The smoke from the hookahs and incense is making Sherlock dizzy. He shakes his head to clear it and shifts about on his cushion. There is only so many ways to fold his limbs into a comfortable position beneath their ludicrously low table, and having Lestrade sitting beside him limits approximately eight of them. Everything in this place makes Sherlock want to duck his head; the ceiling is entirely swathed in gauzy scarlet, purple and gold fabric, and metal lamps cast irregular shadows from where they hang.
The room is not well ventilated. It is underground, dimly lit, and the club is as exclusive as it is smoky. Wealthy men jockey for invitations into the Turkish-themed club, and behind the closed doors that branch off the main hall any vice can be satisfied. Mycroft had gotten them in without trouble, and Sherlock shudders to imagine how he went about that. He finds it best not to dwell on potentially scarring trains of thought, though, and distracts himself with a sip of tea. Sherlock makes a face: the concoction in the tiny, delicately painted glass cup is cloyingly sweet and far too minty. He prefers the way Joan makes tea, just this side of bitter with a hint of honey. The thought of Joan makes him purse his lips and scowl. This is a bad idea.
"So, why did you need Joan and Molly for this, again?" Lestrade murmurs, leaning against Sherlock's shoulder. "I don't like the look of this place. It's too posh, you know something's going on here."
"Of course something is going on, Lestrade, we are in a 'den of iniquity', as my brother so charmingly put it," Sherlock hisses back. He's on edge, though he won't let himself think of why. It throws a wrench in the works and Sherlock has always been of the opinion that if he ignores a problem long enough, it will go away. "The way this establishment is set up is deliberate: if a group does not wish to be observed, they book a booth. The booths can see the stage, but are shielded from the rest of the patrons by those curtains." Sherlock subtly indicates the two booths on either side of the room, blocked from their view by heavy drapes. "The only people who can see everyone are the dancers, and without knowing which booth Everard is in, we cannot apprehend him smoothly. You know as well as I do that if we go snooping through each booth to find him he will notice. This way, Joan and Molly can do a comprehensive sweep of the room and indicate his location to us. We can then take decisive and informed action."
"And we know he's here tonight?"
"A member of my homeless network saw him enter the building about fifteen minutes before we did. According to the assistant of Everard's with whom I spoke, he waits until after the entertainment to retire with his co-conspirators and their benefactors."
"Speaking of which, when are they due to start?" Lestrade asks, squinting at the unlit stage. Sherlock peers at his watch in the gloom.
"Any minute," he replies, and can't help the fritzing jitter of apprehension in his belly. Both Joan and Molly have assured him that they were fully capable of doing what he needed, why is he so anxious about this? They aren't in danger, at least no more than on any other case. True, there is no place for Joan to conceal her handgun in the diaphanous costume Sherlock knows she will have to don, but Joan has proven that she is more than capable of defending herself.
The lights over the patrons dim further and the stage is lit with a combination of red backlight and barely-there blue spotlights. Sherlock can now see the heavy curtain at the back of the rounded, thrust-style stage. The music, which until now had been unobtrusive, stops and for a moment there is utter silence. Slowly, a stringed instrument (probably a santur, but Sherlock won't rule out the quanun) and accordion start up in counterbalance. Two shadowy figures slink onto the stage from opposite sides, and Sherlock's pulse skips in his chest. The feminine shapes take their poses, and the music winds down to a pause. Sherlock holds his breath.
The lights snap up and the two women are revealed by warm gold light. The music erupts in a frenzy of zills and cymbals and drums, and Joan and Molly start to move.
Molly mostly escapes Sherlock's notice, though. All he can see is Joan.
He never imagined that her compact, efficient body could move this way. The filmy blue costume ripples around her frame as she shimmies, and the belt of coins at her waist jingles with the snap of her hips. Joan wears transparent harem pants, and the belt curves down into a deep vee to cover the apex of her legs. She is barefoot, and for long moments Sherlock is mesmerized by the motion of her legs, the shiver of her thighs as she moves with the insistent beat. Sherlock's breath comes shorter as she whirls and he sees that the wide belt isn't quite thick enough at the back to cover the entirety of her buttocks, and he can just make out the lush curve of her arse under the translucent silk.
