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This Ticket's Good for Two

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It was an unpleasant feeling, the one that overtook him so suddenly. Like someone had snuck up from behind and spilled a large bucket of nausea overtop of him. And just like that, it was gone, and he was left wondering just what exactly, the fuck, had washed over him in that moment. Shaking it off, he looked back across to Jim. "You were saying?"

Jim took another sip from his glass, shoulders tensing slightly as he rolled them back, fixing Sebastian with a contemplative look before swallowing the rest of the red liquid. "The British Government is coming down on us, Sebastian," he said in a low, soft drawl, pushing his plate of dinner to the side so he could lean on the table, chin on his palm.

Posture rigid as ever, Sebastian attempted to relax into his chair, throwing an arm along the back of it and regarding Jim ponderously. There was something…Off about him in a morose sort of way that he'd rarely seen hints at, let alone the full force of. "We'll shake them off. We've done it before." His reassurance was just as much for Jim as it was for himself. He wasn't blind, of course-he'd seen the man laying on his back with hands folded neatly underneath his skull, fixated on the ceiling as though trying to pry answers from it. He'd heard him pacing through the hall, the tapping of his shoes reverberating off the walls like some sort of maddening jig. And he'd seen that look in his eye, that one he'd attempted to cast away before turning his attention to the man but it didn't matter because he'd seen it already and just a glimpse inside had been enough.

This time was different. "Lucky enough I've got a fearless leader who's devilishly cunning."

"Not this time." Jim shook his head, tongue dragging over his bottom lip, the cold starting to creep up his spine. It didn't hurt, not really. Going out with a bang would have been nice, but no one expected this. Moriarty made a vague gesture with a hand, standing, carefully balancing his weight as he made his way to the couch, curling his fingers for Sebastian to follow. "The thing about fairytales… A villain can rule over a kingdom for years, but eventually they must fall. They fall, and their empire crashes, burns in a spectacular show…I don't want that to happen, Sebastian."

He sat down, crossing his legs, adjusting his jacket, looking as perfect as ever, if one was to look past the discolouring around his eyes, where lack sleep had left its bruises.

"You know I hate being predictable."

Whenever it came to the fairy tale references, contrary to the logic one might normally presume, Sebastian had become keenly aware of the severity of the situation. It wasn't uncommon for people to have their metaphors, but Jim was rather taken with fairy tales. With his role in them. The parallel was uncanny, to him.

And it was sort of odd, at times, how exactly appropriate a parallel it was. Because Jim is right, admittedly, in these situations of comparison. In this particular situation, if he reduced it all to hypotheticals.

Jim wasn't taking a hypothetical stance. There was a very real way in which he exercised this sort of language, when he referenced his fables. Of all the colorful uses of the English language (and he presumed in whatever other languages Jim occasionally broke into around him), these stories were the most direct. And in the end, one side would always surface, no matter how long it took.

It just so happened to never be their side.

Lifting from the chair, feeling that odd sensation swoop over him again, Sebastian paused for a moment to ensure equilibrium had returned before making his way over to the couch. Strange, perhaps he'd caught something. Perhaps it was all of the sleepless nights beginning to catch up with him, or his vast inability to eat for the last couple of weeks. Whatever it was, he did his best to shrug it off and took a seat next to Jim, taking him in for a long moment. He was so genuine, so unsaturated. Jim was walking perfection, in all of his chaos and disorder. He was the culmination of all the fairy tale villains combined. He was what they all aspired to be.

He was talking like a dog trying to find a place to die alone.

"One last stand, then?" He returned at last, eagerness in his voice, grabbing at the last straws of enthusiasm left.

At that, Jim turned his head, looking Sebastian up and down. "No…" It was almost smug, the way he spoke, "No, Sebastian. I told you. Predictability is never an option. I will not stain my hands by going down in a fight to the death… I have since accepted the way the story will end. The hero is dead, but there is still the avenger. What is more satisfying than depriving someone of exactly what they want?"

Jim's lips curled into a cruel smile, and he pressed the side of his index finger to them to cover it, closing his eyes with a chuckle.

"You will be loyal to be until the end, won't you Sebastian?" he eventually asked, a weariness creeping into his voice, a giggle— mad, almost, insane, almost— tearing from his lips as he bowed his head.

There was no choice now; no turning back, no convenient antidote, no way of simply stepping backwards, to before he had called his sniper off work, asked him to make a nice dinner, uncorked a bottle of expensive wine and tainted it with poison.

But that was okay, the toxin only added to the flavor of the wine, the taste in his mouth, a fruity, rich taste. Maybe a taint of copper.

The expression that overtook Sebastian, then, wasn't much different than the one he used to calculate just how much, exactly, the proper amount for a tip would be as he left a diner. Jim's words were not unlike math, in that sense. The way he said them, the expression he wore, that lilt in his voice as though at any moment he may break out into song about it. All the factors were pointing in such an obvious direction, one that he didn't put past the man at all, but-

not necessarily one that he wanted to believe. Because Sebastian Moran was a fighter-always had been and always would be. There wasn't a person in the world who could take a single thing away from him. They'd have to fight him for it.

