1. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
It begins when they start reaping humans into the Dark Tournament.
The Districts are the darkest slums of Ningenkai, brimming with filth and corruption and poverty, and the rich and powerful have long tired of watching demons slaughter one another. Reaping District children brightens the game for its bloodthirsty spectators, heightens the stakes, and most importantly, keeps the Districts down. There are no spirit detectives in the Districts, no soothing voice from Reikai or presence of hope to keep the darkness at bay, save the handful of half mad child victors that emerge from the Tournament every few years.
Then District Twelve, darkest of the dark, reaps Primrose Everdeen. Katniss Everdeen volunteers in her place. Yusuke, along with all three worlds, sees it happen. His fists curl and uncurl.
But Katniss Everdeen lives, surviving round after round with the wicked aim of her arrows, letting demon after demon underestimate the prowess of one stubborn human girl with a little sister worth protecting. She hides and kills and schemes and lives, lives against all possible odds, and people begin whispering that Team Everdeen is the new Team Urameshi, the usurping humans that will bring Makai to its knees as surely as Yusuke did two years ago.
When Katniss still stands alive in the final rounds, her face bone white and her fingers wrapped tight round her (flimsy, human-made) bow, Kuwabara’s the one who makes the suggestion, practically shouting it at all his teammates until even Hiei acknowledges its wisdom.
Later, after Yusuke puts in the call to Koenma and all the arrangements are settled, Katniss Everdeen, now a near-unprecedented human survivor of the Dark Tournament, asks him why.
“’Cause,” says Yusuke, like it’s obvious, “you were the only one in there fighting for someone other than yourself.”
He pauses and screws up his face, choosing his next words carefully. Speech has never been his strong suit. “I – well, I guess everyone on my team – gets how that is. You need that, for the job Koenma’s handing you.”
Katniss’ eyes narrow in suspicion. “Job?”
Yusuke offers her a shit-eating grin. “Congratulations, Catnip. Take a look in the mirror and say hello to the new spirit detective of the Twelve Districts.”
2. Ryan Atwood (The O.C.)
The worst part of the whole ordeal, Seth decides, is that he’s not even the guy with the gig. True to form, Ryan’s the one who’s landed himself in the middle of the drama of the month, and Seth’s the one getting dragged through the mess at warp speed. The latest mess is kind of cool, actually, since it’s all badass and supernatural and involves Japanese gods and shit, which means it should totally be Seth’s area of expertise, given his rich and varied knowledge of the world’s science fiction and fantasy traditions. Seth would totally be down with Ryan’s latest mess. Except, well.
“Pathetic. Even the buffoon could move faster.”
That. “Hey now,” Seth protests mildly. “That’s verbal abuse, that is. Also, I object to the term ‘buffoon.’ Can’t you think of an insult that doesn’t sound like a rodeo clown? Because I don’t know if you ever see those things in Japan or demonland or whatever, but they’re seriously creepy.”
Which turns out to be entirely the wrong response, since Tiny, Dark, and Homicidal’s only reply is to whip out another fireball that narrowly misses the top of Seth’s head.
The sound that Seth makes is a manly shout of outrage, and not remotely girlish. Or so Seth tells himself. “Wow,” he manages. “I guess you just, like. Really hate rodeo clowns, huh.”
Tiny, Dark, and Homicidal scowls down at Seth’s chosen Spot of Cowering, like God’s own miniature force of judgment. Not even the vaguely benevolent New Testament God kind of judgment. TD&H is pure Old Testament God judgment, all the wrath and righteous smiting of heaven and hell wrapped up in one tiny, angry package. Beneath that gaze, Seth does what any sane teenage boy would do, and curls into a fetal position. Somewhere on his left, a blackened tuft of grass betrays the exact nature of what Seth told his parents was a comic club meeting.
Seth wishes this were a comic club meeting.
“Don’t be ridiculous. If you’re going to be assisting a spirit detective, you won’t have time to waste on any of your stupid human activities.”
Oh, Seth thinks. He must have said that last part aloud.
“Are you just going to lie there all day?” TD&H asks, bored and contemptuous.
“I’m giving it deep and serious thought,” says Seth, who still doesn’t understand why he needs to learn things like how to dodge fireballs and run seven-minute miles when Ryan’s the one who has to save the world from demonkind or whatever. Ryan doesn’t even have to hang out with TD&H. Instead Ryan gets to train under some hair product happy kid and a hot ponytail chick, which Seth does not find fair at all.
“You’ll be in danger just by association with the spirit detective,” Hot Ponytail Chick had explained. “Hiei” – oh right, that was TD&H’s actual name – “will be responsible for keeping you on your toes so you can avoid most of the tricks his enemies will try.”
Why the powers that be have decided that people who save the world from demonkind should be trained in such arts by, well, demonkind – a tiny and terrifying specimen of demonkind, no less – is a delicious bit of irony that doesn’t bear thinking about, in Seth’s humble opinion. Besides, size has no real relation to one’s capacity to intimidate. Seth’s been with Summer long enough to know that much.
