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John Watson was surrounded by trees – in the Hunger Games Arena. He heard movement in the woods around him – other tributes, all ready to kill him – and he wanted to run, but something was holding him back – something important –

“John. Ground yourself,” he heard a voice behind him – Sherlock Holmes' voice – and John started speaking.

“My name is John Watson. I am eighteen years old. I am in –” he glanced around. Not the Arena, he realized – it never snowed in his Arena. “– the outskirts of District Twelve. And it’s –” he grabbed his boyfriend’s wrist and consulted his watch. “– eleven thirty-two.” He looked up at Sherlock. “We should get back.”

He let go of Sherlock’s wrist, but Sherlock took his hands in his before John could start walking back.

“Just a few more minutes,” he begged, pressing his lips to John’s, and John returned the kiss, feeling Sherlock’s hesitation. He was normally gentle with John, knowing that anything could trigger a panic attack of some sort. Today, though, the kiss was more urgent than usual, John could tell – and he knew exactly why:

Today, since John had won the most recent Hunger Games, he had to leave to go on a victory tour of the country they lived in, Panem, leaving Sherlock behind.

“I’ll only be gone for two weeks,” John reminded his boyfriend.

“That’s about fourteen days too many,” Sherlock muttered. “And right after my birthday, too – it’s ridiculous. Why is it always after my birthday?”

The Victory Tour always started the second week of January, just after Sherlock's birthday on the sixth. It had always been this way, and showed no sign of changing. Still, John wasn't the first person to leave Sherlock for the Victory Tour; Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft Holmes, had also won the Hunger Games almost nine years ago, meaning he had to go on the Tour, too. Since Mycroft was a mentor for the tributes in the Hunger Games, he was John’s mentor, and the mentors of the Hunger Games victor were required to come with their victor on the Tour. Just as he had six months ago, Sherlock would be temporarily without the two most important people in his life.

“I’ll call you every day, at least once,” John promised. “If there’s no phone on the train I’ll piss everyone off until they get me one.” At this, Sherlock smiled. “And you'll have Harry to keep you company while I'm gone.”

In fact, Harry, John’s sister three years his junior, had kept Sherlock company the last time John and Mycroft left District 12 together; when Mycroft mentored John while he was in the Hunger Games.

“Right,” Sherlock said, disappointed. He wasn't upset about Harry, though – they had actually gotten quite close while John was in the Games. He just didn't want to have to say goodbye to Sherlock, again – at least not this soon after John’s arrival home. But then again, would any amount of time be good enough for Sherlock?

John squeezed Sherlock's hand.

“Come on, Mycroft’s going to worry.”

“He always worries, you not showing up on time won’t stop him.”

“Alright, fine. Mrs. Hudson will worry.”

“And what, we can’t be the ones to give her the hardest day of her entire life by showing up five minutes late?” Sherlock asked, yet they had begun the walk back anyway, meaning John had won.

“She’s just doing her job,” John said. “She probably doesn’t have any idea what she’s actually doing.”

“She knows that she’s helping send twenty-three kids to die annually, wouldn’t that be enough to realize something wasn’t right?”

It was true – the Hunger Games was just a glorified battle to the death, and Mrs. Hudson, the woman who escorted two unlucky teenagers from District 12 to Panem’s Capitol, was just helping send those kids to their deaths. And this – the twenty-three deaths each year, the seventy-four years of Hunger Games – was all because of a rebellion against the Capitol that had occurred almost seventy-five years ago.

“When you’re taught that it’s the price we’re meant to pay, it becomes right,” John said quietly.

“We’ve been taught that it’s the price we’re meant to pay,” Sherlock reminded him.

“Okay, the fact that everyone in the Capitol is immune to the punishment might have something to do with it.”


“Don’t ‘hm’ me,” John sighed. “Mrs. Hudson’s a nice lady. Mycroft likes her.”

“Only because he has to,” Sherlock said. “He has to like everyone there, you know that.”

“No, he doesn’t. He could secretly hate them,” John suggested. “He could just be putting on a –” he stopped speaking abruptly, as if someone had grabbed his throat and cut off his breathing. He still couldn’t say that word – not in that context.

“A performance,” Sherlock supplied.

“Yeah – a performance. A really good performance. One you can’t see through.”

“Like you do?” Sherlock asked as they approached the wire fence.

As they climbed through, John took a moment to think about it. Did he really like the people in the Capitol? He hated President Snow, that was for sure. There was Caesar Flickerman; he had helped John survive by helping him gain sponsors to help him in the Arena – no, John did that all by himself. Well, Sherlock declaring his love for John in front of the entire nation during John's interview with Caesar certainly helped him, but Caesar was nothing but a wall John was able to bounce himself off of, projecting himself in the direction of the audience and the Capitol’s sponsors. Then there was Mrs. Hudson – he did like her. She seemed to genuinely care about him. But then again, he was sure she made all District 12 tributes feel like that.

The only person he really liked was Cinna, he found – Cinna wasn’t like the regular Capitol citizens. He saw into the Hunger Games and knew it was wrong but joined in to try to help his tribute live.

Maybe Mycroft felt the same way.

“I suppose,” he finally said to Sherlock as they rejoined hands and continued walking. “I think Mycroft just understands that we’ve all got jobs to do, and we’re all just trying to do them.”

“Like mentoring? And going on the Victory Tour?” Sherlock asked.

“And surviving.”

Sherlock nodded. They walked in the middle of the road, like they always did. Things had calmed down in the last six months – people didn’t stare at John anymore, and the paparazzi from the Capitol had left ages ago. He thought back to his first morning back in District Twelve – running these exact streets with Sherlock. When Mycroft found out, he was beyond upset – John was in no condition to be running, since he had lost part of his leg just days ago, and John’s prosthetic leg and Capitol-issued physical therapist made sure John knew that, as well. John still had bad days; days where he needed the cane to get around, but then he had good days, like this one.

“What do you think happens to the bad victors?” Sherlock asked quietly, looking straight ahead. “The ones who know the Capitol is bullshit and won’t let it control them?” he whispered as if someone was listening in on them.

“Mycroft hasn’t told me.” But he knew that Mycroft knew – from the way he looked at his little brother he knew. John had a theory, one he didn’t want to say out loud: they take everything from you until you break. After Mr. and Mrs. Holmes died (him in a mining accident, her from suicide), the only thing Mycroft had was Sherlock, and so he kept his toes in line to keep him safe. Christ, he tried to keep Sherlock’s toes in line to keep him safe. And as the idea bounced around in his head, John realized that even the threat of something bad happening if John didn’t do what the Capitol told him to would scare him into submission. “I don’t want to find out.”

Mrs. Hudson, Cinna, and John’s prep team were to meet John at his house. Sherlock and Harry, who had skipped school to see John off, were throwing quips back and forth and flipping each other off from across the room when Mrs. Hudson burst in through the door.

“VICTORY TOUR!” she sang, and Sherlock had already decided that he had had enough peppiness for one day.

“Augh, no!” He cried, sliding himself downwards until he was laying on the couch. It was only when everyone looked at him that he realized he had spoken out loud.

“Don’t worry; you’re invited!” Mrs. Hudson exclaimed, not missing a beat.

“I’m what?” Sherlock asked, sitting up and looking at her.

“You’re coming on the tour with us! Everyone wants to see the Hunger Games’ favorite couple, after all!” she announced, and Sherlock looked at John.

“We’re breaking up,” he decided, but it took a few seconds of horrified staring for Mrs. Hudson and the prep team to get that he wasn’t serious.

“What about school?” Mrs. Watson asked. “Sherlock’s still a student –”

“I’ve already gotten all the classwork he is going to miss,” Mycroft assured her. “He’ll do it on the train between speeches.”

At this, Sherlock rolled his eyes at his brother. He was a genius; he didn't need schoolwork – it would just bore him.

Mrs. Hudson then approached John, hugging him and kissing both of his cheeks.

“Oh, it is so good to see you – What is that?” she asked, holding him at arm’s length.

“What is what?” John asked innocently.

“On your face.”

“Oh,” John rubbed the thin beard on his face with his hand, making that skritchy-scratchy sound that Sherlock hated. “I haven’t shaved in a few weeks.”

“Two months,” Sherlock corrected him. In fact, he had spent the last two months trying to convince John to remove it, doing anything from actually begging him to making fun of it in hopes that something would inspire John to shave. Even Harry got involved, acting afraid of it whenever her brother entered the room. At one point, John had replied to Sherlock's harassment by saying “I don't shave for Sherlock Holmes,” and Harry spouted a counter-slogan: “Please shave for Sherlock Holmes,” and started leaving tiny signs with said slogan written upon it in various places in their house – anywhere from on the ceiling above John’s bed, to in every single pocket John’s clothes possessed. Sherlock had found one slipped in between two books on John's bookshelf and took it for himself, as a souvenir of the battle.

“I don’t like it; it ages you,” Mrs. Hudson said.

“Consider it shaved,” one of the members of John’s prep team promised.

“I dunno, Venia, we could do something with it –” the other woman in the prep team said, expensive hand on expensive chin.

“Octavia, no,” the first woman – Venia – said. “It’s going.”

The three kids exchanged looks, Sherlock smirking at John, Harry winking and sticking her tongue out at her brother, and John glaring at his boyfriend and his sister.

John then seemed to realize he was surrounded by citizens of the Capitol who had no idea what sort of feud had been going on between them over John's facial hair, for he stopped glaring at Sherlock and Harry and turned to his prep team and Mrs. Hudson.

“Um,” John said, clasping his hands together and using them to gesture around. “Mrs. Hudson, this is my mom, my dad, and my sister Harry.”

“Oh, aren’t you a doll!?” Mrs. Hudson cried, approaching Harry and kissing both of her cheeks. She looked at John’s mom. “Surely, that can’t be what you’ve named her?”

“It’s Harriet,” John said.

“It’s Harry,” Harry insisted.

“We’ve got to do something with you, sometime,” Octavia said to Harry, looking her over, already making plans, then turned to John. “But we’re here for you, today.”

“We’ll fill you in on everything; you haven’t missed a thing though, don’t worry,” the only man in the team assured him, which sounded contradictory in Sherlock’s head. But then again, everything about the Capitol was contradictory in some way or another.

“I’m sure Sherlock’s been doing quite a lot of filling in –” Octavia began.

“Octavia!” Mrs. Hudson cried.

“Oh, everyone’s been talking about it!” she looked at Sherlock and cupped her hand around her mouth, blocking John’s view as she worded to him: “How is he?”

“Uh –” Sherlock began. What the hell did any of that mean?

“Octaiva! Flavius! Venia! You said you wanted to fix my face!” John all but shouted, face bright red, turning to the prep team. “And the rest of me. Let’s go do that! Right now!”

“Yes!” the man – Flavius, Sherlock assumed, agreed.

“Bathroom’s right down this hall –” John’s father said, pointing down the hallway.

“Thanks dad, bye dad!” John was still practically shouting, basically pushing his prep team down the hall.

Sherlock, lost, looked at Mycroft, and Mycroft, trying to hide a smile, helped him out:

“Sex,” he mouthed.

Oh, that again.

“Do forgive Octavia; she doesn’t think before she speaks, sometimes,” Mrs. Hudson said, laughing uncomfortably, though Sherlock thought that knowing how to think before one spoke would’ve been in the job description. “Anyway, how are all of you? You must be so proud of John.”

“Oh, we are,” Mrs. Watson said.

“More and more every day,” John’s father agreed.

It was about then Sherlock checked out.

Sex was never one of his interests – his body was a different thing entirely from the rest of him, especially in that aspect. He had always figured that if he was to ever be with someone, he would end up having sex with them at some point – that was the Thing To Do after all, wasn’t it? – but with John it was different. The Hunger Games haunted every part of John’s life, even that part. If sex was a thing they did in the first place, John would never be in the mood, to put it simply. There had been one time when they were kissing more passionately than usual, and their bodies reacted to the stimuli as bodies do, however. Sherlock had expected John to suggest they try it, and he, knowing it was the Thing People Did, was ready to agree, but John didn’t ask. He knew that John was a sexual person, though – he knew of some things John and a girl Sherlock forgot the name of had done the summer before last – so he only assumed the Games had done something to him on a mental level, making sex unattractive to him, now.

“How’s the talent search going?” he heard Cinna ask Mycroft, bringing Sherlock back to the present.

The talent search had not been going well. The only thing John was good at was what he was good at all along: he excelled in medical care. In fact, he had gotten a job working to become a doctor for the District. There were only two doctors in District 12, a husband-and-wife team, Mr. and Mrs. Monroe. Mrs. Monroe saw to the women and children, and Mr. Monroe saw to the men. They spent their free time training their children, Susanna and Thomas Jr., in their ways, so when they eventually passed, the practice would be passed over to them, making it a brother-sister team. But about month after John returned from the Games, the Monroe’s went to John and offered to mentor him, and John jumped at the opportunity. And so, while Sherlock and Harry were at school, he spent the day at the Monroe’s, working alongside Mr. Monroe, Mrs. Monroe, and Thomas Jr. (Susanna was in Sherlock's class, thus still going to school, whilst Thomas Jr. was two years older than John), and Sherlock and Harry hung out together after school until John was done for the day.

But healing wounds wasn’t a talent the Capitol could show off. Every victor of the Hunger Games had a specific talent – some useless thing to do since they didn’t need to work. Mycroft’s talent was playing the piano (in fact, a piano had been installed into the Holmes’ mansion a few months after Mycroft returned from the Games), but he didn’t do it much, anymore.

“He’s taking to the clarinet, actually,” Mycroft replied.

“Barely,” Sherlock muttered. It seemed like everything John did to find his talent was just so uncharacteristic, but this was probably one of the most un-John things John was doing.

“Cinna, isn’t Ms. Price and Mary Morstan’s prep team here to look after Sherlock?” Mycroft asked, obviously anxious to get rid of him.

Sherlock rolled his eyes. Dear god, not him, too.

“Yes, they wanted a brief word with Mary’s family, but they should be at your house, right now,” Cinna replied.

Sherlock turned around and glared at Mycroft, and Mycroft shrugged.

“You better get used to it,” he said, pursing his lips together in a smile, “You’re basically a victor now.”

After John was decked out in winter attire, he was led outside to meet with Sherlock in front of all of the cameras. He had a black coat on over his cardigan and had what he felt was one of the ugliest hats in the world upon his head – a square one that covered his ears. Sherlock, on the other hand, looked gorgeous. He was in a tall black coat with the collar up to protect the back of his neck from the cold, despite the fact that coat was undone, revealing a blue scarf and a black blazer under it.

If it wasn’t for the cameras watching him, John’s mind would’ve probably gone elsewhere, for the first time in months. The two boys met between their houses, and Sherlock immediately took John’s face in his gloved hands and kissed him deeply, and John fought to keep his blood from rushing to embarrassing places.

When they let go, Sherlock gestured to his coat.

“I’m liking this,” he decided.

“Me too,” John breathed.

“I’m definitely going to see if they’ll let me keep it,” he said, turning to the cameras and smiling brightly.

“Of course they will,” John assured him, doing the same and waving at the audience that was undoubtedly watching them.

As the team was driven (in one of the Capitol’s cars) to the train station, Sherlock held onto John’s gloved hand, looking out the window.

“Who bribed you, and with what?” John asked. There was no way Sherlock was this happy to be trapped in a train with Mrs. Hudson, his brother, two babbling prep teams, and twenty different Peacekeepers for two weeks.

“To be honest, I think it’s the coat,” Sherlock said, looking at him.

“No, seriously.”

“Seriously?” Sherlock looked out the window again. “I think you’re right. We all have jobs to do, and mine is to not be myself when I have a camera on me. Make your win seem worth it, you know?”

“You already do that – it doesn’t matter if you’re yourself or not,” John informed him, and Sherlock nodded, a small smile on his face.

Chapter Text

As soon as they got onto the train, Sherlock’s façade went back down, realizing that he would be trapped on a train with the peppiest person in all of Panem, his older brother, six of the most annoying prep team members he’s ever met, and some unknown amount of Peacekeepers who he’d love to disobey.

Much to his surprise, so did Mycroft’s by dinner time.

“It’s five o’clock,” Mycroft announced when Sherlock and John entered the car for dinner. Per usual, his brother was the first one there. “We’ve been here for at least a week now and it’s only five o’clock,” he said as the boys sat down.

Sherlock and John glanced at each other. This was new – Mycroft rarely complained about anything, unless it was related to Sherlock.

“Aw, don’t be that way, Mycroft!” Mrs. Hudson exclaimed, entering the car (and the conversation) and sitting down. “We’ve won the Hunger Games; we’re on the Victory Tour! We’re supposed to be happy – I’m happy, John’s happy, Sherlock’s happy, Cinna’s happy –” she said, gesturing at each person, Cinna too as he entered the car and sat down.

“Am I happy, too?” Mycroft asked. “I haven’t checked.”

“You can hang out with me and Sherlock –” John began before Sherlock shot him a dirty look.

“No he can’t,” he insisted.

“You’ve got to let the lovers have their alone time, Mycroft,” Mrs. Hudson said, and Sherlock rolled his eyes. Sherlock had no idea what was keeping him from telling her off, but he did look at Mycroft to see him bent over his food, smirking to himself.

“Yes, of course,” Mycroft said with a grin.

After dinner, Mycroft found his way to John’s room, where Sherlock was doing his homework, and John was listening to Sherlock complain about the differences between the right answers and the answers his teachers wanted. He knocked gently on the door, and John answered.

“I am in agony,” Mycroft said in lieu of an actual greeting. “Can I come in?”

“No!” Sherlock protested from his place John’s bed, but John let him in despite that. “You’re on this ride all the time – why are you bored?” he asked.

“For your information, I’m normally given paperwork to fill out about my tributes that I complete on the train. I don’t do Victory Tours – I’ve never done this; I had no idea I wouldn’t have any paperwork.”

“I’m sure you can go find yourself a cake to devour,” Sherlock said. “Or try something new; like working out. I’m sure you could get a treadmill in here; they got you in here, after all.”

“Very funny, little brother, but I thought I would do what I’ve been taught to do best and mentor John.”

“Mentor me how?” John asked, taking a step away from Mycroft. Mycroft wasn’t his mentor, anymore – he was his own mentor, now. Unless –

“Sorry – wrong choice of words. I simply wanted to make sure you knew what you’re to do during the Victory Tour.”

John relaxed, and thought about what he knew.

“I know that Mrs. Hudson’s supposed to give me cards I’m to read. Other than that...I dunno, be myself? Do what I’ve always done?”

“What about him?” Mycroft asked, glancing at Sherlock. “You have to play off of each other, now.”

“That’ll be simple enough to do,” Sherlock said. “We’ve been playing off each other for years – that's how being friends works, right?”

“Yes, but the Capitol has created an image of you, brother mine. You have to keep that image alive.”

“Alright, so John will be himself and I won’t, we get it.”

Mycroft sighed.

“What I’m trying to get at is there have been some...” he looked around the room, searching for the words. John knew where this was going – the one place he didn’t really want the conversation going that night. “...extremely false rumors that have been going around –”

“How do you know they’re false?” Sherlock asked.

“Because I know you,” Mycroft replied. “Anyway, we all got a taste of those rumors thanks to Octavia back at the Watson’s home. Do either of you have any idea as to what to do about these rumors?”

This was the first time they were discussing it – about anything having to do with it.

“Well, we exactly can’t prove them right or wrong, so...” John began.

“Just...let them think what they want to think?” Sherlock looked to John for confirmation, and John nodded, and together they looked back at Mycroft.

“You’re going to have to learn a better poker face, then – both of you,” Mycroft said. “As soon as sex is mentioned John’s face goes as red as a tomato while Sherlock looks positively terrified –”

“Sex doesn’t scare me,” Sherlock blurted out.

“Well it certainly confuses you; the moment it’s mentioned you’re lost.”

“If you’ve come to insult me you can leave; John and I can figure out what to do just fine without you –”

“Boys,” John said, and they both looked at him. “Not here. Mrs. Hudson’s right – we’re on the Victory Tour. I really don’t want to hear the two of you bickering the entire trip; I don’t need it, either. We’ll make better straight faces if anyone mentions it from now on. Is there anything else?”

Mycroft shrugged.

“Nothing I can think of. We’re stopping at District Eleven tomorrow; you’ll be meeting the families of –”

“Beth Davenport and Andrew West,” John muttered. He would never forget the names – he fell asleep to his mind counting each one off every night:

Beth Davenport, District 11.

Andrew West, District 11.

Jennifer Wilson, District 3.

Irene Adler, District 1.

Sally Donovan and Philip Anderson, District 10.

Greg Lestrade, District 5.

Victor Trevor, District 9 –

“John,” Sherlock pulled him back.

He looked back at Mycroft, and for a moment Mycroft looked concerned.

“You’ll be seeing their families tomorrow. Can you handle that?” he asked slowly, his words deliberate.


But John didn’t know, for sure. Even seeing Mary Morstan’s parents in District 12 now, six months later, made John feel like he was going to vomit on the spot, and he knew they forgave him. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like facing the families who resented him; who would never forgive him.

But he didn’t kill Beth and Andrew. The real resentment would start the day after next, in District 10, when John met Philip Anderson’s parents. And the day after that, John had to face Victor Trevor’s father.

“John?” Mycroft asked, noticing that they had lost him again.

“I need to shower. Now. Everyone get out, please.”

“John –?” Sherlock started.

“Please!” John repeated, avoiding their eyes.

It took a moment for the Holmes brothers to start moving. John sat still as they both left and closed the door behind them.

As much as he wanted the water to be so hot it boiled his skin, he knew the steam left behind would bring him back to even more panic-inducing times. Instead, he turned the cold water on, and sat in the stream of water until his body was numb.

He was wrong – Mrs. Hudson was wrong. Victory Tour or not, John was not happy. John wanted the numbness to last all throughout the tour – so he wouldn’t have to feel a thing.

For a moment, he thought back to the Morphling he was provided with when he first left the Arena – that would certainly numb him up quite well –

No. No Morphling. The Capitol had been insistent that he bring some home with him when he left, so he hid it somewhere Sherlock would never think to look, and if he did think to look there, he’d be too embarrassed to do so: in the back of John’s underwear drawer. This was the first time John had thought of the Morphling since hiding it, and he quickly banished the thought – there was no way he was turning to drugs, even if Sherlock hadn’t formed an addiction years ago. The cold water would have to do.

Sherlock knocked on John’s door. He had stayed in his room for hours – everyone apart from a few Peacekeepers and Avoxes on duty were probably asleep.

But Sherlock couldn’t sleep – not with knowing for a fact that John had never slept alone since the Games. They had tried to sleep by themselves once, when they realized the Victory Tour meant that they would be without each other for two weeks, and Sherlock stayed up, watching John’s bedroom window from his own, until John showed up at his front door at three in the morning. “I’ll probably be able to do it once I know I just can’t walk next door and find you,” John muttered once they got to Sherlock’s room, and promptly fell asleep. As soon as they knew that Sherlock would be going on the Tour with John, plans for John sleeping by himself were obliterated, until now.

Now Sherlock didn’t know what to do.

There was no answer, and so Sherlock knocked again. The door was unlocked, but he didn’t dare burst in.

“Come in,” John’s voice said from within, and Sherlock slowly opened the door. John was curled up in bed, facing away from him.

Now that Mycroft had broken the barrier between them and the subject, Sherlock wanted to ask – wanted to know – why hadn’t they had sex, yet? That’s What People Did, and they were people.

But he didn’t ask. Instead, he laid in bed beside John, facing him, but not touching.

“I’ll be there, tomorrow,” he told him.

“I know,” John replied.

“If anyone says anything to you I’ll tell them their life story and then tell them to leave you alone before I reveal the real secrets,” he promised, and he heard the exhale of breath that was John’s laugh.


Sherlock was sure that John was losing himself again. He tried to pull him back:

“What are you thinking about, John?”

Silence. Then:

“My poker face.”

The next morning, John watched as they approached District 11, trying to memorize the words on the card Mrs. Hudson gave him. The District supplied all of Panem’s crops, so it made sense the place looked like a gigantic farmland. Though it was winter, it did not snow here like it did in District Twelve. The fields of crops went on as far as John’s eyes could see – fields and fields of food and plants and trees, and people working to harvest that food.

“It’s so much,” he muttered to himself.

“Obviously – it has to feed all of Panem,” Sherlock said, appearing beside him, causing him to jump. “Sorry; I thought you heard me come in. How do I look?”

John glanced at him. They were in identical suits, but their colors were switched between the two, like how it was when they reunited in the Capitol. They looked like they were meant to be, standing next to each other; like two pieces of a puzzle. If they were to part at any time, their suits would seem weird and pointless.

“You look great,” John replied.

“I think we look stupid,” he muttered, and a smile tugged at John’s lips. So he saw it, too. “Do you remember when we were in school, and they told us this was the largest District?”

“Never thought I’d see it for myself.”

“We never thought we’d do any of the things we did to get us here,” Sherlock mumbled.

“It all seems so far away,” John said distantly, after a moment.

“What does?”

“Childhood,” John whispered, his eyes watering. He tried to keep the tears from falling down his cheeks and smudging the make up the prep team applied. “I remember when nothing ever happened to me. I want to go back there.”

“Maybe we can, one day,” Sherlock said, holding John’s hand.

“But the mentoring –”

“You’ll come back once a year for mentoring. Filling out paperwork, going through the motions. Then, after that, we’ll take a vacation, just you and me. Anywhere you want to go.”

“That’s just it, Sherlock. Everywhere I go reminds me of that place,” John said quietly.

Sherlock turned, holding John’s other hand. They faced each other, looking into each other’s eyes.

“Then we’ll find a place that doesn’t.”

Sherlock leaned in, and his lips almost touched John’s before the door opened.

“We’ll be stopping any moment, boys – Oh!” Mrs. Hudson cried, covering her mouth with both of her hands. Sherlock and John jumped away from each other in the same moment, startled by the fact that she had caught them during the intimate moment. After a second, she lowered her hands, a grin replacing her surprised expression. “Sorry for interrupting, but there will be plenty of time for that later! John’s got a speech to make!”

Right, the speech. John glanced down at his index card again, knowing that his mind was too much of a mess to remember any of it.

When Mrs. Hudson left, Sherlock looked down at John, and John looked away, back out the window, and Sherlock knew that the moment was gone. That’s all they were, really – just moments floating through time, rising and falling as quickly as a page in a book turned. There were moments where they were in some form of love, and they talked openly and shared their feelings and thoughts and secrets and didn’t mind being an item for the Capitol, because they were together, and that’s all that mattered. Then there were moments like these – where even though they were physically touching they were thousands of miles apart.

Most of the time, Sherlock tried to bring John back – telling him to ground himself; making sure John knew where he really was. But then there were times – times like these, where Sherlock let John go on his journey, remembering whatever he had remembered. Because remembering made it real, made John sure that it had absolutely happened, and Sherlock knew that. And maybe someday, John would find that he didn’t need to remember, and maybe that day would happen before his memories threatened to devour him completely. Sherlock would stay with him though, no matter what. No matter how lost John got, Sherlock would be right at his side.

The train stopped, and Mycroft opened the door again, and just like that the world was moving again.

Sherlock and John looked up at him, and all Mycroft had to do was nod for them to understand – it was time.

They got off the train, all together, and were led by Peacekeepers to District 11’s city hall. It was like a carbon copy of District Twelve, and every other District before them, probably. All the Districts had a station, had a city hall, had a place to gather, had children who died, children who were reaped, children who would never be the same again –

Inside the building, Mycroft and Mrs. Hudson introduced John to District 11’s mayor, and the victors who had won before – who would be standing on the stage with John, reminding the District that it just wasn’t their year – that they had winners, too. But John was the special one, this year – he was the one the Capitol paid attention to and paraded around Panem like a banner.

There were three victors in all; one more than District 12 – the lowest of the low, even with John. Except now, they were back to two; the victor of the Eighth Hunger Games would’ve been eighty-four this year, according to the other two victors – older men, ones that weren't far behind their fellow victor; one with a burn scar covering the side of his face, and one with a glass eye. The Games had taken something from every single one of them, John thought as he shook hands with each of them, and yet they all stood on the same stage. And this time next year, John would join Mycroft on their stage, with whoever was “fortunate” enough to win the Games this coming year. Look at us, he’d be saying to the new victor. Is this worth it? It better have been.

The men talked to Mycroft as if they were old friends – they probably were, considering they visited every year. The older man – the man with the glass eye, whose name John had forgotten already – smiled down at Sherlock as he took John’s hand.

“This must be little Sherlock –” the man said, and reached out to shake Sherlock’s unoccupied hand. “Mycroft’s told us all so much about you.”

Sherlock glared at Mycroft, setting his jaw, but making no further comment as Mycroft immediately turned to the mayor and thanked him for the hospitality.

Very shortly after their arrival, the Mayor and District 11’s victors were called out to introduce John, and a microphone was clipped to his shirt by Mrs. Hudson.

“Remember the three S’s –” she began in a whisper, picking John’s shoulders of non-existent lint, and John found himself grinning at her before she could continue. She looked at him, and returned the smile. “– Perfect.”

“I’ll be right behind you,” Sherlock promised. Normally, on one side of the doors to the Justice Building stood the past victors from the home District, and on the other stood the past victors (or victor) from the visiting District, but the Capitol had made an exception for Sherlock.

It was then he was introduced. The Peacekeepers standing on either side of the double doors opened them for him. He walked out of the doors and onto the stage, facing all of District 11, including – singled out on special platforms – the families of Beth Davenport and Andrew West.

There was something no one knew about being a victor until they themselves were a victor – something no one saw in the broadcasts: the entire ceremony was scripted. Everyone knew the victors had a card to read from, but there was never any indication that the Capitol was also putting words into the mouths of every District's mayor.

The mayor of District 11 read his words, and then John read his. For some reason, it felt as if this was only a practice run for him, and, with a realization that caused him to stumble over his words, he knew why: Beth and Andrew were both Bloodbath deaths. Neither of them made it to the final six, or even the final twelve; they narrowly made it into the final twenty. He did not know these tributes; John and Beth didn’t even look at each other, and he had only heard Andrew speak three words while sitting next to him on the ride to the Arena, and they weren’t even spoken to John directly.

Tomorrow would be more difficult – much more difficult – because he had known Sally and Philip. And, since he had allied himself with them, he had to say a few words to honor them. Yes, John thought as he was presented with a bouquet of flowers and a plaque for his victory, tomorrow was going to be significantly harder.

Chapter Text

After the dinner that John couldn’t have cared less about, he shut himself in his room as the train pulled away, and tried to write something decent for Sally Donovan and Philip Anderson:

To the families of Sally Donovan and Philip Anderson,

Well, that was a good start, John thought. Maybe he could get a middle and an ending written by the time it was the One-Hundredth Annual Hunger Games. And yet, that simple half-of-a-sentence was novels longer than anything he had said aloud about them in the past six months – more than he had said aloud about anyone in that Arena. His mind, though – he could fill oceans with what he thought about every single person who had been in there with him.

How could he ever look into the faces of Philip’s family and tell them that Philip died an honorable death when John was the one who killed him? How could he ever look into the faces of Sally’s and say the same, when her final words had been spent screaming insults in John’s face?

And suddenly, he was writing what he felt on the page: I cannot be forgiven, when there was a knock on the door.

He crumpled up the paper and turned around as Mycroft opened the door.

“Sherlock came to the conclusion that you hadn’t written your more...personal speeches, yet,” he said, and John looked down at the ball of paper in his hands.

“My god,” he whispered in false amazement, looking up at Mycroft. “He’s right.”

“You're beginning to sound like my brother,” Mycroft said, and then gestured to the paper in John’s hands with his umbrella. “May I see what you’ve got?” he asked, and John held it closer to him, defensive. “Or, you may read it...or not.”

John opened the paper, not bothering to smooth it out, and read the only part he had written that didn’t make him sound like he was losing it:

“‘To the families of Sally Donovan and Philip Anderson,’ and that’s it,” John said, crumpling the paper back up so small and tight he could hold it in a single balled fist.

“That’s a great start,” Mycroft said, sitting down at the foot of John’s bed. “If I may make a few suggestions –”

“Please,” John insisted, picking up his pencil and poising it to write on a fresh sheet of paper.

“Think of some traits they both carried, and write about that. They made it to the final twelve, didn’t they?” he asked John, and he nodded as he wrote down what Mycroft was saying. “Tell their families how brave they were for making it there.”

“What do I say to Philip’s family? I killed him.”

“Thank them,” Mycroft said.

John was confused.

“For what?”

“For Philip. Thank the Donovan’s for Sally. Thank them for the opportunity to meet them. They all know you were in the fog – they all know you didn’t have a choice –”

“But I stole their children,” John whispered. “And I lived.”

Mycroft closed his eyes and breathed in, held his breath, and then looked down at his umbrella.

“We should not be forced to carry this weight,” he mumbled, and then looked at John, continuing on as if he hadn’t spoken. “When I was on my Victory Tour, the ‘Ice Man’ returned,” he revealed, swaying his head slightly to the side as he recited his title, as if mocking it. He inhaled again, and spoke as he breathed out, holding his breath in each pause that he made: “Become. A stone. John. It’s the only way I’ve found to survive this life.”

And it all made sense, somehow, just like that – just like it had when Jim Moriarty revealed he was from the Capitol, and not from District 1 like he had everyone believe.

“You’re still the Ice Man,” John guessed. “You haven’t stopped.”

Mycroft smiled at him – a sad, tired smile.

“Don’t tell Sherlock.”

John finally exited his room in the early hours of the morning – when most people considered it to still be nighttime. Sherlock was still up, naturally, but Mycroft and Mrs. Hudson had gone to bed hours ago. When he emerged into the main car, Sherlock, who was watching the Avoxes clean, looked up at him.

“You’re done,” he guessed, and John shrugged.

“As done as I’ll ever be,” he said. “Wrote something for everyone.” He fidgeted – a nervous tic John had – crossing his arms, then deciding that wasn’t what he wanted to do and putting his hands on his hips. Finally he looked out the window, but not seeing anything due to how dark it was. “All of my alliances,” he said, trying to speak casually, but Sherlock could tell he was carefully planning every word.

Sherlock found himself nodding. “That’s good. Did Mycroft come in and help you? I told him to come in and help you.”

John crossed his arms, still avoiding Sherlock’s eyes.

“Yeah, he did; he left a little while ago –”

“I know that,” Sherlock informed him; Mycroft had come out to say goodnight to Sherlock hours ago.

“Right, of course you did.” There was a silence as Sherlock stared at John, and John looked everywhere except for at Sherlock. “Thank you,” he said finally. “For telling him to come see me. I...couldn’t have done it without him.”

John was now watching a redheaded Avox clean the dining room table – someone he had recognized from the train ride to the Capitol the last time he had made the trip there. Sherlock turned his attention to the girl – to who they should’ve been.

“You’re scared,” he told John, without looking at him.

There was silence, and Sherlock was considering turning back and making sure John was alright, but then he finally spoke.


Sherlock looked at his boyfriend, and tried to be encouraging. “You’ve only got eleven more to go,” he said, and John looked back at him. “That’s one less than you had this time yesterday. So, that’s one way to think of it.”

“Yeah,” John said, going back to looking out the window for a moment, only seeing his reflection. “Let’s...go to bed.”

As they walked to their room, Sherlock noticed it was a bad day for John’s left leg – Sherlock could tell by the severity of his limp. Normally, John would’ve taken his cane if he wanted to walk on days like this, but Sherlock knew his lack of it had less to do with not needing it, and more to do with trying to look as strong as he could.

They did not speak until they were getting ready for bed – when John was already finished and Sherlock was brushing his teeth:

“Did you mean it?” Sherlock turned around to find John sitting on the bed, looking up at Sherlock as he took off his prosthetic (a skill he had perfected over the past six months). “What you said this morning?”

“Remind me: what did I say?” Sherlock asked around a mouthful of toothpaste, looking back in the mirror. “I say a lot of things, you know.”

“That...” John eased off his prosthetic, and Sherlock only glanced back it for a moment – it was still a sight to see him without it, but Sherlock never stared in a way that John would notice. “...That... Do you really think there’s a place that doesn’t remind me of – of everything?” he asked.

“Yes, somewhere,” Sherlock replied, and rinsed his mouth and spat out the water. “This can’t be the only place there is – even if everywhere else is like the outskirts, there’s got to be something.”

“And you’ll find it?” John asked as Sherlock exited the bathroom and turned the bedroom’s light off as he passed the switch.

“We’ll find it,” Sherlock corrected him as he sat on the bed.

“And we’ll go there?” John asked, and Sherlock put his hand on John’s shoulder.

“And we’ll go there,” he promised. Sensing this was a good moment, he kissed John, and John leaned his forehead against his, signifying that it was.

“We’ll get arrested,” John whispered, and though it was probably a legitimate concern, Sherlock couldn’t help but chuckle. John smiled, too; one of his real smiles that only Sherlock ever saw anymore. “Like, so arrested,” he said, beginning to chuckle, too.

“When have we ever worried about that, really?” Sherlock asked, and John laughed a little louder, even though he probably could give him the last time he worried about that down to the exact second. “I mean, your best friend actively tries to piss off the Capitol and break as many rules as possible as an alternative for getting high – that’s me, by the way; hello –” he said, but was cut off by John’s kiss.

“Hello,” John whispered when they finally came up for air.

“Hi,” Sherlock replied, then continued his train of thought. “If they end up catching us I’ll make sure they handcuff us together. That’ll get them talking, I’m sure –” John threw his head back in laughter, something Sherlock hadn’t seen him do in a long time.

“Congratulations; you got me to forget that we were on this fucking train for more than two seconds,” John said, still smiling.

“I think that’s really why they took me with you,” Sherlock mused. “Otherwise they wouldn’t get you to sleep at night.”

John smirked and rolled his eyes.

“They think we’re not getting any sleep, anyway,” he said, as if it was the most preposterous thing he had ever heard. But – Sherlock could tell, even in the dark, only seeing John’s face by the light of the moon outside – the kisses had sparked the beginning of a response to the stimulation elsewhere.

Somewhat uncomfortable – not because of John’s mishap but because of not wanting to discuss the subject – Sherlock backed off, disguising it as simply lying on his side of the bed.

“Stupid,” he muttered. “As if that’s all there is.”

“Yeah,” John agreed, lying back as well, not touching Sherlock. “They’re all stupid; this whole thing is stupid.” After a moment, he rolled on his side to look at him. “So when we find this place...we’re going to have to make aliases for ourselves...”

“Yes, that’s right. Let’s see...” Sherlock looked up at the ceiling, thinking. “I’ll be...Sherrinford Hope,” he decided, and John laughed again – Sherlock was getting good at doing that.

“Will you? And who will I be, Mister Sherrinford Hope?”

“...Ormond Sacker,” Sherlock decided, which caused another burst of laughter from John, that faded into a yawn – his tiredness was finally taking him.

“No,” he protested, all the same.

“Too late. You asked for a name; I gave you one.”

“I don’t want that one –”

“Then pick your own name, next time,” Sherlock said, and John yawned again.

“Tell me about us,” he said upon ending the yawn.


“Tell me about the adventures of Sherrinford Hope and Ormond Sacker in the land we will find,” John said, his eyes fighting to stay open.

And so, Sherlock turned his brilliant mind to the task of thinking up a story:

“Okay, well...Ormond is a doctor – the best doctor anyone has ever seen. A real miracle worker, you could say. They’ll tell them all Ormond lost his leg in a war, and that he doesn’t like to talk about it so no one will ask. And Sherrinford...Sherrinford solves crimes. Not stupid mysteries in District Twelve like ‘oh I wonder who dropped this coin on the ground’ or figuring out which of the Peacekeepers have broken the most of the rules that they’re supposed to be enforcing. Real crimes – important crimes. And you – Ormond – will help, of course. He’d take it up as his main profession, but he wants to help heal people, too, so he only solves crimes with Sherrinford part of the time and work in the doctor’s office the other part. But it won’t be just the two of them against the world – not anymore. Because everyone there will be brilliant, like them – like us. And even if they’re not that’s alright, because they’re probably loads better than the people here. And they’ll like us – I mean, they’ll like me; everyone already likes you, I have no doubt you’ll win their affection there, too. And...” he looked at John. “...someday the nightmares will stop. Because you won’t be reminded of here at all – the place we’ll go will be nothing like where we are now. And everyone will stop asking us about our private lives because we’ll be just regular people, like them – we’ll have privacy again. And we’ll get married when we’re good and ready and not when the Capitol wants us to – because they will tell us to, inevitably – and we’ll be happy.” He whispered the words again as he too began to drift away, as if saying it again would make it the truth: “We’ll be happy.”

Any happiness John felt the night before was gone by the time he awoke the next day. He looked out the window and noticed that it was the crack of dawn – how long had he slept? Three hours, at the most?

Careful not to wake up Sherlock, he maneuvered himself into a sitting position and put on his prosthetic – an act that was now becoming as simple and automatic as breathing, and he hated himself for it. He felt like this was something he wouldn’t be able to get used to, like he wouldn’t forget what it was like to live with both legs intact, but he was, and surprisingly fast.

He approached the desk in his room, where five envelopes lay, with John’s messy scrawl on the front of each of them:

Greg Lestrade, 6

Molly Hooper, 8

Victor Trevor, 9

Sally Donovan and Philip Anderson, 10

Mary Morstan, 12

He had wanted to write two separate speeches for Sally and Philip, but Mycroft had advised him against it. Sally and Philip had been paired off together, even in death, with one trying to avenge the other; they’d want to be paired off now, too, surely. Because that’s how people were – grouped, even in death. Sally and Philip, Greg included now and again, always in John’s mind. John and Mary; John and Harry. Sherlock and Mycroft. Mycroft and Mrs. Hudson and Cinna. John and Moriarty –

John shook his head and looked at who he was paired up with now, still asleep in his bed: Sherlock Holmes.

“You’re a freak, and so is your freak-ass boyfriend – And you’re never going home – over my dead body –”

John shook his head again. He had. He had made it home, directly over Sally Donovan’s body. And God did he hate himself for it.

I did what I had to, he tried to think, but in his head that just made him sound like a Career – heartless, as if no one in that Arena mattered.

“People die all the time, Johnny boy; that’s what people do,” a voice in his head – Moriarty’s voice – reminded him. He didn’t tell anyone that Moriarty paid him daily visits in his mind – mostly repeating things he had said during the finale, but other times just reminding him that he’s earned this – this feeling of helplessness.

“Staying alive... It’s so boring, isn’t it? Just...staying...”

No, it wasn’t boring. Staying alive was hell.

Chapter Text

Surprisingly, Mycroft’s advice worked, as long as “become a stone” meant checking out for a few minutes, thinking about absolutely nothing, and just reading what was on the cards and papers as if they were simple history books – as if the words written on the page were not stringed together in a way that held any meaning. John hated himself for becoming the stone – for taking himself out of his own mind so he wouldn’t start crying (or worse) at the microphone, but with the way Sherlock and Mycroft smiled at him it seemed his mental trip went unnoticed. He never once looked up from the page, never once looking at Sally’s little sister, or Philip’s little brother. He still hoped with all of his might that they would never have to follow in their sibling’s footsteps – maybe they could live the lives Sally and Philip never had the chance to – the lives John took away from them both.

The following day was the Tour’s stop in District Nine. John may have dozed for about an hour in all, and when he realized there was no more point in trying to sleep, he got up and discovered his hands were trembling with nerves. Sherlock noticed that immediately.

“Ground yourself, John. You’re okay,” he said, holding John’s shaking hands in his, even as John shook his head. “Yes, you are. Come on, ground yourself.”

John leaned into Sherlock, resting his forehead on his boyfriend’s shoulder.

“My name is John Watson. I am eighteen years old. I am on this train, on my way to District Nine. It’s five...” he trailed off, unsure.

“Fifty-nine,” Sherlock supplied, and John repeated it.

“...Fifty-nine in the morning.” He looked up. “That means –”

And, as if on cue, Mrs. Hudson burst through the bedroom door, and the world was not theirs anymore.

Sherlock refused to leave John’s side that morning. John probably thought it was unnecessary, but Sherlock didn’t care. It seemed to help, anyway, being able to see Sherlock out of his peripheral at all times. And, of course, it kept Sherlock a bit calmer, as well. There was no painfully agonizing moments of waiting for John to get out of prep, wondering what was taking so long or what they were talking about (he still didn’t completely trust Octavia after the “fill in” mishap Sherlock still didn’t completely understand back at District Twelve). No one seemed too put off by the idea, either, which made Sherlock feel loads better about making the request in the first place. Cinna and Portia talked while all six members of both pep teams talked – there was just a lot of talking, but John seemed to be okay with that, today. Perhaps it distracted him from what he had to do.

Two things stayed by John’s side throughout the morning: Sherlock, and an envelope marked Victor Trevor, 9. That was the cause for most of John’s anxiety, and Sherlock was fully aware of that fact. Victor Trevor had been John’s first kill, and not only that but the death that had affected John the most out of all of them. Sherlock knew John hated himself for killing anyone in that Arena, but he hated himself for killing Victor the very most. And now, John had to face Victor’s family and friends and talk about how happy he was that he survived.

They walked hand-in-hand to District 9’s Justice Building, and Sherlock could feel himself dreading the moment he would have to leave John’s side – it creeping into his heart. Sure, when John would be making his speech Sherlock would be a mere ten feet from him, but he wished to be there with him – with no distance or walls that John put up between them.

“How are you –” Sherlock began, but John shook his head.

“Don’t ask me that.”

There were three previous victors from District Nine to meet them – five in all, but two of them had passed. One was in his early forties, with a few missing fingers and nightmares that still haunted him every night; the second one was in her late twenties, her hair cropped short since her waist-long hair almost cost the woman her life in her Arena; the third one, though, was only a year older than John – last year’s winner of the Games, Sherlock realized moments before Mycroft introduced them.

“John, this is Louise Neal; the victor of last year’s Games,” he said, placing his hand on the shoulder of the girl with the dark, jaw-line length curly hair, an eyebrow piercing, and tattooed freckles just under her eyes. “Louise, this is John Watson,” he went on, as she put out her hand, flashing a smile at him.

“Hi, John,” she said as John shook her hand.

“I remember you,” he muttered in lieu of a response, but then corrected himself. “Sorry – hi.”

“And you must be Sherlock Holmes,” she said, turning to Sherlock.

“Hullo,” Sherlock replied as she turned back to John.

“It’s great to finally meet you. Most of the newest victors feel comfortable talking to the previous year’s victor about mentoring duties and such; for you, that’s me. I know you’ve got Mycroft, but just in case you can’t find him, you know who to ask for.”

“Sometimes it’s easier for the victors to speak to someone who was in their shoes not too long ago,” Mycroft explained to John. “Or, in my case, doesn’t have a victor from their own District to mentor them.”

“You’re lucky you’ve got Mycroft – he takes all the newbies under his wing when they first come in, no matter where they’re from. When you get to District Four you’ll meet his mentor, Dean Bainbridge – they’re best pals, you’ll see.”

“District Four?” Sherlock repeated, and looked up at his brother. “That’s a Career District.”

“I’ve found Dean is unlike most of the Career tributes,” Mycroft informed him. “Not to mention the fact that I didn’t have much a choice, either way.”

It was then Sherlock noticed John wasn’t paying attention – he was looking between the three victors, as if trying to read them. Sherlock squeezed John’s hand, and found that John wasn’t even focused enough to return the action. Sherlock was about to whisper John’s name – tear him from his flashbacks – but then it hit him: these victors were not only victors – they were mentors, and not just that but Victor Trevor’s mentors. John was trying to deduce them; trying to figure out if he was forgiven – if they were angry – if they blamed him –

John only stopped trying to read the previous victors once they left for the stage with the mayor of District 9. He fought for his thoughts – for rational thinking –

“Become a stone, John. It’s the only way I’ve found to survive this life.”

He barely registered Sherlock letting go of his hand, or the microphone being clipped onto his chest, or doors opening before him –

Become a stone. Become a stone.

But there was one thought that kept cutting through, and that was what John thought about as he walked onto the stage:

“We should not be forced to carry this weight.”

As the mayor gave his speech, John chanced a glance into the crowd. On Jeanette Chaplin’s podium stood her family – her mother and father and a small army of children, all of them younger than fifteen, which was how old Jeanette was, John found himself remembering. He only looked at the other podium with his peripheral; he could not look at the picture of the boy it represented, or the man who had no family left because of him –


John snapped his head over to the mayor, and found everyone was quiet, staring – waiting for him. As he fumbled for his Capitol-issued index card, he was for once glad he could not see Mycroft’s expression. As John felt the heat of embarrassment inch its way up his neck and spread across his face, he rushed through his speech.

I need to get out, his mind chanted. I need to get out.

“We should not be forced to carry this weight.”

– need to get out –

John rushed through the speech, stumbling and stuttering over his words, just needing to say them in order to finish and go somewhere to keep the entire world away from him for five seconds –

The Capitol’s speech was over, and he quickly opened the envelope that contained Victor’s speech – wanting to get it over with before he lost all of the little strength he had to just stand there and speak –

He glanced up at the boy’s podium in a lapse of judgement, and he met the man’s eyes – the eyes of Victor Trevor’s father – and could not become the stone he wanted so desperately to be. He couldn’t be anything – he just stopped everything and stared at him for a moment, his mind miles away from his body:


“Victor – Jesus – I’m sorry – I’m so sorry –”

“It’s coming from over here!”

“Victor we have to get up we’ve got to move now –”

“John – go –”

“No no no – I can fix this – please get up – Victor –”


“Victor, I –”


He barely registered the papers in his hands dropping to the ground. Just when he realized this, before he could do anything else, the words were spilling out of his mouth. He could not stop them; they all jumbled together, like they were being pushed out of him:

“I thought he was Moran.”

It took a moment for John to realize he had spoken at all – maybe if he hadn’t seen the shocked and confused faces in the crowd, he wouldn’t have even noticed. There was no way to undo what he did, so he dug his hole deeper; repeating it louder, speaking directly to Mr. Trevor:

“I thought...he was Sebastian Moran. I was scared, and I panicked. If I had paid attention – if I had thought for two seconds – I wouldn’t have done what I did. Victor Trevor...was kind, and loyal, and he was always smiling; I always admired him for that. Even despite the circumstances he was friendly to everyone; I found myself wishing we could’ve met outside of the Games, so we could be friends. Real friends, ones that know each other for years and not just a week before...” He took a shaky breath, and continued. “Not a day passes where he doesn’t cross my mind. Even on my way into this District I thought of him; to be honest, I saw him in the grain. He was bright, and beautiful, and full of life. And I’m sorry I took that away from him. I’m sorry that was taken away from him at all, but even more so that I was the one who took it.” He was crying now, but he pushed himself on. “He was forgiving in the end – and that’s not just wishful thinking; I don’t think anyone can forgive me for what I’ve done, even if that’s just outliving their child or sibling or friend... But I really think he forgave me.” He didn’t feel like that was enough – there had to be more he could do – “I...I want to give a month of my winnings to you, every year for as long as I live. I want to do the same for the families of Greg Lestrade, Sally Donovan, Philip Anderson, Molly Hooper, and Mary Morstan.” Their names flowed out of his mouth – the easiest he had ever said them. “These are the lives that have touched me the most; I will never forget a single person in that Arena, but these six people weren’t just my allies – they were my friends, probably some of the greatest friends I’ve ever had. I know it can never replace what I took away from you, but I hope you know how much sorry I am. They were all amazing people. They deserved so much more.”

There was a silence, as everyone stared at John, positively shocked at what he had done. No one had ever offered any of their winnings to anyone before – John wasn’t even sure if it was allowed, but he didn’t care. John and his family could definitely survive without half a year’s winnings; they had lived without winnings at all for so long, anyway. In fact, John’s family was still forgetting that they didn’t have to use everything as sparingly as before, even six months later. A month of winnings could feed a family for a year if they were anywhere near as sparing as they probably have been for all of their lives.

He didn’t know what was keeping him on the stage until he realized what he was looking at: Victor’s father. He was waiting for a response, some sign of forgiveness – anything –

And then it came: Mr. Trevor held three fingers to his mouth, kissed the tips, and raised his hand into the air – the same thing Greg had done to honor the dead – the same thing Sherlock had done to honor John when he was reaped. Mr. Trevor nodded, and John found his voice again.

“Thank you,” he said into the microphone, the last of his tears falling down his face, and he left the stage.

As soon as the doors were closed Sherlock took John into his arms, and held him for what seemed like an eternity. There were no words spoken – John knew that Sherlock knew there was nothing he could possibly say to make him feel any better. As soon as Sherlock let go he was enveloped in Mycroft’s arms, and he was whispering into John’s ear.

“I am so proud of you.” And then, a single beat later, his whole demeanor changed. “Never apologize for living through the Games; that’s not what the Capitol wants to see. Do you understand me?”

It took a moment for John to get over the shock of Mycroft’s tone going from so heartfelt to terribly dangerous.

“Am I in trouble?” John asked.

“You shouldn’t be. If President Snow wants to refuse your request I’ll speak to him,” Mycroft promised, and he let go of John, revealing Louise Neal wiping her eyes, watching him. A thousand years ago, he might’ve made a joke about how he normally doesn’t make girls cry upon their first meeting, but he was nowhere near the person he was then – he wasn’t even sure the person he used to be would recognize the person he was, now.

Louise spread open her arms, waving John in.

“Come on,” she said, as if she was letting a guard down – perhaps she was, John thought as he hugged her. The hug lasted for only a few seconds, and then she held him at arm’s length. “I only knew him for as long as you did, but he would’ve wanted you to win, out of everyone,” she said quietly, and John found himself nodding.

“Thank you,” John whispered.

“He’d also want you to forgive yourself,” Louise replied, and then, with a half-smile, she was gone, and they were all being whisked away to the dinner that John really did not want to attend.

Chapter Text

There wasn’t a day that was harder than Victor’s. John followed Mycroft’s orders: he did not apologize for winning, or even living longer than the people he was talking about. In District 8, he spoke of how young Molly was, and how brave she had been for making it farther than any twelve-year-old had in a long while. District 7 was as easy as it could be – John had never spoken to either Paul Dimmock or Lucy Harrison. District 7 had the highest amount of victors out of the nine outer Districts – seven victors in all, six of them still alive. District 7 held the oldest of victors – Beatrice Reeves, who won the Eleventh Hunger Games when she was 17 years old, Mycroft told them – who was now eighty-one years old, blind, senile, and using a wheelchair in her old age.

“Beatrice is one of the nicest victors you’ll ever find,” Mycroft had said.

“You’re too sweet, Myc,” the old woman said as he kissed her hand.

“Myc? Really?” Sherlock asked, and Mycroft glared at his brother and shushed him immediately.

Beatrice sat up considerably at the sound of Sherlock’s voice.

“Is this little Sherly?” she asked, reaching out towards Sherlock. “Myc’s told me all about you – you’re such a peach! How old are you, now?”

“He’s eighteen, Nana,” Mycroft said as Sherlock shook her hand, muttering a half-hearted correction of his name, red in the face.

“Right! Yes, yes – where’s your other one? Johnathan?” she asked, and John stepped forward.

“Right here, ma’am,” he said, and she smiled up at him. “It’s an honor to meet you, Mrs. Reeves,” John said, and she waved him off.

“Call me Nana, dear; everyone does,” she said, and they shook hands. “Oh, dear – your heart is so big.” She looked up at him – directly into his face, despite the milky film over her blind eyes. “What are you doing here? How did you win with a heart so big?”

It took all of the effort John had not to rip his hand out of hers.

After leaving District 7, the train stopped for fuel at dusk. Since District 7 was farther north than even District 12 was, the District saw snow, as opposed to Districts 11, 10, and 9, who did not. The other Districts also got snow, but never the amount that Districts 12 and 7 did.

Sherlock knew where they would be when they woke up the next day: District 6, home of two things Sherlock and John both dreaded. For John, he would have to face Greg Lestrade’s broken family; for Sherlock, he would have to see the four surviving victors from the District – which everyone knew were victims of the Morphling addictions they started once they won – he had to look into the face of what he was so close to becoming, if it wasn’t for John. John sat at the window, watching the snow fall outside, and Sherlock knew John was thinking of tomorrow – of Greg. John had really opened himself up and let two people in while he was in the Capitol and the Arena, and those two people were Victor Trevor and Greg Lestrade. Sherlock didn’t blame him; Victor brightened everything he touched, and Greg had reached out to John when no one else would.

He watched John – he was losing him; John was losing sight of where he was.

John needed grounding.

Sherlock walked up to his boyfriend. “Hey,” he said quietly, and it took a moment for John to look up – for him to realize Sherlock was speaking to him. “Let’s go for a walk.”

John looked back out the window.

“I’d rather not,” he said, and Sherlock rolled his eyes and crossed his arms – like a child in the beginning stages of a tantrum.

“Come on, John, I’m –”

“Bored?” John asked, looking up at Sherlock, his eyes dark with a feeling Sherlock couldn’t put his finger on. Annoyance? Anger? Fear? “Are you bored, Sherlock?”

Fear – definitely fear. Because those weren’t just Sherlock’s words, anymore; they were Jim Moriarty’s, too.

“We need to get some fresh air,” Sherlock said, and John finally shrugged and stood up, his bad leg quivering. “Do you want your cane?”

“No,” John said, yet held his arm out for Sherlock to link his arm with.

Every Peacekeeper they ran into warned them not to go too far away from the train, and Sherlock assured them that they wouldn’t with increasing annoyance. Of course, everything in Sherlock’s being wanted to take John as far away from the train as they could possibly go, but it was too cold, too dark, and John was too under the Capitol’s eye.

And so they both walked, leaving their footprints in the previously untouched snow. It wasn’t long before John was pointing out the red of cardinals in their reserved world covered in long shadows and snow. Sherlock generally hated small talk, but if it meant that John wasn’t shutting himself down, then he could make as much idle chit-chat as he wanted.

Once they were far enough away from the train, John spoke of other things. “I know what you’re doing, by the way,” he said quietly.

“I know you do,” Sherlock replied. “I never said you were an idiot.”

“Yes you have,” John said, and Sherlock glanced over to see John smiling, shaking his head. “Thank you, though. Really. This has been – this has been rough.”

“I know it has. You’ve barely slept.”

“I’m turning into you,” John chuckled.

“Please don’t,” Sherlock deadpanned, and John stopped, looking back at the train.

“What if we just ran?” he asked, quietly, as if sharing a secret.

“They’d find us,” Sherlock whispered, letting the wind carry his voice to John’s ears. “And you’ve got Harry and your parents to worry about. And I’ve got Mycroft,” he said, louder.

John sighed, defeated. “I don’t want to go back,” he murmured, and Sherlock wrapped him in his arms.

“You’re almost done.”

“No I’m not,” John whispered, and Sherlock let go to get a better look at him, tilting his head to the side, confused. “It doesn’t even feel like I’ve left.”

“Do you need –”

“No, it’s not like that – I know where I am. But it doesn’t feel like anything’s changed – I’m still being watched by the Capitol, I’m still doing things I never wanted to do, I’m still always thinking about who I’ve outlived –”

In desperation, trying to distract him, Sherlock pressed his lips to John’s, and John pushed him away. They stood, staring at each other – Sherlock devastated, and John fearful, shaking his head.

“,” he whispered. “Not now.”

“I’m sorry,” Sherlock whispered back, and John nodded.

“It’s fine – just, not now.”

There had been times where Sherlock had been rejected before – not even rejected, it was just that John had declined Sherlock’s offers of affection – but there wasn’t a time that had hurt this badly.

“I’m sorry,” Sherlock said again, and John hugged him.

It was always hard for Sherlock when John was lost like this – lost within his own head. It was probably even harder for John, and Sherlock always kept that in mind; Sherlock’s pain was irrelevant – this wasn’t about him. This was about John, and it would only ever be about John.

“We should go back,” John said quietly after a few moments, and Sherlock nodded.

They walked, hand in hand, back to the train. They did not speak until they were in the clearing, and John pointed ahead. “Look,” he said quietly.

Mycroft Holmes stood at the side of the train, under the lights of the fuel shed, smoking a cigarette, watching the snow falling in the distance.

The winters were always difficult for Mycroft; John could at least get away from his Arena, but Mycroft’s Arena came to him every year. Mycroft did a good job of hiding his flashbacks, but Sherlock had learned one thing over the years: Mycroft only smoked when his mind got to be too much.

Mycroft needed grounding, too, and Sherlock knew just how to do that.

“Watch this,” he said to John, and picked up a handful of snow.

Sherlock approached his brother, creeping quietly, cupping the snow in his hand into a round shape.

When he was almost on top of him, he stood up straight, throwing the snowball, but in the same instant Mycroft spun around, opening the umbrella in his hand and using it as a shield. The snow hit the top of the umbrella, and Mycroft closed the umbrella, looking down at Sherlock.

Sherlock smiled up at him, sheepishly, as if he had just gotten caught with his hand in a cookie jar.

“You should not have done that,” Mycroft warned, and Sherlock was reminded of the fact that his brother had once killed others – had the reflexes of a whip.

With that, Sherlock knew it was the end of the moment, and Mycroft was fully prepared to turn away, finish his cigarette, and go back into the train.

And then, a different snowball blew past Sherlock and knocked Mycroft’s hat right off of his head. Sherlock turned and found John already scooping up snow for the next attack.

He then turned back to Mycroft, smiling, and was met with a snowball in his face (courtesy of Mycroft).

A game began – for a while it was the two of them verses Mycroft, throwing and dodging snow, hitting the train and the trees and each other, racing around in the dim light and laughing. Then it became every man for himself, hiding behind trees and sneaking up on the other two players.

It was a game – a real game, not like the Games they were all done playing.

Who knows how long later, Mrs. Hudson called the boys back onto the train. As they approached, covered in snow, red in the face and laughing, they could tell she was disappointed.

“You’re making us late, all three of you!” she cried. “I didn’t think you of all people would participate in such behavior,” she said as Mycroft passed her.

“What can I say?” Mycroft said, brushing snow off of his jacket. “My brother brings out the best in me.”

John did not know what helped him, whether it was the snowball fight Sherlock had initiated the night before, or fact that he knew Greg Lestrade never planned to win the Hunger Games, or some combination of the two, but somehow it was easier for him to get through Greg’s speech in District 6:

“Gregory Lestrade came to me during our training sessions, and took me under his wing. He introduced me to Sally Donovan and Philip Anderson – my main alliance while in the Games; the Underdog Alliance, as I've been told we were called. I am forever indebted to Greg, because of this; without his kindness, I would not be alive. In the Arena, he told me something that changed everything: Greg did not plan to live. When I was reaped, I thought it was a death sentence. For Greg, it definitely was...and he was at peace with that. He said goodbye to his family and friends and let the Arena take him. For this reason, I believe that Greg Lestrade was the bravest tribute in the Arena, for he chose to lose – which is something I’m sure that no tribute in the Hunger Games has ever done, not from the start, at least. We were all so obsessed with winning that we lost ourselves; even me. But Greg remained true to himself up until the final moment. He was not afraid of death like the rest of us were – he just waited for his life to end, while we all fought amongst ourselves for our next breath. And that’s the bravest thing I’ve ever seen anyone do – just wait and not be afraid of death. Greg Lestrade did not want to be remembered; did not want to be special. But he is special, and he will always be remembered in our hearts, especially in those he mattered to the most. We will carry his spirit with us – his humility, his bravery, his kindness to others. There needs to be more people like Greg Lestrade in this world, and I hope I am blessed with the fortune to meet them.”

And that was the end of the difficult speeches, for now. Districts 5, 4, 3, and 2 held no difficult people. Not even District 1 – the false home of Jim Moriarty – held anyone that difficult. Sure, John would have to say something about his opponent in the end, but given the fact that there wasn’t a person John hated more than Jim, John didn’t care.

As the train made the travel south, John and Sherlock were treated to the idea of spring – everything wet from the melting snow, and the new flowers blooming through the dampened ground. Of course District 12 had seen spring, but this was somehow different for them – being in the cold for so long and getting a private taste of what was going to come to their District over the following months.

The Victory Tour was actually beginning to feel victorious – like the vacation Mrs. Hudson always said it should’ve felt like.

Sherlock and John spent most of their train rides cuddling in bed, creating silly word games for themselves to pass the time. Sometimes, Mycroft would interrupt, which would lead to them pushing each other across the bed as if them touching each other so intimately was a secret and not something the entire country expected of them, but Sherlock’s brother was always welcome despite that. Together, the three of them spoke as if they were not on the train – as if the horrors that had happened to John and Mycroft in the past had never transpired.

Sherlock and John also took advantage of every fuel stop the train made – getting off and exploring the area, until a peacekeeper yelled at them to come back. They basked in the feeling the new season gave them – everything renewed, like the world was shedding its skin. Mrs. Hudson nearly cried when she witnessed Sherlock presenting John with one of the newly-bloomed flowers. This embarrassed the hell out of both of them, but they quickly recovered, based on the kiss they shared immediately after.

In District Four, Sherlock and John met Dean Bainbridge – the man who had helped Mycroft through his first year of mentoring.

There were ten total victors from District 4, but eight of them were alive – but one of the victors had gotten permission from the Capitol to stay home sick, not wanting to spread around whatever he had contracted. Still, it was easy to tell which one was Dean. The dark-skinned man looked only a year older than Mycroft, which was Sherlock’s first clue. The second clue was the fact that, while the rest of District 4’s victors kept their distance from the District 12 arrivals, Dean strode up directly to the group upon entering the room, smiling the entire way. Sherlock’s deduction was confirmed when Mycroft, a man who despised the Career Districts almost as much as Sherlock, opened his arms and allowed Dean to hug him.

“Mycroft,” he said as he went in for the hug, patting Mycroft’s back.

“Hello, Dean,” Mycroft replied, smiling.

“Let me look at you,” he said, pulling Mycroft back and holding him at arm’s length – one hand behind Mycroft’s neck, the other on his side; as if they were about to dance. He pursed his lips as he looked his friend over. “Age does not touch you,” he decided, hugging Mycroft again, and Sherlock realized why Mycroft had warmed up to him, in the beginning – he spoke and acted just like his brother.

“It’s been six months, my friend,” Mycroft reminded him, as they finally stopped embracing. Dean kept his hand on Mycroft’s shoulder. Sherlock noticed something he had never seen before. Mycroft always put himself above anyone and everyone who dared think they were more important than him. It didn’t matter who it was; Sherlock had never seen him interact with President Snow, but he was sure that Mycroft would make the effort to make Snow aware that he was the one to be respected. There was only one person he didn’t do this with, and that was John, and that was only because of what he had done for Sherlock. That was, until now. Mycroft viewed John as his equal, which was the closest Sherlock had ever seen to him holding his esteem anywhere near another person’s, but with Dean was as if Mycroft was slightly – marginally – submissive to him. Not in any notable way – it was all in the body language between the two of them. Dean had mentored Mycroft almost nine years ago, and Mycroft still held himself in the highest of respects, but it seemed as if Mycroft looked up to him, as opposed to down on him, like he did with just about everyone he met.

“Six months can do a lot to a person,” Dean countered, patting Mycroft’s shoulder. “Speaking of which,” he said, and finally turned to John, shaking his hand. “John Watson – victor of the Seventy-Fourth Hunger Games. Congratulations.”

It was then that John realized that he had never heard that word spoken from another victor. In fact, no victor John had met over the course of the victory tour had traded a congratulatory word with him, until now. And John knew exactly why – there was a secret, kept between most of the victors, one that didn’t need telling: there was no reason to congratulate a victor of the Hunger Games.

No wonder – the word dropped a weight into John’s stomach, and a sour taste filled his mouth.

“John, this is Dean Bainbridge: the person who won the Hunger Games the year before I did.”

“Pleasure to meet you – thank you,” John finally choked out, and Sherlock squeezed his hand.

Great – his discomfort was obvious, then.

“He doesn’t mean it,” Mycroft said quietly to John, and John nodded quickly.

“And this is my brother, Sherlock,” Mycroft said, and Dean turned to Sherlock.

“The great Sherlock Holmes,” Dean said, shaking Sherlock’s free hand. “It’s about time you introduced me to the family; you met Steven years ago,” he joked.

“Yes, but Sherlock’s not exactly what one would call a people-person. If the Capitol hadn't wanted a Johnlock update, he would've happily stayed at home.”

But that wasn’t the reason Mycroft hadn’t introduced Sherlock to any other victor until now, and Sherlock knew it. The real reason was much deeper than that: Mycroft didn’t want to expose Sherlock to the Games more than he had to. But John was in it now, which dragged Sherlock so far in he couldn’t stay out.

“He seems to be doing well enough,” Dean said.

“I’m right here,” Sherlock reminded them, crossing his arms and glaring at them.

“Sorry,” Mycroft said, and glanced at the group of six victors across the room, speaking to only each other and watching them. “It's a shame Mr. Waters couldn't make it; what was it he had, again?”

“Acute bronchitis,” Dean replied, and Mycroft made a face. “He sends his best to John, though.”

“Of course,” Mycroft nodded. “It’s just a shame; I had wanted John to meet him –”

 “Do they normally do this?” John asked, distracted, still watching the other victors watch him. “Just stare and whisper at each other?”

“Who, them?” Dean replied. “During the Victory Tour? Sadly, yes. Career victors tend to put District above basic human decency, but at least we have a chance of warming up to you; you’ll be lucky if anyone from Districts One and Two even looks at you.”

“Antonia might,” Mycroft mused. “She’, somewhat.”

“What does that mean?” John asked.

“She’s unpredictable,” Sherlock guessed, and Dean nodded.

“She has good days and not-so-good days,” Mycroft explained.

“More like good days and days where you need a bomb shelter to hide from her,” Dean said, and glanced over John. “She’s from District Two. Killed her last five opponents at once a few years back. She’s alright, just has problems, like the rest of us,” he explained.

“You probably won’t have to worry about her, though,” Mycroft said. “It’s like Dean said: Career victors don’t really stray from the pack, unless they're needed to.”

Mycroft and Dean Bainbridge were wrong about Antonia; the day after visiting District 3, John and his team went from District 2 to District 1 in one day, and no one spoke to any of them. John was glad for that, though – he really didn’t care about any of the Career victors. Not to mention the fact he didn’t feel like socializing much, anyway.

The Career Districts had almost-staggering amounts of victors – more than some Districts’ victors put together. Districts 1 and 4 were tied at ten victors in all and eight living victors. District 2, however, had the most victors in all of Panem: twelve victors in all, five of which were still alive. Since District 2’s main export was military, everyone always seemed ready to fight with one another, or try to win a life-threatening bet; to prove their dominance over the others.

To combat the awkwardness of the split room of District 2 verses District 12, Mycroft spoke of the lost victors, of how they won the Games before losing their lives over something far more trivial.

“Cal Sholto was set on fire by his last two opponents,” he explained. “He killed them both while he was still aflame. He had a scar that covered his face, and he never spoke again after that. Three years after he won, he and the newest victor – Rodger Stem – played a game of chicken. And they both lost.”

John knew about that game – the boys at school used to play it when they were younger. John had even played once; he didn’t blink when the punch was thrown. But that’s all it was – false punches with nothing behind it. They were never deadly.

But this, John was realizing, was an entirely different playing field. After the Hunger Games, everything was.

Chapter Text

 For the first time ever, John was glad to be in the Capitol. They arrived the night of the tour’s stops in Districts 1 and 2, practically falling into their beds. The next morning, Sherlock and John were woken early to be prepped for the victor’s check-in interview with Caesar Flickerman.

“What’s the protocol for today?” John asked Mycroft as cover-up was applied to the shadows under his eyes.

“Just be yourself. They’re looking for a Johnlock update more than anything so just tell everyone how well you and Sherlock are doing. Sherlock?” Sherlock, who was letting someone apply lip gloss with a brush, raised an eyebrow in acknowledgement. “Have you given thought to what we discussed?”

The member of the prep team who was working on Sherlock’s face stepped back, giving him a moment to reply before moving in to touch up on the eyeshadow on his right eyelid.


“And?” Mycroft asked.


“Sherlock –” Mycroft began in a warning tone.

“It’s been six months, Mycroft.”

“They –”

“They can wait!” Sherlock all but shouted, turning to his brother, one eye done and the other untouched, which would’ve looked funny if it wasn’t for the icy glare he was giving him. “John needs time, and if they won’t give it to him I will,” he said with a tone of finality, turning back to the woman on his prep team so she could finish his other eye.

“Of course, time is something of which we don’t have an infinite supply...” Mycroft mumbled, and Sherlock replied by flipping him off.

“Sherlock, we all know I’m the smart one –”

“Yes, as you never cease to announce,” Sherlock spoke over him, rolling his eyes.

“And that is why I suggested –”

“Then let me be an idiot, would you?” Sherlock asked, wearily. He closed his eyes for his make-up artist. “Let me be an idiot and let me refuse this,” he begged quietly.

“Sherlock?” John asked, and, at the sound of John’s voice, Sherlock locked his jaw.

“Don’t ask,” he ordered. “Please. Just...don’t.”

John looked up at Mycroft, and Mycroft shook his head. He was only willing to let it go because of the fact that John and Sherlock had an interview with Caesar to do; John didn’t really feel like holding the tension of Sherlock and Mycroft keeping secrets from him when he was supposed to be acting one-hundred-and-ten-percent head-over-heels totally-in-love with Sherlock for the Capitol.

It was so weird for John, being back in the Capitol. He had walked the corridors of the Training Center so many times, but never with Sherlock holding his hand, never so confident that he was not going to die there, or to be brought to a place where he was going to die. And, for the first time, he did not feel the desire to leave his body – to think of other things while he went through the motions of doing whatever the Capitol wanted him to. Of course, this did not take away his desire to leave the Capitol as soon as possible.

Sherlock also wanted to go home – John could tell by the way he wouldn’t stop fidgeting. While they were stood off-stage, hand in hand, waiting for Caesar Flickerman to call them forward, Sherlock swayed back and forth, switching the weight between his feet, staring straight ahead. It almost looked as if he was dancing with nerves. John squeezed Sherlock’s hand, and Sherlock snapped out of his trance, looking down at John.

“You alright?” John asked, a smile playing at his lips.

“Fine,” Sherlock said quickly – too quickly, but that was alright. John knew that he was alright; he was just nervous, though he’d never admit it. “You – how about you – are you okay?”

“I’m good,” John assured him, and Caesar called them out.

The crowd went crazy with affection for them, cheering for John and for Johnlock – everyone was quite aware that Sherlock was only there because John was. They were delighted to see Sherlock and John holding each other’s hands, of course, but John couldn’t help but think of the fact that everyone thought they were having sex. Sherlock was probably also thinking about that, because while John was waving to the audience, he let go of John’s hand to place it in John’s furthest back pocket. This earned an extra few whoops and whistles from the crowd, but John was trying to hold back laughter at how uncharacteristic this was for Sherlock.

Yet the feeling was somehow familiar –

“Is that a knife in your pocket, John, or are you just happy to see me?”

And for a moment, John was back in the Arena, on his stomach, while Jim Moriarty grabbed his ass, pulling John’s knife out of his back pocket, ready to plunge it into his shoulder –

No. John had to keep himself together – ground himself.

His name was John Watson. He was eighteen years old.

He was not in the Arena. He was in the Capitol, on Caesar Flickerman’s stage. It was mid-day.

Feeling as if reaching through an atmosphere made of gelatin, John pushed past the memory and pulled Sherlock’s hand out of his pocket. John looked up at him, finding Sherlock smiling sheepishly, apologetically, blushing. John smiled back – a condescending smile, as if to say “not here, Sherlock – we’re in public.” He then stopped walking toward Caesar, took both of Sherlock’s hands in his, and kissed his boyfriend deeply, in front of everyone in the Capitol. The audience went wild with applause, and Sherlock deepened the kiss, his tongue pushing itself into John’s mouth. Feeling the heat on his own face, John figured he was probably as red as a cherry from all of the blushing. They were making out, quite passionately, in public – on national television – but John followed Sherlock’s lead; the audience was loving it, anyhow.

For the second time since John’s win, Caesar interrupted the two boys kissing on his stage, claiming they needed to “leave some things to the imagination,” even though they had basically seen everything Sherlock and John had ever done, apart from one (or both) of them developing an embarrassing erection they both tried to ignore at all costs. John was glad neither of them had gotten that excited – then perhaps the Capitol would expect them to have sex right there on stage.

The interview went quite nicely after that. The conversation was carried mostly by Caesar and John, since John was the victor, and thankfully, sex was not mentioned again. For Sherlock, it was almost enjoyable.

After the interview, Sherlock and John and the team were whisked away to President Snow’s mansion for the Capitol’s Victory Tour banquet and party.

Sherlock did not care about President Snow. He did not care about the Capitol. He did not care about extravagant things or expensive people or mountains and mountains of food they had for every meal. He probably couldn’t care less if someone paid him. But tonight – in the President’s banquet hall, decorated with a ceiling coated in stars, artificial clouds twenty-feet in the air the musicians could stand on, the plushest of chairs and sofas, grand fireplaces, a flower garden (laden with purple irises) and small pond full of exotic fish inside of all places, a beautiful glass dancefloor connected to the pond (creating a tank for the fish), and the walls lined with tables and tables of more food than he had ever seen in his entire life – Sherlock would be lying if he said he wasn’t a little impressed.

Mycroft had prepared them that morning for that night.

“It is imperative that neither of you eat anything before tonight,” he had said when Sherlock and John woke up to find an empty breakfast table.

“Is it really that much?” John had asked.

“It’s really that much,” Mycroft assured him.

“So you didn’t have a problem then, did you?” Sherlock asked, and he noticed John biting his lip to keep from laughing.

“...I’m not going to answer that. Also, and this is important: if you are offered a beverage, always ask what it is.”

This left both boys confused.

“Well, yeah,” John said.

“Obviously,” Sherlock agreed.

“No, you don’t understand – there is going to be a lot of food, and the do I put this? The Capitol doesn’t mind wasting things. In fact, sometimes they revolve around wasting things. What I’m trying to say is this: there will be a beverage that will be offered to you tonight that will force you to...waste what you just ate.”

It took a second for John to put it together.

“...You mean vomit?!”

“Yes, that’s what I mean.”

“That’s sick!” John exploded, punching the table he was previously resting his knuckle on. “Are they not aware there are people who are actually starving?!”

“It’s the way the Capitol works –” Mycroft tried.

“Well it’s stupid –“ John began, but cut himself off at the arrival of Mrs. Hudson, who went on about unimportant things, ending their conversation.

Honestly, Sherlock did not expect anything less from the Capitol. But now he tried not to dwell on the idea of all of these people vomiting in the bathrooms not twenty feet from him.

“Half a bite of everything – we’ll split it,” Sherlock muttered to John.

“Right,” he agreed, but then they were pushed away from the tables by Mrs. Hudson.

“There are so many people that are dying to meet you!” she exclaimed, and Sherlock looked back to find Mycroft waving at his brother, then turning and making his way toward the food.

“Bastard,” Sherlock muttered.

“What’s that, dear?” Mrs. Hudson asked.

“Nothing,” he replied as they approached the sea of important people with names and faces that Sherlock would very soon forget.

At the first moment they were able to break away, they dashed towards the tables of food and took everything they could, splitting one small piece of each food item between the both of them. At one point, Sherlock had fed John his piece, which got them both a few cries of affection from onlookers. Inspired, John also fed Sherlock his half-of-a-bite every once in a while. Sometimes, one of them would even hold the whole piece of food in their mouths, forcing the other one to kiss them in order to receive their bite. It was cute and affectionate and so unlike Sherlock and John, which made it everything the Capitol expected to see.

Of course, since John was the victor of the Hunger Games, and this entire party was for him anyway, he was dragged away from Sherlock almost every minute. Obviously fed up, Sherlock did the one thing John never imagined he would do: he invited John to dance.

As they made their way from table to table, tasting only what they both were interested in, Sherlock looked as if he had wanted to say something – in fact, his face turned a darker shade of red every time John looked at him.

“Are you alright?” John finally asked, after feeding him half of a chocolate-covered cheeseball.

“Yes,” Sherlock assured him, putting a little too much pressure behind it, trying to convince him.

“Alright,” John said, taking it in stride; if there was really a problem, Sherlock would probably bring it up after the party, once they were in private. As he reached toward the next dessert they agreed to share, Sherlock caught his hand.

John looked up at him, to find his boyfriend redder still, looking down at the floor, his eyes hiding behind his hair.

“Sherlock?” John asked.

His head tilted toward the dance floor in the center of the room, as if trying to remind himself of his end goal, and then he glanced up – looking everywhere except for John’s eyes.

“Well, I was wondering – well I wasn’t wondering, I was thinking – I was thinking maybe we could – I mean everyone else is; they’re probably expecting it – maybe you’d like to – maybe we – dance?” he forced out, finally looking into John’s eyes. “Would you like to dance with me?”

John was always shocked by Sherlock’s displays of affection, but this was certainly the sweetest display yet. A smile grew across John’s face.

“Yes, Sherlock. I would love to.”

Sherlock, still holding onto John’s hand, led him to the center of the dancefloor, speaking to him as they went:

“I’m going to let you in on a secret, John,” he announced.


“I...I love dancing. I’ve always loved it,” he revealed, cheeks still flushed. So that’s why he was nervous – it wasn’t the asking that made him so nervous as it was the prospect of telling his secret, despite the fact that it was his best friend he was telling it to.

“Well, keep in mind I know nothing and I’ve got a bad leg, would you?” John requested as they got into starting position: Sherlock’s hand on John’s waist, John’s hand on Sherlock’s shoulder, and their free hands holding the other’s.

“Don’t worry – the Capitol doesn’t really dance as much as they stand in place and sway a bit – I can show you some real dancing at home.” Sherlock then fell into step, leading them. “Half-step-back and half-to-the-right and half-forward and half-to-the-left and half-back –”

“Why half-steps?” John asked, watching his feet.

“I dunno, that’s what Mrs. Hudson taught me,” Sherlock said. “I asked her this morning to show me a few steps; she was amazed at how fast I picked it up.”

“I didn’t even think to ask –” John began as Sherlock too looked down to watch their feet.

“John,” he whispered, cutting him off.


“We are dancing on fish, John – we are dancing on top of fish,” he exclaimed quietly, now watching the fish under the glass under their feet.

John laughed, almost too loudly.

“I don’t know why you’re this excited about it; we can do the same on a frozen pond,” he said.

“But it’s never like this – you can’t see the fish in a frozen pond; the ice is too thick. Do you think we’re scaring them?” he asked, looking back up at John, puzzled.

“They’re fish, Sherlock,” John reminded him, boiling his behavior down to the possibility that he might’ve had a few drinks.

“Right, of course,” he muttered, looking back down at the fish.

“Does Mycroft know?” John asked, after a moment.

Sherlock snapped his head up.

“Does Mycroft know what?”

“About this? The dancing?” John asked, smirking.

“Don’t say a word – if he asks, neither of us have any idea what we’re doing.”

“Is it that obvious?”

“Yes – you’re atrocious,” Sherlock criticized.

“Damn,” John chuckled.

“Like, honestly – I fear for the lives of my toes,” Sherlock said, grinning.

“Been there, done that,” John said. “Trust me, this is nothing.” He then thought of everyone else – watching them. “Do you think they know how bad we are? I mean – they’re always looking at us, so –”

“They see us,” Sherlock agreed, but then let go of John’s hand to grab his boyfriend’s chin, turning his head toward his. “But they’ll only truly observe this.” He then kissed John, gently and not as deeply as they had on Caesar Flickerman’s stage, but certainly deep enough and sweet enough to rouse a round of applause from onlookers.

They danced and ate until President Snow came out to make a short speech, after which Mrs. Hudson found them and Mycroft, Cinna, and Connie Price and regrouped with them to bring them all back to the train for the ride home.

Even though John was beyond tired, he dragged Sherlock past their bedrooms and to the back of the train, much to Sherlock’s confusion.

“Where are you taking me?” Sherlock asked.

“I want you to see something,” John replied, and that’s all he said until he got to the doors of the last train car. “Here we are,” he said, opening the doors. “Look.”

Sherlock looked through the large window that made up most of the last car, and saw the Capitol, all lit up, getting smaller and smaller as the train took them farther and farther away.

“I thought you’d like to see it,” John said quietly from behind him, coming up beside him and holding his hand. “Since you wouldn’t get to, again.”

“Not unless you and Mycroft drag me back to the Capitol,” Sherlock muttered.

John chuckled, and they watched the Capitol growing smaller in front of them.

“If you take away everything it is, everything it means...” John started quietly.

“It’s pretty,” Sherlock replied, and they didn’t move from that spot until it was finally gone from their sights.

Once it was gone, Sherlock led the very tired John to his room and helped him into bed. As he was very quickly drifting away, he felt Sherlock rubbing his back.

“Thank you for dancing with me, tonight,” he whispered into John’s ear, and kissed his temple.

John wanted to tell him that it was his pleasure, but a dull rush of panic fled through him at the thought that Sherlock seemed like he was just tucking John in – like he was going to leave.

“Sherlock – stay,” he mumbled his plea, voice slurred with sleepiness.

Sherlock exhaled, and John could feel the smile in the simple breath. He then made his promise:


Chapter Text

John woke up in the early afternoon, but Sherlock was already up and getting dressed.

“Someone’s excited,” John mumbled, placing his hands behind his head, watching his boyfriend pull on his white button-up shirt.

“I’d rather be home than anywhere else in this god-forsaken place. How do you think Harry’s doing?”

John grinned.

“It seems like you two are the best friends now – I should be jealous.”

“Don’t be – without you we wouldn’t have met. Also, there’s that small other part –”

“Yeah, yeah – okay you win,” John said, cutting him off before he even suggested what John imagined what Sherlock was going to say. “I’m sure she’s fine – probably bracing herself for our arrival.”

“Bracing herself? Really? We’re her two favorite people; she’s probably just as excited as I am.” He finished buttoning his shirt, looking at himself in the mirror in the room. John normally threw a sheet over the thing; he tried not to catch his own reflection, these days. “I don’t know why I’m doing this – we’re going to be shoved into monkey suits as soon as we get home.”

“Well, we can’t go from the train to the mayor’s house in our pajamas,” John said as Sherlock began to put the sheet back over the mirror.

“Right – we have photos to star in. Knowing the paparazzi, if we arrived in our pajamas they’d think we were fucking all day and then only just now realized we had pulled into District Twelve’s station; like Mrs. Hudson would let us do that,” he chuckled, going into the bathroom and fetching John a towel.

John sat up, and caught the towel Sherlock tossed at him.

“They’ll leave us alone after this, you know – they have no reason to drag me out except for mentoring, and by that time they’ll be excited over the new tributes. And after that, I won’t be the new victor anymore,” John said as he crossed the room and went into the bathroom.

“And then we can find our place,” Sherlock said, and leaned on the bathroom’s doorframe as John brushed his teeth. “I’ve been thinking about it, actually – I think it’s somewhere near the ocean.”

“The ocean? What makes you think that?”

“Well, no one’s allowed near the coast, so maybe there’s something there. And if not...we’ll find something that can go on the water and see what’s out there.”

“Out where?”

“You know, in the world.” Sherlock said, and John shooed him away from the door so he could close it – leaving it open just a crack. “It can’t be just us, here – it really can’t,” Sherlock spoke through the crack, leaning his head against the doorframe, as John started the shower and began to take off his clothes. “We’d know about it – we’d hear about other victors and travel the oceans to meet them. Have Hunger Games conventions and whatnot.”

“Why wouldn’t they stop it, then? Whoever’s out there?” John asked.

Sherlock pressed his forehead into the doorframe until it hurt as he thought.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “It’s been seventy-five years – the way I see it, there’s four options: they don’t know, they know but they don’t care, they know but don’t know how to help, or they’ve tried to help but the Capitol’s not only fought off all attacks but also kept it all under wraps. And all of them seem impossible for various reasons.”

“I think I’d like to see the ocean,” John said quietly after a few moments of Sherlock silently pushing his head into the doorframe. “It sounds nice. And I know they use it for Arenas sometimes – from what I’ve seen it looks nice –”

“You’ll see the coast. In person. I promise.”

Finally, Sherlock heard John turn off the water.


After reaching District Twelve, getting dolled up by the prep team, having dinner with the Mayor Undersee, and making the final speech, the Victory Tour was officially over. The next day was the Harvest Festival, which was normally a small celebration any other year, but since the Capitol was throwing the party this year because of John’s victory, it would be an all-out event. When John woke up the next morning, he first took a few moments to relish in the fact that he was in his own bed, and he could hear Sherlock’s quiet, slow breathing beside him, instead of the roar of the train travelling. He considered just staying in his room for the day – he didn’t need to make an appearance, really. The Harvest Festival wasn’t about John, it was about family. In the end, that’s what got John out of bed; other than a brief conversation the night before, he hadn’t had any communication with his family for the past two weeks.

He wrote a quick note to Sherlock and left it on his pillow in his head’s place, a simple “I’m downstairs” to alert Sherlock that he had not lost him. Then, he made the decent, on his own, down the stairs – the first time he had willingly left Sherlock’s side in a while. John didn’t really mind either way – he liked having Sherlock around to keep his fears away and distract him from his thoughts, but he didn’t mind it if Sherlock lived his own life. That’s what he used to do, before all this – sometimes John wouldn’t hear from Sherlock for days, but then he’d show up on his doorstep, chattering a mile a minute as if nothing had happened. He found himself missing that, actually – that would be a real sign of normalcy.

As soon as he reached the bottom of the stairs, he found Harry walking by – from the kitchen to the sitting room.

“Hey, John,” she greeted him with a smile.

“They’re up?” came John’s mother’s voice from the kitchen.

Harry glanced behind John, looking for Sherlock.

“Nah, just him,” she called back, and then Mrs. Watson came out of the kitchen to see her son.

