Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners, Arthur Conan Doyle and in their BBC version Stephen Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and Stephen Thompson. The original characters and plot are mine. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: This was done for a request from Robina Snyder on Sherlock Holmes Week 2012. The prompt was to explore Moran and Moriarty's relationship, as something more than strictly professional. The first scene was written for a future chapter of my post-Reichenbach character study Nutrisco & exstinguo - not sure I'll use this whole story, but in any case, this is my personal headcanon. Hope you guys enjoy! And as always, reviewers are most appreciated. I like to know my readers :D ~¤Zoffoli
N.B.: This story was betaed by Chalcedony Rivers. All my thanks!
The Man with the Twisted Quip
Sebastian Moran liked nothing more than having a brilliant man as prey. Once he'd got used to the job, he even started to select his clients according to the person they wanted him to target. Sebastian liked to know the whole background, just so his pleasure would be more acute: he enjoyed knowing exactly who his victims were, how smart and important they were, before he shot them dead. It gave him an addictive sense of power, to hold the life of geniuses in his hand, and to know, to know that they couldn't do a thing about it - and, sometimes, weren't even aware of it. This was even more thrilling than war. The ex-colonel did not miss it in the least. He appreciated his newly acquired freedom.
When he had been employed to kill Jim Moriarty, he knew he'd be taking great risks. The man was most definitely famous in the underworld, though Sebastian had never met him personally. But the one who'd commissioned him had, and so knew what he looked like and even where he was most likely to be found. Still, the sniper had been forced to hunt for him. It'd only made the whole chase and catching more thrilling; Sebastian had never been so excited to see the moment he would hold somebody's life in his palm.
He hadn't expected it to turn out so perfectly and delightfully wrong.
"Hello, there," said the man in the Westwood suit walking casually up to him on the rooftop.
"Yes. Oh." Moriarty grinned broadly.
"I was supposed to shoot you."
"Indeed. I'm afraid you quite remarkably failed here, Seb."
Moran didn't blink at the nickname, as if it were perfectly natural for a complete stranger he was hired to eliminate to be familiar with his identity. He looked down to the street and watched the silhouette he'd been aiming at.
"Oh, him? It's just a fake. You can shoot him if you want. But he's not me."
For a second the sniper locked eyes with the consulting criminal and something seemed to pass between them, some electric current of recognition. But soon Sebastian broke the intensity of the instant. He shrugged indifferently.
"Oh well." Lighting up a cigarette, he started smoking as if he hadn't been about to kill someone, and as if now he weren't very likely to be killed. He turned to Jim and offered detachedly:
"Would you like one?"
The other's grin became cartoon-like, and his eyes twinkled with amusement.
"Ooh, I'm liking you," he announced in his sing-song voice. Sebastian smirked as he dragged on his cigarette, inhaling deeply.
"Aw, how sweet. I'm sure you say that to all your victims."
At this, Jim's eyes widened in theatrical bewilderment; yet there was tinge of genuine surprise in it.
"Victims? I don't have victims. Only clients – like you."
Sebastian smiled crookedly behind the cloud of smoke he had just blown.
"Not quite the same job, though," he commented smoothly.
"Obviously." Moriarty began to pace around him, as if circling a prey. Quite a reversal, Sebastian mused. But he noticed his gait was nonchalant.
"You use your brain. I use my eyes," the sniper went on.
Moriarty pouted dramatically.
"I use my eyes too!" he whined. Then in a lower, almost playful voice, laced with the subtlest threat and a tinge of cruelty: "I spotted you after all."
Not impressed by the tone in the least, Sebastian retorted indolently:
"No you didn't. You knew where I was going to be. You thought – you did not see."
Jim chortled with something akin to mirth, in a very twisted way.
"You're a funny one, Seb!" he exclaimed. "Before thinking, one needs to observe."
"Exactly," Moran concurred. "You observe to think. You never watch just to see."
Something indefinable flashed in Moriarty's eyes, but soon the expression was gone and his face split into a grin.
"Mmm, daring. I like that."
Sebastian smiled back, unperturbed. He was, in fact, enjoying himself quite a lot.