His gaze travels upwards to rest on her abdomen. There is clear muscle definition there, and he watches the muscles undulate beneath her skin as she tips backwards. It is clear that the military had kept Joan in peak physical condition and most of that remains, but almost a year of Sherlock taking her to the most sought-after eateries in London has softened her physique somewhat. It makes Sherlock ache to run his hands over her smooth skin, now glistening with some sort of shimmering oil, press his fingertips into her soft flesh to feel the hard muscle underneath…
Sherlock realizes where his train of thought is going and fiercely aborts it. He is on a case. Distractedly, he reaches for a piece of lokma from the bowl on their table. The gel sticks to his palate and a pistachio gets wedged between two of his teeth. He remembers why he dislikes Turkish delight. When Joan makes a particularly brash gyration with her hips that would send any heterosexual man's mind in one direction and one direction only, Sherlock inhales so sharply that he gets icing sugar up his nose. He foolishly chooses this moment to share a look with Lestrade, but the Inspector just quirks an eyebrow and goes back to watching Molly with a glazed look in his eyes. His cheeks are flushed, as Sherlock imagines his own are, and Lestrade seems to be unaware that his mouth is slightly agape. As Sherlock hurriedly wipes the powdery sugar from his nose, he can almost swear he sees Joan's eyes twinkle as they rest on him for a moment. This is ludicrous; there is no way she could possibly see him, but Sherlock finds himself blushing (blushing! Sherlock Holmes does not blush) regardless.
Almost reluctantly, Sherlock returns to gazing at Joan. He tells himself he is watching for her signal indicating which table Everard is sitting at; really, though, he can't pass up the opportunity to watch the lines of her body in the deceptive light.
Joan is doing chest isolations, now, and Sherlock's mouth dries up as he watches the motion. The outfit's shirt is barely more than a brassiere, and Joan's more than ample breasts fill out the beaded, sequined cups. The fringe of beads at the hem of the "shirt" dances as she rotates her ribcage, alternating between curling her chest in on itself and thrusting her bosom forward. Joan's breasts also bear a sheen of oil, and Sherlock fancies that if he were to unclasp the bra and bear their soft weight in his hands, his long fingers would just contain them. He could press up behind her, cup them in his palms and roll her nipples between his fingertips until her head tips back against his shoulder as she moans, loud and all for him.
It is at this point that Sherlock clears his throat and shifts again. To his horror, he finds that his trousers have become abruptly too tight, and heat is curling low in his belly. Sherlock had been mostly unfamiliar with this taut warmth at the base of his abdomen until recently; his adolescence had been mostly spent in the company of books, his chemistry set and Mycroft, none of which were interesting to him, sexually, in the least. He performed a few experiments in university, just to see what all the fuss was about, but privately felt that the same result could be achieved just as well with his own hand and a bottle of lube. It has been over ten years since Sherlock has had even the remotest interest in sex with another person, but in the last six months things have changed dramatically.
After the incident at the Pool, then all the business with Irene Adler, Sherlock had begun to see his unassuming flatmate in another light. When Irene had blatantly flirted with Joan, even going so far as to touch her hair and waist, Sherlock had sat by helplessly as surge after surge of jealous rage boiled in his midsection. He knew Joan was bisexual, and while Sherlock had no interest in anything other than Irene's mind, he could acknowledge that she was a beautiful woman. Joan had blushed at the attention, but other than the pink of her cheeks she'd been mostly nonchalant as she asked if Irene could put something on, please. This had thrown Sherlock for a loop: Joan wasn't prudish about nudity, and she never made any comment when Sherlock loped around the flat in the most minimal of clothing. When Sherlock had followed Joan to Battersea Power Station to find Irene waiting for her there, it had taken all of his not inconsiderable restraint not to burst in and bundle Joan away from the temptress. Ludicrous, of course. Joan could do as she pleased, do whomever she pleased. It hadn't bothered Sherlock as much when Joan had dated that doctor, Sarah, or Jean-Luc, the teacher over Christmas. Or perhaps he simply hadn't wanted to acknowledge then that it had bothered him.