Everyone except Jim. And Jim knew that. Knew to presume that in all cases. Especially this one.

Especially the last one.

It was evident in all of this that Jim had already done something, already set something in place. And that laugh-christ, was it echoing in his head and that sensation, it was back now and he wasn't a fool, he wasn't naive and he knew Jim wasn't the hero, not even in his own story.

"Of course, Jim," was what Sebastian resigned to, but the lingering inquiry was evident. Of course, but what? Of course, but you must tell me. Of course, but where are we going? Of course, but where is the end?

"Then swear your loyalty now Sebastian, because this… this is the end," Jim tapped the side of his chin, laughing again, but a sort of breathy chuckle, because he wasn't going to obey the stereotypes; no maniacal laughter, no cursing the hero for weighing him down in the end, no regrets. Just this.

He watched Sebastian very closely as he spoke, taking in his movements, reading his body language. His sniper was smart, intuitive, and Jim knew that it wouldn't matter what happened; he would always be loyal. If he were to die and Sherlock were to live, then Moran would fight tooth and claw until the detective was crushed, he was behind bars, or he was dead. But now… Now it didn't matter. The dominoes had started to topple, there were far more pages on the left hand side of their book, they were nearing the last pages and there would never be a happily ever after.

Because everyone would be destroyed.

"Mycroft Holmes… Brotherless. John Watson, loverless… Scotland yard, lost without their detective and London, oh Seb. It will burn. It will burst into flames. With no one to dictate, to govern… Not even someone to keep the criminals in check. Sometimes unorganized crime is the best. After we go, there will be so many people who cannot conduct themselves. It will be perfect."

After we go. It was set, then, their fate. Sebastian felt the cool wave of panic set over him, laying into him with such force that his vision blurred for a brief moment and-was that truly the panic, or was it something else? That feeling from before had returned in spades. Strange, how it had progressed so much so soon. Such an alien sensation. Such a foreboding twist in his stomach.

"How long, then?" Uncertainty was somehow lacking in his tone, contrary to the nature of his question. Jim was calm, collected, everything about his posture signifying his acceptance of a fate only he knew to be on its way. Sebastian wondered if there would be any more comfort in knowing. If the man had asked him to jump into a burning building, he would have sooner than this. Not that he was the dramatic type-Sebastian simply never saw himself dying in any sort of…Easy way. Once Jim had decided something, no matter how extreme, there was no changing his mind.

Asking how, then, was pointless, so he settled for inquiring how long.

The consulting criminal's eyes drifted toward the clock, and he slowly, gently, drifted to the side, leaning on Sebastian. "About seven minutes," he replied with a light tone, dark eyes watching his neck, watching the movements in it, taking his pulse from a distance. If Sebastian panicked it would mean that Jim would more likely live longer. But he was accepting, Moriarty could tell. He hadn't expected any less.

"Together we have done great things-lived in a shit hole, lived in luxury. We could rule the world if we had time, Seb. If only," he cooed wistfully, shifting, sitting up, only so he could drop his head heavily onto Sebastian's chest.

He hadn't ever been one for slow moments of affection, usually his bouts of 'love' were accented with persistent nuzzling, or molesting. There were never quiet moments, they were never like the old couple you see, quietly eating lunch together. Not really. Not even when Jim was docile. Usually there was so…

So much in his head.

He laughed, sighed, smiled.

"I feel so normal… And it's not awful, because I don't care."

Sebastian brought his hand to the back of Jim's head, sifting his fingers lightly through his hair. It was a fluid motion, natural. As though this was how they normally were, Jim propped up against him on the couch with such a peculiarly calm air about him. He'd never seen the man like this-not during any afterglow of any measure of triumph or defeat, and certainly not during any moment of boredom on a rainy afternoon cooped up in the flat.

He felt his heart leap in his chest at that confession, panic brushing over him for just that moment before he relished the ability of at least knowing. it was that moment before the shot, 70 stories up, the crisp air of the heightened altitude whipping through his hair and then that exhale, that deep breath-hold it, pull, release. He hadn't wanted to grow old and decrepit anyway, that he had decided long ago. With Jim, he'd known it would never be an option, anyway. And if this were it, if he were allowed this one last moment just like this, Jim resting against the very beat of his heart and finally, finally set free of that pain he'd been born with and endured for so long-if he were granted that at any cost, he would have taken it. "What's it like?" he inquired in curiosity, resting into the couch and looking straight ahead.

"Being normal? Or dying?"

For Jim Moriarty, though, they were the same thing. He wouldn't ever feel the burden of cluttered thoughts in his mind, he wouldn't ever have a chance to stop and simply take in the beauty of a moment, not without a million other things in the back of his mind. So he told Sebastian that, told him both were the same, told him it was like sleeping, like a dreamless sleep. A single stream of consciousness that would fade out like an old lightbulb.

