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Jim Moriarty's Right and Left Hands: One for Death, One for Sex

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Moran, the boss is going to be so pissed if you don’t get your ass back here. Seriously. -LH

I know how to do my job, shrimp. And I know how to handle Moriarty. -SM

Did you just call me shrimp? Just because I'm 5'4 to your, what, 6'2 doesn't make me a shrimp. Jesus Christ, you're in a bad mood today. Bad hair day or something? LH

Watch your step. Your track record isn't stellar, and I'm in charge of staff. If I want you replaced, Jim won't question me. -SM

Who's going to replace me? Kelly? He's blown his cover four times and he's worked with us for almost two years, and the next spy below him can't compete with him. Don't be an idiot. Just because you're his favorite doesn't mean he'll throw out something valuable. I've worked hard for my standing. You're just a good shot. LH

Yes you have, don't blow it now. I'm home now, mom. That was sarcasm, in case you were having difficulty. SM

That's funny. So is it just a bad hair day, or did Jim get pissy with you earlier....? LH

"Bad hair day." A gun pressed to the back of her head. "Watch your step, as I said. Nothing ruins one's day like stepping in shit." His voice was dripping sarcasm. The gun dropped and he walked around her, heading for the base's kitchen.

Lorna was too used to having guns pulled on her to do more than tense up slightly as he pulled that, smirking slightly as he walked by before following him with a spring in her step. Nothing made her day more than exasperating Moran. Annoying was too strong of a word - she never let it get that far, because she knew that he was a very dangerous man, and she had too much respect for him for it to get to annoying. "There's fresh coffee. And liquor, in case you want to live up to your Irish roots. Your hair is actually fine, by the way. I think maybe you should freshen up your personality, though, just a suggestion," she shrugged, giving him a wide smile.

He poured whiskey into a mug, then filled it with coffee, taking a long sip, watching her with a raised eyebrow. In truth, he was about as fond of Lorna as he could be of a co-worker, which was fond enough to want their advancement but detached enough to kill them if required. She had potential. "I think I'll keep it the way it is, thank you."

"Mm. You're probably right. I think your skills come less from your steady hands and more from your ex-military aura. You'd probably have to be, like, a rock star or something boring like that if you had a better attitude," she chuckled, making the same drink for herself and taking a sip smugly. She enjoyed her conversations with the sniper, mostly because he never got sore about her teasing. Everyone else either liked it too much or got huffy.

"Hilarious. Have you considered stand up comedy? Would be ironic if you couldn't stand up. I could help with that." He took a long sip of the bitter drink, hardly blinking as the whiskey burned his throat.

Lorna shrugged. "No, no, I already tried not standing up. Yeah, some mafia guy helped me with it before I started working here. If I wanted to do that again I'd just ask him." She gave him another smile and then grimaced down at her mug. "I think I overdid the coffee on this one. Not enough whiskey."

He passed the bottle her way. "The faster your liver fails, the faster you stop being a pain in my arse."

"It's nice to know that I have a coworker I can truly count on to look after me," she hummed, uncapping the bottle and unceremoniously making the coffee-to-liquor ratio about 50-50. At this rate, he wouldn't have too long to wait. "By the way, did you hear about the new hire in the hitman department? Wait, yeah, you're chief of staff, sorry. Either way, I...well," she frowned, suddenly serious. "I don't have a good feeling about him. He's familiar somehow."

He raised an eyebrow, though that was his only reaction. He took such information seriously, but didn't let any concern be known to subordinates. "Elaborate."

She shrugged again, tapping the edge of her mug noiselessly. "He makes me feel like I'm on a job assignment, you know? Normally I wouldn't think too much of it, except he starts getting twitchy when you look at him too long. I think someone should do a second background check. Make sure he's not here to cause trouble for us," she sighed, glancing back at Sebastian with a cautious expression.

He considered her for a moment, then drained his coffee, pouring in another shot of whiskey. "You said he's familiar. You worked with him before?" He topped off her mug with whiskey, then closed the bottle and put it in the cabinet.

"Maybe. I'm not sure if it's that or if I've met him on a job," Lorna shook her head, leaning back against the counter, gray eyes troubled. "I'd know him if I knew where I've seen him, but other than that, I can't tell you. Thanks, by the way," she added, sipping at her now 70-30 drink.

He put back about half his shot of whiskey, wrinkling his nose a bit at the dregs of coffee mixed in. "I'll look into him. Until then you don't make any moves. Tell me if you find out anything else."

"Understood," she nodded. She was a sarcastic troublemaker, but she knew when to obey orders. It was the only reason she'd survived for so long in Moriarty's network, after all. She might have been the second-longest surviving employee, after Moran. It occurred to her that there was probably a way to check.

He nodded a bit, then turned and headed out of the kitchen in the direction of Moriarty's quarters. "I marked how full the bottle is, shrimp. That's enough imbibing for the evening," he called back.

"I'd prefer something a little more height appropriate in terms of a nickname! And that's rude, because I paid for this bottle myself!" she called after him, looking a little disgruntled as she settled back against the counter to finish her drink. Best not to follow him to Moriarty's office.

He ignored her with a smirk, and took the lift up to Moriarty's office, knocking on the boss's door lightly.

Jim was working. All of his employees who valued their lives knew his working hours, and so that meant only one thing - it was Moran knocking at his door. "Come in, Sebastian," he said, just loudly enough for it to reach the door.

He opened the door just before Jim finished talking, to push the edge a bit. He gave his employer a casual salute. "How's the evening, sir?"

Jim glanced up from the screen of his computer, raising his eyebrows. "Could be better. Some low-level idiots fucked up a job and now I have to clean it up before it collides with other plans of mine. But you needn't be worried about that. Actually, I wanted you in here so you could look at a picture and tell me how many potential sniper hideouts there are. You're best qualified."

"Of course, sir," he said, walking forward and leaning against the desk. "Let me have a look."

Jim finally stopped typing away at his keyboard to pull up a picture of a rather ridiculously opulent country club, tilting the screen towards Sebastian. "Any and all points that would be a potential perch, point them out. I'll have them filled with security guards. I'm throwing a small.... party, I suppose, for my biggest clients, and I can't have any of them killed. I won't be there, of course, but they're rather our income, hm?"

He nodded, scanning the building with quiet concentration for a few moments. "It's a horrible building, lots of curves and corners, hard to get a clean shot," he said quietly. "Which narrows it down. These two east windows and the treeline with vision to them are the clearest shots, I'd have a sentry along that line, maybe two, it's large, and one in each window. The only other real shot is this northwest corner, with the bay windows. If you can cordon off that corner of the club I would. If not, then curtain the windows. "

"That's helpful, thank you," Jim replied curtly, eyes flicking to each of the places the sniper had mentioned and storing them away. He knew many things about the business of crime, but he didn't have the particular skill set that Moran was so good at, so he gave credit where it was due. He didn't thank everyone. "I'll have a job for you in a few days. That's all I need you for right now, if you don't have anything you need from me," Jim murmured, closing out the picture and beginning to type furiously on the keyboard again.

"One thing, sir, if you're not too busy," he said, straightening again. "There might be a small staffing issue which I should make you aware of for security reasons. Harrison's indicated that one of our new hires seems off. I believe his name is Salvos. Just be aware that he's currently flagged by me until I clear him."

Moriarty glanced up at him for a moment, an eyebrow raising slightly before he returned to his work. "Harrison, really? Knew there was a reason I pay her so much. Keep me informed on this. I expect you'll be able to handle it," he sighed, frowning at the screen. He'd had his suspicions that somebody under his employ had ulterior motives, but not many people ever got to actually see him, so finding out who it was on his own was difficult.

"Of course sir. Was just making you aware of the threat." He turned to head for the door. "When was the last time you ate, sir?" he put in as an afterthought.

"This morning," Jim said crisply, eyes flicking up towards Moran again. What a strange question. Was that concern? "When was the last time you drank? You smell like whiskey."

"Five minutes ago," he said with a smirk. "And don't look so surprised. If you drop dead I have to do your damn job. You want steak?"

"What I want is a five-star sushi dinner, but I have another hour before I can do that, so I'm afraid not. I'm saving space. Business meeting," he shrugged slightly, not bothering to inform Moran that if he dropped dead there would be only one person qualified to do his job, and no one would be able to convince him to do it. "I... appreciate it, though."

He just nodded. "Of course, sir. Let me know if you need anything." He stepped out and closed the door.

"I always do," Jim muttered to himself, shaking his head as he returned to work.

Outside, Lorna was waiting with her back to the wall by the door, a thick manila folder in her hand. "I have a report for you. Aren't you lucky."

 "Thrilled," he said, back to deadpan, reaching out for the report. "What is it?"

"Some mid-level target killed. A few complications. I think McKinnon is in the hospital. I don't know, I only skimmed through it, which I'm not even supposed to really do," she shrugged, handing it to him.

 He sighed. "Must have been what the boss was pissed about." He sized up Lorna, then made a decision. "Hell, I don't want to go through this crap." He handed it back to her. "Take a look through it. I want a briefing in twenty minutes. Impress me." He headed for the den.

Lorna held the file on her fingertips, looking after him with a slightly stunned look on her face, mixed with a tiny bit of disgust. Oh, god, she was considered responsible enough to handle this? What had she done wrong? Was it something she'd said? After a minute of being frozen with regret, she sighed and sagged, tucking the file under her arm and heading for the kitchen. Time to slog through the thing in ten minutes. Then she'd have a little time to... well, do nothing.

 

He turned the TV on low, watching the time pass. Lorna had been here long enough to start taking on more of a leadership role. It'd be good for her, especially if she ever wanted to head a security web. After only fifteen minutes he called "Time's up, shrimp. Get in here."

She'd been done for ten; it turned out that she'd covered a lot more ground in her skim than she'd thought she had, and had been entertaining herself doodling for the rest of her time. "Please stop calling me that," she groaned as she walked into the room, thunking the folder down onto the coffee table with an exasperated expression. "What do you want, here? Just the basics, or details, too?"

"Tell me what you think I need to know. I'll let you know how you do." His expression gave no clues.

Lorna hadn't really expected any differently. He was intentionally difficult, and she still wasn't sure if it was just with her or if it was to all his colleagues. "Alright. Fine. McKinnon was assigned to shoot and kill a Mr. Harold Baxter, involved in insider trading and corruption at a high up bank here in London. McKinnon broke into Baxter's house at 1:30 in the morning last night and promptly got himself shot by security. He took care of the security guards, limped his way to Baxter's bedroom, and killed the man where slept. The cleanup crew made it look like a regular robbery - we have possession of quite a few Rolexes now - and McKinnon got to the hospital. Claimed a mugging gone wrong. If the cleanup crew took the security guards' guns, that should be the end of it. If not, the slug in McKinnon might be traced back to Baxter's. If that happens, I suggest we cut our losses." She folded her arms over her chest as she finished speaking and raised an eyebrow at Moran. "So?"

He reached a hand out for the report, flipping it open and skimming over the file. "Next time mention who heads the cleanup crew. I want to know what standard mistakes to expect. And get to know those mistakes. Preempt them. For instance, Wallace was heading this crew. He's never had a problem with guns before. Prints, he tends to have an issue with, but McKinnon isn't in the system, so even if that were a problem, it isn't one."

She nodded slowly, quietly appreciating his lack of sarcasm. "Alright. I'll watch for that," she murmured, running a hand through her dark hair. It was a habit of hers, something that she did whenever she felt she'd had a near miss. "Who's going to fill McKinnon's place while he's in recovery?"

He sat back, considering. "McKinnon's job description, do you know it?"

"Yeah, I know the basics. Mid-level targets, nothing fancy. Basically an up-close sniper who occasionally picks up some intel on the way out. I like my job more." Lorna shrugged, rolling her shoulders. She often got tense shoulders - probably from day-to-day worries about the safety of her life.

"I know the basics," he said dryly. "I was ensuring you did. Take a look at things, find a replacement, and run it by me."

She sighed heavily, looking just as dryly at him. "I already know who. Williams. His reflexes aren't as fast, but he's cautious and smart and I think he can handle it. I do pay attention, you know. I fraternize, unlike you," she pointed out, although not unkindly. She didn't do so in the interest of making friends, not really, although that sometimes happened. She just needed to know who was a potential threat. Of course, these days it happened a little less. More responsibility was being foisted on her, and she didn't have the time for it like she used to.

He nodded. "Williams is a fair choice, if an obvious one. You didn't do as terribly as I expected you to." He stood, tossing the file at her. "Brief him tomorrow. And you don't read files without my permission, are we clear?"

Lorna rolled her eyes, catching the file one-handed. "If you wanted me to stop you should have noticed three months ago. But yeah, whatever, fine. Less work for me, anyways," she waved a hand at him dismissively, then lowered herself into a nearby armchair, the file in her lap. "Why are you doing this?"

"So that you can try to take my job and I have an excuse to kill you," he deadpanned, his attention back on the television.

"That's stupid. I don't want your job. My job is actually fun," she shot back, resting her head back against the chair and closing her eyes. She could sneak a nap in here. The only people likely to be even remotely comfortable waking her would be Moran or their boss, and neither were really concerned with her.

"My job is fun. And pays about five times as much. Plus I get to boss your lazy arse around."

"Your job is lame. You sit on rooftops and stare through a glorified monocle at people until you kill them. I get to pretend to be other people and drink on the job and sometimes actually deliver heads on silver platters, so, I don't know, that sounds like a lot more fun to me," she hummed, smiling to herself. "Sometimes I hum the mission impossible theme song to myself."

He raised an eyebrow, glancing over at her. "If I had any respect for you, it would have just been lost," he intoned dryly, returning his gaze to the screen.

"I don't need your respect. I only need you to hate the other coworkers a little more than you hate me," she shrugged, yawning. She would just go home, but she was on-call for any quick jobs that needed doing. Sometimes she thought it was unfortunate that she had a wide skill range.

"Oh, I loathe you all equally, that's what makes me such a fantastic boss," he muttered.

"Damn. I guess I need you to just not shoot me without undue reason," she sighed, shifting from her upright position to her head over one arm of the chair and her legs slung over the other.

"I'll consider it," he said, standing with a grunt and heading for the kitchen.

She stayed where she was, folder tucked in-between her and the chair for safe-keeping. She didn't think that Moran thought all that highly of her, but she didn't think it was worth it to try and raise his opinion. As long as they paid her and left her largely alone, she was happy. All she needed was her liquor.

He returned a few long minutes later with steak tips and peppers in a bowl, sitting on the couch and digging into the hot food quietly.

"Try not to waft that over here. I'm saving myself for a beautiful little bottle of bourbon later tonight and I'd hate to waste all that space on food," Lorna muttered, cracking an eye to look over at him.

He waved a hand in her direction, intentionally pushing the smell her way. "Suit yourself."

Lorna sighed. "Sometimes I picture you fat and bald just so I can keep myself from pulling a knife on you. Don't let yourself go. You'd look terrible."

"Sometimes I picture you dying of a mix of malnutrition and alcohol poisoning because I find it entertaining. No warning, you might even look better, but then, I have odd tastes." He took another bite of food.

"Mm. I expect that I'll be held up to all the med students a prime example of liver failure. I'll be such an attractive corpse, though," she snorted, unsurprised with his statement. She checked the clock, sighing in relief. "Alright, I'm out of here. Please, definitely hesitate to call if you need me."

"I won't," he said with a smirk, turning off the television. "I might have an impossible mission, shrimp. Who knows when I'll need you."

"If you call me that again I promise physical repercussions," she rolled her eyes as she stood, bringing the folder with her. She was half serious. "See you, Moran," she waved, heading for the door. God, she just wanted to get home and sleep. Although she had to file this folder first.

"See you, shrimp," he said with a laugh, standing and stretching.

She stopped by the door, looking back at him. "I'm serious, you know. Don't call me that. Okay?" She had her reasons for this not becoming a permanent thing. And it wasn't something she wanted to get into.

He raised an eyebrow, but knew enough to sense a line. "Fine," he said, shrugging. "And here I thought you were gonna make good on that promise." He snorted, heading down the hall towards his on-site room.

Normally, she would have, but she wasn't too eager to go toe-to-toe with Sebastian Moran when all she had on her for a weapon for a rather thick folder. She just needed sleep - actually, now that she thought about it, she hadn't slept in 48 hours. She had a room here, if she wanted it, but she preferred to sleep at her own place. It felt safer.

He closed the door of his room, walking over to sit on his bed and pull off his shoes. He lay back, still in his typical uniform- black dress trousers and a crimson shirt to hide any blood. He stretched out with a yawn, looking over to make sure the intercom light was blinking, meaning Jim could reach him if he wanted to. Then he closed his eyes, drifting off.

Lorna had a short walk home to her own flat, since it was just down the street. She dumped her keys on the hall table as she closed the door and then shuffled off to bed, not even bothering to get out of her work clothes first. Forty-eight hours worth of exhaustion didn't allow her to. 

  


 

 

Sebastian was roused by the buzz of the intercom. He opened his eyes, a hand on the knife under his pillow as he scanned the room, before leaning up to press the button. "Yeah, Boss?"

 "The business meeting fell through. A menial car crash. Ironic, if things hadn't gone my way I would have arranged for one myself. Come for sushi. I don't enjoy eating alone." Jim said over the intercom, pressing the button with his elbow while he straightened his cuffs. Dinner with Sebastian was always amusing.

 

 He raised an eyebrow, but didn't argue. "Yes, sir." He sat up, checking in the mirror to ensure his shirt wasn't wrinkled and his short-cropped hair was neat. He combed down a portion of hair that was sticking up, before strapping on his side holster and pulling on a blazer to cover it. Never go out unprepared. Especially when somewhere where the boss could be threatened. He turned and headed for the door, taking the lift up a floor and then walking down the hall to knock on the door to Jim's office. 

 "It's open," Jim replied, standing from his desk and gathering his own jacket. It didn't bother him that he'd likely woken Sebastian up; he paid a lot for Moran's services, and he would use them whenever he liked. 

 He walked in, looking crisp and clean, as though he'd never been asleep. "Though I'm going with you, I'm not going to cancel your other security assignments for this evening, sir. I don't like that a potential non-ally will know your whereabouts," he said first thing.

 "I won't argue, I trust your instincts," Jim agreed easily, heading for the door. Hell, those instincts had saved him more than once. Credit where credit was due. "Do you want to drive the Jag? It's not the Autobahn, but there ought to be a few open stretches of a road between us and the restaurant."  

 Moran grinned. Jim seemed to be in a better mood. He was well aware that the Jaguar was his sniper's favorite of the cars. "I certainly won't argue that, sir." He touched a button on the side of his watch, activating the mic to the garage. "Malcolm. Sweep and prep Mars," he said calmly, using the car's code designation. "Anything else before we go, sir?" 

"Yes, any reports come in? Last I checked was noon today," he nodded, opening the door and stepping into the hall. The building was always quiet at this time of night, something he appreciated immensely. It was why he worked late nights instead of early mornings. 

"The report on the McKinnon situation, sir," Moran said, opening the next door for his employer. "I assumed you were aware of the details given your mood, but I'm prepared to brief you if you prefer." 

Jim sighed, walking into the stairwell with a suddenly sour expression. "My mood was due to another report. I don't know the details of McKinnon's job other than what I told him to do. The quality of work around here seems to be getting poorer. Why is that?" 

"No excuse, sir. I'll work on improving it," Sebastian said smoothly, though his eyes were dark. "What other report was unsatisfactory? I'll see to improvements personally."

"The intel-gathering on our neighborhood drug lord. It was a botched assignment and Kelly nearly blew our cover. When someone nearly finds out about me, I get a little upset," Jim replied levelly, although there was a dangerous quality to his voice that smart people were wary of. They entered the garage, the door clanging shut behind them with a resounding echo. For Malcolm's sake, the car better have been swept. "Let Kelly know that the next time he has to bring in another, higher-ranking agent to get him out of trouble that he'll be talking personally to me. And he doesn't want that."  

"I'll make sure to inform him," Sebastian said crisply. Malcolm was waiting by the car, standing at attention. "I swept the car, sir. No sign of any interference." He looked to Jim. "Will you be driving tonight, sir? Or will Moran?"

"Moran. Might be subject to change, depending on how much sake he drinks," Jim fired off, tapping his fingers impatiently on the trunk of the car. "Shall we?" he raised his eyebrows. He was not keen to be held up. 

Malcolm hurried to open the passenger door for Moriarty, while Sebastian walked around and climbed into the driver's seat, turning the key in the ignition and smiling as the car rumbled to life. He strapped his seat belt into place and glanced over just long enough to ensure that his charge had done the same. He touched his watch. "Mars leaving with Jupiter. Satellites follow in two minutes." Then he took off out of the open garage with a grin and a roar of the engine. 

"If you ever wondered why I chose the codenames of all this to be space related, it's because of Holmes. The man hasn't a clue about the solar system," Jim muttered, smirking slightly as he looked out the window. "Just a fun fact." 

"Very clever, sir," Sebastian smirked. "He's a royal idiot about the oddest things, from what I've picked up."

"You're not wrong," he chuckled, pausing to give Moran directions to the restaurant in case he'd forgotten where it was. Ordinary people did that sometimes, annoyingly. "So, tell me what happened to McKinnon." 

"Botched the job," he said, relaxing a bit as they hit a motorway and easing onto the gas. "Got himself shot by security. Took them out and went through to deal with Baxter, which he did. Cleanup dealt with the situation, made it look like a break-in. McKinnon's in the hospital on the premise of a mugging. The slug in his leg shouldn't match anything, but I'll have the tech boys alter any info the police have tomorrow morning just in case."

James glanced over at him, looking mildly amused. He didn't mind that McKinnon had gotten himself hurt - he'd finished the job, after all. The bullet in his leg would be punishment enough. "You didn't read that report yourself, did you?" 

"No sir. Had Harrison read it and brief me, figured she needed the experience. Is that a problem, sir?" He shifted lanes, heading for their exit. 

"No," he shrugged nonchalantly, straightening his cuffs. "I just find it... curious." Sebastian was perfectly suited for his job. The fact that he was training someone else to take over a part of it was definitely curious. 

"In what way, sir?" he asked, starting to navigate the busy London streets, hazarding a glance at Jim. 

Jim looked over at him, folding his hands in his lap. "You have the standard trust issues of an ex-military man, you easily and efficiently complete all the duties of your job, and you distance yourself - perhaps unintentionally - from the rest of your colleagues, yet you've decided to entrust a career spy with some of your responsibility. I think that's interesting."

"It's part of my responsibility to my position, sir," he said, stopping for a light. "She has potential. I'm not giving her any vital information, and she'd be a fish out of water if she tried to take over my position, not to mention dead. But I learned from my superiors, which is how I gained my position with you. I don't trust her, and she will not be taking over any of my responsibilities. However, I've decided to give her a bit of training, so that should she gain employment elsewhere, she will have a bit of footing, and I'll have someone in a good position who owes me." He accelerated as the light turned green, turning onto the street the restaurant was on. 

He let out a small snort, pulling out his phone to check the news absently as Moran continued driving. "That last part won't happen and you know it. If she tries to leave, kill her. No one gets to me, Moran. That goes for any high-ranking employees." No, no, he couldn't have anyone who knew and talked to him leaving, they would know too much. The ones with above-average intelligence knew that. 

He smirked slightly. He should have known better than to try and cloak his reasoning. "I'm aware sir." He pulled into the parking lot, parking cleanly and climbing out, walking around to get Moriaty's door. "My main line of consideration is more tactical. Eventually, my job will catch up to me. I figured it might be useful to have someone prepped for you who knew the business. I haven't finished giving her my trials yet, though, sir. I wasn't going to bring the idea to your attention until I was sure she was a viable option."

Jim stepped out of the Jag with an appreciative nod, buttoning his suit jacket as he started leading the way towards the restaurant's doors. "Mm. I have high hopes for her. Still, don't get yourself killed. That would make so much extra work for me. And the alcohol in the kitchen would really pile up." 

"I wasn't planning on it, sir," he said, straightening his jacket and stepping ahead to get the door. "Though I believe Harrison would have no problem with the alcohol."

"I seem to hire a lot of alcoholics," he muttered, stepping through the door. The place was nearly empty, as it always was when he went here; he chose hours least likely to have people and then made sure there were no people by renting the place out. Other people's conversations were distracting and irritating. 

"No, sir, you hire special operatives and soldiers, a high percentage of which happen to be alcoholics. It's the same anywhere else in the industry," he said with a touch of amusement. He hung back just behind Jim, letting him deal with the staff however he pleased while Sebastian scoped the place out, looking for any potential threats.

"The usual table, Billy," Jim waved to the waiter, who led them to a secluded booth in the corner next to a tastefully-decorated aquarium. "Yes, I suppose you're right, Moran. Not many of my operatives have a background like her, though. Hmmph. I recommend the sashimi here, it's excellent."

He nodded, glancing over the menu. "It's unusual, yes, but it hasn't affected her quality of work as of yet, so I'm inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt."

"Give it another five years. I think she'll snap under the mental strain, personally," he hummed nonchalantly, summoning Billy over with a polite wave of his hand. Even if he was rude to the young man, he was always compensated, so Jim didn't feel like he had to be too careful. "I'll have what I usually have, thank you, Billy." 

Seb glanced up from his menu. "I'll have the otoro, and two spicy salmon rolls. And a bottle of whatever your best sake is. Japanese, not any of the domestic shit," he handed his menu over.

Jim smirked as Billy hurried off, a nervous tilt to his shoulders. "By the way, I wanted to bring you here anyways to talk with you about an upcoming assignment. It'll take you out of the country for about a week, and you won't be alone. I hope you like Italy." 

"Good wine, good food, decent mafia, what's not to like?" he leaned back in the booth. "What's the situation, and who will I be stationed with?"

"I'd like to enter into a business relationship with one of those decent mafias, but I need some information on them first, things they aren't willing to speak up about. Unfortunately, the group I'm interested in is... rather old-fashioned. They haven't got anything on computers. That makes it a lot harder to get," Jim sighed, pulling a bit of a disgusted face. "You and Harrison are going in. Your job is mostly to keep her alive and to reinforce her cover. I already sent her the details before we left." 

He nodded. His typical assignment style, as well as hers. "Should run smoothly, sir. I assume you'll have a thick file for me back at base. When do we leave?" 

Jim glanced at his watch, raising his eyebrows. "Tomorrow. Apologies, I realize I should have gotten around to telling you sooner. Hm. I'll save you the trouble of Heathrow and let you take my jet. It's a privately-owned airport, so you shouldn't have any issues there. Just security. And that thing with Kelly," he tacked on, shaking his head with a roll of his eyes as Billy re-appeared with their food, remarkably balancing everything. Probably too scared to make two trips. He understood.

Sebastian was mildly tempted to knock something over just to watch the man scramble, but he was hungry and there was no way he would knock over the boss's food, so he let it be, watching as their plates were laid out. "I can do that, sir. Anything else you need, you should be able to contact me." He poured himself a glass of sake, tasting it and nodding slightly. It wasn't bad. It was strong, at least. 

"Good. I should be able to handle your duties for a week, however," he shrugged, digging into his plate of sashimi with vigor. He'd been waiting for this meal all day, after all, and it was nearly 12 at night. This restaurant knew vaguely who he was. 

He started in on his own food. Jim had been right, unsurprisingly. The sashimi was delicious, and the sushi was not far behind. He'd eaten not too long ago, so he took his time to enjoy the food, finishing off his glass of sake and pouring another, offering the bottle to his employer. 

"No, thank you, I'm trying to cut back," he declined politely, then finished his food in silence. He didn't know why he'd told Moran that. Usually he didn't feel the need to explain any of his actions to anybody, especially not personal ones. Strange. Perhaps he was due for some rest.

Sebastian nodded, setting the bottle down, interested by the slightly less than frigid response. He weighed the risk and reward of pursuing the tidbit, but figured he could blame it on administrative details if Moriarty objected. "Since when?" he asked casually, attention on his food.

Jim didn't answer for a long moment, focusing on the very last scraps of food on his plate as he considered sharing. He had known Moran for a long time. Longer than he'd really known anyone else, for that matter, and he always had.... appreciated the man. And Holmes seemed happy with his goldfish..... "The beginning of the month. I noticed my tolerance going up beyond acceptable limits." 

He nodded a little, careful not to over-react to the sudden divulgence of information. He washed down his last bite of sushi with a long quaff of the sake. "Would you like me to remove the wine choice from your usual base meals for the time-being?"

"No, that won't be necessary. I don't overindulge in wine often." Jim cleared his throat and sat back, resting his hands on the table in front of him with unusual stiffness. He was unaccustomed to this sort of conversation. 

He nodded easily, sitting back as well, content to enjoy his sake until his employer decided to leave or order desert. "Let me know if you'd like me to make any changes in the future."

"I..I will," Jim nodded, feeling even more out of his depth, and immediately turning to summon Billy. "Check, please." 

The man nodded, scampering off, and Sebastian couldn't help a laugh. "Skittish, isn't he?" he commented with a smirk. 

"Mmm. Well, he serves a lot of mob bosses, I think he's learned to be careful," he chuckled, adjusting his silver tie with a smirk. "I pay him for his troubles." 

"You always do, it's an interesting characteristic in a criminal mastermind," Moran said absently, draining his glass. 

Jim shrugged. He had his reasons; paying people more than usual for doing small things was more likely to make them a) want to please him, and b) be less likely to think of him first if the police ever nosed by. "Ready to go? Can you drive?" 

He considered that for a moment, and then considered the half-empty bottle of sake he was sealing to bring back to base. "In the interest of your personal safety it may be best if you drove, sir."

"I think I can handle that," Jim smiled, sliding out of the booth and standing, holding out his hand for the keys. The Jag was his favorite, too, but Moran didn't need to know that. 

He handed them over, and stood. His stance was steady, but he could feel the slight haze of intoxication as he followed his employer. 

"That must have been strong sake if you drank half a bottle and come out like that," Jim snickered as they walked out into the parking lot, swinging the keys in between his fingers with a giddy sort of carelessness. He was always in a better mood after having eaten. "Anywhere in particular you'd like to be dropped off, Tiger?" 

He raised an eyebrow at the nickname, one he heard on the rare occasions that his boss was in a good mood and had little to ponder on at the same time. "Back at the base for me. Easier," he said, stretching. "Besides, if we're going to be leaving early tomorrow then I have work to get done."

Jim nodded, unlocking the car and getting inside with a smile that was barely being kept from full-on grin. He really liked this car. "Make sure you get Harrison if she doesn't wake up. I know how she is. She does speak Italian, however, which is useful if you wind up someplace where they can't understand your Irish brogue." 

He rolled his eyes, climbing in. "I speak passable Italian, too, you know," he said with a jocular smirk. "'Shut up or I'll shoot you' is all you really need in any language, right?"

He started up the car during the pause in speech to enjoy the growl of the engine and then started the drive home, allowing a smile at his joke. "Usually spies need a little more than that. I suppose you have the general gist of it, though. The two of you should work out a reasonable cover story for traveling together, too. I'd sleep on it."

He nodded. "I'll think of something. Do we have passports?" he asked, stretching out in the seat, reaching down for the lever to push it back in the car, seeing as he was a good bit taller than Jim. 

"Yes, under Steven and Lucy Morrison. Be siblings or spouses, I don't care," he shrugged, "The forger messed up and I haven't enough time to get either of you a new one." He revved the car forwards to get through a yellow light, someone honking angrily behind them. He smirked. 

"A new passport or a new forger?" he asked with a smirk, knowing that the toleration of a mistake of that sort was vastly dependent on Jim's mood. "I'll make a decision once I'm more aware of the intricacies of what we're doing over there."

It was both; the forger had chosen an inopportune time to screw things up. "That's reasonable. You don't have to decide until you're there." He trusted Sebastian to handle it. In other words, he was in an exceptionally good mood tonight. 

Moran nodded in appreciation of the exceptionally subtle compliment. "I'll handle it."

They pulled into the garage and Jim stepped out, leaving the car on. He knew that Malcolm had a thing about parking them himself. He thought it might have to do with his compulsive need to keep things orderly. He indulged it a little. "Doubtful I will see you tomorrow, but the things you will need will be sent to your room," Jim informed him, giving him a quick smile. "Goodnight, Moran." 

Sebastian nodded as he climbed out of the car. "Thank you. And thanks for dinner. Goodnight, sir." 

Jim nodded in return and then turned to head for the elevator. His penthouse was on the top floor. He wasn't climbing the stairs all that way. 

Seb let him go in the elevator, and waited for it to return before taking the elevator to the floor below. Anyone wishing to get to Jim's floor either had to have Jim's retinal pattern, or pass through Sebastian's security protocols.  He entered his quarters, putting the sake in the fridge before heading towards his study with a sigh. Plenty of work to get done, sleep would have to wait. 

 


 

 

Lorna woke up early the next morning to what seemed like too much information in her inbox to be possible for the amount of sleep she'd gotten, but when she realized that all of it was from Jim, she sighed and read it all through the space of time it took to get through a quarter of a pot of coffee, then she got out her phone. 

 Whenever you're ready to leave for the Holy Roman Empire you just let me know. I'll be packed in five minutes and I can be back at base in ten. LH 

 Seb woke up to Lorna's text. He'd managed to get a few hour's sleep. 

Roger that. I have our passports. We're married, fun as that is. We look too dissimilar to be siblings. SM

 Lorna snorted, in the midst of her packing. She had no idea if Sebastian had much experience with interacting with people on a job; as far as she knew he was more the kill from a distance type. Well, it would be fun to fuck around with him, either way. 

I have a ring that will pass for a wedding ring, but you'll have to scrounge something up, too. You're going to let me do most of the talking when we arrive, right? LH 

 I'll act hung over or something, should warn people off. SM

He hopped out of bed, starting to pack a suitcase specially designed to hide his guns through customs. 

She finished packing - a mixture of sturdy, tough clothes and tight dresses her mother would insist were too small - and headed down the street towards HQ, the duffel bag slung over her shoulder. She wasn't bringing any weapons with her besides a few bottles of assorted poisons disguised to look like medicines, mostly because she wouldn't require one. Not if Sebastian was around. 

 Do you think the plane has those little tiny bottles of liquor? Wait, no, do you think we can smoke on it? LH

  Liquor in large bottles. Smoking is an absolute no unless you want Jim to have your head. It's his plane. SM

He finished packing and headed for the door, turning off the lights as he went. 

Fine. I might get a little crabby on you, then. Don't worry, I'll make up for it in Italy with a sickening amount of charm and a tendency to wander away from my constantly-hung-over husband. LH

 She texted him as she walked into the main lobby. The building really was elaborate - she hadn't worked for many crime bosses who had a full-time receptionist. 

 Sebastian headed into the elevator and hit the button for the lobby. 

Haven't got any nicotine patches? SM

She sat on a bench as she waited for him, staring down at her shoes to avoid looking at the receptionist - who had never liked her - until her phone buzzed again.

 No. I have an irrational fear Boss will see me with one and connect me somehow to Holmes and then I'll be killed. I don't know. I think I had a nightmare about it once. LH

He rolled his eyes as he stepped out of the elevator. "Let me get this straight. You can infiltrate diplomatic meetings on a completely bogus identity, but you can't use nicotine patches." He snorted, walking over to her. 

"What?" she said defensively, standing up and putting her free hand on her hip. "That's a completely legitimate reason. Also I just really, really like smoking. And it's nowhere near the same thing, by the way. I don't have to lie to nicotine patches. I have to lie to myself. Can we leave?"  

"Come on," he snorted, heading for the door to the garage, his trunk wheeling behind him. "Honestly, it's pathetic."

"What, my inability to lie to myself? No, no, you see, that's what I drink all the alcohol for," Lorna snickered, following him with a spring in her step. After a good cup of coffee she was a morning person. Before, she was likely to kill somebody. 

He looked over at her with a withering glance. "On second thought, I can't wait for you to be sufficiently grumpy like the rest of us," he snorted, heading for one of the standard black cars. 

She grinned, putting her stuff in the back and then climbing into the passenger seat; she knew Moran was a stickler for control, and letting him drive was part of it. "Oh, come on, lighten up. We're going to Italy! This sounds like the best job I've gotten in months, honestly. You can bring back a bottle of olive oil for each one of your friends." 

He snorted. "Yeah, I'll do that. Olive oil... How in hell did you get into this business?" He rolled his eyes. 

The next look she gave him was a little dryer. "My stepfather was a criminal and thought that a 17-year-old girl would do nicely to get him into a.. a place. So, you know, wasn't exactly my dream job."

He glanced over at her, and nodded. "No, suppose not. Would you like some pity? Is that the request here?" he added, ribbing. 

Lorna gave him a disgusted look. "You asked me, I told you. If I wanted your pity - no, no, I wouldn't want it. Just drive, okay?" she snapped, buckling her seat belt, her good mood evaporated. 

He sighed, starting the car up and heading out of the garage towards the airport. After a bit, he said "I'm sorry. I wasn't intending to insult you."

"It's fine. It's just a sensitive subject," she muttered, avoiding looking at him. She hadn't really meant to snap, and it felt a bit disrespectful. (In other words, dangerous.) "I suggest not asking me any questions about any backstory shit unless I'm good and drunk, and only if you're serious. That's my only boundary. Avoid that and this week will go fine."

He shrugged. "Fair enough, we all have them." He took off down the highway at a good clip, and it didn't take long to get to the airport, and he parked the car, hopping out and getting his trunk out of the boot, tossing Lorna her bag. 

She caught it easily, back to her normal self by the time they had arrived at the airport. She tried not to get on airplanes in a bad mood. She was mildly superstitious about it. "What are you thinking about for the cover story? The night we go down there they're throwing what sounds like quite the party. We could be interested in smuggling, perhaps?" 

"Well, it'll help if I know the details of your mission. I just got told the basics and to cover your arse." They started walking across the tarmac towards the small private plane. 

"I have to photograph a few files in the Don's private office. It's in the middle of his private villa, where he's throwing this little gathering we'll be attending, and he has the only key. But," she held up a finger, a smile spreading across her face in mock excitement, "Lucky for us, he's straight, single, and has a weakness for attractive young women. My favorite kind of target. And I'm not even supposed to kill him when we leave. I'm excited." 

He made a face. "Sounds horrible. But whatever makes you happy. I take it I should be as unpleasant a 'husband' as possible to give you the sympathy card to play if you like?" He nodded to the plane's security as they passed. They all knew him, and most knew Lorna. 

She shrugged. "It's not necessary. Honestly, it's just a lot easier to say you're bad in bed. That really makes men sympathetic," Lorna smirked, trying to hold in a laugh. "They're all eager to prove themselves and whatnot. Oh, boy, straight men are the dream." 

"Brilliant. Then I can wander off and focus on shooting people who try to shoot you," he said, handing his trunk to an attendant and climbing up the stairs to the plane. 

"The first night you should probably stick around, but other than that, yeah, I love that idea," she agreed, giving her duffel to the attendant before trotting up the stairs after him. As soon as she stepped over the threshold she pulled her hair back into a ponytail - her superstition again. And it was a little warm. 

He walked over to sprawl on one of the leather couches lining the side of the plane, before leaning over to pull open the fridge. Damn, Jim was in a good mood. "He's had 'em stock us up, top shelf stuff... You want scotch, whiskey, rum, beer..?"

Lorna walked over to crouch beside the couch, peering into the fridge with an impressed whistle. The last time she'd been on the plane there had been a single bottle of spoiled orange juice in the fridge. "Mm. I haven't had scotch in a while," she hummed, reaching in to grab it herself. "God bless that man." 

He laughed. "I don't think God has anything to do with it." He took the bottle of whiskey and grabbed a glass off an edged shelf. "James Moriarty has a throne waiting for him in hell."

"throne? The throne. Sebastian, please - Lucifer is only keeping that thing warm," she smiled, taking up residence on the other side of the plane and foregoing the glass - she wasn't going to need it. "Of course, you and I probably have some front row seats." 

As long as I get to help barbecue souls, I'm happy," he smirked, pouring a generous portion of whiskey and tossing it back. 

She sipped at her scotch with a stoic face. It was strong, but she had just decided that she was going to finish the whole bottle just because she could. "I'll admit, that sounds like you," she chuckled, then sighed. "Hey, we have a two-hour flight ahead of us, you want to play a game of cards or something?" 

He shrugged. "Why the hell not," he said, searching a few drawers before he found a deck, pausing to pour himself another shot. "What do you want to play?"

"I know all the rules of poker because of the job, and I know a little bit of Blackjack, Gin, I remember like, maybe the general idea of Euchre? So it's completely up to you," she grinned, just surprised that he'd agreed. "What do you want to play for?" 

"Blackjack's not nearly so entertaining with just two players. Five car poker, I say." He started to deal. "I called the game, you call the stakes."

She nodded, gathering up her cards. "Okay.. but you gotta tell me what your boundary is, then. I don't want to chance upon it in a confined space 35,000 feet up in the air. Tell me what to avoid, is all," she asked carefully, trying to instill an actual respectful expression onto her face. It didn't come naturally. 

"I'm not going to murder you for suggesting something I don't like," he said without altering his expression, dealing. "Just suggest something, I'll let you know- and live- if you cross the line."

It briefly crossed her mind to suggest strip poker, and then she realized that she still had a week to deal with him and she was also just too nervous to do that, then she thought of a drinking game, and realized that they both had the tolerance of pirates. "Okay...hm. Whoever wins gets to make the other person do something really stupid. Rob a convenience store, blah blah blah. Can be whatever. No rules, yeah?"  

He considered. "Nothing that would piss Jim off too much, but other than that, I'm game." He picked up his hand. "How many hands? Or is this per hand?"

"I think per hand is more fun, don't you?" Lorna raised her eyebrows, sipping at her scotch. 

"And are we canceling out wins and losses, or stacking?" he asked, glancing at his cards before returning them to the table. 

"Canceling," she replied, sliding her own cards towards her. "I should warn you I'm not great at poker. I mostly use it for talking." 

"Mmm... We'll see. Well, we'll have to have some way to increase the bet, so... I bet two such dares." He sat back to wait for her retort. 

She chuckled, taking a moment to down another swig of liquor before she shrugged. "Okay, I'll raise you to three."

"I'll match that," he said, flipping a card from the deck.

"Seven of hearts on the table. And the bet's to you." 

Chapter Text

 

The plane ride had... been interesting. It turned out that Moran was about a thousand times better at poker than she was. She was a little embarrassed. Once they'd landed, it was about a thirty-minute drive to the villa in the car Jim had arranged to be waiting for them. Of course, that meant Lorna had to get into her dress in the back of the vehicle, which had been an enormous amount of work, but when they pulled up outside the villa she was presentable. "Okay. I know the faces of most of the key players here, so just stick close to me tonight. Sound good?" 

"Anything you say, dear," he said with a touch of sarcasm. He was in a poor mood, as he had to leave most of his weapons in the car. Something about party etiquette. He had two thin blades made into the backings of his boots, but that was about it. 

Lorna smiled at him and stepped out of the car, keeping herself balanced on the gravel even in her heels and the distractingly tight dress she wore. She had to get their interest somehow, right? "Come along, Steven, I have some fabrics I really want to get into China." 

He climbed out of the car, downing one last shot of whiskey for show. "That would be why we're here, Luc'." 

"I'm glad the alcohol hasn't fogged up your brain," she quipped, holding a hand out for him with a mockingly sweet expression. "Come on, we're late to the party! If we're any later we're just going to look bad." 

"Fashionably late, love. No one worth anything gets anywhere on time." He took her hand, for all the world a couple vaguely in love. 

"Except the occasional world leader, but I guess that's none of my business," Lorna smiled, the gravel crunching underneath their feet as they walked towards the gate. She wasn't worried at all about being convincing - she was an amazing liar. She could even control the level of dilation in her pupils to convey interest if she really had to. It didn't actually come up much. 

He grunted, reaching up to rub at his eyes with his free hand, playing hungover as best he could, which was fairly accurately, from years of experience. He stopped rubbing as they approached the gate, letting Lorna take the lead. 

The men at the gate were not surprised to see them. In fact, they simply waved them through, looking uninterested. But she could tell that the both of them were packing heat, even if they thought they were hiding it. Then the walk to the main building was a short jaunt through a cute garden, and they were being let inside, the music that had been filtering through the open windows suddenly much louder. All classy, piano and string music, of course. It was crowded inside. Unconsciously, she held Moran's hand a little tighter. Okay. They had to find the Don. 

He gripped her hand back, though he wasn't exactly sure why. It looked better, he assumed. He looked around for something to drink, grabbing a couple of champagne flutes from a passing waiter and passing one to Lorna. "So, darling, this is your crowd, lead the way."

She immediately took a sip from the champagne, extremely grateful that he'd gotten her one, and nodded. She began to lead him nonchalantly through the throng of people, gaze skimming over the crowd, over the opulent decor, scanning for familiar faces. There. He was in the.. wow. The gigantic hall. Was it even a hall? More like a museum showroom. 

Lorna shook those thoughts from her head and led Moran over, putting a warm smile on her face as she reached Don Joseph Morello, dropping Sebastian's hand to hold out hers to shake. "Hello, I don't believe we've met. You're Mr. Morello, correct?" she asked smoothly, dropping into the rich voice she used when she wanted somebody to really pay attention to her. It usually worked. 

The Don raised an eyebrow, inspecting the new woman and smiling, taking her hand and raising it to his lips. "I am, though I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage," he said in a mild Italian accent, flashing her a smile, eyes flickering to Sebastian for a moment as well. 

Lorna giggled, feigning being flustered as she looked up at the Don through her lashes. "Oh! Christ, I apologize! I'm Lucy Morrison, and that there is my husband Steven. He's a little under the weather, though, so don't mind him if he's all quiet-like," she laughed, keeping ahold of Morello's hand just a few seconds longer than a married woman would really need to hold his hand. 

'Steven' mumbled his own greeting, looking amiable enough to not be rude, but just very hungover, as he took a sip of champagne. The Don gave a smile. "I know that feeling well. Bloody Marys at the bar, my friend, if you're interested." Moran offered him a weak smile, but the Don had already turned his attention back to Lorna. "So, Ms. Morrison, what brings you to Italy?"

"Business, actually! I was hoping to find somebody to move some fabrics for me into Hong Kong without having to pay for the embargo," she shook her head, although a charming smile was still glued to her face. "Believe me, I wish I were here for pleasure. And, please, call me Lucy," she requested. It didn't slip by her that he hadn't given her a 'Mrs' title. Moran was playing his part well, too. Keeping himself out of the focus of attention. She appreciated the way he worked.

Sebastian murmured something about 'that Bloody Mary' and wandered off towards the bar, giving 'Lucy' room to work. The Don flashed his teeth cheerfully. "You've done your research. I have quite a few discount trade routes with Hong Kong." 

Lucy gave a rather disgruntled look after her husband, while Lorna silently thanked him. "That's wonderful," she laughed, pretending relief with a swipe of her hand over her forehead. "I really have to move my product soon. There's a whole warehouse deal, blah blah blahh. Do you have any place we could talk business, actually? I'd love to talk seriously about it." C'mon, she thought under her pleasant, innocent veneer, take the bait, try and get me alone. 

The Don glanced around for a moment, as if ensuring no one was vying for his attention at the moment. "Absolutely, Lucy. Please," he extended his arm. "Let me show you a bit more of the house. It's beautiful, and we can find somewhere quiet to talk business."

She took it, easily letting her pleasure at having convinced him so easily shine through as she sipped at her champagne and allowed him to lead her out of the busy, gigantic room. Lorna had some drugs hidden away on her person that she could slip into his drink if she really needed to, but it would be easier to access his villa if she stayed the night. The plan wouldn't be too difficult for her to orchestrate; plant the suggestion into his head that she and Moran stay in the villa, 'sneak away' from Moran to gain the Don's trust, filch the key off him - always an easier task if somebody was sleeping - and take photos of the files. Easy. 

"So, tell me more about your... operation..." the Don suggested as they walked through long, pale halls, lit by the sun shining through floor-to-ceiling windows on one side which overlooked large grounds planted with glorious gardens. 

"Well, I've recently happened to come into quite a lot of Egyptian silks and cotton. Several thousand feet of both, actually, which is all tied up in a warehouse in Indonesia. Except if I don't get the fabric out of there by the end of the week, the fabric is turned over to the owner of the warehouse and I lose it all. I have a buyer in China, but I can't come up with the money to pay the taxes to get it into the country," Lorna explained, letting out a weary sigh while quietly appreciating the architecture. It was a well-built place. Beautiful, even. "I'd do anything not to fuck this one up, if you'll pardon my French," she laughed softly, running a hand through her hair, mostly to draw his attention to it. "I've been trying to prove to Steven that I can handle myself." 

The Don scoffed slightly. "You seem like you're capable of anything, if you don't mind my saying so. He doesn't think so? As for the material, I've moved more in less time. I'd be thrilled to work with you."

Lorna put on a beaming, relieved smile, gripping the Don's arm for a moment with her feigned excitement before she tossed her hair and settled down. "Thank you, that's wonderful, really! And, well.. Steven and I have our differences. I don't resent him for it; it gives me more freedom to do what I want if he underestimates me, anyways."

"My dear, I'm not one to advocate for the law, but something tells me that underestimating you is an absolute crime. And yes, I'm aware that was unreasonably cheesy, forgive me." He gave her a friendly smile. 

She couldn't help a genuine chuckle at that joke. Oh, God, he just had no idea. "No, no, I can appreciate puns. And puns at fancy-dress parties? Even better, believe me. Some of these things are so dry. Oh! Goodness, I haven't even complimented your home! It is stunning."  

He beamed at her, pleased that she enjoyed his humor, and residence. "Thank you. I love it here, it's my sanctuary."

"I can see why! Steven and I still have yet to find a good B&B to stay at while we're here. There was one we were hoping for, but apparently they gave away our room," she hummed pleasantly, shrugging slightly. "Oh well, right? Perhaps we'll go camping. I hear the nights here are beautiful." 

"Camping! My dear Lucy, you cannot go camping here this time of year, the nights get horrendously cold, despite our warm days. Why on earth would they give away your room? That's terrible."

"A little mix-up in the books is what they told us," she sighed, her brows drawing together slightly. "It's not a big deal, though, Steven and I are actually quite avid campers, and he runs like a furnace. I won't drive two hours just to find an empty hotel room. Call me stubborn, I'll admit it," she shrugged, throwing in the bit about Sebastian on the hope it would illicit at least a small jealous reaction from Morello. He was being a bit difficult so far, compared to some of her other marks. Maybe not as easy as she thought. She had low standards for marks.

He shook his head. "Avid campers or not, I must insist. Why not stay here? I have plenty of space, a few other guests are also spending the night, it would be no imposition and give us time to work out the details of your business venture."

She looked hesitant, her footsteps slowing slightly as she faked deliberating over it, then she nodded resolutely, the smile returning to her face. "Why not, right? Thank you, though, that is so, so gracious," she gushed, reaching for and shaking his hand again. "Honestly, it looks like I'll owe you quite a lot by the time I leave!" 

"Nonsense," he said, smiling broadly, looking thoroughly pleased with himself. "I'm always eager to help an enterprising woman along wherever I can." He held onto her hand a moment longer than was strictly necessary, before shifting it to his arm smoothly. "Would you like to take a quick tour of the gardens? It's a beautiful day out, and the party will still be waiting in full swing when we get back."

"That sounds fantastic, actually, I would love that," Lorna said warmly, her heels clacking on the marble floor as he led her through the villa and towards the gardens. Yes, she was fairly confident that by tonight she would have the Don where she wanted him, and tomorrow morning she would have the key. They could be gone in 48 hours, if she played it right. Now that would impress Moran. She wondered what he was doing. 

 

Moran, as it happened, was watching the situation unfold from a quiet, concealed location out on the grounds, where he'd casually wandered and set up with a telescopic scope. Everything seemed to be going well, which was good. Hopefully this would go quickly.

 

"So, tell me more about yourself, Lucy," the Don said casually as they walked. 

Lorna shrugged, flicking a strand of hair out of her eyes. "Oh, there's really not that much to tell. I'm from England, if you can't tell from the accent. London, born and raised. It was an ex-boyfriend of mine who really got me into the whole business scene - that's where I met Steven, of course, he was a lot more promising then," she joked, adding a bit of bitter edge to her words before she returned to laughing. "I would almost consider picking us up and moving us here to Italy if I wasn't so attached. What about you?"

He raised an eyebrow at the slight bitterness, but let it slide for the moment. "Italian, born and raised, as you said," he said, smiling. "If you can't tell from the accent." A chuckle. "Got into the business with my father when I was young, and have had time for little else since then. I am just now reaching the point where I can take a breath now and again, such as now, and I must say I am finding it most enjoyable."

"I'm glad," she smiled, a bit of pink rising to her cheeks before she quickly cleared her throat and finished off her flute of champagne. It was an old trick she'd learned years ago. "Resting every once and a while is important, though, honestly. I mean, why not enjoy life? Live a little, right?"

"Precisely," he agreed, walking over to a bench and offering her a seat, sitting next to her and watching a nearby fountain. "It's important to enjoy the good things in life, with the right people."

Lucy agreed with an appreciative hum, crossing her legs and looking out over the gardens with a nearly-awed look. Lorna couldn't deny that the view was spectacular, of course. Beyond the immaculate charm of his garden and the grounds stretching on after that, the rolling hills, dotted with other such villas, were an impressive sight. She wondered how much of what she saw the Morellos owned. "I know," she sighed, the smile on her face becoming a little more soft and pleasant, "Some things aren't enjoyable at all if you don't have the right people around." 

He nodded, casting her a sidelong glance, as if trying to determine how precisely to proceed. "Could I ask an impertinent question?" he queried.  

She tore her eyes away from the view with a small lift of her eyebrows. "Hm? Well, I don't see why not, go ahead," she shrugged pleasantly, looking expectantly at him. 

He nodded slightly. "Again, forgive impertinent curiosity. But Steven... Is he the right person?"  

She sighed, looking down at her hands folded in her lap with a tiny shrug. Hesitation at telling a stranger such personal information, but with the hint of the feeling that maybe they weren't strangers. "I don't.. I don't know anymore, I suppose. He is for some things. But I'm not sure if he's right for this life," she shook her head, keeping her voice soft. She'd hooked him now, she knew that. All she had to do now was reel him in. 

He frowned slightly, eyes softening. His accent cradled his next words as if to increase their gentleness. "What do you mean by that?"

"Steven doesn't believe that I'm capable of running this sort of business. One not strictly inside the law. I don't know... I'm sorry," she breathed, sounding more emotional now, "I shouldn't be bringing this to you. You just make me feel... comfortable." 

"Don't apologize," he said, shaking his head. "It isn't fair that anyone should hold you back from what you want to do. You strike me as a very intelligent person. If he doesn't see that, doesn't feel you're capable of what you want to do, that is his loss."

"Thank you for understanding," Lorna murmured. "It doesn't really matter, though. He might try to hold me back, but, well," she gave a small, bitter smile. "It just makes me better at my job."

He smiled back, encouraging. "Which I'm certain you do brilliantly. If you need further assistance beyond this shipment, I'd be happy to make you a regular on my discount routes, if you're interested."

"That would be magnificent. Something else always manages to turn up when you least expect it, you know?" she chuckled, wondering in the back of her mind when she'd be able to get out of these heels. They were killing her feet.

He laughed in agreement. "Absolutely. I look forward to having such a charming woman as yourself as a business partner. If Stephen doesn't like it, you'll just have to prove him wrong."

"His name is Stev- well, you know, it doesn't matter," Lorna rolled her eyes at her absent 'husband'. "But yes, I rather plan to." 

He flashed a cocky smile. "I like you, Lucy. You have drive. I look forward to seeing what you can do."

In a few weeks, when Jim had the files and had made his decision on whether or not to approach a business deal with these people, the Don probably would have already forgotten all about her, but Lorna made sure that Lucy gave him an eager grin, reaching for his hand in her excitement. "Thank you. That means a lot, Mr. Morello." 

"Please, call me Joseph," he said, laughing slightly at her formality, gripping her hand gently. "What say we head back into the party? I feel badly for dragging you away from it." He stood, offering her a hand up.

"Anything you like; I'm equally happy in the midst of people or alone," she smiled, taking his hand and standing. Shit, he was too polite. Had she given off the wrong vibes, or had she simply underestimated the Don? 

He smiled. "Still. I owe you for politely listening to my prattling on... Might I make it up to you with a dance or two?" 

Alright, perhaps she was overreacting. "That sounds lovely," she nodded, glad that she'd have an excuse to be moving. She got restless when things didn't move fast enough on jobs. 

He smiled, taking her arm again as they walked back through the garden towards the house. "You know, I can't have you out here too long, anyways," he sighed. "It puts the garden in a bad light, being compared to you."

"Oh, goodness, thank you, Joseph," she blushed, beaming up at him. "But I'm really not much compared to your beautiful estate. It's really, really quite stunning."

"Well, you are really, really quite stunning, as well, and you have the ability to smile at my incredibly cheesy attempts to compliment you. The grounds are distinctly lacking in that aspect," he said, smirking. 

Lorna smirked in return. "Well, if you sprinkle the grounds with cheese you're only going to attract ants. I take my cheese with wine. Champagne is close enough that you caught me in a good mood. Keep complimenting me like that and it may even be a great mood."

His smile widened. "I should hope so. There is plenty more champagne, and I find it hard to believe I could run out of compliments, so it promises to be a good evening."

Yes, she thought to herself, eyes flitting away from the Don's for a moment to scan their surroundings, both noting the security cameras and possible places Moran may have been hiding, it does promise to be a good evening. She really did like her job. 

Music could be heard a few hallways from the main ballroom, and the Don chuckled. "Sound like they got the party into full swing," he said cheerfully. 

"Oh, good, that means I have the rest of the evening to spend with whomever I chose! Steven will be off in some corner with a drink in hand," she added, rolling her eyes with a dry, explanatory air. I'm avaiillablleeee. 

"Most certainly his loss," the Don scoffed. "If you were my date I'd be loathe to be away from you."

She shrugged, smoothing down the hem of her dress. "Well, the novelty's rather worn off for him. Me, too. Let's stop talking about Steven, hm? Let's dance." 

He smiled broadly at the suggestion, his eyes following her hands for just a moment, taking in her figure before returning to her face. "Let's," he agreed, entering the ballroom and leading her onto the already crowded dance floor. 

She was glad that he agreed easily - she didn't want to put in too much work to drag the Don onto the dance floor. It was classical music, for Christ's sake - nothing fun to dance to. Just uncomfortable closeness. It was a lot easier to fake having fun if it didn't require effort. 

He put a hand at her waist, another taking her hand as he stepped seamlessly into the dance, smiling as they spun across the floor to the slow time of the music, appreciating her form inches from his, concentrating on subtly decreasing that distance. 

Lorna had spent far too long in this game to not know when someone else was trying, and since she wasn't in this one for the long haul, she made it easy - she tripped into him. "Oh, Christ, I'm sorry, these heels just murder my coordination," she giggled breathlessly, pressed up against him. Wherever Moran was watching from, she hoped he liked the view. 

Moran, as it happened, had reentered the ballroom just in time to see her trip, and rolled his eyes slightly, leaning against the wall and snagging a passing drink. Though he had to admit, she knew how to work with that dress. It was a weapon in and of itself. 

The Don caught 'Lucy' effortlessly, pulling her a bit closer in the process, until they were right up against each other. "I can't imagine," he laughed softly. "I wouldn't last a step in heels, I don't believe. I'd break both ankles and then my neck when I fell." He wrapped his hand a little farther around her waist, settling in the small of her back.  

Her laugh had her arms wrapped around his neck, further cementing them together. "Oh, you probably know better than to put yourself in dangerous positions," she hummed. She caught sight of Moran across the room and gave him a tiny wave of her fingers. 

"Mmm... depends on the dangerous situation," he purred, dancing slowly now, eager to keep her close. 

Sebastian just rolled his eyes, taking another sip of his drink. He had a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach, not unlike his danger instinct, but that wasn't it. He decided the solution was more alcohol. 

She kept herself from leading, letting him take control of the dancing for the moment. Most men liked to be handed control once she was this close. "Yeah? Like what?"

"Like you," he said, his grip around her firm as he danced, voice low. "I'd be interested to know your real name, for example..." 

Chapter Text

 

Lorna cleared her throat, the smile fading from her face as she looked up at him, her jaw squaring resolutely. She could play by this new game, fine. "Lorna," she replied quietly, her voice terse. "How did I give it away?" 

"My coat check borrowed your passport," he said smoothly, stepping into a long turn around the edge of the dance floor. "It's an excellent forgery, but seems a bit of a rush job."

"Mm. I think we fired him," she muttered, keeping up with him easily. Now the entire dance floor was between her and Moran. Not good. "I apologize for the distrust, but it's better if no one we work with knows our names, you understand. I have to keep ahead of the law, after all."

He hummed in quiet agreement, though the suspicion didn't leave his eyes. "So what are you doing here, then?"

She sighed. "Same thing I told you. Smuggling. It's hard to get a job done if the person you want to do it doesn't know what it is, hmm?" 

"Silks, though? And cotton? Seems a little small to get so worked up over. False passports aren't cheap, even if they are rather poor ones," the Don put in dryly. 

She bit the inside of her cheek, swearing lightly under her breath. "Okay. Fine. They're concealing quite a lot of drugs. Heroin, in fact. It's good money." 

He flashed an intrigued grin. "That it is... and significantly more expensive per gram than silk or cotton, but of course you knew that," he said with slight sarcasm. "Trying to stiff me on my mover's cut?"