“Is everything alright?” she asked, approaching John and hugging him. “Where’s Sherlock?”

“Yeah, he’s just asleep – why?” John asked.

“You’re kind of a buy-one-get-one deal,” Harry informed him. “You know – ask for one, and get the other without asking.” Mrs. Watson shot her daughter a look. “What? It’s true.”

“It’s just odd to see you without him, these days,” John’s mother translated.

“Well, don’t worry – we’re fine,” John assured her.

“I’m glad,” she said, hugging her son again.

After Sherlock and Mr. Watson woke up and the family got dressed and ready, they met up with Mycroft and made their way to the center of town.

The center square, where John had stood just over six months ago and was called to go into the Hunger Games, was covered in decorations that the Capitol had provided, and the Harvest Festival was well underway. A tent covered the center square, and large streamers were brought from all corners of the square and joined together at the top of a large pole in the exact center, holding up the tent. There were tables and tables of food by the entrance of the square, and places for people to sit lining the sides. The stage in front of the Justice Building was where members of the Capitol performed warped versions of District 12 music, and before the stage people danced to these warped songs. Children played games, and adults talked, and everyone ate.

John could only just remember the Harvest Festival being this big – when Mycroft won the Games. Sherlock, John, and Harry were only kids, back then – he remembered chasing each other and playing jumping games and hide-and-seek under the table cloths. It was easy to be a child and play – to not understand the Games, or to understand the Games but be able to ignore it for a few more years. John found himself wishing for that innocence again.

He also had a faint memory of dancing back then, too – specifically, John and Sherlock had dared Harry to –

Harry cut in front of Mycroft, causing him to stop. She put out her hand to him, like royalty might if they wanted someone to kiss their rings.

“Mycroft Holmes,” she said, looking up at him. “Would you mind dancing with me?” It struck John then how much Harry had grown. He remembered the last time she had done this: her face was almost as red as her hair, wringing her hands, and looking as if she was asking her toes to dance instead of Sherlock’s older brother.

Mycroft smirked and took Harry’s hand.

“It would be my greatest honor, Harriet Watson,” he said, which was exactly what he had said last time, and led her to the dancefloor, Harry turning her head back to the boys only to stick her tongue out as they went.

Sherlock then held his hand out for John.

“Do you just want to show up your brother or do you actually want to dance with me?” John asked as he took Sherlock’s hand.

“Who said we were going to the dancefloor?”

Sherlock led John into the alley between two buildings, where no one would see them, and where no one would look for them. If it weren’t for the music or their nice clothes or the weird feeling in John’s stomach and all the other things that had changed between then and now, he might’ve drawn similarities between now and their first meeting.

“What are we doing?” John asked, once they were out of sight and the music was quieted by the distance between them and the stage and the building between them.

“Well, I’m not going to teach you how to dance in front of everyone; I do have some compassion,” Sherlock replied.

John chuckled, and he let Sherlock lead them. John was never one to dance when he was younger – he was far too clumsy for it. He only ever begrudgingly agreed to dance with Harry when they were kids; once he was older he stayed as far away as he could from anything that involved dancing. He had tried dancing with a girl once when he was fourteen, but they were both terrible, so it barely counted. Now, in probably the greatest and worst and most life-altering turn of events John had ever known, he was learning to dance in an alley with Sherlock Holmes.

As Sherlock had told him before, he was talented. Of course, he was talented in a lot of areas, so it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise for John to discover yet another thing his friend was good at. The first lessons were awkward, and involved much stepping on feet, shuffling, joking, and giggling, but Sherlock was a good teacher. Not to mention the fact that John didn’t really care how good he was or how good he got; he simply wanted to dance with Sherlock for the rest of time.

“Hey, Sherlock?” John asked after a while, after they had gone back to the Capitol’s half-step way of dancing (since John was the best at that), despite the faster music playing from the stage.


“You know how they want me to find a talent? So they can parade me around during events?” John asked.

“Yes, what about it?”

“I think I found what I want to do. I mean, as long as you’ll teach me.”

He looked up at his boyfriend to find him grinning like a child.

“Yes – far better than the clarinet,” Sherlock agreed, and John laughed.

That was the last really good day Sherlock and John had. They had other good days, of course – a whole three months’ worth.

Sherlock and John spent the next three months together, whether cuddling in bed all day, or venturing beyond the fence for as long as they could, or hanging out with Harry and Mycroft. The only time they were apart was when Sherlock was at school, and John was with the Monroe’s. Sherlock taught John to be a damn good dancer, and John’s nightmares became fewer and farther between. They even planned their escape for the coast – they would leave during the spring, after John’s nineteenth birthday, once the snow was completely melted, and the Capitol wouldn’t notice John was missing until it was too late. They had everything planned – they had even planned to write notes to give to Mr. and Mrs. Watson, Harry, and Mycroft, explaining what they were going to do, where they were going, and promising they’d come back for them as soon as they could.

On April first, two days after John’s birthday, one week before the date they had decided upon to leave, Harry knocked on the Holmes’ door. Sherlock and John were in Sherlock’s room, compiling a list of things to pack for their journey, and Mycroft, who was in the kitchen, opened the door.

“Hello, Harriet –” they heard Mycroft greet her, but she cut him off.

“Did you know there’s a mandatory broadcast tonight?” she asked him, and Sherlock and John looked at each other.

“I have been informed, yes,” Mycroft replied. Sherlock had woken up that morning to the sound of the Holmes’ phone ringing, but he never did get around to asking his brother what the call was about. “It’s just announcing the Quarter Quell.”

No one that currently stood in the Holmes’ house had ever witnessed a Quarter Quell (Mycroft was only a year old during the last Quarter Quell, and therefore it didn’t count), yet they all knew what the Quarter Quell was. When the Hunger Games were created, it was decided that every twenty-five years the milestone would be marked with a “Quarter Quell,” to refresh the memories of Panem of why the Hunger Games were made and of the people who were killed in the name of rebellion. Those years’ Games would have a mystery giant wrench thrown into the mix, chosen by the very first Gamemakers; something that changed everything and turned the Games on its head. Between the twenty-five year intervals, the Quarter Quell was rarely mentioned, unless the Capitol’s attention was upon a victor from one of the Quells. It wasn’t even mentioned in the Districts that didn’t hold one of the two victors. Other than that, Sherlock and John knew virtually nothing about it.

“Announcing the twist?” Harry asked.


There was nothing for a moment, and then they heard Harry speak again, just barely through the distance between them.

“...Okay. Right. Thank you, Mycroft,” she said, and they heard the door close.

With all of the excitement of John’s new life, he had somehow forgotten that life went on, despite his personal win. John may have been taken out of the reaping pool, but Sherlock and Harry were still able to be reaped. Except, Sherlock couldn’t – not if they were leaving –

Sherlock, still locking his eyes with John, whispered harshly:

“It’s just another Games – this doesn’t change anything.”

“She’s not safe,” John whispered back. “She’s still got three more reapings to survive. We have to take her with us.”

Sherlock nodded – a single, sharp nod.

“We’ll tell her tonight, after the broadcast.”

At seven-thirty that night, the Watsons, Sherlock, and Mycroft all sat before the broadcast projection, save for Mrs. Watson, who was listening from the kitchen as she finished washing everyone’s dishes from dinner. On the screen, President Snow stood at a podium, with two people on each side of him, just in the background. On his right was a small girl in a white dress – his granddaughter – holding a wooden box, and on his left stood and older man in an ugly plaid suit, watching the audience of Capitol citizens below. Snow reminded Panem how the Quarter Quell came to be, of the previous two Quarter Quell’s twists, and the winners of those year’s Games.

The first Quarter Quell was particularly cruel. The tributes were chosen based on who each District voted for, to remind the rebels that their children had died due to their own choices. Those Games were won by a woman named Lucille Cameron Johnson, from District 4. Sherlock wondered how she felt the rest of her years, knowing that she had lived through hell only to return to the people who had sent her there in the first place. According to the photo that was projected behind the president’s head as he spoke of her, she did not take it well at all. In fact, if Sherlock looked closer, he could tell that she was planning her suicide as the picture was being taken.

The second Quarter Quell sent twice as many tributes into the Arena, as a reminder that two rebels died for each Capitol citizen. The winner would have to be truly ruthless in order to kill and survive longer than forty-seven other children, instead of only twenty-three. Fortunately, – or unfortunately, Sherlock couldn’t tell – the Capitol was blessed with his physical appearance. At the announcement of his name – Hannibal Lecter Magnussen – the older man stepped forward and held his hand up to greet the crowd.

“What kind of middle name is Lecter?” Harry asked, loudly, and John snorted in laughter, but Sherlock wasn’t quite paying attention to them at the moment.

There was something that Sherlock didn’t like about him – something in the glint of his eyes beyond the ruthlessness necessary to survive the Games – but he couldn’t put his finger upon it before the attention shifted from him and back to President Snow.

“And now we honor our third Quarter Quell,” he said, and the girl stepped forward, holding the box up to him. He lifted open the lid, revealing tidy rows of small envelopes – for the many years of the Hunger Games to come. Sherlock felt as if he had been punched in the stomach when he saw them, but watched all the same as President Snow took the envelope in the front of the rows, marked with a 75 on the front, opened the envelope and read its contents:

“On the seventy-fifth anniversary, as a reminder to the rebels of the families that they had torn apart with rebellion, the pool of tributes this year will consist exclusively of the siblings of the previous victors from each District.”

There was a moment where the world was silent, taking in the President’s decree – the cheering on the broadcast only creating white noise. Sherlock’s brain had already connected the dots.

The siblings of the victors from each District – the victors’ siblings from District 12 –

Mycroft Holmes and John Watson’s siblings –

Sherlock Holmes and Harry Watson were this year’s tributes.

Chapter Text

The sound of breaking glass crashed through Sherlock’s skull – and he was sure something inside of him had broken – until he realized that the others had heard it, too. Harry let out a faint shriek, and Mr. Watson and John were quick to console her. Mycroft had left the room – to comfort Mrs. Watson, who had evidently just shattered one of their dishes by dropping it onto the floor in shock. Sherlock knew why, deep down – he didn’t want Mrs. Holmes’ history repeating itself in the form of Mrs. Watson, but at that moment Sherlock's mind was too scattered to realize it consciously. All Sherlock could do was stare at the screen. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t move – until suddenly he was racing out of the Watson’s front door.

He ran down the steps of the porch, into the dark and the rain, and out of the Victor’s Village. He did not remember jumping District’s 12 fence, but he knew he had when the streets around him turned into the forest floor. He ran until he reached the bottom of a steep hill, and realized where he was. He was in the meadow – their meadow. Sherlock Holmes cried out, tears falling down his face, falling to his knees in their irises.

Last year, he had been so prepared to go into the Arena as long as he kept John safe and alive. He was confident he would win – he always thought he would win any Hunger Games, and even now, he knew it was possible.

But Harry Watson would be there, too.

If it were last year and Harry and Sherlock were to go into the Arena together – against each other – Sherlock would be fine. Harry would win, and Sherlock would make sure of that. But now, it felt like he was being stabbed in the heart when he thought of it – of what that plan would entail. For once – for once in his life, he had everything he had ever dreamed of. He had been so happy these past nine months. He hated having to give it up now – after everything –

But he would. Of course, he would. John still had all of his family – Sherlock wasn’t going to be the one to break that. Mycroft could live without him –

“Sherlock! SHERLOCK!”

As soon as Sherlock had bolted out of the door, John looked at Harry, for permission to go after him. With tears in her eyes, she nodded, and he followed after his boyfriend.

He knew where he would go.

When he reached the top of the hill in the outskirts of District 12, the one that led down to their meadow, John looked down and saw the most painful image he had ever seen: Sherlock Holmes was crumpled, on his knees, in the pouring rain, sobbing.

“Sherlock!” he called. Sherlock didn’t move. “SHERLOCK!”

Sherlock raised his head, staring ahead, into the beyond – the beyond they were supposed to cross into, together.

“They knew something,” Sherlock called up. “They had to have. They’re punishing us, for trying to leave – can’t you SEE what’s going on?!” he shouted, his fingers digging into the meadow. John saw Sherlock uproot the irises and toss them aside in anger, sick of their love story and what it had done to them now, and it felt like he had done the same to John himself – tore him apart.

“Sherlock –” John whispered.

“We’ve got to go now!” he called up. “We’ve got to go we’ve got to stop this –”

“And if they find us trying to get away?” John called down. “They’ll kill us –”

“LET THEM!” Sherlock roared in a voice that John had never heard before – in a voice that genuinely scared him.

It was then John heard it – the roar of a hovercraft. It was coming fast – making its rounds – and if Sherlock didn’t move, it would find them.

For a moment, John considered Sherlock’s idea – letting them find them. Letting them kill them. He let the thought go as quickly as it came – shoving out of his mind –

“Sherlock – Sherlock!”

“What?!” he called back, twisting around, glaring up at John.

“Ground me,” John pleaded. “I don’t know where I am, and I need you to ground me. Please, Sherlock.”

There was a moment of silence between them, Sherlock’s scrutinizing eyes taking John in, and then he spoke:

“You’re lying. You know exactly where you are.”

“Not in your head, I don’t. Where am I in your head?” John asked, and finally he felt hot tears rolling down his cheeks. “I need to know. Please.” John could see the searchlights approaching, the circles of light touching the outskirts of the meadow – “I need you, Sherlock.”

It was only then Sherlock slowly stood up, and casually made his way up the hill. Seconds after Sherlock had joined John under the cover of the trees, the beam of light passed over the place he had previously occupied.

They fell into each other’s arms, and then took a step away from each other. They looked into each other’s eyes, and for the first time since John had come home, there was no spark in Sherlock’s eyes.

“The way I feel about you has not changed, and I don’t think it ever will,” Sherlock said after a few moments.

John’s lip trembled, and he closed his eyes.

“Damnit, Sherlock – I can't –” he tried to look away – look down – but Sherlock took John’s chin in his hand, and he opened his eyes.

“John. I'm not going to ask you to choose between us; we both know that it's not me that you'd save – don't try to dispute it –” he said quickly as John opened his mouth to do exactly that. “– we know it's true. I promise you I’ll do everything I can to protect her.”

John took his face away from Sherlock’s touch.

“You...” he looked down, trying to find the words – trying to find any words – to describe how he felt. “I hate you,” he whispered, but it didn’t feel right.

“No you don’t,” Sherlock whispered back. “You hate everything else.”

And he was right. He was so right. He didn’t hate Sherlock – he hated the fact that he felt so forced to choose.

John didn’t know who started to lead who back towards the fence, but neither of them spoke until John saw the fence in the distance.

“Are we breaking up?” he finally asked, feeling childish for even asking. “So I can focus on helping Harry?”

“Would that be easiest?” Sherlock asked, and John found himself shaking his head.

“No. I can’t – not after everything – I can’t just leave you,” he said quietly.

“You’re going to have to learn to, either way,” Sherlock mumbled back, and yet he was the one who reached out and held John’s hand. “I’m sorry.”

John squeezed Sherlock’s hand in his.

“Me too.”

They made their way to the Watson’s, but paused when they saw the Holmes’ door wide open. They walked in, hand and hand, and were immediately met with the sounds of crashing glassware: Harry Watson was throwing the Holmes’ dishware around the house, and Mycroft Holmes was calmly supplying her with the ammunition.

Upon seeing the two boys, Mycroft nodded to Harry, and she dropped what she was doing and approached John.

“We should go,” she said quietly.

“Why?” Sherlock asked, voice hoarse.

“Sherlock, this is a private matter,” Mycroft tried to explain, but Sherlock held on to John’s hand.

“They stay,” Sherlock argued, voice cracking.

“This is family –” Mycroft tried again.

“That’s why they stay!” Sherlock shouted, tears falling down his cheeks again.

Mycroft sighed, and picked up another vase – one Sherlock had only seen once before – from the kitchen table, approached his younger brother, and put the vase into his hands.

Sherlock looked down at it, and then up at him.

“This is your favorite,” he said, realizing. The reason why he had rarely seen it was because Mycroft had kept it in his room; the only room of the house in which Sherlock wasn’t allowed.

“Nothing is sacred, Sherlock, I'm sure you've learned this by now,” Mycroft whispered.

Sherlock looked up at his brother, then at John, and finally at Harriet Watson – his new opponent – and then, Sherlock Holmes dropped the vase, just to watch it fall.

Mycroft was right – nothing was sacred, and nothing would ever be sacred again. He was losing everything, piece by piece, and it could never, ever be mended.

But god, did he want to rebuild it.

Over the next few months, Sherlock found he wanted to do a lot of things. He wanted to find and take in all of the Morphling his body could handle and then some. He wanted to go back in time, and stop himself from ever speaking to John Watson, to avoid all of this pain. He also wanted to tear John Watson’s clothes off and make love to him, and give him good memories to look back upon when he was gone. He wanted to run and never stop. He wanted to lay down and die. But he didn’t do any of those things.

He also didn’t want to do a lot of things. He didn’t want to run laps around District 12 and lift heavy weights and practice hand-to-hand combat with his brother. He didn’t want to sit with his boyfriend, his brother, and the person who was like a sister to him and watch years and years of the Hunger Games play out in front of him, using past victors to predict what their siblings – Sherlock and Harry’s potential opponents – might be like. He didn’t want to hold hands with John under the kitchen table during meals just to feel John squeezing onto him for dear life. He didn’t want to kiss John until one of them started crying. He didn’t want to pretend he wasn’t being stared at by everyone in their school, teachers and students alike. He didn’t want to look at Harry Watson, and look at John looking at Harry Watson with a pain he had never seen before in John’s eyes. But he did all of those things. In fact, every day was a repeat of those things, in different orders.

Mycroft had broken it down for them: every victor had at least one sibling, and unlike all of the other Hunger Games there was no age limit, meaning Sherlock and Harry’s opponents could be aged anywhere from in their sixties and seventies to three years old. There was only one other person who was in a situation like Sherlock and Harry’s – where there was no one else to pick but them – and that was in District Nine, where all of the previous victor’s siblings were girls, except for one: two year old Archibald Neal, who would be three years old by the time reaping day came.

“That’s Louise’s brother, isn’t it?” John had asked the day Mycroft revealed that piece of information.

“It is,” Mycroft replied with a nod.

Sherlock barely remembered the girl with the tattooed freckles – he felt like he had met her years ago, as opposed to a few months – but still he felt sick to his stomach. There would be a three year old in the Arena – his Arena. He’d be fighting for his own life, hear a cannon, and a three year old would have left the earth. He wanted to vomit. What had little Archie done to deserve this? He was a child. What had Harry done? At least Sherlock knew he had earned this, just by being smart – by thinking he could outsmart the Capitol and get away with it.

The day of Sherlock’s twelfth grade graduation didn’t even matter to him – he almost didn’t show up, but Mrs. Watson had begged for him to go through the motions. And so he did, just for her – he got dressed in his best clothes and walked across that stage, receiving his totally-unnecessary diploma. And as the rest of the graduates from his class threw parties and celebrated with their friends, Sherlock Holmes went to bed in John’s room, where he and John cried silently together.

He made sure he was never in the same room alone with Harry. He had no idea what to even say to her, but he knew that she had quite a few things to say to him. He didn’t want to hear it – it would make the whole thing seem more real than it already was. It was difficult enough to talk about it every day between the four of them.

It was even harder to look at Mycroft, but he couldn’t exactly avoid being alone with his own brother. There were days that John and Harry spent away from the Holmes’ boys – with their parents. Sherlock didn’t mind that he was away from John these days; John would have to learn to live without him, anyway, and it was important that he spend time with Harry before the Games began.

He should have been doing the same with his brother, but every time he looked at him he felt his stomach drop down to his feet – Sherlock was all he had left. Come summer’s end, Mycroft would be the only Holmes left.

Mycroft had not won the Hunger Games for this.

Those days were normally quiet between the two of them – normally filled with training Sherlock physically or mentally, or strategizing (keeping the thought of Harry Watson a thousand miles away from their conversations).

“How are you doing?” Mycroft finally asked one night, sitting at the kitchen table as Sherlock passed by to fetch a glass of water. He spoke quickly, as if he was trying to get the words out before he changed his mind.

“What do you think?” Sherlock replied, keeping in stride, approaching the counter.

There was silence as Sherlock filled his glass, and Mycroft began to speak again as the glass touched Sherlock’s lips.

“Do you remember the story of the appointment in Samarra?”

Sherlock took a sip and recited the story:

“There was once a merchant in the famous market at Baghdad. One day he saw a stranger looking at him in surprise, and he knew that the stranger was Death. Pale and trembling, the merchant fled the marketplace and made his way many, many miles to the city of Samarra, for there he was sure Death could not find him. But when at last he came to Samarra, the merchant saw, waiting for him, the grim figure of Death. ‘Very well,’ said the merchant. ‘I give in. I am yours. But tell me: why did you look surprised when you saw me this morning in Baghdad?’ ‘Because,’ said Death, ‘I had an appointment with you tonight – in Samarra.’”

“The merchant who could not outrun Death,” Mycroft said, nodding. “You always hated that story as a child.”

“I’m still not a fan of it,” Sherlock replied.

“You wrote your own version of the story, as I remember: Appointment in...where was it, again?”

“District Four,” Sherlock muttered, putting the cup to his lips again.

“Ah, yes. The merchant goes to District Four and is perfectly fine. Then he becomes a pirate, for some reason...”

“Because, at the time, I thought everyone in District Four was a pirate,” Sherlock replied, and sighed. “Samarra can’t be avoided, now,” he went on quietly. “Death waits for us all.”

“Of course it does – everybody dies,” Mycroft said with a shrug. “It’s the one thing human beings can be relied upon to do. How can it still come as a surprise to people?”

“I don’t think it’s death itself that’s surprising; it’s the when,” Sherlock said. “I mean, look at us. We know I had to die sometime but now that we know that I’m going to die in just a few weeks...”

“Hm,” Mycroft nodded to himself as Sherlock put the glass back to his lips. “Well, speaking of that, I just want you to know...that your loss will break my heart.”

Sherlock nearly choked on the water he was currently drinking as it spurted from his mouth in surprise. He rounded on his brother.

“What the hell am I supposed to say to that?” he asked, outraged.

How could he say such a thing with Harry in the house next door? How dare he make him feel like he had to live – it’s not as if he didn’t feel bad enough already! How could he sabotage him like this –

“Nothing,” Mycroft replied calmly. “I just wanted you to know.”

Of course he did – just like Sherlock wanted John to know that he would die loved last year. But now that Sherlock knew that he was indeed loved, he wasn’t sure that he wanted to know it anymore.

For the next three months, John Watson watched his life spiral out of control and fall apart.

John did not hate Sherlock Holmes. He wished he could. He wished he could just detach himself from him and just focus on his sister. He wished he could tear Sherlock from his place in John’s veins. He wished he had never fallen in love with him. He wished he hadn’t met him. He wished he didn’t care – but he did. Of course he did. And he would never stop caring – he could never stop adoring Sherlock Holmes.

The nervousness of Sherlock and his sister going into the Arena bypassed his fear for himself last year by miles – something he didn’t even know was possible. It didn’t matter that he was sleeping next to Sherlock, anymore – every night he had nightmares of clones of past victors killing them over and over again, and the next morning he’d wake up to watch more past Games, to inspire the next night’s dreams.

Sherlock seemed to spend his days bouncing between three states of mind. Sometimes he would brood silently, curled up on the couch or on his bed, or sitting upright but just staring out into space. Sometimes he would be overly affectionate to John; hugging him more often for as long as he could get away with, and kissing him deep into the night – desperate to act as if things were normal or to get as much as he could in before he was gone. Then there were some days where he was as focused as he could ever be on the Games – asking Mycroft and John about what everything was like – the reaping, the Capitol, the interviews, training, the Games themselves –

“Did I ever tell you the story of the East Wind?” Sherlock asked John one night, as they were both trying (and failing) to fall asleep.

“The what?” John asked.

“The East Wind – it’s a story Mycroft told me when we were kids. Before, you know. Everything.”

“What is it?”

“The East Wind was a terrifying force that sought out the unworthy – generally me – and plucked them from the earth, laying waste to all in its path,” Sherlock chuckled at the memory. “Mycroft – he used to chase me around our old house, pretending to be the East Wind, saying that he was coming to get me...”

“But Mycroft isn’t terrifying –” John started.

“Oh, you haven’t seen him when he’s angry,” Sherlock assured him. “When he is angry, my brother can be significantly worse than he promises the East Wind can be.”

“Hm. So why are you telling me this?” John asked. “I mean, why are you bringing this up, now?”

“Because I can feel it, now,” Sherlock replied. “I can feel it circling above our heads; it’s been there since the Quell’s twist was announced, but, as time gets closer...sometimes I can’t hear myself think over the wind in my ears.”

John glanced over to see that Sherlock was staring up at the ceiling, and John’s eyes returned to watching the ceiling with him.

“Yeah,” he murmured. “Me too.”

Meanwhile, Harry seemed strong on the outside, but John knew his sister. She never cried in front of him or their parents, passed out false smiles and false confidence like it was her job, and stood up straight and asked all the right questions to him and Mycroft. There was one night, though, when John had had a particularly bad nightmare and needed to go to the bathroom so his panicking wouldn’t wake Sherlock, he heard Harry sobbing behind her bedroom door. He wasn’t sure what brought him to open the door, but when he did he found his sister – his baby sister – on her bedroom floor, with a bottle of whiskey in hand, tears streaming down her face. His stomach dropped to the floor, but he couldn’t help remembering the last time he was in this position: when Sherlock had overdosed.

She looked up, wide eyed, at her brother.

“John –” she began, but John was already on his knees, bringing his sister into his arms. “I’m sorry – I’m sorry –”

He did not speak to her at first, but cried with her and held her, cursing the Capitol for doing this to them – to all of them.

“I love you,” he eventually ended up whispering in her ear. “With all my heart. That doesn’t mean I’m not basically pissed off with you, though –”

“I know –”

“I’m very pissed off with you, and I swear to god you’re never touching a bottle again – where did you even get it from?” he asked, trying to look at her face.

Harry sat up, wiping her eyes.

“I’m surprised they didn’t notice –” she began, her voice slurred. “I guess with everything...”

Mycroft’s stash – of course. He was surprised he didn’t know right off the bat.

“How long has this even been going on for?” he asked, prying the nearly empty bottle from her other hand.

“Since we found out?” she admitted, glaring at the bottle in John’s hand. John puffed out his cheeks and exhaled, unsure of what to do – hating himself for not noticing.

“Don’t tell mom and dad – please,” she said, looking up at him.

“Don’t do this again and I won’t,” John whispered. “Promise me.”

“I won’t do it again. I’m sorry, John –” she cried, throwing her arms around him.

It didn’t matter that apparently the Districts “deserved” the Games for rebelling all those years ago. John thought back to his best friend’s Morphling addiction that he developed out of fear of being reaped, Harry that night with her bottle of whiskey, the terrors that haunted John’s dreams every night, and Mycroft’s face as he stood over the tribute he had killed in his Games and knew that no one could ever deserve a pain as deep as this.

Chapter Text

Harry was the one who thought of rebelling. Compared to what the Districts had done before to rebel, and what Sherlock and John had planned to do, this was nothing, which was probably the only reason why Mycroft let them do it.

The morning of the reaping ceremony, instead of wearing the dress her mother had picked out for her, Harry Watson came down the stairs in a black t-shirt and ragged black jeans, with gaping holes in the knees.

“Harry –” her mother began, but Harry cut her off.

“No. I’m not going into this under their thumb. I don’t want to dress nice for them. I want to be me, and I want to do what I feel, and this is how I feel. This is what I want to do.”

Mrs. Watson looked to Mycroft for help, but he shrugged.

“I was about to go home and change, actually,” he admitted. “Harriet’s right: this isn’t a happy occasion. I don’t see why we have to act like it is.” He looked over at his brother. “Sherlock –”

“Way ahead of you,” Sherlock assured him, already taking off the tie that Mycroft had forced him to wear and standing up to go back home and change.

Mycroft then looked at John.

“You’re a mentor, so I would suggest that you still look somewhat presentable, but I think you know what to do.”

“Got it,” John said.

After Sherlock, John, and Mycroft changed into black outfits of varying degrees of formality (Mycroft in a three-piece suit despite the summer weather, John in a button up shirt and dress pants, and Sherlock in a black t-shirt and jeans that weren’t nearly as worn as Harry’s), the four went to the center of town together. They walked in a straight line, shoulder to shoulder through the streets of District 12, Sherlock and Harry in the middle and John and Mycroft beside their siblings.

The middle of the town square – where the children in the reaping pool normally stood – was bare, and the area bordering that was overflowing with audience members. Since there were only two people in the reaping pool this year, anyone who wasn’t either Harry Watson or Sherlock Holmes was safe, but since no one was allowed to miss the reaping ceremony, they all became part of the audience. For the first time ever, almost everyone – almost all of the eight thousand citizens of District Twelve, more or less – was exempt from the Hunger Games. Everyone, that is, except for Sherlock and Harry.

“Just a forewarning, John,” Mycroft said quietly as they were about to reach the table that held the book that Sherlock and Harry had to give their blood samples to. “Mrs. Hudson won’t be pleased; I’ve never been late to a reaping before.”

“I’m sure we have a good enough reason,” John replied.

Sherlock couldn’t care less if Mrs. Hudson was mad or not. In fact, he didn’t care if President Snow got pissed over the fact that two of his newest tributes showed up to their reaping ceremony in black pants and t-shirts. He didn’t care about anything, really. All he cared about was getting Harry Watson out of this alive. Because, really, she wasn’t part of this until the Capitol put her in the middle of it. Because, when he thought about it, the Capitol just wanted Sherlock dead – Harry was just caught in the crossfire.

He hated thinking like this – it made him feel like he did after Mrs. Watson had told him that his mother had not been murdered but had killed herself, like he was just creating dramas in his head to distract him from the perils of reality – but he felt like this was true. He had been bad mouthing the Capitol since he knew how to talk – it was about time it had come back to bite him in the ass. Some days, depending on how deeply he was sure this was what was actually happening, he thought the Capitol had tried to teach him to obey them since Mycroft was reaped into the Games, and they had tried to teach him again by putting John in the Games eight years later. But Sherlock hadn’t learned – he had planned to take John away from this – and the Capitol wasn’t going to let that happen. They were done trying to teach him; they wanted to get to the source. They were going to kill him – they could’ve just taken him and killed him privately, but they wanted to make sure he suffered, and that everyone around him suffered, so they sentenced him to hell. Harry was just a pawn in their scheme, and, since this was Sherlock’s fault in the first place, he was going to make sure John didn’t lose her.

Sherlock only wished they hadn’t done this just after he and John had gotten together – just after he knew what happiness felt like.

After their fingers were pricked and their blood was recorded in the book, the four of them walked into the center square of District 12. Everyone’s eyes were on them – Sherlock didn’t need to look to know that. He kept his eyes straight ahead, on the glass bowl on the stage that had one singular slip of paper inside – his name. Harry grasped onto Sherlock’s hand, and he glanced over to see that her and John were also holding hands, so he reached over and held Mycroft’s hand, too – showing the Capitol that, despite everything, they were still a family.

They stopped in the direct center of the square, and Mycroft and John hugged both Harry and Sherlock goodbye. John placed his lips on Sherlock’s in an urgent kiss, and then John and Mycroft – District 12’s mentors – walked up onto the stage, where Mrs. Hudson and District 12’s mayor were waiting for them.

Sherlock and Harry held hands for the entire introduction of the ceremony. They glared straight ahead, at their glass bowls, and waited for their names to be called.

And, after what seemed like years, they were.

“Harriet Catherine Watson.”

Harry let go of Sherlock’s hand, and it was then he realized both of their hands were shaking. Despite this and her ever-paling face, Harry kept her head up, putting a lock of her hair behind her ear, and walked confidently up onto the stage. Now that Sherlock was standing alone in the center square, unsupported by John or Mycroft or Harry standing beside him, he felt like his legs would give out at any moment.

“Now for the boys,” Mrs. Hudson said, just able to hide her sadness, and reached into Sherlock’s glass bowl.

Sherlock’s heart was pounding in his ears as he watched her grab onto his name, pull her hand out of the bowl, and open the slip of paper.

“William Sherlock Scott Holmes,” she announced, and Sherlock could just barely hear the murmurs of confusion scatter through the crowd at the sound of his full name – a name that was uttered out loud so rarely that most people were not aware that it existed beyond “Sherlock Holmes”. His feeling of fear now had a decent amount of shame mixed in, feeling as if the Capitol was dragging his entire being through the dirt on its way to throwing him to the dogs. Yet he still kept his chin up as he made his way to the stage, his chest now hurting from the way his heart was pounding inside of him.

John knew this moment was coming – it had been coming for three months – but it didn’t mean it still didn’t feel like someone had stabbed him through the heart and ripped out his stomach when Sherlock’s name was called. Tears stung at his eyes – they had been ever since Mrs. Hudson called Harry up to the stage, but the feeling he had when Sherlock’s name was read out loud was different.

In the beginning, when John first came home from the Arena, it was so incredibly hard to love Sherlock. It had nothing to do with Sherlock himself as much as it had to do with John. If it wasn’t for Sherlock confessing his undying love and causing the Capitol to blow up their love story to unbelievable heights, when John got home he would’ve probably locked himself in his room and never spoken to anyone ever again. The only thing that kept him in touch with the rest of the world – kept him human – was Sherlock Holmes. At first, it felt like he was just going through the motions of love – kissing when kissed, smiling when smiled at – the only thing that came naturally to him was holding Sherlock’s hand, because it grounded him. Of course John loved Sherlock, but it’s hard to love anyone while you don’t even know yourself, anymore. But John was learning – over the past year, everything was becoming as natural as breathing. Now he couldn’t imagine living without Sherlock’s love – without kissing him every day – without waking up every morning and falling asleep every night by his side. He had been ready to let his life begin – he had been ready to be happy with Sherlock – to show Sherlock every bit of what his heart was feeling. He wanted to grow old with Sherlock – get married to Sherlock – maybe even make love to him if they both ever stopped beating around the bush about it. He wanted Sherlock, and, for about nine months, it had seemed like he was going to have him.

But then, in one moment, the future with Sherlock that was laid out before him was gone. Everything was being taken away from him – from both of them – and all John could do was watch. 

“Presenting our new tributes from District Twelve: Harriet Watson and William Holmes!” Mrs. Hudson announced, and Sherlock closed his eyes – both of them were now just toys for the Capitol to play with – they weren’t even allowed the freedom of modifying their names to the way they liked them, anymore.

This wasn’t a reaping ceremony at all. This was their funeral.

He opened his eyes to shake hands with Harry, and saw two hands in the air, three fingers displayed. He glanced down, and found Mr. and Mrs. Watson were attached to those hands. Slowly, the people around them kissed their fingers and held them up in the air, too, and the people around those people did the same. In moments, all of District 12 was saluting Sherlock and Harry. And, as if on cue, Sherlock, Harry, John, and Mycroft did the same.

They were saying goodbye – they were all saying goodbye.

Instead of shaking hands, Sherlock and Harry hugged each other as tightly as they could.

“Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor,” Mrs. Hudson concluded, not even bothering to hide her sadness this time, and the anthem of Panem played as they were ushered into the Justice Building by the Peacekeepers.

They led Sherlock and Harry down a series of hallways, and then into a spare room, locking them inside. Sherlock specifically remembered the tributes being separated during this time, and it took him a second to realize why Sherlock and Harry were grouped together: all of the people who would be coming to say goodbye to the tributes this year would be visiting both of them. But this was the first time Sherlock and Harry had been alone together since the Quarter Quell’s announcement – ever since this mess began.

Harry wiped her eyes – she had been silently crying as they walked down the halls of the Justice Building – and hugged Sherlock again.

Then she stepped away, holding onto his arms, and looked up at him.

“Sherlock... I can’t even...” she started before the fell into sobs again. “This is so fucking stupid...”

And it was then that Sherlock knew that John hadn’t told her of Sherlock’s plans.

But maybe that was for the best.

“I know it is,” Sherlock replied quietly.

He wanted to smile – to try and make Harry feel better – but he couldn’t find it in him.

Before either of them could say anything else, the door opened, and their family poured in, and it was obvious from the looks on their faces that they knew this was goodbye. They knew that their luck had finally run out.

John and Mycroft hung back and let Mr. and Mrs. Watson said their goodbyes; the two mentors would be spending the next eight days saying goodbye every way they knew how. Mrs. Watson was bawling, and Mr. Watson even had tears in his eyes as he hugged Sherlock, and then held both sides of his head in his callused palms.

“You have always been like a son to us, Sherlock. It’s been an honor knowing you.”

“An honor?” Sherlock found himself repeating, sounding like a child.

“John saw something in you the day you met. He was right – you’re brilliant.”

“Thank you, Mr. Watson –”

“And I’m sorry for what I had said before about you and John –”

It was then the door opened, and Sherlock mentally counted everyone in the room. Everyone who mattered to them was here – so who would be –

Everyone turned to the door in a single motion, and found someone who Sherlock never would have expected to be this close in proximity to Harry Watson again: Clara Coleman.

Harry immediately put her guard up, wiping her eyes (as if Clara hadn’t just caught her crying) and crossing her arms, staring at her with a stony expression.

“What are you doing here?” she asked with a sharpness that shot up Sherlock’s spine. There was a moment where he wondered why she was so angry, but then it came back to him: Clara left Harry when she needed her most, and then spoke badly enough about her to her brother to have him come after her.

 “I haven’t stopped thinking about you since the Quell’s announcement,” Clara spoke quickly, taking a couple steps toward Harry. “I was a bitch.”

“Yeah, you were,” Harry agreed, and Clara stopped short, wringing her hands.

“I’m sorry – I wanted you to know that before – and that –” she lost the confidence as quickly as it must have come, and then gained enough of it back to close the distance between them and kiss her.

Harry’s arms uncrossed in surprise, and then she was pushing Clara away.

“No,” she spat. “Get out, Clara.”

Watching her, now, Sherlock couldn’t help but think that Harry would be strong enough to live after the Hunger Games if he helped her make it there.

“Harry –”

“Go!” Harry shouted, and Clara Coleman took a few steps back, wide-eyed and hurt, and then raced out the door.

Without really thinking about it, Sherlock glanced at John, to find John staring back at him. In this very room, exactly one year ago, Sherlock had tried to do the same thing Clara did: they had both tried to reveal that they had feelings for the newest Hunger Games tribute. Clara had gotten it out, though, while Sherlock was cut off halfway. If Sherlock had completed his speech – if he had said the words he had been planning on saying – would John have pushed him away, too?

Then, as if reading his mind, John shook his head, just a fraction.

No. He wouldn’t have. In fact – though Sherlock was sure he was just assuming this – maybe John would have kissed Sherlock back, if Sherlock had dared to make that move.

After Mrs. Watson said her goodbyes to her “baby boy”, telling him that Sherlock was “so special,” and Mr. Watson said his goodbyes to his daughter, John stepped forward.

“Harry,” he started, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small, white box. “I ordered this from the Capitol, after the Quell was announced...”

Harry opened the box, revealing a silver, ovular locket, the size of her thumb, engraved with the letter H.

“Oh my god,” she whispered.

“Open it,” John told her, and she pressed the knob on the top, popping it open like a pocket watch, revealing two photos: on one side, John and their parents, and on the other, Sherlock and Mycroft. “So you’ll always have us.”

Harry threw her arms around her brother, crying again. Then she went and hugged each person in the room, thanking them for being in her locket and, therefore, in her life. As she did this, John stood before Sherlock, and took off the dog tags from around his neck – the first time he had removed it in the past year.

Sherlock, trying to keep himself from crying, rolled his eyes.

“Ugh. Sentiment,” he muttered, and John half smiled, chuckling despite how badly Sherlock knew he also wanted to cry.

“Just take it you little shit,” he said, and Sherlock allowed John to place it in his hand. “Come here,” he murmured, and hugged his boyfriend, just as the Peacekeepers came in to announce their three minutes had passed.

And that was the last time Sherlock Holmes ever saw John’s parents.

The moment Harry and Sherlock boarded the train, John closed the distance between them and hugged them both. In less than a month, either Sherlock would be alive, Harry would be alive, or they both would be dead, and there was no way John could ever prepare himself for it.

That night, the reapings were broadcast. Everyone watched as five people over the age of fifty, a ten year old boy, a three year old boy, and two people with the same victor sibling were reaped into the Games. There were only four people who were in the regular tribute age-range: Sarah Sawyer and Thomas Birch (who strangely looked very similar to Sherlock) from District 8, and Sherlock and Harry.

John watched Mycroft Holmes as he watched the reapings. Mycroft knew the past victors better than anyone else on that train did; assuming the siblings were anything like past victors, Mycroft would know if there were any wild cards or red flag players to be wary of.

And of course, there was.

The moment Charles Augustus Magnussen, an older man from District 1, was reaped into the Games, Mycroft’s eyes closed tightly, as if he was wincing in pain.

“What?” John asked, and mentally kicked himself as Sherlock and Harry looked up at Mycroft, too. Mycroft opened his eyes, watching the screen, and John didn’t think he had ever looked so tired.

“There were three people I never wanted to see in this year’s Hunger Games,” Mycroft said quietly. “I’m sure you can imagine who the first two were. The third was Charles Augustus Magnussen.” He then turned to look at the three of them, eyes dangerous. “He is a shark, and his brother is as well; the Magnussen brothers are worse than anything you will ever encounter.” He looked at John alone for a moment. “Even Moriarty. They use their power, Hannibal’s power from being a victor, really, to hurt everyone around them. They are manipulators; they can tell your deepest pressure points upon first glance and they will use that to hurt you.”

“We can do that too –” Sherlock muttered to his brother.

“Yes, but if we know something we shouldn’t know we at least have the decency to keep quiet about it, unless, of course, you’re showing off. I know what secrets everyone keeps, I can tell just by looking at them, but I would rather they trust me enough to tell me. I know things about people that could very possibly kill them if it got out, but I stay quiet, while these two would destroy those people with those secrets on a whim and make certain they knew just who it was that ruined their lives. There’s a reason why I haven’t shown you the Fiftieth Hunger Games’ tapes, and that is because Hannibal Lecter Magnussen is a monster. And I’ve met Charles Augustus; he’s exactly the same.”

“What happened during the last Quarter Quell?” Harry asked, voice wavering.

“Hannibal manipulated all of the Careers, but most of all a special needs boy from District Four by the name of William Graham. It was...extremely painful to watch. Hannibal made William feel like he was crazy to try to keep him under his control. William was smart, though; he figured it out and tried to overpower Hannibal when it came down to the final two. But Hannibal...ate his heart.”

“He what?” John asked, thinking, just for a second, that maybe he didn’t hear Mycroft correctly.

“Hannibal ate William’s heart. He tore it right of William’s chest and ate it, blood and all. Hannibal cannibalized the tributes he killed, and I feel that, if given the opportunity, he’d do it again with the first person he reached. These men are absolutely vile, and I advise you to stay away from them, both of them, at all costs.”

Chapter Text

The next day, from the moment they exited the train, the Capitol’s cameras were on them, and there were reporters surrounding the four of them from all sides, shouting questions at them – questions none of them wanted to answer, especially not out loud to paparazzi.

“Mycroft – John – How do you feel about your siblings in the Hunger Games?”

“William – John – How do you feel about being split up after being together for such a short time?”

“Why did you lie to us all about William’s name?”

“William, do you not like your name?”

“Why don’t you like your name?”

“Do you prefer William, Will, or Sherlock?”

“William, what does John call you in bed?”

“What do you think about the other tributes this year?”

“Who do you think will be your biggest threat?”

“William – Harriet – What’s your strategy?”

“Who do you think will win the Quarter Quell?”

In moments, Sherlock’s hands had found John and Mycroft’s, and Sherlock watched as John held onto Harry’s. As much as Sherlock wanted to scream, to yell at them to never call him William again and tell everyone their secrets, he kept his mouth shut – that was the safest thing to do.

The hand holding, though – that wasn’t safe at all. In fact, the more they did this – the more they presented the four of them as a unit – the more the Capitol would see that they weren’t playing the same Hunger Games they always had been. This was putting a target on their backs so large it covered all four of them: when the other tributes saw this, they would surely try to dismantle the District 12 team as quickly as possible, and when President Snow saw this, John and Mycroft would get into trouble for not playing the Games correctly. But they were done playing – this was war.

Sherlock bit his tongue to keep from being rude to the Capitol citizens – he bit down so hard he could slightly taste blood – and soon enough he and Harry were being led away by Peacekeepers to the remake center, and away from John and Mycroft.

Once they reached the outside of the remake center, two Peackeepers led Sherlock and Harry inside of the building, but Mycroft gripped onto John’s shoulder to keep him from following them.

“We don’t go in there,” he said quietly, and John looked up at him.

“Where do we go, then?”

“We have to go to the where the interviews are held to meet with Seneca Crane – it’s a mentor meeting.”

John glanced back to where he'd been watching Sherlock and his sister being led off by the Peacekeepers to go meet their prep teams, found that they were nowhere to be seen, and then looked back up at Mycroft.


The Gamemaker’s control room (which Mycroft kept calling the Hunger Games hub), Seneca Crane’s office, and the conference room were located in the same building the interviews with Caesar Flickerman always took place in – just on the upper floors, completely blocked off to anyone who wasn’t a Gamemaker or a mentor.

“So, what are we doing?” John asked, as he and Mycroft walked through the doors into the main lobby, following the groups of mentors into one of the elevators John hadn’t been allowed to use until now. “What’s this meeting about?”

“Don’t worry; it’s a routine meeting. Mr. Crane is going to give us a general idea of what he has planned for the Games this year.”

“I thought no one knew any of that,” John said, as Mycroft looked into the lobby, calmly stepped forward, pressed elevator’s “close door” button, and held it, watching whoever was coming intently as he did so.

John looked up just in time to see the man from the Quarter Quell’s announcement ceremony – the victor of the last Quarter Quell, Hannibal Lecter Magnussen – approaching as he watched the doors close. If he wasn’t so terrified by seeing Hannibal Magnussen in the flesh, John might’ve laughed. Mycroft would have never gone out of his way to be rude like that to anyone else. He would’ve dealt with the fact that he was sharing an elevator with an unpleasant person, if Hannibal Magnussen was simply an unpleasant person, but now John knew for sure that he wasn’t. Hannibal Magnussen truly needed to be avoided that badly, and that made John’s stomach churn. Hannibal’s brother would be in the Arena with his sister – with Sherlock. And if Mycroft was this uncomfortable around the younger Magnussen brother, what was the elder like?

“No one used to know anything, before,” Mycroft went on as if nothing had happened, tearing John from his thoughts. “We only get an idea of what’s to come now...” Mycroft trailed off, and John looked up to find him staring back at John intently.

As soon as they met eyes, John panicked internally. Mycroft was obviously trying to convey something to him, but he had no idea what. Maybe he did something wrong? Maybe he was in trouble?

“What?” John asked innocently, and all Mycroft did in return was widen his eyes, staring at him even more intently, if that was possible.

Yep, John was definitely in trouble.

But then something completely different occurred to him.

“Wait – so you knew about the fog?” he asked, too loudly. He suddenly remembered there were other mentors in the elevator, and they were now all staring at him.

“I did not. Seneca only gives us the bare minimum. I had no idea about the gas until they filled the Arena with it.” The elevator doors opened, and John bit his tongue to keep from replying as the other mentors filed out. He was about to follow them, but then Mycroft touched his shoulder. “I’m sorry, John. If I could have, I would have tried to stop them from using it.”

“I know.” John replied, and then they too left the elevator.

Mycroft led John to a room that contained a large screen, and something that looked like bleachers with lush leather seats as opposed to metal benches.

John half expected to have to sit up front, but then Mycroft began to lead him up the stairs in the center aisle, toward the back of the room. As they went, John noticed that, after the first two rows of seats, there were numbers on the back of each chair – the third row had two seats marked with the number 1 and two seats marked with a number 2 on one side, and two seats marked with the number 3 and two seats marked with a number 4 on the other. John looked further up and saw that each seat had a number on it, in groups of 2, all the way up to number 12 – four chairs on one side, four on the other. As John saw mentors he recognized from the Victory Tour sitting down, he realized the numbers were to group the Districts, and there were two seats to make sure that both mentors from each District (if the District had two mentors) could sit together. When John and Mycroft got to of District 12’s chairs – grouped into the far upper corner of the room, John noticed something else – something he only could’ve only noticed due to all of the time he had spent with Sherlock: only one chair – the one closest to the wall, had a dip in the seat, to show someone had sat in it before. Mycroft sat in that chair, leaving the chair that looked as if no one had sat in it for seventy-five years for John, and it hit John again that he was the second-ever victor from District 12. He slowly sat down next to Mycroft, feeling the stiff springs and furniture stuffing compress under his weight.

“Looks like we’ve inspired a trend,” Mycroft said quietly, looking around.

That morning, Mycroft and John had exited their respective rooms to find that both of them had had the same idea: wear black, just like they had for the reaping ceremony. John had made a half-hearted joke that one of them should go back and change, but they never did. Now, looking around, John found eighteen other black outfits, and it took a moment for him to see the trend: the people in black were the mentors who had a sibling going into the Arena. At first, John was confused as to why he only saw one black suit in District 2’s and District 11’s group of chairs, but he quickly remembered that District 11’s tributes shared the same sibling (William Smallwood), and District 2’s male tribute was James Sholto, the older brother of Cal Sholto, who had died a few years after he was crowned victor. The only mentor who was there and had a sibling as a tribute but wasn’t wearing black out of respect for their sibling was, of course, Hannibal Magnussen, who instead wore a plaid suit so ugly that John wanted to set it on fire the moment he laid eyes on it.

“They must’ve got the idea from the reaping,” John whispered back. He did another quick headcount – he got eighteen again. Someone was missing –

“Where’s –?” Mycroft muttered as if he had read John’s mind, sitting up in his chair, searching the room for someone. “– Ah.” John followed Mycroft’s gaze, finding Louise Neal striding into the room in a black dress with matching heels, head held high. “There she is.” John watched her climb up the steps and go into District 9’s row of chairs, and when she sat down in the chair next to the aisle seat he could’ve sworn he saw her wipe her eyes.

Of course she would be crying – her three year old brother, Archie, was a tribute in the Hunger Games. Her three year old brother just left her side to get prepped – to get plucked and shaved and washed and scrubbed until his skin was raw. John shivered at the thought. He had barely survived it without crying out in pain – how the hell would Archie get through it?

By the time Seneca Crane entered the room, everyone had sat down. For the first time in Hunger Games history, all twenty-four of the mentor’s seats were filled. John was just about to ask what the empty seats in front were for, but then he saw twelve more people file into the room and take the empty seats for their own: apparently the rest of the Gamemakers were also privy to this meeting.

“Hello, everyone, and welcome to another Hunger Games! First off,” Seneca said, and pointed up to John. “Let’s welcome our newest mentor: John Watson.”

Suddenly everyone’s eyes were on him – including Hannibal Magnussen’s – and some people were clapping, and some were waving or calling brief greetings to him, and some people (like Hannibal) were merely staring. John felt the heat rise in his face, shyly waving at Louise, who was clapping for him.

“It’s good to have someone to sit next to,” Mycroft leaned over and muttered once everyone turned from him, and suddenly John thought back to what Sherlock had said the last time Mycroft said something was “good”: “That’s his nice way of saying it’s really weird for him.”

Being there was really weird for John, too.

Sherlock hated absolutely everything in the entire world at this point – not even John’s smile could wipe the scowl from his face. His new prep team was John’s old prep team, which meant he had to deal with Octavia, which he wasn’t pleased about. The second thing that sent his mood into a downward spiral was the fact that the moment he was put into a little room he was stripped down naked. Octavia (of course) made a comment about his genitalia and how much John probably enjoyed it, and then they hosed him down and scrubbed him until his body was as red as his face. He was so close – so close – to shouting that he and John had never had sex – they hadn’t even seen each other completely naked – so they could all shut up about it, already. The only thing that kept his mouth shut was that they, thankfully, were still calling him Sherlock. Really, that was the only thing that was saving them from his rage as they scrubbed and waxed and shaved and plucked and trimmed and hosed and scrubbed and adjusted and hosed him down for the third time and never shut up about stupid things Sherlock couldn’t care less about.

After fifteen eternities (or so it felt), they were finally done and they left him naked to wait for Cinna. The moment they stopped touching him the robe that he had been clinging desperately to was back on his body, even though he knew from what John had told him that he would be taking it right back off again. On any other day, at any other time, he wouldn’t have cared a bit about being stripped naked and put under the eyes of someone who wasn’t John or Mycroft. In fact, there were countless summer days where Sherlock spent the day with nothing but a sheet wrapped around him when he didn’t feel like showering, and if Mycroft ever stepped on the edge to piss Sherlock off he would just walk away with the sheet still under Mycroft’s foot (whenever John was around, though, Sherlock only threatened to do so, which Mycroft knew wasn’t a bluff). But today – here – he would’ve given anything to have a pair of pants. The Capitol had no right to do this to him – first off to send him here and into their Arena, but to also strip him of everything he was, making sure his dignity was torn to shreds. First they took his name, and now they put his body – his body that he could not and would not change – under a microscope, and made rude comments about his relationship with John, which they had no right to say. They had no right to do any of this.

But they did, and Sherlock knew that, deep down. Because they were the Capitol, and that’s what the Capitol does – take and take and strip you down until there was absolutely nothing left.

And then, they would watch.

“Forgive me for earlier, in the elevator,” Mycroft said in a whisper once the meeting was over, as the other mentors stood up and stretched, conversed with each other, or made their way to the exit.

“What?” John asked, confused, too focused on what he had just heard to remember what Mycroft was referring to.

“Non-verbal communication normally works with Sherlock,” Mycroft explained, and that was able to jog John’s memory.

“Oh – it’s fine. What were you trying to tell me, though?” John asked, Mycroft raised his chin, looking down at Seneca Crane.

“Hold on,” he murmured, and John looked along with him to watch as Hannibal Lecter Magnussen approach Seneca, shaking hands like old friends. Once they started talking, sure there was no way Seneca Crane in the front of the room could hear them, Mycroft then leaned closer to John and lowered his voice, so quiet that John had to lean closer to Mycroft in order to hear him.

“I might have very subtly convinced the Gamemakers to allow the mentors to be given an idea as to what their tributes would be up against,” Mycroft revealed.

“You convinced the Gamemakers to let the mentors in on what they’re doing?” John asked, a little too loudly, and Mycroft instantly shushed him.

“Yes, I did, but only a few people know about this, and none of them are the Gamemakers, so you must keep it to yourself.”

John nodded silently, and then he whispered the question: “How did you do it? Why?”

“A few conversations with drunken Gamemakers at banquets made their way back to Seneca Crane. I hinted that it could really help the mentors and make the Games more interesting, and they agreed whole-heartedly. By the next day they couldn’t remember much, like who they had talked to, but the idea was in their head. After three years of doing this, enough people went to Seneca with ‘an idea they had’ or ‘something they were thinking about’, and finally Seneca agreed. We are mentors, after all. We need to know what the tributes are going to face so that we can help them in their preparations.”

However, John wasn’t sure how good of a thing this was. Of course he wanted to help Harry and Sherlock better prepare for the Games, but this meant that he had an idea of what was coming, as well.

And he didn’t want to think about that for too long.

John’s non-prosthetic leg had been bouncing in nervousness since Seneca announced what this year’s theme would be: family matters. The Gamemakers would be drawing inspiration from the mentors’ past Hunger Games experiences for this year, and John could tell from the way Seneca was talking about it that they were going to milk the sibling thing for everything was worth. John thought of all the horrors the past Games entailed – fire bombs, poisoned water, plants that could kill you with a single touch, mutant apes three times the size of the average person, the fear gas – and John’s stomach plummeted to his shoes. John had glanced over at Mycroft at one point while Seneca was going on to find him gripping the arms of his chair until his knuckles turned white.

“So now what?” John asked, after a moment.

“Now we go up to the penthouse of the training center – I scheduled a little support group with the rest of the mentors in our situation.”

“Did you invite Hannibal?” John asked before he realized what he was saying, and Mycroft chuckled.

“Of course not,” he replied.

“Okay. Good.”

The second meeting was far less formal – it was held at the dining room table on District 12’s floor of the training center. Mycroft had requested snacks from the Avoxes, but even though John was starving he couldn’t force it down. No one could – their families were going to die. It even felt like a funeral, considering everyone was wearing black.

Mycroft – natural leader that he was – was the first to stand up and speak.

“I’d ask how everyone is, but I feel we already know the answer to that. This is mostly for John’s benefit, but before we begin I’d like for us all to go around and introduce ourselves. I’ll start: My name is Mycroft Holmes, I’m from District Twelve, and my younger brother Sherlock will be in the Arena this year.”

He looked to his right, where Dean Bainbridge from District 4, introduced himself and reminded everyone that his older brother, Steven, would be in the Arena. The next man, who wasn’t that much older than John, stood up. Everything about him screamed charming and charisma and confidence – John would think this man made a mistake finding himself here, but then he noticed movements in his right leg John knew all too well from maneuvering his left one the same way.

“Hi, everyone, my name is Alexander Waters, I’m from District Four and I won the sixty-eighth Hunger Games, and my older sister Julia is in the Games this year.” Alexander then gestured to at the elderly woman sitting beside him, who John knew which District she was from without even being told. “And this is Victoria Carter – she’s from District Six and she won the twenty-sixth Games, and her older brother Bradley got reaped this year.”

At the sound of her brother’s name, Victoria looked up at Alexander, aghast, as if she was hearing the news for the first time. In moments, Alexander had sat down, put his hand on her shoulder, and started muttering comforting words that John couldn’t quite hear, as the next elderly woman sitting next to Victoria – who John recognized as Nana, spoke.

“Surely, you all know who I am,” she began, trying to smile, and a few people muttered greetings to her. “My little Abbie is in the Games, this year.”

John remembered Abigail Reeves’ reaping – she, at seventy-nine years old, volunteered for one of the younger girls.

And then, for a few people, it was just faces and names:

“My name is Charolette Lee, I am from District Five, and my younger brother, Joseph, is in the Games.”

“I’m Seamus Ashton, my little sister May’s in the Games, and I’m also from District Five.”

“My name is Anthony Heaney, I’m from District Three, and my older sister, Robin, was reaped.”

The next man, William Smallwood, was about five years older than Anthony, and as soon as he said that he was from District 11, there was a pang of sorrow in John’s chest: his younger siblings, Elizabeth and Jonathan, were both going into the Arena. After him, he introduced another woman who was obviously high on Morphling, Clara Knapp from District 6, whose older sister, Grace, was going into the Arena.

The next person John recognized from District 2: thirty-year-old Antonia Blake. She leaned back in her chair, watching Mycroft with her arms crossed, black and blue hair draped over her face. When it got to be her turn, she looked at John.

“Antonia Blake. District Two.” Then, without moving her head, her eyes flicked back up at Mycroft. “Aurora’s going in.”

“I’m so sorry, Antonia,” Mycroft said, and she shrugged in a way that told John she was merely pretending to be indifferent, and then looked past the empty chair beside her and at the man who was about her age in the seat after that.

“I’m Raz, I’m from District Seven, and my brother Will’s in the Games.” Raz glanced at Mycroft. “I’m sorry about Sherlock,” he added, awkwardly.

“Thank you,” Mycroft replied, and then it was on to the next person.

“My name is James Hewlett; I am from District One,” said a man who looked about the same age as Hannibal Magnussen. “And my younger sister, Helen Hewlett, is in the Games this year,” he announced, and he, like so many others, sounded like he still couldn’t believe it.

“My name is Alan Patterson, I’m from District Ten, and my sister Margaret is in the Games.”

“My name’s Paul Sawyer, I’m from District Eight, and my sister Sarah was reaped into the Games.”

“I’m Edward Birch, I’m also from District Eight, and my little brother Thomas is in the Games.”

“My name’s Rob Wilkes, I’m from District Three, and my brother Sebastian’s in the Games.”

The next woman stood up and spoke with her hands, and Alan Patterson translated for her: her name was Clover Frankland, she was from District 10, and her brother Robert was in the Games. She then looked up at Mycroft, and John looked at Mycroft to find him making gestures similar to hers. It took John a second, but then he remembered who exactly she was from watching her in her Games: the person standing on the podium next to her committed suicide by stepping off of their pressure plate just before the Games started, making it look like they had just timed themselves incorrectly. Clover and a few others lost their hearing, but the only one who didn’t completely break down in panic was Clover; instead she spent her Hunger Games learning how to deal with her sudden loss of hearing. When it came down to the final two, she was attacked from behind, but she was able to defeat them. Upon returning to the Capitol, it became clear that her hearing loss couldn't be reversed, leaving her permanently deaf. John could at least partially sympathize, since the Capitol couldn’t save his injured leg last year, when he returned from his Arena.

The next girl spoke as Clover sat down:

“My name’s Amanda Hawkins, I’m from District Nine, and my sister Janine is in the Games.”

Next came Louise:

“My name is Louise Neal, I’m also from District Nine, and...” tears welled up in her eyes. “I think everyone knows which one’s mine.”

Then it was John’s turn. He had no idea where to look, so he just looked at the untouched food as he spoke:

“My name is John Watson, I’m from District Twelve, and my little sister Harry, and my boyfriend, Sherlock, are in the Games.”

“Thank you, everyone,” Mycroft said, after a moment. “You may have noticed someone isn’t here.” He gesturing to the empty seat on the opposite side of the table. “I did not invite Hannibal Lecter Magnussen today, and the reason why is simple: I believe he is dangerous, and no matter what we do, his thinking cannot be modified. I do not believe he can understand the weight this bears on all of us, and so, for everyone’s safety, I made sure he had no idea we were going to meet. Also, in the interest of safety, if his brother, Charles Augustus, is killed, I ask that whoever’s sibling kills him comes to find me immediately; we all know that Hannibal will be seeking revenge.”

Everyone nodded, and Mycroft continued:

“But we are better than that; we’re better than to seek revenge on our friends for something we have no control over. None of this bears fault onto any of us – our brothers and sisters are merely pawns, and I don’t think any of us want anyone to lose the Hunger Games this year, because then someone in this room will lose a family member, someone that they love. But that’s not on us, and it’s not on them. We all know who to blame. I have a theory that this Quarter Quell is to pit us against each other, and maybe it would have, if we were all like Hannibal Lecter Magnussen. Fortunately, we are not. We know how to do something he doesn’t know how to do, and that is to understand, and to forgive.

“I have been forgiving over these past few months; the moment this year’s Quell was announced I was in an anger so deep it rotted me, and I hated it. I forgave a lot of people for their part in this play. I forgave my parents for giving birth to Sherlock; they didn’t know what was to become of him. I forgave the little girl who carried the box of cards; she doesn’t understand these Games just yet. I forgave myself for winning the Games in the first place; I had no idea what I would be putting my brother through, for at the time I had just wanted to return home to protect him. I had no idea I would be damning him to this hell in the process. There are a few people who I cannot forgive, and I feel we all know who they are.”

John remembered Seneca’s excitement during the mentor meeting, and suddenly he felt sick enough to vomit.

“But they are not in this room, and we are,” Mycroft went on. “And, to avoid conflict and anger and behavior that would stir itself up in our grief, I feel we should forgive each other, and all of our siblings, for what they are about to do. If anyone thinks that we or our siblings should be blamed for what the Capitol is forcing them to do, or if anyone thinks they will not be able to control themselves in the face of losing their family, I invite you to leave.”

Mycroft paused, and John glanced around the table. No one moved, apart from Alan, who was interpreting for Clover. When it was obvious no one was leaving, he finished his speech:

“The rest of this meeting is for all of us to converse and to comfort and to be together during this extremely difficult and unjust time, but it is also for John, our most recently added mentor, to meet all of you,” he said. “I feel it is important that we support each other, so I would like everyone to speak to everyone else at least once. And then, we will go to the City Circle for the Chariots. Thank you.”

Chapter Text

The first person to approach John was Alexander Waters, from District 4.

“Hello, John,” he said, shaking his hand. “I wanted to welcome you to the club.”

“Club?” John asked, and Alexander patted his right thigh. “Oh, right.”

So that was why Mycroft was so disappointed when he learned that Alexander wasn’t going to be attending John’s speech in District 4; he had wanted John to meet someone who had also lost his leg to the Hunger Games Arena. He had wanted to give John someone he could talk to about the one thing neither Mycroft nor Sherlock could empathize with. He had wanted to show John that it was possible to win the Games, lose your leg, and not totally fall to pieces. He had wanted to give John hope.

“What are you – Upper? Lower?” Alexander asked, breaking John from his thoughts.

“Lower – just under the knee. You?”

“I’m upper.”

“Oh – oh, right!” John said, suddenly remembering Alexander’s Arena. “I remember you – Mycroft had us all watch a bunch of past Games in preparation for – you were trying to save one of the twelve-year-olds and your leg got trapped under a falling boulder. You cut off your own leg –”

“Yeah, still not sure if that was the best way to go about it,” Alexander admitted. “But it worked, and I’m still here, so life’s looking up.”

“I remember watching you at home, too – I was twelve then – my parents refused to let me watch that bit once you decided what to do, but the kids at school – I mean, the ones who were allowed to watch it – they wouldn’t shut up about you for almost a year after you won – you were a legend in District Twelve,” John explained.

“Probably not as much as you and Mycroft were – are. That Jim Moriarty, man...” Alexander trailed off, puffing out his cheeks and exhaling.

“Didn’t you hear? His name’s Richard Brook.” For some reason, even now, John was unable to say Jim Moriarty’s name out loud, but he was able to say Richard Brook’s name aloud. Maybe it was because, in John’s head, Richard Brook never existed.

Alexander laughed, bringing John back from his thoughts.

“No way – Moriarty was real, like you said. People have been pretty split on the whole thing ever since you won. All the mentors believe the Jim Moriarty we saw was who he really was, and the whole ‘Richard Brook’ thing was just a way to make the Capitol look innocent. I mean, sure, his birth certificate might say Brook, but we all know who he really was inside – there was no mistake about that, and no mental illness like they’re saying he had. Anyway, I wanted you to know that if you need anything at all, come find me. We gotta stick together, right? You and I together make an entire set of legs, you know.”

He winked at John, and John found himself smiling.

“Yeah, thank you,” John said, and then glanced around the people in the room, trying to think of any questions for Alexander – who to look out for, who was most likely to befriend him – but then his eyes landed on Clover Frankland, who was using her hands to talk to Louise and Amanda Hawkins.

“Don’t be intimidated by Clover; she’s lovely,” Alexander said, obviously following John’s gaze. “You’re gonna have to learn to sign, though; we all know how to.”

“Sign? You mean that thing they’re doing with their hands?” John asked.

“Yeah – when she learned that her ability to hear was permanently lost, she was distraught and I mean, I think all of us felt that way, coming out of the Arena to learn that a part of you wasn’t able to be saved. But we all toughed it out, and even though Clover had a lot more work to do, she did, too. By the time the Victory Tour came around, it came out that she had developed a whole language with her hands, and everyone in District Ten was using it. Now all the mentors know how to sign, as well.”

“That’s amazing.”

“Yeah – first person with a disability to win the Hunger Games. I mean, I know that a few of us are missing eyes and limbs and other things, but she was pretty much completely deaf for the entire time she was in the Arena and she won the Games. She’s the real legend.”

“Tell me about it,” John agreed, and then he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned his head and found Mycroft. “Hey.”

“Hello, boys – how are you?” he asked.

“I’m okay,” John replied.

“Couldn’t be better,” Alexander said.

“I’m sure you wouldn’t mind if I stole John, then? There’s a lot of other people for him to meet.”

“No problem,” Alexander replied. “See you around, John,” he said, shaking John’s hand.

“Yeah – thanks.”

John preferred it when Mycroft led the conversations of who John was talking to – it was like he was taking a load off of John’s shoulders that John didn’t even knew he had until now. Ever since the end of his Hunger Games, casual conversation was difficult – he didn’t know how to open, how to close without seeming rude – it was as if he was turning into Sherlock. Mycroft was good at conversation, though – he drifted in and out and on to other people as naturally as breathing. John wondered if he used to be like that, and if he could ever get back to a point where he could converse normally.

At last, they reached Louise, Amanda, and Clover.

“Hey,” Louise said, hugging Mycroft and John in turn.

“How are you feeling?” John asked, and Louise shrugged as Amanda translated for Clover.

“Not so great?” she replied, though it came out like a question.

“I’m so sorry, Louise,” Mycroft said, and John nodded in agreement.

“Not much we can do,” Louise said.

“So what are you thinking, Mycroft?” Amanda asked. “About what Crane said?”

“They’re obviously going to go as far as they can with the fact that everyone in the Arena is related to a victor,” he replied, acting as if he had been asked questions like this many times before – and he probably had. “Which means it could entail anything, or everything. Similar Arenas, the same obstacles, the same weapons – they could even manipulate things to reenact past Games.”

“How could they do that?” John asked. “Manipulate things to recreate the past?”

“They could ensure that something got to Harriet’s leg, or place the tribute most likely to commit suicide next to Robert Frankland, or have an area with freezing temperatures set aside to lead Sherlock into. The possibilities are endless, honestly.”

“What if no one played?” Louise asked, suddenly, her eyes welling with tears as she looked up at Mycroft. “What if, when the countdown ends and the Games begin, no one moved?”

“They’d blow them up with the bombs under the pedestals,” Amanda replied before Mycroft could, but Mycroft was watching Clover signing something, and he translated for John:

“It wouldn’t matter, either way. Magnussen would play, and all it takes is one person to kill another.”

Cinna really outdid himself this year, Sherlock thought. He had managed to find a way to combine the District’s export, mining and coal, with Sherlock and John’s star-crossed-lovers story, and put it all into one outfit.

He was in black – it was supposed to represent the coal, but Sherlock, his prep team, and Mrs. Hudson found it more representative of the rebellious black outfits the two tributes attended their reaping ceremony in, and Cinna didn’t do much to convince anyone of otherwise. The cuff of Sherlock’s right sleeve contained a hidden button that, when pressed, would cause synthetic violet fire to burst from his cape – one step up from last year’s flames with John. Sherlock boiled it all down to budget – they didn’t have enough to make this fire last year, but since District 12 won the last year’s Hunger Games, they had enough money to experiment with false flames. Of course, this did not stop Sherlock from making Cinna cross-his-heart promise that the fire wasn’t dangerous.

The moment he caught sight of Harry Watson arriving the stables, just before the opening ceremony, Sherlock dashed up to her and threw his arms around her.

“Are you alright?” he asked the moment he let go of her.

“I’m okay – have you seen John or Mycroft?” she asked.

“No – we’ll meet up with them after.”

“Right – what about –”

“What the hell?” Sherlock muttered, cutting Harry off mid-sentence, and she turned around to look at what had caught Sherlock’s attention: Charles Augustus Magnussen, leaning close to one of the horse trainers, whispering in her ear.

“Is that Magnussen?” Harry asked.

“It is,” Sherlock whispered back, glancing between the man and Harry.

“What the fuck is he doing?” Harry asked, as they watched him finish speaking with the woman. They then watched her as she took one horse from his pair and exchanged it with another horse from another pair. “Did he just...?”

“I think he just convinced her to exchange those horses’ spots in the lineup,” Sherlock said.

“Are you shitting me? What is he, three?” she asked, and then looked down at her feet, remembering there was an actual three-year-old tribute just a few stalls away.

“He knows the system too well,” Sherlock muttered. “He knows that if he refuses to take part they’ll have to do what he wants, since they can’t exactly hurt him in order to get him to comply.”

“But seriously, the horses? They’re all beautiful,” she said quietly, touching one of their horses’ muzzles.

“He’s just testing the waters,” Sherlock said.

“Testing the waters for what?” Harry asked.

“I dunno – to see how far he can go, maybe?”

Harry sighed, and spoke for both of them:

“I want John.”

The moment the words were spoken, Sherlock put his brain into motion. If this forty-year-old man could convince a horse trainer to letting him do whatever he wanted, then so could they.

“I have an idea,” he said after a few moments, and Harry smiled for the first time in days.

“Hell yeah – there’s my man with the plan,” Harry said. “Can I help?”

“Just stand here and pout,” Sherlock replied. “If you can cry on demand, now would be a good time to do so.”

And with that, Sherlock left her and approached the nearest horse trainer – one who was just a year away from retirement, sick of doing this year after year – the perfect person to try and coax a favor out of.

“Excuse me, but would it be possible if we could see our mentor, John Watson?” he asked as politely as he could muster. The man crossed his arms and sighed.

“Surely, as the brother of a mentor you must know that’s against policy –”

“But his sister – his sister is refusing to go on if she doesn’t see him – it’ll just be for a minute, sir –”

The man glanced at the pouting Harry Watson, sighed again, and pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment, then grabbed the arm of the nearest Avox, who just happened to be passing by.

“Fetch John Watson from the mentors’ booth, straight away,” he ordered, and then turned back to Sherlock as the Avox walked away.

“Thank you so much –” Sherlock began.

“Just make sure she doesn’t throw a fit,” the man said before turning his back on Sherlock and walking away, muttering something about how the actual toddler was being better-behaved than the older tributes were.

“...Will do,” he mumbled quietly, then turned to Harry and gave her a thumbs-up. John was on his way.

When an Avox had reached the mentor’s booth and signaled for John to come with him, Mycroft was instantly at his defense. At first he tried to follow, but the Avox caught on and put his arm out to keep Mycroft from coming along with them.

“Did President Snow send you?” he asked, and the Avox shook his head, then pointed in back of them, at the double doors that would open any minute now to release the chariots. Just beyond those doors were the stalls, where the tributes were boarding their chariots, John remembered. If anyone was in there who wanted to see him specifically, it had to be Sherlock or Harry, if not both.

After convincing Mycroft that he was alright on his own, he walked with the Avox down the crowded sidewalk and entered the stables to realize he was completely correct in his assumption. Within seconds, Harry had her arms around him. When she stepped back, he noticed she was donned in a beautiful black high-low dress with her hair done up, only letting a few locks frame her face, and violet makeup outlining her features. It then struck John how adult-like she looked, but before he could say anything Sherlock’s lips was on his, and he was kissing his boyfriend back.

For a moment, the world – the Hunger Games, the smell of hay and the Capitol’s many-scented soaps, the sounds of the commotion around him, all if it – was gone, and all John could feel was Sherlock’s soft, warm mouth and feel his beautifully clean hands holding onto John’s. It was almost therapeutic, but it had to end.

As soon as their lips were apart, their words trampled over one another’s:

“How do I look –”

“How are you doing –?”

They chuckled at how stupid they both sounded, and then Sherlock replied as John looked him over. There was one thing about Sherlock that John always admired, even before John’s Games: he was always, always beautiful. He had seen Sherlock at his most ugly; right out of the shower, just woken up with gravity-defying bedhead, with his mouth stuffed full of food – even when he was passed out from an overdose at fifteen there was still some beauty about him that John was too worried about his health to place or ever want to see again. What the Capitol did to him looked like just that: something that the Capitol did to him. But this wasn’t the Sherlock John knew – this was a warped version of him, as if the Capitol had tried to recreate him from scratch in their own image.

But even the Capitol couldn’t take away his beauty.

“You look fantastic, Sherlock,” John finally said, after Sherlock had quickly described the feelings that John had felt while he was being scrubbed down and turned into the Capitol’s perfect toy, and then John turned to Harry. “And you – I want to cry. You’re beautiful.”

“Oh, don’t,” Harry tried to laugh, but there were tears in her eyes all the same. She put her hand on her chest, over the locket John had given her.

Before any of them could get another word out, a red light shone above the double doors they were to exit through – the tributes were to get to their chariots and in line – immediately. The horse trainers quickly started getting the horses into line – Charles Augustus Magnussen and Helen Hewlett up in front, and Sherlock Holmes and Harry Watson in the back. Sherlock, Harry, and John walked alongside District 12’s chariot as the horse trainers led the horses into line, politely staying out of the way.

“We caught sight of Magnussen,” Sherlock informed John.

“I did too. Well, the other one, at least. Was yours as creepy as mine?”

“No, not really,” Harry replied.

“He convinced one of the horse trainers to switch horses for him,” Sherlock summarized.

“That’s stupid,” John said.

“That’s what we said,” Sherlock assured him. “I think he’s just seeing how much trouble he can cause.”

“You’re staying away from him, right?” John asked.

“Of course we are.”

The light at the top of the doors turned yellow, and the tributes were told to board their chariots. Sherlock and Harry hugged John in turn, and John promised he would see them when they got to the training center.

The two tributes got onto their chariots, and Sherlock, with one look at John’s face, leaned forward to speak with him.

“Are you alright?” Sherlock asked.

“I’m sorry this is happening,” John whispered as the light turned green, and Sherlock rolled his eyes as the beginning of the line started to move.

“Don’t be – what could you have done differently?” he asked, and before John could give him the first answer that came to his mind – I could’ve died – Sherlock kissed him softly.

And then the movement of the line caught up with them – the horses stepped forward, pulling the chariot behind them, and pulled Sherlock away from John.

Sherlock and Harry turned to watch John as they left, and John waved awkwardly back at them, not knowing what else to do with himself, short of running and ripping them off of the chariots and taking them far, far away from the Games.

But that would get them all killed.

As soon as the doors closed behind them, though, John raced from the stables to the stylists’ viewing box up above the doors, and found Cinna and Connie, standing with their prep teams.

“Room for one more?” John asked.

“John!” Connie exclaimed, surprised.

“What are you doing here?” Cinna asked.

“I thought the view was better on this side,” John replied, sarcastic. “I was summoned by Sherlock and Harry, and I wouldn’t have enough time to make it to the mentor’s box, so now I’m here.”

“Sherlock summoned you to see him off? How romantic!” Octavia exclaimed, and John rolled his eyes.

“Harry did too,” he muttered, too low for her to hear.

“And – oh my goodness look at our District Twelve tributes! Harriet Watson and William Holmes – they look amazing!”

John looked over the edge, and found Harry and Sherlock, the only tributes donned in black in the lineup. The crowd went wild at the sight of them, cheering and shouting and throwing roses and irises (that were probably only sold because of Sherlock’s appearance) in their direction.

And then John heard what the crowd was cheering, their voices unified in shouts so loud that John’s ears began to hurt:


John’s heart sank. It wasn’t just Johnlock – Harry was there, too. Everyone seemed to be forgetting that – Harry was there; she had been this whole time. Sure, Sherlock was the one they knew, and Sherlock was the one that they all assumed was having sex with John every night, but didn’t they know there were different kinds of love? Didn’t they know that John loved his sister as much as he did Sherlock, only in different ways?

Sherlock must’ve been thinking the same thing – feeling the same anger that John was feeling – for he caught an iris out of the air, put it behind Harry’s ear, held her hand, and raised their arms together above their heads.

In the same instant, a lilac fire set them aflame. John immediately took a step forward, and Cinna caught him by the shoulder.

“That’s not real, is it?!”

“Of course not,” Cinna replied. “It’s all synthetic.”

And John looked back at Sherlock and Harry, their hands still joined in the air, lit by the fire that was the exact same shade as the irises being thrown at them – the irises of their meadow – and hated the Capitol so much in that moment. They were taking everything from them – their lives, their happiest memories, their names, the light from their eyes...

But their fire remained, and the synthetic fire helped John finally see that clearly. They were still Sherlock and Harry, and nothing the Capitol said or did could change that.

He just wished that the Capitol wasn’t actively trying to change that.

Chapter Text

The night after the opening ceremony, John found himself awake at three in the morning, unable to go back to sleep. Not wanting to lie in bed for any longer, John untangled himself from Sherlock, left a small note on where to find him if he were to wake up, and made his way to the sitting room.

He expected to be the only one awake apart from the Avoxes, but then he saw Mycroft Holmes sitting on the sofa, staring at a muted television screen.

“Mycroft?” John called quietly as he entered the room.

Mycroft’s hand immediately flew to the remote, but then he saw who it was.

“John,” he said, only slightly relieved. “Is Sherlock with you?”

“He’s asleep,” John replied, and Mycroft chuckled.

“For once.”

“Yeah,” John agreed, and then nodded to the television. “What are you watching?”

“Hannibal Magnussen’s Hunger Games. Come.” He patted the sofa cushion next to him. “Sit.”

John wanted to decline, say that he was just coming out for something simple, like a glass of water, and planned on going back to sleep, but his curiosity won out, and he sat next to Mycroft, and he unmuted the television. John looked up at the screen and found a younger version of Hannibal – still with the same hairstyle, John noticed – speaking to a curly-haired bespectacled boy who was, at the time, crying and constantly waving his hands.

“Is that Will Graham?” John asked, and Mycroft nodded.

“You joined us a very difficult time for William – he thinks he’s killed a few of the tributes. He’s good natured, like you – he didn’t want to hurt anyone.”

“How can he think he did?” John asked. “How can he not know?”

“William suffered from an advanced form of encephalitis – the stress of the Games heightened his symptoms – he often hallucinated and lost large pieces of time to his own head. It’s like having to ingest your fog on a daily basis.”

“Jesus,” John murmured, trying to imagine what that could be like. The fog had fucked with his head so much he still couldn’t remember how many times he had stabbed Philip Anderson through his own eyes, as opposed to remembering what he had seen during the recap. But living like that all the time? That would drive anyone irreversibly insane.

“He felt like he could trust Hannibal with informing him what he missed, but he was wrong,” Mycroft explained.

“...What’s he doing with his hands?” John asked, after a moment. He had seen a few people back in Twelve do something similar – he had seen Sherlock do something similar, in fact – but he had never thought to ask or question it.

“He was also believed to be autistic – when he became overwhelmed or nervous he found that providing himself with self-stimulation calmed him down, somewhat. Most self-stimulation manifests itself in repetitive motions, and, for William, those repetitive motions are hand-flapping, which is what he’s doing right now.”

“How’d they get that diagnosis?” John asked. He had heard the term before, but knew for a fact that no one in the Districts had any way to officially give that kind of verdict.

“The Capitol’s medical professionals gave Will a proper behavior analysis once the Capitol’s viewers realized that William was different.”

John nodded, and then was quiet for a moment.

“Was Will going to win?” he asked.

“He was; William was extremely intelligent, and Hannibal knew that he was. He lied to William like this to keep him under his thumb; if William thought he was insane he wouldn’t have to worry about William outsmarting him. Then, when everyone else was gone, it would be an easy win. What he didn’t know, of course, was that William’s also a brilliant actor.”

“Is he faking now?” John asked.

“No; he’ll start that tomorrow, when he finds Hannibal killing and eating tributes. Of course, the encephalitis and the autism did not go away; he still hallucinated and lost bits of time and got overwhelmed, but this time he knew who he was, so he was able to act for Hannibal, as opposed to believing the lies he was feeding him.”

John watched the screen as this happened – Will snuck after Hannibal and watched him rip a twelve-year-old girl named Abigail Hobbs apart with his teeth and eat her alive. Will was horrified, and definitely vomited a few times off-camera, but by the time Hannibal made it back to the Careers’ camp, Will was back to normal, or as normal as Will could have been, considering. He informed Hannibal that he seemed to lose a few hours, and Hannibal informed him that he had just returned from killing a tribute, and Hannibal had just helped him clean up. Just as before, Will panicked, but this time John knew that he was faking.

After another day of Hannibal lying to Will and Will acting for Hannibal, it came down to the final two. This was when Will let his layers fall away, and showed Hannibal who he really was – an intelligent thirteen-year-old with thoughts and words beyond his years which were spoken aloud in a voice that cracked at the thought of puberty. His eyes saw everything, but couldn’t look Hannibal in the face; his hands shook, yet he disguised it behind his flapping. John couldn’t help but find Will to be beautiful in his moment of greatness – his moment of outsmarting Hannibal Lecter Magnussen. Will had that same unorthodox beauty that Sherlock had; that beauty that was impossible to place; he was beautiful like how finding the irises was beautiful – beautiful like how the idea of freedom was beautiful.

John knew the ending to the story, but he still wanted Will to win, and when it finally came down to it, John could not watch Will Graham die. His eyes snapped shut, and he heard Will’s screams as Hannibal tore through his flesh with his teeth and ate his beating heart.

“I did not have a mentor,” Mycroft reminded John, and he opened his eyes to find Hannibal boarding the hovercraft to return home, his mouth and clothes stained red with Will’s blood. “I was left with a collection of recordings from each Hunger Games before mine, and I watched all of them, religiously. When I got to this one, I knew that a record would be set for the youngest victor, but I was so sure that William would’ve won. I imagined meeting him, congratulating him on his win. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking; I’m still not sure if it was or not. I had never been so distraught as I was when I watched Hannibal Magnussen win, and I’m sure we both know why; I’m sure we both saw the similarities between William Graham and Sherlock. Of course, there are now instances that overpower that sadness, but I will never forget that night. There are two people I think of in everything I do, and that is Sherlock Holmes, and William Graham.”

“You’re afraid of him – of Hannibal,” John said, looking at Mycroft.

“Of course I am. You’ve seen what he can do.” They sat in silence for a few moments, watching the aftermath of Hannibal’s Games, and then Mycroft spoke again. “Did you know the Magnussen brothers had a sister?” he asked.

“They did?”                                                                  

“They did, indeed,” Mycroft replied. “Her name was Mischa. She disappeared the night before her first reaping ceremony; the year after Hannibal won. No one knows what happened to her, but I think I have a good idea.”

“Hannibal?” John wondered aloud, and Mycroft nodded.

“I believe he took her out of District One and devoured her, just as he did William Graham.”

“Jesus Christ,” John murmured to himself, and then looked up at Mycroft. “Do you think history will repeat itself? That a Magnussen will win the Games again?” John asked quietly, not wanting to know the answer.

Mycroft stared straight ahead, at Hannibal’s grinning face during the victor’s interview, and he spoke so quietly John almost didn’t catch it at first, but then he did, and his heart hurt at the sound of it:


Sherlock woke up the next morning incredibly uneasy – more uneasy than he should’ve been for the morning of the first day of group training. The morning was normal – or, as normal as it could be considering where they were. The four ate breakfast together and Sherlock and John went through their morning routines together, the whole time Sherlock trying to figure out why the hell he was so nervous.

It was only when it was time to go down to the training room did the knot in Sherlock’s stomach made sense, and it was at the same time that John realized that something was wrong.

The elevator doors opened, and Sherlock and Harry stepped forward to enter it.

“Sherlock?” John called, and Sherlock turned around to see John waving him back. “Hang back.”

“John?” Harry asked.

“Just go, Harry – Sherlock will be right behind you,” John promised, and Harry shrugged and entered the elevator, letting the doors close behind her.

Once the doors were closed, John rounded to Sherlock.

“Okay, Sherlock. What’s going on?” he asked. “You’ve barely said two words to me all morning.”

“Isn’t that normal for me?” Sherlock asked.

“Not lately, it isn’t,” John replied, crossing his arms. “What’s going on?”

“It’s nothing,” Sherlock tried to assure him. “It’s stupid –”

“I don’t care. Sherlock, I need to know what’s going on so I can help you.”

“As my mentor or as my boyfriend?” Sherlock asked, and John shrugged in reply.

“Take your pick.”

Sherlock sighed, frustrated. He hated admitting this sort of thing out loud, especially when it was something as trivial as –

“I don’t like elevators,” Sherlock muttered, and John leaned forward.

“What was that?”

“I don’t. Like. Elevators. They make me sick,” he admitted, just a pinch louder.

“Sick? You mean they make you nauseous?”

“I told you it was stupid.”

“And I told you I don’t care. What do you think can be done about it?” John asked. “How do you think we can avoid using it?”

“The Avoxes never use the elevators,” Sherlock told him quietly, and John caught up with him in seconds.

“Excuse me,” he called to an Avox who was scrubbing down the dining room table. She immediately stood up straight, waiting for her demand. “Sherlock doesn’t like the elevators – is there a staircase we could use to get to the training room?”

At first the woman seemed surprised, and Sherlock wasn’t sure if that was because John had asked her a question instead of barking an order, or the fact that he had mentioned a staircase that only the Avoxes and Capitol Peacekeepers knew about. Once she got over the initial shock, she nodded, and led them to one of the many panels in the wall; the only difference was that this one was removable. She opened the panel like a door, which revealed a metal door. She pulled that one open, too, revealing a grey cement floor and grey brick walls, with a yellow “12” painted on the wall. Sherlock thought it was just a room, until a male Avox came around the corner and passed them, going into the penthouse.

“This is it?” John asked the woman, and she nodded. John looked at Sherlock. “There’s eleven floors for us to get through. Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Anything’s better than that elevator,” Sherlock replied, and so John thanked the Avox and then they too made the descent down to the training center.

“I didn’t know you didn’t like the elevators,” John said conversationally.

“Neither did I,” Sherlock replied. “The ones we have in District Twelve don't go as fast as the ones here do.”

“Yeah – they kind of threw me off, too – I mean, they never made me sick, but...yeah.”

“Thank you,” Sherlock said after a moment. “For getting them to show us the stairs.”

“Of course – that’s what boyfriends do, isn’t it?” John asked, and Sherlock smiled in response.

“How’s the uniform?” John asked, after a couple of flights, remembering his old training uniform. Sherlock now donned a similar one: there were big “12”s plastered to his chest and back, and “HOLMES” written in block lettering in between his shoulder blades.

“I’m just thankful it doesn’t say ‘William’.” Sherlock replied. He didn’t mind the jersey and the leggings, really – it was about the same that teachers would have them wear to gym class in school. And it wasn’t like everyone else wouldn’t be wearing the same thing, with their own last names and District numbers written upon them.

“I still can’t believe they did that. I mean – everyone knows you as Sherlock. Even the Capitol knows you as Sherlock.”

