The Science of Survival
He really shouldn't have been surprised. After all, he'd never been a boy who'd been lucky. In fact, it was quite the opposite- all his life John Watson had been making his own opportunities because the universe, and the Capitol, sure weren't going to provide him with any.
So the morning of his last Reaping, John should have been well and fully prepared to hear Kyra Duneffrey, an overbearingly cheerful representative who had the misfortune to be assigned to District Twelve, announce that John Watson would be the male tribute sent to the forty-first annual Hunger Games. No, it was only when he felt hands on his arm, shaking and tight, and saw his elder sister's face stricken with grief, guilt and hesitation that John patted her and broke away, traveling to the stage to face the ragged, starving crowd.
No, John Watson was not expecting this, but he should have. After this year, he wouldn't have been eligible for the games, and Harriet, or Harry as he called her, was older than him and had already gone for six years without being chosen. In fact, both of them had taken Tesseraes every year- supporting a household that was already broken beyond repair. Those extra rations of grain had kept themselves alive, kept alive a mother who could barely leave her bed from chronic sickness of the mind, kept alive a father who stayed away from their shack as much as possible.
It was a blur, being ushered to the mayor's house that John barely noticed who the female tribute was- some girl he had never met. They waited, fingers twisting nervously. The girl was young, thin (like so many of the Seam), and seemed even more bewildered than John, who was still wrapped in the fog of impossibility.
Kyra entered, an energetic smile matching her energetic gait. "You two must be so excited! You have the honor of representing District Twelve in this year's games! And you'll get to visit the Capitol…" John tuned her out, staring ahead without seeing. But when Kyra's hand touched his arm, he wasn't startled, and when she introduced the female tribute, "John this is Sarah!" he reached forward to shake her hand. Sarah was trembling. John was not. Sarah, he learned, was thirteen, only her second year of Reaping. She knew that she had no chance against the well-trained, well-fed tributes of the richer districts.
John heard and absorbed all this information because, though his reactions were still in a fog, his mind was sharp. His hands didn't shake and, despite himself, his mind was already whirling, making plans for getting himself out of that arena.
Because John Watson had seen a lot of trouble in his life. And he was planning on staying alive to see more.
The goodbyes were harder than John expected, since to him the idea of dying to him was an alien concept, one that didn't factor in to his equation. Harry ran in, not wasting a second of their hour together. John didn't expect his parents to come. With this latest blow, he was sure that his mother was curled up in their bed. And his father… well, he wasn't quite sure what his father might be thinking. Though he worked in the coal mines, it was his children that were indispensible. Without John, and Harry out of the Reaping… this might end the family.
But Harry didn't see that- or at least didn't acknowledge it. Instead she hugged him tightly. The siblings had their issues through the years. Both had signed up for the extra rations, but beyond that, Harry was irresponsible. Skipped school, stayed with her string of girlfriends, and the violence around them had turned her to the white alcohol. John, on the other hand, did everything he could for his family- little and broken though it was, it was all he had. He didn't go to school either. But John was also working in the mines- had been for only two years. After work, he took over his mother's duties as well. She was the town's only doctor until a few years ago, and until John was fourteen, there was no one to care for the sick. Around that time, John had enough of watching people waste away from mere colds or mining accidents, had picked up his mother's books, and opened the family's doors to those in need, free of charge.
But now, John held his sister, understanding without words that she wished she could volunteer for him. Not because he did more, but because they were family and he would do the same for her.
"Johnny," she said, resting her forehead on his shoulder. "You're a fighter, you always have been. You need to come back, okay? Not just for mom and dad but for me."
He pressed his arms around her and nodded, not trusting his voice just yet. Sarah was on the other side of the room with her mother and younger brother, their whole family a little unit or sadness and love. Then the door opened again, and john expected Kyra to come in, announcing that their hour was up. But no, it wasn't Kyra, though he knew his hour would be up soon. No, standing in the doorway was his father- tall, broad shouldered, gruff. Harry broke away at John's stiffening. She blinked owlishly up that the man.
He came over, standing awkwardly beside the two occupying the large seat. John didn't know what to say, but his father- man of few words- simply clapped his shoulder.
"Your mother sends her love," he said, voice thick and gravelly like always.