"Trying to avoid making you angry, actually," she snorted, tilting her head to the side as she looked up at him. Lucy was gone; now Lorna was in charge, and back in business. "Some mafias don't like drugs. Some twisted code of honor, I believe." 

"Mmm.... we've moved past that in this modern age. Or, I have, at least, but I appreciate the heartfelt consideration. And 'Steven'?"

Lorna glanced around for him. He'd disappeared. Okay, she had no idea where he'd gone. "My business partner. He's good at letting me work. Not so good at keeping off the booze." 

"I take it he's not actually your husband?" Morello asked, smirking slightly. 

"No," she laughed, rolling her eyes. "Marriage is a sham and I'd never marry him. I wasn't lying when I said he doesn't believe in me."

"And I will not retract my statement that that is his loss. Perhaps even more so, now," the Don said. His eyes sparked with interest. 

She was almost shocked. Almost. Men were not easily deterred. What was one measly little lie to a mafia boss? "Well, he's pretty awful in bed anyways, so it's definitely not my loss," she quipped, smirking to herself. 

He smirked back. "I'd imagine it was his loss in that area, however. Were I to imagine such things." 

"You're sweet," she laughed sarcastically, leaning into him a little more. "So, we still in business?" 

"I think that can be arranged," he said, leaning closer himself, before bending to kiss her slowly. 

Yup, now she had it in the bag. She kissed him back with feigned caution and slight embarrassment. They were in the middle of the ballroom, after all. But she wasn't going to let that stop her from getting the assignment done. 

He pulled back after a moment, smiling, eyes boring into hers. "Still interested in staying the night?"

"I wasn't lying about not having a place to stay," Lorna smirked, "So you can count me in. I will eventually have to find my partner, tell him what the... arrangements are." 

He smiled. "Plenty of time to do that later," he pointed out. "I'm rather enjoying dancing, if you are."

"Of course," she lied smoothly, stifling a sigh. More ballroom dancing. Honestly, she just wanted to get off her feet. "I have to say, not a lot of people catch on to forgeries. I assume someone with some talent must have taught you."

"They taught me to hire an expert on the subject, yes," he said, smirking. "The benefit of being a Don is that you rarely have to do your own dirty work." 

"Ah..." she nodded thoughtfully, snickering quietly. "I used to work with bosses, I understand the value of that." 

He laughed, continuing to dance, but the song wound down and the musicians evidently decided to take a break. The Don sighed, but stepped back. "Would you like another drink?" 

"Yes, yes, I would very much like that," she agreed, smoothing down her dress as they separated. Alcohol would get her through this. 

He smiled, offering his arm as they headed for the bar. "What can I get for you?"

"Scotch," she hummed, letting him lead her as she surreptitiously scanned the crowd for Moran. She needed to update him. 

Moran watched as she approached the bar, scanned the room, probably for him. He stepped out from behind the pillar that had been his shelter, catching her gaze just for a moment and nodding as the Don passed her her scotch. 

Reassured that he was still around, she quietly thanked the Don for her drink, resisting the urge to boost herself up onto a stool and spare her feet. "Do you always throw such magnificent parties?"

He took his own drink, nodding towards an area off to the side with couches as he noticed her wincing slightly where she stood. "Not always, no, but not infrequently. It's a good way to catch up with everyone."

She gratefully made her way over to the couches, sitting down and immediately bending over to slip her feet out of the death traps. "I bet. Do you always pick out a lying businesswoman to escort around while you're at it or am I just special?" 

He smirked. "If I recall, you approached me, Lorna. In a dress I've no doubt was intended to distract me from any potential discrepancies with your identity."

"I'll give you that one," she chuckled, shrugging playfully. "You should see my other dresses. This one is actually pretty conservative."

"I should see your other dresses," he agreed, smiling. "I suppose you'll have to come to more parties."

"I'm afraid that's probably unlikely, I'm quite busy. I guess you'll have to get your money's worth before I leave," Lorna quipped, sipping at her scotch. 

He looked somewhat affronted at being denied, as it was likely unusual, but then he grinned. "Well, in that case, better not to waste it here... Care to join me on another tour? I never showed you the upstairs, and you can leave the shoes, if you like."

"Alright, but only because I can leave the shoes," she agreed with a smile, secretly enormously amused at his face when he realized he wouldn't get what he wanted. She stood, balancing on one foot and stretching out her leg as she gave him a bright look. "Shall we?" 

He offered her his arm with a nigh-predatory grin, leading her out of the ballroom and into the rest of the house. 

Lorna hoped vainly that Moran wouldn't follow them for this, because she had suspicions about where this was going and she didn't need to deal with whatever obscure nickname would come out of it. Really, she was just very happy to be out of her shoes, although it gave her and the Don a major height difference. 

There was little hope of that. The instant they left he was back outside, skirting along the exterior carefully, catching glimpses of them through windows as they moved. 

The Don led Lorna up a flight of stairs and towards the west wing of the house. "Much of the house is guest rooms, entertainment areas, kitchens, but these are my private quarters," he explained, pushing a large oak door open and motioning her through.

She was happier with that than the Don knew - yes, this was precisely where she wanted to be. Still, she was impressed by the interior - it was richly decorated, but with more taste than she had expected from him. "I like it," she stated, almost surprised, taking a few slow steps forward of her own into the bedroom. "You have good taste, Joseph." 

He smiled. "I'm glad you like it. It's my sanctuary of sorts, a place to escape the frequent business of the house." He walked after her, turning on a light that took the form of a modest chandelier, but dimming it from its full glare. "So, tell me about yourself, outside of your extensive business aspirations."

She turned back around to face him, giving a small shrug of her shoulders. "I like to watch football when I'm drunk, I smoke right outside hospitals even though they tell you not to, and I like my men rich and powerful, just like my liquor," Lorna listed off coolly, folding her arms over her chest. "Your turn." 

He laughed, smiling at her with white teeth. "I'm rich and powerful," he started with a wink. "I enjoy history and philosophy, and strategy. I can play a rather mean chess match, and an even better game of darts."

"Oh, believe me, Don, I know you're rich and powerful, otherwise I don't think I'd have allowed you to strategically maneuver me to your bedroom," she laughed, taking a few steps towards him. "Good thing you're handsome, too, huh?" 

His smile grew. "Suppose so," he said, voice a bit softer as he stepped forward as well, not hesitating this time at all as he pulled her into a much more inquisitive kiss than the last one. 

Outside, Moran snorted softly in laughter, eyeing the situation through his scope. Should be interesting. 

Lorna had to lift herself up onto her toes this time, one hand sliding into his signature Italian dark, thick hair and the other gripping onto the lapel of his suit jacket, keeping him from pulling away from the kiss as she deepened it. Halfway there. 

He kissed her back eagerly, thrilled by his apparent success, his arms wrapping around her and holding her close to him as his tongue traced her lips, seeking entrance. 

She let out a soft sound, parting her lips to let him in without hesitation. He actually wasn't a bad kisser, which was a relief, considering some of the people she had to struggle along with. Impatiently, she switched from pulling his jacket closer to pushing it off his shoulders, the fabric bunching up around his elbows since his hands were still on her. God, she hoped Moran had the decency to at least not talk about this later. And that was a slim hope. 

The Don smiled, releasing her just long enough to let the jacket drop to the floor before they wrapped around her again, one hand sliding up the back of her dress to find the zipper, tugging it downward slowly. 

Lorna stepped away from him for a moment to peel off her obscenely tight dress, leaving it as a silken puddle on the floor before she stepped back into his arms, kissing down the side of his throat while her fingers tugged his shirt out of the waistband of his slacks. Both were well made. If she'd actually been transporting Egyptian cotton, she might have named his shirt as the same. 

He watched her pull the dress off with hungry eyes, his hands immediately finding her bared curves as she stepped back into him. He tilted his head to the side, letting out a soft moan as she kissed his neck, his hands smoothing down over her arse and gripping slightly, pulling her tightly against him for a moment before he released her, his turn to step back, starting to undo his shirt buttons quickly. 

She did not possess the patience to just sit back and watch him undress, so she stepped forwards and set about helping, undoing his belt with sure, steady hands and unzipping his trousers with a challenging look in her eyes as she looked up at him. "Sorry. I get impatient," she smirked, dropping his belt on the floor.

He laughed. "I have no objections, I envy your one-piece system," he said, pulling his undershirt over his head and, upper body now free, leaning forward to find her ear with his lips, biting the shell gently before starting to press soft, open-mouthed kisses over the skin of her neck. 

Lorna didn't fake the shiver at his teeth, hands running down his chest. Not bad. She could definitely make do here. In reward for his good work on her neck she ground her hips into his, hands completing their journey down his torso to slide into the waistband of his boxers. 

He hummed in quiet approval, noting her reaction to his teeth and scraping them softly over her neck as he reached up to undo the clasp of her bra. 

She moaned, arching into him. That was, admittedly, a weakness of hers. Well, there was nothing that said she couldn't enjoy her job. "How soft is your bed?" she murmured, sliding her bra straps down and off her arms. 

"Love to show you," he murmured, lifting her into his arms with ease, settling her legs around his waist as he walked over to deposit her on the bed. 

She laughed as he picked her up, leaning up to kiss him again as her ass hit the bed, drawing him closer with her legs. "Mm," she started, in between kisses, "It is soft." 

He ground his hips against hers just slightly, biting at her lip as he pulled her bra all the way off of her arms and letting his hands find her breasts, gently at first, testing the weight and feel of them in his palms. 

Her hands pushed down his underwear insistently, a quiet demand to stop teasing and to get on with it before she gripped his length in her hand and gave him a few tugs. "Fuck me," she demanded breathlessly, arching her chest up into his hands.

He certainly wasn't going to argue with that. He pulled back enough to remove her lacy knickers with a clumsy but quick motion, settling between her legs. He considered her for a moment, then sighed, reaching over to a side drawer and pulling out a condom. "Not that I don't trust you," he said, flashing a grin and sitting back to pull it on. 

"No, by all means, I won't argue," she chuckled, propped up on her elbows as she made a show of eyeing him and licking her lips. Again, he wasn't bad-looking, not at all, but it never hurt to fluff up a target's ego. The goal was to tire them out, after all. 

He smiled up at her, his chest swelling up with a bit of pride at that, and it wasn't the only thing. "So," he said, tossing the package aside and leaning forward again. "Where were we?"

Lorna smirked, shrugging playfully. "I don't know. I think something to do with you fucking me into this mattress?" she suggested, reaching up to skim her fingertips down his chest.

"Brilliant idea," he said, grinning. He moved a hand down to position himself, before pressing into her without further delay, slowly at first. 

Her other hand curled into the sheets to relieve the tension building up in her from holding back, a moan escaping her lips without her intentionally calling for it. It had been a while, and she switched her slight twinge of pain into a sound of pleasure. She rather get it out of the way and tire him out than have him try to prepare her properly, which could be just pathetically embarrassing. 

He groaned softly, smiling and pushing into her more fully, before starting to rock his hips slowly against hers, getting used to her, letting her get used to him. That didn't last, however, he was impatient and within a few seconds he started to add more power to his movements. 

She wasn't one to just lie there and take it; she met each movement of his hips with her own, biting her lower lip as she got into it. There was no reason she couldn't enjoy her job, was her reasoning, and it didn't matter who knew it. She'd always been one to get used to a rough start. 

Moran was beginning to wish he'd brought popcorn. Or Vaseline. 

The Don pushed himself up slightly, gaining more force behind his thrusts and starting to lengthen them, gritting his teeth and moaning as she moved with him, muttering "You feel wonderful," in Italian. 

Lorna gripped the back of his neck, panting "So do you," in return, the Italian coming out a little more broken than usual - it took a lot more effort to think in Italian during something as distracting as sex. Hopefully he would come soon and pass out - yeah, it would be nice to finish, but she was more worried about the job. 

He looked up at her in surprise, but grinned at the sound of his native language. "Fuck... didn't know you spoke.. Italian..." he panted, starting to pick up his pace.

She gave a mild shrug that was lost in the change in his pace, her free hand tightening in the sheets to keep herself from being thrust up the bed. "I- I get by."

"It's incredibly a-attractive..." he grunted, biting into his lip, his body tensing as he got close, panting slightly and reaching to pull her leg farther up her hip. 

"I'm glad you.. think so," she managed, interrupted by an unbidden whimper when he went particularly deep, still speaking in Italian. "Now- come for me," she ordered, leaning up to nip at his jawline. 

"Fuck..." He swore again, but it seemed that for a man of his position, he was good at taking orders. He thrust into her hard, and cried out as he came. 

It wasn't hard to fake her own, muffling a loud swear into the crook of his shoulder. Good. The most complicated part of the job was over. "Christ," she breathed as she got her breath back, running her fingers absently through the Don's hair, something that made a lot of people sleepy, "I'm glad you got me up here." 

"Me, too," he panted softly, rolling off to the side. "God... you were amazing..." He flopped onto the bed tiredly. 

"Mmm. I try," she chuckled, feigning weariness with a stretch and a yawn, although making sure not to cuddle too close to him. An arm over her waist would be troublesome to get out of. Plus, it would probably look kinda embarrassing. Moran had probably just seen her get fucked in the name of a few files, and she wasn't really looking forward to adding onto the pile. 

The Don nodded drowsily, watching her for a few more moments, but then his eyes slipped shut. 

Lorna waited ten minutes to make sure that he was really, truly asleep, holding her own breath to make sure his had slowed before she slipped out of bed, bare feet touching the floor without a sound. Time to get to work. She padded quickly around the bed to grab her bra, slipping the pen camera out of her underwire with quick fingers before she trotted out of the room. Okay. There was the bathroom, the walk-in closet, the balcony - there. The office. Still nude, she slipped through the door, pleased it was unlocked, and immediately started rifling through the shelves. Oh, thank god, they were organized by date and name. It only took her three minutes before she found the files she needed, holding the camera between her teeth as she flipped through the files. The moment she was finished she stuffed the files back in their correct places and carefully walked back into the bedroom, the camera hidden in her palm until she determined that the Don was still asleep. She stuffed the camera back into the underwire of her bra and very quickly got dressed before sneaking out of his room, closing the large oak doors behind her with a soft click. Time to find Sebastian and get the hell out. 

A hand pressed over her mouth from behind to stifle any reaction. "Car's waiting outside the back door," Sebastian breathed once she'd had time to be startled if she wanted. "Did you leave him a heartfelt note?"

Moran was honestly lucky that she knew what he smelled like (gunpowder and something spicy) - if she hadn't, he would have been bent over, clutching at his groin in pain. Even still, she'd tensed up at his sudden appearance. "Hah hah," she muttered, rolling her eyes. "I'll send one through Jim when we get home. C'mon, we can slip out with the other partygoers." 

He nodded, leading the way towards his chosen exit route. "You seemed to enjoy yourself."

Lorna couldn't stifle her scoff in time, padding after him on silent feet. "I'm a good actress, and I've had worse. Did you enjoy the show?" 

"Very much so. Wish I'd had a stack of ones. And I hope you haven't had worse, he didn't even bring you over." He smirked as they started down the stairs.

She gave a pained groan, letting her head fall back as she reached the landing. "Oh my god, you don't even know what I've dealt with. I once had a man twice my age and three times my weight fall asleep on me before even getting it up. Believe me, at least the Don was a good kisser," she growled, then gave him a sideways glance, a teasing tone coming into her voice. "Paying that much attention to realize I didn't finish, huh? You get a hard-on on the job? That's not professional." 

"We both get to enjoy ourselves, it seems," he said with a smirk. "Careful who you tease, I still have my... what was it, three, four dares? to assign you."

"It's not teasing if it's trruuee," she sang, grinning as they made it out a small back door, and then grimacing as her walk turned into hobbling when they were on the gravel. 

He glanced over at her, smirking. "Tender tootsies?" he asked, voice dripping sarcasm. 

Lorna smacked his shoulder in response, quickly climbing into the car. Oh god, that was a relief. "Oh, Moran, I am tender all over. You've barely had to work today. You got to drink, got to watch some porn, you had a good day," she snorted, trying not to laugh. 

"And it ain't over yet," he grinned, climbing into the car as well. "Just think. Two hours on a plane with a still-fairly-stocked fridge and four whole dares to my name. I think I've got a lovely evening ahead of me."

She raised her eyebrows, apprehension starting to gather in her throat. "You worry me, Moran, you know that? Do I get any hints or have you not made up your dares yet?" 

"I have some in mind. I might not use all of them. Might hold one or two for special circumstances. Who knows." He flashed a smile, tombstone teeth gleaming in the dark of the car.

She sighed, leaning her head back against the headrest and letting her eyes close. "Mm. Alright. If you're going to force me to be patient I'm going to take a nap. Wake me up when we get to the airport, yeah?" 

He nodded. "I'll do that," he said quietly, watching out the window of the car. 

She fell asleep almost immediately to hopeful thoughts of getting the rest of the week off, since they'd completed their job in 1/7th of the time allotted. She hoped somebody would be impressed. 

 


Sebastian considered her when they arrived at the hotel. Turned out the jet wasn't ready to fly yet; they had a full twenty-four hours before it could clear customs to depart again. He reached over to shove her shoulder gently. "Up, Harrison."

Lorna jerked awake, then blinked, raking a hand through her hair as she tried to get her bearings. "We're.. not at the airport," she mumbled, frowning out the window. It was dark outside, now. "This looks like a hotel. Customs?"

"You got it," he said, climbing out of the car. "We've got at least a day here. So we took a drive out of the Don's turf, and we'll have the plane meet us at a closer strip tomorrow night."

"Okay," she returned, getting gingerly out of the car onto the cold pavement and reaching into the back to grab her duffel bag. "You know we look like we've just eloped or some shit." 

"Well, guess what our IDs say, darling. We're married..." he sighed with sarcastic dreaminess. "Let's just get this over with, and I'll flip you for the couch."

"Nuh uh - I got us out of there in less than 12 hours, the bed is mine by rights," she retorted, pointing a finger at him as they headed for the glass doors of the hotel. "Without me you wouldn't be back in your own bed by tomorrow." 

"And without me, you could be dead several times over," he said with a snort. "Or did you think I just sat around with my thumb up my ass?"

"I don't know what you're into Moran, you could have been, for all I know," Lorna smirked, not caring that she'd just stepped into a hotel lobby with an extremely tight dress on, no shoes, and some severely rumpled hair. "But fine. We'll share, okay? I'm not taking the couch." 

He just rolled his eyes, walking forward and forcing his face to be appropriately not murderous as he booked their room. "Come on," he said, sighing. "Up we go."

She stepped into the elevator with a deep breath. It wasn't often that other people came with her on jobs, and she didn't really know what the etiquette was now. "I have some liquor in my bag, by the way. You know, for in case we didn't make it back to the plane for a little bit."  

He smirked. "You sharing?" he asked, leaning against the elevator wall and reaching out with a boot to kick the appropriate button. "Or are you going to be a liquor miser all by yourself?"

"That depends." She smacked her lips, crossing her arms over her chest and raising an eyebrow at him. "You going to give me any hints on your dares?" 

He snorted, rolling his eyes as the elevator shuddered into motion, giving him the distinct impression that despite the fact that their room was on the seventh floor, it would have been much faster to take the stairs. "Want to take a guess?"

Lorna shrugged, making an exaggerated face. "I don't know, I'm torn between prank call, blowjob, and being forced to eat some really gross concoction. That drink is still dependent on your giving me a hint, you know." 

He smirked. "Second one's close," he laughed, stretching and cracking his back, fingers brushing the ceiling. "Has to do with the events of earlier. There's your hint. What liquor you got?"

"I got scotch, bourbon, and vodka," she replied, biting the inside of her cheek to keep herself quiet and contained. She hadn't exactly expected him to... well, be interested, she supposed, which of course followed the pattern of him being completely unpredictable to her. Not that she wasn't interested; he was extremely attractive, and the whole sniper thing added to it. She just had no idea how to react. The door opened with a ding, and she stepped out, looking like she'd been given a difficult math problem. 

He watched her with a completely amused expression, walking over to their door and shoving the key into the lock, jiggling it around a bit before pushing the door open. "Not bad," he called back as he walked in. The room was fairly spacious, though the couch was a love seat and would hardly work for either of them to sleep on. Luckily the bed was a king. The rest of the room consisted of a television and stand, a night table on either side of the bed, a small bathroom, and a sink with a refrigerator and safe built in beneath. 

She stepped in after him with a considering look, nodding slightly to herself. "And, you know, the rug's softer than usual. I can support that," she hummed, setting her bag by the foot of the bed. They'd definitely be sharing the bed, then. "Watch out, by the way. I'm a cuddler," she smirked, deciding to deal with the thing between them... not now. 

"Bourbon. Now," he snorted, holding out a hand as he lowered his bag to the ground with the other arm. 

She bent to unzip the bag and fish out the bottle, handing it to him with the satisfying sound of glass hitting flesh. "You ever been to Italy before, Moran?" 

He opened the bottle, taking a long pull. "A few times," he said, walking over to flop down on the love seat. "Good weather. Nice countryside. Not a big fan of their cities."

Lorna sat on the edge of the bed, then let herself just collapse backwards, her legs hanging over the edge. "I appreciate the architecture, but yeah. Too much windiness. Sometimes I want to see a straight road, you know? I like London more."

He raised the bottle in an informal toast. "Here's to that. Screw beauty, I just want to be able to get from one place to the other without getting lost or shot."

She smirked, rolling over and grabbing the bottle of vodka from her bag. "I'll toast to that," she smirked, holding the bottle above her and leaning up to take a sip. 

He chuckled, taking another long pull at his bourbon. "What about you? Sounds like you've been here before."

"Oh yeah, lots. Half the Italian mafia knows my face by now. Half of that half hates it. The other half has seen a lot more than my face," she snickered, resting the bottle on her abdomen. 

"And that half now includes Don Morello. See, that's what I don't get about your line of work." He took a smaller sip of bourbon, considering. "I understand that you can also rely on disguise if necessary. But if so many up-tops know your face, there will reach a point where you can't work in Italy any longer."

"Oh, I realized that a long time ago," Lorna sighed, swinging her feet back and forth a little. "But all the work I've done in Italy has been for Jim. That means that he knows perfectly well who will and won't recognize me, and where I'll be most useful. Either way, Morello is being investigated as a possible business partner, so even if I do see him again, it's likely it will be as a coworker. Anyways, when Italy runs dry he'll send me someplace else. Maybe America. Big place over there." She took a few long swallows of vodka. She wanted to be drunk. 

He nodded. "I know that. I've been responsible for half those assignments. But that's my point. The better you do your job, the more useless you become in a particular area." He shrugged, taking another swig of bourbon. "I respect what you do. I just don't understand the appeal."

Lorna sat up, her face solemn as she took another drink. "I like my job. I do. I like the danger and the lying and all that shit. Maybe I just like it cause I've never known anything else. But hey, I don't understand the appeal of lying around on roofs all day, watching other people get off." A small smile made its way back onto her face. 

"Or not get off, as the case may be," he shot back, grinning at her. 

"Oh, shut up, there's no use teasing me about it, I'm the one who has to deal with it," she laughed, casually flipping him off as she drank again. 

"Speaking of dealing with it," he smirked, tipping back a long pull of bourbon before setting the bottle aside for the moment. "You drunk enough for dare one or should we give it a bit longer?"

"I wasn't drunk at all for Morello, I think I can handle you," Lorna replied it wryly, setting down the vodka on the nightstand. "Lay it on me, Moran." 

"First one's simple," he said, laughing and grabbing the bourbon. "Finish yourself off. Have fun with it. We'll go from there."

She flushed despite herself. That hadn't been at all what she'd expected from him. Sexual favors for him, yeah. Herself? "You're- unpredictable, I'll admit it," she chuckled, reaching for the vodka again and taking another swig before lifting up her hips and slipping off her panties. "This will be fast, just so you know you won't be on the edge of your seat long." 

He laughed, lounging back and watching her appreciatively. "However you want to do it," he said, waving off her warning. For him, it was about the power. The flush of her cheeks was incredible, knowing she was at least a bit uncomfortable at his request. 

She tossed her underwear at him to try and feel like she had a little bit of the power before she decided the whole thing would just be a lot easier if she blocked him out. Hell, she was frustrated enough from earlier that it wouldn't be hard. Heart thumping in her chest, she slowly laid back onto the bed and got to work. 

He watched her with quiet satisfaction and a smug smile, dark eyes tracing her movements. "So. Why was this unpredictable?"

Her fingers didn't stop at all and she refused to open her eyes to look at him, although her breath did hitch slightly. "I- I guess I assumed you weren't.. interested," she murmured, biting her lower lip. Damn, she actually did need this. 

He laughed, deep and throaty, and stood, setting his bottle aside and walking over to stand over her. "Not interested... Well, depends on your definition of interested, I suppose."

"You.. you gonna tell me what that means?" she questioned, too distracted to put any sting into her voice, although she did open her eyes when she heard him move. Her pupils were blown wide, the gray pushed into a tiny ring. Her fingers quickened, a small gasp escaping her. 

He held her gaze for a long moment, letting her see the lust there, smiling quietly, before he returned his attention to her hands. "It means you're an attractive, intelligent grifter, who I can almost trust not to kill me in the night. And I just watched you screwing someone. Hard not to be interested."

Well, she'd been completely right on the fact that she wasn't going to last long; the heat in his gaze sent a spike of arousal shooting down her spine and she came with a muffled shout into the crook of her elbow, arching up off the bed as her body tensed up. "W-what's your next dare, Moran?" 

His eyes darkened as she came, his lips pressed together tightly, breaths slow, but deep, nostrils flaring slightly. He was hard, there was little getting around that fact. He considered her for a moment and walked back towards the couch and his booze. "I'm considering."

"Okay," Lorna replied, a bit breathlessly as she stretched out on the bed, cheeks still flushed and eyes dark. "You know where I'll be. Can I have a sip of the bourbon?" 

He picked up the bottle, walking over to hand it to her, still considering her sprawled figure. 

She grabbed it and took a sip without even sitting up, a miraculous feat, considering she didn't even spill any of it. Then she rested the bottle on the bed next to her, looking up at him curiously. "Your pants a little tight?" 

He smirked. "And if they were?" he asked, grabbing the bourbon to take a long draft. He was becoming properly drunk, now.

"You could take them off. I don't know, it doesn't really sound like my problem. Unless it becomes my problem, I mean," she smirked, noticing how much of the bottle he'd downed. "You don't even have to dare me, you know, even though I know you get off on the power. You can just ask." 

He raised an eyebrow, setting the bottle aside. "Speaking of unpredictable," he said, laughing.

Lorna shrugged. "You're hot, I like your voice, and I really do like powerful men. Either way, I don't actually have a lot of boundaries. 

He smirked, considering her. What the hell, he was drunk. He started pulling off his shirt. 

She couldn't help taking in a deep breath. Oh, God, he was even more well-built than she had imagined. Not that she'd spent a lot of time imagining, but.. "Wow, Moran, I may actually swoon."

His grin widened just a bit, and he let out a short laugh. "Coming from the seductress, I'll take that as a compliment."

"As you should," she smirked, sitting up and holding a hand out to him. "Now, do you need help with your trousers there? Cause it looks like you're going to break the button." 

He didn't argue, stepping forward with a smirk as he pulled his undershirt off before reaching to undo his belt. 

She slid to the edge of the bed, looking up at him with a knowingly wicked smirk, her hands lifting to swat away his hands from his belt. "Sorry, this is my favorite part," she hummed, flicking open the button to his slacks. 

"If that's your favorite part, you haven't been having nearly enough fun," Moran quipped, though he let her take over, his hands moving to push through her hair firmly but gently, the pads of his fingers tracing her scalp. 

"Probably not," she agreed with a degree of amusement, tugging down his trousers without much ceremony. She leaned forward to chastely kiss just above his waistline, fingers pinging the waistband to his underwear teasingly. 

He growled, one hand tightening in her hair as she did that, getting a firm grip. "You going to be trouble?" he asked, smirk returning. 

Lorna snickered, drumming her fingers over his hip with a tiny lift of her shoulders. It actually took a lot for her not to just lean into his hand. "I don't know, I'm considering it. Why, what are you going to do if I am?" 

He tugged her hair a bit, not enough to hurt if she cooperated, just so that he could meet her gaze. "I'll punish you for it. Creatively." His eyes confirmed his words, grin remaining. 

She gave him a pleasant smile. "Oh? You're going to make me paint for you? I mean, I'm not great but I suppose I have some talent.." she teased, her fingers skimming almost absently over his clothed hard-on. 

He growled at that, hands grabbing her arms swiftly and throwing her- with careful control- back onto the bed, his teeth finding her jugular a moment later, biting down as his hands found her hips and held them in place. 

She was legitimately surprised by how easily he threw her onto the bed, arching up into him as her fingers slid into his short blond hair, pulling him closer rather than away. "Fuck, Tiger, you really caught on to my preferences," she gasped, her hips fighting against his hands.

He smirked against her neck, biting hard enough to leave a mark before pulling back to look at her. "Boss calls me that. You catch it from him?" he snorted, pulling against her grip on his hair, hands releasing her hips to push her tight dress up her body. 

"Yeah - I didn't think it was so accurate, though," she laughed, lifting her hips to allow him to push up her dress. Her heart was hammering in her chest. She really, really wanted him. More than she could remember wanting anyone in a long time. 

He laughed, considering her for a moment before turning her over effortlessly and yanking down the zipper on the back of her dress. He'd considered tearing it off her, but he didn't want to risk getting her pissed off at him. He pulled the thin cloth off of her, undoing her bra deftly a moment later before flipping her back onto her back, one hand grabbing her wrists and moving to hold them over her head as he sat across her waist. 

She didn't even consider struggling, just letting him do what he wanted until he was sat on top of her, giving him a challenging look. "Did you forget your handcuffs in London? That's embarrassing, Sebastian. Of course, I am the one pinned down on the bed, so I suppose I can't really say anything. You look good, by the way. Do you work out?" In other words, she dealt with being out of control by trying to dominate the conversation. 

"Yes, no, no, and yes," He said, grinning toothily, flashing canines. He was still confined uncomfortably within his pants, a straining bulge at the front, but for the time being he let that be, instead leaning forward to trace the tip of his tongue carefully over the marks he'd left on her throat, the nails of his free hand scraping slowly down her side. 

A strangled moan made its way out of her throat, her attempts to cut herself off failing miserably. She bucked her hips up, more to tease him than to throw him off - she was definitely going to be trouble for him. "C'mon, Moran, don't deny yourself," she purred, a surprising feat considering she was practically panting.

He was bigger than her by a fair bit, his hand easily enclosing her wrists, his toned body towering over hers. He laughed, and released her hands for the time being, deciding to make things more interesting, though he moaned as she ground up against him. He bent his head to scrape his teeth over her ribs, pausing every few inches to nip and suck and mark her skin, his hips grinding down against hers. 

Lorna was a tad relieved he actually gave in to her, using her new found freedom to drag her nails over his wide shoulders, trying to hear that moan again. It was a little bit harder when she was being distracted so thoroughly by the combined efforts of his mouth and his hips, but she took the advantage back by wrapping her legs around his waist and forcefully altering the rhythm, just to show him she could. 

He swore against her skin quietly, giving her a harsh bite in return for her movements before he moved his mouth over her bared breast, still letting his teeth touch occasionally, his hand moving to find her legs and drag his nails over her thigh. 

She shuddered under his touch, biting her lower lip to keep herself as quiet as she could, rubbing up against him before she tightened her knees on his hips and rolled them over. She was going to cause him as much trouble as possible.

He let her move him, lying on his back underneath her, relenting his mouth's inquisition of her breasts for the time being to allow the movement. He reached down between them, rubbing at his cock a little through the fabric of his pants and groaning softly. 

She pushed his hand away, slipping her fingers into the waistband of his boxers and swiftly pulling them off and chucking them across the room before she ground her hips down onto his bare erection, letting out her own small moan. "Sorry," she smirked, leaning down to nip at his collarbone, "I don't know the value of patience." 

"I'll have to teach that to you some time," he muttered, gritting his teeth and growling as she ground against him. "Right now, however, I'm not sure I'm arguing."

"Good," she murmured against his throat, having moved there to suck an angry red mark onto his skin. "I don't suppose you brought a condom with you?" she muttered, drawing away from his neck to look down at him. Her hips did not stop moving. 

"What, you're a sex-seeking grifter and you don't have condoms on you?" he asked with a snort. He ground up against her with a slight gasp, then tumbled her off to the side, rolling off the bed. "As it happens, I have a taste for Italian women." He headed over to his trunk. 

She sat with her knees drawn up to her chest, resting her chin on them as she watching him appreciatively. His musculature was to die for. "I take the pill - I usually only bring condoms if their medical report says to. I'm a risk-taker. Oh, and sorry for taking away the opportunity to bone an Italian woman - maybe you can squeeze one in before we leave tomorrow," she chuckled, raising her eyebrows at him, a tad impatiently. 

He grabbed a box out of his bag, finding a condom and rolling it on. "Maybe. We'll see." He headed back over to the bed, sitting across from her, considering her. "You look good without clothes. Should do it more often."

"I could say the same about you. I could also get offended over what you think I look like with clothes on, but I feel like that might ruin the mood, so I'll pass on that," she smiled, chuckling slightly as she unfolded herself and climbed into his lap, straddling his waist. 

"I didn't say you looked bad, I was just suggesting variety," he said, chuckling, his hands sliding over her hips and up her sides, before dipping down again, moving to trace his fingers over the inside of her thighs. "So, what was that about having no patience?"

The fingers on her thighs was really the limit of her short patience, so she lifted herself off him, reaching down to position him at her entrance before she slowly sank down onto him, groaning softly. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and say we should do this more often," she gritted out, taking a deep breath as she adjusted to him.

He let out a low moan, his arms wrapping around her, his nails digging into her back as he took a breath through his teeth. "I was planning on it."

"Glad it's not just me," she moaned, starting to slowly roll her hips, fingers gripping onto his sides for leverage as she peppered kisses and bites up his sculpted throat. 

He rolled his hips up into hers slowly, his muscles rolling against her, body tense as it adjusted to her presence. He moved his hands to her hips, pulling her down against him more firmly, swallowing as her lips pressed against his throat.

She was grateful for his efforts, raising her head to capture his lips with hers. Suddenly something seemed different. Suddenly this felt... intimate. Maybe it was the lack of a good fuck from earlier, fucking with the hormones in her brain.

He kissed her back, breaking only to breathe and pressing immediately back against her mouth, his tongue sliding past her teeth and scraping against hers as he thrust rhythmically and slowly up into her. 

She forced all thoughts out of her head, kissing him with all she had as he slowly wound her up, her hands taking the opportunity to fully explore every exquisite plane of his chest, feeling him flex each time he moved. 

He moved with her like that for a while, but eventually, he got sick of his lack of movement and rolled up and forward until her back was on the bed. His hands hit the mattress on either side of her, his torso twisting and tensing as he pushed up on his toes, rolling and pressing his hips against hers, pulling almost all the way out of her before sliding back in with force.

She swore as Moran sped up the pace, a long moan following straight after. She made use of the headboard above her to brace herself for his powerful thrusts, keeping herself from sliding away from him. She didn't want a single inch to be between them. "You feel.. so good," she panted, head thrown back, her dark hair splayed across the bed above her.  

"So do you," he panted, lips digging into his teeth. He tucked his chin into his chest, back arching to push his hips into hers more firmly. He reached down with one hand to grab her hip and adjust her angle against him. He managed to get it right, because a moment later he was buried in her fully, crying out at the heat and friction. 

She more yelped then cried out, shocked by the sudden extra pleasure burning through her like a wildfire, raking her nails down his back as she tried to relieve some of the tension building up in her. "Fuck, fuck, Tiger, I am close," she moaned, arching up beneath him. She just needed a push over the edge. 

He snarled, gritting his teeth, but he needed her to come, to bring him over, so he bent to find her neck again, growling as he dug his teeth into her skin. He released for just a moment, biting closer to her ear. "Come... Now." His voice brokered no argument.

If she could have spoken actual words she would have replied with a snappy 'Yes, sir,' because that was exactly what she did, gasping and swearing as she was violently pushed over the edge, digging her fingers into his shoulders hard enough to leave behind bloody crescents. 

He cried out as she came, and within a few thrusts he was, too, pressing his forehead into her shoulder as he let out a muffled cry, thrusting quickly a few times before he finally pressed fully into her, shaking with the power of his orgasm. 

She ran her hands soothingly down his sides as they both came down from their highs, trying to get her breath back by just not doing anything for a long moment. "You.. you, uh, are pretty fantastic," she huffed, heart still beating fast as she tilted her head slightly to kiss his cheek. 

He grunted, rolling off to the side slightly, panting. "So were you," he breathed softly, reaching up to rub at his face, looking at her blearily. "Really good."

She went so far as to whistle, staying where she was splayed out on the bed next to him. "You know Jim's going to know right away," she sighed, looking over at him with a defeated look. She wanted to curl into him, but she didn't know how he'd feel about that, so she remained where she was. 

"Yup," he said, sighing. "We'll see how that goes... I'm not exactly sure what his views are on fraternizing. You realize that this in no way alters my authority over you, correct?"

"No, no, I know," Lorna chuckled wearily, pulling the sheets over her and cocooning herself in them instead of approaching him. "If I thought it would affect any of that I would have tried to sleep with you a long time ago." She sighed, pillowing her cheek on her arm. She'd really needed the sex. She wasn't so sure if she needed this situation. 

He snorted, stretching out before hopping up and heading for the bathroom. "Of course you would have."

"I don't like doing work!" she called after him, wriggling half out of her cocoon to lean over the side of the bed and grabbing a nicotine patch from her bag. She hadn't wanted to be inconsiderate and smoke around him, but right now she really needed the feeling of having smoked, so she stuck the thing onto the inside of her arm and returned to her blanket nest. 

The toilet flushed, and he headed back into the room, cleaned up, and climbed into his side of the bed. "Then you would not want my job." He groaned, stretching out. 

Lorna snorted. "I've never wanted your job. I do better with superiors than I do at leading in any sense," she murmured, turning her face into her pillow. "What is this, Sebastian?" 

He looked over at her. "What is what?" he asked, reaching over to the bedside table to get the bottle of bourbon. 

She un-buried her face from the pillows, rolling onto her back and staring up at the ceiling. "This. Here. I'm at a disadvantage here, not knowing. I need to know how to act appropriately." If she made a wrong move, it would be... damaging. They were not soft, forgiving people. 

"We fucked. We're done fucking. We're in a zone of not fucking, we might fuck again." Sebastian shrugged. "I don't see anything beyond that. Do you?"

"No," she said, she thought rather convincingly. Best not to reveal her potential interest - there were a lot of things that could be seen as weaknesses, and that was one of them. She had to stop herself from grabbing another nicotine patch. 

He considered her for a moment. "Tell me now if we're going to have a problem, Harrison," he said evenly. "When it's still resolvable."

Lorna gave him a sideways glance, biting the inside of her cheek. "It's... I suppose I get attached sometimes. Sorry. It won't be an issue," she said softly, looking back up at the ceiling. She didn't think things like this were ever really resolvable. 

He nodded slightly. "See that it doesn't. If it becomes a distraction, let me know, we'll find a solution."

This time she gave him a fully exasperated look, propping herself up onto her elbow. "Moran, take it from me when I say there aren't solutions to this crap. You just bottle it up and shove it down and drink to forget it. When you finally repress it enough to the point where you feel comfortable again, you're out three hundred quid from bar bills and you get particularly efficient at work. Just forget about it, okay?" 

He looked over at her, amused. "You sound like a bad soap opera, which in itself is redundant. I don't give a fuck what your solution entails; if it's a bar bill, fine. Just make sure you have a solution."

"Oh, shut the fuck up," she growled, turning her back to him with a defensive huff. She particularly didn't like it when people took advantage of her bared weaknesses. "Ass."

"You liked it five minutes ago," he pointed out, holding the bottle out in her direction. "Look, I don't know what you're expecting here. I don't do drama, I didn't know that I was signing up for anything when we fucked. Was I?"

She let out a heavy sigh, pinching the bridge of her nose. "No. I'm kinda drunk and I'm always... weird after jobs like this, just... shut up about it, okay? Sorry," she muttered, sliding out of bed and digging her robe out of her bag, slipping it on and grabbing her pack of cigarettes and a lighter before heading for the terrace. "I need to smoke." 

He watched her go, grit his teeth slightly. He wasn't one to get ruffled easily. Angry, yes, but that was a calm, logical anger. This wasn't anger at all. He didn't like it. He downed more bourbon, then screwed the cap back on and collapsed onto the bed in a huff, shutting his eyes. 

Lorna leaned against the railing as she lit up, sucking in a long drag the first moment she could. She hadn't been lying to him, she got weird after jobs like the one she'd done today. Maybe it was the emotional manipulation that got to her, maybe it was just the bad sex, she'd never been quite sure. And never was there someone around afterwards who'd she'd even consider being 'interested' in. She hated it. It made her weak. Weak grifters didn't last long. 

He lay there a few minutes, smelling the smoke off the balcony, before he sighed, hopping up and walking over, pushing the door fully open to walk over to lean next to her. "Can I bum a fag?"

She glanced over at him and held out the pack of cigarettes for him, returning her gaze back to the small town below them as he took one. "I didn't know you smoked," she stated quickly, leaving as much inflection out of her voice as she could. It was hard not to take her anger with herself out on him. 

"I don't," he said, taking a cigarette. "Not usually. But I've been known to enjoy one every now and then. Got a light?"

"Yeah," she sighed, digging it out of her pocket and handing it to him. She smoked whenever she was too stressed to erase it with drinking. She supposed that probably didn't make her very healthy, but she liked to think that she had enough exercise and enough salads to make up the difference. "Sorry about that shit. I respect your work and I like you as a boss, and I don't want to jeopardize the opportunity to do this again. Apologies."  

He shrugged, lighting up and taking a slow drag, handing the lighter back to her. "Apology accepted. And if you don't want to do this again, then we won't. I'm a fair employer. I value your work. I won't make you uncomfortable. You know how Jim is about people leaving."

"No, no, I know," she snorted, shaking her head, the cigarette lighting up her face as she inhaled another lungful. "I will probably want to, though. It's not often I get laid and come out of it feeling satisfied." 

He smirked. "I'll take that as a compliment, though I probably shouldn't." He considered the smoldering cigarette. "Provided Jim doesn't kill us, I'm all for doing it again some time."

"Oh, if he's really upset by this I doubt he'll kill both of us," she laughed, flicking a strand of hair over her shoulder before she accidentally caught it on fire. "Honestly, I think he'll have one us kill the other. Or something more painful. And more likely you'd have to kill me - it would take less time to replace me than you," she shrugged. 

He nodded, not bothering to comment that it wouldn't be particularly painful to kill her, just annoying. It wouldn't bother him at all. Not an iota. It wouldn't. He shook his head slightly and took another drag off the slowly burning fag. 

She gave him a sideways glance, eyes narrowed. "You know I meant, like, painful for the recipient, right? Like, torture? You know, just in case you think I'm hung up on that or something. I'm not. I just don't like getting tortured." 

"Most people don't like getting tortured," he smirked. "That's why it's called 'torture' and not 'entertainment'. At least not when referring to the recipient." Torturing her... that he might be able to get behind. Depended on the torture.

"I usually come out of it okay," she grimaced, flicking ash off the terrace. "As long as it's not fire. I really, really don't like fire," she shuddered, then gave a small shrug. "Knife stuff's okay."

He nodded. "Fire's a bitch. Being burned in general just keeps burning. Personally, I don't like the drugs. Injections, that sort of thing. I can deal with it, but I don't like it." 

Lorna chuckled, shifting from looking down at the town to up at the night sky, where the stars were surprisingly prominent. "I used to be a heroin addict, so that's something that's never bothered me. Had to stop, though, when I joined up here. Jim doesn't like that sort of thing." 

"I knew that," he nodded. "Don't forget who hired you," he added with a smirk. "I do know the bullet points." He glanced over at her. "I was impressed with that. Getting clean for a job."

She smiled, a little pleased that he was impressed with that. And it had been hard. "I didn't really have much of a choice, even though it was awful. Once you know about the network... and then it was just get clean or get shot. I thought maybe giving up heroin would be preferable," she sighed, taking one last drag from her cigarette and then snubbing it out on the railing. "Anyways, it was kind of a nice 'Fuck you' to the bastard who got me hooked, so that was a nice incentive."

He smirked. "Attagirl," he muttered, nodding in approval. "'Fuck you's are always good motivation."

"Damn straight," she laughed, flicking her stub into a convenient ash tray to her side. "The only thing I regret about it is I didn't get to kill the jackass. He was too good at disappearing. Hopefully he'll show up in London someday." 

"If he does, let me know. I'll give you the night off," he smirked, grinding the butt of his cigarette out and tossing it into the tray as well.

"Thanks. If I do get him, I'll probably come back with significantly better mental health, so that'll pay off for everyone. Except him," she snorted, resting her hands on the railing with a long breath. Yes, if she ever saw Ryan again she'd destroy him in an instant for the games he'd tried to play with her. At least Jim's games weren't personal. 

"I look forward to it," he said dryly, without a hint as to his actual thoughts on the subject, positive or not. "Alright. I'm going to sleep," he said, heading back inside. 

"Okay," she stated, stopping herself from twisting to watch him go. She would wait until he fell asleep to crawl into bed after him; she didn't think she could handle the two of them in the dark like that, not unless one of them were unconscious. 

Sebastian climbed into his side of the bed, sighing quietly, eyes slipping shut. He was used to getting as much sleep as he could with little time. He was asleep within minutes. 

As she'd expected, Moran was a swift sleeper. She waited a minute to make sure he was asleep, like she had with Morello but in reverse, and then turned back into the room, shedding her robe onto her bag and slipped in between the covers, making sure there was distance between the two of them; she rolled a lot in her sleep. Then she closed her eyes, and when she finally relaxed, fell asleep. 

Chapter Text

 

He woke in the morning with a hell of a hangover. He grunted, reaching up to rub at his eyes, and debated the merits of trying to get back to sleep versus actually moving and getting pain relievers out of his bag. He compromised, reaching for the bourbon on the bedside table instead. 

Lorna woke up when he moved, having taken over the middle of the bed in her sleep. She groaned, cracking her eyes to watch him grab the bourbon. She wasn't as hungover as him - she'd been less drunk. But she did have a stale nicotine patch on her arm. She sat up, covers falling around her waist, and peeled the thing off with a look of distaste. "Morning," she rasped, looking back at him.  

"Shh..." He grumbled, taking a sip from the bottle and making a face, putting it down and flopping back onto the bed, pulling the covers over his head. 

Taking pity on him, she rolled out of bed and went about the business of making coffee, getting dressed, and drawing the curtains, shutting out the morning sun. If their plane was cleared to fly tonight, he'd probably be better by then, but if not they would probably end up spending the day in darkness. It would be risky to wander around outside if the Don was motivated to find them. When the coffee was done, she leaned over the bed and tapped his shoulder, mug held out to him. 

He shifted out of the covers and took it with a nod and a grunt of appreciation.

She simply nodded in return, taking the bourbon from the nightstand and moving it over to the desk as quietly as she could to keep him from being tempted. If he just kept going it would turn ugly. Either way, she would wait for him to recover a little before she tried to strike up a conversation. 

He sipped the coffee slowly, nodding as she removed the bourbon. He'd just wanted a sip to keep the edge off, but the coffee would help. Then a lot of water. He took a few slow breaths, reaching up to rub at his eyes, letting himself settle. 

She kept herself busy as he slowly worked on the mug of coffee, first gathering up her scattered clothes from the night before to pack away and retrieving the small camera before getting out her laptop and settling down onto the love seat, popping out the SD card and plugging it in. Better to send it to Jim sooner rather than later, especially if something happened to the camera. As soon as she sent them off she shut the laptop again and packed the camera away. She had the habit of keeping herself busy whenever she didn't want to think too closely about something, and last night was one of those things. She wasn't sure how to feel about the situation, although she did know what to be with herself; angry. 

He finally drained the mug, sighing. "Thanks," he said hoarsely. "I generally know better than to get this hung over." He set the mug aside, and stood, stretching, still buck-arse naked. He headed into the bathroom, shutting the door, and the shower started up a few moments later. 

Lorna didn't see the point in responding, just nodding from where she was on the sofa, doodling on hotel stationery. She was a little surprised that he'd gotten so hungover, though - she expected that he'd have a better tolerance. She supposed not. 

He came out a few minutes later, drying off, and walked over to his bag to find clothes. "Should have known better than to drink that much," he muttered. "Was out in the sun all day and didn't have access to water. Was already dehydrated." 

She smiled slightly, looking up over the pad of paper. She'd sketched out a rough picture of Morello - she had rather a collection she liked to keep at home for all her targets. Then, at the end of the year at Christmas, she burned them all. "We all know better in hindsight. There's a couple glasses on the shelf in the restroom if you want to down a few liters." 

"I'll get there," he sighed, pulling on a shirt. "What're you doing?" He stood, walking over to look over her shoulder. "Morello?"

"Yeah," she confirmed, tilting the paper to show him in a better light. "Hobby of mine. I draw all my marks. Burn them at the end of the year. Morello wasn't ugly, either, which is a nice change," she hummed, returning her attention to the sketch. 

He nodded, considering for a moment, before turning and starting to gather his things, packing up. He pulled out the scope he'd taken out of the car yesterday, starting to wipe it down, removing any dirt or dust it had accumulated. 

"When can we leave?" she asked to break the silence, resting the stationary in her lap for a moment. "I miss London. The skies here are too... open, you know?" 

He nodded in understanding. "I'll call the pilot, see what things look like," he said, walking over to sit on the bed and pull out his mobile, dialing the number and, after a moment, starting to chat quietly with the pilot. Eventually he hung up, tucking the phone into his pocket. "He says they should be cleared for takeoff in about an hour, so we should get a car to get going soon."

"Cool," was all she responded with, tearing off her sketch and folding it up to slip it into her pocket. Then she made sure she was packed - bourbon and vodka included - and set her bag on the bed before sitting next to it. "Jim has the pictures of the files, so when we get back he'll probably have read them."

"Probably," he agreed, nodding. "I should probably read them on the flight back. He'll want to discuss them." 

"Alright. They're pretty dry, though. A lot of crap about past business deals, what happened when those businesses tried to back out. Standard mafia stuff," she shrugged, flopping back onto the bed with a huff. "I probably wasn't supposed to read them but they were all right there."  

"Of course they were," he sighed, smirking slightly. "Careful, Harrison, or you'll get my job whether you like it or not."

She grimaced, making a grossed out sound. "Ugh, don't even joke about that, Moran, that sounds like the worst. I don't nearly have the ability to handle being around Jim for more than an hour, let alone the desire for sniping. Blegh."

He laughed. "Both can be learned with a little patience," he snorted. "Not that you have any."

"You're hilarious," she retorted sarcastically, rolling her eyes. "But I really, really don't like leadership positions. I'm worried I'll abuse the power." 

"That's the fun part," he smirked. "But don't worry. This position won't be open anytime soon, and if it were, you would not be a candidate."

She huffed, looking up at him. If he'd been less likely to hit back, she would have smacked him. "Rude. Keep in mind I totally didn't kill you in your sleep last night. Will I pass up the opportunity again?" 

"Not if you don't want my job," he laughed, shouldering his bag. "Come on. No point in staying here any longer. Let's go find food and then get the hell out of here."

"Sounds good to me," she sighed, sitting up and grabbing her own bag to follow him. "And you said I wasn't a candidate!" 

"So I'm lying one way or the other, suppose you'll have to wait until I'm dead to find out which one," he snorted, heading out the door. 

Lorna shrugged, shutting her behind her and taking a few long strides to catch up with him. "Or I could just tie you up for a few days and see if you tell me. I don't know, just an idea." 

He laughed. "Good luck with that," he snorted, heading down the stairs to avoid the sluggish elevator. 

"No, no, see, it'll be easier than you think, cause you'll wake up like that," chuckled, trotting down after him. "I know where you sleep, remember? I mean, my live-in room is right across from yours, and you've got that cute little mailbox outside with your initials on it..." 

He smirked. "If you think for a second that you'd be able to get to me in that room, you're sadly mistaken," he snorted. "Besides, even if you did- which you wouldn't- Moriarty would have you killed in a matter of days."

"What, simply for tying you up and asking a series of innocent questions?" she scoffed, trying and failing to stifle a smirk, then bursting out into snickering, her face turning pink from holding in the laughter she really wanted to let out. "So I guess that means no bondage, then?" 

"I suppose that requires consideration," he snorted, rolling his eyes as they reached the last landing and walked out into the sunlight. He squinted a bit, but kept walking. "Time find a cab."

Lorna raised her eyebrows. "Really? You think they have cabs in a town this small? Let's either steal a car or take the one we had last night. Don't be ridiculous."

He glared at her, but sighed. "That car's gone, was just for the day. Let's go steal something, then." 

"Okay. Choose, and I'll jack," she hummed, adjusting the bag strap on her shoulder as she twisted to unzip her bag. She had a lot of experience stealing cars. In fact, she'd even made her own tool, which she now had in her hand. It didn't come up often, but it was a good time when it did.

He nodded, starting to walk towards a parking lot. "As much as I'd like to take something fun, we should probably keep a low profile."

She nodded, scanning the cars she could see, twirling her fun little tool in her hand. "What about a black sedan?" 

He nodded. "Black or tan," he said, looking around. "That one there," he said, pointing to a charcoal four-door near the back of the lot. "Dust on it, looks like it hasn't been used in a few days."

She made an affirming sound and headed for it with a business-like demeanor. She dropped her bag when she reached the driver's side, braced her feet, and stabbed the lock. Her tool had a very specific purpose. It was, actually, in fact, a re-purposed grappling hook. When she yanked the tool out, the lock mechanism came with it. "You wanna drive?" 

He raised an eyebrow, but didn't argue. "Yes." He walked forward, pulling the door opening and unlocking the other doors, before tossing his bag into the back seat and climbing in. He shoved the driver's seat way back, bending to start hotwiring the car. 

She climbed into the passenger seat and did the same thing with her bags before rifling through the glove compartment in curiosity. Useless junk, mostly. "You want a pair of sunglasses, being all hungover and whatnot?" 

"Sure, if you've got them," he said. There were a few sparks and the engine roared to life. "And.... liftoff."

Lorna pulled a pair of aviator sunglasses out of the glove compartment and handed them to him, smiling. "There you are, Mr. Bond." 

He wrinkled his nose slightly at the comment, but put them on anyways, sighing slightly as they reduced the glare and he shifted the car into gear, reversing out of the parking space. "Alright. Let's find this damn airport."

"I would help, but I was asleep for pretty much the entire ride here and thus I no longer know where here is," she shrugged, buckling her seat belt once they were moving. "If I can help some other way I'll be glad to. I think you still have a few dares left. I could moon someone out the window." 

"Yes, very useful," he snorted, getting onto the highway that ran through the countryside, starting to read signs. "I know the general direction..."

She chuckled, resting her head against the window and watching the scenery go by. "If you need to, we can always stop and I'll ask for directions. Better?" 

"Slightly," he snorted, grinning just a bit. A few minutes later, though, he pointed to an exit sign with a picture of a plane. "Hey, interpreter, I'm assuming that says 'airport'?"

"Yes," she smiled, rolling her eyes. "Good guess, Mr. Bond." She'd seen it irk him earlier and that was only reason to use it again. "Although it's kind of a cognate, so..." 

He muttered something back about her being a cognate, and pulled onto the exit ramp, hitting the gas. 

She knew some people who would be alarmed with Sebastian's driving. She herself was only slightly perturbed by it. And she kept a strong grip on her seatbelt. "Do you always drive like you're being chased?" 

"Might as well practice for those times that I am," he shot back, drifting around the corner and then revving it onto the next stretch of highway. 

She continued holding onto her seat belt, giving him a dry look. "Okay, okay, I see you have some very impressive driving skills for someone who looks like the Aryan dream man. You happy?"

He smirked, relenting on the gas peddle slightly, if only because they were trying to stay under the radar, literally. "I suppose I can accept that. Aryan dream man? Really?" 

Lorna snorted, deciding not to make it easy for him. "Yeah! You would have been really popular in Germany during the 1940's." 

He rolled his eyes, not responding as he returned his attention to trying to hunt down the airport. 

She smiled smugly to herself. She still had it. "You look confused. You know it's the leftmost lane, right?"

"Perfectly aware," he growled, heading for it. "I thought you were going to be helpful."

She made an 'mmm-hmm' noise, looking out the window again, this time to hide her face from him. She was too smug for him to handle while he was driving. "Do you have fun ignoring me?"

He didn't respond, though he smirked, as that in and of itself was a response. He pulled off the exit for the highway. 

"I'm glad you enjoy it, Aryan Superman," she chuckled, surreptitiously checking to make sure that he'd pulled off on the right exit. He had. 

"Careful what you start calling me, I got a lotta dirt on you," he smirked. He revved the engine.  

"Oh, really? Name the dirt, then," she retorted, crossing her arms over her chest and looking back at him with a scoff. 

"Nah, I think I'll be saving that for the right moment, thank you," he smirked as they pulled into the tiny airport. 

She held up a finger to him, raising her eyebrows. "Wait. Are you telling me that you're not going to tell me my own dirt? I know all my dirt. I just want to know what dirt you have, Tiger. C'mon, spill." 

He didn't respond, smirking as he slid into a parking space. "Come on, let's go find our plane."

"Moran- Moran! C'mon, tell me what you know!" Lorna insisted, grabbing her bag out of the back and getting out of the car. "What's it going to take, huh? I'll give you that bottle of bourbon you liked so much. C'mon." 

"For starters, I've got Morello, which would be fun to toss around," he smirked, tossing his bag over his shoulder. "Then there's Ryan D., and of course your escapades under a certain V. Armetti.... a few hits there that would be frowned upon even in our circles..."

She almost missed a step, although she recovered with a loud cough and a muttered swear as she followed him, ducking her head as her cheeks flushed. "That- that wasn't really a choice, Moran," she retorted defensively, clearing her throat. "Nevermind, nevermind, you win." 

"Don't play with fire, little girl," he said just loud enough for her to hear, heading across the TARMAC towards a covered waiting area. 

"You are so gonna pay for this," she growled, following him and glaring at his damnably muscular back, plotting revenge. 

"I haven't done anything," he said, looking over his shoulder at her and flashing his teeth. "I could. But I haven't. You pushed, you wanted to know."

"You're all smug about it, that is totally unacceptable," she shot back, setting down her bag as they reached the covered area and reaching up to snatch the sunglasses from his face. "Hah! Burn, hangover man."

He squinted at her, mildly annoyed, but shrugged, reaching up to rub at his eyes. "I'm not going to melt from a headache."

"First of all, I'm just going to start doing really small, barely annoying things to slowly torture you into madness. Second of all... You're aware that burning and melting are two completely different things, right?" Lorna asked, raising an eyebrow at him skeptically. 

"I am aware, yes. And you work on that. I'll let you know if it's working." He sat as well, closing his eyes and tilting his head back. It was odd... How much he was chatting with her. That was unusual. He was generally taciturn, but over the course of this mission they'd become more and more talkative. Now it could almost be called banter. He frowned. 

She chuckled at the expression on his face, stuffing her hands into her pockets as she watched the plane slowly roll up. "You're really not hard to annoy, just in case you forgot. I suppose irritate is the better word - I worry about annoying you." 

He smirked, standing and grabbing his bag. "Just be careful you don't set me off, and we'll be good."

She stopped herself from making a crack about the previous night and just snickered instead, standing as well. "Let's go home, huh?" 

He nodded, watching as the plane stairs were lowered and starting up them. "Sounds good to me." He tossed his bag on the luggage rack once he reached the top, and headed over to the couch, sprawling out on it with a contented groan. 

She followed up after him, glad to be back on the plane - it meant she was going to be going back home, back to her own empty bed where she wouldn't have to pretend to be disinterested and sober. "Sometime when you don't have a hangover - do you think Jim would be more or less upset by using his plane for fucking rather than smoking?" 

Seb raised an eyebrow. "I'd have to catch him in an incredible mood," he muttered. "Or he'd have to not know."

She settled back onto the couch on the opposite side of the room from him, humming in agreement. "I'm not even sure what moods come with which events. Remember a couple years ago, before he faked his death, when he was playing games with Holmes? He was like a rollercoaster."

He snorted. "You're telling me," he said, sighing. "He's mellowed out slightly the past few months, but still. He's difficult to learn how to handle. It takes time, and you have to avoid getting killed in the process."

"I know," she shook her head, "He scares the living hell out of me, I'll tell you that. He's impossible to read. Kind of like you. Although you're just really, really hard," she sighed, massaging her forehead. 

He laughed. "Jim isn't impossible. You just have to learn his tells. He has them. Every human does, and, despite arguments to the contrary, Jim is human."

She shrugged, suddenly exhausted. It was probably the light hangover she had catching up with her. "I don't know. He's human, yeah, but he's a lot more in control than the rest of us. Even you." 

"I'm not saying he's not on a different level, he is. And sometimes, there isn't much you can read off of him. But other times... he's an open book." He shut up then, confused as to why he was talking so much, and kicked his feet up on the couch, lying back with an arm over his eyes. 

"You're weird, Moran," she sighed good-naturedly, turning onto her side and making herself comfortable. "Just so you know." 

"Finally, now that you've made that pronouncement, I can truly live. What was my life before it?" he asked sarcastically, expression not changing, body unmoving. 

She threw one of the throw pillows on the couch at him. She was glad they were named that, now that she thought about it. "If you spliced together a bunch of chapters of your life, most would be of you on a roof with a gun and a mug of black coffee cause you didn't have the time to do anything else to it. I know what your life was before, Tiger." 