“I can certainly still believe it. Humiliate me while they can, you know? It’s a very Capitol thing to do: humiliate us before they kill us.”

John chuckled, humorlessly, and sighed. “I’m gonna miss this – you,” he mumbled, finally.

“Save it – you’ve still got a few more days with me.”

They were almost to their destination when Sherlock realized something.

“They’re probably wondering why I’m late.”

“Yeah – don’t worry, I’ll take care of it,” John said, waving him off.

“Don’t tell them I don’t like the elevators,” Sherlock ordered.

“Never dreamed of it,” John promised.

“Here’s us,” Sherlock said as he found the door to the training room.

When John opened it for Sherlock, they came face-to-face with the head trainer – Atala, John had told him – with a crying boy – Archibald Neal – holding her hand.

“Mr. Watson, this better not be what it looks like,” Atala said, glaring at John.

It took a moment for Sherlock to figure out what she was taking about: sex, again. A smile grew across John’s face, and Sherlock knew what was coming.

“Yes, it’s exactly what it looks like. We thought we had time; we obviously didn’t. Won’t happen again,” he lied, keeping direct eye contact.

She looked away first, and turned her attention to Sherlock. She jerked her thumb behind her, at the training room.

“Off you get,” she said, and, after a quick goodbye, John went for the elevators, and Sherlock went to start his training.

He took exactly eleven steps before he stopped, and turned back around.

Archie was practically hiding behind Atala’s leg, one hand clutching onto hers, and the other one holding onto a worn stuffed mouse toy – his favorite toy, Sherlock figured. He vaguely remembered Archie holding the same toy during his reaping ceremony – Louise must’ve told him he could bring one and that would be his tribute token.

This boy was three years old – he was tiny and probably the easiest target to these people, except for maybe the elderly tributes. He couldn’t let this boy spend the last few days of his life hiding and crying – he couldn’t just leave him.

He took a few steps forward, and Atala glared at him.

“Go on, Twelve,” she ordered, but Sherlock continued walking. When he was five steps away from Archie, he kneeled down, getting to his level like Mycroft used to do when he was a child.

“Hi, Archie,” Sherlock said quietly, and Archie peered out from behind Atala’s leg. He wasn’t sure what to say then, but he pressed on. “My name is Sherlock. Would you like to play with me?”

The boy hid behind Atala’s leg, still staring at Sherlock with the one eye that Sherlock could see, mumbling something.

“What’s that?” Sherlock asked, and the boy spoke, louder:

“I wan Lou-Lou.”

Lou-Lou – Louise; his sister. Sherlock thought fast.

“I know I’m not Louise but – you know the boy who came in with me? The one who just left? That’s my boyfriend – he’s a friend of Louise’s. And I’ve met Louise. She – she would want you to come play with me. She wouldn’t want you to cry all day.” He held out his hand. “Come on, Archie.”

Archie leaned away from Atala’s leg, revealing both of his brown eyes, both flicking back and forth between Sherlock and his extended hand. He looked up at Atala, unsure.

“It’s okay,” Sherlock promised, even though it was not okay – that neither of them would ever be okay again.

But slowly, Archie let go of Atala’s hand, closed the distance between him and Sherlock, and held onto Sherlock’s hand.

Feeling victorious, Sherlock looked up at Atala, ready to smirk or do something twice as childish, but he found that she looked relieved to be rid of the youngest tribute to ever compete in the Hunger Games. Maybe she felt bad for him, too, but didn’t know how to help. He pressed his lips together in a tight smile and nodded to her, stood up, and led Archie away from her, and looked at their options.

What could a three year old do in this place?

“I miss momma,” the boy said, and Sherlock looked down at him.

“I do, too,” he admitted, before he could stop himself.

They stuck to small obstacles – nothing to do with weaponry, and Sherlock made sure he could always see Harry – who had swung by to say hi and to ask if he was alright with her going off and legitimately training.

“Where Lou-Lou go?” he asked quietly, as Sherlock helped him across the balance beam.

“Louise is back upstairs – where your room is,” Sherlock explained.


“None of the mentors – none of our brothers and sisters are allowed to be here. Like how Louise can’t come to school with you.”

“I miss school.”

“Me too.” Compared to being in the Hunger Games, Sherlock would take school any day.

The moment Sherlock and Harry returned from their training (Harry walking with Sherlock up the staircase), Harry gathered John and they both went into Mycroft’s office, where he was working. Harry was the one who knocked, and though they were allowed to enter the room, they opened the door to discover that Mycroft had not looked up from his work.

“What’s up, Harry?” John asked as they sat down in the two chairs before the desk.

“There was something that happened today that I wanted to tell you guys about – something about Sherlock –” Harry began, but Mycroft cut her off.

“Yes, what has he done, now?” he asked, impatient.

“Well, um. You know the three year old from District Nine? Archie?” she asked, and John nodded. “Well, Sherlock kind of...comforted him today. Like, a lot. Archie was crying a lot and Atala couldn’t console him and Sherlock just...he just walked up to him and started talking to him. He’s never talked to anyone like he talked to Archie – he was really kind and he didn’t even train; he just stayed with Archie all day...” Suddenly an image flashed across John’s mind: the image of Sherlock and a young child, holding hands – smiling – he knew it was impossible, especially now, but he was sure he was imagining Sherlock Holmes – his Sherlock Holmes – as a father to a child that they called theirs. He shook his head as Harry went on. “I dunno, I just thought it was something you guys would like to know about – something good you might want to remember, I mean, in case something happens – in the Arena –”

“Yes, yes, thank you Harriet, but if you don’t mind I’m sort of busy at the moment, so if you and John would please see yourselves out I would appreciate it.”

John turned to Mycroft, mouth open, ready to reprimand him for disrespecting Harry – ready to yell at him if he needed to – but then he saw Mycroft’s face. It was still turned downward, and he was still staring at the paper he was writing on, but his entire demeanor had changed. His hands shook, and John found a droplet of moisture at the tip of his nose. It dripped down to the table, staining his paper, and John turned back to Harry.

“Mycroft’s right – he’s terribly busy – we should go.”

Ten minutes later, John was in the elevator going up to the roof, where he had agreed to meet with Louise Neal. She was there when he arrived, and he hugged her tightly, and relayed the information Harry had given him to her. By the end, she was crying.

“He doesn’t understand the Games,” she said, finally. “I won when he had just turned one – you can’t explain to someone that young that you killed people, you just can’t. How am I supposed to explain to it to him, now? That this is what our world is? I didn’t truly understand until I was ten – how can I explain this to someone who doesn’t even understand death?” she asked.

He had broken it to Harry when she was five – when he learned at the age of eight, he blurted it out when their mother tried explaining why their parents didn’t want them watching it. The next year, both of them were planted in front of the television, because they both finally understood, and there was no use in keeping them from watching it, anymore. Of course Archie had watched the Games that young, even if he didn’t remember it – he had to watch his sister play.

“What have you told him?” John asked.

“I told him it was a game – a real game. I told him that the people who lost didn’t die – they just couldn’t play anymore. I told him the other tributes from District Nine were so embarrassed by their losses that they never leave their houses, which is why no one sees them. He’s not even upset by the Games – he just doesn’t like being in this place that he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t even understand why I cry. He says he’s not going to hide if he loses. I want to tell him – I want to tell him so badly – I want him to understand – but I can’t. I’ve tried. He’ll never know until it’s too late.”

“He seems to like Sherlock – maybe he could –”

“No, I can’t put that on him. I should be the one to...I just can’t. I don’t want to see the hope leave his eyes. He’s too young for this, John.”

Again he thought of Sherlock as a father – of himself as a father – he thought of the fact that he and Sherlock had fallen in love and would never be able to live out their lives happily together. He thought of all the mentors – every single one, and what they faced each day, waking up from nightmares to the flashbacks they had to relive over and over –

“We all are.”

Chapter Text

The next day, Harry joined Sherlock and John on their journey down to the training center.

“So you’re afraid of elevators?” Harry asked.

“I’m not afraid – they just make me nauseous,” Sherlock tried to explain.

“I can’t believe it – Sherlock Holmes: afraid of elevators.”

“Don’t tease him,” John said from his place between them – where he always felt he was stuck, these days.

“But elevators –”

“You can always go back up and ride it down if you love it so much,” Sherlock offered, and Harry laughed, and it was almost like everything was the way it should’ve been.

The biggest reminder were the passing Avoxes – they waved to these Avoxes as they passed, but the Avoxes immediately avoided eye contact. Another thing they changed when they realized that there were two tributes and the mentor in the stairwell was their hands – they moved them in the same way that Clover did when she spoke until they noticed they were not alone, and then dropped their hands immediately at their sides. They were signing – all of them were.

After seeing Louise, John had met up with Clover, and she taught him a few words and phrases in her language – important words like “hello”, “goodbye”, “my name is John Watson”, “help”, and all of the curse words they could think of. There was one phrase John requested to be taught: “You’re safe.” It was an easy enough thing to say – he had to point at them, then ball up his fists, cross his wrists, and then uncross them, as if he were wiping a slate clean. Each time he did it, they gaped at him for a moment, surprised, but then smiled shyly at him before they passed him by.

“Why don’t you just tell them they’re safe?” Sherlock had asked at one point.

“Because it shows I know what they’re doing, and they’re safe because I can do it, too.”

“Can you say Harry?” his sister asked.

“Yes,” he said, and he signed her name.

“You’re teaching me how to sign tonight,” Sherlock insisted.

“Of course.”

Archie pointed at Harry from across the training room.

“Look at her.”

Harry was exceptionally talented in the obstacle course. As Archie climbed up and down the rope wall (the only thing he really enjoyed doing within the confines of the room), Sherlock kept an eye on Harry as she bounced from station to station, always finding her way back to the obstacle course. She continuously tore through it in the shortest amount of time, sometimes beating her score, sometimes not, but she was always above everyone else. The person in second place was Charles Augustus Magnussen, despite his old age, surprising even Sherlock. Sherlock would’ve been in third, or maybe even in second place, but he ran through it with Archie, which landed him in the five-minute area, as opposed to Harry’s under-a-minute.

Not only did Sherlock keep an eye on Harry, but he also kept an eye out for Charles Augustus. He strode everywhere as if he owned the place, even though he was the furthest thing from a person who owned anything in the Capitol. He cut in front of people in line and made sure he touched everything he could – including people. He certainly found himself a fascination with twenty-five-year-old Helen Hewlett, but then again, they were neighbors for years, and tributes from the same District normally gravitated toward each other. That still didn’t mean Sherlock liked the way Charles looked at her, though – as if she was something to eat. In fact, he looked at everything like that, and apparently his brother did, as well, from the way John talked about him.

John was still letting Sherlock sleep in his room, which Sherlock was grateful for, but it seemed as if the dynamic between them had changed. They never spoke of themselves, or what they were going to lose – really, they only spoke about John’s mentoring duties, and of Charles Augustus and Hannibal Lecter Magnussen.

“I saw Hannibal at lunch,” John would announce. “I swear, he had nothing but meat – red meat, no fish or chicken. And he looked sad about it.”

“Charles Augustus stared at Helen Hewlett while licking his fingers during our lunch.”

“Ew. He hasn’t said anything to you and Harry, right?”


But today, he did.

Sherlock looked away from Archie to find Harry at the archery station, and just in time to see Charles Augustus Magnussen striding up behind her. Within seconds, he was just behind her, speaking:

“Your form is entirely wrong, you know.”

Harry nearly jumped out of her skin, spinning around to face him. Her face paled at the sight of him, but she tried to act casual.

“Yeah, well, I’m hitting the mark, so it's fine. I was just leaving, though. Here,” she said, holding out her bow.

“No, let me show you –” he started, reaching out to turn her back around – to put himself up against her – to breathe into her neck –

“HEY,” Sherlock felt as if he was roaring as he quickly closed in on them in the fastest walk he could manage. He could feel everyone staring – tributes and trainers and Gamemakers and Peacekeepers alike – but he didn’t care. Before Charles could touch her, Sherlock said the first thing that came into his mind: “Harry... Hi.” He could have punched himself in the face right there, but he had stopped Magnussen, and that’s what mattered.

“Hi,” Harry replied, just as anxiously. “Do you need me for something –?”

“Yes!” he exclaimed. “Over here – come on –” he said, letting her drop the bow to the floor and then grabbing her arm, dragging her across the room.

“Thanks,” Harry whispered when they were out of Charles Augustus’ earshot but not quite yet into Archie’s.

“No problem.”

“Should we tell John?”

“Yeah, but let’s not make a big deal out of it – Magnussen’s a tribute; we were going to have to deal with him sooner or later. Let me worry about telling him, alright?”

“Alright,” Harry agreed, just as they approached Archie.

“Hey, Archie – can Harry hang out with us?”

“Sure,” he said. “I like your net-less.”

“Thank you,” she said, and he started climbing up the rope wall again.

“How is he?” she asked quietly, standing next to Sherlock as he spotted Archie from below.

“I’m starting to get the idea that he doesn’t quite understand what’s going on. He keeps talking about going home.”

“He thinks he’s going to win?”

“No – he talks about all of us going home. No matter who wins and who loses. He keeps saying ‘we get what we get and we don’t get upset.’ I don’t think he understands what happens if we lose.”

“Shit,” she said, louder than she should have.

“That’s a bad word!” Archie called.

“Sorry,” Harry and Sherlock both called up.

“Are you okay, by the way?” Sherlock asked Harry. “Answer honestly – I know when you’re lying.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry smirked, pushing Sherlock a bit – the first playful, Harry-like thing she had done since arriving in the Capitol. “I’m fine. Really. Thanks again, for getting me out of there.”

“Of course – I’ll die before he touches you.”

That night, Sherlock and John sat on opposite sides of John’s bed, signing to one another. John was leading and Sherlock was picking it up even faster than John had with Clover. He simply flowed through the alphabet, and soon they were conversing through the words they knew and fingerspelling. It was amazing, sitting with Sherlock Holmes and not speaking to him with his voice. They talked about their days and John asked how training went, careful not to reveal that he knew about Sherlock and Archie – if Sherlock wanted to talk about that with him, he would.

At first, Sherlock seemed fine, but as John asked how Sherlock’s training session went, his façade slowly broke down, and he bit his lip.

“What?” John asked quietly, the first word either one of them had physically spoken aloud in about an hour. Sherlock looked away, at a fold in John’s blanket. “Sherlock?”

“We...had an encounter today. Of the...Magnussen variety,” Sherlock said, quietly.

John instantly sat up, like his spine was stiffening just by the mentioning of his name.

“You?” he asked.

“No – Harry. I got her away from him, though,” Sherlock added quickly, upon seeing John’s face paling. “I almost caused a bit of a scene, actually.”

“I heard about that – during lunch today, there was a bit of a scuffle but no one had to interfere so it was fine. That was you?” John asked, and Sherlock scoffed in reply.

“Who else? He was near your sister; what was I supposed to do?” Sherlock asked, shrugging.

“What did you do?” John asked.

“I sort of just shouted at him from across the room, grabbed Harry, and kept her with me and Archie for the rest of the day.”

He had mentioned Archie, so John pushed.

“Archie Neal? Louise’s brother?” he asked.

“Yeah – Louise’s brother. He seems to be taking a liking to me.”

John knew this was a lie; sure, Archie must’ve liked Sherlock enough to stay with him, but obviously Sherlock didn’t want John knowing that it was Sherlock who sought out a friendship with Archie, and not the other way around.

John grinned.

“He couldn’t have picked a better person to take a liking to.”

Sherlock smiled back at him, eyes alight.

“How do you sign ‘I love you’?” he asked in a whisper, after a moment, and John was glad he had asked Clover to show him earlier that day.

“I –” He pointed at himself. “– love –” He balled his hands into fists and crossed his arms over his chest, like he was hugging a book. “– you.” He pointed at Sherlock.

“I love you,” Sherlock echoed, repeating the motions, and leaned forward, pressing his lips to John’s.

But, for the first time ever, John did not want to be kissing him. For the first time ever, the kiss did nothing but remind him of how short Sherlock’s life had been cut – how short they had cut it. Because John knew – John knew, even though they hadn’t said the words themselves, that either way Sherlock wasn’t coming back. If it came down to the two of them, Sherlock would sacrifice himself so Harry could come home. And if Harry died before then, there was no way Sherlock was going to put himself in John’s presence. No matter what happened, Sherlock was going to die in at least five days. But John accepted Sherlock slipping his tongue into John’s mouth – he accepted the urgent kiss, because Sherlock was probably reminded of this fact with every breath he took.

It was just after lunch when the phone rang the next day. John was in his bedroom, reading the mentor manifesto Mycroft had been begging him to read over the last year, but when he heard the phone ring he dashed to Mycroft’s office, finding Mycroft had received the call.

“Yes, what has he done?” he asked, and John’s heart dropped to the flats of his feet.


Mycroft made eye contact with John, and silently mouthed the words, “no one’s hurt,” and then spoke to whoever was on the phone.

“We’ll take care of it – he’ll cooperate more smoothly with us anyway, and I imagine you’d like to keep this as quiet as possible. Yes. Yes, of course. Good day.” He hung up the phone, looked at John again, and took his umbrella in his hand, standing up. “It seems that Sherlock has done something no tribute has ever done before. I've just been informed that he broke out of training.”

Just when John didn’t think his heart could fall any lower, it did.

“He – he broke out?” he repeated.

“Security’s normally air-tight, here; even if he did break out of training, there’s no way he could have left the center.”

“So he’s somewhere in this building?” John asked, and Mycroft nodded.

“Any ideas?” he asked, and without even really thinking about it John spoke.

“I’ll check the stairwell, you check the roof,” he began. “And if you can’t find him there...” He took a shaky breath, not wanting to make his worries real by speaking the words, but knowing that he had to, just in case. “ know this place better than I do. If he’s not on the roof...look anywhere there’s Morphling.”

Chapter Text

John raced down the stairs, weaving his way around the Avoxes already in the stairwell, desperately searching for Sherlock’s black training suit among the sea of white Avox uniforms. His plan was simple: run downstairs, meet up with his boyfriend, deliver him back to the training room, and then meet up with Mycroft – wherever he might be – to let him know that Sherlock was fine.

And he was fine – of course he was fine. John knew he was fine. He had to be, right now.

John was on the fifth floor – he would never forget that it was the fifth floor – when he encountered a space that was almost completely empty. There were no Avoxes coming up or down, but there was someone there. John turned the corner, and almost bumped right into a man in a tribute’s training suit. He looked up, about to kiss Sherlock or scold him or both, and his heart was crushed by the sight of a forty-year-old man in glasses, smoking a cigarette.

John was alone, in the stairwell, with Charles Augustus Magnussen.

“There’s a reason why I haven’t shown you the Fiftieth Hunger Games’ tapes, and that is because Hannibal Lecter Magnussen is a monster. And I’ve met Charles Augustus; he’s exactly the same.”

“These men are absolutely vile, and I advise you to stay away from them, both of them, at all costs.”

How the hell did the Peacekeepers let two tributes slip by them in one hour?!

John tried to keep his cool.

“You’re not allowed here,” John said quietly, unable to come up with anything actually intelligent to say, and Charles Augustus smirked.

“Funny, those words haven’t been said to me in years. You do know who I am, surely?” he took a drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke in John’s face, looking him over, hungrily. “...Of course you do – you’re John Watson. William’s boyfriend –”

“Sherlock,” John corrected through gritted teeth.

“It’s William, though,” he reminded him, sneering. “Tell me: have you two said your goodbyes yet? Or are you waiting for the morning of for that final fuck?” he asked, his mouth wrapping around the words slowly, watching John all the while for a reaction.

“Right –” John said, already having enough, balling up his fists and trying to move past Charles Augustus. When Charles Augustus stepped in his way, John felt the urge to shove him to get him to move – he might have even raised his hands to do so –

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Johnny Boy,” Charles Augustus muttered, and John’s blood ran cold, a thousand memories rushing through his mind. “I’m a tribute, don’t you forget. No one can touch me, and that goes triple for you.” As he spoke, he stepped forward, and John stepped back. “A mentor hurting a tribute from an opposing District; I wonder how that would look. I bet they’d have you killed for even laying a finger on me; for even the suggestion of sabotage. I, on the other hand...can do anything I want.” John felt the wall touch his back. He had nowhere to go, and Charles Augustus was still coming closer – leaning towards him – getting in his face – “I’m a tribute, John, which means that, right now, I own everything. The Capitol – the audience – the other tributes – you –”

The movement was so quick that John didn’t catch it until he felt what Charles Augustus had done to him: he was cupping John’s genitals through his pants, pressing his palm into the most sensitive part of it.

In that moment, time itself seemed to stop. This was actually happening – John was alive – he wasn’t dreaming – and someone twice his age was touching him through his pants. No – that couldn’t be right – time wouldn’t stop for something like this. There had to be a clock that was ticking – somewhere in this goddamned place time was still passing...but John couldn’t find the proof.

“I –” he tried to speak, and Charles Augustus grinned at him as he took a step closer – pressing himself onto John’s body, watching his face pale. “I’m a victor –” John forced out, voice shaking. “I-I could tell them – they’ll hate you for –” but he was cut off, by Charles Augustus Magnussen – a forty year old man – pushing his mouth onto John’s – shoving his tongue down his throat.

It was gross – it was wet and slobbery and everything Sherlock’s kiss wasn’t – John tried to rip his face from Charles Augustus’ but he was cornered – all he did was lead their faces in a dance against the wall. He wanted to push Charles Augustus away, but he couldn’t find his arms. He knew they were there, he knew he could use them, but he couldn’t get his mind to send the message, to command his arms to move.

After what felt like an eternity of fighting and losing, Charles Augustus took his lips from John’s, leaving his mouth wet and warm in ways John never wanted to think about again. His face was still entirely too close to John’s – the tips of their noses were still touching.

“Sorry – you were probably talking?” Magnussen asked, breathless as he dragged the tip of his nose along the tip of John’s.

John wanted to run – wanted to get the hell away from this man, but he couldn’t feel his legs. He couldn’t feel anything, apart from where Charles Augustus’ hand and the tip of his nose were and where his lips had been, and the overwhelming urge to vomit. He found he was staring past Magnussen, at the five on the wall, and no matter what he couldn’t avert his eyes. John couldn’t move at all.

Charles Augustus leaned closer to John, right up to his ear, and continued speaking.

“I’m surprised you survived last year, given how weak you are. I thought for sure you would’ve been Bloodbath meat, like your sister will be.”

John shivered as Magnussen pressed further into the most sensitive part of him, trying to ignore the smell and taste of smoke and the way Magnussen’s breath tickled his neck – it barely registered that he was talking about his sister – he just watched the number on the wall.

“William will be more difficult to dispose of, of course, but I’ll take care of him. I’ll take care of both of them, don’t you worry. I’ll try to be quick – no promises, though,” he chuckled, and – as punishment for not giving him a reaction, John supposed – he licked the side of John’s face.

John tried grounding himself – tried to keep himself from screaming, really – while he suffered through –

His name was John Watson – he was nineteen years old – he was somewhere – anywhere but here – his mind could take him back to the Arena he didn’t care – it didn’t matter as long as he kept his eyes on that number on the wall – the most important number in the entire goddamn world –

“And when I come back...When I win these Games...” he squeezed John, gently. “There will be a lot more of this. I’ll make sure I get exclusive rights to you. I can so easily make it look like you went into hiding after the deaths of your sister and boyfriend, you know, and only we’ll know the truth.” He watched John, gauging a reaction, and chuckled. “I must say, I just love your little soldier face; trying to stay strong. To tell you the truth, though, I’d like to punch it. And I will, of course – loads of times. But for now, I’ll do this –”

Suddenly, his hand was off of John’s private area and pulling down the collar of his shirt. Before he could react, there was a sharp pain; Charles Augustus Magnussen had just put out his cigarette on John’s chest – burning him – branding him.

John grit his teeth, squinting at the number five, careful not to make any noises apart from a sharp inhale.

Charles Augustus grinned, stepped away from John, dropped his cigarette, stepped on it, and then looked back up at John.

“Don’t worry, Johnny Boy,” he began, and then paused only to pat John’s face three times over. “It’ll all be over, soon,” he said, and then placed his hand on John’s cheek. Instantly, John’s body cringed at how surprisingly wet his hand was.

“Apologies for the dampness of my touch; you'll get used to it, eventually,” he promised, and winked at him.

And then he was gone.

As if he had turned on faucets full blast, Avoxes flooded through the stairwell, just as they had done before. It was like if Charles Augustus had built an invisible wall on either side, and now that he was gone the barrier was lifted. They streamed through, ignoring John, trying to get to the places they were ordered to go. There was the proof that time was moving again – the proof he had needed so desperately just moments ago – the Avoxes were moving around him, they were passing him and appearing and disappearing in and out of John’s line of sight.

He heard a sound erupting from his chest, a low growl straining to explode from him, but he had no idea that he could even make such a noise – and suddenly he was falling – down, down to the ground. Even when he hit the cement floor he still felt like he was falling – falling through the floor, falling into a deep dark abyss, falling...

There was a face before him, a freckled face with brown eyes, red hair and a white gown – an Avox –

“You,” John breathed. It was the girl from before – from far before – from what seemed like years ago – from days before John’s Games – and all at once he remembered what he had said to her –

“I’m really scared, and really I just want to see someone who still loves me.”

She was moving her hands. John watched them, and it took a few moments for him to start collecting the letters from his memory, but she repeated them over and over so John could get it:


Was he okay? What was okay, to him? That certainly wasn’t, John thought almost rationally. Was he okay? Fine was a word – fine was the word he would most likely use. He would say he was fine and move on to deal with it on his own, but –

“No,” John found his voice again, and felt as if his bones were falling apart inside of him, stabbing at his insides –


Happened – what had happened? There was – there was touching involved – touching John didn’t like – and Charles Augustus Magnussen –

He suddenly felt extremely aware of the wetness of Magnussen’s saliva on his face, and he wiped it off, digging his nails into his skin, trying to get it off – get it out of his pores – get it away –

The Avox grabbed his hand, making a strangled sound, not so different from the one he had made moments before, but John knew she was trying to say his name, trying to call him back to the present.

She signed the question again.


He stared at her hand, and she held onto his with her free hand.


Hurt? He felt numb – he felt like his brain was floating just above him, attached to a string tied like a noose around his neck, but was he hurt? He tried to think about it – tried to feel –

His body decided that then would be the best time to puke, right on the floor beside him, trying to expel Magnussen’s spit from the inside of his mouth, but even the taste of stomach acid and that morning’s breakfast couldn’t mask the taste of Charles Augustus Magnussen.

And then the rest of his body began to feel what had been done to it. John felt a pain on his chest and inside of his chest, and he felt a terrible feeling under his belt, but it was nothing compared to the Arena – knowing he was going to die –

But somehow, this was so much worse.

“Y-Yes,” he finally breathed, but the word felt wrong in his mouth. Maybe he wasn’t hurt? He tried out a different reply. “No –”

But the Avox wasn’t looking at him anymore. She was looking up, signing to other Avoxes as they passed. At first the word seemed unfamiliar to him, but then he remembered – deep in the recesses of his mind – that he had learned that word – Clover had taught it to him –





In moments, someone was grabbing his arm, and John almost screamed and tried to fight them off as it took two Avoxes to hoist him to his feet. As they did, the redhead Avox signed to him:


Hospital – that wasn’t an option. He wasn’t sure why, but he knew that much.

He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out, so he signed the word NO to her. She nodded, and then signed something completely unintelligible to him to the other two Avoxes, and they began to walk him up the stairs.

John could not speak until they reached the top – until they were at the door for District 12’s floor. He found he could stand on his own, and he was relieved. He could stand – he could survive...whatever had just happened to him. He looked at the girl – the one who had noticed him – the one he had mistaken for his sister before –

“Name?” he asked, voice strangled. “What’s your – name?”

The girl smiled sadly.


“Lavinia,” he tried, and she nodded, then opened the door for him before he could say anything else. Luckily, the main room in the penthouse was empty – there was no sign of Mrs. Hudson or Cinna or Mycroft or –


Something inside him dropped to the floor. He needed to speak to Mycroft about...this. He, above anyone else, would know what to do about what had happened. Apparently he had spoken Mycroft’s name out loud, for Lavinia began to lead him into the hall – to Mycroft’s office.

“I can do it,” John muttered, and the girl nodded, and left him to make the terrifying steps to Mycroft’s door on his own.

When he got there, he knocked on the door, three times. Like how Magnussen patted his face –

Before he could call in, Mycroft replied.

“Come in, John.”

John opened the door and entered the room, closing the door behind him. Mycroft was sat at his desk, filling out paperwork. John had no idea how to even begin, but just as he was about to speak Mycroft cut him off, not even looking up at him as he spoke.

“Sherlock was on the roof – tossing stones off the edge and watching them bounce back, being dramatic like we all know Sherlock has the tendency to be –”

Sherlock. He had almost forgotten about Sherlock. Fuck, how was he going to tell him about this?

Maybe he didn’t have to know. Maybe no one had to know.

John was about to carry Mycroft’s conversation, about to lead it as far away from what had happened in the stairwell as possible, but then Mycroft looked up.

And, as soon as their eyes met, John knew that Mycroft knew.

It was probably obvious, what with the way he probably reeked of cigarettes and had a mark from where he clawed at his own face. What’s more, John was probably pale to the point of the color of snow, and he could feel his own hands shake, but didn’t dare look to see if he was right. It was entirely obvious – Sherlock would probably tell within seconds, unless he could tell by the look of triumph on Magnussen’s face when he saw him back in the training room, similar to the one he had left John with...

And in that moment, everything came flooding back to him.

“John?” Mycroft asked, calling him back, concern etched into his features.

“S-Something happened,” John forced out, blinking back tears. “I...don’t...”

“Your brain is still trying to reach your body – I know that look; I’ve worn it plenty of times, myself. John, I want you to tell me what you’re thinking, whatever it is, even if it doesn’t make sense in your own head right now, and know that whatever you say will not leave this room –”

“Magnussen,” John cut him off, shoving the word out of his mouth, and Mycroft stood up.

“What was that?” he asked, even though John was sure he had spoken loud and clear. He moved around his desk, sitting John down in one of his chairs and crouching before him. “What did you say? Because if you said what I think you just said –”

“Magnussen,” John repeated, as if taking a gulp of air.

Mycroft squinted at John, his features suddenly stormy as a hurricane, and John then understood what Sherlock meant by crowning Mycroft Holmes as being worse than the East Wind. He looked positively terrifying.

“Elder or younger?” he asked darkly.

“Ch-Charles Augustus,” John replied, briefly forgetting which one was which.

Mycroft squinted at John harder, tilting his head, as if he had heard John wrong again.

“Charles Augustus? He’s in training –”

“Yeah, well, apparently he got out, too!” John said, but Mycroft leaned back as if John had yelled it – maybe he had. “He got out – and he found me – and he – he –” now the tears were escaping his eyes, rolling down his cheeks one at a time.

“John?” Mycroft asked, gently. “What did he do?”

John thought it over – the touch – what he said – the burn – the licking of his face – the kiss – How the hell could he say any of that out loud to his boyfriend’s brother?

Maybe he didn’t have to.


John gripped the side of his collar and pulled, revealing the cigarette burn.

“Oh my god – is that all he did?” Mycroft asked, and John shook his head. “Can you talk about it?” he asked, and John shook his head again. He couldn’t say it out loud, and even if he could, Mycroft couldn’t know about the kiss – the kiss was too much –

Mycroft’s eyes searched John, and John could feel himself being deduced – he could almost feel Mycroft’s brain at work, trying to solve the mystery of what exactly had been done.

“Please stop trying to figure it out,” John whispered, and Mycroft closed his eyes, though John could see him still trying to piece it together behind his eyelids.

“John...this is very important, and I need you to respond. You don’t need to go into detail; a simple yes or no will do.” He opened his eyes, and spoke so clearly it made John’s ears burn. “Did Charles Augustus Magnussen touch you inappropriately?” Mycroft asked, and John nodded.

And kissed me, John thought, but Mycroft spoke again before John could shake the thought from his head.

“Was it an assault?” he asked, and John knew what he was really asking – he was really asking if it wasn’t, without saying the word specifically.

“It was assault,” John confirmed. He had the word for it, now. “He assaulted me.”

Mycroft nodded to himself, straightened up, turned around, and, in one sweeping motion, shoved everything off his desk. John jumped back with such force that it moved his chair, watching wide eyed as Mycroft leaned over the now-empty desk, gripping the edges with white knuckles, breathing heavily.

After a few moments, Mycroft finally spoke.

“Do you know why I firmly believe that caring is not an advantage, John?” he asked.

John shook his head before realizing that Mycroft was still facing the other way. Before he could find his voice, however, Mycroft continued.

“Because I care too much. I’ve always cared too much. It was when my father died that I realized that if I cared, I would only get hurt in the end. So I stopped. There were only two people that stood as exceptions: Sherlock, and my mother. And slowly, they got taken away from me, too. But the list of exceptions has grown.” He then stood up straight and turned to face John. “I know I seem protective over you, but you must understand: you, John Watson, were the first tribute that I was able to save. You, John, are my brother. I did not make that exception until after you won your Hunger Games, because I thought then you’d be safe to care about. You had won the Hunger Games, you were in love with my brother; I thought nothing could touch you. But I was wrong. I was so wrong. But that’s not your fault; that’s no one's fault but Magnussen’s. And I can look into your eyes, John, and see that he made a promise that he would touch you again. Am I right?” Mycroft paused to let John close his eyes and shudder – because he was right – of course he was right. “I know I cannot do anything now, but I can promise you that if Charles Augustus Magnussen wins the Hunger Games, John...I will have him assassinated.”

Chapter Text

Sherlock Holmes stood, alone in the training center’s cafeteria, waiting for his name to be called. He knew he should have been thinking about the fact that he was to be judged by the Gamemakers in a few moments, but all he could really think about was John.

Something bad had happened to John yesterday, but Sherlock didn’t know what, and John refused to tell him.

He had noticed it as soon as he and Harry had gotten back to the penthouse – if it hadn’t been obvious by John’s bloodshot eyes and pale face, and the way Mycroft looked at him, it was definitely made obvious by the fact that John needed the support of his cane. As soon as he saw him, Sherlock was in concerned boyfriend mode – a state of mind he had very nearly perfected over the past year.

The first rule about handling John when he was like this was not to bring it up in front of anyone. John probably knew Sherlock knew this rule, too, for he stayed within Mycroft’s line of sight and range of hearing at all times until it was time for bed.

Sherlock watched John closely as he went through his nightly routine, but even that was different: John closed the door to the bathroom when brushing his teeth and getting changed into his pajamas. They were together; they had been shirtless in front of each other before, and they were both fine with it – until now. Not only that, but as soon as Sherlock had taken off his shirt to get changed into pajamas, John was suddenly extremely interested in the mentor manifesto that, months before, he had told Sherlock could “fuck off” and let him know that his brother was being an “utter cock” for getting on John’s ass about it.

When Sherlock was done brushing his teeth, he stood in the doorway to the bathroom, crossed his arms, and watched John sitting on the bed that they shared, his nose buried deep in the booklet. After a few moments, John looked up – and the guilt was written all over his face.

“What?” John asked, trying to act nonchalant but only coming across as defensive.

“Something happened today,” Sherlock replied, making it clear it wasn’t a question.

John put down the manifesto.

“Well, yeah – you decided to vanish off the face of the earth and take a relaxing vacation to the roof during training. So yes, I’m a little off – excuse me for caring,” John replied sarcastically. He was still so defensive – he was definitely hiding something.

“To you, I mean,” Sherlock went on. “Something happened to you today.”

John shrugged.

“Well, my boyfriend disappeared; there’s that one.”

“As you keep reminding me. Seriously: what happened?” Sherlock asked, and John crossed his arms to mirror Sherlock’s.

“What makes you think something happened?” he asked, and Sherlock could tell as soon as the words passed John’s lips he regretted saying them, but that didn’t stop Sherlock from voicing his deductions.

“For one, the cane is back. Second off, Mycroft’s been watching you like a hawk ever since Harry and I got back. Thirdly, you barely ate anything during dinner, and that normally means –”

“We’re not doing this,” John said, putting his hands up, like he was pushing away some invisible force, but Sherlock was on a roll.

“You only say that when I’m right –” Sherlock began, but John cut him off.

“Drop it,” he ordered, eyes dark, but Sherlock had one more question – he just had to be sure –

“Did someone hurt you?” he asked.

“Sherlock Holmes!” John shouted, dropping his fists on the bed, and Sherlock also lowered his arms, taken aback by John’s sudden anger. “Drop. It.”

“Dropping it,” Sherlock muttered, after a few seconds spent trying to find his voice.

But he knew – he knew that something wasn’t right – that the subject shouldn’t have been dropped, and the way John had yelled at Sherlock was the final proof.

Someone had hurt John, and John didn’t want to speak about it, which led them to fall asleep that night so far apart Sherlock had awoken to find he had stretched out his arm in John’s direction while he slept and he still couldn’t reach him.

He was still thinking about this when Atala opened the door.

“Holmes, William,” she called, and Sherlock turned around, suddenly realizing he had been staring at the wall for the past ten minutes.

Upon entering the training room, he found that it was almost completely devoid of people, apart from about four Peacekeepers, Atala, and the observation room set into the wall above that held about twenty Gamemakers, all looking like they were having a dinner party instead of judging the tributes. Some people were watching him, but he quickly deduced that was only because he was John Watson’s boyfriend, and such a big component of last year’s Hunger Games. They probably knew he had spent his entire training opportunity looking after Panem’s youngest tribute, and therefore weren’t expecting much of him.

Of course, Sherlock was going to prove them wrong. John would be pissed at him for it – in fact, he had warned him against showing off before dropping Sherlock off for his evaluation.

“Remember –” he had started, after Harry had left the lobby, leaving them alone to say their goodbyes.

“Yes,” Sherlock interrupted, not really wanting to hear what John wanted to say, for they were technically still in the middle of a fight about whatever had happened the day before.

John took a breath before trying again. “Remember –”

“Yes,” Sherlock repeated, but John persisted once more, and this time Sherlock let him.

“Remember what Mycroft told you – don’t try to be clever. Just keep it simple and brief.”

“God forbid a tribute in the Hunger Games should come across as intelligent,” Sherlock muttered, rolling his eyes.

“Intelligent, fine; let’s give ‘smart ass’ a wide berth, though, shall we?” he suggested, and Sherlock thought about it for a moment.

“I’ll just be myself,” he decided, and John’s eyes widened in disbelief, aggravated by his stubbornness.

“Are you listening to me?!”

He had been, of course – he made a point to hear everything John said – but he needed to prove to the Gamemakers that he was worth betting on.

He stood before them, crossing his arms, and he eyed them all, collecting information, and then spoke:

“Sherlock Holmes, District Twelve,” he introduced himself, and then pointed at the first Gamemaker he made eye contact with. “Your name is Derick Meek and you betrayed your own brother to earn your position as a Gamemaker, but most of your peers wouldn’t know that, or even know that you have a brother, for that matter, since neither of you have spoken to one another since you got the job.” Before he could see the look on Derick’s face, his eyes scanned the lot for his next victim: “Curtis Duckett, you are the husband in a seven-year-long unhappy marriage – the birth of his first child sort of ruined it for him, and his second child was brought into the world to try to mend the relationship, poor thing. Didn’t seem to work though, seeing as you’ve started having an affair. Joni Lyman, you’re also having an affair, with Mr. Duckett, apparently, that’s interesting –” By this time, everyone was watching him, and he continued on, introducing each of the Gamemakers to one another, revealing some of their deepest secrets along the way. No matter what the reactions were, no matter how much they looked like they wanted to kill him for knowing so much, Sherlock continued speaking, continued spilling secrets, until he was done. Honestly, he was surprised someone hadn’t carried him out or shot him or worse in order to get him to shut up. When he had nothing left to say about the people who were supposed to be judging him, he revealed why he decided to do this to them: “I know everything there is to know, about everything – everyone – with a single glance. I even know who will win the Hunger Games this year.”

After ten full seconds of shocked silence, Seneca Crane, Head Gamemaker, closed his dropped jaw, and called Sherlock’s bluff.

“And who would that be?” he asked.

“You?” another brave Gamemaker asked.

Sherlock kept his eyes locked on Seneca’s, and gave him his answer.

When Sherlock returned from his judgment with the Gamemakers, John immediately dropped his gaze, hiding behind the mentor manifesto – a booklet that had quickly become his new best friend over the last twenty-four hours.

Because Sherlock knew. He knew everything.

After speaking with Mycroft the day before, John took the longest shower of his life. He sat for two hours under the scorching hot water, scrubbing at his skin so hard it bled in some places, trying to remove the feeling of Magnussen’s touch. He only emerged when Mycroft knocked on the door and alerted him that Sherlock and Harry would be back within the next thirty minutes. When they did return, John had made sure he wasn’t alone with Sherlock at any point, keeping within Mycroft’s line of sight at all times to protect him from the questions he knew Sherlock was dying to ask. But he couldn’t protect himself that night – at night, Sherlock was all he had.

It was so difficult for John to look at Sherlock, but when he planted himself directly in front of him, leaning against the bathroom’s doorframe with his arms crossed, John knew there was no avoiding him. When he looked at Sherlock, the first thing he noticed was a bit of toothpaste in the corner of his mouth, which on any other day John would’ve thought was endearing and made Sherlock look so incredibly human. The second thing he noticed was the way Sherlock was looking at him – squinting at him, eyes searching. John knew that look anywhere: deductions were being made.

“What?” John asked, finding his voice.

“Something happened today,” Sherlock said, and it wasn’t a question.

John put down the manifesto he had been looking at but was definitely too distracted by his own head to actually read, and said what Mycroft had told him to blame it on:

“Well, yeah – you decided to vanish off the face of the earth and take a relaxing vacation to the roof during training. So yes, I’m a little off – excuse me for caring,” John replied, trying to make it sound natural.

“To you, I mean,” Sherlock went on, and John felt a pang of horror in his chest. He knew. “Something happened to you today.”

John shrugged, trying to be casual, and repeated his argument:

“Well, my boyfriend disappeared; there’s that one.”

“As you keep reminding me. Seriously: what happened?” Sherlock asked, and John crossed his arms to match him.

“What makes you think something happened?” he asked, and he instantly wanted to put the words back into his mouth. That was probably the worst thing he could’ve asked – today especially. He did not need Sherlock’s deductions – he didn’t need to be told how glaringly obvious it was that he had been hurt –

“For one, the cane is back,” Sherlock began. “Second off, Mycroft’s been watching you like a hawk ever since Harry and I got back. Thirdly, you barely ate anything during dinner, and that normally means –”

“We’re not doing this,” John tried, but Sherlock was hearing none of it.

“You only say that when I’m right –” he began, but John cut him off.

“Drop it,” he ordered, trying to sound as final about it as he wanted to be.

“Did someone hurt you?” Sherlock asked, and he was right and –

“Sherlock Holmes!” John shouted, and instantly regretted it; Sherlock dropped his arms, looking like he was about to cry. But he pressed on. “Drop. It.”

It had taken a few moments for Sherlock to reply.

“Dropping it.”

John was glad that Sherlock had listened – that he had dropped it, but something inside of him wanted Sherlock to keep pushing – to keep trying to get John to say something – because maybe, just maybe, then John might have.

But he didn’t, and perhaps that was the reason why John fell asleep and dreamed of kissing Sherlock, but woke up in horror at the end of the night when they parted lips and John found he had been kissing Jim Moriarty.

All day, no matter how much he scrubbed and scratched at his body or how tightly he squeezed his eyes shut, he couldn’t get the image out of his mind. And it showed, apparently – as soon as Harry and Sherlock left, Mycroft turned to John.

“Are you alright?” he had asked.


“No, you’re not.”

“Well, I’m definitely not talking about it.”

Even Harry could tell. As soon as she came back from showing off for the Gamemakers, she sat next to John and asked him if he was okay.

“And before you say ‘yeah’ or ‘I’m fine’, let me just say that you don’t look okay,” she informed him before he could reply.

“Just stressed about you and Sherlock,” John said, only telling part of the truth.

And now there was Sherlock – now he was hiding from Sherlock, desperate to keep the truth from him. Again, he used Mycroft’s presence as a shield to keep Sherlock from speaking about private matters, and when Mycroft wasn’t available he used Harry or Mrs. Hudson – anything to keep Sherlock from being alone with him.

That night, the scores from the judgments were broadcasted. Harry gripped onto John’s hand, and John held Sherlock’s out of habit, and surprisingly that led to Mycroft reaching out and holding onto Sherlock’s hand as they all sat on the sofa together. They all understood the importance of this score – it would decide who was a good target, and who would be a good challenge; it would decipher who the rest of the tributes would focus on, and who might pass under the radar long enough to win. After this, the only way to save themselves would be to have a flawless interview with Caesar Flickerman, but sometimes even that didn’t help.

Their hopes for any sort of survival on Harry’s part were crushed very quickly: Charles Augustus Magnussen had scored himself a twelve out of twelve.

“Fuck,” Mycroft whispered – the first time John had ever heard him utter the word.

When comparing the two groups of Careers from this year and last year it wasn’t nearly as evenly-matched – the group from last year was far more skilled, in terms of the scores they received. They were amazed when Helen Hewlett, from District 1, was scored a seven for her efforts, and when William Wiggins, from District 7, received a ten.

John watched Sherlock analyze the competition – memorizing who scored what and changing his opinion of them as needed. He was just thinking about how he never wanted to forget those eyes, when suddenly Sherlock closed them, tightly, as if he had been stabbed in the stomach.

“What?” John whispered, and looked at the screen to figure out what was going on – what had caused Sherlock so much stress. He found Archibald Neal staring back at him, and a number one beside him.

Archie Neal had scored a one.

Just like Philip Anderson.

But Philip made it past the bloodbath, John remembered.

“What did Philip do?”

“He –”

“It doesn’t matter what I did!”

“Philip hid.”

He had hid – maybe if Archie hid, he could survive, too –

But Philip had died, in the end, and Archie would too, especially with people like Magnussen in the Arena. If Archie survived the bloodbath, it would just be a matter of time until someone got to him.

And then Harry’s face was on the screen.

“From District Twelve, Harriet Watson has gotten herself a nine,” Caesar Flickerman announced, and everyone in the room released their bated breath.

“Just like her brother!” Mrs. Hudson exclaimed, as John hugged his sister.

She had a chance – just a chance – just like he had, last year.

“And finally, William Holmes, or Sherlock Holmes, with a score of...twelve!”

At once, the celebration over Harry’s score stopped, and everyone’s eyes were on Sherlock, their jaws on the floor.

Mycroft was the first to recover.

“What...did you do?” he asked, rising, which kicked John into motion.

“Do you know how large of a target is on your back, now?” he asked, voice cracking, pained by the idea of said target.

Sherlock shrugged. “I just did what I always do – I wasn’t looking for a twelve –”

“Just did what you always do? Do not tell me you played deductions with the Gamemakers,” Mycroft snarled, cutting his brother off.

“I admit, I might’ve played deductions with the Gamemakers –”

“Sherlock!” Mycroft and John groaned.

“Are you trying to get yourself killed?!” Mycroft asked.

“I wanted to show them what I could do – I wanted to prove to them that I knew what I was talking about when I –”

Instantly, Sherlock caught himself, and pursed his lips, making sure not even air escaped his mouth.

“When. You. What, Brother Mine?” Mycroft asked, slowly.

Sherlock looked up at Harry, and John knew immediately what he had told them.

“When I told them who would win the Hunger Games.”

Chapter Text

The day of the interviews was a disaster from start to finish, from the moment Mrs. Hudson had opened the envelope that came with breakfast that announced that the victor siblings would be interviewed alongside their tribute siblings, to the interviews themselves and after. As soon as the morning’s notice was read, everything was sent into a rushed speed that John hated – the prep teams had to almost pull them all from the breakfast table so there would be enough time for all of them to be prepped and ready – John’s old prep team working on Sherlock and Mary Morstan’s old prep team working on Mycroft, first.

“How are you doing?” John asked his sister, as soon as the Holmes brothers and the prep teams were gone. “I feel like we haven't talked much since we got here.”

“We haven't,” Harry replied.

“I’m sorry –” he began, but she shook her head.

“It’s okay. It’s been hard enough for you – I’m not gonna be the stupid kid sister and try to fight for your attention.”

“You’ve never been the stupid kid sister,” he said, and she gave him the best smile she could at the moment – not a very good one.

“Do you think he’s right?” she asked, quietly. “About me...winning the Games?”

John shrugged. “I don’t think he’s gonna rest until he is.”

“Would it be bad if I said I didn’t want to win?” she asked, and John could see her eyes filling with tears.

He took her in his arms. “No, it wouldn’t.”

After Sherlock and Mycroft were prepped, John and Harry were sent in to their separate rooms – John with his old prep team, and Harry with Mary’s old prep team.

“Where’s Cinna and Connie?” John asked Venia as the team began to disrobe him for prepping. “I haven’t seen them all morning.”

“They didn’t know you and Mycroft were to be interviewed – they’re working on your suits – What’s this?”

John looked up at her, and followed her gaze onto his chest –

“Is that a cigarette burn?”

“It’s nothing –” he said, quickly.

“I didn’t think you smoked –” Flavius mused.

“Did Sherlock do that?” Octavia asked.

“John –”

“IT’S NOTHING,” John nearly shouted, and everyone stared at him, wide-eyed, finally silent. “It’s nothing. Just – just cover it up. Please.”

And, while exchanging glances with one another, the prep team got to work, doing just that.

All throughout the day, Sherlock couldn’t stop thinking about the training score he had earned. His twelve meant many things – it meant sponsors, it meant he was a huge target to everyone now, but it also meant something else: it meant he got the same score as Charles Augustus Magnussen.

As the tributes and their siblings gathered in the backstage area to wait for their exclusive interviews with Caesar, Sherlock’s eyes were immediately drawn to the Magnussen brothers – to Charles Augustus Magnussen, specifically.

Mycroft had been right when he described him as a shark – he even looked like one, in person: flat faced, dead eyed – just like sharks in pictures he had seen at school back in District 12. Just looking at him made his stomach turn – but he would have to. He would have to look into that face – look into those dead eyes that were hiding so much but knew everything there was to know about everyone – and kill him to keep Harry safe.

He wasn’t sure why he did it – he’d try to boil it down to just being sick and tired of being in the Capitol or the fact that there was something about Charles Augustus Magnussen that wasn’t right, but even Sherlock truly didn’t know his own motives – but for some reason, just before the interviews, he broke away from the safety of John, Mycroft, and Harry, and strode up to the Magnussen brothers.

“Charles Augustus Magnussen!” he called as he walked, and the brothers turned toward him – Charles Augustus grinning from ear to ear.

“William!” Charles Augustus called, as if greeting an old friend. “Did John–” he began to ask as Sherlock got close enough – about five feet away from the older man – but Sherlock cut him off.

“We both have a training score of twelve – it turns out that we are the first two tributes to score a twelve simultaneously in one year. Interesting, is it not?”

“Very,” Charles Augustus replied, a sly smile on his face.

“Am I acceptable to you as an adversary?” Sherlock asked, not even realizing the words were coming out of his mouth until it was too late.

Magnussen adjusted his glasses, watching the lens as if he was reading something, and smirked.

“Your name is William Sherlock Scott Holmes, you are from District Twelve, your brother is Mycroft Holmes, both of your parents are deceased, and you are asexual with a possible exception to John Watson,” he began, and Sherlock’s eyes widened at the last statement. “You have thousands of pressure points, including John Watson, Mycroft Holmes, Harriet Watson, your mother, Jim Moriarty, Morphling, sex, brother and me, apparently – I’m flattered. But...” he looked him over once more. “The answer is no.”

Sherlock really wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but it wasn’t this. It wasn’t any of that, actually – how the hell had he known about...about everything? About John – about the Morphling – and how dare he announce it in front of everyone?! Though Sherlock might’ve been asking for that, trying to approach him like this –

At that moment a Peacekeeper stepped between them to usher the Magnussen brothers to the stage, and Charles Augustus winked at Sherlock as he left, and Sherlock walked back to his family.

“What the hell was that?” Mycroft asked, fuming.

“I know, right?!” Sherlock agreed, knowing how Mycroft had really meant it but trying to shift the attention away from himself. “He just – he –”

“Sherlock just got Sherlock’d,” Harry announced, astounded.

He rounded toward her. “That’s impossible –”

“But Sherlock,” John whispered, and Sherlock looked at him to find his face had paled – like he was afraid – “He knew. About everything.”

“Someone must have told him –”

“But no one knows about...” Mycroft dropped his voice, eyes darting around the room, as if everyone wasn’t staring at them already. “...that...except for the three of us –”

“Four of us – he told me last year while you two were here doing Hunger Games stuff,” Harry piped in. “And none of us would tell – Sherlock just got –”

“Don’t say it!” Sherlock hissed through gritted teeth. “He did not – he did not –” he spun around, toward the tributes and past victors. They were staring. They were staring because they knew. Everyone knew. He searched for words – trying to get them to forget – trying to make them not write him off as an addict –

His eyes then landed on the Magnussen brothers on the backstage screen. He grit his teeth as Hannibal Magnussen opened his stupid cannibal mouth –

“No offense meant, but it should be obvious who will win, with my brother in the Arena.”

“Wrong,” Sherlock said. He turned back to his team – to his family – he was looking for John – but instead found Harry’s eyes – the eyes of the girl he was trying to save. Magnussen thought he was just a drug addict, and so he didn’t see him as a threat. Maybe that would help him – or maybe that would make Magnussen think he was easy to get rid of. But if that was the case, he was going to prove him wrong. “I’m going to kill him.”

John watched as Sherlock swayed back and forth, switching the weight between his feet, staring straight ahead, almost looking as if he was dancing with nerves, just as he had done moments before the Victory Tour interview last winter. He also imagined Sherlock had done this moments before he joined the stage last year, before he saw John for the first time since he won the Games. It was a thing about Sherlock John loved – one of his favorite quirks about him – one that would never exist again after tomorrow. He desperately wanted to touch his hand – to give his boyfriend some sort of comfort – but there was no more comfort for John to give.

Nightmares of losing Sherlock had broken themselves into John’s dreaming, as of late, but really John wasn’t sure why he had been surprised the first time one had occurred. The idea of Sherlock’s loss occupied John’s every thought and feeling, and it was now extremely obvious that it was occupying Sherlock’s too, driving him mad with fright.

But he still had his little quirks. He still had his heartbeat.

“I’m absolutely pissed,” John whispered to his sister, as they stood side by side and watched the tributes from District 11 – John and Elizabeth Smallwood, with their brother, Duncan – with Caesar on the backstage screen.

“Me too.”

“I say we forget our plans to be nice little rule-followers and make them feel sorry for what they’re doing,” John suggested.

This wasn’t solely his idea – Louise had done the same when she and Archie were up there, talking with Caesar.

“How does it feel to be the youngest tribute in Hunger Games history?” he had asked Archie, but Louise had answered for him.

“Terrible,” she muttered.

“What?” Caesar asked.

“Terrible,” she repeated, louder. “It’s the worst feeling in the world.”

There was a moment as Caesar tried to spin Louise’s answer into a positive. “Well, it’s a great honor, especially if –”

“He wins?” Louise cut him off. “He’s three. There is no winner when there’s a three year old in the Arena, because somebody –

She took a deep breath, trying to keep herself from crying, and Archie held her hand.

“It’s ok, Lou-Lou, don't cry –” he tried, and she smiled down at him, then looked up, glaring at Caesar.

“He’s just a boy – not even a child yet – you’re putting a toddler in the Arena.” She looked out into the audience – into the cameras – “There has to be someone who knows this isn’t right –”

The end-of-interview bell rang, almost a minute early.

“And that’s all the time we have with Archibald and Louise Neal give them a round of applause!” Caesar exclaimed as quickly as he could. Louise tried to speak over the roar of the audience, but her microphone had been conveniently turned off.

Obviously, Harry had been thinking about that, as well. She looked over at her brother.

“Let’s break some hearts.”

“And now, from District Twelve, Harriet Watson, and the victor of last year’s Hunger Games, John Watson!”

For the fifth time, John Watson joined Caesar Flickerman upon his stage, but this was the first time he held his little sister’s hand while doing so. They did not wave or even smile at the audience – they simply walked to the unoccupied loveseat and sat down.

“Welcome, Harriet – and welcome back, John! How are you doing, since the last time we talked?” Caesar asked, and John dropped his bomb.

“Well, my sister and my boyfriend are in the Hunger Games this year, and no matter what I'll be losing at least one of them, but I’m supposed to plaster on a bright and cheery face for you all – so you tell me, Caesar, how am I doing?”

“Well...considering, you look fantastic, John,” Caesar replied, already struggling to save the show. He turned to Harry. “So, John won the Hunger Games last year, and now, Harriet Watson, here you are. Do you think you’ll follow in John’s footsteps?”

“I don’t know, Caesar,” Harry began. “I mean, I don’t even know if I want to win. My brother’s boyfriend is in this Arena – there’s a three year old in this Arena, and a ten year old. I’ve seen what winning the Games has done to a person –”

“That’s right – John’s boyfriend is in this year’s Games!” Caesar cut her off, acting as if he honestly had forgotten, even though the Watson siblings had just informed him of this fact, twice. “John, how do you feel about that?”

“I feel betrayed,” John began, and Caesar’s face fell a fraction, as if to ask, why are you doing this to me?

John didn’t even feel bad as he continued. “I feel like I was promised this long and happy life with the person I love, but now that’s taken away from me – from the both of us. In fact, we were all promised a long and happy life with our families, but now that’s being taken away from all of us. It doesn’t seem right, does it Caesar?”

John’s interview was cut short – the bell ringing quicker to shut him up than it did for Louise Neal. With just a look between him and his brother as they were walking out on stage, Sherlock knew that they weren’t going to play the polite and quiet Holmes boys anymore.

“Sherlock, Mycroft!” Caesar exclaimed, spreading his arms, as if greeting old friends, but Sherlock could see the gleam on his forehead – the shine of nervous sweat.

He thought that they might save him.

He was dead wrong.

John and Harry stood in front of the television backstage with the rest of the tributes and their siblings, waiting for them to be called out again, one last time, to stand together while the anthem played.

Dean Bainbridge came up behind them, clapping John on the back.

“Nice job, out there!” he exclaimed, and after briefly introducing himself to Harry, he too looked at the screen.

“Both Holmes boys against Caesar Flickerman? This ought to be good.”

“Sherlock – first of all, congratulations on your twelve! Mycroft must be so proud of you.”

“Proud is not the first word that I would use,” Mycroft replied, shrugging.

“What is the first word you’d use?” Caesar asked, walking right into it.

“Well, my brother is now not only a threat to other tributes but he’s also a huge target – especially to Charles Augustus Magnussen. So, I think the first world I would use is...devastated.”

Caesar blinked slowly, but that was the only sign he was taken aback by Mycroft’s response. He turned to Sherlock. “This is the third time you’ve come up during a tribute interview – the first time with Mycroft when you were only nine years old, the second with John last year, and now you sit before us as a tribute yourself. How do you feel about that?” he asked.

“I feel like I’ve grown up on a screen, and that everyone has different opinions of me that are all completely wrong because they’re only going by what they’ve seen on television,” Sherlock said. “I don’t feel like a person, you see. I feel like...a tribute. Like I’ve always been a tribute. And now I actually am one.”

“So it seems like this is logical to you?”

“In some ways, sure. But that doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make anything less ill-fated. If I lose, my brother will have no family left. I just got together with the person I’ve been head-over-heels in love with for nearly a decade, and now I may never see him again.”

“And we are so sorry about –”

“No you’re not –” Sherlock cut him off, anger flaring up inside him. “You’re not sorry about me or Harry or Archie Neal –”

It was at that moment that the buzzer sounded, and the crowd began to cheer Sherlock and Mycroft off the stage, but Sherlock quickly spoke, lifting his microphone closer to his mouth so the audience – so Caesar – could hear him before his microphone was turned off.

“Wait – stop – There’s one more thing I have to do – one more thing I need to say –”

Caesar, having heard him, turned to look at Sherlock, and put his hand up, silencing the audience.

“What was that?”

“There’s something I want to do – right here, right now. My life has been more or less recorded by your cameras, with and without my consent, and I think I should be able to do this, and have it recorded, too, before my life is completely taken away from me, in more ways than one.”

“And what would that would be?” Caesar asked, curious.

“I want to say good-bye to John Watson.”

John then felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, and he nearly jumped out of his skin, fearing that it was Charles Augustus Magnussen, come to try to corner him again. Once he spun around and found that it was one of the other tributes – a blonde girl in her twenties, the other tribute from District 1 – he relaxed a fraction.

“Sorry – could I bother you for a moment?” she asked.

John glanced back at the Sherlock on the screen, just starting to say goodbye, and discovered that he did not want to hear those words just then. They still had one last night together; John didn't want to say goodbye yet.

So he quietly asked Dean to keep an eye on his sister, and then looked at the girl, and nodded.

She then took his hand and pulled him aside, into the hallway, with a pair of double doors to separate them from the rest of the group.

“So, you too, then?” she asked, as soon as the doors were closed, and John looked at her, confused.

“Um. I don’t –” John tried, but she shook her head, a ghost of a smile on her face.

“Yes, you do, John,” she said quietly. “Because I have one, too.” And then she turned to face him, pulling down the collar of her shirt.

She had a scar on her chest – a scar of a wound that looked just like the one John himself had gotten only days ago.

John stepped back, suddenly wanting to get out of the hallway as quickly as possible. He crossed his arms over his chest, placing his fist defensively over his burn.

“...How did you know?” he asked, his mouth betraying his desire to stay quiet.

“Don’t worry – it’s covered,” she assured him. “You just...have that look about you, once you’re violated by Charles Augustus Magnussen.”

Sherlock did what Mycroft had done so many years ago, when he had wanted to speak directly to Sherlock during his first interview with Caesar Flickerman: he picked a camera, and spoke into it, as if he was speaking directly to John.

“John keep me right, which I think is the greatest compliment I can ever give a person. You took me in when no one else would, and you took my heart along with me. You’ve always been there for me, and I wish things were different so I could always be there for you, but this is the way things are, no matter how much we hate it.”

“He’s got about a dozen fatherless children running around back home, but he likes me the most because I...get rid of my...his – know,” Helen Hewlett revealed. “Everyone has tried everything to get the girls to tell who impregnated them, but he’s threatened to do so much worse if they find out it was him. I think you’re the first boy he’s gone after, though.”

“Lucky me,” John deadpanned, rolling his eyes. “How could you tell? That he had done what he did to me?”

“We all look at him the same way.”

“And how’s that?”

“Defeated. Like we want to kill him, but know we can’t.”

“Well, you could – you're going into the Arena with him tomorrow –” John said, but Helen shook her head.

“He’s going to kill me tomorrow, John,” she said, sadly.

“You know this?” he asked.

“Of course I do. If I won I could tell everyone everything with no repercussions – he can't have that happen. He won’t let me win.”

“You have given my short life so much happiness and meaning...and I thank you for that. I hope I’ve given you happiness, too, and I hope with all my heart that you can find just as much without me. You deserve it. You deserved me, too, after everything...but life got in our way, and that is my greatest sorrow. For the first time in my life, I was looking forward to growing old. I was looking forward to dying at an old age, because I would have had you by my side. But instead, I must die like so many people have before me, and like so many others will after I do – young, alone, and scared. And on camera. Which leads me to why I’m doing this here: if you are going to have to be forced to watch me die, you should at least get a proper goodbye recorded, too, so when I’m gone you can watch it, whenever you want, and hear me when I say that I love you. I’m truly sorry that I’m not going to be around to say it in person, and I’m sorry that instead I have to say this: Goodbye, John.”

The room was silent at Sherlock’s words, and he knew a few members in the audience were crying.

“For someone who has a training score of twelve, you sound like you’ve already written yourself off,” Caesar said finally, and Sherlock turned to look at him.

“Not yet,” Sherlock replied. “But soon.”

Caesar then turned to Sherlock’s brother, as if remembering he was there. “Mycroft, you have been one of our smartest tributes – who do you think will win this year’s Hunger Games?”

Mycroft Holmes shrugged. “I believe in Sherlock Holmes.”

There was another moment, and then someone in the audience started clapping, and then that one person became a few people, and then those few people became the entire audience.

“I believe in Sherlock Holmes!” they began to shout, their voices ringing in Sherlock’s ears. “I believe in Sherlock Holmes!”

“It was nice to see you again, Sherlock – Mycroft,” Caesar lied, shaking their hands, and the rest of the tributes and their siblings joined the three of them on the stage. Sherlock, Mycroft, Harry, and John all joined hands for the sign off, and, looking around, Sherlock could see that quite a few of the sibling teams were doing the same. “And that’s all we have this year, folks! Who do you believe will win the Seventy-Fifth Annual Hunger Games? Place your bets now, and may the odds be ever in your favor!”

John, having heard the end of Sherlock’s goodbye and of the interview as a whole, kissed Sherlock as soon as they reached the backstage area again, in front of everyone, and that was the only good part about their day. As soon as their lips parted and they looked into each other’s eyes, something in John’s head made a decision, and before he could change his mind, he was leading Sherlock back to the training center without even saying a word of goodbye to their siblings. Once they were in the stairwell, John urgently led the two of them up the stairs, pausing every few minutes to kiss Sherlock again (careful not to stop on the fifth floor), reminding himself of his end goal.

The others had not reached the penthouse by the time the two boys had arrived, which John was thankful for as he pulled Sherlock by the hand through the vacant sitting room, down the hallway, and to John’s room.

By the time John had managed to open the door and close themselves on the other side of it, he was full-on making out with Sherlock Holmes and unbuttoning his shirt as he laid his boyfriend down on his bed, not even having the time or the thought to turn on the lights. John was going to have sex with Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock was going to have sex with John Watson. Sherlock was going to have sex with John Watson. He had no idea how John had read his mind, but he was thankful for it – every plan he had come up with for initiating it made him roll his eyes at how utterly stupid it seemed. But it was happening, right now – within the next few minutes, Sherlock realized as John took off Sherlock’s shirt, and Sherlock went to work trying to remove his boyfriend’s pants.

John sucked in his breath as Sherlock’s hand ghosted over the bulge in his underwear –

“I’m a tribute – I own everything. The Capitol – the audience – the other tributes – you –”

“You alright?” Sherlock asked, breathless from their kisses.

“Yes,” John said quickly, pushing the thought from his head. He wasn’t going to let Magnussen ruin this for them – he wasn’t going to let the Hunger Games ruin this for them, either. The only things that would matter to John tonight were within these four walls – within this bed.

John undid Sherlock’s fly and pulled his pants down from his waist, and Sherlock gripped the blanket under him. This is it this is it this is it – John sat up and pulled his shirt over his head before beginning to remove the last bit of clothing from Sherlock’s body, and it was at that moment the sound of rapid tapping filled the dark room, and Sherlock’s vision began to shake.

All it took was John’s fallen expression for Sherlock to realize his body was betraying him; he was shaking so badly his teeth were chattering.

“Are you alright?” John asked, his hands removing themselves from his waistband.

No no no –

“Me? Yeah – fine – I’m fine –” Sherlock tried, hoping he sounded calmer than he felt. “Fine.”

John backed himself off of his boyfriend, and kneeled on the bed.

“Sherlock,” he said, and just by the tone of John’s voice Sherlock knew it was over. Sherlock opened his mouth to apologize – to explain himself – to try to convince John that it was fine and he was fine and that everything was fine and if he could just continue kissing him he would be able to go through with it – but John spoke first. “Do you want to go up on the roof?”

A few minutes later, Sherlock and John stood, dressed in their previously discarded shirts and pants, at the edge of the roof, leaning on the chest-high barrier, looking down at the streets of the Capitol and watching its citizens – partying, naturally.

It was there that Sherlock admitted it:

“I don’t like sex.”

“Then we won’t have it,” John replied, as if it was the simplest thing in the world.

“But that’s what people do, isn’t it? Have sex?” he asked. “So that’s what we should do...right?”

“We’re not like most people, Sherlock; you should know that more than anyone. We’re us – and if that means you don’t want to have sex that’s fine. We won’t.”

“But I wanted to give you something –”

John leaned over and silenced Sherlock with a kiss. And when he spoke again, it was in a whisper, his mouth still inches from Sherlock as he looked up into his eyes.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s never mattered to me,” John promised. “You don’t need to give me anything – and if we were to, I’d rather you do it because you really wanted to, not because you thought you had to.”

“But I do want to –”

“But you were afraid to do it.”

Sherlock nodded, turning away from John and looking down at the streets below.

“Everyone thinks we should, so I just thought... If I pushed past the fear and just did it, you’d be happy. Everyone would.”

“I wouldn’t be happy if you were just doing it for everyone but yourself. I know everyone’s been pressuring us about it, but the point is that I’m not. Forget what everyone else thinks; we’ll let them think what they want to think – but we’ll know the truth. When it comes to us the sex doesn’t matter, and it never will. And that’s okay.”

They were silent for a few moments, listening to the sounds of celebration going on below. “It won’t matter after tomorrow, anyway,” Sherlock murmured. “That’s what I keep thinking – nothing’s going to matter after tomorrow. It’ll just be that Arena and Harry.”

“What about Magnussen?” John asked, despite himself.

“He’s just another body between Harry and the title of victor.”

“Then why were you so adamant about him seeing you as an acceptable opponent?” John asked.

“I wasn’t, not really – I just wanted to see how he saw me. He doesn't see me as the threat my training score would suggest, so I suppose that’s good,” Sherlock mused, and then smirked. “I really hope I get to see that stupid sneer fall off his stupid face.”

“Me too,” John chuckled, even though he wanted to see Sherlock kill him more than he wanted to see him die in general. He looked down at the ground as well.

“I also...I also keep thinking that – that everyone back home wants me dead,” Sherlock admitted quietly, after a moment. “Because I’m a freak. And an asshole.”

“They don’t think that,” John said, just above a whisper, looking up at Sherlock.

“Well, they should. Because I am. And now, I just wish I...I wish I could’ve been better. Let them know that I had a heart.”

“You revealed on national television that you were head-over-heels in love with me when you thought that I was going to die, unafraid of the consequences. You loved me at my worst moments. Christ – you’re giving your life for my sister. If that doesn’t prove it to them I don’t know what will. And you know if anyone says a bad word about you I’ll tell them exactly where they can shove it.”

Sherlock chuckled, and then fell silent.

“I wanted...I just wanted to apologize. To you, at least. For being such an asshole all the time,” Sherlock whispered.

“You were never that to me.”

“What was I, then?”

“You were always just Sherlock Holmes,” John replied, and Sherlock chuckled again, rolling his eyes. They stood in the near-quiet of the night for another few moments. “I hate this,” John finally said.

“Me too.”

“We should’ve gotten away while we could’ve,” John whispered.

“No,” Sherlock whispered back. “I’m not running anymore.” He looked up at John. “Also, I just wanted to say that...”

“Yes?” John coaxed, and Sherlock sighed.

“I...I want you to know that...after everything, if you happen to find someone else –”

John shook his head. “No. Absolutely not.”

“I’m just saying that it’s alright if you find someone else –”

“I don’t want anyone else, Sherlock,” John said, the lights below reflecting in his tearful eyes. “You are the best man, the most human...human being that I’ve ever known, and no one will ever come close to measuring up to you. Before you, I was so alone, and I owe you so much. After you, Sherlock, I won’t be able to find anyone else.” He pressed his lips to Sherlock’s again. “I’d rather have you.”

Sherlock pursed his lips, trying to find a counter argument but failing. Finally, he gave in.


Chapter Text

After a night of trying and failing and trying some more to sleep, Sherlock woke up in his own bed, shaking like a leaf and sweating buckets.

It was today, he realized as three Peacekeepers filed into his bedroom – two guarding the door, and one presenting Sherlock with a white shirt, white sweatpants, and white briefs to get changed into.

“Today you are to be delivered to the Arena for the Hunger Games,” he said. “Get dressed into these, and we’ll escort you onto the roof to travel to the Arena.”

Sherlock looked down at the clothes in his outstretched hand, and slowly his body moved to retrieve it. The cotton fabric felt foreign to him, but he held onto it for dear life and somehow made it to the bathroom even though he couldn’t exactly remember moving his feet there.

He glanced in the mirror, and found the definition of petrified staring back at him. In a flash, he unfolded the shirt and draped it over the mirror, like he had seen John do so many times in the past year. But John had covered his reflection because he couldn’t live with what he had done – Sherlock had no idea why he was covering his – he guessed he just didn’t want to be subject to it.

The water droplets from the shower held no temperature no matter where Sherlock put the dial – the only way he could really tell that the water was cold was by the fact that there was no steam in the room when he got out.

John’s Hunger Games lasted nine days.

Mycroft’s? A little less than a week.

The average, though – that was a week. Seven days.

Sherlock had anywhere between a few hours and a week to live.

When he finally pulled his shirt down from the mirror, he looked his reflection in the eye, and reminded himself of his mission: “Save Harry Watson.” That was his job – that was his only task in that Arena. Nothing else mattered – not even his own life, he thought, touching his fingers to the dog tags around his neck: John’s dog tags from last year, with a small modification.

But his body was betraying him, just as it had last night with John. He was shaking, fighting back tears – he was afraid. He was always able to divorce himself from emotion – from feelings – but then there was John, and his feelings for John. And now there was him, staring into the face of death, and his fear.

“I know everything there is to know, about everything, with a single glance. I even know who will win the Hunger Games this year.”

“And who would that be?”


“Harriet. Catherine. Watson.”

“Do you think so?”

“I know so.”

“And you’re sure?”

“One-hundred percent. Harriet Watson wins the Hunger Games. End of discussion,” he had said, and then he had stormed out of the room, the brother of the Ice Man, of the East Wind.

“Save. Harry. Watson,” he reminded himself again, and strode out of the room, again taking a page out of his brother’s book.

He was the Ice Man’s brother. If Mycroft could do it, so could he.

John stood outside of President Snow’s office, wringing his hands, dressed in his nicest suit, waiting for Mycroft to emerge. He checked his watch again – it was eight-thirty – ninety minutes until the Games began. At this point, Sherlock and Harry would be in the Aircraft, flying circles around Panem in an attempt to make the tributes feel like they were farther away from home than they actually were. Any second, now, some Peacekeeper would be injecting Sherlock and Harry with their tracking device, turning them into two number twelves in a long line of number twelves – one that had John Watson and Mary Morstan added to the list at exactly this moment last year.

As John pulled his sleeve back over the watch face, Mycroft opened the door and stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind him, not speaking until the door clicked closed.

“Sorry about that.”

“It’s fine,” John said, waving him off. “Well?”

“We’re in. We’ll be with our own siblings in the launch room to start, and we’ll trade off at nine-thirty.”

“Yes!” John exclaimed, and in a moment of happiness, he hugged Sherlock’s brother. Mycroft squeezed John back, and something in John knew that, when Sherlock was gone, John would be on the receiving end of a lot of Mycroft’s hugs.

“We should get to the roof; we’ll be joining the stylists and preparation teams on their hovercraft, which will be taking off any minute.”

They reached the hovercraft just in time, and were surprised to see Louise sitting in one of the seats, wiping away tears. She looked up upon their arrival, and she lifted her shaking hand in a wave that never looked so sad. John and Mycroft sat beside her, John on her left, and Mycroft on her right.

“You too?” she asked.

“Us too,” Mycroft replied.

“I – I met with President Snow last night. He almost didn’t let me – because of what I had said during the interview –”

“He gave me trouble, too.”

She glared down at her hands folded on her lap, and Mycroft held onto one, and John held onto the other.

“He – he said he was feeling kind...but he’s still putting him out there...”

“I’m sorry,” John whispered, unsure how to say anything else. What could he possibly say at a time like this?

Louise looked up at him.

“You shouldn’t have to be.”

“Ten minutes until landing.”

Sherlock scratched idly at the injection spot in his arm, rubbing his fingers over the bump the tracking device made in his skin. For a moment, he briefly considered the absolutely impossible idea of escaping the Arena. If he could get this bean-sized thing out of his arm – if he found a place to hide from the cameras to extract it – he could get out of there. That was his theory, at least. There was a force field of some sort around the Arena – that was the only logical thing he could think of keeping the tributes in but still allowing the Capitol to pass in and out without trouble. The trackers kept them in – hurt them if they got out.

John was lucky last year – his Arena was on a raised platform. The only way to get to the force field was finding a way around the anti-drop technology that they also put around the tribute buildings to keep the tributes from committing suicide by jumping off the side. But not everyone was so lucky – there had been times where the tributes were either paralyzed or straight up killed over simply touching the barrier.

Sherlock would not be one of those people. If he could, he’d stay as close to the center of the Arena as he could. If he could, he’d take the Cornucopia, but that was a stupid thing to think – so stupid – if anyone took the Cornucopia, it would be the Career tributes, not him.

As he thought of this, he held Archibald Neal’s hand – he had made sure the two seats on either side of him were open for the boy and Harry. As soon as a Peacekeeper came around to him with the giant needle that contained the tracking device, Archie had gripped onto his hand, and he hadn’t let go since. He had been talking and crying ever since lift-off, but Sherlock was only present for part of the conversation.

“Serlock?” he asked, and Sherlock looked over at him.


“Do we get to go home if we lose?” he asked, very quietly, the innocence drained from his voice, and Sherlock, knowing that Archie was on his way to truly knowing the answer, told him the truth.

“No,” he replied, just as quietly. “We don’t.”

He looked to Harry on his other side. From the moment she sat next to him on the hovercraft, their fingers interlocked and they held on to each other for dear life.

That’s all they could do – there was nothing more they could say. This was the end, Sherlock kept thinking as the hovercraft landed and the tributes were ushered by four Peacekeepers each out and into the catacombs – into the stockyards. They were walking the plank, marching to their deaths, all of them – and there was nothing they could to do about it.

One of Sherlock’s Peacekeepers opened the door to the launch room, and Sherlock found Mycroft Holmes, standing before a table filled with food, with an empty plate in front of him.

Sherlock breathed his brother’s name as he ran into his arms, hugging him as the Peacekeepers closed the door.

“Hello, Sherlock,” Mycroft whispered back. Sherlock could have sworn his voice was wet, but when they finally broke apart, Mycroft was back to being his usual all-business self. “Sit. Eat,” he said, gesturing to the chair across the table, and Sherlock obeyed, hands still shaking as he filled his plate. “You should –”

“Eat enough to where I won’t be hungry but not a lot so I can still run for my life without getting sick, I know,” Sherlock cut him off.

There was a silence as Sherlock took his first bite; a silence that Mycroft broke.

“How was last night?”

“None of your business,” Sherlock replied quickly, mouth full of food.

“You made it my business when you asked me where you could find condoms, Brother Mine,” Mycroft reminded him.

Sherlock swallowed the food that was in his mouth. “Well, if you must know, nothing happened. And we’re both okay with that,” he said. “We’re both really okay with that.”

“I bet you wished you had listened to me when I suggested –”

“Of course I do,” Sherlock cut him off again. “But I didn’t, and I don’t know if that makes things better or worse, but it doesn’t matter now – I can’t change the past, and that’s on me.”

“Telling me I was right wouldn’t go amiss here,” Mycroft said, half of a smile playing at his lips.

“Not a chance,” Sherlock replied with a smirk that quickly faded. “Let him know, would you? When I’m gone, tell him that I wanted to, you know...”

“I know.”

“I have half the mind to throw this shit across the room,” Harry Watson told her brother. She pointed at a bowl of oatmeal. “That especially. I’d love to see the kind of mess it would make.”

“They’d hate you,” John said quietly from across the table.

“Let them,” Harry muttered, grabbing a spoon and plunging it into the bowl of food. “Honestly, I don’t see how they expect us to eat all this shit at a time like this, anyway.” And with that, she flung the stuff onto the door’s window.

“Nice aim,” John said.

“It must be a Watson thing. Mom’s side – Dad doesn’t really aim, he sort of just fires,” Harry replied, tossing a sunny-side-up egg up to the ceiling. It landed perfectly, but only stuck for a moment before falling down into the plate of bacon. “I didn’t think that would actually stick,” she admitted.

“You should probably eat something – you don’t know what you’ll get out there.”

In response, Harry grabbed a biscuit and shoved as much as she could unceremoniously into her mouth. The part she couldn’t fit she threw to the floor, and stepped on.

She then turned her attention to her previously untouched butter knife.

“Nothing is sharp in this room,” she informed John, after a moment.

“Harry –” John started, eyes widening.

“That came out wrong – I want to cut my hair,” she announced.

“Cut your hair? You haven’t wanted to cut your hair since you were –”

“You remember that girl from District Nine?” she asked, cutting him off. “The one Mycroft showed us, back when we didn’t know who was going in – not Louise Neal but the other one – Amanda Hawkins? Remember how her hair snarled in the branches and she almost got killed because of that? I don’t want to be that girl – if I’m going to lose, it’s not going to be because of my hair. Do you have anything to cut this with?” she asked, taking a lock of her hair between her two fingers and scrutinizing it.

“I don’t, and I know you don’t either,” John said, and she looked up at him, confused.

“Well, duh, all I have is this.” She gestured to the white t-shirt and sweat pants she donned.

John nodded toward the bathroom. “Get dressed, then we’ll talk.”

Sherlock looked himself over in the bathroom mirror. “They’re just rubbing it in our faces, now,” he called out to his brother.

“I know,” Mycroft replied. “I tried to convince them to put you in a darker shade, but they wanted you to match John’s iris.”

It matched, alright. Two things were obvious – the first being everyone had matching jumpsuits, with one difference: where there was wasn’t black, there was a color reserved for each player. The second obvious thing was the fact that it was a jumpsuit – waterproof, skin tight – water was going to be unavoidable in this Arena. And if Sherlock hadn’t figured it out by the time he saw them, the goggles would have helped him in his deduction immensely.

He pulled on the lilac knee-high boots, designed to not only let him swim but run through wooded terrain, hid his dog tags under the wetsuit, keeping the cold steel against his chest, and emerged from the bathroom to face his brother. He had expected laughter, but was greeted with silence as Mycroft looked him over.

“Problem?” Sherlock asked, and Mycroft shook his head.

“I was just...thinking about how you aren’t so young, anymore.”

“Well, it’s like you always said – the Games age you. I’m getting the full treatment.”

Mycroft smiled his saddest tight-lipped smile, and then his face returned to its serious state as he pulled his hands from behind his back – one hand holding his umbrella, per usual, and the other held a lilac backpack to match Sherlock’s jumpsuit.

“I take it that’s mine?” Sherlock asked, pointing at the bag.

“Yes; we’re doing things a little bit differently this year. This bag holds your survival supplies; food, water, a jacket, a small medical kit, etcetera. Your bag lacks weapons; those will only be provided once you’re in the Arena. That’s all I’m allowed to say,” he concluded, holding out the pack for Sherlock to take.

The youngest of the Holmes brothers took two steps forward, reached out and took the bag, and the eldest closed the distance between them, bringing his brother into a tight embrace.

“I guess the East Wind came to get me, after all,” Sherlock murmured, after a minute.

“Sherlock…” Mycroft sighed. “It’s been here all along.”

Sherlock took a step back to get a better look at his brother.


“The East has us all. You’re just old enough to see it, now.”

“I don’t understand –”

“Our parents...” Mycroft started, and Sherlock shut his mouth immediately, taken aback. Mycroft hadn’t spoken about their parents since he returned from the Arena. “...Our mother and father always wanted a little girl – a daughter. They had a name picked out and everything. Then I was born – I was a boy, and they were content for about six years, and then they decided to try again for their girl. Then you were born, and you were also a boy, and so they tried again shortly after. Apparently, third time was the charm, because our mother finally gave birth to the daughter that our parents had always dreamed of – little Eurus Holmes.”

“Eurus?” Sherlock repeated, and Mycroft nodded.

“Eurus. Of course, you don’t remember her – you were only a year old at the time, but I was eight – I remember everything about her. Unfortunately, though, she was born prematurely; she didn’t last the night. Do you happen to know what the name Eurus means?”

Sherlock thought for a moment, but gave up when he remembered just how little time they had – not enough time to really search his mind palace for the answer to such a trivial question.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “You tell me.”

“Literally, it means ‘god of the East Wind.’”

Sherlock nodded, and then looked up at his brother. “So you made our sister into a childhood monster?”

“Not exactly,” Mycroft replied. “It was...what I felt, the best way to prepare you.”

“Prepare me?” Sherlock repeated. “For what?”

“For this,” Mycroft said. “Maybe not for this moment in particular, but for this life. The East Wind was never a monster, not really – it was death itself. It was plans gone awry. It was having hopes and dreams and watching them fall apart right in front of you. It was the inevitable life that we would both soon be a part of. You see, I was old enough to understand that the Games were happening and what it meant for us when you still had no idea. I was petrified that if I told you straight off about what life had in store for you; for the both of us...”

Sherlock thought back to all the times Mycroft had been blunt – he was basically blunt about everything that Sherlock could think of – his earliest memory was of his brother telling him that knowledge was the only important thing in this life – why hadn’t he been brutally honest about this?

“I’d panic,” Sherlock guessed.

“I thought you would hide within yourself; go to a place where I couldn’t reach you. Fearing that outcome, I didn’t know how else to tell you that your perfect world wasn’t going to last, and that things were going to change and that people were going to die, and there was nothing anyone could do to change that, so I just said –”

“‘The East Wind is coming for you,’” they said together, and Mycroft sighed.

“I didn’t know what else to do.”

“It’’s okay,” Sherlock murmured. “ did okay,” he said, louder, and Mycroft chuckled, shaking his head. “You were great.”

“No, I wasn’t, little brother.”

Sherlock didn’t need to think too hard to know exactly what his brother was talking about – the one time Sherlock retracted so far within himself that Mycroft didn’t even know he was lost until it was too late – until –

“John got me out.”

“He did. John Watson was able to pull you out of a lot of dark places that I wasn’t able to find you in; I’ll owe him for that for the rest of my life.”

There was a silence as Sherlock mulled over Mycroft’s words, and then he thought of a question he had never been able to ask, before then.

“How come you didn’t know?” Sherlock asked. “About the Morphling? You always picked up on everything but you were never able to deduce that I was...”

Mycroft watched his brother as he trailed off, his eyes sad and thoughtful, thinking back to that time in his life.

“I was too focused on other things to see it,” he admitted. “And I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry I didn’t see. I tried so hard to protect you, even when you were just a child –”

“But sometimes you can’t.”

“Indeed,” Mycroft agreed, and sighed again. “They would’ve been so proud of you,” he whispered, almost as if it was just an afterthought, but Sherlock knew that anything involving their parents was far from an afterthought.

Sherlock nodded, and said the most sentimental thing he could muster:

“Of us.”

Mycroft gave him another tight-lipped smile, and adjusted his pack’s straps on his brother’s shoulders. Mycroft then checked his watch.

“It’s nine twenty-five,” he announced. “I’m going to leave and John’s going to come in see you off. But before I go – before you go out there...” he placed both of his hands on Sherlock’s shoulders, making sure that Sherlock was listening closely. “You are so very smart, Sherlock Holmes. You must understand that I believe in you.”

Afraid that his voice would betray the tears he was fighting back, Sherlock Holmes nodded curtly, and Mycroft nodded back, and, to hide his bottom lip’s sudden quiver, Mycroft kissed his brother’s forehead.

“Godspeed, little brother,” he said. “The world will never be the same without you.”

And then, before Sherlock could think of a response, he was gone.

John and Mycroft met halfway between Sherlock and Harry’s holding rooms.

“Are you alright?” Mycroft asked upon seeing John.

Shit, was it that obvious that he had been crying? He had tried not to – he had tried to keep it together as best he could, but when Harry had tried to make light of their goodbye (“Please don’t start crying, because if you start crying then I’ll start crying, and it’ll just be a huge fucking mess and nobody wants that,” she had joked, with tears falling down her cheeks anyway,) John let out a single burst of laughter before he too dissolved into tears.

“Are you?” John asked, deflecting Mycroft’s question.

“Absolutely not,” Mycroft replied, and at that moment they were close enough to where John could see that Mycroft had indeed cried at some point within the last half hour – actually, seeing now that tears in Mycroft’s eyes were threatening to spill over, he made a deduction of his own: Mycroft had been able to hold himself together whilst in the room with Sherlock, but now that he was gone, now that the goodbye was over, it was taking everything in him to keep his composure. “How was she?” he asked, changing the subject. “Harriet?”

“More pissed than I’ve ever seen her before,” John replied. “Normally she’s loud when she’s mad but just now...”

“She was quiet, I assume? Completely unlike herself?”

“Yeah – how’d you know?” John asked.

“Sherlock and I had played deductions with the two of you after I returned from the Arena, after we all met. Sherlock had said she was one to get loud when she was angry, but I added when she’s livid she becomes dangerously quiet. Turns out that we were both correct.”

“How is he? Sherlock?” John asked, his heart leaping with anxiety at the sound of his name.


And when John Watson stepped into Sherlock’s room, he found Sherlock Holmes, standing in his lilac swimsuit, tears rolling down his cheeks.

But this was not Sherlock Holmes, though, not really. This was not the brilliant man he had fallen in love with – this was not the young man who sent John the flower this time last year, or the man who danced with him on top of fish in the Capitol. This was a shell of Sherlock – the broken boy in the bread shop who John first felt inclined to talk to – the broken boy with needle marks in his arms whose life John had saved. But John could not save this broken boy anymore.

John crossed the room and brought Sherlock into his arms, and Sherlock wept into John’s shoulder. After an eternity, Sherlock spoke, his voice contorted by his sobs.

“I know I’ve said breathing’s boring but that didn’t mean I ever wanted to stop,” he said, and John was taken aback by how poetic he could be even through tears.