"Thank you," he said, with a tone that makes the sincerity of the words. He was shivering now, fingers curling into Sebastian's jacket as a chill ran over his body. It was uncomfortable, they should have lit the fire. Instead, Jim just moved closer to the sniper and closed his eyes. "We've won, though," another quiet laugh, "We…won. And now the game is over, so it's time to rest, Seb."

Sebastian had seen the world. He'd been to the majority of the continents, for one purpose or another. He'd seen the things that people write about in their bucket lists and vacations ideas, things that the restless mind yearned for from youth to elder age. He'd beheld the sight of the most majestic creatures to ever walk the earth first-hand and ventured through the closest terrain to the hypothetical heaven one could ever find. He'd seen a lot, experienced more,

and he doubted that any of it could have been any more beautiful than this moment-Jim pressed closely (closest he'd ever been) against him, telling him one last fairy tale. Theirs was a twisted story, admittedly, but weren't they all in one way or another? It was more comforting than any bedtime story ever told, any book ever written to ease the mind of the human condition. It was raw and unyielding. It was too fantastic a moment to exist elsewhere, to maintain without combustion. It was an experience he'd have thought he might have gone his life deprived of, sharing such an intimacy with Jim. And yet here it was, here they were, at the end. And they had won.

He felt the cold setting in, his fingers tracing the curvature of Jim's features. Over the lines of his cheek bone, sliding alongside it and down to his lips, details he'd memorized over the years. Leaning down, he laid a kiss to the back of the man's neck, where his spine ascended into its final disc, and he smiled against that pale skin, shutting his eyes.

"We won," he repeated in finality, understanding the profound nature of such a claim. Not many could boast opposing the world and emerging the victor. He found a nagging sensation to inform Jim of everything, to leave no room for doubt in just what, exactly, he'd been to Sebastian. He saved his life, breathed meaning into it. Ressurected it, one might even say began it.

I owe you everything, Jim.

I owe you the world, Jim.

You are my everything, Jim.

You are my world, Jim.

I've got so much to tell you, Jim.

I-

"I love you, Jim."

Because there was nothing to lose now, and there was nothing else for Sebastian to get off of his chest. The one last thing he'd had to admit, the one last secret he'd held. Not that it necessarily needed to be pointed out. And not that he wanted to hear anything back.

If this were to be the end, he would have Jim hear it from his lips before they went cold.

Jim twisted, placing a hand on Sebastian's shoulder to help him lever himself up from his slouched position, fitting his lips over the man's without his usual roughness, without the possessiveness. It was just a kiss that possibly had more emotion in it than James Moriarty had ever felt at any singular part in his life.

"I know," the criminal murmured, head slipping forward to rest their foreheads together, noses side by side as he just sat there. He didn't love Sebastian back, he wasn't going to lie. Jim felt no emotions, not even anger, because whenever things got bad it was always like a smoulder, something that still allowed him to be cold and calculated, even though the main idea was to tear someone apart.

But not now.

This was going to be quiet.

Not a dramatic death.

No explosions.

No blood— he had considered a gun.

But no, just him and his Moran, the man who had been there for the longest, the only person he could actually stand. If he were a normal man, he would be in love. He wasn't, though, so he settled soft looking into Sebastian's colourful eyes with his own dark ones, attempting to convey that just because he didn't love him, didn't mean that Sebastian didn't mean something to him.

Sebastian felt it, then, as Jim's eyes bore so imploringly into his own. That fleeting reassurance he was never quite sure of, never quite able to capture long enough to examine. It was all he wanted to hear, all he wanted to see. He'd spent so long doing everything in his power to impress Jim in one way or another, to transcend everything the man had found so dull and monotonous in the average human because of all things, he would have hated to bore the man. To just be another ant crawling across his pavement. And it made his heart do something funny, some sort of abrupt booming as though it were preparing to launch from his chest.

And then it wouldn't stop.

And he didn't look away.

His grip tightened onto the man slightly, in something of a contained convulsion, and he felt his breath hitch in his throat. And he smiled-not that toothy grin that he normally tossed around in Jim's presence, but a fonder sort of smile. And there was irony here, truly there was.

Because that rush of blood pumping through his heart in reaction to Jim's affection had been precisely enough to push the poison through his cavities.

Precisely enough to kill him.

Jim laughed, barely a few exhales of breath as he slid his hand to Sebastian's neck, checking exactly what didn't need to know.

This was the end of a legacy.

James Moriarty, the spider who pulled every string.

Sometimes it didn't matter if the spider was dead, sometimes. Sometimes things still flew into the web, they got caught, tangled, trapped and they died. It didn't matter if the spider was dead or had moved on, because in the end it would always be a deadly creature, venom harvestable, web still in place.

He smiled, tucked his head under Sebastian's neck, feeling the stillness of it; no air, no pulse, but still warm.

"Good night, Sebby," Jim murmured, kissing the skin as he dropped his eyes closed, allowing the nagging cold to wash over him, like a cold rain in the middle of a storm.

Because this wasn't the end. Not really.