Katniss knew that she would have a tough job removing all of Johanna's layers. She wasn't referring to the clothes, of course. The two of them already took care of that after the end of the rebellion: kissing and nibbling skin while tearing the fabric under their hands, both of them panting and trying to avert their eyes from their respective scars. It was sweet to be able to get so close to the other girl's body again, closer than ever, when their lives weren't in the line and the war wasn't turning everything into chaos. Katniss then thought that's it, I can tell her now about how I feel, but as soon as they finished and Johanna rolled to her side, the girl got up and started to dress almost as If nothing had happened.
"Jo?" Asked Katniss, still breathless. Johanna, now wiping her hands, frowned upon hearing her.
"We've finished. What did you expect, brainless?" And just like that, she got out.
It was just then when it hit Katniss that, even after the Quarter Quell and the rebellion, even after sleeping with her, she didn't know a thing about the real Johanna Mason.
It was difficult to look at Johanna straight in the eye after that. Somehow she always ended up rememberingtheir... Encounter, and her cheeks burned just at the slightest memory of that night. It made her nervous, to remember the sensation of Johanna's breath against her ear, in the dark, going faster and faster as their hands wandered over each other's body.
And there she was now, in one of her usual visits to Katniss's home. Her hair had grown again, a tangled mess brushing her shoulders, and she was recovering the habit of bathing slowlier than Katniss would have liked to, but she was doing fine enough. Katniss found that she craved for company, especially now that the war had ended and she lived alone, almost all of her loved ones gone or living in another district. And besides, Johanna's company was like a breath of fresh air. She was the only person that dared to complain about something to Katniss. 'The house smells funny, brainless, do you even know how to clean properly?', 'what the fuck happened in your closet? A hurricane?', 'The tea tastes like shit, thank you.', 'You look worse than me when I was on morphine. And that's saying something.' This usually was followed by Johanna grabbing a drape and trying to clean something, or attempting to open herself a path through the disordered clothes, or getting a wild strand of hair behind Katniss's ear and offering to make tea for her (one that doesn't taste like shit, she always added).
That day she hadn't complained about anything so far, through. She may have wrinkled her nose when Katniss offered her a cup of green tea (that was perfectly fine, thank you.), but she didn't say a word about it.
"You're awfully quiet lately." She said instead, casually as ever while trying to hold buttercup, who was battling fiercely against Jo's grip. "Quiet and weird. Not that I'm complaining." she smiled, mocking as ever. Katniss tried to make up an excuse: she knew how distracted she must have looked all those days.
"It's because of my mother. I haven't heard anything from her since... Weeks I think. And I'm worried about the food now that winter is near. Buttercup eats a lot and-" It didn't work very well. The ideas raced through her mind too fast to think about something coherent.
"Yeah, your mother and the food. Sure." Deadpanned Johanna. Katniss took a deep breath.
"It's nothing important, okay?"
"Well, as long as it doesn't involve me." Katniss gulped at that. It had everything to do with her. In that moment Johanna got up, grabbing a little bag she had brought with her.
"Do you mind If I spend the night here again?" She asked. Katniss fidgeted with her hands, feeling as If Johanna's stare fixed her in her seat. She turned her head away.
"Do you need an extra mattress?" Johanna raised an eyebrow.
"That won't be necessary." she said, sounding almost disinterested, as If it didn't matter.
The same as the first time she had slept there. With her.
Before she was finished doing the bed, the light went off and Johanna was at her back, hands going down her shoulders. She felt her mouth kissing, biting her neck, and she gasped as Johanna's hand went under the waistband of her trousers. Her touch was strong and firm, but not rough. That was weird, considering it was Johanna, but Katniss discovered she liked that somewhat softer side of her, and it didn't take much asking to surrender to it. It had something hypnotic, the way she caressed her: she couldn't help but want it, throwing off her t-shirt and kissing Johanna's neck slowly, feeling her breath fasten again beneath her lips. She couldn't think about anything more in those moments; it was just Johanna and her, their touches pulling them tighter against each other, as If they were meant to be. It felt so natural to them, so right...
