For the first time I am thinking past tomorrow (4027 words) by kawuli
Fandom: Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins, Hunger Games Series - All Media Types
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Johanna Mason & Finnick Odair
Characters: Finnick Odair, Johanna Mason, Mentors (Hunger Games), Victors (Hunger Games)
Additional Tags: Implied/Referenced Rape/Non-con, plotting the rebellion
Series: Part 5 of Please feel free to take this personally
Johanna doesn't see the point of a future with nothing but year after year of Hunger Games, chewing up and spitting out Victor after Victor for the Capitol.
But Finnick's trying to pull her into a growing conspiracy, and Johanna's just curious enough to see what he has in mind.
It would suck anyway. the Victory Tour always sucks, another kid claws their way out of the Arena just to get dumped into another one. It’s been a streak of girls, since the guy from Two the year after her. A smooth 16-year-old from One whose only tell was the tension in her shoulders any time someone came close, the smartass from Three who’s pulled farther and farther inward every time Johanna sees her, and well, Annie, who doesn’t know what it’s costing all of the Fours to keep her out of the spotlight.
So they keep swinging and missing, apparently, and Phillips from Six had the ambivalent luck of pulling a girl this year. And it sucks even more because Johanna actually likes Phillips. He doesn’t bullshit, doesn’t play games, doesn’t look at her with pity or condescension. He doesn’t approve of her, but she doesn’t give a shit about that, and anyway he basically disapproves of everyone. Which is why he’s not exactly popular, but neither is Johanna, so it works out.
The girl is miles away already when she gets off the train, her eyes don’t quite focus right when she shakes Johanna’s hand on the makeshift stage in front of the Justice Building. She’s a pretty good actress though, reads her speech off notecards with the inflections right and her Six accent flattened out a bit. Smiles when the Mayor presents her with an inlaid wood plaque, holds it steady in her arm even though Johanna knows it’ll be heavy, good hardwood only for the Victors.
Then she gets swept into prep because the dinner is indoors so she won’t be able to get away with the layers of wool she wore outside.
Johanna loiters near the room until she sees Phillips leaning against the wall, looking tired, and sad. She feels bad for him—she hasn’t done this herself, honestly hopes to hell she never has to, because it was bad enough as a clueless new Victor, it’d be worse as a mentor. “Well,” she says brightly, walking over. “You look like shit.”
He raises a corner of his mouth. “Thanks,” he says, sardonic. “I’ll tell the stylists you approve.”
Points for humor, Johanna thinks, even if it’s bleak. She gives him a trademark toothy smile, then sighs, drops the game because it’s a waste of time, really.
“So,” she says, tasting the bitterness on her tongue, “Is Snow just dying to get his hands on her?”
Phillips flinches just a little—if Johanna wasn’t paying attention she’d’ve missed it—and then shrugs one shoulder, just a little. “I don’t know,” he says, “Haven’t heard anything.”
He looks—like a 12-year-old heading for the hovercraft, honestly, out of his depth, dreading whatever unknown horrors are coming up, and Johanna wishes she could be comforting but she’s never been good at that and any softness she used to have has long since burned away. “She’s cute,” she says, tossing it out almost like it doesn’t matter, except for how much it actually does. Wonders whether there’s anything she can say to make it suck less. Probably not, but… “He told me at the end of the Tour,” she says, looking away toward where they’ll be dressing Rokia up with one eye to making her look desirable for the people who can pay for it. “Don’t get your hopes up,” she says, and now she’s sliding towards the kind of sharp that cuts people she doesn’t intend to, so she walks away. Heads for the dining hall, where at least there’ll be whiskey to smooth out the sharpest edges, and maybe this way when she sees them again she’ll be able to look Phillips in the eye.
Johanna doesn’t want to go to the Capitol for the end of the Tour. Really doesn’t mean to, is intending to sit in her house as far away as possible from the damned TV and its mandatory fucking broadcasts, but then Finnick calls, all whiny Four pretty-boy voice over the phone for the censors, says he misses her and he wants to see her and pretty please? And something about the way he says it makes her think something’s up, and after the crazy-ass stories he spun after the Games about top-secret spies from a bombed-out district taking down the country, she has to admit she’s a little curious.
