Joan grew up in Brooklyn. Her mother was a doctor, and worked far too many hours; her father- well, her father wasn’t in the picture.
Joan raised herself, mostly.
Joan is a brilliant woman. She has never doubted that. She always did well in school, but school is only one way to be brilliant. She knows she is brilliant because she understands people. She can look at them and figure them out.
Her teachers wanted her to become a psychiatrist.
She chose to be a surgeon instead.
Essentially, it’s the same thing. She has always enjoyed taking people apart.
She’s a serious student. She has to be. There are too many people in med school looking for reasons to fail her. They don’t say it outright, but she knows: she’s a woman, she’s Asian, she’s from a fairly poor neighborhood in Brooklyn. She is everything they do not want in their field.
She dresses the part. She works three jobs, uses her paychecks to pay her bills and to buy a new wardrobe. She likes clothes with clean lines. She likes heels that make her taller so she can stare down at people.
She studies constantly. Her books are her closest friends, the only friends she has for a long time. She can’t afford to screw this up. She wants this. She wants this more than anything she’s ever wanted before.
When she graduates from medical school, she wants to look at everyone sitting in the audience and shout “Fuck you!” as loud as she can.
She settles instead for smirking.
In some ways, residency is easier.
They still don’t like her, but she’s used to it now.
She’s a superior surgeon, and she knows it. She’s confident and sure of herself, and she’s willing to fight for the lives on her table. She’s a trauma surgeon- her poise and cool made her a natural at it. She deals with mugging victims and gang members, suicide attempts and attempted murders. She doesn’t flinch, she doesn’t look away. She saves it all for after, when her patient is alive and in recovery, and she can go home, pour a drink, and cry, scream, rage against the injustices of the world.
There are too many young faces on her table, too many faces like those she grew up with, and it just isn’t fair.
So much just isn’t fair.
When she loses her job- when she’s fired- when she makes a mistake-
She didn’t make a mistake. She did not make a mistake. She is meticulous, exacting, a superb surgeon, and she did not make a mistake.
The mistake- and she does not consider it to be so, not anymore- was arguing with the head of her department about it. He’d been looking to fire her for quite some time. He is not a man who takes being told ‘no’ lightly. And she has said no. Repeatedly.
Her patient died. It’s a tragedy. But she did not make a mistake.
They take her license.
She wants to burn the world down.
She jogs around Brooklyn, through parks and along the East River and the Bay. Sometimes she jogs through cemeteries just to experience brief, fleeting moments of quiet.
It’s good exercise. She has seen unhealthy hearts on her operating table before, seen destroyed lungs even while picking out bullets and stitching up stab wounds. It is the best incentive in the world. Her friends- the few she has left- express admiration for her relentless jogging schedule.
(She likes to pretend that she took up jogging when she still was a surgeon. That damaged hearts and lungs were her incentive, rather than her excuse. She likes to pretend that it is something to admire.)
(In truth, she took up jogging after she lost her license. She runs to get away. It’s as simple as that.)
As it happens, paying loans, paying bills, and paying rent are all difficult when you lose your job. Joan explains this to Mykayla Stamford, her best friend since med school, her one real friend left, over a lunch she can’t really afford. Mykayla is a doctor too, but she works in a rehab clinic, whereas Joan opted for surgery.
“Solution is simple, honey,” Mykayla says, grinning. “Come work for me.”
And since Joan is broke, she does. Being a personal recovery assistant (such a fancy title for a sober companion) isn’t like being a surgeon, but it’s something.
Joan Watson is often mistaken for a weak woman. She has delicate hands and a graceful neck. She’s quiet, for the most part. People look at her and presume that she’s fragile, that she’ll fall apart, that she isn’t capable of taking care of herself.
Those people are all wrong.
Joan Watson is armed and dangerous. Her tongue is barbed and always ready. She’s smart and knows people better than they know themselves, and when she puts it all together it leads to vicious retorts that have left the toughest men and women in tears.
Joan Watson is a survivor. She raised herself, she got herself through school and residencies, she became a surgeon, she picked herself up after she was fired, she found a new job, she kept going.
Strength is not always physical.
“I have a new case for you,” Mykayla says, handing her a file. Joan takes it, flips it open.
Sherlock Holmes, it says. Joan scans it, closes it, and nods.
“When do I begin?”