Jim glanced at the menu as they walked in, craning his head over his shoulder to look again.
“Wait…so my stomach has had a rough ride and you want me to eat vegan?” He wrinkled his nose as they walked inside, but it was definitely a relief to get in out of the wind. And in fairness, the food he could smell didn’t repulse him. Yet. He hadn’t actually seen any of it yet.
The waitress didn’t speak English; the menu was as far as they were getting in that language. He looked up at Sebastian and smiled. If they were getting anywhere , he guessed it would be because of him.
“Dobryj den. Dva.” He held up two fingers. The waitress smiled in obvious relief that the foreigners spoke Russian. She gestured for them to follow her into the restaurant. He took his coat off and hung it on the peg beside the booth. He sat down, accepting a menu. “Salad, salad, salad, tea. Is there a meat page?” He flipped through a few pages, then grew bored and looked around. “English speakers two tables over,” he murmured so only Sebastian could hear. “Not native, I don’t think. I don’t know who they are…not sure if they have any interest in us at all, beyond the natural curiosity of hearing a language one understands in a foreign country.” He looked around as though interested in the art on the walls. “Do you think these are originals?” he asked with a bit more volume.
Sebastian looked pointedly away as the waitress spoke russian, knowing that he would have to rely on Jim - again - to act as translator. Sebastian himself nodded and smiled at the waitress as she seated them and began to look through the menu himself.
“Not everything here is vegan, it’s just all local.” He replied, glancing up to notice that Jim was already surveying the area. Glancing around as well Sebastian couldn’t see anything that interested him and nodded as Jim explained the state of the three young students who looked like they had been let out of class, books and knapsacks spread over the seats.
“I dunno,” Sebastian said looking absently over the piece of art. The waitress came back for their order and Sebastian opened up his menu to what he wanted - the roast pork with a chili glaze - and a water, waiting for Jim to order before he leaned in and spoke quieter.
“Feeling okay, boss?”
Jim watched everything; it was what he did. He watched, head tilting to the right, then the left, absorbing details and storing them, some of those images and ideas getting caught on the jagged edges of his imagination to be chewed on at his pleasure.
Watching Sebastian almost felt like a guilty pleasure. Sebastian did this often, very often; in the most technical sense, it was the man’s job, the reason he pulled the enormous salary he did. When Jim had spotted him, researched him, decided to own him, it had been his record as a marksman that had been the initial hook. He wanted a sniper who didn’t miss, didn’t balk, didn’t take that second to reconsider. Absolute obedience was a requirement, though even Jim hadn’t known how perfectly the ex-soldier would fulfill that area. Perfect obedience, beyond that of a soldier following orders. A soldier living his orders. And the criminal knew that part of that was the fact that these orders came from him. He was the hinge to the door of every entrance and exit of Sebastian Moran. He was the doorknob Sebastian Moran grabbed before making that entrance or exit. He was the door to everything. A man he could strike who did not strike him back unless asked. A man who killed for him without asking why and how much. The only questions were ‘where,’ and ‘when,’ and ‘should I come back to your flat when I’m through, boss?’
He didn’t see it so often, though; he saw Sebastian clean his guns, pack them up, unpack them. But the moment of communion, the moment when both the sniper and his victim weren’t breathing…it was a visceral intimacy he was not usually invited to observe. Jim recognized that fact as well. He was observing, not participating. The only way he would ever be a participant would be the moment Sebastian Moran pointed that gun at him and pulled the trigger.
He swallowed, feeling the flush in his cheeks that had nothing to do with the wind. His tongue flicked out between his slightly parted lips, wetting the centre of top and bottom. It took him a moment to realize that he had become part of Sebastian’s world again. He looked down at the sniper, blinking and smiling slowly.
“Oh, I’m doing fine. Much better than Grusha.” He laughed lightly, looking over towards the lecture hall again. There’d be an ambulance in a moment, a worthless band of paramedics. “And ‘kitten’?”
After he had finished cleaning up his gun Sebastian stood up and looked down at Jim. The man had been staring him down with the darkest come-hither eyes that Sebastian had seen in a long time. Seb smirked, noticing the rise of color in Jim’s cheeks and the way that the man reacted to Sebastian getting very much in his face. With one hand he hitched his duffle bag up and with the other reached out, wrapped his fingers around Jim’s neck and pulled them an close for a crushing kiss, their teeth clinking together as Sebastian breathed in, taking in Jim, pulling at his lips and sucking on his tongue, his hand grasping at Jim’s hair. He pulled away from the man, breathing slowly, eyes half-lidded.
