna kissed and bit me at the same time. I stroke the scratches she left on the inside of my thighs. Johanna doesn’t bother to knock so when I turn she is just suddenly there, framed by the doorway and the slightly frosted glass of the shower screen. She is completely naked. I feel absurdly shy and have to fight the urge to look away and cover my own body. I reach to turn off the shower; the noise of running water still bothers Johanna. She still dislikes bathing. An already half filled, shallow tub of water, she can manage on good days. She uses oils to clean and sweeten her skin when that is too much.
To my surprise she crosses the room, opens the shower door and steps in with me.
“The bed was getting cold.” She says. She wraps her arms around my waist as she alters the temperature of the water from warm to hot, then presses my back against the dial. The heat of the pipes burns against my skin, but I find I don’t mind.
With me there to sweeten the deal, it turns out Johanna doesn’t mind showering so much.
Johanna wanders around the house naked for most of the day, wearing only a towel wrapped around her shoulders to catch the drips from her drying hair. I stare at her without meaning to.
We don’t have a repeat of that first morning. What becomes our usual arrangement for sleeping works quite well on the whole. Sometimes I wake us both with my screaming. Johanna never screams, but sometimes she chooses to sleep alone and refuses to be touched at all. Quite a few times when I wake up she’s already awake and staring at the ceiling. She may have been awake all night. On most nights though I think we both sleep easier knowing we need only reach out less than an arms-length to know we are both okay.
Johanna must have been sleeping that first time. She must have rolled on top of me in her dreams. Or maybe we fell asleep like that to begin with. That part is a bit of a haze.
It’s not until a couple of months later that I start to recognize a pattern.
I never had Johanna down as a cuddly sleeper. She doesn’t spoon behind me, warp me in her arms. She doesn’t whisper me to sleep with sweet nothings while stroking my hair. It is not at all how it was when I shared a bed with Peeta. But more and more she starts to throw an arm over me before drifting off. She even does it in her sleep. It’s not just casual either. She locks that arm around me so tight I would struggle to move away if I wanted to. If.
Again I tell myself it is something she is not conscious of. There are still a great many things I do not know about Johanna Mason but I am pretty sure she would never knowingly be so, well, clingy. But the fact remains the on the nights when I don’t wriggle away, Johanna sleeps sound for far longer than usual. Contrary to that first night, my own dreams begin to ease with that added reminder of Johanna’s presence.
Maybe it was never an accident after all.
I’m still trying to figure out how to broach the subject when Johanna brings it up herself.
And she sure does pick her moment.
She is knelt between my thighs, her quick tongue and clever fingers working to bring me ever closer to climax and I am so close I’m shaking. And this is when Johanna pulls back. I let out a noise that can only be a sob.
I try to wrap my legs around her, to pull her closer once more, but Johanna steadies me, one hand on each knee, keeping her distance.
“You know,” she says, walking two, damp fingers over my kneecap, “we’d both find it easier if you just...let me...” Her voice trails off but we are left far from silent. I am panting and whining and no matter how calm Johanna tries to appear, her own chest is heaving his laboured gasps.
She can have whatever she wants. She can do whatever she wants to me right now, I don’t care.
“Oh, just do it!” I wail. “Whatever you’ve got in mind. You’ve never let me down before.”
She laughs and her breasts shake with the movement.
“Not now, kitty-cat,” She teases, knowing how much I hate that nickname. “Later. Afterwards.”
Right now anything that is not directly to do with sensation and relief and just a little bit more, seems so trivial and so meaningless that I can’t see any good reason not to agree. I nod my head vigorously.
“Oh yes. You can. Whatever. Just...p...pl-pleeeeease...” My voice is drawn from me in one long squeal and she lowers her mouth once more. She is grinning triumphantly. I can feel the curve of her lips against my sex.
After we’re done, she explains what is that she wants. It seems such an innocent, un-Johanna-like request that I feel sure there must be some trick. But she keeps looking away as she asks it, and she looks so vulnerable that I agree. I already agreed in the heat of passion, but I’m touched that she still gives me a chance to back out. Maybe that’s what helps me decide.
We’re already lying so close, our warm limbs entangled, that I can’t see how much difference a shift in positions will make.
It turns out a lot.
Johanna eases her body down on top of mine and panic floods me. My first instinct is to fight and I have to keep reminding myself it’s only Johanna, it’s only Johanna, it’s only Johanna.
I last maybe five minutes with gritted teeth and clenching every muscle in my body before I have to ask her to move. Johanna rolls off of me and flops onto the mattress beside me. She lets out a long sigh. I find myself apologising to her.
“It’s alright.” She says with a shrug. “It was a silly thought anyway.”
I try to snuggle closer to her and she does wrap an arm around me but it’s with a decidedly half-hearted air.
“I’m sorry.” I whisper, again.
“Don’t be.” She whispers back. She rubs little circles on my arm to let me know she’s not mad at me.
Either way, I don’t think either of us sleep at all that night.
I bring it up myself, the next night. I have to. I’m sat up in bed, hugging my knees to my chest as Johanna strips out of her clothes and pulls a loose shirt, on over her head when I ask her. She sighs again.
“I thought we weren’t discussing it.”
“I never agreed to that.”
She sits on the edge of the bed and I shuffle closer so I can lean myself against her back.
“Is it a dominance thing?”
Johanna lets out a loud, startled laugh. She turns and reaches round until she can pull me into a hug. I’m practically sitting in her lap by now.
“No, Katniss. It is not a dominance thing.”
We sit like that for a while but eventually Johanna untangles us and gets up. She takes all the pillows from the bed and the cushions from the chair by the door and dumps them all in the middle of the bed. I watch as she puts them together in a long shape, roughly the size of my body.
“What are you doing?” I ask, frowning.
“I’m showing you.” And with that she climbs onto the bed and lies down on top of the pillow shape she’s made. She turns her head to one side to talk to me.
I shake my head.
“I still don’t get it.”
She still waits, to see if I’ll get it myself. She’s being unusually patient. After a minute or so of me still looking blank, she tries a different approach.
“Can you see the pillows?”
“Yes of cour-” But I have to cut myself off. I can’t actually. Not really. Johanna’s body covers them nearly completely.
“Getting the idea now?” She grins.
“I think so.” I mumble. “I think I’m starting to.”
“If anyone wanted to attack you,” Johanna explains, anyway, “They’d have to go through me first. Even when we’re both asleep.”
I really do get it then and I fling myself at her in a hug that nearly knocks us both to the ground. Of course I was going to agree to it after that.
I find it easier to not panic now I know the reason why. I actually feel safer.
I lay on my stomach and, when I concentrate, I can feel Johanna’s heart beating against my back.
“I thought you were trying to kill me.” I admit.“The first night, when you did this. I thought you were trying to kill me.”
Johanna chuckles and it vibrates through me too.
“Princess,” she says, teasingly, the same way Haymitch calls me ‘sweetheart’. “If I’d wanted to kill you, I wouldn’t have waited until then. I had plenty of perfect opportunities to kill you before then.” She brushes my hair over one shoulder and kisses my exposed neck. “You on your back with your legs in the air might have been a good enough time.”
I know she’s trying to provoke me, but I don’t rise to the bait. I feel to calm right now to mind.
I stretch my arms out to either side and then bring my hands to rest either side of my face. Johanna mirrors my movements, and rests her hands on top of mine. Our fingers lace together.
I don’t feel like I am being crushed any more.
It’s more like I’m being cocooned.