And John had nothing to say – nothing that could comfort him, nothing that could ever bring peace to his boyfriend’s heart.

So he said, “I know.”

“I never meant for this to happen –”

“I know.”

“– and I’m gonna protect Harry, I will – I just –”

“I know.”

“– I hate this so fucking much –”

“I know, Sherlock, I know.”

All too soon, the announcement went over the intercom: two minutes until launch, all tributes stand on their launch plate. It was then Sherlock let go of John, pressing his hands into his eyes, trying to keep more of his tears from streaming out.

“I’m sorry – I’m sorry –”

“Don’t, Sherlock. It’s okay.”

Sherlock removed his hands from his eyes and looked up at John. “I’ll protect Harry –”

John pressed his lips to Sherlock’s, and then pressed his forehead to his. “I love you so much,” he whispered, and Sherlock nodded. “Don’t you forget that when you’re in there – it’s hard, trust me it’s so hard to remember that shit when you’re in there – but don’t forget it, don’t you ever forget it. Alright?”

“Okay,” he murmured.

“Go stand on the platform,” John ordered gently, pulling himself away from Sherlock, and Sherlock obliged.

“One minute until launch.”

“I’m scared,” Sherlock finally admitted. “John, I’m scared –”

“It’s okay to be scared. You told me last year – fear is wisdom in the face of danger, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Right?”

Sherlock nodded, vaguely remembering. He shouldn’t be scared – he was never scared – but he was, and since he was, his mind was a mess. Suddenly, he looked at John, his voice urgent as he spoke.

“I love you – I never said it enough but I do – I’ve always loved you – since the beginning – I fell in love with you within five minutes of meeting you –”

John smirked at his words.

“Of course you did,” he breathed, as if cursing himself that he hadn’t thought of that before, when he should of – that five minutes’ conversation was all it took for Sherlock to fall in love –

“Did you know?” Sherlock asked, desperate and, slowly, John nodded.

“Yeah, I think I knew. I think I knew the whole time.” John replied, and as soon as the words passed his lips, the glass barrier appeared between them. Sherlock pressed his hand against the barrier, and John put his hand against the barrier too, so there was nothing but the thick sheet of glass separating them.

Sherlock stared at their hands, and then looked up at John, and Sherlock’s breath caught as he looked into John’s eyes, as everything became too real for him to handle: this was happening, he was in the Games, he was going to die –

“Goodbye John,” Sherlock whispered, knowing that John couldn’t hear him.

The elevator began to rise.

John wiped his tears from his face. “Goodbye Sherlock,” he whispered back, and Sherlock knew that he knew that Sherlock could read his lips, and then the elevator hid him from sight, swallowing the tribute into darkness.

Sherlock gripped the dog tags through his wetsuit to calm him down.

He had to do this. He had no choice.

After a few moments of moving upward, the ceiling opened up above Sherlock, and Sherlock let go of the dog tags as he rose out from the ground. The Cornucopia was in front of him, and all he could see were weapons – were there any food or supplies there at all? He didn’t want to make the journey over to find out.

Two tributes – Janine Hawkins and Robert Frankland – were on either side of him. There was a small platform in front of Sherlock, just out of reach, that held a sword – Mycroft’s sword, or so it looked like. Everywhere – surrounding him on all sides – was water, rocking and swaying and licking the sides of Sherlock’s platform.

As the timer ticked down, an announcement came over the intercom.

“As you may have noticed, tributes, an exact replica of your victor sibling’s weapon of choice is before you. You may continue their legacy and use their chosen weapon, create your own and take a weapon from the Cornucopia, or take as many weapons as you can carry! Choose wisely, and Happy Hunger Games!”


That was stupid – that was so stupid – putting their sibling’s lives and chance of survival in their hands without them even knowing it – years in advance –


Of course he would take his brother’s sword – it was sturdy and strong and not to mention right in front of him


Sherlock glanced up, trying to find Harry. His eyes passed over Charles Augustus Magnussen, who had a curved knife on the platform before him – Sherlock vaguely remembered seeing his brother use it in his Games’ recording – that’s all he needed though – because after that Hannibal Lecter Magnussen used his teeth


He found Harry, dressed in red, just a few spots away on his right, poised to run to the platform and into the water. She wasn’t looking at John’s knives, though – Sherlock followed her gaze and found her eyeing up a bow and arrow set in the Cornucopia –


Could Harry even swim? Sherlock had no idea how to swim – he and John had found a pond once beyond District Twelve’s fence when they were fifteen – John had stripped off his clothes and learned, but Sherlock – he had been too embarrassed – he was in love with John and he was too nervous to take off his clothes –


Harry seemed so sure of herself – like she knew exactly what to do once she hit the water. If Sherlock wanted to keep Harry safe he was going to have to learn to swim – and fast.


Mycroft Holmes had always pretended that he was the East Wind, when they were children. He’d stomp around their poor excuse for a house, Sherlock squealing and racing on toddling legs to hide behind his mother’s dress.

“The Eeeeeeeast Wiiiiiind! The East Wind is coooooming!” Mycroft would call in his spookiest voice, pretending he didn’t know where exactly where his brother was. “It’s coming for you, Sherlock! Sherloooooock Hooooooolmes!”


But there was one day – Sherlock was four or five at the time, and Mycroft was eleven or twelve – when Mycroft added a new line to his speech:

“The East Wind is coming for you, Sherlock! What will you do?!”


There had been a moment of bravery in Sherlock’s young heart, and he leaped out of his hiding place (behind the curtain that separated his bed from the rest of the tiny house), and Sherlock would never forget his own words.

“I’ll meet it when it does!”


The East Wind was finally here.

The Game was on.

Chapter Text

Sherlock reached out and grabbed the sword in front of him, and then he was surrounded by the sounds of splashing – the sound of tributes hurling themselves into the water.

He heard a cry from his right, and he glanced over, past Janine Hawkin’s empty podium, to find Margaret Patterson falling into the water, her hand holding her neck, red blood staining her hot-pink-and-black jumpsuit. The spot to Margaret’s right held her killer – getting ready to toss another hunting knife at another tribute – James Sholto.


Sherlock whipped around, and there, between two empty platforms almost nearly clear across from Sherlock, only just a little to his left, stood Archie Neal, in a blaringly yellow wetsuit, holding his stuffed mouse, huddling into himself, as if he was trying to hide, glancing between Sherlock and the mess at the Cornucopia.

“I can’t swim!” he cried.

“I’m coming!” Sherlock yelled back.

He pulled his goggles over his eyes and took a deep breath, desperately trying to remember the way John Watson had swam in the pond that day so he could copy the movements – reminding himself that the human body was made to float in water –

And he dived head-first into the water surrounding him.

It was time to either sink or swim.

John bit his knuckle, watching the screen as he, the stylists, Mycroft, and Louise were flown back to the Capitol. He watched his sister grab John’s knives and swim the best she could toward the Cornucopia as Joseph Lee was killed by Steven Bainbridge. He watched as Sherlock dived into the water and began to move toward Archie Neal. He watched as Charles Augustus Magnussen made his way to the Cornucopia.

As soon as Magnussen climbed up onto the embankment and stood up, he came face-to-face with Helen Hewlett, and John watched as Magnussen raised his brother’s knife, slit her throat, and pushed her into the water, sneering. He turned around to get punched in the face by Elizabeth Smallwood, and he responded only by stabbing her in the chest.

Sherlock was only just getting the hang of swimming.

The sword and the pack dragged him down and made him slower than he liked, but he was able to move in a straight line and come up for air, which is what counted.

Suddenly, Sherlock felt a hand grab at his head, a fist clenching in his curls and pulling him off course. The next second, another arm closed in around his throat and two legs wrapped themselves around his waist.

I can’t die – not now, Sherlock thought, gritting his teeth, swinging his sword wildly around him, slowly slicing the large metal object through the water. Not during the fucking bloodbath –

And then, after a few moments of struggling, the pressure was off of him, and Sherlock opened his eyes to find streams of red within the blue of the water – blood.

He quickly flailed the other tribute – his dead or wounded assailant – off of him, and made his way back to the surface.

His head broke the surface of the water and Sherlock gasped for air, coughing and sputtering and opening his eyes to find –

A dead body, floating right beside him, with an arrow sticking out of his back.

Shocked, he looked up and around to find Harry Watson watching Sherlock from the ledge the Cornucopia stood upon, a bow and a sheath of arrows in hand. It was his job to save Harry Watson – but she had just saved him.

She kneeled down, reaching for him, and he waved her off.

“Go! Go to the shore! I’ll catch up!” Sherlock called to her, and Harry only gave him a nod in reply before she jumped back into the water and started to swim away from the commotion.

With Harry somewhat safe for the moment, Sherlock returned his attention to –

“SERLOCK! HOMES!” Archie yelled, and Sherlock plunged back into the water, trying to swim and trying to drag his sword toward the youngest tribute the Hunger Games ever had.

The moment Sherlock reached Archie’s platform, Archie pointed at his assigned weapon – an ax the size of the boy’s entire body.

“It’s too heavy,” Archie said as Sherlock pulled himself up onto the platform.

“That’s okay –” Sherlock replied, crouching down before the boy. “Come on – on my back –” he ordered, and as Archie scrambled onto his back, Sherlock kept watch to make sure no one was paying any attention to them. He had no idea how he was going to carry the weight of this boy and of the sword in the water, but he had to try. “I want you to hold on tight, okay?”


“Oh, and there goes Sebastian Wilkes, a fine kill by Charles Augustus Magnussen! And Julia Waters and Robin Heaney are still going at it – oh! Oh! They are both in the water, now; Robin is wounded, Julia is being strangled –”

John watched as Harry, Sherlock, and Archie made their way toward shore, gripping onto Mycroft’s and Louise’s hands.

“No one’s coming up...oh! Robin Heaney’s off the grid! And Julia Waters is now swimming back to shore, having won the fight!” Caesar narrated for the viewers.

“That’s eight so far,” Mycroft muttered.

John’s eyes broke away from the screen to look up at him. “Eight? Already? That’s almost how many we lost during my bloodbath.”

“And they’re not even done yet,” Louise added as Charles Augustus killed Abigail Reeves, who was dressed in silver, as if the Capitol was making sure everyone knew she was the oldest tribute in the Games.

In fact, it seemed as if a lot of the colors of the swimsuits chosen by the Gamemakers had some sort of meaning behind it. Harry’s was red because of her hair, Sherlock’s was lilac because of the iris that started it all, Julia Waters’ was blue because of her name, Magnussen’s was black because it matched his soul –

But that was just John’s thinking; the Gamemakers probably didn’t know the depth of his repulsive nature.

The Cornucopia was emptying out, now – Magnussen and James were guarding it while Aurora Blake, Steven Bainbridge, and Julia Waters were chasing after the others. At this point, six people had reached land and were racing their way through the Arena on foot, except for Harry, who was waiting for Sherlock and Archie to arrive.

But as soon as Sherlock was able to stand up in the water, the Cornucopia began to spin, and a giant wave began to form. 

Harry glanced behind Sherlock and gasped.

“Shit – RUN –”

And that was the last thing Sherlock heard from Harry before the water hit him and Archie, sending them toppling, rolling them through the water, completely knocking the wind out of Sherlock –

And then, just as quickly as it came, it was gone, leaving Sherlock halfway into a jungle’s bush, covered in small cuts and bruises and coughing up water.

Once he figured out which way was up, he got to his feet, looking around, and found Archie, spitting up water about ten feet away, back toward the shore.

Sherlock dashed to Archie’s side and was helping the boy up when he saw his sword beginning to be pulled back into the water – as if the artificial ocean the Capitol had created had a personal vendetta against it – against Sherlock –

“Stay –” Sherlock managed to say to Archie before he sprinted after the sword – his sword – Mycroft’s sword – and put his fingers around the hilt just before it slid from his reach.

Harry was nowhere to be seen.

“Sherlock...” John heard Mycroft whisper from beside him, almost as if he wanted to reprimand him for going after the sword. They watched as Sherlock ran back over to Archie, swung the boy onto his back again, and, checking one more time for Harry Watson, sprinted off.

The wave had been so big it had pushed Harry, but not nearly as far as it had Sherlock and Archie. In fact, it had tried to take her back into the water, but Harry was having none of it. As soon as she got her bearings, she went straight into the jungle ahead of her, about seventy feet away from where Sherlock and Archie had been.

Moments after Harry vanished into the jungle, Duncan Smallwood was found, and killed.

“That’s ten.”

Sherlock ran – he did not stop running, plowing through the branches and leaves and grass as if they were nothing. Archie Neal bounced on Sherlock’s back, his chin hitting his shoulder every couple of steps.

“Hold on – Hold on –” Sherlock begged the child, and he wrapped his tiny arms even tighter around Sherlock’s neck.

Breathing was getting hard – his legs were starting to hurt – but he kept running – he had to keep Archie safe – find Harry – and –


Sherlock skidded to a halt.

The Bloodbath was over.

Margaret Patterson, 44, District 10.

Joseph Lee, 63, District 5.

Ten tributes were killed in all – almost half of the tributes were gone within the first ten minutes of the Games. Nine people lost their siblings in ten minutes. Caesar Flickerman went through the names excitedly, as if a record had been broken, and all John could do was stare in shock. As the names were called, their deaths were quickly recapped.

Helen Hewlett, 25, District 1.

Elizabeth Smallwood, 37, District 11.

Helen had been right – there was no way that she was going to win the Games with Charles Augustus Magnussen as a competitor, but John had sort of been glad to see that Elizabeth Smallwood had punched him in the face, even if the action directly led her to her death.

Thomas Birch, 14, District 8.

Bradley Carter, 67, District 6.

As Thomas Birch’s name was announced and added to the death toll, the recap showed Harry Watson grabbing a bow and arrows and shooting one of them at his lime green swim suit as he tried to drown Sherlock. His sister killed someone in the bloodbath – to save Sherlock.

Sebastian Wilkes, 10, District 3.

Robin Heaney, 39, District 3.

Ten were dead. That left five careers – Steven Bainbridge, Julia Waters, James Sholto, Aurora Blake, and Charles Augustus Magnussen – and that left nine other tributes, three of which were Sherlock, Harry, and Archie.

Abigail Reeves, 79, District 7.

Duncan Smallwood, 38, District 11.

But Sherlock and Harry and Archie were alive – they had made it through the bloodbath, which was the hardest to survive. They were alive.

Sherlock and Archie listened to the cannons burst in rapid succession, one right after the other. Archie kept count, saying the words slowly out loud, like the teachers at school always did with the toddlers.






Archie kept counting, quietly, as Sherlock kneeled down and Archie climbed off his back. Sherlock started getting antsy by the eighth cannon blast – how many people had died?





And then, silence.

Ten. Ten people had died during the Bloodbath. But the Bloodbath was over, now, and they had survived.

Archie was watching Sherlock, anxiously waiting for him to make the next move. Sherlock’s next move, though, was simple: smile.

His grin was genuine, and when he breathed out a sigh of relief, it came out like a chuckle. He did it again, another chuckle escaping his lips.

And, slowly, a grin stretched across Archie’s face, too.

In moments, the both of them had dissolved into quiet laughter, and Archie even started bouncing up and down where he stood.

“We did it we did it!” Archie cheered quietly in a sing-song voice, spinning around as he jumped.

Sherlock didn’t even have the pessimism to tell him that no, they were in fact very far from “did it”, or that they at the very least needed to find Harry Watson in the Arena; he didn’t even care that they still had a long way to go – they had survived the Bloodbath – easily the hardest part of the Games to survive. They should be allowed to celebrate – they had won this small portion of –

Sherlock did not see the other tribute until he was right on top of them. He only had enough time just to take a step forward, just to yell “NO!”, and then –

Blood was everywhere, and Archie Neal’s head was on the ground.

Archie Neal had left the Games the same way his sister had won two years ago: with a beheading.

Louise Neal screamed, falling to the floor, gripping onto John and Mycroft as if they were the only things keeping her attached to the world. She screamed in despair as tears rolled down her cheeks, but John couldn’t tear his eyes from the screen.

Within a single second, Sherlock was covered in Archie’s blood, and the boy’s body fell to the ground between him and the killer – a man just a touch older than Mycroft in a brown swimsuit. Their eyes met, and before Sherlock had actually thought out a plan of attack he was running straight for the tribute and plunging his sword into his stomach before he had time to react and kill Sherlock too.

The tribute swung his bloodied sword and cut Sherlock – deep in the shoulder. In response, Sherlock twisted the blade – for Louise, he would tell himself – and then pushed the blade through his back.

“Who knew there’d be a fight like this? William verses William! And it looks like William Holmes is winning!” Caesar exclaimed, and John looked away as the cameras gave the audience the gruesome details.

Sherlock removed the sword from the tribute’s torso and the tribute gripped his wound with his free hand, taking another swing at Sherlock.

Slice the tendons, a voice – an emotionless, analytical voice – in Sherlock’s head ordered, and Sherlock raced behind the tribute and –

"Oh! William Wiggins won’t be going anywhere, now!”

John looked back up at the screen to find Sherlock – terrified of what he had just done. Sherlock raced away, leaving William Wiggins to die, and just like that, within the first twenty minutes of the Hunger Games, Harry Watson and Sherlock Holmes had made their first kills.

“Let’s check on the other tribute from District Twelve, shall we?” Caesar asked, and the cameras cut to Harry Watson, holding one of her brother’s knives in her hand, slicing locks of her long, red hair. “It looks like Harry Watson’s changing up her look – someone should have told her that her stylist would have cut her hair if she had just asked, am I right?”

But John was proud of her – for making that last act of defiance – letting the world know that she’s not a doll for the Capitol to dress up and make pretty. She didn’t want for them to cut her hair – she wanted to do it herself. It was her way of showing the world they were wrong – that she made it through the Bloodbath. It was a reward for her personal victory.

“I thought for sure you would’ve been Bloodbath meat, like your sister will be.”

Charles Augustus Magnussen was wrong. Maybe, just maybe, he’d be wrong about who would win the Hunger Games, too. 

Sherlock ran through the jungle, his legs definitely now hurting and his sword feeling too heavy in his hands, his eyes glistening with tears.

The Games broke that boy – that three-year-old boy who would now always remain three years old – they broke his spirit and then they killed him. And now they were breaking Sherlock’s right before they killed him, too.

But that tiny, analytical voice kept speaking – telling Sherlock where to go – Find Harry Watson.

Sherlock turned, and suddenly he was face-to-face with a large black creature.

Chapter Text

The hovercraft landed, and Louise tried to calm herself down, putting on her “happy face,” as she kept mumbling to Mycroft.

“We have a party to attend, after all,” she went on, trying on her best Capitol accent. “Are you wearing that hat of yours?”

“I was planning on it,” Mycroft replied.

“Good; that hat’s ridiculous.”

John looked up at Mycroft. “Party?” he repeated.

“In – In the City Circle of the Capitol –” Louise began to explain, and Mycroft put his hand on her shoulder and carried on for her.

“There’s a big celebration of the Games in the City Circle of the Capitol; everyone’s invited, but sponsors’ and victors’ attendance is mandatory. It’s basically one big party where we all gather and watch the Games together that lasts for as long as the Games do.”

“It helps us talk to the sponsors – they’re a little drunk, and they have money,” Louise added. “What else are they gonna do but spend it?”

Once they exited the hovercraft, they went to their respective floors and got dressed into Capitol-presentable clothing.

“I picked your clothes out for you,” Mycroft informed John as they rode the elevator up. “I hope you’ll find them suitable.”

“I probably will,” John replied. “You’re better at this than I am.”

“Thank you,” Mycroft said, straightening up considerably.

“How are you doing?” John asked, after a moment.

“I think you know the answer to that,” Mycroft replied, not taking his eyes away from the space directly in front of him. “Let’s not focus on feelings and just do what we have to do, shall we?”

Sherlock opened his mouth to scream upon seeing the beast, but he covered his mouth, keeping himself quiet until he calmed down.

It took him a second to realize it was a stag – a huge stag, bigger than any deer he had ever seen back home – as black as the darkest night, its torso covered in a mane of black feathers like a raven. This was definitely a Capitol creation.

“Ravenstag...” Sherlock breathed, without even realizing he was saying it out loud.

The stag stared at Sherlock with eyes that seemed to see inside his soul. It looked majestic and terrifying – if Sherlock was more easily startled into action he might’ve tried to attack the beast. But he hadn’t.

Sherlock didn’t want to approach the Ravenstag – not even to pass by it – he wanted to run in the opposite direction, but something in him told him that this was the way Harry might've been, and so he had to follow.

You’re in the Hunger Games now, Sherlock, he reminded himself. The Game is on; time to play.

Sherlock took a cautious step toward the Stag, but it did not move. He took another step, and was then close enough to touch the Ravenstag’s nose. It continued to stare at him, and he continued to stare back.

If it was planning on attacking him, it would’ve by now. Unless it was trying to lull him into a false sense of security, it was not going to attack him.

Sherlock opened his mouth.

“I...I’d like to pass.”

He forced the words out, feeling like a moron for speaking to the animal, but then the Stag moved out of his way.

Amazed, Sherlock nodded to the Ravenstag, and walked slowly past the beast. As soon as he dared, he broke out into a run, racing to try to find Harry, but he stopped again once he heard the rhythm of hooves following him. He spun around, and found the Stag following after him, only stopping once there were about ten feet between them.

Sherlock squinted at the Stag, confused, and turned back around, took a few steps, and turned back around again to find the Stag was following after him.

“Okay...” Sherlock breathed. “Okay.”

He then turned around again, and quickly walked in the direction that had to lead him to Harry – now, save for the sound of the Ravenstag behind him, completely on his own.

“It looks like Sherlock Holmes has decided to take a passive route with the Nightmare Stag!” Caesar announced.

John stood in front of the television, his arms crossed, chewing the inside of his lip. The Ravenstag was used back in the last Quarter Quell, with Hannibal Lecter Magnussen and Will Graham. They were solitary creatures – two were never seen together – but they liked to stalk the tributes. As long as whoever they had chosen to follow didn’t get too scared or threatened or whichever and try to attack, they wouldn’t either. The only time it didn’t work like this was when one encountered Hannibal near the beginning of their Games: somehow he convinced the creature to go after Will Graham without being provoked, but Will was able to befriend the Stag, and it followed him around for the rest of the Games. That’s when Hannibal realized he wanted to keep Will alive until the final two – he was smart, yet unstable, and that made him interesting.

And, as John knew far too well, the real monsters in the Arena kept whoever they found interesting, just to make the final kill that much more dramatic.

When Sherlock first discovered the Stag that was following him, John’s chest seized up, afraid that Sherlock would try to attack him on instinct and trigger an aggressive response, but luckily he didn’t. And so, Sherlock was able to pass by the Nightmare Stag, and it followed behind him, a good ten feet back.

“Sherlock’s passing through sector eight,” he called to Mycroft, who was still in his room getting dressed.


“The Ravenstag’s following him,” John recapped as Mycroft stepped out, wearing a grey suit, a blue sash that matched John’s, and a top hat. “Is that the hat Louise was talking about?”

“It is. She thinks it looks ridiculous,” Mycroft said.

“It kind of does.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t recall asking for your opinion,” Mycroft informed him, and John, despite everything, smiled.

Mycroft attempted a smile back, but his glance at the screen gave him away.

“Let’s get downstairs; we shouldn’t leave Louise alone for too long,” he said, and they boarded the elevator.

“So what are the sashes for?” John asked, gesturing to his own.

“Since everyone’s allowed to join the watch party, sometimes it’s difficult to find each other. The sponsors wear red sashes, and the mentors wear blue. It’s to tell each other apart from the other capitol citizens. As mentors, we also get this to carry around,” Mycroft said, presenting John with a contraption that looked like a remote control, with a touch screen instead of buttons and, when a certain command was made, a red light was activated from the opposite end.

“What is this?” John asked, shining the light on his hand.

“It’s a money card. Instead of carrying around physical money, Capitol citizens carry these devices around. If they wish to make a purchase or, in our case, donate to our tributes, they can type an amount onto their cards and we’ll scan them with our cards. These cards are connected to their bank accounts wirelessly, so as soon as we scan the cards, whatever they donated will be transferred straight into an account for Sherlock or Harriet.”

“I’m confused,” John admitted.

“Try not to focus on the logistics; all you need to do is press the button, scan the card, and let the Capitol’s technology do the rest. By the way, I haven’t asked you: how are you doing since the whole Magnussen debacle?”

John looked up at Mycroft, taken aback by how casually he had brought it up – how he could easily just call it a ‘debacle’ – and Mycroft looked down at him.

“Fine,” John replied as smoothly as he could, trying not to sound defensive.

“Are you quite sure?” Mycroft asked.

“Yes. Why?” John asked, now not bothering to hide his need to defend himself, furrowing his brow as he looked up at Mycroft.

“Well, I heard last night didn’t exactly work out, so I assumed –”

“Wait – stop – Sherlock told you?”

“He had asked me where he could find a package of condoms, so –”

“He had condoms?” John asked in disbelief.

“I also provided him with the proper lubricant necessary for –”

“Oh my god –” John cut Mycroft off, completely in shock. The idea of Sherlock Holmes knowing that whatever they were planning on doing the night before required lube seemed unbelievable in itself, let alone the fact that he even knew what a condom was – and suddenly his stomach felt like it had contracted. It made sense –

“But I wanted to give you something –”

He wanted to give him a fond memory to look back upon – he had planned on sleeping with John that night since he found out he would be going into the Arena. In fact, he probably had the lube in the nightstand drawer in his room – the condoms in his pocket – the thought in his head – as Caesar conducted their interviews.

“We didn’t exactly get far enough to really figure out how what Charles Augustus did affects me,” John revealed.

“May I ask what happened?”

“Sherlock, he – he started shaking in the middle of it, so we stopped. He seemed so disappointed in himself...”

“But you might’ve done the same if it had gone any further,” Mycroft reminded him. “Sherlock just reacted first.”

“Right,” John nodded, and then he felt tears forming in his eyes. “God, I’m gonna miss him. I just...I don’t even care about the sex thing or the fact that he can be a total asshole or the fact he doesn’t know about Magnussen – I just want to be with him. And I can’t because he’s dying.” The tears fell from his eyes, and he quickly wiped them away.

“I know, John. I know.”

After a while of walking, Sherlock couldn’t hear the Ravenstag behind him anymore. Sherlock turned around, and it was about thirty feet back.

“Are you coming?” he asked quietly, and somehow the Stag was able to hear him – it gave a harsh breath through its nose and shook its head, as if he was shaking something off of his antlers.

Sherlock nodded to himself, turned around, and walked off again.

It was at that point that he, while walking, checked out his Capitol-issued inventory:

There was a sleeve of crackers – a source of grain and sodium; a package of beef jerky, providing protein; an empty canteen (similar to the one John had last year), a small silver medical kit –

Remembering the constant ache in his shoulder for what it was, Sherlock stopped and nearly ripped the case apart, only to find….


Sherlock searched the case desperately, nearly dumping it out in his efforts, but that was all that the Capitol provided him with.

One hundred bandaids.

Was this some kind of joke?!

Sherlock sighed, frustrated. Of course it was a joke – this was the Hunger Games. Having legitimate medical supplies – supplies that might actually help him – was none of their concern.

Whatever, then – this was fine. At least he had medical supplies, at all. One hundred bandaids? He could work with this.

He cleared the fabric of his wetsuit away from the wound and, one at a time, ripped a bandaid open with his teeth and used the sticky adhesive to bring the lower part of his wound up to the other side, bridging the gap between the two sides of the wound. He applied five bandaids this way, pulling and fastening and hoping it worked, being careful not to let the bandaids touch, because if one fell off, then the rest of it would fall apart, too.

When he was done, he surveyed his work. There were no cleaning supplies in the medkit, and the wound wasn't completely closed, so it still looked pretty bad, but it was a bit better, and Sherlock was grateful. Dying of blood loss on the first day wouldn't help Harry.

At the thought of Harry, he started to pack away his things, but then he found one last thing at the bottom of his pack: a small, silver object – one that Sherlock had only seen beyond District Twelve’s fence: a spile.

He had seen them sticking out of trees in the woods with John – the first sign of human activity beyond the fence that they had ever found – and so Sherlock used the spile the only way he had seen it used.

Using the point of Mycroft's sword (his sword?) he made a weak spot in the bark of the nearest tree, and then pushed the spile the rest of the way through. Almost immediately, water dripped out of the spile, and Sherlock filled up his canteen and removed the spile before finally moving on.

“What are we looking at?” Mycroft asked Louise once they found her in the crowd of partiers.

“Twelve tributes are alive. Sherlock’s in sector seven, Harry’s in sector six, Julia and Steven are in sector twenty-four, and Magnussen’s with the rest of the Careers in sector eighteen,” Louise replied.

“Sector eighteen’s the tidal wave, isn’t it?” John asked.


“I hope he drowns,” he muttered, the thought of Magnussen bringing back the memories John fought to keep away.

“Here, they’ve been passing these out,” Louise said, offering a sheet of paper to each of them. John took the paper and quietly thanked Louise, while Mycroft accepted the paper and glanced it over before politely handing it back to her. “I don’t think Crane realized how complicated these Games’ details were to remember until it was too late.”

John looked at his paper, finding that it was a list of all the sectors the Arena was split up into, and the twist each one held. He quickly read them over, and paused where Harry and Sherlock:

Sector Six: Crows.

Sector Seven: The Traps.

Despite the bloodbath, the giant wave that knocked him off course, and the death of Archie Neal, Sherlock’s time in the Arena had been pretty uneventful. But that didn’t keep him from keeping his eyes peeled, and it was a good thing he did.

He noticed the nearly-clear line of string seconds before touching it with his foot. Luckily, the plastic it was made of reflected the sun’s light once it was hit at the right angle, if only for a moment. Sherlock took a few steps back, and then cut the string with his sword, and a net rose out of the coating of leaves on the ground and pulled whatever it had caught up into the trees.

If Sherlock hadn’t noticed the string, he would’ve been within the net’s contents. Which wouldn’t be too concerning, considering he had a very sharp sword, but looking at the ropes that the net was made out of, he could tell that the material was so strong that his sword wouldn’t be able to free him. If he was to be caught up there, he’d be forced to either starve to death, or anxiously wait for another tribute to come to finish him off.

He took a step back, assessing his situation.

“Well, then,” he mumbled to himself, and, keeping an eye on where he was stepping, continued on.

He knew that the Arena was bound to get worse than this, but Sherlock didn’t mind staying optimistic for just a little while longer.

This was fine.

He could do this.

John watched Harry Watson on the large outdoor screen as she waved off large, black crows as they nipped her shoulders and the back of her head and neck in sector six. She had tried to ignore them as best as she could, but her patience was quickly wearing thin.

“Mycroft Holmes!” Dean Bainbridge exclaimed, and John only glanced away for a moment to see Dean clapping Mycroft on the back.

“Dean, hello,” Mycroft replied politely.

“That Bloodbath was intense! Congratulations, by the way – Sherlock’s still in it,” he said, offering Mycroft a glass of wine, and John winced at his enthusiasm.

“Thank you, congratulations to you, as well,” Mycroft replied, merely glancing at the screen as he spoke to check in on Harry – just in time to see her try to take an arrow to one of the crows, but it dodged out of the way.

John looked away, his eyes landing on another blue sash in the crowd, and a matching blue suit – Alexander Waters.

 “Come on,” he muttered to Louise, and together the two made their way through the crowd. Alexander spotted them before they reached him, and smiled sadly as Louise closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“How are you doing?” she asked quietly, kissing his cheek.

“Forget about me; how are you holding up?” he asked.

Louise shook her head in response, and John would be lying if he said he didn’t see tears in her eyes. “I’m still not entirely sure yet.”

“And how are you, John?” he asked, giving him a hug as well, and John shrugged.

“I just feel terrible about – about everything –”

“But, you should be thankful that Harry and Sherlock are alive,” Alexander reminded him, and the guilt made his stomach churn.

“For now,” John said, the words coming out of his mouth before he could stop himself.

“Don’t think like that – just believe in Sherlock. He’s smart; he’ll get her out of this.”

John turned and looked up to find the large screen switching from the Careers to Sherlock as he walked through the jungle alone.

“I hope so.”

As Sherlock walked, his mind never stopped, not even for a second, until it landed on the Ravenstag.

It was a beautiful creature – a creature that seemed like an old friend to Sherlock – but why? He had seen one before, he knew he had – but where? Maybe beyond the fence with John? No, that wasn’t right – they had seen stags before, but nothing like this one, surely...

But then he realized: he had seen a Ravenstag only once before, a million years ago, it seemed –

There had been a night, in the penthouse, where Mycroft and John (Mentors through and through) stayed up late into the night watching the last Quarter Quell – Hannibal Lecter Magnussen’s Games. Sherlock had woken up and made a trip to the bathroom while they were discussing how monstrous Hannibal and Charles Augustus were, which sparked Sherlock’s curiosity. The following night, after everyone had fallen asleep, Sherlock went and found the disc (which hadn’t been too hard to find) and he took the disc into his room, and watched the last Quarter Quell. He watched Will Graham die, watched Hannibal Magnussen eat his victims and win the Games –

That’s where he had seen the Ravenstag before, on that disc – the Capitol had sent them to attack a few of the tributes twenty-five years ago.

In fact, now that he thought about it – now that he really thought about it – he had seen a bunch of traps like this before, too. These traps had been in the twenty-sixth Hunger Games –

It was in that moment that it hit Sherlock –

“The Arena’s in sections based on our siblings’ Games – ah!”

And, in a lapse of judgment – in a moment of being too distracted by his own thoughts to pay attention to what was right in front of him – his ankle got caught in a trap, and he was pulled about fifteen feet up into the trees.

Chapter Text

“Sherlock!” John called out, without meaning to, just as Caesar Flickerman spoke on the broadcast:

“And there we have it! William-Sherlock Holmes, from District Twelve, who made it to the top of the betting charts with his training score of twelve, is the first tribute to figure out the pattern of this year’s Arena! But he seems to have gotten himself a little tied up in the process! Let’s see if he can himself get out of it!”

Muttering various obscenities, Sherlock got his bearings from his new position: hanging upside down, by his ankle, almost fifteen feet up in the air.

He looked up – or down, in his case – to find that he had dropped his sword in the confusion. If anyone were to pass by, he couldn't even keep quiet and hope they wouldn't see him – his only weapon underneath him would give him away.

Not like having it with him would do him any good, anyway – the rope tied around his ankle was made out of the same material as the net; a material too strong for any weapon to cut through.

But there was one way he could get out…

His waterproof boots were knee-high; the rope was tied around his boot, not around his ankle alone. If he were wearing regular sneakers then the rope would be around his ankle – there'd be no hope of escape.

But if he could slide his foot out of his boot…

Despite himself, John half-smiled up at the screen, watching an upside down Sherlock trying to shimmy his foot out of his boot.

“Good thinking,” he whispered.

As Sherlock fought to get his foot out of his boot, he thought about how to fall. He knew he definitely couldn’t land on his feet – that would involve turning completely the other way, and there was no way he could do that between the time he freed himself and the time he hit the ground. Even if he could, falling from this height would end up shattering his ankles at the very least, which would render him as good as dead. He had to protect his head, though, so curling into a ball would have to do enough. As long as he didn’t land on his front he’d be fine –

So he needed to fall on his back.

As soon as he decided this, his foot slid out of the boot. He curled into a ball, wrapping his arms around his head to protect himself, and then he landed – right on his back.

The second his back made contact with the ground, all of the air emptied itself from his lungs at once, and, for a few moments, Sherlock thought he had miscalculated – that he had landed wrong – that he was going to die. The pain was immense. Did he break something? Maybe – he wasn’t one hundred percent sure either way. He rolled onto his side, staying in the fetal position, waiting for the pain to subside – slowly trying to regain his breath – cursing himself.

None of this was helping him find Harry – and he needed to find her before Charles Augustus Magnussen did.

So, body still aching, Sherlock stood up, climbed back up the tree, and retrieved his boot from the loop it was still stuck in. He couldn't remember a field of broken glass in any of the other Hunger Games Arenas, but he'd like to still have some sort of foot protection, just in case...

“There you are, John,” Mycroft said, finally coming up beside John, and looked up at the screen as John looked up at him. “Did you see?”

“I did – Sherlock figured it out,” John said, as he noticed that Louise and Alexander had gone off to talk. “Where’s Bainbridge?”

“Dean’s off buttering up the sponsors; he just wanted a quick word with me, that’s all.”

“So this is what you did while I was in the Arena?” John asked Mycroft, a hint of jealousy in his voice. “Sipped wine and made small talk?”

Mycroft looked down at John, face bunched together, like he had just tasted something sour.

“Do you really think that this is just wine?” he asked.

“What else is in there?” John asked, and Mycroft patted his breast pocket in response.

“The strongest whiskey I could find.”

The traps became fewer and farther between by sundown, and by the time night fell completely, darkening the jungle, there were no traps at all. Sherlock was thankful, happy he wouldn’t have to wander around in the night trying to steer himself clear of the nets and pulleys and things that would yank him up into a tree with no hope for escape.

But then came the crows.

Since it was dark, Sherlock heard them first – the soft flutter of wings, the utterances of their speech – but soon they landed by his feet and hopped along aside him, pecking at his feet as he walked.

But then Panem’s anthem played across the skies, and the Capitol’s seal lit up the world around Sherlock as it announced the twelve people who had died that day, and that was the only way Sherlock could see that yes, those were indeed crows. He glanced up every few seconds, watching the faces of the deceased, searching for any faces that would jump out at him, whether it was Harry’s or Charles Augustus Magnussen’s.

But their pictures weren’t in the sky – Archie Neal’s was, reminding Sherlock of what he had done – the mistake he had made, just a few hours ago.

And then an especially cruel crow clipped Sherlock near his already-wounded shoulder, snapping him back into the present.

The crows back home in District 12 were cowards compared to the crows he now faced. Sherlock remembered chasing after them as a child – he couldn’t get within five feet of them without them flying away as if the world were ending. But these crows seemed to be outright harassing him, pecking at his feet and swooping down to scratch his neck and shoulders and scalp. They didn’t even pause when the sound of a cannon blast echoed throughout the Arena.

Knowing what would happen if he stopped – if he tripped over one of them – if he dared to look up for longer than a second – he pulled the goggles he had wrapped around his neck up over his eyes.

And they still kept pecking him with beaks and claws sharp as knives, flooding him from all sides as he walked, and Sherlock grit his teeth so hard his jaw hurt in the effort to keep quiet.

If Sherlock Holmes didn’t hate crows before, he certainly did now.

But these weren’t normal crows, and Sherlock knew it. Crows were diurnal birds, not to mention they didn’t attack people like this

He knew he had seen them before, just like how he had seen the Ravenstag and the traps made of ropes that couldn’t be cut through before. These were a recycled element of the Thirty-Ninth Hunger Games, a Capitol mutation just like the Ravenstag. These crows were genetically bred by the Capitol to be larger and meaner and far more dangerous than their natural counterpart.

He winced again as a particularly rough crow carved out a spot on his already-sore back, and hoped Harry wasn’t facing the same monsters he was.

The Capitol was blessed (if one could call it that) with a twenty-four hour livestream of the Games during the night, while the Districts were allowed to sleep and wait anxiously for the next update when the broadcast resumed in the morning. When he learned this, John naturally had it in his head that he would stay up all night. He didn't want to sleep until Harry was either back at the Capitol, safe and sound, or the other option that he refused to think about.

So he watched as the cameras checked in on Sherlock and the careers and the rest of the tributes and finally, the cameras checked in on his sister. She was climbing a tree, trying to find a suitable place to sleep, when –

The wind picked up, so hard the cameras shook, and Harry held onto her place in the trees to keep from falling.

Figures began to appear, a few at a time – whitish blue, glowing, only just transparent – until they reached almost two thousand – the ghosts of the Hunger Games’ dead tributes. The last time they had showed up in an Arena was not too long ago, in Paul Sawyer’s Arena in the Seventieth Hunger Games – sixteen hundred tributes, still containing their fatal injuries, had invaded the entire Arena. Now there were seventeen hundred ghosts, and all of them wanted to haunt Harry Watson.

They swarmed around the tree, and Harry muttered a word – just one word – that probably had sent most of the awake-and-viewing audience into a fit of giggles: “Nope.”

She quickly descended the tree and started running, racing through the jungle, armed with two throwing knives, slicing anything that was in her way. All the while, the wisps of their remains passed through her and around her, slicing her skin like an icy, harsh wind and stealing her breath as they did, tossing her off-balance, as if it were a game.

And it was.

The map in the corner of the screen tracked her movements as she closed in on the border, leaving the Ghosts’ sector and entering the next – John checked the list – Tracker Jackers –

It was better than this. She could at least avoid the tracker jackers – she couldn’t avoid or hide from or protect herself from the ghosts.

“Come on...come on...” John whispered, his eyes glued to the giant screen. She was only ten meters away...

Five meters...

Three meters...

“You’re still up?” Mycroft asked, just as Harry passed over the border into the next sector. John looked up at him.

“Yeah,” he replied, defensive. “So are you.”

“Yes, but I am a Holmes. As you’ve noticed, we rarely sleep. You, however, should get to bed; it’s four in the morning.”

“I’m fine –” John tried. “I just need to see –”         

“You can’t be in a walking coma for the sponsors – “

“I’m not in a walking coma,” John assured him. “And I won’t be in the morning, either. I am a survivor of these Games I don’t need to sleep –”

“John – listen to me,” Mycroft ordered, and John had no choice but to obey. “We’re representing them now; if we’re not put together, they’re not put together,” he said, gesturing to the screen – to Sherlock and Harry. “You have to sleep.”

“I...” John tried to argue, but unable to hide his lip from quivering. “I –”

“I’ll lend you some of my sleeping pills, if you’d like,” Mycroft said, before John had to admit it himself: that he hadn’t slept without Sherlock in his bed since John returned home from his Games, and now that Sherlock was in the Arena, John didn’t want to even try.

But Mycroft was right; he had to sleep. He couldn’t be nodding off in the City Circle the next day, not when he had to try to act like Sherlock and Harry’s mentor as opposed to the concerned boyfriend and brother he was being currently.

Maybe the medication would keep his nightmares at bay, just for a night.

He finally nodded.

“Yeah, give me the pills.”

Sherlock Holmes walked all night.

This wasn’t like one of his usual sleepless nights, though – he normally stayed stationary during those times – sitting up in his room or lying in bed next to a sleeping John Watson as he sorted through his mind palace, deleting what was unimportant, putting events and deductions into files, keeping his mind busy and maintained. This was entirely different. For once, his body was moving, but his mind was not. It wasn’t a trade of energy, however – his mind wasn’t keeping still to make up for his body’s constant motion – it was the crows. He couldn’t think with them continuously aggravating him and feeling blood trickle down his body from the wounds they had given him.

But he trudged on, watching the world grow lighter and lighter as the sun rose upon the Arena. Now, Sherlock could finally see the crows, but he also saw that he had been following a path through the night; it became obvious that someone – hopefully Harry – had been there, too.

Sherlock was lucky the Arena was a jungle. In a forest like John’s Arena, where the wind easily traveled through the spaces between the trees, it would’ve been much harder to figure out if anyone had passed through. Sure, it still would’ve been easy for Sherlock to track a tribute in a forest – he had lost and found John plenty of times when they were kids in the woods beyond the fence – but here, no one could have gotten away without disturbing the area around them, cutting through bushes and vines and such to make their way through. It was almost too easy; the only way the path could’ve been clearer was if it was made in newly-laid snow.

Which got him thinking. Somewhere in this Arena, there was a section that was special to the Holmes “legacy,” something special to Mycroft’s Arena. The only possibility was the snow that had covered the area. And what about the Watson “legacy” – what had been unique to John’s Arena?

As soon as he posed the question to himself, Sherlock’s memory was abruptly flooded with the sound of John’s screams of fear from last year, and he instinctively gripped onto his dog tags, still under his wetsuit.

“The Capitol said this fog is a gas – psyching them up using fear and stimulus.”

Of course – the Fear Gas.

Sherlock closed his eyes for a moment, wishing with all of his might that the gas would not find his lungs. He was Sherlock Holmes, he didn’t know fear – until now, of course. It was impossible not to feel fear when in the Hunger Games arena, but inhaling the gas would only throw him off the edge – send him into a blinding panic that he had never experienced before. That couldn’t happen – not here – not now – not ever.

He then opened his eyes, and kept on his search to find Harry.

Chapter Text

John woke up three hours after Mycroft had sent him to sleep, the sleeping pill unable to keep his anxiousness from his head. When John realized that it was now an acceptable time to be awake, he left his room and went to the sitting room, to find Mycroft watching the Hunger Games.

“Remind me to send Seamus Ashton a card and flowers,” Mycroft said, as John entered the room.

“Did his sister...?”

“She was killed earlier this morning by Sarah Sawyer. Harriet’s still with the tracker jackers – she found a tree to sleep in without disturbing them, though; I don’t think she knows what sector’s she in, just yet.”

“And Sherlock?”

“He should be entering the ghost sector at any time, now.”

“Where’s Magnussen?” John asked.

“He’s in the snake sector with the other Careers,” Mycroft replied.

John nodded.

“So you’re sending flowers to the mentors know...lost their siblings?”

“I’ve always sent flowers to the families of lost tributes,” Mycroft replied with a shrug. “Not including the Career Districts, of course – if there was any sign that I actually felt bad they’d make sure I was arrested.”

“So why do it? Because you feel bad?” John asked.

“Because I feel like it shouldn’t have happened. And to show that, despite everything, someone in this world still cares.”

“That’s really...kind. Thoughtful.”

“It’s the least I can do,” Mycroft said. “We should get back to the party,” he went on, standing. “If Harriet runs into any tracker jackers she’ll need a medical kit more extensive than one hundred bandages.”

“Right,” John said, nodding.

Louise met them in the elevator. Despite the makeup she had obviously put on just to hide it, it was obvious she had been crying.

“Nice hat,” she said to Mycroft, acting as if everything was fine.

“How are you doing, Louise?” Mycroft asked, closing the elevator door.

“Couldn’t sleep,” she muttered, crossing her arms and turning to John. “How are you doing, John?”

“Not too good,” he replied.

“I can understand that.”

The elevator stopped again and picked up another passenger: Dean Bainbridge.

“Morning, boys – Louise,” he said, nodding to each of them as he climbed aboard and shook Mycroft’s hand.

“Hi, Dean,” Louise greeted him.

“Morning,” John muttered, still not completely trustful of his Career District personality.

“How are we, today? Ready for day two?”

“As ready as we’ll ever be,” Mycroft replied, and Louise nodded, but that’s not how John felt about it at all:

“Let’s just get this over with.”

After what seemed like forever, the crows finally – finally – left Sherlock alone. He was still tired – tired for the first time in his life, probably – but he kept walking. Harry wasn’t a Holmes – she would have to sleep sometime – as long as she was in front of him, he’d catch up with her eventually, as long as he kept walking.

And he did keep walking, until he heard a quick rustle of leaves not far behind him.

Sherlock quickly spun around at the sound, his sword raised, ready to attack whoever was behind him, but there was no one in sight. His eyes scanned the area, looking for any signs of life, but there were none –

Another rustle of leaves sounded from his right, and he spun that way, just in time to catch the leaves about thirty feet ahead of him settling, and a silhouette vanish into the brush.

Someone was there with him.

There was another rustle from behind him – another one after that, forty-five degrees from the last one, another shadow, then another rustle –

Another shadow –

Two more rustles –

And then, Sherlock spun one last time – and he was face-to-face with a boy – a boy younger than him by a few years, at least, with curly hair and glasses – and a gaping hole in his chest and stomach. The boy, shaking, stared at him with wide eyes – just about as wide as Sherlock’s looking back at him. He gasped for air, and Sherlock gasped for clarity.

He had only seen that face in one place before, other than here.

“W-Will Graham?” Sherlock asked in a voice that was nearly a whisper, and the boy replied with one word – one word that sent Sherlock into motion again:


Sherlock ran through the jungle, his legs aching and his mind so tired he could fall apart at any moment, but he ran as other images – spectral-like images of past Hunger Games tributes – surrounded him, lunged at him whispering and shouting and collapsing into smoke if he swung his sword at them –

He even recognized a few.

There was Sally Donovan, an arrow sticking out of her neck, calling him a freak.

And Philip Anderson, a single stab wound in his chest.

And the boy who almost killed Mycroft, years and years ago, ready to try again to kill a Holmes boy.

As he cut through the images with his sword, the smoke that remained cut at his face – he could feel the blood dripping down his cheeks – but he couldn’t even wipe it off – all he could do was keep running and killing these people who were already dead – trying to remind himself that they weren’t real –

They weren’t real –

They couldn’t be real –

Dead is dead is dead –

And some of these people – some of these apparitions – died a long time ago.

He was killing holograms, he was killing projections – he was destroying images that the Capitol created –

But Will Graham had told him to run.

The Capitol wouldn’t have told him to run. The Capitol would’ve made him figure it out on his own.

Will Graham told him to run.

There were no such things as ghosts –

This was all just smoke and mirrors and Capitol computers, and Sherlock knew it. He knew it he knew it he knew it –

And then he burst through what seemed like a wall of brush, and –

He saw a glimpse of red hair – of Harry Watson, about one hundred feet away, and he nearly collapsed with relief.

But then, as he stepped closer, he saw that she wasn’t alone.

She was cornered by a woman in a pink and black jumpsuit and long, black hair. The other woman had obviously surprised Harry, based on the fact that Harry was on the ground, bow and arrow in hand, aimed at the woman’s head.

“Just lower the arrow; I just want to talk,” she was saying, as calmly as she could, and Harry was glaring at her, not believing a word she said.

“Like hell you do!”

He adjusted his sword, ready to help if needed.

But then he glanced up from the scene going on straight ahead, just for a moment, and he saw him. A sandy-haired man donning a periwinkle swimsuit almost as humiliating as Sherlock’s lilac one, was sitting up in the tree directly above Harry’s head, his back to Sherlock, fiddling with something –

A nest –

A tracker jacker nest.

He was trying to saw down a branch that contained a tracker jacker nest – in just a few moments, it would come spiraling down to the girls below –

Harry was right, after all – the woman did not want to talk. This was a trap.

John’s hands were sweating as he watched Sherlock quickly climb up the nearest tree and make his way to Robert Frankland as quietly as possible, crossing the distance between trees using their branches. He could do it – Sherlock had the ability to climb the trees beyond the fence in District 12 with agility and grace, and there were too many times throughout their friendship where Sherlock had appeared at John’s side out of nowhere, without a sound, not to mention the fact that Robert was turned away from Sherlock and had about six thousand tracker jackers buzzing in his ears. But it wasn’t Sherlock’s sneaking technique that was the problem – it was the time limit.

“Come on, Sherlock,” John whispered. “Come on come on come on –”

Any second now, the hive would come crashing down, right on Harry’s head.

Sherlock was closing on the man – inching closer and closer, scooting himself across the limb of the tree as quickly as he could without drawing attention to himself. He could hear his heart hammering in his chest over the sound of the bees as he thought over his plan –

Grab the tribute’s leg, pull him off-balance, call out to Harry as the tribute falls out of the tree, jump out of the tree himself, and then kill both of the tributes who had made the attempt to end Harry’s life. It was easy – he could do it.

But then, just as Sherlock was finally close enough to the man in the tree – just as he was reaching out to grab his ankle and set his plan into motion –

The tribute finally cut through the branch, and the nest started tumbling down to the ground.

“HARRY LOOK OUT!” Sherlock shouted at the top of his lungs, as he pulled out his sword.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sherlock saw Harry Watson look up and dive out of the way as the tribute in the tree spun around at the sound of Sherlock’s voice. Sherlock swung his sword, knocking the man off balance, causing him to fall out of the tree, closely following after the hive.

And then, the tracker jacker nest crashed to the ground, bursting open on impact, and, just two seconds after, the male tribute fell on top of the nest.

Within moments, tracker jackers were everywhere, attacking Harry and the two tributes who had gotten them into this mess in the first place.

“RUN!” Sherlock shouted at Harry, even as she took aim and hit the woman in the side with her arrow while she was distracted, even as Sherlock felt a sharp pain in his neck.

The tracker jackers were attacking him, too.

But he had work to do.

Sherlock jumped from the tree, landing in the middle of the commotion, mere feet from the man, who was currently thrashing and wailing in pain, the tracker jacker’s venom already taking full effect on him. For a second, Sherlock considered delivering the final blow, just to make sure that this tribute would never come back from this, but, as he felt more tracker jackers sting at him, he saw the man’s face begin to swell.

No, this tribute wasn’t going to survive this, whether Sherlock intervened or not.

“And it looks like William Holmes has decided to refuse Robert Frankland a mercy kill,” Claudius Templesmith recapped for the audience.

“It seems to me that Sherlock inherited some of the Ice Man’s coldness, living up to his brother’s name!” Caesar exclaimed, as the camera focused on Sherlock’s icy glare before turning away from Robert Frankland, and John glanced away from the screen, just for a moment, to find Clover Frankland looking back at him.

“I’m sorry,” he signed.

“It’s okay,” she replied.

John made a mental note to sign the card Mycroft was going to send to her.

Sherlock then turned to the woman – the one who had lied to Harry and tried to convince her that she just wanted to talk, as she, with an arrow sticking out of her side, ran at him, hunting knife in hand.

Sherlock swung his sword as hard as he could, and she blocked the blow.

He felt another sting, and began to wobble on his feet, but he swung again, wanting to aim for her face but he couldn’t find it – he cut her stomach open instead.

And, for a moment, Sherlock Holmes watched as a fountain of blood and guts poured from her abdomen – far more blood and organs than there should’ve been held within the average person.

But the woman fell to the ground, and Sherlock spun around to find Harry Watson, staring at him, wide-eyed and morphing – morphing into something weird – something red and monstrous – a fire – a fire that could completely swallow him whole –

He shook his head, trying to focus –

It wasn’t a fire – it was Harry Watson –

“What are you doing?” he asked, but, upon hearing that his voice was slurred, tried again, tried to speak at least somewhat coherently. “GO!”

And then he felt another pain in his leg, and he was going down...

Sherlock passed out, very nearly right on top of the broken hive.

“SHERLOCK!” John shouted, unaware he had done so until people had turned to look at him.

He looked back up at the screen, to find his sister go back into the swarm, and pull Sherlock out, dragging him by his clothes.

And Harry Watson then pulled Sherlock Holmes up onto her back, balanced him over her shoulders, and began walking, as fast as she could manage, away from the swarm.

Chapter Text

Sherlock Holmes felt himself being pulled – away from the cloud of tracker jackers that was forming around him. He felt himself being hoisted upon Harry Watson’s back, walking away from the hive and the other dying tributes.

Harriet Catherine Watson stumbled through the jungle, the weight of Sherlock on her back. Her sight was growing worse and worse by the second, images swirling and spinning and making absolutely no sense at all. Her head felt like it had dislocated itself from her body as she moved – like her eyes and her mind couldn’t keep up with the rest of her…

But she kept walking, she kept carrying Sherlock, because he was her best friend, and she wasn’t going to let him die – not like this – not in the Hunger Games Arena, attacked by a swarm of tracker jackers.

“Come on, Sherlock,” she heard herself saying. “Stay with me, now.”

Sherlock tried to open his mouth, tell her that he wasn’t going anywhere, but all that came out was a faint hum.

“That’s right, you just stay with me, Sherlock – don’t die on me, now. You’re not allowed to – you’re my man with a plan, remember?” she said, nearly laughing as she spoke, seeing where his plans had put them.

As Sherlock hummed again, it began to rain, and Harry was sure she was only just imagining the droplets being as red and thick as they felt and looked.

“For those of you who missed it, we just had a huge confrontation in Sector Three. Robert Frankland and Janine Hawkins just tried to ambush Harriet Watson, but William-Sherlock Holmes swooped in to the rescue. After getting stung a whopping eleven times by tracker jackers, he seems to have passed out, but then Harriet came to his rescue, but she’s also been stung a few times, and their chances of survival are looking slim.”

John was beyond desperate. He raced around the crowd, searching for the red sashes that set apart the sponsors from everyone else, his scanner in hand, begging anyone who would listen.

“Someone – please – we need medicine for Sherlock Holmes and Harry Watson!” One Capitol sponsor shrugged as John made eye contact with him. “Please!” he begged the man, his voice breaking. “They need help –”

“Sorry, they’re gone,” he said, glancing up at the screen. “I don’t think they’re coming back from this.”

“But if we get medicine to them in time they could –”

The man sighed and rolled his eyes, pulling out his money card. John watched hungrily, anxiously, as the man punched in an amount.

“For your trouble,” the man said, allowing for John to scan the card. John read the screen’s display as the man turned away.

One single dollar for William Holmes.

Enraged, John couldn’t stop himself from calling after him.

“You have enough money to throw food away while the other Districts are starving and this is all you can give to them?!”

He was just about to jump on him when he felt steady hands on his shoulders. He spun around, about to swing a punch at whoever dared touch him, but found Mycroft instead.

“Come on, let’s go,” he said, eyes cold.

“But –”

“Let’s try somewhere else,” he suggested coolly, and John had no choice but to follow him. “You have to be calm, John,” he said, taking a sip of his wine-and-whiskey concoction. “Remember what I said?”

“I have to keep it together,” John said through gritted teeth. “Because we represent them – and if we don’t have it together, they don’t have it together.”

“That’s right.”

John then cut in front of Mycroft, turning and facing him, grabbing his arms.

“They’re dying, Mycroft,” he whispered, looking up at him.

Mycroft Holmes closed his eyes, trying to hold himself together, but one lone tear escaped and began to roll down his cheek. As nonchalantly as possible, he wiped the tear, trying follow his own advice.

“I know,” he whispered back. “We’ve just got to keep trying.”

Sherlock opened his eyes, just a fraction, and saw Mycroft Holmes, standing a few yards away, surrounded by a deep red color, and the smell of metal flooded Sherlock’s senses.

“Are you honestly fighting this?” Mycroft asked, angry, and as Sherlock blinked again, Mycroft moved, keeping up with him and Harry without taking a single step. “Why am I not surprised? Pathetic. You always were the slow one. Sherlock, you came in here to die – for once in your life, do the right thing and just give up, already.”

Sherlock’s heart thudded within his chest so hard it hurt him – Mycroft was going to enjoy his death. He was enjoying watching him suffer –

“John’s not going to miss you, you know,” he informed his little brother, and Sherlock did know. “He doesn’t love you. He’d rather anyone else but you and we both know it. But you went ahead and forced him to pretend to love you for the cameras – just when I thought you couldn’t be more idiotic. You’re always so stupid. That’s why I’ve always despised you, because you’re an idiot. You have one job – die for Harriet Watson – and you don’t want to –”

Sherlock knew he had to die – he had to – he went into the Arena with the intention of never coming out again – and now here he was – fighting it –

But he had to stay alive – the Games weren’t over yet – Charles Augustus Magnussen was still alive – he couldn’t die until he was gone –

“DON’T. BE. SMART.” Mycroft said, as if he heard the argument that had formed in Sherlock’s head, and he was so loud it echoed in Sherlock’s ears. “I’m the smart one, and you’re the smart ass! You try to be smart and you end up showing off and putting yourself in a mess that I have to clean up for you! Such a disappointment; you shame us all – you shame the family name! Mommy and Daddy are very cross with you – you’re not protecting Harriet well enough you –” Sherlock blinked, and suddenly it wasn’t his brother standing there anymore. “DOOFUS!” Jim Moriarty yelled, inches from his face, just as a cannon burst –

The moment the cannon sounded, John’s world stopped spinning as the ground connected with his knees. And yet, despite everything, he still kept his eyes fixed to that damned screen.

It was as if Sherlock was waiting to get out of the rain to die. As soon as the clouds parted overhead, and the red rain stopped falling from the sky, the cannon burst. Harry, who had been talking to Sherlock on and off during their whole trip, trying to keep him awake and avoid tasting the metallic rain simultaneously, stopped dead in her tracks.

“Sherlock?” she said quietly, turning her head toward his, resting on her shoulder. “Sherlock?!”

There was no reply. She couldn’t feel Sherlock’s chest moving against her back, anymore. But then again, she couldn’t feel her body itself – her body felt like it was on fire.

“Sherlock!?” she cried, taking him off of her back and laying him on the ground. She put her fingers in front of his mouth, trying to feel for his breath.

He wasn’t breathing.

“No – no no no no no Sherlock –” she gasped, wiping his face of the red rain – blood? – and lightly slapping his cheeks. “Sherlock wake up –”

She heard the roar of a hovercraft up above their heads – the sound ringing in her ears, drilling a hole into her brain –

“Don’t do this to me –” she begged, but it was too late.

Sherlock had already done it.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Caesar Flickerman announced, his voice sounding empty and upset, like he never thought he’d announce it but there he was: “Sherlock Holmes is dead.”

John stared up at the screen, watching his sister panic, trying to wake Sherlock up, and he found himself voicelessly begging – begging with no one in particular – begging with Sherlock himself from miles and miles away – begging for a miracle – just one more miracle, for him –

Don’t be dead.

Sherlock Holmes saw his father.

He was the perfect mix of his boys – Mycroft’s hair topped his head with Sherlock’s curls, Mycroft’s freckles dotted Sherlock’s tall-and-lanky body. He had Mycroft’s smirk, Sherlock’s cheekbones, Mycroft’s eyes with Sherlock’s ice blue color. He was handsome, despite being covered in coal dust – he was always covered in coal dust – Sherlock remembered him planting kisses upon his mother’s cheeks and every time leaving a black, lip-shaped mark –

That’s how the memory started.

Daddy came home through the only door in the Holmes’ one-room shack of a house. The smell of vegetable stew filled Sherlock’s nostrils – his mother was harboring over the woodstove. His father approached her, kissed her cheek, leaving a smudge, and told her she looked lovely.

He always loved her so much, his father.

“Dad!” Mycroft’s voice rang out, and Sherlock spun around to find his brother – his nine-year-old brother – racing from his bed to him, and Sherlock felt the pull as well – the pull to call out –


He sprinted on legs that weren’t quite as fast and nimble as they were now, and his father lifted him in the air and held him close. Sherlock wrapped his arms around his father’s neck, his fingers gripping his clothes, his curls –

“I miss you,” he said quietly. He then looked at his mother – his poor mother, she only had seven years left – “Mommy –”

He blinked, and he was sitting at his round kitchen table with his family – Daddy on the left, Mommy on the right, Mycroft straight ahead. Sherlock felt the give of the upturned basket that served as his booster seat – his tiny legs couldn’t touch the floor.

“Three...” he heard a voice – Claudius Templesmith’s voice –

He looked to his left, and his father was gone.



He looked to his right, and his mother was gone, too.


He looked in front of him, expecting it –


Mycroft was gone too – blinked out of existence –

And then Sherlock was gone too.

The next moment, he was running, surrounded by trees, so many trees, and leaves the size of his torso and vines as thick as his arm. And he was running.

Cannons burst, echoing around him – through him – one –

– two –

– three –

One for each of them – each family member that was taken away from him –

“And you’ll be next, too.”

He stopped, right before running straight into Jim Moriarty. He looked around. He was in the catacombs, just under the Arena. In a small dingy room, alone with Jim Moriarty...

“You,” he said, his voice still of a child’s – his body still of a child’s –

But then it wasn’t.

“You,” Sherlock said again, in the correct voice this time.

“You’ll like being dead,” Moriarty said, nonchalantly.

“I’m not dead,” Sherlock reminded him. He saw her in his mind’s eye – the red hair – the dark blue eyes – the promise he had made to her –

“Yes you are – did you not hear the cannons? You’re dead. You’re long gone... But don’t worry; no one ever bothers you, here,” Moriarty went on.

“Don’t you know they bother you because they care?” Sherlock asked, and Moriarty scoffed, rolling his eyes.

“Ah yes, caring. Because everyone loves Sherlock Holmes. And now that they know he’s dead...Mrs. Hudson will cry, and Mycroft will cry, and Harry will cry, and John will cry buckets and buckets – it’s him I worry about the most, that John Watson.”

“Me too,” Sherlock agreed, his mouth barely moving as he muttered the words.

“You’re letting him down, Sherlock. Harry, too. Those Watson kids are definitely in danger...”

“No,” Sherlock whispered. “No –” he said, and started searching the walls, frantically looking for a door – for a way out – for a way back – he slammed himself into the concrete walls around him, trying to push the walls down –

“Is this what getting better looks like? You’re not getting better, are you?” Moriarty asked, but Sherlock wasn’t paying attention. “What? Was it something I said? Was it about John? Or Harry?”

Sherlock rounded on him, pushing him up against the wall.

“Of course it’s about them! I have to go back – I have to save her – I have to save both of them –”

“Why didn’t you just say so?” Moriarty asked, and nodded at something behind Sherlock’s back. “There’s your exit.”

Sherlock spun around, letting go of Moriarty, and found a tube – so incredibly similar to the one he had entered the Arena in.

“It’ll bring you back up into...” Moriarty shrugged, looking up at the dark ceiling above them. “…consciousness.”

“Then that’s where I’m going,” Sherlock said, and stepped forward, into the tube.

And the tube began to rise, plunging Sherlock into complete darkness.

The hovercraft waited for Harry to leave the area so they could collect the body of Sherlock Holmes, but she was having none of it. John was training to be a doctor – he had taught her at least the basics of CPR –

So she got on her knees beside him, put her hands – her hands, which at the moment were missing their fingernails and had swelled to the size and color of tomatoes, although Harry had to assume that it was just a hallucination – onto his chest, and started pressing, trying to restart his heart – tears racing down her cheeks, one after another, screaming until her voice was hoarse and then some.

“Sherlock! Sherlock wake up – don’t leave me –”

It was then she felt it – the movement of air on her arm – the ripping of her sleeve –

Still pressing rhythmically on Sherlock’s chest, she glanced down at her arm, and, even though her arm was so red from her jumpsuit and the blood – there was a clear, untouched patch of skin. Harry then saw what had just grazed her – a tranquilizer dart, its needle embedded into the sand.

She had seen this before – a few times, during a couple Games – when a tribute refused to leave the body of a fallen tribute. The Peacekeepers in the hovercraft would knock them out, just long enough for them to collect the body – this is what they were doing to her – because she refused to leave Sherlock behind.

But somehow, by some miracle, the Peacekeepers had missed.

She looked up to the skies to find a larger-than-life hovercraft materialize directly overhead, beginning to drop a ladder from a trapdoor at the bottom of the craft, and Harry knew what she had to do.

Sending a silent apology Sherlock’s way, Harry took her hands from Sherlock’s chest, closed her eyes and fell, careful to conceal her unwounded arm and the dart itself, trying so hard to keep her body from shuddering – to stop herself from sobbing.

She heard the Peacekeepers reach the ground, one of them approaching her, just for a moment.

“You almost missed her,” another Peacekeeper – one from further away – noted.

“Well, I didn’t. Let’s bag him up,” the first Peacekeeper said, and Harry was glad that the man did not touch her to check her pulse, or else he would’ve felt the hammering of her heart. Honestly, she was surprised they couldn’t hear it – it seemed so loud in her own ears that she was sure that it was going to give her away.

And then she heard the two men pick Sherlock Holmes up, and she opened her eyes just a fraction to see them, faces hidden by the tinted visors on their helmets, beginning to place Sherlock into a bag – a body bag.

Unable to keep quiet any longer, knowing that if she stayed still for another second it would be too late, Harry jumped up, sheer panic giving her a surge of adrenaline, and she ran on still-unsteady feet at the Peacekeepers, and launched herself onto the back of the nearest one.

“What the hell –?!”

“Get off of me, you little bitch!” the Peacekeeper growled, shaking her off of him easily – way too easily.

“No –” Harry gasped, falling to the ground. “NO!”

“He’s dead, Twelve!” the man shouted back at her, his white armored suit marked red from whatever the hell she was covered with. “He’s ours, now!”

“No – don’t take him away –” she begged, trying to crawl past him to grab Sherlock, but the Peacekeeper kicked her away, pulling out a gun. Whether it was another tranquilizer gun or an actual weapon, she didn’t know – she had no way of knowing, and the tracker jacker venom in her head wasn’t helping her reasoning skills, at all – and she didn’t want to test it.

She just sobbed, begging into the black abyss of the Peacekeeper’s mask.

“No – no no no don’t do this – Sherlock – please please,” she sobbed, looking past him to the boy – her best friend – getting put into the body bag by the second Peacekeeper, as a giant silver claw began to descend from above them, the points of its curved fingers sharpened to a point, in Harry’s eyes. It was coming to collect Sherlock – to take him away – back to the Capitol – back to 12 – to remove him from the world forever –

“SHERLOCK!” she screamed, desperate to get him to hear her – trying to trigger a sign of life – “SHERLOCK!”

She put her head in her hands, sobbing.

“Don’t leave me alone, Sherlock, please –”

And then, there was a voice from behind the Peacekeeper.

Sherlock heard people talking indistinctly from all around him as he made the ascent – people he had never heard before. Who were they? Tributes? No, he knew that accent – they were from the Capitol – Peacekeepers – What were Peacekeepers doing in the Arena?

But then those voices began to take shape – noises turning into words –


“What?!” the man snapped, spinning around, keeping the gun trained on Harry as she slowly stood up – for what reason, she had no idea – she couldn’t get the upper hand on this man – she couldn’t save Sherlock –

“His vitals – they’re back. Sir, he’s alive.”

The man turned back to Harry. She glared up at him, silent for a moment, tears still rolling down her cheeks. She took a deep, shaky breath, and spoke in the strongest voice she could manage.

“You heard him; he’s alive. Put him back – he’s still in the Games,” she ordered.

At the sound of Harry’s voice, the relief Sherlock felt was so strong that it physically hurt his heart. Goddamnit, he had never been more thankful to hear her voice.

The Peacekeeper, glaring at Harry, finally lowered his gun, turned around, grabbed Sherlock by the scruff of his neck and threw him to Harry’s feet, and she fell back to the ground in relief and put Sherlock’s head in her lap, ignoring the Peacekeepers as they made their way back up to the hovercraft.

The tube shook around Sherlock, knocking his body into the walls, and for a second he panicked, like the tube was going to break – like he was going to fall back down –

But then he heard her voice again.

“Sherlock! Oh my god,” she whispered, and the tube opened up around him, exposing him to the world. More than just the Arena – it was like the entire universe was suddenly part of him again.

Harry kissed his forehead, pushing his bloody, matted hair out of the way, sitting back up to find that his eyes were indeed beginning to open and look around as he gasped for air. “Oh my god you’re alive, you’re alive –”

She was right – he was alive –

His eyes finally focused upon Harry Watson’s, and he struggled to smirk as he found his voice again.

“Not. Dead. Yet.”

“I don’t believe it! This is amazing! Sherlock Holmes lives!”

He was alive.

Time was speeding up and slowing itself down all at once, and Sherlock was alive.

In moments, John was surrounded by people touching him – arms helping him up, hands and money cards appearing within his peripheral to give him money. John’s voice was lost, but found he didn’t need it. Faces came and went before him, details blurred by John’s tears.

Sherlock was alive.

Suddenly, Mycroft was before him, taking him into his arms.

“He’s alive!” Mycroft cried.

“He’s alive,” John whispered. “Oh my god he’s alive.”

Chapter Text

John did not remember the journey from the City Circle to the sponsors’ office, but he imagined that Mycroft had led him there. Before he knew it, he was drinking a whiskey (provided by Mycroft), and watching Sherlock’s brother as he went through the options of what items to send Sherlock and Harry on a large touch screen attached to the wall.

“We need two medical kits; one for each of them,” he thought aloud, selecting the medkits and the supplies each one needed, removing what looked like a glass pen from a slot next to the screen to write the messages he wanted to put on specific parts of the kit onto the touch screen. “After that…we have enough money to give Sherlock a new change of clothes and Harry…dry all-around soap, perfect,” he went on, making the various selections ne needed, before writing a message to them. “John, would you like to add anything?” he asked, turning around and offering John the pen.

John nodded and stood up, taking the pen from Mycroft and adding onto his message. As soon as he did, Mycroft sent in the order.

“The kits are on their way,” Mycroft announced, and John wanted to be relieved, but there was a question that had been bugging at John since Sherlock woke up, something that he desperately wanted to ask Mycroft. “I also made sure there were a few things in Sherlock’s for his shoulder wound –”


He sat down, still smiling, pleased with himself. “Hm?”

“What would have happened if Sherlock woke up on the hovercraft?” John asked, and Mycroft’s face fell – the Ice Man had returned.

“I don’t want to think about it.”

But something in Mycroft’s voice told John that he knew exactly what would have happened to Sherlock.

And suddenly, John didn’t want to think about it, either.

Sherlock heard the roar of a hovercraft, and Harry tore her eyes from his to look around. Once she thought of a plan, she turned back to him.

“I’m gonna take you inside the maze, okay?” she asked.

A maze? He hadn’t seen a maze –

But he had – years and years ago – or months, at least – on the screen – in a Hunger Games from years ago –

Sherlock could only blink in response, too exhausted to do anything else, and Harry lifted him up and pulled him on her back once again, for one last trip, just a few yards away, into the maze.

Knowing that if anyone was outside of the maze, they would hear them from just inside, Harry kept going, dragging Sherlock along, going this way and that way, even as she could barely walk straight, even as she saw the maze move on its own and saw shadows out of the corners of her eyes that she knew weren’t really there. She kept stumbling along, trying to get them as lost as possible in the maze, because, just maybe, if they had no idea where they were, maybe no one else would know, either.

Once she was confident in a dead end she had pulled them into, she sat him on the ground.

Unable to do much else, Sherlock watched as Harry took her jacket out of her bag and laid it down on the ground, and let her lay him down upon the makeshift bed and run her fingers through his hair, keeping it out of his face. It felt so nice, despite the fact that they were both covered head-to-toe in a heavy red substance – blood, Sherlock was sure – but he wasn’t sure if it was a hallucination or not.

“You rest, Sherlock –” Harry said, her voice almost as soothing to him as her brother’s. “No one will find us here.”

And he wanted to – fuck, he so wanted to just close his eyes and sleep – but he couldn’t, not yet – not while Magnussen was still alive –

He had to protect her –

He tried to get up, but he couldn’t make his muscles and bones follow his brain’s commands.

He opened his mouth.


Harry shook her head.

“If anyone finds us, don’t worry – I’ll take care of it.”

If anyone found them, he had to protect her –

He had promised her – he had promised John –

Sherlock scrunched up his face again, gritting his teeth, tears falling from his eyes. Suddenly, he was crying, and Harry leaned into him, resting her head on his, just above his ear.

“It’s okay, Sherlock. You can’t protect me all the time,” Harry whispered, and Sherlock’s face relaxed a fraction as he sighed in frustration – as if he was angry that he couldn’t get up but he at least was listening to her. “It’s okay,” Harry went on, continuing to run her hand through his hair as his tears fell down his cheeks. “I’ll take care of you.”

The parachutes couldn’t have come fast enough, but Harry was still thankful as hell. Despite her legs feeling like they were made of gelatin, she still practically leaped at the first package that came her way.

The first package – the larger of the two – was for Sherlock, and it contained a new jumpsuit and a medkit, along with a small note, the first sentence written in Mycroft’s neat Capitol-esque hand, and the second written in John’s nearly-illegible scrawl:

Don’t you dare scare us like that again. We love you. – MH and JW

“Look what they got us, Sherlock. Mycroft and John got this for us,” she said, putting the kit between them, and fishing out the things Mycroft had conveniently marked INJECT RIGHT NOW and APPLY RIGHT NOW.

“Mm-croft?” Sherlock asked, his voice drowsy.

“Yeah, and John.”

His lips curved in something like a smile. “John.”

“That’s right,” she said, filling up a syringe. “I’m gonna just poke you with this really quick – give me your arm –”

“Torn-a-kit,” he mumbled.

“What was that? Oh – a tourniquet! Right!”

She quickly took Sherlock’s jacket out of his bag and tied the sleeve of it around his upper arm.

 “Okay...okay...” she whispered, wiping the blood rain off of his arm with an antiseptic wipe from Sherlock’s medkit, revealing the remnants of the last time Sherlock used a syringe on himself.

Before she could think too much about it, she quickly poked the needle in.

“He loves you so much, you know, John does,” she said quietly as she put the fluid in his system and removed the needle. “I can see it in his eyes. He’s never looked at anyone the way he looks at you.”

“Hm,” Sherlock murmured, and Harry wondered if what she had said had actually reached him.

“Go to sleep, Sherlock – I’m gonna fix you up,” she promised, and, unlike typical Sherlock style, he obeyed.

Sherlock blinked again, and he was on a beach when he opened his eyes. A beach similar to the one in the Arena...

“Welcome back,” Moriarty said from behind him, and Sherlock turned around to face him.

“Did I – did I die again?” Sherlock asked, afraid to know the answer.

“Nah, not yet – this is all just the tracker jacker venom in that precious mind palace of yours.”

Sherlock nodded, looking around.

He felt a pull toward the ocean as the water licked his ankles and then retreated just to touch his ankles again. He looked out to the horizon, and found an island in the distance. It wasn’t like the one that held the Cornucopia – there was a sandbank and more jungle on this island, instead of rocks and weapons.

And he realized then he wasn’t feeling the pull for the ocean – he was feeling it for the island.

“I want to go there,” Sherlock decided, pointing at the island. No matter what, he had to go there.

“I’m sure you do,” Moriarty said. “Can’t stay here forever, now, can you? You’ll just die again... That whole journey up here, all for nothing...”

Sherlock waded into the water, up to his knees. Then he turned back to Moriarty, one last time.

“I’ll be back, you know,” he said.

“I know you will. Real soon, too, by the looks of it.”

“Apparently so. Within a few days, at the very most,” Sherlock agreed. “I do have a question, though.”

“Hm?” Moriarty replied, raising his eyebrows. “For me? I’m flattered.”

“You never felt pain, did you? Why did you never feel pain?” Sherlock asked, and Moriarty shrugged.

“You always feel it, Sherlock. But you don’t have to fear it,” he replied. “Pain, heartbreak, death, loss; it’s all good, really. Just don’t go soft on me, Sherlock – if you go soft you’ll be one of them – one of the angels –”

The words came out of Sherlock’s mouth before he knew that he was thinking of them:

“I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them, Jim.”

Moriarty smiled.

“Good, good. For a second, I thought you were becoming ordinary – that my other half was gone.”

“He is.”

And with that, Sherlock turned and started his journey to the island.

Chapter Text

John watched as Harry worked on the screen in the sponsors’ offices’ lobby, biting his lip so hard he tasted blood.

Sherlock was alive – he had come back from the dead –

But that didn’t mean anything – not really – not yet.

He imagined them – the Capitol’s hovercraft, the men who pushed Harry away while shoving Sherlock into a black body bag – up above their heads, waiting for Sherlock’s heart to stop again – stop for real. Because that’s what he had done, really – delayed the inevitable.

Because that had been Sherlock’s plan, from the beginning.

“John. I'm not going to ask you to choose between us; we both know that it's not me that you'd save – don't try to dispute it – we know it's true. I promise you I’ll do everything I can to protect her.”

Sherlock Holmes was going to die in that Arena, just not yet.

And that broke John’s heart – his spirit – his being. He wasn’t going to just witness the death of the person he loved once like any normal person; he was John Watson, and so he was going to have to watch the person he loved die twice.

Mycroft wrapped his fingers around the handle of the door that separated them from the party in the City Circle and paused, looking over at John.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

John knew what was out there – the party, the questions, the flashes of the cameras – but he knew what to say, or what to convey at the very least: he believed in Sherlock Holmes.

He loved the phrase Mycroft had made for Sherlock, and it was obvious the Capitol did too. But while they all thought it meant that they believed that Sherlock would win the Hunger Games, only John and Mycroft knew the true meaning: they believed Sherlock could save Harry.

But, for the time being, Harry had saved him. Or she was saving him. Or both.

Which put them here, about to re-enter the party with a sense of accomplishment: Sherlock Holmes had come back from the dead, and everyone wanted to know how John and Mycroft felt about it.

“As I’ll ever be,” John replied to Mycroft’s question, and Sherlock’s brother opened the door.

The scene lit up at once with cameras flashing, trying to get the first moment of John and Mycroft’s entrance before anyone else took it from them or, god forbid, time moved forward, and the moment was gone.

The next second, someone flew toward them, and wrapped their arms around John and Mycroft’s necks. The person squeezed them tightly, and then jumped back, beaming in a way that John hadn’t seen since her brother died. Louise Neal was grinning from ear to ear, tears streaming down her face. Alexander Waters, Clover Frankland, and Dean Bainbridge waved to them from the crowd, smiles also spread across their faces.

They were happy for them – all of them. Here they were, their siblings taken from this world forever or in the process of being taken, smiling over the survival someone else’s brother.

Mycroft’s words came back to him, from a time that felt like years ago: “I have a theory that this Quarter Quell is to pit us against each other, and maybe it would have, if we were all like Hannibal Lecter Magnussen. Fortunately, we are not. We know how to do something he doesn’t know how to do, and that is to understand, and to forgive.”

They understood. They forgave.

And John couldn’t have been more thankful.

Mycroft did most of the talking, conveying his belief in Sherlock, his thankfulness in Harry’s alliance with him, and his faith in the both of them. All John had to do really was smile and agree. It was times like this he was incredibly thankful for Mycroft – he was smarter than these people, so much smarter than anyone, even President Snow himself, but learned how to deal with these people and did so with such grace, all the while keeping up the façade that this was easy for him. Because John knew it wasn’t easy, dealing with these people. Sherlock tried explaining it to him once, but ended up calling John – and everyone like John, everyone “normal” – as stupid as goldfish. It was shortly after Mycroft returned home from his Arena, and John had gotten so mad he didn’t speak to Sherlock for three days, until Sherlock had cornered John after school one day and apologized profusely, crying with sincerity.

He found his eyes burning with tears at the thought of the memory, at the thought of nine year old Sherlock, shorter than John at the time, his face scrunched up and bawling, glaring at his shoes to hide the fact. That was the very first time Sherlock had ever apologized to him, ever apologized in general, but that was also the first time Sherlock had shown John that he cared, that he really cared, about him and their companionship.

And here they were now, nine years later, kissing together and crying together and watching each other go off to war.

Oh, how times had changed.

The party at City Circle stretched on deep into the night, and John, Mycroft, Louise, Alexander, Dean, and Clover stayed up through it, vowing to stay awake as long as Sherlock was still asleep.

Unfortunately, however, Hannibal Lecter Magnussen also chose to stay awake.

Though the day had been an eventful one, a lot of people – mentors, sponsors, and Capitol citizens alike – went home and went to bed, and soon John looked around to find that there was a sudden lack of crowds. Across the Circle, John could see a small building and three doors – one marked for women, one marked for men, and a third marked for the handicapped – and John realized how much he had gotten lost in the excitement of the day, and how much he needed to use the lavatories.

John touched Mycroft’s elbow, to make sure he had his attention before he spoke.

“I’m going to use the bathroom,” John muttered, pointing, and Mycroft nodded.

“Do you want someone to go with you? I’m sure we could arrange –” Mycroft started lowly, but John cut him off.

“I’m fine – I don’t need a body guard. I’ll be right back,” he said, and made his way across the Circle.

He was almost to the door when he heard a voice that made him nearly jump out of his skin.

“John Watson.”

John spun around, facing Hannibal Lecter Magnussen.

The cannibal smiled at him, and John’s stomach twisted itself into a knot as the images of him sinking those same teeth into a young boy’s heart filled his mind.

“It seems that my brother has taking a liking to you, so I thought I would formally introduce myself, and congratulate you on making it this far.” He put out his hand for John to shake. “Hannibal Lecter Magnussen; it’s my pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

He could hear Harry’s voice in his head, saying the same thing she had said the last time they were presented with his full name; “What kind of middle name is Lecter?” She had made him laugh, then, but now his eyes stung with tears that he was definitely not going to shed in front of this man.

After a moment of staring point-blank at Hannibal’s hand, John slowly raised his own and shook his hand. The instant Hannibal let go of him, John involuntary wiped his hand on his pants, as if to get rid of the germs before he caught his cannibalism.

“Your hands are sweating,” Hannibal noted. “My brother suffers from the same condition; the whole world is wet to his touch.”

But John knew that already, because Charles Augustus had touched him – and suddenly he could feel his hand on his face –

“Apologies for the dampness of my touch; you'll get used to it, though.”

“It’s not a condition,” John was able to force out, just by the skin of his teeth.

“Anxiety, then?” Hannibal asked. “That’s perfectly all right, to feel a little anxiety; it gets easier, over time.” He winked, and suddenly John knew that he was not talking about anxiety over something simple.

He had said that his brother had taken a liking to John –

John’s face paled.

“The Games aren’t over yet,” he muttered. “Sherlock is still alive –”

“William Holmes is at the edge of his life, teetering back and forth on the balls of his feet. Your sister merely put off his fall; the slightest breeze in the wrong direction will send him toppling over the edge.”

“And you think your brother will create that breeze?” John asked, and Hannibal chuckled.

“My brother will push William with a force he has never felt before. And then he will push you to every limit you possess,” he said, sending a chill down John’s spine. “I’m curious to see what will happen to you.”

And, in that moment, John could imagine it – he could picture it in his head – he could feel it inside his skin – Charles Augustus Magnussen, forcing his tongue into John’s mouth again, feeling him up, putting his hand down his pants and taking them off as John struggled and fought and begged –

He could feel his future-self cracking under the pressure – trying to hold on to himself and losing grip in the face of Charles Augustus holding him down and invading his very being over and over – he could feel himself losing the memories he held dear – the memories of when he was free – the memories of Sherlock –

Sherlock wasn’t coming back –


He heard a voice, pulling him from the thought of his potential future – from the feeling of fear and pain –

A hand grasped his shoulder, and John flinched, almost crying out, only to find that Mycroft was attached to the hand.

“Mycroft Holmes. It’s so nice to see you again,” Hannibal said, holding his hand out for Mycroft to shake.

“Hannibal Magnussen,” Mycroft replied, shaking his hand firmly. “How are you?”

“I am well, thank you. I was just discussing the possible outcome of this year’s Hunger Games with John. Congratulations on your brother’s resurrection, by the way,” Hannibal said.

“Thank you, and congratulations to you on your brother’s continued survival,” Mycroft said, and John was amazed at how civil he was being, considering he was the man who killed and ate Will Graham, and the brother of the man who assaulted John just a few days ago. “May I ask what your final verdict is? I’m curious.”

Hannibal looked up behind them, at the nearest screen, pursing his lips.

“It is hard to say right now; I’d rather bet on the outcome of a coin toss than on your brother’s life, for instance.”

Mycroft’s hand on John’s shoulder tightened, but otherwise gave no physical sign that he was angry.

“And what about your brother’s life?” Mycroft asked, voice still unbelievably level.

Hannibal grinned.

“I am confident that my brother’s life is going to extend years past these Hunger Games,” he said, looking straight at John, and it took everything in him not to show how afraid he was.

“Myc!” They heard a voice, and Mycroft turned to find Dean Bainbridge, back toward the rest of the party, waving at him.

Mycroft waved back, and then turned to Hannibal.

“Mycroft is the name my mother gave me; I wish he’d make the struggle to the end,” he muttered, then looked up at him. “I’m being summoned,” he said with a shrug, trying to disguise how happy he was that he was being dragged away from Hannibal Lecter Magnussen.

“Yes you are,” Hannibal agreed, and they shook hands once more, and parted ways, Mycroft pulling John along with him.

“Are you alright?” Mycroft asked quietly, as soon as they were out of earshot.

“No,” John whispered back, and Mycroft almost broke his stride.

“Did he –”

“No,” John repeated, and Mycroft sighed.

“This is why I had suggested –”

John shrugging himself out from under Mycroft’s arm, planting himself in front of him.

“Look, I know what you’re trying to do – I can see that you’re trying to help me and prevent a second attack, and I appreciate it. But the last thing I want is for one of your friends to – to... We’ve all won the Games – we’ve all killed people – What are they going to think when I’ve killed people too and now, suddenly, I can’t even go piss by myself? What are we going to say when they ask us why I can’t just go to the bathroom alone like a normal person?”

“John, I –”

“They can’t. Know,” John said, his voice breaking. “No one can know. As far as anyone is concerned, everything is normal, and nothing happened in that stairwell. You can kill him if he comes back like you said you would, but right now I have to put on my big boy pants and face it, on my own. No body guards. No protection. Just. Me.”

Mycroft and John stared at each other for a moment, John’s chest heaving and his teeth grit together in effort to keep ahold of himself – to keep himself from falling apart.

Finally, Mycroft nodded.

“I understand. I apologize for any unnecessary stress I may have caused you.”

John let out a shaky breath.

“Thank you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to the penthouse,” he announced, and left Mycroft in the City Circle, entering the training center and boarding the elevator by himself.

But he did not go to bed. He sat up, all night, alone with a bottle of vodka in his hand, watching Sherlock sleep, and watching Harry watch over him.

And John Watson wept.

Chapter Text

At first, John refused to leave the penthouse the next day, not wanting to face the world when Sherlock was still in limbo between consciousness and unconsciousness, but Mycroft managed to convince him with the thought that if John stayed in the penthouse, Hannibal Magnussen might think that he intimidated John enough to make him hide.

So, despite John’s desire to spend the day at least twelve floors above the City Circle at all times, he got dressed and made the descent with Mycroft down to the Circle, where all of Mycroft's friends were waiting.

“Welcome back, John!” Dean called as they approached.

“We missed you last night,” Alexander added.

“I missed being here,” John lied, and Clover quickly signed something that Louise had to translate for him:

“Come on, John, we all know you hate it here.”

“Is it that obvious?” John asked.

“Yes,” Clover signed.

“Oh yeah,” Louise agreed.

