Molly developed a crush on their new classmate before Sherlock ever set foot in C. F. Fraser High School.
"I hear she's from the UK," she told Joanna at lunch. Molly had trigonometry second period with Kenny Prince, whose mother was the school secretary. Thanks to Kenny, juicy gossip hit the eleventh grade even before it reached their teachers.
"Hmm," Joanna said, her attention occupied by sandwich (peanut butter, chunky).
"I bet she has a gorgeous accent. Just like Karen Gillan."
"Karen Gillan's from Scotland."
"Or Eve Myles."
"Eve Myles is Welsh."
"Eve Myles is beautiful." Molly sighed longingly. She glanced down at her applesauce as if it might agree with her.
"Well, yes," Joanna conceded. "But this isn't TV. The new girl's probably stuck up and hates Halifax already and has bad teeth."
They paused a moment to consider this.
"That's a stereotype," Molly said.
"Eh," Joanna said. She took another bite of her sandwich.
When Joanna got home after school, she went straight to her room and started on her homework. French first, then trig, then biology, from the subject she liked least to the one she liked most. Then she outlined her paper on Julius Caesar. It wasn't due until the next week, but Joanna liked getting started on things early. Joanna had goals.
Such as getting out of Nova Scotia. Getting out of Canada, even, maybe.
Professional hockey wasn't in the cards anymore. So – grades, then. Joanna wasn't afraid of working hard. It wasn't like her social life was anything to speak of. She and Molly studied together, watched Doctor Who together, even dated once before deciding it was a terrible idea. Sometimes she went to the mall with Sally Donovan. Sally had been her best friend all through primary school, but after Joanna came out, their friendship had gotten kind of weird.
Joanna had Molly, though. Her sister Harry, even though she was a third year at McGill now and never home. And their mom and dad and Fletcher the cat, and that was plenty of things to have, really.
Sherlock Holmes had beautiful teeth. She had beautiful everything.
Her legs were long and draped elegantly with wool trousers (Comme des Garçons, according to Kenny) and her tailored blouses exposed an equally flawless and slender neck. Her wavy black hair was cropped into a bob that made her look like a silent film star. She manifestly didn't belong in C. F. Fraser High School, let alone Halifax.
Sherlock also didn't belong in Joanna's French class, critiquing Mrs. Turner's français québécois. Neither did she belong in biology, charming Mrs. Hudson (Joanna's favorite teacher). Nor did she belong three tables down from Joanna and Molly at lunch, complating her lunch with what looked like revulsion.
"She's so dreamy," Molly said. "See? I was right."
"You thought Jane Moriarty was dreamy, and she tried to blow up the school." That had made the front page of the Chronicle Herald, and even got a mention in the Globe & Mail.
Molly's brows drew together. "Buffy blew up her high school."
Three tables away, Sherlock had dismissed her lunch entirely and pulled out a book. "Maybe we should invite her over to our table," Joanna said. She wasn't serious. No girl like that would eat lunch with them. Sometimes Maggie Stamford did, when she was more interested in figuring out polar coordinates than the off-again-on-again drama that was Sally's relationship with Ted Anderson, but Maggie was pretty much the only company they got. (Kenny strenuously avoided being seen with them in vain hope that the entirety of C. F. Fraser had not connected the flaming rainbow dots.)
"Oh! I couldn't– I mean–"
"I know, I know." Joanna patted her hand. "It's like Ksenia Solo."
"Yeah." Molly smiled, her eyes glazing over a little.
"And how you hid in the bathroom to get away from her?" (Montreal. School trip. Second Cup.)
"Except she'll be in the bathroom."
Molly inhaled sharply. "I'll never pee again."
"You'll be okay," Joanna said. She unwrapped her sandwich: today it was peanut butter (creamy) and raspberry jam. "In a week, she'll have dumped a Coke down the front of herself like Jennifer Wilson did and proved she's human like the rest of us."
"Uh huh," said Molly. She had a tupperware full of leftover Chinese for lunch, and Joanna was a little envious. "For sure."
Soo Lin Yao had been Joanna's lab partner since eighth grade. While Soo Lin wasn't particularly interested in science, she was very precise and their experiments always turned out well. Joanna took detailed notes and tried to look like she was participating. The arrangement benefited them both.