"You're going to kill me anyway. I might as well have some fun."
Moriarty smirked knowingly.
"Who said anything about killing you?"
"If you don't, I am going to kill you."
The consulting criminal burst out laughing at the words, and Moran could tell it wasn't only for the show.
"Oh, Seb, you're funny, you're very funny." He ran a hand in his hair and suddenly turned to the sniper, adding excitedly:
"What if I hired you to off your current client? What would you say?"
"I'd say that it wouldn't be very professional. And I'm a pro. Jim." Moran relished the knowing smirk Moriarty gave him, as if they'd known each other their whole life.
"Aw, come on, you're dying to," he insisted.
"What makes you say that?"
Moriarty's smug, regal look was priceless. Sebastian was so glad he'd accepted the job.
"Because you love geniuses, and you love madmen." Jim turned on himself and spread his arms ecstatically. "And I just happen to be both!"
Moran had to repress a chuckle. He blew some smoke instead, before replying off-handedly:
"Ummm... Nope. Sorry, not interested."
Moriarty just grinned, as if sure of his victory.
"Oh well. I'll let you think about it, then."
He turned to leave, and Seb watched him, nonplussed. He stood, drew a gun, and pointed it at the consulting criminal's back. Jim stopped dead in his track and looked behind his shoulder, a smirk playing on his lips.
"You won't shoot, dear. And you'll come to me in the end."
Turning back, he walked to the door casually. Moran's eyes turned to slits, and his grip tightened on his weapon. But he did not shoot.
"See you soon, Seb!" Jim let out, waving his hand without looking back at him, his tone confident and mocking. The tone of a king.
Sebastian never shot.
Jim Moriarty never had to wait long for anything. Or for anyone. He had personally picked Sebastian Moran to be his pet; his own John Watson, but better (a colonel, please, not just a captain). His live-in admirer.
"I want my own room," was the first thing Sebastian told him when they met again.
Moriarty faked disbelief.
"What makes you think we'll even live together?"
His tone was implying that such a thought was preposterous. But Moran did not become flustered in the least. He even seemed to repress a sigh of annoyance at the criminal's theatrics.
"Because you're obsessed with Sherlock Holmes. And he lives with the ex-soldier he picked – and who's got his own room, by the way. You obviously hired me to play flatmates."
"And more if we hit it off," Jim confirmed with a wink, finding the man highly entertaining. "I was so right to choose you! But then again, I'm never wrong."
Sebastian stared, and wondered what he had got himself into.
It turned out living with Jim Moriarty wasn't so bad. Moran never had so much work, but then that was what he lived for, and so he would never complain.
He'd thought at first Jim would be the type to eat only in high class restaurants and bring all his clothes to the dry cleaner's. But he wasn't. He was fine with frozen food and ready-made, and didn't always wear Westwood. Sometimes he disappeared for days on end, and Sebastian knew he probably owned several flats and different places, probably in various countries. He was even surprised he'd risk living in the same place for too long. But soon he realized how unreachable Moriarty truly was. He'd known from the start that Sebastian's client – the one who'd hired him to kill the criminal mastermind – would target him. He'd only let it happen because he wanted to meet the sniper. Said client had been killed the very same day; he had served his purpose.
"You see, Seb, only those who owe me everything know me personally. Powerful people, if there are any – like your client." He smirked. "I call them the IOU people. Incredibly overweening and useless. Well, they're not so useless. If they were, I wouldn't bother with them, even if it's cute to see them yapping and begging for more: Daddy, please get rid of that ambassador for me, so I can start a war. Daddy, won't you put me in contact with the Chinese Mafia? Daddy here, Daddy there..."
Sebastian stared for a second.
"… Right. Just so we're clear: I am not calling you 'Daddy'. Or dad. Or anything of the sort."
Jim burst out laughing.
"Ooh, the attitude! You're not cute at all, Seb."
"Pick a doctor, next time. Not a sniper." Idiot, said the lackadaisical tone.
"Aw, don't be jealous. Let's look on the bright side of things: you're not as devoted, but you're much smarter than him."
Moran made no comment.