He snorted, shifting slightly so the pillow fell onto the floor. "If you say so," he grunted, stretching slightly. "So, are you at the top of your career list?" Change of topic, but oh well. 

"You mean for all of Boss's grifters? Yeah. Those suckers have nothing on me. Unless you mean for at the top of what I want to do with my life, and that's also a yeah. I have small dreams," she muttered, sinking into the cushions of the couch. "These are really comfortable..." 

"That's what I meant," he said, stretching for a moment with a grunt as the plane started to prepare to take off. "And being the longest-lived grifter in the world's top crime organization isn't small."

She gave a mild shrug, folding her hands beneath her head. "I started young, it gives me an unfair advantage. But I suppose. It does make me a little nervous around the others, though. Or maybe watchful is a better term. That's why I hang out with the hitmen more often." 

He laughed. "Yeah, imagine how I feel," he snorted. "All you little runts could be out for my job, or my head, or both." The plane started rumbling down the runway. 

"As tall as you are runts is a tad bit insulting," Lorna chuckled, bracing her feet and shoulders against the couch. She had been through some rocky plane rides. "If it makes you feel better, though, I understand."

His smirk didn't falter. "Whatever you say, Lorna. I meant status-wise, but if you want to allow it to mess with your compounded consciousness of being short, go ahead." 

She blinked, looking over at him. Had that been the first time he'd ever actually said her first name? She cleared her throat, looking back up at the ceiling and pretending to not have noticed. "Have you seen the heels I wear? I deal, I'm fine." 

"Risky decision," he pointed out. "If you have to run, you're either in heels or barefoot." He got a grip on the back of the couch as the plane started to take off.

Lorna shook her head. "No, no, I'm as good at running on my toes as I am as running barefoot, and that's better than I am in sneakers. That's unless I'm running downhill, of course. Really easy to get scrapes on the bottoms of your feet that way. Not fun."  

He laughed, rolled his eyes. "If you say so," he muttered as the plane finally got off the ground, jolting slightly as it started to ascend. 

She let out a long sigh, a little relieved they'd gotten off the ground okay. Finally headed home. Which sounded ridiculous, considering they'd spent a day in Italy. "Maybe you should take a nap. Sleep it off, huh?" 

"I was planning on it, but you keep talking," he grumbled, straight-faced. 

She laughed quietly and then fell silent, letting him rest if he wanted. Hell, she wouldn't mind sleeping through the flight either. 

He grinned just slightly as she laughed, then sighed, shifting to get more comfortable. Before long, he was out. 


 

Unfortunately for her, she never passed out. Two hours later they landed back at the small little airport they'd come from, and smoothly enough that Moran didn't seem to wake up from it. A little surprising, but then, he was hungover. So she grabbed her bag from the bins overhead and the prodded Moran's shoulder with a careful hand. "C'mon, Tiger, we're home." 

He woke suddenly, his hand tightly around her wrist and twisting it to an awkward- bordering painful- angle, while his hand reached for the knife that was usually under his pillow. Then he caught sight of her face, took in the situation, and released her. It all happened in less than a second. He stood, walking over to grab his bag. "Finally."

Lorna kept her arm limp as he woke up, having found it years before to be an effective way of staving off sprained joints from stronger grasps than hers, and when it was over pulled her hand back good as new. "That was my thought, too." 

He slung the bag over his shoulder, opening the plane door. "And he's got a car waiting for us. Brilliant."

"Oh, that's nice of him," she sighed out, relieved. She didn't need to deal with a cabbie today, especially since she didn't have a pound on her. "I suppose he's in a good mood, then." 

"Seems so," he said, starting down the stairs and towards the car. "A few times he's told me to walk or he'd have me shot, so yes, good mood." 

"Jesus," she muttered under her breath, following him a step behind. There were few people she had to keep such careful track of, besides Jim and Moran. Maybe her mother. 

He tossed his bag into the trunk and climbed into the back seat of the car, sliding over and strapping in. His hangover was significantly reduced, which was nice, and the cool darkness of the car was a plus.

She slid in after him, deciding it was better to simply stuff her bag at her feet. Jim's cars never lacked for legroom, after all, and she liked being able to watch things. It was one of the few aspects of control she liked to keep. "What are you doing tonight?"  

He shrugged. "Depends on what Moriarty wants me to be doing. If I have the night off? I don't know." 

"I have to call my mother," Lorna sighed, making a face. "She still thinks I'm an accountant. It's the only way I can think of to explain my strange hours, austere flat, and my lack of a personal life. There's probably a better explanation." 

"Not necessarily," Moran said, shrugging. "That's why most of us cut family ties." He cracked his neck a few times. 

"I tried. She found me. Again. I mean, we're talking about a woman who married a crime boss of her own, here. But I still didn't think she'd take it well, so..." she shrugged, turning to look out the window. The sky was the lovely gray she far preferred over a too-bright blue. And darker, luckily for Moran. 

"More than one way to cut ties, but that's your business," he said, shrugging again. He reached up to rub at his eyes. "So, other than calling your mother, what are you doing?"

She gave him a slight shake of her head. "Hell if I know. Maybe I'll go the pet store and pet all the animals. Something depressing and sad, really." 

He gave her a look that suggested he was trying to determine if she was kidding, or nuts, before shrugging and deciding he didn't care. "Whatever floats your boat."

She smirked over at him, then put on a face that said she'd just had a revelation. "Oh my god, you're right, should go sailing! What better way to pass the time between getting reprimanded by you for laziness and terrified by Jim for no reason!"  

He looked over at her again, studying her quietly. "I might kill you later," he decided with a nod. "It would be fun. I could sit on shore and put holes in your boat."

"Oh, don't be facetious, I'm sure you're perfectly aware I can swim," she rolled her eyes, obviously amused. She had fun irking him.  

"And you're perfectly aware that once I'd had fun sinking your boat, I can shoot out your legs and arms," he shot back, smirking.  

Lorna looked up at him, raising her eyebrows. "You saw that episode of Mythbusters, didn't you? Bullets lose most of their power in water, if they hit their targets at all." 

He looked over at her coolly. "I trust my own experience over some American television show, actually. And if that really were a problem, I'd shoot you before the boat."

"As long as we're being logical about it," she smiled pleasantly, "Either way, I think you have enough mettle to kill me properly on the first shot, so I'm not going to worry myself about it, not if I'll never even have known it's happened." 

"The more irritating you'll get, the more I'll enjoy taking it slowly," he pointed out with a laugh, opening his eyes to look at her. 

"Oh, god, it's going to take days, then," she quipped, looking away from him to avoid meeting his eyes for too long. Joking was easier if he didn't think she was threatening him. Submissive people dropped their eyes first, after all. 

He snorted as they sped through the city. "That's up to you," he retorted. He considered her for a moment, then returned his attention out the window. 

"Don't ruin my good mood," she muttered, a little relieved that they'd pulled onto their street. Spending this much time in enclosed spaces with Moran was terribly intense. 

He let out a short bark of laughter, but that was all, climbing out once they'd pulled into the garage and walking around to grab his bag from the boot. 

She climbed out with her bag in hand, ignoring Malcolm's attempt at helping her; he had a misguided sense of chivalry. "I'll be in the lounge for an hour if you or Boss needs to see me, then I'm going home, Moran."

He nodded. "Understood. I'll let you know." He headed for the elevator.

She headed for the staircase, deciding she was done being in closed spaces with Sebastian Moran for a while. 

Sebastian smirked as she avoided the elevator, hitting the button for the correct floor. He stood perfectly still in the elevator, before stepping out and heading for Jim's office, knocking on it. 

"Come in," Jim called, standing at the opposite end of his office, looking out the window with a cup of tea in hand. He'd been waiting for them to return.  

Sebastian pushed the door open, stepping inside, placing his bag near the wall as he shut the door. "Mission completed, Boss. I take it you got the photos?"

"Yes, I did, thank you," Jim nodded, turning away from the window and looking at Moran. His face darkened slightly, his eyes sweeping over him again, as if to check his math. "I do hope you intend to use that little crush of hers to your advantage."  

He straightened slightly. Though he was used to it, the insight was still somewhat unnerving. He didn't let that show on his face. "I'm disappointed that you would think otherwise, sir."

"You're the one that fucked her, don't pull the disappointed card on me," he snapped, setting down his tea harder than was necessary. "You should know better than to try some shit like this without speaking to me first."

"I'm not allowed to fuck people without your permission now, sir?" He asked, his voice carefully free of sarcasm, though the words carried it anyway. "I'll make sure to phone home before the next screw."

Jim focused his gaze with all its deadly intensity on Sebastian, his grip white-knuckled on the desk in front of him. "The two of you? Yes. I am a tactician, Moran. The two of you are a mix I need time to calculate," he snarled, fighting not to throw something at him. "Not to mention Harrison is fragile as a piece of glass," he spat, standing straight again and fixing his tie. "Now she'll be thrown off for months. Who will fill her place? You? No. Some asshole who'll only fuck it up ."

"Harrison isn't going anywhere," Moran said, calm in the face of the storm, though he was watching each move warily. "Yes, she's got a fragile psyche. But I wouldn't have hired her if I didn't think she could handle herself. She'll be fine."

He snorted, rolling his eyes and letting out a harsh laugh at the other man's ignorance. "I'm a betting man, Sebastian, I'll admit that. You think that whatever little agreement you've struck up will be enough? Fine. But when it goes wrong for you, I'll be here with a big, friendly, 'I told you so'." He turned away, slipping his hands into his pockets as he walked back to the window, falling into a vacuum-like silence. "Don't be so ridiculous next time." 

He stiffened, eyes flashing, jaw tightening under the mockery. "If you would prefer it stops, sir, you're completely within your power to make that happen. Otherwise, I'm not sure what point you see in pursuing the issue when there are other, more important matters to discuss."

"I would prefer it had never happened in the first place, but now there's no fixing it, so I don't see a reason to stop it." Jim heaved a sigh, drawing his hands out of his pockets and turning to pick up his tea again, taking a sip before he continued. "Debrief me on the Morello case, then. I've read the files, but I don't know about the mission." 

He took a few steps forward. "It was fairly easy, sir. We landed, went immediately to a party at Morello's as a husband and wife, looking to smuggle silks into Hong Kong. Harrison seduced Morello and got to his files once he fell asleep, while I covered her from both in and outside the building. She got what she needed and we got out. The plane wasn't ready so we spent the night a few towns over, and came back. No shots fired, no cover blown. I was forced to deal with a few persons who attempted to interrupt Harrison and Morello, but there weren't any major injuries." 

Jim nodded thoughtfully, the dangerous mood seeming to have left him for the time being. "I'll be sending Morello that business offer I was considering. If he ever comes to London, I'll give you advance warning. It sounds as if he wasn't too happy to notice you two gone. Something about a declined invitation..? Thank you, Moran, that will be all. Shut the door on your way out." 

He nodded slightly, heading for the door, stooping to pick up his bag as he went. He closed the door behind him, heading for the lounge where Harrison was waiting. "Watch your step around him for a while," he warned. 

She frowned, looking up from the newspaper she had in her lap. "What? Wait, what happened?" she asked worriedly, the paper rustling as her fingers tightened slightly. 

"He was furious at me for fucking you without permission," he said, leaning against the wall, expression unreadable. "Said you were fragile, and it'd fuck with your head. I told him it wouldn't be a problem. Will it?"

Lorna twisted in her seat to look at him properly, looking slightly helpless. "think I can handle it, but I apparently don't seem to know myself as well as Jim does," she huffed, combing her fingers through her hair. "I don't know, Sebastian. I'm worse with myself than I am with other people. That probably says something bad about me right there." 

He shrugged. "I don't think there will be a problem. Sometimes Jim is wrong. Just don't tell him that."

She nodded slightly, feeling more troubled than she thought she should as she picked up the paper again. The frown had still not disappeared off her face. She was already feeling conflicted, wasn't she? "What if Jim was right?" 

He studied her for a moment, before walking forward and taking the paper, setting it aside. His face was stone, but he held her gaze. "Don't let everything Jim says get to you. If you do that, you won't last much longer here. You're getting the point where he knows who you are. He'll be more critical. If you let that get to you, you'll be dead within a year, and I'll be stuck finding a replacement." Without another word, he turned and left the room.  

Lorna watched him go with something like shock, wondering what his game was. She had no idea what he wanted from her. It didn't seem normal for him to... look out for her like that. So she just picked up her paper again and went back to reading it. Better not to think about it. 

Sebastian walked to the elevator and took it up to his apartment, stepping into it with a sigh. Finally. Solitude. He walked over to his refrigerator, pulling out the half-bottle of sake from a few nights before, and pouring himself a glass. He was unreasonably furious at his employer, best to take the edge off.  

There was something that put her off about going home when she got up to do just that, and so to put off doing that she decided that she'd just go to her live-in room. So Lorna grabbed her bag and took the elevator, hoping that Sebastian wouldn't catch her in the hall.

He heard the elevator ping and knew it was likely Lorna. She was one of only two other people with access to this floor. The other was an accountant who ran most of Jim's books. They had the three best live-in places. The rest of Jim's workers had smaller rooms, or a bunk in a shared room if they were peons. But everyone had a place, if needed. If their residence was pinned by someone who shouldn't know, or they had work to do here, it was a safe place to hide out or sleep.

She fumbled with her keys - a bit embarrassingly - before she was able to get the door open, quickly stepping in and shutting the door behind her. Immediately she coughed - she hadn't been in in about a month, and it had gotten a tad bit dusty. She needed to do some cleaning, right away. That would occupy her for a while - that was a plus.

Sebastian poured another glass of sake and walked over to sit in his armchair, sprawled back. He sighed, relaxing, and turned on the television. For the moment, he needed to slow down.  


 

A few hours later and she had done everything she could think of to put it off. Lorna had scrubbed the apartment within an inch of its life, had called her mother, and had even unpacked into her empty dresser. She didn't really ever considered the place as hers - she didn't usually feel like she could relax in the same building as Jim Moriarty. Tonight, though, she just didn't want to go home. So she took a deep breath and pressed the extension on the intercom for Moran's room. 

He looked up as the intercom buzzed, frowning. Not the Boss, according to the lights. He pressed the return. "What is it, Harrison?"

"D'you want that bottle of bourbon? You've pretty much half finished the thing off anyways and I don't like it as much as you do," she said, shrugging to herself. "I'll even just push it across the hall with my broom, if you like."  

"You that scared of me now?" he asked, smirking slightly but not letting it show in his tone.

"A little," she replied truthfully, figuring that he'd like that. "I'm still going to give you lip, though. Do you want that bottle, or don't you?"  

He considered for a bit. He was bored. "Sure. No broom though." He stood, heading for the door.

She turned off the intercom, stood to grab the bourbon, and opened the door with a slightly rueful smile on her face as he opened the door across the hall. She took a step forward and held it out to him. "Don't blow it all in one night this time, huh?" 

He nodded, reaching out to take the bottle, considering her. He was pissed as hell at Jim, Best way to get revenge? Prove him wrong. Best way to prove him wrong?

"You like sake?"

Her eyebrows raised slightly. "Yeah. But it's not exactly something you can just pick up at the liquor store. Why?" She continued, looking at him a little suspiciously. 

"I have some. Figured I'd ask. Come on." He left the door open, turning back into his apartment and walking into the kitchen to grab another wine glass. 

Lorna was a little taken aback, but she stepped over the threshold anyway, shutting the door behind her. That was a little unexpected of him. Damn him for continuing to do that. "Alright, then. Thanks."

He shrugged, walking back into the living area and grabbing the sake bottle, pouring her a glass and handing it over. "I thought you were going home?"

She gave a noncommittal shake of her head, taking the glass with a small nod of gratitude. "I don't know. I got up to go and then realized I... just didn't want to. What I really wanted was to get back to London, I guess. Once I'm here it doesn't really matter where I am," she murmured, sipping the rice wine with a look out his window. "You have a nice view." 

He nodded. "It's a good one, yeah. I was around when Jim acquired this place, so I got my pick." He sipped his own glass. "How's yours?"

"Looks over a dilapidated old building in back, but I get a nice sunrise in the morning, so I can't complain," she hummed, feeling a little awkward standing in the middle of his place. She'd never been in before, and she wasn't sure where to look. 

He watched her for a few moments, amused by her discomfort. "Must be pretty sparse in there if you don't know what to do with a chair," he finally smirked, broadly indicating either the couch next to him or the armchair. 

Lorna gave him a sarcastic smile and sank down onto the sofa, flicking her hair over her shoulder with the same air as an embarrassed cat. "I have chairs in there, thanks. I always feel awkward in a new home. What, aren't you British?" 

He smirked. "I got over the polite part. You're a grifter. You've got to be polite. I'm a soldier. I don't." 

"Once a soldier, always a soldier, in my experience," she chuckled, although she assumed that he was perhaps even less polite in the army - he worked for Moriarty now, after all. You had to learn some manners here. "This is good sake, by the way, thanks. Although I'm not quite sure why you invited me in." 

He shrugged. "You were around, I'm bored and pissed at Jim, seemed like fun." He took another long sip of sake. 

Lorna couldn't keep the surprise off her face. "You're pissed at Jim? That's unusual, for you. You're almost never actually bothered by him," she pointed out, trying not to down all her sake at once. It felt a little too classy to get all binge-y on.

He shrugged. "He has his moments." He didn't elaborate. He wasn't sure why he was pissed at Jim. Maybe because one moment he insisted Sebastian was more than capable of his job, and the next he screamed at him for not checking in. Maybe it was because he'd felt respected at dinner, and like a child when he came back. Maybe it was nothing, and he was just pissed off in general. 

"You sound like something is bothering you, but if you don't want to talk about it I can appreciate the value of silence. Or gossiping about coworkers instead," she murmured, looking at him with a tiny amount of concern showing through onto her face. She wanted to think that she was concerned because Moran working at less than optimum efficiency spelled trouble for her, but she had a sneaking suspicion that that wasn't actually true. 

"You going therapist on me now, Harrison?" he snorted, taking a slow sip of sake. "I'm pissed at Jim, like I said. That's it."

"I'm not going therapist on you, Moran, it's called job security. I don't want you messed up. How on Earth am I supposed to take up the slack?" she raised her eyebrows. "And things are rarely so simple as 'pissed.' Open up, Tiger." 

He laughed. "'Open up, Tiger?!" he guffawed. "Oh, god... No, sorry... " He pressed his hands to his eyes, still chortling. 

She rolled her eyes, deciding 'to hell with it' and draining the rest of her sake. It was nice to see him laugh, at the very least. 

He finally quelled the laughter, shaking his head. "Maybe he's right. This will cause all sorts of problems, won't it?"

She let out a quiet sigh, setting her wine glass aside with the quiet sound of glass on wood. "I don't know about you, but for me.. probably, yes. I couldn't even go back to my own place because it feels too empty," she shrugged, a bitter sort of humor in her voice. "But it's alright. I'll be fine. You're wrong about that. I won't let it kill me." 

He glanced over at her, raising an eyebrow as she spoke. Oh, he was definitely in for it. But, before everything crashed and burned, he might as well make it worth it. "Want to piss Jim off?"

"Yeah. Mostly because he called me fragile, though. That's not cool," she muttered, frowning to herself before returning her attention to Moran. "Why, what stupid idea are you considering?" 

"Fucking you against the wall," he said casually. "Might as well enjoy pissing him off. Technically he said we could do it, but if you don't fall to pieces, then he'll be furious."

Lorna made a thoughtful sound, giving a small lift of her shoulders. "Hm. That doesn't sound terrible. I do like it against walls. Okay."

He smirked. "You want more sake first? Finish off the bottle?" 

"Let's face it, you're the one with strong opinions here. I don't care," she snorted, a small smile curling up the corner of her lips. "I'll still fuck you." 

"More sake it is, then," he muttered, dividing up the last of the bottle between their glasses. "Then maybe some bourbon."

"This is really good, you know - where'd you get this?" She asked curiously, sipping at it again. It wouldn't hurt to be a little tipsy for this. 

"Jim lost his dinner partners for a business meeting, didn't want to waste the reservation," he said, shrugging and sipping the wine. "His bill, might as well enjoy it."

Lorna laughed. "Okay, I'm all for taking advantage of rich men's black cards," she smirked, tapping the glass with the pad of her finger. She was a little restless.

He noted the movement. "Why're you so uptight, huh?" he asked, taking another sip. 

She let out a slight sigh, pushing a stray lock of hair out of her face. "I don't know how to describe it to you accurately. Or with keeping any shred of my dignity. So just call it survival, hm?" 

He raised his glass in her direction. "I can live with that."

She smiled and tapped her glass with his before downing a good portion of it. If she was being truthful with herself, it was because she hated feeling so human, and Sebastian made her abnormally human. But she did want to prove Jim wrong.

He downed his own sake with a sigh. "You're right, that was good stuff... I should get another bottle." He sighed, stretched, looked over at her. "What do you think, am I drunk enough to be this much of an idiot?"

"I think I should be the one asking that question - you're the one with the advantage here, am I right?" she laughed quietly, finishing off her sake and setting the glass back to the side. "But I'd say in answer to that question, if I were asking it, would be yes." 

"Advantage, hell no," he laughed. "Jim can read me like a book. I might get shot tomorrow." He looked over at her. "But fuck him."

"Don't do that, he'd probably be really inconsiderate," she snorted, snickering. "That's not what I meant, anyway," she shook her head. "Between the two of us you have the advantage. I don't mind, though, I think it's a little hot." 

"I meant he's going to shoot me," he said, shaking his head and smirking over at her. "But for the moment, I'm just buzzed enough not to care." He leaned over, considered her, then snagged her collar and pulled her into a kiss. 

She curled her fingers into his shirt, kissing him back with a hunger. Some part of her was strongly protesting that she didn't want him to get shot, and the rest of her was insisting that she took his shirt off before it got in her way. 

He pulled at her clothes insistently, before growing impatient and hauling her over until she was straddling his lap. He leaned back against the back of the couch, kissing her urgently, his teeth scraping at her lips. 

She let out a slightly alarmed sound at being lifted suddenly but decided that kissing him was a better use of her time, her fingers fumbling to unbutton his shirt as she trapped his lower lip between her teeth and tugged. She was fine taking advantage of the height he'd given her. 

He groaned against her lips, pulling her tongue into his mouth and pulling her tongue into his mouth and scraping his teeth against it. He ground his hips up against hers, rutting slightly, His hands found her shirt, and this time he didn't resist the impulse, gripping it with both hands and tearing it apart, pulling it off her and tossing it aside. 

There was no way that him literally ripping the clothes off her didn't turn her on more than anything, a whimper rising up out of her as she finally got the buttons of his shirt undone, yanking the fabric over his shoulders and pressing into him, grinding her hips into his lap for more. 

He pulled her against his chest, bending to bite the side of her neck, snarling as he ground against her so firmly that she almost bounced in his lap, before steadying just enough to let his hands find the waist of her trousers, starting to undo them. 

She didn't bother being quiet with her moans, figuring that even if their accountant friend was in his place he could suck it up - his teeth made her squirm with need, only stopping from complaining that his hips had stopped moving so much because he was freeing her from her jeans. "I think you are going to be the death of me," she quipped, winded and with flushed cheeks.

"It's like I said, you need to find better partners," he smirked, growling in frustration and tossing her to the side on the soft part of the couch so that he could kneel up and undo her jeans, pulling them off with little gentleness. "You're too good to waste on that drivel."

"I don't have the luxury to only choose partners with both big cocks and the knowledge of how to use them," she shot back, grabbing him by the waistband of his trousers and pulling him closer to her with a wicked grin and dark eyes, her free hand curling into his hair to bring him back down to where she could bite his jaw, shoving a knee in between his thighs to rub into his groin. 

"I'm glad you approve of my cock," he said with a smirk, though he grit his teeth, gasping slightly, as she bit into his jaw. "Not the only thing I can use, though."

"Oh? You referring to those teeth I've become so well-acquainted with?" she smiled, her hand sliding from his waistband down to grip him through his trousers, kissing the mark she'd made with her own teeth before kissing down his throat, tracing her tongue in a trail down to his collar. 

"More what's behind them," he returned breathlessly, pulling away from her and smirking at her as he put two fingers on her chest, pushing her on the couch gently and staring her down before sitting back, pulling her knickers off and tossing them aside, reaching to spread her legs in front of him.  

"Jesus Christ," she breathed, her fingers curling into the cushions beneath her in anticipation. She never let anybody do this for her, not targets, not one-night stands, not anybody. It was a matter of being afraid to lose control like that. And yet here she was, perfectly willing to beg him for it. "Please." 

He looked up at her, eyes dancing, and they darkened as she begged. He bent down slowly, never breaking eye contact as he slowly kissed her lower abdomen. "What do you want?" he whispered against her skin, drawing her out. 

"Sebastian," she groaned in complaint, looking down at him with a pleading look, her lips parted helplessly, wriggling beneath him impatiently. "Please. Please. Don't tell me about that tongue and then not use it."

He laughed against her skin, pressing another kiss against it before shifting back and moving lower. He turned to press a kiss to the side of her thigh, tongue tracing circles and teeth scraping, before he finally moved up to her core, pressing his lips against her wet heat before extending his tongue, tracing through her folds slowly. 

She sucked in what was probably a thoroughly embarrassing whining breath, her fingers curling into his hair with force. God, she'd practically forgotten how fucking great this was - she tried and failed to keep her hips still, she was letting out a stream of muttered swears, and he could probably hear her pulse, let alone feel it. 

He laughed against her, letting the vibrations travel into her skin through her tongue as he dragged it over her clit, slowly and lightly. Then he let that bundle of nerves be for now, instead moving downwards, letting the tip of his tongue circle her entrance, his hands gripping her thighs and massaging softly. 

It was embarrassing how much she wanted him now, how desperate her sounds were getting. She desperately needed more. "Fuck me, please," she gasped, absurdly polite for the position that they were in. 

But he was going to teach her patience. He did escalate a little, and with a smirk, plunged his tongue fully into her, starting to thrust with it at an even pace, the tip curling to explore her. 

She cried out, pushing herself up with her free hand and grinding her hips into his mouth with shuddering gasps, gritting her teeth. She couldn't stay still to save her life - he was too good and she was too fucking pent up. 

He moaned against her as she ground in his mouth, continuing to thrust with his tongue, alternating between broadening and extending it within her, reaching different sensitive points as he let his nose rub against her clit. 

She couldn't fucking take it - she came, hard, bucking up into him with a shouted swear, her nails digging into the fabric of the couch until there was a ripping sound. There was a moment where she lost track of everything else except the earth-shattering pleasure blazing through her, and then she was lying down again, panting up at the ceiling. "Holy fucking hell."

He lapped at her juices languidly as they came, sitting back slowly, licking his lips with a self-satisfied smirk, eyes still dark, his trousers straining. "Was I lying?" he asked with a soft laugh, watching her enjoy the aftereffects of his handiwork. 

"No," she breathed - she could feel her legs shaking, her heart still trying to catch up to a race it had most definitely lost. "No, you were not. Good way to get back on the wagon, believe me," she shook her head, looking up at him with her pupils still blown wide. "C'mere."  

He smiled, leaning up, his hands finding the couch on either side of her, pausing to observe the stuffing puffing out near her fingers. "You ripped my couch," he said with a smile, leaning over her again. 

"Sorry, I didn't mean to," she said in complete honesty, too filled up with endorphins to even joke around about it. He could have asked her bank password and she would have responded with a lazy smile. "You can have mine." 

"Nah, rather keep the reminder," he smirked, bending to lazily make out with the side of her neck as he gave her a chance to recover. 

"Cute," she chuckled, fingers tracing slowly down his chest before she was unbuckling his belt, taking her sweet time about it. There was no reason to rush, in her mind. Either way, her hands still weren't working quite right. 

He let her take her time, remembering what she'd said about enjoying that bit, and worked his way up to casually sucking on her ear, exploring, finding sensitive points. 

Eventually she got to unzipping his trousers and tugging them over the obscene curve of his arse, trying to ignore the shiver that went through her at his careful exploration. Still, she didn't feel like she'd quite given back enough, so she slipped her hand under the waistband of his boxers to wrap her fingers around him, stroking lightly. 

He let out a shaky breath against her neck, biting down slightly involuntarily as she surprised him, his hips jolting forward into her hand a little at the touch. He groaned, panting slightly as he continued to try and concentrate on her neck and ear, but eventually lost the battle, his forehead pressing to her shoulder, muscles tense under her gentle touch. 

She traced random patterns on his side as her other hand did the more important task at hand, pumping him slightly faster as he stilled, her grip tightening ever so slightly while she was still careful, dragging her thumb over his slit to make use of his precome, slicking him up as best as she could. She wouldn't mind at all if she made him come like this. 

"Ah! Damn," he panted, his abdomen tensing, hips rocking forward with the movements of her hand. He bit into his lip, eyes screwing shut at the teasing pulls. He took a shaky breath through his teeth, groaning deep in his chest. "Lorna- ah-! fuck.."

"Do you want something?" she murmured curiously, adding in a slight twist to her less firm strokes, making sure to keep him on edge with random squeezes, her other hand skimming up his toned back to stroke at the nape of his neck. She really liked hearing him like this. She could stand to hear it more often. 

"N-not gonna last lo-ong like this," he panted. "Still need t-to fuck you into the w-wall..." He grit his teeth tightly as she twisted her hand, almost whimpering at the burning pleasure. 

"We can do that tomorrow, if you want, or I can stop and we can do it now. Which one do you want?" She asked softly, her hand not stilling for an instant. 

His fingers dug into the fabric of the couch, almost ripping into it himself. "Tomorrow," he finally managed, his voice tight, his body starting to move with a little more urgency, needing the friction desperately. 

She didn't need to respond to that, just had to speed up her hand and drag her nails up the curve of his spine, tilting her head to his ear. "Tiger, come." 

He snarled in protest at the order, his mind rejecting the command from a subordinate, but his body had other ideas, and only a few seconds later he came gloriously, his back arching as he cried out, his body trembling slightly with the power of the orgasm.

She stroked him through his climax despite the fact that hand was suddenly rather sticky, a smirk on her face from his reaction. Yes, she'd have to remember his aversion to being told what to do. That would come in handy eventually. "Would you mind terribly if I used your sink?" she murmured, her clean hand petting up and down his back, soothing the tension from him. 

He grunted something unintelligible, but shifted towards the inside of the couch so that she could escape, flopping on his side. 

She took that as a yes, quickly washing off at the sink before she returned and collapsed back onto the couch beside him, an exhausted huff escaping her lungs. And, frankly, she was too buzzed on the sake and her own endorphins to stop herself from leaning into his chest, yawning.

It was a deep couch, with enough room for the both of them if they squished, and he was already drifting off as he drooped an arm around her waist, pulling her to him snugly. 

Lorna was surprised, if pleased, that he'd reciprocated, and decidedly tiredly to make full use of it, burying her face in the crook of his tanned neck and closing her eyes, letting sleep start sinking over her.

He finally fell asleep, too far gone to be really aware of what he was doing, or concerned about any consequences in the morning. 

Chapter Text

 

When she woke up an indeterminate amount of time later, it was still dark, and she was comfortably warm. She shifted slightly, yawning, and instantly realized that she was still entangled with Sebastian, and she fell still. She was too comfortable to risk waking him, but he'd probably wake up at the change in her breathing. She sighed at that thought. This was... strangely nice. 

He felt her move, woke immediately, but carefully, as he assessed the situation. Harrison. Right. Him and Harrison cuddling mostly naked on his couch. Well, he'd wanted to make the boss mad. No doubt of that now.

Lorna couldn't help but smirk slightly as she felt him tense up. "I think it's around 6 in the morning," she murmured, still nuzzled into his neck. They had fallen asleep early the previous night - he'd probably gotten more sleep than he had in months. 

He tensed further as she nuzzled him. "What the hell do you think you're doing, Harrison?" he muttered, shoving her away from him slightly and sitting up, pressing a hand to his eyes and taking a slow breath. "Sorry. Just not one for cuddling." He almost sneered the word, hopping off of the couch and heading for his bathroom. He needed a shower. 

She rolled her eyes, staying where she was as he got up and then taking over the giant warm spot he'd left behind. She knew better than to be hurt by him - most likely he was just defending himself from risk, considering last night he hadn't seemed to have minded. Still, as he left the room she wondered if it would be better if she just left before he was out of the shower. 

He stood under the hot water for a while, considering the situation. There would be no point in lying to Jim about what he'd done. After all, that was why he'd done it, to piss Jim off. But he was worried he might have gone a little too far. He took a breath. He supposed he'd find out, one way or another. He finally stepped out and dried off, heading back out into the apartment to get clothes. 

Lorna had taken her coward's opportunity and had slipped out while he was gone, taking all of her clothes except for her ripped shirt, which she'd tossed into the trash can in the corner. When she slipped into her own flat she took a deep breath and went to put on some legitimate clothes before she collapsed onto her own sofa, a hand covering her eyes. If he really needed to talk to her, he knew where she was, but she didn't really feel like having him look at her with anything resembling regret. 

He noticed she was gone, and convinced himself that was a good thing. They had a lot of work to do, and he needed to gear himself up to be professional. So did she. He dressed quick- black pants, red shirt - and pulled his shoulder holster on, adding his blazer overtop. There. Dressed for professionalism. Time to go face Jim and figure out what his future assignments were. 

Jim, of course, was up, since he rarely slept. He was working as usual, if in a slightly sourer mood. He already knew about his sniper's quest to irritate him - the accountant on the floor had informed him of an alarming level of noise coming from Moran's door. Jim sighed. He hadn't really expected anything to stop, nor did he really care if it did. What bothered him was his suspicion that Sebastian was doing it just to irk him. What also bothered him was the fact that he had no easy ways to punish him; not this week, anyway. He'd planned their new assignments around the idea that they'd be home in a week, and moving them would be challenging and wasteful. He sighed again. 

My office, Moran. JM 

He was on his way anyway, having re-steeled his resolve. He knocked on the door crisply, walking in just as the permission to enter was given, a little too early to have truly waited for the remark, but just late enough to be within the realm of possibilities. Pushing lines. "You wanted to see me, sir?"

Jim took a deep breath to keep his pleasant smile on his face. Yes, Moran was pushing his luck. But he was better at playing the game. A sweep of his eyes and he knew everything that had transpired between him and Harrison. "If you're going to insist on playing those mundane games with her just to irritate me, don't be too surprised when my prediction becomes true a lot quicker than I thought it would," he pointed out, tucking his hands into the pockets of his freshly laundered suit. "Either use her or don't. Stop trying to say I have anything to do with it." 

He smirked. "With all due respect, sir, you're awfully full of yourself if you think I'm thinking about you when fucking a beautiful woman. Harrison knows her limits, I know them even better. She'll surprise you."

Jim raised a single eyebrow, his head tilting to the side with the air of a watchful snake. This was the game he wanted to play? Alright. "Yet you've already breached her limits. She cares about you, as misguided and ridiculous that is. You'd know that, if you weren't so caught up on how feel about it. You're blind when you become angry, Moran." 

"Then if you're so concerned about this situation, don't make me angry," he shot back with a dangerous tone. 

He gave a sharp, harsh laugh, his expression becoming more manic. "So every time I make you angry you're just going to go out and prove me right?" he laughed, looking as skeptical as any one person could. "You're occasionally an idiot, Moran. For thinking that I really care if you fuck her after the fact anyway, as well! You're embarrassing yourself. I don't give a shit." 

He straightened, nodded, took a slow breath, and cracked his neck slightly. "Then sir, I don't see why we keep discussing it." His cold eyes held Jim's, not a flicker of fear in them. "If it develops into something you perceive as a problem, I have already requested you let me know. Otherwise, this seems like a rather pointless conversation that you, quote, 'don't give a shit' about."

"You're misunderstanding me," Jim said thinly, face becoming blank. "What I do give a shit about is your reasons for it. I don't like you doing things just to piss me off. That bothers me," He snarled carefully, drumming his fingers on the desk. 

"Seems, then, if I were doing that sir, I would be doing it rather effectively." His expression remained unchanged.

"Get out," he snapped, pointing to the door. "Get out or I will kill you," he elaborated through his teeth, and he was completely serious. 

He nodded, gave a crisp salute, and turned and headed out the door. Well, he'd just signed his own death warrant. Was it worth it? He wasn't sure. Something just... infuriated him about how Jim was acting. He wasn't sure what, but he, the perfect soldier, was done with it. 

Jim had very nearly held Moran there and shot him anyway, just to watch him bleed out for a while before he called the ambulance. He didn't want to kill Moran, but he wanted to hurt him. Now was just the time to figure out how.

He walked back to his apartment with the calmness of a man condemned. He scanned his prints, the door unlocking, and walked in to sit on his couch. For once, he didn't go for the alcohol. He needed to be on guard. 

Lorna was surprised to hear the elevator once again - Sebastian was back so soon? That didn't bode well. Her intercom pinged, except it wasn't the usual colors. Jim. Oh, shit.

"Harrison, come to my office," Jim said quietly, leaning back In his chair. He needed to assess the issue from both angles before proceeding to doling out punishments. 

She swallowed. Okay, this was bad. What the hell had Sebastian said to him? "Yes, sir," she swallowed, immediately heading for the door. A minute later and she was at the door, tapping cautiously at the door, smoothing down her dress shirt nervously. 

"Come in," Jim said casually. He was sitting at his desk, hands clasped and resting on his desk, expression unreadable. 

She stepped into the room, shutting the door behind her with a hatefully-final-sounding click. "You called, sir?" she cleared her throat, her hands clasped behind her so she wouldn't fidget unnecessarily. God, he scared her. 

"I did," he confirmed, nodding and studying her for a long moment. "You and Moran, Harrison. How do you view the situation?"

"I'm... Not sure what you mean, sir," she frowned. She knew he was talking about, but she wasn't sure how to answer. "What do you mean by view?"

He sat back, eyebrows raising somewhat. "You care for him. Do you feel that that is going to affect your ability to work? Don't try to lie, it's terribly boring."

She didn't have to be reminded. She knew not to lie. She took in a deep breath. "I.. Suppose I do. But I don't think it will affect my work, sir," she shook her head, frowning slightly. "I suppose I just... Keep a watchful eye out for him."

"That's not your job," he said, smiling coldly. "That's his job, to look out for you. Your job, Lorna darling, is to make friends, get fucked, schmooze, and do anything else you have to to get my information. If that involves leaving Sebastian to fend for himself, that is by all means what you should do." His smile soured until he was almost snarling at her "Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal," Lorna breathed, dropping her eyes to the ground. "I won't jeopardize any missions, sir, I swear," she added, swallowing hard. She was relieved she hadn't even thought about lying - he was uncanny at sensing that stuff. 

He considered her. "No. I don't expect you will. Because if you do, both you and your little boyfriend are going to die at my hand over the course of days." His eyes were smoldering, but a moment later they lifted into calm levity again. "Now, I think that will be all. Unless you have anything else?"

"No," she shook her head quietly, the picture of acquiescence. There was no point on correcting him on their.. situation, that was for sure. "Have a good day, sir," she managed, and immediately turned to slip out of the room, hands shaking. He was legitimately the most terrifying person she'd ever met. God, it was hard to even meet his eyes. 

Sebastian was waiting just outside, arms folded as he leaned against the wall. "Good, you're not dead," he said casually, heading for the elevator. 

"I might yet have a heart attack," Lorna shook her head, following after a moment in which she was just trying to get her legs moving again. "What did you say to him?"

"I was nothing but polite and respectful, and a tad bit insolent," he said, calling the elevator. 

"You're crazy," she stated, leaning against the wall as they waited, her palms pressed flat against the wallpaper. "Warn me next time, maybe? Just so I can worry about my imminent death ahead of time?" 

He shrugged. "You're alive, aren't you?" He stepped into the elevator. "If you'd had time to think about it, you would have panicked."

She followed him into the elevator, although she purposely chose the corner furthest from him, not able to bring herself to respond to him without cussing him out. God, she needed a job. She'd probably leave tonight just to see how many people she could pickpocket. It was a good distraction. 

He leaned against the wall, watching the doors slide shut. "He'll cool down. He always does."

"Don't bet my life on that, Sebastian," she warned, giving him a sharp glance. He always became a lot less threatening after she'd just seen Jim. 

He considered her, noticed the thought in her gaze, and the use of his name, and was on her in a second, his hand gripping her throat as he pinned her to the wall, face inches from hers. "I'll bet anything I like," he hissed quietly. "I own you. You went into this with the promise that it wouldn't affect your work, but hell if you're going to disrespect me." His eyes were deadly. "If that's going to be a problem, I'll snap your neck right now. Quick and easy solution for the both of us. I don't think I'm going to need to do that. Am I wrong?"

She had a knife pressed into his side the instant he had her against the wall, gritting her teeth as she fought to draw in a decent breath. "You put my life on the line for your little power play, and you don't get my respect," she spat, her free hand going to grip his wrist, trying to bring herself a little relief. "You don't own me - he does." She pressed the knife into him harder, enough that it must have hurt. "Keep me out of it and you'll have all the respect you want, Moran. Is that so much to ask?" 

He snarled as her knife bit into his side, a hand moving to pin her hand against the wall, the other still tight on her throat. "I'm the one who hires and fires here. Right now I'm in the rough with Jim. I've been there a million times, and I will be a million times again. But if I decide you're worthless, you will be dead before you know what hit you." He released his grip on her neck just slightly. "I didn't pull you in there, Jim did. I told you what I was doing last night, and you agreed. So don't be a fucking coward, and blame me for what you knew was going to happen. If you're really that stupid, then I never should have hired you."

Lorna bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from physically spitting into his face, biting back more harsh words and taking a deep breath instead. "I'm sorry," she muttered, glaring at the opposite wall of the elevator, a muscle jumping in her jaw. She felt rather like she needed to throw up. "I shouldn't have taken out my fear on you. Please let me go." 

He twisted her hand until she dropped the knife, before pushing her to the side, bending to pick it up. The elevator doors had opened and closed while they spoke, and now they were just sitting on their floor. He hit the 'open door' button. "I don't like when someone agrees to something, and then ducks out of the consequences," he spat quietly, eyes on her, disgusted. "You're too used to your job, fucking grifter slut." He headed down the hall towards his apartment, on high alert for any retaliation.

That was a step over the line and he should have known it. She caught up to him in two steps, hand curling around the shoulder holster she knew was under his blazer and yanking him to a halt, spinning him around with a dangerous fury in her eyes. "Don't you dare threaten to kill me for being worthless and then pull that card on me!" She hissed, digging her fingernails into her palm hard enough to draw blood. "I didn't 'duck out' of the fucking consequences! I went in there and I did my best to fucking placate him, unlike you, the 'perfect fucking soldier', and you have the nerve to attack me while I'm still coping with being in a dangerous situation completely out of my control? What the fuck is wrong with you?" She demanded, forcing her fists to unclench and wiping off the blood on her pants. She didn't do this. She didn't do confrontations, that was precisely why she was a goddamn grifter. When she spoke again, her voice was shuddering and her cheeks were red. "Don't you ever call me that again."

He studied her, and shook his head slowly, as if something was just occurring to him. "The goddamned prick was right," he muttered, letting out a laugh. "Christ." He shook his head. "We're not equals, Harrison. And there's no Union for grifters. You don't like your work experience? The door is right there. But you won't last ten minutes on the street. You have nowhere to turn, no one to go to. Jim doesn't give a fuck whether you live or die except that it means a little more paperwork if we have to dispose of your body." He laughed. "Last night you fucked me to piss Jim off. This morning I went to Jim and acted the same way I always do. Pushing that line is what got me here in the first place. If you can't take the heat, fine. Don't step into the fire next time. But if you talk to that like me again, yank me around like that again, you had better be prepared to back it up, or you will be at the bottom of the Thames with my bullets in your head. Are we clear?"

She didn't bother putting any stock into any of his words past his first sentence. She knew all of it - acknowledging it any further would only make her angrier. She just stared up at him until he was done, nearly trembling with the effort of keeping herself so still. "What was he right about?" she asked quietly, raising her eyebrows slightly, as if they weren't in the middle of threatening each other's lives. 

He grit his teeth. "That you're fragile. Couldn't handle it. You know, I stuck up for you to him. Staked my bets on the fact that you weren't going to crack under the pressure. That's why he's angry, because I defied him about you. And now you're going to prove him right." 

She stuffed her hands in her pockets, looking up at him for a long moment, her calm slowly returning. "I'm compromised right now because I was in the same room as Jim, and then in an enclosed space with you where I idiotically provoked you and you responded in turn. Just because I'm angry doesn't mean I'm breaking. I.." she gave a slight shrug, a little sheepish, "Forgot my place. I apologize." Lorna looked down at her feet, scuffing her shoes against the carpet as she bit the inside of her cheek. "I'm sorry, Sebastian."

He considered her for a long moment, letting the silence continue. "Go cool off," he said after a moment. "And it's Moran or sir."

She sighed, turning towards her door and unlocking it with a grimace before she stepped inside and shut it behind her. If she had tried responding to that they would still be fighting, and she really needed to wash the blood off her palms. Maybe apply a little alcohol, since she doubted she had neosporin. 

He turned for his own room, unlocking it and stepping inside, walking to his bathroom and pulling his shirt off to get a look at the cut in his side. It wasn't deep, but it was bleeding pretty badly, so he grabbed the first aid kit he kept, cleaned it and covered it. He tossed his bloodstained and torn shirt into the laundry- it was still presentable on the front and worth wearing if he knew he'd be in hand-to-hand combat, and considered his sliced blazer. Probably repairable. He tossed it into the laundry as well, pulling out a new shirt. He was still on call for Jim if necessary. He sat on his bed, laying back and considering the ceiling. He and Harrison were done. That was the end of it. This whole thing was too much trouble.

She did end up having to use liquor to wash out her cuts, yelping at the harsh sting before she wrapped them up and collapsed into her armchair. She had really fucked that up. She would be surprised if he even talked to her for a week. The thought made her feel a little queasy, but it was easier to ignore it than it was to dwell on her mistakes. Of course, it wouldn't have killed him to be a little more human, for once in his life, but there wasn't any point in being angry about it now that it was over. Sighing, she climbed back out of her armchair and got out the bottle of scotch she'd brought with her. Time to get her future self hungover as hell. 

After a while he got up, deciding to go inspect how everything was going in the rest of the building. He might as well do a little extra to try and get back in Jim's good books, and dealing with people who actually showed respect would be a nice change. Reshouldering his holster, he pulled on a new blazer and headed for the elevator. 

She heard his door again and couldn't stop from flinching. She really couldn't leave things like they were or she'd be awake all night about it. Hurriedly putting down the scotch - and spilling more onto her hand, ow - she opened the door again, standing inside the threshold. "Sir? I- Is there anything I can do for you? I overstepped my bounds, and I shouldn't have, and I'd like to make that up, if I can."

He looked back at her, raising an eyebrow. "Not currently, Harrison, but it's a long day. If I come across something that requires your expertise, I'll be sure to let you know."

She gave him a light nod and then disappeared back into her apartment. No need to waste his time. Or meet his eyes for more than five seconds. 

 


 

He worked hard that day. Was clear-headed, calm, brutal when he had to be. He worked on finding where the inefficiencies that had started cropping up were originating, and dealt with them quickly and ruthlessly. He was considering his last 'inefficiency', who was currently kneeling on the floor in front of him, bound and trembling, and reached for the nearest intercom, putting in the extension. "Harrison. Get down to the basement, interrogation 3."

"Yes, sir," she replied almost immediately, feeling lucky that he'd called now instead of five minutes earlier, when she'd been in the shower. In the elevator she wondered what it was that needed her assistance - yes, occasionally she was called in for interrogations, since she knew her way around people like nobody's business, but that tended to happen when Moran was out of town, never with him. When she walked into the room after typing in the code at the door, she gave him a curious look. She couldn't see who was on the floor, but they seemed mildly familiar. 

He looked over at her. "Good. You're here." He looked back to the figure on the floor. "You see her, Monroe? She's efficient. Down here very quickly, and very respectfully. That's how things are done here. She takes orders well." He crouched in front of Monroe, taking his chin roughly in hand, causing the smaller man to whimper just slightly in fear. He looked over to Harrison. "Monroe here has been a source of trouble."

She nodded to herself. Monroe. Yes, she could see him being an issue. Although it was hilarious being referred to as a role model of quickness and respectfulness. Lorna tilted her head to the side as she looked down at Monroe, frowning slightly. "What do you want done about that, sir?"

He pulled his gun out of his holster, not even looking as he handed it to her. He considered Monroe with a cool expression, before standing. "Take care of it."

"Alright," she nodded, figuring that she was here for the execution, not the pain, today. She cocked the gun as she stepped forward, pressing the gun to her about-to-be-former coworker's forehead. He looked scared. She squeezed the trigger, keeping a straight face as she watched the red mist settle for a moment and then turned back to Moran, holding the gun out for him. "Pretty heavy kickback on this one, sir." 

He took the gun, nodding. "It's a personal favorite." He tucked it away again. "Get someone from cleanup to deal with this, will you? I have a few other things I need to do before people start heading home."

She made a confirming sound, looking down at Monroe's corpse with a thoughtful look. "How does Bree sound? She's good at getting blood out of the cracks." 

He nodded. "Whoever you want, just get it done." He headed for the door. "Well done."

"Thank you," she murmured, staying where she was for a moment to give him room to get ahead before she followed, heading for the other side of the basement, where cleanup was. That hadn't gone terribly at all. 

She'd performed well, no hesitation or questions. It was a fairly simple task, but he needed to start simple. His evaluation of her needed to be thorough.

After she'd sent Bree to clean up Monroe's corpse she took the elevator up to the level the lounge was on, parking herself on a couch and flipping her phone in her less-damaged hand. She had a feeling that wasn't the end of the tasks he'd give her today, and keeping herself in the middle of the building would make going either up or down faster. She really had crossed a line she should never even really made eyes at. She wasn't even sure why he'd made her so angry. Someone else had probably called her that before, but that probably was something she didn't want to bring that up. 

But he didn't. He didn't work much longer that day himself, and there wasn't really a whole lot he could test her on at the drop of a hat. He'd have to prepare. So instead he left her stewing in silence, contemplating what had happened. 

It took her maybe three hours to realize that he wasn't planning on calling her again for anything else, so she rolled up off the couch and went into the kitchen to make herself something. Luckily for her, somebody regularly stocked it, so it wasn't too hard to find something to eat. When she figured that it was late enough that the likelihood of her running into him on the way back to her apartment was slim to none, she returned to her flat, walking as quietly in the hall as she could. Briefly, she considered making him an apology card. 

He was leaning in his apartment doorway, waiting. He watched as she walked up, sipped quietly at his glass of bourbon, watching her without vocal or physical acknowledgment. 

She had to keep herself from smirking as she noticed the bourbon in his hand, which was easy, because she was a little leery of seeing him, especially when she'd hoped he wouldn't be there. She nodded slightly as she walked up, flicking her keys out of her pockets and twirling them on her finger as she reached her door. 

He watched her quietly for a few more moments as she unlocked her door, before heading into his apartment, closing the door behind him. A little bit of a mild intimidation factor never hurt. He walked over to the couch, sitting down, on edge. He half expected Jim to call at any minute, and the other half expected a bullet to fly over his head just as soon. 

I heard the two of you had a little domestic. JM 

He looked up as his phone buzzed, reading over the message. 

She stepped out of line, I clarified. SM

I watched the footage. It was entertaining. I'm glad I made that happen. JM 

Glad I could be your entertainment this evening sir. It's my goal to make you as happy as possible. SM

It's really very funny taking things away from you. What else do you enjoy besides your job? JM

Alcohol, fucking, and good steak. As you're well aware, sir. SM

Of course I am. Intentionally piss me off again and I'll take more than the second one. Intentions are everything, Moran. JM 

Sir, if intentions were everything, a hell of a lot of people would have killed you by now. As it happens, I've managed to keep you alive this far. That seems a fairly clear intention to me. SM 

Your concern for my wellfare doesn't cancel out purposely making me angry. I thought you would understand that. I suppose not. Anyways, you can stop going around corners so carefully - I'm not going to have you killed. Learn the lesson, here, Moran. I don't care what you're doing with your personal life if you aren't doing it to try and get to me. JM

I didn't do it to try and get to you sir, not at first. Unless you feel that I am incapable of reading my people and doing my job, then you did care, sir, with respect. If I'm incorrect, please let me know. SM

I'm not mad enough to stick to my pride. I'll admit I questioned your judgement. I still do, a little. But I'll leave you to it. I have a business meeting which may lead to a job for you in a few days. I'll keep you updated. JM

Understood, sir. I look forward to the work. Anything else? SM

One thing: did you let Harrison put that knife on you or did you really slip up? JM

He grit his teeth, considering the phone. 

She pulled a knife on me, sir. I'm alive. I don't consider that to be a slip up. Not all of us can immediately read if a person is armed by the color of their trousers. SM

Mmhmm. Do your best to keep it from getting infected, if she cut you. That's all. Goodnight, Moran. JM

The well-wishes surprised him, but he took a breath, and returned the text.

Goodnight, sir. SM

Jim tucked away his phone and continued getting ready for his meeting. He knew that his sniper was probably suffering from a little bit of whiplash from his treatment, but that all just part of the fun. They were all just entertainment for him, after all. 

 

Lorna was in her apartment, a quarter of the way through her bottle of scotch. The next week was going to be a game that she didn't want to play, but she was going to have to. Damn them all for making the stakes so high. 

 

Sebastian rubbed at his eyes, before standing and heading for his bedroom. Despite having slept well the night before, he was exhausted. He turned the intercom speaker up, and then collapsed on top of his bed, asleep in moments. 

It took Lorna another few hours to drink herself to sleep, falling asleep on her couch with an open bottle of liquor shoved in between the cushions and the arm. She was going to wake up with a major crook in her neck. 

 

Chapter Text

The next few days were slow ones for Sebastian. He'd done much of the work he could scrounge together on that first day, and now there was little else left. He gave Harrison a few other things to do, but for the most part they were short administrative tasks, without the weight he was hoping for.

Lorna was on her way back to the building with groceries when she'd ran into him, mumbling apologies before she even looked up, before she recognized the coat, the curly locks, the sharp look. Then she was sprinting off, groceries forgotten, just trying to keep out of his sight before he had a chance to really look at her. Ten minutes later of what should have been a thirty-minute walk she jogged briskly out of the elevator, her heart struggling to keep up, and immediately knocked on Sebastian's door. She was not going to Jim first with this, ooohhh no.

He opened his door a few moments later, studying her flushed cheeks and bedraggled appearance. "What's happened?" he asked immediately, stepping aside to let her in.

She gratefully stepped in, taking a split second to drag in a breath before she hurriedly replied; "I just ran into fucking Sherlock Holmes, Moran. I don't know if he got a good look at me, I don't know if he caught up with me, but I ran into him."

He stared at her, nostrils flaring slightly. "That's not possible," he growled. "Holmes is dead. Jumped off a fucking building. I watched him do it myself."

"I. Just. Saw. Him," she repeated, staring up at him with wide eyes. "And it was definitely him. He must have faked it, like Jim. It's possible."

"He jumped off a fucking building," Sebastian restated. "Sixty-two feet onto cold, hard cement. You don't just walk away from that. Are you drunk, Harrison?"

"No," she growled, grinding her teeth together. "I saw him. I saw him, and I'm stone cold sober. Get surveillance out - you'll find him."

He didn't argue further, walking over to the intercom and punching it through to the surveillance. "Get every person we have out on the street," he barked as soon as he got an acknowledgment. "Call in anyone off duty, I want this city scoured. Look for Sherlock Holmes. Get his location, where he's going, and anyone who draws attention to themselves is going to be dealt with by me, personally. Be sure to let them know how good a mood I'm in." The last phrase slipped past in a sickeningly sweet tone that was more terrifying than the angry snarls before it. He turned away from the device, pacing.

She stayed pressed up against the wall, keeping the attention from herself as he started pacing. "I haven't told Jim, I thought I should get confirmation from surveillance first. Fuck, Moran, I shouldn't have run like I did."

His head snapped up, stared at her for a moment. "Tell me everything that happened," he ordered shortly.

"I was out getting groceries, I wasn't watching where I was going because some asshole nearly ran me over with a bicycle and I ran smack into his fucking chest. As soon as I realized who it was I panicked and made a run for it. I didn't want him to see me, I thought he'd figure out who I am, grab me or something, I don't know," she rattled off, one hand clutching her elbow insecurely. "Then I came to you."

He watched her, his expression passive, but tight. "You're the grifter, Harrison, you tell me what Holmes is going to think the instant you make a runner."

She shook her head, looking helpless. "Hoping for the best? Someone who knew he was supposed to be dead and got the snot scared out of them. I didn't think increasing my exposure to a reader was going to help anything. My job is pretty much my personality."

He sighed, reached up to press a hand to his eyes. "I don't have a choice. I have to tell Jim. Now."

"Okay," she whispered, biting the inside of her cheek. "Don't be snide with him, please, for your own sake."

"So glad you're concerned," he said with a hint of sarcasm as he went into his room to get dressed. But he had no intention of being snide. Holmes being alive was a serious matter which put everything else into perspective.

She stayed where she was, even though she was honestly tempted to slip out the door and take a really, really hot shower in her own apartment. She didn't know if Moran had a job for her or not, and disappearing on him now was going to make him pissed off.

He walked out five minutes later, freshly shaved, straightening his collar. "Right, come on," he said, heading out into the hall. "You're with me."

Lorna had to physically stop herself from questioning him, instead following him with a nod. She didn't exactly fit the part to be meeting Jim; she was bedraggled from both the run and the light rain outside, her hair was a mess, and she was wearing one of the rattiest t-shirts she owned. Standing next to him was only going to make her look worse. As she hit the button, she glanced at him, clearing her throat slightly. "Do you want me to go in with you?"

He nodded, glancing at her. "I'd give you time to change, but Jim will appreciate the urgency of the situation, believe me. He'll want to hear your story."

"Oh, great," she said, unconvincingly. "If I faint its because I'm mildly asthmatic, not because I'm terrified out of my wits." 

He smirked, nodded. "Just remain calm. You've stumbled- albeit awkwardly- upon a very vital piece of information. He might be pleased."

"I desperately hope you're right, Moran," she breathed, running her fingers through her hair in a vain attempt to try and put herself together. "I've had enough of making my superiors angry at me."

"I should hope so," he smirked, punching the elevator button as they stepped in.

She rested her head back against the wall of the lift, closing her eyes for a long moment, doing her best to keep herself from panicking. "Boy, do I need a vacation. Maybe just a quiet day. That or a week-long booze-cruise filled with hot people."

"Good luck. With Holmes back in the game, we're both going to be on high alert." He sighed slightly, stretching before straightening his jacket.

Lorna raised her eyebrows, opening her eyes to look at him. "It's not as if I'm going to be much use - yeah, I'm a convincing enough liar with body language and whatnot, but if Jim can read me that easily, so can Holmes. I don't see the opportunity for much grifter work there. Do you?"

"Maybe not, but it might not be Holmes that need grifting. It may be Watson, or his girlfriend, or any number of other people," he took a breath as the elevator stopped. "Come on."

"I see your point," she sighed, massaging her temples as she followed him. It wasn't easy to follow him, where they were going.

He took a breath, straightening and reaching out to knock on Jim's door. "Sir? I'm sorry to interrupt, but there's an urgent situation."

Lorna fidgeted by his side as they waited for an answer. This would not be fun.

Inside, Jim was being slow about answering because he had a muffin in his mouth. It was precisely the reason he didn't like eating often. "Come in," he called as soon as he'd swallowed and disposed of the evidence, shoving his trash can under the desk with his foot.

Moran nodded, turning to Lorna. "Stay here for now," he said quietly, before stepping inside, nodding at his employer. "I have some... interesting, and as of yet, unconfirmed news, sir," he said quietly but firmly. "Harrison spotted Sherlock Holmes."

Jim stayed where he was for a long moment, too distracted with this new information to react physically. Sherlock Holmes had beaten his game after all. It had been everything he'd dreamed, if not considered as a statistically possible reality. He snapped back into life, standing quickly from his desk and nearly knocking over his computer monitor in the process, leaning forward over the desk, a manic excitement on his face. "Is she certain?"

He allowed a slight smirk to slip onto his face. It was oddly reassuring to see this life back into his boss. "She seems certain, sir. I have every deep cover we have on the streets with instructions to observe only, see if we can get another look at him."

He let his old crazed grin slip onto his face, beginning to pace, his movements sharp and energetic, his usual cool demeanor thrown to the side for the moment. "Fantastic. I want updates on this every hour, understood? Into the night, even - have someone else report to me if you must sleep, I have to know," he ordered giddily, loosening his tie. "Oh, she better be right. If she is, buy her a nice dinner for me. If not, well.." he met Moran's eyes, looking significantly darker, "You let her know that uncertainty is unacceptable."

"She's outside, sir, if you want to make that clear for yourself. As for the rest of your requests, absolutely. Consider it done."

"No, no, I have planning to do, you tell her," he waved off, spinning on his heel and throwing himself back into his chair. "You're dismissed, Sebastian, thank you."

"Of course, sir. Let me know if you need anything." He turned for the door, stepping outside and closing it quietly. "He's very pleased. Said to buy you dinner if this got confirmed."

Lorna looked relieved, letting her posture deflate slightly from 'straight as a pole' to 'just came back from the masseuse'. "Fucking Christ, I feel like I've had a near-death experience," she huffed, dragging a hand over her face. "Can I go change?"

"Go," he said, waving her off. "I'll let you know if I need you."