So she goes, calls up Julius because he’s bound to have something for her to do that’s better than the official events, and sure enough, he’s got a party planned the first night. But if she doesn’t go to the introduction at the President’s mansion there’ll be talk and rumors and so it’s easier to just fucking show up. And then Phillips and his girl come in and she’s decked out and smiling perfect and pulled farther inside her own head than anything Johanna’s seen from Finnick on his worst days—and well, shit. Johanna leaves before she does something too stupid even for her.
The girl’s dark, blank eyes stay with her all night, no matter how hard she tries to chase them away. And she does try, sticks to booze because she just wants her brain to shut up, dammit, gets sloppy the way she hates earlier than she should because of it, and walks back to her room the long way, through the shitty dangerous neighborhoods the Capitol likes to pretend don’t exist, chain smoking and refusing to think, until eventually she ends up at her hotel.
She takes a sleeping pill, because there’s a lump in her throat and tears prickling behind her eyes and she just wants everything to stop, so she wakes up disoriented and slow and stupid sometime in the middle of the afternoon.
It’s quiet, or at least as close as you get to quiet in this fucking city. Traffic noise and filtered-up conversation from the street, and Johanna stays at this hotel because it’s cheap and shitty and they don’t comment on, well, anything, but that means it’s also not soundproofed and thumps from upstairs, the TV from next door, rattling pipes all add to the noise.
And it’s different from Seven, where the only sound is wind in the trees or Blight chopping wood or Ila and Henrik chattering about whatever it is they’ve decided to care about today. Johanna rolls over. Getting out of bed sounds like way too much work, so she doesn’t. Fumbles around until she finds the TV remote and flips through the channels.
The girl’s giving another interview, she’s everywhere, and Johanna watches, at first with an eye to the performance. The girl’s a pretty good actor, playing polite, hardworking, amazed at her good luck—and young. The stylists aren’t going along with that part, they’re dressing her like the merchandise she is, short skirts and black leather boots and elaborate hair and makeup, but Phillips has her playing it right. The contrast is a little jarring, especially if an interviewer asks her any questions about her so-called Talent — hovercraft designs, as much like Three as Six. Then it stops being an act, the quick-hands wide-eyed excitement spills out even through everything else.
She’s analyzing it all dispassionately until the kid gets a question about tonight’s events, something about her busy schedule and her celebrity admirers. Rokia blinks fast a couple of times and her smile drops away before she pulls the mask back on and laughs. And Johanna doesn’t hear her response because she’s too busy finding the remote and mashing the off button and flinging it toward the screen. Fucking sick, sitting here watching that girl like everyone else in the fucking Capitol, like it’s just another fucking game they’re playing, and at least the worst thing that can happen in the Arena is you die. You don’t get dragged through neon hell in high heels, don’t have to dance for these fucking people who ate fucking popcorn and bet on when you’d die. Don’t have to let them fuck you and fuck you over and smile while they do it, don’t get people killed when you fuck up. Or at least, not people who matter.
Why the fuck is she even here, anyway? Fucking Finnick. Who’s probably too busy keeping his list of Capitol assholes happy to find her, and it’s always like that at the end of the Tour, did he seriously think he’d have time to what, hang out with her?
She takes a long hot shower, comes out with her skin red, steaming in the cool room, wraps her hair in a towel, and gets back in bed. It’s getting dark already, weak winter sunlight slanting red into her window, and she can’t think of a single solitary thing she wants to do. Can’t stand the idea of partying like she’s here to celebrate, can’t deal with these fucking people who don’t fucking get it.
So, fuck it. She calls down for food and booze, answers the door wrapped in a bathrobe, sits on the bed watching some stupid movie about a Peacekeeper taking out drug-runners in District Six, full of fake explosions and blood made of ketchup and a dumb enough plot she can follow it without having to actually give a shit.
There’s apparently a sequel. Which is funnier, or maybe it’s just that she’s drunk, but in the end, when the meth lab blows sky-high and the Peacekeeper strides away purposefully, backlit by the flames, Johanna’s laughing so hard she can barely breathe.
And before she can decide what to do next, there’s a knock on her door. “Yeah?” she calls, because she’s not getting out of bed if it’s some Capitol asshole trying to get a quote or a picture.