A shot ripped the air and the man holding the gun fell dead on the riverbank. Moriarty looked up to the bridge and grinned widely at the invisible silhouette he knew was standing there.
Jim had always liked symmetry. He liked things to be harmonious, as it participated in the brilliance of his schemes. Consequently, it did not seem crazy at all to him to put his life on the line just so Sebastian would burst on him and save him by shooting the source of danger.
He hadn't set it in the same place John Watson had shot the old cabbie though; he'd thought the bank of the Thames at night, close to the murky water, would be a more fitting environment for the show. Naturally, he'd calculated everything so dear Seb would find out in time exactly where he was, and what was going on.
As he joined his sniper, Jim revelled in the clear annoyance that filled his traits. Seb was so listless! Moriarty loved it when he could get him to show some emotions on that unruffled face of his.
"You did this just so I could mirror John Watson?" Moran asked point-blank, his tone discrediting.
"Oh, so you've read the blog too!"
"Don't be stupid. He didn't say he killed a man on his blog, Jim."
"Haha, naturally! But wasn't it obvious?"
"Of course it was. That man is obvious."
"But isn't it adorable?"
"You're an idiot," Sebastian dead-panned, referring to the jeopardizing situation he'd put himself into on purpose, and unwittingly repeating the exact same words John had told Sherlock. Then, with a darker brow, and in a colder voice, he added:
"Don't reproduce the Pool so we can mirror it."
The consulting criminal and the sniper looked each other in the eye under the grim streetlight. Sebastian went on.
"I'm not John Watson. I won't offer my life to save yours."
"Say, why did you pick me?" Moran suddenly asked one night while Jim was playing with his hair. Sebastian found it annoying. He'd told him to stop because he found the gesture patronizing – revoltingly fatherly – but Jim had grinned and said he found his dark locks funny and that it'd be a pity not to play with them. Moran had retorted it was only because Jim's hair was dull and unpleasant to the touch, and that he should just get himself a wig to pet, or scalp Sherlock. Moriarty had laughed – a lot. But he hadn't dropped the habit in the least.
"Why the question, out of the blue?" Jim asked in an amused voice.
"What you wanted was your own personal John Watson. I have nothing in common with him."
"Don't lie, Seb. We both know you admire me." He grinned, and Sebastian couldn't help but think he really looked like the Joker in Batman when he did that. Or the Cheshire Cat. He arched an eyebrow, more contemptuous than truly puzzled.
"Of course. You're fascinated with me."
"Fascination and admiration aren't the same thing," Seb remarked. "Plus, John Watson is sickeningly devoted to Sherlock. He adores him."
Moriarty pouted and pulled capriciously on the black locks, like a sulking child.
"And you don't adore me?"
Seb gave him that stare Moriarty found most amusing, for it conveyed quite effectively his blasé mindset, that wouldn't even bother with a sigh.
"I'm not even going to answer that," the sniper said.
"But you just did," Jim pointed out, gloating.
"You're such a child."
"It wasn't a compliment."
"But you know what they say: we should all retain the innocence of children."
"Too bad," Sebastian told him. "You only retained the brattiness."
It was pouring outside when Moran finally found the disused warehouse Moriarty was surely in. It was insane to think that him, of all people, had been caught by some stupid – but very dangerous – Mafioso. In fact, Moran wondered if this wasn't some plan to test him again: a plan to test his loyalty, and force him to choose between his own life or his. But there was always a lingering doubt... What if it wasn't bogus? And even if it was, perhaps Jim was so sure of his reaction that he hadn't devised any plan B.
And so Sebastian burst in on a lovely meeting of half a dozen men with guns, which all pointed at him as he slammed open the main door and walked in, drenched. Moriarty was sitting, tied on a chair in the middle of the group. The sniêr groaned. Now I know you've planned all this. It is so utterly clichéd...
"Chi sei?" barked one of the men.
Seb stared dispassionately. "Sorry, I don't speak Italian."
"Who are you?" repeated another one, aiming at him threateningly. Sebastian smiled.
"Jim Moriarty. Hi."
They all looked at each other, completely lost.