The siren was what shocked him out of it. He looked up, swallowed and then quickly turned, pushing at Jim’s back in between his shoulder blades.
“Let’s go boss.” He muttered, his voice a little low as he guided Jim off the roof. “Let’s get you some real food, yeah?” He said once they were out in the street, just innocent passers-by to the tragedy at the hospital. “We can talk about Milo over lunch, right?”
Jim trotted along with Sebastian, humming to himself. He looked around at all times, eyes just slightly too intense to be an actual tourist, but no one noticed him. It was useful, really. He was just average enough to a quick glance that no one remembered him a moment after he was gone.
He stuck his hands deep into his pockets to keep them warm. He didn’t know why he normally ended up pulling jobs in countries that were not warm. Didn’t evil things happen in those places? He supposed they did, but maybe with the heat and the noise there was less need for a consulting criminal’s expertise. It was just fine to knife someone down in the street and just blame it on the carnival. Eh, whatever. He had nice jobs in the south of France or Italy every so often, and when he did, sometimes he made the effort to go himself, bringing Sebastian along, to enjoy the hunt, the plan, and the sun. Not that he was much for beaches. He burned much too easily.
He looked down at the crouching sniper as these musings filed through his head. Sebastian was…laughing? In a situation like this, it was macabre and delightful. He leaned down and kissed the top of the man’s head. He stepped back again immediately, looking consideringly at the the building. It was a fascinating way to kill someone. So personal, requiring so very much skill. The distance, the wind, the weapon, the window. The widow. Jim smiled to himself, pulling his mobile phone out of his jacket pocket. So close and so distant. A person pulling a trigger, but someone dying too far away to actually smell the blood. It was different from personally choking someone and different from being miles away and detonating explosives to take someone out. It was the perfect death, really, and in this case being performed by an artist.
He took a deep breath of the cold air, feeling it almost coat his lungs with ice. He checked his texts with an unconcerned thumb, but really, he felt like his body was humming with excitement.
Sebastian felt the pressure on the top of his head and ignored it, smiling a bit to himself as he continued to set up his rifle, adding an extra magnifying sight to the barrel to compensate for not having a proper lookout. Everything had been polished and cleaned a few days ago and he had checked all the equipment out this morning as well, so when he thought he had misplaced a part he was more confused than upset and quickly found the small balance in a corner of the duffle bag. Thank god. He let out a breath, fixed the balance in place, loaded the magazine and then made sure the safety was off before he raised the gun on top of the wall, aiming it.
It was four minutes into the lecture before Sebastian was sure he had his sights straight. The wind picked up and he took his finger off the trigger, waiting again. He swallowed, breathed in deeply, closed his eyes, settled in his stance again and focused. This wasn’t that hard. This wasn’t that hard. This wasn’t that hard.
Opening his eyes he heard the flag stop shaking, saw the trees hold for just a second, and Grusha had just leaned back against the lectern, his entire body exposed to the class. Bingo. The sight flicked on, Grusha frowned - Sebastian could see the lines etching his face- and as Seb breathed out he pulled the trigger.
Glass shattered on the students, Grusha crumpled, there were screams and - from where Sebastian was standing - a pretty funny caricature of a boy trying to preform CPR and having blood come out of the mans mouth with every press. Nobody was even looking at where they were. Nobody would ever be looking at them, if Seb had anything to say about it.
Instead of watching the reaction for too long - just long enough to be even more than positive that Grusha was no longer a player - Sebastian crouched down and sat on the ground, carefully undoing his rifle and placing each piece almost lovingly back in the bag. It was when he saw a pair of finely tailored leather shoes that he finally looked up and at Jim again.
“Hey,” He said crookedly, smiling slightly, “Doin’ okay kitten?”
Jim was unaccountably pleased with the little compliment. He didn’t mention it, obviously, but it was nice. The day was certainly looking up, cold not withstanding. He let Sebastian propel him, not minding being pushed around in situations like this. It was nice, that firm hand. He settled into the cab, feeling the cold of the seat radiating through his coat and suit. He smiled over at Sebastian’s discomfort; he wouldn’t be surprised if, after this trip, the man settled down for an intensive course in the Russian language.
He leaned forward, smiling winsomely for the cab driver.