"Thanks," she breathed, immediately turning and heading for the elevator. She didn't think it was likely that she'd be needed, but it wasn't impossible. Christ. Sherlock Holmes, back from the dead.

He headed that direction with her. He needed to get downstairs to the command center and start keeping an eye on things.

"This is weird," she muttered under her breath. More than just the whole Sherlock Holmes being back from the dead - it sounded as if Jim was happy with it. When she reached the elevator, she glanced at him. "Do you want me to come find you once I'm suitable?"

He nodded. "I could use a spare hand to handle anyone who calls in," he said. "Meet me down there."

"Will do," she agreed, peeling off from him at the stairwell to allow him to take the elevator - if they were going different ways there was really no need to subject herself to the intimidation of that, and she could always use the exercise of using the stairs, along with the brownie points.

He smirked as she headed for the stairs, walking into the elevator and punching the correct button. He was in an unusually good mood, because Jim was in a good mood, and hell if that didn't make his life easier.

When she finally reached her landing and slipped into her apartment she took the fastest shower of her life and then got changed into their network's casual uniform - all dark clothes, yet all tasteful and suitable for about any occasion. When she was certain she didn't smell like a strange mixture of sweat and rain and that she didn't look like she'd run from the hounds of hell, she took the elevator to the same floor Moran had. Best not to keep him waiting, if he needed something. Christ, their fight had really livened up her work ethic.

He looked up as she entered the ops room, pointing to a chair with a steaming mug of coffee which matched his own. "Sit. We're in for a long haul."

"Oh, wonderful, I was just thinking that I haven't had one of these in a while," she quipped, sinking down into the chair and not hesitating to put her shoes up on the table as she picked up her coffee. "Have we got eyes on Baker Street yet?"

He shook his head. "No, the morons. I have someone heading there now." He studied the screens, which were cycling through CCTV feeds.

She snorted derisively, sipping at her coffee as she looked at the same screens, purposely choosing the ones she knew his eyes weren't on. "I can't see him going anyplace else, even if he is trying to hide himself for a little while longer. He's far too attached to that apartment. Even if Watson isn't there."

"Agreed," he said, nodding. "Unless he's reestablished his drug habit, in which case there are any number of places where he might try to disappear," he pointed out. "I have people heading to his known binge locations."

She made a thoughtful noise, deliberating on speaking for a moment before she replied; "If he has, I know some places he might go. Less well-known places. If they're still there. But I don't see why they wouldn't be, the kind of business that runs through London these days."

He glanced over at her, and deadpanned "You trying to ditch me, Harrison?"

"I'm trying to help," she responded dryly, biting the inside of her cheek to keep from getting too snippy. "I can't go back there, not in person. I wouldn't come back."

He cracked a grin. "Lighten up, Harrison. I'm ribbing. Find someone on the street you think'll be good and give them what they need to know." He tossed her a communicator mic.

"Christ, like the mix of teasing and intimidation isn't enough, I have to deal with responsibility, too?" She groaned, catching the mic and holding it up towards her face so she could start going through the process of who was closer to what and who was also least likely to try sampling the merchandise. It took her five minutes, but she finally settled on a grizzled old man everyone in the network referred to fondly as 'Meatloaf'. The name was probably not encouraged to settle by the fact that the old man constantly was bringing in day-old meatloaves to eat for lunch.

He watched her work. She was efficient and clean, and did the work well. He nodded as her selection. "Good," he said quietly, before returning his attention to the screens.

Lorna placed the mic back onto the table and returned to sipping her coffee for a long moment before she could think of anything to say. "You finish off that bourbon yet?"

He laughed. "I did, yes. I'll have to get another bottle. What about you? Seen the end of that scotch?"

"Damn straight I did," she smirked, setting down her coffee and keeping her eyes idly on the screens. "That bottle didn't even last two days. I haven't finished off the vodka, though, been too busy. Looks like it's not going to be finished tonight, either."

"Afraid not," he sighed, taking a long sip from his own mug. "Oh well. Wouldn't hurt you to drink a bit less anyways. Not that I'm one to talk."

"Mm. You drink less than me. I was curious about your tolerance levels so I worked it out for myself after watching you drink. But yeah, I'm totally an alcoholic," she snickered, giving a small shrug. "It's fine, though. Doesn't interfere with my work, and it's not like I'm likely to have a real long lifespan anyway. Could be worse." She glanced at him, grinning. "Could be heroin."

He smirked, tilting his head in her direction. "Touche. And actually, the tolerance is due to some Taiwanese blood. Not much, but enough to skew my tolerance, apparently. I mostly ignore it."

"That's pretty funny, Moran, I'm sorry," she chuckled, sinking into her chair slightly so her head rested against the back. Better to be comfortable earlier. "I'm straight-up Swedish and English. Nothing but a shit-ton of Viking blood and people who had to drink their ways through the winter. I guess I'm destined to be an alcoholic murderess. Although I have a speck of Greek in there."

He glared at her slightly at the comment, but mellowed out as she spoke, kicking up his own feet. "Guess not. Makes sense."

Lorna watched the security feeds in silence for a minute, realizing that she'd accidentally slipped back into banter mode. It was already difficult enough dealing with her shitty feelings when he was being an intimidating hard-ass, but if he was being nice, that was just all sorts of bad news. It would be better to keep herself from being too familiar with him. She pointed at the screen. "There's Watson, leaving work. Can we change the feeds so we can track him?"

He nodded, taking his feet down and starting to type in commands. A map came up on one screen, a blinking red line starting to draw itself slowly along the street as John walked. "We have a program that should track him through the system using facial recognition."

"That's new," she muttered, more to herself than to him. The last time she'd had to track someone in here she'd done it by hand. She'd gotten checked for carpal tunnel the next week. "I'd say it a 50-50 chance he'll lead us to Holmes."

"You're making the assumption that Watson knows that Holmes is alive. He's not that good of an actor. We've had eyes on him, we'd have known by now if he knew."

"No, I've met Watson. You were out of the country for that thing in Russia, remember? Jim had me do some grifting. Easy work. In and out before Holmes was ever home. But he's good at internalizing. Except for his tell - his does this thing with his hands, like he's resetting his fists or something," she shook her head, leaning forward to grab her coffee again.

"We'd still know," he said, shaking his head. "Something this big... It would have blown up. He's been unstable since Holmes died- or 'died', I suppose," he said, making air quotes. "He would have been thrown off."

She turned her chair to face him slightly, her arms folded over her chest. "I think you're wrong. If he was going to blow up, it would be somewhere Holmes or Morstan would have dragged him. Small, quiet, probably somewhere without even any CCTV. He is a vet, you know. Bottling up his PTSD isn't exactly new to him."

"I'm a vet too. I'm telling you, you'd see a difference," he said, shooting her a look. "But you're the grifter. If you think you're right, hey, good for you."

She sighed, shrugging. "If I'm right, we'll find out in the next twenty-four hours. If I'm wrong, eh. I'll cry myself to sleep with my good friend Mr. Vodka. He's from Russia, you know." Shit, I just can't shut up.

He looked over at her like she was nuts, before returning his attention to the screens, adding a few commands as the system continued to follow Watson.

She bit back a smile at the look on his face as she let the conversation drop. It didn't really matter if Watson knew yet, because Holmes would come for the doctor eventually.

He sighed, still watching the screens. "If you're right... Jim will be over the moon."

She snorted. "If I'm right, our lives are going to get a lot more difficult. Can't wait to see what shit he comes up with this time."

"Yes, but they'll be a hell of a lot more entertaining, too," he snorted. "And rewarding, if we play right."

Lorna nodded slightly, conceding that he was right. "I only hope that we steer clear of Mycroft Holmes as much as we did last time. He's the one person in all this who I feel could actually touch us. If someone can grab Jim, they can grab us, you know?"

He shook his head slightly. "Holmes wouldn't have had Jim unless Jim expressly wanted it that way," he said firmly. "And don't let him hear you say otherwise."

"Good tip," she muttered, cracking her knuckles idly just for something to do with her hands. "Still, you and I don't exactly have the same level of foresight Jim does. It wouldn't be hard for them to get ahold of one of us if we fuck up."

"If we fuck up that badly, we deserve it," he snorted, looking over at her before sighing and reaching to pick up his phone, hitting the first number on his speed dial. "Hello, sir. Reporting in. No word yet, we have someone watching 221B for activity and are tracking John Watson." He nodded. "Yessir. Will do." He hung up, sighing.

"Any new orders from the boss-man?" Lorna raised her eyebrows towards Moran, although she was fairly certain that they would be stuck at this terminal for the next twelve hours at least. In a few hours she'd call someone to bring them food, or the lack of blood sugar would make her irritable and affect her work. Not a good thing in a time like this.

"Keep doing what we're dong," he sighed, tapping his fingers absently. "Not much beyond that we can do until someone spots the bastard."

"Christ," she muttered. "Do we have any surveillance inside 221 that we can get back online? Or did someone destroy those?" She swiveled her chair slightly to face him, her feet still up on the desk.

"Destroyed when the police investigation into his death began," Sebastian said. "But Demmings is across the street, watching. If anything moves, we'll know."

She groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. She wanted to be right about having seen Holmes, but the idea of a stakeout was deplorable at the least. "In an hour I'm going to have someone bring us takeout. What do you want?"

He shrugged. "Whatever you feel like. I'll eat anything." He reached out to type in a few commands as Watson got into a cab.

Lorna held in a quip that would have gotten her smacked and lifted her hips to wriggle her phone out of her pocket and send a request for Chinese to one of the secretaries. They would take care of it.


 

The hours passed by slowly. It wasn't until they were almost done with their Chinese that he heard from Demmings.
"I have a confirmed sighting: Holmes entering 221B. Repeat. Confirmed sighting."

Lorna set down her box of fried rice on the table hard enough to send stray bits of rice skittering across the wood as she heard 'confirmed sighting' from his phone. "Fuck. Guess I was right, after all."

"I guess you were," he said, hanging up and immediately dialing Jim. "Sir, it's confirmed. Holmes is at Baker Street. He just arrived."

"Good. Thank you, Sebastian. I want to know where he is in London at all times - wire the feed from the terminal into my computer, if at all possible," Jim replied, barely contained excitement filtering into his voice despite his intentions to remain neutral-sounding. He couldn't help himself. "For now you can go off-duty. My treat."

"Thank you, sir. Wiring the feed through now," he said, smiling slightly. "Who should I leave in charge? And is there anything you want done before I do that?"

Jim made a noncommittal sound, too buzzed with the news to bother with details at the moment. "Whoever you think is capable enough. I plan to supervise most of it myself. And no, that will be all."

"Yessir," he said, nodding and hanging up. "Well, Harrison, I guess the rest is up to you," he said, smirking slightly and picking up the remainder of his food.

"Oh, c'mon, Moran," she complained, sagging into her chair with obvious reluctance. "Ugh, enjoy your free time, traitor. At least send someone to bring me coffee like every hour, huh?"

He laughed. "Start calling people back in. We don't need all of them out there now that Holmes is located. Keep someone on him, and another on Watson, and a few backups. When Alistair gets back in you can have him relieve you. Call me if you have problems."

"Yeah, yeah, I will," she grumbled, waving at him with a roll of her eyes and reaching for her phone. "Go get drunk, I'll take care of it."

He smirked, then his face turned back to its usual stony expression. He turned away and started walking, disturbed by how quickly they'd fallen back into familiarity.

She sighed and got to work, individually recalling most of the people they'd sent out and setting up a rotating shift for the people watching Holmes and Watson, keeping two backups nearby for both of them, and then it was just a matter of waiting for Alistair. When he finally got in three hours later she'd downed another three cups of coffee, and when she stepped out of the elevator into their hallway she was exhausted and just wanted to curl up in bed. Caffeine always made her feel strung out.

Moran lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling, strategizing. Running over the weaknesses of 221B Baker Street in his head, running over the known weaknesses of Watson and Holmes. Preparing, for the eventuality that Jim would call him for a strategy meeting at some point within the next few days.

Harrison fought back the urge to knock on his door and start up another banter about him leaving her down there for hours and instead fumbled with unlocking her own door. She liked talking to him too much for her own good. Better to just go to bed.

He heard her enter her apartment, and part of him (A very small part) wanted to get up and go talk to her. Instead, he stayed put, forcing his mind through the weaknesses again. Back window, front bay windows, weak wall on south side...

She got ready for bed with all the grace of a bull in a china shop. Literally. She broke a glass in the bathroom trying to get a glass of water, and, after considering it for a long moment, decided that the glass wouldn't move in the night and that she'd take care of it tomorrow morning, and so gingerly left the bathroom and crawled into bed.

 


 

Moran was knocking on her door early the next morning. "Up and at 'em, Harrison," he called loudly. "Lot of work to do today and I'm gonna need an extra set of hands."

"Coming!" she shouted back before she was even really awake, pushing herself out of bed with a groan and stumbling into the bathroom - she had a near miss with the glass on the floor as she got ready - before she got dressed and shuffled out of the flat and directly into his shoulder, feeling like death, although she'd managed to make it look like she didn't. "Fuck, what time is it? Coffee?"

He looked down at her with a raised eyebrow. "We'll get it on the way. Come on. It's about five." He headed down the hall towards the elevator.

Lorna made a thoroughly disgusted sound at that information and followed him blearily, just keeping the fuzzy image of his back in front of her so she didn't walk into something else. "What the hell needs doing this early, Moran?" she grounded, stopping next to him and stabbing at the button with her finger.

"Retrieval," he said nonchalantly. "We're going into the field. Maybe bringing Holmes in. The boss and I haven't decided yet, so for now, it's recon."

"You're bringing me in for a retrieval job? I haven't exactly got the arm strength for that sort of thing," she yawned, crossing her elbows over her chest and leaning against the wall as they waited for the elevator. Who the hell else was using it, at this hour? "You having me drive or somethin'?"

"No, might need your help getting into the building. And like I said, we're doing recon, as well. You're a grifter, you know how this stuff works." He stepped into the elevator as it arrived, punching in the button for the garage.

"Yeah, yeah, you're right, 'm sorry, I'm half dead," she yawned again, stepping into the elevator and leaning into the nearest corner with her eyes closed. "If I remember right the easiest way in is to get on the roofs a block over and travel up high until you can lower yourself onto the window ledge. Victorian style housing, very easy for arboreal entrance."

He nodded. "That's correct, if you're sneaking in. We'll assess the situation and see what we can do. I might have you go in more directly. If I remember correctly he doesn't know your face, and it'll distract him for a bit while he tries to place you and figure out why he saw you on the street."

Lorna nodded, reluctantly stepping away from the wall as they reached the garage, and stepped out after him. "What do you want me to be, if we go that way? Fan? Client? Lost, even?"

"Whatever you think he'll buy... Fan might be good." He started heading for a car. "Jim didn't bother with specifics, just said get it done. Yeah, fan would work. Explains why you bolted on the street. You got overwhelmed."

"Here's hoping he doesn't see through me as easily as he did Miss Kitty Riley," she muttered, heading after him with a slight shake of her head, trying to wake herself up. But then, she was a much better actress than the reporter ever had been, and she didn't have to lie for long. "What's the boss hoping to accomplish with this, anyway? We won't be able to hold him long."

"Scare him, let him know he's not the only one back in the game," Seb said, climbing into the car. "He doesn't want Sherlock running around feeling victorious for too long."

She more fell into the passenger seat next to him than climbed in, shutting the door, buckling up, and immediately resting her head against the window. "Mm. Okay. Can we please get coffee? Please?"

"Coffee," he agreed with a smirk, starting the car and heading out of the garage. "Coming up."

Lorna dozed on the way to their usual cafe, - it was frequented by a surprising number of people like them - trying not to fall completely asleep before they got there. When they did finally pull up, she cracked an eyelid. "I had a dream you asked me out for coffee so you could lay an ambush for me inside, so you can go in alone," she murmured, smirking slightly.

"Oh, darn, my cunning plot to kill the person who'd be a pain in the arse to replace has been foiled," he muttered, getting out of the car and heading into the shop.

A few minutes later he returned with two large coffees, passing one to her. "Here."

"Thanks," she rasped, vaguely wondering how long he'd been awake and why he wasn't half dead like she was before throwing out that line of thought and burning her tongue on the coffee. It was worth it to wake up.

He set his coffee in the cup holder, heading across town towards Baker Street, though he parked a few blocks away. "Come on, we'll take the tube closer," he said, piling out and grabbing his pack of equipment, pulling it on.

She made a sound of confirmation as she quickly swallowed down the rest of her coffee and climbed out of the car, much more alert than she had been fifteen minutes ago. Luckily, she'd come unarmed, so if they were going with a plan that involved lying to Holmes, that was one less giveaway.

He headed down into the terminal, swiping his oyster card and waiting for her to join him. "So, we'll scope out the place, but your priority is to maintain your cover, so if he notices you, you're a blithering, giggling fan, yes?"

"Yes," she agreed, although not sounding thrilled. It was always a chore to pretend to be that damnably bubbly. "I don't suppose you have a pen with you I could borrow?"

He pulled one out of his breast pocket, handing it over with a smirk as they got on the tube. "Enjoy fawning over him," he chuckled.

"Thanks," she said dryly, gripping onto one of the overhead bars as the carriages lurched into motion. "You need me to bring him outside, though?"

He shrugged. "Better if you keep him inside, in the front room. I'll come in through the back window, and we'll corner him inside where he's quiet and off the street."

She nodded, giving someone who'd passed by her a little too closely a dirty look, then returning her attention to Moran. "Don't fall. Then I'll be up shit creek without a paddle."

He shrugged. "Just get his signature, try to snog him, and get him to toss you out," he said, staring down a teen who was invading his own space. "But I won't fall."

Lorna hummed in agreement as they reached their stop, pushing past a few people who were too keen to enter the tube and making a small, slim path for Moran and his equipment in the process. The level of excitement she'd need to have for interacting with Holmes was going to require a lot of energy, and it was best if she started racking it up now.

He bouldered through behind her, the tiny path she left widening around his hulking form, and ducked to exit the tube. "Right. Surface and get in there, I'll be next door watching for a good moment."

"Alright," she nodded, patting herself down quickly to make sure she didn't have anything incriminating on her that she'd forgotten about before heading for the stairs. She needed to do well here or the good favor she'd picked up spotting Holmes in the first place would all amount to nothing.

Moran surfaced through the opposite entrance, going the long way around the block and getting to the street behind Baker, climbing up a fire escape to the roof and jumping over to the buildings along Baker with little issue, starting to work his way along roofs.

Lorna walked along the sidewalk, eyes flickering between the brass addresses on each of the houses. 221. Her target. She trotted up the few stairs to the door and knocked, making sure to add an eager, almost nervous tremor to her hand as she stepped back and waited.

The door was opened- not by Holmes, but by a sweet looking older woman who studied Lorna with curious but kind eyes. "What can I do for you, dear?"

"Oh! I, uh, I was looking for Sherlock Holmes?" Lorna stammered, shifting her weight back and forth between her feet with a beaming smile on her face. People were more likely to help someone who looked nice and happy. "Sorry, I know its early.."

"Oh! No, no problem, he never sleeps anyway. Have you got a case? He'll be eager, he's been pacing a rut in the floor." She stepped back, waving Lorna in. "Up the stairs, quick as you like."

"Thank you!" Lorna gushed, stepping over the threshold and waving to the woman she assumed was Mrs. Hudson before heading up the stairs. She was not faking the nervous shaking in her hands at this point. When she knocked on the door at the top of the landing, it was with real trepidation.

Sherlock looked towards the door, having heard the exchange, and debated. "Come in," he said finally, not bothering to get up from where he was sprawled on the couch, thinking.

She slipped through the door with a deep breath, closing it behind her and coming to a halt in the middle of the room. There was something oddly familiar about being in the room with Holmes like this - something about it reminded her of waiting for Jim to speak. "Oh my god, Mr. Holmes, I- I don't know what to say, I'm an enormous fan," Lorna rambled, wiping her sweaty palms off on her jeans.

He looked up, eyes narrowing slightly. He'd seen her before. The woman on the street who'd run. Fan, then? She was certainly nervous, eyes wide and palms sweating, breathing rate elevated... He sat up, still studying her carefully. Remains of coffee just at the corner of her lip... pen in her pocket, pockets otherwise empty. No standard employment signs, which was interesting. Someone who bounced around from job to job, then, or whose job was versatile. Nails clipped short...
"Most people are." His eyes flickered up to hers, and he smirked just slightly. Blowback callouses on her hand from gun burns. "Then again, most people stopped caring quite so much when I died a few years back."

She let out a relieved laugh at his sign of amusement, forcing herself into a more relaxed, relieved pose. He didn't need to believe for too long - just long enough for Moran to see his opportunity. "I'm so sorry about running the other day, if you even remember," she shook her head, looking sheepish, "I hadn't heard you were okay, and then seeing you on the street! Scared the shit out of me, I'll tell you," she chuckled - an easier thing to do, since she wasn't lying about that part. "Could I perhaps grab your autograph? Just to show my friends, you know.."

He stood, walking over to shut the flat door. "Unfortunately I do need to preserve the secrecy of my return for a while, so I can't do that. But how about we have a cup of tea to make up for that?" His voice was calm, still a bit amused.

Sebastian crawled to the edge of the roof, watching. Out of habit, he glanced across to their other watching post, an apartment across the street. He frowned when he didn't see anyone, and dug into his pack, pulling out his scope and aiming it at one of the windows.
Shit.

"Yeah! Yeah, of course, that'd be great," she laughed, stuffing her hands into her pockets so stop them from fluttering about like nervous butterflies. "Sorry I'm so out of it, I've had a pretty whirlwind 24 hours."

He smiled, turning to lead her into the next room. They turned the corner, and staring at them was Mycroft Holmes, calm as could be. "Ms. Harrison, how good to see you."

"Pass the kettle over, would you, Mycroft?"

He did, and Sherlock got about filling it. "Now..." Mycroft said, walking forward. "I wouldn't run. The instant you step out that door you'll be shot."

Lorna was frozen in the doorway, her teeth clamped together, her body tensed to run. But she couldn't, not if Mycroft wasn't bluffing. And she didn't think he was. Christ, she had to warn Moran. How? "I'm a little disappointed," she managed, frowning slightly. "I thought I'd managed to stay out of the system. Or is it just you who knows who I am?"

"I know everything, my dear," he said, walking forward, eyes cold and piercing. "You work for James Moriarty. Consider this. He's chosen my brother as his equal, and when we were growing up, Sherlock and I both thought Sherlock was an unfortunate idiot. There's a reason Jim has left me out of the picture."

She had to fight the impulse to run. This was not a fight she could win. Alone with either one of them, it might have been possible, but now it was two to one and she was armed only with a pen. "How about I just... leave..." she hedged, leaning back slightly. "And we'll forget all about this?"

Mycroft laughed, and Sherlock's amused expression never left his face as he put the kettle on the stove. "Oh, it'd be rude to run out on tea, don't you think? No, Ms. Harrison. I believe that you and Colonel Moran will be staying with us for some time."

"Aw, shit," she groaned, leaning against the door frame, shoulders sagging in defeat. If they knew about Moran, it was beyond her control. "I'm really cursing myself for not bringing a knife," she sighed, letting her head fall back against the wall.

"Now now, don't be too hard on yourself," Mycroft smirked, walking over towards her, one hand in his pocket, the other leaning against his umbrella. "Had you done that, my men would be dealing with you rather harshly, as they are Sebastian, rather than us having this lovely conversation."

Lorna couldn't help the glance towards the window, biting the inside of her cheek to keep herself under control. Fighting back her concern for him, she looked up at the elder Holmes with a rather amused expression. "Oh, I don't flaunt my weapons like dear old Moran does. I think I would have had time to incapacitate you and make a run for it. I suppose we'll never find out."

"Tell me, Lorna, how was the Chinese takeout last night?" He turned as the kettle boiled, but Sherlock was already taking care of it. "I've heard that that place is excellent, haven't had a chance to try it... Must make you sleepy, though, if you were so tired this morning." He glanced over at her. "You really ought to clean that glass you broke up. Now, what was that about flaunting?"

She rubbed the back of her neck, looking at him for a long moment, just considering. It was unlikely that he had a mole; no one would have been able to get in her apartment... well, no, the accountant could have, and he would have had to have someone plant cameras... "Know a lot about Jim's financial situation, do you? Hmmph. Should have joined up with the government, instead. Guess I won't be cleaning up that glass anytime soon."

"No, I suppose not." He took the kettle from Sherlock, pouring it into a teapot. Sherlock glanced over at Lorna. "Cream and sugar?" he asked with a smug smile.

Lorna shook her head, brushing past Mycroft to sit at the overcrowded kitchen table. "No, thank you, I take mine without," she replied, her voice perfectly pleasant. She was in for the long haul, now. They could imprison her as long as they wanted - she didn't doubt that they had the evidence to do so.

He handed her her cup without comment, adding both cream and sugar to his own, though Mycroft apparently took his plain as well. "So, Ms. Harrison. Here's where the discussion begins. Obviously, we aren't letting you go."

"No, I didn't think so," she sighed, sipping at her tea with a tiny shrug of her shoulders. "But you should know that I can't tell you anything of use, either. I only take the orders, I don't make the plans, Mr. Holmes."

"No, you don't," Sherlock agreed, as Mycroft observed the situation.

"However, you're rather high up in Moriarty's food chain. I believe, if you agreed to be cooperative, you could be rather useful." Mycroft took a long sip of tea.

"I'm afraid that won't be occurring any time in the near future," Lorna snorted, setting down her cup of tea with a vaguely insolent expression. "If I cooperate with you, I set myself up for the chopping block. You may be smarter than Jim, Mycroft Holmes, but he's definitely got the upper hand where it comes to sadism."

He laughed, shaking his head just slightly. "I suppose that's the logical wager to make, isn't it?" he sighed, standing. A few moments later, Sebastian Moran entered the room. However, it was not under his own power, but rather dragged by two rather impressively built figures, who were carrying Moran, limp and trussed like a turkey. Another two headed for Lorna. "Don't injure them yet," Mycroft murmured lazily. "I want things fresh when we begin."

Lorna took one look at Moran, took another sip of tea, and then held her hands out to the men approaching her. There was no point in fighting, not if they'd knocked unconscious the mountain of a man that was Sebastian. Luckily, the handcuffs they put on her were not too tight. In a life or death situation, she could probably be motivated to break her thumbs and slip out. But that would have to be quite the motivation. "I guess I'll see you later, Mycroft," she smiled, then winked over at Sherlock. "Nice meeting you, Sherly boy."

"And you, Ms. Harrison," he said, draining his tea. "I'm sure I'll see you as well." His eyes didn't leave her as the two prisoners were forced out of the room, down the stairs and into the back of a low, black car.

Chapter Text

 

Lorna didn't bother trying to wake up Sebastian in the car; he looked to be out cold. Instead, she just contented herself with the car ride, which she guessed to be about thirty minutes long, and had enough turns and twists to thoroughly confuse her sense of direction. That was fine. She didn't need to know where they were. And when they dragged her out of the car, she didn't bother trying to check. The two of them were put together in a stark white cell, nothing on the floors, walls, or ceiling. It was well lit, almost to the point of being too bright, and utterly featureless.

It wasn't long before Moran began to fade into groggy consciousness, groaning slightly at the aftermath of tranquilizers in his system.  Lorna was sitting in the corner, one knee drawn up to her chest, her handcuffed hands resting in her lap.

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty," she said when he shifted, "Welcome to hell."

He grunted slightly, shifting and forcing his eyes open, clamping them shut again after a moment as the room spun. "Har'son?"

"Yup. Take it easy, I'm pretty sure they tranqed you," she replied, watching him from where she was. "You really fought them, huh?"

He shifted, annoyed to find his hands cuffed firmly behind his back, and tried opening his eyes again. Fuck, it was bright. "Wha' was I s'posed t' do...? Was a setup..." he managed, his brain and tongue both feeling like lead.

"I know. Mycroft was waiting to have tea with me. I didn't fight. One of us should be considered the docile one," she sighed, showing him that she was handcuffed in front. "I can get out of these."

"Do it," he muttered, shouldering his way into a sitting position. "Shut up wi' th' smug... grifter...stuff..." He shook his head, trying to clear it.

She sighed. "If I get out of them, both my thumbs will have to break. I won't be able to get you out." Then she made a considering noise. "Well, I can keep one of them on and save that hand. But I still don't have anything to get you with. Not even a bobby pin."

"Right... yeah.. 'n still the matter of the door..." He looked around, trying to focus, but saw no obvious seams in the wall. "Where's the door?"

She jerked her head towards the wall on her left. "We came in through there. But I wouldn't be surprised if there were more doors. Easier to disorient us." She sighed, leaning her head back against the wall and closing her eyes. "I'd get comfortable if I were you. Keep circulation in your arms."

"I know how t' handle cuffs and confinmen', thanks," he muttered, shifting over until he could lean back against his own portion of wall, shifting a bit until his arms were more comfortable. 

"Sorry. Thought I'd remind you. You still look pretty out of it," she shrugged, opening her eyes again to look at him. "I'm trying to stave off being freaked out until you're back on your feet."

He nodded just slightly. "Did they say 'ow they knew?" he asked, closing his eyes again. The light was giving him a headache. 

"No. But they knew our names. And that I broke a glass in my room last night. I think its the accountant. I could be wrong, though," she sighed, rubbing at her eyes with the back of her wrists.

"Brilliant. Jim's gonna be fucking thrilled," he muttered with a sigh. He glanced over at her. "Whatever they do t' us, jus' make sure you're more afraid a' Jim than them."

"I've already had that thought," she assured him, biting the inside of her cheek. This was a situation she had desperately hoped to avoid. She was a grifter, not a soldier; this wasn't what she'd signed up for. She sighed. "I can't promise I won't throw a few people under the bus, though. Nobody you know." 

He shrugged. "I don't care. Bu' you star' talkin' when you shouldn't, and your life 'spectancy's going to drop like a rock."

"Yeah, I know. I know," she breathed, biting her lip now. The wait was getting on her nerves. Although she supposed that was the point.


 

Time seemed impossible to keep track of in the blank white atmosphere. The drugs eventually wore off, but the unwavering light and odd silence of the room kept Sebastian on edge. It wasn't until what must have been hours later that the light suddenly increased in intensity to the point of being almost blinding, forcing him to close his eyes with a curse. When he opened them, blinking away the after images, Mycroft Holmes was standing in the center of the room, leaning on an umbrella, considering his captives. 

"Have a good day lying to Parliament, Mr. Holmes?" Lorna smiled, still squinting slightly as her eyes adjusted back to the light. Her wrists were starting to ache, despite the fact that the handcuffs were loose. "What have you come to visit little old us for?" 

"An excellent day, Ms. Harrison, thank you for asking. And I'm here to oversee your transfer." His voice was calm, unwavering, almost dream-like. "It's time that you and I had a bit of a talk."

"Are you taking me to a room even cleaner than this one, or did you decide that was an impossible goal?" she quipped, eyebrows raised. It was all to hide the sudden spike of fear that stabbed into her gut. Christ, she did not want to go. 

"I don't suppose you'll find out," he said, smiling slightly. He walked forward, hooking his umbrella through her cuffs and yanking her forward with surprising strength by her wrists. "Now, cooperate, and this will go much better for you." He released the chain and tossed her a blindfold. "Put that on."

She hissed through her teeth as he yanked her forwards, sparing an acidic glance up at him before she wrapped the cloth around her eyes and tightened it securely. Better to cooperate - up to a point, of course. "You may have to lead me." 

"I was planning on it," he said with a small grin, bending to grab her cuffs and pull until she was forced to her feet. There was another flash of light as they left the room, and Sebastian missed the door again, shifting a bit nervously, left alone in the blank, empty space.

Mycroft led the woman down the hall, where he'd been joined by two guards as soon as they'd left. They walked into another room, this one a stark contrast from the last. Insulation covered the walls in thick layers, the outer coating torn at by fingers, traces of blood noticeable. In the center was a low operating table with thick straps, and the guards grabbed Lorna, lifting her and slamming her onto the table, strapping down her legs before undoing her cuffs and getting her torso and arms. The blindfold was removed a few moments later. 

She couldn't help her sound of alarm at being shoved onto the table, blinking furiously as her eyes adjusted to the light, flicking frantically around the ragged room. This was not a friendly-looking room. "You know, usually when I'm going to do bondage I like it to be in a clean room," she bit out sarcastically, pulling experimentally at the straps. Nope. She was stuck here.

"Well, we had a go at that, if you'll recall, and you were complaining," Mycroft pointed out from where he was standing in the doorway, watching. His eyes were emotionless. "I don't expect you'll be willing to cooperate? I can assure you you'll save yourself and Moran a great deal of hardship."

"Oh, mister, come on now. Cooperating with you is both useless and dangerous. You won't get anything you don't already know. I'll only get dead. This is really a pointless exercise," she sighed, shaking slightly. She was afraid, she'd admit it.

He laughed. "So dismissive? Perhaps death is your best option, Lorna. After all... In the unlikely event that we don't manage to break you, you'll be released to James Moriarty, with a nice list of the information you 'gave' us. A few things we already know but have yet to act on. I wonder what his response would be... Tell me, have you ever assisted in dealing with traitors in Moriarty's little gang?"

She just stayed quiet, squaring her shoulders and tightening her jaw. She knew what happened to traitors. She would not become one of them. She would not break. "Do what you have to, Holmes."

He smirked, studied her features. "Interesting," he murmured after a moment. "Put the blindfold back on, I think."
One of the cronies nodded, and his smirk was the last thing Lorna saw before the cloth was replaced tightly. That made her even tenser, sucking in a sharp breath. Her imagination couldn't help but speculate on what would be used on her first. Knives? Drugs? Fire?

Mycroft walked forward, setting his umbrella aside and smiling slightly. "Now, Ms. Harrison. How interested are you in zoology?" he asked calmly, picking up a pair of sheers and starting to calmly cut away her clothes. 

She twitched away from the shears before she stopped, worrying about being cut. "I thought about becoming a biologist, actually. Why?"

He removed her clothing piece by piece, strategically removing layers and tossing them carelessly to the side, until she was left in slacks with the waist cut loose and knickers cut from underneath, her blouse intact but bra cut away as well, and the blindfold remaining. "I was thinking we'd experiment with a little entomology," he said calmly, removing the restraint over her hips and turning to a tank in the corner of the room as one of the goons duct taped the waist of her shirt to the waist of her trousers before returning the restraint loosely. 

"I own several laboratories which run experiments in a number of fields, and they've developed a special kind of burrowing beetle." He picked a thumb-sized specimen with a special set of tweezers, ignoring its angry hissing, and walked over to gently tuck it under Lorna's collar. "Let's see how their experimenting has gone, shall we?"

She remained as still as she could, sucking in shallow breaths as she felt the beetle placed under her collar. "You're going fucking Khan worm on me?" she hissed, twitching again as the beetle moved, skittering across her skin. "You nerd."

He smiled, watching the beetle scurry beneath her clothes, before moving to get another specimen. "Not quite. As I recall, those do enter the body through the pre-created orifice of the ear. These particular creatures prefer creating their own tunnels in your skin. At least, in theory. They haven't left any lethal damage on our cadavers, just a network of their little burrows, but then again, these particular ones are hungry..."

She was about to speak before she felt a sudden sharp pain just under her rib cage, swearing violently as she writhed on the table, trying to dislodge the beetle from her skin. "No, nononono," she chanted, glaring down at her abdomen. 

His expression lightened. "Oh, good, off to a good start." He ushered another beetle into her clothing, this time starting down at the ankle of her trousers.

"And here I thought Jim was the only sadistic bastard I knew," she snarled, pressing her head back into the table and breathing through clenched teeth as the first beetle dug into her flesh. "You do this with all the girls or am I just special?" 

"Let's just say I take a special interest in people related to plots against my family members," he drawled, leaning against the table, content to leave it at two beetles for now, watching blood seep into her shirt around the rustle of the first beetle.

Lorna had to take a moment to remember how to speak as the second beetle started boring into her calf, scratching her short nails across the table with an ear-piercing squeal. "I'm.. not going to cooperate. I'm useless to you," she gasped, arching up into the hip strap in a vain urge to try and at least dislodge the beetle from its tunneling. 

"Then, if you're so useless, it shouldn't really be that much of a problem to cooperate, now should it?" he asked idly, poking at the beetle beneath her ribs to agitate it.

The beetle freaked out, ripping a hole into her at twice the speed of before, making her face go pale as she struggled not to voice her pain. "I-It's hard to cooperate when you don't even ask me any questions. Not... not that I'm going to."  

He smiled coldly, watching her struggle, gauging her. It would have been easier if he could see her eyes, but her blindness gave him an incredible advantage. "Oh, any way I can make this a simpler process, certainly," he crooned. "Let's start with something simple. Has Moriarty been informed that my brother is still alive?"

"Are you stupid?" she spat, letting out a harsh laugh. It was less embarrassing than screaming. The first beetle was deep in her abdomen now. "You know the answer to that, don't patronize me." She wasn't going to give him straight answers - straight answers couldn't be used against her. 

"Of course I know the answer." His soft, pleasant tone never changed, as though they were still having tea. "If you want to graduate to the more difficult questions, you answer these first." He traced a finger over her abdomen, feeling the ridge where the established beetle had turned, starting to dig through her sideways, eating itself a tunnel.

"Oh, fuck off," she growled, pulling at the restraints tying her down once again. Could she worm her wrists out of these? She was certainly motivated. "Do me a favor and let your shitty-ass beetles eat me in silence. Go eat some cake." 

"Not the answer I was looking for," he said calmly, turning to the tank and retrieving another beetle. "Let me explain the rules. For every answer that you give me that I like, I remove a beetle. For every refusal to answer, or unsatisfying answer, I add one. Does that sound fair?" He walked over, putting the next beetle up her sleeve without a hint of sympathy.


 

Two hours later and they'd finally finished pulling out the beetles to put her back in her cell. Two hours of refusal and pain and helplessness. She'd let some unimportant things slip, had had to, to keep the beetles from getting anything important, but the rest, the stuff that would get her killed, she refused to share. When they handcuffed her and threw her back into the room with a bright flash, she could do little more than raise her hands to stop herself from hitting her head, eyes red from tears she was still angry about. "Hi, honey, I'm home," she rasped hoarsely, slumping into sitting position.

Sebastian's eyes narrowed slightly as he saw her, clothes stained with blood in odd patterns, the visible portions of her skin covered in strange red raised lines, wiggling and zig-zagging across her skin with no apparent pattern. "What the fuck did they do to you?"

"Khan beetles or some shit," she groaned, lifting her arms to look at them. She hurt. "Some went deep. They're all out, though. And I spilled some shit. Sorry. But its nothing they didn't know."

"What sort of shit?" he asked, eyes hard and cold, though mostly he was angry at Holmes for doing that to his operative. 

"Just confirmations. Jim's alive. We're based in London. A little bit of my history. Nothing they didn't already know," she said quietly, unable to look at him.

His lip curled slightly in distaste, but he didn't berate her. Instead, he said something unexpected. "Well, I suppose that's to be anticipated. It's not like you know anything fucking useful anyways. You could spill your guts and they wouldn't come close to touching anything vital."
He didn't know why he did it. The room was undoubtedly bugged, he'd been thinking about it the whole time he'd been in here, trying to keep himself from going insane in the white silence. And what had he just done? Intentionally indicated to their captors that it was useless to torture Lorna. Which, of course, left them with one alternative. He closed his eyes, leaning against the wall, and despite his confusion, part of him still hoped that they would listen to him. He didn't want to see her any worse than she was now, for some reason.

She looked up at him, blank surprise on his face. "What's gotten into you?" Lorna murmured, shifting to lie down on her back with a slight groan. "I could use a drink."

He shrugged. "I just don't think there's any point in pretending you can tell them anything useful," he snorted. "And I'm sure, but unfortunately I left my whiskey in my other trousers."

She let out a long breath, trying not to focus too much on the aching pain running throughout her. She was miserable. "I'd really like to go home, now," she sighed.

"Jim will get us," he promised quietly, and of that he was fairly certain. "Bossman hasn't let us down yet. He won't now." He made a face as the light flashed again, and two armed men walked in, shoving guns in his face as they got him to his feet. "I see you get preferential treatment," he smirked over at Lorna. "Mr. Holmes himself shows up for you, I just get gooned."

"I'm more charming than you," she replied from the floor, her arms drawn up over her eyes to protect from the light. She didn't want to see him go, either. She didn't want to think about it at all.

"Right, yeah, sure you are," he smirked. "See you soon," he muttered as he was lead out the door. 

She forced herself to keep her eyes open as the light flashed again. There was the door.

It slid shut before she had a chance to access it, disappearing into the wall. 

 


 

This time, it was a full five hours before Sebastian was dragged back in. He looked equally worse for wear. The familiar lines traced his body as well, though it looked like they'd moved on to just straight up beating at some point, one of his eyes almost swollen shut. He slumped into the corner, looking over at her with his good eye. "How you holding up?" he asked after a moment. 

"Better than you, from the looks of it," she murmured, swallowing hard. Something about seeing him this way hurt. "Are you okay?"

He shrugged a little, teeth gritting slightly. "They left one of the suckers in... in there, couldn't get it out, they said... But yeah, okay.."

"I can try, if you like. Slender fingers," she offered quietly, shuddering at the thought of one being left inside her. "I might be able to suck it out like snake poison, if you really want it out. It's going to be so gross though."

"Don't get that thing anywhere.. near your mouth," he muttered, his nose wrinkling at the thought. "God knows what it'd.. do if you accidentally s-swallowed it. I don't need you bleeding internally." He closed his eyes for a second, a hand moving to grip his side so tightly for a moment his fingers turned white. "But... if you could try to get it out..."

"Okay. I'll try," she said quietly, shifting over to him and twitching his shirt out of the way with her restricted hands. "This is going to hurt," she warned, making a face as she considered the hole in his side. Then she dug her finger in there as far as she could, grimacing as she hooked her finger around the alarmed beetle and scraped it out and onto the floor, leaning back and contorting herself back so she could stomp it beneath her heel.

"Fuck-" he exclaimed before he clamped his teeth together, head slamming back and pressing into the wall as she dug into him, causing the beetle to panic and dig faster. But then she pulled it free and it was a fucking miracle, and he relaxed at the decrease in pain as he watched her give the thing a well-deserved end.

"Sorry," she cleared her throat, wiping her bloodied finger off on her jeans. "God, those things suck. Where's pesticide when you need it?"

He nodded, giving a bit of a grin as he worked on pulling himself together. "I could even do with a flyswatter," he sighed, shifting into a bit more comfortable position, trying to sit on something that didn't hurt. The room was less pristine, now, anyway. Both of them were leaving bloodied marks wherever they went. "You holding up alright?"

She leaned against the wall, giving a small quiet laugh and shaking her head. "No. No, not really. I'm terrified and I hurt and I've never been this much in trouble before," she breathed, shuddering slightly. "This isn't my scene, Moran."

He nodded slightly, but didn't let her wallow. If they were going to survive this, that wasn't an option. "Oh, you get used to it. This is most certainly my scene, though to be honest, I'm not used to playing such a bit part. Maybe next time I can convince Mr. Holmes to switch roles. He's taken the one with all the fun in it."

She snorted slightly, smirking a little. "We're never going to get him. Sorry to bust your bubble, sir. Hopefully, we'll be out of this place before we get another session with Mr. Holmes." She stopped bothering with sitting up and lay down on her side, back against the wall.

He nodded slightly in agreement, making sure none of their wounds were bleeding too much. "Get some sleep."

"Sounds good to me," she sighed, shifting a little uncomfortably so she could rest her head on her arm, and immediately dropped into a light sleep that she hadn't been able to achieve when Moran hadn't been in the room.

 He considered shifting her head to his lap for a pillow, but decided against it since a), his legs were both covered in wounds from the beetles, and b), even having that thought suggested he was very out of it and in some desperate need of sleep himself. He drifted off quietly. 

 


 

She woke up an indeterminate amount of time later, her whole body aching. She let out a quiet groan, curling up slightly, as if that would help the pain. "You awake?"

"No, you?" he shot back, one eye cracking open. The swelling had only gotten worse on the other one, which was bruised colorfully and refused to open.

"Barely," she muttered, wishing that the floor wasn't so hard. "I feel like shit. You okay?"

He shrugged slightly. "Been worse," he said quietly. That, at least, was true. "Move... I know you don't want to, but it'll help... Need to keep everything from stiffening up."

"'Kay," she mumbled, pushing herself up and stretching out with a muttered swear. "I'm not going to look as pretty after this. And I know where the door is."

"Yeah? And you'll be fine, don't worry about that," he muttered, forcing himself to move as well. "Where?" he added.

"That wall," she nodded, "About a meter from the left corner. Just so you know, I guess."

He nodded. "Wonder if there's any way to get through it?" he muttered, pushing himself upwards, a hand against the wall until he was sure he could keep his balance. His head was aching, and he knew the light wouldn't make it any better. He walked slowly, hand leaving faint bloody prints on the stark white wall as he headed for where she'd indicated. 

"They're going to have a hell of a time cleaning this place after we're gone," she remarked, watching him with mild concern. "Let me know if you need a hand. Like, free of restraints. Cause I'll only have one." She hoped Jim was coming for them, honestly.

"Yeah... For some reason they didn't put mine back on... Think I was too out of it for them to care. Lucky us." He started feeling around the wall, trying to find a crack or seam with blunt, calloused fingers. 

"Lucky you, more like. My arms now ache from the position they've been in along with the stupid beetles," she huffed, bracing her back against the wall and standing up.

"Sorry," he said, glancing her direction. "But we're alive. That's a plus."

"I suppose. I never really thought that he'd kill us, anyway. He's from the government, after all. I worry more about Jim," she shook her head, moving to help him look for a seam. "I'm going to drink myself unconscious when I get out of here."

He laughed slightly, finding a tiny seam that he figured was the door, but was almost impossible to trace, much less shove something into. "Yeah... not opening this from in here."

"Damn," she muttered, her bound hands falling in front of her again in defeat. "Guess we're not breaking out on our own," she sighed. The idea of being rescued by Jim was a little humiliating, even if she wanted it.

He shook his head. "At least not from here, no." Maybe during transport from room to room. "Hey, if you can hear us, we could use some water," he said loudly and a bit hoarsely, walking back over to sit next to Lorna.

"That would, in fact, be nice," she sighed, considering resting her head on his shoulder for a moment before deciding the terse words from him weren't worth the relief to her neck. Luckily for them, the door slid open a moment later, a tray with plastic cups and a plastic pitcher of water being shoved in before the door shut again. 

He sighed, leaning over to grab the edge of the tray, pulling it towards them and pouring two glasses of water, handing her one. "Drink slowly."

"Do I have to?" she mumbled, taking it and doing as he said anyway. The water was a surprising relief to a problem she hadn't had the time to really notice. 

"Yes," he said, not brokering any argument as he took a few sips of his own. It soothed the stinging ache in his throat, and he knew it would help to soothe his headache a bit eventually. "We don't know when we'll have it again."

Lorna knew better than to even suggest that he was wrong, and instead just took it slow, focusing on just hydrating herself for a few minutes before realizing that she was uncomfortably cold. Maybe it was the fact she was expending energy on healing, or maybe it was the lack of a couple layers, or maybe it was even Mycroft being a bastard, but she really wished she had a jacket. "I suppose a bowl of warm soup would be too much to ask for."  

"Somehow I don't think they're interested in making us feel at home, no." He noticed her shivering, and sighed, but didn't hesitate. If she lost body heat, that was the beginning of the end. He shifted around, before reaching out and pulling her against his much larger form. "Get warm."

She tensed slightly as he pulled her over, unsure how to react, and then his warmth was far too tempting and she leaned into him, trying to soak up as much of it as she could. "Sorry," she murmured, frowning slightly. "Not just for this. I feel like I should have warned you somehow. I could have had time..." 

"Don't be an idiot," he said. "Maybe you could have, but you say that now, Jim will agree with you, and he will not be happy. So, seeing as it's irreversible, it never happened."

"Okay," she replied quietly. There wasn't really a lot of fight left in her, and wasting any of it on Sebastian would be a stupid mistake. "I'm going to beat the shit out of that accountant when we get home. Even if he is innocent."  

"Sounds like a good diversion," he sighed, taking another sip of water. "Mind if I join in?"

The flash of light was almost becoming expected, but it was no less unpleasant. Moran was expecting them to go for Lorna again, but instead she was dragged off of him and he was grabbed and cuffed, before being shoved out the door. 

She lunged forward the second the last goon was out the door, shoving the pitcher to the side and grabbing the tray to stuff it vertically into the door as it slid shut, the plastic complaining slightly as the door smacked it.

Holy shit. Holy shit, she'd kept it open. 

The door squealed, trying to close a few times, before an alarm started going off overhead, loud.

Lorna shoved the door open, wriggling her fingers into the gap and pulling with all of her strength until she was capable of slipping through the space, and then she was running, looking for a place to hide and get her bearings. They would assume she'd immediately go for the exits, wouldn't they? And their security cameras would be limited - they didn't want footage of their dirty deeds leaking out the public, did they? 

Sebastian was thrown into the torture chamber, cuffs locked into a bracket on the wall, before the door opened and Mycroft Holmes walked through, his eyes deadly and cold. "I will only ask you once, Moran, so consider your options. Where is she?"

He grit his teeth. Alright, Harrison had escaped. Good. 
Furious Mycroft Holmes. Not so good.

Lorna was in the supplies closet. It was the closest, least likely door to be checked that she could find, and it had just happened to house a lot of things that could be used as weapons. She must have been close to the torture room; there were knives in here, and she didn't hesitate to take those and start arming herself. She wasn't going to back to Jim without Sebastian - she had a feeling that that would not be well-received, so it was in her best interest to break Moran out as well. That meant she was going to have to go through a few people. She grabbed a can of aerosol to use as mace, and a handful of paperclips that she stuffed into her one free pocket to use as impromptu lockpicks. Time to start kicking asses and taking names.


 

He was careful not to bite through his tongue as he was beaten with the rod of metal, one end red hot and burning into him. 

A calm voice through the haze of pain. "Stop."


The pain stopped amplifying, though his body was still screaming. 


"Now, Moran. Tell me where she went."


"Thought you weren't... gonna ask... again.." he panted, managing a smirk. 


"I'm not asking. I'm telling."


 

She'd gone through two hallways looking for Moran, and she left two bleeding bodies behind her, tucked away in corners of rooms. They had strength and reach, she had flexibility and knives. And she was far more motivated. When she finally came to the door she could hear Mycroft behind, she shook the can of aerosol in her left hand and adjusted her grip on the knife in her right before opening the door with her elbow, kicking it open with a bang. The first and biggest target in the room had a knife in it before she let them have any time to react, and as soon as Mycroft turned her way he got a face-full of air spray and a kick to the stomach. "Give me the keys. Give me the keys." Mycroft let out a cry as the chemicals hit his eyes, hands scrabbling at his face as he tried to get whatever it was away from his eyes.

"Stop her!" he called angrily, but there was no response, and he backed away, temporarily blinded. Sebastian let out a weak laugh from where he was hanging from the wall, barely conscious. "Good 'n... shimp.."

Lorna shoved the air spray back into her pocket and backhanded Mycroft with her now free hand, a knife appearing in the other, before she grabbed onto his collar and shoved him back into the wall, making the presence of the weapon known by resting it against his neck. "You tell me where the keys are or I fucking take off a hand, you hear me? I'm done with you, Mr. Holmes. And I have no problems getting my maim on. Where are the keys to Moran's handcuffs?" Lockpicks would take too long. What if there were reinforcements? 

He snarled slightly, panting, before spitting "Pocket."

"Thank you," she smiled, keeping the knife to his neck and sliding her hands into his slacks pocket to retrieve the keys. Before she moved away, a cruel, vengeful look crossed her face. "If you move this will only hurt more," she warned, before grabbing his right hand, shoving it to the wall, and pinning his hand there with the knife. That would keep him occupied for a bit. Ignoring his sounds of pain, she turned and hurried to Sebastian's side, unlocking the chains from his wrists from the wall. "Come on, Tiger, we're leaving." 

He stumbled away from the wall, knees buckling, but he managed to get his feet under her him, leaning heavily on her for a few moments. "S'get goin'," he agreed quietly, completely out of it, just focusing on keeping himself vertical.

She could tell that he wasn't going to be a lot of use, so she grabbed onto the front of his shirt and simply dragging him after her, leaving the room and heading back the corridor she'd come from - she'd seen a window this way, and that meant the outside of the building. Two minutes later, and she'd broken the window, coaxed Moran through, and was leading him cautiously around the edge of the building. "Okay. That looks like a parking lot. I'm going to grab a car and I'm going to come get you, okay? Don't move." 

He acknowledged her briefly. His world was a painful myriad of colors and sounds that he had to fight to make sense of, hemmed by a tempting, heavy blackness that seemed only a few seconds from overtaking him. He held onto the ground which was tilting beneath him, his body burning, too hot...

When she came back in the car (it had been shockingly easy to get; the keys were in the ignition), he seemed to be swaying on the ground, looking like he needed to throw up. Swearing under her breath, she swung out of the car and hurried over to him, wrapping his arm around her shoulder to help keep his weight up as she led him to the car and stuffed him into the back seat with no time for finesse. 

He was moved, wanted to protest to whoever it was, tell them to let him rest, but part of him still knew who he was, and his soldier training kept him moving, kept him from complaining. He curled up wherever he was put, and didn't complain. 

Lorna kept checking on him in the rearview mirror as she drove them home, purposely taking a confusing course in case the car had a tracker on it. She was worried about him if she was being honest with herself, and it bugged her that she couldn't just stop and take care of him. When she finally parked a block away from the office building, already bringing out her phone to text cleanup to get rid of it, she quickly got out of the front and opened the back, carefully easing Sebastian out of the car. Luckily they were in a back alley or they would have looked suspicious as hell. "C'mon, Sebastian. You only have to walk a little bit. C'mon." 

The blackness had made a definite fight for the game, and he had to struggle back into consciousness as she moved him. "H-hey shrimp..." he muttered finally, catching sight of her in a flicker of clarity. "S'get outta here..."

"Christ, you're a mess," she sighed, beginning to lead him through the back alley towards their building, keeping up his weight almost single-handedly. No point in fighting him about her nickname, not when he looked beaten half to death. "We're almost home, Seb, just please don't pass out on me." 

"Not gonna..." he managed, focusing on his steps and not the agonizing pain each one caused, or the creeping numbness starting in his toes and fingers. Step, step, stumble, right yourself, step, step step...

When they reached the back stoop of HQ she just set him down, unable to force him to keep walking. She banged on the door and shouted for a moment before she knelt in front of Sebastian, holding his face in her hands and lightly slapping his cheek. "Hey. C'mon, just stay awake a little longer for me, okay? Don't pass out here, you'll break your skull. Stay awake." 

He flinched as she hit him, trying to focus on her, eyes crossing and uncrossing as he faded in and out. 

Malcolm the chauffeur opened the door ten seconds later, looking cross, but his face went pale as soon as he saw them. "Christ..." he muttered. "Alright, come on, inside, let's go." He bent to help hoist Sebastian's hulking, deadweight form. 

She helped Malcolm get Moran inside before she broke away to an intercom to call someone from their small infirmary, then she rushed back, her hands beginning to shake as everything caught up to her. She tried and failed to get a word out to Malcolm, then just stayed silent. 

He lay Sebastian on the ground gently, before turning to her, and without another word, guiding her gently to lie down as well. "They'll be here any minute," he said quietly but firmly. "It's gonna be fine, Harrison. Just keep it together."  

Lorna wasn't sure that she could, so she pressed the heels of her palms to her eyes and just concentrated on continuing to breathe, her teeth clenched and her body tense as she tried to keep herself from full-on shaking from the stress of it all. It wasn't every day that she brutally murdered three men, or that she was strapped onto a table and tortured by nightmarish beetles. She couldn't help her reaction. 

The medics rushed over a few minutes later, lifting them both onto gurneys, and starting to examine them as they headed quickly for the infirmary. "I've never seen wounds like this," the one in charge said, studying Lorna and Sebastian intently before catching Lorna's conscious gaze. "Can you tell me what they did to you?"

"Flesh-tunneling beetles," she forced out hoarsely, not wanting to remember them more than she had to. "You're probably going to have to wash us out with disinfectant. Do it while he's still out." 

The medic's eyes widened slightly, but then he was back to professional. "I'm going to put you under as well," he said firmly. "I don't like the look of these injuries, there's going to be a lot of painful probing and cleaning to do. Better that you sleep through it." 

She nodded, honestly relieved to have escaped being awake through that. Sometimes she forgot that not every person hired by Jim was required to be a criminal. "Not gonna argue," she murmured. "No morphine, though. No opiates." 

The doctor nodded. "I'll make sure of it," he said firmly, looking up as someone intersected their path in the hall. "Get the word to Moriarty. He can call people in. We've found them."

"You didn't find shit," Lorna muttered, letting her eyes close with a long, shuddering sigh. "We came and found you." 

"Details. The boss needs to know you both are alright," the doctor said as they were finally wheeled into the infirmary before he began barking orders. A few moments later, someone placed a mask over Lorna's mouth, and she drifted off into unconsciousness.

 

Chapter Text

When she woke up again, there was a split moment where she thought she was still in that room where she tensed up all over, and then she realized that the room she was in was a lot less clean and a lot less intimidating, and made herself relax. She stung all over, like she'd been submerged in alcohol and then scrubbed until her skin was raw. It wasn't a pleasant feeling. 

The doctor from before noticed she was awake, and walked over. "Hey there," he said calmly, shining in a penlight in each of her eyes briefly to check her pupils. "How're you doing, Harrison?"

"I feel raw," she groaned, shifting slightly in her cot, trying to sit up. "Where's Moran? Is he alright?" 

"Hey, stay put," he warned gently, holding a hand over her but not touching her. "You've got some pretty major sub-dermal lacerations. Moran's hanging in there. He should pull through."

"Okay," she murmured, sagging back into the bed, reassured that at least the sniper wasn't going to die. "What time is it? What day is it, actually?" She had honestly no idea - there was too much time she'd spent in rooms unconscious with no reference to the outside world.

"It's Sunday, four days after you two went missing," he said, starting to look over her charts. "We've had you for just over twenty-four hours."

Lorna muttered a swear under her breath. It certainly didn't feel that long. That probably explained why she was so hungry, though. "Tell Jim I stabbed Mycroft Holmes through the hand. I think he'll find that funny." 

"He's not exactly in a joking mood at the moment, so I'll let you pass that along at a more opportune moment," he said, smiling lopsidedly. 

"Mm. Okay. What's up with him, then?" she raised her eyebrows up at him, curious and concerned. Was this something that could potentially be taken out on her? 

He sat down, still glancing at his charts. "If I had to guess? His second and third in command gets taken into custody by his enemy and tortured. That has to feel a little close to home. But you didn't hear that from me. He's been pacing Moran's bedside, alternating between impatient and livid."

She chewed on the inside of her cheek at that news, trying to make heads or tails of it without becoming concerned for Moran's safety. "When can I go? I really don't like sleeping in hospital beds..." she hedged, hoping to get away and drink herself to sleep like she'd promised herself. 

"I'm afraid you're going to have to live with it for another day at least," he said, unconcerned. "I need to keep an eye on you. We've never seen injuries like these before, and I need to monitor them carefully to make sure they heal."

"Jesus Christ," she groaned, glaring up at the ceiling like it had anything to do with her condition. Truth was, she didn't like sleeping in hospital beds because she had a tendency for violent, embarrassing nightmares, and when she was in a hospital, she usually had the most reason for those to occur. She really didn't need to freak out the medical staff in the middle of the night because of a nightmare about dumb beetles. "Let me know when Moran wakes up, at least, huh?" 

He nodded. "Of course. And prepare yourself. I'll need to tell Moriarty you're awake. He may decide to drop in," he warned.

"Fabulous. Can't be any less fun than the Khan beetles though, so, fuck it," she snorted, raising her arm to look at the marks left by the disgusting things. She was not going to be grifting for a while. 

"Khan beetles?" the doctor said, raising an eyebrow. "That the species?"

She gave him a disbelieving look. "Really? The doctor doesn't get that reference? Nevermind. I was joking. I have no idea what species of beetle they were. I'm not an entomologist." 

He sighed, shaking his head and smiling a bit, before walking towards the door. "Do you want anything? Pain medication, food, water?"

"All three. You can send it in after Jim leaves, for the sake of whoever's delivering," she added, looking sympathetic. Especially if the boss was in a bad mood. 

He nodded, giving her a sympathetic grin. "Alright. I'll make sure to do that."

She settled down as he left and set about entertaining herself by counting the number of drips in her IV that went by in a minute. It didn't really lessen her tension for the idea of Jim coming in while she was prone in bed and weakened from torture. 

The door swung open five minutes later, and Jim came striding in, eyes on her. "Harrison. Good. You're awake. Perhaps you can explain what happened."

"Would you like me to start before or after we were so gently taken into custody by Mr. Holmes?" She asked, the sarcasm in her tone not directed towards him, but towards the asshole she'd left pinned to the wall in his own torture chamber.

"Please, start at the beginning," he said, pulling up a chair, his voice sweetly venomous. 