"What are you saying? This man here is Jim Moriarty!"
"Oh, him? It's just a fake. You can shoot him if you want, but he's not me."
Even from this distance, he could see Jim's delighted smirk, and he had to stop himself from rolling his eyes. One of the men came up to him, and searched him for any weapon; he didn't find any. Idiot, Seb thought. However, he found his Craven A.
"You've got nice cigarettes," the man taunted as he took the packet from him and pocketed it.
All of a sudden Sebastian hit the man on the groin, disarmed him by twisting his arm around and breaking his wrist, and used him as a shield as all the others started shooting at him. Annoyed with the man's screams as his back was riddled with bullets, he shot him in the head and expertly put a bullet in every other Mafioso's brain (although he seriously wondered whether they had any). One of their bullets still grazed his shoulder, and he winced in pain as he shot the last man, who was trying to run away. The warehouse fell deathly silent.
Moran walked up to Jim, glowering.
"I think I'm just going to leave you there."
"Aw, come on," Moriarty whined, seesawing childishly on his chair, "Don't say that when you've done some classy suicide attack just to save me." He beamed.
Sebastian just glared, then turned away from Jim and went back to the body of the man who'd served as a shield.
"You're wrong. That guy just pissed me off. He took my cigarettes."
He took the packet back from the corpse's pocket and frowned when he saw they were drenched in his blood. He made a disgusted moue.
"You owe me a packet. Or two. Or a even a hundred."
"Why not the whole store, while we're at it?" Jim offered sarcastically.
"Why not?" Seb retorted coldly, quite serious.
"Fine. You're a kept man anyway, so what's a few more cigarette packets..."
Moran looked at him curiously, something like wonder in his eyes.
"You're pretty tied up there, Jim. Don't you think you've been rather reckless?"
Slowly, he stepped closer to his 'flatmate', playing with the gun he was still holding in his right hand and ignoring the pain radiating from his left shoulder. He stopped and aimed the gun at Moriarty's head.
"It would be so disappointedly easy to shoot you now."
Jim smiled refinedly. "But you won't, my dear."
"As you said. It would be disappointing."
Moran blinked, then shrugged and untied the insolent consulting criminal.
"Oh well," he commented phlegmatically.
Moriarty pouted. "You're no fun, Seb. Johnny boy is so much more passionate."
"To be fair, you're nowhere near as passionate as Sherlock either."
"You haven't been coming home a lot, lately. I was wondering–"
"If I had a mistress?" Jim cut in, rolling on the bed and sent Seb a taunting smile.
"... If you'd let yourself be kidnapped by the Iceman again."
"Big Brother? Nah. Nah, I'm done with him."
"But I thought you tried so hard to get his attention," Moran remarked as he served himself a glass of brandy. "Want some?"
"I'll just drink from your glass."
Sebastian rolled his eyes but came to sit on the bed next to the bossy git nonetheless.
"I did get his attention," Moriarty went on. "But you see, the Iceman's made of ice. He's boring. He doesn't want to play the game. That's why he's so alone, walled in his cold palace of aloofness. He's more intelligent than Sherly, in fact. But he's dull, so dull... except where his baby brother is concerned."
Moran frowned slightly as Jim drank some brandy.
"Then what did you lose your time for getting kidnapped and tortured? I know you're crazy, but–"
"Don't be stupid, Seb. Use your brain, for once."
Sebastian took his glass back dryly and fell quiet. Moriarty sighed.
"I made a deal with him. It was worth the trouble."
Jim grinned. "Of some sort."
"Do I want to know?"
"Oh, you will."
He gazed in the distance, as if visualizing with pride what would soon be coming.
"I'm planning something grand, Seb. A hell... the perfect hell! One worthy of Sherlock."
Moran put his glass down and tilted his head pensively.
"Say, Jim. Do you hate him? Or do you love him?"
Moriarty blinked, then shook his head disappointedly.
"No, no... you keep asking stupid questions... always the wrong ones..."
Ignoring his whining, Sebastian pressed on:
"Will you kill him? Or John Watson?"
They locked eyes, and Moran felt himself drown in the incandescence and sheer madness of those darkened pupils. Moriarty's face cracked into a grin.