“Prastite. Otvezite menja Akademiya. Ja speshu.” The cab driver nodded and pulled into the street. Jim turned his attention back to Sebastian. “Does that get you hot? Me speaking Russian?” He leaned over and whispered in the sniper’s ear. “Vy svobodny segodnja vecherom?” He laughed, delighted with himself, and sat back again. He rubbed his gloved hands together as he looked out the window at the city. Bright afternoon sunshine had broken through the clouds, though it didn’t seem to be warming anything up. Didn’t matter; the cold was receding for him. He was excited about what he was going to watch. Sebastian at work. Sebastian doing what he paid him to do. He didn’t think the money really mattered anymore. It was more like watching an artist.
Sebastian was glad that Jim was so easily asked to translate. He could have easily made the sniper go through either an online dictionary or an intensive game of charades to make his point to the taxi driver. As he looked out the window he smiled a bit as Jim began to tease him.
“Haven’t the foggiest what you’re saying boss.” Sebastian said, looking back at the man as he laughed and moved around in his seat. It was little moments like this - when Jim was teasing, laughing, half normal but still completely insane, that Sebastian felt a bit of fondness for his employer. He could have been picked up at that bar by anyone at all and offered a job but he never would have gotten the experience out of it that Jim had given him. It wasn’t just about the sex or the physical relationship between the two of them - that was an incredibly minor part of a job - it was the fact that he worked for Jim Moriarty, and that made Sebastian Moran’s gun the fulcrum upon which swung the fate of nations.
It took thirty minutes to get to the Academy, and Sebastian had Jim translate ‘circle the block’ as Sebastian glanced out, looking for all the world a sightseer and not a sniper. Satisfied, the got out, - Sebastian paid, of course - and took another look around them. Sebastian could easily see the lecture hall - large, glass, concrete, a bit of metal - all in all very urbane and western, just what an up and coming university would strive to be like. He estimated where the lectern would be and put his hand in between Jim’s shoulders, leaning down a bit.
“Let’s get about half a block. The top of that convenience building should do just fine.” He said, pointing out the grey building at the end of the road. Once there it was easy to find the tenant entrance, walk up to the roof and find a bit of real estate that was hidden behind a make-shift greenhouse and gave a good view into the lecture hall. Good. This would be a difficult shot - the angles of their vantage point and the low pressure was making the wind pick up - but Sebastian was sure that he could do it. He smirked. Grusha would probably think that Seb’s guide was part of a practical joke. Ha. Sebastian chucked to himself as he crouched down to begin to assemble his rifle. He would pay good money to have insight on that man’s last thoughts.
Jim made a little face as they walked; at least Sebastian moderated his steps so he didn’t have to skip to keep up. The walk back to the hotel wasn’t long, though it was cold. One of his hands was warmer, considering it was being held by Sebastian’s larger one, and the other he stuffed down into his pocket. That helped.
“I suppose the concierge can handle that,” he said thoughtfully, almost to himself, almost as if he didn’t think these people could handle walking and breathing at the same time. He hummed to himself on their way up to the room, keeping an outward bored expression while he considered their next jaunt. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen Sebastian make a kill, and it wouldn’t be the last, but the location was exotic and there was someone trailing them and he’d been poisoned…it was just a bit more exciting than usual, and he was a man who needed excitement.
He watched Sebastian collect his bag, then nodded almost sharply. “Are we ready to go? Because the hotel is boooooring! And I’m also hoping to get tea on the way…well, there or back, as time permits. I wouldn’t want to interfere with your schedule.” He glanced at himself in the mirror. Still looked cold, hair still smooth, though his cheeks were sort of rosy. Which was odd. But for as much control as he had over things, keeping the wind from reddening his face wasn’t one of them.
Dropping the letter off with the hotel staff Sebastian was assured that it would be put in the post immediately. He glanced back at Jim, giving him a look that clearly was telling the man to calm down, normal people could accomplish banal tasks like mail just fine. Sebastian went to retrieve his bag and rolled his eyes, his back to Jim, as his boss began to whine. Jim Moriarty, consulting seven year old.
Hitching his bag higher over his shoulder he returned back to where Jim was and quickly pushed the man back out into the cold, hand on the small of the mans back.
“Let’s get you out of the public eye, yeah?” He muttered, hand moving up to wrap around Jim’s shoulders. “Colour looks good on you, you know.” Sebastian said, off handedly, walking across the street and then hailing a cab, ushering Jim in and then folding himself in as well. “The Academy.” Sebastian said. The man just looked at him confused. Fuck. Sebastian let out an annoyed breath. Dammit.