But they still had a barrier between them, and Katniss knew that.
"Johanna..." She whispered between kisses. She knew the other girl would be smiling; she always liked when Katniss said her name. "Johanna." She repeated, louder this time. Johanna snorted, tired.
"What do you want now?" She asked. Katniss took her time to steady her breathing, thinking about how she could say it. Her lips trembled, nervousness taking her, and she swallowed.
"Do you want to stop?" Interrupted Johanna. She sounded concerned, to Katniss's surprise.
"For now, yes. I want to talk with you." Johanna rumpled her hair and took a seat on the bed, so ungracefully that the wood structure trembled when she jumped in it.
"This has to do with the other night, does it?" She asked. Her voice sounded perfectly normal, and Katniss couldn't read her well, her face calm as it was. She took a seat at her side, curling herself with her knees against her chest.
"Not exactly. I mean, yes, it has to do with it, but it's something much..." Johanna interrupted her again, shifting suddenly towards her on the bed.
"If you want, we can stop this. I get it - maybe you were emotional because of everything that happened since we won. Losing your sister like that and finding out that President Coin was to blame... I get it." It took a while for Katniss to get what she was implying.
"It was nothing like this, I did it because I wanted, Johanna. Is just that I... Well, I would like to go slower now." That was it, she had said it. Now Johanna was the one that remained silent for a while, her head lowered, before looking towards her again. Katniss just wrapped her arms around herself. The night was cold, and although she could cuddle with Johanna she preferred to not take that risk for now, lest the woman kicked her butt.
"You mean that I thrust my hand too fast? Fuck, Katniss, you could've said that while we were..."
"No, no! You're not getting it at all." Katniss blurted, how could Johanna just think about that? "I would like to go slower in our... Thing. I want to get to know you, Johanna."
"Wait... Are you saying...?" Katniss was so red that her skin itched. She bit the inside of her cheek, her thumbs pressing awkwardly the insides of her palms.
"Yeah, that's what I'm saying." And silence again. Katniss grew more nervous with each passing second, fearing the other girl would reject her. When Johanna talked at last, Katniss was about to shake her shoulders while asking for an answer.
"I see." That was a rejection, then? Or maybe a way to show that she didn't care?
"Katniss." She interrupted. "I don't live alone for nothing. I'm a hard person to deal with."
"Stop interrupting me." Katniss said, annoyed. "Look, I know. You're awful and sarcastic and sometimes colder than ice. But you have a heart, Johanna." The girl laughed a little, then. "Don't laugh. I'm serious. The days we spent together at District 13 showed me that you're willful and strong. And that you're afraid to care for someone."
"One would think that you'd understand why, after being in two Hunger Games." Said Johanna, tense. She let her head fall against the pillow, face averted from Katniss.
"I understand. It was hard, and it will never be over in our minds. Since going to them nothing is the same. I will never be able to have a bow in my hands without thinking about all the people I've killed, about how much people I made suffer, even If I didn't shot them directly but someone they knew. And there are days when the memory is so strong that I just want to lay in bed and sleep, sleep until I'm dreaming of a world were nothing of this has happened. But it has, and we have to live with that now that everything's over."
"And how do you know that it's over?!" Johanna exploded, getting up. "The situation is still very unstable, and the Capitol folks still miss their stupid posh parties!"
"Yeah, but nobody wants another war! Not even the people of the Capitol. Really, can't you forgive them, after all they had to suffer? We weren't the only ones who had it tough."
"No." Johanna mustered. "And I know that you don't entirely forgive them either, even If you like playing the saint so much." She snarled. Katniss gulped, it hurt her when Jo talked like that. It sounded like she hadn't had faith in anything, not even in her.