“Painfully,” Alexander said.

“I think the only way it could be any more obvious is if we were looking at you through Mycroft’s eyes,” Dean said, and Mycroft nodded in agreement. “But here’s a secret: we hate it, too.”

“Yeah? Even you?” John asked Dean.

Dean tilted his head to the side, watching John carefully. “Of course me, too.”

“But you’re a Career – anything about the Hunger Games is your element, isn’t it? Isn’t that how it works?”

As soon as John said this, Dean looked back at Alexander, and they both burst into laughter, immediately confusing John.

“What? What did I say?”

“John, here’s the thing,” Dean said, putting his hand on John’s shoulder, still chuckling. “Just because we come from a Career District, it doesn’t always mean that we’re killing machines. Sometimes, the only difference between Careers and the Outliers is just the Districts we live in.”

With Sherlock and Harry effectively out of commission (since they were both fighting off the effects of the tracker jackers – Harry while awake and Sherlock while asleep), the cameras decided to focus on the three other groups of tributes in the Arena.

Sarah Sawyer was the only tribute working by themselves, now that Sherlock and Harry had found each other again. She had found a home in sector thirteen, which contained leeches from the twenty-ninth Hunger Games, which were easy to survive as long as Sarah didn’t step in a pool of water. Luckily, though, she knew how to use the spile that was provided for her by the Capitol, and felt no need to disturb the creatures that lived in the pools of freshwater, and since the Capitol didn’t see a reason to make the leeches land-dwelling creatures, the leeches didn’t disturb her.

Charles Augustus Magnussen, James Sholto, and Aurora Blake were together in one group in sector sixteen, which contained a sort of gas that was similar to John’s, forcing anyone that inhaled it to think of nothing but on their insecurities and fears – a gas that was used in Dean Bainbridge’s Hunger Games.

“You and Dean actually have a lot more in common than you think,” Mycroft muttered to John as they all watched Aurora Blake leave her group to try to find “that Sawyer bitch,” using it an excuse to find a fast way out of the sector and out of her own thoughts. “You had dealt with the fear-producing fog in your Arena, and Dean had to face the Capitol forcing Dean’s mind against itself.”

John looked at Dean, who was busy talking to Alexander, oblivious to the conversation between John and Mycroft.

“Yeah,” he mumbled. “I guess so.”

“I know you’re not completely trustful of Dean and Alexander because of where they come from, Dean especially, and I don’t blame you for it; when you live a life of hating everything the Career Districts stand for, meeting someone from those Districts is a little disarming. But if I told you that I trusted these men with my life, could you learn to trust them, too? At least enough that you don’t think they’re going to kill you if they get too close?”

John glanced at Dean and Alexander again.

He liked Alexander – they both had a disability in common and Alexander actually made it seem normal (which was something John had no idea how to even begin to do). He had a charm to him that made John want to be his friend, and a personality and sense of humor that made him forget about the tragedy in his life, if only for a moment.

Dean on the other hand...

Dean Bainbridge was boisterous, focused, and seemed glad to be where he was; all of these things intimidated John to no end. But Mycroft was right – Dean had been his mentor – he had helped him, a boy from District 12, to survive the Games, when he really didn’t have to. That had to mean something, right? Mycroft trusted him – and Mycroft would be the first person to know if there were any ulterior motives or reasons to keep his guard up. If Mycroft trusted him, John could too – it was a fact.

John finally nodded.

“They won’t kill me. Got it,” he said, and Mycroft nodded.

“Thank you.”

The final group in the Arena was the District 4 alliance crossing over into sector twenty-two: Steven Bainbridge and Julia Waters – Dean and Alexander’s siblings.

It made sense that they were together – statistics showed that tributes from the same District normally stayed together. It was proven time and time again, every year – in fact, right now, all the tributes that still had the tribute from their same District to partner with had partnered with them. The reasons why were obvious: they were reaped with this person – they both were suddenly put into this situation where absolutely everything was new and terrifying to them. Where else to turn but to the one person who you not only knew before (even if only in passing), but was going through the same thing as you were?

So, there was Steven and Julia, just like there was Sherlock and Harry, five sectors away.

They walked together, side by side, bantering as if they had known each other for years – and they probably had, considering the fact that their siblings forced them to be neighbors by winning the Hunger Games.

“How old was Steven when you won the Games, Dean?” John asked. He had seen their stats – the Tributes’ stats were posted all over the Capitol, just in case the citizens of the Capitol forgot them – Steven was twenty-nine, and Julia was twenty-eight.

“He was nineteen.”

“And Julia?” John asked, turning to Alexander.

“I was seventeen so she was...Julia was twenty-one,” he replied, his voice slightly unsteady as he spoke.

Clover signed something to him – John could only pick out the sign for “what” – and he shook his head.

“I know what it is,” Louise said from the other side of John, looking at the list of sectors. “Look,” she said, and turned the page toward the rest of the group, pointing at sector twenty-two.

And then, at that moment, as if the Gamemakers were waiting for the group to realize where Steven and Julia were, Julia slapped her arm, wincing in pain.

“What is it?” Steven asked.

“Nothing, just a mosquito,” she replied. “I read about the jungle once in school – mosquitoes are popular in this environment so I’m not surprised that they’re – oh my god, Steven.”

As Julia spoke, she looked up at Steven to find that a mosquito had attached itself to his neck, and was now the size and color of a strawberry, full of Steven’s blood. She pointed at the bug, and he slapped it, spurting his blood all over his hand. He quickly wiped it off on his pants.

Dean, who had been in the middle of a conversation with Mycroft, stopped mid-sentence, and turned toward the screen, his eyes suddenly dead. He knew what was happening. As far as anyone was concerned, Steven Bainbridge was already gone.

“I’ve seen this before – in a recent Arena,” Steven said, still surveying the access blood and mosquito guts on his hand. “These are from the seventy-second Hunger Games, I believe, and the results weren’t pretty. Look, yours is already swelling.”

“So is yours,” Julia said, pointing at the lump that was forming on his neck – both of them already the size of their fists. “We need to get out of here –” she started, slapping another one off of her face and taking two steps in the direction they were going –

And then Julia Waters collapsed to the ground.

“Julia –” Alexander in the Capitol and Steven in the Arena both said simultaneously, but neither of them could do a thing to help.

The mosquitoes that were used in the seventy-second Hunger Games were a creation that the Capitol had made, and they had a simple yet effective way of killing a victim who happened to cross their path at the wrong time. With needles that were so thin and sharp that no one ever noticed they were poking through their skin until it was too late, a few mosquitoes would suck their blood, injecting a virus that would most certainly kill them within the following five minutes, and then, once the victim was immobilized, the rest of the scourge would come, sucking their victim dry.

Steven Bainbridge tried to pick Julia up, but he ended up collapsing as well, right next to her.

And the scourge descended upon them.

Sherlock swam for days.

Or, at least, so it felt.

He swam in the water for so long that the mainland – the shore that contained Moriarty and the Games – vanished from what Sherlock could see when he looked behind him. There was also no sight of land ahead, which made no sense, as Sherlock had seen the island from the mainland.

But he kept swimming, anyway, despite his aching limbs, hoping to reach the island.

Hoping the water wouldn’t be the last thing he saw.

The island Sherlock had desperately wanted to go to was John; Sherlock knew that now. He had swam for hours, swam until his arms and legs grew tired and swam still, away from Jim Moriarty and everything he represented, and toward John Watson.

All he could feel was the water that surrounded him – pulling him and pushing him and becoming him –

He missed John. He missed him so fucking much he wanted to cry – wanted to die – wanted to drown right here, right now, if that meant he could hold him again – if it meant he could feel John’s touch one more time –

But he never would again.

“Those Watson kids are definitely in danger...”

They were in danger, both of them. Harry from the Games, and John from...something bigger. The Capitol, the world, the rest of his life – everything was out to get him now.

And something else...

“Did someone hurt you?”

“Sherlock Holmes! Drop. It.”

Someone had hurt John – someone who John was letting walk free – but who?

“John,” Sherlock called out, as if to pose the question. Who had hurt him? What had they done? Why was he protecting them? “John!”

The cameras shifted to Sherlock and Harry as a cannon burst from the skies above them, and Sherlock groaned in his sleep. Harry, who was sitting by him, bow-and-arrow in hand, just in case, focused her attention to him. Sherlock groaned again, but his vocal chords created a word instead of only sound:


Harry’s eyes softened, reaching out and holding Sherlock’s hand.

Th e moment Sherlock touched land, he heard a cannon burst around him and, suddenly, the sand was covered in blood. He crawled onto the shore, gasping for air, his hands and legs red and sticky from the blood and his body incredibly heavy as it got used to the idea of gravity again.

“John – John –”

He saw a pair of feet, and Sherlock looked up to find John standing before him, stark naked, keeping his hands over his genitals as if his life depended on it.

“Those Watson kids are definitely in danger...”

Sherlock knew who the blood belonged to – whose blood was on his hands – it was Harry’s –

The island wasn’t only John – it was the future – the future if Sherlock failed –

If Sherlock failed, Harry would be dead – her blood would be on his hands – and John would be –

John would be...

John yelled at him, his eyes wild with fear –


Sherlock’s eyes snapped open, and he shot straight up into a sitting position in the same instant. It was then the pain settled in on his muscles, and he groaned, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees, putting his head in his hands.

“Sherlock,” Harry Watson repeated, putting her hand on his shoulder, pushing him back, forcing his head up to look at her. “Sherlock –”

His eyes met hers – eyes that matched her brother’s – and the next moment, Sherlock flung his arms around her, holding her tightly to his chest.


Chapter Text

“How long was I out?” Sherlock asked, once he had finally let go of Harry.

“Like...twenty hours? They made an announcement that your cannon was retracted yesterday afternoon.” She smiled at the thought. “It was funny; I’ve never seen the Gamemakers reveal they made a mistake before. I wish you could’ve heard it.”

“Me too,” Sherlock said, and gave her his best half-smile. “How are you doing? Are you okay?”

“Yeah – the venom finally left my system at some point last night,” Harry replied. “You were stung a lot more than I was so I figured that was why you slept for so long...”

“And also died,” Sherlock murmured.

“And also died,” Harry agreed.

At that moment, Sherlock remembered the blood – all the blood from the rain – and for a moment he thought it had all just been a hallucination from the venom, but then, looking closer at Harry, he noticed a red stain to her face – the red stain that she couldn’t scrub off – and he knew that the blood rain had been real. He looked down at the blood stains on his own hands, his arms, his sleeves –

No, not his sleeves, Sherlock realized. Strangely, none of his wetsuit had been touched by the blood rain, while Harry’s obviously had. In fact, upon closer inspection, Sherlock’s wetsuit looked…

“Did – did they give me a new –?” Sherlock began to ask, but Harry nodded, cutting him off.

“You needed it, man.”

“And you didn’t?” Sherlock asked, and Harry shrugged.

“You were the one who died, Sherlock. I don’t wanna get into specifics because we might just be the focus of the broadcast, right now, but John taught me that, when a person dies, if they’ve got anything, you know, inside of them, they’re going to release –”

“Okay, okay, I figured it out,” Sherlock cut her off, waving the thought away.

“You owe me, big time,” Harry informed him. “Because, like, that whole situation was a whole different Arena, really.”

If Sherlock hadn’t realized exactly what Harry had done before this point, he definitely, fully realized it, now.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“You were passed out – I wasn’t gonna let you sit in it. So, when the sponsors sent the new jumpsuit and soap and all that, and I could finally see straight, I did what I had to do. Cleaned us both up,” Harry said, shrugging.

“Thank you. For that. And I’m sorry, by the way. For that. And for dying.” Sherlock said quietly, and Harry gasped in mock surprise.

“Sherlock Holmes, apologizing? What’s the occasion?” she asked.

 “Shut up,” Sherlock chuckled as he weakly shoved her, grinning for the first time in what felt like years.

“Admit it; you missed me,” Harry said, pushing him back.

“Yes, of course I did,” Sherlock replied.

“Good; I missed you too,” she said quietly, and changed the subject. “While you were asleep, I was thinking about it, and since the Capitol hates seeing us in one place for too long, I think we should move on to the next area. Does that sound like a reasonable and intelligent plan, Mister Holmes?”

Sherlock glanced around. They seemed to be entirely surrounded by hedges – he recalled Harry saying something about a hedge maze –

“That sounds fine to me,” Sherlock replied, nodding, before he spotted one of Harry’s arrows sticking out of one of the hedges nearby. “Did someone find us?” he asked.

“No,” Harry sighed, standing up and stretching as she walked over and removed the arrow. “Thought I saw something when I know,” she trailed off, twirling a finger around her head.

Sherlock thought back to what he had seen under the influence of the tracker jacker venom – Harry was on fire and Mycroft was telling him that he was stupid and the mere existence of Jim Moriarty and the water and the island and Harry dying and John...

Sherlock gripped onto the dog tags under the wetsuit. Whatever it was, John had Mycroft watching over him. Whatever it was, John was safe from it.

“How many are left?” he asked, deciding it was his turn to change the subject as Harry packed their things away.

“Seven.” A cannon sounded in the distance. “Well, six, now.”

“Final six,” Sherlock muttered.

“Final six,” Harry repeated, and let out a low whistle. “And here we are.”

“Well, it’s not over yet – there’s still four other tributes. And then there’s us...”

“Let’s not talk about us,” Harry muttered, going back to put Sherlock’s medkit into his bag.

The mourning of the deaths of Steven and Julia and the celebration of Sherlock fully returning to the Hunger Games was cut short by the news that the Hunger Games had reached its final six tributes.

Three days – it had been three days and they were where it took last year’s Games eight days to reach. But this was not John’s first clue that this year’s Hunger Games were more brutal than last year’s – his first clue had been that it had taken this year’s tributes just over ten minutes to kill half their own, while John’s group took three days in itself.

As paparazzi flooded the City Circle, trying to get a statement from all of the previous victors that still had a sibling in the Arena, the Capitol announced the final six:

Charles Augustus Magnussen, from District 1.

James Alistair Sholto, from District 2.

Aurora Alexandria Blake, from District 2.

Sarah Zoe Sawyer, from District 8.

William Sherlock Scott Holmes, from District 12.

Harriet Catherine Watson, from District 12.

“Why are they announcing middle names this year?” John asked Mycroft, once the interviewers left them alone. “They’ve never done that before.”

“Probably because of Charles Augustus and Sherlock – Charles Augustus won’t respond to anything but both his first and middle name, while Sherlock goes by his exclusively. They probably just decided to announce everyone’s out of fairness, so it wouldn’t seem like anyone was favored over anyone else.”


“How are you holding up, by the way?”

“I’m fine,” John said, though that couldn’t have been any farther from the truth.

Sherlock would be dying any day, now, Charles Augustus was still alive and well, and Harry’s fate was still unknown.

John was terrified.

Sherlock watched Harry as she packed his things – really looking at her for the first time, since they had entered the Arena. The first thing he noticed was her hair – it was short, now; uneven, very obviously cut with a knife in the Arena, just long enough to tuck behind her ears.  Her skin was marked from stings from the tracker jackers and a few cuts here and there, but Sherlock was relieved to find that she was otherwise unscathed.

And then, he looked at her face, and suddenly, Sherlock was amazed at how much she had grown, how much he hadn’t noticed. This was the same girl who was only seven years old when they met, with a tongue almost as quick and a mouth just as loud as his. This was the same girl who preferred her brother’s hand-me-downs but still enjoyed wearing dresses because she liked the way they flared up when she spun around. This was the same girl who was afraid of spiders but would never admit that to anyone. This was the same girl who used to stand on her toes when talking to her brother for years so she didn’t have to look up at him and still did it from time to time. This was the same girl who hid her girlfriends from her parents, but the moment her parents ganged up on Sherlock for liking their son she outed herself, knowing that they would attack her, too. This was the same girl who drank until she was wasted because the world was too big and scary for her, just like how Sherlock hid behind his drugs, but she never gave up. This was the same girl who was in the Hunger Games, who very probably knew by now that Sherlock planned to die for her, and yet she kept him alive because she loved him.

All of these memories swelled up inside of him, mixing into each other and forming a lump in his throat. This was that same girl, the one he had watched grow up into who she was, now, in front of him. But she looked so different, too. He imagined he did to her, as well.

“I, uh.” Sherlock cleared his throat, trying to get rid of the lump that had formed there. “I like your hair, that way. It looks nice,” he said quietly.

“Thanks,” she replied, smiling sadly as she passed him his water canteen.

They were silent as he took a swig and gave the canteen back to her.

“I wanted to apologize,” Sherlock mumbled, after a moment.

“Twice in a day? Are you sure you’re not still being affected by the tracker jackers?”

“Harry,” Sherlock said, trying to tell her that he was being serious.

Harry sighed. “Okay, I’ll bite. What are you sorry for, now?”

“I just...I was so preoccupied with saving you that I forgot how much you could take on by yourself.”

“Damn straight,” she replied, and Sherlock chuckled.

“And then you saved my life, twice. That kind of makes you a badass.”

“Only kind of?” she asked, looking up at him, her mouth curled into a perfect smirk.

“Okay, you are a badass.”

“That’s right I am,” she said, nodding. Then she paused. “Seriously though, I wouldn’t have known about the tracker jackers if... I would’ve been dead if it wasn’t for you. So...thanks.”

“Of course.”

“You know...I’ve always wanted to tell you this, and since we’re having this heart-to-heart... I just wanted to let you know that...I’ve never really had just one brother. I’ve always had two. Three if you include Mycroft, but I knew you first. So...yeah.”

Sherlock felt his stomach twist inside itself with guilt. She wasn’t just going to lose a friend...she was going to lose a brother, too.

“I’m honored,” Sherlock whispered, as Harry stood up.

“Come on,” she said, putting her hand out for him to take. “Let’s get out of this maze.”

“I can get us out,” Sherlock said as she pulled him up. “I’m Sherlock Holmes, after all,” he said, smiling a bit, trying to lighten the mood despite wobbling a bit on his feet as he stood up.

“I don’t care who you are; mazes are entirely randomized, that’s the point of a maze –”

“Harry, no human action is ever truly random,” Sherlock said, sounding more like himself than he had in days.

“Well, this maze was probably made by a Capitol computer’s random-generation program –”

“And that program was made by humans. Put it that way, and eliminate the middle man, and this maze was made by humans.”

“But how the hell are you able to predict something as totally random as this?” Harry asked.

“Well, with an advanced grasp of the mathematics of probability mapped onto a thorough apprehension of human psychology the known dispositions of any given individual can reduce the number of variables, considerably,” Sherlock said, gaining speed as he went. “I myself know of at least fifty-eight techniques to refine this specific seemingly infinite array of randomly generated possibilities down to the smallest number of feasible variables –”

“Oh, shut up, would you?” Harry asked, rolling her eyes. “Okay, we get it; you’re Sherlock Holmes – lead the way!”

“Gladly,” Sherlock said, and, as the sun began to set over the Arena, the two District 12 tributes walked through the maze, side by side.

Just as night fell over the Arena, and John and Mycroft settled upon going to the Penthouse for the night, Aurora Blake found Sarah Sawyer in sector thirteen, and chased her into sector twelve, which contained a minefield. The entire sector contained underground bombs scattered with no rhyme or reason and were virtually undetectable by the untrained eye.

Sarah, being the person who was chased, entered the sector first, and just when Aurora crossed the barrier into the sector, the ground erupted from underneath Sarah, and the sound of the explosion and the canon marking Sarah’s death merged into one.

And Aurora, immediately knowing what she had just entered, carefully retraced her steps out of the sector, and made the journey back to Charles Augustus Magnussen and James Sholto.

But then, when John and Mycroft were almost to the door of the training center, John heard his own voice coming over the speakers – as if he was on the screen – as if he was in the Arena, again.


Sherlock and Harry walked through the maze, with Sherlock directing them, stumbling every couple of yards.

“I...I need a break,” he admitted finally, and Harry helped him sit down against the wall of the hedge.

“Are you alright?”

“Looks like the tracker jacker venom hasn’t completely left my system, yet,” Sherlock mumbled.

“Well, yeah – a lot of them got to you.”

Harry and Sherlock heard the canon above them, and, as if they were almost used to the sound, carried on their conversation.

“How many?” Sherlock asked. “How many tracker jackers got to me?”

“Eleven,” Harry replied, and Sherlock widened his eyes, then squinted at her.

No one before had ever lived with more than five tracker jacker stings at one time. No one, before him.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Of course I am, I’m the one who had to pull all the stingers out.”

“How many times did they get you?” he asked.

“I found three – it messed me up real bad but I couldn’ were dying and they were taking you away and I had to stop them and I couldn’t even...”

“I am sorry about that.”

“This is the third time tonight, Sherlock Holmes – this is unlike you and I’m starting to get worried. You had no control over it – you were dead.” And as the words passed her mouth, the fear bubbled over, and tears appeared in her eyes. “Damnit,” she muttered, quickly blinking the tears back, staring around at everything except for his face, searching for something to say. “I – I dressed your arm by the way; you’re welcome.” As she said this, Sherlock realized that he actually hadn’t felt the near-constant pain in his arm since waking up. “It was a little infected, but not badly – as long as it stays covered it shouldn’t get any worse before – before the end.” He pulled the collar of his jumpsuit away from his body and peeked at his shoulder and found that, indeed, Harry had wrapped his arm up – in gauze.

“You had gauze in your pack?” Sherlock asked, and his mind quickly spun to what that might mean if everyone was given different medical supplies – what the hell could Magnussen have if he and Harry – tributes from the poorest District – had gauze and one hundred bandaids?

“No,” Harry said, shutting down that train of thought immediately. “Apparently the Capitol thinks they’re fucking hilarious and decided to put one hundred bandaids in my pack. But when Mycroft and John sent us stuff for our tracker jacker stings, they also sent gauze and a stitching kit and a numbing agent for your arm.”

“Numbing agent?” Sherlock repeated – certainly not Morphling – Mycroft wouldn’t have allowed it –

“Yeah, just this ointment I had to rub into your wound,” Harry replied. “Nothing injectable,” she added, answering Sherlock’s unasked question.

“Thank you,” Sherlock said quietly.

“Of course –”

And Harry was cut off by the sound of her brother crying out, seemingly in pain, in the distance.


Sherlock and Harry looked at each other.

“Was that...?” Harry asked.

“It couldn’t be –” Sherlock started, but then John Watson cried out again.


“John,” Sherlock and Harry said in unison, and together they got up and began to sprint toward the exit – to find John.

Chapter Text

Sherlock and Harry ran through the maze, Sherlock stumbling every few steps as he directed them, hearing John Watson shouting their names – calling for help – as they went.



“Okay now left!”


“It’s here! Turn here!”

Finally, they reached the maze’s exit and dashed into the following sector, not knowing what was there, but knowing that, somewhere nearby, somewhere in the Arena, John was in trouble, and they had to find him.

And so they ran through the jungle, following the sound of John’s voice as it got louder and louder around them.

“Mycroft?” John asked, his voice nothing more than an exhale of breath. “Mycroft what’s happening?”

“You’ve gotten fairly good grades, John; I’m sure you’ve paid attention in your history classes,” Mycroft said lieu of an actual explanation. “You tell me.”

In the first few weeks after John returned from his Hunger Games, Sherlock was almost exclusively the one to help him cope. Of course, Mycroft had been there, and John’s parents and Harry had been there, but they weren’t the ones staying up with John through the night, or the ones he vented his innermost thoughts and feelings to, or the ones he recounted his nightmares with. They weren’t there in the moments beyond the fence when he was convinced that he was in the Arena once more. They weren’t the ones who grounded him; that was all Sherlock.

He had seen the absolute fear in John’s eyes when he was trapped within the confines of his own head – when loud sounds from the mines sounded like cannon strikes; when someone came in to see the Monroe’s with an injury and the blood reminded him of Victor Trevor’s; when the woods of the outskirts looked too much like the forest of the Arena – and the Capitol went and put him back in the Arena anyway.

A fraction of Sherlock’s mind was completely aware of the fact that the Capitol had never brought in another person besides the tributes before now, but it was John’s voice. It was the voice he had fallen in love with, the voice he had heard a million times, the voice he thought he would never hear again – but here it was, screaming Sherlock’s name in a way that frightened him to his core.

Sherlock Holmes was absolutely livid – ready to kill whoever got in his way – ready to kill whoever did this to John.

“Sherlock, stop!” Harry called from behind him, and Sherlock skidded to a halt, spinning around to face her.



“He’s right above us but I’m not seeing –” Harry started, looking up above them – up in the trees –


Sherlock too looked up, and then he found the source of the noise: a black bird with a white crest – a bird almost invisible in the dark – opened its mouth, and expelled a noise that sounded alarmingly like John’s voice –


“Oh my god,” Sherlock gasped, nearly collapsing with relief as he pressed his palms against his eyes. “Oh, it’s just a Jabberjay.”

“Just a –” Harry looked up and found the bird, just as it let out a scream for her assistance.


“Just a Jabberjay?!” she repeated, rounding on Sherlock. “Just a Jabberjay?! Are you serious? Do you have any idea of what a Jabberjay even is?”

“Of course I know what they are –”


“Jabberjays copy whatever they hear – they had to hear that from somewhere!” Harry exclaimed, her voice cracking at the idea of what that might mean.

“Yes, but do you remember why they’re out of use?” Sherlock replied. “The rebels fed them false information to copy, let them run off to daddy to deliver the message, and the rebels made their legitimate plans while they were gone –”



“So, this is the same thing!” Sherlock shouted over the bird’s call that sounded so much like John that it made his heart ache – but he knew better. “As you pointed out earlier, the Capitol can make practically anything with their technology – the Capitol has so many sound clips of John that it’s not even funny at this point – he’s said our names – they can splice a few clips together to make him say anything else they need him to say – up the volume and the pitch and then you get –”


“OKAY!” Harry shouted back at the bird, spinning around, drawing an arrow as she did, and letting her arrow fly – right into the jugular of the Jabberjay. In the light of the full moon above them, Sherlock and Harry together watched as the bird fell to the ground, and then Harry looked back up at Sherlock, who was leaning up against a tree. “And you’re absolutely sure about this?” she asked, still skeptical.

“Yes,” Sherlock assured her. “The citizens of Capitol love John – they love Johnlock, too. If the Gamemakers did anything to John, then they’d have the citizens to answer to. It’s all just computers and sound manipulations, I promise you.”

Harry nodded slightly, and opened her mouth to reply, when another Jabberjay landed on a nearby branch, and made a similar call:


“Fucking hell!” Harry groaned, stringing another arrow and shooting the Jabberjay down. Once she hit it, another Jabberjay took that one’s place, and John’s voice called out again.

Sherlock silently stood up straight and approached her, resting his hand on her shoulder.

“You’re going to waste your arrows, Harry,” he said quietly. “You’re going to need them later.”

Harry lowered her bow, leaving about a half dozen John-like Jabberjays around them, and Sherlock was just about to suggest they move on, when they heard one last Jabberjay – one that sounded nothing like the others:


It was a Jabberjay, and Sherlock knew that. It was most definitely a Jabberjay.

But its call sounded just like the voice of Mycroft Holmes.

Immediately, Sherlock gripped on to Harry’s shoulder, as if it was keeping him from falling to the ground, and he pinpointed the bird’s location.

“Harry,” Sherlock breathed, and pointed at the Jabberjay. “I know what I said – I know it’s not real – but please – kill it – please, kill it.”

And Harry obeyed.

John looked up at Mycroft, who was refusing to look at anything but the screen as Harry shot down the Jabberjay that sounded exactly like himself.

“Are you alright?” John asked.

“Of course,” Mycroft replied, but John knew that he was far from it. That, just like when Harry told him of how kind Sherlock had been to Archie Neal in the training room, seeing how much hearing Mycroft call Sherlock’s name in agony affected his brother touched Mycroft’s once-frozen heart.

Once the Mycroft-Jabberjay was dead, the rest of the Jabberjays silenced themselves, leaving the two tributes in the now quiet section of the Arena.

“I’ve never heard Mycroft raise his voice like that, before,” Harry said quietly, breaking the quiet.

“I have,” Sherlock breathed back. “A few times. Rarely, it was because of me. Most of the time, it was because of the Games – because of nightmares,” he went on, looking away from the branches of the trees and down at his feet as he spoke. “When Mycroft first came home from the Arena, I slept in his bed with him, every night, for a year, at least. There were…quite a few nights in which I woke up to Mycroft screaming next to me. So, yes…I’ve heard it before.”

John looked up at Mycroft from where they stood in the City Circle, trying to imagine a scene like the one Sherlock had described. Mycroft, not once looking away from the screen, as if trying to damn Sherlock for revealing the details of his post-traumatic stress to the world, had somehow noticed John looking at him.

“Don’t,” he ordered, and when John opened his mouth – to apologize or to offer his sympathy, he wasn’t sure – Mycroft spoke again. “Don’t. This is never to be mentioned again. Goodnight.” He turned, beginning to walk back to the penthouse, and John took a step after him. “Do not follow. Stay with Dean. Wait ten minutes, then come up,” he called back, and then he was gone, vanishing into the crowd around them.

When John finally did arrive at the penthouse, Mycroft was in his bedroom, the door locked, and the lights out.

Panem’s anthem played over the Arena, and the Capitol’s seal lit up the sky above the Arena, and Sherlock and Harry stood together and watched as Julia Waters, Steven Bainbridge, and Sarah Sawyer’s faces appear one by one alongside the stars, and then fade from the world forever.

“Magnussen’s still alive,” Harry muttered as soon as the Arena was plunged back into mostly-darkness, still watching the skies, as if looking for another message.

“It’s going to end tomorrow,” Sherlock muttered back, and they looked down at each other.

“You know this?” Harry asked.

“I do,” Sherlock replied. “There’s you and me, him, and two other Careers. They’re probably separated at the moment – if they come back to Magnussen, he’ll kill them both, and then the Capitol will herd us together for the finale.”

Having it all laid out for her so bluntly seemed to terrify Harry, for she began to shake, but crossed her arms to disguise her fear as mere chilliness.

Sherlock then noticed the silence around them.

“I think the Jabberjays stopped for the night.”

Harry looked up in the trees around her and nodded.

“Seems like it.”

“Let’s camp out here for the night, then; it would be useless to wander around aimlessly at this point,” Sherlock suggested, and Harry agreed.

But, both of them too anxious to sleep, Harry and Sherlock ended up sitting with their backs pressed against a large, moss-covered tree trunk, their shoulders touching, holding hands as they watched the stars above their heads as they talked.

“You know Dr. Monroe?” Harry asked, randomly, and Sherlock looked over at her as a memory flooded his mind – a certain memory he hadn’t thought about in years:

Dr. Monroe’s son, Thomas Jr., was in Mycroft’s class, and used to beat Sherlock up after school with his friends. He remembered with a stab of regret that Mycroft had been the one to get Thomas to stop, coming to his house and confronting him the very next time Sherlock came home with bruises after Mycroft won the Hunger Games. In fact, the following day Thomas pulled Sherlock aside and apologized for being such an ass to him, and Sherlock could tell he was only saying that because Mycroft had put him up to it.

He couldn’t remember if he had ever thanked Mycroft for that. He swallowed the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat, suddenly glad that it was too dark for Harry to see his eyes watering. The tracker jacker venom must’ve still been affecting him if he missed Mycroft this much…

“Which one?” Sherlock asked, instead of telling Harry any of that.

“Mrs. Monroe,” she clarified.


“She was the first person I ever came out to. Because I thought something was wrong with me. I was seven – it was shortly before I met you, actually – and after my annual check-up she asked if I had any questions for her, just came out. I started crying and everything, because I liked girls when I was supposed to like boys – I thought I was sick.”

“What did she tell you?”

“She just smiled and hugged me, and told me there was nothing wrong with me, that I could like anyone I wanted to, as long as they liked me back. And I just...I’ve been thinking about that a lot, in here. What I was afraid of then, compared to what I’m afraid of now.”

“How much you’ve changed since then.”


“We’ve all changed in here,” Sherlock said quietly, and Harry nodded, and, in the light of the full moon, Harry took her locket out from under her jumpsuit and opened it up, revealing the pictures of her family and of Sherlock and Mycroft.

“You okay?” Sherlock asked.

“Yeah,” Harry replied. “Just...reminding myself why we’re doing this.”

Instinctively, Sherlock’s free hand rose up and gripped John’s dog tags through his jumpsuit, reminding himself of the same.

It’s for John. It’s all for John.

“Do you think they can hear us?” Harry asked, so quietly it took Sherlock a second to realize she was speaking. He looked over at her, to find that she was still looking at the pictures of her family.

“They normally don’t broadcast anything that happens at night unless it’s ground-breaking, so I think we’ve got some privacy, for now,” Sherlock replied, still not raising his voice past a whisper, just in case.

Harry then looked down at their hands, fingers still interlocked.

“I was just thinking, back when I was little, our teachers would warns us about tracker jackers... They always warned us not to get caught in a swarm because we wouldn’t survive...”

“Well, we did.”

“Barely,” Harry reminded him.

“Barely,” he repeated, and Harry leaned up to him so she could whisper in his ear.

“Do you think it’s because of the Morphling that you survived?” she asked. “Maybe they share a similar property or something – you had built a tolerance to that, so maybe you did to the tracker jackers too?”

“Maybe. Probably.” Sherlock whispered back, mulling the idea over in his head: his addiction had saved him. It sounded preposterous – dangerous as hell – but it was the only thing that made sense, no matter how improbable it seemed.

His addiction had saved his life.

He didn’t want to think too much about that.

They sat in the stillness of the night, the quiet before the storm, for a few minutes.

“Sherlock?” Harry asked quietly, breaking the silence.


“What happened to Archie?”

Sherlock felt his throat seize up. Just days ago, he wanted nothing more than to tell Harry about what had happened to the three year old boy, but now he couldn’t bring himself to say a word.

“Was it quick?” Harry asked. “Did he feel anything?”

Sherlock nodded, forcing the words out of his mouth.

“He was beheaded. Right in front of me,” he whispered. “I don’t know if he felt it, but I know he...he died mid-laugh. He wasn’t afraid, and he wasn’t alone. Which is, I think, the best way to die.”

Harry squeezed his hand.

“You won’t be alone tomorrow.” Tomorrow. He was going to die tomorrow. Tomorrow, the world would continue on, and Sherlock would no longer be a part of it. He couldn’t imagine it, or he could, far too easily. “Are you afraid?” she asked, sensing his nervousness.

“No,” he tried, but Harry caught on.

“Don’t lie to me. You may be the genius here, but I’ve been around you long enough; I can read you like a book, too.”

Sherlock closed his eyes.

“I don’t get a choice –”

“Yes, you do, Sherlock. You always have a choice.”

“Well, I’ve made my choice – I’ve chosen you. And I’ll choose you over myself again and again until the moment I die.”

“But you don’t have to –”

“Harry,” Sherlock whispered, finally looking at her. “I’ve chosen you.”

Harry sighed, squeezing his hand as she leaned her head on his shoulder, not needing to say what they both knew the other was thinking:

They were best friends – they were siblings, related not by blood but by something even stronger – and, at the end of everything, no matter how things turned out, they were going to miss each other so, so much.

Chapter Text

John refused to sleep that night; every time he closed his eyes he could see Sherlock and Harry falling dead in the Arena, and feel Charles Augustus touch John’s body in ways he was terrified to think about.

If Sherlock was right – and he normally was right about everything – by the end of the day tomorrow, one of them would be on their way home. For now, the world would anxiously wait for the Careers to regroup and kill each other, and once they reached the final three, the Capitol would send Sherlock, Harry, and Magnussen on their way to each other, like lambs to the slaughter.

Well, two lambs and a bloodthirsty wolf.

There was only one thing John was absolutely sure about, one thing he knew the outcome of, and that was that Sherlock was going to die. The only question was whether he was going to die alongside Harry by Magnussen’s hand, or for Harry by his own.

John honestly couldn’t remember what life was like without Sherlock, but he was going to have to learn, and quickly.

But he didn’t want to learn – he never wanted to.

There was a knock on his bedroom door.

“John?” Mycroft called, from outside. “Are you awake?”

“Yeah, come in,” John replied, and Mycroft opened the door and walked inside, seemingly completely recovered from the way Sherlock had talked about him just a few hours ago, sitting on the edge of John’s bed as he sat up.

“You can’t sleep, either, I take it?” he asked.

“If tomorrow goes badly...I don’t think I ever will again,” John admitted.

“I feel I should remind you that our dreams can often be used as an escape from reality.”

“If I escape to my dreams I’ll just never want to wake up,” John muttered. “Or worse – they’ll haunt my dreams, too.”

“Jim Moriarty and Charles Augustus Magnussen?” Mycroft guessed.

“Yeah. I mean, one already does – why wouldn’t the other?”

Mycroft rested his hand on John’s shoulder.

“I’m just so tired,” John whispered.

“Then I’ll stay with you,” Mycroft promised.

And he did. He stayed with John all throughout the night, trading stories of Sherlock back and forth between them. They recalled the times when Sherlock came home from school almost daily with a poor-behavior slip pinned to his uniform, with reasons ranging from “bit another student” when he was four to “calling the teacher a ‘f***ing idiot’” when he was sixteen, with loads of merits for deducing personal details about his teachers and fellow students in between. Their mother never gave Sherlock more than a partially stern talking-to, and when she passed away, Mycroft did the same. Their mother was good; she never wanted her boys to feel bad for their genius, even though their teachers probably wanted nothing more than to see the Holmes boys come into school the next morning struggling to sit down because of the trouble their mouths had gotten themselves into. But Mrs. Holmes never once hit either of them, and so Mycroft never hit Sherlock, because his mother taught him better than that.

John had never heard so much about their family, about Mr. and Mrs. Holmes. He asked all his questions, even the ones that he didn’t know he had – what they looked like, how they felt about their children’s genius, what they were like to strangers, if the two boys had ever discussed them after their deaths…

“What would they think about us?” John asked. “About me? About me and Sherlock?”

Mycroft smiled warmly. “They would have loved you, John. And they would have been proud to call you their third son.”

John looked down at his hands in his lap. “I wish I could have met them.”

“I wish you could have, too. But then again, if our parents were still alive, Sherlock would not have needed a place to stay, and he would never have been in that bakery in hopes of getting free food which, from what I’ve been told, is where you plucked up the courage to reach out to him, am I correct?”

“Yeah,” John confirmed, nodding.

“That act of kindness has saved my brother’s life in so many ways that it’s difficult to keep track,” Mycroft mumbled, more to himself than to John. “I can never repay you enough for making the decision to speak to him that day.”

“You never had to,” John said quietly, and though John’s parents had told this to Mycroft a hundred times at least, this was the first time John voiced the thought for himself. “Knowing Sherlock – knowing you – that was always enough for me.”

It was soon that they decided that, since they weren’t going to sleep, they might as well go back to the party in the City Circle. They had expected to be relatively alone in the Circle, but apparently everyone had listened to Sherlock informing Harry that tomorrow would hold the finale, and the Circle was nearly packed with people in anticipation, not wanting to miss a single moment.

Dean and Louise were also in the Circle, having found a semi-private bench on the sidelines. Dean was getting up from the bench as John and Mycroft approached, and he nodded to them as they went by without a word to them.

John and Mycroft sat with Louise.

“How is he?” Mycroft asked.

“Not good,” she replied. “I think he’s set his heart on drinking himself to death.”

“We can’t have that,” Mycroft said.

“We can’t, and he knows it,” she agreed. “I know it, too, which is why I’m looking after him.”

“What about Alexander?” John asked. “And Clover; where is she?”

“Clover’s with Raz, and Alexander is with Nana,” she replied, glancing at Mycroft, but, although he heard her, he was focused on something else.

“Dean,” he called, and John looked up to see that he was coming back, drink in hand. “Oh, thank you for thinking of me; I was just about to get myself a drink,” Mycroft said, reaching out and taking the cup from Dean.

“Aw, come on – you don’t even like –” Dean started as Mycroft took a sip, making a face. “You know, it’s an open bar; I could always get another one –”

“Yes, but I can tell you right now that you won’t,” Mycroft said, dumping it out in a nearby trash can and turning back to Dean, placing his free hand on Dean’s shoulder. “I am truly sorry about Steven, and I promise that you will get time to mourn, but I’m asking you. Not now. Not like this,” he said with finality, holding up the empty cup between them.

Dean sighed.

“I thought I was supposed to be your mentor,” he muttered.

“I graduated,” Mycroft replied.

John leaned over to Louise. “Are they always like this?” he asked.

“What? Dramatic? Talking in code like they’re keeping fifteen thousand secrets from the world?”

“Yeah – he’s never like this; not in District Twelve,” John went on, nodding at Mycroft.

“They’re like this all the time when they’re together; it’s absolutely maddening.”

“How do you live with it?” John asked.

“The same way you live with Sherlock, I imagine,” she replied, a smirk playing at her face, and John nodded, looking back up at the screen, focused on Sherlock and Harry whisper to each other in the dark.

“Good point.”

When Sherlock Holmes awoke the next morning, he was instantly aware of the fact that he could not feel Harry Watson beside him. He snapped himself awake – fully awake – and stood up, searching the base of the tree for her.

“Harry –” he muttered, spinning around, his eyes dancing around the area, trying to find her – trying to find the red hair that would give her location away – “Harry –”

He couldn’t lose her now – it was too close to the end – why the fuck did he fall asleep

“Harry?” he called, almost not caring about who might be around to hear him.

“Sherlock?” she called back, somewhere he couldn’t see. He quickly gathered his stuff and ran to the sound of her voice, finding her in a clearing just out of his line of vision.

“There you are,” he said, finally reaching her. “I thought you were in trouble – I thought something happened – something wrong – I thought he had you –”

“Sorry – couldn’t exactly leave a note. I was just here,” she said, gesturing the clearing. “You nodded off – I figured it had something to do with the tracker jackers since you never sleep at home, so I let you get some rest.”

Sherlock looked around the clearing, finding nothing but the jungle brush around them.

“So, what are you doing?” he asked. “What’s here?”

“Oh – the jabberjays seem to have fucked off with their shitty impression of our brothers, so now I’m just...I’m just playing with the mockingjays,” Harry replied. “I’ve made you a theme song – listen –”

Harry then opened her mouth, and sang a few notes to the open air. In moments, Sherlock heard the call of birds, repeating her notes, listening to the rise and fall of her voice and singing it out back to her.

“A theme song – just what I’ve always wanted,” Sherlock chuckled, a small smile tugging at his lips – it was actually really nice. “I didn’t know you could sing,” he noted, a few moments after Harry’s song ended, when just a few of the mockingjays were echoing the notes through the trees.

“There are some things you can’t deduce,” Harry replied with a shrug.

“Or don’t think to deduce – I’m sure I would’ve figured it out if I knew what I was looking for.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure; whatever you say, you shithead,” Harry chuckled, punching him lightly on his unwounded shoulder. With a sigh, she looked back up at the birds – at the mockingjays that Sherlock could now see in the trees – the last birds finishing the last notes. “It’s funny how something so monstrous can become so beautiful.”

The jabberjays mated with the mockingbirds – the unnatural genes that the Capitol created to make the jabberjays mixing with the natural genes the mockingbirds were born with – creating the birds who copied melodies instead of words.

“Yeah,” Sherlock agreed, and, for a moment, they stood there together, listening as the final note died, leaving them with nothing. “We should get going.”

“Where?” Harry asked.

“I don’t know,” Sherlock admitted. “I just want to kill some time.”

“Alright, then,” Harry agreed.

And so they began walking through the mockingjays, talking as the birds sang around them.

“So, did you figure it out?” Sherlock asked.

“Figure what out?”

“The Arena. Did you figure it out?”

“Of course I did,” Harry replied. “We’ve seen it all before. It’s like with our weapons – they’re just giving us whatever they gave our siblings. We’ve seen the maze and the blood rain and the tracker jackers and the jabberjays... There’s probably a section out here for you – for Mycroft – and one for me and John. Though...we’ve been on the shore...I didn’t see any snow...”

“The Gamemakers probably just gave that part of the Arena Mycroft’s freezing temperatures, so the tributes wouldn’t just look at it and go in the opposite direction to avoid the whole thing.”

“Same with the fog,” Harry agreed. “They might’ve made the gas look more like regular air than fog so we wouldn’t see it from a distance and decide ‘fuck that shit I’m out’.”

“So, we could be walking into it right now,” Sherlock noted.

“Fantastic,” Harry sighed, sarcastic. “When do you think it’ll happen?” she asked, after a moment.


“When do you think Magnussen will...” she waved her hand around, searching for the word. “...kill again?”

“It’s today, I know it; I can’t pinpoint the moment when – that would be –”

“A little too good of a deduction?” Harry asked, smirking.

“A premonition is more like it.”

“And what, you’re not psychic?” she asked, leaning up against him.

“The world is woven from billions of lives, Harry; every strand crosses every other,” Sherlock explained. “What we call premonition and psychic ability is just movement of the web. If you could attenuate to every strand of quivering data, the future would be entirely calculable – as inevitable as mathematics.”

“So you can map out a maze you’ve never seen before in your life but you can’t predict the future? Damnit.” Harry snapped her fingers, like her plans had just been foiled, and Sherlock huffed out a breath of laughter, rolling his eyes.

“I can just anticipate the responses of people I know well to scenarios I devise. And I know you, and I know me. I don’t know Magnussen or those other Careers well enough to figure out anything. I can see a thousand ways this will start, but only two ways this could end.”

Harry sighed from her place beside him, not needing to ask how exactly it could end.

“This sucks.”

“Yes,” Sherlock agreed. “Yes, it does.”

Chapter Text

The cameras focused in on Aurora Blake as she returned to James Sholto and Charles Augustus Magnussen in sector fourteen.

“Aurora; welcome back,” Magnussen said, and she nodded back at him. “I saw you got rid of her,” he said, pointing at the sky.

“Yep,” Aurora said. “Final five.”

“Indeed,” Magnussen said, nodding. “Final four, in a few minutes.”

“What do you mean?” James asked, tightening his grip on his hunting knife.

“Well, I was just thinking to myself: who would win in a fight, between the two of you?”

John stiffened, looking up at the screen. This was it, the Careers were turning on each other, and Charles Augustus Magnussen was leading the way, pulling all the strings.

“My money’s on James, personally,” he went on, and Aurora turned to look at him.

“What makes you think that?” she asked.

“Well, no offense meant,’re a woman. Women don’t normally win these kinds of things; I’m sure you understand. Although, this could be an equal fight, seeing as the Sholto family has a history of losing these sort of things.”

James raised his eyebrows. “Excuse me?”

“Well, if memory serves me correctly, your brother, Cal, lost a game of chicken with Roger Stem; isn’t that true?” James glared at Magnussen, and Magnussen grinned. “I thought so.”

“He’s playing them,” Mycroft muttered to John. “They’re both from District Two; he knows that at least one of them won’t back down from a fight.”

“Neither of them are gonna come out of this, are they?” John whispered.

“No,” Mycroft replied, shaking his head. “Absolutely not.”

“And what if we say no?” Aurora asked, crossing her arms, watching Magnussen as James silently fumed between them. “What then?”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll find that’s not an option, Aurora...especially considering what I know about you...about both of you...”

“What, are you going to do what you did to that Holmes kid back at the Capitol? Spill our secrets?” she asked, scoffing. “Here’s a news flash: I don’t give a shit who knows what about me.”

“Yes, but does James here feel the same way?” Magnussen asked. “He’s got a wife, after all...and a family...” He turned to James, who was currently glaring between him and Aurora, trying to figure out what to do. “What do you think, James? Should I tell them?”

“Don’t,” he said. A single word – not a plea, but a command.

“Then kill Aurora Blake,” Magnussen ordered. “Kill her, or everyone will know of your little...malfunction –”

And, with that word alone, James Sholto sprinted toward Aurora Blake, his hunting knife out, ready to bowl her over –

But Aurora Blake was too quick for him, putting her spear between them, and he couldn’t stop himself in time – he ran directly into her spear. He swiped his knife at her, and she ripped the spear out of him, blocking it with ease, and using it to swipe his feet out from under him.

She pointed the tip of her spear at his throat.

“Last chance,” she said, and he shook his head.

“My chances are all gone, Aurora. Kill me.”

And so she did, the cannon blasting to solidify her act.

John stared at the screen in despair. Within two minutes, Magnussen was able to dismantle an alliance and convince two tributes who had known each other for years to kill each other for no reason, just because he wanted to. Because he had that effect on people – he was able to make them do whatever he wanted them to do, or let him do whatever he wanted to them. He did this to John, the girls in his District, his fellow Careers now – everyone was under his thumb, and he liked it that way.

He thought back to Helen Hewlett, the girl who was Magnussen’s favorite. He had watched the girl grow up, been neighbors with her, and then took her trust and showed her how to never trust anyone again. He did this with so many people – made them feel weak and powerless. They were all his puppets, John included.

“And when I come back...When I win these Games... There will be a lot more of this. I’ll make sure I get exclusive rights to you. I can so easily make it look like you went into hiding after the deaths of your sister and boyfriend, you know, and only we’ll know the truth. I must say, I just love your little soldier face; trying to stay strong. To tell you the truth, though, I’d like to punch it. And I will, of course – loads of times.”

John felt the pain in his chest, right where Magnussen had burned him, branded him –

And then Helen’s words came back to him.

“He’s got about a dozen fatherless children running around back home, but he likes me the most because I...get rid of my...his – know.”

“I think you’re the first boy he’s gone after, though.”

John froze, a chill running up his spine, as the truth sent a bullet into his heart and tore his stomach open and apart: John was going to be his new favorite.

“There had been an accident in a quarry in District Two – years before either of us were born,” Mycroft explained to Dean, snapping John out of his thoughts of horror. “A machine malfunctioned and killed about a dozen twelve-year-olds on their first day of work. James was in charge of that machine. Unfortunately, this event occurred shortly after Cal Sholto’s death, so James blamed the machine, saying it malfunctioned, when really he was the one who wasn’t paying attention. That was James Sholto’s secret, and that’s why he threw the fight.”

“Jesus Christ,” John breathed, unable to say anything else.

“Nice job, Aurora.” Charles Augustus Magnussen said, and strode proudly over the corpse, undid his fly, took himself out, and took a piss on James’ body.

John and Aurora both looked away in disgust.

“Is that really necessary?” she asked.

“But of course,” he said, zipping his fly again. “You don’t know what he did, but I do. Trust me, he deserved that.”

A cannon burst in the distance, and Sherlock and Harry looked to the skies, to find James Sholto’s face looking down at them.

Harry breathed in, and took a shaky breath out.

“Magnussen?” she whispered, as if he could overhear them.

“Definitely,” Sherlock whispered back. “We’ve got to figure out what to do about him.” He looked at her. “Do you remember what he said to me the night of the interviews?” he asked.


“He may have gotten the leg up on me that night, but he showed his hand, too: he knows everything there is to know about everyone, even our darkest secrets. He attacks people who are different and preys on their fears.”

“Entitled skeevy prick,” Harry muttered.


“As soon as he finds us he’s going to have a field day.”

That sent Sherlock’s mind into motion – maybe if he did find them, or even one of them, he’d be so self-confident, so self-congratulatory, that he’d slip up, make a slight mistake, keep his back turned for just a moment too long...

“What are you thinking?” Harry asked.

“I’m making a plan,” Sherlock replied, and Harry’s lips curled upward.

“I thought you were.”

“Now, Aurora...” Magnussen said, turning around to face the girl. “What should we do with you?” He took a step toward Aurora, and she took a step back, aiming her spear at him. “We’re at the final four. Just us, and the tributes from District Twelve...and they surely won’t kill each other. That just leaves you and me. So, I suggest you make this quicker for all of us and just kill yourself, don’t you agree?” he asked, still stepping forward, still causing Aurora to step away – trying to keep him from closing the distance between them.

“How about I just kill you instead?” Aurora asked, keeping her spear up between them.

“Hm, I guess I couldn’t stop you, seeing as you won’t care if I spill your secret or not...” Magnussen said with a shrug, but then he took a curved knife out of his pocket – the one that had been provided for him by the Capitol – the same one his brother had used to kill Will Graham twenty-five years ago. “Or, maybe I could stop you.”

And, at that moment, Aurora tripped over a root on the jungle floor, and fell backwards.

Magnussen chuckled, and leaned over the girl, grabbing her shoulder, and stabbed her deep in the abdomen – so deep that just the hilt was sticking out of her. She dropped her spear, her hands flying to remove the blade from within her body, and Magnussen spun her around, turning her over so she was lying on her stomach, her now-open wound pressed against the ground.

He picked up the spear and stepped on her back, and Aurora Blake screamed as Magnussen plunged her own blood-soaked spear into her body, pushing it through the space between her ribs and through the other side, into the dirt and moss beneath her, pinning her to the ground.

Once he was sure there was no way for her to escape, no matter how much she struggled, Magnussen ripped the curved knife from Aurora’s trembling hands, and bent down over her ear.

“This is what you get for refusing to play by my rules, Aurora,” he breathed.

He then cut a hole in her pants, and ripped the fabric apart. John started shaking as Magnussen took himself out again, and finally the cameras cut away, before it showed him doing the worst possible thing.

“M-Mycroft –”

Before John knew exactly what he was doing, John grabbed onto Mycroft’s sleeve. Mycroft looked down at John, and saw the fear in his eyes. He leaned down, and, once his ear was in line with John’s mouth, John breathed what he needed to say:

“I need to talk to you.”

And immediately, Mycroft made some excuse to Dean and the others, and walked with John to the training center, into the elevator, and into the penthouse. As soon as they entered, Mycroft left John in the dining room and checked all the rooms, making sure that they were, indeed, alone. He then turned the television on, playing the Hunger Games on a low volume, to keep an eye on their siblings, and then he turned to John.

“Are you alright, John?” Mycroft finally asked.

“No. No I’m not. I have to –” Tears burned at John’s eyes, and he covered his face and leaned on the dining room table for a moment, trying to collect himself. Once he thought he had a good enough handle on himself, he dropped his hands. “Do you really want to know what happened that day? The day Sherlock and...Magnussen broke out of training?”

“I only want to know what you’re willing to tell me, John,” Mycroft replied.

John pushed himself from the table and began pacing – limping more like it – back and forth.

“John –”

“He cornered me in the stairwell,” John blurted out. “He somehow convinced the Avoxes not to come near us – there were no witnesses. He blew smoke in my face and mocked me and Sherlock and I thought that was going to be the worst of it, but then...” he paused mid-step, staring at a spot on the floor. “He called me...he called me Johnny Boy. Like when I know. And he told me that if I touched him he would call sabotage and have me killed, because a mentor hurting a tribute from an opposing district would get the mentor killed, right?” he looked up at Mycroft.

“You know I wouldn’t let that happen.”

“But it would, and that’s why he did all this – because I couldn’t do anything. And he knew I couldn’t. He said he owned everything – owned me – because he couldn’t be touched. And then...” He covered his eyes with his hand, and wrapped his other arm around his chest, as if holding himself together. “He felt me up through my pants,” he admitted, his voice wet with tears. “And he kissed me.”

The words felt so wrong in his mouth, so wrong in the air between them. It wasn’t a kiss – it wasn’t anything like what Sherlock did with him, pressing his lips to his so sweetly and cautiously and only inviting himself inside of John’s mouth if and only if John gave the okay; that was a kiss. But what Charles Augustus Magnussen did, shoving his mouth onto his, pushing his tongue inside of his mouth and making sure to cover every inch of it with his saliva – that was an invasion.

“You didn’t tell me that,” Mycroft murmured, and John removed his hand from his face, looking away.

“I couldn’t...bring myself to say it.”

“It would make it too real.”

“Yeah.” John closed his eyes again. “Then he...he branded me.”

“Branded you?” Mycroft repeated. “You mean the burn you showed me?”

“It’s a branding. He does it...with everyone he...” he drifted off, letting his tears fall. “You remember Helen Hewlett, from District One? He’s done this stuff to her since before she can remember – before she can remember, Mycroft. And he’s done the same to countless others – he has children that have no idea who their father is because he promised these girls that if anyone found out he’d do so much worse to them.”

“How do you know this?” Mycroft asked.

“Because Helen told me – the night of the interviews, she told me. She took me aside and told me what he did to her, because she knew what he did to me. He... She said he liked her the most because she could...” He snapped his eyes shut, trying to keep from crying more than what was absolutely necessary. “She had the strength to abort any pregnancies that he forced on her. She...she said he’s never gone after a boy before. He…he wants me because we can’t reproduce – and if he wins the Games he’ll be too famous to do what he’s been doing in secret – everyone would find out, especially if there’s babies involved. Mycroft – he’s replacing her – he’s replacing all of those girls – with me. And he’s already promised to beat me and do what he did to those girls to me once he wins the Games.”

“Beat you?” Mycroft repeated.

“He said he wanted to punch my face, and he promised me that he would.” He looked up at Mycroft, just for a moment, and then he looked away, watching the screen. “I can’t stop thinking about it – every time I see him on that screen I can – I can feel him under my skin like he – he already owns me –” he choked out, unable to stop himself from crying.

“John,” Mycroft looked back at him, putting his hands on John’s shoulders. John reached up and gripped Mycroft’s wrists, trembling, crying, looking him in the eyes. “He does not. Own you. He never will, John. If he wins – the second he gets here – he’s going to die. I swear on my life, he will not touch you again.”

John nodded quickly, letting go of Mycroft and shaking himself out from under Mycroft’s hands. He took a moment to look around the room, trying to recover, and his eyes landed on the television screen, where Aurora Blake’s death was being announced.

“How often does this happen?” he asked, gesturing to the screen. “How often does someone get raped in the Arena?”

Mycroft thought about it for a moment, and then spoke slowly and quietly, as if choosing his words as carefully as possible.

“Very rarely. Normally one doesn’t have to worry about that until after they win the Hunger Games.”

“After they win?” John repeated.

“Yes, normally,” Mycroft said quietly. “After one wins the Games, depending on who they are and how physically attractive the Capitol finds them, they…sort of become a sexual icon. And most of the time, it’s sort of…forced.”

“Are you serious?” John asked, hysteric. “Why haven’t I been –” He stopped as realization dawned on him. “Sherlock,” he whispered, understanding.

“That’s correct. Your love story with Sherlock protects you. The Capitol likes you with him, and so they don’t want to hurt that by getting others involved.”

“How kind of them,” John muttered, and then looked up at Mycroft. “…What about you?” he asked quietly, not really wanting to know the answer, but needing to know it all the same.

“No, I haven’t been put through that. I was going to be, of course, but I was able to buy myself some time since Sherlock lacked a guardian. I made a deal with President Snow: I could stay in District Twelve with Sherlock until he was old enough to be reaped. The moment he turned twelve, they could do whatever they wanted with me. Naturally, he agreed. What he did not expect, of course, was that I would lose potential...let’s call them ‘clients’. I did everything I could think of to both prepare myself for what was to come and to keep it from happening. Within those three years, I lost some amount of attractiveness, and gained...a bit of a gut, for lack of a better term. It had to be enough to make myself unattractive to the Capitol, but I had to stay thin enough so everyone wouldn’t think I gained a food addiction after the Games. Surprisingly enough, you’re kind of disrespected among the Gamemakers and the Capitol if you’re too physically affected by the Games.”

“Calculated pudge,” John murmured to himself. “That’s smart – really smart.”

“I was lucky that’s all I had to do.”

“And that’s just it?” John asked. “You – you gained a few pounds and no one wanted to – to sleep with –”

“Well, there were still some people who wanted...relations with me. But to everyone’s shock and dismay, shortly after I was assigned to them, they’d go back to President Snow denying they had ever requested me.”

“What did you do?” John asked, almost smiling.

“Everyone has secrets, John, and I can find out what they are with a single glance; I’m sure you can connect the dots for yourself.”

John gave his best attempt at even a half-smile, but Mycroft could see straight through it.

“You’re still distressed,” he noted.

“Sherlock’s not coming back,” John whispered, saying it out loud for the first time.

They stood in silence for a moment, unable to resist the words from sinking in.

“Sherlock will find his way back to you,” Mycroft spoke in a voice just above a whisper. “He’ll find his way to the both of us. You just have to believe in him, John. Right to the final second. Will you believe in Sherlock, John?” Mycroft asked, and John nodded, refusing to look away from Mycroft’s eyes.


And then they heard the trumpets.

Chapter Text

“Oh, fuck no. Spiders? Seriously?” Harry asked, lagging behind Sherlock as he crossed into the next section of the Arena – an area that was completely overrun by spiders of all shapes and sizes, all of them having taken it upon themselves to cover most of the area with their webs. “Can we go back around? Back to the shore, maybe? Please?”

“If we do that, it’s easier for us to be seen by anyone who happens to be on shore,” Sherlock replied. “And, seeing that Aurora Blake has died, Magnussen might be making his way there to try and find us – he’ll be able to see practically all of the shore from there, so if we go to shore and he’s there he’ll see us, and he’ll go our way immediately. Right now he has no idea where we are –”

“But we don’t know where he is, either –” Harry tried to argue, but Sherlock cut her off.

“Yes, but that means we have a chance of finding him before he finds us. We need to stay hidden from plain sight.”

“And that involves hanging out with spiders?” Harry asked.

“In this case, yes it does.”

Harry sighed, blowing air through her teeth.

“Why the hell do spiders exist, Sherlock?” she asked.

“Because somebody has to swallow the fly,” Sherlock replied, and Harry flipped him off. “Just come on, Harry; I’ll –”

He was suddenly cut off by every spider as far as Sherlock and Harry could see falling onto the ground, unmoving, with their legs curled beneath them.

“Sh-Sherlock?” Harry asked, slowly. “What just happened?”

“I think...I think everything just died,” Sherlock said. “Everything...except for what they need.”

“What do you mean –”

Suddenly, the sound of trumpets rang out around them, cutting her off, and Sherlock put his finger up, signaling for her to wait, as Claudius Templesmith’s voice boomed across the Arena, as loud as the cannon blasts that had come before him.

“Congratulations, final three tributes!” he exclaimed. “To honor your making it this far, the Gamemakers have prepared a celebratory banquet special for the three remaining tributes! We invite you to come to the shore and look for the table of food at the Cornucopia, and come feast with your fellow tributes!”

Sherlock and Harry looked at each other. They had seen this tactic played out many times before – the Capitol coaxing the tributes out of their hiding places with the promise of food. Sometimes there would be food at these feasts, and sometimes there wouldn’t be, but there was always death. They knew this was a trap.

 “And, I have a special announcement!” Claudius went on. “As you may or may not have noticed by now, this year’s Arena has been split up into twenty-four sections – each section, or sector, reflecting an element of the Arena your fellow tributes’ siblings played in during their Hunger Games. But, so many tributes have died that a lot of the sectors aren’t needed anymore. For this reason, we’re changing the Arena – there are now only three sectors, each one reflecting each current tributes’ sibling! The sectors will combine as the three of you find each other, and, if a tribute is killed, their sibling’s element will be eliminated from the Arena. Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor!”

As Claudius spoke, Sherlock noticed he could see his breath as it passed through his nose and mouth, and snowflakes began to fall around him, sticking to the jungle floor. Beginning to shiver, he watched as Harry’s side of the Arena was filling with fog – John’s fog. He looked at the ground between them – the snow forming a perfect line to separate them – a line that the fog could not pass over.

The air went silent around them, and the two tributes looked at each other.

“Sherlock?” Harry asked, beginning to step forward, beginning to step over the line between them –

“No, stay exactly where you are! Don’t move,” Sherlock ordered, frantic.

“Alright,” Harry said, and took a step back, putting her back where she was before. “What’s going on? What did he mean?”

“Okay – you know how we said the Arena was split up?” he asked. “One section for each of the tributes’ siblings’?”


“He just confirmed that. There were twenty-four sectors – one for each tribute, just like we said. But now, they don’t need twenty-four sectors. They only need three – one for you, one for me, and one for Magnussen. So –” he went on, crouching down and drawing a circle in the ever-piling snow on the ground with his finger. “We’ve just been told that the Gamemakers split the Arena up into three,” he announced, dividing the circle into thirds. “You and I are here,” he said, poking his fingers on either side of one of the dividing lines. “Which means that Magnussen is somewhere over in this sector.” He pointed at the empty section of the circle. “Now that the information about said sectors is known to us, our elements can come out full-force; the fear gas is no longer clear, and, as you can see, it’s started snowing on my end – and Magnussen has a Ravenstag or two but I’ve dealt with them and they’re basically harmless as long as you don’t bother them. But, Claudius also said that the sectors will combine as we do, so if you cross that line that the snow’s creating right now, our sectors –” Sherlock swept his hand across two thirds of the circle, leaving only one third untouched. “– will become one.”

“So?” Harry asked.

“So, we can use this to our advantage,” Sherlock replied. “If we can keep our sectors divided, he might think we’re separated. If I go to the feast and find Magnussen right now, only our two sectors will combine. If I go into his sector, he might think I went in there unwittingly, and try to find me – Harry – I could end this –”

“You’re gonna be bait, you mean?” she asked, and Sherlock stopped, looking up at her, and nodded.

“Yes,” he admitted.

“And why can’t I be the bait?”

“Because if something goes wrong, he’ll win the Hunger Games,” Sherlock replied. “Not to mention the fact that if you keep ingesting the fear gas, you won’t be of a clear mind – not clear enough to fight him. It’s got to be me. But you’ve got to stay here – don’t move from this spot unless you hear a cannon and find me dead in the sky. Do you understand me?”

Harry nodded quickly.

“But what if he comes after me, not you?”

“He won’t – at least, he won’t if he wants to win. If he goes after you first there’s a chance that I’ll swoop in and save you – if he kills me first it’ll make you an easy target – not because I don’t think you’re able to kick his ass but considering that you’re inhaling the fear gas and fighting him while you’re reacting to my death you’d be off your game. Now, if you see anything, don’t attack it – it could very easily be me or a Ravenstag and you won’t even know. If it’s not real, it can’t touch you, just remember that. But if something happens – if something goes wrong – if he finds you before I can find him, just scream – call my name, and I’ll come back.”


“Do you trust me?” he asked.

Harry bit the inside of her cheek, like she always did when she was deep in thought – and watched Sherlock carefully.

“Harry Watson, do you trust me?” he asked again, and Harry took a shaky, slow breath in, and out.

“Yes,” she whispered. “Yes – of course I do.”

“Okay,” Sherlock felt the need to cross the line – to kiss her forehead, to hug her – to give some form of physical affection in the place of a verbal goodbye, but he knew that if he even put his hand over the line that the plan would instantly be ruined. “If – if this is the last time you see me – I just want to say –”

“I know, I know,” Harry said, shaking her head. “You love me and stuff; it’s hard not to,” she said, winking at Sherlock despite the tears in her eyes, and he smirked back at her. “Don’t worry; you don’t need to say it. You’re wasting time – just go, Sherlock,” Harry ordered. “I’ll see you when I see you.”

“Okay...” Sherlock nodded, taking a few steps away from her. “Okay,” he said, and he turned away from Harry Watson, away from his sister, and ran.

The City Circle was packed by the time John and Mycroft returned – there were so many people it was difficult to move through the crowd, but all of Mycroft’s friends were waiting for them near the entrance of the training center.

Louise saw them first, giving them both hugs upon their arrival.

“This is it,” she said quietly to Mycroft as she hugged him.

“Indeed,” he replied. “The Grand Finale.”

“Good luck, both of you,” she said, looking back and forth between the two of them, as if they had anything to do with it.

They both mumbled words of thanks, though they both knew that at least one of their siblings’ luck had finally run out.

“How are you doing?” Dean asked Mycroft, as they shook hands and hugged.

“I would advise you to ask me again at a later time; maybe when the Games are over, for this year, perhaps?” he replied, and Dean chuckled.

“Don’t get discouraged, Mycroft – your brother is still in the Arena, and we all believe in him.” He looked over at John. “He’ll get your sister out; I’m sure of it.”

Before John could respond, Alexander Waters and Nana found them through the crowd – John hadn’t seen Nana since her sister died, and he knew why the moment he laid eyes on her: it looked like the life had been drained from her face.

“I thought you were going to catch yesterday’s train home, Nana,” Mycroft said, glancing back and forth between her and Alexander.

“What, aren’t you glad I’m here, Myc?” she asked.

“Of course I am, Nana,” he said, smiling pleasantly down at her.

“I just wanted to be here with all of you,” she said, gesturing to the gigantic screen above them.

“I made her promise to let me take her to the next train out as soon as the winner was announced,” Alexander assured him, and Mycroft nodded.

And then Clover Frankland joined the group, waving at Mycroft to get his attention and signing something quickly – something John hadn’t been taught, yet. Instead of translating for John, Mycroft signed a simple “thank you” and left it at that, much to John’s confusion, but he didn’t mention it.

Instead, he looked to the screen above them, and tried to mentally prepare himself for the finale.

Sherlock went from Harry to the shore, hoping that Magnussen would be there. His eyes scanned around, and he quickly found the third of the Arena that contained Magnussen – the only area that was not either obscured with fog or quickly becoming covered with snow. He looked to the Cornucopia – the island in the exact center of the Arena – and could see a long table filled with the Capitol’s finest food, just waiting for the final three tributes.

Magnussen could think that Sherlock and Harry would be dumb enough to willingly go to the feast and go there to meet them, but if Magnussen knew everything about Sherlock from his sexual orientation to his addiction to Morphling, he probably knew of their food situation at home. If this was a regular Hunger Games, and a feast like this was being offered to two kids from the Seam in District 12 instead of two siblings of previous victors, they would go after it immediately, not thinking nor caring about the consequences because there was food and they were going to die there, anyway, but Sherlock and Harry weren’t those kids. Harry was never from the Seam but knew what it was like to be hungry, and while Sherlock was originally from the Seam, he hadn’t felt actual starvation in years. As soon as Mycroft won the Games, he had been provided with more than enough food to share with not only his brother but the Watson family.

No, Magnussen knew that Sherlock and Harry would not be tempted by something as trivial as food – not when they were fairly well-fed at home.

So, Magnussen wouldn’t be going to the Cornucopia, which Sherlock was only slightly relieved to know, since the only way for Sherlock to get to the Cornucopia involved swimming through freezing cold saltwater.

This meant that Sherlock would have to walk the shore of the Arena, right into Magnussen’s sector.

The instant he thought it, he felt a knot in his stomach form, and Sherlock grit his teeth.

He was Sherlock Holmes, for fuck’s sake. This is what he had to do. He was a target, and targets walk face-first into danger and wait to be attacked – he had to do it. Everyone believed in him. Everyone believed he would he would get Harry out of the Arena alive.

He held his hand over John’s dog tags for a moment, took a deep, shaky breath, and began his walk to his demise.

John’s heart hammered in his chest, ready to burst, as he watched his sister standing in her sector, breathing in the gas he had breathed himself almost exactly one year ago.

His earliest memory of Harry – one of John’s earliest memories in general – was when she was about a year old, when he was four. He had been her biggest supporter in her quest to begin walking – holding her hands as she slowly toddled around the house, catching her when she fell, and encouraging her when she got frustrated. “It’s okay, Harry! You’ll be walking just as good as me, I promise! Don’t be mad!” And now here she was, fifteen years later, being able to walk even better than him, watching the area around her, fighting the urge to run.

John was born in March, and Harry in May, and their birthdays were always celebrated by the Watsons and the Holmes. In their younger years, before meeting the Holmes’, their mother would use as much money as she could get away with to buy them each a loaf of bread that would serve as their birthday cake. Once Mycroft retuned from his Games, however, he made sure each Watson child had a fairly small birthday cake, and their mother would place one candle in the center for the birthday child to blow out. Harry and John were both children of routine – every year, they asked for the same thing: vanilla cake for John, and chocolate for Harry (John always had the suspicion that Mycroft enjoyed Harry’s cakes more than John’s). He suddenly remembered all those years, all her birthdays, watching her blow out that single candle each and every year. When she was a child, she wore dresses to celebrate the occasion and her hair in pigtails and braids, but as she got older she traded the dresses for t-shirts and jeans, and wore her hair down as if it was any other day. She smiled every year, surrounded by her family and friends from school, except for this past year – her sixteenth birthday. She had begged their mother not to even get a cake, but she had anyway, but she at least knew not to make a big deal about the celebration. For Harry’s last birthday, as she was surrounded by only her family, she only smiled half-heartedly for her mother as she blew out her candle. What had been the wish she had made? If she lived through these Games, would her wish have come true?

Their family had never missed a graduation – the celebration (congratulating and acknowledging the graduating kindergarten class, then the fourth grade class, then the eighth grade class, and then, finally, the twelfth grade class) was held on the Justice Building stage, the only place where the audience containing most of District 12 could fit comfortably. The families of the graduating classes would bring blankets to sit on, and cheer for each graduate as they crossed the stage. If this went badly, Harriet Watson would have only walked across that stage three times, once when she was six for graduating kindergarten, once when she was ten for graduating fourth grade, and once when she was fourteen for graduating eighth grade. If Magnussen killed her, she would never cross that stage to celebrate her graduating from twelfth grade – she would never turn seventeen, much less eighteen.

John’s hand found Mycroft’s, and squeezed it tightly.

Sherlock Holmes would never reach nineteen.

But Magnussen – Charles Augustus Magnussen, might live to see forty-one.

How the hell was that fair?

But that was just it: it wasn’t.

“No,” Harry said from her place on the screen, in the middle of the fear fog, and John looked up, and felt like he himself had inhaled the fog’s gas, as well, as he saw who was silently walking toward her. “No – you’re not real –” she said, out loud, trying to convince herself that that the person approaching her didn’t exist.

Charles Augustus Magnussen didn’t say a word, and just kept walking toward her.

“No you’re not real you’re not real –” she snapped her eyes shut. “Fuck off – fuck off – you’re not real – you’re not here –” she whispered, and opened her eyes again to find Magnussen just inches from her.

“I’m sorry to inform you, Harriet, but I am, indeed....very, very...real,” he said as he reached out and –


Sherlock’s head snapped up at the sound of Harry’s voice in the distance, and, looking around, he realized what he hadn’t been paying attention enough to see: the fog had leaked into Magnussen’s sector.

He was with Harry.

“Harry, shit –” he breathed – how could he have been so stupid? How could he have left her alone?!

But he didn’t have time to dwell on it – he had to get to her before Magnussen –

Before Magnussen –

Instead of thinking about it, he started sprinting.

Chapter Text

Sherlock Holmes sprinted through the jungle, sword in hand, cutting and pushing leaves and vines aside, racing his way to Harry, knowing that every second he wasn’t there was a second wasted – a second he could be killing her –

A second he could be putting her blood on his hands –

If she died, it was his fault – it was all his fault –

If she died – if she was killed – Magnussen would win the Hunger Games and then –

“Sherlock!” Harry called, and Sherlock never felt so relieved to hear her voice. He could see her now, too – he could finally make out her form in the fog as he crossed the border between them –

She was standing, still standing, after everything, but there was a figure just behind her, gripping onto her by her hair, and placing his curved knife at her throat –

Charles Augustus Magnussen.

“There you are,” he said causally, as if he wasn’t holding Harry by her hair and had a knife at her throat. “William Holmes.”

Sherlock grit his teeth together at the sound of the name, just as John had that day in the stairwell, like John did just now, watching the three of them on the screen.

This was it. The moment of truth – the moment where he would know for sure exactly who would live, and who wouldn’t make it out of the Arena alive.

The grand finale.

“It’s about time you showed up – I thought the three of us were going to have to play a game of hide-and-go-seek...well, two and a half, really,” Magnussen said, glancing down at Harry.

“Let go of me you fucker,” Harry growled, struggling in his arms.

“Just – just let her go,” Sherlock said, quietly. “I’m here, now. Please, just let her go.”

“As you wish,” he said, as if it was that simple, and threw Harry to the ground between them.

Harry scrambled to her feet and, as soon as she was standing, Sherlock stepped to the side, blocking her from Magnussen’s view. Harry – being Harry, of course – was having none of that, and stepped up next to Sherlock, out of his protection.

“You’re sick,” Harry spat, and Magnussen smiled.

“You don’t even know the half of it,” he said, and winked at John’s little sister. “But I know all about you, Harriet. Would you like to hear what I know?”

“Fuck you –”

He was going to pick Harry apart – just as he had picked apart Sherlock during the interviews – his eyes were going to glaze over – looking completely focused on something else – as if reading a file placed in front of his eyes – popping up on the other side of the lens of his glasses –

That was it.

His glasses.

“No,” Sherlock insisted, inching forward.

“No?” Magnussen asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You – you gave yourself away,” Sherlock stammered, glancing between him and Harry.

“You’ve figured it out, then?” Charles Augustus asked.

“Yes – It’s the dead-eyed stare – it’s obvious.”

“What’s obvious?” Harry asked.

“His glasses –” Sherlock reached out, his hand expectant. “Give me your glasses.”

There was an unbearable silence, Sherlock’s hand waiting between them, shaking slightly, as Magnussen thought about Sherlock’s demand. Finally, he shrugged, removed his glasses, and put them in Sherlock’s outstretched hand.

Sherlock passed his sword to Harry, and held Charles Augustus’ glasses in front of his face, watching the lens, trying to find something, any sort of words or files – but finding none.

“How do they work?” he asked, looking back at Magnussen. “Hm? Do they have to be on someone to work?” he quickly put the glasses on him, watching both the lens and Magnussen before him. “No –”

“I’m sure you’ll find they’re just ordinary spectacles.”

Sherlock took off the glasses and looked again between them and Magnussen. “Right,” he mumbled. Of course they were. Of course, because –

“The Capitol wouldn’t let me bring them into the Arena if they were anything other than that,” Magnussen explained. “I’m sure you know that, though, don’t you?”

Sherlock glared at Magnussen, thrusting his glasses back to him.

“How do you do it, then? Where do you keep all your information about everyone?” Sherlock asked angrily as Magnussen calmly wiped his glasses clean and put them back on.

“The same way you do; it’s all up here,” Magnussen pointed to his temple. “This is where I keep you all. You know about mind palaces, don’t you, William?” he asked.

“Mind palace,” Sherlock whispered, feeling his own crumbling down in preparation of his death; feeling so incredibly stupid –

“Of course. It’s all about knowledge; everything is. Over the years, I’ve learned that knowing is owning. Therefore, I own everybody – you, Harriet, Mycroft, John...”


It was the way he said it – the gleam of his eyes, the way he wet his lips with his tongue after he mentioned his name – it was everything about him in that moment, that sent Sherlock’s brain spiraling. He searched his dismantling palace, running through halls and tearing down shelves, scattering files in his wake, trying to find something – anything – about the way he was saying his boyfriend’s name – what he could mean –

Then he found it, buried so far beneath other things – other more important things – that he almost didn’t bother looking there –

During the interviews, when he had confronted Magnussen – he had said something –

“Charles Augustus Magnussen!”

“William! Did John–”

Sherlock had cut him off that night, leaving himself with one very important question, forgotten and unanswered, until now.

Did. John. What?

Then it all came crashing in – crashing into his head until he could think about nothing else –

The day Sherlock broke out of training – when he came back to the penthouse –

John had his cane –

The way Mycroft looked at him –

His lack of appetite –

His defensiveness –

Sherlock was right – he was so unbelievably right

“Did someone hurt you?”

“Sherlock Holmes! Drop. It.”

 “Wait a second,” Sherlock finally said, snapping out of his mind and into the present. “You hurt John.”

The world stood still for a moment, and John could feel everyone’s – everyone’s – eyes on him.


Oh god, no.

“Sherlock?” Harry spoke just above a whisper, breaking the silence.

“Let the adults talk, Harriet,” Magnussen said coolly, his eyes locked on Sherlock.

With a rush of defiance, Sherlock turned to Harry, only glancing at her for a moment before returning his eyes to Magnussen, making it clear that he was speaking directly to her while keeping an eye on Magnussen.

“John got hurt during our last training day – he kept acting weird – we all saw it, but we...he shut us all out. But now I know why.” Sherlock turned back to Magnussen. “Now I know who hurt him.”

“And that’s all well and good, but I bet that you can’t tell me how I hurt him,” Magnussen teased, grinning.

Sherlock knew. Sherlock knew, or if he didn’t know, he was going to find out very quickly – very soon. Everyone was stuck between looking at John and looking at the screen above them – he’d find out in front of everyone – in front of Harry, in front of the Gamemakers, the paparazzi, John’s parents –

And if John knew anything about Sherlock Holmes, it was that Sherlock never passed up an opportunity to make deductions, whether consciously or unconsciously – out loud or not – whether to show off, to prove that he could do it, or because he literally could not refuse, because he couldn’t stop himself fast enough.

In a matter of seconds, everyone in Panem would know everything.

And John could do nothing to stop him.

“No,” John whispered, and Mycroft found his hand and squeezed it tightly.

“What’s he talking about?” Louise asked quietly. “John? ...Mycroft?”

“Not now, Louise,” Mycroft muttered quietly. She dropped it, and placed her hand on John’s shoulder, for comfort.

John couldn’t bear to look at her, to see the question in her eyes.

What had happened to John Watson?

“No,” Sherlock shot back, setting his jaw. He’d figure it out later – he’d worry about it later –

He could hear Mycroft in his head; as if he were standing right beside him, whispering in his ear: Knowing is better than showing.

“Come on, William, what can you see? Play with me.”

“No,” Sherlock insisted. “Absolutely not.”

But his brain was already working through the clues.

Shut it off shut it off –

Knowing is better than showing.

But he couldn’t – it was a reflex, just as it always had been.

“Really?” Magnussen asked, and then he looked at Harry, grinning at her. “Harriet Watson. Bring your face over here a minute.”

Harry glanced at Sherlock, and then looked back at him.

“What?” she asked.

“You wanted to be involved, didn’t you? Come on, lean forward a bit and stick your face out. For William, Harriet. For John.”

He said it again – he said John’s name – it was the way he said it – why was he saying it like that?

“Please?” Magnussen asked, practically purring.

Sherlock glanced up, and Harry’s eyes met his, just for a moment, before he broke eye contact again. He couldn’t look at her, not while he told her to –

He nodded, taking the sword from her, and she looked back at Magnussen, cleared her throat, and stepped forward, and he walked around her, putting the space between them right in front of Sherlock.

“There we go, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” he asked, leaning forward, so he was closer to her eye-level.

Sherlock’s stomach felt like it was spinning around inside him.

Not her not Harry what was he going to do?

“Now, Harriet...can I flick it?”

Sherlock watched as Harry chuckled in reply, rolling her eyes.

“What the fuck –”

“I do believe you heard me, Harriet. Can I flick your face?” he repeated, already raising his hand towards her, as if she had already given him the okay.

“Sherlock –” she started.

“Let him,” Sherlock ordered, his voice no louder than a whisper. “I’m sorry, Harry. Just...just let him.”

Because he knew that they had no other choice, seeing as the knife was still in his hand. And yes, Sherlock had his brother’s sword, but Magnussen was closer to Harry – if Sherlock tried to attack him, Magnussen would automatically kill Harry in retaliation.

He was trapped. They both were.

So Harry tilted her face, lending him a cheek to flick.

And Magnussen pulled his middle finger back with his thumb and released it, flicking it sharply against her exposed cheek. She flinched, instinctively, but made no other movement or sound to react to what was being done to her.

And Magnussen chuckled, and he flicked her again.

“Oh, I just love doing this,” he said. “I could do it all day, honestly,” he chuckled, flicking her again, watching her face for a reaction. “This is what you wanted, wasn’t it, Harriet?” He flicked her again. “To show the adults how much of a big girl you were?” He flicked her face again. “Here you are – right in the middle of the conversation, just like a big girl,” he said, flicking her once more.

Harry didn’t reply, continuing to look him in the eye, glaring at him as if looks alone could kill and flinching on instinct with each flick of her face.

“It’s going to work like this, William,” he went on, not looking away from Harry’s face, watching her as he flicked her over and over again, at random intervals. “I’m going to flick Harriet’s face, and you are going to figure out the mystery – you are going to figure out John’s big secret. Because I know you know it, deep down in your mind palace – you’ve already figured out that John’s in trouble, haven’t you? Of course you have. So, you’re going to start talking, and I am going to listen, and Harriet, here, will continue to be the most vital part of this conversation by letting me flick her face. You tell us all the secret, and I’ll stop flicking Harriet’s face. If not...well,” he said, tightening his grip on the curved knife, and Sherlock got the message loud and clear. “Let’s not focus on that part, just yet.”

If he didn’t start talking – if he didn’t figure it out – Magnussen would spill Harry’s guts, literally, and then he’d kill Sherlock, too.

Knowing is better than showing.

If Harry was going to have any chance of making it out the Arena alive, Sherlock had to figure out what he did to John – whether he wanted to or not.

I’m sorry, John, he thought, and then he spoke aloud.

“Okay,” he said, glaring at Magnussen, as if maybe – just maybe – Sherlock could kill him with his eyes alone. “I’ll play.”

Magnussen grinned.

“Very good.”

“John, I think you should go to the penthouse,” Mycroft muttered in John’s ear, letting go of his hand with one last reassuring squeeze. “Right now.”

“Right,” John whispered back, and began walking as calmly as he could through the crowd and to the nearest door.

He walked as if Sherlock wasn’t just about to spill his secret.

He walked even though everything inside of him told him to run.

Sherlock Holmes opened his mouth, and slowly began speaking, hating himself more and more with every word.

“It was obvious...from his cane – he needs it sometimes when he’s having a hard day, since his leg know. And my brother...he kept looking at him weird, like he was trying to monitor him, trying to make sure he was alright – he’s given me the same look practically all my life; I know it well. That also tipped me off – told me that Mycroft knew something that I didn’t, something he was worried about. And John had lost his appetite, and he normally only does that when something’s wrong – or when he’s too far into his own head to do anything about it.”

“Did he, now?”

“He did...because you hurt him. John kept saying it was because of me – because of me and Harry and the Games – but it was you all along. But how did you do it?” he asked, squinting at Magnussen, reading him. “He was suddenly very interested in personal privacy, which he never was before because, well, I’m me, and according to Mycroft I have no idea what a sense of privacy even is.” He went on, gaining speed as he went, despite himself. “And you – you talk about him as if you own him – as if he’s yours, and I know that society has this big thing about people ‘owning’ each other in a sense because they’re sleeping together –” He could feel his anger boiling over, his frustration at the Capitol and his rage at Magnussen, and all he could hear was the sound of his fingers flicking Harry’s face over and over again – and soon he was speaking without even thinking, just to get it out. “– for instance, according to everyone in the Capitol, I ‘have’ John, even though we’ve never had sex and probably never will because I hate it, not to mention the fact that if anyone was ‘having’ anyone in any sense John would be ‘having’ me, but that’s beside the point. The point is that, going by that logic, you think you own John because you did something to him. But you didn’t sleep with him – he would’ve told me immediately as opposed to my brother exclusively, so it’s obviously sexual assault –” He suddenly froze, his next words halting in his throat.

He had just deduced the most terrible thing – John’s deepest, darkest secret – on national television. There now wasn’t a soul who didn’t know – John Watson, victor of the Seventy-Fourth Annual Hunger Games, had been sexually assaulted by a man twice is age. John Watson, his boyfriend, the love of his life, had been sexually assaulted.

Magnussen smiled, and finally stopped flicking Harry’s face. He straightened up and looked at Sherlock, and Sherlock’s heart sank lower than it ever had before.

“You’re good,” he said. “He’s a very nice kisser, by the way.”

Chapter Text

John had not made it to the doors in time. He knew it was coming; as soon as Sherlock had started gaining speed he knew he would get ahead of himself. And, as soon as the words slipped out of his boyfriend’s mouth, gasps and murmurs rattled through the crowd, people talking – talking about him – his scandal

And then someone – Kitty Riley, from Sherlock’s interview last year, no less – noticed poor, broken John Watson racing through the crowd, pushing people aside, his eyes cast to the ground, muttering “excuse me”s and “sorry”s through the lump in his throat, hoping that no one would recognize him as –

“John! John Watson!” she called, trying to catch up with him.

He was reaching the end of the crowd – he was so close to the doors –

“John, if I could just have a word with you –”

He was done, he was so done. He was done with the Games, the questions, the paparazzi, the parties, the people, the Capitol, all of it – what he’d give to just be home – be back in bed with Sherlock Holmes, all of this a far-off dream –

His hands finally – finally – found the doors, and Kitty Riley reached him, shoving another goddamn microphone in his face.

“John Watson if we could just get a statement from you about your assault –”

He couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“Fuck off,” he spat, eyes shining with tears, opening the doors, and slamming them behind him.

"You...” Sherlock had just barely registered that Harry had spoken before she launched herself toward Magnussen, hands aimed for his throat –

Sherlock was sent into motion as he dropped the sword and stood between Charles Augustus Magnussen and Harry, letting Harry crash into him and holding her back.

He couldn’t breathe – he felt the fog in his lungs and he couldn’t breathe –

John had been –

And Sherlock just –

And for just a second, Sherlock was glad he wasn’t going to ever have to face John again – he couldn’t, not with what he had just done.

She reached out toward the smiling monster.

“No – no – Sherlock –” she snapped, throwing herself back, glaring up at Sherlock in a rage that put Mycroft’s anger to shame. “What the fuck, Sherlock?!” she hissed. “This is John, Sherlock – you know, your boyfriend? My brother? He just –”

She tried to make her way around Sherlock again, looking ready to tear Magnussen apart with her bare hands, but Sherlock gripped her shoulders.

“Harry, no – STOP!” Sherlock yelled, and finally Harry stood still, still glaring up at Sherlock. He had seen Harry angry plenty of times over the years, but never like this.

But somewhere, in the back of his mind, he knew this anger was possible. When Sherlock was a kid, back when Mycroft returned from winning the Games and met John and Harry for the first time, Sherlock and his brother had played deductions about Sherlock’s new friends, which is where Mycroft first picked up on it:

“And Harriet – she gets quiet when she’s angry, don’t you agree?” Mycroft had asked.