If that wasn't a cue to clean up her tone, she didn't know what was. So, when she spoke again, it was with a lot more politeness. "Moran and I reached Baker Street at around 5:45. He decided I would do recon inside the flat, and, if the opportunity arose, he would enter from the roof. I can't say what happened on his end except that he ran into trouble, but when I entered the flat, Sherlock Holmes invited me to have tea, and his brother was there in the kitchen. When Moran was brought in trundled up like Christmas turkey, I didn't fight," she paused for a moment, frowning slightly. "I'm not sure how long the drive there was, and I was too out of it to make sense of it on the ride back, so I can't tell you exactly where we were, but they put us in a white room with no furniture, no obvious doors. Then Mycroft Holmes personally took me to his filthy torture room. I assume the doctor has told you about the beetles. I had about two hours in there, and when they got Moran he had... I don't know, five? And they must have beat him, too." 

Lorna forced herself to stop there for a moment because she was starting to trip over her words. Concern for Sebastian was also creeping back into her, and this was no time for that nonsense. "When they gave us some water and took Moran again, I jammed the tray into the door before it could close. Found a supply closet. Killed three of Holmes' men, then sprayed him in the face with air freshener and pinned his hand the wall with a knife. Came home. That's about it."  

He smirked just slightly at her description of what she'd done to Holmes, but then his eyes grew cold again. "Idiots, both of you. You should have been more careful. Holmes could have gotten an incredible amount of information."

Her eyes flicked away from him, the closest thing to a head-duck she could manage at the moment. "Yes, sir. Sorry, sir." 

He took a slow breath, pressing his hands together, standing. "If we lose Moran, expect to pay for it," he said.

"Sir.." she hedged, biting the inside of her cheek hard enough to taste blood. Oh, she was stupid for saying this. "You know I could have left him there." 

He stopped, turned on his heels crisply, and walked slowly back towards her, pulling the chair forward and around and straddling it, leaning on the back. "Yes. Yes, you could have, Harrison. Now, tell me, what do you think would have happened to you, had you done that? I'm curious."

"I'd have paid for it," she said carefully, folding her hands together on top of her stomach. "Like I'll pay for it if Moran doesn't pull through now. The same outcomes. Maybe harsher on one end than the other. But God did I try, sir," she swallowed hard, unable to meet his eyes. She didn't know why she needed him to know how much she feared Moran dying. 

"Trying isn't what I look for, Harrison. It's success. If you don't succeed- if you fail this significantly- then we have a problem." His eyes were ice. "My second in command is dying in a hospital bed, and you're a significant part of the reason."

"With all due respect, sir," she started, and she fully meant it, or she would have been swearing by this point, "I was only following orders. My orders were recon. That was it. Anything that came after that point was cleaning up the mess that I had no part in making. I don't plan, sir," she said, squaring her jaw and finally meeting his eyes. You and Sebastian do. Don't blame me for your error in judgment. I fixed this. She would take what wrath followed. After the beetles, it couldn't be much worse. 

He studied her for a few moments, and then his mouth twisted into a smirk, eyes glinting slightly with approval. "Moran might be right about you," he said coolly, standing. "Concentrate on healing. We have work to do."

"Understood, sir," Lorna sighed, the tension flooding out of her body with relief. "Please.. keep me updated on his condition, sir." 

He nodded, glancing at her for a moment. "He's not conscious, but they seem confident that he will be soon."

She cleared her throat, nodding slightly. "Thank you," she murmured. If Moran died... 

He nodded curtly, heading out the door and not bothering to close it as a woman pushed in a cart with a tray of food and a glass of water on it. "You live," she laughed softly after she shut the door. 

"Yeah," she breathed, shaking her head. Her mind was still on the conversation, on Moran. How had she gotten out of all of that? "Surprising, I know." 

"Well, let's get you sitting up just a little, and then work on food, alright?" the nurse asked gently, reaching for the button to angle the bed up slowly. 

"Christ, I feel like a child. It's only a few holes. To think I'm only a few floors away from a good bottle of scotch," she sighed, keeping most of the bitterness out of her voice. No need to take out her frustrations on the nurse. She hadn't done anything. In fact, she was a little relieved that she could sit up. 

"It's quite a few holes," the nurse said, smiling. "Do you want to try eating on your own? Or I can help you." 

"I think I can manage it on my own, thanks," Lorna chuckled. She'd killed a few men in this condition, after all, feeding herself couldn't be too hard. 


 

Jim had given up wearing a track in the floor to sit at Moran's side, a tablet in his hand that he was pretending to pay quite a lot of attention to. He was too distracted to really get any work done, though. He had made a miscalculation that had lent Holmes an enormous advantage, for a few hours, at least. And now his second was hooked up to a heart monitor. It was... disheartening. 

"You know... it's very rare that you stare off into space," Moran rasped, eyes flickering open for a moment before he shut them slowly against the bright light. "S'kinda cute." Sarcasm. 

"Hilarious, Moran," he said dryly, covering up his relief. Good. He was out of the woods, then. "You look like shit." 

"Feel worse. The hell'd you do to me? Can't wait until a man's conscious to give him his a beating?" He smirked slightly. 

"Apparently I don't have to give you a beating. Someone else will do it for me," he snorted, setting the tablet down in his lap with an imperious look on his face. "This won't happen again. Yes?" 

"Wasn't really planning on it happening the first place, to be honest," he grunted, forcing his eyes open again and looking over at Jim. "So no, not on the agenda."

He nodded, tapping his fingers against the screen of the technology in his lap. He wasn't sure what to say, now - an exceedingly unusual occurrence for him. He always knew what to say. "Are you.. hungry? Thirsty?" 

Moran shook his head just a little. "No... not yet... more nauseous and fucking out of it, what the hell did they give me?" He tried to examine the IV drip, shifting a bit in an attempt to sit up. 

"Hell if I know. They put the two of you out so they could give you a proper cleaning. Would you like to see the beetle bits they pulled out of you? I had them saved in a jar," Jim smirked, kicking lightly at the bed, not enough to jostle it. "Don't sit up. I need you healing."

He glared, but lay back down. "We should get some of those things, boss... they're good. Had me squirming. I want to play around with them. Next person we brought in wouldn't last ten minutes, I don't care who they are."

Jim made a considering noise, leaning back in his own chair. "And did Harrison last? I've always wondered about her pain threshold," he murmured, tilting his head slightly, giving off the air of a predator, before he blinked and met Moran's eyes again. "I will get you those beetles, don't you worry." 

He grinned slightly. "She lasted. Gave 'em some useless shit to keep 'em running circles. She ran it all by me. Nothing up to date or useful." A bit of a stretch on the implied order of operations, but it was all technically true. 

"Guess I'll have to update her file," he muttered, frowning slightly to himself. Above his expectations. Not the first miscalculation he'd made this week. Disconcerting. He stood suddenly, nearly dropping the tablet. "I have to go. Get better. That's an order." 

"Will do, sir. And thank you for waiting around for me to wake up." The last bit would have been said with a self-satisfied smirk if he didn't think the expression would have gotten him killed. 

Jim only paused to let Moran finish his sentence before he swept out the door, trying to keep himself together. What was wrong with him?

Sebastian watched him go, studying the retreating back with careful eyes before whatever drugs they had him on dragged him under, and he slipped into unconsciousness again.

 


 

Lorna suffered through her overnight stay mostly because they put her under for it, and then in the morning she was discharged with a lot of warnings and commandments about taking it easy for a week that she only half listened to on the way out the door. Normally she might have stopped to see Moran, but her hatred for hospitals was too overwhelming, so she just headed for her own flat. 

Moran was discharged the day afterwards, mostly because he threatened to murder the staff if they kept him under any longer. He was released, a good portion of him wrapped in bandages with orders to check in daily for the time being. He rolled his eyes, but made his way towards the elevator and then his apartment at a pace only slightly slower than usual. He hesitated, then knocked on Lorna's door. 

"Come in," she called, ignoring the mess around her. She'd torn the place apart looking for bugs, cameras, anything, and had only resulted in getting angry and purposely breaking a few things. She wasn't proud of that. Now she was sat on the floor, one knee drawn up to her chest and a half-finished bottle of scotch in hand. 

He walked in, raising an eyebrow at the mess, though he didn't need to ask the reason. "I'll have cleanup come in and do a sweep later today," he said immediately, voice calm as he limped over and flopped onto the couch. 

She nodded, throwing back another shot of scotch. It would probably do little to soothe her paranoid nerves. Either way, she was surprised that he was here. "You here to mooch off my liquor supply? I'm afraid I broke a few bottles in my search," (she hadn't, she'd thrown them) "but I suppose I still have enough to share." 

He waved a hand. "I'm still high on whatever the fuck they put me on. Rather not mix alcohol with that, not eager to projectile vomit today."

She snorted slightly and gave a small lift of her shoulders. "Guess I'm glad I opted out, then. I'm on my way to getting thoroughly plastered." She gave him a curious look, then sighed - she was tipsy enough to be blunt, at the moment. "Why're you here, then?" 

He shrugged. "Make sure you were alive and mostly upright," he provided. "if I was going to have to replace you I wanted to know sooner rather than later."

"That was hardly enough to kill me, Moran," Lorna huffed, a little offended. "Give me this week to heal, sort through any lingering terror, I'll be fine. I have been hurt before." 

"Mhm," he said, sighing and closing his eyes as he leaned back into the couch. After a few minutes he muttered "You did good in there, Harrison."

"Thanks," she sighed, her voice quiet. The praise meant a lot, both personally and professionally. "For what it's worth.. I'm glad you're not dead." 

It was his turn to be mildly insulted. "Been through worse scrapes than that, believe me," he snorted, rolling his eyes. 

"Take the sentiment and shut up, arsehole," she muttered, pushing some crumpled newspapers out of the way and sitting back against the couch. 

"That boomeranged quickly," he muttered with a smirk, nudging her very lightly with his leg, careful as they were both sore.

"Sorry," she mumbled, setting down the scotch with a mild look of distaste directed towards it. "I'm a little defensive right now. It's hard to just.. let things go, at the moment."

He nodded a bit. "How's your headspace?" he asked quietly. He wasn't sure why he was asking. He supposed he needed to know how his workers were mentally as well as physically... that made sense. 

She didn't answer for a moment, biting the inside of her cheek, which was already sore from abuse. "It's.. in worse shape than this flat, to be honest," she replied, trying to keep her voice steady. "It's not good." 

He nodded just a little bit. "I picked that up. Want to tell me what's going on in there?"

Lorna gave a helpless shrug, shaking her head. "I don't fucking know. I'm scared it'll happen again. I keep seeing people here and wondering if they're moles. I keep- I keep feeling bugs on me that aren't real," she gritted out, taking in a deep breath. She looked like she was going to throw up. "I know I'll have nightmares. I always do, after something like this. Last night they drugged me and I was okay, but tonight..." she shook her head again, then looked down at her feet, swallowing hard. "Sorry." 

"Don't apologize. We all get screwed up, it's part of the job," he sighed, his leg shifting, resting against her arm now, just a little. He closed his eyes, thinking. He could feel it too, sometimes. There had been a time, this morning, when he was waking up but the drugs held him under, and he could feel the damn things skittering over him again. He was trapped for a long time, awake but with eyes closed, unable to move, before the drug wore off enough to release him. That was right about when he'd started threatening creative types of murder. He thought for a few minutes. "This place is a disaster, glass fucking everywhere. If you're going to get drunk you aren't staying here, I don't need you anymore perforated. My couch pulls out. You're staying there. Come on."

She made a noise of protest, looking embarrassed. "No, no, you don't- my nightmares- I get loud, Moran, you don't want that."

He laughed. "You think you can wake me up? Hell no. Come on. I've slept through bombings." Not technically true, but he wasn't leaving her here to die of alcohol poisoning and a slit artery on some of the damn glass. He pushed himself to his feet with a grunt, considered her, then snatched the bottle of scotch out of her hand, walking towards the door, holding the scotch out to the side. "Come and get it if you want it," he said with a shrug. 

"You're a strange man, Moran," she groaned, standing and following with a clink of broken glass. God, he was unpredictable.

"I'm high, don't blame me," he muttered, opening the door and crossing the hall into his own, much cleaner, apartment. "You throw a breaking-things fit in here I will kill you myself," he muttered, passing her the scotch once she entered. 

"Your sparse possessions are safe, don't worry about it," she rolled her eyes, sipping her returned liquor. "This place looks unlived in."

He shrugged. "Don't need much," he retorted, walking over to sit on his own couch with a grunt, indicating the opposite end. "There. Crash, get drunk. When you want to sleep we'll pull the thing out."

She sat where he gestured to, curling up and making herself small. She didn't want to take up space here. "You called me shrimp again when you were out of it."

He glanced over at her, shrugged. "I don't remember that. Didn't mean to."

She chuckled slightly. "No, I know. Do you remember what happened to Holmes? I kinda proud of that."

He shook his head a little. "Don't remember much after he brought out the iron, really. It's all a blur. What happened?"

"I maced him with Lysol and left him with a hand against the wall and a knife through both. Hopefully I gave him nerve damage," she muttered, looking vengeful. "I should have killed him."

He chuckled a little, then sighed, nodding. "Probably, yeah... though doing so might have launched a very careful investigation. Holmes would have been in posthumous hot water, but our DNA was all over that place. We'd have been in the system."

She made a slightly comforted sound. "I suppose you're right. It'd be a shame to go this long being outside it to mess up now."

He nodded just slightly. "You did well, Harrison. Just concentrate on getting your feet back under you."

"Okay," she murmured, looking at the bottle of scotch in her hand for a long moment before setting it aside. "I shouldn't keep drinking right now. I'll probably only get worse. And, no offense, but I don't really want you to see me cry."

He smirked. "I wasn't going to police you, but it isn't a fantastic idea to keep drinking, no."

"You're actually pleasant when you're high, you know that?" She chuckled, raising her eyebrows at him. "It's ridiculous."

He shrugged. "Just trying to make sure I don't lose a decent agent to the rubber room. Wouldn't be the first time it's happened." He reached up to rub at his eyes a bit. 

"That doesn't surprise me," she sighed, brushing hair out of her face. This work wasn't exactly conducive to mental health.

"Mmm..." he grunted, nodding and reaching for the remote, flicking the television on on low volume and starting to surf channels looking for anything decent. 

"Jim said you might be right, yesterday. I don't know what you said to him, but I have the feeling it helped me not get my ass whooped," she murmured, just loud enough to be heard.

He glanced over at her for just a second, then returned his attention to the telly. "Under what circumstances was this comment made?"

She paused a moment. "Erm. He tried to blame me for your condition. I politely reminded him that I have no part in the planning process and that I could have totally left you there."

The corner of his mouth twitched slightly. "I told him you had potential. He was testing the waters, seeing if you had the balls and brains to politely indicate that he might be misinterpreting the situation."

She blew out a long breath, raising her eyebrows. "I have the boss testing me now instead of just little old you? Jesus Christ."

He shrugged. "He was probably bored, and it was a good opportunity. You're moving up in the world, Harrison, whether you like it or not." He chuckled quietly.  

"It's a little disconcerting," she remarked, finally unfolding herself and relaxing into the couch a little. "Even without my fragile state."

"'Fragile state'," he snorted. "Didn't you object to the word 'fragile' not that long ago? Don't let yourself get into a pity pit, Harrison. Not worth it."

"I destroyed half my apartment. Fragile is better than crazy." She sighed, shifting a little uncomfortably. The pain meds were wearing off.

He nodded just a bit. "Fair enough." He glanced over at her as she shifted, noticing her wince. "They give you anything to take?"

"No," Lorna grimaced slightly, "I didn't want anything. I'm not a person to give pills to. I think being an alcoholic and a bit of a smoker is enough for the moment, don't you?" 

"Touche," he said, shrugging and standing with a grimace. "You want some of mine for the time being, till the sting wears off? You can't get to them if they're in my apartment, and it'll help take the edge off." 

She shook her head, frowning down at her hands. "No. No, thank you." It wasn't that she thought she could get into his flat, it was that it would be so easy to get them somewhere else. The edge was safer than that risk. 

He nodded, respecting that for what it was, and getting a couple glasses of juice, coming back and handing her one as he sat down. 

She looked skeptically at the colorful liquid, sniffing it suspiciously. "The last time I had juice without vodka in it was years ago. What else have you got in your fridge, popsicles?"

"Look, it's usually for mixing, but seeing as we're both off the booze for the time being, I figure we might as well have something to drink, yeah?" He rolled his eyes, taking a sip. 

She snickered, taking a drink and swishing it around her mouth to get the scotch flavor out before she swallowed. "Never took you for a cocktail kind of bloke. Although, you're not really one to hold out for stereotypes of any sort." 

He shrugged. "Sometimes I like it straight, sometimes I enjoy a bit more flavor. Nothing wrong with enjoying your tastes."

"No," she hummed thoughtfully, "I figure that if you're going to work in crime there's really no reason to get judgmental about little things. Just not worth it."

He laughed. "Generous of you," he said, taking a long sip of his drink, thirsty. 

"Generous would be donating to charity. Buying my crazy mother a better flat. You're just referring to not giving a shit," she snorted, finishing off the juice quickly and setting the glass by her scotch.  

He shrugged. "Tomato tomahto." He glanced over at her. "So, bored now, what do you want to do?" 

She huffed. "I want to beat the living hell out of that accountant, but he's gone. I checked. No one's seen him in days." 

"Probably our leak then. Don't worry about it too much. We'll get our chance. Moriarty doesn't let leaks go."

She nodded. She wanted nothing more than to express her displeasure to the mole over the amount of information he'd collected on her. 

"I'll make sure you're around to help," he added, returning his attention to the news, interested to see if there was any news on the government official's injured hand.

"Thanks," she murmured, resting her head on the arm of the couch and closing her eyes. She just wanted to stop thinking for a little while. 

He watched for a bit, but when it became clear that nothing interesting was coming on, he shut the thing off, standing. "Alright, up you get," he said, heading for the linen closet to grab sheets. 

She reluctantly got up, not keen on moving, then sighed and bent to start taking off the cushions and to pull out the bed. "This is a pretty lame sleepover, Moran. Didn't even get my hair braided." 

"Your survival and sanity were more the focus, not your entertainment," he said sarcastically, walking back over and helping to pull the bed out, before starting to put the sheets in place. 

She chuckled, stepping back to get out of his way as he made the bed. She didn't need sheets to sleep, but she wasn't going to reject the offer. Then she sighed, growing more serious. "If I wake you up with the noise, don't worry. I'll be fine."

He shrugged. "I said you wouldn't wake me up," he pointed out, walking back to the closet to grab a thicker blanket and tossing it onto the bed, along with a spare pillow. "There. Get some sleep, don't break anything. Remote's there if you want to watch something. I'm going to go pass out."

"Okay," she murmured, drumming her fingers against her thigh. Nervous about sleep. What was she, six?  

He waved absently, heading for his room. He should probably change, but he didn't have the energy, so he just lay down in the shorts and tee shirt he'd changed into at the infirmary and closed his eyes. He was asleep in moments. 

When she finally crawled into bed, shedding her jeans first - which smelled like alcohol - it was surprisingly easy to go to sleep. She was still healing, after all, and she had a good dose of scotch in her system. But it wasn't long before she started dreaming. She dreamed of being dunked into a tank full of the flesh-eating beetles, kicking and screaming and trying to drag herself out only to burn her hands on the edge of the tank. When she woke up with a shout, sitting straight up in the dark, she could still feel them crawling over her. 

He had lied about being a deep sleeper. 

A deep sleeper didn't last long in his profession. They died as soon as they took a nap.
He woke at the first signs of her nightmare, his hand closing around handle of the knife under his pillow, but he knew who it was and relaxed, sitting up and rubbing at his eyes, sighing slightly. He glanced at the clock. They'd barely been asleep an hour. If he wanted any sleep tonight, things were likely going to have to change. He debated for a few moments, before standing and walking into his living room. 

She'd kicked off the sheets a few seconds after realizing she was awake, feeling constricted along with the fact they were damp with sweaty, and was still trying to catch her breath and get her heart rate under control when she saw his form enter the room. "I'm sorry," she whispered, pulling her knees up to her chest. "I- I should really just sleep in my own flat." 

He mumbled something that was lost in the general haze of tiredness, walking over to scoop her up without comment (and ignoring the protest from his arms) and heading back to his room. He set her down on the bed, climbed in, and opened his arms. "Come on," he muttered. "I want to sleep."

She stammered some argument before she realized that there was no way she'd get a second of decent sleep without complying, then fell silent and crawled into his arms, her erratic pulse finally beginning to settle. He pulled the blanket up, flopped his arms over her, and was out again within moments, his chest rising and falling slowly with his breaths. When she fell asleep again, it was with a lot more ease than before. This time her nightmares were all interrupted before they got bad enough to wake her.

He woke up to a warm, heavy lump in his arms, and sighed slightly. Lorna. Right. Man, he had very much been out of it last night... He disentangled himself carefully and stood with a wince but no actual noise, making his way to the bathroom. Lorna shifted as he left the bed, taking over the warm spot left behind by him before she realized where she was and was yanked rudely out of her sleep. He probably wouldn't like her here. She immediately slid out of the bed, hissing as she aggravated her injuries, and braced herself against the wall as her balance wavered. Okay. Maybe moving quickly was a bad idea. 

He heard the creak of the mattress and the thud of her hand hitting the wall, and rolled his eyes, heading out and into the kitchen to make coffee. "Take it easy."

She took a deep breath, following him stiffly and pausing in the living room - she felt like one gigantic scab. Every time she moved she felt like something was cracking open. "Sorry about last night," she called into the kitchen, rubbing the back of her neck as she looked at the mess she'd made of the covers on the pull-out. The sheets were pulled up from two corners. 

He shrugged. "I didn't complain," he called from where he was making coffee. "Did I?"

"No," she admitted, suddenly very aware that she wasn't wearing any trousers, and began looking around for where she'd kicked them off. "I just... assumed, I suppose." 

"You're a slow learner. Haven't you picked up by now that I'm unpredictable?" he smirked, walking over and handing her a cup of coffee.

She took the coffee one-handed, the other hand clutching her inside-out jeans. "I knew you were unpredictable, I just.. thought you were a little less unpredictable," she shrugged, a small smile finally creeping onto her face.

"Got to keep you on your toes," he deadpanned, taking a slow sip of bitter coffee. 

She rolled her eyes, taking a swig of her warm beverage and tucking her jeans under her arm. Struggling into them in front of him would be more embarrassing than what they were currently doing, so there was no need to do that. She sighed. "I should probably clean my flat today, huh," she muttered, looking towards the door reluctantly. Not that she wanted to. "I don't know why people let me have things." 

He shrugged. "I don't care if you do, but you're not crashing here again." He walked over to sit at the table.

She smirked into her coffee. There was the Moran she expected. Of course, that meant in 24 hours she was going to be a sleep-deprived zombie, but she'd make do. "Thanks for last night, anyway." 

He snorted slightly. "I wanted sleep. The logical conclusion was to get you sleeping."

She sighed quietly, looking down at her coffee with dissatisfaction. He didn't really get it. It was rare that anyone ever looked out for her, even if it was just so they didn't have to go through the trouble of replacing her. She finished off the rest of her coffee with a slight grimace at the overpowering flavor and took a few steps forward to set the mug on the table. "I should go." 

"Probably. You do have a fair bit of cleaning to do," he said, smiling just a little. "And who knows what Jim will have for us to do."

"Ugh. Please don't remind me I'm on call," she muttered, bending to pick up her scotch from the floor and then walking out. "Bye, Moran." 

"Bye," he called, walking to shut the door behind her, before letting out a soft groan and walking over to collapse onto the couch. 

Lorna stepped into her own flat and shut the door with her foot, looking in distaste at her flat. It smelled like liquor, she'd ruined several books, and there was glass everywhere. She took a deep breath, then let it all out. Time she got to work. 

He fell asleep on the couch again, and woke up groggily a few hours to the ping of the intercom. "Moran, head up to my office, we need to talk before you head to medical." 

He shifted painfully, stiff, and reached out to press the intercom. "On my way, sir. I'll be there in ten minutes." He stood, heading for his room to get dressed. 

Jim waited patiently in his office, for once relaxing on the leather couch he had tucked into the corner, a newspaper in front of him. There were times he needed a break. Of course, they only rolled around once in four months, but that was a weakness he'd long accepted.  

Sebastian managed to work his way into his uniform, and headed for the elevator, taking it up and knocking on his boss's door crisply, preparing himself to move without stiffness or signs of pain. 

"It's open," Jim called leisurely, a conscious effort to avoid winding himself up. One day in four months where he stopped constantly inventing new ways to kill people. Why else did he have so many employees, after all? 

He pushed the door open, immediately noting the empty desk and turning to the couch. "Break day, sir?"

"Yes," Jim nodded, folding up his newspaper and placing it on the coffee table in front of him with a calm demeanor, looking up at Sebastian thoughtfully. "I had a cinnamon bun for breakfast, and I plan on ordering pizza tonight. Tomorrow I'll feel quite silly," he snorted, then gestured slightly to the armchair across from him. "Sit. You're a mess." 

He didn't argue, lowering himself into the chair as casually as possible, though his body ached. "So, no offense, sir, but if you're on break, why am I here?"

"On average, you have one day a year where you have a true break," Jim sighed, folding his hands together and leaning forward to rest them on his knees. "So take one tomorrow. I'll assume your duties for the day. Heal. For me." 

He considered him for a few moments. "God, are you having me killed?" he asked calmly after a moment. "This whole thing was a disaster, yes, but consider the paperwork."

Jim drew back, looking mildly offended. "What? Sebastian, be serious," he scoffed, laughing incredulously. "I don't plot anyone's death on my breaks, you know that. I don't touch business on these days. If you don't want the day off, I'll have you do something mind-numbingly dull. Consider that a threat." 

He raised his hands."Fine, I'll take the day. Though I'd rather you give it to me on a day where I can go fuck someone. Like this I'm mostly useless." He smirked slightly. 

Jim rolled his eyes, snorting quietly. "Oh, I'm sure you'll manage to fuck someone anyway," he said casually, leaning forward to pick up his newspaper again. He shook it out with a loud crinkle of paper, signaling that the conversation was over. "Or was I wrong in my assessment that you liked a little pain?" 

He raised an eyebrow, smirking. "Glad to hear you were assessing, sir. Certainly keeps things interesting."

He raised the newspaper slightly, covering up his face. He couldn't trust it to stay blank like he wanted. What was it about that damned Cinnabon that'd made him so personal? He wasn't a teenager, for Chris'sakes. "Mmhmm. Now go.. do something. Else. Not here." 

He wasn't going to argue with a direct order, though he was extremely amused by his boss hiding behind the newspaper. "Yessir," he said, pushing himself to his feet silently and heading for the door. 

As soon as Sebastian was out the door Jim relaxed, huffing out a breath. He'd assess his strange reaction to Moran tomorrow. It wasn't something to do on break. 

He headed back towards the elevator at a slow pace, sighing slightly as he reached it. Time to head in to medical. But he paused for a moment, before punching in the button for his apartment floor. Might as well stop and get Harrison along the way. 

Harrison had just finished cleaning her living room. In the process, she'd accumulated a nice collection of small nicks and scratches from surprise shards of glass hidden in other bits of debris. It didn't really concern her; she just washed each one out, made herself a cup of tea, and flopped down onto her couch.

He knocked on the door briskly. "Harrison, you been down to medical yet?"

"No," she returned, already sounding resigned. Her tea would have to wait. She set it aside and then headed for the door, slipping out and looking up at him. "I assume you're here to drag me down there." 

"I don't think dragging sounds pleasant for either of us, I would prefer you walk," he said evenly, heading for the elevator again.  

She snorted, following him carefully - movement still hurt, and it would be a little while before the red tracks disappeared from her skin. Yet another reason why she didn't think she'd get a job this week. "Malcolm called earlier. Said that cleanup had the car scrapped. I thought you'd like to know." 

He nodded, looking at her as they got into the elevator. "Good. Any other loose ends you can think of?"

"Well, they got our phones, but unless they gave them to an expert I don't think they got them unlocked before we had them shut down. Other than that and a few CCTV's I had to fuck up, I think we're okay," Lorna sighed, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed over her chest. 

He nodded, sighing and reaching up to rub at his eyes. "You shouldn't have had to deal with all of that, but you did well," he muttered as the elevator dropped towards the correct floor. 

She shrugged slightly, stepping out of the elevator as it opened with a ding. "I didn't think it had to reach you. It's alright, I was in another network's cleanup when I was nineteen, I learned all the tricks." 

He nodded just slightly in approval, heading for medical at his stiff, slow pace. 

Lorna kept up with him easily - he was in worse shape than her, after all. His eye was looking better, but he was probably still suffering from the iron. She slipped her hands into her pockets as they entered medical, hiding her cut-up hands. She didn't want the scolding look she'd get from the doctor. 

A nurse came over, eyeing them both up. "Right. Mr. Moran, with me, if you would. Ms. Harrison, into room one, right there."

She shuffled into the indicated room with a lazy wave towards Moran. Yay, doctors.


 

An hour later they'd given him a full exam and changed the bandages over the worse bits. He had some cracks in his ribs, but they were minor and there wasn't much they could do about it, so they just told him to take more meds. He didn't argue, just nodded and headed out to see if Harrison was still around.

She was waiting for him by the exit, her fingers taped up and her abdomen feeling constricted from the new bandages. "They told me you'd be out in a few minutes. Thought I'd wait," she said as she saw him, picking at the linen on her hands. 

He nodded slightly, finishing the last few buttons of his shirt as he walked. "Appreciated. I take it they say you're alive and well?"

"Alive, maybe not well," Lorna snorted, turning to walk with him. "They took blood while I was out and I just spent ten minutes getting scolded for my drinking habits. Whatever. I'm fine. You?" 

He shrugged. "Some cracked ribs they're keeping an eye on. Mostly just trying to keep me from getting infected, same as you."

"Yeah, both of our values would decrease significantly if we lost an arm," she nodded, heading back for the elevator. Honestly, she was still paranoid about the marks the beetles had left. They weren't exactly hard to see, and if they interfered with her job...

He looked over at her, raising an eyebrow. "What's eating you?"

She pursed her lips, jabbing at the elevator button to stall a little before she answered. "Job security, I suppose." 

"In what way?" he asked as the elevator started upwards again.

"My job requires a certain.. level of attractiveness, you could say," she replied tersely, pulling her collar to the side to reveal the worst of the tracks. She couldn't help being defensive - she was horrified and embarrassed and worried that the loss of her job would end in her eventual death. "If these scar, my major advantage will disappear. Call me vain, I don't care, but I know where my value lies." 

He nods just a little. "You have a lot of value as a grifter, well beyond attractiveness. Scarring can be dealt with."

She made a sound of discontent, reaching up to rub her forehead. The physical reminder of being strapped to that table tattooing itself to her skin for any amount of time made her feel sick. She immediately stepped out of the elevator just as it opened, heading for her apartment with her key already in hand. "I'll be drinking if you need me." 

He nodded just a little. "I owe you dinner," he pointed out as he waited for the thumb scanner to recognize his print. 

She glanced back at him as she opened up her apartment door. "And when you want to pay up, you'll know where I'll be. Yeah?" 

"You up for it tonight? Or want to wait on that?" he asked, opening his own door. 

She considered it a moment while standing in the threshold before giving a small nod. "Tonight is fine. Let me throw on a jumper so I don't look like a science experiment."  

He nodded, smirking just slightly. "Sounds good. Just knock when you're ready."

"Alright. Don't make yourself comfortable," she hummed, stepping into her flat and closing the door behind her. When she reemerged two minutes later, she'd managed to brush her hair, completely change her outfit into something that bared almost no skin, and had slipped a newly-filled flask of whiskey into her boot, just in case. She knocked on his door, resting her shoulder against the door frame. 

He opened the door a few moments later, nodding at her. "Ready to go, I take it?"

"Ready as I'll ever be," she shrugged, stepping back. "Usually when bosses want to buy you dinner they just give you a giftcard." 

He shrugged. "To be honest? With things the way you are, I'd rather you not be out on your own. If you'd rather the giftcard I could do that."

Lorna shook her head, not at all eager to revisit the experience she was still sweating about. And, if she was being honest, dinner with Sebastian wasn't exactly a hardship. "No. C'mon, let's get something really bad for us." 

That managed to get a grin out of him. "What did you have in mind?" he asked, heading for the elevator.

She smirked, shrugging slightly. "I don't know, I have a lot of things in mind. Something fried, maybe. I mean, yeah, normally I'd take advantage of this with something outrageously fancy, but I'm not in the mood."  

He nodded. "I know a good fish and chips place down by the docks. Interested?"

"That sounds fantastic," she agreed cheerfully, stepping into the lift with a slight spring to her step. She didn't get out often enough, and she really did love the city. Even the grimier parts.

"Brilliant," he said, grinning. "What say we take a fun car, for the hell of it?"

"If you promise not to crash, I promise not to shriek in terror," she quipped good-naturedly, drumming her fingers impatiently on her thigh as the elevator made its descent into the garage. 

"I'll work on that," he grinned, walking over to Malcolm's station and peering in, chatting. A few moments later he returned jangling the keys for the Charger. "Come on."

"Did you threaten him or offer an incentive?" she smirked, raising her eyebrows as they reached the car. Even she could appreciate it. 

"I'm in charge of staff, Harrison. It has a few advantages," he smirked.

"You're not lying," she snorted, pulling open the door as he unlocked it and climbing into the rich interior. "How long is the drive to your fish and chips place, anyway?"

He shrugged. "Depends on traffic. Fifteen, twenty minutes." He climbed in, starting the car, which came to life with a rich purr.

She nodded, buckling her seat belt as the engine started up. Better safe than sorry, with Sebastian at the wheel. 

He buckled in as well, before revving the engine and heading out of the garage with a grin. 

She'd been right to buckle up. Driving with Moran was... an experience. She was surprised nobody had run him off the road in a fit of rage years before. When they pulled into public parking by the docks, she still had one elbow braced against the door and a hand holding on tightly to the seat. 

He glanced over at her, and laughed. "Nothing like a bit of adrenaline before dinner," he grinned, turning off the engine and climbing out. 

"That's a real fancy word you've got for 'fear', Moran," Lorna joked as she got out to follow him, pulling down her jumper sleeves to cover her hands. Not something she would risk if someone as dangerous as Moran wasn't around. 

"All the things we do, and that's what managed to scare you?" he asked with a laugh, heading along the docks towards the restaurant. 

She smirked, shrugging slightly as she walked alongside him. She had the feeling that she'd been along this stretch before. "I have mundane fears. I can't protect myself from a car crash, can I?" 

He shrugged. "Maybe you should trust me not to crash," he teased.

"Trust," Lorna scoffed, highly amused, "Moran, have you ever trusted a single person in your life?" 

"Not one," he said, smirking as he walked a bit stiffly down the road. "It's down that road there."

"Oh. I've been here," she murmured distractedly, frowning slightly. She'd been here quite a lot, actually. Had met Ryan here. Had been high out of her mind here. "Good fish." 

He nodded slightly. "I don't tend to like fish and chips much elsewhere."

"No, I understand why," she said quietly, shaking her head slightly and forcing a smile onto her face. Better that he didn't know the extent of the history she had here. "Do they still have those benches by the water?" 

"Think they do, yeah. Don't see any reason they wouldn't. Benches tend to be rather stationary," he said, turning down the street and heading for the restaurant.

She rolled her eyes, kicking at a loose bit of gravel and watching it skitter away in front of her. She expected his sarcasm, yes, but while in public she felt she could react a little more freely to them. Safety in numbers. 

He laughed at her obvious distaste. "Sorry, did I offend you?" he asked patronizingly. 

"I'm not offended, I'm just taking the opportunity to respond to your sarcasm as a normal person in a normal environment. The opportunity doesn't arise often enough," she smirked, glancing over at him as they reached the restaurant. She fought back against the revulsion she felt for going inside, for revisiting those memories, then tapped her fingers against her thigh, considering. "I'll just wait out here, hm?"  

He raised an eyebrow, but nodded. "I take it you want the fish and chips? Anything to drink?"

She tapped her ankle with her other foot, the dull sound of the flask being hit rising up from them. "No, thanks, I've got that covered. And yeah, fish and chips would be great."

He rolled his eyes but nodded, heading inside. He returned a few minutes later with two orders of fish in chips wrapped in newspaper, and a beer for himself. "Right. Benches."

She pointed towards the Thames, already beginning to lead him over. "Right this way, Mr. Moran. I'll carry that," she added, reaching to take one of the bundles from him, partially just so he didn't look so silly. 

"Thanks," he said appreciatively. "I pocketed a bottle of malt vinegar, so there's that, too, if you want some."

"That'd be lovely," she nodded, sitting down with the pained grunt of a woman much older than herself and unwrapping her meal, glancing out over the river. "It's a nice night." 

"It is," he said in agreement, sitting next to her with a similar grunt and peeling back his own newspaper, pulling the bottle of vinegar out of his pocket and applying it generously before handing it over to her. 

She did the same as he and then set it down between them before starting into her meal with vigor, despite the fact that she was getting vinegar all over her fingers. Messiness wasn't her concern at the moment. The scenery was. "This is where I met the man who got me into the grifting business," she said suddenly, setting down a half-eaten chip. "Before I came here I was just a drug mule. Strange." 

He raised an eyebrow at the sudden offering of information, but didn't object. "I didn't know that was here."

"No, you couldn't have. Wouldn't be in any files of mine. It's not significant to anybody but me, really," Lorna shrugged, reaching one-handed for the flask in her boot and awkwardly unscrewing it before she took a swig. 

He took a sip of his beer. "Doesn't say why he tracked you down, either. What's the story there? Why convert a drug mule, no offense."

She shook her head, swallowing a mouthful of food before she could respond. "That's just it. He didn't track me down. It was a coincidence. He bought me a drink inside, just started up a conversation with me. When we started dating he didn't even know what I did for a living. Three months in, I slipped up, he found out," she gave a slight shrug, looking amused and a little rueful. "When I first met him he sold insurance over the phone. Seven months later and he'd forced his way into the network and had a business of his own. Thought being a drug mule didn't suit me. So he insisted I change professions. It helped that he'd hooked me on heroin a month earlier and now controlled my supply, of course." 

He nodded slightly in understanding. "Well, there are worse ways that could have ended." He broke off a piece of fish, eating it with a content sigh.

"I suppose you're right," she agreed softly, returning to eating for a few minutes. "Hooking your girlfriend on opiates is a pretty dick move, though." 

"For once, I completely agree with you," he said, nodding slightly. "Did he get off on the control or something?"

"Yeah," she confirmed, taking a drink. "He didn't like me fighting back, either. So he took away my will. Smart. Just... dick-ish." 

"Very." He reached for the vinegar, adding more to the chips towards the bottom. "Well, you smartened up."

Harrison snorted, smirking slightly and setting her mostly done basket to the side. She didn't need to eat that much. "That's debatable."

He smirked. "True. You going to finish those chips?"

"Nah. Have at them," she murmured, leaning back into the bench and sipping from her flask. 

He took the rest, dumping them in with his own, taking another swig of beer before setting into them. 

"After this I'll just.. walk around for a bit. Avoid your crazy driving on the way home. Maybe try to get laid. I don't know. I don't feel like going home," she murmured, screwing the cap back onto her flask and shoving it into her boot again. Anything to avoid the nightmares for as long as possible. 

He nodded, tossing the vinegar-soaked papers in a nearby bin. "Just make sure you stay alert. Don't get grabbed again."

She smirked, standing up. "Not that kind of grabbing, definitely. I'll probably be back in the morning. If I'm not, I've either been kidnapped or I tripped in front of a bus." 

He rolled his eyes, standing as well. "Make sure you didn't just oversleep, or I will be pissed."

"I never oversleep in beds with strange men. Call it a perk of the job," she snorted, turning and beginning to walk away. "If you need me you have my number." 

He nodded, heading in the opposite direction towards his car. "Don't die, that would be very inconvenient."

She just laughed, shaking her head as she disappeared between a few buildings. She would have gone home with him, but the fact was that he probably didn't want to deal with her when she was in this sort of mood. 

He climbed into the spider, starting it up and heading off back towards headquarters, but part of him was nagging at him that an agent shouldn't be alone in the field, on duty or not. And with Holmes back in business, London was certainly 'the field'. He sighed, and by the time he got back to headquarters he'd already decided. He switched cars to something fairly nondescript with dark windows, and hit the road again, heading back towards the docks to start scanning the area for his agent. He'd keep an eye on her from a distance. She'd never know he was there.

Chapter Text

 

It was at the third bar Lorna hit that she noticed the car. Hadn't she seen that one a few blocks down? She decided to be a little concerned about it; if it was Mycroft, she'd regret not being cautious. That didn't stop her from drinking a man's wallet dry once inside, of course. When she'd shook him off - her standards were a little higher than that for actually having fun - she went out the back door and cut through the alley, for caution's sake. And immediately turned around. Three rather addled-looking men were laughing a few meters away in the shadows, and that was a risk that she wasn't armed enough to deal with. When she emerged back out on the street, she looked disgruntled and a little bit drunk. Time to hit the next bar. Maybe there'd be someone worth her time. 

He saw her make the car, and knew that it was time to switch tactics. He parked a few blocks away from the next bar she stopped at, and proceeded on foot across rooftops, scope case over his shoulder. Once in place he pulled it out, hidden in the shadows of the roofs, watching her as best he could through the place's windows. 

It really took a lot of whiskey to get her to the point where she'd kiss a random stranger in a bar during time that wasn't working hours, but then, this was not her first batch of drinks for the night, and ordering nothing but hard liquor got a person wasted fairly quickly. Still, even through her drunk haze she was disappointed. The bloke had no inherent talent, and it seemed as if he hadn't gotten in a day of practice in his life. Without bothering to explain herself she simply pushed him away and walked out, collapsing onto a bench in the front and leaning her head back against the wall. She had no idea what to do with herself. This wasn't working. 

He watched her walk out, but she wasn't the only one. His eyes narrowed as the man she'd spurned began to look angry, and, after ordering another drink, headed outside after Lorna.

By that point, Sebastian was long gone from the roof. 

She yelled as the man from inside grabbed onto her collar, pulling her to her feet. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" she snarled, although a lot of the effect was probably lost in her flushed cheeks and her slowed reaction time. 

"Getting what I deserve, bitch," he snapped, slamming her back into the wall over the bench, leaving her legs pinned uncomfortably between his and the wood. Fuck, fuck fuck fuck, she couldn't reach her knife like this. Someone would come along, though, right? They were in the middle of the street! 


 

He was walking as quickly as his injuries allowed, gun in hand. He'd run back to the nearest fire escape and practically jumped down, and was backtracking towards where he'd last seen Lorna. 


 

The man pushed her higher up the wall, leaning forward to kiss her roughly, unknowing and uncaring of the still-healing injuries he was scraping against the wall. 

She gasped at the sharp pain lancing through her back, biting down hard on his lip in vengeful retaliation until she tasted blood. He screamed a swear, his hands only pushing into her harder, amplifying the pain she was already feeling, although at least he'd stopped kissing her for the moment. Her victory didn't last long; he reached up to grip onto a handful of her long dark hair, spitting derogatives at her as he yanked her harshly into the alley next to the bar. 


 

He turned the corner, the bar a hundred yards or so down the road, just in time to see two figures disappearing into an alley, one clearly not willing to go. He cursed under his breath but moved into a jog, then a run, gritting his teeth as he felt scabs splitting open. His grip on his gun tightened.


 

The man slammed her up against the wall, paying little heed to her head as it hit with the same force as the rest of her body, and using her momentary stunned stillness to start ripping at her shirt. 

For an agonizing, confusing moment all she saw was blackness, then she was aware of her surroundings again, letting out an angry grunt as she brought her foot down as hard as she could on his instep - and that was it for her shirt. She wouldn't waste the opportunity, though - while he was hobbled and clutching her ruined shirt she made a limping break for the street. 

He forgot about his foot, alcohol dulling the pain, and started after her with a snarl- 

Three soft pops, and he stumbled back, three clean, reddening holes in his shirt. Sebastian lowered his gun, screwing off the silencer and shoving both into his pocket, before slipping out of his jacket and putting it around Lorna's shoulders. "Let's go. We need to get out of here. The car's not far."

She didn't have the mental capacity to question Sebastian's sudden appearance; she was too filled up with a roiling mix of fear, anger, and desperation. She just nodded, slipping into the jacket properly as she walked stiffly beside him. She could feel blood on her back, but she didn't feel any pain at the moment. Bad sign. "I'm going into shock," she managed quietly, spotting the car she'd seen earlier. Oh. 

"I don't doubt that," he said, watching her carefully but being careful not to touch her right now. He pulled open her door, motioning for her to get inside. "Strap in, then put your feet up on the dash. I'll get the heat going," he said calmly. 

Lorna did as he said, focusing for the moment on just following the simple directions. Just listening to him and processing what came out of his mouth took longer than it should have. When she was properly in the car she took a halting, shuddering breath, the flush that had been in her face completely gone, leaving her an ashen gray.

He closed the door behind her, walking around quickly and starting the car, immediately jacking the heat all the way up and pulling onto the road. "Alright, Lorna, just keep talking to me, alright? How many have you had, do you know?"

"I... I don't know," she shook her head slightly, looking down at her hands. They were shaking violently. "I just... lost track.. I guess." She was freezing cold. The heat blowing across her face was a relief. 

"Okay, that's fine," he said, depressing the accelerator further, though he tried to ease off on the corners so as not to toss her around. "Why don't you tell me what happened the last time you talked to your mum? How is she? How's she doing?"

"She- she berated me for not visiting more often," she got out, her breath hitching slightly. That had really just happened. If he hadn't been there... She didn't even have the thought to hide the sudden tears that spilled over her cheeks, raising a hand to muffle a ragged sob. 

"Hey, alright, well, tell you what. I have the day off tomorrow, how about I take you to go visit her?" he said, trying to keep her focus on something else. "What's your mum like? Would she think you having a bodyguard is funny?"

"I can't- I can't see her like this," she shook her head, trying to wipe tears from her cheeks in vain. "She can't see me like this- it'll wreck her. I can't." Lorna shook her head again, reaching to the dash and fumbling to turn off the heat. She was burning, now. 

"Okay, take it easy," he said, reaching to turn the heat back up to medium. "We don't have to, that's fine. You said she does work like us, right? What does she do?" He took a hard turn for headquarters. 

She took a deep breath before answering, folding her shaking hands together. "N-no. No. My stepfather did, she just... runs numbers. I think..." she trailed off, sniffling and attempting to dry her eyes with the jacket sleeve. She didn't want anyone in HQ to see her like this. 

"Okay, well, that's something," he said, finally pulling into the garage. "Let's get you to medical, okay?" he said, getting out of the car and walking around to pull her door open. 

She managed to get out without tripping, an amazing feat considering she wasn't certain where exactly her feet were. "I don't want to go to medical. Just.. just take me home," she murmured, pulling his jacket tighter around her. 

"That wasn't a suggestion. You're bleeding and in shock with fuck-knows how much alcohol in your system. Medical." He started walking, eyes on her carefully. 

She kept pace with him, falling silent for a minute, giving them time to reach the elevator. There was no point in arguing twice, after all. Then she cleared her throat slightly, sniffling. "Don't let them put me out, please. I don't want to sleep in medical. Please." 

"I'll do what I can," he said, bringing her into the elevator and punching the appropriate button. "I don't expect they'll need to."

She nodded, swallowing hard and leaning against the cool wall. It felt weird against her hand. "Thank you, Sebastian." 

He looked over at her, but just nodded slightly. The elevator doors opened a few moments later, saving him from having to make a response. "Come on, let's get you patched up."

She didn't say anything after that, only shadowing him on the way to medical, mostly zoning out. Things were starting to hurt now, and if she thought too much about it it would only hurt worse. 

He spoke quickly to the nurse on call, who didn't question, standing to lead Lorna into an examination room. He started to object to Sebastian following, but Sebastian gave him a long look and he ceased his objections, indicating Lorna should take a seat on the exam table. "Dr. Ferguson is on call, he'll be here in a few minutes," the nurse promised. 

She nodded slightly, biting the inside of her cheek. She didn't want to have to explain any of it. What a stupid mistake she'd made. She should have kept her knife more easily accessible, should have been ready for any sort of attack. And she hadn't been. She'd let her guard down and this had happened. 

"Can you remove the jacket?" the nurse asked professionally, setting his clipboard aside. "So I can take a look at the damage?"

"Yeah," she said hoarsely, forcing herself to stop clinging to the hem of the thing and slipping it off with a hiss. Yes, yes, there was definitely damage done to her. The bandages around her abdomen from earlier were stained in places with red, and her ribs and head ached fiercely. 

The nurse didn't comment, walking forward to gently start removing the bandages. "Can you tell me what ha-"

"Don't," Moran said, his voice cold and commanding. "Any information you need, I can give you later. Ask her what hurts, that's all you need to do your job."

The nurse jumped slightly at Moran's sudden voice, but didn't argue." What hurts?" he asked meekly, turning back to Lorna.

She was extremely relieved that Sebastian intervened on her behalf, taking in a shallow breath before replying to the nurse. "My back, head, and ribs are the worst," she stated quietly, "The rest is minor. Just bruises, I think." 

He nodded slightly, finishing unwrapping her bandages, shifting behind her to examine her back carefully. "You have a fair amount of abrasions, and have reopened quite a few of your injuries, but at first glance nothing looks too serious. The doctor will have more to say." He stepped back, picking up a cuff. "I'm going to check your blood pressure. Have you been drinking tonight?" 

"Yes," she sighed, "A lot. I'm surprised you can't smell it," she added, muttering. Her defense mechanisms were kicking back in. That wasn't a terrible sign. "Look- just.. just bandage me up and I'll go home. I don't.. I don't want to be here," she shook her head. Any tact she possessed was not at home at the moment. 

"I could, which is why I asked," the nurse shot back calmly. "I'm afraid I can't release you quite yet. A few of those gashes need stitches or they'll scar badly, and you'll need to be checked for a concussion. How bad is the pain in your ribs?" he pumped up the cuff and glanced at the clock.

She fought back the urge to fight with the nurse and took a deep breath, trying to assess the pain. She'd broken ribs before, and this didn't feel as bad. She didn't feel like each time she inhaled her bones were constricting around her lungs. "They're okay. Just bruising, I think."  

He nodded slightly. "I promise we'll get you out of here as quickly as possible. I need to test your blood alcohol content, and then the doctor will be in, alright?" he opened a drawer and returned with a breathalyzer. 

"Yeah, yeah, sure," she sighed, breathing into the little machine as instructed and then leaning back, glancing at Moran self-consciously. Enough of her faculties were back to let her know that this was terrible and that if he saw any more of her fractured mental state she'd be thrown into a rubber room. 

He nodded, reading the device screen. "Point-two-three," he said, disposing of the cover and returning the machine to its drawer. "Alright. The doctor will be in shortly, just sit tight." He walked out. Sebastian watched her quietly.

"How are you holding up?"

Lorna shrugged slightly, the paper on top of the exam table rustling loudly as she shifted a little. "I'll be okay, eventually. Not the first time something like this has happened. Doesn't make it any less terrifying, though," she murmured, clearing her throat. She couldn't look at him. She felt weak, out of control. Nothing she wanted him to see. 

He nodded slightly. "You're staying with me tonight," he said quietly. "You can have my bed. I need you to get a decent amount of sleep, and I don't want you choking on your own vomit if you're as intoxicated as he said."

"That's pointless," she huffed, raising a hand to rub at her eyes wearily. "I'm not going to get decent sleep. This week has been the week from hell and my sleep is going to suffer for it. You don't need that shit. Don't." 

"Again, you appear to be treating my orders as if they were suggestions. I thought we'd agreed that wasn't going to happen?"

Before she could respond, the doctor came in. "Hello, Ms. Harrison. I hear you got a bit scraped up. Let's get you cleaned up and out of here, how's that sound?"

Lorna knew that continuing to argue was a terrible idea for many different reasons, so she just gave the doctor a tired smile and nodded. "Yeah, please. Thanks." 

She did need stitches, but they were done quickly, and within an hour they were walking out of the medical bay, both of them in fresh bandages (Moran had reopened his fair share of wounds as well.) He headed for the elevator. "Let's get to bed."

She made a sound of acquiescence, fiddling with the hem of his jacket in her fingers as they reached the elevator. It was on their floor already. Lucky. "I'm sorry," she said quietly as they stepped into the lift, biting her lip and once again avoiding looking at him. 

He looked over at her sharply, studying her. "What are you apologizing for?"

"For being so.." she made a helpless gesture with her hands, looking for a word that accurately described it. "High maintenance." 

He smirked slightly, punching the elevator button. "Remind me to tell you about myself sometime. And by that, I mean I will never tell you, and you will never ask, but you should know that you're fine."

She remained silent, slightly comforted. The elevator ride seemed longer than usual, but that was probably just her warped senses; when she stepped out, she momentarily forgot which door was his and which was hers. She was exhausted, though. He was right about needing sleep. 

He watched her consider the hallway in a stupor, touching her shoulder gently as he passed to guide her with him, scanning his thumb to unlock his door and opening it. "Go take a piss and crash, alright? I'll leave a tee shirt you can wear on my bed."

"Okay," she agreed softly, stepping inside. She headed for where she remembered the restroom being, leaving his jacket behind on the couch as she passed. Once she'd relieved herself she stood in the mirror. The extra damage was... unsettling. 

He chose a comfortable tee, setting it on the bed, and paused for a moment, trying to figure out what the hell he was doing. He shouldn't be helping her like this. Shouldn't be sending mixed signals. Any other agent he would have shouted into the ground and then left to their own devices. She'd been stupid, gotten wasted and let her guard down. But... she was his comrade, now, it felt like. They'd been through hell together. She was struggling, and he was, too, though he would never admit it. So he helped her. He shook his head a little, heading out into the living room to pull out the couch so that he could sleep. 

Eventually Lorna made her way back into his bedroom, changing into the (on her) oversized shirt and then slipping under the covers. It felt strange to be taking his bed all alone like this, especially when she could literally smell him there. She sighed, curling up and piling all the sheets she could on top of herself. Maybe the extra comfort would keep her from waking up in the middle of the night, screaming.

"Sleep on your damn side, Harrison," he called from the next room as he threw some sheets and blankets onto the bed and walked into his room to get pajamas. "How drunk are you? Should I sleep on the floor in here?"

"I'm drunk enough that I can't really reason out any of what you're saying," she muttered, burrowing further under the sheets. "I'm not going to vomit, Moran. The alcohol isn't going to be the problem, tonight." 

He considered her for a moment, then nodded. "Fine. If you're dead tomorrow morning I'm going to be fucking pissed." He headed into the next room, turning off the light. 

She sighed as he left, although she was relieved when the lights went off. Finally, she could fucking sleep. Well. For maybe an hour.

He changed quickly, lying down on the pull-out stiffly. At least he had tomorrow off. He shut his eyes with a sigh. 


 

She fell asleep quickly; physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. Her dreams, of course, quickly became nightmarish. The white room and the near miss earlier in the evening combined. When she woke up, it had been three hours, and she was silent, only a small gasp escaping her. Next time wouldn't be so lucky. She stumbled out of Sebastian's bed with a soft grunt, carefully toeing into the living room and heading for the door. He'd be pissed in the morning, but at least he would get more than a combined five hours of sleep. 

He heard a click. There were so many reasons to wake up if one heard a click. A gun cocking clicked. A door latch clicked. A switchblade clicked. He'd learned not to ignore them. His eyes opened quickly, though his breathing didn't change and his body remained still. There was a figure by the door. His hand closed around the handle of his knife, planning. He couldn't move slowly, the bed would creak, so it would have to be all in one movement. He coiled, preparing to jump-

"Lorna," he sighed a few seconds later as the light from the hall illuminated her. "I almost stabbed you. Where are you going?"

"My own flat," she whispered, hand still on the doorknob. "I'm sober enough, it's okay. I'm going to wake you up constantly otherwise and I don't want to do that. Sorry for alarming you."

He sighed, sitting up and rubbing at his eyes. "I need you sleeping, Harrison. How do we achieve that?"

She shook her head, lifting a hand to rub at her eyes. "I don't know. Erase the last week. Wrap me in a straight jacket and lock me in a small room so I can feel safe again. I don't know. I really, really don't. I wish I did."

"When was the last time you slept well?" he asked, standing.

She stayed hovering in the doorway, hand still on the doorknob, torn between listening to him and leaving. "I.. Six days? Seven? Before.. all of this," she mumbled, glancing into the hall again, squinting. 

He walked forward slowly, pressing his hand to the door and shutting it. "Come on, Lorna," he said quietly. "Sit."

She drummed her fingers anxiously against her thighs when she was forced to let go of the door, ducking her head in a sharp sort of nod and walking to sit carefully on the edge of the pull-out. She was so, so tired. If only she didn't have such horribly vivid dreams.

He sighed, walking into the kitchen. A few moments later he returned with a glass of water, handing it to her. "Get this into your system while you're up," he murmured, pulling a chair over. "You're going to have to talk about it."

She downed half of it in one go, partially because her throat was dry beyond belief, partially because she really did not want to have this discussion. "I don't know what you expect me to say, Moran," she breathed, giving a tiny lift of her shoulders. "I don't see how that will help." 

"It's simple," he said, voice matter-of-fact. "Those nightmares? A lot of it is your mind trying to sort through information. It's trying to process the events which occurred and how they relate to your heightened emotions, and thus those emotions are replayed and escalated. So, logically, the best way to lessen them or make them stop? Actively process the information. Think through each detail, talk through the scenario, and place it in a logical manner in its happy little box... then lock the box and stack a few anvils on top. Alright?"

Lorna sighed, biting the inside of her cheek before nodding reluctantly. She couldn't make herself look at him, though. "Where... where do I start, then." 

"The nightmare that just woke you up. What was that about?" He kept his voice calm and unobtrusive.

She grimaced, her grip tightening on the glass and her jaw clenching. "I was- I was in that stupidly clean room. The white one, where Mycroft had us. But you weren't there. It was t-that arsehole from the pub. Fuck, I never even got his fucking name..." she trailed off, drawing in a long breath.

He nodded just slightly, remaining quiet. "He's gone now," he reminded her quietly. "What happened in the pub? Start to finish, like you were briefing me."

"I went in already drunk. Not too bad, but... Anyways, I sat at the bar because that's usually all it takes, and this bloke comes up, starts trying to chat me up, bought me something like four glasses of scotch? He was reasonably attractive, I was bored, I started snogging him." She stopped for a moment, looking disgusted. "He was awful. Really, truly bad at it. So I left. I think you.. saw the rest." 

He shook his head. "I didn't. That's when I left to get to you. Talk me through it, Lorna. It's a job, come on. Tell me about him. Analyze the hell out of him. Who was he, what did he want, what did he do? Like you're watching a movie."

"I was just outside. Just.. sitting. Should have been paying more attention. Should have heard him come out. He grabbed my collar, yanked me up, into the wall. He looked furious. He thought that I'd.. violated some agreement. Drinks for sex." She suddenly realized she was pulling the fabric of his t-shirt in her hand and made herself let go, curling her hand into a fist. "When I tried fighting back he pulled me into the alley. Bashed me against the wall.. hard. I heard my shirt r-rip. I stomped on his instep and tried to make a run for it." 

He nodded slightly. "Which is where I came in," he said calmly. "I fired three shots, gave you my coat, and we left. Does that sound right?"

"Yes," she confirmed quietly, finishing off the water he'd given her. "Yes, that sounds right." 

He nodded a little. "Alright. Anything else you can remember about him? What clothes was he wearing? Was he drunk?"

"He was drunk," she murmured, then shook her head slightly. "I don't remember anything else about him. Just his face. And his voice." She shuddered, clenching her teeth together. She knew she remembered his voice because she'd had to suffer through it in her dream. 

He nodded just slightly. "Alright. What about when we were taken? Brief me."

"I've already briefed you, sir," she murmured - she'd told him about meeting Mycroft inside 221, and she'd told him about her interrogation. "Fear of torture is.. inescapable, in our line of work. It could happen again. I know I have to deal with that fact. They somehow bugged my flat and there's no way for me to feel safe anymore. Like he could somehow reach through the walls and.. grab me. I thought getting drunk would- would help somehow," she rambled, working herself up until she cut herself off, closing her eyes.  

He sighed, trying to think. "Is that the problem, you think?" he asked after a bit. "You feel unsafe?"

"I guess," she whispered, glad that it was dark in the room. She probably looked as much of a wreck as she felt. "I don't know what to do about that." 

He nodded just a little. "Where have you felt the safest over the past few days?"

She didn't respond for a moment, because the answer felt cripplingly, thoroughly embarrassing. She clear her throat, ducking her head slightly. "Here." 

He didn't blink. "Then, for now, you stay here. What else makes you feel safe?" 

She wasn't going to say what immediately came to mind - he was not a cuddler - so she just shook her head slightly, ignoring the hair that had shifted down into her face. "...Small spaces," she eventually replied. Not a lie. 

He nodded just slightly. "Alright." He stood, walking over to the thermostat and turning it down, before walking to his bed and the linen closet. He returned with a heap of blankets. "I don't have small spaces, but I have blankets. Make yourself a small space. Would that help?"

She nodded in return, reaching forward to take them from him gently. "Just the weight will," she said softly, looking sheepishly down at the pile. At least he wasn't making fun of her. 

He considered her for a quiet moment. He knew when she had slept best. He sighed, turning back to the thermostat and dropping it a few more notches, before climbing into bed. "Come on, then. I'm tired."

"What?" she asked, startled. She held the blankets perfectly still on the tip of her fingers, like they were something fragile and valuable. "M-Moran, you don't have to do that." 

He raised an eyebrow. "You need sleep. I need you to sleep. The last time I remember you sleeping decently was not, in fact, 'six or seven days ago', but the night you slept in my bed. Come on. It's not like I have an objection to sleeping with a beautiful woman in any sense of the word. Jim might object to one sense, but I don't think he gives a rats ass about the other."

