The first time Haymitch met Johanna she was all sharp, unforgiving eyes and an even sharper bite. There was a no-nonsense quality to her but also a bitter amusement when the situation called for it.
Now here's a girl I get, Haymitch had thought, watching her intently but trying not to do it too intently. She doesn’t pretend like she feels like she belongs here, doesn’t apologize, just holds herself up high above everyone else but in a way that says that: ‘I’m nothing and neither are you. I’m not worth your time and you’re not worth mine.’
Before his Hunger Games, Haymitch never would have looked twice at her, labeling her as the typical snarky bitch one could always hope to find if they looked hard enough. He would have told himself that people like that weren’t deep, weren’t capable of anything but lazing away consumed in their own narcissism, and had scarce a care for the world around them and for everyone else in it, even though they were dragged right alongside her.
But Haymitch knew better afterward, not that he spent much time paying attention to anyone, or anything around him for that matter. At first he’d bow out of any contact with the other victors, claiming he wasn’t nearly drunk enough, believing the bottle was the only friend he needed, but gingerly he started to pull out of his shell. Not that he toned down on the drinking any, just that he figured he’d better start paying attention and find a few allies should the need arise where he could use them.
So when Johanna Mason sauntered into the room in a dress with far too much material, though miraculously not dousing one’s imagination, harsh eyes peering out from underneath layers and layers of makeup, he sat up and started paying better attention. Barely ten minutes in and she had tore off her ridiculously large earrings and dropped them in the punchbowl, and slipped off her high heels in favor of going barefoot.
And wow but did that girl have nice feet, not to mention a pair of legs that despite being suffocated underneath all that material, looked like they might go on forever.
Haymitch mentally slapped himself and made his gaze drift upward again. He had looked at plenty of girls in his youth but not so much anymore. Zero, if anyone at all was counting. Nothing much interested him anymore - least of all the fairer and sometimes even deadlier sex - except the nearest bottle of something potent enough to put him out within a reasonable amount of time.
Johanna moved closer, sending off a few glares like they were smiles, and Haymitch liked her even more then. Thought that if they got together then maybe they’d do some pretty crazy stuff… not that he cared about that much either.
But none of those things had been her boldest move of the night.
Haymitch had pulled back a little in respect for her and scanned his surroundings, which was why he pretty much jolted up out of his seat when the surprisingly decent cocktail was yanked out of his hand. He tried to regain his composure as he looked over in equal parts bewilderment and outrage. She had been sitting next to him, his drink held in her small hand, long and slender fingers wrapped around the glass, and he was struck dumb as she stared at him while taking a long sip.
He stared back, but alcohol was almost the farthest thing from his mind now.
“Kudos to you,” she smiled, putting the drink on the carpet beside her. “You’ve either managed to get enough firepower against the bartender to double the alcohol content in your drinks, or maybe you’ve just found a hidden stash somewhere. Point me to it and I’m in your pocket, just on my terms.” Haymitch closed his mouth, lowered his eyebrows and stopped trying to figure out what to exactly make of her. She smelled pretty good, that was a given.
“I’m Haymitch.” He held out a hand but didn’t expect her to shake it, which meant he wasn’t disappointed when she stared down at it like it was some foreign object. It retreated quickly but casually enough. “Like your perfume, by the way.”
She snorted, “Yeah? Well, you’d be the only one. My stylist practically drowned me in this crap. Next time she wants me to smell like a flower, I’m liable to drown her in the nearest fountain. Or shove her head in a rosebush, though she’d probably like that last one.”
Firecracker, Haymitch mused, and I could definitely work with this… her. “You got a name?”
“I do.” She smirked and took another sip of his drink, then sat there staring at him in an odd mixture of curiosity and amusement which Haymitch hoped was a somewhat good sign. He tried not to react when she stood up so quickly his head practically spun, and accepted the glass she had stolen and promptly emptied but was now offering back. “And maybe when we run into each other again I’ll give you a hint.”