“No, she gets even louder than usual! I’ve seen it myself!” Sherlock exclaimed in reply, and Mycroft waved him off.

“Let me rephrase: not when she’s angry, but when she’s livid, absolutely livid, she grows quiet. She won’t yell, she won’t shout – she’ll still be impulsive, but she’ll be quiet – dangerously quiet.”

“I...I don’t know about that.”

“Then we’ll just wait for the right chord to be struck.”

It turned out that Magnussen had struck the chord that had previously had never been touched, to Sherlock’s knowledge.

“We can’t be impulsive; that’s what he wants,” Sherlock growled through gritted teeth, trying to match Harry’s demeanor.

“Oh, but why not?” Magnussen asked smugly from behind him, completely calm. “I’ve already done it; the only thing to do now is kill me –”

“Oh, I know,” Sherlock said, turning his head to look back at Magnussen, and in one second, within just a single glance, he was able to map out exactly where all of his vital organs were. “I know.” He straightened up, letting go of Harry, putting himself between them – in a turn of events, protecting him from her. “I can’t believe I didn’t see –”

“I couldn’t either; I kept thinking to myself, ‘this is the great Sherlock Holmes? What a joke,’ –”

“I should’ve known from the moment I saw you what you had the capacity to do...”

“You really should have – maybe then you would have kept a closer eye on Johnny Boy Watson – the damsel in distress that you couldn’t save...”

Sherlock set his jaw, almost snarling at Magnussen. “His name is John.

Magnussen grinned. “Not when I’m done with him,” he replied, winking. “Sorry, no chance for you to be his hero, this time, William Holmes.”

It was then Sherlock Holmes’ chord had also been struck, and he finally lost his cool – lost everything – and ran at Charles Augustus Magnussen. He regretted the decision with every step he took, every beat of his heart, but he was done, he was so done with Magnussen and with the Hunger Games and with the Capitol controlling his every move. He practically roared as he ran, and was unsure if he was shouting wordlessly at Magnussen, or shouting a warning for Harry to run. But, in the end, as he crashed into Magnussen, knocking the curved knife out of his hand, and sent them both tumbling to the ground, it didn’t matter.

As soon as he was on top of him, he began punching Magnussen’s stupid old-man face, breaking his glasses and bloodying his fists and Magnussen’s eyes with the fragments. Just when he was actually beginning to feel the pieces of glass that were now lodged into his knuckles, Magnussen’s hands found Sherlock’s face, and, while Sherlock was trying to pull his head back, trying to avoid Magnussen’s touch, Magnussen’s fingers invaded Sherlock’s mouth.

Just like his tongue had invaded John’s mouth just days ago –

And Sherlock brought his teeth down on Magnussen’s fingers as hard as he could, and within an instant Sherlock’s mouth filled with Charles Augustus Magnussen’s blood.

Magnussen then ripped his fingers out of Sherlock’s mouth, and, within the next second, Magnussen’s hands closed around Sherlock’s throat, and his knee connected with his gut, forcing all the air out of Sherlock’s lungs and then stopping him from getting it back.

They rolled over, now the forty-year-old man who kissed John on top of Sherlock, strangling him.

Sherlock reached up, trying to fight him off – trying to find his eyes with his thumbs – he was pretty sure the man was blind at this point – if he could press the shards deeper into his eyes –

Once he realized what Sherlock was trying to do, Magnussen spat in his face, getting it up his nose and into his eyes and mouth – Sherlock’s lungs burned with pain as he struggled to breathe –

And then...

“I just want you to know...that your loss will break my heart.”

“What the hell am I supposed to say to that?”

“Nothing. I just wanted you to know.”

“ yet...” Sherlock groaned.

If he died – Magnussen would kill Harry –

Magnussen would hurt John – do worse things than just assault him –

“You’re gonna love being dead, Sherlock. No one ever bothers you.”

“Not you...” he gasped, seeing Jim Moriarty in Charles Augustus Magnussen’s place, the fog now attacking his brain.

“You can make it all go away, William,” Magnussen muttered back. “Put your head back. Close your eyes. Wade into the quiet of the stream...”

Sherlock looked away, trying with the last of his strength to break free – to get a single breath of air – and he could see the Ravenstag, standing not too far from the scene, watching him – watching him die as the snow fell around them –

“Please, maintain eye contact, William,” Magnussen whispered – was it a whisper? A hiss? Sherlock couldn’t tell – his vision was going black – “I want to watch you die –”

He was dying again...

I don’t want to die.

He was dying...

I don’t want to die.

His eyes fluttered closed...

I don’t want to...

And then –

Sherlock sat up, gasping, opening his eyes.

And there was Harry Watson, Harriet Catherine Watson – his best friend, his sister – her hair and eyes like fire, pulling the straps of her red bag around Magnussen’s neck, pulling it back like a noose.

“THIS! IS! FOR! MY! BROTHER!” she shouted, pulling the bag tighter and tighter with each word.

It was then he noticed multiple – was it multiple? Was it a trick? No – no it wasn’t – there were multiple arrows sticking out from Magnussen’s body.

Harry Watson was not going to let Sherlock die.

The sword.

Sherlock scrambled to get on his hands and knees, struggling to breathe but not having any time to sit and recover, crawling over to the sword. He felt the cold metal touch his hands, and he wrapped his fingers around the hilt. He finally got to his feet, and found Harry still choking Magnussen, turning herself to face Sherlock, dragging him with her.

“Harry...” Sherlock said, his voice hoarse. “...Move.”

She nodded, and let go of the bag. Magnussen fell to his hands and knees, ripping the bag from his throat, gasping, just as he had left Sherlock moments ago.

“I’m not John’s hero,” Sherlock assured him, making his voice as loud and strong as he could. “But I can bring Harry home to him. HAPPY HUNGER GAMES!” he shouted, and, just as Magnussen looked up at him, Sherlock plunged his sword into Magnussen’s right eye, pushing it into his brain. He stood there a moment, unsure of what to do next, but then he pulled the sword out, and Magnussen’s blood sprayed everywhere – on Sherlock’s hands, on his clothes, on his face –

And then Magnussen’s body fell forward, landing at Sherlock’s feet, his blood beginning to flow onto his boots

And then the canon sounded.

And Magnussen was dead.

Just like that.

After a long, terrified silence, Harry Watson was the first to speak.

“Holy shit.” She then looked up at the ever-paling face of Sherlock Holmes, as it was dawning on him what had to happen next. “Sherlock? You doing alright? Your eye’s really bloodshot –”

“...I need to wash my hands,” Sherlock said in reply. “And vomit, a bit.”

Chapter Text

John Watson sat in the penthouse, watching the aftermath of the scene. The scene itself was full of blurred-out images, but that was only because of the tears filling John’s eyes, and he too felt the need to vomit.

Despite that feeling, however, he couldn’t help but breathe easily; deep sighs of relief passed through him like he had been holding his breath for days.

But then he raced to the bathroom, heaving up his lunch into the toilet, and leaving him retching into the bowl, painfully waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Charles Augustus Magnussen was dead, but that meant it was time for Sherlock Holmes to die.

“I will never be clean again,” Sherlock said to Harry, knee-deep in the freezing salt water pool in the middle of the Arena, rubbing the blood off his hands and face in the water, not even caring about the snow still steadily falling from the sky. He had thrown up into a few bushes and could still taste it in his mouth, so he dove his numbing hands into the water and drank from them, swishing the water in his mouth until all he could taste was salt instead of blood and stomach acid, and then spit it out into the water.

“I still can’t believe you did that,” Harry said, sitting on the shore.

“Neither can I,” Sherlock muttered back, just loud enough for her to hear.

“It was, like, awesome and terrifying at the same time,” she went on.

“I’m glad you think so.”

“I’m gonna have nightmares about it for at least six months.”

“Me too.”

“But, like, really cool nightmares. If that’s possible.”

“It probably is,” Sherlock replied. He knew what Harry was doing – she was trying to lighten the situation to make whatever happened next easier, but Sherlock wasn’t in the mood to joke along with her.

He should’ve been happy – Harry’s victory was just solidified – for the first time he didn’t have to worry about her not making it home – he should’ve been happy to die and send her home to John.

But he had thought it – he had almost said what he had been too afraid to feel this whole time out loud.

He didn’t want to die.

But he had no choice.

He had to.

They were silent for about a minute, and then Harry spoke again, quietly and without any humor in her voice.

“John wasn’t the first one, was he?”

“Probably not,” Sherlock replied, wearily.

“We gave all of them justice today. Every single one.”

“I hope so,” Sherlock mumbled, not even loud enough for Harry to hear, just as he felt some water dripple on his head. He looked up to find storm clouds, and rain beginning to pour down, eliminating all the sectors – they weren’t needed anymore for the District Twelve kids. He looked at his hands and sighed, turning back to Harry. “I think this is the best they’re gonna get,” he decided, wiping his hands on his pants and making his way back.

When he reached her, he found her looking past him, at the Cornucopia.

“It’s just hit me what we did,” she said quietly. “What we’ve done.” She looked up at him. “We’re killers, now.”

And in that moment, it hit Sherlock what he was about to do. For him, everything would be over in the next five – maybe ten – minutes. But for Harry, she was going to have to live with this for a long time. Like she had just said – she would have nightmares for at least six months, but probably for the rest of her life. And, despite what she thought, none of them would be the slightest bit “cool”.

“Yeah,” he breathed. “We all are. Every one of us.”

Harry was obviously thinking of their next move, as well. Or, Sherlock’s next move.

“And now... If I win, John’s just lost the one thing in this goddamned world that can make him happy,” she said, as if Sherlock’s suicide was still a topic up for discussion.

“And if I win I would have just killed his sister – that’s not a bond you can just make with anyone,” Sherlock replied. “He can find another me; he can’t find another you.”

“That is absolutely incorrect,” Harry said, her voice breaking. “There is no one in this entire world that could possibly replace you, Sherlock Holmes.”

Sherlock gave Harry the closest thing he could to a chuckle he could manage: a sharp exhale through his nose as he swallowed down the lump growing in his throat.

“So, what now?” she whispered.

The answer was obvious. So obvious, but neither of them wanted to see it, or even look in that direction. They knew what had to happen from the beginning, ever since the Quarter Quell’s twist was announced, even if neither of them said it out loud until months later. But here they were, down to the final two, and Sherlock’s gut still didn’t want him to go. Which was stupid, it was so stupid – this is what was right, this is what he had to do – he had to break John’s heart – he had to break Mycroft’s heart – he had to make him the last member of the Holmes family – he had to –

He would never see the world outside the Arena ever again. He would never see District 12 or Mr. and Mrs. Watson or John or Mycroft –

The world would continue on without him, and he would die.

Of course, Sherlock knew this from the beginning – he felt like he was prepared for it, up until this moment, but now…

Fighting back tears, Sherlock’s mind – without Sherlock’s consent nor his okay – thought back to their last words to him – everyone’s last words to him:

“You have always been like a son to us, Sherlock. It’s been an honor knowing you. John saw something in you the day you met. He was right – you’re brilliant.”

“My boy – my baby boy – you are so special, Sherlock, so special...”

“I love you so much. Don’t you forget that when you’re in there – it’s hard, trust me it’s so hard to remember that shit when you’re in there – but don’t forget it, don’t you ever forget it.”

“Godspeed, little brother. The world will never be the same without you.”

And then, he thought of something. Something he hadn’t before, back when Mycroft said it to him:

“You are so smart, Sherlock Holmes. You must understand that I believe in you.”

He believed in him – why would he say that to him, after everything? Knowing what was going to happen – knowing of his plan – knowing what he had to do?

“Mycroft, you have been one of our smartest tributes – who do you think will win this year’s Hunger Games?”

“I believe in Sherlock Holmes.”

Why did he put up the façade for Caesar? Sherlock knew his brother – he wouldn’t have said that, especially when they wanted the Capitol to feel bad for sending Sherlock off to die –

“I believe in Sherlock Holmes.”

Mycroft hadn’t said he thought Sherlock would win. He didn’t say he believed Sherlock would win – he just said he believed in him –

Sherlock saw it now – how could he have been so blind? Mycroft had believed – he had believed this whole time – that Sherlock would get both of them out of the Arena, alive.

But how – what could he do to make the Capitol take them both? How could he make them do what he wanted?

Magnussen had flicked Harry’s face to get Sherlock to spill John’s secret – all he had to do was something to someone that was important to him that irked him enough to do whatever he wanted – to spill a secret pertaining to someone that he loved; something that he swore he would never do.

Maybe he could do that to the Capitol? But what would piss them off enough to let both of them go home – without getting them both killed?

Both of them – or none at all –

That was it.

Sherlock put his hand out to Harry to help her up. “I have an idea.”

Harry half-smiled up at him. “Sherlock Holmes: my man with a plan.”

After John found his way back to the sofa, the door to the penthouse opened, and Mycroft stepped out of the elevator and into the room.

“How are you doing?” he asked John, reaching the sofa and sitting down next to him.

“Sherlock has a plan,” John recapped, not even needing to answer the question because Sherlock had a plan –

Mycroft smirked. “I knew he would.”

“So what’s the plan?” Harry asked, eager to help, and Sherlock took a breath.

“We…we have to…we have to do exactly what they want us to do,” Sherlock told her, slowly.

“What do you mean?” she asked, cocking her head to the side, confused, as she rightfully should’ve been.

“What else?” Sherlock asked. “We’re going to kill each other. That’s what they want – we’re going to give it to them.”

As soon as he said the words, Harry’s face dropped, her eyebrows furrowing. “What?”

He then stepped forward, wrapped his hand around the back of her head, keeping it still, and pressed his forehead to hers.

“Just – just believe in me,” he whispered. “Believe in me. Can you do that?”

“Okay,” Harry whispered back, and Sherlock leaned away from her.

“Do you have any more of John’s knives?” he asked, and Harry nodded, turning to her bag and looking through it. “I need two of them.”

She pulled two of the knives out and stood back up.

“Now what?”

“Now...” he took one of the knives from Harry’s shaking hands, and then pressed her knife’s blade up to the side of Sherlock’s throat, pressing it so hard he winced. “When I say three, I want you to cut me, as deep as possible. This will cut my carotid artery,’ll kill me. And, at the same time...I will do the same to you,” Sherlock explained, slowly, his voice threatening to break, pressing his knife against the side of Harry’s throat, as hard as he dared.

“Sherlock?” Harry whimpered, her voice small, and Sherlock had never seen her so scared in his whole life. He wished he could just explain it – just tell her what he was thinking – just tell her that he was going to trick the Capitol and if it worked they might actually be able to laugh about it one day – but he needed to keep it a secret from her – from the Capitol – just long enough for it to work – god, it had to work – please let it work –

“I’m sorry,” Sherlock whispered, a tear falling down his cheek and disguising itself in the rain. “I’m so sorry. Please, please forgive me.”

“Of course I do,” Harry whispered back, sniffling.

“Thank you,” Sherlock whispered. “Goodbye, Harry Watson.”

“Goodbye, Sherlock.”


Harry’s hand trembled as she held the knife against Sherlock’s neck, and Sherlock struggled to keep his own hand steady.


This had to work – it had to – and if it didn’t –

Sherlock didn’t want to think about that.

“Three –”

Just as they were about to draw each other’s blood, trumpets sounded, and the clouds above them broke apart.

“Wait! Stop, stop!” Claudius Templesmith shouted, and Sherlock and Harry put their weapons back at their sides, looking up at the sky. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present the victors of the Seventy-Fifth Hunger Games, Harry Watson and Sherlock Holmes! I give you – the tributes of District Twelve!”

And, before Sherlock was fully able to react that his plan had worked, Harry Watson threw her arms around his neck, squeezing him in a hug as the Capitol’s hovercraft floated down from the sky to take them.

It had worked –

His plan had worked –

They had won the Hunger Games –

Both of them –


Chapter Text

As soon as the announcement was made, it was like John went deaf – Caesar Flickerman and Claudius Templesmith were talking on the screen, and he knew the roar of the viewers in the Capitol’s City Circle below could probably reach the windows of the penthouse and then some, but he couldn’t hear a bit of it.

They were alive. Both of them were alive. There they were – hugging and getting into the hovercraft – they were coming back to the Capitol.

Both of them.


It wasn’t a trick – it wasn’t a trap. They were coming home.

Only one person was able to drag John out of the bubble – the bubble of immense relief that had surrounded him, because he felt the same amount of relief. That person was Mycroft Holmes, and that was only after placing his hand on John’s shoulder and calling his name for a second time.

“John –”

And John, tears suddenly pouring down his face like a storm, pulled Mycroft into the tightest hug John had in him.

“They made it,” he sobbed into his boyfriend’s brother’s shoulder. “They fucking made it.”

“I know – I know they did,” Mycroft replied, his eyes also wet with tears. “We have to go back to the Circle – we have to make statements – Can you handle that, John?”

John released Mycroft and thought about it for only a second before nodding.

“They’ll probably ask about the assault –” Mycroft started, but John cut him off.

“It’s fine.” As far as John was concerned, they could ask about anything they wanted; it didn’t matter, because both Sherlock and Harry were alive.

They were just standing up, wiping away tears so they didn’t look like two complete messes in front of the awaiting crowds, when an Avox appeared from the other room, holding an envelope. John looked at the Capitol’s seal embossed on the blood red wax keeping the envelope closed from prying eyes and instantly knew it was from President Snow himself.

The Avox shyly presented it between them, and Mycroft took it,

“Thank you, Francesca,” he said, and the Avox bowed her head and left the room. As soon as she was gone, he opened the envelope, and pulled out a letter from within.

“‘To Mister Mycroft Holmes and Mister John Watson,’” he read aloud. “‘Congratulations to you and your tributes, William Holmes and Harriet Watson, on winning the Seventy-Fifth Annual Hunger Games. In the fashion of last year’s Hunger Games, Seneca Crane and I have decided that John Watson will be forbidden from seeing or meeting either of the winning tributes until during the Victor’s Interview on Sunday night. For this reason, John Watson is excused from all mentoring duties between now and the Victor’s Interview, and is prohibited from attending the Hunger Games Recapitulation Ceremony and the following Banquet tomorrow evening. We strongly advise that you find a place for John Watson to stay that day, so he does not run into our newest victors between now and then. I am also requesting a meeting with the both of you on Sunday afternoon at my mansion at one o’clock sharp. I hope to see you then. Most Sincerely, President Coriolanus Snow.’”

John rolled his eyes.

“Of fucking course – they want us to reunite in front of everyone –” John started to complain, but then he noticed that Mycroft was reading the letter over again to himself with a furrowed brow. “Mycroft?”

“He wants a meeting with us,” he said quietly, not looking up.

“What, he didn’t request one with you last year when I won?” John asked, and Mycroft shook his head.

“No, he didn’t... He never calls a meeting with the mentors unless...” He trailed off, and flipped the letter over and back again, as if looking for another message.

“Unless?” John prompted.

It was then Mycroft looked up from the letter and at John.

“We’re in trouble, John. You, me, Sherlock, Harriet – we’re all in deep trouble.”

Sherlock’s morphling addiction may have saved him in the Arena, but now his old habit was working against him.

He held onto Harry from the moment she hugged him, making sure their skin didn’t lose contact with the other’s on the way from the ground to the air – from the Arena to the hovercraft – from fear to relief. Sherlock kept his arm around Harry’s shoulder as a Peacekeeper donned in black descended from the hovercraft and ushered them to the ladder. They held each other’s hands as they ascended up the ladder, and they didn’t let go when they made it inside.

As soon as they were in and Sherlock saw the Capitol’s fancy medical team all dressed in white, prepped and ready to go, he instinctively positioned himself between Harry and the doctors.

“We’re fine –” he started, and he could hear his voice was hoarse, tired. But he still held his ground.

“We just need to –” one of the doctors tried to calm him down, but Sherlock couldn’t tell which one – they all had surgical masks covering their mouths. His eyes searched the crowd – there were about six of them in all.

“I said we’re fine!” Sherlock repeated, as if he could reason with them.

“Sherlock – Sherlock,” Harry said, touching his shoulder. He spun around to her, and she smiled up at him, and it at that moment that he truly saw her wounds. She had dirty cuts covering her skin, and welts from the tracker jackers, and bruises on her face and body.

Sherlock stared at her, breathing heavily, tired and frustrated and wanting to stop and keep going all at once –

“It’s okay,” she said, still smiling. “It’s over. They just want to make sure we’re alright.”

But Sherlock had no time to answer, because that was when two doctors came up from behind him and Harry, plunging needles into each of their necks, and Sherlock fell, still holding onto Harry’s hand.

He was so tired...

But he didn’t sleep.

He couldn’t. Because, whatever they gave him, it wasn’t enough.

He couldn’t move his body, and at first he thought it was just a paralyzer until he felt cold, hard metal against his back and his jumpsuit getting cut off and removed.

It wasn’t a paralyzer – it was a sedative.

They were going to operate on him.

He wanted to tell them to stop, that he was still awake, that he needed more of the anesthetic, but he couldn’t find his mouth to produce the words, or his eyes to open them. And so, he stayed awake and aware as the doctors attached a heart monitor to his chest, put a breathing tube down his throat, hooked one arm up to an IV, cut the other arm open to remove his tracking device, and help fix his now-infected wounds.

One of the doctors was right next to his ear, cutting the stitches on his shoulder that Harry had given him and flushing out the infection with some ice cold liquid; two other doctors were at his hands, removing the shattered pieces of Magnussen’s glasses from his knuckles; the fourth doctor wasn’t a doctor at all but a nurse, simply helping out by giving the doctors the tools they requested and keeping an eye on Sherlock’s vitals.

The whole time, he could feel them. The morphling in his IV was enough to take away the pain, but he could still feel them fishing around under his skin, the glass being removed, the liquid being poured – his body was numb but he knew what they were doing.

Part of the way through, one of Harry’s doctors arrived.

“She has less injuries, is there anything I can do to help here?”

Harry had less injuries – she was better off than he was –

“Yes, we do, actually – can you get the gel and start putting it on the swelling from the tracker jackers?”

A strong-smelling ointment was applied to the eleven tracker jacker wounds covering his body, and, when the doctors were done cleaning out his other injuries, the same ointment was applied to them, as well.

And all the while, because even the Capitol’s doctors didn’t want to miss a moment of the Hunger Games (even while preforming surgery on the tributes themselves), he heard footage of the aftermath of the Hunger Games playing in the background.

For the first time in days, Sherlock heard the voices of Mycroft and John.

“Mycroft, how do you feel about your brother winning the Games?”

“Absolutely elated,” Mycroft replied, and Sherlock could hear the smile in his voice. “History has been made today; it seems our two tributes have done the impossible, and I feel fortunate that my brother is a part of it.”

“And you, John? How do you feel about both your sister and your boyfriend winning the Games?”

“I am so happy – and I can’t wait to see them both. When this Quarter Quell was announced and we knew that Sherlock and Harry would be going into the Arena together, Sherlock told me he wouldn’t make me choose between him and my sister, and he was right, in a way that nobody ever expected. I’ve never been more in love with Sherlock than I am right now, and I want him to know that; this has done nothing but strengthen our relationship,” John answered, and Sherlock could tell he was on the verge of tears.

“I’m going to up the anesthetic,” the nurse said, and Sherlock realized that his heart was racing with joy. “He can probably smell the gel.”

Sherlock Holmes finally fell asleep, listening to his brother and his boyfriend being interviewed from the Capitol.

They had done it – both of them. Sherlock and Harry were on their way back to the Capitol, and then, they’d go home, back to District Twelve. Not in coffins or in body bags – they’d be alive.

They were alive.

They had won.

“Nice touch, saying that you were in love with him more than ever,” Mycroft murmured lowly in John’s ear once the press let them go to enjoy the after party.

“You told me to act like it was an act of Johnlock,” John replied as they weaved through the crowds.

“But it’s true, though?” Mycroft asked, and John smiled.

“Of course.”

“Louise,” Mycroft said, straightening up. John looked ahead, too, and found his friends – it felt weird to him that he was calling them his friends, but that’s who they were – Louise, Alexander, Clover, and Dean were all waiting for them.

Louise rushed to Mycroft and hugged him tightly. “Congratulations,” she said, and kissed his cheek. She then released him, and turned to John.

He expected an immediate hug out of her, but instead she hesitated, head bent forward slightly, as if ashamed.

“I – I’m so sorry, John. I didn’t know –”

“Hey,” he cut her off, and she looked up at him. “It’s okay. I’m okay. Really,” he said, looking at each of his friends in turn, trying to convince them even though he wasn’t even sure if what he was saying was true. “It happened. What’s done is done.”

Mycroft put his hand on John’s shoulder.

“Okay, but if you ever need to talk about it –”

“We’re here,” Alexander finished for Louise.

“All of us,” Clover agreed.

“Thank you, I appreciate it,” John replied, but he knew – and he was sure they all knew as well – that the only person he wanted to talk about the assault with now was Sherlock Holmes.

“John, Mycroft.”

John turned at the sound to find Hannibal Lecter Magnussen approaching the group.

“Oh,” Louise muttered. “Great.”

He glanced back at her, and found Clover signing to Louise:


John and Louise signed back a simple yes, and John turned back to Hannibal. Mycroft stepped forward and put out his hand for him to shake, and John instantly knew he was only doing it to position himself between Hannibal and John.

“Hannibal,” he greeted him, and Hannibal took his hand.

“Congratulations, both of you, on your win,” he said to Mycroft, and then peeked behind him to talk to John. “I wanted to apologize for my brother’s behavior; I had no idea –”

“Yes you did,” John cut him off before he realized what he was saying, but still he stepped forward, bravery swelling in his chest. “You know exactly what he did, and exactly what he planned to do to me. You’re not sorry; you never were and you never will be. So go feed your bullshit to someone else, because we all know what you’re really about, Hannibal.”

At this, Hannibal’s demeanor changed as if someone had flipped a switch inside of him – from polite and conversational to dark and about ready to snap John’s neck. This would’ve been something that chilled John to his very core, but Sherlock and Harry had won the Hunger Games, and Charles Augustus Magnussen was dead. At this point, he wasn’t afraid of anything, not even of Charles Augustus’ cannibal brother attacking him in the middle of the Capitol’s Hunger Games after-party.

“That was quite rude of you to say, John Watson,” Hannibal said, his narrowed eyes trying to pierce into John’s skull.

“I don’t care,” John replied, crossing his arms.

“You should learn to. Mind you, my brother was just murdered, at the hands of your lover. You never know what someone might do in the face of such a loss,” Hannibal said, and then turned on his heel and vanished into the crowd.

John turned back to his friends to find most of them – Louise, Alexander, and Clover, namely – with their jaws dropped. He was trying to read Mycroft’s face – trying to figure out whether or not he should apologize, when Dean Bainbridge stepped forward and clapped John’s shoulder.

“Holy shit, John!” he exclaimed, a huge grin spread across his face. “I didn’t know you had that in you!”

John looked up at Dean, a smile merely playing on his lips. “Neither did I,” he replied, slightly dazed.

He had just stood up for himself to a cannibal, to the brother of the person who sexually assaulted him. He had stood up for Sherlock and for Harry plenty of times, but never to anyone so dangerous. He looked up at Mycroft, and he gave John a partial smile and a nod, and that was all the approval John needed.

“You okay, John?” Louise asked, signing her question for Clover so she could understand and be part of the conversation.

“Yeah – I’m fine.”

And, for the first time since it was revealed that Sherlock and Harry were going to the Arena, he was sort of telling the truth. 

Chapter Text

Sherlock didn’t remember leaving surgery, or being transported from the hovercraft to a room within the Capitol, but when he opened his eyes he found himself not on the metal table but instead in a hospital bed that was manipulated so he was sitting up in a dimly lit room.

The most important thing he noticed, though, was the fact that he was in an excruciating amount of pain. He adjusted himself, and gasped aloud in discomfort.

“It hurts, doesn’t it?” came a voice from somewhere within the room. Sherlock’s eyes adjusted, and he could just see a man outlined in the darker side of the room. “I suggest you restart your Morphling; I might have tampered with the tabs; my apologies.”

John had mentioned once to Sherlock that when he had awakened in the training center’s hospital wing that his hands were strapped down, but when Sherlock moved his hands there were no such restraints. Whoever had turned down his Morphling must have also taken off his wrists’ straps.

“This place must be a dream come true for you,” the man continued as Sherlock found the knob for the Morphling and turned it all the way up. “They actually attach the drugs to you.”

“Who are you?” Sherlock asked, his voice hoarse, ignoring the obvious dig at his addiction.

“Tell me, William, did your heart race when you murdered Charles Augustus?” he asked in lieu of answering. “When you murdered my brother?” he went on, giving his identity away.

Hannibal Lecter Magnussen was standing in Sherlock’s hospital room.

Sherlock could hear the spike in his heart rate through the ever-beeping monitor as the thought of what his elder brother had done to John and the possibility of Hannibal doing the same to Sherlock (or something far worse) in revenge for killing Charles Augustus crossed his mind, and for a moment he thought about calling out, calling for a nurse, calling for someone to save him. Instead of doing that, though, he acted as if the monitor wasn’t revealing the fear in his heart, and replied to Hannibal.

“A bit, yeah,” Sherlock said casually, and Hannibal shook his head.

“Shame,” he said, and took a step forward, into the light. For the first time in person, Sherlock Holmes saw Hannibal Lecter Magnussen’s face. “A low heartrate is a true indicator of one’s capacity for violence,” he explained. “Your choices affect the physical structures of your brain. Killing changes the way you think.”

At this, Sherlock shook his head. “No, not for me.”

Hannibal smirked. “It already has. You’ve won the Hunger Games; do you honestly think someone who didn’t approve of murder could do such a thing?”

“I’ve only killed people in order to protect myself and others,” Sherlock informed him.

“Do you think I haven’t?” Hannibal asked. “Everything I’ve done is to protect myself and those I care about.”

Sherlock smirked, because he didn’t know Hannibal had the capacity to care about anything, much less another person.

“But I feel bad for killing them,” Sherlock admitted, with an air of superiority. Because he, despite everything that everyone had ever said about him, had a heart.

“Do you really feel so bad because you discovered that killing felt so good?” he asked.

Sherlock’s face fell, and his eyes narrowed, glaring at Hannibal.


Instead of responding, Hannibal took a few steps forward, just close enough to pick up Sherlock’s dog tags from the nightstand beside him (the Capitol’s doctors must have taken it off of him at some point before the surgery). Sherlock reached out to try to take the necklace back from Hannibal, but Hannibal raised his hand, studying the tags as they dangled right in front of his face.

“Interesting,” Hannibal mused.

“Give them back,” Sherlock ordered, hating himself for how much the demand sounded like begging, and Hannibal finally let the chain slide from his fingers, letting the tags fall back onto the nightstand with a clatter.

“If you ever need to speak with me, feel free to seek me out. I could help you, if you ask me to,” Hannibal offered, speaking as if he had never touched Sherlock’s dog tags.

“Absolutely not,” Sherlock shot back, taking the tags from the table himself, gripping them in his hand until it hurt.

“All I’m asking is for you to think about it,” Hannibal insisted, but before Sherlock could insist that he wouldn’t, Hannibal then checked the watch around his wrist. “I shouldn’t keep you talking; you need your rest, after all. Get some sleep, Will, and think about what I said.”

“I won’t,” Sherlock promised him, but Hannibal was approaching the door.

Once Hannibal had his hand on the knob, he looked back up at Sherlock

“One more thing, if you don’t mind,” he said, but didn’t wait for a response. “I meant to ask: how did my brother taste?”

And for a second, Sherlock could taste the metallic tang of Charles Augustus’ blood on his tongue, again.

“Terrible,” Sherlock replied, saying the first thing he thought of.

And Hannibal’s mouth twitched upwards in what Sherlock could only describe as a very subtle smirk.

“Goodnight, Will.”

He opened the door and left, closing it gently behind him.

And then Sherlock was alone, in the room that he now realized was glowing red not because of Hannibal’s presence but because that was the color emitting from the monitors that were surrounding him.

Sherlock wanted to lean back, close his eyes and enjoy his Morphling high. His body was already feeling the safe, warm feelings that the Morphling always gave him, and it would definitely keep Hannibal out of his thoughts if he continued on the road to his high, but instead he leaned over and turned the dial back down to a little less than halfway, and focused on nothing but the beeping of his heart monitor as he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

John couldn’t sleep that night. He would’ve thought that maybe he could have considering the fact that the Games were over and both Sherlock and Harry were alive, but the thought that they were both in the Capitol, just a number of floors below him, kept him wide awake.

At about three in the morning, John gave up on tossing and turning and decided to go out onto the roof and watch the post-Games celebration from above, but when he passed Mycroft’s office he noticed that Mycroft was also awake, sitting at his desk, filling out paperwork.

John knocked on the doorframe, and Mycroft looked up.

“Hello, John. You couldn’t sleep either, I see?” he asked.

“Nah; too anxious,” John replied, leaning against the doorway. “It’s so hard knowing they’re in the same building but I can’t go see them.”

Mycroft nodded, pursing his lips together.

“The feeling’s mutual,” he agreed. “It’s taking just about everything I have just to stay here in this room, but the paperwork helps the time go by. I’m thinking of going to see if I can sneak in and see them in the morning.”

“You’re lucky,” John half-chuckled, and then glanced at his paperwork. “Do I have papers to fill out, too? Since I’m a mentor?”

Mycroft looked down at his papers and then back up at John, giving him an amused smile. “Yes, but I took the liberty of filling them out myself in your name. I’ll show you how to fill them out next year.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” John said, but Mycroft shrugged.

“I don’t mind, really. Honestly, I sort of enjoy doing the paperwork; it keeps my mind off of things. Not to mention the fact that I believe you’ve had a little too much excitement this year to fill these out.”

John smiled. “Thanks.”

“Of course,” he replied. There was a moment of silence between them, and then Mycroft spoke again. “Are you packed?”

“Yeah. I’m going to the fourth floor, right?”

“Correct. Dean and Alexander will take good care of you, and Louise and Clover will be visiting you throughout the day.”

“What about you?” John asked.

“Unfortunately, I cannot. Unlike you, I am not relieved of my duties tomorrow. I’ll have to stay with Sherlock and Harriet all day.”

John looked down at the floor, disheartened. “Right,” he muttered, silently cursing Snow for keeping him apart from his sister and his boyfriend.

“If you’d like,” Mycroft went on, slowly. “I can send a message along to them for you, seeing as you aren’t allowed to see them until tomorrow night.”

John straightened up at this, amazed that he hadn’t thought of it himself.                                                                                                                            

“Can I write them a note? Two notes, I mean? One for each of them?” he asked, and Mycroft nodded.

“You may; I’ll just have to tell them hide it so none of the Peacekeepers see and let President Snow know about your correspondence.”

John grinned, feeling a strong urge to hug Mycroft but repressing it.

“Thanks, Mycroft,” he said instead, and went to his room, and wrote two notes – one for his sister and one for his boyfriend.

The next time Sherlock opened his eyes, he was feeling much better, other than a bit of pain when he flexed his fingers. He upped the Morphling, and laid back in bed for a minute.

He was alive. He was supposed to die yesterday – but there he was. He was alive and well, back in the Capitol with Harry Watson by his side –

Except, Sherlock realized with a wave of panic rushing over him, she wasn’t. He was alone in the hospital room, and Harry was nowhere to be seen.

Sherlock put down the dog tags that he had fallen asleep holding onto and pushed away the tray that contained his meager breakfast, discarded the white sheet covering him, and unstrapped his torso and ankles from the bed, suddenly grateful that Hannibal had come and undone his binds in the middle of the night. Then he pulled off his various monitoring devices, only pausing to consider whether he should take out his IV or if he should bring it with him. He settled upon bringing it with him, simply because of the pain he had felt when he had woken up, and knowing it would only increase if he took out the IV, now.

As soon as he stood up, he felt more pain spreading throughout his body, and he upped his Morphling intake to the highest amount. He then looked down at himself, and discovered he was in nothing but a stark-white hospital gown, one that matched his bedsheets and the walls around him now that the florescent lights were on. His eyes swept over the room, seeing if any of the nurses had kept his clothes out, but when he found there were no clothes to be seen, he went on with his mission.

He approached the door and turned the knob, finding it unlocked and unguarded when he opened it. He stuck his head out and looked down the hallway on either side of him, finding no one there, either. Sherlock then quickly went to work, going up to each door he came across and peeking in through the door’s window to see if Harry was in the room.

It took three tries for him to find her. He peeked through the window and found her, eating the breakfast that she was given – eating as if she hadn’t in days, which was mostly true – off the tray in her lap. He opened the door, and, when she looked up to see who the new visitor was, she lightened up immediately, a grin spreading across her face, despite her mouth being full.

She let out a muffled sound, and then swallowed her food and tried again. “Sherlock!” she exclaimed, and he found himself beaming back at her as he approached her bed.

“How are you doing?” he asked the question before she could ask him.

“I’m fine – bored as hell, but fine. You?” she asked, putting her tray back on its rolling table and pushing it away.

“I’m great!” Sherlock replied without thinking, and smiled once he realized it was true. “I’m – I’m actually great.”

“I’m glad you found me,” she said, instantly throwing her arms around Sherlock once he was close enough, and he returned the gesture. “I’ve been asking for you but no one’s been telling me anything,” she went on once they parted.

“They probably didn’t want us to reconnect until the reunion with Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft and John –” Sherlock explained, but stopped short at the idea of Mycroft and John’s mere existences. There were somewhere in the building – only a few floors between them instead of the miles and miles that had been separating them for the past few days.

The desire to go find them swelled up in Sherlock’s chest – given how easy it was to sneak into Harry’s room, it would be easy enough to find their way to an elevator and take it up to the penthouse. It didn’t matter to Sherlock that he was in a hospital gown, and that his ass was exposed for anyone who cared to glance in that area to see – the need to see Mycroft and John were too great –

He was just about to undo the rest of Harry’s straps so she could join him on his quest to search for their brothers when the door opened.

“I thought I’d find you in here. I should have realized that in your case, solitary confinement is locking you up with your worst enemy.”

Sherlock spun around, and saw his brother – Mycroft Holmes, calm as always.

“Mycroft!” Sherlock exclaimed before his brother could say another word, and threw his arms around his neck. He didn’t care that neither of them were people anywhere near interested in physical contact – he had won the Games; this was a cause for celebration.

“I missed you,” he murmured, voice muffled by his brother’s shoulder.

“So did I, Brother Mine. I missed you constantly,” Mycroft said, but Sherlock could tell that there was an underlying message in his words – he hadn’t just missed him, he had also worried about him constantly, as well.

Once he released his brother, Sherlock looked behind Mycroft, eyes searching for John Watson, but was greeted by nothing but an empty doorway.

Sherlock glanced back and forth between Mycroft and the empty air where John was supposed to be.

“Where’s John? Is he back in the penthouse? Why didn’t you bring him with you?” Sherlock asked, his words coming out in a rush.

“Relax, Sherlock,” Mycroft said, holding up his hand to silence his brother. “They want your reunion with John to be public, like it was last year.”

Sherlock rolled his eyes as he sighed. “Are you kidding me? That’s ridiculous –”

“They just let you both live,” Mycroft reminded his little brother, cutting him off. “I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but, for lack of a better way to say it, the Capitol is pissed.”

“Oh my god you just swore,” Harry mumbled, in awe.

“Yes, I do have the ability to –”

“Who cares what they think?” Sherlock asked. “Harry and I – we’re alive – we’re out of the Arena – both of us – free as birds – mocking birds – Mockingjays, even –”

“Will you take this matter seriously, Sherlock?” Mycroft snapped, narrowing his eyes at him.

“I am taking this seriously; what makes you think I’m not taking this seriously?”

“Your incessant rambling, for one –” Mycroft replied.

“Look, not so long ago I was in a position that meant certain death – my death – and now I’m back in a nice, warm building with one of my dearest friends and my big brother – are those ginger nuts?!” Sherlock cut himself off upon seeing two cookies on Harry’s tray.

“Oh, god,” Mycroft muttered.

“I love ginger nuts! I wasn’t given any; how did you get some?” he asked, turning to Harry.

“One of the nurses nicked it for me,” Harry replied with a shrug.

“Can I have one?” he asked, and Harry nodded, a small smile appearing on her face. “Awesome, you’re the best –”

“You’re high as a kite, aren’t you?” Mycroft asked, growing impatient as Sherlock took a bite of a cookie, leaving the other one for Harry.

“Natural high, I assure you,” Sherlock promised, his mouth still full. “I’m just glad to be alive!” he practically sang.

“What the hell did you do, crank up the dial on your Morphling as far as it would go?”

“No –”

“Let me see –” Mycroft said, taking a step closer to Sherlock, reaching out for his Morphling drip.

“What? No –” Sherlock started, trying to drag the drip’s pole away from Mycroft, but he also held onto the pole. “Get off – what are you doing?”

Within seconds, they were in a full-out squabble, both of them trying to gain or keep control of Sherlock’s Morphling drip.

Harry watched the boys, still mulling over Mycroft’s words, until a thought occurred to her.

“Wait, guys – guys!”

Instantly, the two brothers turned to look at her.

“Does this mean I can’t see John, either?” she asked, her words dripping with confusion and resentment. “He’s my brother – you two can visit – and fight over Sherlock’s Morphling drip, evidently – but John and I can’t?”

Mycroft stepped away from Sherlock, and pointed at the Morphling drip still attached to Sherlock’s arm.

“Turn it down,” he ordered, his voice grave, and Sherlock turned his drip down a notch, just to make Mycroft happy.

Mycroft then turned to Harry.

“I believe that the Gamemakers are concerned that if they allowed for you and John to reunite before the final interview, Sherlock would find a way to see John, as well,” Mycroft explained, and Sherlock crossed his arms.

“Well, they’re right,” he admitted.

“But why do I have to be punished for it?” Harry asked, outraged for a moment before her expression softened. “I mean, it’s not like I’m not happy to see you, Mycroft, but...John’s my brother, you know?”

“I know, Harriet, and I’m sorry about the injustice of the situation. But,” Mycroft then pulled out two envelopes, and Sherlock quickly recognized John’s near-illegible handwriting, Harry written on one, and Sherlock written on the other. “John told me to give these to you – but it is imperative that you hide them from anyone who comes in or out of this room besides the three of us.”

He handed the envelopes to their rightful owner, and Harry hugged it to her chest.

“We’ll see him tomorrow?” she asked, and Mycroft nodded.

“The recap is tonight, and then the two of you will see him tomorrow night,” he confirmed, and then checked his watch. “But right now – any minute, in fact – the wetsuits you wore in the Arena will be delivered here; not the exact ones, but replicas,” he added upon looking up and seeing the confused expressions upon Sherlock and Harry’s faces. “From there, you’ll meet with Mrs. Hudson, Cinna, Connie, and myself, and then we’ll go up to the Penthouse for dinner.”

“And where will John be during this?” Harry asked, still obviously unhappy about the fact that Sherlock and Mycroft could see each other between then and the next night but she and John could not.

“I would tell you, but unfortunately I can’t – my brother may get ideas,” he said, glancing at Sherlock, and he crossed his arms again in response.

“You put so little faith in me.”

“You act like I don’t know exactly how far you’d go to see your partner,” Mycroft replied, and then addressed the both of them. “Since the Avoxes will be here any minute, I should escort Sherlock back to his room, but I wanted to be the first to say to you how proud I am of both of you for surviving the Hunger Games. No one ever thought there would be two winners, but you proved everyone wrong, and for that I am extremely glad.”

Harry gave Mycroft a halfhearted smile. “Thanks, Mycroft.”

Sherlock gave Harry one last hug, and then passed through the door that Mycroft held open for him, saying their goodbyes and assuring her that they’d see each other again within the next half hour, and then it was just Sherlock and Mycroft.

Sherlock wasn’t entirely sure what to say to his brother, but luckily Mycroft filled the silence as they walked down the hall side-by-side.

“I’m surprised by how talkative you are today,” he said casually. “When John returned from the Arena he barely spoke; for someone who hated talking in the first place I thought no one would get a word out of you until the final interview.”

“Maybe it’s because I’m still trying to protect Harry,” Sherlock offered, which was partially true: he had been the one to try to talk the doctors in the hovercraft out of putting them under for surgery. “If I came back alone I would probably become a mute.”

“Wouldn’t that have been a blessing to us all,” Mycroft replied with a subtle smile.

Now that he was thinking about it, Sherlock wondered if the reason why he hadn’t stopped talking was because he was afraid – secretly afraid – that if he stopped, if he took a vow of silence until he could better cope with what had happened to him in the Games, he would never speak again. But he didn’t say any of this to his brother. Instead, he changed the topic.

“You’ve put on weight since I left,” Sherlock remarked, glancing between Mycroft’s face and his protruding stomach. “That waistcoat’s clearly newer than the jacket.”

“Only two and a half pounds,” Mycroft informed him.

“Three, actually,” Sherlock corrected him.

“I’m pretty sure that having my little brother in the Hunger Games is reason enough for me to gain a little weight from stress-eating,” Mycroft said as he opened Sherlock’s door. “Anyway, I should probably hook you back up to your machinery, so the nurses don’t hassle you on where you’ve been.”

Sherlock rolled his eyes. “There’s no point –” he started to say, but the no-nonsense look upon Mycroft’s face stopped him. “Fine.”

And so, Sherlock sat back in his bed, and began strapping his ankles to the mattress, like they had been before. Once he was done, Mycroft began hooking Sherlock’s monitors back up to his little brother.

“How’s the Morphling treating you?” he asked, his voice seemingly casual, but Sherlock could sense the underlying concern in his voice.


“You’re sure?”

“I’m fine,” Sherlock repeated, and then changed the subject before Mycroft could reply. “Does Louise hate me? Because I couldn’t save Archie?” he asked quietly.

“Of course not. She’s upset by his death, yes, but she saw you avenge him, she knows about how you took care of him, and she knows that he didn’t die alone and in fear. Frankly, I think she likes you more than she had going into this year’s Hunger Games,” he said, and Sherlock nodded.

“Okay – alright,” he said, just as Mycroft finished with Sherlock’s monitors.

And then, in a moment of brotherly compassion, Mycroft Holmes leaned down and kissed his brother’s head through is hair.

 “I have to meet with Mrs. Hudson, Cinna, and Connie,” Mycroft said, acting as if he hadn’t just preformed the first outwardly sign of affection that Sherlock had ever seen his brother do, pulling the sheet over Sherlock, tucking him in, like he did when he would tuck Sherlock in for the night back when he was Sherlock’s sole guardian. “So, this is where I leave you, for now.” He straightened up. “Do you need anything?”

“I don’t think so,” Sherlock replied, and Mycroft nodded.

And Mycroft stood there for a moment, beside his brother’s bed, looking at all the ties and wires hooked up to Sherlock. His eyes looked different, a way that Sherlock had only seen a few times in his life. They were soft and sad, like he was in pain, and Sherlock wondered for a moment what Mycroft was thinking. But before Sherlock could ask, the edges of Mycroft’s mouth twitched upwards into a small, sad half-smile, and then he went on his way. The door was almost closed, Mycroft was almost gone, when a thought suddenly occurred to him, and Sherlock recovered enough from the moment to ask.

“Wait – Mycroft –” Sherlock called, and his brother turned and peeked his head back through the door.


“When you said that you believed in me, did you mean –?” he trailed off, unsure if he should say what he had in his head – completely aware that it was possible that someone could be listening in on their conversation.

Mycroft gave his brother a fond smile.

“Yes. Yes, I did. Now remember,” Mycroft pointed lazily at the envelope in Sherlock’s hand, “Keep that hidden.”

“I will.”

As soon as Mycroft had left the room, the door closed behind him, Sherlock tore open the envelope and unfolded the piece of paper, and read John Watson’s words:

Dear Sherlock,

In case you haven’t been told yet (or you haven’t figured it out on your own), I’m not allowed to see you or Harry until tomorrow evening, where we can reunite live on Caesar’s stage in front of everyone. Despite that, I wanted to have a chance to say something to you before then, and Mycroft told me he’d send any messages I had along to you and Harry for me, so here we are. I have a number of things to say to you, and so much of it I’d rather say in person, so I’ll make this quick:

  1. I love you. I love you and I don’t think I could ever love you any less.
  2. Thank you, so much, for saving Harry, and for watching over her in the Arena. I couldn’t imagine a life without either one of you; now I don’t have to, and that’s all thanks to you. And I don’t think I ever thanked you for even thinking about sacrificing yourself for her, so thank you for that, too. Thank you so much, Sherlock, for everything you’ve done.
  3. I know you know about what happened between me and Magnussen. I’m not angry about how it all came out, by the way; I know the effect he has on people, and the way your deductions have a tendency to come out. Really, I’m just sorry I didn’t tell you myself, and that you had to find out about it like that. The only people who knew besides me and him were a couple of Avoxes, (only because they were the ones who found me while I was still in shock about the whole thing) and Mycroft (because he knew without me even having to tell him). As soon as we’re alone I’ll tell you everything, I promise.

I’m so glad you’re okay, and I’ll see you on Flickerman’s stage.

Sincerely, John.

Chapter Text

On his way to meet up with Sherlock and Harry in the hospital wing, Mycroft dropped John off at the fourth floor, into Dean Bainbridge and Alexander Waters’ care.

“I fear that Hannibal Magnussen may not have given up on trying to have a private conversation with you, and I want you to be as safe as possible while I’m unable to be present,” Mycroft said in the elevator. “And I can assure you that you could not be safer with anyone but the District Four victors. I know you’ve had your reservations about Dean and Alexander in the past because of where they come from, but, if I’m correct, you do consider them your friends.”

“Yeah,” John confirmed.

“Excellent. I should mention, of course, that a few of the previous victors from District Four arrived late last night to celebrate Sherlock and Harriet’s win and are staying in the suite with Dean and Alexander. I know everyone who’s arrived, and I can assure you that they are all as trustworthy as Dean and Alexander. On the off chance that you do have any problems, go immediately to Dean, and he’ll take care of it.”

 “Why not Alexander?” John asked.

“No offence to Alexander, but people don’t listen to him the way they listen to Dean,” he replied.

John nodded. He understood the situation, and he did like Alexander and was warming up to Dean, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be cooped up with multiple career victors all day with no one from the outlying districts to serve as a buffer. What he really wanted was to see his sister and Sherlock.

At that moment, the elevator doors opened to reveal Dean Bainbridge himself.

 “Mycroft, John!” he exclaimed as if he hadn’t seen them in years, hugging Mycroft and shaking John’s hand.

“Hello, Dean. Thank you again for doing this,” Mycroft said.

“It’s my pleasure. Are you on your way to see our newest victors?” he asked, beaming, and Mycroft nodded.

“I am, indeed.”

“Well, then, I won’t keep you. Don’t worry about John; he’s in good hands,” Dean promised.

“I know he will be,” Mycroft agreed, and with a quick good-bye, he was gone.

Immediately after the elevator doors had closed, Dean rounded to John. “So, welcome to our humble abode,” he said, gesturing to the room that, despite the fact that this was a Career suite, didn’t look all too different from the penthouse.

“Hey, John,” Alexander called from the dining room table, where he was still eating breakfast. In fact, everyone was still eating breakfast, and almost everyone was still in their pajamas. John felt entirely overdressed in his sky blue button up shirt and black dress pants.

“John, this is Marius, Coburn, Oceana, River, Finn, and Heath, and our lovely escort, Miss Sybil.” Dean said, and, as he said their names, each person smiled or waved or gave some acknowledgement that John was being introduced to them. “Would you like something to eat?” Dean went on, walking ahead of John to the head of the table, where an empty place had been set, next to what John assumed to be Dean’s seat. It was then John noticed that Dean and Alexander were the youngest victors in the room – the rest of the victors ranged from their thirties to fifties. “We’ve got plenty to share,” Dean invited, patting the back of John’s chair.

And John crossed the room and sat down at the table, where he took as much food as he dared, and dug in.

It felt entirely too weird for Sherlock to see himself and Harry in the same wetsuits they wore in the Arena. Like Mycroft had said, they weren’t the exact same ones – they weren’t torn and filthy with dirt and blood, and thus it seemed like the colors, the blacks and reds and lilacs, were so much more vibrant against their skin.

All throughout dinner, Sherlock watched Harry, reading her like a book – like he always could with nearly everyone – making sure that, despite the fact that she was still in that stupid red-and-black suit, she was okay.

Ever since she saw them coming down the hallway, Mrs. Hudson was elated. She kept going on and on about everything under the sun, acting as if she hadn’t seen them in years.

“May I just say that I love what you did with your hair, Harriet,” she said from her place at the head of the dinner table. “I can’t wait for your prep team to get their hands on it; it looks good now, of course, but they’ll make it perfect.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Hudson,” Harry replied, giving her a tight smile.

“And you!” she chirped, looking at Sherlock. “John has not stopped talking about you since your victory; he can’t wait to see you!”

“I feel the same way,” he said, suddenly entirely focused by the food on his plate, idly touching the dog tags he still kept under the wetsuit the wanted nothing more than to take off. “And I’m sure Harry does too.”

“Of course! A sister always needs her brother; I know that from experience. I remember, when I was about your age, Harriet, my brother and I –”

Sherlock and Harry exchanged looks from across the table, and while Mrs. Hudson went on, Sherlock blocked her out, and his eyes slowly wandered to the hallway, where he knew John’s bedroom was, the last room on the left. He knew that somewhere, somewhere in this building, John was hiding, forbidden to see him. Was it possible that he was in that very room, listening to Mrs. Hudson go on and on about her brother that nobody actually cared about, straining to hear for Sherlock and Harry’s voices?

When Mrs. Hudson was done with her story, she beamed around the table, her eyes alight.

“My victors,” she said quietly, her eyes meeting with Harry’s, and then Sherlock’s. “My two victors.” There was a moment of silence, and then she checked her pocket watch. “Oh! We should get ready for the recap with Caesar! We can’t spend all of our time in idle conversation, can we?”

And just like that, Sherlock and Harry were whisked away and prepped and dressed for their first public appearance since the Games. Unfortunately, before Sherlock could steal himself away to secretly check John’s room for his boyfriend, they were all stuffing themselves into the elevator and making the decent down, to be on national television once again. And, despite everything Sherlock had gone through in the past four days, his stomach still began to churn as soon as the elevator started moving.

As it turned out, there were some things that even the Hunger Games couldn’t change.

Louise was the first person to visit John on the fourth floor to keep him company, arriving about an hour after Mycroft left.

“John, you have a visitor,” Alexander called, walking into the sitting room with her, where John and the other District Four victors were watching the coverage of the Hunger Games’ after party still going on in the City Circle.

“Hey, Louise,” he greeted her, looking away from the screen to stand up and hug her.

“Hey,” she replied, and they sat down on the sofa together, in between Dean and River. “How are you doing?” she asked.

“Sherlock and Harry are just seven floors below me, alive, and I’m not allowed to see them because the Capitol wants an authentic Johnlock reunion – how do you think I’m doing?” John asked.

“Right,” Louise said. “I still can’t believe they’re doing that to you. You guys have been separated for days already, and Sherlock nearly died in the Arena – twice – and now you’ve got to wait even longer to see him. And your sister – your sister’s involved, as well! They’re not just separating you and Sherlock for a televised reunion; they’re separating you and your sister for no reason – that’s not right.”

“No, it’s not,” John agreed, “but they don’t care.” He looked to the screen again, watching the party continue. “I didn’t know that it was possible to party for twenty-four hours straight.”

“Why are you surprised?” Alexander asked.

“They’ve partied for weeks at a time, before – they just partied for four days straight,” Louise added.

“Yeah, but this is different – everyone was watching the Games, then. Now there’s no new footage to watch – now they’re just waiting.”

“Aren’t we all?” Finn asked.

John opened his mouth to argue, and sighed.

“Don’t they have jobs or something, though?” John asked the group at large.

“Of course they do,” Coburn replied.

“The Capitol businesses just prepare to take the time off every year,” Oceana explained.

“Haven’t you ever noticed that their demands for rations increase at the end of the spring?” Marius asked.

“They do?” John asked. “I wouldn’t know; I’m not down in the mines.”

“What about your parents?” Louise asked.

“My dad’s a butcher, and my mom’s a geologist – she worked with Sherlock’s mom, before she died,” John replied. “Sherlock’s dad was a miner, but he died when Sherlock was four. I know nothing of the mines.”

“And what about you, before the Games? You had to have a job, didn’t you?” River asked, but it was Dean who answered for him.

“Because no one in Twelve goes down into the mines until they’re eighteen,” he said. “Coal dust doesn’t exactly do wonders on a child’s lungs – they’d be dead before their second reaping, and then what?”

It took John a second to realize what Dean was saying – why he had to explain to them that John never had to work in the mines.

“Wait – when did you all start working?” he asked, and the answer was spoken by each person all at once, all of them overlapping, all of them the same: age twelve.

“If you’re old enough to be reaped, you’re old enough to work, according to Snow,” Louise went on, rolling her eyes.

“And we all knew how to work a casting net by the time we were seven,” Alexander added, and the others nodded in agreement. “Jesus – Dean – remember that one time –” Alexander started, but then the screen changed – Caesar Flickerman and Claudius Templesmith were on the screen, announcing Sherlock and Harry’s release from the hospital.

And then –

There they were, walking down the hallway of the hospital that was made just for the Hunger Games tributes, located seven floors below John’s feet, and the room went absolutely silent, apart from John.

He gasped involuntarily, as if his lungs had not allowed him to fully retain any of the air he had been breathing in the last twenty-four hours. He felt as if he was fully breathing for the first time that day, all because he was seeing his boyfriend and his sister – alive – in the Capitol.

He leaned forward, as if getting closer to the screen could make him closer to them, and watched as they – together – approached their stylists, their prep teams, Mrs. Hudson, and Mycroft Holmes. Louise reached out and John let her hold his hand, and he felt Alexander put his hands on John’s shoulders from over the back of the sofa, and John knew why –

Because John was supposed to be there, too. He was supposed to be watching Sherlock and Harry walk down that hallway in person, not through a screen. Sherlock and Harry were supposed to be hugging him right now, in addition to the stylists and prep teams and Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft.

But, because President Snow and the Gamemakers were a bunch of self-absorbed, inconsiderate bastards, John was here, watching this all happen, seven floors above them, with Louise Neal to hold his hand and Alexander Waters to put his hands on John’s shoulders in solidarity, because they knew – everyone knew – that John should’ve been there, too.

Shortly after Sherlock and Harry vanished from the broadcast again, only to reappear for the recap, Clover arrived, asking how John was, and he, not knowing all the words he wanted to say in her language, signed that he was okay.

And, in truth, he was, for the most part. Yes, he wasn’t allowed to see Sherlock and Harry, but he had to admit he wasn’t having a completely terrible time living with eight past victors from District 4. They understood what John was going through and didn’t ask him any invasive questions about his assault or Sherlock or anything he wouldn’t want to talk about. They treated him like he was human, which was much more than the Capitol was ever able to do. Even though they were born in completely different parts of Panem and into societies that viewed the Hunger Games as two totally different things, by the time Louise and Clover left and the Hunger Games recap rolled around, John was sort of hoping that at least one of them would stay behind and watch it with him.

John sat on the sofa in front of the television, watching the eight previous victors and Sybil get ready to go to the recap.

“So, who’s going to be babysitting me while you’re all at the recap?” he asked, using the term that had been coined at some point during the day to describe the fact that Mycroft was leaving him with someone else since he couldn’t be there.

“Oh, Antonia’s coming up,” Dean replied as he put on his blazer.

“Antonia?” John asked, his mind searching to figure out where he had heard of that name before.

“She’s from District Two,” Alexander replied.

“Aurora’s sister,” Dean added, and it was then John remembered: Charles Augustus Magnussen had raped her sister’s corpse in the Arena.

He must’ve paled or shown some sign of distress, for Alexander furrowed his brows together and tilted his head to the side.

“You alright, John?”

Before John could answer, the elevator doors opened, and Antonia Blake entered the room, her black and blue hair matching her black pants and blue t-shirt and her stormy demeanor.

As Dean, Alexander, and the others went through pleasantries and catching up, John grounded himself.

His name was John Watson.

He was eighteen years old.

He was in the training center, and Charles Augustus Magnussen was dead.

“John, you good?” Dean asked, calling him back, and John nodded, giving him the best smile he could manage.

“Yeah. I’m good.”

Whatever John had done, Dean had bought it. “Alright. We’ll be back in a few hours.”

“Please, take your time,” Antonia said. “Have a drink with Snow or something. Or, you know. Don’t.”

Dean and Alexander chuckled, and they all said goodbye to John as they walked out, leaving Antonia and John alone.

“I don’t think we really ‘officially’ met; or, rather, when we did you were too paralyzed by fear over your sister and your boyfriend to actually retain anything,” she said, tapping her temple as she approached him. She sat on the sofa next to John before she continued. “I’m Antonia Blake, from District Two.”

“I remember,” John replied, but shook her hand anyway. “But, um, not to be rude but, why are you here?”

“Because Mycroft can’t be, and you’re under his protection from Hannibal Lecter Magnussen.”

“No, why you specifically?” John asked, then realized only after he said it how rude it must’ve sounded. “I mean –” he tried to explain himself, but Antonia cut him off.

“Because I volunteered, that’s why.”

John was taken aback by her answer.

“You – you volunteered?” he repeated. “Why?”

Antonia shrugged. “Because I can. And I didn’t really want to watch another recap, anyway. Not to mention the fact that I’m a bit more experienced in fighting.” As she said this, she pulled a curved knife out of her pocket, similar to the one Charles Augustus used in the Arena – similar to the one Hannibal used in his Arena – and balanced the tip of the curved blade on her knee, resting the palm of her hand on the end of the handle to keep it upright.

It was at that moment that John remembered what had been said about her, way back during the Victory Tour.

“She’s unpredictable.”

“She has good days and not-so-good days.”

“More like good days and days where you need a bomb shelter to hide from her. She’s from District Two. Killed her last five opponents at once a few years back. She’s alright, just has problems, like the rest of us.”

Antonia had killed five people at the same time in order to win the Hunger Games, and now she had just pulled a knife out in front of John. He didn’t want to think badly of her, but what else was he to think?

She obviously noticed him stiffen beside her.

“I’m sure you know that this knife was used in Hannibal Lecter Magnussen’s Arena,” she said. “He used one of these to kill Will Graham.”

“I know,” John replied, quietly, and she grabbed the knife by the hilt and pressed the blade against her stomach over her clothes, right above her navel.

“He gutted him – sliced him right here; gave him a smile.” she explained, tracing the blade across her shirt as a demonstration, lightly, so she didn’t damage her shirt. “Hannibal knew exactly how to cut Will – it was surgical, according the Gamemakers. Hannibal wanted Will to live; to be conscious enough to watch him eat his heart before his brain completely shut down and he could eat that, too. He wanted Will to hear his own cannon and know that he was dead. Did you know the Gamemakers tried to kill Hannibal before he won? Once he started eating his victims in the Arena, they realized they didn’t really want a cannibal for a victor. They set up traps specifically for him, but he found his way out of every single one. He outsmarted the Capitol.” Antonia held the knife up, and John could see himself reflected in the blade. She stared at the knife for the moment, inspecting it, and then slid her eyes over to look at John. “If Hannibal shows up here, tonight, I think I’d like to give him a similar smile. Finally do what the Capitol wasn’t able to do. Wouldn’t you?”

John looked from Antonia’s eyes to the knife in her hand down to his own clammy hands, trying to decide whether or not he would like to hurt Hannibal. He had hurt Will Graham, yes, but John had also hurt people to survive the Games. Hannibal had also enabled his brother do unspeakable things to countless amounts of girls and was in full support of his brother having “exclusive rights” to John, whatever that had meant. But, if given the choice, if given the chance, would John kill him?

Luckily, Antonia Blake wasn’t looking for an answer.

“Not to mention the fact that this baby can pick locks by bypassing the safety latch in the doorjamb. So, it’s always nice to carry around.”

John nodded, and it was then that the television before them revealed Caesar Flickerman’s stage, and then Caesar himself introduced the year’s Hunger Games victors and their teams.

Once the stylists, Mrs. Hudson, and Mycroft were all presented and seated, Caesar called out Sherlock and Harry, and they rose from the plate on the stage’s floor, the same place John himself had stood last year.

If John had made an audible noise upon viewing his boyfriend and his sister, he wouldn’t have known – or have cared. If he had been alone, he would’ve cried. Of course, he had seen them on the same screen earlier that day, when they met up with Mrs. Hudson, the stylists, and Mycroft again, but this time he wouldn’t just be seeing them for a minute or so, still in the clothes they wore in the Arena, while Caesar and Claudius spoke over whatever they were saying, whenever they spoke. This time, he could stare at them for as long as he wanted, and hear their voices again.

But it wouldn’t be anything like the real thing.

They were in the same colors that the Gamemakers had assigned to them when putting them into the Arena. Harry wore a puffy red dress that made her look older and younger than her age simultaneously, her butchered hair salvaged by Connie’s prep team by turning it into a beautifully fashioned asymmetrical pixie cut. Meanwhile, Sherlock donned a suit that was extremely similar to (if not exactly alike) the suit that John had worn during his recap the previous year.

After the world admired the fact that Sherlock and Harry were standing upon the stage as the two victors of the Seventy-Fifth Annual Hunger Games, the recap began.

Chapter Text

Sherlock had been dreading the recap ever since his prep team begun applying his makeup, feeling a pit in his stomach swell so a size so large it was crushing his lungs, but he wasn’t able to put his finger upon the reason why until he was sitting there on the plush sofa on Caesar Flickerman’s stage: Archie Neal.

The moment Archie appeared on the screen, calling Sherlock’s name from his podium, it all hit Sherlock like a bullet to his heart: just five days ago, Archie Neal was alive and well. In fact, twenty-one other people had also been alive and well, too, but now they were all dead – all within a span of four days.

It was still hitting him – the pain spreading across his chest and seeping into his brain – when Archie Neal was killed, mid laugh, from about ten different angles.

“Sherlock, right now, what are you thinking?” Caesar Flickerman asked, putting his microphone in front of Sherlock’s mouth. It was only then did Sherlock realize he was crying.

“I’m sorry,” Sherlock whispered, wiping his tears.

He tore his eyes from the screen – from his own horrified face – and scanned the audience, as if he could actually tell the faces apart and find the person he was looking for.

“Louise – I’m so sorry –”

He felt Harry squeeze his hand beside him, and he looked at her to find that she was crying, too. He then felt Mycroft, who had been sitting on his own plush sofa just behind Sherlock this whole time, lean forward and place his hand on his shoulder, and all at once, he knew she forgave him. She did – Mycroft said she did – he wouldn’t lie to him –

He just had to get through the rest of this recap.

To say the very least, the recap was difficult to watch for both Sherlock and Harry, but also for John.

The entire time they were watching the Hunger Games play out before them, Sherlock and Harry were holding each other’s hands, and Mycroft placed his hands on each of their shoulders and gave a reassuring squeeze whenever a particularly gruesome or heartbreaking part occurred on the screen. Whenever John thought of the fact that he should be there, holding their hands and putting his hands on their shoulders, able to touch them and hug them and speak directly to them, he felt a pang of jealousy.

But every time Charles Augustus Magnussen appeared on the screen, John’s breath faltered slightly, causing him to take a deep breath in order to catch it again. He grounded himself in his mind – reminded himself he was nowhere near the Arena or the stairwell and that the eldest Magnussen brother was dead – and continued to watch Sherlock and Harry on the screen, refusing to close his eyes or look away.

The whole time, he felt so incredibly aware of Antonia sitting next to him, and he kept feeling the need to say something, anything, to explain himself or to just make conversation, but he couldn’t find it in him to open his mouth...

Until they watched Charles Augustus Magnussen kill Antonia’s sister on screen, together.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, as the cameras cut away in the exact same place they had before, letting the audience put the same terrible, horrible pieces together. “About Aurora.”

Antonia nodded, taking a shaky breath herself, and then replied. “Autopsies are done on the...dead tributes before they send them back to their home Districts. It’s mostly just to get the tracking chip out of their arms, but also to run a report on what exactly killed them. The woman who performed the autopsy on Aurora...she told me that she died shortly after she was stabbed, and didn’t feel most of what he did to her, and I’m...I’m trying to find peace in that.”

John had no idea what to say in response, but his mouth opened up and spoke for him, anyway.

“I’m sorry. And, thank you. For watching this with me.”

“Well, it’s better than crying in public,” she said simply, wiping her eyes.

After what seemed like forever, the recap finally ended, but as Sherlock and Harry left the stage without much ceremony, something seemed wrong. It took John a second to figure out what it was, but as soon as he figured it out he spoke his concern aloud.

“He didn’t crown them,” he said quietly.

Antonia looked over at him. “Hm?”

“Snow, he – he didn’t crown them. He always crowns the victors after the recap,” John said, suddenly anxious. “Why didn’t he crown them?”

Antonia shrugged, waving him off. “Don’t worry about it – he’ll probably do it tomorrow while you’re up on stage with them, where you should’ve been tonight.”

John nodded slowly, but the pit in his stomach still didn’t go away, especially when he thought about what Mycroft had told him the night before, just after Sherlock and Harry’s win.

“We’re in trouble, John. You, me, Sherlock, Harriet – we’re all in deep trouble.”

He never doubted Mycroft – John knew better than to doubt Mycroft.

But now, now that he saw Snow skip the crowning ceremony, he was sure that Mycroft was right.

They – the four of them – were in deep, deep trouble.

The end of the recap couldn’t have come fast enough. As soon as they were dismissed by Caesar, with the promise that he’d see them the following night for the final interview, Sherlock practically ran off the stage, and Harry was perfectly in step with him the entire time. The moment they were back stage, a girl who Sherlock recognized as Louise Neal approached them and threw her arms around his and Harry’s necks.

“You did great!” she exclaimed, kissing Sherlock’s cheek, and then Harry’s before giving them room to breathe. “Oh my god – I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to come meet with you two before the recap; there was so much we had to get done today and John’s been lonely as hell, so –”

“You met with John?” Sherlock asked, his entire body straightening immediately, suddenly engrossed, anxious to get any information.

“Yes, I did, and he’s fine, but I’ve been given strict orders not to tell you where he is by – Mycroft Holmes,” she announced his presence, looking behind them as she noticed him approach.

“Hello, Louise,” he replied, and then glanced down at Harry. “I don’t believe you two have met, officially. Harriet, this is Louise Neal, victor of the seventy-third Hunger Games; the year before your brother’s. Louise, this is Harriet Watson.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Louise said, putting out her hand for Harry to shake. “Do you prefer Harriet or Harry?”

Harry was seeming to have a bit more trouble coming out of the mindset of watching their Games play out before them, for it took her a few seconds of staring at Louise, mouth slightly agape, before realizing that she had been spoken to. After the moment had passed, Harry quickly raised her hand to meet Louise’s.

“Hi,” she said, finally. “Harry. It’s Harry.”

“Hello, Harry. I know, it can be terrifying up there, but you did great. Both of you did,” she reiterated, glancing at Sherlock, and then back to Harry. “I love your hair, by the way.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, uncharacteristically shy as she reached up and touched her shortened locks.

“Are you okay, Harry?” Sherlock asked, and Harry’s head whipped to look at him, but as she spoke she glanced between him and Mycroft and Louise, her hand still in her hair.

“Yeah – fine,” she said quickly, snapping back to her usual self. “I’m okay.” And then, everything clicked in her head, and she froze, staring at Louise with widened eyes. “Oh my god – are you okay? Oh my god I’m so sorry –”

“It’s alright – I’m okay. Well, I’m doing better than I was – honestly,” Louise added quickly, looking up at Mycroft, as if she could tell that he didn’t believe her. “For right now, I’m just glad that it wasn’t Charles Augustus Magnussen on that stage, you know?”

“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “Me too. I’m just – I’m so sorry about Archie –” she went on, but stopped immediately once Louise put her hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t worry about it; dwelling over who’s been lost in your Arena will kill you, it really will.”

Harry nodded, mulling over her words. “Right. Okay. Thank you.”

Louise gave Harry a reassuring smile in reply.

“We should get going – there’s a Victory Banquet for us to attend,” Mycroft said, changing the subject as he went around Sherlock and stood at Louise’s side, and Sherlock, Harry, and Louise all scoffed.

“Of course – your brother and the closest thing you’ve got to a sister get out of the Hunger Games alive and you still only think about food,” Sherlock said, rolling his eyes.

“I’m not concerned about the food,” Mycroft lied. “I’m just trying to keep us on Mrs. Hudson’s schedule –”

“Sure, blame Mrs. Hudson for your obsessions,” Harry said, crossing her arms, back to her usual self.

“Speaking of which,” Louise muttered, and Sherlock spun around just in time to see –

“Why are we all standing around?” Mrs. Hudson practically sang as she approached the four Hunger Games victors. “We’ve got a banquet to attend!”

Mycroft looked back at his friends and family with a look of “I told you so,” and Sherlock rolled his eyes.

“Do we have to go?” he asked.

“Of course you do!” Mrs. Hudson exclaimed. “You’re a victor of the Hunger Games, after all – this banquet is for you! Why ever would you want to miss it?”

“Because there’ll be people.”

“Well, of course there will be people – that’s the point of a banquet, after all! Attendance is non-negotiable, Sherlock Holmes, and if we don’t get going we’re all going to be late!”

And with that, she spun around and led the way to the Victory Banquet, and the group followed, all aware but refusing to mention that there should’ve been a fifth member to their party.

The banquet at President Snow’s mansion went off without a hitch.

Strangers filled the room, talking and dancing and trying to sneak a peek of Sherlock and Harry without seeming too obvious. Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft separated themselves from the group almost immediately, leaving Sherlock with Harry and Louise, which Sherlock didn’t mind, at first. For the first hour, he stuck by the two girls as Louise led them around, introducing them to her friends, all of whom were past victors of the Hunger Games who had siblings who had been killed just days before, but everyone seemed especially kind to Sherlock and Harry, specifically a deaf woman by the name of Clover Frankland (the sister of the tribute who had tried to drop a tracker jacker nest on Harry’s head), and Alexander Waters (whose sister he had just watched get killed by Capitol-created mosquitoes). Amanda Hawkins refused to speak to Sherlock, however, which Sherlock didn’t blame her for.

Once the first hour was over and the three had settled upon a corner of the room to make their own, however, it became clear to Sherlock that that he was an odd man out. So, while a moderately tipsy Louise was angrily recounting to a sober but still-giggly Harry about how her menstrual cycle had begun the second day she was in the Arena (“Of all the times for it to start –”), Sherlock excused himself to find his brother.

Of course, he didn’t have to look very far – Mycroft was the food tables, filling up his plate with a mountain of food. Sherlock considered joining his brother for some quality family bonding, but upon realizing that Mycroft was way too engrossed in his quest to eat every single food item in the entire hall without throwing up, he settled for sitting by himself as close to the dance floor as he could get, watching the fish under the glass floor and wishing that he and John were there, dancing above them, just like they had before.

At one point, he had glanced up to find Hannibal Lecter Magnussen dancing with a member from District 1 on the dancefloor, but he was carefully watching Sherlock at every opportunity. It occurred to him then that Hannibal had probably been watching him all night, and instantly felt too close to him, even though they were nearly thirty feet away from each other.

But, before Sherlock could do anything about it, a very drunk Mrs. Hudson sat down beside him, tearfully going on about how much she loved Johnlock from the beginning, and Sherlock spent the rest of the night focusing on trying to coax John’s location out of her (she too refused to tell him) and then moving Mrs. Hudson’s glass just slightly out of her reach, until finally he asked her if it was now an acceptable time to leave, and she said yes.

So he helped gather Harry and Mycroft, and they all went back to their penthouse.


The mentors and past victors of District Four returned shortly after the recap ended, and once they arrived Antonia saw herself out to make her appearance at the Victory Banquet. Alexander and Oceana were nice enough to think of John, though, and brought a container of food back just for him.

“We didn’t know what you liked,” Alexander said him, popping off the top and revealing a dinner plate full of delicious-looking Capitol food. “It’s not like we could’ve asked Sherlock.”

“Then he’d know where you were,” Oceana added.

“But Mycroft did make sure to give you a piece of cake,” Alexander went on, pointing at the piece of red velvet cake on his plate.

“Thank you, this is – this is lovely,” John said quietly, looking back and forth between them and the food. “Thank you.”

For the rest of the evening, the group sat around the table and talked as if they were all old friends with John as he ate what Alexander and Oceana had given him. For what only felt like a moment or two, the reasons why John was sitting there instead of about eight stories up in the penthouse or down at President Snow’s mansion with his family, depending on where they were at the time, were forgotten. He briefly stopped thinking about the fact that he wasn’t allowed to talk to or be near Sherlock or his sister, the fact that Dean and Alexander had lost their older siblings only days ago, his normal prejudice against Career Districts, or the meeting with President Snow that was tomorrow morning. For just a few moments, the thoughts and feelings in John’s head were almost normal – something they hadn’t been since the Quarter Quell was announced.

So just after Dean stood up and told the others he was going to be in his room for the night, a thought occurred to John – one that hadn’t crossed his mind in months – and he used a trip to the washroom as an excuse to make his way to Dean’s room.

He knocked on the door, two quick raps to show that it wasn’t entirely urgent but there was, in fact, someone at the door.

“Come on in,” Dean called, and John opened the door to reveal him standing before his mirror, just about to put on his nightshirt.

“Hey, John,” he said, pulling his shirt over his head. “How are you holding up? Do you need anything?”

“No, I’m okay, I just...I have a stupid question,” John said quietly, closing the door behind him.

“A stupid question?” Dean repeated, and then turned back to the mirror. “I don’t think I have time for that.”

John was immediately put down by his reply, and was about to awkwardly tell Dean to forget he said anything and back his way out of the conversation when Dean looked back at him.

“I’m kidding – what’s up?”

John smiled, and then let himself drop back into the straight-faced expression he normally wore, these days.

“I was just – well, Sherlock and I were –” he started, his heart giving a faint twinge of pain as his boyfriend’s name passed through his lips. “Before all of this happened, we were talking about the ocean, and I was thinking just now... District Four provides fish for all of Panem, so...have you ever seen the ocean? Or has anyone from Four seen it?” John finally asked. “Because I’ve seen lobsters served at Capitol banquets and I know for a fact that they only live in saltwater areas –”

“Of course we have – we’re taught to swim before we know how to walk – and we know how to fish before we know how to write our own names,” Dean replied, chuckling. “It’s really beautiful out there, actually.”

“So you’ve been on a boat – on the ocean?” John asked, frantic.

“Oh yeah – loads of times, why?” Dean asked.

“Then why did you come back?” John asked, his voice breaking, and Dean’s smile faded, seeing how serious John’s question was. “You were on a boat in the middle of the ocean and you knew how to get food – why didn’t you just leave?”

“The Peacekeepers,” Dean answered, and John nodded. Of course – why didn’t he think of that? “They always outnumber the fishing crew, so mutiny’s out of the question. The docks and the boat storages are manned day in and day out, too, so we could never steal a boat without getting caught. We also…don’t know if there’d be anywhere to go, if we were to try and leave,” Dean added, quietly. “The Peacekeepers are the only ones who know how to drive the boats, and they only take the boats to specific spots. We don’t know what’s out there, beyond those places.”

And then, just like that, reality crashed upon John. Panem was a prison, and every single person who lived there was held hostage, unable to leave or to see the true light of day. And he had a meeting first thing in the morning with their captor.

“You alright?” Dean asked, breaking John from his thoughts.

“Huh? Yeah – yeah, I’m fine. I think I’m gonna go to bed; big day tomorrow, you know? I finally get to see Sherlock and Harry,” he said, trying to sound casual as he placed his hand on the doorknob.

“John,” Dean called, and John looked up at him. “Everything’s going to be alright. You know that, right?”

At this, John shrugged.

“I’m not sure I know what is and isn’t alright, anymore.”

“That’s okay – I don’t either,” Dean admitted, and before John could say anything else, Dean nodded toward the door. “Goodnight, John.”

“Night, Dean,” John replied, and with that, he left the room, mentally preparing himself for a sleepless night, full of worrying about what tomorrow’s meeting with President Snow would bring.

When the group returned from the banquet, Sherlock immediately went to John’s bedroom. He pressed his ear to the door, listening for any signs of life, as if John had just been hiding in his room the whole time, and then, hearing nothing, he turned the knob and let himself in.

The moment he entered the room, the smell of John Watson flooded his nostrils, so much so that Sherlock stood there for a moment, closing his eyes and taking it in. Before he was entirely aware of what he was doing, he wandered over to John’s closet, opened the doors, and pulled out the first nightshirt he could reach. He pressed the shirt to his face and took a deep breath, and a smile teased his lips as he imagined John in the room with him. Knowing that his boyfriend wouldn’t mind in the slightest, Sherlock took off his suit and donned John’s nightshirt (inside out, as the tags always irritated him) and a pair of his pajama bottoms. The clothes were simultaneously too big and too small for him; the shirt and the waist of the pants were too large for Sherlock’s thin body, while the legs of the pants and the sleeves of the shirt were too short due to Sherlock’s tall stature.

But Sherlock didn’t care, because for the first time in weeks, he felt somewhat at ease. He was alive, he wasn’t about to die, he wasn’t consumed by guilt or by the responsibility of keeping Harry alive, and he was surrounded by everything that made him think of John. As he crawled under the covers of John’s bed and drifted off to sleep, he idly thought how the only thing missing from this scene was John himself. His heart ached for a moment before remembering that, by this time tomorrow, he would be in John’s arms once more, on the way back to District 12, where they could finally – finally – live out their lives in peace, with Mycroft and Harry by their sides, and he fell asleep with that image in mind.

Sherlock and John. John and Sherlock. Just as it should be.

Chapter Text

John tried to sleep through Heath, the oldest victor in the group, as he got up and left his room, beginning his daily routine, but it only left him tossing and turning on the sitting room sofa, just as he had for the past five hours. He finally decided to give up on the idea of sleep two hours later, at eight in the morning, when a few of the other early risers got up. Alexander was the last one to get up, and once he left his room at about 9:30, breakfast was served by the Avoxes. It surprised John, however, when Mycroft arrived just as John had finished filling up his plate.

Dean noticed him first.

“Mycroft!” he exclaimed, standing and approaching him.

“Hello, Dean,” Mycroft replied as Dean hugged him.

“You’re early,” John stated, feeling his appetite start to leave him. Did Snow want to see them now? What had changed that had made him move up their meeting?

“Come, join us,” Dean said, leading Mycroft to the table.

“Thank you. John, are you familiar with the feeling of when you wish something sooner just to get it over with?” Mycroft asked as he took a chair between John and Dean.

“That’s what you’re doing?” John asked.

“That’s exactly what I’m doing. I couldn’t sleep at all last night; I couldn’t stay in the penthouse any longer.”

John nodded as Mycroft began piling food onto his plate.

“John couldn’t sleep, either,” Finn reported. John looked at him, puzzled, and he smiled sheepishly back at him. “I could hear you muttering to yourself from my room.”

Once Sherlock and John had started sleeping together in the same bed, Sherlock had mentioned at one point that John had a habit of angrily muttering to himself if he tossed and turned during a sleepless night.

“Did anyone else hear me?” John asked the table at large, and everyone (apart from Mycroft, for obvious reasons) nodded. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

After breakfast, as the Avoxes cleared the table of their plates, John looked at Mycroft.

“So, how’s Harry doing?”

“She’s doing well,” Mycroft replied. “She happened to wake up before I left to come here, insisted that she was not actually awake and that she was only just getting some food and then returning to bed, and she told me not to tell ‘Hudders,’ who I can only assume to be Mrs. Hudson. I don’t think she even realized that I was fully dressed and just about to leave. She did hug me, though.”

John smirked.

“Yeah, she does that sometimes. She’s a big supporter of the idea of the sleep-snacking.”

Mycroft nodded, and John could tell he wanted to voice that he also was a big supporter of the idea of sleep-snacking and laughed, and Mycroft failed to stifle the smile on his face and began chuckling too.

“And Sherlock?” John asked, once their laughter had subsided, and Mycroft smiled to himself.

“He’s fine,” he said, and though John could tell he was holding something back, he decided to mention it later.

It was only after John showered, and got dressed into the light grey suit Mycroft had told him to wear, and gotten into the elevator with Mycroft at 12:30 did he realize that they were wearing identical suits.

“We match,” John noted.

“We do,” Mycroft replied. “The mentors of the winning tribute, or tributes, in our case, normally wear matching outfits for the final interview.”

“This is what we’ll be wearing to the final interview?” John asked.

“It is,” Mycroft replied.

“So we’ll be going straight from Snow’s mansion to Caesar’s stage?”

“If this meeting takes that long, which I don’t really see happening, but it’s better to be prepared.”

“And you still have no idea as to why he wants to meet with us?” John asked.

“I have ideas, but I don’t know for sure. I observe people’s behaviors and make inferences based off of that information; I’m not a mind reader. I’d need to see Snow up close in order to figure it out, but, as we all know, Snow rarely speaks to people who he views are lesser than him.”

“Unless they’re in trouble.”

“That’s right.”

The elevator doors opened on the ground floor, and they crossed the lobby and exited the training center. After a few minutes of walking, John spoke.

“He didn’t crown them last night,” he muttered lowly.

“You noticed it, too, then,” Mycroft assumed.

“Of course I did,” John said. “Why do you think he didn’t crown them?”

“There’s a number of possibilities,” Mycroft replied thoughtfully.

“Do you think maybe it has to do with why he wants to see us today?”


“Great,” John muttered, glaring at the ground.

“Sherlock slept in your room last night,” Mycroft announced nonchalantly after a few moments.

John whipped his head up to look at Mycroft.

“He did?” he asked, his heart racing painfully at the thought that Sherlock had missed him that much.

“Indeed. He went into your room after we got back from the Victory Banquet and hasn’t emerged since. I did take the liberty to check on him before I left this morning, of course. He was in your pajamas, even.” There was a moment or so of silence between them before Mycroft spoke again, quietly, with a hint of sadness in his voice. “In truth, I never imagined that my brother would ever love anyone the way that he loves you. And honestly, out of all of the people in all of Panem, I’m glad he chose you to love.”

John smiled to himself, and it felt like a bit of weight had been lifted from his chest. Yes, he was on his way to a meeting with President Snow for reasons that only Snow knew, but Sherlock Holmes loved him, and that mattered so much more.

“Thanks,” he replied, cleared his throat to try and get rid of the lump that was forming within it, and then they turned the corner, and President Snow’s mansion loomed over them.

“Just follow my lead. Don’t do anything unless I do, do you understand?” Mycroft asked quietly as they walked closer and closer to the gates to the mansion, manned by two Peacekeepers armed with large black guns.

John nodded.

“Got it.”

When they reached the gates, the Peacekeepers stepped sideways to block their paths. Mycroft calmly removed Snow’s invitation from his inside front pocket and handed it to the Peacekeeper closest to him.

“My name is Mycroft Holmes and this is John Watson, and we’ve been called to a meeting with President Snow,” he informed them as they looked over the invitation.

The first Peacekeeper looked to the second, nodded once, handed the invitation back to Mycroft, and stepped back to his original position as the second Peacekeeper opened the gate.

“Proceed,” the first one said, and Mycroft and John walked forward and began to make their way up the outdoor staircase to the mansion, the second Peacekeeper following closely behind them.

As the building got closer and closer to them with every step, John became more and more overcome by a feeling of dread.

Snow never called a meeting with the winning tributes’ mentors.

Snow never talked to anyone unless they were in trouble with him.

Snow didn’t crown Sherlock and Harry as winners of the Hunger Games last night at the recap ceremony.

This meeting was not going to go well, and John became more and more aware of it with each step he took.

At the front door to the mansion stood two more Peacekeepers with guns in their arms, and they stood to attention as they approached the steps leading up to the porch they stood upon. John nearly jumped out of his skin when the Peacekeeper behind them called up to them.

“This is Mycroft Holmes and John Watson. They’re here for a meeting with President Snow.”

The two Peacekeepers nodded, stepped aside, and opened the double doors, allowing for Mycroft and John to pass.

Stepping into President Snow’s mansion was like stepping into a pure white room. Everything in the front hall was a blinding white color, and John fought the urge to place his hand before his eyes to stop from squinting. For a moment, he wondered why he hadn’t noticed it before – he had been in this very hall twice in his life and distinctly remembered it being a warm yellow color instead of looking like someone had doused everything in snow.

“Yellow bulbs,” Mycroft muttered an explanation, as if he could read John’s mind.

“Right,” he muttered back, and then noticed a girl with long, black hair, no older than Mycroft, standing before them, dressed in a white robe, hands behind her back and her head bowed – she was an Avox, one specifically stationed at President Snow’s mansion.

“Hello, Miss,” Mycroft said, but the girl did not move. “We’ve been invited to see President Snow. Are you here to take us to him?”

The girl simply nodded, still not looking at either of them, turned around, and started up one of the two white sets of stairs before them. The previous times he was here, John just walked forward through the next set of double doors into the ballroom, so he had never been up the stairs before.

He followed Mycroft and the Avox up the stairs and down the hall, until she stopped at a door and knocked upon it twice.

“Come in,” President Snow called from inside, and the girl opened the door for them.

She kept her head bowed as Mycroft and John mumbled words of thanks to her as they passed by her to enter the room, and then she was gone, closing the door behind them.

And then they were in the presence of President Coriolanus Snow.

He stood up from the other side of the room, at the opposite end of a circular table, and he clasped his hands together and smiled, as if seeing old friends. He was wearing a white suit, as if he were trying to blend into the room. Next to him was a sort of a hand-held projector, some kind of Capitol television screen, and John saw Sherlock and Harry’s final moments in the Arena playing itself over and over again. His heart quickened, but he fought to act as if he hadn’t noticed.