"I forgave them, Johanna. What I hate is the concept behind the Capitol, not the people in it. And we have destroyed that." Johanna just sighed again.
"Of course you would say that, you're the mockingjay after all." Her tone hardened then. "Don't you get that, If some group of crazies attempts to recover the Capitol again, they will go after you? You're the embodiment of the rebellion, there's not a better way to start returning to the old times than killing you. Two birds with one stone, mockingjay."
Katniss had known that. Even If everything was over, she would be the figure of the rebellion forever and always, the eternal mockingjay girl to everyone. It certainly worried her, but since she managed to kill Alma Coin and get out unscathed, she felt a little more relaxed. After all, it seemed like Paylor and the rest didn't consider her so worthy of either a punishment or their praise and attention If they left her to rot in District 12 after that. But why was Johanna talking about that now?
"Are... Are you worried about me?" She found herself asking, surprise written all across her face. Johanna didn't answer the question.
"You shouldn't be so careless just because Paylor left you in peace."
"And what do you want me to do? Am I supposed to worry forever?" Johanna got up then, slapping Katniss across the face with anger. Katniss felt the pain rush though her cheek before shouting "Why are you-". But then she felt a pair of arms around her neck, hugging her strongly.
"You're really brainless." Johanna muttered, her voice muffled against Katniss shoulder. "I swore myself long ago to never care for a girl like you again." For once, there was sadness in Johanna's voice. It sounded so raw, so deep, that at first surprised Katniss. But then she understood that it was just one of her layers coming off, her feelings overcoming her barriers. She caressed Jo's hair with one hand in an attempt to comfort her, but Johanna pulled away. "No." She said, getting off from Katniss. Her eyes were red, and she bit her lip before babbling "I... I'm going."
When she heard the door close with a loud "bang", Katniss sighed. What just had happened had surprised her. That they talked about the issue with President Coin was something new.
At first, Katniss had thought that Johanna would hate her for killing her. After all, she wanted revenge, and Coin was giving them a big chance to avenge all those years of suffering.
So, when after months of solitude in her old home she saw an aircraft coming to District 12, she didn't expect it to come with Johanna. "My old District doesn't feel like home anymore." She shrugged when Katniss ran to see what the hell she was doing there. "There's nothing there that I care for, and it's nothing more than a shithole now that the war is over. A real mess, no way I'm going back there. By the way, I still don't know where I'm going to live, I was planning to stay at your place tonight."
And well... That night she had discovered that Jo didn't really hate her. At least, not enough to stay away from her bed. And now she said all those things, like she was worried for her. Could it be that she felt the same...?
"Don't be stupid." She thought, "That doesn't mean that she's ready to have something serious, nor to live with you."
But maybe it could happen, and that was more than what she had dared to expect.
The next day she woke up searching for Johanna at her side, but then she remembered all about the night before. After showering, getting dressed and eating breakfast she decided to go see If she could talk with the other girl about it. She took a close look at herself in the mirror: even If she hadn't had nightmares that night, her eye bags were still in their place, and her braid was so messy that it looked as If buttercup had sharpened his nails in it. She blinked a couple of times, as If her looks could change when she closed her eyes, and decided to undo her braid for today. She barely remembered the last day she went with her hair down: after all, her image with the braid had become so iconic that she just got used to always wear her hair like that.
She got out and started to make her way to Johanna's house. It was at 15 minutes from hers, close enough, but the sight of her devastated district still made her cringe. Luckily it was getting better with time, but it still hurt to think about everyone that had died there because of her.
Jo's home was one of the best ones now: it was a rebuilt home near of where the mayor's one had been, and she had built a backyard and even a hen house, now swarming with chickens that cackled all the time. The house had hot water and a big storeroom, and she didn't suffer any hardships to get food or sew clothes for herself. She had organized really well with the materials that Plutarch had left her.