Lorna didn't even try to make heads or tails of the part on Jim - she didn't think she'd ever understand their boss, let alone what their boss of thought of them personally - and just climbed into the bed with Moran, leaving half the blankets still folded on the floor and dragging the other half over herself. The extra security wouldn't hurt. "Thank you," she murmured, struggling to keep her voice steady. "I was afraid you'd.. blame me." 

He pulled away from her for a moment so he could meet her gaze. "We're criminals, Lorna," he said quietly. "We, more than anyone, know what an attack is, and it is in no goddamn way your fault, alright?"

"I know. I know," she breathed, rubbing at her eyes and willing herself not to tear up again. "There's just.. no accounting for what other people will think, sometimes." There was no accounting for what he could think sometimes. She pulled the blankets up over her shoulder, squeezing her eyes shut. "I'll let you sleep, now." 

He lay back down, putting an arm over her and pulling up the main blanket. "Sleep, alright?" he sighed softly. 

She nodded blearily, relaxing into him and letting her mind quiet a little, comforted by the tiger beside her and the blankets above her. Within a few minutes, she was fast asleep again. 

He wrapped himself around her smaller form fairly tightly, drifting off soon afterwards, hoping that she slept. He would never admit it, but he cared. 

 

 

Chapter Text

She slept... surprisingly well. There were still nightmares, but they had a feel about them that told her that nothing could truly harm her, and stopped any of them from getting truly horrible. When she woke up in the morning, she was pleasantly warm. 

He woke up to light filtering through the shades, and a warm, balled-up lump in his arms, which seemed to be a good sign that Lorna had gotten at least some sleep.

She noticed his change in breathing after a moment, debating whether or not to pretend she was still asleep for a moment or not before she realized that was childish. She shifted slightly under the weight of probably four blankets. It still felt nice, even if she wasn't freaking out. "Sorry for doin' this to you again," she mumbled. 

"Don't apologize," he said, tucking her in a bit more absently. "I'm glad you slept. Got to keep an eye on you, you know?"

She was perfectly happy being tucked in, the slight bit of tension she'd worked up from wondering what his reaction would be melting away a bit. "You're being uncharacteristically nice to me," she pointed out quietly. "I'm a little worried you're going to kill me or something." 

"That would be far too much effort as far as ways to go about killing you," he pointed out. "It's in my best interest to make sure you're mentally sound."

"Sebastian Moran, therapist and sniper extraordinaire. If you ever require a business card, please put that on it," she joked quietly, too groggy to really get out a good quip. And she desperately did not want to offend him. 

He rolled his eyes, patting her head sarcastically. "Will do."

She laughed, then yawned, then groaned. Fuck, she ached all over. And, as if the injuries from last night weren't enough, she was hungover, too. Although probably not as bad as she would have been if he hadn't gotten some water into her.

He didn't have much intention of moving, though he smirked slightly at her groan. "Have a bit much last night, there?" he muttered, grinning.

"Yes," she moaned, shifting and burying her face in the pillow. "Last night was awful. Christ. I mean, it seemed so promising. I really fucked it up, though. Ugh." 

"Yes, yes you did," he said lightly, smiling and sitting up, heading into the kitchen. "I'll get the ibuprofen."

"God bless," she said loudly into the pillow, then rolled onto her back and forced herself to sit up, pulling down the hem of the shirt he'd given her. Not that he hadn't seen it all before, but she didn't like looking at the damage. 

"Just stay there, I'm not officially up," he grumbled, returning with a tall glass of water and a bottle of pills before flopping onto bed and sighing, stretching just slightly, trying not to pull any of the injuries. "I've got the day off, and will be very lazy."

She smirked slightly at that, resting the cold glass against her leg with a slight hiss and unscrewing the bottle to pop a few pills in before washing them down. She glanced down at him then looked away, cautious of staring. "Just let me know when you want me out, won't you? Don't want to overstay my welcome or anything, yeah?" 

He shrugged. "You've got the day off, too, my say so. Do what you like. You want to stay here, that's fine, just don't blast music or anything," he mumbled from where his face was pressed into his pillow. 

"Don't worry, I'm not the music-blasting type," she replied softly, sinking back down into the bed next to him, just focusing on keeping herself relaxed. She didn't really want to leave. 

He nodded slightly, sighing. "How's the rest of you feeling, other than what's hung over?"

"My back stings like hell, and," she pulled up her shirt slightly, and hissed at the black and blue patterning across her ribs that looked too much like hands, "My ribs are definitely bruised. But it shouldn't hurt too much when the medication kicks in." 

He nodded a little, turning his head to look at her. "I'm sorry," he said after a few moments. "That was a bad call on my part, letting you head out alone."

She pulled the shirt back down, shrugging slightly. "If you'd insisted on coming with me, I'd have tried to sleep with you. If you'd made me come home, I would have tried to sneak out and would have been drunk enough to fight you if you tried to stop me. There was no good scenario. It's not your fault." 

He nodded slightly. "I know. I know a no-win scenario when I see one. Just don't like them." Since when was he care-and-share? He made a slight face, pulling the blanket over his head. 

"No," she heaved a sigh, staring up at the ceiling and watching the dim light outside grow a little brighter. "I don't think a lot of people do." 

"Jim loves them," he muttered from beneath the blanket. "Thinks they're fucking invigorating."

"Jim's an adrenaline junkie to the max. Not damn surprising," she snorted, pulling up her big mass of blankets up to her chin. 

"Hmph," he agreed, rubbing at his eyes a little. "He gave me the day off today. Told me to 'get better, for him' or some shit. I think he might actually be discovering some semblance of a soul."

She broke into laughter at the part about a soul, completely taken aback. "Jesus Christ, if he hears you say that you'll be skinned. Honestly. Keep that to yourself. Fucking hell."  

"I'm well aware," he said, grinning under the blanket. "He can't hear me. I'll live."

She chuckled, running a hand through her tousled hair. Christ, she was a mess. "Feeling awfully rebellious on your day off, Moran, you ought to be careful. You never know when he might pop up, hmm?" 

"Touche," he agreed with a sigh. He flopped over to face her. "Dear god, it's like we're having a fucking sleepover," he groaned, though he was grinning slightly.

Lorna chuckled, turning her head to look at him. "All my co-ed sleepovers have involved a lot less talking than this, believe me. This is more like a small house party both the guests happened to fall asleep during." 

He nodded in slight agreement at that, emerging from under the blankets for some fresh air. 

She resisted the urge to fix his rumpled blond hair and looked back up at the ceiling, sighing. "This pull-out is surprisingly comfortable, I'll give it that." 

"Being paid by Jim has certain advantages. Our salaries aren't meager," he pointed out. 

"No. That's for damn sure. Although most of mine goes back into the job. Clothes, you know," she shrugged slightly. She had a lot of very expensive clothes for jobs. All of them were meant to make her even more eye-catching. 

"Mm... should file that under expenses," he pointed out. "Jim wouldn't care. He'd see the logic of it if he even paid attention to it."

She paused, considering. "I would, but then they'd count as company property, wouldn't they? And part of the satisfaction of owning that many attractive clothes is knowing that they're all mine. I'm very proud of my collection." 

He smirked. "Whatever you say. Though I'm the same way about my guns, so I suppose I can't really argue."

"Everyone has their hobbies," Lorna hummed, grunting softly as she pushed herself into sitting position, the blankets pooling at her waist. She raked her hair out of her eyes. "Hmph. I need a shower." 

He nodded. "You do. You smell like dive bar," he grunted in agreement. "Though that's not gonna feel pretty with your back. Maybe just sponge off or something."

She groaned. That sounded like a lot of trouble. "Fuck, you're right. I guess I should take a bath," she murmured, rubbing at her face with a long sigh. "I'll head back to my place, then."

He grunted his consent, rubbing at his eyes and sitting up as well with a sigh. "Maybe wait on that... They're going to want to see us both downstairs again. Up to you, but I'd rather relax in a bath after I've been poked and prodded."

She took a deep breath. That did not sound like fun. "Fuck. What are the odds of throwing a successful fit and getting out of that? Or getting them to wash me." 

"I'd say the latter is more likely than the former," he sighed, shifting out of bed, gritting his teeth slightly. "Feel like breakfast? Or the hangover still hitting?" 

Lorna gave a slight shrug. "I could eat. I might leave half of it on the plate, but I don't think I'll lose my cookies," she murmured, stalling getting up. She was afraid of ripping open any of her new stitches. Honestly, emotionally, she just felt... a little empty, this morning. "Thanks for giving me the day off." 

He shrugged. "You need it," he said simply, heading into the kitchen. "Bacon and eggs sound alright?"

"Yeah. Yeah, that sounds good," she nodded, pushing herself into standing with a pained grimace. She could really feel the marks on her back. She could even feel his shirt sticking to her back a little bit. "I may have gotten blood on your shirt. Sorry." 

"Wasn't an important one," he said, pulling out a pan and tossing it on the stove, pulling eggs out of the fridge. "I've seen enough injuries to know better than that."

She leaned against the counter, blowing out a long breath. She couldn't think of anything to say for a moment. She didn't know what to do with herself anymore. 

He cracked a few eggs into the skillet, before starting to hunt down the bacon. 

"Do you want help? I'm actually pretty good at breakfast foods," she said quietly, hoping to be of some use. She really didn't like feeling useless. Lazy was okay. 

"If you want to keep an eye on the eggs while I get the bacon and toast going, feel free," he nodded.

She nodded, stepping forward and rifling through a few drawers before she found a fork and then stood poised over the skillet. "This is weird." she stated after a minute "The last time I made breakfast with anyone was with my sister. I must have been, like, fourteen." 

He grabbed another pan, starting to lay out thick slices of bacon. "Not too strange. Just breakfast."

"Breakfast is sacred, don't you dare try to tell me otherwise," she quipped, immediately dropping back into her sarcastic self. It took a little effort. Less dropping and more picking it back up. 

"I wouldn't get far if I tried," he pointed out, putting bread into the toaster.

"As long as you know," she smiled slightly, turning back to prod at the eggs with the fork, pleased with their progress. After another long moment, she glanced back at him. "What are you planning on doing with your rare free day, besides being poked by a bunch of doctors?" 

He sighed, shrugging. "Usually I'd go out and shag someone, but given my state that's not exactly ideal. I did try and get Jim to postpone the date a little but he was less than inclined."

Lorna snorted softly, turning off the gas under the eggs and starting to look for his plates. "That doesn't surprise me at all. You know how he is more than I do. Did he say something about believing in yourself? If not I'm a little disappointed." 

He let out a bark of laughter. "Now you're the one that's got to be careful about what you say. You'd be as dead as I would."

"Oh, c'mon, you're telling me you didn't get one quip out of him? The quip master?" Lorna smirked, shoveling the eggs onto two plates. "Fuck, I am disappointed. I feel like I've lost a hero, you know?" 

"I don't know, it all blurs together after a while," he said, shrugging and adding bacon and toast to both. "You want juice? Yes? Good."

She rolled her eyes at his pushing for her hydration and simply picked up a piece of bacon with her bare fingers and scarfed it down. "I'm thinking I might get drunk again today. Don't worry, not in your place. Safely in my own bathroom."

"I'm thinking you might not," he returned easily, along with a tall glass of juice.

She made a noise of complaint, taking the glass with a sullen look. "You're going to keep me from drinking? What the hell am I going to do with my free time, then?"

He flopped down. "Wow, not even going to argue? That was easier than I thought." He broke into an egg, sopping up some of the yolk with a piece of toast. "Not from drinking, completely, but from going into liver failure, yes. Just cut back. It's not a terrible idea. You were out of control last night, and you know it."

Lorna sighed, staying where she was and eating standing up. "Like I could argue with you. And okay, yeah, last night was bad, but that was only because I was 'out on the town', or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Seriously, what the hell else am I going to do, knit?" 

"Practice your marksmanship, or your hand-to-hand, or take up painting, or read. I don't know. There are a million things you could be doing." 

Lorna made a bored sound, stuffing her mouth with toast. "I have distinct hobbies. But apparently, all those are bad for me."

He shrugged. "Look, I don't care if you drink. But you went past a line last night, and there are consequences for that sort of thing."

She sighed, finishing off her eggs and bacon and setting down the plate a little too hard. "Do you think Malcolm would be too fucked up if I messed around with him? Think of it as practicing for the job."

"Define 'messed around'," he said, taking a long sip of juice.

"Seeing if I'm good enough to charm a man into being interested when my looks are... debatable," she shrugged, casually taking a swig from her own glass. 

He shrugged. "Malcolm's pretty damn level. Have fun." He smirked just a bit. 

"As long as I'm not going to get him killed," she snorted, emptying her glass and turning to place it in the sink. Her goal was to get out of her system what had been driving her to every bar she'd visited last night, and since Moran wasn't a candidate anymore she'd just have to settle for Malcolm. 

"If you do it won't be my call, but either way I doubt it." He took another sip of his juice, taking his time. "You're welcome to sleep here again tonight if you like. If you're not occupied."

Lorna cleared her throat. "I probably won't be. Fresh stitches and the like. Anyway, after last night... Jumping into that would be stupid of me," she shook her head, brows drawn together. 

He shrugged. "Suit yourself. Either way." He stood to clear his dishes, starting to rinse them off. 

She stood around, increasingly unsure of what to do with herself besides wait until he dragged her to medical. What did she do with herself besides drink? She wasn't even sure. 

He noticed her shifting uncomfortably. "You going to medical in my tee shirt?" he asked, deciding to take mercy on her.

She pulled at it a little, frowning. "Well, it's dried to my back with blood, and I figure that if I take it off before I go I'm only going to rip something open. If I'm there they might be able to magically stop that from happening and-slash-or patch me up immediately. I'm probably going to pop back to mine to get on some shorts or something, though. Even if this thing fits me like a dress." 

"Trousers might be appreciated," he agreed, putting the dishes on the rack to dry.

"Yeah," she mumbled, then cocked her head towards the door, grateful for the opportunity to take a small break from navigating the minefield that was conversation with Moran. "I'm going to go grab some." 

"You do that," he agreed, drying his hands. "I'm going to clean up. Meet you in the hall in five."

She nodded consent and then spun on her heel to leave. The five minute breather would have to be enough. When he appeared in the hall five minutes later, she smiled like she hadn't considered stalling and pretending she hadn't washed any trousers.

He could see her discomfort as she left. It amused him, keeping her on confused toes, though he knew he couldn't push it too far. A few headgames were fine, but nothing scarring.

"You ready to go to hell?" She chirped sarcastically as he closed the door behind him. She was only half kidding. She was getting quite sick of visiting the infirmary. 

"We'll be going to hell quite a few more times before this is all through," he said, heading for the elevator in familiar routine. "You've bled enough to stick to your clothes. That's not exactly peak condition."

"I never said that I didn't need to go, I'm just extremely reluctant," she pointed out, wondering why the walk to the lift seemed so long when she was with him. "Like going to the doctor's to get vaccinated. You don't want to be stuck in the shoulder and injected with a cold, viscous liquid that aches and burns, but you also don't want to die of bacterial meningitis." 

He nodded, conceding the point. "At least you'll be more comfortable after they clean you up and get that shirt off."

"That's true," she murmured, stepping into the elevator. She realized vaguely that she hadn't brought a shirt to change into, and sighed. Too late. "I'm not really a fan of feeling my own crusted blood chafing against my back." 

"Somehow I doubt too many people are," he pointed out, rubbing at his eyes a little as the elevator dinged and he stepped out. 

She made an amused noise of agreement and stepped out after him, drumming her fingers against her thigh in a display of reluctance. 

"Come on, wimp, just get it over with," he muttered, rolling his eyes and walking down the hall towards the clinic. 

"I'm not a wimp," she stuck her tongue out at him a bit childishly, considering shouldering him and then realizing it would hurt the both of them. "I got through Mycroft's shit, yeah?" 

"Yeah," he conceded, sighing as he pushed into the clinic. 

She slipped through the closing door and sighed as it closed behind her, grimacing just a little as a nurse made his way over to them. "Mr. Moran. You can come right this way. Ms. Harrison, you can wait in there."  

The session was routine by now, but painful none the less. By the time he was released, he was aching and sore.

Lorna appeared a few minutes after him, having endured the process of detaching the shirt from her scabs with only mild swearing. Now she just felt like she'd been dragged behind a truck. "I can't believe they don't give you a lollipop when you're done."

"How about a drink?" he suggested tiredly. "A drink. Emphasis on 'a'."

"Yeah. Okay. I can compromise," she nodded, hurting too much to argue. Not that arguing with him was the best idea. She could think of worse ones, of course, but that wasn't the point. "Something strong, at least?" 

"Yeah, yeah, I've got 90 proof, let's go," he sighed, climbing into the elevator for what seemed the 100th time that weekend. 

She leaned gingerly against the inside of the lift as the doors closed, reaching to hit the right button with her foot, mostly just to see if she could. At least her flexibility wasn't ruined. 

He watched her do it. "This fucking sucks," he sighed finally. 

"What, the being physically wrecked part, or is something else bothering you?" she snorted, with a slight nod. She agreed. This did fucking suck. 

"The whole situation," he muttered, rubbing at his eyes tiredly.

"Sorry," she murmured, feeling a little guilty for that. He was practically having to babysit her, after all. 

He shook his head, sighing as the elevator jolted to a halt, straightening. "It's not your fault."

Lorna gave a slight shrug as she walked out of the elevator. That was debatable. "If you say so, Moran." 

"Good. Least you still take orders," he snorted, heading down the hall.

"If anything, I take them better now than I ever used to," she rolled her eyes, stuffing her hands into her pockets as they reached his door and standing to the side. No way she'd be able to open it. 

He scanned through. "You know, oddly enough, that's true."

Lorna followed him in, giving a light shrug. "Eh, it's not so odd. I was violently overpowered by more than one person this week. I'm a little cowed, I'll admit it."

He laughed as he walked into the apartment, heading for the kitchen. 

She lowered herself gingerly down onto the pullout, throwing the rumpled sheets back into a more orderly shape as she waited for him to reappear with the alcohol she'd promised. It might dull the worst of the pain, and drinking was always therapeutic.  

He came back in, sitting next to her and handing over a generous shot. "Here."

"Thanks," she breathed, knocking it all back immediately and shaking her head at the strength of it. He hadn't been lying. "Christ, that's strong. Not complaining, though." 

"Figured if we're only getting one drink it had better be a good one," he grunted.

"That's generous of you," she chuckled, leaning back to lay down carefully, resting the now-empty shot glass on her stomach with a slow sigh. "Remind me to get you liquor for Christmas." 

He grinned. "Sounds good. I'll get you the same."

She laughed. "If we get each other the same thing it's going to be so embarrassing. Ah, fuck.... Hey, did Jim say anything about any new jobs or whatnot? I mean, I thought it'd be nice to have some time off... but now that I have it I'm bored out of my goddamn mind." 

"We'll have something to do when he has it," he said, sighing. "Undoubtedly something to do with Holmes."

"Okay, I'm not sure I'm that bored," she grimaced, carefully stretching. He was right, before - she needed to make sure she didn't heal too tight. "I think he'll kill us next time. Well, he'll kill me, at least."

"Yes," he agreed softly. "So we won't give him the opportunity."

Lorna fell silent for a moment, staring up at the ceiling before looking back at him. It was... weird,seeing him hurt, off his game. She'd begun thinking he was infallible at some point. Stupid thing to think. Still, it almost depressed her that he turned out not to be. "I'll take a gun next time." 

He smirks. "I'll make sure you have one. You know how to shoot?"

"'Course I know how to shoot. Who do you think I am, huh? Being proficient in just knives is pretty fucking stupid," she huffed, setting down the shot glass next to him and then moving up the bed a bit so she could get under the covers. "Sorry, but I need to shed your ruined shirt. I think my own blood is scraping me." 

He waved her off. "Just lose it. You want another one?"

She shucked it off and made herself comfortable with the sheets pulled up to her chin, for the sake of maintaining normal conversation. "I don't need one until I get up, so don't bother yourself." 

"Don't need one when you get up, either," he smirked. 

She snorted, rolling her eyes. "You're funny, Moran. You ever going to use up those dares from that plane ride, or what? You can dare me to dust your flat if you want. I noticed some when I left today. I would have thought ex-military would be more obsessively clean than you." 

He smirked. "I've been busy. And I'm saving those dares for when I really need them."

"What the fuck are you really going to need, a late night shopping trip? Most of what you'd need from me you could just order me to do anyway," she pointed out, making sure that he could hear the doubt in her voice, since he wasn't going to see her eyeroll from the foot of the bed.

"I'll think of something," he said, smiling. "Too useful to waste." 

"Uh huh. God, I wish I'd gotten one on you. I really ought to learn how to win at poker, not just play it distractingly," she groaned, rolling onto her stomach and burying her face in one of the pillows, then reaching to flick away the sheet so her wrecked back could get some air. 

He laughed, shaking his head a little. "Maybe that's what you should do instead of getting drunk. Learn to play poker better." 

Lorna's chuckle was muffled for a moment until she turned her face to the side. "Yeah, I'll just waltz on down and play with some of the hitmen, they won't mind. I could probably learn how to cheat really well." 

"Probably. Be careful about betting with favors. They're less nice than I am," he grinned.

"I'll just find a particularly handsome bunch and let them know that if they push their luck I'll rip them a new one," she hummed, relaxing. It felt nice to not have anything pressing against her stitches. 

"I'm sure they won't doubt that," he nodded seriously, sighing. God, he wanted another drink. "The hell we have today off for, anyway? Thoughts?"

"Fuck, I wouldn't have it off if it weren't for you, so you tell me," Lorna snorted, giving a very small lift of her feet for a substitute shrug. "Maybe Jim has the same reason you gave me off." 

"Maybe," he admitted, nodding. "He was taking a 'rest day' yesterday... Said he'd cover my duties today. It was oddly generous. Makes me nervous."

"I don't think he's going to kill you, if that's what you're worried about. You fucked up, sure, but overall, from what I've been around for, your record is outstanding. Hell, if he was going to kill you, I think he'd at least have a replacement hovering around, you know? I don't know. Holmes has his live-in, doesn't he? Jim could think you're interesting," she shrugged a little, voice in a considering tone. "I'm a little biased, because I think you're interesting, but whatever." 

He let out a loud laugh. "Jim? Jim? Jim thinks people are dust specks," he muttered, shaking his head. "Not that I haven't swung that way, but Jim doesn't look twice."

"People are specks to him, yeah," she agreed, her voice level. Surprisingly so, considering she was unfoundedly jealous. "But you're not exactly people, Moran."

He shrugged. "I don't think you're right, but I suppose, agree to disagree."

"Well, if you can come up with a better idea, I'm all ears. I'm not sure it really matters, though. I think you'll find out why soon enough, one way or another, if it suits him," she muttered, closing her eyes and enjoying the slight draft through the apartment that floated across her back.

He nodded, considering. "What must it be like to shag him? I know he's shagged people. It must be fucking intense. Pun intended."

"I haven't a damn clue, I'll tell you that," she huffed, rolling back over and throwing back the sheets so she could get up. "I'm going to go take that soak. If you'd like to keep talking about boys you can sit in the shower."

He rolled his eyes, but actually got up. "Might as well keep company," he sighed. 

She was honestly surprised, so hid it with a small snicker as she led the way to the door. "I apologize in advance for the assault on your senses that my shampoo will be. It's really way too fruity but government officials like it, so."

"Oh, well, if it's for the government officials," he smirked, following her and wishing he had a drink in his hand to take the edge off the still-present ache of his body. 

She led him into her easier-to-enter apartment and headed for the bathroom, chuckling under her breath slightly. "I'm all about the job, Moran, you know that," she teased. 

"Aren't we all?" he muttered, making a seat for himself on the closed toilet, leaning back with a sigh and closing his eyes. 

She turned on the tap and sealed the drain, making sure the water coming out was hot before she sat on the edge of the tub and waited for it to fill up a little more. No need to sit around nude and awkward. "You should take vacations more often. Get the fuck out of here sometime." 

He shrugged. "I have the time saved up, but it's more trouble than it's worth, and if things go to hell when I'm gone, it's still on my head."

"That's as good an argument to stay as any, I suppose," Lorna murmured, reaching over to shut off the faucets at the tub reached optimal fullness. Standing, she slipped off her shorts and underwear and stepped into the water, slowly sinking in, hissing as the hot water touched her injuries.

He peeked an eye open at her hiss of pain, making sure she wasn't doing anything stupid, before letting it slip shut again. "Best one there is, anyway. Not that I don't like the work, but fuck if it isn't consuming."

"Oh, I know. I have the fortune-slash-misfortune of being bossed around by you all the time, I damn well know how high strung you get," she commented, relaxing into the near-scalding water with a slight sigh of relief. 

He smirked slightly. "You'd get high-strung, too, in my position. Already do, half the time."

"'Course I get high strung. You've seen first hand the kind of shit I have to deal with," she scoffed, leaning back her head to get her hair wet and then relaxing again. "What on earth do you suppose all that drinking is for?" 

"Yeah, well, I told you. I tolerate almost anything, until it starts getting out of control and endangering my people. Then it stops." He scratched at a bandage, trying to alleviate the itching of the scabs underneath.

"Don't itch. Knowing you, you'll rip yourself open through the bandages," she scolded carefully, making sure to keep any authority at all out of her voice. He was more likely to listen if he took it as a suggestion. "I don't know why you aren't soaking too. When's the last time you got clean, huh?"

He snorted. "Stop mothering, Harrison. Christ. I don't know, but the idea of stinging all over just doesn't sound pleasant."

"I don't mother. I do careless nurture," she retorted, flicking him with a few drops of water. "I'm serious, though. You get infected, who's going to take over your job? Me? Do you want that to happen?" 

"They wash me off every time they change the damn bandages," he snorted. "Besides, you'd do fine. I'd love to see you trying to deal with Jim. I'd bring popcorn from the afterlife."

Lorna made a frustrated noise, immediately shooting back with "Really? I still have to see you deal with Jim. You ought to be prepared if he's interested, Moran, because I don't think he'll be deterred." 

He laughed, shaking his head slightly. "Whatever you say. I still say it'll be interesting."

"Yeah, real interesting. Be a lot of me being very polite. Ultra obedient. Pulling out all the stops," she muttered, reaching for the shampoo by the edge of the tub and going about the process of lathering her hair up, a painful process. Her arms didn't exactly want to be lifted all the way above her head. Plus, the exceedingly fruity smell was a little bit much. 

He wrinkled his nose. "God, you weren't kidding, that stuff is rank," he muttered, pulling a face. 

Lorna made a noise of agreement. "I know. It settles a little bit nicer when it's just my hair and not a fucking room, but it's still... not what I would personally choose, I suppose." 

"I doubt it's what anyone would personally choose, at least not to put in their own hair." He sighed.

"Obviously somebody does, if the assholes who make this shit are still in business," she huffed, washing the obnoxious soap from her hair and immediately pulling the drain, trying to keep the stuff from seeping into her various wounds. That would hurt like hell. 

He nodded in agreement, looking over at her and admiring her body, at the same time assessing how her wounds were healing. "The paper reported on that bastard. They've got nothing, police are saying it was a bad drug deal."

"Which bastard are we talking about right now? I seem to have missed a bastard in our conversation," she quipped, highly aware of his eyes on her as she stood up and leaned for a towel hanging from the shower stall. "Are we talking about Holmes, now?" 

"No, the bastard from the bar. Sorry. Lots of bastards. Didn't want to be overly descriptive, just let you know the thing's over with." His eyes followed her as she stood, not leering, just observing. 

"Ah, that one," she cleared her throat, nearly dropping the towel as she tried very hard not to think about it, Sebastian forgotten for a moment. She didn't want to think about it at all. The sooner she forgot the entire experience, the better. 

He saw her discomfort. "Forget I mentioned it," he said calmly, standing and walking over to place a hand on an unmarred patch of skin. "So, did you get a picture of Holmes when you played pin-the-tail-on-the-ass with him?"

"No," she shook her head, tucking the towel around her chest, "I was a little busy at the moment. You looked like you were really done with that party," she added, very, very aware of his hand. It wasn't that she minded. That was just how she was with him. Touches from him were never mindless. 

He grinned, his hand dropping as he headed out of the bathroom to find something more comfortable to sit on than the toilet. "I was alright, you were my designated driver."

She let out a slow breath for following him, drawing her wet hair over her shoulder so it wouldn't drip all down her back. "Thank god. If you'd had to drive us home I would be suffering from whiplash." She wondered if she could sneak in a smoke. 

He laughed. "More likely you'd be suffering from dead-ness, what with how conscious I was," he shot back. He looked over at her curiously, before leaning his tall figure down over her to sniff curiously at her hair. He straightened, shrugging. "Not terrible once it's died down a bit. Still not fantastic."

"No, it's not. Before I switched to this I used a nice mint one. That one was enormously better. Doesn't exactly send off the same message, unfortunately. People who smell like mint aren't normally who'd you'd peg as the ones who play fast and loose," Lorna gave a small shrug, looking up at him thoughtfully. 

"Touche," he said, nodding a bit and meeting her gaze calmly. "So, now that you're mostly sober and staying that way for a while, what are your plans?"

"Staving off boredom with things equally as unhealthy. Smoking. Ice cream. Unrequited flirting. I don't know, I'll figure it out as I go. What are you going to do with your rare free time?" she raised an eyebrow, turning away from him to walk to her coffee table and to grab her pack of cigarettes. 

"Bum a light off of you and amuse myself by annoying you as much as possible," he said, walking over to grab a fag out of the pack.  

She rolled her eyes, tapping out one of her own and lighting up before handing off the lighter to him. "How are you possibly going to find a way to amuse yourself for more than ten minutes? I can get pretty zen, Moran." 

"And I can be pretty annoying," he returned with a toothy grin, lighting his own cigarette and tossing the lighter back to her. "Suppose we'll see."

She took a drag off the little white deathstick as she caught the lighter and returned it to its place on the coffee table, sinking down onto the couch and crossing her legs. "Well, if it makes you loosen up for once in your life, I can't complain. You're too wound up, Moran." 

"I'm wound up?" he asked with a lazy grin. "I'm the least wound up person I know."

She scoffed, giving him a truly incredulous look. "Really? You're wound up so tight that if I stuck a lump of coal up your ass I'd have a diamond in a week. I mean, excluding now - for once you actually look like you're enjoying yourself." 

He rolled his eyes. "I take pride in being calm and collected in pretty much every situation," he retorted with a smirk.

She had to laugh at that, taking in another drag off her cigarette and tapping ash into the little tray on the coffee table before she responded. "Yeah, well, I'll give you that. You know what you're doing all the time. It just makes me a little suspicious that you haven't done enough." 

"What's that intended to mean?" he shot back, not harshly, studying the ember at the end of his light.

"If you know what you're doing every second of every day, it sounds like you've experienced everything. But no one's done that and no one's ever going to," Lorna shrugged, a little relieved he hadn't fixed her with some sort of glare. "I'm saying you should probably get out more." 

He laughed. Shrugged. "I like what I do. I get out enough, just not when you're around, Harrison."

She smirked, almost reaching for a drink that wasn't there - that was a habit deeply ingrained in her, unfortunately for her health. "Oh yeah? Well, goodness me, I guess that means my point is moot then, huh?"

"Suppose it does, Harrison," he said, drawing slowly from the cigarette as he walked over to sit in a chair. 

She had a sudden curiosity about what his family must have been like; no one learned that kind of smooth sarcasm without a little genetic predisposition to help them along. Then she shook the thought from her head. What a stupid thing to think about. "Why'd they kick you out of the army, Moran?" she asked instead - a much safer, more work-related form of curiosity. 

He flashed white teeth under dark eyes. A grin, neither tight nor easy. "Not playing nice with others."

"Had a hunch it was something like that," she smirked, her free hand working some of the water out of her dripping hair and wiping it off on her towel. It was making her cold. 

He shrugged. "Wasn't an 'others' who I felt deserved nice playing. But I was slightly less discrete than I should have been. I've learned better."

She raised her eyebrows slightly. "Now I'm not sure if you beat up a fellow soldier or you ravaged one. How about you clear it up a little bit?" 

His grin widened. "Oh, you're simplifying things, I think. There was a list." He chuckled. 

"Christ, Moran, you must have been wild back in your prime," she snickered, purposely digging at him, just to see if she could get a reaction out of him. He did have a few years on her, but not enough that she meant it. 

"Mmm..." he smirked. "My prime, huh? I don't know about that. I've gotten much more inventive since then. Then things were really just about brute force, but now..."

"Brute force can get the job done, don't get me wrong, but I think finesse is probably a better route for you to take. What if your motor functions stop working as well and you start tripping over yourself, right?" she teased, sucking in a long drag on her cigarette that put her right down to the filter. She leaned forward to stub it out. 

He smirked, savoring his cigarette. "Don't age me out too quickly, there, Harrison. I'll retire and put you in charge."

"Don't worry, old man, the age jokes are a one time deal. You won't hear another peep about them tomorrow," she grinned, standing up. "I'm going to go put on some real clothes, if you don't mind." 

He waved her off, finishing off his cigarette and leaning over to stub it out. "Just don't push it, or I'll return to my previously discovered nicknames for you."

"If you weren't so curmudgeonly all the time I wouldn't be so tempted," she laughed over her shoulder, disappearing into her bedroom and chucking the towel behind her into the living room. 

"Curmudgeonly? Really?" he sighed, stretching. "That's a new one. Makes me sound almost nice, in an odd sort of way."

"You're letting me crash in bed with you because I'm too much of a wimp to get any decent sleep otherwise," she pointed out, returning wearing a tank top and shorts. 

"That's practicality," he snorted. "Don't go making me sound soft."

"I wouldn't dream of it," she chuckled, flopping back down onto her sofa. "Neither your personality nor your actual body has any suggestions of the sort. I think your reputation will remain intact." 

"It had better," he grumbled, though his smirk returned. He reached up to rub at his eyes. "Gods, I'm bored. I'll be happy when I can get back to work."

Lorna made an agreeing sort of sigh, putting her feet up on the back of the couch. "If you can think of something suitably healthy for our wrecked vessels, by all means, I'm willing. I thought I would enjoy having work off more than this." 

"Jim ordered me to take the day off," he muttered, annoyed. "Can't disobey that."

"Then come up with something else you like to do. Clean your guns. Work on your guns. Shoot your guns. You like guns, right?" 

He sighed disparagingly but glanced over at her. "Is your view of me really so simplistic? I'd be annoyed, but honestly, at the moment that sounds better than just staring at the wall." He stood.

"No, I just like pissing you off every once in a while," she shrugged, snorting a little. "Either way, its a better suggestion than trying to convince you to drink, fucking, and then a lot of regretting later. Honestly I'm considering getting out a little sewing kit to while away the time." 

He shrugged, heading for the door. "Useful skill to have. You coming over or staying here?"

She heaved herself to her feet with a mildly pained sound to follow him. "Yeah, I'm coming. Never hurts to freshen up on guns."

"Grab any you have, I'll see what you can do with them," he muttered, heading across the hall and scanning in. 

She turned on her heel to do just that, retrieving her three very well-taken-care-of handguns from their various hiding spots and crossing the hall to his apartment. For some reason she felt a little like she was being tested. 

He had opened his gun locker, pulling out a few pieces that could stand a going over, along with his tool box and some oil. He'd already laid out a layer of canvas on the table when she came in. "Grab a seat."

Lorna placed her handguns carefully on the table as she sank into the chair across from him, drumming her fingers on the covered tabletop. "I feel oddly self-conscious about what you think of my weapons, I'll confess." 

He glanced up, raising an eyebrow, and held out a hand, waiting for her to pass him one of the guns. He considered it for a while. "It's a good piece," he said after a bit. "You've taken good care of it. A lot smaller than I usually deal with, but you're a lot smaller than me, and are looking to conceal more than intimidate."

"Mm," she agreed, giving a nod, "If it comes down to using one of these there's no point in intimidation. It's just self-preservation at that point in time." And she had used them, when she'd been forced to, although she could take a fair amount of abuse before she even reached for one. She prided herself on the quality of her work. 

"I'm aware," he murmured, nodding. He flicked the safety on and off, felt the weight of it in his hand, before passing it back over to her. "It's nice."

 "Thanks. It would have been your replacement in Italy if you hadn't been sent to chaperone me," she hummed, setting it fondly back onto the table.

"Glad I can be replaced so easily. One less thing on my to-do list," he muttered with a grin, picking up a much larger handgun and starting to disassemble it for cleaning.

She snickered, starting to do the same with the gun he'd just given back to her, although much more slowly. She wasn't at the point where she trusted herself to not make mistakes. "If it makes you feel better that job sounds like it would have gone a lot more poorly without you spying on me." 

He smirked just slightly. "It certainly would have been more interesting for you," he retorted. 

She set apart cleaning her gun, chuckling a bit. "What were you doing, anyway? Did somebody try to interrupt or did I garner just a little too much attention?" She glanced up at him, curious. If she'd slipped up she wanted to know how to avoid it next time.

He shrugged. "Once or twice a servant or maid tried to check in, and I diverted them, but one of the kitchen staff ended up recognizing you. I think they worked for a previous mark of yours at some point. It's alright, though, they slipped and fell before they could tell anyone."

"Mm. Maybe I should steer clear of Italy for a few years," she murmured, frowning to herself for a moment and then returning to her weapons. "I could take over the France missions. I speak the language better than Rogers anyway."

He nodded. "That's true. I'll adjust assignments."

"Thanks. I'd like to go as long as possible without being shot," she snorted. Not that she thought it would be all that bad; she'd been through torture, hadn't she?

"Always a decent goal," he nodded, spreading oil over a few parts and starting to clean them carefully. 

Lorna made a bit of a face as she got oil on her hands, her natural distaste for doing any work whatsoever rearing its lazy head as she suddenly questioned why she was doing this. "I hope you're not one of those men who doesn't have any hand soap. I seem to have been repressing the memories of how messy this is." 

He looked up at her with a snort. "Oh, sorry, princess, you have to get your nails dirty."

"Damn straight I'm a princess. You ought to be nice to me or when I get my full queen status I'll have you killed," she shot back evenly, humming to herself. "Speaking of queenhood, have you given the thing with the boss any more thought?" 

He couldn't help but laugh at her transition. "And by 'thing with the boss' you mean...?"

She glanced up at him, raising her eyebrows. "Don't hedge. You know what I'm talking about." 

He shrugged. "Anything right now is just speculation," he said. "Who knows if he'll say or do anything, or not?"

"It's Jim, remember," she pointed out, reassembling her gun with a frown of concentration. "He always has something to say." 

He laughed. "Not regarding this sort of thing, he doesn't. If he decides he wants to do something about it, he will."

She smirked. "Good luck anyways, I suppose. For whatever outcome you find preferable. You can always find me hanging out with the ordinary folk like any person with a streak of self-preservation." 

"I like the challenge," he smirked, starting to assemble the gun again. "Living on the edge. It suits me."

"Oh, believe me, I know you do. Most of the people in this business have the good sense to walk around on the streets with their heads down and their hands on their guns. You, on the other hand," she fought down a laugh and shrugged her shoulders slightly, "walk around like you own the place and you want everyone to know it." 

"An accurate assessment if I've ever heard one," he smirked. "It pays to be the big dog."

"Literally," she snorted, looking pointedly at his gun. "That's not standard stock, is it? You spend your money dangerously. And not in the fiscal sense." 

His grin widened a bit as he positioned the gun back in its case, snapping it shut. "I like to be prepared."

Lorna chuckled, leaning back and folding her arms over her chest. "The day I catch you unprepared will be the day I can die happily. Probably from dying of laughter."

"Given that I could kill you unarmed and with my hands tied, I'm not sure you'd even get that far," he shot back, eyes glinting. 

"You're right, you're right - I can't live to tell the tale, can I?" she snorted, rolling her eyes playfully and pushing back her chair to rise to her feet. "You got coffee? If I can't have liquor I need a little caffeine to keep me going." 

"Go ahead. Coffee maker's on the counter, coffee's in the far left cabinet," he said, starting in on the second gun. 

"Thanks," she replied, heading into the kitchen as soon as he gave her permission. Some part of her that sounded a lot like her mother told her that she was going to get caffeine poisoning if she kept up this habit, while the rest of her ignored it and focused on more important matters. "Is it really safe to stay in London right now? Holmes has to be looking for us, doesn't he? And he's shown himself to be more than capable of illegally using security cameras that aren't his." 

"Not Jim's. Closed circuit, all hard-wired, with anti-tapping software and touch-sensor alarms on the whole circuit, swept daily. No one's getting in here." He lay the gun parts out on the table. 

"Not what I meant," she shook her head, despite the fact that he couldn't see her. "We have to leave this building eventually, believe it or not. If we don't leave with less than a full platoon of support I don't see how we won't be snatched off the street." 

"We won't be snatched off the street because we aren't morons," he snorted. "We'll be careful, and we won't leave until Jim has Holmes's balls in a vice, which shouldn't be too difficult."

She gave a sound of amusement at his language, then sighed. "Fuck, I hate being cooped up in here for more than a few days. I get restless and then I get sore because I use the gym equipment like a maniac. Don't let me exercise, no matter how much I ask."

"I'll do my level best," he returned with sarcastic 'sincerity'. He started to reassemble his gun with careful, practiced hands. 

She rolled her eyes, although she supposed that being surprised at Sebastian's sarcasm was, by now, a moot point. "Do you want a cup of coffee, Moran?"

"Wouldn't hate one," he nodded, finishing assembling the weapon and giving it a final polish before returning it to its case and wiping his hands off with a rag. 

She poured out two mugs and then returned to the table, setting one in the center of the table for him and nursing her own closer to her chest, relishing the heat. She let the conversation drop, just considering him for a moment over her steaming coffee.  

He reached out for the mug, taking a long sip of the hot drink with a sigh. 

"You're one of those people I can't imagine as a kid-" Lorna started, then cut off by the sound of the intercom chirping. A different ringtone from Jim's, but still startling. "Did you not tell anybody you were taking the day off?" 

"No," he said with an amused smirk, standing up and heading over to the intercom, coffee still in hand, punching the button. "Make it good."

Whoever was on the other side of the com made a sound of nervous hesitation, then went on, "Uh.. Well, we caught Harold Nichols sending out information to a third party, and you, um... you said to alert you a few weeks ago if anything like that came up.. he's in a holding cell. Just... wanted to let you know.." The voice trailed off and Lorna snickered into her hand.

He took his finger off the button for a moment, sighing, before returning it. "And I'm speaking to... who, right now?"

"Ah.. Um.. Clarkson, sir," the voice hedged, sounding as if they'd rather forgotten their name for a moment. Lorna swiftly exited into the kitchen, her shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter. 

"Oh, Terribly sorry I didn't recognize the sultry tones of your voice, Clarkson. I wanted to make sure I knew who was interrupting my day off. Tell me- have you by any chance gone about standard interrogation protocols before you took it upon yourself to so boldly elevate this particular issue?"

The person sputtered, a few awkward attempts at backpedaling stumbling out before they managed to put together anything coherent. "Oh- no, I thought - Well, that you wanted to handle it? Ah - Fuck - Sorry - I'll handle it, sir!" 

"I want you to handle it until it becomes apparent that there's an actual threat, Clarkson. Then, by all means, feel free to interrupt," he drawled, leaving the intercom and heading back towards the kitchen. 

Lorna was leaning over the sink shuddering with laughter, the evidence of a few black dots on the counter and her position suggesting that she'd almost spit out a mouthful of the stuff. "Fuck am I glad that's not me!" she laughed, looking over at him with pink cheeks. 

He laughed, too, taking a long sip of his coffee. "So I see." 

She wiped at her eyes, trying to calm herself down. "Ah, fuck. You'd scare the shit out of a dragon, Moran. Although that kid probably ranks a few tiers below that." 

"One or two," he agreed, amused. He was in a good mood, now. Terrifying someone properly was always a booster.

She finally recovered enough to chance a sip at her coffee, eyes still twinkling. "I wonder who's out sick that he's the one they sent to talk to you."

"He learned," he said, the neat graveyard of teeth flashing through his lips. "He won't make the mistake again. At least, he won't and live."

She smirked, setting down her mug on the table beside her. "Do you let everyone get off the hook so easily, or are you just in a good mood today in general?" 

"It was more of a 'too lazy to interrupt my day off to go kill someone at the moment' sort of thing," he sighed. "He got lucky. He won't again."

"That sounds about right. Luck only holds out so long," she agreed, brushing hair back from her face idly. "Well, at least killing people isn't exactly a detraction from the enjoyment of your job."

"You have a fair point," he agreed, topping off his coffee and heading back to the living room. 

She followed him after a quick moment to politely wipe up the small mess she'd made from her spluttering, feeling that if she was going to practically live there (practically: she had no illusions that the situation wasn't both temporary and likely unsuitable) she ought to at least clean up after herself. "Have I ever asked you what made you get into this business, or have I asked and you've just told me to stuff it?" 

"I think we've had the discussion," he said, flopping gingerly onto the couch, wary of his injuries. "Improper conduct in the military, got drop-kicked out, but had very specific interests and skill sets..." He sighed. 

"No, not what I meant," she shook her head, setting herself carefully on the arm of the sofa. "I meant what got fucked up in your early life that you ended up acting with poor manners in the military." 

He snorted. "You're kidding me. You want the tragic backstory?" he sneered, kicking his feet up on the end table. 

"Hell yeah," she grinned, playing it off as a joke, despite the fact that she was legitimately curious. "I love them. And I'm a spy, come on, I know when to keep my mouth shut. Most of the time." 

"Which one do you want? The one where I was orphaned and tortured cats, or the one where daddy beat me and mommy let me share her drinks?" he deadpanned.

"Dammit, there isn't a version where your rich daddy dies while you're in boarding school and your only friend is a french maid? I'm disappointed. I was really hoping for that one," she sighed dramatically, then sobered a little, her face becoming considering. "But you know you look like him, right? That one lord with your Irish-as-fuck last name?"

When he smiled, it was cool and empty. His face gave nothing away. "Now, that would be a story, wouldn't it?" His eyes might have been slightly tense, or it could have been the lighting.

She gave Moran an unabashed grin in return, pretending she wasn't absolutely sure she'd guessed his big, dirty secret in one go. She had her suspicions, and if he didn't outright confirm or deny, that was enough for her. "It really would. I don't suppose you're ever going to tell me about it, though." 

"No, but I might decide to field gut you anyway, just for kicks," he muttered, reaching out to grab a book from the end table. 

"What, is there a difference between that and meadow gutting? No, don't answer, I've decided I don't actually want to know," she smirked, settling back and basking in the sensation of feeling like her usual sarcastic self for a moment. God, she loved pestering him. 

"It's the difference between that and clinical gutting," he said casually, eyes on the book as he opened to a bookmarked page. "One involves rope, a tree, and a broad selection of knives, the other involves straps, a sterile table, and a broad selection of scalpels."

Despite the fact she knew he wasn't lying by any stretch of the imagination, she refused to take him seriously. "Kinky. The first one's not real sanitary, though. Bring hand sanitizer."

"If I want sanitary, I use the clinical version," he muttered. "Field gutting is much more entertaining in my opinion. Makes flaying much easier, and gravity helps with the guts, since the subject is vertical."

"Well, it's hard to argue with the benefits of gravity itself, isn't it?" Lorna snorted, equal parts amused and irritated that she wasn't successfully needling him at all. "I suppose my relative inexperience in playing the Most Dangerous Game leaves me mostly out of the gutting discussion to begin with." 

"We should work on that. Important skill to have. You need to know how to keep someone alive during the process, as well. What organs can and cannot be removed. All that." He turned the page. 

"I never said I wasn't well-versed in torture," she reminded him, eyeing his book with a good amount of doubt. He would never absorb his attention in something mundane with somebody else in his company, would he? That was actually a bit of a jab of what he thought of her abilities. She pushed the thought from her head. "I'm well practiced there, believe me." 

He glanced up, smiling. "I didn't say you weren't." He lowered the book. "First time you tortured someone, then, let's hear it."

"First time? Oh, Christ, it was an embarrassment," she huffed, even if she was mildly fond of the memory. Everyone liked an amusing first time tale, didn't they? "I was nineteen, and I didn't know better than to start with the teeth. 'Course, he wasn't real good at talking after I'd yanked out half his molars, was he? I think I picked a nice spot for it, though. In the bloke's very own sound-proofed basement, his family just upstairs." She grinned, remembering her own smug humor. 

He grinned, flashing his own teeth, and nodded in approval at the location choice. "Definitely a prime location. What were you trying to get out of him?"

"Oh, just where he was keeping a few hostages. He was a rival kingpin of a significantly more successful cartel than the one I was in," she shrugged, "He didn't do so well running the cartel when he kept accidentally spitting out his dentures." 

He grinned. "I would imagine that did put a damper on things, yes," he murmured, laughing.

Lorna snickered, remembering the bloody mess he'd turned into in front of her with fondness sprinkled by just a tad of squeamishness. "I did learn my lesson, though. Start with the extremities first. They don't need those to talk."  

"An important lesson to learn." He returned to his book. "Order is everything. We all have to learn it at some point."

"That's likely the most distinctively military thing I've ever heard come out of your mouth," she muttered, though not expecting him to acknowledge her. She wished, in fact, that she'd had the foresight to bring over some books from her own, separate, out-of-building apartment so she wouldn't be bored out of her mind now. 

He rolled his eyes. "It never really gets beat out of you, to be honest," he muttered. He glanced up at her. "You can watch telly or something if you like."

She made a noncommittal noise, shrugging slightly. "I don't watch it. I figure I'm mouthy enough without pop culture references under my belt too. I think I might take a nap. That will cut the time between me and my next drink by, what, three hours, hopefully?" 

He shrugged a bit. "Maybe," he agreed, returning to his book. 

Chapter Text

 

A month later, Lorna was sitting in the security room in HQ, feet on the table, coffee in hand, and eyes on the screen. Not the most boring job she'd ever detailed while her ass was seated safely in a second-rate office chair. The Boss hadn't been joking when he'd said the Adler woman would work fast; Christ, was she giving that woman a whipping, though. She chuckled tiredly into her coffee, setting it down after a moment and rubbing at the darkening circles under her eyes. She may have been all healed up after possibly the most nightmarish portion of her life ever (and thank god the scarring was so faint, although she had gotten a tattoo across her hip to cover up the worst of it; a crane), but that didn't mean staying up all night just to make sure the pictures were taken was good for her health. 

Seb walked in a few minutes later, taking the mostly-empty styrofoam cup out of her hands and replacing it with a large cup of good Ethiopian coffee from the place a few blocks over. He sat down next to her, kicking his feet up as well. "She seems to know what she's doing," he commented idly. 

She made a noise of pleased thanks and then lifted her shoulders noncommittally. "I haven't seen her make any mistakes, at least. I always wince when professionals don't know enough to avoid the kidneys," Lorna replied, stifling a yawn into the crook of her elbow. "Haven't seen the camera yet, though." 

"You won't," he says, watching the screen. "Think about it. If you wanted pictures in this situation, would you honestly carry the camera on you?"

She snorted softly, side-eyeing him. "That woman is in there paying to be whipped. Somehow, I doubt, for the first time. Whose to say she doesn't like it?" 

"She wouldn't risk it," Seb says. "Not if it's not agreed to beforehand. She might like being whipped, but she's not stupid. She's royalty, she wouldn't risk letting someone have that power."

"Royalty isn't required to be smart. But I'll concede that you're probably right," Lorna hummed, mostly because he'd gotten her coffee that wasn't the shit that came from the cafeteria downstairs.

He shrugs. "Who knows. I've just seen Adler work before, and I doubt she'll risk it."

"The up close and tight in the britches kind of seeing or the being cramped and tired in a smelly old office kind of seeing?" she smirked, purposely not looking at him. It was easier to pester him when she wasn't required to fend off his death stares. 

"Both, actually," he says with easy calmness, eyes still on the screen. "You'll probably get your shot at both as well, at some point."

"I certainly hope not. I spend enough of my time wearing uncomfortable clothes, I don't think putting on really tight britches is going to be a useful expenditure of my time," she quipped, then made a face. "I couldn't, anyway. Promised Malcolm no out-of-job promiscuity. I cannot remember for the life of me why." 

"You two still managing this whole 'steady' thing?" he asks with bored curiosity. "Gotta admit, didn't see that one working out."

She made a vague hand gesture and an even vaguer noise. "I don't know. I'm more sticking around until I don't feel like it anymore. I don't know his motivations, and I haven't asked because I'm worried he'll want to talk about it."

He snorts with laughter. "It's your own damned fault. I told you he was a sap."

Lorna groaned. "Yeah, I know. Ugh, I should have just kept sleeping with people who don't give a shit. This is why someone else should be in charge of my personal life. I'm not responsible enough to handle it on my own." 

"I wouldn't have complained," he laughed, reaching out to steal her cup of coffee and take a sip before standing, handing it back to her. "Right. I've got a meeting with the boss."

She rolled her eyes, swatting at him in defense of her caffeine. "You broke it off, remember? Good luck with the meeting, anyways."

"Whatever you say," he deadpanned. "Anything you want me to pass on?"

"Tell him the coffee in here is shit. Also, that I don't know what I did to be able to watch porn on the job," she snickered, then frowned. "Okay, not the first part."

"I'll do you a favor and edit out the second part as well." He rolled his eyes, heading out the door and for the elevator, scanning his hand and eye and heading upstairs. He stepped out and headed for the boss's office. 

Lorna laughed as he left, settling herself down for at the least another hour of being stuck in this room. 

 


 

 

Jim, on the other hand, was reading down a long list of statistical probabilities as Sebastian neared his office. It wasn't often he went out of his way to go ahead and have somebody hammer out the specific likelihoods, but on plans as long and as big as this one.... he needed to be prepared for every possibility. 

He knocked, entering just before he was told, as per usual. "That the statistical analysis?" he asked, eyeing the thick document.

Jim didn't answer for a moment, finishing absorbing a line of data and then allowing himself to look up. He was perhaps just a bit more unkempt than usual, and he knew it,  but if Moran wanted to risk commenting on it, that was his head. "Yes. Useful for narrowing down possibilities. A tad more dry than I like it."

"I'll remind the statisticians to add illustrations to the next draft, sir," he deadpanned, leaving it up in the air as to whether he was being serious or a smartass. He took a few steps forward and sat across from his employer. "But the results seemed promising."

He grunted, folding down the corner of his page to mark his place before pushing the hefty document behind a pile of building-up business proposals and out of his sight. "I'm not a superstitious man, but I'm still withholding judgment on that until I finish the whole thing," he huffed, running a hand over his hair in a last-ditch attempt to smooth it into submission. "Anything to report?"

"The Adler affair is going well. She seems to be handling things as well as we expected. Harrison's keeping an eye on her," he said coolly. "On another note, new studies suggest that sleep every few days and a meal or two during the time between are vital for sustaining human life." Definite sarcasm now. 

Jim snorted, fixing Sebastian with a dry look. "If you can find a way to download those statistics directly onto my brain while I'm asleep, I'd be happy to drop into a more normal schedule. Until you figure that out, however, I will have to continue with this one. Either way, I'm healthier than the majority of my employees. I'm happy with that, for the duration of this little project." 

He was relieved that there was minimal backlash for his comment. Jim seemed to be in a good mood. "I'm not sure who you're thinking of that's so unhealthy, sir, unless you're referring to Harrison and I, in which case I should remind you that we're both cleared for active duty as of Tuesday."

"I was actually thinking of the various failing hearts and livers I'm sure are in many of your futures, but I should remind you that you began working before you were cleared," he pointed out, leaning back in his chair with a squeak of leather. Not that he was angry - he appreciated the overtime. 

He shrugged. "This place doesn't run itself," he snorted. "And you've been occupied. Speaking of livers, how's that dry spell of yours going?"

"I hardly have time to drink a cup of something containing caffeine, let alone anything that's a depressant. It's going well," he smirked, even if he could still feel sleep nipping at his heels. Perhaps it was actually time to take a break. 

He nodded, considering Jim and the way his eyes were glazed slightly. He sighed. "Why'd you hire me, Boss?"

Jim blinked, focusing on Moran with surprise. If he'd been expecting the sniper to ask anything, that hadn't been the question he'd have thought it would be. "You have an excellent eye and a matching talent in guns. When it turned out you were as good at managing inferiors, it would have been a mistake to leave you open for employment from a rivaling network. And you're far more useful alive than dead." 

He waved the response off with a snort that was a bit risky, but he was annoyed. "Top of my job description, boss, what is it? If stuff goes to hell, what's my job?"

Jim's eyebrows lifted slightly, keeping a cool demeanor glued firmly to his face. "I fail to see what you're asking, Moran. You're a sniper. Am I wrong?" 

"That's my primary occupation, sir, yes. But the first thing in my official job description is to protect you, sir, at all costs. My request then, that I can best serve that duty, is that you not run yourself into the ground and force me to take action." His voice is back to calm and respectful. 

He was honestly speechless for a moment, only keeping himself from sputtering by clutching the last tired dregs of his dignity to him. "Are you threatening to make me go to sleep?"  

"No, sir," he says calmly. "I'm informing you that if I am required to take action in order to fulfill my contract- which you designed- I will."

Jim looked at him for a long moment, tapping a finger against the top of his desk. "...Fine. I take your point. I will retire in twenty-five minutes. Is that... satisfactory?" 

"Completely, sir," he said, nodding. "Might I suggest in that time period you allow me to make you a steak or something?" 

Jim sighed, reaching for the stat document again. "If you're determined to feed me before I sleep I suggest you whip up something quick. I won't be picky." 

"Yessir." He stood, straightening his jacket. "Anything else, sir?" 

"Wake me if there are any developments that need to be dealt with. Otherwise, no, there's nothing else," he murmured, rubbing at his eyes for a moment before leaning over the papers again. 

He nodded sharply, turning to exit the room. Once he did, he allowed himself a small smirk at the victory, before heading to the kitchen to start to prepare some food. Within fifteen minutes he'd prepared a stir fry with steak and a variety of vegetables which wasn't half bad, and headed back into the office, plate in hand, along with a large glass of water. "Here, sir," he said, placing it on the desk, raising an eyebrow. 

"I appreciate it, Moran," Jim muttered in thanks, dragging the bowl towards himself without lifting his eyes from the data, and began digging in. His stomach growled immediately. 

He allowed himself another smug smirk when his employer wasn't looking, before he sat down in the chair across from the desk again, intent on making sure that Jim actually went to sleep when promised.

He glanced up at his sniper as he cleared off the stir fry and reached for the glass of water, taking a sip before speaking; "You look like my nanny."

"I wasn't aware that you needed one, sir," he said. The 'but apparently you do' was left unsaid and obvious. 

"Harrison suggested I installed a trap door in here. I've never taken her seriously until this moment," he said ineffectually. He really couldn't work up the energy to get truly angry with Moran's sass. 

"Shall I put it on your to-do list, boss?" he deadpans. 

Jim groaned letting his head fall forward to rest on his closed fist. "Jesus and Mary and all the saints, Sebastian," he sighed, then slumped down the rest of the way and waved the back of his hand at Moran. "Get out. I'm going to sleep." 

"In a bed, not your chair," he risks, standing and saluting crisply. "Night boss." He headed out. 

Jim stayed where he was for a moment out of sheer stubbornness before he got up and moved, swearing, to the sofa. It wouldn't do to wake up cramped. 

 

Sebastian went back downstairs, pushing through the door to the monitor room, practically giddy. "I live," he crowed, flopping down in a chair next to Lorna.

She looked over her nearing-tepid coffee and raised her eyebrows, impressed. "Wow. Are you just high off the adrenaline or did you actually go and have fun?" 

He was buzzing. "I made him eat food and sent him to bed. And I lived." 

She accidentally inhaled a sip of coffee and spent a few seconds hacking it back out of her windpipe before squeaking "What? You sent him to bed? Holy fuck, you just got off a roller coaster that has a habit of eating people alive." 

He barely restrained a grin, adrenaline coursing. "I know. I know. But he was running himself into the ground and I told him it was my job to look out for him, and if he wasn't going to go sleep then I'd make him. And he fucking went."

"Holy shit. It's like I'm sitting in the presence of God. If you have something statistically unlikely to get done, now would be the time, because you're not going to get any bloody luckier than this for the rest of your life, I'll bet you anything," she chuckled, now at the point where she was just laughing at his giddiness. 

"Alternatively, it could go horribly wrong just to make up for the luck," he retorted, reaching up to rub at his eyes, chuckling. "Christ, I've worked this job too long."

"I'll agree with you there," she snorted, returning her eyes to the monitors. "When's the last time you took a proper vacation? 2000 B.C.E.?" 

"Just got off one, as you well know," he says, kicking his feet up and watching Adler fuck the living daylights out of her quarry with a rather impressive strap-on. "In this business, disability and vacation are synonymous." 

"Mm. I suppose there's some truth to that," she agreed, reaching for the flask of whiskey she'd tucked into her jacket and splashing some into her coffee before setting it on the desk where he could reach it. "Actually, speaking of which - Cohen down in hits is peddling coke to other employees. Not the fun kind, either. Well. The too-much-fun kind. I'd have a word with her, but..."

"But...?" he asked, reaching out for the flask. "You know the policy. No drugs. There isn't a warning system here. Get him taken downstairs and confined. I've got a few techniques I've been meaning to try out."

"Her," she corrected automatically, then shook her head. "That's not- I'm... Hm. I'm avoiding temptation."