TD&H is kind of like Summer, Seth supposes, except even shorter and not at all sexy. Also, there are the fireballs to consider.
“Get up, fool.”
The part where they’re both endless wells of insults and bossier than God, though? That part is exactly the same.
“You know, I have completed my deep and serious train of thought, and decided that I really don’t want to,” Seth announces mulishly. “I love the smell of burnt grass. It’s very soothing. I think I’ll stay right here, if it’s all the same.”
Seth swallows. “I mean. Are you going to throw more fireballs?”
“That would be telling,” says TD&H, entirely deadpan.
Seth really hates Ryan’s new job.
3. Molly Hooper (BBC Sherlock)
Molly’s no detective. She’s been around her fair share of real detectives, knows the type well enough to recognize that she isn’t one of them. She deals in death and the dead, it’s true, her offhand precision invaluable even to Sherlock himself.
But she’s no Sherlock, and she never will be.
“Weeeeell,” says her caller, a cheery blue-haired girl who drags out words when feeling uncertain. “That’s kind of the point. Your, um, friend is a human detective. Being a spirit detective is a little bit different.”
“I don’t see how so,” Molly admits, folding her arms. Her eyes dart around the lab. If Sherlock were here, he’d notice instantly how nervous she is, how obviously she must be questioning her own sanity, to be entertaining what appears to be a blue-haired Japanese spirit entity in an otherwise peaceful room full of dead bodies.
“Exactly!” Her companion beams, infinitely more cheerful than any grim reaper Molly could imagine, to say nothing of living humans. “See, I knew you’d understand. We need someone for the job that knows death. It’s not just a matter of being unfazed, you know, one has to really have an affinity for what happens after a mortal life ends, and no one in England has quite the kind of affinity you do, Molly Hooper.”
“I’m not sure that’s a compliment,” Molly hedges. But she allows a crooked smile.
“For the next spirit detective of the British Isles,” says the girl, grin widening to match Molly’s, “it definitely is.”
4. Yuko Urameshi (rule 63!Yusuke, with bonus 63!Keiko – or Keisuke, as it were)
Sometimes, Yuko doesn’t really understand how she ended up with the team she did.
Kuwabara makes sense, sure, since he’s the only guy in school besides Keisuke who’s never been afraid of her, and for all his posturing and grumbling over how girls shouldn’t get into the kinds of fights Yuko does, he’s always in her corner when it counts, and always has been.
Kurama’s a bit trickier. Yuko’s first impression of him was that he was even prettier than Keisuke, a tough feat for any human male to pull off, even one that houses a demon’s soul. Yuko, as a general rule of thumb, doesn’t trust pretty boys. They piss her off, too used to getting their way on looks alone, expecting Yuko to be like all the other girls, empty-headed and swayed by charm and bone structure. Boys who look like Keisuke and Kurama always disappoint Yuko in the end, limp-wristed little pansies that can’t handle a girl with some fire to her.
(Keisuke sometimes likes to point out, very dryly, that Yuko’s idea of “some fire” is maybe a little much, what with her “punch first, ask questions later” habit, but whatever, Keisuke’s sensitive like that.)
Anyway, Kurama had been all, “I’d like to ask a favor,” and Yuko thought, “Uh huh, this is the part where he goes all smarmy and seductive on my ass, and I have to break that beautiful face,” only instead of trying to get up her skirt, Kurama had taken her to a freaking hospital of all places.
As it turns out, even demons can be momma’s boys, and Yuko, damn her conscience, has her soft spots. Plus, Kurama really is disgustingly attractive, and letting him die all dramatically like that after knowing him for fifteen minutes would be kind of a waste. She has Keisuke, sure, but Yuko is a healthy teenage girl, and in love with her childhood friend, not dead, thanks all the same, Koenma.
Yuko’s not even sure where to begin with Hiei. The guy was kind of a nutjob when she met him, and to be perfectly honest, Yuko still thinks he’s kind of a nutjob, even if he’s apparently on the side of light now, or whatever. Keisuke’s understandably wary of the guy, since their first meeting mostly consisted of Hiei kidnapping him and holding him hostage like a freaking damsel in distress, but Keisuke’s a pretty forgiving guy. He has to be. After all, he’s best friends with Yuko.
Kurama tells Yuko that Hiei’s on her side because he respects her strength, which sounds suspiciously like a diplomatic, Kurama-ish way of saying that the only reason Hiei hasn’t slit her throat yet is because he knows she’d spirit gun the shit out of him first. Keisuke tells Yuko that Hiei’s on her side because the little guy probably has a violent, deeply repressed demonic equivalent to a crush on her.
Personally, Yuko thinks both viewpoints are valid, and she’s not sure which one she finds more disturbing. She’d probably spend more time mulling that over if she didn’t already spend so much of her time running headlong into near death experiences.
And that’s just the thing.
