kawuli (kawuli) wrote,
kawuli
kawuli

Johanna: Bright lights, big city

Bright lights, big city (5081 words) by kawuli
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins, Hunger Games Series - All Media Types
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Johanna Mason & Finnick Odair
Characters: Johanna Mason, Finnick Odair, Blight (Hunger Games)
Additional Tags: Implied/Referenced Rape/Non-con, Implied/Referenced Underage Prostitution, canon-typical horribleness, Johanna meets Finnick
Series: Part 2 of Please feel free to take this personally
Summary:

You can never really go home again, not after the Games. New-Victor Johanna's trying to adjust to it all when she's invited to a birthday party in the Capitol for Finnick Odair.

In which Johanna meets Finnick, and the Capitol's worst-kept secrets are still unknown.





She can’t sleep.

It’s 3:37 AM, according to the lit-up numbers on the clock, dark and quiet inside and out.

She’s been home a week now, and not once has she managed to fall asleep before the birds start up and the sky goes grey, and if she stays asleep more than a couple hours it’s a miracle.

The first couple days Mom came in to check on her, way too early, woke her up, and she’d snapped, “Leave me alone, dammit, I don’t need to be awake,” and then, because she was awake, she’d gotten up.

Gotten up and choked down food and coffee, mumbled sullen answers to stupid questions, left the house as soon as she finished, to get lost in the woods.

Now they let her sleep until something wakes her up—an unexpected noise, a nightmare, the heat of mid-morning sun against the drawn curtains. It’s always something.

It’s always something, and every day she goes out and walks for hours through the woods, tracking, testing, learning the half-paths until she finds her way back home, exhausted. Lies down in bed, stares at the ceiling, and…nothing. Every tiny creak startles her, every sound from the town, anything could be a threat. And they try to talk to her, but they don’t understand, they can’t, and she’s just too tired to explain.

Tonight she falls asleep, finally, sleeps a fitful three hours before she gives up and goes down to sit at the table with her head in her hands.

Dad’s gone. Got a job at the sawmill, because they have to live here in town now and he’s not letting his little girl support them all. Mom’s looking, she says, has started bringing home sewing—“to keep her hands busy”—hassles the startled bachelor Victors into giving her their socks to darn or their pants to patch.

So Mom’s the one who gets up, from her seat by the window, goes into the kitchen and comes out with porridge and coffee. She lets one hand rest on Johanna’s shoulder when she sets it down. Squeezes, just a little, then goes back to her place.

Johanna eats. She’s always hungry, since the Arena, but her stomach rebels against everything. Today’s no different, she eats slowly, puts down the spoon feeling stretched-full, her stomach cramping. Sips at the coffee, hoping it’ll wake her up a little, watches Mom working on mending a rip in a shirt.

She’s restless. She should get up, get out, make her usual prowling circuits, climb to where she can watch the house from afar, just to make sure—what? There’s no fucking point, not really, so Johanna goes to sit on the couch, wraps herself in a blanket, and sips at her coffee.

“Why’re you fixing all their clothes?” Johanna asks, abrupt. “They’re not family.”

Mom looks up, a little startled. “They’re neighbors,” she says, hesitant. Pauses. “And we’re grateful.”

For saving her, Mom means. Johanna doesn’t see how she’s particularly worth saving, seeing as she’s done nothing but run around half-wild and snap at anyone who tries to talk to her.

Johanna pulls her knees to her chest, wraps her arms around them and lays her chin on her knees. Mom watches her for a bit, then picks up her sewing again.

The remote for the TV is on the side table. Johanna picks it up, flips on the TV and sees—herself. Clips from a post-Games interview she barely remembers giving, because the Capitol, once she was out of the hospital, was 72 hours of interview after interview and absolutely no chance she’d sleep. Not when there were always cars honking, people yelling, laughter filtering up from outside. Lights, flashing and color-changing, even through closed eyes—and she couldn’t just shut it out, even though Blight showed her how to make the window opaque. That was—what if something happened, and she didn’t know because she’d hid the outside too well, and they came for her?

No. She’d spent two nights sitting just like this, knees up, in a corner of the room and watching. The Remake people had clucked at her and given her strong cups of coffee and covered up the dark circles and chided Ila, but there wasn’t anything he could do until they were on the train to home, when Johanna barricaded the door to her room and slept the whole way back to Seven.