“It’s Finnick,” she hears, “Open up.”
Johanna feels herself smile a little. He tracked her down. Nicest thing anyone’s done for her in a while. “Coming,” she calls, crawls out of bed and adjusts the robe. She could get dressed, but Finnick won’t give a shit, probably wouldn’t react if she answered the door buck-ass naked.
She undoes the chain, the deadbolt, opens the door, and Finnick’s got his “what the fuck” look on, but it’s mostly amused. “Come in,” she says, expansive, waves an arm. He rolls his eyes, follows her in, and she flops back on the bed.
“What’s up?” she asks, and his eyes flick up toward the corners of the room, where they’d hide bugs if they were bothering to do it at a shitty Capitol hotel. Although who knows, maybe they would do it just for her. Wouldn’t put it past that fucker to want to watch her sleep.
“You got plans tomorrow night?” he asks, leaning back in his chair. He’s trying to look nonchalant, but mostly trying to hide the wound-up tension means he just looks fucking tired.
Johanna shrugs, smirks. “Nothing I can’t cancel for Finnick Odair,” she says, and he gives her a flat look. Shit. She shouldn’t try to make jokes with Finnick when she’s been drinking.
Then he rolls his eyes theatrically and gives her a Finnick Odair Smile. “Great,” he says, chirping and Capitol with his eyes narrowed in her direction. She can’t tell if he’s actually pissed or putting it on. “It’ll be late. At the Olympia.”
Johanna can’t help her completely unfunny smile. This is Finnick’s idea of a top-secret meeting, she’s sure of it, and hell, in a club at 4AM is pretty good for hiding in plain sight. The whole fucking Capitol has been gossiping about the two of them for years now, so if they disappear into a private room together it’ll be nothing but a little more fuel for that fire. So she smiles, showing her teeth. “I can’t wait,” she says, in the dangerous purr she last used on a client who wanted her to hit him, just not as hard as she did.
Finnick almost flinches, and fuck, she really needs to not talk to him when she’s this mean. He recovers pretty quick, he’s a professional the way she never could be, and gives her another blinding, fuck-you smile. “Fantastic,” he says, getting up. Johanna gets up too, walks him to the door. In the narrow hallway he gives her a real, serious look that is totally unfair with his big sincere eyes. “See you tomorrow, Jo,” he says, soft and tired and Four-accented, and she manages to dig up a real half-smile as she lets him out.
The next night she thinks about staying at home. Finnick wants something from her. Thinks she can do something, help somehow, with whatever ridiculous bullshit he’s gotten himself into. And he thinks it’s about killing Snow. Who knows what it really is, but Finnick is convinced.
And people really shouldn’t depend on Johanna. Hasn’t she pretty well proven that by now? She can’t even spread her legs to protect her own parents. How’s she supposed to overthrow the government?
In the end she goes, because Finnick will come back and make annoyed faces at her if she doesn’t, so she may as well go.
Johanna stands staring into the closet for a while, wondering just what she can get away with wearing that won’t make her crazy. Crazier. The club’s not the kind of place either of them usually goes to on their own time, but it’s popular enough it won’t seem strange for them to meet there, but that means it’s also fancy enough she can’t wear whatever she wants and rely on Victor cachet to get her in the door. Eventually she settles on a tight shirt and a loose sweater, the kind of outfit that won’t make people speculate on her hiding something because the skirt shows off her legs, but doesn’t make her feel quite so exposed as the skin-tight tops her stylist puts her in. Knee-high boots, with thick soles and heels so she doesn’t feel so tiny next to Finnick, dark eyeshadow and bright red lipstick, hair loose so she can hide from lip-readers if they have to talk in public.
Johanna looks at herself in the mirror when she’s done, tries out a sharp smile, a flirty wink, an annoyed eye-roll. Slides into the Capitol persona she’s let get rusty, these last few months. Thinks about it for a minute before filling a flask with whiskey, shoving it into a bag with a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, and a knife. Because you never know. Takes a swig from the bottle before she caps it and walks out.
