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Of Shampoo and Shears

Chapter Text

"In order to pass this course, you need 800 hours outside of class time in the salon setting. By the end of February you should all have jobs, otherwise it's going to be difficult for any of you to get enough hours."
The class of 16 groaned. Only 4 of them actually had a position in a salon, the rest hadn't been so lucky. The teacher rolled her eyes at the teenagers, why she had ever accepted the role of teaching STUDENTS the fine art of hair design was a mystery, no, it wasn't, the money was fantastic. Teenagers, however, were not as fantastic.

"That's easy for you to say, everywhere I ask says to come back when I have experience, but I need that job to GET experience!" A sulky girl with blue hair whined. John scoffed, he wasn't having any success finding a job either, but you didn't hear him complaining. He put his head back down onto his desk, his skin was starting to itch under the scratchy fabric. He hated the class, he hated being around the same people every single day, he hated the dress code, he hated the complaints, the arguments, everything. And it only started a couple weeks ago. The thought of having the endure this torture for another full year made him want to cry.

"Hey, John, where have you applied?" The small ginger girl sitting next to him asked. She was the only person in the class that would talk to him without making a snide comment, he smiled politely at her, not wanting to lose his one friend in the class.

"Umm, that new store that opened up downtown, by the pawn shop...Envirotrends in the mall by the knife shop, and then Chatters down by Zellers." John sighed, he hadn't exactly put in his best effort either, showing up in a pale cream jumper and cordory slacks, handing in his resume with a simple 'Hey'.

"Really, no luck? I'm sure someone will hire you soon, just keep trying. Try the chains, they can afford assisstants, the small mom-and-pop shops are less likely to be able to afford helpers." Cassie, the red haired girl grinned. She was really shy, but gorgeous in every form. She already had a job apprenticing for a popular company in town, she was one of the lucky ones.

"Quiet you two, alright, next task, open your books and do the worksheet that goes along with it. Pages in the text book 303-338, due on Friday." The instructor hobbled over to the board to write it down, the class sighed in unison, and John felt the increasing urge to shove his curling iron up all of their arses.

"Oh thank God. See you tomorrow Cassie!" John got up from his seat, feeling the sweat on his chest roll in beads down his stomach. It was scorching in the small tin portable they were taught in, and wearing a thick wool sweater all day only turned his body into a raging inferno. He quickly grabbed the heavy stack of textbooks on his desk and raced out the door as quickly as he could, not even nodding a goodbye to any of his classmates; they enraged him, they didn't deserve a departing glance.

"John! John, wait!" He heard the teacher's old voice shriek from just outside the door. Heaving a moan of exhaustion and prolonged suffering, he trudged back up the stairs into the portable, lifting his head up. His bangs clung to his forehead from all the sweat, God, he really had to get home to shower and change.

"Yes Nadia?" He asked, reffering to his teacher by first name-as she determined they should on the first day of classes.

"Have you found a job yet? You really only have a week, or else you'll be working a lot more then you have to be." She asked, she really was looking in for his best interests, John wasn't like everyone else, it took him almost three days to create fingerwaves, whilst everyone else was already done those AND pincurls. He didn't have the natural creativity, to be honest, he really only signed up for the class to get out of a years worth of academics and get a headstart of SOME sort of career. If he never succeeded at what he really wanted to do-he had something to fall back on. However, he wouldn't be able to fall back on it if he continued to suck so much.

"No, I tried, really, but I can't." He hung his head low, hoping she wouldn't notice his haphazard grooming.

"Nichole quit her job at Picasso's, but it's on the other side of town, can you drive? I asked her to put your name in to her boss, i've seen your artistry from your sketchbooks. Your ideas are brilliant, you just need to learn application skills. I think it would be a great place for you to work, they can teach you the skills. They aren't as hands on as a lot of places that students usually get into, but they are far more knowledgable. They do expect a lot more from you though. Would you be able to see them this weekend? Say Hello to the manager? They win at the ABA nearly every single year since they opened, I'd love to see what you would be able to do with their help." The instructor shook his hand, smiling. She tried her best to be liked by her students, but the problem with teacher high school kids is that they just aren't serious enough, even though she see's potential in many students, there's only a few she thinks have the real skill it takes in this profession.

John blinked a couple times, he really didn't want to hand out anymore resume's. Nodding slightly, he smiled back at his teacher.