"Her, right, sorry," he muttered. "Distracted. There's sort of live porn going on." He returned his attention to her. "Temptation to... Ah." He made the connection. "I'll deal with her," he said easily. "I think I've found a way to replicate what Holmes did to us."

"Live lesbian porn, though, I'll point out. Hard to mess the pronouns up. And thanks. And... gross?" she glanced over at him, scrunching up her nose. "If I never have to spend another minute a room with those creepy-ass beetles I'll be a happy woman." 

"Replicate. Not exactly the same. But suit yourself. I'm just looking forward to capturing the sniveling cunt at some point and giving him a bit of a tour."

"I'll be there for that one, don't think you can even try to stop me," Lorna growled into her now Ethiopian-Irish coffee, watching as the Adler woman brought out a gag that looked deliberately uncomfortable. "I still have nightmares about the sod." Ones that weren't held back by the presence of Malcolm, who she'd never thought of as particularly threatening, and therefore not particularly safe. 

"I wouldn't dream of trying to stop you," he said calmly. "I thought you'd shaken the nightmares."

She sighed. "Mm. No. They're not as bad as they used to be, in terror or frequency, but they haven't left. It doesn't interfere with my work, though, so you needn't worry about it. They'll clear out eventually, I'm sure." 

"I wasn't worried. Just curious." He raised an eyebrow as the whip reemerged. "She's got endurance, you've got to give her that."

She glanced at her wristwatch. "It's been an hour and a half since they started. I'm starting to be concerned about dehydration, to be completely honest."

"It is what she does for a living. Adler, at least. Though I'm pretty sure most royalty fucks off for a living, as well, just in a less literal sense." He took a swig of the whiskey from her flask. "Weren't you staying mostly dry?"

Lorna scoffed. "What? Me? Moran, the only reason I went mostly dry for like a week was because I was filled with little bitty insect burrows. I've been in a manageable state of inebriation for a week."

"Oh, silly me, and here I thought you had your liver in mind," he snorts. 

"It had its vacation," she shrugged, "Its sick leave is over." 

"Yeah, well, I bet you it's flying a white flag," he retorts, taking another pull off the flask and closing it up. 

She leaned over, taking it back and slipping it into her jacket again. "I'm a grifter, Moran. We don't plan long-term. No point, when my striking good looks could disappear any moment," she smirked, settling back into her seat. Hell, she didn't even want to try worrying about the long term. That's what a Boss was for.

"Yeah, right," he rolled his eyes, then nodded towards the screen. "Looks like they're finishing up."

Lorna followed his nod to the monitor, then let out a sigh of relief, immediately kicking back from the table and climbing to her feet. "Thank god. I have an hour before I have a date with Malcolm and I need sleep or I'm going to kill him. Unless you, I don't know, have a job for me?" She hummed half-hopefully, raising her eyebrows at him. 

"Want to get out of the date?" he asked, mildly curious, reaching to turn on the recorder just in case, before standing and stretching as well. 

"Yeah, a bit," she admitted, lifting her shoulders and letting them fall back down in a defeated gesture. "I lack the energy to lie without motivation from a job. Ugh, never grow a conscience." 

He considered her for a moment, then shook his head, smirking a bit. "I'm not your mercy squad. You're a grifter. Grow the guts to handle your own interpersonals."

She put her free hand on her hip, the other still holding on possessively to her coffee, and stuck her tongue out at him. "You're a very cruel man, Moran. You're going to be up shit creek without a paddle when you need a little compassion from me, just you wait and see," she tried saying disapprovingly, and failed when she only ended up smirking. Then she waved a hand at him, turning on her heel. "Sleep. I'm going to do that." 

"I could be less compassionate and offer to lie about some mission to Malcolm and fuck you into the wall. Our surveillance has me all ramped up. But I'll be nice, shall I?"

She narrowing avoided spilling her tepid coffee all down her front at that, stopping in the doorway and turning again to look at him. She didn't know whether to be shocked or pleased, so she settled for both. "That's really the only kind of compassion I could ask from you, isn't it?"

He shrugged. "Compassion's pointless if you don't get something out of it," he retorts, walking past her out the door and down the hall. 

She chucked the coffee into a very full bin by the door and then followed him, just a step behind. "I won't argue. But that's only because I'm sure you'd make me pay for it if I did." 

He smirks. "Good. You can be taught. Now go sleep."

"Aye aye, captain," she chuckled, taking the next left and heading for the elevator, more than a little excited to be able to sleep in her own bed. He watched her go, sighing, and headed for his apartment. Time to get some work done.  

 


 

 

The very first thing Lorna did when she woke up from her catnap was to check her phone for any messages from the Boss or Moran that told her she had an actual job waiting for her, as had become routine during the few weeks she had been confined to sobriety and had found herself lacking things to do. Nothing. A long email from a lower-level grifter who was asking for a bigger costume budget - which only showed a disappointing lack of creativity - and a text from Malcolm that she couldn't even force herself to open, because there was a 50% chance it would contain a heart emoticon. When that was settled she got up to grab a bottle of the brand of bourbon that Moran had seemed to taken a liking to and stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind her. Unless he was asleep that would be enough for him to know she was awake. 

He heard the door, and smirked slightly, looking at his door from where he was reading and counting down in his head. Five, four, three, two...

It took her a moment to resign herself to the fact that he simply did not possess the manners to get up and open the door without actual prompting, but she delayed her knock on the door by a few seconds just to see if she could throw him off anyway. 

He rolled his eyes. "Get off your high horse," he called, listening to the silence outside his door that told him she wasn't walking towards or away, just standing there. "I'm comfortable."

She snickered, opening the door and stepping inside, amused and very secretly pleased with herself. "Believe me, if I had a horse I wouldn't be hanging out with this crowd. I brought that bourbon I'm pretty sure you like. I might be completely making it up, though, so feel free to correct me." 

He glanced at the bottle, secretly impressed at her memory, though his expression remained unchanged as he nodded slightly. "Not a bad brand. Didn't you have a date?"

"I'm blowing it off for your half-offered 'compassion'," she shrugged, setting the bottle down with a thunk on the coffee table. "Unless you were joking, in which case I'll leave the bottle as a token of appeasement and trot right on out of here." 

He raised an eyebrow, considering the situation. He had been joking. But he hadn't gotten around to jacking off, and hell if the idea of actually landing some decent tail didn't sound appealing. Not that he'd missed Harrison's company, remotely, of course. But an infrequent line of bar-stool bimbos could only get you so far. He stood to go get glasses. "So, what's your mission that you're supposedly off on, then?"

She sank down into the couch, fighting back surprise, and shrugged. "Oh, I don't know. Something in Wales, maybe. Had to attend a blackmailed abbot's secret party. I do a lot of ridiculous things, coming up with an excuse will not be difficult." 

He returned, chucking a glass her direction. "This high school drama is becoming ridiculous," he pointed out, rolling his eyes. "He's becoming more of a mark than a boyfriend. All you ever do is lie to him to get what you want."

She caught it one-handed and leaned forward to uncap the bottle, chuckling. "Yeah, you're right. I'll break it off soon, don't you worry. I've gotten all I wanted from him, after all." 

"Remind me what that was again?" he snorts, flopping back onto the couch next to her and holding out his glass. 

"Free dinner, frequent sex, a few large-but-comfortable shirts," she hummed, filling his glass and then her own before setting the bottle down again. "I was hoping for emotional security, silly thing that I am, but alas, it was not to be." 

"You're a grifter," he guffawed, taking a sip of his drink. "Good luck with the emotional security thing. Not saying it's impossible, just... difficult."

"Ah, I know. No point in worrying about it right now. If it happens, it happens," she snorted, following suit and making a small dent in her bourbon. "Either way, I know better now. I just hope Malcolm doesn't sabotage any cars I need to take out." 

"If he knows what's good for him, he won't," he laughed. "A chauffeur who can keep his mouth shut is extremely expendable. A grifter is not. Anything happens to you, and I will enjoy testing out my new equipment on him."

She grinned. "You see, it's times like these I really appreciate my job status. In times of doubt I have to try and remember my job security." 

"That you do," he chuckled, taking another sip of bourbon. "How'd your nap go?"

"It was fantastic, thanks for asking. I'm still running on a very low tank, but I'll manage. How was that paperwork?" She didn't really know what he'd gone off to do while she was conked out in bed, but it was a safe bet it was something dull. 

He shrugged. "It wasn't bad. Mostly going over the boss's plan of attack for this whole Holmes business, getting details covered."

Lorna grimaced a bit, taking a swig from her drink. "I don't like the whole business. It sounds an awful lot like a war to me, and I've always been better with small, unconnected skirmishes."

"It isn't war," he said quietly, shaking his head a little and contemplating his glass. "It's a hunt. Captain Ahab looking for his White Whale."

"Except his Whale knows almost exactly where he is and how to fight back. Maybe it is a hunt. But I have a learned respect of that goddamned Whale," she muttered, frowning slightly. 

"So did Ishmael," he pointed out. "The 'goddamned Whale', as you put it, is Ahab's equal. The mad man versus the mad beast."

"Excuse me for my lack of knowledge about it, I never got to the end of it. Ironically, I dropped it in the sea while on a whale-watching trip." 

He snorted, setting his glass aside for the moment. "Please tell me you're joking."

"Nope," she shook her head, keeping a straight face, "I was fifteen and my mom decided to take me out for something educational. In preparation, I started reading it. Unfortunately, we hit some rough seas... Moby Dick went right overboard. I was quite upset at the time." 

He decided he wasn't going to respond to that, instead taking a long sip from his glass. "You gonna text Malcolm some excuse? And a reason why you haven't borrowed a car from him?"

She made a noncommittal noise. "I was thinking I'd text him in a few hours saying someone or another pulled me off the street and drove me straight to the airport. Something came up, blah blah blah. I think he's the kind of man who'd rather accept a weak lie than a harsh truth, don't you?"

He nodded, the barest hints of a smile turning the corner of his mouth. "Very true."

Lorna downed a good portion of her drink and then looked fondly down at the bottle. "Christ, I missed hard liquor. You can still keep the bottle, though. Merry Christmas." 

He snorted slightly but nodded his thanks, raising his glass her direction. "Appreciated." 

"You're perfectly welcome. It's the least ass-kissing I could do. Besides getting you a cat or something. You strike me as the type that's allergic, though."

"Not allergic, but I'm not sure how well a cat and I would get on," he smirked. "It might end up dead for sneaking up on me while I was sleeping."

"Good point. Maybe I'll just drop a tank full of live lobsters outside of your door on Christmas Eve," she grinned, finishing off her bourbon and leaning forward to set the glass down on the coffee table. "Unless you're partial to some other type of seafood." 

He laughed, tossing back the last of his own glass. "You are eager to suck up, aren't you?"

"Continued job security on my part," she chuckled, leaning back and making herself comfortable, "But it's still not really necessary. I'm painfully ahead of the other grifters. Painfully. Even if you wanted to kill me - I mean, assuming you don't - I'm a lot more useful than my ultimate successor." 

"A lot more full of yourself, too," he smirked, leaning forward to pour himself another half-round of bourbon. 

"I've earned it," she hummed, staring up at the ceiling to avoid looking too smugly at him. "And I'm pretty, I'm allowed to be full of myself. What else am I going to pour my time into, knitting?" 

He shrugged, sitting back. "You really should find a hobby. Even I have a few, though they remain job related." 

"I would take up one, if I didn't spend so much time on the job. Any job-related hobbies I have don't look like hobbies to anyone else, anyways," she snorted, lifting her head from its resting place on the back of the sofa to look at him. "What do you do that doesn't involve guns?" 

"People, in various forms of the word 'do'," he mutters into his glass, the smooth drink enticing. "Do, or do in, or a bit of both."

She grinned. Oh, that was just too good not to dig into. "Really? In what case did the 'do' and 'do in' happen in the same instance? Were you hammered or something?"

He raised an eyebrow. "I have to be hammered to want to have fun with my victims? It's a hobby, after all."

"Alright, I'll give you that," she smirked, shrugging lightly. "If I'd known that could be considered a hobby I'd have told you. My job is mostly my hobby, let's face it." 

"No, this is outside the realm of my assigned work," he retorts. "Like I said, I've almost perfected Holmes' work. This is experimentation on the side."

She just smirked at him, toeing off her shoes and drawing her feet up so she could sit more comfortably. "Moran, you just enjoy going extravagantly above and beyond the line of duty. And fulfilling your own needs, sexual or sadistic. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to have a manager who knows what he wants all the time. Means I don't always have to guess."

"Sounds like I've made things too easy," he deadpanned. "I'll need to work on that." He set his glass aside again, a little warm from the alcohol, but not much else.

"Hmmph. Easier, maybe. If it stems your making things difficult for me you should know that it's taken me this long to even get over checking you for weapons every time I see you. And it's because I know you always have them." 

He allowed his teeth to show in a broad grin. "Oh, but it's so amusing all the ones you miss when you do that."

She groaned. "And that is precisely the reason I stopped. I don't need to know how big of a threat you are to my life at all times; I know you could kill me fairly easily. Knowing how easily is just something I don't need, you know?" 

"How easily I could kill you has very little with how I'm armed," he points out. "It's just a matter of having more options. I wasn't aware you were so squeamish." Still the cold smile. 

"I didn't used to be," she huffed, "And then I met Squeamishness in the form of flesh-eating beetles. If you somehow have weapons worse than that on your person, they're something I don't have the desire to find out about." 

His smile dropped slightly. "No. I don't. Nor would I want to." He reached out and picked up the glass again, considering the thin layer of liquid in the bottom and tilting it back. 

"Then I can start checking you for weapons again, if you've truly missed me eyeing you up every day," she quipped, raising an eyebrow at him. 

"I don't know how I've gone this long without it," he returned, voice devoid of inflection. 

"Horribly, I imagine," she hummed, her voice perfectly pleasant.

He snorted. "Alright, if you think it's so important. What am I carrying at the moment?"

"An empty glass," she smiled, only barely stifling a laugh. 

He smirked slightly. "And that's the end of your thorough search, is it?"

Lorna broke into a full grin, lifting her hands and giving her fingers a wave. "If it's going to be thorough, it's going to be handsy, Moran." 

His expression didn't change, nor did his posture, leaned comfortably against the arm of the couch. "Do I appear to be objecting?"

"No, but appearances can be deceiving," she chuckled, leaning over anyway and kneeling beside him so she could start unbuttoning his shirt. She'd seen the knife in his pocket a while ago, mostly on accident, but she was fairly certain he had a small gun on under his shirt, and she wasn't going to get to it without getting the fabric out of the way. 

He raises an eyebrow, smirking just slightly, crossing his arms behind his head and letting her explore. "That's fucking gold, coming from a grifter."

Lorna laughed, finishing with the buttons on his shirt and reaching inside to tug pointedly at the gun holster with a muttered 'yep'. "On the contrary, when I walk into a party or a restaurant or a club with a tight dress on and an obvious lack of morals I suggest to people that they're going to get laid. I tend to follow through on that wordless promise. Just because I'm there for another reason doesn't mean my appearance is deceiving." 

He nodded as she located the gun holster. "I'm not sure that's a sound argument, but I'll give it to you because I'm feeling generous." 

"If that's the word you want to use for it, fine," she teased, leaning in for a better angle to stuff her hands into his trouser pockets, coming up with a knife and what looked like a small bottle of pepper spray. She set both on the coffee table instead of trying to hazard stuffing them back in. 

He grinned, letting out a quiet laugh. "You're more invasive in your frisks than the airports," he grinned, though he let a hand drop to push her hair back out of her face. 

She patted down his legs with a smirk, lifting one foot at a time to get down to his ankle before coming up with one last knife. "I'm aware you're capable of carrying a lot of weapons on you at a single time, unlike the airport agents. And I'm a lot more interested in getting into your pants." 

"Both excellent reasons to be more thorough," he agrees, smirking. The hand in her hair shifted and tightened a little, gaining a lightly held handful. 

"More thorough, huh?" She chuckled, bumping her head into his hand lightly and then reaching for his belt. "Well, if you insist.."

He grinned, fingers tightening a little in her hair, enough to establish a bit of control, his other hand coming forward to trace fingers over her hip. 

She would have started kissing a line down his bare and, frankly, tempting chest if not for the hand in her hair telling her that she was not going to be the one making any decisions here, and instead used the time to drop his belt on the floor and unbutton his trousers. "You want me somewhere, or do you plan on keeping my head hostage?" 

"I'm deciding," he said simply, his free hand sliding into the back of her trousers and getting a firm grip on her arse. He considered her for a moment, before pulling both hands forward in one smooth movement, overbalancing her and pulling her down against his chest as his teeth found the side of her neck, the hand in her hair pulling her head with firm control to the side. 

Against all odds she managed not to let a surprised squeak escape her as she was pulled into him, although couldn't stop the gasp that left her at the feeling of his teeth scraping across her skin. If there was anything she'd actively missed about the infrequent and few times she and Sebastian had fucked it was his willingness to be rough. And, since she was in no position to move to straddle his lap, she simply contented herself with rocking her arse back into his palm and dragging her nails down his abdomen until they dragged at the waistband of his pants. 

He sat up, bringing her with him, his teeth making marks in her neck before he released. The hand in her hair moved to grab her waist and he lifted her with both hands as if she weighed nothing, until she was more conveniently across his lap. Both hands moved then to the front of her shirt, and he held her gaze as he tore it easily down the center, eyes daring her to question. 

She only gave him a vaguely exasperated look, pushing at his own offending article of clothing down his shoulders and arms until it wouldn't go any further, then smirked. "Well? I'm certainly not going to rip your shirt off." 

"Good, I like it," he smirked, sitting forward to pull it off of his arms and toss it to the side. Then he returned to his previous task of making his mark on her neck, this time his teeth closing directly over her jugular as his hands found her hair again, tilting her head back until she was forced to arch her back a little to accommodate, shifting her off balance and putting her weight into his arms. Control. 

She gasped again as he got back to what was sure to leave a bite-shaped bruise while simultaneously putting her in a position that left her no leverage, her hands searching for purchase on the sofa before she was wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her fingers in his hair, a last ditch effort to hold onto some of the power. There really wasn't any point. She was perfectly fine with giving it up to him. 

He yanked his head against her grip in his hair with a mild snarl, his hands shifting from her hair to claw lines down her back as his mouth softened suddenly on her neck, shifting up towards her ear with scraping teeth and a hot tongue bent on exploring. His fingers found the clasp of her bra, undoing it deftly. 

She gave up holding onto him to shed her bra and shuck it off to the side, arching as close to him as she could, her skin singing under his touch. This position was severely frustrating to her; not only was she held over empty air at his mercy, she was completely unable to grind her hips against his and give back a little of what he was giving. 

He smirked at her frustration, and at the abandonment of her bra, his mouth seizing the opportunity presented by her arched back and exposed breasts, feathering down over her shoulder and collarbone, stubble scraping, until his lips closed over a flushed peak, tongue tracing circles. His hands found her shoulder blades, pulling her hips down against his for just a moment and grinding upwards before pulling away again, controlling their interaction, challenging her. 

"Fuck, Moran," she growled, half in complaint at his playing and half a plea for more, dammit, her cheeks flushed and back arched as close to him as she could manage in silent, wanton encouragement. Christ, it was hard enough wanting him without him keeping such a rigid control over the situation that she hadn't even gotten her teeth on him yet. 

He bit down on her nipple firmly enough to hurt a bit, though no further yet, and released, watching her lustfully as she shifted and squirmed, at his mercy. After a moment, he shifted backwards, pulling her up until her center of gravity was back over him and she had her balance again. He pressed his palms flat against her back, fingers spread wide, and slid them up and over her shoulders, down her arms to close around her wrists, but other than that he gave her freedom to move, eyes challenging. 

Determined not to waste a single second of her relative freedom, she ignored his grip on her wrists and the pleasant aches from his bites and stubble burn to close the few inches between them to kiss him with a rushed lack of finesse. There was no point in taking her time, not when he could stop her at any second.

He laughed against her mouth, but returned the kiss eagerly, tongue pushing its way into her mouth to scrape against hers, hands pushing her arms behind her back but not pushing her away, just enjoying the feeling of her slightly strained under his force. 

She let him dominate the kiss, even though it was tempting to bite down on his tongue and take back her hands for her own use. Still, she did roll her hips down into his with the express purpose of attempting to make him lose a little of his cool. 

He was already plenty hard, to the point where the confinements of his trousers was becoming uncomfortable, and that certainly didn't help. He let out something between a growl and a moan at the friction, pulling his tongue back and biting into her lip as a retort. 

It was her turn to laugh, pulling back from his lips completely to suck a mark into existence on his throat, beginning to undulate against him a slow rhythm. She would drive him crazy if it was the last thing she ever did. 

He took a sharp breath through his nose, but moved right along with her, one hand moving to hold both her wrists in place, the other trailing across her back and over her ribs until he could get a full, firm handful of one of her breasts, kneading firmly. 

She let out a pleased hum against Moran's neck, nipping at his collarbone before kissing and licking a trail up to the corner of his jaw and to bite at the shell of his ear. "D'you think you could give me my hands back?" 

"Depends on if you ask nicely enough," he retorts, tilting his head back slightly as she explored his neck. He gripped her wrists a little tighter. 

"Alright. Please?" she ventured, leaning back and smirking at him. On his lap, she just barely made it to eye level. "Unless you're going to bust out your handcuffs you can't do this forever." 

"Handcuffs... Not a bad idea." He smirked, but released her hands. 

"You can add it to the queue, if you feel like it," she chuckled, rolling the tension out of her shoulders briefly before she was kissing him again, hands skating down his sides. One she slid between them to squeeze him through the fabric of his trousers, the other dragging red lines back up his sides. If he didn't like it, she was sure he would let her know. 

He did, though, the pain of her nails in his skin invigorating and clear combined with the smoldering heat in his gut as she handled him. He slid a hand down the back of her trousers again, fingers curving forward to brush against her heat through her knickers in retaliation. He pulled back from her lips to take a breath. "We have a queue, now, Harrison?"

She was breathing a little bit harder now and fighting the urge to rock back into his hand, chasing any bit of friction he'd give her, but she still managed a cocky grin, leaning to one side and lifting her knee to reveal the patch of the sofa she'd torn the last time they'd gotten handsy with each other. "I think I remember you saying you were going to fuck me into a wall when this happened. I remember you saying that today, actually." 

He glared at her, then sighed. "Fine. There's an idea queue. Don't get cocky." But he grinned slightly, his fingers pushing aside the material of her panties to get to her actual skin. 

"Don't worry, I-" she cut herself off with an indecent moan as he pressed against her, rocking back into his hand needily. Some part of her cognitive functions that remained reminded her that her hand was in prime position to start tugging down his trousers, which was what she immediately started doing. 

He grinned, his middle finger circling her entrance a few times before he pulled his hand back, instead grabbing at the waist of her trousers and working to get rid of them as well. 

Lorna managed to yank his trousers half down by sheer force of will before she let out a grunt of frustration and got off him to kick off her own half across the room and waiting impatiently for him to do the same. "You're very good at looking smug, you know that?"

"It's what I do," he said, standing at his own pace and pulling his trousers off. They were both covered in matching sets of pale, barely-there scars, really only noticeable when you saw them all together, a network of shimmering, slightly-pinker lines of new skin over their body. He pulled his pants off, as well, tossing them aside and reaching out to push her knickers off with a smirk. 

She didn't answer him, too caught up in stepping out of her underwear while surreptitiously taking in the new scars. She knew what she looked like with them and had begrudgingly made peace with that, but it was slightly comforting to see someone else having them and still looking just as fine. If fine was a strong enough word. She stepped back into his space, running her fingers up his arms to rest her hands on his shoulders. "You're inconveniently tall, by the way."  

He raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps you're just inconveniently short." He shrugged. "Anyway. That's where the wall comes into play." He grinned, grabbing her waist and lifting her as he turned quickly to push her against the cool wall, held up so that her face was level with his. "See?"

"Mm. Very useful," she agreed with mock-seriousness, wrapping her legs around his waist to get better leverage and then breaking out into a laugh that mostly stemmed from the endorphins in her system, and shut herself up by kissing him again. 

He kissed her back, roughly now, his hands sliding down from her hips to grab her arse and give him a bit of leverage as well as he ground into her slowly, letting out a moan against her mouth, his teeth scraping her lips and tongue. 

She pressed her shoulders back into the wall so she could rub into him easier, biting into his lip to spur him on faster. She could feel heat uncurling up her spine, and it was distracting to the point of madness.

He grinned, tasting blood on his tongue as she split his lip. He could feel how hot she was against him, the desperation in the way she moved, and he lifted her away from him, pinning her hips and waiting for her to stop moving. He turned his head to bite- slowly, painfully, till he caught a taste of blood in return for the one she'd taken. Then he set her down for a moment. "Condom," he muttered, going into his bedroom and digging one out of the end table. 

"Okay," she breathed out once he was already gone, leaning back against the wall for support while she waited for him to get back, a hand absently coming up to check for blood on the bite he'd left and not being surprised when she found it. Yes, she would have to break up with Malcolm the next time she saw him. She was going to covered in marks by the time she and Moran were done. 

He returned, condom in place, and didn't pause, stalking across the room towards her and lifting her, slamming her none-too-gently against the wall as his hips pressed roughly against hers, bending to trace his tongue over the slowly bleeding mark on her neck. 

She nearly lost her wind as he slammed her into the wall, gasping for breath as she wound her arms around his neck and threaded her fingers into his hair, more for something to hold onto than any sort of vain bid for control. Hell, she didn't want control, she just wanted him to soothe the growing aching heat in her core. 

He lined up with her and waited for no permission, he could feel it vibrating through her body if he wanted it, anyway. He pushed into her with smooth force, a hand snaking up between her arms to find her throat and grab hold, pressing her head back against the wall as his hips rolled against hers for a moment, getting a feel for the angle. 

She moaned shamelessly as he finally filled her, digging her nails into his scalp without care - his grip on her throat had the effect of making her feel like it wouldn't be pushing any lines, after all. "Don't stop," she demanded, panting for breath and doing her damned best to move her hips in rhythm with his. 

"Is that an order?" he sneered, his fingers digging into the side of her neck a little. But he didn't stop, instead starting to increase the length and power of his thrusts. 

"You and I both know I can't order you t-to do anything-ah, fuck," she moaned, her sentence breaking up as he started to pick up the pace. The wall was starting to rub a little uncomfortably at the skin of her back now, but god it was worth it. 

"M-might be amusing.... if you tried..." he grunted, breath a bit short. Her movement against him was glorious, and he shifted his hips farther underneath hers, pushing her up the wall a bit and giving him a stronger angle of approach. 

She managed a breathless laugh. "I think it might lo- mmph -lose it's oomph with y-your hand around my neck," she panted, using her grip on his shoulders to help lift herself and drop hard down onto him, swearing triumphantly behind clenched teeth. 

"Fuck-" He let out a groan, losing himself in the sensations for a few moments, tilting his hips until he was dragging against her walls with each stroke. His thumb grazed the side of her jugular, back and forth, possessive. 

If she wasn't pinned to the wall she would have buried her face in the crook of his neck and held on for dear life, but as it was she had to gasp for breath with her head tilted back to the ceiling, and thus she was quite a bit noisier, high-pitched whines dispersed amongst her pants for air. She thought she was going to pass out, he felt so good, like she was filled to the damned brim. 

She was tight and fluid around him, grasping at him as he moved and reacting to him with strength. He could feel her pressing against his grip on her neck a little and it turned him on more than he was prepared for, the feel of her swallowing and breathing and whimpering under his palm, her legs cinched tight around his waist. Flames were licking their way up his spine and across his shoulders like wings, and he cried out slightly as he pressed his forehead to the wall next to her head. 

Lorna didn't think there'd ever been anything more satisfying in the world than hearing Sebastian Moran coming apart right beside her ear, even over the sounds of her heart pounding in her head and her own strangled cries. She could feel the pleasure boiling its way towards the tipping point, arching into him in a frantic, needy demand for more, for anything that would push her over the edge and stop her from burning alive. 

She pressed into him hungrily, and took him in that much deeper, making him cry out again, his teeth finding her shoulder and sinking in there for a moment as he reached down with his free hand to slip between them and find her clit. It wasn't an easy matter with them moving around so much, but he did manage to locate it, and started rubbing quickly with their movements. 

That was it. That was all she could take. The extra stimulation sent her sparking over the edge, her voice suddenly silent as she gasped and shuddered and clawed her nails across his shoulders and she held on as tightly to his waist with her thighs as she could, because if she let go now she was certain it would kill her.

She twisted around him, clamping down around him tightly and sending fantastic sensations through him as he continued to move, but he didn't last long past her. A few moments after she came he joined her, teeth digging into her shoulder as he muffled his cry, white light flashing behind his eyes. 

She found herself winded as she blinked black spots from her eyes, her pounding heart slowly beginning to quiet as they caught their breath. Absently, she ran her fingers over the faint raised lines she'd left with her nails. "M-Moran, I'm going to.. need my neck back," she breathed, stumbling over her words a bit sluggishly and not helped by the building ache in her windpipe. 

He nodded, releasing her neck quickly and finding her hips, pulling out of her and gently lowering her to the ground, still supporting a good portion of her weight as he let her get her feet. His eyes were still closed, forehead against the coolness of the wall. 

She slumped back against the wall, legs shaking beneath her, and just took a long moment to retrieve her breath. Contented exhaustion was beginning to settle in her limbs and chest, making her feel weighed down. Still, she remained where she was without moving, giving time for Moran to come down from the endorphin high on his own.

He gradually relaxed, grunting slightly as he stood, reaching up to rub at his face. "Feel fucked into a wall enough?" he asked with a touch of bleariness. 

"Yeah," she breathed, too well-fucked to bother with a snappy retort. She lifted a slightly unsteady hand to wipe at the drying blood on her neck, looking slightly inconvenienced about it more than anything else. "Think I want 'nother nap." 

"Yeah," he muttered, nodding in agreement and motioning for her to follow as he headed for his room. He disappeared into the bathroom to clean up, but returned a few moments later to flop onto the bed. 

She followed without questioning, crawling into bed next to him and immediately stopping herself from curling into him - a habit she'd gotten into with Malcolm that wouldn't fly here. Instead she just grabbed one of his pillows and burrowed into it, making a contented little sigh. 

He grabbed the blanket, pulling it up, and buried his head under a pillow. A few moments later, he was asleep. 

She followed immediately after, falling asleep without dreams for the first time in a week. 


 

He woke slowly, groggily, letting out a low grumble as he shifted in his bed, reaching out for his pillow, only to find a warm body next to him. His hand was on his knife from the bedside table before he had time to really process, but then it came back to him and he relaxed, setting the weapon aside.

Lorna woke up when the bed shifted sharply under her, coming to her senses in time to hear the blade Moran had grabbed being set on the nightstand. Soon after she registered that she cataloged the various aches and pains that her bedmate had left behind and rolled over, grunting as she stretched. "I think I have stubble burn on my chest," she mumbled, cracking her eyes open. 

"Am I supposed to apologize?" he asked, laying back and turning to look at her, grinning at the purpling bruises left behind by his teeth and hands. 

"No," she chuckled hoarsely, "I enjoyed it. Have to put some disinfectant on that bite mark, though. Are you sure this isn't why Boss calls you Tiger?" 

"I have no fucking clue why he calls me Tiger," he snorts, rolling his eyes. "Just picked it up one day. And I've never bit him, so that's not a valid reason."

She yawned, nodding, then sighed. "Mm. What time is it? I should text my cuckold and tell him not to plan for any more dates." 

He glanced at the clock. "Almost two in the morning," he grunts, amused.

She snorted, drawing the covers further up her torso in a clear display of her intentions of not moving. "Never mind. I'm comfortable anyway." 

He laughed. "What do you think he's thinking right now?" he snorts, staring at the ceiling. 

She chuckled, shrugging. "I don't know. I wonder if he'll try to confront a few men in the building when he sees my throat, really. I'm already bruising, it should be spectacular."

"I'll happily tell him who's responsible, if he really wants to know," he smirked. "I'd love to see his expression."

"Christ, if you really want to ruin your working relationship I won't stop you," she laughed, dragging her fingers through her mussed hair. 

He laughed out loud. "That won't ruin anything, if he knows what's good for him. And if he doesn't, like I said. Chauffeurs are incredibly replaceable." 

She grinned, stretching out and muffling another yawn into the crook of her arm. She felt like she needed a shower, but it was two in the morning and she was tired and comfortable. It would have to wait. "Well, then. Take a picture. That way if you really like the particular shade of purple he turns you can save it for later to paint your walls." 

He smiled. "Sometimes it's scary how well you understand me." The phrase surprised him, not one he would usually use. But it was 2 in the A fucking M, and he was tired and well fucked, and nothing was of consequence. 

She was too tired to do much more than chuckle. "I've carried your sorry ass out of a crazy torture dungeon, I think a small amount of familiarity is to be expected," she hummed, letting her eyes close, even though still awake to participate in any conversation. 

"True," he muttered. He sighed, relaxing a bit, mind spinning back towards sleep before he forced himself to wake up a bit. "C'mere..." he mumbled quietly, lifting an arm to offer her space next to him. "So I don' try t' kill you in my sleep."

"M'kay," she yawned, rolling over and sleepily cuddling up against him, too appreciative of his warmth and general safety factor to question any further. 

He tucked her against him, shifted once more, and then was asleep. 

She fell asleep the second he was still - which was about two seconds after he'd fallen asleep - and slept like a fucking baby. 

Chapter Text

 

He woke the next morning feeling more himself. He considered the woman tangled in his arms, and had a vague memory of telling her to go there so he wouldn't kill her when he woke up. Seemed like a good idea at the time, and still wasn't a terrible one. He smirked, bending to kiss the vibrant bruise on her neck.

Lorna was a deep sleeper up until the point people started moving around her, a groggy moan coming from her as she shifted, cracking her eyes open to blink blearily at the sniper. "Hi," she rasped.

The corner of his mouth twitched upwards. "Hi." He reached out a finger to trace the bruise over, then tracing her skin to another on her shoulder. 

She could feel the ache in the skin he touched without craning her neck to look. Guessed right about the spectacularity of her bruises, then. She let her eyes drift close again, content with just enjoying his touch for the moment. "You admiring your handiwork?" 

"Something like that," he agreed, the pad of his finger pressing down a little more firmly than strictly necessary against the center of one of the deeper bruises. 

She made a noise of mild complaint, opening her eyes again to squint at him. "Must you?" 

"Yes," he said, digging his finger in hard for a moment, before relenting and rolling onto his back. "What do you want for breakfast?"

"I'm not picky. Cereal is fine," she shrugged, in the middle of rubbing the sting out of her bruise. She didn't hold it against him. He was actually being kinda nice, which was a rarity. 

He nodded, making no effort to move for the moment. "How'd you sleep?" 

"Well. No dreams, that was nice," she replied. "I attribute it to your soothing deadly presence."  

"I'm taking that as a compliment." He stretched, knuckles brushing against the head of the bed. 

"Take how you like," she chuckled, sitting up and immediately groaning. Christ, she was sore all over. She collapsed sideways dramatically onto the bed, letting out a huff. "Bring me a wheelchair." 

"That bad, huh?" his eyes flashed with pride and amusement. 

She groaned. "It's like I worked out twice as long as I was supposed to or something. I think I may actually have troubled walking. Well done, you. I'll just... not walk anywhere, it's fine." 

"Keep in mind you're talking to a part-time sadist. Keep complaining and I'll order you out jogging." 

"'Part-time', right," she laughed. "Point taken, I'll hush up." 

He raised an eyebrow. "I have other interests as well, Harrison. I'm not so one-dimensional as you seem to believe."

She rolled onto her back again so she could actually look at him. "People can be multi-layered. You can still be full-time sadist and snuggle with a puppy. They're not mutually exclusive." 

He smirked, but didn't press the issue for the time being. "Of course." He yawned, stretched again, and sat up. He was a bit sore, but not terribly so. 

She got the feeling that that wasn't the last she was going to hear about that conversation, but she forgot about it for the moment, instead just smirking at the red scrapes she'd left behind on his shoulders, visible only when he was sitting up. 

He twisted side to side for a moment, loosening up a few tight back muscles, then climbed out of bed, heading for his dresser in search of pants. 

She watched him appreciatively for a few moments and then gathered her courage to get up, pushing herself out of bed with a mumbled swear and shuffling out into the living room for her own underwear. After she slipped those on and remembered that her shirt was in tattered ruins, she put on his. 

He headed out into the main room mostly dressed, and headed over to the kitchen. He grabbed a couple of bowls from the cabinet and set them on the counter. "Cereal's there," he said, pointing to a cabinet as he headed for the fridge to grab the milk. "Find whatever you want."

"Cool. Thanks," she nodded, swimming in his shirt from the night before to the point where she had to roll his sleeves up several times to make full use of her fingers once again. When she made her way over to the cabinet and picked a cereal, she chose the most childish one there and poured herself a full bowl. "What do you do with the stuff in your fridge when you go out of the country? You come back to spoiled milk a lot?"

He shrugged. "Depends on how long I'll be gone. If it's too long, I'll bring some of it down to the common kitchen so it doesn't get wasted." He smirked at her attire. "That's two of your shirts that I've ripped now. I have no guilt."

"Christ, I need to start destroying more of your things," she quipped, rifling through his drawers until she found a spoon. "Maybe I'll stick with my theme of upholstery. Better hope you don't ever decide to get rough in a car you like, hm?"

"I'll keep that in mind," he smirked, grabbing a box of Chex and pouring a large bowl. 

She hummed around a mouthful of off-brand Froot Loops before swallowing and letting her spoon rest on the edge of her bowl. "On a more serious note, do we have any further orders? We have insurance if someone higher up than Holmes tries to step in, but other than that...." 

He shook his head just slightly. "Magnussen's been primed, and the appropriate channels opened. It shouldn't be long before Holmes takes the bait. Then we'll be busy as all hell." 

"Well, you will be. The most I'll be doing is sitting back and watching the security feeds. Not much work for my type of job in this one, I don't believe," she frowned, then shrugged lightly and continued eating over the sink. 

He nodded slightly. "Who knows. You might be useful yet, don't worry. A lot of this is going to be fear-mongering, and we need information to do that."

"Mm. True. Who knows how often you'll need someone to convince a security guard to open a gate?" she snorted, a tiny bit disappointed. "I more meant this is not going to be fun. Team jobs are never fun. Surely you get annoyed with people wandering into your scope?" 

He laughed a bit. "Never thought about it like that. I could see that being annoying."

She smirked, pleased that she'd made him laugh when he wasn't drunk and not quite in his right mind. "Always glad to broaden horizons." 

He snorted slightly at that, grinning and shaking his head, before digging into his cereal. 

She finished off a good portion of her breakfast before she thought of anything pressing enough to warrant pausing for. "You know, you better hope that the Boss doesn't need me to do any last minute work this week, because it'd be difficult to swindle a man while wearing three scarves to hide your handiwork. And teeth-work." 

He nodded slightly, considering that. "He's going to know, either way. Probably as soon as he sees me." He pours himself another bowl of cereal, before letting out a growl of frustration. "I just don't understand his fucking problem."

"Fuck if I know," she snorted, setting her bowl in the sink since she was done. "But I can see it being a problem for him if I can't do my work right."

He glanced over at her, then sighed. "If we do this again, no marking," he conceded, before digging into his bowl of cereal again. 

"I never said you were safe," she joked, winking once and then snickering. Then she sighed, sobering. "I don't think it will be an issue. I hope it won't. I heal fast and it doesn't look like I'll be leaving the building for a while anyway."

He drained the milk from his bowl and tossed the empty dish into the sink. "I'd better go get cleaned up. Almost time to report in. Hopefully he'll be in a decent mood now he's slept." 

She nodded, taking that as her cue to go gather up her jeans and phone from the floor. "Good luck. I'll get the shirt back to you by tonight. No stealing, I promise."

"You'd better not," he agreed, heading for his room.

She tucked her stuff under her arm with a chuckle and then slipped out into the hall and disappeared back into her own room to get properly dressed and to shower off any dried blood. 

He shaved and dressed, shoulder holster in place, hair combed flat. He examined himself in the mirror for any obvious marks or anything beyond a crisp, military-grade appearance, before heading for the door and the elevator. Time to go find out what signs he'd missed for the boss to catch anyway.

 


 

 

Jim was stiff. Inconveniently so, and it was starting to get annoying enough that he was ready for any excuse to get the hell out of this office and to walk up and down a flight of stairs. That would be a grossly inefficient use of his time, however, so here he was stuck, choking down statistical analysis until it felt like his head was just going to pop off. He was bored. Magnussen may have been setting him up for a beautifully dramatic reveal, but god, he was fucking slow. 

He took a breath, straightened his jacket one more time, and knocked crisply. 

"Enter," he drawled, shoving the packet of data into his desk drawer with a vengeance. 

The tone did not sound promising. He cleared his face of expression and stepped inside. "Good morning, sir. Sleep well?"

"As well as one can on a sofa with less back support than a stale marshmallow," Jim said flatly, doing a cursory sweep of Moran and then looking back again, eyebrows lifting ever so slightly. The sniper was even stiffer than he normally was. "Started that up again, have you?"   

"I did suggest you sleep on a proper bed, sir," he returned, ignoring the latter comment. "Any new developments on Magnussen I should be aware of?"

"Pretending something's not happening won't make it go away, Sebastian," Jim sang, a chilly smile creeping onto his face. This was the kind of entertainment he'd been hoping for. "Let me guess - it was her idea, wasn't it? Oh, poor Malcolm." 

He stood tall, eyes calm. One way to deal with this that he could see. "If you're finished, sir, I think it might be best to focus on matters of actual importance."

Jim drummed his fingers against the wood of his desk, considering the sniper for a long minute. "Matters of actual importance are taking a small vacation for the moment while I wait for Magnussen to pick his old arse up and get fucking moving," he snapped, slamming his open palm against the desk, eyes flashing with frustration. "Do not bring it up again." 

He didn't flinch, simply nodded. "Sorry, boss. I wasn't aware that the situation was still stagnated. Any administrative tasks you'd like me to take care of? Or would you like me to find a way to speed things along?"

"You find a way to get that bastard to act and I'll keep the needling about your choking fetish to myself, Moran," he shook his head, pulling open his desk drawer with a bang and grabbing the packet again to drop it harshly on the desk. "I am done waiting." 

He grit his teeth, but walked forward at an even pace, picking up the packet and starting to flip through it slowly, eyes scanning. "He still hasn't alerted Morstan of his intent..." he said coolly. "Might I suggest the next step would be to do so ourselves, in his guise? He's intent on playing this game anonymously anyways. If there was two anonymous players, they'd never know the difference. We can force his hand, knock over the first domino."

He went still for a moment as he thought it through, picking out the most likely outcomes and contingency plans until he nodded, moving to turn on his computer. "That just might work. We'll have to keep it in Magnussen's style or later on this might take a bite out of our arses, but otherwise... " 

"Seems like we have a pretty good information as to his style. Shouldn't be difficult to fabricate. I have a few ideas which could work." He turned a few more pages. "In fact.... Guy Fawkes day is the middle of this week, sir. Lots of crowds and yelling, fire everywhere. It's the perfect time to run something subversive but out in the open. We'd blend right in."

"That's an excellent point... Well, I think Mr. Holmes has been too separated from his dear Dr. Watson, don't you agree?"

Moran flashed a smile. "What do you suggest, sir?"

"Well, it never hurts to have an extra effigy on hand, does it? I think we should see if we can make the good doctor flammable. That would make Sherly sweat."

His eyes became obsidian, smile wide and cruel. "I think that sounds like a perfect idea, sir."

"Good. Make it happen. And throw that damned packet in the can on your way out. It's too boring playing by the book," he snorted, returning his focus to the computer for the moment before glancing back. "I haven't forgotten about earlier, Tiger. You better have left her pretty." 

He tossed the packet away. "She's fine, sir," he said coolly. "A few marks, but those will fade by the end of the day."

He flicked his sleeves back and began typing an email to Magnussen's people with something along the lines of 'this is what's happening, now fucking keep up' as a message, not looking up towards Moran again. "Good. I'm not interested in paying for a plastic surgeon to keep her useful. Grifters are a bit like horses that way. They get too damaged, you just have to shoot them." 

If that was supposed to make him flinch or react, his employer was vastly underestimating him. "As always, sir, let me know if that needs to happen, but I assure you I won't be the cause of the problem."

"As long as we're clear. You know how I feel about my things," he muttered, sending off the email and leaning back with a satisfied air. "Magnussen should know soon."

He nodded. "Good to know. And I do know, sir." He hesitated, then turned around to face his employer. "When was the last time I caused you or this organization harm, sir? Through action or inaction?"

"You haven't," Jim replied coolly, "But that doesn't mean you won't. We are both, unfortunately, human. Even I've been known to trip." 

"And should I fail you, I look forward to your vengeful wrath. But your life would be made easier, sir, if you were able to trust me just a tad bit more than you do now. Simply a suggestion for efficiency's sake, sir." His tone was nothing but respectful, gaze level. 

"The day I trust anyone will be the day Lucifer comes to collect his due, Tiger. I'm Irish-Catholic. They may have failed to teach me guilt, but they taught me reservation," he smirked, lacing his fingers behind his head. 

He nodded, and saluted casually. "Of course, sir. My mistake." He turned to go. 

"See you later, Sebastian," he chuckled, settling into his chair. That had been just the sort of pick-up he'd needed.

He closed the door behind him, a mix of emotions. Part of him was pleased he'd managed to find a way to cheer the boss up, the other was frustrated by his employer's total lack of faith in him. A commander who didn't trust his soldiers got shot. By the enemy, if they were lucky. He headed downstairs. 

 


 

Harrison found Sebastian a few hours later, her phone in hand and a frown on her face. "Uh.. Johnson has a delivery for you. It sounds an awful lot like that John Watson bloke, though."

"Good, he's early," Sebastian said with a smile. "The boss'll be thrilled. C'mon, Harrison. Where are they, garage?"

"Uh, yeah," she nodded, still confused as to why they had Watson trussed up downstairs. "I think they're taking him to one of the basement rooms, though. Why do we have him, again?" 

"Moriarty got bored, we're forcing Magnussen's hand," he said crisply, punching the 'down' button to call the elevator and pulling out his phone to call the boss. "We've got him, sir."

"Excellent," she heard Jim declare through Moran's phone, "You'll need to prep him in a couple hours. Too light to take him out yet. Do what you will with him until then, just don't leave too many marks." She raised her eyebrows at the laughter that came over the phone next. 

He grit his teeth, but his expression didn't change. "I was hoping you'd join us, sir. We could blindfold him, as long as you don't speak you wouldn't be revealing your hand. Or do, if you like."

There was silence for a moment. "I have to finish something up, but I'll pop down in a little while. Feel free to start without me. I'd love to see what you're going to cook up." 

"Of course, sir. Just let me know when you'd like to come in, and we'll make the appropriate arrangements." He hung up, stepping into the elevator as it opened. He glanced over at her and sighed at the bite mark peeking out under her collar. "He's going to get a kick out of that."

She tugged up at her collar with a grimace, leaning against the wall of the lift. Attracting Jim's humor sounded extremely uncomfortable, and she wasn't looking forward to it. "I tried wearing a scarf earlier, but it was hot, and it kept getting in my way..." 

"He would have been amused anyway. You heard the marks comment. He feels I have a fetish." His face was expressionless. He stepped out as soon as the elevator stopped moving. 

"Ugh, that still doesn't mean I want him to laugh at me. He scares the shit out of me," she huffed, following him out and tucking her phone into her pocket. 

"As well he should," he said, nodding and walking down the nondescript hallways of the basement. 

She nodded, kicking a discarded can out of the way. The janitors must have been slacking off. "What are we doing with Watson, anyway?"

"Passing the time," he said with a smooth smile, "Which is personally one of my favorite things to do with these people. We're disorienting him, scaring the hell out of him, maybe getting a little information, but generally just breaking him as much as possible, to make him as much of a vegetable as we can, temporarily. Vegetables are neutral parties in hostage situations."

"Sounds like a lot of fun," she grinned, "You just do what you need to and I'll follow along. This isn't my kind of gig."

"In that you don't know how, or you can't stomach it?" he asked as they approached the appropriate door. He stopped to look at her, waiting for her to answer before they went in. 

She put an indignant hand on her hip. "I told you what I did to that man in his own basement. I know how, and I can stomach it. This just isn't my work these days. I don't know exactly what you want me to do. And unless you're going to list it all out for me here I have to follow your example, don't I?" 

He raised an eyebrow. "Tone, Harrison. I can't remember every little detail about your personal life." He allowed a hint of a smirk to take the bite off the words, and then headed in. Johnson and two of his nameless goons stood waiting in the well lit room. Each of the walls had seamless storage worked in, containing a plethora of instruments easily at hand, though many more were available in adjoining storage. In the center of the room was a sturdy metal chair that could be moved into a variety of creative positions, and strapped to the chair, blindfolded and gagged, was Dr. John Hamish Watson. 

Lorna closed the door behind her and then stood to the side of it, mirroring the blokes with Johnson. She was one of them until Moran said anything to the contrary. Johnson put away his phone after a long second of ignoring the two of them, then looked up. "You want me to take my boys with me or do you want the muscle? I got somethin' waiting for me down the hall." 

"Take them," Moran said coolly. "The boss wants to handle this one personally." He hadn't missed the blatant attempt at commanding the room, and wouldn't forget it, either.  

Johnson gave a disinterested nod down at his phone and then waved a finger at his goons to lead the way out of the room before following, the door opening and shutting with a faint click. Lorna stifled a snort of amusement. That wouldn't end well for Johnson. 

Moran raised an eyebrow, glancing over at Lorna with a bit of a smirk. Then he turned his focus to the man in the middle of the room and walked over, pulling off the blindfold. He waited until the man's eyes focused, slowed by the drugs in his system. "Welcome to consciousness, Captain. Do you know who I am?"

John blinked, trying to clear his vision and adjust to the brightness of the room, and it took him a second to sluggishly muddle through the words spoken by the man in front of him. When he did get there, he shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut. "No.. no. Where.. am I?"  

"You're in the custody of the Taliban," he said firmly, softening his accent and altering it with some Middle Eastern tones, but not dropping it completely. "Can you tell me your name and rank?"

"I... no, I don't want to," John shook his head, his words almost incoherent. "Lemme go." 

"Name and rank," Moran repeated, and it was absolutely an order from a superior officer. His eyes drilled into John's face, expression calm but icy. 

His head drooped, shoulders slumping forward, but he responded, "Captain John Watson. Field Doctor." Lorna watched from the side with curiosity and made a mental note about the impressiveness of Sebastian pulling rank.  

"What's the last thing that you remember, Captain?" he asked, not acknowledging the cooperation with anything but a hint of approval in his voice. 

"I was.. I was outside the flat. Looking for.. my friend," he muttered, frowning to himself as he tried to bring the memory into clearer detail. "Some bloke just... bumped into me." 

"Wrong. You've been deployed in Afghanistan for the past seven months," he said without a shadow of doubt in his voice. "Try to remember. You reacted badly to a drug cocktail and it's confusing you."

"I don't... think that's right..." he shook his head slowly, beginning to look around the room blearily before his eyes got stuck on Harrison. "This is the Taliban?" 

He nodded, expression not faltering. "That's correct." He turned, pretending to follow Watson's gaze, and his attention immediately switched to Harrison, trusting to play along. "What the fuck are you doing without that fucking thing?" He almost shouted as he immediately invaded her space angrily. "Do you want them to shoot you? Fucking hell, I don't care if it's fucking uncomfortable-"

She backed into the wall in half-faked alarm, catching onto his meaning a moment later and yanking her scarf from earlier out of her jacket pocket. "It kept falling off, they know to knock, I'll be fine," she insisted shakily, pushing the scarf into his hands with the air of someone trying to get rid of something that had clung to them all day. Watson watched with wide eyes from the side, looking a bit more convinced of their charade. 

He shoved it back at her, expression livid, voice shaking slightly with forced control. "Put. It. On. And if you take it off again, I'll fucking shoot you myself." He turned away, made a show of getting control of himself again, and when he returned his attention to Watson, his gaze was cool and clear. "Now. It's my job to ensure that you've returned to health after your episode. You were in a coma for almost two weeks. "

Watson shook his head vaguely at Moran while Lorna stifled a swear and struggled to put on the scarf with any degree of accuracy. "I'm... why? Why am I here?" 

"You're being interrogated," he said matter-of-factly. "As you have been since you were injured and captured."

John pulled belatedly at his confinements to the chair, now looking troubled but still quite out of it. "No... no, let me go."

He walked towards the wall, sliding a drawer out on silent rollers and removing a syringe, examining a few bottles. "You were found by the Taliban, badly injured, bullet in the shoulder. You almost died. You've been nursed back to health. So far interrogation has been mild, but you've been under the influence of drugs to keep you alive." He walked back over, syringe in hand, tourniquet in the other. He tied the latter around John's lower arm, waiting for veins. "Now, Captain. What's the last thing you remember?" he repeated.

The doctor made a noise of protest at the tourniquet and then shook his head again, squeezing his eyes shut. "I... no, no, that's not... Mary."

"Who's Mary?" he asked, his voice never raising above a certain pitch, almost hypnotic. He tapped the syringe a few times to clear any air bubbles.

"My... my wife?" John frowned, a veil of confusion settling over his face. "She... this isn't right."

"You don't have a wife, Captain. You've been experiencing hallucinations. This is reality. Pain is reality." He pushed the syringe into Watson's arm, introducing capsaicin to his system. "You should begin to experience an intense burning sensation. Hopefully that will help wake you up, help you remember." He reached out to grab John's neck and jaw firmly but gently, as if to guide him to meet his gaze, fingers carefully placing a mild hallucinogenic patch on the back of the man's neck, enough to keep him a bit foggy. "Now. Tell me Captain, because I'm concerned for you. What is the last thing you remember? Do you remember being shot?" His free hand moved to find the scarred shoulder, thumb moving to press against the center of the old wound just slightly. 

John stumbled over his words a couple of times before he managed to get out anything that made sense, squinting as the burning spreading up his arm. "Yes. Yes, I remember," he mumbled, trying to roll his shoulder out of Moran's grip. "But it's... it's healed, isn't it?"

"It's getting there," he said, nodding, frowning slightly at the stumbled words and hoping that he hadn't overdone the hallucinogens. "Do you remember when the Taliban found you?" He watched as John struggled to answer, and straightened. "I'll leave you to think." He turned for the door, motioning for Lorna to exit with him. 

Lorna slipped out after Moran, leaving Watson to stew in his drugs. She closed the door behind her as she left, then raised her eyebrows at the sniper expectantly.

"Right. I need anyone who speaks Pashto, down here now. I know Granger does, get at least one more, preferably two. They don't have to know a lot, but they have to be able to speak it convincingly," he said immediately. "Get them to wardrobe, I want close attire matches to videos of the Taliban from the time that Watson was in Afghanistan." 

She nodded, already running through people in her head as he finished speaking. "Okay. I'll have them to you in fifteen, thirty minutes top. Do you want them convincingly armed, too?"

"Yes, of course. Everything. Give them ranks, names, I want to sell this. And have someone fix the scarf," he added as an afterthought, observing her hasty attempts to cover her head. Then he hit the speed dial on his phone for the boss. "Hello, sir... I think I've engineered a way for you to enter the playing field and have a little fun."

"If I really need to stand around uselessly, fine," she muttered under her breath, whipping the scarf off her hair and slinging it over her shoulder as she turned to walk away.

On the other line, Jim was grinning. "Nice work, Moran. I'll be down shortly."

"One thing, sir," he said, ignoring Lorna for the time being. "Is Pashto on the list of languages you speak, by any chance?"

"Of course," Jim chuckled, "Do you think I make deals with the Taliban in English? Oohh, is that the little charade you've been putting on for Johnny-boy?"

"Yessir," he said, smiling. "We're working to convince him that he's in Taliban captivity. We've got almost thirty-six hours... I figure if we convince him that Holmes is a fiction, he might be willing to tell us more about him. I'm not sure. Either way, I'm enjoying what this is going to do to him."

"I've always found psychological to be my favorite. Much longer-lasting consequences than anything you can do to a person physically," Jim hummed, "See if you can wrangle a little information about Miss Morstan while you're at it."

"Of course, sir. I'm having some Pashto speakers put into costume to sell things, and we'll go from there. Any questions before I go back in?" 

"Hm. Go ahead and ask about what sort of state Sherly was when they last met. I wonder if there's a weakness to be exploited there."

"I'll do what I can, sir," he said, nodding. "Is that all for now?"

"For now. I have yet to think of anything else that I don't already know," he sighed, and abruptly hung up.

He didn't blink, just tucked the phone away and straightened his suit. A moment later, he opened the door to the holding cell, reentering the game. 

Chapter Text

John was sitting rigid in his chair, gripping the metal arms with white knuckles. The man hadn't been lying; the burning seething just under his skin sure was keeping him awake, although the walls kept dripping away in front of him. He was fairly sure that wasn't normal. Moran considered John's grip on the chair, and hid a smile, walking over. "How are you feeling, Captain?" he asked, the question sterile, unconcerned, but not hostile. "Are you beginning to remember?"

"I- I remember being shot. That's not... not an issue. I just remember.. afterwards?" John frowned, gritting his teeth slightly as the burn started crawling up his neck.

"Do you? I'd be surprised, you were often heavily sedated," he said calmly. "Do you remember the Taliban finding you? Do you remember being here?" He walked forward, eyes on the soldier. "You dreamed a lot while you were under. We believe you constructed an artificial reality."

"No, it... it had to have been real," John resisted, struggling to get a clear hold on his memories, but each time he managed to get close to one it wriggled away again, leaving only faded hints as to what it had been. "I... what's the date?"

"October 4th, 2010," he returned without hesitation, recalling the year Watson had returned from Afghanistan easily. That had been the year things had gotten interesting with Holmes. "I can understand your confusion. Dreams while under sedation can seem incredibly realistic, especially since your mind incorporates elements from your actual surroundings into the dream."

John shook his head again stubbornly. He wanted it to be real. It had to be. But for Christ's sake, he couldn't make it come to him. But this simply couldn't be right. He blinked as the woman from earlier entered again, this time accompanied with two men garbed head to toe in the clothes he'd seen on enough enemies to recognize in his bloody sleep.

Moran turned to see those who entered, and spoke in quick Pashto, glad he'd picked the basics of the language up, at the very least. "Sirs. I'm still working with him. I can't guarantee his clarity, he's still unsure of his reality. But you're welcome to interrogate him. I can interpret."

Harrison made herself comfortable in the corner while Moran continued playing his game. She'd pulled Granger out of cleaning one of the other basement rooms, and O'Rourke from her own department. John looked on with renewed confusion, having just gotten to a point where he thought this might all be a scam, and struggled to keep up with the broken Pashto he knew.

O'Rourke was light on his feet, and responded easily in rapid-fire Pashto, almost losing Sebastian. He caught the jist of it, and translated carefully, unsure of how much of the language Watson knew. He turned to the doctor. "You will provide us with the name of your commanding officer, and you will provide us with location information for subversive bases within your area of operation. If you do not do this, you will be tortured."

If anything was going to make Watson freeze up, it was that. Giving up his superior officer, giving up secrets. He set his jaw, staring defiantly up at the man through the stinging in the back of his eyes. Harrison fiddled with a drawer in the corner, pawing through and picking out tools at random, intentionally in the doctor's line of sight. Granger folded his arms and looked imposing. This role did not require a lot of acting from him.

O'Rourke considered him, then turned to Sebastian, still speaking in Pashto. "I do not want him marked. He must be presentable if we need to take video. Be creative. The commander will be inspecting the situation shortly." 

Sebastian nodded, and then turned to Lorna. "Anything else, sir?" 

O'Rourke shook his head. "Inform me when he's ready to answer our questions." He turned and left, Granger on his heels. Moran turned to Harrison, translating for her sake, careful to keep his subtle accent.

"No marks," he said, shaking his head at the equipment she was accessing. "I'll get a drip line set up."

Lorna nodded, sliding shut the drawer and turning back to watch Watson, a little put off by the way this was going. Drugs made her leery at best, and it made her almost ill to see someone else under that sort of fog. But hell if she was going to let Moran see it. "Saline is in the upper leftmost cabinet, if you feel like diluting it."

He nodded, walking to a taller cabinet to grab an IV stand and carrying it over, setting it beside Watson, taking his time. He caught the man's gaze. "I don't want to have to do this to you, Captain," he lied easily. "But I won't regret it, either. You just let me know when you're ready to comply. I understand that your memory is a little hazy, so I've tried to clear that up for you a little, to help you, but you're going to have to work at it. They won't be pleased if your answers are muddled."

"You can tell them to fuck off," John managed through gritted teeth, a sallow pallor coloring his face. Lorna coughed across the room to stop herself from laughing and walked across the room to hold a hand out for the IV. She had more practice getting veins.

He smiled, round, white teeth hauntingly reminiscent of a military graveyard, rows of white stones meaning death. "I'll be sure to pass that along," he murmurs pleasantly, passing Harrison the needle and straightening, moving to open a drawer, within which were rows and rows of small bottles. 

"Where in the UK are you from, Captain?" he asked calmly. 

As Lorna re-tied the tourniquet around Watson's arm and deftly inserted the IV into place, John was internally debating with revealing information about himself. That was fine, wasn't it? At least a little. "England," he muttered, looking down at the needle in his arm with a clinical, if muddled eye.

"Ah, the motherland. Wherein? I miss home sometimes." He extracted a bottle from the carefully packed drawer and headed back over, shaking it back and forth to mix the liquid. 