"What do you think?
It was on a rainy June night that Jim suddenly burst in on Sebastian sleeping and kissed him senseless.
Actually, he rather woke him up senseless, and soon a gun was pressed to Jim's temple, before the disoriented sniper took in the situation and put his weapon down.
"What the hell?"
Moriarty sat back and gave a disappointed moue.
"Nah. Nah, it doesn't work."
Sebastian sighed exasperatedly and fell back on his pillow. Jim lay next to him, but kept brooding.
"It's obsessive, you know," Moran commented as Moriarty started playing with his locks.
"Don't tell me you think they kiss."
"Of course not. But we're smarter, remember?"
They exchanged a knowing smirk. But a wistful smile made its way to Jim's face, and Sebastian knew it was serious.
"So... It's tomorrow, isn't it." He didn't even bother hiding the affirmative tone.
"Yup. Tomorrow... Well, today, in fact."
The sniper's eyes fell to his luminous watch. Three in the morning. Indeed...
"He texted you."
"Mm. There's a staircase in front of Bart's. Perfect for shooting practice."
Sebastian got the message and remained silent.
"We're not the same," he said finally.
"Them, and us. Watson, and I. Sherlock... and you."
"Ha ha ha! What are you trying to say?"
Moran turned to his 'flatmate' and looked him in the eye.
"You can never have what Sherlock has. But we had something else."
"Had?" Moriarty repeated in mock surprise.
"You're going to shoot yourself, aren't you?"
Jim's face froze a second, and suddenly Moran realized the surprise hadn't been fake. Soon, however, the consulting criminal regained his composure and broke in a fit of giggles.
"I was so right to choose you, Seb, so right."
Abruptly, his expression turned grave, his pupils gleaming with mad determination.
"I am going to shoot myself."
Then more lightly: "So what do you say? Are you going to try and stop me?"
Seb shrugged, but groped for his cigarette packet on his bedside table, and lit one before answering:
"No. I knew this was going to happen sooner or later." He dragged on his cigarette before adding more softly: "That's why you came to me in the first place."
"Is it?" Moriarty asked with one of his characteristic grins.
Seb intensified his gaze.
"But you'll have to tell me clearly. What you want from me after you've died."
"Ooh. So you want me to tell you my plans?"
"Obviously. That's my business, since you're going to have me enact them for you."
Moriarty kept playing with Sebastian's hair nonchalantly.
"Of course. You'll know everything you need to know."
At the words, Moran smiled jadedly.
"Does that include the way you want to close the symmetry?"
"Whatever do you mean, Seb?" Jim inquired innocently... with a Cheshire-cat-like grin.
Sebastian dragged on his cigarette once more. The blue smoke he blew seemed white in the darkness of the room.
"You know," he said casually. "Whether you want Sherlock to die, so only the two 'pets' remain... Or whether you want only the 'good guys' to remain."
For a second, he thought he saw a flash of pride in the consulting criminal's eyes, and he felt his hand linger more gently on his scalp.
"Will your loyalty depend on my answer?" Jim asked playfully.
A pause. Sebastian blew some more smoke from his cigarette.
"You know it won't."
Sebastian saw the staircase. He set everything in case he'd have to shoot John Watson after all, and almost wished it would happen. But that would mean Jim's plan had failed, and he couldn't possibly hope for such a thing.
He did not hear the detonation, but knew the exact second Moriarty shot himself. He watched as Sherlock gave his last call to John, and wondered to what extent his tears were fake. Take the binoculars. I bet you he'll cry. Jim had been right, of course. I'm never wrong.
And so Sebastian watched as Sherlock cried and trembled and hung up on a terrified John and jumped. He watched as the doctor was hit by a cyclist, and as the truck hid the detective's "corpse" from view.
Just a quip, Seb. It'll be just a quip. Brilliant, isn't it?
As he went down the stairs, Moran wondered if Jim had been talking about himself – his scheme, even his whole life, perhaps? – or Sherlock's death.
Either way, this wasn't the end. The game was still on, more than ever.
With or without him. But always for him.