So she was a little taken aback, the next morning, when Soo Lin dropped her bag off next to Kenny Prince before doubling back to Joanna, an apologetic look on her face. "Mrs. Hudson asked me if I'd sit with Kenny for a while," she said. "The new girl made him cry. I don't want Kenny to cry."
"Yikes," Joanna said, which was all the eloquence she could manage on short notice. "I, uh– okay?" She pulled out her lab notebook and the lecture notes from her backpack and spread them out on the table. They were dissecting a frog today. Of course.
Just before the bell rang, Sherlock glided into class, and after a brief pause at Mrs. Hudson's desk, she came around the side of Joanna's table and slid into the chair gracefully. For a moment, Joanna saw the world through Molly's lavender-colored glasses, but then she shook her head just the slightest bit and the vision subsided. Sherlock Holmes might be all glamour and genius, but she was Joanna Watson, short and studious and unafraid to sacrifice her dignity by borrowing her mom's flannel-lined jeans when the weather turned cold. She could stand up to whatever Sherlock tried to throw her way.
"I'll do the lab work," Sherlock said brusquely, which answered one question, "It seems logical to divide our tasks based on our areas of competence, and," she looked over at Joanna's notes, "Your handwriting is certainly better than mine."
Well, that answered the other. "Right," Joanna said, shuffling her papers into a neat stack.
Sherlock began to pull out her own lab supplies. "One 'n'," she added.
"The genus," Sherlock said. "You've spelled it wrong. One 'n'."
"So I have," Joanna said. She didn't fix it. Instead she dropped her left hand to her lap and stretched it before rubbing at the skin between each finger.
Sherlock sighed. It wasn't like Molly's sighs, which yearned, or Soo Lin's, which spoke of thoughtful concentration. It was a put-upon sigh. "I don't know why I bother."
Joanna sat back in her chair, hard, and looked up at Sherlock. (Even sitting down, she had to look up.) The school announcements were about to start, so everyone was still chattering amongst themselves, and no one was paying attention to their table all the way at the front. "Look," she said, her voice low. "I don't doubt that wherever you're from is a thousand times more interesting than here, and maybe you've dissected a thousand frogs, or made them rain from the sky, I don't know. I'm sure you feel like having to be lab partners with the girl who can hardly hold a scalpel is some kind of cruel and unusual punishment. Let's just work together for now, and maybe you can sit with Sally tomorrow, or someone else who can properly hold your attention."
Sherlock stared at her for a moment.
Joanna stared right back.
"Although the injury that ended your athletic career was to your neck, most people assume it was the fall on your left knee that took you off the field. You used a cane for a year, though less frequently as time went on and your knee healed. Nevertheless, you still have a pronounced limp because you are afraid of reinjuring your knee. The nerve damage to your left arm proved more serious, and was only partially reversible with surgery. Your left and dominant arm is now substantially weaker than your right, and you will never have full control of your fourth and fifth fingers." Sherlock paused for breath. "Your conclusion that my frustration with this assignment was related to your disability was false and entirely based on your own fears and embarrassment about your limitations. What sport?"
"Hockey," Joanna said. And then– "That was amazing."
"That's not what most people say." The announcements started up, loud and tinny from the TV over Mrs. Hudson's desk.
"What do they say?"
The corner of Sherlock's mouth crooked up. "Generally? 'Piss off.'"
"You talked to her," Molly said, leaning in as Joanna spun the combination to her locker. "I saw you. What did she say? Maggie kept talking and I couldn't hear."
"That I spelled 'rana' wrong." The lock released and Joanna shoved her biology textbook and notes inside before grabbing her lunch bag from the top shelf. "Nothing interesting," she lied.
"Maggie said that she made Kenny cry in English this morning. Mr. Dimmock didn't know what to do." Molly shifted her own stack of books in her arms. Her locker was on the second floor, out of the way, so Molly was toting a small library around with her.
Joanna closed her locker and held out her arms for some of the pile. "I'm embarrassed to be carrying this for you," she said when Molly stuck her kitten notebook on top. "Just so you know."
As they walked down the hall toward the cafeteria, Molly lowered her voice, "Joanna, if you want Soo Lin back as your lab partner, I could switch with you and Maggie could sit with Kenny."
"Nah," Joanna said. Carefully, she balanced Molly's books in one arm and reached back to adjust the shoulder strap of her backpack. "I think I'm okay."