A Question of Holmes (Charlotte Holmes #4)(7)

Even if his intentions were good (Watson was, emphatically, not “easy”; he was, however, someone who “made me happy”), I was still mad. This was a complex idea, but I was fairly certain I could convey it to Leander through a very extravagant sulk, and so I did my best.

I didn’t, of course, count on the collateral damage.

“You’re unhappy,” Watson said in the kitchen, that second evening after supper. He was pouring steaming water into a mug, avoiding my eyes. “Have I violated the terms? Or . . . if you haven’t had enough time to yourself, or something, just tell me. I’m not supposed to move into the dorms until tomorrow, but they might be able to let me in tonight—”

“Why would you do that? Don’t do that,” I said. In the other room, Leander rustled meaningfully. I cocked my head toward my bedroom, and Watson picked up his mug and followed.

After I arranged myself in my chair, legs over the armrest, he surprised me by dropping down to sit at my feet.

“What’s on your mind?” he asked, shoulders tensed.

It took quite a bit to make me speak plainly about how I felt, but Watson in distress tended to provide that bit. “I’m nervous,” I admitted.


“Nervous. We’re starting up at a new place, and together,” I said. “We’ve never done that before.”

He sighed, considering. “Maybe I’m slow or something,” he said, “but why does that make you nervous? We have each other. We’ll be fine.”

“We’ll be fine, but we’ll be on display, a bit. We’ll be expected to do the whole Holmes-and-Watson dance, which neither of us likes doing. And on top of that, we’ll need to make new friends.”

“We will?”

“Yes,” I told him. “My therapist said so. So that we don’t go do our ‘folie à deux thing,’ as she calls it.”

“Folie à deux thing? As in . . . the shared private madness thing? You have a hyperbolic therapist.”

It had seemed fairly on the nose to me. “Still.”

“Holmes,” he said, tipping his head back to look at me. “I don’t mind it. There are worse things in the world than making new friends. Murder. Kidnapping. Scorpions.”

“I’d take scorpions over socializing any day.”

“You could take your mind off it by telling me about . . . I don’t know, this Dramatics Society situation. You still haven’t given me the details.”

“All in good time,” I said, because I was rather comfortable here, him looking up at me with his soft eyes, and the last thing I wanted to do was to bring a case into the room with us.

It was sudden, the sound of breaking glass, and before I heard the low roll of laughter that followed, I was already on my feet, Watson in a low crouch. It took a beat before we registered that the sound had come from the television in the next room.

I could hear the muffled sound of Leander cursing, the volume going down. Watson and I rearranged ourselves wordlessly, and after a moment, he laughed, dabbing at his front where he had spilled his tea. “I guess it’s either we rehash this mystery, or we go watch Friends with your uncle.”

“Friends, then,” I said, to Watson’s evident surprise. I rather liked the Joey character. “I think there’s ice cream in the freezer.”

ORIENTATION WAS A BIT MORE FORMAL THAN I’D ANTICIPATED, this being a precollege program. We were ushered into the sort of long, paneled, beautiful room that one would expect from a cocktail party in the eighteenth century, or as the setting of a trial.

Spaces like this reminded me of home. That wasn’t a good thing. I paused at the door.

“God, this is gorgeous.” Watson unwound his scarf from around his neck. “Like Hogwarts,” he said, and pulled me inside.

We’d moved him into his rooms that morning, just the two of us. He’d only had the two suitcases. He was sharing a stairwell with some other precollege students, but the only one there when we arrived was a cheerful brunet boy in a cardigan who shook both of our hands and asked straight off what we were studying and if we wanted to get a pint later, there was a pub nearby he loved, well, not a pub, a bit swankier, but we should go, it would be wicked—

Watson had cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name,” he said cautiously, as though the boy was about to whip off his mask, announce he was Tom Bradford’s twin brother, and then mug us for our wallets.

“Rupert Davies,” the other boy had said, and then, apropos of nothing at all, said, “Excellent! We’ll all meet later, then!”

Now, at orientation, Rupert was waving us over to a block of seats he’d reserved with an umbrella, a coat, and what appeared to be one of his shoes.

“Dear God,” I said.

“I know. I keep flashing back to Sherringford. I am having,” Watson said, “murderous déjà vu.”

“We should go, or he might strip us for parts.” I eyed the shoe Rupert had left on the seat beside him. “Imagine how many seats he could reserve with your trousers.”

“Mr. Watson!” Rupert cried as we approached. “And I didn’t catch your name—what was it?”

“Charlotte.” I didn’t offer my surname. “Are you waiting for others to join you?” I badly hoped that he was, and that those others weren’t us. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Rupert—I didn’t know him at all; how could I form an opinion?—but that there were a few hundred people in this room, and I was getting bits of their stories by looking at them (wasn’t sleeping; came from California; would drop out in two to three days’ time), and I was processing so much data that I was having difficulty being polite.

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