“Boss, can you help me out?”
Jim grinned, excitement giving him a little colour too. It wasn’t as though he didn’t enjoy things in this life. Boredom was chronic, but the bright spots had the potential to be bright indeed.
Jim enjoyed Sebastian’s growly, but enthusiastic, diatribe against almost every exhibit at the Arsenal. Playing the tourist again, he linked his arm in the sniper’s. They were met with various disapproving stares for holding hands as they strolled past the Senate building (“Kazakov,” Jim commented, “Totally embracing the neoclassical eccentricities the rest of Europe was indulging in. Lenin’s hideout.”), but what was anyone going to do? While they were the smiling, clueless foreigners, there was rarely someone stupid enough to actually look either one of them in the eye and start something. Sebastian’s green was dangerous, a predator. Jim’s dark eyes were soul eating. Anyone who met his eyes quickly made the sign of the cross, forehead, chest, right shoulder, left (“They do that totally backwards,” Roman Catholic Jim complained, “Orthodox.”)
Finally resting in the shadow of the Deposition of the Robe church, Jim watched Sebastian watching everyone else.
“My hands are cold,” he said pettishly. Sometimes he complained for the sake of talking, for the sake of showing how consistently disappointed he was with life and the world. “Can we go and kill someone now?” He looked down at the postcard in his hand. Assumption Cathedral, classically golden-domed. On the back, in small print, ‘Dear Mum, Went to Russia. Pretty cold, but the churches are nice. Had caviar. XXX, Jimmy.’ He waved the card in the sniper’s face.
“Also, I need to get this in the post.”
Sebastian enjoyed acting as if he was thoroughly unimpressed with the Arms museum while secretly soaking in all the history and culture throughout the place and absolutely enjoying himself. As mad as their pursuers may be there would be no body in the entire Russian underworld that would dare to attack anyone in the Kremlin. Even criminals, but especially foreigners. What sort of message would that send? He smiled as Jim took his arm and led the man around the rest of the Kremlin, through the church and the gardens. The most abominable stop was the gift shop, in which they spent an absurd amount of time simply because Jim couldn’t make up his mind about anything and eventually decided only on the postcard.
Sebastian, unsurprisingly, bought nothing.
They were relaxing outside the historic cathedral while Jim finished his letter, complained, and then interrupted Sebastian’s people-watching. In that order. Seb reached down and grabbed one of Jim’s hands in his own, pulling off his glove before doing so.
“We can drop it off at the hotel when I grab my bag.” Sebastian said, taking the postcard and pocketing it in one of the large compartments of his greatcoat. His mouth twitched upwards in a bit of a smile and and jerked a bit as if to lean down, but pushed off the wall instead, leading Jim outside the walls of the Kremlin and then back to the hotel, ignoring the looks that they were getting.
How odd they must seem.
Jim was standing by this time, teeth brushed, hair combed, shirt smoothed. He was standing, staring at himself in the mirror. He was leaning with one hand on either side of the sink. His eyes were bloodshot and tired, but he was in much better control of himself. He looked at Sebastian in the mirror, smiling slowly.
“Sounds like the perfect way to spend a morning. Get my jacket, won’t you, daaaarling.” He laughed, brushing past the sniper. He trailed his fingers along his torso as he walked by. He grabbed his phone from the kitchen counter, eyes carefully avoiding the food. Eating. He was never eating again.
“Hurry up!” he sang. “We’re going to be late for a murder!”
Sebastian smiled a bit as Jim made his way out of the bathroom, surprised and pleased that Jim was in such a mood even after regurgitating all of his food and had been rather lenient with his morning discipline. It was the coffee, Sebastian maintained. He hadn’t any before he got into the shower and it was rather unfortunate. Jims skin was cold even through his shirt and he marveled if the man was ever really alive with such ice in his veins.
Going back into the suite style area Sebastian slipped on his jacket, then his greatcoat and held out Jim’s for him, the duffle of tools and money lying by the door. He helped Jim into his jacket and then handed the man his coat as they left the suite, checking the motion-sensitive camera and putting the sign that said ‘please clean inside’ on the doorknob.
He led Jim outside and put an absent hand on the small of the other mans back, pointing down towards the large domed buildings. “There, yeah?” he said, getting a little excited. He had left his bag in one of the hotel lockers on the first floor, his passport and money in his pocket, “Come on then,” He said, smiling a bit and placing a kiss on Jim’s cheek, liking the color the other man had to his cheeks when he hit the cold, “I want to check for mistakes in the Arms Museum.” Sebastian said, both sarcastic and serious at the same time.
