Title: The Illustrious Client
Author: Arabella Strange
Warnings: Violence, case-related references to human trafficking/sexual abuse
Verse: Sherlock BBC
Author's summary: ‘We’re a couple!' John burst out, bluntly. His face was nearly twitching with rage. He hadn’t even meant to say anything, to anybody, because he wanted what they had for himself just a bit longer, for a million reasons half-romantic and half-defensive, and yet here he was, gripping Chez Francine’s thick cream tablecloth with enough force to tear it in half, suddenly wanting nothing more than to tell everyone within earshot that Sherlock was absolutely infuriating, surprisingly good at blowjobs, and probably in love with him.
Reccer's comments: Where do I start? This incredible case fic is the third in a series (Ode to Broken Things.) It's not strictly necessary to read the first two stories in order to appreciate this one, although doing so provides a richer context and background for the state of John and Sherlock's relationship. Also, they're excellent, and well worth the read!
The universe this story is set in diverges from canon prior to the start of Series 3, though it remains very much informed by canon events—picking and choosing from the established storyline to weave an entirely different tale. Essentially: John broke things off with Mary prior to Sherlock's return, and he and Sherlock have subsequently fallen into a sexual relationship. John is in love with Sherlock, Sherlock is in love with John—should be simple, right? Instead, our heroes struggle under the weight of their own insecurities and worries, navigating a relationship fraught with miscommunications and misinterpreted intentions, with neither one quite willing to show his hand. This alone would make for a compelling read, but there's also a case that needs solving and a truly heinous villain to be vanquished.
And yet John had marched unevenly into a lab in Bart’s Hospital and Sherlock had, within seconds, begun devising the plan to rid of him that abhorrent cane. Not only because it was unseemly (though it did nothing to flatter the too-young man who had no sound need for it), but because John — clearly — hated it. And John had loved the run from Angelo’s after the cab, even the wrong cab; had laughed against the wall until Angelo himself had appeared and delivered the punchline to the night’s best joke.
In spite of all subsequent efforts of Sherlock’s to undo this one shining act of generosity, John stood here, on two healthy feet, breathing like a bull facing off against a red flag (and the moron who was waving it), hating to the depths of his being the person who had relished, even for a moment, the opportunity to take the wind out of Sherlock’s insensitive, selfish ego.
‘Many would disagree with you,’ Sherlock muttered.
‘Yeah, well, sod them, all right, because —’
‘I love you,’ said Sherlock.
Had he said it purely to watch the incredibly plasticity of John’s face change arrangements at the speed of lightning, he would not have been in the least disappointed; equally, had he blurted it out in order to test the fortitude of his still-recovering bowels, it would have been a compelling experiment.
John was still standing there, watching him, stranded amidst a sea of tile and sterilised furniture, but some of the warmth in his expression seemed to be receding.
‘Is that meant to be a joke?’ John began, stiffly, eyes scanning Sherlock’s face.
There was no clear grammatical way to refute what John said whilst reasserting Sherlock’s statement, but nor was there any plausibility to blaming the thudding in his chest on his recent cardiac history.
I could go on forever about how much I love this story. It's long, intricately plotted and well researched, sprinkled with loving references to canon events. The character voices are spot on, for John and Sherlock both. The dialogue is snappy, witty, and at times heartbreaking. And perhaps my favorite thing is that it has a wonderful happy ending that feels earned, true to the characters and their circumstances. I can't help but feel that it's tragically underappreciated (not even 200 kudos as of the time of this post!), and that it deserves mention right alongside many of the other beloved casefics in the fandom.
Do be sure to read the author's tags. The villain is, as I mentioned, heinous, and descriptions of his crimes could be potentially upsetting or triggering. Nothing is shown explicitly in the story itself.