"Yes, of course! Thank you so much!" He said hurridly, turning around to see which students remained, not wanting to seem rude. Luckily, Nichole was still in the room.

"Thanks Nichole!" He yelled, probably too loudly, he flinched cautiously. He resembled a timid hedgehog to the teacher. He was very shy, stand-offish, even. He only talked to a couple people. The teacher knew it was probably a bit of a ruse, she had witnessed John letting go of his barriers in the salon room, she personally moved all his stuff to the other side of the room because him and Cassie talked obsessively, loudly, distracting themselves from the actual tasks. She was loud, and he was louder, that's why it made her wonder why, when they were in the quiet of the classroom, he put back up all his shields, and bunkered down inside all his layers of clothing.

"No worries, good luck though, you don't need to take the job, trust me, your co-workers will infuriate you to no end. It's not a good place to start out in." Nichole shrugged, gathering her books and leaving. John looked up at his teacher, raising an eyebrow.

"But you're a guy, guy's always have it easier in this industry." She stuck her head back in the door just to make that comment. John sniggered slightly. As true as it was, he couldn't see himself ever being a popular hairdresser, male or not.

"I don't care, I'm grateful to be considered for the job." He shrugged, trying to sound nonchalant about the ordeal. Internally, he was having a minor panic attack, he had to research this place, find out it's practices, his future co-workers, their reputation, everything. He couldn't just walk in blind and expect everything to be handed to him.

"She's right you know. As sexist as it sounds, men have it easier in this industry. You're always supposed to make your clients feel special, like they're your only client, and coming from a man, women fall head over heels for that. Although that being said, most men in the industry are gay." Nadia smirked, patting John on the shoulder. He winced, knowing his sweater was probably damp due to the combination of the humidity of the room and the persperation soaked into the wool.

"Well i'm not gay, but I am a man, that's one out of two..." John smiled, tapping his fingers against his thigh rapidly, itching to get out of the room. Nadia could tell, she had high hopes for John, or maybe it was sympathy? Maybe she could tell he wasn't good at this, and is just trying to help him through the course. They had eleven months left, he wasn't going to survive without any help.

"I'll give the owner your name, go see them on Saturday if you can, hand in your resume, make a good impression." She nodded, not touching his shoulder, John noticed. She must have felt how damp the fabric was, he suddenly felt a wave of self consciousness again. He blushed deeply, his face already red from the heat, he really just wanted to leave, he started tapping his fingers again, his eyes fixated on the floor. Was it even possible for a floor to look so dirty?

"See you tomorrow, John." She said, waving him in dismissal, he perked up, flashing her his teeth in a grin, nodding furiously, his bangs unmoving against his skin, he could almost feel the relief of the breeze against his skin-so close, he was getting anxious now.

"Yes, tomorrow, bye!" He walked at a furious pace, not wanting to seem hurried regardless of how blatantly obvious it was. He picked up his books from where he had discarded them, throwing his backpack over his shoulder, textbooks under his arm as he started his walk home. So close, he could could the steps it took to get back to his house, it was only a fifteen minute walk, and it felt like a lifetime having to heave all of the books along with the bulbous backpack. It was January and there was still a good two feet of snow on the unplowed walkways and fields he had to cross, but his body was on fire. He couldn't stand being trapped in the enclosed space for that long period of time in his thick jumpers. He laughed, he looked at the other teenagers adorned in gloves, scarves, parka's and touques, and here he was wanting to strip himself of clothing to cool off.

"Hopefully they like me enough to give me this job, then I can just get this course over and done with so I never have to touch another single head of hair." He breathed out to simply no one. He knew he wasn't cut out for this profession, ever since he thought that 'product' meant shampoo. His sandy blonde hair was wiped from his brow by his stout fingers, he was started to feel his body temperature cooling off. Only eleven more months, that's it, that's all he had to get through until he was finished and he can finish off the last semester of high school before graduation.

Before he can go back to being a jeans and t-shirt normal teenager working a simple job at a chain grocery store or clothing outlet. Before he can stop pretending to be good at all this. Sure, it was only a couple of weeks, but you can tell when you have a knack for something, right?

"I won't quit, I won't quit...I just have to find a way to make this easier." He whispered to himself, mentally planning the outfit he was going to wear to the shop.

