Hello everyone… this was fun to write. It's pretty Sherlock-centric, because he barely made an appearance in the first two chapters. Also, a couple things: firstly, no, Sherlock is not going to be a villain. I won't say who will be, although I think it's a bit obvious that Moriarty will be one of them. I just think that this is how he would react as a teenager in this situation—by swaggering around and bullying people. Plus, I had fun writing Sally's back story. Second of all, Sylvia is actually a very nice name, just not for boys.
John's stylist had not been happy with him. He had screeched when they waxed him, which ticked her off, but apparently the waxing hadn't done its job, because she called him a grizzly bear.
"Well," she had said, handing him a bundle of fabric and a pair of horse hoof clappers, "At least the costume will cover you up."
He'd stumbled to his chariot feeling very sorry for himself.
"What an interesting assemblage," a voice said patronizingly.
John spun around. Behind him stood Sherlock, a daunting figure in a long black coat and a blue scarf.
"Farm animals," Sherlock said. "I like it. Mostly. Carrie looks good in cow-print, and that's an all right sheep dress, but a horse? It looks like you stylist just doesn't want you to get sponsors. I wouldn't be surprised, you know." He leaned back against the glittering District 1 chariot. "A drunk sister, a father who doesn't bother to hide the fact that he knows you'll die… if even your own family's given up on you, why on earth would you be popular with the crowd?"
John's grip tightened on the wooden clappers.
"My father supported me," he managed. An outright lie, but if John denied his claim, then there was no way he would know John wasn't telling the truth, right? Wrong.
"Don't try to fool me, John." Sherlock smiled malevolently. "All the clues are there."
"Really," said John, fighting to keep his composure. "And what clues would those be?"
"Your sister was obviously drunk, and she was terrified for you, afraid you were going to die—which is a definite probability, wouldn't you say? –but she still had hope. Same with your two other sisters and your dear mumsie. Your father, though, well, he didn't even bother to hope, You could see it by the way he caved in his shoulders, sank into the crowd, and avoided looking at you. So sad." He smiled again, but his eyes remained cold.
"Shut up," growled John. His nails had dug grooves in the hard wood of the clappers. "I noticed that no one was sad to see you Reaped."
"Oh, my parents lamented in private, but they knew not to embarrass me in public. My brother, Mycroft, was positively cheerful."
Mycroft? The name sounded slightly familiar.
"What, were you the older brother who terrorizes his younger sibling?" John said aloud.
Sherlock rolled his eyes.
"No," he scoffed. "He's the older brother who won the Hunger Games four years ago and doesn't care about his younger sibling save as a representative of the family name. Rather different, no?"
John didn't say anything, but his mind was racing. Mycroft Holmes, the victor of the 96th Hunger Games. Of course. That explained a lot, especially Sherlock's conciliatory attitude—if he had been bullied by his older brother, a brother who had won a fight to the death (and, if John remembered correctly, had knocked off no few people himself), then Sherlock might feel insecure about himself and, in turn, degrade others.
"I'm sorry," said John, trying to sound sincere.
Sherlock just looked at him quizzically.
"Sorry for what?"
"The way your brother… treated you?" John prodded, starting to worry he'd gotten the wrong idea.
The other tribute looked at him askance for a moment, but before he could say anything the national anthem started playing, which was the cure for the two tributes to mount onto their chariots.
As he left through the gateway Sherlock half-turned and gave John a cheeky wink. John swore and gripped the stupid clappers even tighter.
"John?" said a small voice behind him. He turned to find Carrie looking at him worriedly. "What's the matter?"
John must have looked positively demonic, because he turned to face Carrie she shied away.
"John?" she repeated.
"Nothing," he managed. But Carrie refused to budge.
"No, it's not nothing," she said. "What's wrong? What it that tribute from 1 you were talking to?"
John deflated. "Yes," he said. "I don't know why, but he seems to hate me."
Carrie looked around furtively.
"Earlier this evening," she started to say, but before she could finish the chariot jerked to a start, and everything fell away.
The crowd's roar was deafening. John had never seen so many people in one space—there were
thousands, tens of thousands of yelling spectators, all cheering for him.
Well, not for him. Not for the rather homely boy from District 10 dressed as a horse. They were
cheering for Irene Adler in her glittering black and purple dress, and Sherlock, and the tributes from 2 in their costumes of shimmering mica-like fabric, and even the tributes from 7 whose stylists, in a burst of imagination, had given them trailing trains of silky autumn leaves.
They were cheering for Carrie, even. Someone in the crowd tossed her a rose, white as snow,and although she fumbled the catch from nervousness and the flower fell to the ground, she blushedand the crowd laughed and they loved her even more.
No, they weren't cheering for him. His smile dropped slightly, but Molly nudged him and winked, taking his hand—well, hoof.
"Don't worry," she whispered, seeming to read part of his thoughts. "They'll love you. You'll be one of the four. You'll make it. Just you wait and see."
The first day of training was an occasion John had been dreading for most of the previous dinner. He wasn't afraid of anything in particular, it was just generic stress—stress that made his stomach writhe and twist itself into knots.
The rather strange set of events that actually occurred were like nothing he had imagined, and had he imagined them he might very well have skipped training entirely.
Or not. It wasn't a bad day, exactly, just… odd. But John was very habituated to a routine, if trying, lifestyle.
