"The Setup"

The Blue Note Club wasn't due to open for another hour. Sherlock Holmes squirreled a metal nail file into her leather boot, the stiff material covering the fact that she had a concealed weapon hidden in her shoe. The boots went to a point just above the ankle, and they weren't too high. Sherlock had always towered over others. When she started out behind the bar, that was fine; customers simply assumed that she wore very high heels. Such shoes were, of course, utterly impractical, and she'd never worn such things if she could help it.

For this job, however, it was necessary that she wear 'foot bling' (a vulgar term, in her opinion). Because over the last few months, she had gone from barkeep to waitress to… performer. That was a polite description, to say the least, despite the club's reputation as more of a tease. Some people called it the Blue Balls Club for that reason.

"Sunny, it's for you!" Elizabeth called. Lizzy was one of Sherlock's fellow showgirls. They only knew her as Sunny Jean. Ironically, her show name was Starshine, and her clothing was black, with sequined stars stitched all over the more… shall we strategic areas?

"Sunny Jean here," Sherlock said, using her deeper, more sultry voice. "How may I help you?"

"I never wish to hear you addressing me in that manner again."

"Oh," she said, dropping the act. "It's you. What do you want, Mycroft?"

"Sebastian Moran is indeed in the area. I believe it is safe to say that he will make his half-yearly visit to the Blue Note tonight."

"And was that not the plan?" Sherlock said. When she noticed someone else look over, she immediately took to winding the phone cord around her finger, and smirked. "Are you coming to see me perform tonight?"

"I can think of far more pleasant past-times than watching you degrade yourself by performing—"

"Well, it isn't as though I strip all the way."

"I shall be infinitely grateful once tonight is over."

"So will I," Sherlock said softly. She would finally be able to find out what had happened in her three-year absence. What would John call his blog entry when she came back? Would he refer to this time as her long vacation? Her great hiatus? She nearly snorted. It was Mycroft's annoying voice which brought her back to Earth.

"…must not do anything foolish, or Mummy will be most upset—"

"She would be upset at the mere thought of me working in a nightclub. I must go now, Mycroft," Sherlock said, interrupting the flow. "I need to finish getting dressed, putting on makeup, warming up—"

"Very well. But be careful, Sherlock."

"Oh, I'm always careful," she said, smiling wickedly at the stage manager as he passed, and receiving a saucy wink in return. Thank God Sherlock could act, and suppress her gag reflex; else she'd have been sick several times over by now, with some of the looks alone. "Goodbye, Mycroft." Then she hung up, and returned to the dressing room.

'Lightning' Lizzy, 'Mona Lisa' Monica, and 'Peppy' Pauline were nearly made up, and 'Blondie' Bella was doing stretches which would make a contortionist stare. They had all been working at the Blue Note longer than Sherlock, but they were lovely women, and supported her all the way. Monica and Pauline had helped her work out a routine, Bella taught her the right moves to win over the customers, and Lizzy educated her in the noble art of lap dancing. None of these would help Sherlock once she returned to civilian life, and she was almost looking forward to deleting them. Almost… After all, it was a very good workout, and she was learning how to improvise certain dance moves mid-performance. Her vocal range had improved, and she was, in general, becoming quite a starlet in her own right.

Of course, it was her intention to become good enough to give private dances to paying customers. She never anticipated being on stage. But once they knew that she was musical, and once they finally uncovered her lithe body from beneath the less revealing clothes she preferred, they insisted on bringing her onto the stage. She worked behind them at first, as a chorus girl. A few weeks ago, she'd been given her own spot. No more bar work, and very little in the way of waitressing.

Now all she had to do was give her best damned performance, be at her most seductive, and win over Sebastian Moran. Once alone with him—

"Nearly time!" the SM called. The owner of the club, Miss 'Blues' McCray, came into the room to inspect them. The backing dancers had a different room, and the men another.

"Ready, girls?" Miss McCray asked. "Good. Sunny, don't forget your cape."

"No, Miss McCray," Sherlock said, and she swung the bespangled coat around her back. She tied it at the neck, made sure it was resting properly, and waited for further instructions. The chorus boys and girls performed first, to the latest Katy Perry song. They always made good use of the poles. Sherlock rarely did, though she worried that she would have to tonight. According to her sources (and Mycroft's), Moran visited the Blue Note Club once every six months. He had a table in the front row reserved for his visits. Sherlock had known he was coming because there was a sign on the tabletop for the first time since she had begun work.

Out on the stage, the first routine was ending, and there was a large round of applause. The hooting and foot-stamping wouldn't start until the first dance. It was Bella's turn to go first tonight. Sherlock was a bundle of nerves. She wasn't on until the fourth number. If Moran went for one of the other girls first…

Stop it, she told herself. Where is the Sherlock Holmes that John and Greg know? That Mrs. Hudson knows? Where did she go?

"Got a few groups tonight," Lizzy said quietly, while they waited where they could see the customers. Sherlock's eyes swept the assembly…

And then she froze.

"So when was the last time you were here?" Greg asked, and he smirked as he went to drink some more beer. John rolled his eyes.

"I told you, it was just the once," he said. "For my stag night."

"No other times?"


They were a large group. John, Greg, Donovan, Dimmock, Anderson, Gregson, some of the other Yarders, Molly Hooper, and even Mrs. Hudson had been convinced to join them. It was a celebration of freedom and of life.

