"So," John started as they stood by the bar, looking around curiously, "What is this place?"
"I'd have thought that would be quite obvious," Lestrade replied.
"I know what this place is," John said with a roll of his eyes. "I was trying to ask how did a DI at Scotland Yard came to know of it."
"Worked a case here a couple of years ago," Lestrade said, drinking from his beer. "The old owners used it as a cover for drug dealing and ended up killing one of the blokes when he found out. When we caught them we were sure the place was gonna close down, but somehow the boys got ownership over it. Compensation, I think," he added off-handedly. "It's all legal now."
"Oh," John said, obviously relieved. "I was just wondering, you know..."
"What am I doing at a strip club?" Lestrade asked, smiling at a close-to-naked man who passed by and winked at him. "Enjoying the view, mostly."
John laughed, taking a chug from his own beer before talking again. "So what's so special about tonight?" he asked.
"A couple of weeks ago, one of the boys killed himself," Greg said. "Nice bloke - 'Angel' was his stage name. The club was closed while they were grieving, and today's the grand reopening."
From closer to the stage, John could hear whistles and cat calls, and Lestrade smiled.
"What's that all about?" John asked, confused.
"The main event, Lestrade replied with a smirk. "Come on. You'll want a good spot for this one."
Curious, John followed Lestrade until they stood just by the stage where a man wearing a mask, a hat, and a coat waited. He stood in the middle of the stage, still as a statue, but somehow John knew the man was aware of the gathering crowd.
Maybe he was spending too much time with Sherlock - he was starting to deduce things about people when there were much more interesting things to wonder about. What might be hiding under that coat, for instance.
"Why is he wearing a mask?" he asked aloud.
"He always does," Lestrade replied. "His stage name is 'Will', he joined not long after the boys got a hold of the club. He's one of their best," he added. "Half the people in this room are only here for him. No one's really sure who he is or where he came from, but he always -"
"And now," a loud voice came from the speakers. "You all know how he looks, but nobody knows who he is. Tonight, in honour of 'Angel' who never hid anything -" more whistles could be heard from the crowd "- Tonight, and tonight only, 'Will' promised to take his infamous mask off!"
The crowd went silent with shock as people looked at one another before turning to 'Will', as if to make sure they heard correctly.
"I'll be damned," Lestrade muttered, and John couldn't help but smile.
"Chose one hell of a night to take me here, didn't you?" he asked.
Lestrade kept looking at the stage with shock, opening his mouth to reply when music started playing.
"Baby, take off your coat...
On the stage, 'Will' started moving, a thin hand appearing from underneath one of the coat's long sleeves. The hand reached out with long fingers, tugging at the coat and making it fall slightly to reveal an equally thin - yet, somehow, still quite muscled - shoulder.
"Take off your shoes...
I'll take off your shoes."
The crowd seemed to zap out of the trance they were in. Someone called out from the back and two or three people wolf whistled, but most just kept looking at 'Will' with anticipation.
"Baby, take off your dress...
Yes, yes, yes..."
The hand let go and several people let out different sounds of protest but it died out quickly when 'Will' moved again. He walked around the stage, the coat still covering his body and leaving John's mind to wonder what was happening underneath it.
The thought didn't last long, since as soon as Joe Cocker sang the next line 'Will' shrugged his shoulders, sending the coat to the floor and revealing toned, slightly tanned back.
"You can leave your hat on!"
Whereas just moments earlier, John couldn't help but imagine what might be under the thick layer of fabric, now there was no need for imagination. With every movement of his arms the muscles in 'Will's' back flexed, drawing more than one curious eye to long legs leading to a well toned arse that only had a very small, very tight piece of fabric covering it.
"You can leave your hat on!"
The crowd went wild at the sight, people pushing each other to get to the front. Both John and Lestrade were pushed to the back by a boy who looked barely over eighteen - probably on one of his first trips to a strip club.
Neither of them had time to think about it as 'Will's' hand moved to his mask, ready to take it off and leave the man truly wearing nothing but his hat.
"You can leave your hat on!" Joe Cocker called once more and 'Will' took off the mask, revealing sharp cheekbones and blue eyes.
"Fucking shit," John muttered, unable to keep his eyes of the man who seemed unaware of his presence just meters away from him.
"That bastard," Lestrade added, placing his beer on one of the tables, before he might accidently drop it from mere shock.
Neither of them paid much attention as 'Will' kept dancing to the music.
Not long after the song ended, Lestrade used his acquaintance with the owners of the club to gain entry to the backstage. He and John quickly found the room for 'Will', and walked into it without bothering to knock.
"Oh," the man who sat on the chair in front of the mirror said when he saw their reflection, his voice lack of emotion. "What are the two of you doing here?"
"We could ask the same thing about you," Lestrade replied.
"I'd like to believe what I'm doing here was quite obvious," Sherlock replied. "As is what the two of you were doing in the club - but I was wondering what were the two of you doing in my changing rooms."
"A stripper, Sherlock?" John asked in disbelief. "You're a part time stripper?"
"It pays quite well," Sherlock said indifferently. "And, besides, it's a quite interesting research on male reaction to various states of undress and the anticipation leading to it."
"You work as a stripper for a research?"
"I work as a stripper as a favour to the club's owners," Sherlock replied. "It wasn't easy to help them gain ownership of the club, what with all of the mess the previous owners left behind, and even once they did, it was hard to keep the customers coming when word got out over the murder of one of the strippers. I bring customers and in return, they allow me to conduct my research and give me a free hand in planning my shows."
"Your shows as a stripper?" John clarified. "Don't you feel even slightly weird about that?"
"Why would I feel weird?" Sherlock asked, confused. "It's not as if I ever felt something back towards the men who come to watch me. It's intriguing, really, the array of emotions they feel - I must admit I had never felt pleasure in watching other people undress."
"I don't understand," Lestrade said. "That case was years ago. You can't possibly still be conducting your research after six years?"
"There's always something new to learn, Detective Inspector," Sherlock replied, looking away from the two and turning to his closet. "There's barely a night where I don't get a reaction I had never seen before from someone in the crowd. And, besides," he added, almost as an afterthought, "It is more than a bit enjoyable."