Katniss had to admit, though, that it surprised her that Johanna was able to sew so well. She had found her in the front porch once, sewing herself a new t-shirt instead of sharpening her axes, and stared at her with her mouth opened as If she had seen a miracle. Johanna just stared back, not amused by Katniss's surprise.
"What happens now, brainless? You look like a fish." Katniss closed her mouth then, ashamed.
"It surprises me that you know how to sew. I didn't expect you to..."
"What? Did you think that I only spend the day sharpening my axes while staring menacingly at my chickens? I get cold too, and in District 7 we had to learn a lot to survive."
"... Could you teach me?" Johanna raised her eyebrows as If asking for an explanation. "I just used to sew traps or wounds before. I think it would be useful for me to know how to do clothes now that I live alone." The other girl just nodded, and Katniss spent the rest of the day hearing about patterns and practicing to sew two pieces of cloth together. Katniss smiled; it had been a good day.
When she arrived, though, Johanna was nowhere to be seen. Katniss tried to straighten her hair, and then knocked on the door. She waited and waited, but Johanna didn't open the door. Either she didn't want to see her, or she had gone out. Everything was so silent, after all...
Katniss went home frustrated, with her hands on her pockets and her head down.
That night, the front door opened by surprise. Katniss had just gone to bed, so she grabbed a knife and waited for the stranger, or strangers, to do something. It could be Jo, of course, but she never knew.
"Who's there?" She asked after a while. Maybe it was just the wind...
"It's me." Said Johanna, coming to her room. She leaned on the doorframe, arms crossed over her chest, and stared at Katniss with her usual moody face. "You came to see me today."
"Yeah, and you ignored me." Johanna sat on the bed at her side.
"I wasn't ready to talk about that." She said, looking at Katniss in the eye. It reminded her when they talked about Annie and Finnick in the Quarter Quell.
"And now... You are?"
"Yes. Look, I still think that you're too idealistic and calm with the rebellion and everything. But let's pretend for a moment that living in peace is possible. Let's think about it: If they went after us, what would we do? We just have Panem."
"We could just stay here." Johanna frowned upon hearing her, angry again.
"And let them take everything from us again? No way!" Katniss inhaled, feeling dizzy. She got what Johanna was worried about, but being scared about the future wouldn't help anyone.
"Johanna, we can do it."
"Do what?" She asked, puzzled. Katniss grabbed her shoulders and looked at her eyes.
"Protect ourselves. You're good with your axes and I'm good with the bow. We already won this rebellion once, so If there's an enemy - If they ever rise - we should be alright."
"I still doubt it." Her voice trembled, though. "What would we do If we couldn't do it?"
"We would die protecting what we fought for. Not just the District's freedom, but ours too."
"Hm..." She seemed to be thinking it over. Seeing Johanna with such a thoughtful face made Katniss think that she was going to scold her, or to call her idealistic again. "I'm still not entirely convinced. But I guess we could try, couldn't we, Katniss?"
"Glad you see my point." She smiled, happy. She was delighted when she saw that Johanna smiled too, seeming more confident now.
"And you're sure that you could try it?"Johanna asked, defiant.
"What? Knowing you better?"
"Exactly. As I said, I'm not a person easy to deal with. That shit about being more beautiful inside doesn't work for everyone, even If trashy love stories make it look like it does. I'm ugly inside, and really sharp." Katniss just laughed and kissed Johanna's temple.
"I don't care. I'm sure I can try it and come out unharmed."
"... That was unnecessarily corny." Johanna protested, her fingertips touching her temple. She smiled cheekily then, grabbed Katniss's cheeks and kissed her full in the lips. Katniss went red, her eyes widening and her mouth totally still until Johanna broke the kiss, her forehead resting against Katniss's. "That is way better, brainless."
As the night passed and they started to get sleepy, Katniss thought that maybe they could start something new and leave the past behind. We could be happy, she dared to think before falling asleep. Her arm was still around Johanna's shoulders, and every time they moved it pulled them tighter together.