"Sir, may you be happier divorced than you were married," Anderson said, tilting his drink towards Greg. The inspector rolled his eyes. He'd been sergeant for awhile there, and it took a long time for him to forgive Donovan and Anderson for their lack of faith once the truth came out, and Sherlock's name was cleared. That didn't make her death any less tragic. In fact, it made it even more so. But by then the damage had been done. Mrs. Lestrade had left, especially once he was diagnosed. Thank God they had found the tumour in time to fight it off with chemo and other radiation treatments. There was a strong possibility that Mycroft Holmes had fielded most of the medical expenses, and ensured that Greg's job would still be there when he returned.

Now, they were ostensibly celebrating the divorce finally coming through, after the last two and a half years. In reality, celebrating Greg's recovery. His hair was slowly growing back, a bit greyer than it was before. John was growing a moustache for Movember.

Of course, he thought, while the others chattered on, it wasn't just for Greg's cancer.

"You know what?" Donovan said, her eyes bright. "Let's pool our resources and buy a little dance for the DI."

"Wait, wait, wait," Greg said, eyes widening.

"What a good idea," Mrs. Hudson said, already pulling out her wallet. "I came prepared for this. I have some condoms; they should still be in date."

"Mrs. Hudson, this isn't a brothel," John said, patting her arm. "It's a nice thought, but…"

"But I've just gone through a divorce," Greg said, saving John from trying to think of something tactful to say. "I'd rather just hang out with you lot, all right? Can't think why, for the life of me."

"How's Mary?" Molly asked, leaning across to speak to John. His smile faded a little.

"She's fine," he said. "She forced me to come out tonight. Said that marriage wasn't supposed to be a prison. Neighbour's going to keep her company for a couple of hours, `til I get home."

Pain ripped through Sherlock. She should have let Mycroft keep her informed of her friends' goings on. Greg had clearly been getting over some illness, he was now divorced, and John… her John (not that he'd ever really been hers)… was married. To a woman named Mary. A safe name. Most likely a safe woman. And she wasn't restricting John in any way, so she didn't smother.

But John… he might have waited! He might have known Sherlock would be coming back! He might have known that she always loved him, always wanted him…

Max – one of the barkeepers – came over to where they were still watching the crowd. Sherlock tore her attention away from the conversation, cursing her ability to lip-read, but also grateful that she would have no nasty shocks.

"You're got steady hands, Sunny," Max said. "Could you help with drinks for a bit? When are you on?"

"Not for awhile," she said. "All right."

"Great," he said, and she followed him to the bar. "This lot to number ten, and these to number four."

Table four. John's table.

"Indeed," she said, and she lifted the first tray.

When it was time to take the second load of drinks, she paused as she touched the tray, and then stiffened her spine. She was a Holmes. Not just any Holmes, but the Sherlock Holmes, the world's only consulting detective. Her contacts were poised to take out the rest of the top spiders in Moriarty's web at her word, which she would give just before she had to go on stage for her number. It would only take one call to Mycroft, and he would do the rest. Then she would take down Moran, and everything would be fine.

Except it wouldn't. Not now that John was married. But it was better than being dead… perhaps.

Approaching the table, Sherlock briefly wondered whether her makeup and outlandish clothing (and apparent suicide) would conceal her from her friends for just a little longer. It was too much to hope – she realised that right away – when John's eyes widened upon seeing her. She reached the rest of the table, surrounded by padded benches, and saw just how many other people she knew there. Good God, even Molly and Mrs. Hudson! If Mycroft had been there, too, that would have just topped off her whole evening in the most spectacular fashion.

"Drinks for table four," she said coquettishly, and she distributed them. The others at the Blue Note thought that she had some variety of psychic power which allowed her to work out who ordered which drink. As a courtesy, she checked, and was inordinately relieved when the last drink was on the table.

They all seemed speechless. Molly was blushing, no doubt worried that Sherlock would give away that she had known all the time. Sherlock powered along.

"My name is Sunny," she said, never faltering in her delivery. "And whose birthday is it tonight?"

Greg cleared his throat. "It's, uh, not a birthday party. Just celebrating my, uh, my divorce."

"Oh dear," Sherlock said, fluttering her eyelashes. She trailed a painted nail along his neck and behind his ear. He simply stared at her. "Would you like someone to make it all better for you?" She allowed her gaze to drop down his chest, before raising it again with an impish smile. "I'd be ever so happy to oblige, sir." His mouth opened and closed like a fish. It was almost endearing. "What's your name, precious?"

"G-Gregory. Uh, Greg."

"How sweet." She bent over closer to him, and lowered her eyelids to half-mast. "Well, Gregory. If you want me, just ask for Starshine." She moved her lips close to his ear, though her voice was audible enough for the others to hear. "Sometimes they call me Supernova. If you want to find out why…" She dragged her teeth along the shell of his ear. "Just ask for me."

With a flirtatious little smile to the others in general – internally shuddering in disgust when she made eye contact with some of them – she sashayed off, tray in hand and longing for the night to be over.

After this, she may just have to kill Mycroft.

Technically, Sherlock's little interaction with the others was supposed to take place in chapter two, but I don't want the chapters to be too different in length.

As for Sherlock's song, there's the tiniest of obscure hints in her conversation with Mycroft, and only if you're familiar with musical theatre. And especially with songs in stage productions, but cut from the movie versions.

So! Fem!Sherlock and strip club. (I love the ambiguity of the name Sherlock. And what do you think of the stripper names?) The reason why Sherlock is female in this is because a female nightclub performer is more vulnerable than a male nightclub performer, or at least that's the perception. And female innocence, genuine or fake, is more believable and appealing to the Blue Note Club's audience. Or something.