The club is crowded, the music loud, and Johanna leans back against the bar, facing the dance floor with her elbows on the dark wood. A few people say hi—faces she vaguely remembers from parties or Games events or she sometimes isn’t even sure, and she doesn’t even try for the names, just throws them nicknames, returns their toasts, accepts their drinks. Tries to pace herself, since Finnick will be pissed if she’s too drunk when he gets her and he has to wait for her to sober herself up.
And finally he comes in around four, full-on charming for the girls who mob him when he walks in. He kisses cheeks and hands and grins and laughs and then sees Johanna and waves. Sits down next to her and Johanna turns around to lean in close to him and take his kiss on her cheek. He’s flushed, smells like the shower, is still locked into heartthrob mode, and she plays along because she knows sometimes it’s easier not to switch off until it’s really safe to collapse.
“Been here long?” He shifts so their shoulders knock together.
“Eh,” Johanna says, “A bit.” She’s not actually sure how long it’s been, but she doesn’t mind. “Long night?”
Finnick rolls his eyes, exaggerated for effect but the exasperation’s sincere. “When are they not?” he says, with a laugh.
He waves the bartender over, leans in, conspiratorial, and asks if they can go somewhere a little more private, while his left hand finds Johanna’s right and twists their fingers together. Johanna looks down as though she’s embarrassed, tries to make her smile look pleased-embarrassed instead of straight-up laughing at Finnick. It must work, because the guy looks between them and nods, jerks his head toward the back.
He unlocks a room for them, looks like he can’t wait to get back to the bar to gossip about how Johanna Mason and Finnick Odair are totallyfucking in there. Finnick looks around, pulls out his phone and sends a message to someone. And a minute later there’s a soft knock at the door and a woman comes in. Capitol, Johanna knows immediately, familiar from somewhere.
“Johanna, this is Lysistrata,” Finnick says. “She’s a landscape designer.”
Johanna raises an eyebrow, and he goes on. “For the Games.”
“I work for Plutarch Heavensbee on Arena design,” the woman says, “and on espionage, for District Thirteen.”
Johanna blinks. “District Thirteen?”
Finnick grins. “Told you.”
Johanna elbows him in the ribs. “What’s in District Thirteen?”
The woman sighs, goes to sit on the edge of one of the plush leather couches. “Several thousand people, hovercraft, missiles, weapons—everything we need to fight the Capitol.”
This is surreal. The room’s lighting is low and red-tinted, and the music from the main room filters in, the bass thumping through Johanna’s chest in time with her racing heartbeat.
“Why haven’t they already attacked then?” Johanna asks, because assuming that’s true, what’re they waiting for?
The woman sighs. “They feel it’s necessary for the Districts to rise along with them in order for the rebellion to be successful. We are waiting for the appropriate moment.”
Johanna looks over at Finnick. His grin is the kind Career Tributes wear after their kills, deadly and mean. “You believe her?”
Finnick nods, goes serious. “Plutarch has communicated with their leadership. He’s devising a strategy, using the Victors to inspire people.”
“Yeah, we’re real fucking inspiring,” Johanna says, and she can’t keep the bitterness out of her voice.
Finnick shrugs. “He’s the expert,” he says, mildly.
“You are,” the woman says, detached, assessing. “You represent the districts to the Capitol, there’s quite a lot of interest in Victors for that reason.”
Johanna gives her a flat look. “I don’t think the Capitol’s interest is such a good thing,” she snaps.
“Jo,” Finnick cautions, and she turns to him.
“What? It’s true.”
“Yeah, but for this it’s useful, maybe.”
She glares at him but shuts up, and the woman goes on.
“And you represent the districts to each other, too.”
“You’re gonna have to explain that one.”
“You, and Blight, and Ila and…Henrik?” the woman glances at Johanna for confirmation and she nods. “You’re the only people from Seven most people from, say, Three, have ever seen. And vice versa. Unity among Victors can stand for unity among the Districts.”
It sounds absurd to Johanna, but what the fuck does she know. “Okay,” she says. “But you don’t need to schedule super-secret meetings in sex dungeons just to tell me that,” she says, enjoying the woman’s wince and the way she sits up even straighter. Finnick coughs to hide a laugh.
“You have contacts among young people in the Capitol,” she says, and Johanna glances over at Finnick. “No,” the woman says, “He didn’t tell me anything.” She sounds impatient. “I do occasionally watch television.”