"How about these?" John mulled over the outfit he had chosen to wear for the day; black dress pants, a white longsleeved shirt with dull grey vest. Casual yet chic, trendy and clean without screaming 'individuality' in your face, which, admittedly, isn't the best thing to be screaming at someone who could very well be your boss.
He tossed his pajama bottoms onto his bed, deciding on the outfit. He was nervous, completely shaken with fear. He had handed resume's in before, plenty of times, but none to such a high end place, and never without an actual recommendation. He didn't want Nadia, or anyone else to think they wasted their time by putting in his name.

He had been up for the majority of the night looking up the salon. 'Picasso's', the name echoed in his head. The pixelated images dancing around his imagination, the black and red walls, the salt water fish tank in the lobby, leather couches, and the thing that attracted his attention most; the crystal chandelier that was longer then he was. It made him lose confidence. There were plenty of salons in his town, but he was tired of searching, he wasn't a very paitent person-which also credited to his so far failures in practice. He hoped he would get this job, even if the work experience; like everyone else, was just sweeping floors and cleaning colour brushes.

Dressed in his code appropriate outfit, he double checked his resume, making sure there were no crinkles in the paper or anything that could be construde as careless. John exhaled, his short blonde hair brushed and styled, slightly spikey rather then its usual flat curve. If there was anything he was learning from hair school, it was how to make his frustratingly short hair look presentable. Passing a glace at his closet, he made a small sound in his throat. He couldn't wait until he was allowed to wear jeans and t-shirts again. The program had an impossible dress code. Nothing with a pattern, design, number, logo, word, letter of any kind, and no 'unapproved fabrics' such as jean, denim, spandex, or polyester. They were resorted to black dress pants and plain coloured dress shirts. Nothing frumpy. Luckily, being a male, he didn't have to adhere to the grueling makeup code the girls did. There was only one rule to makeup, the more the merrier, and if you didn't wear any, you got a strike for not looking your best.

It was an extreme amount of torture, for him at least. Briefly, John wondered if it really was worth not having to do academics anymore, but, he had paid the costly $900 for the kit, he might as well get the credits for the course. Besides, the kit was his to keep, he could always give it to someone he knew, or even do hair on the side to make his way through university. There was a positive side to having to dress nicely every day.

"Alright..." He breathed, swinging his arms in preparation. "Time to get this over with." He left his rom, tromping down the stairs without any sort of grace or refinement.

"Mum, i'm heading off to find a job, be back soon." He yelled into the house, hoping his mother would hear him. He doubted she was still home, but at least it couldn't be said that he didn't try. Snatching the car keys off the hook and pulling on a loose coat, he opened the door, braving the cold atmosphere. Sinking down in snow that was up to his knees, he swore under his breath, what a wonderful first impression, walking into a prestigious salon with wet trousers, after all that effort to look presentable. Shrugging, figuring they would understand, he opened the car door, praying the engine of his Festiva would even work. The car was nearly twenty years old and not on it's best legs, but figuring it's lasted him all the other typical winters in this location, one more day couldn't do any more harm.

When he arrived at the salon, the first thing to catch his attention was the location. It wasn't a building of its own, nor was it eyecatching. Located right across from a vacuum shop,. a butcher and produce stand, there was nothing eloquent or refined about it at all. Nevertheless, John parked his small car in the parking lot, thanking all the deities he knew about that they had shovelled the lot. He walked up to the front door, taking a huge breath in, and he couldn't tell if he shaking from the cold, or from his shot nerves. Either way he felt a wave of doubt flood him and dissapate as easily as waves come and go, but he pushed it aside and pushed open the large glass door.

Oh it was so warm in the building, and it smelled so nice, like vanilla flowers and honey, not at all like a typical salon at all. He felt like he was melting, all the cold was leaving him, leaving his limbs numb but functional. He heard the music playing in the background, store-wide stereosystem, nice.

"Hi, may I help you?" The blonde receptionist asked from over the counter. There were business cards stacked in little boxes all over the desk, and a large glass vase of fake flowers, how could anyone even see over it? John walked to the little gap between the wall and counter, smiling at her, she was dressed really well-and tan too! How the heck did she get a tan in the middle of winter? It wasn't fake, no, it didn't have that hideous underlying orange pigment.