John doubted that, but wouldn't say anything. Instead he nodded. "Thanks."
Harry reached over to squeeze the elder man's fingers, forming a sort of chain.
And they were like Sarah's family, small, sad, and strong in their own way.
It was on the train that John was introduced to his team. His stylist was a kindly woman, probably in her forties with delicate lines creasing her face. Everything about her was very natural. The Capital was famous for its cosmetic physical enhancements. Tattoos were only the start of it- hair, skin color, eye shape, height, silhouette. Anything you can dream up was being done above and beyond there. Someone from District Twelve could not think up much, but this woman, Olive Haversham, was gentle and natural.
Her team of three stylists however, was not. The two women were both a slight bluish color. John thought at first that they were sick, but apparently, a pale sky color was the latest fashion craze. The man was covered in swirling black spots that seemed to move and undulate on his skin. His hair looked as if it might take an eye out.
But they didn't do much to him- waxed his face (which was certainly odd, John never thought facial hair was such a big deal and had never paid any attention to his eyebrows until they were thick, dark arcs over his eyes, perfectly shaped), and had him bathe until he was sure that he sparkled. Then he sat with Olive.
"I think Fenry was a little too overenthusiastic about my brows," John complained of the male stylist, rubbing his forehead. "But what can I expect? I swear I could use hair like that as a weapon." The remark wasn't sobering- in fact it caused Olive to chuckle warmly.
"Well you are going to be on television dear. Now then, we must discuss your outfit."
"Yes. You are to be presented to the Capital's audience- the interview."
Of course. The interview. A crucial moment because a good interview could mean good sponsors, and good sponsors might make the difference between life and death. A short, underfed boy from District Twelve didn't stand much of a chance in the way of sponsors- not when the kids form the first four districts were so well prepared. Career tributes, they were called. Teens that spent their childhoods training to bring home glory and endless money and food. Teens who volunteered for the Games- not because they were saving a friend or family member, but because they wanted the chance to live in history.
"We'll have time to think about it, of course. I already have some ideas. Coal is hard enough to work with." True. The outfits were always based on the district's export. District three often came out as the most innovative, because they made electronic gadgets and nothing was really out of bounds. District six, the district of precious metals, also never spared an expense, but usually those tributes' only moment of glory was the interview because very few ever made it through and won.
The carriage door slid open, and Olive turned, smiling. In the door frame was a young man, impossibly tall and thin but in a much healthier way than John had ever seen. His eyes were clear, bright and blue, and his expression was unreadable, hints of exasperation and curiousness peeking through. He also had a natural look, like Olive's, but sharper, more defined.
"Oh John, this is going to be your coach for the games."
Normally, tributes were coached by the most recent winner from their district. District Twelve had never had a winner, so one was provided by the Capital each year. The coaches were often second rate, had no clue how to survive on their own (for in the Capital no one ever had to) and didn't care all that much, predicting (quite correctly) that any tribute was dead in the water.
John nodded, reaching his hand out, but the man (really, he could have only been in his twenties, just a bit older than John himself), only studied him.
Then he acknowledged Olive and turned around and left. John looked bewildered.
"Don't mind him dear, he's always like that."
"But… he didn't even say hello."
She sighed heavily. "He's a brilliant man, a genius really, and doesn't coach very often. He likes to choose who he coaches and they always win."
John looked impressed, his hope starting to burn a bit brighter. "You know him?"
"Oh yes. I can't say exactly what he does for a living- shady work of you ask me- but he does help people. Quite a bit."
"And he picked me?" John felt flattered for a second, before regarding Olive's expression.
"I… I'm sorry dear, I don't think so."
And just like that, John withdrew, spending the rest of the ride in silence while Olive talked clothing details.
His whirring mind stopped. He was doomed.
The first night in the Capital accommodations was terrible. John barely got any sleep, wakened by nightmares of explosions and Peacekeepers and trains driving into great walls of fire. Deciding that being alone with his thoughts was a lesser evil than being alone with his dreams, he spent the remainder of the night by the window, nodding off every now and then only to wake to horrible images of the dead and dying.
So he thought about his mentor- nameless for now, and so intimidating. Without a good mentor there wasn't any chance. Even a good Capital mentor was better than none at all. But if his refused to speak to him… Harry was going to be so upset.