So the interviews are a blur, and the girl on the TV right now may as well be a different person. The Johanna on the screen looks pretty, older than 15, and she’s faking confidence just as convincingly as she’d faked weakness in her pre-Games. She looks wild, dangerous, her blood-red nails catching the studio lights as she gestures. Ila had told her to be grateful, thank her sponsors, not be too arrogant, but she’d won. Nobody had thought she could, but she’d showed them. She was strong, and deadly, and the blood on her hands wasn’t her fault, not really, it was the fault of the stupid kids for being overconfident, making too much noise in the Arena’s woods, the Gamemakers’ fault for putting them all there in the first place. She’d come out filthy and bloody but standing, baring her teeth, wild-eyed, as the hovercraft descended and the trumpets blared.

And it’s the same wild-eyed adrenaline-fueled exhilaration that got her through the Capitol. If she tried to tone it down like Ila told her to, she’d’ve fallen apart into terrified uncertainty. It was easier to remember the heart-pounding sense of power she’d felt when she finally stopped letting them think she was scared—stopped letting herself be scared, and stepped out, an avenging fury, into the Careers’ camp.

That girl is the one on the screen.

The girl on the couch is someone else entirely. She watches, mesmerized, as the interviewers talk about her, and her upcoming sixteenth birthday, and the Tour, and it’s only when they move on to talking about Finnick Odair instead that she can look away.

Mom’s stopped working. She’s watching, sharing her attention between the screen and Johanna watching it, and after a few more minutes she says “Johanna, that’s enough,” in the kind of tone she hasn’t used since Johanna came home. Johanna flips the TV off before she’s really even processed the words.

She looks at Mom, whose lips are pinched tight and her eyes angry. Shit. Johanna can’t do anything right. Mom gets up, walks toward Johanna. “Oh, Johanna,” she whispers, and there are tears in her eyes. She sits, hands in her lap, reaches hesitantly to squeeze Johanna’s shoulder again.

Johanna pulls away, because she can’t not, and Mom pulls her hand back as though she’s been burned. Sits with both hands pressed together in her lap, biting her lip, and her eyes fill with tears. Johanna uncoils, drops her feet to the floor. She wants to walk out the door and disappear for the rest of the day. She wants to sleep for a week. She wants to run away and she wants Mom to hold her like she’s a little kid and make everything just…stop. She looks over at Mom, still sitting there pulled in tight, and she hates it, that it’s her fault, that she’s fucked everything up somehow just by… surviving. She should hug Mom and let her braid her hair and be their kid the way she’s supposed to be, but she can’t. Has to stand up, walk out the door barefoot in her pajamas and climb straight up to the top of the pine tree behind the house. By the time she gets up there she’s shaking, crying, so damn frustrated she’s up here hugging the rough tree bark instead of being a person and hugging her Mom.

It’s like a dam breaking. She hasn’t cried since that interview with Caesar before the Games and that was mostly fake. Now she can’t stop, wrapped around the trunk of a stupid pine tree, sap on her hands, her clothes, in her hair, sobbing like a damn maniac.

It takes a long time to wind down, and then she’s so tired she almost falls asleep in the stupid tree, scrapes her hands, her knee scrambling down. She goes inside, sees Mom start to get up, shakes her head. Mom sits back down. Johanna’s dizzy and exhausted and she feels sick from crying and she’s filthy, she should shower, but she can’t.

So she gives up. Spreads the blanket haphazardly onto the couch and drops onto it, her head pillowed on the arm. She closes her eyes, and in the half-sleep that could be dreams, she feels fingers stroking her hair, a soft, familiar voice humming a song.

Her first invitation to the Capitol is for Finnick Odair’s sixteenth birthday. Blight is going along, because Ila wouldn’t let her go by herself and they said he was too old. Blight’s not fussy like Ila is, just goes into the lounge area of their car and pours a drink. Sits down, flips on the TV. Johanna wanders over to the bar, looks at the labels.

“Don’t.” Blight says—so he is paying attention.

“Why not?” Johanna asks, mostly just to be a pain.

“Because you’re 15.”

“Fuck you,” Johanna says, and now she wants something just on principle.

Blight sighs, gets up. “Fine,” he says, grabs a bottle off the bar and something out of the fridge, pours her a drink.

Johanna takes a sip, and coughs.

Blight smiles. “Yeah,” he drawls, “See?”

He takes the glass. She lets him, sighs, “Fine,” overdramatic, and flops onto the couch.