"I...I'm here to submit my resume, i'm looking for work experience hours to complete my hair design training." He held his head high, feigning confidence. She relaxed slightly when she chuckled in a high pitched fashion, but his hopes sank when she opened a drawer and carelessly shoved his resume inside without even looking at it. He opened his mouth to say something about it when she finished.
"Nichole told us about you, you're name is what again?" She was nice, albeit the only person he had met in the place, and no one else had come over to the desk, so he wasn't able to see anyone else. The reception desk was nicely hidden by a large red and black striped wall and a row of retail product, preciesly placed so you couldn't see into the salon without going directly into it.

"John, i'm John Watson." He said, his breath sounding out of place, he was tempted, so tempted to just stare at the floor, or somewhere else, but he retained eye contact as best as he could, trying not to seem out of place. The receptionist smiled and grabbed a small ticket of paper from the drawer and a pen, scribbling something on it. He had never had the ability to read upside down, it was useless trying.

"My name's Jamie, and I'm going to be the one you're assissting for-all our work experience people work under me first. You'll pretty much just sweep hair, wash dishes, tidy up the place in general. Right now we have another girl doing those janitorial duties for another month or so, so we'll only need you on Saturdays right now, which is perfect because then you get all day with me. I work Saturdays and mornings and Lynsey works evenings. You'll meet her soon enough. I'll see you next Saturday then?" She wrote everything on that piece of paper and handed it to John, his heart lifted ten-fold, he couldn't believe it, he didn't even need to say anything, they just HANDED over the job to him without any questions or anything.
Nodding a hurried 'yes', John pocketed the makeshift schedule, reaching over to shake his new boss' hand.
"Thank you so much! This really means a lot to me." He smiled, showing teeth, his nerves were shot again, but due to excitement and complete disbelief. That was the easiest thing he had ever had to do.

"I would introduce you to everyone, but there's two bridal parties and everyone's busy, but you'll get to meet everyone next week. I'll just go inform Sherlock and the others to expect someone new next week." The blonde, Jamie, said, shaking John's hand, she could tell he was sweet, kindhearted, and completely new to this sort of environment, not like most people they usually took on that made their own hours and didn't even show up half the time.

John left the salon feeling happier then he had in a long time. She didn't even notice his wet pants-and if she did she didn't notice, or it didn't make any difference. He hadn't gotten a chance to meet any of his coworkers, but he knew that if anything else, Jamie was nice, and she'd look after him. He felt giddy when he got into the car to drive back home. He had so much to tell Cassie.
"How funny...I don't even really want to finish the course, but maybe things will change once I see how a real salon does it." He thought out loud to himself, huffing. He knew school was just a difficult transitioning period, he'd get used to it eventually. At the very least he'd complete all the requirements to graduate the program and get on with his life, never to speak of it again. It was difficult to be the only straight male in a class of perky teenage girls and a gay guy who don't take you seriously in the business because you're "convinced" you're still straight. Eleven more months to go, but at least now he had the job.

"Jamie, who was that?" Sherlock peered around the corner, holding a marcell iron in one hand and a round brush in the other.

"New work experience kid. He was well groomed, shy but friendly. I think he'll be better then the other's we've had." The cheerful receptionist went back to her typing of folders and organizing appointments, not concerned what Sherlock said, she was the one in charge of hiring help. Sherlock shrugged, his mop of defined dark curls bouncing when he moved. He had too much work to be concerned with who was on janitorial duties.

"As long as this one actually does his job. All our other helpers sit in the back room and gossip, I can't even get my station swept." He called out to the front, his voice coarse and almost raspy. His accent was undeniably English, full of all stoic mannerisms and refinement. He didn't belong owning the only high end salon within one hundred miles in the countryside but there was no way he could handle the high pressure, high octane competition of being located in the city anymore. He did that for nearly a decade, he won award after award for stlyes and cuts and transformations, but it got to him. He broke down and turned to recreational drugs and cigarettes, went bankrupt and discontinued his product line. It took nearly two years to get back on his move, flee the country and start a brand new life in the middle of nowhere where people didn't know who he was or where he came from, much less did they care.

Sure, once word got out that we was the best stylist within a hundred mile radius, people started coming to him, he got busy, almost overloaded. But he handled it differently, he hired good staff, he carried other products that weren't his own, he had a nice little niche going for him. Once that was in control he started entering competitions again, and winning, undoubtedly. This time was different though. Once he figured out how to control the stress and his temper levels, he was able to handle things being added onto his day. It was a busy life; a lonely life, but a busy one.