Breakfast was a stifling affair. The man was there, occasionally looking at him but still coming to the, apparently, same conclusion. John realized he couldn't really blame him. He was skinny, short for his age and gender, and came from the notoriously poor, ill-performing District Twelve. But that heavy, resigned feeling from the train and the sleepless night was starting to vanish in the man's presence. Instead, he felt angry. Really angry. In fact, it made him want to start the Games right now just to prove his mettle.
But he said nothing, finishing his meal then meeting with his stylists in silence, letting them do whatever they needed to to make themselves, and the Capital, happy. He didn't need a mentor- especially not such a condescending bastard of one. No, John Watson was going to go out there and come out alive. Come out a champion.
So when, that night, he passed by the so-called mentor, he stopped him drawing himself up to his full five feet seven inches of height, and looked him dead in the eye.
"Look. I know I'm not the biggest tribute, nor the best prepared. I come from the district that has never produced a winner. But I am going to fight. Because I don't plan on returning home in a body bag. So you can take your sideways glances, and you can moan about having to watch over some scrappy kid, because I don't need you." He narrowed his eyes. "I don't plan on losing."
He walked away, leaving this man in his wake.
Until there was a hand on his shoulder, stopping him. He turned, keeping the same proud countenance on his features.
"You have never been one to bend under pressure. You've been an accident before but you don't let it define you. Peacekeepers have destroyed your family, quite possibly turning your brother to drinking, most likely causing him to drop out of school. Your mother isn't there mentally- because of the accident you were in, and because of the Peacekeepers, and your father isn't home much. He probably resents your resilience."
John stared at him, mouth open, eyes blinking in a fish-like manner. "How… how did you know that?"
"I read it. In your face, your stance."
"But, Harry… and my parents."
The man sighed. "It's quite obvious, isn't it?"
The man then rolled his eyes, probably used to having this conversation with people. "Well I can tell by the way you hold yourself that, while your previous injury doesn't hurt it was quite traumatic and you still carry around the memory. Mothers hate to see their children injured, so naturally it would affect her. But you took extra rations, putting yourself in danger, and work in the mines judging by the state of your hands. A child doing that, providing more for the family than his father, would make any father hurt, would damage his pride. Working that hard, and knowing you have a brother, means that said brother would not be working hard- the alcohol was a guess, but it's common enough, and most people dealing with trauma by goofing off skip school."
"And the Peacekeepers?"
The man pulled John's arm up, showing the solitary scar snaking around it. "A scar like this can only be made by a whip, and whips are only carried around by Peacekeepers."
He smiled then, satisfied with himself. "The name is Sherlock Holmes, and we best start planning your strategy for… 'getting out of this alive' tomorrow."
Before he could leave, John uttered an involuntary "Brilliant!" before flushing red. "Sorry."
The mentor- Sherlock- looked surprised but then waved it off. "No. That's fine. Tomorrow. Early."
He turned the corner, and John's fortitude was renewed.
The universe, and the Capital, had never provided opportunities for him. But he was going to make his own.
A/N: What the actual what am I doing? I'm being a sick, sick fool. Literally. Laid up in bed with e summer head cold of death, I probably should have gone on a "Sherlock" binge after breezing through 'Catching Fire' without having Mockingjay in my possession.
Some thoughts- I think these worlds blend really nicely. I know they're totally different, but neither character has to change their personality to fit in. This idea bit me in the butt and wouldn't leave me alone. –sigh-
I also had no idea where I wanted to stop this. I wasn't going to write the Games themselves, but I kind of wanted to see the training and stuff. However, this seemed like the perfect place, and I really wanted to use that closing line. Also, there will be no Hunger Games characters. [I tried to fit this in with the universe, pre-canon. Not early enough that people would remember the revolution, not late enough that he'd still be alive in Canon (he could be Haymitch's mentor though, if you think about, because who mentored Haymitch in the first place?]
Please review! [I hate saying that, but I always get so many hits/faves and no reviews. I'd like to know what I'm doing right or wrong! But no Mockingjay spoilers please]
I may or may not continue, but I think it's a fun idea. K 'bye. –Runs away-