“Mister Watson; Mister Holmes! Good afternoon,” Snow called to them, and gestured to the two vacant seats in front of John and Mycroft – the only other chairs at the table. “Please, sit down.”

It was as they all were sitting down that John noticed the two Peacekeepers arming the door. A fresh wave of panic flooded over him, and he pushed it away as far as he could. Snow was the President of Panem; of course he had guards. He took a deep breath, the smell of roses filling his nostrils. He glanced around and found vases of flowers in each corner of the room, a whole bouquet of what had to be fifty white roses each in large white vases.

“Thank you both for coming in, today. How did you enjoy the Victory Banquet last night, Mycroft?” Snow asked. “I certainly noticed you frequent the food tables more than usual.”

“I had to have a taste of everything; it was all so delicious I couldn’t help myself,” Mycroft replied casually, and for a second John wondered if he had noticed the Peacekeepers behind them. “The Banquet was fantastic, as usual.”

“Thank you.” Snow grinned, but then looked at Mycroft, suddenly thoughtful. “I felt like there was a bigger turn out this year than the ones previous. Would you agree?”

“Well, it was the Quarter Quell this year,” Mycroft pointed out, expertly deflecting Snow’s subtle accusation of the real reason why so many people had come out of the woodwork and to the Victory Banquet: there were two Hunger Games victors – history had been made, and everyone wanted to be a part of it. “I wasn’t there for the last one, but I imagine there was probably a jump in attendees during that year, as well?”

“Hm.” Snow slowly nodded to himself, and then changed the subject. “Would either of you like a drink?”

As soon as the words left his mouth, two Avoxes emerged from the door behind him, each carrying a tray containing glasses and a bottle of sherry on one and a bottle vodka on the other. They both walked around either side of the table and, as if they had rehearsed it, placed the trays before John and Mycroft simultaneously. They then opened the bottles and poured each beverage into their corresponding glass, and went the way they came and left the room once the glasses were full.

The whole time they did this, Snow was talking.

“I know for a fact that you enjoy sherry, Mycroft, and as for you, Mr. Watson, I noticed you had taken a fondness for the vodka served down in the City Circle, am I correct?”

John nodded quickly in order to shift the attention away from him, and Mycroft was quick to help him along.

“Thank you, Mister President; I honestly appreciate this, but I’m one to swear off of alcoholic beverages once the Hunger Games are over.”

“Just follow my lead. Don’t do anything unless I do, do you understand?”

If Mycroft wasn’t going to drink what was put in front of him, John wasn’t going to, either.

“And I don’t drink all that much in the first place,” John added.

“I could get you something else?” he offered. “Tea? Water?”

“We’re fine, thank you,” Mycroft replied easily.

For just a moment, rage flared in President Snow’s eyes, but he grinned anyway, as if he wasn’t angry at all.

“That’s quite alright, boys,” he replied. “If you change your minds, just let me know.” He then interlaced his fingers on the table. “Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’ve called you here, today. Or, you know exactly why you’re here,” he added, meeting Mycroft’s eyes.

Finally, he drew his attention to the replaying scene of Sherlock and Harry winning the Games.

“Ever since your siblings won the Hunger Games, I can’t stop thinking about this scene, and the decision that was made to let them live. A decision that, I should probably mention, I did not make.”

John’s blood ran cold. Of course, subconsciously, he knew that Snow had not made the final decision – Claudius Templesmith had to have, unsure of what to do, but unable to waste any time by consulting with Seneca Crane or President Snow before Sherlock and Harry killed each other and giving them no victor at all – but it hadn’t actually crossed his mind until now.

Snow looked at Mycroft.

“Think about the Hunger Games, Mycroft. I imagine you’ve seen footage of all of them. Why do you think we have a winner?” Before Mycroft could open his mouth to reply, he went on. “I mean, if I just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four people at random and execute them all at once? It would be a lot faster, don’t you think?”

At this, Mycroft was, for once, at a loss for words, and John paled beside him. He imagined it, just for a second – Mycroft’s name getting pulled from the bowl, getting transported to the Capitol, and getting shot in the head, leaving Sherlock an orphan at the age of nine. And then, eight years later, John’s name would be pulled, and Sherlock would have never gotten the chance to tell him that he loved him...

Just a simple glance at Mycroft’s face told John that he was thinking the same exact thing.

“I...” Mycroft started, cleared his throat, and then began again. “It certainly would be,” he said quietly.

Snow smiled at his success in momentarily rendering Mycroft Holmes speechless.

“The reason why I don’t do this is hope,” he went on. “It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, but a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained. But your brother caused that spark to grow. Ever since the very first Hunger Games, there had always been one winner, and no one had ever thought someone would think of putting us in a position where we had to choose between two victors or none at all. When our Mister William Holmes told the young, impressionable Harriet Watson his plan for the both of them to kill each other, a decision had to be made.” He again gestured to the screen, where Sherlock and Harry had just heard the announcement that they both had won. “Letting them both survive gave Panem too much hope. I keep thinking to myself, ‘what will happen next year? And the year after that?’. Now that the Districts know they could so easily sway the Gamemakers into letting more than one tribute become a victor, they’ll begin tricking us, just as William and Harriet have. In a matter of years, we might as well be sending all twenty-four tributes right back home.” His eyes darkened, and John’s heart felt like it was going to explode out of his chest, knowing what was coming. “And we can’t let that happen.”

John’s stomach dropped.

“So, what do you propose?” Mycroft asked cautiously, though John was sure he knew exactly what Snow was proposing.

“I need to contain the spark that William and Harriet have created. The only way I can do that is making sure that Panem knows that there can only ever be one winner of the Hunger Games,” he informed them. “And I need your help to do this. Namely, John Watson’s help,” he said, smiling at John, and then he turned his attention to one of the Peacekeepers standing behind them. “Would you escort Mister Holmes back to the training center? I need to have a private word with Mister Watson.”

Before John realized the words were coming out of his mouth, he was arguing against Snow’s orders.

“Whatever you have to say to me you can say in front of Mycroft,” he told him, and it was only when Snow raised his eyebrows at John that he realized that this was the first time he had spoken freely since they had entered the room.

“I don’t doubt that,” Snow told him. “But I do believe that there is such a thing as privacy, and of one-on-one conversation.”

John opened his mouth to argue (with what he had no idea), but then Mycroft stood up, and placed his hand on John’s shoulder. He looked up at Mycroft, trying with all of his might to make his eyes plead for him to find a reason to stay.

“It’s alright,” he said to him, and John hoped that he wasn’t just imagining the double meaning – that it was alright for Mycroft to leave him behind, and it was alright that John had spoken out of turn. “Send someone for me when you get back, will you?” he asked, and John found himself nodding, disjointedly, almost as if he wasn’t in control of his body.

He smiled down at John and patted his shoulder, and then he walked to the door that one of the two Peacekeepers was holding open for him. Just as he reached the doorway, he turned back to Snow.

“Remember what I know,” Mycroft told President Snow, voice dangerous, and John made a mental note to ask Mycroft what he meant.

And then he left the room, and the Peacekeeper closed the door behind them, leaving John alone with President Snow.

Snow grinned at John, but his eyes were completely serious. John wiped his clammy hands on his pants as discreetly as possible as Snow spoke.

“I’ve thought of a few ways to go about this situation, but there aren’t many that fix our problem without causing more of a rebellion than we already have on our hands.”

John’s head tilted slightly to the side before he could catch himself. Unfortunately, Snow picked up on it.

“I’m sure that William Holmes loves you very much,” he began. “But his performance in the Arena was obvious an act of defiance against the Capitol, and against me personally. If such an act were to come to pass unpunished, the Districts could get ideas. New tributes to come will most definitely get ideas. We – that is, you and I, together – must show them that there can only be one victor of the Hunger Games. I thought of having all of Panem cast a ballot to see who the true victor would be, and I thought of making the decision myself, but I feel like no one is as close to the two victors as you are, John Watson. It would hit closer to the homes of the rebels if you choose –”

“I’m not choosing between the love of my life and my little sister,” John cut in, his eyes shooting daggers across the table as he glared at Snow. Only a small part of him noticed that this was the first time he had thought of Sherlock as the love of his life, and for a second he wondered if it was just the stress of the moment speaking for him, just as it had when the idea of loving Sherlock was first introduced last year, but as soon as the thought crossed his mind he knew with his whole heart that it was true.

But he didn’t have time to dwell on it.

President Snow glared back at John, but then softened his expression.

“How touching,” Snow replied, his voice even. “I do believe you like your life, though, don’t you, Mister Watson? Your life; the lives of your family and friends?” He paused for a moment, waiting for John to answer, but when he decided that John wasn’t going to reply vocally, he read the answer that was evident on John’s face and continued. “Then you really don’t get to say that. You need to choose, and you’re going to choose, tonight during the final interview. I just hope you make the right decision. It would be a shame to break up a whole, happy family for someone who has always been rude to those who care about him most, and decided that doing what he did was actually a smart thing to do.” He shook his head sadly. “Yes, it would be such a shame to see the Watson family lose such a valued member, indeed. But, in the end, it’s your decision, isn’t it?” He then looked up at John, a smile in his eyes.

John’s ears burned with Snow’s words. He had gotten Snow’s hint, loud and clear: if he wasn’t going to choose, or if he chose Sherlock over his sister, Snow was going to have him killed.

He was trapped. He couldn’t do this. There was no way he would be able to go up there and point at Sherlock and personally call for his death. He couldn’t do that to either of them.

He needed to talk to Mycroft – tell him what was going on – he needed –

“Time,” John gasped, and then tried speaking conversationally – calmly, trying to deflect any of Snow’s suspicion. “I’ll do it. I just...need some time to think about this – to choose. Can you – could you give me time? Please?”

Snow grinned, this time with his entire face. But there was a glint of something in his eyes – something John couldn’t put his finger on.

“But of course.”

Before he could react, there was a sharp pain in his neck, and then the world began to go fuzzy and turn out of balance, and John fell out of his chair. The ground wasn’t hard beneath him, though – it actually felt as if he was continuously falling through a white space. Snow was talking, saying something to the Peacekeeper that had very obviously injected something into a vein on John’s neck, but the voice was so muffled and coming from a place that was so far away that he had no idea what was being said.

John only knew one thing for sure: the Seventy-Fifth Hunger Games were far from over.

Chapter Text

When Sherlock woke up he was exhausted, but still he stumbled out of John’s room and down the hallway to the sitting room, where Harry was sitting on the sofa in her pajamas, eating from a large bowl of ice cream. He stopped in the doorway, yawning and rubbing the sleepiness from his eyes.

“Where’s Mycroft?” he asked.

Harry shrugged. “I saw him a few hours ago but he didn’t say anything. Maybe he went to see John?”

“Hm,” Sherlock nodded. John. God, he missed John. But he was going to see him that night – in mere hours – and the thought of that alone jumpstarted his brain into full alertness. “Is that ice cream?”

“Mm-hm,” Harry replied, the spoon in her mouth as she reached beside her for a second one and extending it to him.

With a shrug, Sherlock took the spoon and flopped into the seat next to her.

“The breakfast of champions,” she said, and they clinked their spoons together and dug in. “Or, lunch. Whichever.”

“What time is it?” Sherlock asked.

“Eleven o’clock,” Harry replied.

“Do your legs feel like gelatin, too?” he asked, after a few mouthfuls, and Harry nodded.

“We did a lot of walking in there,” she replied. “Not to mention that that –” she used her spoon to point to the hallway, back to their bedrooms, “– was the first time we’ve slept in a bed in a few days – the cots in the hospital wing don’t count because we were put out in order to sleep. But anyway, our bodies are probably pretty confused by all the adrenaline they were pumping through us in the Arena and are now realizing they don’t need it right now.”

“You sound like your brother,” Sherlock muttered.

“Living with someone who wants to become a doctor has its perks,” Harry said with a shrug.

Sherlock looked back down at his legs.

“I wonder why John didn’t mention that – the whole adrenaline, loss-of-adrenaline thing,” he said, lazily waving his free hand in the air.

“Probably because he was too preoccupied to focus on that when he was trying to start living without half of a leg.”

“Right,” Sherlock said, taking another scoop of ice cream. “So...whose idea was this? Surely not Mrs. Hudson’s.”

“No way – she’s gonna burst a fucking vein when she sees this. ‘Harriet! What are you doing?! How are you going to fit into your dress for tonight?!’” she exclaimed, mimicking Mrs. Hudson’s voice with shocking accuracy. “Personally, I’d like to see that,” she muttered, smirking.

“Me too,” Sherlock agreed.

“Louise mentioned requesting ice cream for breakfast last night, though,” Harry went on. “She said that’s what she did when she got out of the Arena, and she said it tasted so much better than anything she ever had before because she was having it as someone who never had to live in fear of the Arena again.”

“I’m sure all food tastes better with that in mind,” Sherlock said.

Harry looked at Sherlock as if she hadn’t thought of that herself, and she was just about to speak, but then a new thought entered her head. She looked him over, puzzled.

“What?” Sherlock asked.

“Are those John’s pajamas?”

Sherlock scoffed. “No,” he lied, and stuffed his face with another spoonful, trying to avoid her eyes.

“You’re lying, Sherlock,” Harry said in a sing-song voice, and he glanced at her to see that she was grinning ear to ear, eyeing him knowingly.

“Shut up.”

Mycroft entered the foyer of the training center, the Peacekeeper from President Snow’s mansion behind him.

“Thank you, sir; I can go on by myself from here,” Mycroft said, trying to keep the edge out of his voice. The Peacekeeper nodded and left from the way he came. As soon as he was gone, Mycroft went to the nearest bench against the wall, sat down, and put his head in his hands.

He knew he shouldn’t have left John Watson alone with President Snow. In fact, even now everything in him screamed against it. But, he didn’t have much of a choice – he couldn’t say no to President Snow without getting himself killed. John had tried to fight for him, to make Snow let him stay for whatever he had to say, but Mycroft knew Snow wasn’t going to budge, and stopped John before things could get even worse.

There was only one entrance to the training center, making it easy to guard for when there were twenty-four tributes who weren’t allowed to leave the building, and also making it easy for Mycroft to watch for John’s return. There was no possible way for John to enter the building without Mycroft intercepting him.

But that was just the problem: John didn’t pass through the doors. Hours passed, with Mycroft’s heart beating harder and harder in his chest with each passing minute, and John still didn’t come back from Snow’s mansion.

Mentors passed back and forth through the building, of course – everyone giving some sort of acknowledgement to Mycroft’s existence. Some even came up and talked briefly with him, but he refused to give any reason as to why he was sitting there, or of John’s whereabouts. That was, until five o’clock, two hours before the final interview, when he saw Clover Frankland enter through the doors.

Sherlock and Harry and Mrs. Hudson were all probably wondering where he was. He also had skipped lunch in order to attend the meeting with President Snow, and his stomach was growling.

He waved Clover down, secretly happy that they didn’t have to physically speak, for he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to hear her over the blood rushing in his ears from all the stress he was feeling.

“Hi, Mycroft. What’s up?” she asked, using Mycroft’s name sign – the sign for umbrella, which looked like someone opening an invisible umbrella, but instead of her hands being balled up into fists, both of her hands were signing the letter “M.”

“I need you to help me,” Mycroft signed back. “It’s important.”

“Of course. What’s wrong?”

“Can you sit here and wait for John Watson to arrive until I come back?” he asked, spelling out John’s name since she hadn’t come up with a name sign for him, as of yet.

“John?” she asked, giving him John’s name sign in the process: she signed the letter “J”, and then brought her hand to her chest, tapping her heart with her pinky finger twice – J for John, and then his heart. “Yes,” she replied, and Mycroft stood.

“Thank you. If John gets here before I do can you bring him to Dean and then come up to the Penthouse and let me know, okay?”

“I can do that,” Clover replied, smiling, happy to help. If only she knew the context of why Mycroft was waiting for John...

“Thank you. You have no idea how much this is helping me.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

And with that, Mycroft signed goodbye to her and took the elevator up to the penthouse, feeling slightly guilty that he didn’t let her in on what was going on. But, as it stood right that moment, it was alright – she’d know soon enough.

Louise Neal had come up to the penthouse shortly after lunch. Mrs. Hudson had been devastated that she wasn’t Mycroft, but she complained about Sherlock and Harry’s choices in how long they slept in and what to have for a meal once they finally did wake up. Louise mostly ignored her, asking how Sherlock and Harry were between Mrs. Hudson’s rants.

Now that Sherlock was slowly beginning to know her more (and not just as “that girl that Mycroft hangs around with sometimes” or “the girl who won the Hunger Games the year before John”), he was beginning to like her. She wasn’t like other people, boring to be around or so normal compared to the Holmes boys that Mycroft would’ve compared her to a goldfish. She was bright and sarcastic when she wanted to be, and was always kind to those around her. Sherlock genuinely liked her, and he could tell that Harry did, too.

They were playing cards on the dining room table just before dinner time when – predictably – Mycroft emerged from the elevator and entered the penthouse. Sherlock and Harry exchanged looks – when they got back to District 12, she owed him access to her bedroom for ten minutes, a place that she had never let him into, for she claimed if she did he would, in her words, “deduce the shit out of her.” This, of course, was completely true.

“Well, it looks like you don’t have to piggyback me around District Twelve, then,” Harry muttered, and Sherlock smirked at her as Louise got up from her chair and crossed the room to hug her friend.

“Hey,” she said, kissing his cheek, and he did the same to her.

When they separated, Mycroft held Louise by the shoulders, checking in with her through a simple question of “are you alright?”

“Yeah,” Louise said with a nod, and it was then Mrs. Hudson entered the room. Upon seeing Mycroft, she strode closer to the group, practically livid.

“I thought I heard your voice – it’s about time you arrived!” Mrs. Hudson said, her own voice shrill with anxiety and rage. “Do you have any idea what these two ate for lunch? Ice cream!” she answered for him, before he had a chance to reply. “Was this your idea?!”

“Actually, no, it wasn’t; if it was, I would’ve told them to eat an entire cake.”

At this, Sherlock stifled a chuckle, and Mycroft sent a small smile his way.

Mrs. Hudson rounded on him. “This isn’t funny, young man! If you two don’t fit into your outfits for the interview there will be terrible consequences!”

Sherlock rolled his eyes, wanting to escape from the lectures Mrs. Hudson had been giving them all day. Unfortunately, the only person who could do that was Louise, and it was now that she decided to make that escape.

“I’ve gotta get going,” she said, looking between Mycroft and Sherlock and Harry, careful to avoid Mrs. Hudson’s eyes. “Clover wanted me to help her pick out a dress for tonight, but I’ll meet you guys after the interview.”

Harry quickly waved goodbye to Louise without drawing attention to herself, while Sherlock and Mycroft both nodded her way. And then, without another moment’s hesitation, she was gone, and Sherlock wished he could follow after her – and it looked like Mycroft was wishing the same.

And Mycroft was. He would’ve given anything to follow Louise down to where Clover was waiting for him, relieve her of her duty, and continue his search for John. But if he did that, or not even make an appearance in the Penthouse at all, it would look entirely too suspicious, and set Sherlock’s brain in motion, alerting him that something was awry.

The only people who knew that something was, in fact, awry, was Mycroft and Louise Neal. When he had first arrived into the penthouse and she hugged him and kissed his cheek, he pressed his lips to her cheek, so that anyone who saw the exchange would’ve only seen him return her kiss, but only they knew that he had actually spoken two words into her skin, only loud enough for her to hear:

“Plan B.”

When he asked her if she was alright, they both knew what he was actually asking: if she knew what to do. She had spoken her reply lightheartedly, to keep Sherlock and Harry oblivious to what was going on around them, but her eyes were hard and determined as she nodded. She then took the first chance she could to leave them, and now, with every passing moment, Louise was running from floor to floor, meeting with the first mentor she could find, and passing on Mycroft’s message.

The next hour was one of the worst in Mycroft’s life. Everything in him was telling him to run – to find John and make sure he was safe – but the only thing he could do was sit at the dining room table with Sherlock, Harry, Mrs. Hudson, and their stylists and prep teams, half-listening to Mrs. Hudson’s complaints, and eat with the appetite that he had lost. Once every few minutes, he found his eyes on his brother’s ice blue ones, and he tried to smile at him like he used to when they were kids, as if they had a secret they were keeping from the rest of the world, but this time that wasn’t the case – this time, Mycroft was keeping a world of secrets from Sherlock – from everyone in that room.

Dinner passed entirely too slowly, but the moment Sherlock and Harry were taken into separate rooms by their prep teams, Mycroft informed Mrs. Hudson that if she needed him that he would be on the fourth floor with Dean Bainbridge – and if she didn’t need him for anything, he’d see her in Caesar’s studio before the final interview. In reality, he knew she wouldn’t need him for anything, but giving her a story would deter her from asking questions – she didn’t know him well enough to call upon his bluff. Though she looked like she wanted to yell at him some more over Sherlock and Harry’s stupid ice cream meal, she believed his lie and let him go.

When he reached the ground floor, the elevator doors opened to reveal Clover Frankland, still sitting by herself, where he had left her.

“You haven’t seen John?” he signed to her as he approached, once he got her attention.

Clover shrugged as she shook her head and signed her reply. “No, I haven’t.”

Mycroft sighed, frustrated. “Alright,” he signed. “You get ready for the interview. I’ll worry about John. Thank you for staying here and waiting for him.”

“Of course,” she signed back. “Good luck, Mycroft.”

And with that, they said their goodbyes and went their separate ways – Clover to the elevator, and Mycroft out the doors, to President Snow’s mansion.

He could feel an angry storm forming in his chest as he approached the guards standing by Snow’s front gates.

“Where is he?” he nearly growled, and the two guards glanced at each other, both of them hoping the other would know what he was talking about. He then realized these two guards were not the same ones from that morning, and rephrased his question. “John Watson, victor of the Seventy-Fourth Hunger Games – I know you know who he is. He and I both entered through these gates earlier today to meet with President Snow. I was dismissed, John wasn’t, and he still hasn’t emerged. Where. Is. He?”

Before either guard could reply, Mycroft heard a voice – one that he had heard on and off through the television screen all of his life; one that he had heard that very morning in person.

“You mean he hasn’t come back to the training center yet?” President Snow himself asked, stepping out from the behind the wall that separated him and his mansion from the outside world, coming into view with only the gate between them, now. His guards stood up straighter as they realized their employer was standing just behind them, but he wasn’t paying attention to either of them – he stared at Mycroft through the bars, and Mycroft glared back at him, no longer caring about being polite. Snow grinned at him in return as he spoke. “I sent him out hours ago – he should’ve been back with you at this point. If he hasn’t returned to you by now...I don’t know where he could possibly be. I surely hope something hasn’t happened to him...”

Snow was lying; that was obvious. For a lying, cheating, power hungry president, he was – in this instant – a terrible liar. Unless he didn’t mind that Mycroft knew about his involvement in John’s disappearance, because he knew – or, he thought he knew – that Mycroft could do nothing about it.

But, Snow was wrong – he had no idea how wrong it was for him to underestimate Mycroft.

Not yet, at least.

Without a word, Mycroft spun around and walked away from the gates, fuming.

“I’ll see you at the interview, Mister Holmes!” Snow called out from behind him, and that only made Mycroft even more determined.

He had one hour to find John Watson, and he had an idea of where to begin looking.

Within five minutes, he was in the stairwell of the training center, racing up the stairs, shouting as he searched through the Avoxes who passed him by, his voice bouncing up the walls.


He was halfway up the flight of stairs to the third floor of the building when she finally caught up to him, almost colliding with him to get him to stop.

“Mycroft! What’s happened?” she asked, signing as fast as she could.

“Snow – he has John. Don’t ask me how I know – I just do. I think he’s keeping him somewhere that no one can get to until the interview, but I need to find him before then,” Mycroft explained quickly. “Is there anywhere that you know of where no one else is allowed? Maybe wherever you went when the Peacekeepers brought you here?”

Her jaw dropped in shock, and Mycroft tried not to think about the reason he could see the bottom of the inside of her mouth. Instead, in a fit of determination and impatience, he gripped her shoulders, jostling her as he spoke.

“This is a matter of national importance – lives are at stake, Lavinia!”

As soon as she began to sign her answer to him, he let her go.

“There is a room under the hospital wing.”

“Do you know how to get there?” he asked. She nodded, and he grabbed her hand. “Let’s go,” he said, and led her down to the opening to the third floor, where he got them to the elevator.

Once the room’s doors were closed, Lavinia took out a bobby pin from her pocket (one she had stolen from a prep team years ago, Mycroft deduced), and used that to unlock a panel in the wall, under the public-accessible floor numbers. There was only one button under the panel, which she pressed immediately after it was revealed.

Then they made their decent.

“There will probably be at least one guard on duty, if this is where they’re holding John,” Lavinia informed Mycroft, and he rolled up his sleeves.

“I’ll handle whoever’s there,” he replied, glancing at the elevator’s position just as they passed the second floor. “With that said, when these doors open, I need you to stay back by the doors until I tell you that you can move otherwise. Is that understood?”

Lavinia nodded, and Mycroft placed himself in front of her before the doors opened.

Chapter Text

Lavinia had been right – there was one Peacekeeper guarding the room. The moment the doors opened, he stood up from where he was sitting – in a chair toward the center of the room, his helmet off, slacking on what he had to do.

Shame for him.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” he said, and Mycroft rolled his eyes as he approached the man.

“Obviously,” Mycroft replied, only slightly irritated by the Peacekeeper’s stupidity.

Peacekeeper realized that Mycroft was still calmly walking his way, and raised his gun at him.

“Don’t come any closer – you are not permitted to be here – turn around, kneel down on the ground, and put your hands behind your head – I’ll shoot –”

“Oh, shut up,” Mycroft groaned, unconcerned by the Peacekeeper’s threats and commands as he approached him and, all while keeping the straight-faced glare he had worn since entering the room, he grabbed the gun’s barrel between them and quickly disarmed him without a word.

The Peacekeeper, stunned, made for the handgun in his holster, but before he could even touch it Mycroft punched him in just the right place, causing the man to fall to the ground. Mycroft withdrew a sharp breath through his teeth as he surveyed his knuckles for broken skin, then reached down and stole his pistol and his handcuffs from his belt. He straightened up, pointing the gun at the man, ice in his eyes.

“I highly suggest you crawl over there,” he said to the Peacekeeper, nodding over to the far side of the room, where a pipe was exposed by the wall.

The man glanced back and forth between Mycroft and the pipe.

“I –”

“I don’t care what you have to say. I have killed more people than you ever have at the age of sixteen, before you even considered Peacekeeping as a career choice. I am not afraid of you. For your own physical safety do not speak, do not indulge in any non-verbal signals suggestive of internal thought – just. Scuttle.”

They glared at each other for a moment more, and then the Peacekeeper finally got up into a crouching position and raised his hands above his head, showing he was unarmed. With Mycroft keeping the gun trained on his head, he cautiously made his way to the pipe in question, and sat down.

Once Mycroft had handcuffed the man to the pipe, he walked away, motioning for Lavinia to step forward from where she was, still close by to the elevator. She approached the place where Mycroft was standing in the center of the room as quietly and carefully as she could, as if one false move would get her killed.

“He wasn’t actually going to shoot me,” Mycroft said to her bewildered expression, setting the gun on the nearest table, speaking as if the Peacekeeper wasn’t even there. “If a mentor was found dead less than an hour before they were to be appear with their winning tribute – or, tributes, in my case – on Caesar Flickerman’s stage, he’d end up...well, he’d end up here.”

It was then that they finally had a moment to look at the room in full. They were surrounded by tables and lockers – surgical tables with various straps and lockers that probably held instruments of torture, but neither of them wanted to go find out for themselves. The only hint that they were provided about what was kept inside the lockers was the fact that there were smaller work tables on wheels, each one holding an assortment of sharp instruments, syringes, and other tools.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Lavinia shaking.

This is the room where people became Avoxes. This is where their tongues were removed.

And Mycroft had a feeling the syringes did not contain Morphling.

Other than the doors to the elevator, there were two doors in the room – one on the left wall, where the Peacekeeper was restrained, and one on the right. Mycroft looked to Lavinia.

“Any ideas?” he asked as gently as he could, while still trying to make her aware of his need for her response to put them in the right direction.

After a moment, she nodded, and pointed to the door on the right side of the room.

With just barely a word of thanks, he approached the door and took the ring of keys that hung next to it, and then peered through the window on the door. From what he could tell, it was a hallway leading to another door, but on either side of the wall there was a line of cells, almost every single one containing at least one person – every single one of them an Avox, or they were going to be.

Mycroft walked back to Lavinia and placed his hands on her shoulders.

“You’ve done enough, Lavinia, and I am so grateful for your help. You can go back, now. I’m not going to make you go in there with me.”

“No,” Lavinia signed back to him, her motions as determined as the look in her eyes. “I’m going.”

Mycroft nodded curtly, and together they approached the door. When he put the right key in the lock and opened the door, they were immediately met with the haunting, animalistic screams of the tortured.

They walked through the hallway as hands reached out for them, grabbing onto their clothes if they got too close. Mycroft led the way, and Lavinia held onto his arm from behind him, and he could feel the quakes of her body travel through his own. Setting his jaw, he stopped thinking about how some of the voices contained words while others did not and why that was and pressed on.

When Mycroft finally unlocked and opened the door on the other side of the hallway, he gave the keys to Lavinia.

“Unlock their cells. Keep them blended with the others. Understood?” he asked her, and she nodded. “That’s my girl,” he muttered, and kissed Lavinia’s forehead. “Thank you.”

She nodded again, and they separated – Lavinia doubling back to set the Avoxes and the Avoxes-to-be free, and Mycroft going on to the next room.

This room was stark white like the others, and seemed to be just a lobby that branched off into three other rooms, each one protected by a dead-bolted door and passcode that had to be punched in on a keypad. Obviously, these were the higher-security cells. If John was down here at all, he would have to be in one of these rooms.

Mycroft went for the center door first. He glanced up at the digital message above the keypad: _ _ _ _ LOCKED, and then surveyed the keypad itself and noted which of the numbers were worn away by the repeated touch of people’s hands. After a moment, he cursed in frustration – the password had been changed a few times over the years.

He checked his watch. He had half an hour until the interview. He had time.

After a few more seconds of looking over the buttons, he typed in the first-most logical code he could make of it: 1895.

When the door didn’t seem to open, he checked the digital message screen.


“Fantastic,” he muttered, irritated, panic flaring in his heart. He had no idea what would happen if he got the next three attempts wrong, and he hoped with all of his might he wouldn’t have to find out. His heart raced as the words he had spoken to John just a little more than a week ago arose in his memory.

“You, John Watson, are my brother.”

He tried the next code he could see: 2212.


“I did not make that exception until after you won your Hunger Games, because I thought then you’d be safe to care about.”



“Damn it!”

“You had won the Hunger Games, you were in love with my brother; I thought nothing could touch you.”


The keypad beeped, and the door clicked unlocked.

Mycroft swung open the door, and found John Watson on the floor in the corner of the bright white cell, looking absolutely terrified, wearing the same suit he had donned that morning – the suit that matched the one Mycroft currently wore – half of his left pants leg flattened and distorted without his prosthetic to keep it in shape.

“But I was wrong.”

“Mycroft?” John asked, his voice slightly hoarse – probably from yelling for help through the sound-proof walls.

“I was so wrong.”

Swallowing the lump in his throat, Mycroft placed his hand on John’s shoulder and addressed the next important part of John’s escape.

“Where’s your leg?” he asked, and John, obviously still slightly stunned by his appearance, shook his head.

“No idea. Mycroft –”

“A moment,” he muttered in response, and exited the room. He strode down the now-empty cell-filled hallway, and back to the laboratory. He walked straight to the Peacekeeper, and crouched in front of him, grabbing him by the collar of his uniform, getting in his face.

“John Watson’s prosthetic leg. Where is it?” he snapped, but the Peacekeeper continued to glare at him.

“Like I would help you two escape –” he was then cut off by Mycroft punching him again in the face, as hard as he could, and the man’s nose spurted with blood.

“I’ll ask you again: Where. Is it.”

The Peacekeeper spat out a bit of blood, and then finally complied, nodding in the direction of some lockers near the corner of the room.

“Locker Three – over there –”

“Where’s the key?” he asked, and the Peacekeeper glanced back behind him.

He spun around to find the ring of keys he had given to Lavinia, returned to their rightful place.

If he were in any other situation, he would’ve smiled sadly at her need to follow the rules, even whilst helping about twenty five prisoners to escape. Instead, he was just thankful that she didn’t take off with the keys altogether. He took the ring of keys and unlocked the locker in question, and opened the door to reveal John’s prosthetic leg (his shoe still on its foot), and a shelf containing cases of vials and sterile syringes – one of the labels on the cases of vials read TRKR/JKR/VNM, and it was obvious to Mycroft what it meant: tracker jacker venom. Mycroft took two vials and a syringe out of the case and approached the Peacekeeper again.

“Answer yes or no: were you going to use this on John Watson?” he asked, showing the vials close to the man’s face. “Were you going to hijack John Watson?”

“Fuck you –”

“Were you?” he repeated, fed up with the man’s inability to just answer his questions.

The Peacekeeper smirked. “I wanted to, but President Snow wouldn’t allow it. He said there wasn’t enough time for it to wear off before the interview – you and your brother would know he’d been tampered with – hey! What are you doing –”

Mycroft was not a man who was known for fits of rage, or acting impulsively. The last time he did he had cleared the desk in his office, just after learning that John had been assaulted by Charles Augustus Magnussen – he couldn’t even remember the time before that. Injecting both of the vials of the tracker jacker venom into the man’s neck was not one of these times, however; he had planned it from the start, just not until he had completely served his purpose. Unfortunately for him, he had tested Mycroft’s patience, but that was fine – Mycroft could survive without his consciousness. He hadn’t needed him for much more, anyway.

After grabbing John’s prosthetic from the closet, he made his way back to John, who rolled up the extra fabric of his pants as soon as he saw Mycroft returning with it in hand.

“Are you alright?” he asked, trying to assist John with attaching his prosthetic back to its rightful place, but John refused the help and did it on his own.

“Kind of have to be, don’t I?” he replied, voice still slightly shaking, looking up at Mycroft as he rolled his pants’ leg back down to cover his prosthetic, and accepting Mycroft’s hand that had been waiting to pull him up. He shook out his leg, getting his bearings. “The interview’s soon, isn’t it?” he asked.

“We have about twenty minutes. Can you walk?”

“‘Course I can walk,” John muttered, and began to limp out of the cell, and Mycroft fell into step beside him.

John was still shaking from the shock of what had happened, but he pressed on down the hallway full of empty cells, seeing it for the first time, feeling sick to his stomach.

“What happened after I was sent out?” Mycroft asked from beside him. “Do you remember?”

“He says there can’t be two victors,” John said. “He wants me to choose.”

“So he’s going to kill one of them?”

“Yeah,” he said, his throat constricting within him at the thought. “He is.”

“And if you don’t choose?” Mycroft asked.

“He’s going to have me killed instead. I tried to get back to you – I told him I needed time to make my decision, and then the next thing I knew I was here – in there,” he said, jabbing his thumb back at the cell he was in. “And my leg was gone.”

He remembered that part particularly – and probably would for a long time. When he woke up, he realized he had been put into a fold-into-the-wall bed; as soon as he remembered the events that had led him there, he had sprang up ready to try to break out of the room he was trapped in. He swung his legs over the side of the cot – he only noticed that the bunk was so high up that his feet didn’t touch the floor a second before he jumped off the bed altogether. It was when he fell on his ass on the floor that he found out he had been feeling phantom limb in his leg all that time, and came to the horrifying realization that his prosthetic was missing.

For what seemed like hours, he had tried to get himself back up onto that bed, but there was nothing there for him to use as a hand hold. Soon, he resorted to calling for help, but calling quickly turned into screaming as panic set in. After that – after the idea that perhaps the walls were sound proof passed through his mind – he gave up on that, too, resorting to sitting silently under the cot, wishing with everything in him that Mycroft – the only good person in Panem who knew that John had been alone with President Snow – would find him.

He had no idea how long he had been in there when the door finally opened. Fearing the worst, he scrambled into the corner of the room, ready to kick whoever tried to approach him with his one good leg, but then he saw Mycroft’s face. For just a second, he thought he was dreaming – or that it was just too good to be true – that the room had driven him insane like the fog had tried to in his Arena – but as soon as Mycroft spoke to him he knew that he could breathe easily, if only just for a moment.

Because despite the fact that he was broken out of the cell, Sherlock and Harry were still in trouble.

John and Mycroft reached the main room, which looked like a laboratory, and the first thing John noticed was a Peacekeeper, his hands behind his back, attached to a pipe near the wall, unconscious.

“I injected him with tracker jacker venom,” Mycroft explained before John could ask. “Just enough to put him out and through an intense high. We’ll be gone before he wakes up, and when he does he won’t know his nightmares from the reality enough to accurately recall what happened. I just need to do one more thing before we leave, though,” he said, approaching the Peacekeeper with the keys to the handcuffs he wore in hand.

“And what’s that?” John asked as Mycroft unlocked the cuffs.

“I can’t just walk with you to the interview as myself, especially if the other Peacekeepers know that you were down here, which they undoubtedly do. So, I’m going to become this Peacekeeper and deliver you to the interview as him, instead,” he replied as began to strip the Peacekeeper of his uniform.

“Are you sure someone’s not going to find him like this?” John asked, “Off his tits on tracker jacker venom in his underwear?” As he spoke, he paced back and forth across the room, taking it in.

The tables – the tools – the syringes – the cells –

This was definitely some sort of laboratory, and judging by the sort of bed that was in his cell, the prisoners – and subjects – were human.

He couldn’t stop moving, now – if he did, he’d probably vomit.

“If all goes according to plan and the other Peacekeepers believe that I’m this one here, they won’t even think to come down here and check at least until after the interview,” Mycroft said, putting the Peacekeeper’s uniform on over his suit.

“Right. Okay. Right,” John said, nodding, trying to calm himself down.

Mycroft straightened up, now completely dressed in what the unconscious Peacekeeper had previously donned. “Do you trust me, John?” he asked.

John stopped pacing and looked at Mycroft – the brother of his best friend – the brother of his boyfriend – his brother – his best friend – and nodded. “With my life.”

“Alright,” Mycroft said, and crossed to one of the tables in the middle of the room and retrieved the Peacekeeper’s helmet, and affixed to his head, putting the tinted visor down, covering his face his completely. “How do I look?” he asked, his voice distorted by the helmet.

John considered him. He could tell by the way he was holding himself he was sucking in at least a little bit of his gut in order to accurately match the uniform’s slightly smaller size, instead of the uniform contorting in accommodation for his gut. Now that the visor was covering his face, it was like everything about his friend had been stripped away – he was entirely unrecognizable.

“Completely unlike yourself,” he replied, his voice weaker than he wanted it to be.

“Passable, then?”

“Yeah,” John said, nodding.

“Good,” Mycroft said, and then pointed back at the Peacekeeper. “Could you pick up those handcuffs for me, please?”

John complied, expecting that Mycroft would just attach them to his belt, just in case a passing Peacekeeper noticed that they were missing and got suspicious. He was so attached to the idea that when he came back and Mycroft told him to turn around and put his hands behind his back, he panicked for a second.

Even though the emotion showed for probably only a fleeting moment, Mycroft read John’s face in that time, and quickly explained himself. “It’s just for authenticity’s sake. You said you trust me with your life, John. I will not betray you.”

It was only then that John let Mycroft put the cuffs on him. Once they were comfortable for John, Mycroft assumed the positon of a Peacekeeper set to relocate his prisoner from the laboratory they were in to Caesar Flickerman’s interview across the street from the training center. He placed his hands on John – one on his shoulder to steer him, and the other on his handcuffed wrists to keep them in place, and they exited through the door on the right side of the room and started down a long, dimly lit hallway together, leaving the real Peacekeeper behind.

Chapter Text

John could feel himself shaking under Mycroft’s unyielding grip as they walked, and forcibly tried to remind himself that it was indeed Mycroft behind him – Mycroft who had his hands on him – and definitely not Magnussen or –

At that moment, the palm of Mycroft’s hand pressed up against the scar on his shoulder, stirring up memories from his Arena and his finale with Jim Moriarty at the worst possible time.

“C-Can you switch arms? Please?” John asked lowly, and Mycroft immediately changed his position.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“Yeah,” John replied. “Thanks.”

Obviously sensing that they didn’t have much time before they ran into other people, Mycroft spoke quickly from behind him.

“I should apologize, John.”

“No, it’s fine –”

“No, not about that. Snow sent you down there because of me. He was trying to keep us apart, so I wouldn’t be able to devise a plan to get the three of you – you, Sherlock, and Harry – out of this unscathed. Of course, Snow underestimates me. Time or no time, no matter what happens, I’m going to try.”

“Do Sherlock and Harry know about what’s going on?” John asked, figuring this would be the only time he would get the opportunity to ask before he was shoved out onto the stage in front of them – and the rest of Panem. “The meeting with Snow – the fact that I went missing – anything?”

“They have no idea, and I’d rather them not knowing about any of this until the last possible second; it would only stir panic. I’m afraid that if they knew what was going on they’d wouldn’t be able to hold themselves together during the interview. Or worse, try to miss their final interview so they could come rescue you with me.”

John thought about Sherlock and Harry – they’d both definitely try and do exactly that if they had known that John was in trouble. In fact, Sherlock and Harry would probably have killed the Peacekeeper who had taken John’s leg to keep him from escaping...

Mycroft stopped him, then, in front of the only door they had encountered since entering the hallway – an elevator.

“I imagine that going down to the end of this hallway will just lead us back to Snow’s mansion, so this here should lead us to Caesar’s studio,” Mycroft said, and pressed the button to open the door. John didn’t speak until they were inside the room.

“I can’t believe how useless I was,” he muttered.

“There’s no need to criticize yourself, John. You were drugged and without your prosthetic, it’s completely understandable –”

“That’s the point though,” John said, cutting him off. “As soon as they took away my prosthetic, I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t know it was that easy to completely immobilize me...”

“It’s okay, it’s alright now,” Mycroft tried to assure him, giving his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. But it wasn’t – it wasn’t okay. But before he could voice this, Mycroft went on. “Honestly, it could’ve been much worse.”

“Worse?” John repeated – he had been drugged – how could it have been worse?

“President Snow has a tendency to poison those who stand in his way.”

“He poisoned our drinks?” John asked, feeling the blood drain from his face.

“I don’t think he was going to kill us; two mentors showing up dead hours before the final interview would’ve tipped Sherlock and Harry off. I believe that, if anything, he was going to try to put us out of commission for the few hours between the meeting and the interview –”

“Just like he put me ‘out of commission’?” John asked.

“Unfortunately, yes. Which is why he was so persistent for us to accept one of his beverages, and why I was so persistent that we refused. You’re lucky that you’re still alive; no offense meant, but if he had offered you something without me there to interfere I’m sure you would have taken it.”

John wanted to think that he wouldn’t – that he would somehow know that Snow was up to something, but he knew that Mycroft was right.

“Well, apparently he didn’t need to try to put anything in my drink – all he needed for me was a syringe.”

The elevator stopped, and Mycroft leaned closer to John’s ear.

“Alright, this is it. Just act natural,” Mycroft whispered as the doors opened. John nodded, and bent his head forward, watching the ground, like a real prisoner would.

Because, at that moment, that’s who he was. And, at that moment, Mycroft was an actual Peacekeeper, leading him to what would be his elation and his doom – to Sherlock and Harry.

They ended up in a separate room in the back of Caesar’s stage, a room that contained nothing but the doorway to the elevator and a screen that was broadcasting the beginning of the final interview. In fact, it was displaying Caesar Flickerman rising up from the room underneath the stage, donned in a glittering lilac suit as they entered the room.

The interview had just begun.

And, within a few minutes, Sherlock and Harry would be joining him on that stage, and a few minutes after that, John would join them, as well.

 “Just in time,” Mycroft muttered. “Come on,” he said, pushing John forward. They were just about to reach the door when it burst open, revealing another Peacekeeper.

John only glanced up for a second at the face-obscuring helmet, and then cast his eyes back to the ground, his heart hammering in his chest.

This was it – they had been caught –

The door closed behind the Peacekeeper.

“John Watson,” the man behind the visor commanded, sounding authoritative, John knew he had heard that voice before – but couldn’t place where.

But it didn’t matter – they had requested to take John from Mycroft to prepare him for the stage – whoever it was under the uniform, they were falling for the disguise.

“Alexander,” Mycroft replied, instead of handing John over, and John looked up to find the other Peacekeeper lifting their visor, revealing that the person under the helmet was none other than Alexander Waters in another stolen Peacekeeper’s suit.

“Alexander,” John gasped out a sigh, not realizing until now that he had been holding his breath all this time.

“Hey, John,” Alexander replied.

“Alexander is going to guard you until you’re called out onto the stage while I change out of this and meet with the others,” Mycroft said, and then turned John around to face him, lifting the visor away from his face, taking away the barrier between them. “I need you to listen to me closely, John. Something is going to happen, here – right here, on that stage. From the moment you join us, it could be at any second. All I ask of you is to get control of the room and when you have it, don’t lose it. Stall for time. Can you do that?”

“Yes,” John nodded, determined, even though he wasn’t entirely sure what Mycroft was talking about.

Mycroft nodded, a ghost of a smile on his face as he put his hand on John’s shoulder. “You’re a good man, John Watson.” Before John could reply, Mycroft looked behind him, at Alexander. “Do you have it?”

“It’s all ready for you,” Alexander replied, handing Mycroft his umbrella.

“Thank you,” he said, and looked back down at John. “I’ll see you on the stage.” He then nodded goodbye to them both, and placed his hand on the doorknob, but then he paused and turned around once more. “And John?”


Mycroft then looked John over, as if he had forgotten what he had wanted to say. When he finally met his eyes again, he gave the smallest – and saddest – of smiles, and spoke.

“Look after Sherlock. Please.”

John nodded. “Of course. Always.”

In lieu of a reply, Mycroft put his visor back down, and then he was gone, closing the door behind him.

“Sherlock Holmes, where on earth is your brother?” Mrs. Hudson asked, pacing as much as she could in the tiny room underneath the stage.

“It’s not my job to keep tabs on him,” Sherlock replied, though he’d be lying if he wasn’t a small bit worried about his brother, as well.

“This is so unlike him – the three of you will be on that stage any minute and he’s gone!” Mrs. Hudson exclaimed, hysterical.

“Maybe he’s sick? He was acting weird when he came up for dinner,” Harry noted.

“No, he rarely gets sick,” Sherlock replied. “And even so, he wouldn’t miss this. When we were kids, he had traveled from District to District and made speeches for the victory tour all while he was recovering from a root canal. There isn’t much that will cause him to miss a Capitol-ran event.”

“Maybe he’s with John, then?” she asked.

“That’s a possibility,” Sherlock admitted, swallowing down the jealousy that raged within his chest. If he was with John that was fine – he’d see John within the next twenty minutes, give or take. “But he’s not one to lose track of time – his internal clock is always right, and he always makes sure he’s early for any sort of appointment.”

“There you are!” Mrs. Hudson cried, and Sherlock and Harry looked up and saw Mycroft approaching them. “You have to stop doing this – you’re going to give me a heart attack!”

“Sorry I’m late,” Mycroft said. “I needed to visit the lavatories and then I was distracted by the food table on my way here.”

“You don’t get distracted,” Sherlock informed him. “You never get distracted.”

“There’s a first time for everything, little brother,” Mycroft replied, smiling his trademark equally-annoyed-and-amused grin.

“You don’t have crumbs on your suit,” Sherlock deduced.

“Do you honestly think I wouldn’t think to brush myself off before going out on stage in front of all of Panem?” Mycroft asked, but before Sherlock had time to reply, Caesar’s voice boomed through the entire theater.

“And now, may I present to you, our two victors of the Seventy-Fifth Hunger Games: Sherlock Holmes and Harry Watson from District Twelve, and their mentor, Mycroft Holmes!”

“You’re on,” one of the crew members informed them, and they took the stage.

Even in the tiny room, John could still hear the crowd’s cheers.

“Let’s go,” Alexander muttered, and, once John nodded, Alexander put his visor back down and guided John out of the room, down the hall, and to the wings of the stage, just as Mycroft had guided him out of the laboratory, down the hall, and into the tiny room they had wound up in. Once they were close enough to catch the slightest glimpse of what was happening on stage, John lifted his head and instantly craned his neck over and around the crew members, trying to see Sherlock and Harry.

It was then a person who seemed to be entirely made out of irises jumped into John’s field of vison.

“John!” Mrs. Hudson exclaimed, practically bowling John over and into Alexander as she hugged him. Suddenly, he felt the urge to hug her back, and, forgetting for a second that his arms were restrained, he pulled at his handcuffs. Mrs. Hudson didn’t seem to notice the cuffs or the Peacekeeper behind him as she kissed his cheeks. “Oh, it’s been forever!” she cried, pressing a hand to her heart as she backed away from him. He then looked at her – her dress seemed to be made completely out of artificial irises, and the same irises decorated her curly blonde wig – Sherlock’s curls and John’s color. She was a complete Johnlock ensemble. “You should know I wanted to visit you, I really did, but I had your sister and boyfriend to take care of – I’m sure Mycroft’s explained.”

“Yeah, he did,” John replied, vaguely remembering that conversation.

Alexander then took the opportunity to begin to unlock John’s handcuffs, and that alone seemed to bring John’s predicament into Mrs. Hudson’s world.

“Oh, John, I’m so sorry you’re being treated like this – I tried telling them that they shouldn’t be treating you like a prisoner, but no one would listen.”

“Really?” John asked, surprised. He imagined Mrs. Hudson, storming into Snow’s office, telling him to leave John, and by extension, Sherlock and Harry alone – it didn’t seem like her, at all.

As soon as Alexander got John’s hands free, John brought his hands to his front and rubbed at his wrists, and then, as if they were waiting for that moment, his prep team seemed to appear out of nowhere, and started making his face stage-presentable, adding makeup and fixing his hair. Mrs. Hudson kept talking the whole time as if nothing was happening.

“Of course! It didn’t change anything, obviously, but I guess I see their point – they didn’t want you to try to meet with Sherlock, again.” This stopped John’s racing mind for just a few seconds – short circuiting his head. “I mean, everyone wants to see the reunion between Panem’s favorite lovers; if you two met privately beforehand it wouldn’t be authentic.”

“Wait, what?” John finally managed to ask, before he could stop himself.

“Oh, don’t be embarrassed, it’s quite alright!” Mrs. Hudson laughed. “I thought it was very touching. But it’s alright, now! Because the two of you will finally be able to be together, in just a few minutes!”

Until Snow rips us apart, John couldn’t help but think.

“Does Sherlock know?” he asked, trying to look embarrassed. “That I, you know...”

“Oh, goodness no – just me. One of the Peacekeepers came by the Penthouse while our two victors were away getting prepped for Caesar and explained the whole situation – you had been caught sneaking around trying to get in touch with Sherlock before the interview, and now you were going to stay under their surveillance until the interview so the reunion can occur on camera. I, of course, asked what that would entail, and as soon as they said you’d be running around in handcuffs I immediately tried to argue with them. You’re a good boy doing foolish things out of love; you didn’t need restraints! But, I couldn’t do anything to change their minds.” Finally, the prep team backed away, and Mrs. Hudson grinned at John. “There, now we can hug properly!” she said, and hugged him again. And finally, with his arms free, he was able to hug her back.

So, that’s what they were telling people. And that’s why no one had seemed relatively surprised when he arrived on set in handcuffs. And all at once, a wave of respect and admiration for District Twelve’s escort fell over him. Mycroft had been the one to save him, to kick down all doors and break all the rules for him, and for that he was eternally grateful, but Mrs. Hudson had stood up for him, even when she had no idea what was really going on behind the scenes. Even though she hadn’t seen him for days. Even though he was just a tribute – just a victor. Sure, Mrs. Hudson was naive, but her heart was in the right place. She loved her victors, and, as John had suddenly realized, they loved her too.

Despite the fact that Sherlock and Harry were a mere fifty feet away, he didn’t want to let go of Mrs. Hudson. Because, if he did, it would mean he would have to get up on that stage, and choose between Sherlock Holmes and Harry Watson. And he couldn’t do that – he had tried to do it before and he couldn’t, letting Sherlock make the choice before him – and he still couldn’t imagine doing so, now.

But he had to.

The final interview with Caesar was going well, as far as Sherlock could tell. To be honest, though, he wasn’t really paying attention to the interview at all. Yes, he was giving all the right reactions in all the right places – laughing when Caesar told a joke, getting to the verge of tears when he was asked about his relationship with Louise after Archie’s death and about John’s assault – but all he could really focus on was John.

The day was finally here. He was going to see him today – in just a few minutes. It took everything in him not to turn around – turn away from Caesar and Mycroft and Harry and the crowd and the lights – to find out if he could see John waiting in the wings, waiting to be called out into the light.

Instead, he spoke when spoken to, and repeated the last line of John’s letter to him in his head, like a mantra he needed in order to breathe: I love you, Sherlock, and I’ll see you on Flickerman’s stage.

Finally – finally – the mere concept of John making an appearance was mentioned.

“Now, I’m sure that you – Harry and Sherlock, especially – are waiting for a very special person to make an appearance.”

At this point, Sherlock could hardly contain himself.

“YES,” he nearly shouted, which caused the audience to erupt into laughter, sounds of adoration, and cheers. Embarrassed by his sudden outburst, he shrunk back in his seat, and Mycroft, who was on his right side, placed his hand on his shoulder, and Harry, on his left, held tighter onto his hand than she had been already holding. Both of them smiled at him – Mycroft’s was a mess of emotion, happy for him and apologetic that it had taken this long and brotherly – and Harry’s seemed just as excited as he felt.

“Let’s not delay this any longer than we have to, then, shall we?” Caesar asked the crowd, chuckling. “Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we’ve all been waiting for – the reunion of a lifetime – give a nice, warm welcome to last year’s victor of the Hunger Games – John Watson!”

If the crowd had been deafening before, it was ear-shattering, now.

Suddenly, the dog tags around Sherlock’s neck weighed heavy in a way they never had before. The moment Sherlock had been waiting so damn long for – for forever, it seemed – was finally here.

Sherlock looked to the far end of the stage and saw the mere outline of John approaching them – close enough to recognize the colors of his hair and skin and suit but still too far to make out the exact features that Sherlock had come to memorize – and relief flooded through him, so powerfully he felt faint.

But instead of fainting, he stood, pulling Harry up with him. As she bounced up and down beside him, happier than she had been in weeks, Sherlock stood still for just a moment, his feet glued to the ground, but then he reminded himself it was real – he wasn’t dreaming – and started walking to him, pulling Harry along.

They were almost there, almost to him, when Harry let go of Sherlock’s hand. He looked back at her, and she nodded toward her brother, even though it looked like she was fighting against herself to hang back.

“They want Johnlock,” she called to him, and despite the two-foot distance that was between them, he couldn’t hear her over the cheering crowd. But he could read her lips. “Go get him.”

His mouth slightly agape, he nodded, and turned back to John. And then he saw his eyes – his gorgeous blue eyes – and he fell in love all over again.

Chapter Text

As soon as his sister had given his boyfriend permission to greet him first, Sherlock Holmes ran to John, hugging him so tightly he couldn’t breathe, lifting him up and spinning him around, obviously high on adrenaline. As soon as his feet touched the ground, Sherlock kissed him, and the world seemed to blur around them, just for a moment. When their lips parted, Sherlock wiped John’s eyes of the tears that had apparently began streaming down his face as they kissed, grinning like a madman, and gave him one last peck on the lips before passing him over to his sister.

Harry Watson nearly launched herself into John’s arms, and he picked her up, just as they had done as kids. Once she was back on the ground, she tucked her face into his shoulder, and he tucked his face into hers. The hug felt like it went on for hours, but when they finally did let go of one another, Harry waved an anxious Sherlock over, and he joined them, making it a proper reunion.

They all stood with their shoulders touching, in a triangle of affection, all of them trying to hold on to the others and wanting to hug the other two. They couldn’t speak over the crowd’s cheering, but they didn’t have to. They were there, they were all in front of each other, all close enough to touch, and that’s all that mattered.

Behind them, John saw Mycroft hanging back with Caesar, watching the reunion, a sad smile on his face. For a moment, John was confused to see him on the stage – he had been in the audience last year during John’s final interview. After only half a second’s worth of thought, he realized why: he was Sherlock’s brother, and thus the only reason why Sherlock went into the Arena in the first place, just as he himself was Harry’s. It was just like with the interviews the night before going into the Arena; the tribute’s victor sibling was to join them on the stage. Because, even as victors of the Hunger Games, they were still just extensions of their siblings. John extended a hand to wave Mycroft over, and Mycroft shook his head. He had already had his reunion with Sherlock and Harry – now it was John’s turn.

John then glanced into the crowd, but all he could really see past the flashing lights of cameras and faces he didn’t know, he saw President Coriolanus Snow himself perched in the balcony made just for him up against the back wall, raised so high above them that the top of the entryway’s arch almost touched the high ceiling.

They made eye contact, and Snow grinned, and that was when reality broke the spell – broke into John’s brain, and as soon as it did there wasn’t any way for him to shake it. He wanted to stay in this moment of happiness forever – he wanted Sherlock and Harry to live in ignorance for as long as they could – but he knew that if he didn’t tell them something – anything – now, he wouldn’t get a chance to before everything went to shit.

“Sherlock – Sherlock,” he called to him, putting his hand on his cheek to get his attention, just as the cheering was beginning to die down. Sherlock took John’s hand from his cheek and kissed it, his eyes watching his face. More than anything in that moment, John didn’t want to be the one to break Sherlock’s heart, to shatter his dreams and shove him into the harshest of realities, but he had to. “Vatican cameos,” he muttered, and Sherlock’s eyes widened and his smile fell into nonexistence.

“What’d he say? What does that mean?” Harry asked, looking back and forth between the two boys.

Back in the summertime of last year, just after John had returned home from his Arena, his anxiety and post-traumatic stress was nearly inconsolable; he continuously had difficulty sleeping, due to nightmares that kept him awake. Nightmares of Sherlock – of Harry – of his parents – all in life-threatening danger, and of John not being able to do anything to save them. After a particularly gruesome nightmare where Sherlock was killed, Sherlock tried to convince John that if he was ever in trouble, John would be the first to know.

“But what if you can’t tell me?” John had asked in a panic. “What if you’re not allowed to say anything?”

After a moment’s contemplation, Sherlock got out of John’s bed and went to his bookshelf, found his dictionary, and returned to John. He flipped to two different pages and pointed at two different words at random.

“Vatican...cameos,” Sherlock decided, and then looked at John. “If we ever find out that someone’s in trouble – that someone’s going to die – and we aren’t allowed to tell the other, we’ll just say Vatican cameos, and then we’ll know that something bad is going to happen, and we’ll be prepared for it.”

This was the first time they ever had to use the code word, but as soon as it had passed John’s lips, Sherlock remembered what it meant.

Finally, Sherlock answered Harry’s question.

“Battle stations,” he said, not looking away from John’s eyes. “Someone’s going to die.”

Before Harry could react, or Sherlock could ask for specifics, Caesar interrupted them, walking from the place he and Mycroft were standing at center of the stage to where the three kids were standing, and held out his microphone to John’s mouth.

“John, this is the first time you’ve seen your sister and your boyfriend since the Hunger Games began – how do you feel?” he asked.

“F-fantastic,” John lied, giving the best grin he could as he held on to Sherlock and Harry’s hands.

“And Sherlock – Harry – how do you two feel?”

“Elated,” Sherlock replied.

Harry, who was still silently reacting to what Sherlock and John had said within her own head, simply nodded in agreement.

“Well, sadly...” Caesar started, and John knew exactly what was coming – and even though he was able to give Sherlock and Harry the slightest of hints that something was happening, neither of them were anywhere close to fully prepared for what was going to happen. Hell, he wasn’t even ready. “I have some unfortunate news that needs to be addressed.”

Sherlock and Harry glanced at each other, knowing that, somehow, this was going to be what John was trying to warn them about.

Caesar looked between the three of them, sadness and sympathy now plaguing his features, and it was then for the first time that Sherlock noticed the laughter lines that were etched into his skin. As soon as he wasn’t smiling, it was plain to see the years and years of hosting this damned show – these damned Games – taking its toll. With just a simple change of expression, he could see the years of plastered smiles for rolling cameras that had marked his face as its own.

But Caesar didn’t mind it, and Sherlock knew it. He didn’t mind being a part of this – the Hunger Games, the deaths of twenty-three children, year after year – except for this year.

This year, only twenty-two people had to die.

And the two survivors stood upon that stage.

“They just let you both live,” Mycroft had told them, only yesterday, even though it seemed like it had been at a far more distant time. “I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but, for lack of a better way to say it, the Capitol is pissed.”

And then it all clicked, just as Caesar was breaking the news to them – and to the rest of Panem:

“After the two of you were announced to be the new victors of the Hunger Games, the Gamemakers reviewed the rules and, despite the unique situation that we’re all in – even though both of you are so close to John, and even though at the time the Gamemakers had to choose between making both of you victors or having no victor at all – the rules are very clear.” He took a breath, as if it pained him to say it. “I’m sorry, but there can only be one victor.”

“What?!” Harry cried as soon as Caesar revealed the news, the microphone causing her voice to be heard above all of the shouting Capitol citizens, her voice full of so many emotions – fear and anger and sadness and surprise – that it was hard to pin it down with just one word. Her voice tore through Sherlock’s heart, and all he wanted to do in that moment was hug her, to put her behind him, and take the fall for her, just as he should have in the goddamned first place.

But instead, all he did was glare between Caesar in front of him, and President Snow up in his stupid reserved seat, above the audience and above the stage – above everything.

The moment Caesar revealed the news, the crowd went into hysterics, shouting in rage and shock and booing at Caesar. It was so easy for them – they were citizens of the Capitol – unless they did something outright to rebel against the Capitol, they wouldn’t be punished. They had nothing to lose.

But John – John had everything to lose. If he didn’t, maybe he would have joined in the audience’s displays of disapproval, but instead all he could do was stare at Caesar, actively avoiding Sherlock and Harry’s frantic glances at him.

Sherlock threw a glance at John, only to see him staring wide-eyed at Caesar, purposely avoiding Sherlock’s eyes. He then looked back down the stage, where Mycroft Holmes – his one and only brother – was still standing, glaring up at President Snow, also keeping himself from looking back at Sherlock.

Why weren’t they looking at him?

Why wasn’t anybody looking at him?!

John couldn’t bring himself to look at either Sherlock or Harry. If he did, they’d know instantly that he was the one who had to make the final decision – they’d know what he had to do. They’d know the threat he was under: if he didn’t make a choice, or if he made the wrong choice, he – or worse, all three of them – would be killed.

“I’m sure you’re all wondering how we’re going to go about this – how the true victor will be decided upon,” Caesar went on once the noise died down, speaking half to the audience, and half to Sherlock and Harry. “After a long discussion between President Snow, Seneca Crane, and the other Gamemakers that were involved in the making of this year’s Hunger Games, a conclusion that they feel will be in the best interest of everyone involved has been reached.” He reached into the inside pocket his stupid glittering, violet blazer and pulled out an envelope.

Sherlock and Harry’s hands found each other’s, as Sherlock internally groaned in anguish. His fate – both his and Harry’s fates – were once again held inside of a stupid envelope.

Caesar held the envelope up for the crowd, showing them that the red wax seal had not been broken, and that he had no idea what it contained – like it was just a magic trick. But it wasn’t; it was just a trick within itself – Sherlock could tell that Caesar knew exactly how the victor would be decided.

With great flourish, knowing that Sherlock and Harry’s entire lives were dependent on the contents of the envelope, Caesar opened the envelope, pulled out the card inside, and read it out loud, his voice booming in the now otherwise-silent room:

“‘As decreed by President Coriolanus Snow, the one, true victor of the Seventy-Fifth Annual Hunger Games will be chosen by’…” he took a deep breath, glancing up and around the room, his eyes alight with the excitement of holding the room’s attention. Once he deemed his dramatic pause long enough, he spoke again, reading the rest of the sentence: “‘John Hamish Watson.’”

Gasps and cries of horror flew through the crowd. John’s eyes snapped shut as he swallowed back the vomit that had suddenly risen in his throat, still unable to look at his boyfriend or his sister, even though he could feel their eyes on him. He had known this was coming – Snow had threatened him to make a choice mere hours ago – but that didn’t stop his knees from weakening, or his heart from trying to pound out of his chest as the need to be sick on stage worsened.

“‘John Watson must make his decision while on Caesar Flickerman’s stage, within the next two minutes,’” Caesar read on. “‘The tribute that is chosen to die will immediately be taken into Peacekeeper custody, and their execution will be televised. If John Watson refuses to make a decision or is unable to make a decision in the time allotted, both William Holmes and Harriet Watson must die.’”

There was a vital part of the announcement that Snow had left out, something that had just been said between him and John, not even in exact words – if John failed to make a decision, John would die alongside them. John wanted to die. He needed to die – he’d rather die than make this choice.

But he couldn’t, not without Sherlock and Harry dying, too.

“John,” Caesar said, quietly, and John opened his eyes to find a microphone in his face. “It’s time to make your decision.”

There was a moment more of silence from the crowd, as they finished processing what President Snow had ordered John to do, and then the screaming started.

Everyone in the audience started shouting at once, all of them trying to make themselves heard above all others, as they gave their own opinions to John. It was a mess of noise, but somehow John was still able to pick out singular voices – cries of “HARRY!” and “SHERLOCK!”, all overlapping each other. Some people yelled more than just that, of course, but anything else they had to say was lost in the sea of shouting. Then someone started a Johnlock chant, and it spread throughout the crowd of Sherlock-supporters. It was maddening to listen to only for a second, but John couldn’t get them out of his head.

“I...” he mumbled into the microphone, and glanced past Sherlock and Harry, to Mycroft, who was glaring up at President Snow. He turned his head to look at John for only a second, made eye contact, and then turned back to continue staring daggers at Snow.

Where’s your plan, now?! John wanted to shout at him, anger coursing through his veins alongside his fear. He was just staring at Snow – that wasn’t a plan! He wasn’t doing anything

He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down. Mycroft had told him to try and stall for time – he had no idea why he was even trying at this point, why he was putting so much faith into Mycroft and his plan, even if it was just staring at the president as if looks could legitimately kill, but he did. He did, and there was no denying it. He knew Mycroft and he trusted him – if he said he had a plan, he did, even if it didn’t seem like it at the time. Besides, if he didn’t have faith in his plan, he had no other option but to choose for someone to die. So, even though he was seconds away from vomiting all over the stupid microphone that was still in his face, he had to try.

“I...I choose...” he looked from Sherlock to Harry. Sometime after the announcement, Sherlock had begun to hug her, and he was still holding onto her – and she to him, as she sobbed into his chest, using him for support. It was then he saw the tears running down Sherlock’s face, too. “I...I’m sorry...” John went on, his mind unable to come up with anything better – anything more elaborate to say to stall – any better way to apologize for what he had to do –

But then, Sherlock slowly let go of Harry, making sure she knew that he was letting her go, so she didn’t fall to her knees as soon as they separated. He then approached John, slowly, as if approaching a wounded animal he wanted to befriend – and maybe that’s all John was, now; a broken boy, far beyond repair.

When Sherlock finally reached him, he placed his hand under John’s chin, making John look up at him. Wrapping his other arm around him, he kissed him. The audience’s volume continued to grow, and it was finally – for the first time – too strong for the deafening affect Sherlock’s kiss always seemed to have. And yet – somehow – it was everything John needed it to be. It was long and soft and unobtrusive and sweet and urgent and so very final – and so John knew what Sherlock was going to say when he finally parted, with Sherlock looking into John’s eyes as if they were his only source of relief.

“It’s okay.”

It was like Sherlock knew exactly what was at stake, like he had been alongside John all of that day – like he had been to the meeting with Snow, like he had been knocked unconscious as well, like he had been put into the containment cell with him, like he had been rescued by Mycroft, too. It was like Sherlock had been there all along, and knew the threat they were all under. He saw it all, and he understood what he had to do. And he was at peace with it. If John had to choose, it was okay that it was Sherlock.

And, even though everything in John hated it, even though he would rather die than to choose to for him to be killed, he could see the prospect of the future they were going to have together fading from Sherlock’s eyes as he finally, truly accepted his death, and John knew that he had run out of time.

Sherlock had, just as he had before, made the choice for him.

John just had to say it – he just had to force the words from his lips.

“I...I – I choose –”

If anyone in the audience noticed beforehand, any way they could have reacted would have been completely washed away by the people focused on Sherlock, John, and Harry around them. So really, other than a few select people, there was no way of knowing before it happened – before a gunshot, even louder than the audience, was heard, silencing everything.

For a second, John thought that he had been the one who had been shot, and the stress of the situation had simply delayed the inevitable pain of his death. But then, his eyes somehow found Mycroft Holmes. He was still standing, the handle of his umbrella in one hand, pointed up at President Snow’s balcony, smoke emerging from its end. The rest of his umbrella was in his other hand – his umbrella was in two separate parts – and it hit John then: his umbrella was a gun, and it had been all along – the handle a pistol, and the rest was just its disguise. John looked from Mycroft to President Snow’s balcony, to see a group of Peacekeepers surrounding the president, blood oozing from a hole directly in the center of his forehead.

President Coriolanus Snow – the person who had been in charge of Panem since before John was born – was dead.

As soon as the audience realized what had happened, they all started screaming in terror.

And then, all hell broke loose.

Chapter Text

Sherlock kicked a small snow clump as he walked down the street, holding hands with victor-of-the-Hunger-Games Mycroft Holmes. It was early in January, approximately twenty-four hours before Mycroft would have to leave Sherlock and go on the Victory Tour, and had picked up his brother from school, behavior report pinned to his shirt and all, and was taking him with him to run a few errands, picking up food for the Watson family with his winnings.

The two had been talking about Sherlock’s day at school – what warranted the report that went home, if any of the older boys had been bullying him, the progress report that was attached to the behavior report – but Sherlock was making it fairly obvious that he wasn’t happy.

And Mycroft, being Mycroft, knew exactly why.

“Sherlock, you know I have to go,” he finally said, and Sherlock looked up to watch the umbrella in his other hand swinging back and forth beside his big brother – the umbrella he had bought just after winning the Games, because he had gotten used to the sensation of holding something the length of a sword at his side –

“I don’t want you to,” he mumbled. Bad things happened to Mycroft when he left for the Capitol – that stupid umbrella was proof of it – he took it everywhere like a child would a security blanket. Not to mention his nightmares that he refused to mention during his waking hours – not to mention everything else about him….

Mycroft sighed and stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, letting go of Sherlock’s hand to pinch the bridge of his nose.

“We’ve been over this –”

“I know you have to go, but I don’t want you to!” Sherlock groaned, stomping his foot. It felt like he had just gotten home and they were taking him away again – “Doesn’t that matter?”

“Yes it does; of course it does, but Sherlock, this is the tradition of the Hunger Games. This happens every year; the victor of the Hunger Games must go on the Victory Tour.”

Normally, he would’ve let this drop by then, but today, between the report home and the bullies who called him a freak, Sherlock wasn’t letting it go.

“No! The Capitol’s being stupid! They took you and they hurt you –”

“Sherlock, please –”

“– and I don’t want them to hurt you again, Mycroft! I want the Games to stop!”

“ – be quiet –” Mycroft hissed, trying to grab a hold of his brother’s arm, but Sherlock slipped out of his grip.

“I hate the Games –”

“Sherlock –”

“– and I hate the Capitol –”

“Sherlock stop it –”

“– and I hate President Snow –”

“SHUT UP!” Mycroft yelled, finally gripping onto Sherlock’s shoulders, dropping the umbrella to the ground, and Sherlock, staring up at his big brother and seeing the panic in his eyes, finally obeyed, his lip trembling.

But why was Mycroft yelling at him? If it was any other day – any other time – Mycroft would’ve been able to stop him without shouting –

It was only then that Sherlock looked around and saw all the people who were watching the two boys fight as they walked by, and that they had gained the attention of –

“Mister Holmes,” Peacekeeper Wilbur Cray said, having finished his walk across the street and into the company of the two Holmes brothers. “What seems to be the trouble here, boys?”

“Nothing – nothing, Sir,” Mycroft replied quickly, grabbing ahold of Sherlock’s shoulder. “I’ve – Everything’s fine.”

That explained why Mycroft was so panicked – Mr. Cray was the head of the Peacekeepers in District Twelve, and Sherlock had just been caught yelling about how much he hated the Hunger Games, the Capitol, and President Snow himself.

Mr. Cray knew everyone in District Twelve, though. He knew the Seam especially well – Sherlock had seen him go up to the girls living on the street and offer to let them stay at his house for the night plenty of times – and since he knew the Seam, he knew the Holmes family. He had seen the Holmes boys grow up – he had personally put the Medal of Valor around Mycroft’s neck when their father died – he was the one who Sherlock went to when their mother died to remove her body – he knew their story better than anyone – their story before the Hunger Games got involved, that is.

Mr. Cray knew where they came from.

He looked at Mycroft.

“You ought to teach that boy some respect,” he said. “You’re the head of the family, now, remember.”

It took only a second for Sherlock to realize what Mr. Cray was suggesting.

“Mycroft doesn’t hit me –” Sherlock started, but Mycroft quickly cut him off, wrapping his arm around Sherlock, tightening his grip on his shoulder, silencing him.

“Of course, Mr. Cray. In fact, we’re going to go do that right now. Sherlock, get my umbrella,” he ordered, and Sherlock picked up the umbrella from the ground and handed it to his brother, avoiding his eyes. “Have a good night, Mr. Cray,” Mycroft said, and led Sherlock away.

“What about the –” Sherlock began to ask.

“We’ll do it tomorrow, before I leave,” Mycroft replied shortly, and he led them back to their new house in the Victors’ Village.

As soon as Mycroft closed the door behind them, he rounded on Sherlock.

“You have to stop saying those things in public, Sherlock.”

“Why?” Sherlock asked, crossing his arms.

“Because it’s dangerous, that’s why!” Mycroft snapped. “You’re ten years old, Sherlock – you’re not some stupid little kid anymore – you’re almost old enough to be reaped –”

“It never bothered you before,” Sherlock said, his voice breaking unintentionally, and Mycroft stopped mid-sentence.

Before – before the Hunger Games. That’s how they categorized their lives, now – before and after the Hunger Games. And now, here they stood, with miles between them compiled into a mere few feet – Mycroft was forced into the world of after the Games, and Sherlock was still stuck in the life before it.

Mycroft sighed again, closing his eyes, and Sherlock knew what he was thinking: it was time to bring Sherlock into the life of after.

“I know it didn’t,” he admitted. “But things are different, now. The Capitol knows me, now. I’m not just a face in the crowd; I’m not just one person in a sea of four million people, not anymore. I’m a victor of the Hunger Games; everyone’s seen my face and they all know who I am. And that means that the Capitol’s going to be keeping tabs on me, from now on. Maybe not in a way we always can see, but trust me, they will; they’re capable. Do you have any idea what they’ll think if they see that I’m just letting you run around saying that you hate everything involved with the Hunger Games?”

Sherlock looked away from his brother, guilt coursing through him.

“They’ll think I’m trying to start a rebellion, Sherlock. And if they think that, they’ll take you away from me.”

At the sound of this, Sherlock looked back up at Mycroft, aghast.

“They can’t –”

“They can, Sherlock. And not only that, but they would, without hesitation. Do you understand, now? That you can’t say these things?” Mycroft asked, and Sherlock nodded quickly. And, after a moment, Mycroft spoke again. “I know you hate them. And I hate them, too. But you can’t be shouting out about it, anymore. You can talk about it with me here, but not in public.”

“What about John?” Sherlock asked, despite himself, and Mycroft gave Sherlock a small, sad smile.

“Yes, John’s alright. But you mustn’t talk about it in front of his parents or his sister. It has to stay private, do you understand?”

“Yes,” Sherlock nodded, and then, in a moment of emotion, ran and hugged his brother. “Don’t let them take me away,” he begged into his brother’s blazer.

“I won’t,” he said, and then pulled Sherlock away from him, to look his brother in the eyes. “But you have to do your part, too. Nothing public.”

“Nothing public,” Sherlock promised.

And now, almost a decade later, Mycroft had just made the most public display of hatred toward the Capitol, the Hunger Games, and of President Snow himself ever recorded, by killing President Snow.

All at once, everyone in the audience started running – citizens of the capitol all flew from their seats in different directions, all blurs of bright colors mixed together, despite quite a few of them wearing costumes and dresses and other outfits that seemed quite difficult to run in. As soon as the umbrella-gun was fired and the chaos began, the doors to the outside burst open, and people in grey armored suits filed in, ready to fight.

John, still stupidly frozen to the spot, watched the scene from the stage, and then made eye contact with someone in the first row of the audience – someone who, like him, was just standing there. It took a second for John to recognize him – it was Claudius Templesmith, the Hunger Game’s announcer. He stood, getting pushed around by the escaping Capitol bystanders, but he still managed to glare up at John despite that. He was talking into something like a handheld phone – John couldn’t make out the words he was speaking, but once they made eye contact, a small, sinister smile grew on Claudius’ face.

Before John could react – or even try to figure out what the moment between them could possibly mean – Mycroft Holmes was by his side, pushing him, Sherlock, and Harry into the backstage area.

“GO – MOVE –” he shouted over the noise, and John’s feet finally caught up with what had happened, and he started running.

“GET THEM!” Caesar yelled from behind them, and then they saw Alexander Waters – who had lifted the visor of his helmet to ensure that the four would run to him and not another Peacekeeper – being grabbed by a real Peacekeeper in the wings.

Immediately, Mycroft steered the three kids away from the wings, and to the front of the stage.

“GO –” he shouted, grabbing onto the nearest person – Sherlock – and leading him down into the pit – into the maze of absolute chaos that was happening in the audience’s section below. “GO! GO TO THE –”

The sound of Mycroft’s voice was cut off by the sound of firing bullets into the stage behind them –

Sherlock spun around, eyes searching the stage – searching for Mycroft – for John – Harry –

And then Sherlock was shoved by someone running by him, and he lost his balance, falling into someone else who pushed him the other way –

And then he was moving – moving whichever way the mob was sending him – getting pulled and pushed and grabbed and falling over himself and everyone else –

“JOHN!” he shouted, throwing caution to the wind – “MYCROFT! HARRY!”

And then he turned – running face first into –

“Got you –”

Seneca Crane – the Head Gamemaker – grabbed Sherlock by his sleeve, pushing him into the wall that was right behind them – putting a gun in his face.

“No –”

“You think you and your brother could just destroy the Hunger Games? Just like that?” Seneca hissed in his ear. “Absolutely not – not even close –”

Sherlock could feel his own sweat sliding down his face –

There was a gun in his face –

He was going to be shot –

“The Hunger Games need to go on – they have to –”

People were shoving their way past them –

But the gun stayed trained to Sherlock’s forehead –

He was going to die –

“End of the line,” Seneca said, a smile in his voice, and Sherlock closed his eyes –

There was a gunshot – one close by – but it wasn’t the gun on his head.

In fact, the gun moved, and Sherlock opened his eyes to see the Head Gamemaker fall to the floor, his shoulder bleeding, and the bullet buried into the wall beside Sherlock.

Sherlock looked up from the writhing body of Seneca Crane and saw John Watson, lowering a Peacekeeper’s gun.

John had just shot Seneca Crane, the Head Gamemaker, and suddenly Sherlock could barely breathe.

“John –”

And suddenly they were in the middle of the fray – touching each other’s faces, to ensure the other was really there – really alive, just in this moment – 

“Are you okay?” John asked, keeping his hand pressed against Sherlock’s face.

“Yes –” Sherlock breathed, and then someone – Harry, John and Sherlock were both relieved to find – grabbed each of their shoulders, speaking so loudly and quickly that John could barely keep up:

“Move now, kiss later, LET’S GO –”

They started running, all holding hands – John in the front, and Sherlock taking up the rear – pushing and weaving their way through the crowd, trying to find Mycroft or Alexander or anyone who could help them –

And then –

Someone shoved through them, pushing Harry down into a row of seats.

“I GOT HER!” he shouted, as Harry screamed, trying to fight him off.

John spun around, but Sherlock was already on the man – this vigilante, obviously thinking that turning in any one of the three warranted a reward from the dead president – practically jumping on his back in an effort to pull him off of her. Sherlock’s fingers quickly found the man’s eyes, and between that and Sherlock pulling his body back to try and drive the man off of Harry, Harry was able to get her feet in between her and the man. With a single kick, the man reeled back, quickly losing his balance and landing in a row of seats across the aisle – right on top of Sherlock.

“SHERLOCK!” John shouted, and Sherlock looked up, just barely seeing him through all the people, Harry standing by his side, freed from the man.

“GO!” Sherlock shouted in reply, trying to get himself out from under the man. “FIND MYCROFT I’LL CATCH UP –”

“SHERLOCK –” Harry cried, and then they were gone from his sight.

Harry tried to leave her brother’s side, but John caught her, pulling her away from Sherlock.

“No we can’t just leave him!”

“He’ll find us – we have to go –” John said, turning her back around, holding her hand, determined not to lose her again, and led her back to the stage.

He wasn’t sure where Mycroft was at this point – probably in the chaos trying to find them – but he knew the last place he saw Alexander – backstage. With any luck, he’d still be there. And, seeing as he had shown up for the final interview in the Peacekeeper get up, he surely knew of Mycroft’s plan, and of where to take them.

Mycroft and Sherlock would find each other –

They had to –

They approached the door to the backstage area – a door that was being used by bystanders trying to find the nearest exit, and found Alexander – still in his Peacekeeper uniform, the helmet completely disregarded, now – pushing his way through the crowd of people.

“Alexander!” John yelled, leading Harry to him, just as he managed to pass through the doorway.

“John, Harry!” he called back, running up to them. “You have to come with me –”

“What about Sherlock and Mycroft?” Harry asked.

“They’ll find each other – they’ll find us – we need to go –”

And before John or Harry could even think of an argument, Alexander was leading them back through the door he came out of, and a knot in John’s stomach began to form – and he could feel it growing with every step.

He didn’t know how he knew, or when it would happen, but something very bad was going to happen – he just knew it.

But the three ran through the backstage area anyway, weaving their way through the crew and set designers who were running for their lives, trying to ignore the gunshots, trying to not think about Sherlock and Mycroft, and trying to find a way out.

Alexander raced them to an exit door, one of which people were also flooding through, and John and Harry quickly followed him. With a simple glance around, John recognized the place: it was the hallway that contained the dressing rooms and the storage room – John had been in this very hallway with Mycroft before the interviews. Everyone who had also found themselves in the hallway was sprinting to the emergency exit door on their right, and for a second John that they too would go to the door, but Alexander to the left – further down the hallway.

As soon as John and Harry were out of sight, Sherlock let go of the man, allowing himself to fall between the rows of seats. His initial plan was to roll underneath the seats to escape him, but before he could, the man stood up and whipped around, grabbing Sherlock’s ankle.

“Not so fast –” he began to exclaim, eyes red and watering, but Sherlock swiftly kicked the man in the face. His nose instantly began to spew blood, and he let go of Sherlock to nurse his wound, and Sherlock scrambled backward, far away enough to not get grabbed again, and rolled under a few rolls of seats before the man could get back to him.

As soon as he was able to stand up, he did, and he ran in the opposite direction of the man, keeping his eyes peeled for someone – anyone – who could help him.

Alexander led the way, as he was probably the only one who knew where they were going, and Harry – red tea-length dress and matching pumps and all – ran directly behind him. John brought up the rear, ensuring that she didn’t fall too far behind.

As they ran, Alexander unclipped a portable phone (similar to the one he had seen Claudius Templesmith with before) from his Peacekeeper uniform’s belt and started speaking into it.

“Antarctica this is Mayhem – Mayhem to Antarctica can you hear me?”

“Who are you calling?” Harry asked.

“Hold on –” Alexander said, just as a voice came from the phone:

“Mayhem this Antarctica; I can hear you.”

It was Mycroft.

“I’m on my way to the hiding place – I have Fire and Heart with me – Mind is still somewhere in the audience, I repeat: I have Fire and Heart, Mind still needs to be found!”

“I’ll find him.”

Harry looked back at John to exchange looks with him, but something over John’s shoulder caught her eye, instead. John turned his head to follow her gaze, and found three Peacekeepers – three real Peacekeepers – that had caught onto their trail, and were closing on them fast, uninhibited by heels and prosthetic legs.

“Shit,” John muttered.

“Alexander –” Harry called ahead of her.

“We’ve got company!” John revealed, and Alexander too glanced behind him, just as Harry tripped over her heels.

“Fuck!” she cried, and John caught her before she collapsed on the floor.

“Hold up!” John shouted, Alexander stopped. Leaning on her brother, Harry started taking off her shoes. “You okay?” he asked.

“Next time we start a fucking rebellion someone has to notify my freaking stylist!” Harry exclaimed in lieu of a reply, and threw her pump at the approaching Peacekeepers. They were only able to spot the foremost Peacekeeper getting clocked in the head before they were on the run again, Harry with her second shoe in hand.

“Nice aim,” John complimented his sister as they ran, and was suddenly reminded of the last time he had said that to her, and her response: “It must be a Watson thing. Mom’s side – Dad doesn’t really aim, he sort of just fires.”

Obviously Harry was reminded of that, as well.

“I told you it’s a Watson thing,” Harry replied, and tossed her second shoe.

John glanced behind him to see that Harry had made another perfect throw, hitting another Peacekeeper’s head. Of course, a simple high-heeled shoe wasn’t enough to stop them completely, but it was enough to momentarily stun whomever she hit, and that was good enough for them.

The three of them ran faster – as fast as they could and gained a bit more of the ground they had lost on the Peacekeepers. Soon, they were full lengths of hallways away from their pursuers.

It was then they came to a stop at an intersection within the hallway – they could either go straight forward, to the left, or to the right. Going back the way they came was absolutely out of the question.

“Which way?” John was the first one to ask.

“Not yet,” Alexander said, taking a pistol out of his uniform’s holster. “Do you know how to use that thing, John?” he asked, nodding to the rifle that was still in John’s hand – the one that he had wrestled away from a Peacekeeper in the fray – the one he had used to save Sherlock from Seneca Crane –

“Not well,” John admitted.

“Well, you’re gonna learn quickly,” Alexander replied. “Harry, get behind us.”

“Are we seriously having a standoff, here?!” Harry asked, complying to Alexander’s command as she spoke.

“They can’t know where we’re going,” Alexander replied, just as the Peacekeepers rounded the corner.

And Alexander and John raised their weapons and began shooting.

Chapter Text

Sherlock was not one to panic. He wasn’t sure about his parents, but Mycroft almost never panicked, apart from one time in their childhood when Mycroft genuinely feared that Sherlock would be taken away from him, so Sherlock always attributed his ability to keep calm and think things through to his brother.

But here, in the middle of a crowd all fighting to get out of the auditorium – with President Snow dead, John and Harry and Mycroft nowhere to be found, and the future absolutely and completely uncertain for the first time ever, Sherlock was beginning to panic.

He wanted to go to his mind palace – just for a second, just to calm down – to think of a plan – but he couldn’t. There was too much noise, too many people, too many people after him, and not enough places to hide.

So Sherlock pressed on, searching for John and for Harry – for Mycroft – he had to find them – they wouldn’t just abandon him –

They wouldn’t –

And when someone grabbed him again, Sherlock flailed, trying to shake them off, until he saw his face – the face of –

“Sherlock – Sherlock, stop, it’s me –”

“Mycroft –” Sherlock breathed, wrapping his arms around his brother’s neck, wanting for Mycroft to carry him to safety, like he would have if Sherlock was smaller and younger than he was, now –

“We’ve got to go,” Mycroft said, pulling Sherlock away from him.

“What about John and –”

“They’re safe with Alexander – I’ll take you to them, but we need to go, now –”

Sherlock nodded in agreement, and Mycroft took his hand, leading him through the crowd, back to the stage –

“Where are we going?” Sherlock asked, and Mycroft shook his head, silencing him as he led him to the door to the backstage.

The area backstage was mostly empty, at this point, as opposed to bustling with people as it had been when Sherlock and Harry were waiting to join the stage with Caesar. Now the only people there were Sherlock, Mycroft, and a few stray people, all of whom were leaving through the private entrance to the backstage area. In fact, Sherlock and Harry had used that door to enter the backstage area to keep themselves hidden from the paparazzi.

Sherlock and Mycroft went through this door again, putting themselves into a hallway. The panicking bystanders ran for an exit door on the right of them, but Mycroft pulled Sherlock to the left – further down the hallway.

“This way,” Mycroft muttered, just as the door burst open again, and three Peacekeepers piled through, shouting at them to stop.

But the Holmes brothers ran down the hallway – side by side, making sure one never fell too far behind the other as bullets from the Peacekeepers whizzed by them.

“Mayhem this is Antarctica; I’ve got Mind and we’re on our way,” Mycroft muttered, and Sherlock looked up to find him pocketing something that looked like a portable phone.

And with that alone, Sherlock felt at least a little more confident than he had been moments before. Mycroft knew what he was doing – he had a plan.

But as they followed the hallway as it twisted and turned around them, Sherlock glanced at his brother, watching in vain as he got red in the face, puffing in breaths. Sherlock could practically read Mycroft’s thoughts – trying to convince himself to keep going, despite his body not wanting to.

His weight was working against him, and they both knew it.

They soon found themselves approaching a section of hallway, just before a three-way fork, that was littered with the bodies of three Peacekeepers, their blood splattered around them, either dying or already dead.