It’s a night train, so Johanna sleeps, or tries to. She’s not sure if she’s nervous or excited to be back in the Capitol. Probably both. It’s an exciting place, bright lights and beautiful things and always moving. But Blight and Ila don’t trust it, and so neither does she.

So she doesn’t know what to expect when they pull into the station in the Capitol and Blight herds her out, quick past the crowd and into a waiting car. They go to the Games Complex, which is empty and echoing, up to the Seven floor, and Blight walks straight through to the kitchen.

He comes out with two cups of coffee. Johanna suspects his has whiskey in it—she thinks that’s the smell, but Blight looks closed-off, annoyed, a little angry, so she doesn’t ask.

“We have a couple hours to kill,” he says, and his voice just confirms he’s—upset, somehow, for some reason, so Johanna just nods and curls into one of the couches. She flips on the TV, and it’s all Finnick Odair, showing up on the train, shots of the other Victors arriving, a couple quick stills of her. She looks small, and plain, and the commentators coo over how district-charming she is, and then Blight reaches over and turns off the TV.

“What was that for?” Johanna asks, equal parts confused and annoyed.

“That shit’ll rot your brain,” Blight says.

Johanna glares, gets up and goes over to the windows. There’s a crowd—not like the Games, but enough people and cameras and noise filtering up. She feels herself tense, a little—it’s not home, it’s unfamiliar and busy and there’s rules she doesn’t understand, and Blight’s wound up for whatever reason, too.

“I’m bored,” she says.

Blight’s smile is complicated. But he turns the TV back on, flips to a menu, puts on a movie. “Least this bullshit’s fake on purpose,” he says, dropping the remote. He settles back against the couch as it starts.

It’s not very interesting, and Johanna’s tired, and despite herself she drops off pretty quick.

“Johanna, wake up.” It’s not very loud but it startles her anyway. She sits up, blinking fast. The prep team  is there, and they whisk her off. It’s just like the Games. Wax, makeup, hair, clothes she can barely move in, clinging short dress and high heels, until she looks in the mirror and sees an entirely different person.

And that makes it easy to act like a different person, to give Blight a grin that has blood behind it when she comes out to meet him, to shake her hair back and stand straight and not feel confused and scared and fifteen. Blight punches the call button for the elevator and takes them downstairs, and the lobby is crowded with people, and cameras flash and Johanna grins.

Blight helps her into the car, stone-faced, climbs in after her. Johanna wonders why he’s so…whatever, but decides not to ask. She’s going to have some fun, and he can sulk if he wants to.

The party is outside, on a wide terrace shaded with brilliant rainbow-hued banners, and it’s packed. Johanna recognizes some people—Victors, from Four and One mostly, a few from Two. She and Blight are the only ones from the outer districts. She sticks close to him at first, just because it’s overwhelming and she doesn’t know anyone. But then people come up to talk to her, and she’s passed around from one Capitolite to another until she’s on her own. Someone hands her a glass of something pink and bubbly and sweet, and then there’s another, and oh, they must have had alcohol in them because everything goes a little soft, everything’s funnier than it should be, and it gets hard to balance in her ridiculous shoes. She stumbles a little, and someone grabs her arm to steady her. Her head snaps up, and it’s a boy, not so much older than she is, with dark curly hair and bright green eyes that can’t possibly be real.

“Careful, there,” he says, laughing, takes the glass out of her hand.

Johanna straightens, pulls her arm away carefully. “I’m fine,” she says, forcing herself not to giggle. “I’m just not used to shoes like this.”

He glances down, raises an eyebrow. “Me, I’d’ve thought they’d make you small and cute and approachable,” he says, offhand. “Guess they like the wicked Victor girl better.”

Johanna scowls at “small and cute.” They better not try that. “Think I’ve played out my ‘unthreatening weakling’ hand,” she says, and she means it to be a joke but it comes out clipped, harsh.

He laughs anyway. “I like you,” he says. Sticks out his hand to shake. “I’m Julius,” he says.

“Johanna,” she replies, unnecessarily, and he laughs.

“Come on,” he says, laughing and taking her hand, “come meet my friends.”

Somewhere in between introductions and a bunch of frankly ridiculous stories about how they passed the last Games, Johanna starts getting antsy. Hell, she doesn’t have to follow other people around the whole time, does she? She’s a Victor, she can do what she wants.

“It’s good to meet you boys,” she says, when the conversation hits a lull, “But I should go find Finnick, I haven’t said happy birthday yet.”