He ate a quick-on-the-go breakfast consisting of some sort of sweet pastry, then headed down to the training center with Molly. Carrie had gone down earlier in the morning, presumably to "get a feel" for the place.
When they arrived there were six tributes already there—that wimpy kid from 2 (Jamie? Jim?), Irene Adler, that Mary girl, the volunteer boy from 4, Carrie, and Sherlock. Earlier that night in the privacy of his own head John had decided that no, he didn't want to kill anyone, but—well, should the opportunity arise it wouldn't be a great tragedy should he just give Sherlock a little push toward mortality. Just seeing the other tribute again made his blood boil, especially since he had also decided that Sherlock had probably not been bullied by his older brother.
Seeing him talking to Carrie didn't help matters.
They seemed to be having a civil conversation, or at least as civil as one could get with Sherlock. And for some reason that rubbed John's feathers the wrong way entirely.
"Carrie!" he hissed, marching up to them.
She looked up innocently.
"I—'' John suddenly realized that he couldn't simply tell her to stop talking to Sherlock; she was her own person, he had no right to order her around. Plus, Sherlock would undoubtedly make some snide comment, and John wasn't sure he could bear that. "Oh… um… nice equipment, huh?"
Carrie looked at him blankly for a moment, then at the array of spears she was standing next to.
"Yes," she said politely. Sherlock snorted but managed to turn it into a sort of strangled cough which only served to make John feel even more embarrassed. Judging from the other tribute's expression, Sherlock knew it.
Mumbling incomprehensibly and face burning, John scuttled off and threw himself down at the nearest table.
"You want to steer clear of the freak," said a voice. He looked up to see the fierce girl from 2 and the sallow-faced boy from 1. It was the girl who had spoken.
"I'm Sally," she said, holding out her hand, "and this is Anderson. You're John, right?"
John nodded and shook her hand limply. Anderson—John supposed being called by your surname was better than being called Sylvia—nodded in return, but didn't say anything.
"You know Sherlock?" John prompted.
Sally just shrugged.
"I met him once. I trained as a Career for a couple of years, before I decided I didn't want to kill people for money and glory. My class went to District 1 for a couple of days once, just to train with some new faces and see who we'd be up against. We were put in pairs randomly. I was with Sherlock." She leaned back in her chair and glanced at the clock to see how much time they had before training started: ten minutes.
'We were only thirteen, and I thought he was all cool at first. You know, you're almost a teenager, you've started taking an interest in boys, and you get paired with this cute boy from 1 who also happens to be good with knives and a spear, and who's wickedly clever—and then you start to realize that looks aren't what matter about a person, that he'd gut anyone with those knives just because he was bored, and that "wicked" is the perfect way to describe his intelligence. In fact, going to 1 was probably the first step in my decision that being a Career was not what I wanted to do with my life." She smiled grimly. "Now I'm training to be a Peacekeeper. I'll actually be helping people. Saving lives instead of disposing of them."
She looked so happy with her choice and her future that John didn't have the heart to explain to her the sort of twisted treatment the poorer districts received at the hands of the Peacekeeping Corp.
"I think you're much nicer as you are now than you would be if you were a Career," he said instead. Sally flashed him a smile.
"Well, you're not the only one who's not a Career anymore," Anderson said to Sally. His voice was surprisingly melodic. "The freak got kicked out three years ago for blowing up most of the fencing wing."
"Did he?" Sally said, smiling viciously.
"Yup. It was his third explosive experiment that semester, too. He might have gotten off with just suspension, but then they found the frozen fingers."
Sally looked incredulous and ecstatic at the same time. "Frozen fingers? Human ones?"
"Hello, everyone." A smooth voice made John turn. The speaker was a young man of about twenty-two or twenty-three. "My name is Mycroft Holmes, and I will be directing the training center this year."
There was some muttering from the other tributes—it was not unusual for previous victors to be in charge of training, but Mycroft was abnormally young.
Sally nudged John with her elbow and pointed to Sherlock, who was staring, mouth and eyes open wide in growing horror, at his elder brother. John stifled a giggle.
"I urge you all to work upon improving the skills you have already and learning basic survival skills as opposed to rushing straight to the weapons." He gave a short, cheerless smile. Out of the corner of his eye John saw Sherlock grimace and raise his eyes to the ceiling. "Well," Mycroft continued, "Good luck, and spend your time wisely."
Sally turned to John with raised eyebrows and a look that said: well, you never know.
"Anderson?" John asked, "What did Sherlock ever do to you?"
Anderson gave John a Look. "Have you ever been bullied by someone who uses every tool available to his not un-extensive intelligence to make it clear that your life is utterly useless?"
John conceded the point.
"So," Sally said tentatively, "do you guys want to train together?"
"Sure!" John said brightly. Anderson nodded. "Mycroft said to work on the skills we already have. I'm from District 10; I'm handy with a butcher's knife." John paused and looked up. "Sounds a bit lame now that I tell someone. Anyway, what can you do?"
"I trained with a sword, and my secondary was bow and arrows," Sally said, shrugging.
"I can't do anything," said Anderson.
Sally narrowed her eyes and poked him.
"Come on," she said. "Spit it out."
Anderson looked down at his hands.
"Fine. I'm good at science and sprinting. A lot of help those'll be." He sighed and got up. "What say we start with edible plants?"