Jim chewed his top lip, looking down at Sebastian.
“Oh.” He raised his eyebrows. He wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Sebastian usually didn’t react like that to little things like getting knocked into the shower wall. “Well then…I’ll just assume that the coffee hasn’t hit your system yet. Get up.”
His stomach was full of starch and it felt uncomfortable all of a sudden. He thought of the heaviness, the digestion, the process of all that food moving through him, touched by someone else’s hands, their germs now inside him, working their way inside him…His stomach churned and he dashed to the bathroom, throwing up the twelve bites of pancake he’d managed to get down. He wanted to kill things, blow things up. The last twelve hours had been wrong. He smacked his hand into the tile as he sat back on his heels, looking up at the ceiling. He grabbed his towel from where he’d thrown it, wiping his mouth.
Sebastian stood up and was about to say something when the expression on Jim’s face stopped him cold. The sounds that then issued from the bathroom were not encouraging. Seb didn’t go into the bathroom but instead prepared his duffle bag for the job they had to do, got his jacket ready and put on his holster, slipping the Sig into it carefully his tie was over his shoulders and he thought that he had spent enough time getting ready when he went over to the bathroom, knocked once and opened the door.
“What do you say to visiting the Kremlin and then watching me shoot a man mid-lecture?” He asked, leaning against the doorframe, and crossing his arms.
Jim watched the tall sniper, face still. The kiss had been unemotional, the movements…well, he’d call them skittish. This was unacceptable. What was the issue? Time to sort that out before starting the day.
“Moran.” His voice was quiet but cut through the air in the room. “Come over here.” He tilted his chin up slightly, tipping his head just slightly to the right. “I want to know why you’re pouty this morning. I want to know why you’re so skittish. Have I done something?” His voice had dropped to a purr.
“And I want you to answer. As a matter of fact, I want you on your knees, with your hands behind your hand. And then I want you to answer.” He clapped his hands and it was a loud, startling sound in the room. “Hurry up!” he screamed. “I don’t exactly have time to waste!”
Sebastian moved as Jim told him to, on his knees for the second time in twelve hours. He moved his hands and laced them behind his head, thoroughly annoyed with himself. It was early, that was his only excuse, it was early and he had been startled in the shower and that was carrying over into right now. But this, he thought, was where it ended. Moran was many things, but he was not afraid of being physically hurt by Jim Moriarty.
His eyes took on a quality rather like steel as Jim screamed at him.
“In the shower, sir, I just wasn’t expecting it.” He said, staring straight ahead. He hated giving out answers like these, they always seemed like excuses. What else could he say? I’m sorry, I’ll do better, it won’t happen again. No right answer came to mind so he just stayed quiet, kneeling on the ground.
“No abductions. Ugh, messy! He seems like he’d be the annoying whiny martyr type too. All the ‘dying for my country’ ballocks that I’m sure we’d rather avoid.” Jim smoothed his tie down his chest, then turned to Sebastian as he buttoned his cuffs. “I like the idea of you taking out a man mid-lecture. Think of the panic. Think of the homework that will never be handed in.”
He laughed and walked back to pick up his tea cup. The tea was already lukewarm, but it was sugared enough to be drinkable.
“So, I suppose we should do that first then. His lecture’s over at 10. God, we’re up early! Though I suppose you get up early enough every day, don’t you? Waste of good sleeping time, if you ask me.” He ran his hand through his hair, leaving it soft and ungelled. He was fine with that today. He walked over and ran his hand through Sebastian’s hair, which was still wet. “Did you have enough breakfast, my dear? Don’t flinch away from me! You act like I’m going to slam your face into the counter!”
Sebastian began to think of all the buildings around the Academy. It shouldn’t be too hard to set up on one that had enough leverage to get a clear shot at the old Professor. It wouldn’t be difficult, it would be the escape that would make things harder. He wondered absently if there was any way that the buildings would have been bugged before he could get there.
“I like running in the morning,” Sebastian muttered, sipping at his coffee. He watched as Jim moved towards him, eyes alert as he raised a hand, just barely moving away from the man.
He frowned as Jim moved his hand through his hair, and he leaned down to give the man a light kiss on the temple, Jim’s hand still at his head. He was sure this would garner something from the man, but knew it would just be the punishment for flinching in the first place.
“Sorry sir.” He said, pulling away, “won’t happen again.”