They laugh and she ducks away. Looks around the room, because she’s not sure where to look for the guest of honor. And then she notices him by one of the drinks tables, chatting with a woman who’s Capitol-ageless but seems somehow old.

Johanna isn’t sure she should interrupt, but as soon as Finnick sees her he turns towards her. “Johanna!” he says, grinning, holding his arms out for a hug. “So glad you could make it!”

The woman turns and leaves while Finnick wraps her in a surprisingly enthusiastic hug for someone she met for all of 30 seconds on Caesar’s stage. He lets her go, steps back and winks. “You rescued me,” he says, laughing. “I was about to pass out from boredom.” He looks her up and down. “They sure got you kitted up for this,” he adds, and there’s something sharp hidden under all this fluff but Johanna doesn’t know what it is.

“Yeah,” she says, laughing a little, “These shoes are a bit of a challenge.”

Finnick’s smile freezes in place. “Well, they didn’t want you to look too little,” he says, turns toward the table and picks up two glasses.

“Happy birthday,” Johanna says, when he gives it to her. He tips his glass towards her and takes a long gulp.

Johanna sips, mindful of the fact she’s got to keep her balance, and tries to think of what to say to the Victor who’s guaranteed to overshadow her forever. Luckily, she doesn’t have to. Finnick hooks his arm through hers and starts walking. “Let me show you around,” he says.

This tour doesn’t seem to involve friends. He points out the Minister of something, the Director of something else—“he’s a piece of work,” Finnick says, fake-joking unconvincingly. And then Four’s escort comes over, trailing photographers, and they pose for pictures until Johanna’s face hurts from smiling.

When they’re finally done, Finnick sighs, rolls his eyes. “Is it always like that?” Johanna asks. She wants to take it back as soon as she’s said it, because it sounds so…new, and dumb.

Finnick shrugs. “Yeah, mostly,” he says, heading back to the drinks. Johanna’s still working on hers. Finnick doesn’t have time to do more than pick up a glass, though, before the Four escort comes back and he’s hustled off to meet someone new.

And then Finnick’s piece of work Director introduces himself to Johanna, introduces her to someone else, and it’s back to the whirlwind.

Blight finds her, eventually. It’s late, and she’s tired, and her head’s spinning a little from the drinks, and he doesn’t have to try hard to steer her out to the car.

Johanna can barely keep her eyes open on the ride home. Usually the idea of going to bed is somewhere between distasteful and frightening, depending whether she’s expecting a long night of staring at the ceiling or one full of weird dreams. But tonight she can’t wait to mumble a goodnight to Blight, go into her room, and collapse on the bed without bothering to undress.

She wakes up, her mouth cotton-dry and her bladder aching, and stumbles into the bathroom. Her head spins more now than it did before, her stomach churning along with it. When she gets back to the bed she realizes there’s a glass of water there, a couple of pills, and a note. Blight’s handwriting, which means he snuck in, the jerk. The note says “Take these, you’ll feel better,” and Johanna glares at it because he’s telling her what to do without even being here and that’s just not fair. But there’s spite and there’s not feeling like shit, and she’ll take the second one. So she swallows the pills, finishes the whole glass of water, and falls back asleep.

Not for long though, because the sun comes up and the traffic noise gets loud enough to jerk her awake, and she feels better, yeah, but she still doesn’t feel good. A shower helps, hot enough to make her relax, and she figured out how to make the soap smell like pine trees, and the dryer leaves her hair glossy and sleek the way she could never get it on her own. She digs through the drawers full of strange clothes until she finds jeans, even if they are too tight, a tank top and a sweater that’s softer than she knew clothes could even be, dark green and surprisingly warm for all that it’s nearly sheer. And…now what?

She goes out into the common area, but Blight’s not up yet, or at least not out here. And then Johanna remembers the roof, takes the elevator and then the stairs and comes out into obnoxiously bright sunlight. The sun’s just barely up, slanting through the gaps between buildings and right into her eyes, so Johanna puts her back to it, walks to the side of the roof that faces the mountains. The sunlight’s making them glow, the peaks bright and the hollows still deep in shadow. It’s beautiful. The buildings, too, all steel and glass, marble and gold, shine like something magical. Johanna’s leaning against the low brick wall at the edge of the roof, weight on her elbows, when she hears the door open, then slam shut.

She looks over. Finnick. Hair wet, drowning in a too-big sweatshirt and soft pants so long he’s stepping on them. He doesn’t see her, just goes to the other side of the roof and sinks down into a corner, knees drawn up and head down.