“This must’ve been Alexander,” Mycroft noted.

“Or John,” Sherlock added. “I saw him – he had a gun –”

They stopped suddenly, directly in the center of the place the hallway split up into four paths.

“Which way?” Sherlock asked, but Mycroft spun them around, facing back the way they came. “Mycroft? Which way?”

“A moment,” Mycroft replied, catching his breath.

Sherlock nodded, waiting for a second before speaking again:

“Okay, moment’s passed, what now?”

“Patience, little brother,” Mycroft said as he took something that looked like a silver egg out of the inside pocket of his blazer. “And hold on to me, would you?”

Sherlock obeyed, holding onto his free hand, and though Sherlock was itching to keep running – to run and find John and Harry – to run until the rebellion was over and then keep running after that – Mycroft kept him rooted to the spot.

“What are we waiting for?” Sherlock asked, nervously, but gaining more confidence as he spoke. “Next year’s Games?”

“No. Never again,” Mycroft replied. “Hold your breath.”

And then, just as the Peacekeepers turned the corner – just as they were able to see them – Mycroft threw his silver egg to the ground, and grey and black smoke exploded from the small object as it broke onto the floor.

The smoke rose around them, blocking their vision, but Mycroft kept Sherlock still until he believed the Peacekeepers couldn’t see them at all. Then, Mycroft pulled them to the right, and they raced out of the smoke cloud and down the hallway. As soon as they were out of the smoke, they let go of each other’s hands, both of them knowing how that could hinder their speeds.

They ran side-by-side in silence, knowing that any sound could alert the Peacekeepers to their whereabouts. Sherlock, unable to hold his tongue for long, was the first to speak, but only when he believed they were far enough away, and only just above a whisper to his brother.

“Where the hell did you get a smoke bomb?!” he asked, astounded.

“Honestly, Sherlock, do you really think that you’re the only one who conducts science experiments in their bedroom?” Mycroft asked in reply, a ghost of a smile on his face.

And then the shooting began.


Before that day, Sherlock had never heard a gun go off in his life. Civilians didn’t own guns; the Peacekeepers stationed full-time in District Twelve all slacked on enforcing the rules so much so that most of them didn’t even carry guns on them, and instead just walked around with empty holsters. Guns were never used in any Hunger Games arena, either – it was out of the question, for then the Games would be over far too quickly, and not enough blood would be shed to please the Capitol. The closest thing Sherlock had ever heard that he could compare to the sound of the guns was the canons in the Games.

He wasn’t even sure what came into existence first, the cannons or the guns, but it seemed like one inspired the other, for they sounded like warped versions of one another – the cannon blasts long and deep and looming, and the gunshots quick and sharp and abrupt. But it made sense for them to sound alike, because they both inspired the same feeling – the same feeling that was stirring in Sherlock’s chest – either he, or someone he knew, or someone he loved, was dying, already dead, or going to die.

They could all hear the guns firing behind them – but only Sherlock and Mycroft were able to break down exactly what was happening back within the smoke cloud: one Peacekeeper stood at each opening of the hallway, and all three of them were shooting into the corridor blindly, in the hopes of hitting someone – in the hopes of slowing them down –

And they did.

Sherlock heard the intake of breath from behind him, and he spun around as quickly as he could – though it felt like it was in slow motion – to find his brother, Mycroft Holmes, holding onto his arm – where a bullet had just grazed him.

“Mycroft!” Sherlock gasped, and took a step toward him –

“They’re down here!” they heard a Peacekeeper call to the others, having heard them.

The two boys glanced at the smoke cloud they had left behind and saw that it was beginning to disperse – they needed to start moving again –

“Come on –” Sherlock started, grabbing his brother and starting to pull him forward. “They only hit your arm we can keep going –”

“Blood trail, brother dear,” Mycroft muttered, sounding more inconvenienced than in actual pain, and Sherlock glanced at the ground to find his brother’s blood starting to drip onto the ground. “If I continue they’re just going to use it to track us. That’s why they shot at us in the first place.”

Sherlock could hear the sound of boots – the Peacekeepers were coming –

“Then what do we do?” Sherlock hissed. “Maybe we could –” he started, but Mycroft interrupted him, shaking his head, avoiding his eyes.

“No, Sherlock,” he replied, surprisingly composed despite just getting shot. “I killed Snow. They want me –”

“Well they’re not going to get you –” Sherlock cut him off, surprised he could talk, for the thought of what Mycroft was suggesting made all the air in his body escape him at once – he could barely breathe –

“Sherlock,” Mycroft said, still annoyingly calm. “If I keep going with you I’m just going to slow you down –”

“No – I still need you – I don’t know where to go –” Sherlock stammered, tears beginning to swell in his eyes, trying to give Mycroft a logical reason why he couldn’t just be left behind – something Mycroft couldn’t disagree with –

But Mycroft had thought of that, as well.

He pulled out the portable phone from his pocket and pressed it into Sherlock’s hand.

“Alexander Waters is Mayhem – I’m Antarctica, you’re Mind. Use the code to tell him of the situation – he’ll find you.”

“I’m not leaving you –” Sherlock insisted, tears spilling over, but the Peacekeepers emerged from the remaining haze of the smoke bomb’s cloud, putting the argument to an end, their guns aimed.

“Put your hands up!” they ordered, and they both obeyed, Mycroft pulling his hand away from his wound and stepping forward.

“Please, I’m the one you want,” he told them, his tone persuasive, instead of pleading. “My brother is of no threat; please just take me and leave him be.”

Two of the Peacekeepers looked to the other one – the one higher in the ranks amongst them, apparently, and the leader kept his gun trained on Sherlock.

“No – I shot President Snow – I killed him –” Mycroft spoke louder, trying to convince them – remind them who the enemy was – “It was me – do not shoot Sherlock Holmes –”

But the Peacekeeper did not change his aim.

“I said, do not shoot –” Mycroft started again, beginning to move towards Sherlock as he spoke –

And then the shot rang out, and the gun was still aimed at Sherlock’s abdomen.

Sherlock was going to get shot –

Until Mycroft Holmes stepped between Sherlock and the bullet.

Until the bullet pierced through Mycroft’s suit and skin, into his flesh – right into his ribcage.

Until Mycroft Holmes was shot himself.

Mycroft crumpled to the ground, leaning against the wall as he fell, and Sherlock dashed to his side, not giving a damn about the Peacekeepers – the Peacekeeper that shot him –

He heard the sound of more guns being fired, and immediately threw his body over his brother’s, trying to keep him safe as he shuddered underneath him, but Sherlock felt no pain.

He looked up, and saw three people approaching from the other end of the hallway – two men with guns, and a girl in a dress –

John Watson and the man Sherlock recognized to be Alexander Waters shot at the Peacekeepers, and Harry Watson rushed to the sides of the two Holmes boys as Sherlock leaned back and pressed his hand to Mycroft’s wound.

“Sherlock – Sherlock –” Mycroft gasped, trying to get Sherlock to look at him, but Sherlock was too focused on his wound – on the blood leaking out of the bullet-sized hole within his brother –

“Everything’s fine – it’s gonna be okay –” Sherlock heard himself saying – trying to convince his brother – trying to convince himself

“John –” Harry called from beside him, and it took Sherlock a moment to realize the shooting had stopped, just as John dove in between them, throwing his gun to the floor, moving Sherlock’s hand and pressing Mycroft’s open wound for himself.

“It’s alright – it’s alright –” Sherlock said, still unsure of whom he was talking to – himself or his brother – his dying brother –

“Mycroft – Mycroft, stay with us –”

“Impossible,” Mycroft hissed at John, and looked up at someone behind them – Alexander – “You have to go. More are going to come,” he said, but Sherlock shook his head.

“No – not without you –” he looked back at Alexander. “We can carry him –” he looked back at Mycroft. “We’ll carry you – you aren’t that heavy –”

“You’re forgetting about the blood trail again, brother dear,” Mycroft said, and it was then that he finally caught his brother’s eyes. “You have to leave me behind.”

“No – no –”

“Sherlock. You have to.”

“Absolutely not – don’t be stupid –” Sherlock found himself begging, using the same words Mycroft had spoken to him numerous times throughout their lives. But Sherlock knew – he knew and he could tell that Mycroft knew that he knew – that his brother wasn’t being stupid. He was being smart. And, despite everything inside of Sherlock screaming that Mycroft was wrong, he was right.

As always.

He was always right about everything –

Sherlock just wished that he wasn’t. Not about this.

And before Sherlock could get another word in, Mycroft reached up, grabbed Sherlock, and brought his sobbing little brother into his arms.

“This is my fault. I’m so sorry, brother dear,” he murmured in his ear, just as he had when he returned from the Hunger Games. And even though Sherlock was crying, gripping onto his brother like a child, he could hear him loud and clear. He could hear him, and he didn’t want to listen – didn’t want to make what he was saying real, but he knew that if he didn’t listen now, he wouldn’t be able to hear his brother speak again. “No matter what happens, I love you dearly, Sherlock.”

“I – I love you too,” Sherlock replied through tears, hysterical.

“Goodbye, brother mine.”

He then let Sherlock go, but Sherlock held on. Mycroft looked to Alexander Waters. “Take him. Go. For the love of everything that we’ve done here today, go.”

And then his head slumped forward onto his chest, his eyes staring, unblinking.

Sherlock screamed his brother’s name, latching on to him, trying to shake him awake, tears pouring down his face, his entire being desperate –

Sherlock then felt someone – Alexander, he realized – grab his shoulders and pull him away, as someone else – John, John Watson, his John – pried Sherlock’s fingers from Mycroft’s grey blazer. And the worst part – the part that made him start to scream wordlessly with grief – was that he felt his body betraying him once again, allowing for them to take Sherlock away from his brother’s side.

John and Alexander pulled him away, away from his brother, keeping their hands on his shoulders and arms, to keep him from running back to him, but Sherlock was able to turn his head and look behind him, to where Mycroft Holmes was sitting, still against the wall – still unmoving –

They ran around the corner, Sherlock still screaming, but all Sherlock could hear was the sound of the gunshot still echoing in his head – the gunshot that would forever echo within his skull in his darkest moments – the one shot that had brought down the leader of the rebellion and his brother – Mycroft Holmes.

Chapter Text

The second Mycroft returned to District Twelve from the Capitol after his Games, Sherlock had jumped into his arms, and from that moment on, when Mycroft wasn’t carrying him, Sherlock was stuck to his side, holding his hand as if he was afraid that if he let go he’d lose him again. John had watched the reunion between them from afar, but didn’t even try to introduce himself to Mycroft. Really, as soon as Mycroft had won the Games, he had begun to resign himself to the idea of everything returning to the way it was before: Sherlock and John wouldn’t see each other again for the rest of the summer, and they would go back to ignoring each other in school, because Sherlock was too bored by everyone to make friends. And honestly, John still wasn’t really Sherlock’s friend, was he? He never was; he was just a person who had decided to be kind to him.

So it came as a complete surprise to him when the next day, just as he and Harry were finishing their breakfasts, there was a knock on the front door, and John’s father opened the door to reveal Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes standing on their doorstep.

“Hello, you must be Mr. Watson; I’m Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older brother,” Mycroft said, sounding much older than the mere age of sixteen, putting out his hand for John’s father to shake.

“Hello, Mycroft,” he replied and shook his hand. “Come on in,” he said, and let the two boys through the doorway.

John sat at the table, watching Sherlock and Mycroft stand by the door. Mycroft Holmes was about as tall as the average sixteen year old, with curly ginger-brown hair hanging down onto his forehead and freckles dotting his face on either side of his round nose. He wore something like a suit – dress pants and a button-up shirt with a tie and a blazer, despite the fact that it was the end of June. It looked brand new, and John assumed that the Capitol had given it to him for winning the Games.

John’s mother, who had just been washing dishes, came over to him, drying her hands.

“You must be Mycroft!” she exclaimed, even though she had obviously heard him introduce himself to Mr. Watson. “It’s so great to finally meet you!” she went on, and then looked down at his brother – the boy who had been living in her house for the past few weeks, up until yesterday. “Hello, Sherlock! How are you doing, today?”

Sherlock, who had been silently holding onto Mycroft’s hand this whole time, watching the adults and his brother talk, and avoiding looking at the kitchen table altogether, finally spoke.

“I’m good, thank you.”

“I bet you’re happy that Mycroft’s back home, aren’t you?” she asked, and he nodded.

“I just wanted to thank you – the both of you – for letting Sherlock stay here while I was...away,” Mycroft said, looking back and forth between both of John’s parents. “I hope he didn’t cause you too much trouble.”

“Oh, not at all!” Mrs. Watson assured him. “He was wonderful, honestly. I just feel so sorry about your mother – if you need anything, anything at all, just let me know, would you? A sixteen year old boy shouldn’t be taking care of their little brother by himself.”

For just a fleeting moment, Mycroft’s eyes softened around the edges, and he looked like he was just about to cry. But, within seconds, the look went away.

“Thank you, Mrs. Watson. I appreciate it,” he replied, his voice perfectly even.

Sherlock then shook at Mycroft’s hand.

“Mycroft, are you done doing the adult talk?” he asked, sounding impatient.

John knew that tone – he had spent enough time living with Sherlock to know it all too well – he was bored. He was bored of being here, and he wanted to leave.

Mycroft grinned sheepishly at John’s parents, and then looked down at his brother. “Yes, I think I am,” he replied, and John’s heart couldn’t help but sink. He and Mycroft were going to leave without even so much as looking at John.

He hadn’t expected him and Sherlock to be best friends forever and ever, but it still hurt. Of course it would – he was a ten year old boy, and he was nowhere near as disconnected from his emotions as Sherlock was. And, despite how insufferable Sherlock could be at times, he was beginning to really like him. But that was all over, now – Mycroft was back, and so John was gone from Sherlock’s mind.

John was just about to turn back to his plate, to ignore Sherlock Holmes for the rest of their lives, but then Sherlock stepped between John’s parents and walked right up to John, pulling Mycroft along the whole way.

“Mycroft, this is my friend, John Watson,” Sherlock said once they reached him. He then pointed at Harry, who was only seven years old at the time. “And that’s his sister, Harry.”

“Hello, Harriet,” Mycroft said to her.

“Hi,” she replied quickly, mouth full with her last bite of food.

He pursed his lips into an uneasy smile, and then turned his attention to John, crouching down so he could be at his level. “Hello, John.”

“Hi, Mycroft,” he said, an onslaught of emotions swelling inside him, causing heat to rush to his cheeks. He was in awe of the fact that, even though just three weeks ago Sherlock had insisted that he didn’t have any friends, he had just called John exactly that; but embarrassment also reddened his cheeks, ashamed for believing that Sherlock would just forget about him after everything. Sherlock had lived with him day in and day out; John was more than aware of how easy it was for the Holmes brothers to simply look at a person and know exactly what they were thinking, so he shrunk away from Mycroft and avoided his eyes, suddenly extremely shy.

“Sherlock speaks fondly of you, you know,” Mycroft said, and John wondered if he was only saying that because he knew that John only moments ago decided never to speak to Sherlock again. “He told me that letting him stay here while I was gone was your idea. He said you were nice to him and made sure he wasn’t alone. Is that true?” he asked.

Slowly, John nodded. “Yeah,” he said, and, without warning, Mycroft hugged him.

“Thank you,” he murmured in John’s ear. “I know you probably won’t understand it, but you’ll never know how much what you did means to me. Thank you.”

And that was how John Watson met Mycroft Holmes.

And now, almost exactly nine years from that day, Mycroft Holmes was dead.

Mycroft was dead, and Sherlock Holmes was falling apart. In fact, his brilliant mind seemed to go into a downward spiral with grief. As John and Alexander pulled him forward, with Harry behind them, he threw himself backwards, trying to break free from their grip, screaming all the way.


“Sherlock – come on –” John begged.

“NO – we have to – I have to –”

“We can’t go back – it’s too late –” Alexander told Sherlock.

“Sherlock, please –” John began, but he started to choke on his own words as he remembered Mycroft’s –

“You, John, are my brother.”

“Look after Sherlock. Please.”

“Let me go MYCROFT –”

John also found himself remembering the words he had spoken to Caesar Flickerman last year, during his first interview: “Life has not been kind to Sherlock Holmes.”

If only he had known just how much worse it was going to get over the following year.

If only he had known...

“How much farther?” John asked, looking up at Alexander.

“Almost there,” Alexander promised.

John glanced behind him, making sure Harry was still with them – in her dress that matched her hair, barefoot, and weeping quietly as she ran behind them.

And then – behind her, about fifty feet back – came four Peacekeepers.

“We need to be,” he told Alexander, and he too glanced behind them and upon seeing that they were being followed, just as Mycroft had said they would be, he and John both picked up the pace, as much as they could with Sherlock still thrashing between them.

Finally, they turned a corner and Alexander stopped them at a door and let go of Sherlock. Harry took Alexander’s place as he took out a familiar-looking knife from his Peacekeeper uniform’s pocket. John was unsure as to what Alexander had planned to do with the knife until he remembered where he had seen it before: it was Antonia Blake’s curved knife, from when they watched the recap together.

“I’m sure you know that this knife was used in Hannibal Lecter Magnussen’s Arena. He used one of these to kill Will Graham. He gutted him – sliced him right here; gave him a smile. Hannibal knew exactly how to cut Will – it was surgical. Hannibal wanted Will to live; to be conscious enough to watch him eat his heart before his brain completely shut down and he could eat that, too. If Hannibal shows up here, tonight, I’d like to give him a similar smile. Wouldn’t you? Not to mention the fact that this baby can pick locks by bypassing the safety latch in the doorjamb. So, it’s always nice to carry around.”

And that’s just what Alexander did, disabling the lock and swinging open the door, revealing a janitor’s closet. He ushered them all in, and John’s senses were assaulted with the smell of bleach as Alexander closed the door behind him.

“They’re gonna find us –” Harry said, more in general than to anyone in particular.

“No they’re not,” Alexander said, crossing the small room to the far wall and moving a ladder and a few mop buckets, and then dug the knife into rubbery cement between the bricks of the wall behind them.

Harry and John glanced at each other, confused, until Alexander was able to get enough grip with the knife to be able to pull the bricks – a whole line of bricks, actually – out of the wall.

“Some of the Avoxes are janitors – they’ve been working on this since before everyone arrived for the Quell,” Alexander explained, pulling on the bricks more, and John discovered that he wasn’t just pulling out bricks – the Avoxes had broken down the wall to make a hole at about waist-level, just big enough for someone to crawl through, and then built a door out of bricks to cover the gap.

Finally, the door was open, and Alexander waved them in to the crawlspace it revealed.

“Go – go –” he ordered, and each of them scrambled in; first Harry, then Sherlock, then John, and then Alexander, putting the mop buckets back in front of the door as he went and closing the door behind him. It was pitch-dark and it was cramped, but John couldn’t help but notice that there was just enough room for one more person – one more person, with a bit of a gut.

It finally hit John full-on now, just like it was hitting Sherlock over and over again with each shuddering breath he took: Mycroft Holmes was dead.

And then, despite the small space they were in, Sherlock tackled Alexander.

“YOU LEFT HIM! YOU LET HIM DIE!” he shouted, and Alexander tried to explain himself as John and Harry struggled to pull Sherlock off of him.

“I’m sorry – Sherlock, I’m sorry – there’s nothing I could’ve done – Sherlock you have to quiet down – they’ll hear us –”

It was then John and Harry heaved one last time, and dragged Sherlock off of Alexander. As Harry and Alexander backed away to separate corners to get some distance between them and Sherlock and John, the two boys fought against the other for control – John trying to wrap his arms around Sherlock, and Sherlock trying to break free.

“Sherlock – Sherlock –”

“Don’t touch me –” Sherlock snarled, pushing John away.

“Sherlock!” John nearly shouted, reaching out and grabbing both sides of Sherlock’s face and holding it close to his. Sherlock, still sobbing, grabbed onto John’s wrists, ready to pull his hands off of him, but John spoke to him before he could. “Listen to me – Listen to me, Sherlock,” he begged, having no idea if Sherlock could even hear him over his own cries and his own thoughts, but he pressed on, giving Sherlock the best conciliation he knew how – the one that Sherlock had given him what seemed like years ago, when the nightmares wouldn’t stop. “Forget everything – forget everyone – and just listen. To. My words.” Finally, Sherlock opened his eyes and, still crying, he looked into John’s eyes. “What is your name?”

“It doesn’t matter –” Sherlock began to protest, but John cut him off.

“Yes it does – you told me my name matters, which means your does, too. Now, what is your name?”

“Sh-Sherlock Holmes,” he mumbled through his tears.

“That’s right, and how old are you?” John asked as soothingly as he could.

“John –” Sherlock tried again, shaking his head, trying to tell John that it was no use – that he couldn’t be grounded – that this was too big – but John had given him the same arguments, and they both knew that he had been wrong.

“How old are you?” John repeated, trying to get through to him.


“And where are you?”

“In the Capitol,” Sherlock replied, gritting his teeth in anger while saying the words, tears still flowing down his cheeks in a steady stream.

“Now look at your watch. What time is it?” John asked, letting go of Sherlock’s face so he could move his head. He brought his wrist up to his face, letting his eyes finally adjust to the darkness as he consulted his watch.

“Eight-thirteen,” he answered, finally.

“Okay, all together now?”

“My name is Sherlock Holmes. I’m eighteen years old. I’m in the Capitol, and it’s eight thirteen.”

“Again?” John asked, and Sherlock repeated the phrase, taking a deep, shuddering breath as he did. John watched him, expectantly, and Sherlock was overwhelmed with the urge to shout at him, cry in his arms, kiss him, and push him away. But, more than anything, he wanted to die, too.

Because his brother was dead.

Mycroft was dead.

Tears blurred what little he could see of John’s face, and he repeated the words over again, just like John had told him to.

Just like he had taught John to, forever ago.

He repeated it again, and he could hear Harry crying as quietly as she could in the corner of the room, and he could just see John rubbing her back. He repeated it again, and he could just make out Alexander Waters, trying not to weep for his brother. He repeated it again, and he could see and hear John sniffling and wiping tears from his eyes.

He repeated it again and again, trying to focus solely on what was in that room, instead of what wasn’t in that room – instead of who wasn’t in that room. Whenever the thought derailed his train of thought, he pushed through it, even though he could hear in his own voice how quickly it upset him.

His name was Sherlock Holmes.

Mycroft was gone.

He was eighteen years old.

Mycroft was never coming back.

He was in the Capitol.

And Mycroft was dead.

It was eight twenty-seven.

He stared at his watch, and every time the second hand passed over the twelve again, he changed the numbers coming from his mouth. He focused on that, and the sound of the ticking, and the sound of his words.

Time was passing, each second was now adding to a quickly-growing amount of time that he was living without Mycroft Holmes. And, as much as it upset him just thinking about that, each second that passed them by – each tick of his watch – was proof that the world was moving, and that he was surviving without Mycroft Holmes.

Even if he didn’t want to.

It was nine forty-nine.

He could feel John’s hands on him, touching his hands, his face, his arms, his back – rubbing little circles onto his skin and his clothes, telling him he was there.

Sherlock wasn’t sure if he was crying or not.

It was ten seventeen.

Somewhere, in the distance, he could hear gunshots, and he wasn’t sure if they were real or if they were just in his head.

It was eleven thirty-two.

And soon, the sound of those seventeen words were the only thing that filled the small space. His voice was hoarse, he was tired, but he kept going, kept repeating the words, afraid that if he stayed silent within that dark, cramped room, for even a moment, he’d go crazy.

Finally, at twelve o’three, according to Sherlock, there was a knock on the door – two slow knocks, and then two quick knocks. John was surprised they could hear it through the bricks, but they did.

Slowly, obviously sore from sitting for so long, Alexander crawled over to the door and pushed it open, and all four of them squinted into the light as their eyes adjusted, until finally they saw who had come to get them: Antonia Blake.

“You can come out, now,” she told them, tone just as sarcastic as it usually was.

She, like Alexander and Mycroft before the interview, was donned in a Peacekeeper uniform, which scared the shit out of Sherlock and Harry. All at once, Sherlock tried to scramble backwards while Harry tried to lunge forwards, but the way they were positioned made it impossible for either of them to do what they had wanted to do, and therefore made it possible for John to stop them both simultaneously.

“She’s not a –” he started to explain, but she cut him off, turning to Alexander.

“Do you have my knife?”

“Oh – yeah –” he said, and fished it out of his pocket and handed it over to her, and John realized that the curved knife was exactly the one that she had shown to John the night of the recap.

“Thanks,” she said, and then put it into her pocket, speaking nonchalantly as she went. “We won,” she revealed, and everyone stopped for a second.

“We did?” Alexander asked – the first person to break the silence.

“We did. The remaining Peacekeepers surrendered about half an hour ago. We’ve been regrouping since then.”

As the four of them made their way out of the tiny crawlspace where they had spent the last four hours (give or take), John looked up at Antonia. Her eyes then cast over the group, and John could see what she was looking for: she was seeing if everyone was accounted for. He saw her eyes land on each of them, before looking deeper within the room, looking for Mycroft. The question was in her eyes for a moment, but when she blinked it was gone – she didn’t need to ask, because she knew the answer.

Soon, everyone would know.

“Sherlock –” John forced out, voice cracking, and then he cleared his throat and started again. “Sherlock, Harry – this is Antonia Blake; her sister Aurora was in the Arena with you two.”

Behind him, Harry inhaled, and then held her breath, and just by looking at Sherlock he knew that he had connected the dots, as well: her sister’s dying body had been raped by Charles Augustus Magnussen in the Arena.

Antonia’s eyes fell on them, and even though they had just won a war – and even though Sherlock’s brother had just died – John could see her challenging them to say something about what she knew they were both thinking.

When a moment passed without anyone saying anything about her sister, Antonia nodded to herself, and then approached Sherlock.

Before he could ask what she was doing, she pulled him into a hug – a tight one; one that looked like she was trying to hold all of Sherlock’s broken pieces together, even though it was well-established that that was John’s job when Sherlock couldn’t do it himself.

After a few moments, she let go of him, and headed toward the closet’s door as if nothing had happened.

“Let’s go; everyone’s waiting for us,” she said, opening the door.

John wasn’t sure whose hand found whose, but as soon as his hand was in Sherlock’s he looked up at him, to find Sherlock staring back at him, his eyes red and puffy from crying. John’s eyes must have been asking the question – asking if he was okay – for Sherlock nodded to him.

John then looked over at his sister, and as soon as she saw him looking at her she pulled up one corner of her lips into a sad excuse for a half-smile, and he reached out and held her hand, too.

And then, without another word, led by Alexander Waters and Antonia Blake, the three of them – the kids of the Holmes and Watson families – walked out of the closet and began their trek to reenter the rest of the world.

Chapter Text

They took a different way to get back to the staging area, and the only reason why Sherlock knew that was because and they didn’t encounter his brother’s body.

At one point, he glanced over at John, and saw his mouth moving. He concentrated for a moment, and was soon able to hear the words coming from his mouth, but only faintly, as if he was talking underwater:

“Is your leg okay?” he asked, looking ahead, and Sherlock followed his gaze to see that Antonia Blake was limping.

“It’s fine,” she replied.

It was only when the air around them changed that Sherlock noticed that they were outside. The warm summer night air felt wrong on his skin, like the world wasn’t allowed to change after what had happened since the interview. He looked away from the space in front of him to look around the Capitol’s City Circle, assessing the damage.

Even though it was midnight – Sherlock remembered it being after midnight – he could still see clearly; the Capitol kept lights shining in the City Circle all night. It was there that he saw people scattered everywhere, bleeding and hurt, all of whom were being saw to by Avoxes and other survivors that knew anything about how to heal wounds. There were also people covered in white sheets, and a small thought the back of Sherlock’s mind wondered if his brother’s body was also covered in a similar white sheet, by now.

Sherlock then heard screaming.

It was a woman’s voice, loud and agonizing – so gut-wrenching that Sherlock thought she was trying to scream her lungs out. First he looked at Harry, and then at Antonia, thinking that they were the ones crying, but when he found that they weren’t, he looked around at the people scattered throughout the Circle. It didn’t take long for him to catch sight of a woman in her late-twenties, with black and white hair, freckles, and a slight gap between her two front teeth, sitting on the ground, rocking back and forth, her hands a bloody mess, her fingers all bent in angles they should never have been bent in, screaming and crying so loudly it was almost as if she couldn’t hear herself.

Because she couldn’t hear herself.

Clover Frankland’s fingers were broken.

“Oh my god,” Harry murmured, her hand covering her mouth as her eyes also landed on the source of the sound.

An Avox was kneeling before her, trying to help bandage her hands, but every time she touched Clover, she screamed even louder, sending a dull ache into Sherlock’s already wounded heart.

“What happened?” Alexander asked.

“Peacekeeper was trying to disarm her,” Antonia replied matter-of-factly. “Which is funny, because she uses her non-dominant hand to sign, and he broke those fingers first, instead of going straight for the gun in her dominant hand.”

“We should go help her –” John started, taking a step away from the group, towards Clover, but Antonia grabbed his arm.

At the simple touch, Sherlock’s mind was sent into a panic.

Not him, too.

And then, even though he had been walking with Antonia for the past ten minutes, and even though he knew they were allies, Sherlock ripped her away from John and – within seconds – before he could even notice what he was doing – he had her pinned against the wall, his arm across her neck, glaring at her darkly.

Then he realized where he was – who he was.

He shook his head and looked back at Antonia, who was holding her hands up in surrender.

“Don’t touch the boyfriend – got it. Sorry,” she said, and though she was sarcastic he could tell the apology was sincere.

He let her go, his hands shaking as he glanced around the group, looking at each of their shocked expressions, mouths gaping.

“Sorry – sorry –” Sherlock mumbled, and, out of lack of knowing where else to put his hands, they found their way to the sides of his temple, the heels of his hands pressing against his head, as if trying to crush the contents between them, squeezing his eyes tightly shut.

After the briefest of moments, Sherlock felt the gentlest of hands wrap themselves around his wrists.


Sherlock opened his eyes, and found John Watson looking back at him.

“It’s okay,” John murmured, and pulled at Sherlock’s hands, pulling them down until they were back at his sides. It was only then that John let go.

John then turned his attention back to Antonia.

“I’m sorry, John, but we can’t, not yet – Dean said he needed to see you guys as soon as he could.”

“So we can’t help her?” Harry asked.

“If you want to after, that’s fine, but Dean’s orders come first.”

John’s eyes hardened at Antonia’s words, but he didn’t argue anymore as they began walking again. Instead, he focused on the one person he could help, even if it was just a little bit: Sherlock Holmes.

He looked over at Sherlock to find him watching his shoes as they walked, obviously embarrassed, his now-empty hand twitching with the desire to hold John’s hand. John reached out and took it, and squeezed it reassuringly.

As soon as their hands touched, Sherlock’s puffy red eyes flicked over to John’s person, and then away, again, even as he held onto John’s hand for dear life. He thought of how quickly Sherlock had jumped to John’s defense when Antonia simply grabbed his arm to keep him with the group, and knew exactly what he was afraid of.

After Mycroft, he didn’t want to lose anybody else, but especially not John.

“It’s okay; I’m here,” he promised, and Sherlock squeezed John’s hand back, thankful, but not giving any other sign that he had heard him.

Finally, they reached the set of double doors that served as the main entrance to Caesar’s building. John had no idea what was waiting for them beyond those doors. He glanced at Sherlock – could he take much more tonight?

“Ready?” he asked, trying to convey all of his thoughts and worries into the one word.

Sherlock nodded, glancing at the door, signaling for it to open.


Alexander and Antonia opened the doors for them, and they all stepped inside the lobby.

The lobby looked similar to the way things were outside – injured Capitol citizens and rebels being treated by Avoxes. Stray shoes and headdresses and pieces of expensive outfits that had been lost in the shuffle and busted cameras littered the floor, and the five of them shuffled around them. As they passed, the injured and the Avoxes looked up, and some of the Capitol citizens who were close enough to their friends whispered to each other, but John ignored them.

The lobby split up into two directions, one on each side – one leading to the left side of the seating area, and one leading to the right side. They took to the right side, and entered the main part of the room.

The scene they entered matched the one in the lobby – people were sitting in the audience chairs, talking and helping the injured sitting closest to them. Some people sat on the floor, and some sat on the stage itself.

The people closest to them noticed their entrance first, and stopped what they were doing to look up at them, which led the people who didn’t see them enter the room stop what they were doing to see what the people before them were looking at. And then, just like a chain of dominos, everyone looked up, and within moments every single pair of eyes in the room were glued upon Sherlock, John, and Harry.

After a moment more of silent staring, someone from the back stood up and began to clap their hands together in applause. Then, someone else stood up and joined them, and within seconds, everyone who could stand up was on their feet, and everyone who could clap was clapping for them.

The sounds of the applause crashed through Sherlock’s head, almost as loud as cracks of thunder, and he fought the urge to yell at them all, telling them to shut up.

Because they were wrong.

Because this was no victory.

Because Mycroft was dead.

He was thankful, however, that everyone was keeping their distance, allowing them to walk down the aisle to find Dean, until he noticed someone who was definitely not Dean Bainbridge running their way, despite an obvious limp.


Harry was the first one to notice her, and she broke away from the group to meet Louise halfway, where they threw their arms around each other in a tight embrace as soon as they were close enough to each other to do so. John could see Louise closing her eyes tightly despite whatever pain she was in as she leaned into the hug, and he smiled for the first time since leaving the closet, grateful that she was alive.

Even though Mycroft, who had been by their sides through everything, was dead, it seemed like the rest of their friends had made it out of this battle alive. He glanced at Sherlock, and found his mouth pressed into a thin line, his eyes still shining with tears, and he squeezed his hand again, trying to convey the promise that they’ll get through it together.

Sherlock squeezed his hand in return, and they, followed by Antonia and Alexander, made their way to the reuniting girls, and it was only when they were close enough did John realize that Louise’s left eye was swollen shut.

Harry had obviously just noticed it, as well.

“Oh my god – are you okay?” she asked, reaching her hand up to lightly touch the swelling, and Louise nodded.

“I’m fine – don’t worry about me.”

“We should’ve stayed – we should’ve helped –” Harry began, but Louise shook her head.

“No; Mycroft wanted to keep you three safe above all else. In fact, he knew that Sherlock wouldn’t go anywhere if we told him Mycroft wasn’t allowed to come with him.”

Still grinning, she looked behind Harry to look at Sherlock, and John watched the smile falter as she saw his face for the first time. Her eyes then searched behind them, too, as her brow furrowed in confusion.

“Where’s –” she began to ask, finally bringing her eyes to John’s, and he shook his head. Her eyes widened as she gasped, her hand flying to her mouth. “Oh my god –”

“It’s payback, isn’t it,” Sherlock said, and at first the sound of his voice speaking above a whisper surprised John, but then he heard his voice – really heard his voice, finding that his tone was empty – completely hollowed by grief – and it broke John’s heart. “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth? I couldn’t save all of your siblings, so Mycroft...”

“Sherlock –” Louise tried to argue, but Sherlock shook his head.

“No. I earned it.”

“No –” John started, but it was then that Dean approached them, with a grey-haired woman in a jumpsuit to match by his side.

“There you are – Sherlock, John, Harry – this is Alma Coin, President of District Thirteen,” he said, gesturing to the woman, and for a second John was amazed that Dean had already resigned himself to the fact that Mycroft was gone within seconds of his arrival – to amazed to even register that –

“District Thirteen?” Harry asked, awed and confused at the same time, but Coin immediately homed in on Sherlock, stepping forward.

“It’s an honor to meet you, Sherlock,” she said, reaching out and shaking his free hand, even though he had never even raised his hand an inch to offer it to her. She spoke with an air of authority, but also way too excitedly for a person speaking to someone who had just lost the last member of their family that they had left. “We have been dreaming about this day for years, but none of this would’ve been possible without your brother. I am just so sorry that he didn’t make it to the other side like the rest of us. But, if it helps, he made a noble, valiant sacrifice for the good of –”

“No, shut up,” John cut her off before he could bite his tongue.

The woman stared at him for a moment before glaring at him, as if the words had never been uttered in her general direction before in her life.

“E-Excuse me?” she asked, seemingly ready to give John a lecture about how he dared to speak to her like that, but he went on before she could.

“He doesn’t need to hear this. His brother just died,” John said, and he let go of Sherlock’s hand to place his arm around his shoulder. “Let’s go.”

The six of them – John, Sherlock, Harry, Louise, Alexander, and Antonia – began to leave, but then Sherlock stopped next to Dean, and, still looking down at the ground, he spoke.

“Don’t put her in charge of anything important. She’ll just backstab you when it’s convenient for her and try to take over herself. Not to mention that her idea of creating peace is throwing the Capitol’s children into an arena for a few days,” he said, loud enough to hear, and for a moment he almost sounded back to his old self. John glanced back at President Coin to find her lips parted and moving wordlessly, as if waiting for an explanation to escape from her own mouth. He then looked back at Sherlock, and saw how empty his eyes looked under his furrowed brow, and knew that that was his way of lashing out against her – make a brutal deduction to bring her down as revenge for acting as if Mycroft’s death was anything close to necessary.

“Oh, we know. Don’t worry about her,” Dean assured him, and just before Sherlock was about to begin walking again, Dean put his hand on his shoulder. “I’m so sorry about Mycroft, Sherlock.”

“Me, too,” he replied, and then they began walking again, catching up to their friends.

As they joined them, they could hear Antonia speaking to Alexander.

“– wanted me to go collect – you know,” she said, glancing back at Sherlock, and immediately John knew who they were speaking of. “Could you bring me to him? Louise can handle bringing these three up to the penthouse; can’t you?” she asked, giving a friendly punch to Louise’s shoulder.

“Yeah, I’ve got it handled,” Louise agreed, rubbing her arm. “No problem.”

Suddenly, Sherlock jerked his head up, and for a second John feared the worst: that he’d want to go see Mycroft’s body.

“You’re going to see Mycroft?” he asked, and Antonia and Alexander turned back to look at him. They exchanged a worried glance before Alexander replied, slowly.

“Yes – we can’t just leave him there, you know?”

“Yes, I know, I just –” Sherlock started out strong, but then faltered, and his voice quieted as he looked down at his feet. “He’s wearing a ring. It was our mother’s wedding ring. He kept it when she died, and I… And his pocket watch – that was our dad’s –”

Alexander put his hand on Sherlock’s shoulder, and Sherlock looked up.

“We’ll get them for you,” he assured him.

“Thank you,” Sherlock replied.

“Is there anything else we should get from him for you?” Antonia asked.

Sherlock looked to John, as if he had the answers, and John looked to Antonia and replied for him.

“Just get anything from his pockets.”

Antonia and Alexander nodded, and then they parted from the group to go collect Mycroft’s body, leaving Sherlock, John, Harry, and Louise to make the trip to the penthouse. They were almost to the door when Sherlock stopped John.

“Wait,” he said quietly, and glanced toward a group of Avoxes, all signing amongst themselves. “Can I –” he began to ask, letting go of John’s hand.

“Yes,” John replied without a second thought, and Sherlock went over to the group, out of earshot to talk to them. An Avox boy, about the same age as himself, stepped forward and nodded when Sherlock asked him a question, and nodded again as Sherlock asked another, and then he was back, interlacing his fingers into John’s hand as soon as he touched him.

They made their way back to the penthouse this way, with the empty place in the group and in their hearts that should have been filled by Mycroft Holmes.

Chapter Text

At first, Louise led them to the elevators, but just as they were stepping on John realized who he was with and paused.

“Wait – Sherlock gets sick on –” he began to explain, but Sherlock pulled him along.

“It’s fine,” he mumbled, and John pursed his lips and let Sherlock pull him onto the elevator.

As they ascended, the three of them couldn’t help but ask about their other friends – and the other people involved in the battle between the Peacekeepers and the mentors, their questions and answers quickly being shot back and forth.

“How bad is everyone else?” John was the first one to ask.

“We lost a lot of mentors,” Louise answered sadly. “Districts Five and Eleven are completely wiped out; Dean and Alexander are the only people left from Four...I don’t think that there’s a single District who didn’t lose someone.”

“What about the Escorts? Is Mrs. Hudson okay?” Harry asked, surprising John. He hadn’t known that she cared about the woman much at all.

“She’s alive,” Louise replied. “She was one of the first Capitol citizens to fight on our side, actually.”

Something in her words transported John back to a conversation that he and Sherlock had once, in a world that seemed years and years from the current moment but really only took place six months in the past:

“She knows that she’s helping send twenty-three kids to die annually, wouldn’t that be enough to realize something wasn’t right?”

He could still hear the bitterness in Sherlock’s words, and he glanced at him, wondering if maybe he was also remembering that conversation. As if Sherlock could feel John’s eyes on him, he looked up and met his eyes, and John thought the words at him before he could look away.

Maybe she realized what she was doing was wrong. Maybe she figured it out and wanted to fix it.

“So what happens to her, now?” John asked, turning his attention back to Louise.

“I dunno – she’ll probably be questioned along with all the other remaining Escorts and Peacekeepers and Stylists and Prep Teams who survived, and then they’ll figure out what to do with her based on what she says.”

“‘They?’ Who’s ‘they’?” Sherlock asked, raising his head.

“Dean and the others,” Louise said, shrugging. “Probably me, too. I’m not entirely sure who’s going to be in charge of that, now that...” she trailed off, and John knew exactly why – Mycroft was going to be in charge of everything, but now he couldn’t do anything that he had planned to do, all because of one single bullet.

“Is Cinna alive?” John asked, speaking through the lump in his throat, and Louise shook her head.

“He had been on our side since the very beginning, and I suppose the Peacekeepers knew that going into the battle – he was one of the first people killed.”

As she spoke, rage started to flow through John’s veins.

“Well, what about Seneca?” John asked. “If Cinna’s dead and...” he glanced at Sherlock, and changed his direction of thought. “I shot him – I don’t know if he died. Please tell me the Head Gamemaker’s dead,” he whispered, and Louise nodded.

“Yeah,” she replied. “You killed him.”

“And Caesar?” Harry asked.

“After the fight broke out, he realized that this was bigger than just a handful of us and ran for it.”

“Coward,” Sherlock muttered.

“Soldiers from District Thirteen caught up to him, though – he’s probably going to be imprisoned until Dean figures out where to go from there.”

“Yeah, what was with District Thirteen, anyway?” Harry asked. “I thought they were –”

“Completely wiped out? So did we. Mycroft was the one who figured it out; the Capitol was showing the same roll of film whenever District Thirteen had to be mentioned, so he looked into it and apparently during the Dark Days the Capitol made the deal with Thirteen that if they stopped attacking them they could become entirely independent from Panem. This whole time they were living underground, and the Capitol destroyed what the District had been to scare all of us into submission.”

“Wait, so they were there this whole time and they just didn’t care that we were being punished for what they did?” John asked.

“No, they did care. They were spending all that time making weaponry, waiting for an opportunity to strike again.”

“And then Mycroft walks in,” Sherlock guessed.

“Yeah – he found them and told them that he was making his own rebellion within Panem – the Mockingjay Rebellion – and that if they joined together they could save all of us. It took years to set everything into place, but we did it.”

“The Mockingjay Rebellion?” Harry repeated. “That’s what Mycroft called it – this whole thing?”

“Yeah,” Louise replied. “He thought he would use the Capitol’s last greatest mistake to reference their newest mistake.”

“And what mistake would that be?” John asked, and a ghost of a smirk appeared on Louise’s face.

“Not keeping a closer eye on Mycroft,” Louise replied as the doors opened, revealing the Penthouse.

But, even though it was still the same room, almost completely untouched since the last time John had been there the other day, it was so completely different, because everything else had changed.

The mere act of stepping out of the elevator and into the penthouse sent two very different emotions coursing through Sherlock’s body. His limbs itched with the overwhelming urge to trash the place – to break everything that could be broken, to overturn the tables and chairs, to tear the wallpaper off the walls, leaving nothing but Mycroft’s office and bedroom untouched. The rest of him, on the other hand, felt the overwhelming desire to sleep.

Even though Sherlock couldn’t possibly imagine sleeping after all that had happened over the past few hours, he opted for the latter, if only to try to shut his mind off for a while. But first, he needed to check his room.

He started to walk in that direction, but, of course, John noticed.

“Sherlock?” he called after him, concern beginning to permanently etch its way into his voice.

“Pajamas,” Sherlock muttered his explanation without turning around, and John let him be.

He wandered into his room – it felt like wandering, even though he had been within these walls for almost two weeks straight – and was in no way surprised when he found a white box on his bed, marked MORPHLING in bold, black letters. In fact, he had asked for them, nearly ten minutes before.

He hadn’t thought to at the time – he wasn’t thinking about it at all as he had approached the group of Avoxes in the audience’s pit of Caesar’s studio. When he had approached them, he only had one thing on his mind.

As he had gotten closer to them, they looked up at him, and Sherlock could tell that they all either knew him, or known of him, and now they all were curious as to what he could possibly want. He imagined he looked like a total mess – his eyes puffy and red, his hair matted to his forehead with sweat, his suit no longer flawless but instead covered in dirt and the blood he didn’t want to think about – but he didn’t care.

Nothing really mattered, anymore. And so he just focused on what he needed to say.

“Um...hullo,” he murmured, and remembered that his voice was hoarse. He cleared his throat and went on. “I know you don’t need to follow orders, anymore, since Snow is dead and no one I know would make you still have to follow orders, and I know I have no right to ask for this, but I was wondering if any of you could do me a huge favor, anyway?”

The Avoxes all glanced at one another, silently deciding among themselves who would be the one to help him. For a moment, it looked like no one would.

“Please?” Sherlock added, desperate, and, finally, a boy his age stepped forward, away from the group, volunteering his services. Sherlock looked him over – his eyes were kind but also wary, and it was obvious to Sherlock that he had been a happy child before suffering years of abuse, just like him, and that’s what made Sherlock trust him.

“I need any footage the Hunger Games archives have of Mycroft Holmes. Any time a camera catches sight of him, I want to see it. I know that’ll take time, so don’t worry about it tonight. Can you do that for me, please?”

The boy nodded, and Sherlock nodded back to him.

“Thank you.” He was then going to turn around and go back to John – he had every intention of doing so – but before he could even think about it, the words were spilling from his mouth. “But there is something that I do need tonight. As soon as possible, actually,” he said, and asked the question: “Can you get me Morphling? And just put it on my bed in the penthouse?”

The boy nodded again, yet slowly this time, as he mentally mapped out where he could find what Sherlock had asked for. But it was a nod all the same.

And, with that, Sherlock thanked the boy again – thanked them all – and rejoined John and the others, interlacing his fingers with John’s, and letting them lead him back to the Penthouse.

It was then, standing in his room that he realized that he never even asked for the boy’s name.

But the boy had come through for him anyway, and given him what he had asked for.

If he hadn’t been in a relationship with John for the past year, he might’ve compared seeing the Morphling to coming home after a long journey – safe and familiar after so much time with anything but that – but, thanks to John, he had discovered the true meaning of that phrase, so he knew immediately that seeing the Morphling on his bed felt nothing like that, at all.

Seeing the Morphling there, free for him to use, was like what he imagined seeing an ex-lover would be like; one that he no longer knew, or shared anything in common with, anymore, but he still kept coming back to, anyway.

And he here he was, coming back to it, anyway.

Even though he knew, deep in his heart of hearts, that it was bad for him.

But he needed it.

He needed it.

Just for tonight.

Just so he could get to sleep.

He got changed out of the dirtied suit first and into pajamas, like he had told John he was in there to do, but could feel the box of Morphling’s presence as if it had eyes that followed him as he moved about the room. By the time he pulled his nightshirt over his head, his fingers were itching with the need to open the box, and the veins in his arms were craving its contents.

Finally, when he was done he sat on the edge his bed and opened the box, revealing five small bottles filled with the clear liquid, a single syringe, ready to go, and a plastic baggie filled with extra needles, just like the contents of the box he had found when he was nearly twelve years old, the first time he used.

He leaned over and picked up his discarded purple tie from the floor and tied it around his arm as a tourniquet, and the feeling of the tightness around his arm brought him back to the Games, just for a second.

Sherlock pushed the thought from his memory, and removed the syringe from the box. He slowly filled it with the liquid, and, even though his body was anxiously waiting for the moment the needle pierced his skin, he hesitated.

If John found out what he was doing, it would kill him, or he would kill Sherlock. He didn’t want to do that to John.

But he had to.

He needed to.

Just this once. Just so I can sleep, he reminded himself, and pressed the needle into his arm.

Even though John knew exactly where Sherlock was, and even though there were only a few walls between them, John was still wary without Sherlock by his side. He kept glancing nervously over in the direction his boyfriend had left in, anxiously waiting for his return.

“John?” Harry asked, her hand brushing against his.

“Hm? What?” he murmured as he returned his attention back to the two girls.

“He’ll be alright,” Louise assured him, and somehow John believed her, because he knew that she would know more anyone else; she had lost her brother, too.

In fact, everyone he knew had either lost a brother or a sister within the last five days – everyone, that is, except for him.

His eyes found Harry, and she gave him a sad half-smile that broke his heart.

“I missed you,” he offered quietly.

“Me too,” she replied, and opened her arms, a silent request for a hug.

In response, he wrapped his arms around her, and he could feel her finally relax, probably for the first time in days.

“You okay?” he asked her quietly.

“Getting there,” she replied. “You?”

It took a second for John to think about it, but realized that Harry had summed it up nicely.

“Getting there.”

She laughed into his shoulder.

After a moment, a thought came to him, and he pulled himself away from her, still holding onto her by her shoulders.

“By the way – I’m impressed by your skill with a syringe back there in the Arena – it was amazing, honestly. It didn’t even bruise Sherlock or anything; for that being your first time even picking up a syringe that’s amazing.”

“I must’ve picked it up from you,” Harry replied with a shrug, and John chuckled, just as the door to Sherlock’s room opened.

John spun around, and was devastated not to see his boyfriend standing there.

“Sherlock?” he called out. “You alright?”

“I’m going to bed,” Sherlock called back, and John turned back to Harry.

“Do you mind if –?” he began, and Harry shook her head, smirking at her brother.

“No, go ahead,” she replied.

John then looked to Louise, but he wasn’t even sure what to say.

“I’ll stay with Harry,” Louise supplied, and John only managed to breathe a word of thanks before chasing after his boyfriend.

Sherlock was already lying in bed, turned away from the door, when John walked in. He closed his eyes and pretended to sleep as he listened to John walking about the room, getting changed and brushing his teeth and using the bathroom one last time before he went to bed, as if nothing had happened just hours earlier. After a few minutes, John finally crawled into bed, and pressed his body up against Sherlock’s, holding him so tightly he could feel each of John’s pajama buttons digging into his spine. It was almost as if John was trying to hold Sherlock together, and maybe he was. They stayed like this for a few minutes, breathing together, and just when Sherlock thought that John had fallen asleep, John whispered in his ear, breaking the silence between them:

“I know you’re awake, Sherlock.”

Knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to avoid conversation, now – not without outright ignoring John – Sherlock rolled over to face him. As soon as he looked into John’s eyes, he knew what his boyfriend was going to ask: if Sherlock was okay. He knew that he only really had three ways to answer the question truthfully – if he just told John that he was fine, he wouldn’t believe him. Judging by the way he was feeling right now, once the question was asked, he would either end up sobbing because of the tragedy he had suffered, kissing John because he was happy they were both alive, or laughing uncontrollably because he was high on Morphling. Before he could sort through the pros and cons of these options in his head, the inevitable words passed John’s lips:

“Are you alright?”

And, before Sherlock could think much about it, he kissed him.

For a second, he believed that John was going to push him away, inform him that kissing him won’t help him avoid the question, but he didn’t. In fact, John seemed to melt into the kiss, pushing the question to the backburner, because they were both there. Together. Alive. And, right now, that’s all that mattered.

Normally, especially now, knowing what he knew of Magnussen and what he did to John, Sherlock would’ve been more cautious, making sure John was okay with him kissing and touching him, letting John lead their actions and following them – but this time was different. They led each other, taking turns in showing each other what was okay and what wasn’t. There was no stopping and no hesitation, tonight, because they were alive, both of them were, and – within the four walls of that room, within the confines of that bed – nothing else mattered but that.

And so, when John took Sherlock’s shirt and pulled it over his head, Sherlock returned the gesture and removed John’s shirt without a second thought, for their clothes were only serving as unnecessary barriers between them. Because, after everything, after everything the Capitol had done to them and all the walls they and the Games had put between them, a few layers of cotton seemed like nothing, now. Within just a few minutes, they had completely taken off each other’s clothes and discarded them on the floor.

They did not have sex. There were moments during the night where Sherlock thought that perhaps that’s where they were going to go, and for the first time ever he felt properly prepared to go there, but they never did. They just pulled each other as close as possible and kissed, and laughed, and touched, and cried, together.

Sherlock and John. John and Sherlock. Just as it always had been.

Chapter Text

Sherlock Holmes opened his eyes to sunlight. He squinted up at the window, forcing his eyes, much too used to the dark, to adjust them to the bright light streaming into the room. He wanted to get up and pull the curtains closed, to sleep just a little longer, but he couldn’t find the strength to get up.

He was starting to try to convince himself that he really should get up and close the curtains, when his eyes caught sight of John Watson sleeping next to him, lying halfway on his stomach, his arm draped across Sherlock, shirtless – naked.

At the sight of John, some of the memories of the night before resurfaced in Sherlock’s head – mostly the ones involving their reunion and the clothes that were shed during said reunion – and suddenly, the sunlight in Sherlock’s eyes didn’t bother him so much.

There was something tugging at the back of his mind, though – something happened that he couldn’t quite remember, yet...

John then moved his arm off of Sherlock, distracting him from whatever his head was trying to tell him. Whatever it was, he was sure it could wait just a little bit longer.

Sherlock watched John’s eyes moving back and forth under his eyelids in REM sleep, and smiled to himself. He was dreaming – not having a nightmare, but dreaming – and so had Sherlock. Neither of them were waking up in a panic, waking up screaming, waking up shoving the other away or holding onto the other for dear life. They were just sleeping. They were only dreaming. Because they had each other, and because they, for the first time in years, were safe.

Sherlock lifted his head and laid it upon John’s back, and listened to his heart beating, his lungs expanding, his stomach gurgling, and all of his other organs as he slept. He was thankful that John’s body was working – thankful that he was alive.

But he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. Something important – something huge –

And then reality took hold, weighing heavy on Sherlock’s bones.

Mycroft Holmes was dead.

And suddenly, Sherlock needed to get up. He needed to get up and he needed to move, now.

He pulled himself up from the bed, untangling himself from the mess of blankets and sheets, thankful that he didn’t have to force himself to move out from under John. As soon as he was out of the bed, he suddenly felt utterly too aware of his body and of his nakedness. He was slim – he had always been thin, nearly everyone in District 12 was, but Sherlock’s metabolism made him positively skinny compared to everyone else – but he skin felt different. The night before, it felt fine – perfect, in fact, as John was touching and kissing it – but this morning it felt as if it was wrapped much too tightly around his bones but also so loose it was hung off of them, simultaneously. He noticed his exposed lower bits felt especially weird this morning, so he pulled the sheet off of the bed and wrapped it around himself, leaving John with the blanket.

With that single motion, with just the feeling of the fabric on his skin, he was suddenly transported back to his home, back to a time where Mycroft was alive and well – those hot August days when he’d waltz around the house in nothing but his bedsheets, even answering the door for John in said sheet. There were so many times where he had pissed Mycroft off enough for him to step on the sheet and leave him naked, but he never did it while John was around, thankfully. Sherlock would call his bluff, of course, but Mycroft never carried through.

Because he cared about Sherlock. He cared and Sherlock only took advantage of him – because he thought he’d always be there – and now he was gone –

And just like that, the memories came rushing to him, all being played out in his head, one by one. Every time Sherlock insinuated his brother was overweight, every snide remark, every last roll of his eyes. Every disrespectful thing he had ever done to Mycroft came back to Sherlock, each one like a slap in the face.

And then, at the end of it all, he remembered the words he had spoken to John their last night together before Sherlock was sent into the Hunger Games Arena, up on the rooftop of the training center:

“I wish I could’ve been better. Let them know that I had a heart.”

Did Mycroft know that Sherlock had a heart?

Although it felt fine just a moment ago, John’s room all the sudden felt too small for Sherlock – he could feel the walls of John’s bedroom beginning to close in upon him – there was no physical evidence of this, of course, but he could feel it just as much as he could feel anything else – and he left the room, choking back a sob as to not to wake John.

He quickly crossed the hallway between John’s bedroom and his own, opened his bedroom door and closed it behind him, and only then did he let himself cry.

He’s dead. He’s dead. Mycroft Holmes is dead.

Sherlock leaned against the door and slid down, down, down, until he was sitting on the floor, in nothing but a sheet, with his back up against the door.

The night – the seconds leading up to the cease of his brother’s heartbeat – ran through his head. He could feel his brother’s arms around him, he could see the look in his brother’s eyes, he could hear –

The gunshot rang in his ears, and Sherlock jumped up at the noise, it sounded so real.

The gunshot.

The gunshot.

The gunshot.

His name was Sherlock Holmes. He was eighteen years old. He was in the Capitol, in his room in the penthouse. It was ten o’seven in the morning. Mycroft Holmes had died fourteen hours, two minutes, and thirty-eight seconds ago.

Although he had no memory of getting up, Sherlock eventually found himself in the bathroom of the room, his box of Morphling on the sink’s countertop, and the bathtub’s faucet running, filling up the tub.

He wandered from the bathroom to his closet, and searched for anything that wasn’t a three-piece suit that he could wear. Something low-maintenance – something that didn’t scream “presentable” – something that he didn’t have to button up – something that didn’t look like something his brother would wear. After searching through blazers and button-ups of various colors and styles and finding nothing, Sherlock went to his dresser to see what he could find.

The first drawer contained ties and handkerchiefs and other accessories that one would add to their three-piece suit from the closet; the second held pairs of socks and underwear; the third drawer was for his Capitol-issued button-up pajamas - nothing that he could wear during the day without everyone knowing that they were, indeed, pajamas.

The last, drawer, however, contained t-shirts and pairs of sweatpants, all looking expensive despite their simplicity, almost exactly like the ones Sherlock would wear as pajamas back home. He pulled out a black t-shirt and matching sweatpants, went back up to the second drawer for black underwear and socks, and went back to the bathroom, where the tub had just barely begun to overflow.

He set his bundle of clothes next to the box of Morphling on the sink and turned the faucet off. After staring at the tub for a moment, watching the steam of the hot water rise, and then stripped off the sheet from John’s room, and stepped into the tub, sending even more water over the edge and spilling onto the floor.

The hot water seared his skin, burning him to his bones, waking him up more than a cold shower could. He could feel it in every pore, and, wanting the fire to envelop him, he put his head underwater.

The gunshot.

The gunshot.

The gunshot.

He’s dead. He’s dead.


And, before he realized what he was doing, he was screaming – screaming under the water, keeping himself quiet from the world outside. He screamed into the water, and the water flew into his mouth, burning his tongue and his gums and his teeth – his lungs – burning him –

Burning him from the inside out –

Mycroft is dead.

His lungs couldn’t take the lack of oxygen any longer, and Sherlock sat up in the tub, gasping for air.

Once he could breathe again, he reached for the bar of soap, not really feeling like doing anything, but finding excuses to remain in the tub, and began scrubbing at his red, raw skin.

“I will never be clean again.”

Archie Neal.

The other William.

The two tributes at the Tracker Jacker hive.

Mycroft Holmes.

He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead.

All of their blood on his hands, when none of them had to die. He would never be clean of it – he would never be free of it.

It’s all my fault.

He scrubbed and scrubbed at his entire body, digging his finger nails into every inch of his skin until it hurt, until red and raw from the water became red and raw from scrubbing too hard.

And then he threw the soap across the room as hard as he could, and held the sides of his head in his hands.

His name was Sherlock Holmes. He was eighteen years old. He was in a bathtub in the training center’s penthouse. It was eleven twenty-two in the morning. Fifteen hours, seventeen minutes, forty-six seconds.

It took a few minutes of repeating the phrase, but he soon had calmed himself down enough to rinse the soap from his skin, to get out of the tub, brush his teeth, and get dressed.

It was funny – ever since the Quarter Quell had been announced, Sherlock was so worried about Mycroft – he had felt so bad that he was going to die in the Games and leave him to be the last living member of the Holmes family –

But then Mycroft went and did it to him, instead.

There would never be the Holmes Boys again. It would only ever just be him. The Holmes Boy. That one. The freak. The embarrassment. The addict. The one who should have died –

“I just want you to know...that your loss will break my heart.”

Didn’t Mycroft know what his loss would do to him?

Once he was dressed into his black ensemble, he found himself watching the box of Morphling, as if expecting for it to leap off of the counter and stick itself into his arm for him.

John would kill him.

Sherlock opened the box.

It would kill John.

He filled up the syringe.

The first twenty-four hours after a tragedy like this are always the hardest, Sherlock told himself as he pushed the needle into his vein. By this time tomorrow I won’t even need it.

He filled up the syringe again and sent it into his bloodstream.

Just to get through the first twenty-four hours.

His name was Sherlock Holmes. He was eighteen years old. He was getting high in his bedroom. It was eleven thirty-six in the morning. Fifteen hours, thirty-two minutes, twelve seconds.

And then, he could feel John’s hands on his body again. Soft but firm, reassuring, knowing what they were doing, able to name exactly what part of Sherlock’s body they were touching –

And it was nice.

Bring me back, bring me back.

Back to that time, to that bed – back before then, even. Back before Mycroft was shot. Back before Mycroft killed Snow. Back before Sherlock saved himself and Harry. Back before they were sent into the Games. Back before the first time Sherlock and John kissed. Back before Sherlock sent the iris to the Capitol. Back before the moment John was reaped. Back before Mycroft was reaped.

Back before all of this.

Back to the beginning of time. Before any of it happened.

Maybe then he could have done something that would have changed everything – saved everyone –

His name was Sherlock Holmes. He was eighteen years old. He was alive. His brother was dead. It was a minute until twelve o’clock – a minute until morning became afternoon. Fifteen hours, fifty-four minutes, twenty-five seconds.

He pushed the Morphling under his bed, and counted the seconds as they increased.

Fifteen hours, fifty-four minutes, thirty seconds.

Bring me back, bring me back.

– thirty-one seconds.

I’ll never be clean again.

– thirty-two seconds.

He’s dead.

– thirty-three seconds.

Mycroft is dead.

– thirty-four seconds.

All my fault.

– thirty-five seconds.

The gunshot.

Fifteen hours, fifty-four minutes, thirty-six seconds.

I can’t go back.

He took a deep, shaky breath. John was still alive, just across the hall. Harry was still alive, somewhere in the penthouse. He was still alive, right then, right there.

My name is Sherlock Holmes. I am eighteen years old. I am alive. Fifteen hours, fifty-four minutes, forty seconds.

I am alive.

Chapter Text

At exactly noon, Sherlock opened his bedroom door and exited the room, just in time to see Harry Watson walking down the hall – walking his way.

“Hey,” he mumbled, and she gave him a concerned half-smile.

“Hey,” she said, and tilted her head to the side. “Are you okay?”

“Fine,” Sherlock replied smoothly. “I’m fine. How are you?”

She shrugged. “I’ll be okay, I think,” she glanced behind Sherlock, at the door to the room he had just left. “Are you both in there?” she asked, gesturing.

“No, I just needed...a minute...” he said, wondering if those were the right words. Did people normally isolate themselves in times of tragedy? Yes, they definitely did – he knew this because John had tried to do exactly that when he returned from his Games last year.

Harry then glanced at John’s bedroom door.

“Is John still asleep?” she asked, and Sherlock nodded in reply. “Okay, well, unfortunately he needs to get up. Dean just came by – he’s calling a meeting at twelve-thirty – that’s in almost half an hour –”

“I know,” Sherlock said, nodding. How could he not? He had been counting the minutes since he had woken up.

“– Louise just left to get dressed –” Harry went on, but Sherlock stopped her again.

“Wait. Louise stayed the night?” he asked, narrowing his eyes in confusion.

As soon as it registered with her that she had said that, and what it could mean, her eyes widened, and her pale skin went a deep shade of red – almost as red as her hair.

“It’s not what you think – we just talked –” she started. “You know that – you can tell –”

And he could tell – but he could also see something as he looked over Harry, her body language was screaming what he had been too preoccupied with John’s absence and the death of his brother to notice over the past few days. Finally – finally – Sherlock saw it.

Harry had been rendered completely dumbfounded upon laying eyes on Louise Neal after the recap. She had seemed deeply touched by Louise’s compliment of her hair. They had stayed by each other’s side during the Victory Banquet. They had always made a point to greet each other specifically. As soon as she had seen her after the rebellion, Harry had called out Louise’s name and they had hugged each other as if they were holding on for dear life – the same way that Sherlock and John hugged after each of their Games.

The way they smiled at each other – the way they looked at each other –

Finally, Sherlock understood – it was so obvious: Harry Watson had a crush on Louise Neal.

He thought quickly back whenever he saw them together. Did Louise like her back?

Before he could make an accurate deduction, however, Harry spoke again, completely oblivious to Sherlock’s revelation.

“So, we should get John up –” she went on, changing the subject, reaching for the door to John’s bedroom, and Sherlock suddenly remembered how naked John was on the other side of the door.

“No –” he replied hastily, diving for the door and swatting Harry’s hand away from the knob. It was only when he looked at Harry’s face that he realized he might’ve been a little too loud and a little too panicked in his response. Quickly, he tried to cover for it, sounding as nonchalant as he could. “I’ll do it,” he said, and gave her the most authentic smile he could muster to try and seal the deal.

But, just by the way Harry was looking at him, he knew he had failed, and she had about a thousand questions that she hadn’t had ten seconds ago.

“He’s – um. We – uh…” he fought for the words. How does one explain to someone that they had been sleeping together, in the same bed, stark naked, without having sex?

“Okay,” Harry said with a shrug, and Sherlock looked at her, and was surprised to find that all the questions she had in her eyes just moments ago had vanished. She looked at him as if his feeble attempts at an explanation were actually successful ones, and that she actually understood, even though there was no way for her to have any real idea what Sherlock was trying to say.

And then, suddenly, Sherlock was overwhelmed by affection for Harry Watson. After knowing her for all these years, he never once had to explain himself, or John, or their relationship to her. He never once had to apologize for ruining any sibling quality time John and Harry might’ve had over the past year due to Sherlock’s overall refusal to leave John’s side. She had always been there, ever since the beginning, and had never asked questions, never judged, and always loved Sherlock, despite all of his shortcomings.

“Everyone at school says you’re really rude.”

“I am really rude.”

He was always rude and antisocial and moody and she, just like John, was always there – and she actually liked Sherlock, and wasn’t just dealing with him because he liked John, like mostly everyone else did.

“Alone protects me.”

“Protects you? No – people protect people; friends protect people –”

“I don’t have friends.”

But he had been completely and utterly wrong, that day: he always had two friends – John and Harry Watson.

“I’ve got to go get dressed – you go get John up,” Harry said, as if everything was normal, completely unaware that Sherlock had just now realized how much he had taken her for granted – he had so stupidly not noticed it until now – and with that, she turned and started to go back to her room, a sad half-smile on her face.

“H-Harry –” Sherlock called after her, and she turned back to face him.


It was then he closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around her. She was surprised, at first, but then returned the hug.

“Thank you. For everything,” Sherlock whispered, hoping those words alone could convey everything he was thinking.

He could feel Harry shrug. “What are sisters for?” she replied, and Sherlock remembered what she had said to him, back in the Arena:

“I’ve never really had just one brother. I’ve always had two.”

Sherlock let go of her and smiled, grateful.

“I’m gonna go get dressed, now, okay?” she asked, and Sherlock nodded.

“I’ll go wake up John.”

Harry smiled, and then began to back away in the direction of her room, and Sherlock turned to John’s bedroom and put his hand on the doorknob. He was about to open the door, but then Harry spoke, and he looked up to see her head tilted to the side.

“You sure you’re okay?” she asked again, and Sherlock felt himself nodding.

“Yeah. I will be,” he said, and then he opened the door.

John was awakened by a kiss on the cheek from a fully-clothed Sherlock, which he gladly accepted, but he was thankful that Sherlock had decided not to kiss him full on the mouth to wake him up.

“Hey,” John murmured. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Sherlock replied, entirely too quickly for it to be true. “Dean’s calling a meeting with all of us – it’ll probably end up being a broadcast, seeing as they probably shut off the cameras when Mycroft shot Snow.”

It took John a second to remember the events of the night before, and a second more to remember the reason why those events happened – why so many people had lost their lives – President Coriolanus Snow was dead.

A wave of relief and uncertainty washed over John. Snow was dead, which was undoubtedly better for Panem as a whole, but what was to happen now? How would they even begin to pick up the pieces? Maybe the meeting today would shed some light on those questions.

The next second, John remembered exactly whose life was lost – more important than Snow’s, more important than anyone’s –

“Mycroft,” he breathed, and, though he could see Sherlock fighting to keep his expression neutral, John could see the pain in his eyes. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked, and Sherlock avoided John’s eyes to answer:

“I’ll be fine.”

And John wanted to believe him so, so badly.

Sherlock gave John complete privacy as he showered and got dressed, and John was simultaneously grateful for and saddened by that fact. Just by the way Sherlock was acting, the way he was so careful with John, even though John didn’t think he could possibly be more careful with him, John knew that Sherlock was keeping what happened in the stairwell in mind. They both were, and not necessarily by choice.

“I’m a tribute, John, which means that, right now, I own everything. The Capitol – the audience – the other tributes – you –”

Despite the moments of happiness between them, the ones like the night before in bed with Sherlock, John knew that, in his darkest moments, he would still remember what Magnussen did to him. If he thought about it hard enough – which he tried to avoid doing at all costs, but sometimes it would slip through the walls he put up around that one section of his brain – he could still feel Magnussen’s hands on him, his tongue in his mouth. He had dealt enough with the post-traumatic stress from the Games to know that there was nothing in this world – no amount of good days or laughter or love – that would make it all go away or at least make him completely forget those excruciating five minutes.

As soon as we’re alone I’ll tell you everything, I promise.

John also knew that he’d have to tell Sherlock about it – he’d have to relive it one last time, for him. He’d have to break down the walls that kept the assault from completely taking over his head and let Sherlock in, rebuilding the wall around them, because Sherlock had to know. Despite figuring it out, he still knew too little – he still didn’t know everything that happened – and he should’ve known everything, from the beginning.

He knew he had to tell Sherlock.

But he wanted to live in denial for just a little while longer.

Sherlock, per usual, had been right in his deduction that the meeting Dean was calling was going to be broadcasted. It was obvious from the moment he, Sherlock, and Harry walked into the auditorium that used to be entirely Caesar Flickerman’s, for he could see Dean talking to a man with a camera, who John recognized as a victor from District Three.

Then, as if Dean could feel his eyes on him, he looked up, said something to the camera man, and then walked their way.

“Hey,” Dean said as he got closer.

“Hey,” John replied for the group. “What’s going on?”

“Just updating Panem on what happened last night; standard announcement broadcast procedure. Announcing what went on after the broadcast cut out, what’s changed, what’s going to change in the future, that sort of thing – shouldn’t take too long, maybe an hour? I’ve made a brief announcement this morning that there would be a public broadcast at one, after I fill everyone here in on what the next few days will be like for all of us here,” he said conversationally, as if he had been planning this day out for months. But, considering what Louise had told them last night about the underground rebellion – the Mockingjay Rebellion, as she had called it – maybe he had been. “I’m glad the three of you showed up relatively early,” he went on. “John and Harry, do you mind finding me after the meeting’s dismissed? I have some information that I need to share with you, but I feel like it would be best if I saved it until after the broadcast.”

John turned to exchange a look with Harry, and she shrugged back at him, as if to say, “well, it’s not like we had anything else planned.” John turned back to Dean.

“Sure, we can do that,” he replied, and Dean nodded.

“Thank you,” he said. “Sherlock, on the other hand,” he went on, turning to Sherlock, and John noticed Sherlock straighten up a bit under Dean’s eye. “I need to speak with you now, privately, preferably, and I’m afraid that it can’t wait.”

John and Harry looked to Sherlock, and Sherlock turned back to them. John didn’t want to make the decision for him – it was Sherlock’s choice whether he wanted to argue that whatever Dean had to say could be said in front of John and Harry, or he wanted to agree and go off with Dean alone, leaving them behind. John trusted Dean to take Sherlock off alone and bring him back unscathed, but in the end it was Sherlock’s call to make. John subtly nodded to Sherlock, trying to communicate all this, and it seemed like Sherlock got the message, for he nodded back, just as subtly, and then he turned back to Dean.

“Okay,” he said, much quieter and unsure of himself than he usually was.

“Excellent. Walk with me?” he said, nodding off in the direction of the stage.

Sherlock turned back to John and Harry.

“You go find seats. I’ll be alright,” he assured them, and then they went their separate ways.

Chapter Text

“How are you holding up?” Dean asked quietly, once they were out of John and Harry’s earshot.

“I could ask you the same question,” Sherlock replied. “You lost people, too. And you haven’t slept at all,” he added, voicing the deduction he had made the moment he had seen Dean talking to the cameraman.

“Can’t afford to,” Dean said, sounding determined, but Sherlock could tell he was hiding some sort of vulnerability. “Not with everything that needs to be done,” he went on, and suddenly Sherlock understood: Dean was telling the truth, but only partially – he couldn’t bring himself to go into the room where he and his fellow mentors had been living together for the past few days. At least, not with the knowledge of why most of them no longer inhabited the space.

“The first twenty-four hours are always the most difficult,” Sherlock found himself saying, trying to give him some sort of comfort.

Sixteen hours, sixteen minutes, fifty-three seconds.

“Indeed,” Dean agreed, nodding solemnly as they approached the door that served as the entrance to the backstage area. Dean opened the door for Sherlock, and they filed through.

Then, they were alone.

“So you’re President of Panem, now?” Sherlock voiced his deduction, sticking his hands into his sweatpants’ pockets.

“For now, I am. We’ll allow a proper vote after this all dies down, to make sure no one feels like we’re just taking over everything and just being a different version of Snow. I’m going to be representing the Mockingjay Rebellion and what it stands for, and I’ll lead, for now. Mycroft – he chose me to do it if he...” For the first time ever, he looked unsure of himself as he searched for the words. “...wasn’t able to do it himself.”

“So he knew?” Sherlock asked, panic slowly rising within him. “That he was going to die?” If he did know, why didn’t he tell him? Why didn’t he take a second to prepare him?

“He knew that his plan would run the risk of losing his life, but he was adamant that it would be worth it.”

Worth it for who? Sherlock thought, but pursed his lips as he swallowed the words down, trying to find something different to say – something more appropriate.

“Alexander wanted to give these to you, by the way,” Dean went on before Sherlock could say anything, taking a handful of items out of his pocket and placing them into Sherlock’s outstretched hands.

It was their father’s pocket watch, their mother’s wedding ring, and a small notebook with a pen.

“The umbrella he used to kill Snow was not his umbrella,” Dean went on. “His umbrella – the umbrella you know the most – is in his office in the penthouse. I imagine you will want to keep that.”

“Thank you,” Sherlock replied quietly.

“Also, we found out who...we found his name,” Dean said, after a moment. “If you’re interested.”

“What do you mean?” Sherlock asked.

“The Peacekeeper who – who killed him. We were able to identify him. He’s dead, of course – Alexander and John shot him, but if you were curious as to –”

“Who was it?” Sherlock found himself asking, suddenly hungry for a name. He didn’t want anything else – just his name.

“His name was Athan Norbury,” Dean said, and Sherlock nodded, not finding anything he could say about the matter.

“Was that all?” he asked instead. “Is that all you had to tell me, or is there something else?”

“Right.” And suddenly, Dean was back to being all-business, as if any vulnerability Sherlock had witnessed had just been a figment of his imagination. “I’ve decided that, since so many people lost their lives last night, it’s only right that we hold something of a memorial service for them. It would be broadcasted, so that everyone would know who had been killed in the battle.”

“Okay,” Sherlock said, slowly, and was surprised to realize he wasn’t entirely sure of where the conversation was going.

“Seeing as Mycroft was the person who did this – who started the rebellion, thought up the plan, killed President Snow, effectively saved Panem – I thought a separate memorial should be held for him, after the more generalized one. Those of us who knew him well would say a few words, and we’d give our final goodbyes to him. You, of course, are his brother, and the only member of the Holmes family left, so I wanted to ask you: Would you rather Mycroft’s memorial service not included in the broadcast, and just have it between the all of us, here?” he asked, gesturing to the door, and, by extension, the people who were beyond it. “There would be no paparazzi allowed, so there’s no way of anything getting out that way, in case you were worried about that. I also thought that –”

But at that point, Sherlock had stopped listening, instead taking a moment to consider Dean’s question. He imagined everyone in Panem, people he never met and never would meet, people who didn’t know him or Mycroft, watching the broadcast of Sherlock reading a eulogy, as if they did know them and knew exactly how the loss of Mycroft Holmes affected him. The thought alone made his stomach turn in anger – they didn’t deserve to watch the memorial. They didn’t deserve to act like they knew either of them.

He crossed his arms, about to give Dean a straight out “no,” but then he thought of the something else: the members of District Twelve. Mycroft was not a person who had friends – neither of them were, until John came along and changed everything for Sherlock – but there were still people there who did know Mycroft, and who did care, to some extent.

The people in Mycroft’s graduating class, who spent six hours of just about every weekday in his presence for thirteen years; the same ones who bullied Sherlock for years, until Mycroft won the Games and told them to stop.

The teachers who had named Mycroft as their “best student;” the same ones who wrote notes to him and pinned them to Sherlock’s shirt when he had misbehaved in class, after “Mr. and Mrs. Holmes” and just “Mrs. Holmes” were no longer acceptable options to address the notes to.

The parents of the District 12 tributes who he always made a point to go visit when he returned from the Capitol, to apologize for losing their child while they were on his watch and offer his condolences.

The shop owners and keepers of District 12, the ones who did business with Mycroft after he had won the Games, and their parents were no longer alive to be able to provide for Sherlock.

Mr. and Mrs. Watson, who had taken care of Sherlock when Mycroft couldn’t, who he felt like he owed everything he could offer to, who would’ve treated him as their third son if only he had let them.

All those people – they had earned the right to view the memorial, in Sherlock’s eyes.

“…and if you don’t want to, that’s absolutely alright, I completely understand –” Dean said, still talking after all this time.

“No, it’s alright,” Sherlock replied, finally.

Dean looked perplexed.


“Yeah, it’s fine, really. But, um, is there a way to broadcast it to just District Twelve?” he asked. “Instead of all of Panem?”

“I’ll ask Hal,” Dean replied, and then noticed Sherlock’s apparent confusion. “Hal Packard, from District Three,” he clarified, and Sherlock guessed that that was one of the men who Dean put to operating the camera, since members of District 3 would know about those things the best.

Then he remembered.

“No one in the Arena had the last name of Packard.”

“Robert Wilkes is only eighteen; he wouldn’t know how to broadcast into one isolated District like Hal would. Anthony Heaney was left severely injured from the Battle. We couldn’t save him.”

If Sherlock believed that anything came after death, he might’ve said something about the fact that he was at least with his sibling (whoever that might’ve been, Sherlock didn’t remember) again, now. But instead, he nodded slowly.

“The first twenty-four hours are the hardest,” Dean reminded him, and Sherlock nodded again.

Sixteen hours, twenty-four minutes, seventeen seconds.

As if Dean could hear his thoughts, he checked his watch.

“You should get back; John and Harry are undoubtedly waiting for you. And I’ll see what I can do about the broadcast tomorrow.”

“Right,” Sherlock replied, nodding again. “Thank you.”

“And you’re sure you’re okay? About –”

“Yes, Dean, it’s fine. I’m fine. I’m okay.”

Dean nodded.


Sherlock’s hand was on the doorknob when Dean spoke again.

“And Sherlock?”

He turned back to Dean.


“You may not believe it, but you are so much like your brother, Sherlock. I noticed it the day we met.”

And, for a moment, Sherlock was caught off guard by Dean’s statement. Sherlock had always seen himself as the polar opposite of his brother; risk-taking when Mycroft would have hesitated, mouthy when Mycroft would’ve stayed quiet, rule-breaking where Mycroft would’ve kept his toes in line – the wild child to combat Mycroft’s parental nature.

But maybe he had missed the similarities between them. Or maybe Mycroft had kept the similarities hidden – he did lead a revolution behind Sherlock’s back, after all.

“I hadn’t considered that,” Sherlock mumbled in reply, and Dean put his hand on Sherlock’s shoulder.

“Well, maybe you should.”

And with that, they went their separate ways – Dean to the stage to announce himself as President Bainbridge, and Sherlock to John and Harry, where they were sitting in their seats, ready for the meeting to begin, and Sherlock thought, for the first time, that maybe he would.

John and Harry had agreed to sit on the edge of the first completely empty row closest to the stage, which ended up being about three rows back. People were still filing in, though, and apparently everyone wanted their own space, so there ended up being people taking their seats a few chairs away from where John and Harry were waiting. Harry had stubbornly insisted that they leave the seat at the absolute edge of the row empty, and that she would take the seat next to it. At first, John wasn’t sure why, but the reason became clear when Louise Neal took the seat next to her, as if they had previously promised that whoever was there first would save the other a seat.

He saw the way Harry’s eyes lit up as Louise entered her line of sight, and John smiled to himself. Now that he didn’t have to be hyper-focused on Sherlock or trying to save him and Harry or his own problems one-hundred percent of the time, he was finally able to realize that Harry had a little bit of a crush going. He had no idea if Louise liked girls that way, but Harry was never one to fall for the straight girl, or for the first girl who was nice to her. Whatever this was, or whatever it was going to be, John was happy – after the past few days Harry had been through, she deserved whatever sort of happiness that came her way, whether it be a girlfriend or just a new best friend.

“Hey, Harry; hey, John – where’s Sherlock?” she asked, looking down the line of seats and finding the one next to John was empty.

“Dean wanted to talk to him,” Harry replied before John could.

“Ah,” she said, nodding. “Probably just checking in. He was Mycroft’s best friend, after all – it’s kind of in the unofficial rules of being best friends that you have to look after their siblings if they can’t.”

“Dean was Mycroft’s best friend?” John asked without thinking, confused. He hadn’t actually put two and two together until now.

Louise shrugged. “Well, yeah. The people he was closest to back in District Twelve were you and Sherlock, but we all know Sherlock’s not very willing to share you, especially with his brother.” John must’ve actively flinched at the idea of Sherlock having to share him, for Louise’s face fell. “Sorry,” she said, and John shook his head.

“No, it’s fine.” He glanced at the door Sherlock and Dean had disappeared through, just in time to see Sherlock coming out. “There he is,” he murmured, and waved at him as he saw Sherlock assess the audience, looking for John and Harry.

Once Sherlock saw John waving at him, he walked over to them, saying hello to Louise (who must have arrived while he was gone), and sat next to John, and before either of them could speak, before John could ask him what Dean wanted or for Sherlock to ask what he had missed, Dean walked out from the backstage area onto the stage.

As he walked across the stage, a hush fell over the audience of about thirty-five people, and the men that Sherlock could only assume to be Hal Packard and Robert Wilkes went and sat down in two seats in the front row. Before Dean reached the podium in the middle of the stage, Sherlock gave a quick greeting to John and a kiss on the lips, a promise that he was fine and that they would talk about it later. When he reached the microphone (which wasn’t necessary, it was so quiet), he immediately started speaking, as there was no need for him to take a minute to get everyone’s attention; he had it from the second he entered the stage.

“Hello,” he said into the microphone, all business and nothing like the man who had hugged Mycroft back in January – it was obvious the night had aged him, just like it had everyone in the room. “Before I say anything else, I wanted to thank each and every one of you for coming in on such short notice. I’m sure everyone here’s had a rough night, and it means a lot that we can still come together like this, after everything. I imagine there’s a few of you who are still confused about the things that led up to the assassination of President Snow, so to quickly fill you in: almost nine years ago, Mycroft Holmes came to me with an idea to take down Snow and the Capitol, and, for nearly nine years, Mycroft and I have been recruiting people and making plans to make this idea a reality. Mycroft named this idea – this rebellion – the Mockingjay Rebellion. The rebellion came to a head last night, resulting in not only in the death of President Coriolanus Snow, and not only resulting in the successful takeover of the Capitol and Panem, but also the untimely murder of Mycroft Holmes. For those of you who weren’t involved in the Mockingjay Rebellion: in the event of Mycroft’s death, I was to accept the role of Interim President of Panem in his place. We had all voted for him, but he knew that he may not make it to see this day, so he insisted that I take his place if need be. And if anyone doesn’t believe me, we have that in writing, and I’d be happy to show it to you after this meeting,” he said, speaking almost directly to the group of eleven people who made up what remained of the Career Districts, grouped together separate from everyone else, sitting to the far left of the audience’s space, while John and Harry had chosen the right side to sit.

“Now, an outline of the next few days,” Dean went on. “We lost a lot of people in the Battle For Panem, including twenty-eight previous Hunger Games victors and countless others throughout the nation, so tomorrow I planned a memorial service, of sorts, to commemorate those who had lost their lives during this fight for freedom.” As soon as Dean had announced the amount of mentors who had been lost, it seemed as if everyone looked around the group, making a mental count of who was left, and Sherlock did, too.

Twenty-eight dead, Thirty-three still alive. It had almost been an easy split down the middle.

“Immediately following that, a private memorial for Mycroft Holmes will be held. You are all invited, but, at the request of his family, that memorial will not be televised.”

At the mention of Mycroft’s family, it seemed like everyone turned in their seats to look at Sherlock, but Sherlock kept his eyes on Dean.

“The day after that will be a rest day, where the Avoxes will be sent to their home Districts. If anyone wants to help me sort through their files so we can get everyone back to their families in a timely matter, please come find me after the meeting is over; I need all the help I can get. Until then, the Avoxes are free to do whatever they please – if I catch anyone giving them orders, it will now be considered a federal offense.

“And after that, all of the victors here can return to their Districts, if they so choose. I, of course, will be staying here, to sort through the surviving Peacekeepers, Gamemakers, stylists, prep teams, and escorts to ensure the people who might be a threat to this new idea of Panem are not allowed to be given the opportunity to try to return Panem to the way it once was. Each of those people will be speaking their case to me, and I will be making a decision based on said case, but if there’s anyone who would like to join me to create a panel, it would be greatly appreciated, and those people can also see me once this meeting is over.

 “Any questions?” he asked, and there was a few, but Sherlock had checked out, no longer caring.

Out of habit, he took John’s hand and squeezed it, and John squeezed his hand back, and Sherlock wished desperately that the next few days would pass quickly.

At this point, Sherlock just wanted to go home.

Chapter Text

The broadcasted announcements didn’t differ much from the announcements Dean had made a few moments before – he explained what had happened the night before and of Mycroft’s role as the creator of the Mockingjay Rebellion, announced that members of the Districts can now move around to other Districts freely, the freedom and release of the Avoxes, and the memorial service of those involved in the Rebellion who lost their lives during the Battle For Panem – but John still hung on to every word.

“So are we still calling him Dean or is it President Bainbridge, now?” Harry whispered to Louise.

“He’s still Dean, at least to us,” Louise replied, and Harry nodded solemnly.

Honestly, John was still in shock that it wasn’t Snow up there referring to himself as President. With every second, it hit John harder and harder that the night before had actually happened, and it wasn’t all completely in vain – they had won Panem’s freedom.

When the meeting was over, about two thirds of the thirty-three people in the audience started to get up and begin to take their leave, while the other third got up to meet Dean as he emerged from the door he had entered about ninety minutes ago, all with their own private questions or statements.

Louise stood up to stretch, raising her arms above her head, but John, Harry, and Sherlock all kept to their seats.

After a second, Louise looked down and realized that none of them had moved.

“What’s up? Why aren’t we moving?” she asked.

“Dean said he wanted to see me and Harry after the broadcast,” John answered before Harry could.

“Ah,” Louise said, and began to sit back down, but Harry placed her hand on Louise’s arm to stop her.

“You don’t have to wait in here for us – Sherlock wasn’t invited, either; you can wait outside with him, if you want to.”

John looked to Sherlock.

“Does that sound alright with you?” he asked, and Sherlock nodded, seeming distracted. John kissed him, simply pressing his lips to his, and Sherlock’s eyes focused on his. “Are you okay?” John asked.

“Yes. Fine,” Sherlock replied, and glanced down at John’s lips again.

John pressed his hand to the side of Sherlock’s cheek, and Sherlock leaned into the touch.

“Later,” he promised, and Sherlock hummed in agreement. “Go with Louise; we’ll catch up with you soon,” he said, and, reluctantly, Sherlock stood up and followed Louise out.

John watched Sherlock and Louise leave, and then turned around to watch Dean talking with each person who had went to him once the meeting was dismissed, showing a piece of paper to whoever asked or nodding and shaking the hands of whoever volunteered to help sort through the Avoxes’ files or join his screening panel. Dean looked up and caught John’s eye, and smiled apologetically, and John shrugged. He was the President, now; this was to be expected.

“What do you think he wants?” Harry asked, and John shook his head.

“I dunno, but I don’t think it’s something good,” John replied.

“What makes you think that?”

“Because if it was something good, he wouldn’t feel the need to wait until the meeting was over. He wanted us to sit in for the meeting, so whatever he has to say to us is not something we can just sit with; which means that whatever he has to say is nothing good.” he looked at his sister. “Does that make sense?”

“You sound like your boyfriend,” Harry replied, and John rolled his eyes, a smirk playing at his face, because, despite everything th