John stepped out of the hansom cab, pulling out the paper from his breast pocket, squinting at the address in horrible doctor scrawl on it.

"Are you sure this is the place?" John peered up at the cabbie. "122 Kebar St?"

The cabbie nodded, pointing to large, wrought iron gates, before urging his horse to trot on.

Sighing, John straightened his suit jacket, and headed towards the open entrance. There was a long stretch of gravel leading up to the grand building beyond.

As he walked, John took in the manicured gardens, full of trimmed hedges and flowerbeds. At the end of the lane, there was a circular fountain, water spouting ten feet into the air.

The building was golden sandstone, with wide steps leading to stained glass doors. John felt small and insignificant, standing in front of such grandeur after he knocked. What had Mike gotten him into?

The door eventually opened, a doorman in a dark grey uniform giving John an inquiring look.

"Good day. My name is Dr. Watson. I have an appointment to see a" The name slipped his memory, and John fumbled to pull out the letter from Mike. "...Mr. Lestrade." John read out, and then pushed the worn paper back into his pocket.

The young man nodded, opening the door wider to allow John to enter. The foyer was huge, a leaded glass dome arching overhead and letting in plenty of light. Staircases swooped up each side of the large space, and elaborate silk tapestries hung on the walls. John had to pull his eyes away from the beautiful decor to follow the doorman.

Walking quickly deep into the house, the man stopped at a wooden door, knocking on it sharply. A voice inside called out in acknowledgement, and the doorman waved John inside.

A handsome man with salt and pepper hair stood up from his desk, walking around it to shake John's hand. "Greg Lestrade. I'm the business manager here."

John shook his hand and introduced himself, taking a seat in front of the desk.

"We may as well get started. A colleague may enter later on." Lestrade gathered some papers, moving them to the side. "Dr. Stamford highly recommends you, Dr. Watson."

John nodded, feeling nervous. He really needed this job.

Lestrade gave John a direct look, his dark eyes assessing. "So, do you know what type of business this is?"

Furrowing his brow slightly, John tried to remember if Mike had mentioned it in the letter. He had only mentioned it was a thriving business that needed a live-in doctor. "Sorry, Dr. Stamford failed to give me those details."

"Well, I will tell you, and I want you to seriously consider if the nature of the business goes against your morals or beliefs. I will understand if you want to stop the interview and leave." Lestrade tapped a pen against his papers. "This is a brothel."

John's eyebrows rose, and he struggled to get his mind around the idea. The beautiful grounds and huge mansion clashed strongly with it. "A - a brothel?"

Lestrade nodded. "A high end one, of course. Only the most elite people can afford to come here."

"And you need a doctor for..." John blinked, his brain still seeming sluggish, dealing with all this.

The door opened and a tall, slim man slipped in, closing the door behind him. He nodded at Lestrade and took the chair off to the side of the desk, facing towards John.

"Sherlock, glad you could make it." Lestrade said, turning his head to address the man.

Sherlock was dressed in a well-tailored black suit, and he appeared to be several years younger than John. His hair was dark, and his eyes seemed quite light. John felt pinned under his inquisitive gaze. But his attention was pulled back to Lestrade when he continued talking.

"We want to keep our workers healthy, so we want you to do medical checks on them weekly. We also screen all incoming clients, and turn away those with possible contagious diseases."

John was surprised at that. "Medical check-ups on all the clients?" Surely that would be dozens of men every day.

Lestrade gave an understanding look. "You will find this is an unusual brothel. Our consorts only have one client each a night. And we are only open Tuesdays to Saturdays."

John was about to comment on that when a rich baritone interrupted. "Afghanistan or Persia?"

Turning his head to Sherlock in surprise, John tried to make sense of the question. "Pardon me?"

"Are you back from Afghanistan or Persia?" Sherlock steepled his fingers, resting his chin on them as he gazed calmly at John.

John blinked a few times. "Oh, um, I was in both. Persia more recently. The Great Game, and all that."

"Army doctor invalided out. No close family to stay with, so you are considering this post. Well, I doubt this work with bother your leg, or your shoulder." Sherlock said quickly, nodding. He stood up. "Good. Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson will get you settled in."

Before John could say anything else, Sherlock left the room, closing the door behind him.

John was still looking a bit stunned at Sherlock's comments. How had he known all that? Surely Mike hadn't divulged all those details in his recommendation.

"Um,, that was Sherlock Holmes. Please forgive his interruption of our interview." Lestrade shifted in his chair.

John tore his gaze away from the door, trying to regroup. "And who is Mr. Holmes?"

Lestrade let out a surprised chuckle. "Oh, you have been away from England a long time if you haven't heard of him. He owns this house, this business."

This conversation was just getting odder and odder. "So, he is a ...pimp?" John struggled for the right word, not wanting to offend his potential employer.

Lestrade's eyes crinkled a little in the corners. "We have a rather unusual business. Those who wish to entertain clients here pay a monthly fee. It covers their room, board and basic services. They negotiate individually with their clients about prices and services."

"So, what does Mr. Holmes do?" John still felt confused.

Lestrade leaned forward. "There really isn't a word that totally fits him, but the best one would likely be a courtesan. He is probably the highest paid and most notorious one in all of England."

John looked towards the door, trying to bring up the vivid image of the man who had just left the office with this shocking idea. "Who...who are his customers?"

Chuckling at John's response, Lestrade leaned back in his chair. "The richest of the rich. Nobility, some royalty, leaders in industry. He is booked solid for months."

Shaking his head, John felt like he had been dropped into some wonderland. Everything was upside-down and backwards. Had England changed so much since he was away?

"So, Dr. Watson, will you take the job? We would want you to start as soon as you can get settled here." Lestrade's voice was firm, but not loud. He was a man used to being in authority.

Meeting his direct dark gaze, John found himself nodding. "Yes, I accept." He didn't have other options, and couldn't afford to be that picky. If nothing else, at least this job appeared to be interesting. This was crazy, but still exciting.

- Disclaimer: I own nothing.

-A/N: This is set around 1860s or so. I'm still firming up the time. I like research, but I just finished a historical fanfic for a different fandom that took place in early 1910s and don't want to get bogged down in as much research for this fic. I will try to be historically accurate and put notes at the end of chapters with historical references. Please forgive my errors and artistic license. :D

-British imperialism flourished under Queen Victoria. By 1900, Brits controlled 1/5 of the world's land, and 1/4 of the world's population. No wonder English is spoken in so many countries today.

-The Great Game (~1830-1895) - In the 19th century, after Napoleon's and Spain's power declined, Britain and Russia were the world's super powers. They fought over Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, each fearing the other gaining too much ground in Asia. I like that it's the same name as used for the Sherlock episode that introduced Jim Moriarty.

-Afghanistan or Persia: The 1st Anglo-Afghan War was in 1839. 1857 - Afghanistan declared war on Persia (present day Iraq). 2nd Anglo-Afghan War was in 1878 (as mentioned in The Abominable Bride). John was busy in British armies all over the area.

-The Courtesan - I struggled to find a good name for the fic and for Sherlock's role. 'Courtesan' still feels like it refers to a female more than a male, but it feels closest to what I'm intending for his character. If I come up with something better, watch out for a name change to the fic.

This is a work in progress and I'll add tags as I go, as characters come up.