Johanna bites her lip, forces herself to breathe slow and deep, because Finnick startled her and he’s upset about something and it’s apparently contagious because her heart’s pounding, fast and hard in her chest. She considers trying to sneak downstairs, but the door’s loud, and Finnick would think she was spying. And if she stands here much longer he’s going to look up and notice her and definitely think she’s spying, so she walks over to where he’s sitting, slides down the wall to sit, near enough he’ll hear her but not so close he’ll be able to smack her if he’s mad.

“Hi,” Johanna says, for lack of anything better.

And Finnick really hadn’t noticed her at all, because he jumps, his eyes go wide, and his breath catches before he takes a deep breath, leans his head back against the wall, and says “Shit, Johanna, what the fuck are you doing up here?”

“Sorry,” she says. “Couldn’t get back to sleep.”

He’s staring out into the middle distance and one corner of his mouth twists up a little, but he doesn’t say anything.

“What’re you doing up here?” Johanna asks, and she should probably be nicer, he’s clearly upset about something, but Johanna wasn’t all that nice even before the Reaping and she sure isn’t anymore.

“Can’t sleep,” Finnick says, flat. “Won’t for a while.”

Johanna winces. “So Blight and them are lying about the insomnia going away?”

Finnick blinks a couple times, swallows, sighs. “I dunno,” he says, still in a monotone, still staring at nothing. It’s such a contrast from last night that it makes Johanna twitchy.

“Didn’t for you, and you’ve been out a year longer than me,” Johanna says, because the quiet is too heavy, she needs to fill it.

“Yeah, well,” Finnick says, and slants a glance at her for the first time since he first saw her sitting there. “I’m special.” It’s acid, that word special, and Johanna isn’t sure why, isn’t sure she wants to know.

“Whatever,” she says, and really, she should probably stop talking, but she’s not sure she could. “You’re cute and all, but I never really got the whole heartthrob thing.”

That gets her a startled laugh, and a look that’s actually at her. “Seriously though,” she goes on, “There were a couple girls at school who couldn’t stop talking about you, but I mostly wanted to smack them upside the head.” It’s true, and Johanna feels the pull of back then, back there, only a few months ago but may as well be a lifetime and she’ll probably never see those girls again.

Finnick is giggling now—that’s really the only word for it, and it’s a little crazy-sounding, but Johanna will take it. “They probably wrote you really gross fan mail,” she says, “with, I dunno, lipstick kisses and pressed flowers and everything.”

Finnick shakes his head. “I don’t even look at that shit,” he says, between giggles. “Mags hides it, says it’ll go to my head.”

Johanna laughs at that. “Well, you’ve got enough admirers here you get to see in person, what’s a few letters?”

She’s not sure why, but that was apparently the wrong thing to say. Finnick stops laughing, sighs, knocks his head back against the brick hard enough it has to hurt. “What?” Johanna asks, confused. “I didn’t mean anything.”

Finnick shakes his head, still leaned back against the wall, looks at her. “You’ll see,” he says. “Capitol people are fucked up.”

Johanna shrugs. “I guess,” she grants him. They’re weird, that’s for sure.

“You’ll see,” he says again, almost angry. Then he sighs, scrubs his hands over his face, gets to his feet, a little stiff. “C’mon, I want breakfast.”

Johanna knows teenage boys eat a lot, but she’s still amazed when Finnick walks them into the upstairs bar and orders enough food for Seven’s entire Victors’ Village.

She’s hungry too though, she realizes once she starts, and Capitol food, at least, is undeniably amazing. Finnick apparently has a sweet tooth, because there’s pancakes with chocolate chips and maple syrup, waffles with strawberries, hot cocoa. And crunchy bacon, and eggs, and sausages, and Johanna gives up well before the food’s close to gone.

Finnick looks a little more cheerful afterwards. Less like he’s trying to hide. He gets up to go flop onto one of the couches, over by the TV, flips it on. He’s on the screen when it lights up, and he glares and mashes buttons to get the menus. Johanna follows him, sits on the other end of his couch, so their feet meet in the middle. She kicks at him, aimlessly. “Put on something interesting, Blight put me to sleep yesterday with his horrible choices.”

Finnick kicks back. “I’ll put on what I want,” he says. But when the movie starts it’s something about jewel thieves and the Peacekeepers chasing them, and Johanna knows she’s supposed to be rooting for the Peacekeepers, but she kind of wants the thieves to get away, just this once.