When she’s facing down a hoard of demons, almost every single one of which is at least twice her size, she can feel the boys at her back, their spirit energy radiating quiet assurance at her. They don’t coddle her, but when she talks, even Hiei listens, and when they’re facing down the forces of evil or whatever harebrained case Koenma’s assigned them for the week, they’re always there. They’re always there, not fighting for or against her, but with her, at her side, and that means more, somehow. Kurama’s unfair command of pheromones and the possibility of Hiei’s creepy crush of demonic evil aside, she’s pretty sure she can trust that.
Though if either of them ever tries to cop a feel, she doesn’t care how mighty and demonic they are, because she’ll kick both their asses to Makai and back.
5. Foxface (The Hunger Games)
When she’s reaped into the Dark Tournament in the wake of Katniss Everdeen’s ascension to spirit detective, there are two things that Foxface knows to be true:
1. Miracles don’t happen twice.
2. No one is going to save her.
So Foxface runs, and hides, and embarks on her own kind of survival game. She doesn’t have Katniss Everdeen’s sob story on her side; she has no little sisters or brothers to fight nobly for, only the desperation of being sixteen and cunning and terrified of death.
One day, between bouts, she runs into a previous Tournament victor. Or rather, she falls. One minute, she’s in the rafters of a back room at the stadium, the next it’s crumbling away into a fury of snaking green vines and tree bark, and Foxface is tumbling headlong toward the source of that shift, his spirit energy bright on the periphery of her consciousness. Deft even in free fall, Foxface twists midair so that she lands with arms and legs curled in a bear hug round her attacker’s back, a knife trembling at his throat.
“Didn’t you have enough fighting from your days in the arena?” Foxface spits.
“My apologies,” says the boy beneath her – and he really is just a boy in this form, a boy surely no older than her. His voice is soft and smooth, and he sounds almost sheepish when he admits, “I didn’t intend to provoke you. I’m here to talk.” His Adam’s apple bobs against the blade of her knife, but if he’s afraid, he doesn’t show it.
Everyone knows who Kurama is. Even before he joined Team Urameshi, his name traveled along the grapevines through all three worlds: Youko Kurama, king of thieves, ruthless bandit, now a fox turned human boy.
“You’re Shuichi Minamino.” Foxface tosses the human name in his face like an accusation. She’s not a fighter like Everdeen, and she probably won’t even survive her next match, but she’s not stupid, and she does her research.
“Correct. Though Kurama will do, circumstances being what they are.” Again, that disarming gentleness.
Foxface hasn’t survived as long as she has by falling for gentleness. “What do you want?”
His chuckle ripples through his entire body; she can feel the slight shake of it under her arms and between her thighs. “You know what their nickname is for you?”
She scowls. “Course I do.”
“And how long,” he continues in that even, soothing tone, “have you known you had kitsune blood in you?”
Foxface nearly lets go. “I’m human.”
“Yes, you are. But not entirely. I know my own kind when I smell them. It’s faint, but you have some foxes’ heritage.”
“Like that matters now,” says Foxface. But her fingers have lost their grip on the knife, which clatters uselessly to the floor.
“We’re a cunning sort, aren’t we?” Kurama goes on, as if he hasn’t heard her, even though she knows he must have. “We foxes always have tricks up our sleeves. It makes us agile survivors, to be sure, but when we’re caught, the prospect of losing terrifies us. I confess, I once thought death was the ultimate loss.” He pauses. “I found it unbearable.”
Foxface is sixteen and cunning and terrified of death. She can’t help that she starts to cry. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because,” says Kurama, heedless of the tears falling into his hair, “if you continue as you are, you are going to die.” He twists his head slightly. “I want something better for you.”
Slowly, she slips down his back. When she’s fully dislodged, he turns and offers a steadying hand. She ignores it, standing on her own. She can do that much, at least. “And why would you want that?” she demands. “Why try to save some part-breed guttersnipe like me?”
His answering smile is faint, enigmatic, and deeply sad. “At the last Dark Tournament, Katniss Everdeen survived to save her sister, but not all siblings do. You might risk everything you have to protect someone other than yourself, and still fail to succeed.” His eyes go cold. “That is what the reapings force humans to learn.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
He studies her with those famous green eyes. “Katniss is a fine spirit detective, but she’s not enough on her own, even with her team on her side. She’ll need allies, and we need someone who can help dismantle the system from the inside.”
Foxface meets his gaze, sharp and unflinching, and breathes in hard. “You want to end the reapings.”
“I want to train someone who can help end the reapings,” he corrects gently, and smiles again, a wicked edge to the expression. “Two foxes are better than one, no?”
Foxface blinks back more tears. “It’s no use. You said it yourself. I'm going to die before the end of this Tournament.”
There’s a glint in his eyes, a flash of gold, when Kurama says, “Not if I train you to survive the rest.”
Foxface isn’t stupid. Miracles don’t happen twice, and no one is going to save her. She’s no Katniss or Primrose, but if Foxface has ever been good at anything in her life, she’s been good at finding the third option.
This time, when Kurama offers Foxface his hand, she places her fingers in his palm.