Sherlock has acknowledged that the way he feels about Joan is not the way flatmates typically feel about each other. He desires her; he wants to know her in every way, familiarize himself with every facet of the anomaly that is Joan Watson. He wants to map her skin, her scars, her curves with his fingers, his mouth, his whole body. Sherlock wishes to catalogue every sound she makes, whether it be in amusement or derision or ecstasy; he wants to know how she sounds when he touches her thighs, or when he brings her to orgasm with his mouth, or when he fucks her until they're both desperate and sweating. In the past three months, he has spent almost every free evening laid up in bed for sometimes an hour, tugging furiously on his hard cock and imagining Joan's hips, her breasts, her mouth… Needless to say, Sherlock has been rather in a quandary. Joan is elated; she believes he is in there sleeping, and for him to finally have a semi-regular sleeping schedule gives her one less thing to worry about. What she doesn't know is that Sherlock is quiet because he is pressing his hand over his mouth while he comes, for fear of summoning her to his room when he moans out her name during climax.
So seeing Joan, mostly unclothed and shimmying around on a stage, isn't helping matters.
He distracts himself by watching her bangles. The tin circlets of metal around each wrist jangle as she moves her arms and twists her hands in graceful figure-eights. Intermittently, they catch the light and Joan's solid, serviceable wrists sparkle like the sun glinting off a choppy sea.
Sherlock makes himself look at her face. Joan's features are set in an expression of concentration, and her slim lips curve upward in a slight smile. There is glitter along the line of each of her cheekbones, and each of her deep blue eyes is lined heavily with kohl. Her long, wavy brown hair tumbles loose down her back, and to see it out of her customary French braid is a bit dizzying for Sherlock. It gleams like a sheaf of gold thread under the warm yellow of the lights. Knowing full well that most of the population would deem this thought "creepy", Sherlock wonders nevertheless what her hair smells like. Logically, it probably smells like the mint shampoo that sits beside Sherlock's in their shower. He wonders if it smells like incense, now.
The sway of Joan's hips to the rhythm of the dulcimer melody and the clinking of the zills is hypnotizing. Sherlock swallows convulsively and his gaze darts to the men at the other tables. They are enthralled, and Sherlock even thinks he sees one man drooling openly. To be able to watch Joan's body move like this, unhindered, is something Sherlock has dearly craved but never viably expected. Joan is a self-actualized woman, with a strong appreciation for the value of emotions, both in herself and prospective romantic partners. Sherlock does fine as a flatmate and friend, but he doubts that she would want a self-diagnosed sociopath as a lover (though recently, he has had cause to re-evaluate that diagnosis). Especially not one who looks like a "pasty, pre-pubescent alien", according to one less than complimentary critic.
If Sherlock's honest, he'll admit to not paying attention when Molly starts making increasingly agitated hair flicks in his direction. Then again, Sherlock Holmes is not an honest man. He therefore will insist in the future that he was simply waiting for the right moment to apprehend Everard.
The music winds down, and Sherlock realizes that Molly was gesturing to the outside booth on stage left. Reluctantly, Sherlock tears his eyes away from Joan's body and unfolds himself from his cramped seated position. He retrieves his coat, shrugs it on and extricates himself from their table. As is customary in this establishment, Molly and Joan step down from the stage to mingle with the guests. Sherlock and Lestrade's plan is to arrest Everard, then take the girls out with them when they lead Everard to the police van that awaits them outside.
Needless to say, nothing goes according to plan.