She goes to kick Finnick again, ask him if he feels the same way, but when she looks over he’s asleep. Johanna hesitates—it’s not the best place to sleep, out here in public, but she doesn’t really want to wake him up. So she sighs and half pays attention to the TV for a couple hours, until Finnick wakes up with a start.

He sits up, pulling himself away from Johanna as he does, then scrubs his hands over his face. She looks away. It’s like watching herself, jerking awake after a bad dream, and it’s odd to see on someone else.

When she looks back he’s blinking slowly, like he’s trying to wake up. “Hey,” she says, “you should maybe go sleep in a bed.”

He nods, absently, not quite awake enough to do anything about it. So she stands up, reaches out a hand. He grabs it, lets her haul him up. He’s heavy. “C’mon, Four, let’s go,” she says, and he follows her into the elevator. She gets off first.

“Thanks, Jo,” he says, tired, unsmiling. “See ya ‘round.”

“Sure thing,” she says, and the door closes behind her.

They leave that afternoon. Johanna sits next to Blight in the lounge, watching another one of his bad soap opera movies. “Why’d the Capitol throw Finnick a birthday party?” Johanna asks, because she’s never heard of it before, not really.

Blight shrugs. Doesn’t look at her when he says “Well, sixteen’s adult in the Capitol. And anyway Finnick’s so popular, who knows?”

“He was all…weird, this morning,” Johanna says. Blight’s drinking a beer, from the bottle, takes a sip before he answers.

“Victors are weird, kid,” he says, tight and gruff and clipped. “Don’t worry about it.”

Johanna glares at him, but he ignores her. “Fine,” she says, goes to her room, because if he’s going to be like that, Blight’s not any fun.

They get in early the next morning. Ila’s waiting, with his beat-up truck. “Welcome home,” he says, opening her door and offering her a hand. Johanna ignores it. She’d just managed to fall asleep for real when Blight woke her up, so she’s fuzzy-headed and confused, but some things are automatic.

Mom and Dad are up when they drop her off, Dad’s eating breakfast, getting ready to go to the mill. He turns around when the door opens. “Johanna!,” he says, grinning. “I was scared you’d have too much fun and wouldn’t want to come home.”

Johanna can’t help smiling at that. “Nah,” she says, kicking off her shoes and going to sit at the table. “Too many people there.”

Mom brings a bowl of porridge, gives her a worried look. “You look tired,” she says.

Johanna scowls. “I’m fine, Mom,” she says, shoves a spoonful into her mouth so she doesn’t have to say anything.

Mom and Dad trade a look Johanna pretends not to see. Dad drains the last of his coffee and stands up. “I gotta run, shift starts in a few. See you later, kiddo,” he says, ruffling her hair.

“Bye Dad,” Johanna mumbles, mouth full.

Mom sits down across the table, hands wrapped around a mug of coffee. She doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t say anything, but Mom can not-ask questions louder than Johanna would’ve thought possible.

After a long silence, Mom sighs. “Glad you’re home, honey,” she says. “We missed you.”

Johanna looks up at her. “It was only a couple days,” she says.

“Well…I guess it’s just that it’s the first time you’ve been away since…” Mom trails off.

Oh.

“Don’t worry, they can’t make me go in the Games again,” Johanna says. That gets her a halfhearted smile. “Mom, it’s fine, it’s just dumb Capitol stuff.”

Mom looks down. “We…I…just be careful.” Mom turns the mug in her hands, watching the coffee warily. “It doesn’t…it’s all so much, I guess. We’re not used to seeing you like that, all dressed up.”

Johanna bites her lip. The Capitol seems like a different world—it’s hard to remember it’s connected to Seven by TV screens.

Mom looks at her. “Just—we don’t want you doing things you don’t really want, just because they’re offered now. You’re still our Johanna, they can’t change that.”

Johanna swallows. It’s true, in its own way. But Johanna in the Capitol isn’t really the same person as Johanna here. Everything’s different, faster and brighter and more, and it’s impossible really to be their Johanna out there. She’s not even sure she can be that Johanna here anymore. That Johanna got on the train to the Games and never came back.

“Yeah,” she says, antsy suddenly. She pushes back her chair, stands up. “I’m going out. Be back later.”

Mom looks like she wants to say something else, but in the end she just nods. “See you in a bit,” she says, watches Johanna leave.

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