“Okay,” Johanna’ll give her that. She was being pretty obvious this last Games, anyway. “So?”
“So we want any information you can collect.”
“The kids I party with don’t have any useful information,” Johanna laughs. “Finnick’s the one with access to the big shots.”
Finnick gives her his Victor-grin again. “Yeah,” he says. “Why do you think they asked me first.”
“What do you want to know?” Johanna asks.
The woman gives her a sharp look. “You know someone named Julius Blackburn?”
“His father is Minister of Transportation,” she says. “No telling what he might leave lying around, what gossip his son might pass on.”
“Julius is an idiot,” Johanna says, because it’s true. He throws good parties, but he doesn’t seem to care about anything else.
The woman lifts one shoulder in the most straitlaced shrug Johanna’s ever seen. “Perhaps,” she says, “But he might be useful. As may his friends.”
Johanna hesitates. She’s not friends with any of those people, not really. But this is straight-up fucking them over, and they’re—well. They’resomething, and there’s no point pushing too hard at just what. “This gonna trace back to them?”
“Johanna!” Finnick looks shocked.
“What?” She turns on him. “Excuse me if I don’t want to get any more people killed.”
“What the fuck do you care about those Capitol assholes?” He actually looks angry now.
She bites back her first response, which is to say they’re the ones who dragged her out of her house after her parents died and where the fuck was he. Because that’s not fair and she doesn’t want it in the air between them. So she sighs, pushes her hands into her hair. “Excuse me if this is a little much to process,” she snaps. “I never figured on being a fucking spy for a radioactive district, okay, shit.”
He doesn’t quit glaring but he doesn’t push it. Johanna flops on one of the couches, pulls out her flask and cigarettes, offers both around. Finnick takes the flask while she lights up, hands it back. She drinks, waits till the cigarette’s burned halfway down, letting her brain spin.
“Okay,” she says, finally, and Finnick smirks.
“Knew you’d be game,” Finnick says.
“I call dibs on putting an ax in that fucker’s head,” Johanna says.
Finnick laughs, not funny at all. “Oh, girl, you’re gonna have to fight me for that one.”
The woman looks between them, nods. “Finnick will show you the dead drop and the ciphers,” she says. “I need to go.”
“Bye, Lysistrata,” Finnick says. Johanna just waves.
When they’re alone in the room, Finnick sits down next to her. Leaves some space, leans back against the couch. “Ready for the gossip?” he asks, letting his head fall to one side so he’s looking at her.
Johanna has just a flash of wanting to touch him, to kiss him, to climb onto his lap and ask him to fuck her out of a mixed-up combination of adrenaline and loneliness. His eyes flicker away from her as though he can see her thoughts, and fuck, maybe he can, it’s probably a good skill of the kind she was never any good at. But she won’t do that to Finnick. Won’t do it to herself, turn her friend into a fucking sex toy. That’s what the Capitol kids are for.
“Whatever,” Johanna says. “I got used to ignoring that a long time ago.”
Finnick smiles, wry. And he looks drained, like having emotions would be too much work so he’s just…not. “Smart girl,” he says.
“What, you pay attention?”
He looks away. “Have to,” he says. “This gets taken too serious, I get told off for seeming unavailable.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Johanna bursts out. He huffs a half-laugh and she rolls her eyes. “I can fix that,” she says. At least that’s one useful thing she can do. “Apparently I’m supposed to buddy up with Julius, two birds with one stone, I’ll get caught fucking him on camera or something, problem solved.”
“Yeah,” Finnick says, getting to his feet and scrubbing his hands through his hair. “That oughta work.” He reaches over, puts one hand on Johanna’s head, tousles her hair then pulls, just enough to sting.
“Hey!” she shoves him, laughing with—she’s not sure what. Adrenaline backwash, possibilities and plans to make and a future beyond decades of Arenas until she dies. He pushes back, and they end up wrestling on the floor until he pins her hands above her head and looks her in the eye.
“Thanks, Jo,” he says, serious.
“Let’s get the fuckers,” she says, pulling her hands away, and they get up, don’t bother to straighten their clothes, walk out smiling.