Johanna slipped on her heels and spun around, though stopped when he spoke. “When?”
“Of course,” she answered without turning back, tilting her head to the side slightly. “We victors don’t much have the option of staying out of the spotlight now, do we? We’ll run into each other at another lame party like this one, or some other sycophantic gathering. ‘Till then…,” she turned toward him again and ripped off a layer from her dress, fingers clenching around the material tightly before chucking it behind her. Johanna lastly swept him a bow, leaving him breathless. “Au revoir.”
She had been right of course; they had met many a time after that. Haymitch had bartered for her name on the third occasion, and somewhere around the fifth or sixth one they had made an unspoken pact to stick together. Not all the time, mind you, Haymitch wasn’t too apt to give up the bottle as his main source of comfort and sole reprieve from boredom, but he sure didn’t mind having her as an ally and even as an awkward, sorta friend.
It didn’t matter that they were friends though, because he didn’t cease the stolen glances to delve into those eyes or admire what she was wearing, even though it usually wasn’t to her taste, and he didn’t stop trying to read her even though she clearly didn’t want to be read, not until his head started spinning and he had to turn away to take a long drink of something strong.
Johanna never said anything and never made him give up on any of those comforts, even though she most certainly wasn’t blind to them. Neither of them were content to just be, to exist after what they had been through, and they both had their vices to deal with that particular problem, but they were content enough to be together. They were perfectly happy enough to share a silence where they relived all the wrongs they’d ever committed, because they weren’t alone.
And they were pretty good at distracting each other too, when the other wanted to be distracted.
As brash as Johanna was, she usually backed off when she had the good sense to, not because she didn’t want to see anyone else’s darkness, not because she couldn’t handle it, but because Haymitch didn’t want her to see just some of the parts, the parts not even he could think about half-sober. And when Haymitch wanted to be distracted, she was somehow always there when she was nearby, and maybe the best part of it all was that she didn’t need to say anything or look at him or even sigh like the whole world was just a little too boring for her and it was time to take her chances and jump off.
All she had to do was sit there and just be, and he wondered whether he did the same for her.
It changed after a while, when Haymitch didn’t just want to see her during certain parts of the year anymore, didn’t want to have to rely on running into her anymore, or getting in touch with her for rsvps and trying not to sound too nonchalant or too desperate, or just knowing he had her stuffed in his pocket and that should be enough.
So one boisterous night they sneaked off into a quiet room and Johanna stripped in front of him without him even having to say anything. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last, but even in the darkness Haymitch had been able to see her curves and the fine shape of her breasts, and it… she had awoken a hunger in him he thought had been snuffed out forever.
“Jo…,” he had murmured, unable to finish, and then a flick of a switch in both of them… lunging for each other at the same time.
They made out for a few long and honestly spectacular minutes but then got to it quick enough, the couch small and uncomfortable but suiting their needs just fine. It was what came after that gave Haymitch the best dreams. As closed off as Johanna usually was, she hadn’t been as they laid there for hours in post-coital bliss, gazing up at the ceiling painted with stars and both of them millions of miles away from sleep. They occasionally talked until Johanna rolled on top of him and slipped more securely into his arms. Holding her close, his memories died down and he could feel the slow, deep sigh of hers doing the same.
They bled out as they talked until the two of them were momentarily purged, lucid nightmares spiraling down into a black nothing until Haymitch could no longer remember which were hers and which were his own.
A few nights like this, every once in a while so they wouldn’t get too used to it. It was hard for Haymitch to get used to anything anymore, and it was good enough that he felt like he could depend on Johanna when she was around. It was good that if there was one thing he could get used to, it would without a doubt be her.
Eventually that unexplainable passion died down too, not all the way but just enough, when Haymitch started to lean more heavily into the bottle again.
But he still dreaded the occasion where he wouldn’t run into her anymore, the moment where he just stared and stared and stared harder at her until her smoky eyes and knowing smirk stripped him bare again.