"London. What about you?" John tried, wetting his lips as he spotted the bottle the man was shaking. The woman untied his tourniquet, her face blank except for mild expectation as she looked up towards her colleague. 

"You want me to give him the whole thing?"

"About half should be plenty," Moran returned, handing the bottle to Lorna and ignoring Watson's question. "Where did you think you were, when you came to? I'm curious. You'd been muttering for a while, nonsense mostly."

John shook his head, refraining from shrugging his shoulders as the woman added the drug to his IV stream. "Dunno. It's clean. Rich. Not... what I expected."

"We aren't the barbarians Western media makes us out to be, Captain," Sebastian said calmly. "We are intelligent, well-funded, well-informed." He walked to pull a chair out of the corner, setting it in front of John and sitting in it, leaning forward, elbows on his knees. "Now... That's going to feel cold going in, but don't worry. That part is over quickly."

"What is this?" Lorna asked in smooth Italian, betting that Watson was unlikely to know the language, and fairly certain that Sebastian knew enough to carry conversation.

He grinned, glancing over at her and returning with a stiff but passable tongue "Something which will make him very sensitive to touch, or pain. Needles feel like nails. Also causes an intense desire to move. I don't know the name in Italian, and I don't want to tip him off."

"I don't think medical terms change with language. But I see your point," she smiled, returning to her corner and making herself comfortable against the wall. John was waiting for the drugs to kick in, heart ticking a bit faster with trepidation. 

"Do you remember the Commander, Captain? You two have met before, but only while you were rather... out of touch. I wouldn't be surprised if you had trouble remembering. Or, perhaps he showed up in your dreams. I am still curious about those."

"I haven't the faintest who you're talking about," John shook his head, shifting slightly in his seat until the movement sent a spike of pain up his arm from the needle, a hiss escaping him.

"Easy there," Moran soothed with the type of calming tones one might expect from a child molester. He reached out a hand, scratched a fingernail across the man's bare knee with an eyebrow lifted in curiosity. 

Watson jerked away as well as he could strapped down, teeth clenched and bared. It didn't hurt, not really, but it felt a thousand times more intense than it had any right to. Lorna chuckled quietly across the room, but kept whatever thought had wandered through her head to herself.

"Good," he said softly, before his eyes flickered up to Watson's. His nail turned, met with his other finger, pinched down, hard and suddenly, nails biting until the skin turned white, before he twisted slowly. "Now, Captain," he said quietly. "Your commanding officer."

"Sholto!" He yelped, "James Sholto! W-What was that?" He snarled, the sallow tinge disappearing from his cheeks and red replacing it. Lorna snickered, making her way over rest her hand on the back of Watson's chair with the intention of making him feel oppressed. 

He released his grip with a soft smile. He hadn't even pinched hard enough to leave a mark. "Something the dear old United Kingdom has outlawed, which is rather unfortunate for them. 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate. Causes an intense desire to move, as well as heightened nerve response. Exceptionally useful."

"Try the inside of his forearm next time he's feeling quiet. More sensitive than a knee," Harrison suggested cheerily, grinning as Watson started fidgeting again - this time keeping his arm still so as not to rattle the needle. 

Moran smiled, but his eyes didn't leave Watson's face. "Now... Captain, I don't suppose you could be persuaded to give us some information about those bases?" His voice was still friendly. 

John cleared his throat, stalling for time. "I don't see what information you could possibly need. You're looking well-funded enough. Can't afford a satellite?"

"As I'm sure you know, Captain, there are submerged bases in several areas that are being very carefully concealed. Those are the ones I'm referring to. I honestly don't care in the slightest, but my superiors do. I care that you get out of this alive and well, after all my hard work. So in that sense, I do care that you cooperate."

"Sorry," he muttered, glaring down at his own knees. "Not going to happen." 

Sebastian sighed quietly, glancing up at Harrison and nodding to Watson's arm. "That's a shame."

"It is, isn't - Jesus," Watson gasped as Lorna dug her nails into his arm - hers were longer than Moran's, and far more likely to leave bloody marks, so she simply dug in. Dragging or twisting would get messy very quickly. She hated having blood under her nails. 

"Let's talk about something else, shall we?" he asked casually, making no indication for Lorna to let up. "Who or what is 'Morstan'?"

"She's my wife," John growled, half at the confusion mucking up his head and half because the pain lancing from the woman's nails was quickly becoming excruciating. "What's it matter to you?" 

"It matters, Captain, because you are not married." His voice was calm. "It stands to reason that your dream world would have been constructed with subjects of importance placed in key roles. Think harder, please. Who, or what, is Morstan?"

"She's a woman, you bloody nut, I haven't been making up people!" He snarled, trying to move his arm away from Lorna now, enough so that she leaned down harder. "Let go!" 

He allowed the calm to snap, exploding to his feet and slapping John across the face, chair toppling behind him, before he stormed away with a cry of frustration. "This is what they give me to work with! A broken toy with a monkey brain wired for imaginary bananas. Fix it, fix it! Fucking bastards!" He took a slow breath, running his hands through his hair and over his face, hiding a smirk. He allowed his body to relax, and he let out a quiet breath. "Okay, alright, fine. If all we have is bananas, we work with bananas." He turned back to Watson, calm once more. Harrison was still pinching him, and he motioned for her to let up. "Tell me about Morstan. She's your 'wife', how is it that she manifests in your dreams?"

Lorna had to congratulate his performance. He really did sell it. She wondered if he could lie as convincingly straight into somebody's face. The fact that she didn't know the answer didn't make her trust him any more. Watson was still recovering even after she'd let go of his arm, reeling from the slap. She'd been hit by Moran - it must have been incredibly painful with the added drugs. "She's... she's just a woman. Works as a secretary where I work. She's clever. That's why I was drawn to her at first," John choked out, red blossoming across his face. "She's real." 

"Yes, yes," Moran muttered, waving away his protests. "She's real. Fine. We'll all say she's real. How long have you known her?"

"Two years," he breathed, finally settling back into his chair again. The woman behind him smoothed a hand over his head and he yanked his head away, defensive. She stifled a small laugh.

"Interesting..." he said, smiling slightly. "Tell me more about her. What are her interests? Her history?"

"She's an orphan. She.. she likes to read old war novels, mysteries, and the like," he murmured, frowning to himself and trailing off. He didn't think he should be telling these people about his wife.

"Strategy, maybe," Moran muttered quietly. "Or espionage... Tell me, John... Picture her face... does she remind you of anyone? Anyone from the army?"

"What? No, why would my wife be in the army?" John scoffed, punch-drunk from the hallucinogenic patch still stuck under his jaw. "She doesn't even like guns."  

"Not your wife, Captain," though he had to hide a smirk at the 'doesn't even like guns'. "Does she remind you of anyone?" He reached out a hand to pin John's tapping fingers, the need to move setting in. 

John shrugged, the movement welcome, even though it hurt. He was antsy as fucking hell. "A friend. A friend I once had, really."

"Who would that be?" he asked, though he really didn't care. But this line of investigation had to be pursued carefully, needed an excuse.  

"Sherlock. A, uh, detective," John sighed, tapping both his hands against the armrests. Behind him, Lorna raised her eyebrows slightly. Like they needed another Holmes. 

"Unusual name," Moran said, not blinking. "Tell me about them."

"He's brilliant. Bloody bastard, but..." John huffed, drumming his feet against the floor. It felt like the vibrations were going to shatter his spine. "Faked his death. Not friends anymore." 

"And how is he taking that?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"It took several punches to the face to get him to figure it out," he snorted, shifting back and forth in his chair. There was a slight breeze in the room that blew on the back of his neck, and it was beginning to feel like a rash. 

"Sounds self-abusive," Moran commented lazily, straightening. "This is getting us nowhere." He slipped a hand into his pocket, removing a knife. "You know, if we can hide it with a boot, it doesn't count as a mark." He bent to examine John's bound, bare foot. 

Lorna cleared her throat, looking at him pointedly. If he had an unexplained mark later, things could go south later. There was always a possibility. Bad cop, pretty cop was probably out too, considering the doctor was married and wasn't going to be relieved of that fact any time soon. The drug drawer would be better. All of that didn't distract John from curling in his toes to stay away from the knife. 

He glared at her, reminding her of her position on the totem pole. He looked back to Watson. "Out here, rough terrain as it is, no one would really question a missing toenail anyway, would they, Captain?" he inquired softly, eyes locked on John's. 

Lorna submitted, bottling up a sigh and retreating back into a corner to avoid the potential disaster zone. John was staring down at Moran, mind racing, trying to sort out reality. "No... no.. don't."

"Can you imagine what it will feel like?" Sebastian breathed, a glint in his eye. "Can you feel that needle aching in your arm? Multiply that ten, a hundred, a thousand times..." He rested the cool of the metal against the man's foot. "Remember getting shot? Remember the white-hot agony of it... Oh you screamed when we had to clean it..."

John could feel his breathing pick up despite himself, his wavering memories easily spitting that one back out at him. The most pain he'd ever felt in his whole bloody life. And the limp that followed it... "Fuck you," he hissed, shuddering. He'd accept what punishment came. Nothing could equal being shot. 

"You were so lost in it..." he breathed. "Walking around the halls dragging that damn weight so you wouldn't run. Not that you could anyway. You want to go back to faerie-land? Go see Morstan and- what the hell was it- Sherwood? I can send you there. Back down the fucking rabbit hole."

"It's real," John seethed, jerking at his hands like he was trying to bring them up to his face, "I- I don't know what this place is. It doesn't fit! You don't fit." 

"It's Afghanistan, Captain. It doesn't fit anywhere. It's a hellhole in the middle of a happy little universe, and you can never get the sand off of you." He shifted his hand, as if considering, but then straightened. "No. I'm not going to undo my handiwork. You'll just have to wait." He turned for the door, tucking the knife away. 

John remained shuddering in his chair, staring off into blank space. Lorna didn't look at him as she followed Moran out, shutting the door behind her and immediately yanking off her scarf. "Do you need me here or would someone else do just as well in my place?" She asked, looking up at him expressionlessly, although she made sure to keep her tone polite.

He considered her. "The boss will be here soon. Go," he said, waving her off. "Though we're going to address this discomfort later, Harrison."

"I'm sure it'll be fun, sir," she replied flatly, already turning to escape, to get the hell away from that room and the chills tip-toeing up her spine. 

He watched her go, and almost jumped at the Irish lilt behind him. "Where's Harrison scampering off to?"

He turned around to see Moriarty gazing over his shoulder at Lorna's retreating back. 
"I don't need her any longer, sir."

"Pity. I was looking forward to harassing you both in Pashto. What have you gotten from the good doctor so far?" 

"He and Holmes are not on good terms," Moran said, straightening his suit slightly. "Watson said he'd punched Holmes in the face on multiple occasions in order to get the message across that he was no longer welcome. I've been telling him anything related to his current life is something he dreamed up in a coma. He's denying it, but his faith's failing."

"Good," Jim grinned, "Keep confusing him. I don't need any more information out of him than that - I've checked with Magnussen's people. We have all that we need. Right now it's just playtime."

He gave a broad grin. "I've introduced you as the 'Commander'... Do you want him to be able to see your face or not?"

"With this charade, it hardly matters. But I think being blinded would be fitting, don't you think?" Jim hummed, tipping his head to the side. 

"Of course sir, one moment," he said with nod. He walked into the room, closing the door behind him briskly and walking over to open another cabinet, pulling out a fitted blindfold and approaching John.

John only made a token resistance against the man, too wrapped up in his own thoughts to truly pay attention. Too busy trying to figure out what was real.  

He tied the blindfold firmly, amused at how the rough cloth would feel against the man's overly sensitive skin, and walked back to the door, opening it and nodding to his employer. 

Jim entered the room grinning. This was much different from a few years ago, when he'd been similarly trussed and bound and had fed information to Mycroft Holmes for a taste of Sherlock's early life. He was completely in control here, and he knew all he cared to. This was only because he could. "Dr. Watson. How nice to see you awake. Well. If can call this awake. My man tells me you've been rambling about another life." 

It was odd to hear his employer speaking, not with his standard Irish accent, but with a mild Pashto one. Watson turned his attention towards the voice, looking like he was trying to place it, but couldn't in his haze.

"So he says."

He smirked. It had been tempting to keep his own accent, just to see if it would trigger a fear response in the doctor, but alas, they'd put too much effort into keeping Watson in the dark that he couldn't bring himself to. "So he says? Why, are you implying my man is lying? I guarantee you're a better liar than him," Jim chuckled. Throwing Watson off their tracks would be easy. 

Watson shook his head. "It's not right. Nothing's... right..." He closed his eyes tightly, despite the blindfold. Speaking of which, the cloth was starting to sting and itch terribly, which combined with the fact that his muscles were burning to move... he couldn't think clearly at all. 

"You're in the custody of the Taliban, Doctor. That's bound to throw a wrench into your perception of things," he hummed, drumming his fingers on the man's shoulder for a moment. "But that's alright. I don't mind a little rambling right now. I do know some of the people in there, after all. Of them." 

He jerked at the sudden touch, gritting his teeth as that yanked the needle in his arm. His whole body was covered in a sheen of sweat, and he could feel beads of it rolling down his back oh-so-clearly... He wore nothing but his pants, but the room was hot. Far, far too hot... He tapped his toes and fingers, trying desperately to gain movement. "Who do you know...?"

"Your good friend Sherlock. His last name was Holmes, wasn't it? Not that it matters - he's just a stain in the desert dirt now," Jim sighed wistfully, pressing down on John's hands to trap them, deny him movement. "I hear you dreamed he only faked his death." 

He tilted his head back in the chair, trying to arch his spine slightly, anything, but the straps that held him in place denied him that, as well. He needed to move so badly he felt sick. "What.... what are you talking about?"

Jim made a mockingly sympathetic noise, pressing down harder on the back of his hands. "You've been through quite the trauma. It only makes sense that this is the only way you could cope. You made up an entire life because a fellow soldier died and you couldn't do anything to stop it. I don't know if you're pathetic or cute. But I'm afraid that your friend is quite dead." 

"Sherlock's alive," he panted, curling his toes again and tensing and relaxing his limbs. He grit his teeth at the pressure on his hands before taking a deep breath, trying to stay calm. The fabric of the blindfold itched, sweat dripped down his left bicep in a slow line towards the inside of his elbow, the chair stuck to his skin.... "He lied to me. He's fine."

"Your mind lied to you, Dr. Watson. I do apologize, it must be quite the shock to have to remember this way. He died the day before you were shot. Stepped on a landmine, I believe?" Jim asked, pausing as if looking to Moran for confirmation. 

"According to what we could find, sir," Moran responded with a nod. John swallowed, shook his head, curled his fingers as best he could under the man's grip. "No, no no no! That's wrong, that's- he jumped off of a building, St. Bart's, he jumped, he jumped..." He closed his eyes tightly again under the oppressive, itching heat of the blindfold, straining against the straps that held him for a moment. He was breathing too fast, his heart racing, and he tried to calm down. "He's fine..."

"He's not," he hummed, pressing down hard enough to hurt for a moment before drawing back up to full height and tucking his hands into his pockets. "One moment he was there, the next - poof. He made the evening news." 

PoofPoof was a terrible way to describe it. The concussive force of the blast as it seemed to shove your guts back against your spine, the way your eardrums rang and shrieked in protest to the noise, then a second later the uneven rain of what was left of your comrade-at-arms, accompanied by a mist of blood and God-knew-what-else... But it wasn't Sherlock. Sherlock hadn't been in the army... hadn't... had he? 

He aimed a gun through the window of a London flat, hands steady as he prepared to kill the old man... But now it shifted, and it wasn't a flat but a bunker, and he was providing cover for Sherlock as he ran in... No! He shook his head and the vision shifted once more, flickering back and forth, and his lungs were being pressed again by the concussion of the mine, and Sherlock's face was so... so pale, and bloody...
Moran watched in amusement as Watson curled forward as much as the chair would allow, hyperventilating. 

Jim took a few steps back, a self-satisfied smile present on his face. Sherlock had been the easier mark, here. He knew only the bare basics about Morstan, but John already had the memory of his detective dying in front of him. "Don't forget to breathe, Doctor. Hate to see you end up like your friend over something so trivial." 

"Fuck. You." he managed, hands balled up into fists as he struggled against the restraints, damn the pain. He needed out of this thing so badly... "What do you want, anyway? You can't keep me here forever... they'll find me.."

"I don't want a thing from you," he laughed, shrugging his shoulders, "My superiors do, but that's for them to know and you to deal with." He took a step forward and pulled the restraints tighter, tight enough that it would feel like a boa constrictor was wrapped around his chest. "I'm afraid you're powerless to stop it." 

He almost let out a scream of frustration. Instead he bit into his lip until it bled. He was a soldier. He wouldn't give into interrogation. 

"Who else made it into your delusions? Anybody stand out that you want to talk about? I'm sure I could look them up," Jim offered, his amusement obvious. 

"In case you missed it the first time," John growled through grit teeth, extending both middle fingers. "Fuck off." 

Moran laughed. 

"Must you be so utterly boring?" Jim sighed, raising his hand with the intention of slapping the doctor across the face before his phone buzzed in his pocket. He let out a long breath and then reached for it, unlocking it with clear irritation and scanning the message before looking up at Moran. "I'm afraid I'll need to call for a break. This simply cannot wait," he seethed, tucking the phone back into his pocket. Magnussen, showing up at this very building. He'd thought the man was smart. 

"Yessir," he said immediately, moving to open the door for his employer. There was nothing wrong with letting Watson stew for a bit. 

Jim immediately started back down the hall, fixing on a cold veneer as he headed for the elevator. "I have to deal with Magnussen. Your presence won't be necessary - his men aren't allowed in my building, filthy things that they are," he spat, expecting Moran to keep up. "I will give you a ten-minute warning when I'coming back down. Do what you will until then."

He hesitated slightly. "Sir, I'd still recommend having me or someone else present. Magnussen may not like to get his hands dirty, but if he feels cornered he's been known to act aggressively."

"Exactly the reason why I'll be leaving my office door unlocked and my hand on the gun taped to my desk," Jim growled, reaching the elevator and jabbing at the open button. "He came without invitation. He is hardly the one being cornered." He glanced over at Moran once, then sighed, biting the inside of his cheek. "You may post someone outside my office, if you must. Someone unimportant. Magnussen doesn't need to know your face." 

He nodded curtly, already reaching for his com. "Thank you, sir." He headed back down the hall, ordering someone who was monitoring the current staffing situation to send someone competent up to the Boss's office. 

Jim disappeared into the elevator, leaving Sebastian to his own devices. He would deal with this as quickly as he could fucking manage. 

Moran waited until he had confirmation that someone had been placed, before turning the com off and heading back inside. He paused as he opened the door, calling down the hallway in Pashto for the hell of it at some imagined subordinate, and then headed in, closing the door behind him. 

John was slowly getting control over himself. Slowly gathering himself. That didn't stop himself from twitching slightly at the sound of the door opening, the draft on the back of his neck chilling him. "The Taliban get a lot of scheduling conflicts?" 

"We had an unexpected visitor, it's being taken care of," Moran said smoothly, walking over and trailing a finger over Watson's ear. 

He flinched away, setting his teeth. "Stop fucking touching me," he gritted out. Everything felt like too much. The light, even through the blindfold, was too bright. The air too cold. The seat too rigid. Touch was one more sense than he could handle. 

"I'm sorry," he said, pushing his hand through the doctor's hair. "Am I making you uncomfortable, Captain?"

John sucked in a tense breath through his nose, hunching his shoulders as if it would help fend the other man off. "Go fuck yourself." 

"My my my..." he sighed, shaking his head. "So tempting, but I think I'll pass... You know, I'm trying to help you, Captain. I'm trying to help you become yourself again. You and I, we have the same goals. We want to heal people. I just do it a little differently."

"I don't want your help, thanks. Fuck off," he growled, pulling at his restraints until his skin screamed and forced him to stop. "I fucking doubt you could help a child's scraped knee." 

He laughed. "Perhaps not. Oh well." He reached to undo John's blindfold for the time being, wanting to look him in the eye. "How are you feeling?"

"I feel great," he lied, resisting the urge to spit in the other man's face, now that he had the vision to aim with. He was not in a position to do that right now, not with this IV in his damned arm. "What about you?" 

He stretched idly, just showing off that he could, before walking over to examine the IV bag. "Oh, I feel excellent, thank you... We have a little more of this before it runs out... I think maybe it's time to reconsider those feet of yours, don't you?"

"Literally go fuck yourself," John said, a tone of antagonism riding along his words. "You and your commander and that woman and your superiors. All of you can go fuck yourselves." If the army had taught him anything, it was that excessive swearing at the enemy was just fine. 

He laughed, pulling the knife out of his pocket again and crouching down to where the man's foot was strapped. "Did they teach you how to be tortured, Captain?" he asked quietly, pressing the knife against the man's pinky toe, hard, but not quite hard enough to break skin. 

"Basic training," he gritted out, pain lancing up from his toe. This would be excruciating. "Not going to ask any questions this time?"

He shrugged. "You know the question," he retorted. "I want those base locations." He gave the man another moment of anticipation. 

"You know my answer," he snapped. "Leave me alone, you sod."

"See? Did I really need to ask?" he asked softly, and clamped a hand down firmly on Watson's foot to keep him from moving it as he pushed the blade under the doctor's nail, smiling as blood welled up around the point. 

He couldn't help but scream, something that would have really hurt under normal circumstances becoming unbearable under the drug. "Stop! STOP!"

"The bases, Captain," Moran returned evenly, just loud enough for Watson to hear over his own screams, slowly twisting the blade back and forth.

"I don't know!" He cried, gripping onto the arms of the chair with desperation. "For Christ's sake, I don't KNOW! I've never been to one! Please!"

"I'm afraid that isn't good enough, Captain," he said conversationally. "If you want me to help you, you have to help me first."

"Please! I only know that they'll be shut down within the year! They haven't even got any bloody missiles!" He groaned, tears pricking at his eyes as his body struggled to release any of the pain shooting through them.

He stopped moving the knife, but didn't remove it. "What are they for, then?"

"They were bases of operations, but they've been decommissioned! They've been shut down!" John gasped, trembling with the effort of staying still.

He considered, then removed the knife for the time being. "If they're so unimportant, why didn't you simply mention them immediately?" he asked coolly.

"There are still men there. I can't- I can't be reckless with their lives. I'm a bloody doctor," he breathed, panting for breath.

He laughed, considering the blood dripping onto the ground. "Literally."

"You're not funny," he snapped, letting his head roll back a bit. "Go the fuck away."

Sebastian tutted softly. "Do you always have such a dirty mouth? You should apologize..."

"You fucking bet I do," John muttered, gritting his teeth so hard they squeaked in his mouth. "Go. The fuck. Away." 

"Now now, Captain, you should know better than to talk that way to your superiors," Sebastian sighed, standing and walking toward another cabinet, pulling out a cloth and a jug. "You know, I did that once or twice when I was in the army. Do they still make you stand in ice water? That was horrible... Toes going numb, skin aching... I won't be quite so cruel, I'll only get a little bit of you wet, alright?" he asked with the soothing tones of a bedside assistant asking if you were alright with a shot. It didn't matter if you were or weren't, you were still getting your flu vaccination, but it made you feel better. The mockery was threatening. He poured stale water from the jug over the cloth, saturating it, water hitting the floor. He turned his attention back to John, walking over.

John stared at the cloth in the man's hand, pretty sure he knew what was coming. And he did not want to add that to his already excruciating day if he could help it. "Stay away from me," he snapped, jaw clenching. He was prepared to bite the man's hand off if he bloody had to. "I mean it. I mean it." 

He stayed about a foot back, considering the look in the other man's eyes, before he set the jug and cloth down. "Silly me, I forgot," he said, smiling slightly and walking around behind the chair. He slid a board on the back of the chair up behind Watson's head, locking it into place, and pulling the extra strap out and around John's forehead. "Cooperate, or I'll give you a paralytic, and this will be so much worse..."

His breath picked up, heart beating faster, sweat dripping down his back and making him want to arch away, claw his way out of this hell he'd woken up into. "What do you want from me?" he asked, voice giving out halfway through his sentence. "What do you want? Why are you doing this? Nothing about this place makes any sense.."

"It's my job to help you, Captain," he said easily, voice smooth. "To heal you. I'm trying different methods. But it's also my job to punish you for your sins against God, so that you will be ready to repent."

"Shut the fuck up, you nut - It's not your bloody job, Satan," he huffed, pressing his head back into the board. "Just leave me alone. Please."

"I'm afraid I can't do that," he said, tightening down the strap over Watson's forehead and locking it in place. "Tell me, do you remember now how your friend died?" He glanced towards the IV. Empty, or almost. What was in his bloodstream would last a few more minutes, but it would be better to get something else going as well. He stepped on a pedal, leaning the seat back and raising the feet slightly until the doctor was lying flat on his back. Then he headed for the medication drawer.

His lungs didn't feel like they were cooperating. They kept stuttering, one shaky breath cut short and puffed out again before he'd gotten his share of oxygen. The sweat cooling on his chest was making him feel like he was lying on an Arctic ice cap. And to top it all off, he couldn't quite see where the man had gone again."Yes. Of course I remember," he breathed. Both versions. Both equally as painful.

"And how was that? Tell me, Captain. Is reality returning to you?" He slid a bottle out of its slot, considering it, before returning it and picking up the one next to it, walking back over.

He knew what he had to do now. Resistance without cause was only going to put him in worse condition, and he had the tools to feed this man what he wanted to hear. It didn't matter that John himself didn't know which was real. "He stepped on a bomb," he choked out, swallowing hard.

"Yes, good," he said softly, pouring an ample dosage of the new, reddish liquid into the IV bag. "And tell me, where is he now?"

 "He's dead," John whispered, unable to make himself say it louder. He only hoped it was a lie.

"I'm so glad that you're beginning to remember," he said soothingly. He stepped back into the doctor's line of sight. "I've just administered amphetamine," he said quietly, bending to pick up the dripping cloth. "That should begin to raise your heart and breathing rates... I'm sure you're well aware of the effects. They can be addictive, but for the time being I think they may be unpleasant. However..." He reached out with the damp cloth- but instead of covering John's face, he simply wiped it down with a mockingly tender touch. "You seem to be remembering, so I'll let you have a bit of a break instead of proceeding right now. How's that sound?" he asked with a smile.

John didn't think he could respond without saying something unspeakably explicit so he just stayed quiet, shuddering slightly despite himself, dreading the new drugs entering his system. A break wasn't enough. He wouldn't even begin to feel safe until the man was gone and had been gone for at least half an hour. This was nerve-wracking.

He started walking in slow circles around the chair, in and out of vision, keeping his steps as silent as possible and varying his pace so as to appear at different intervals.

Whatever the man was doing to freak him out was working. That, or the amphetamines were kicking in quicker than he'd expecting; his heart was beginning to race.

He continued walking in quiet circles, pausing just behind the man and walking up, reaching out to stroke his fingers through the doctor's hair again. "What's the date, Captain? Can you remember?"

John desperately wished he could move away from the man, but all he could do was clench his hands into fists. "No.. No, I've forgotten what you told me."

"All of what I told you?" he tsked. "What's the year?"

"2010," he supplied, beginning to try to even out his breathing. It failed.

"Good," he said softly, pulling his hand back and continuing his circling. "When was the last time you were in London?"

John stammered, completely unsure. They hadn't mentioned that, had they? "I- I don 't know."

He nodded slightly, giving no indication if he was pleased with the answer or not. "What was the last thing you were doing before you were captured?"

John let out a puff of air. "I don't remember," he sighed, trying and failing to shrug.

He nodded a little more. "We're going to make negotiations with you, Captain," he said, smiling quietly. "We're going to get weapons, and concessions, and it's going to be all thanks to you."

He grit his teeth, sucking in a harsh breath. "I'd prefer you didn't tell me what you'll get out of this, to be perfectly honest."

"I'm sure you would have also preferred I not shove a knife under your toenail," he returned with a hint of amusement. "But you're welcome to request a change of activities."

"I wouldn't say no to a nap," he ventured, knowing very well he was going to be shot down immediately. The blood dripping from his toe would have begun to tickle if it had been able to get over the pain.

He laughed. "I doubt you'd be able to if you tried, what with a stimulant drip feeding into you." He paused in front of Watson, considering him, and smirked, tilting his head in consideration. "I will leave you be, however," he said, walking over to a cabinet and grabbing a metal stand out of it. He walked over, sliding the legs of the stand to their full extension. It consisted of four metal legs supporting a bar between them, and jutting down from the bar, an adjustable arm, at the end of which was a razor sharp blade. "I'll just leave you something to keep you entertained." He set the stand straddling over the laid-back chair, a set of feet on either side, and moved the blade to sit over Watson's abdomen, starting to lower it with a small crank towards his skin.

John froze, going rigid as the blade was lowered over him, terrified suddenly of even taking in a deep breath. This was not his idea of entertainment, and he let the man know that with a fearful swear muttered under his breath.

He lowered the blade, pleased to see that the man's immediate reaction was to suck his gut in. He continued lowering it until the blade brushed against the doctor's clenched muscles, and then locked it into place. "There we are. Enjoy." He headed for the door.

"Yeah, I will," John said after him, his voice more strained than he wanted it to be. God, he hoped he wasn't left here long.

He smirked, stepping outside and closing the door behind him, taking a breath. Alright. He pulled out his com. "Someone get me O'Rourke and Granger, and three or four others in Taliban costuming. Three or four others do not need to speak Pashto." He started heading for a conference room down the hall used for business associates who wanted to see this particular side of things.

Harrison had been hanging around in one of the darker corners of the basement with her comm in her ear, specifically for the purpose of waiting for orders. The best way to dig herself out of this shit-hole she'd put herself in was to be extremely useful. So the second Moran was done she was up and hunting down the people he needed.

"And someone figure out a passable Taliban backdrop for a hostage video." He entered the conference room and walked to the closet, opening and pulling out a video camera and tripod which were sometimes used if the party didn't want to go to the room directly, or didn't want the prisoner they were checking up on to see them. Then he headed back for another one of the cells, and began setting up.

She spent a good five minutes rounding up decent candidates for whatever Moran needed and getting them properly outfitted in Costumes, even going so far as to save one of the men from being strangled by his robe. The backdrop she passed off to the Special Effects people, who spent more than enough time hand-crafting shit as it was and would probably resent her as a department for a week. When she'd completed that, she opened up the comm channel. "Where do you want all this sent?"

"Down to me, holding cell four," he said, adjusting the angle of the camera and the lighting on the lone chair in the center of the room.

"They will be down in two minutes," she replied, pushing one of her suited coworkers through the door. "If they don't trip and kill themselves first."

"Good," Sebastian said curtly. "Make sure they have weapons. And my backdrop?"

"I have someone on that. I don't know how long they'll take. I'll hover over them if you like. But your Taliban guards are armed."

"Good, get them down here. And yes, hover. I need it as immediately as possible. I don't care if it's stenciled and spray painted, I just need it to pass the bleary inspection of one drugged-up army doctor, for chrissakes."

"Understood, sir. I'll harass them until they get it done. I don't think they'll delay too much. Anything else you need me to send down?"

"That should be it, but be ready if I change my mind." He turned off the com, and looked around the room, inspecting for anything that might give the game away.


 

 Lorna had the set sent down to Moran in thirty minutes, with a lot of grumbles and curses from the team. She wasn't going to be making a lot of friends in this department.

He was talking quickly with his 'Taliban' guards, giving them clear instructions and warning anyone who didn't speak Pashto not to speak, or he'd kill them himself. He looked up as the set was brought in, and immediately had them setting it up against the far wall, a backdrop for his camera recording. Perfect. Bright lights shining on the chair, the backdrop, the camera... all perfect. He took a breath, then motioned for O'Rourke and Granger to follow, heading for John's cell and entering.

John had lost his fight with the knife. He'd only been able to stay still, perfectly still, for so long - one inhale too big and he'd sliced himself. Now he had the added distraction of blood rolling down his abdomen, the added pain of trying to keep clenched. When the door open he startled and cut himself again, a ragged breath escaping him. His heart felt like it was going to jump right out of his chest, and it only sped up with fear.

Moran walked over casually, raising the knife and then walking to a cabinet, pulling out first aid supplies and then walking back over, beginning to bandage the wound on Watson's abdomen. He turned to Granger, and in Pashto said: "Bring me clothes for him." Granger nodded and exited.

John allowed himself a deep, painful breath as the man moved the knife away, trying to remove the air-starved feeling from his lungs. As hard and terrible being left with that thing hovering over him had been, the fact that they were back was worrisome. And it did not stop his heart from battering against the insides of his ribs.

He finished bandaging the wound just as Granger returned with a pair of the same issue pants all of the 'Taliban' soldiers were wearing, and a plain tee. Moran made a note to commend his thinking on the clothes issue later. O'Rourke raised his gun, leveling it at Watson and muttering something in Pashto as Sebastian started unlocking him. "He says don't try anything, or he'll shoot you," Moran translated.

"Thought that was implied," John rasped, feeling like the words were scraping at his throat. He just lay there while the man finished unlocking his restraints. Impatience would get him nowhere.

Granger came over and tossed the clothes onto John's lap. "Get dressed," Moran instructed calmly.

John just nodded, pushing himself up with shaking hands and sliding off the reclined chair to stand. He wasn't completely sure he was going to stay up for long: his knees felt unusually weak, and there was a rushing in his ears he couldn't shake out. After the second he allotted to get ahold of himself he turned and dragged on the clothes.

Sebastian took the opportunity to glance at the patch on the back of the man's neck. The indicator was a little over half red. Probably another couple of hours on it. He pulled a pair of handcuffs out of his pocket and locked John's wrists behind his back, before starting him towards the door, Granger behind and O'Rourke ahead, both guns trained on the doctor.

"You didn't dress me for a bathroom break, did you?" John sighed, lacking the will for sarcasm. He was already limping more than usual. Did he need to be hit, too?

Sebastian gave a long-suffering sigh. "No, Captain." Though he added that to his agenda after the video. They paused at the door, and Moran returned the blindfold, tying it firmly over Watson's eyes. Then the door opened and he guided the unsteady man down the hall towards the camera room.

If there was anything John was a tad sick of, it was being blindfolded. He tripped a few times on the way down the hall. He resented having to lean against the man.

Moran forced him through the door to the camera room, and into the chair. He locked the cuffs into a bracket in the back of the chair, and removed the blindfold, walking over to start preparing the camera. O'Rourke started speaking quickly to the rest of the soldiers in Pashto, and they nodded along, listening.

John blinked the light from his eyes, looking around blearily. His vision was still doing that thing where it dripped away like mercury in front of him, but from what he could make out, this looked very much like the videos he'd seen on the television. Were they making a hostage out of him, then?

"Camera's ready," Moran said in Pashto. O'Rourke nodded. "Start recording."

He did, and a moment later O'Rourke started into a half-prepared, half-improvised speech in Pashto about their possession of Captain John Watson, and their demands for his release, as well as what would be expected of him by way of repentance for his sins.  

He did his best to pay attention to whatever the robed whack-job was going on about, but the most he got out of it was his own name and something about heresy. Whatever they'd given him was starting to combine in sluggishly surprising ways. The fogginess in his head felt weird paired with his hammering pulse. 

O'Rourke came to his energetic conclusion, gripping his weapon tightly and nudging it against Watson's head. Moran paused the recording to translate. "You're to confess your sins," he said coolly. 

John squinted, tilting his head away from the gun muzzle pressing into the side of his head and looking up at the blond man with a fogged weariness. "D'you want to tell me what those are, again?" 

He gave him a long look. "Blasphemy, murder of God's people, accepting and promoting women in ungodly positions and places of power, as well as ungodly attire for women," he said, his voice calm. 

John still managed to roll his eyes through all the shit in his system. "For fuck's sake, mate, really?" He groaned, letting his head roll back. "Fucking hell, fine. Whatever."

O'Rourke brought the butt of his gun down on John's good shoulder with a firm crack, before returning his aim to John's head, yelling angrily. Moran didn't flinch. "He'd like to remind you to be sincere."

John winced, gritting his teeth as new pain radiated heat through his body. That would bruise. "If he insists," he coughed, shooting a resentful, blurry look up at the one who'd hit him.

"He can insist again if it wasn't clear the first time," Moran suggested calmly, before starting the camera again. O'Rourke nudged John's temple with the barrel of his gun. 

He grimaced, glancing up at the red recording light from the camera briefly before clearing his throat. "Uh. I'm, uh, guilty of blasphemy. And accepting and promoting, um, women in ungodly places of power, and their ungodly attire." He just managed not tacking on a question mark. "And the murder of God's people." 

O'Rourke said something in Pashto, nudging his head. "You will repent," Moran translated. 

"I'm, uh, really sorry," John coughed, glancing up at the gun unfortunately close to his person. "Really, really am." 

"Heartfelt," Moran deadpanned, stopping the recording as O'Rourke started going off angrily at Moran about insincerity. He nodded, returning in Pashto that he'd work to improve the responses for next time, he was sorry. He came forward, blindfolding Watson again and unclipping his cuffs from the chair, forcing him to his feet. "Come on."

John stumbled into standing position, feeling like he was on a particularly violently rocking ship. It sounded like he was going to be visiting whatever this place was again. 

Moran shoved him out of the room and down the hall to a prisoner bathroom, unlocking the cuffs and shoving him inside before he closed and locked the door, watching him through the bars. "Blindfold off, do your business, blindfold back on," he ordered lazily.

"Fantastic," John muttered, shoving at the blindfold and turning his back to the man to unzip his trousers and take a piss, incredibly relieved that he'd never had stage fright about this sort of thing, and then cleaned up and pulled his blindfold back on. "Thanks, I guess."

"Believe me, I could have been much less kind about the situation," he retorted factually. "Hands on the wall." Once Watson had obeyed he opened the door and pulled his hands down behind his back, recuffed him with no regard for his undoubtedly sore shoulder, and started walking him back towards the cell. 

The doctor didn't bother paying any attention to his own aches - his captor sure wasn't going to, and if he agonized over every wound it was only going to hurt more. 

He returned Watson to the cell, and to the chair, removing the cuffs only after he'd strapped the man's legs into place. He kept a knife in one hand as he redid the remaining straps, holding him in tightly. This time, however, he didn't lower the knife again. Instead, he reached for the chair controls. "Unfortunately, Captain, I can't devote all of my time to you, so for now I'm just going to make a few adjustments and let you rest," he said casually. He hit a button, the feet and head of the chair lowering past flat, until John was arched backwards by the chair, the straps holding him in place, his sliced abdomen pulled tight by the contortion. 

John felt he was owed the hissed swear that he spat out, curling his fingers into fists to try and distract himself from some of the pain stabbing into his stomach. Fuck. Fuck. This was not going to be a fun amount of time, no matter how long it was.

He leaned down, brushing his fingers through John's hair, watching as his face reddened slightly as blood began to make its way towards his head. "I imagine this isn't entirely comfortable, but I hope you'll consider the comfort benefits that could be afforded with more sincerity in your next confession," he soothed. 

"I'll make sure to think on that," John gritted out, trying to ignore the pain shooting through his abdomen and the heavy ache beginning to settle into his head. 

"Good, I'm glad," he said, smiling and standing, heading for the door. The boss was taking longer than expected. He wanted to check in. 

Chapter Text

 

Jim had gotten dragged into having tea. Fucking. Tea. Magnussen wasn't even British, for Chrissake's. For once, he could agree with public opinion. The man was vile. That didn't change business, though. He took a deep breath. Business. Bussinnessss.

Magnussen watched the man, aware that he was irritated but in no rush as he took a slow sip from his cup. He was angry. Moriarty had interfered. And he didn't care who the man was, he had weaknesses, just like everyone else. He didn't speak, allowing the silence to drag out. Another sip. 

Moriarty was perfectly aware that this was a waiting game he was going to lose; he didn't have patience. He didn't need patience. He hadn't needed patience since he was small fish, and he was giant fucking fish. "Did you want to air your grievances aloud or would you prefer to just stare me into my grave?" Jim raised his eyebrows over his tea, his Irish lilt becoming a little more pronounced, just to make the Dane work a little harder at understanding him. He gave a small smile.  

"I'm terribly sorry if I've kept you waiting, I was simply enjoying my tea," Magnussen returned calmly. "I imagine Colonel Moran is dealing with Captain Watson?"

"You'd be correct," he affirmed, setting down his teacup with a clink of china. "Why? Not bothered by it, I hope?" 

"Certainly not," he returned casually. "I was just curious as to his whereabouts. I like to keep track of my assets." He set down his own cup casually. "I find it amusing that you and Holmes are so similar in that regard."

"In which regard? The mucking up your remarkably slow plans?" Jim snorted, abandoning his reluctant attempts at civility. "I never claimed to have an interest in Holmes because we were so different." 

"No, no, the adorable fixation with an adrenaline-obsessed ex-soldier," Magnussen retorted, unruffled. 

"Obsession? Oh, I simply have to hear what brought you to this decision," Jim smirked, although some part of him felt vaguely defensive. 

Magnussen smirked. "His adrenaline obsession? Is that really so hard to piece together?" he asked casually.

Jim blinked. Magnussen had succeeded - he'd been rattled, and he hadn't even realized it until he mixed up his words. What the fuck. "Apologies. That's obvious. I meant the fixation part." 

"Ah. So you feel your fixation is an obsession?" Magnussen returned. "I wasn't going to take it that far, but coming directly from your own mouth.... I'm impressed, Jim. I wasn't aware you would admit to it."

"It was a simple slip of the tongue," Jim waved off, shrugging slightly. "Doesn't matter. I'm still curious as to why you think I have a... fixation." 

"Slips of the tongue in a language as controlled as ours are more telling than almost anything else," the man smirked, before inclining his head slightly. "I won't reveal all of my cards, but you aren't the only one who employs eyes, Jim, dear. Dinner for two seemed cozy."

"He is my bodyguard," he said coolly, perfectly aware that he had lost whatever upper hand he had had from this meeting taking place in his office. "And a good one. Better than yours, obviously, since I only require the one. Taking him to a restaurant where people outside my employ knew I would be was an easy precaution. I never trust a late cancellation." 

He laughed a little, nodding slightly. "I'm sure, Jim, I'm sure. I'm not trying to threaten, please don't mistake me. I'm well aware it wouldn't work. I'm merely amused, as I said. Now. What say we get down to business before your little pet comes to visit?"

Jim glanced at his clock. Magnussen was right in thinking that his threat would fall flat; Moran was perfectly equipped to handle his own safety. "I imagine he's probably already on his way. I suggest you hurry up and say whatever it is you need to."

"I'm merely curious as to why you felt it necessary to interfere with what I was doing?" He picked up his tea again, taking another sip. 

"Oh, I thought that was clear," Jim grinned, settling back in his big, comfortable chair with ease. The chairs across from him were about a third as lavish. "You were being slow. I've done my waiting, Charles. If you had made the first move I would have been content to sit back and let you take control." 

Magnussen was unruffled. "I'm terribly sorry, Jim. I was aware you had a short attention span, but it seems I gave you a little too much credit. I'll endeavor to try and make things more entertaining for you in the future, shall I? Maybe I'll hire a clown..." He smiled softly. 

"Don't patronize me. I have more than enough going on in the wings to allow my attention to be on one thing for too long. Entertainment is hardly the concern. It's the decay of resources I'm troubled with. Aren't you supposed to be a successful businessman yourself? Of legitimate nature? Christ help you if you can't separate entertainment and the job," Jim sneered, leaning back and putting his feet up on his desk. Not something he would do in the presence of men more easily cowed. But Charles Augustus Magnussen played in more than just mind games. His physical posturing would hardly make Jim uncomfortable. 

"I'm sorry you can't seem to appreciate the long-term value of the long game, and that you seem to have missed the portions of the operation which are already underway," Charles said in a tone that was absolutely still patronizing. "I'm not one of your lackeys, Jim, dear. We're in a partnership. Yes, I know you love to feel like you're the one in control. By all means, feel free to keep turning the wheel in your little novelty shopping cart, but keep in mind who's actually pushing this operation. We're not stopping in the sweets aisle, no matter how hard you try and turn left." His voice never wavered from pleasant calm. 

Jim put on a sparkling grin. "That's just the thing, Charlie. You may not be a lackey, but you are certainly not essential. I will cut you loose and take all the candy for myself, darling, don't you think I won't. You're a convenient source of fuel; nothing more. You'll do well to look up the histories of some of my past partners. I don't ruin lives. I rip them from their hosts." He turned his attention to his hand, picking at his nails. Magnussen had so much more power over the legitimate. Jim knew he was untouchable, by the other man's methods. But there were precious few people who were immune to his, and Magnussen was not one of them. "My changeability is my one true weakness, my friend. But don't you think that it can't be yours, too. If I have to take another fucking step by myself you ought to start bringing more bodyguards with you. You may take that as you like."  

Magnussen nodded, and stood. "It seems we're done here, then. But don't forget, Jim. You aren't essential either. And don't think you don't have a file or two in my possession that would bring you low. Believe you're immortal all you like, but you may want to look up a little history. It's the proud kings that make history for the craters they leave when they fall." He set his cup down, smiling. "Thank you for the tea, it was magnificent. Now, I'll leave you to talk to your Tiger, I believe he's waiting just outside."

Jim gave an unconcerned, pleasant smile. It didn't matter what Magnussen had. It didn't matter if he was brought low. He'd gotten up before, and he would do it again. "Send him in when you leave, won't you? I'd like to save the door from his knock." 

"Of course," Magunessen said with a smile, nodding and heading for the door. He brushed past Sebastian on his way out. "Your boss is eager to see you, Tiger," he smiled, motioning for him to enter. Moran resisted the urge to casually snap his neck, and walked past him, shutting the door behind him. 

Jim dropped the smile the instant the door was closed, resisting the urge to break something. "That man is extremely irritating," he snapped, swinging his legs off the desk. "If he's not dead when this is all finished, I may have you kill him yourself." 

"I'd consider it a pleasure, sir," Moran returned dryly. "What did he do that was so irritating now?"

"There was a list of things. At the top would be the comparison he made to me occupying a wheely-car," he said snidely, his jaw set, "Lower on the list would be his insinuation that I have a fixation on you." 

"I'm glad I rank lower in annoyance than the wheely-car, sir," he returned. "Did he provide any particular reason for that insinuation?"

"The dinner reservation that I took you along on. Apparently, he has more eyes than I thought. I do not like the idea of being shadowed." 

He didn't like it, either, as it represented a failure on his part in his duties to his employer. "I'm sorry, sir," he said evenly. "I"ll work to rectify the situation."

"I appreciate that," he said tersely, letting out a long breath. He let silence settle over them for a moment before he could bring himself to break it. "What's the situation downstairs?" 

"I'm pretty sure we have him convinced that he's in Afghanistan, sir," he said calmly. "Whether he believes that the past few years hasn't happened, I'm not sure. He's still trying to mesh the realities. But I don't think he has any doubts about where he is."

"Good work," he nodded, rubbing at his temples. Could he sneak in a nap? "How much time do we have left on the clock to work with?" 

"Approximately twenty-two hours, sir. I was going to let him stew for a while." He considered his employer. "Give everyone a rest," he added, referring to those downstairs, at least if questioned. 

"That sounds amenable," Jim sighed, leaning his head back and closing his eyes briefly. "Perhaps I will use that time to catch up on some of the sleep I've been neglecting. If I'm not awake in two hours wait another half of one and then wake me. Now go hunt down Harrison and chew her out for whatever issue you have while it's still fresh. Or don't. I can't find a shit to give right now."

He nodded slightly, not reacting to the comment. "Of course, sir." He turned for the door, reaching for his com as soon as he left. "Deploy someone to tail Magnussen please. I want them tracking him as long as possible. Harrison, my office, now." He headed to the elevator.

Harrison had been hovering around in the security room, keeping on eye on Magnussen's people and the other on Malcolm for avoidance's sake when she heard the order, and winced. She was going to have a hell of a time reasoning this one out. Still, she didn't dare delay, immediately leaving and walking swiftly down the hall to his conveniently close office, knocking once. She may have actually gotten there first. 

He came up behind her, reaching past her to open the door and then motioning for her to enter. "Have a seat."

She nodded, slipping inside and perching on the edge of one of the chairs in front of his desk, all the while trying to take up as little space as possible. She was pretty sure he could smell fear. 

He walked around his desk to sit across from her, eyes calm, unaccusing. "Alright, Harrison. Explain to me what happened down there."

She cleared her throat, glancing down at her feet and then at a spot just above his head in quick succession. "It's. Well. It's the dumb fucking drugs again, to put it frankly," she sighed, looking pained. "I can't- I can't look at someone being in that state. The fogginess. And I mean, I've never taken recreational nerve agents, but I've done just about everything else. Chances are we'd hit on something particularly close to home, and I..  I can't have access to that. I can't say no," she shuddered, studiously looking back down at her hands. "I know it's weak. I just.... I apologize." 

He considered her quietly for a long time. "You did say no, Harrison," he said calmly. "You're refusing to put yourself in a situation where you feel you would be compromised. If you feel I would be angry at you for that, you misunderstand my methods. I expect you to be able to work and handle any situation I need you to. However, I did not need you to handle that situation. And I have no doubt that if I did, you would have found yourself more resilient than you anticipate."

She swallowed hard and then remembered to nod, smoothing her clammy palms over her jeans in an attempt to dry them. "I.. I, um, appreciate your confidence, sir," she managed, flushing slightly and hating herself for it. "I didn't mean to get so worked up over this, it's just... it's my biggest vulnerability, and I'm overly sensitive about it." 

He nodded, unaffected by her discomfort. "I'm aware." He stood, walking over to a fridge in the corner and returning with a bottle of whiskey, grabbing shot glasses out of a drawer. He poured them both a drink, passing one over to her. "Relax, alright? This isn't a reprimand." It should have been. He was honestly surprising himself as much as he was sure he was surprising her. 

"I was expecting one," she murmured, gratefully taking the shot glass and throwing it back immediately. She could have gone for a cigarette, too, but Boss didn't like smoking in the building. "I.. thanks." 

"You're a lot more useful for me if I help you figure out a solution rather than scare the hell out of you," he muttered. "Peons aren't worth my time, but you could actually become something useful some day."

She got out a small laugh, trying once to relax into the chair and then giving up entirely. She didn't visit this room often. Sebastian was hardly ever in it, for one, and the other was that she actively avoided office-like environments. "I'll keep the vote of confidence in mind, sir." 

He nodded just slightly, sighing and kicking his feet up. "So apparently Magnussen agrees with you," he said casually after a moment, taking a sip of whiskey. 

Her eyebrows shot up. "I don't know what it is he agrees with me about but I'm thinking that I should change my answer immediately."

"Apparently, he told the Boss that he has a fixation on me," he said with a raised eyebrow. 

Lorna slowly settled back in her chair, her eyebrows staying right where they were. "Oh my god. Please do not tell Jim about this coincidence of opinions. Please?" 

He smirked, downing the rest of his whiskey and pouring another shot. "I did just express a vested interest in your survival, did I not?"

She let out a nervous chuckle, feeling slightly as if she'd just managed to tango through a hail of bullets completely unharmed. "I suppose you did. Been a while since anyone's been actively interested in keeping me alive, I'll admit it."

He shrugged. "No one in our business dies of old age, Harrison. Like it or not, you're the most suited to replace me if I get downed."

Lorna shrugged, trying not to think too hard about what being in his seat would be like. Mostly because she didn't want it. "If anyone's going to break that track record, it'll be you. We'll see, I suppose, won't we?"

"I'm not planning on dying, Harrison, believe me." He offered the bottle her way.

She took it with a slight nod and did the polite thing to pour herself another shot, forgoing drinking straight from the bottle like she was tempted to. "I fucking hope not. You know how fast the Boss would turn me grey? I don't have time to buy hair dye." 

He laughed a little. "Out of curiosity, what makes you so against the idea anyway. Really, not the hairdye."

She sighed. "Part of it is the Boss. I'm certain I'd fuck that up. I deal with powerful men with sex and booze - I hardly doubt my handling methods would work on him," she snorted, sipping at her second shot a little more slowly this time. "The other part is that I do not look forward to that sort of target being painted on the back of my head." 

He nodded a little, not arguing. "Would you prefer I turn my focus elsewhere?"

She shrugged again, looking faintly helpless. "I'm not stupid enough or humble enough to know that you'd be hard-pressed to find a better alternative from the existing group of people here. If you find someone better than me, go right ahead. But I won't waste everybody's possibly limited time and tell you to fuck off." 

He laughed. "I wasn't giving you a choice in the matter, Lorna. I was finding out what you would choose. You're right. You're the best suited for the job at the moment. I'm glad you recognize that."

She laughed, lifting a hand to rub at her eyes. "You caught me at a good time to prevent me from lying to myself." 

He smiled, reaching out to take the bottle, refilling her glass and his, and then turning to return it to the fridge. "Everyone's getting a few hours off. Go relax."

She threw back the shot and set the glass down on his desk, standing with a small smile. "Good idea. See you later, then, Moran. " She turned to leave. 

He watched her go, tilting the last of his shot back. A few minutes later he stood, headed towards the elevator and his apartment. Despite the fact that he didn't want to admit it, part of him was turning what Magnussen had apparently said over, wondering if there was any weight to it. 

Chapter Text

 

John had been in that position for about an hour when he passed out, the stress and the blood pooling in his head finally getting to him. When he woke up again, all that he could register for a strange second was a stifling darkness. A pine-scented, stifling darkness. Oh, bollocks. 

The motorbike couldn't move fast enough. He could feel Mary clinging to him with hands that were steady and firm, a strong but unafraid grip, and one that only confirmed his suspicions of her background as they rocketed down the next flight of steps. Coming, John... We're coming.

Guy Fawkes Day. Fucking Guy Fawkes. Fuck him and his stupid explosives and these people's stupid bonfires. He'd tried calling for help, to no avail - his throat was unbearably hoarse, to the point where he couldn't get a word out. He tried again, the air wheezing from his lungs ineffectually. Fuck fuck fuck He could hear someone talking about gasoline. 

He almost went past the bonfire, but then skidded to a halt, almost sending both he and Mary over before scrambling to dismount, starting to run, horror striking him as the fire started to spread and a girl screamed-

"John!

The rush of relief that flooded through him was somewhat mitigated by the heat he could feel bearing down on him, thick smoke clogging up his lungs until he coughed enough that it hurt, that it felt like being ripped. Sherlock was here. Sherlock was real. 

He started tearing at the flaming wood, ignoring the heat and the spectators as he forced his way in. "John! Can you hear me?! John!" He pushed more logs aside, carefully calculating what he could move without bringing the whole thing crashing down. Finally, he saw a familiar foot, and grabbed onto it desperately, starting to haul his friend out, heart racing.

There wasn't much John could do to help push his way out. His limbs felt leaden, barely lifting at all, and then he was being dragged out of the fire and onto the dew-damp grass and it simply ceased to matter, because there above him was a panting Sherlock and a sweaty Mary, and he was just so relieved. They'd been lying after all. Sherlock was okay. Mary wasn't a figment of his imagination. 

Sherlock bent to get a better grip on John and pulled him farther away from the flames. He felt Mary lift John's feet and heard someone calling 999. He set John down as soon as they were at a safe distance, immediately beginning to look him over, edging on panic. "John, are you alright? Are you burned, can you breathe clearly-?" He started checking the man's clothes for signs of burning.

"I'll live," John managed in a hoarse whisper, thinking that he sounded a little bit like he'd been hit in the stomach by a charging ram. He felt baked, of course, and not in the good way. 

"An ambulance is on its way," he said quietly, sitting back as Mary knelt to pull John tightly into her arms. "Who put you there, John?" he asked, meeting his eyes over Mary's shoulder. 

John managed to gather enough will in his limbs to embrace Mary in return, fingers catching clumsily on her coat. "I don't... a man? Blond? He- He tried to tell me you weren't real." 

"Just relax, John," Mary said softly, running her hands very gently over his back, checking for injuries. "We'll deal with all of this later."

John was too tired and too relieved to do anything more than bury his face in the crook of her neck and just wait, shivering, for the ambulance to arrive. He could barely speak right now, let alone think straight. It was so much better to wait. 

Sherlock took off his coat, wrapping it over what he could of John without disrupting Mary's hold on him. 

The ambulance arrived almost ten minutes later, which was ages too long in Sherlock's opinion, and he made sure to inform them of that as they loaded John into the back of the vehicle. He climbed in after them with Mary, both of them watching John carefully. 

As soon as whatever fogged-up sense of survival had been keeping him going realized that he was in a safe, moving vehicle, John passed out. Mary had hold of his wrist, leaning back against the rocking wall of the ambulance and looking a bit haggardly at Sherlock. It had been a good while since she'd had to be a participant in a motorcycle/parkour event. "Whoever this was... Sherlock, why did they want us to know?" 

"Because their goal wasn't to kill John," he said quietly, eyes never leaving the army doctor. "It was to show us what they can do, and teach us to pay attention to them." He watched what the ambulance attendants were doing carefully, making sure they didn't make any stupid mistakes. "Besides. I expect that whatever they did to John will have long-reaching consequences. You don't spend the time psychologically torturing someone you're going to kill anyway."

She nodded, falling silent again, eyes on John's slack face. She believed it, too. That he'd been psychologically tortured. He wasn't the first case she'd seen. She suspected that whoever had taken John had only wanted to play, in the worst sense of the word. But this was experience she couldn't bring up to Sherlock; she'd risked enough to tell him of the code.

"I'm sorry, Mary," he said quietly. "I should have kept a closer eye on him. There were bound to be complications with my return."

Mary sighed. "You can't blame what they did on yourself, Sherlock. I appreciate the sentiment, really, but I know you're not to blame for this," she murmured, shaking her head. 

He glanced over at her, and confirmed his suspicions as she spoke. There were hints of guilt on her face. Well hidden, but crinkling around the eyes and mouth. So she had reasons to fear it was her fault, as well. He nodded just a little. 


 

The ride to the hospital was longer than Mary would have liked, but she could hold the adrenaline lingering in her system accountable. She briefly caught the sleeve of the nearest paramedic, who turned to look at her. "Is he hurt?" 

"Nothing too bad," the man shook his head, "He's got a couple cuts, nothing serious. Looks like they had something sharp in that pyre." 

Someone else spoke up as they pulled into the hospital lot. "The police will want to take statements from you both, so we need to ask you to stay at the hospital until they say you can go." The vehicle stopped and they rolled the gurney out of the back quickly, Sherlock and Mary just behind. "That won't be a problem," Sherlock assured them with a touch of sarcasm.

She walked beside the detective, feeling just as derisive. Police statements were nearly worthless. And her best bet to discovering who had done this was walking right beside her. The police could be involved after the hard work had been done. 

He followed as far as they were allowed, stopping outside the door that had been closed in their face, before starting to pace the waiting room quietly, running through the past hour in his mind over and over, trying to see what he'd missed.

"Who would target John? Why not you?" she asked, after a long minute of watching him pace in the dim room. She didn't particularly mean to be blunt, but she knew she didn't need to pad her words. He understood.

"He's my weakness," he said calmly, looking over at her. He'd come to accept that over the years. It was better to admit it than to live in delusion. "It's difficult to affect me personally. however, you also have to consider that he's your weakness as well. He's doubly useful. Someone a lot of people care about."

"That's my husband for you," she sighed out, leaning her head back against the wall. Her clothes still smelled of pine smoke. "I don't know who'd want to use him to get to me, though. Not many people have personal grudges against secretaries." 

"No, I suppose not," he said, not hinting at his cards at the time being. "But you never know. Some people do this sort of thing for fun." He turned at the end of the room, reversing his trail again. And again. "I'll find them."

She couldn't find the energy to pretend to be frustrated with his pacing. She'd very much like to be moving too, but that wasn't who she was now. "Someone should call Greg."

"Texted him in the ambulance," he said, waving her off slightly. "This is ridiculous. Were he conscious, John would have evaluated himself four times over by now. What is taking so long?"

Mary shook her head. She didn't have an answer for him. "He might need an IV. Dehydration?"

He let out a snort of frustration, finally crashing into a chair next to her. "You've got medical experience, sort of. Can't you get in there?"

She shook her head. "I can stop bleeding and change an IV, and I don't think they'll let me in just on that, do you?"

"Not if you sell it like that they won't," he snorted, staring up at the ceiling as though he could burn a hole through the age-stained plaster with his gaze. 

She lifted her shoulders in a half-hearted shrug. "I watched in the ambulance. I don't think any of John's physical ailments will be pressing. Maybe it's better he has time to rest without any of our questions."

He grit his teeth a little, before standing. "I'm going back," he said decisively, pulling on his coat. "The trail's getting cold."

Mary nodded. "I'll send you a text when he's up, yeah? Good luck." 

He nodded, already down the hall, coat billowing behind him as he pushed out into the night. Guy Fawkes day was still in full swing around him, bonfires and shouts of laughter and the sounds of teens calling 'penny for the guy?' He started walking towards where they'd found John. 

She sighed as she watched him go, eyes still on the door even after they'd long been shut. She was fairly certain she knew who would do this to her, now that she had a moment to think. C.A.M.

 


 

It was almost an hour later that an orderly came out into the waiting room and found Mary. "Your husband's awake and asking for you," she said gently. "You can come with me."

She felt some tension she hadn't been aware she'd been holding drop from her shoulders as she smiled and stood, thanking the nurse and following into John's room. She sat in the closest chair to his bed. "Hey, how are you feeling?" 

He looked over at her and studied her carefully, before giving a weak smile. "Alright," he said, voice hoarse. His eyes were slightly guarded, and he was doing his best not to move and rip the IV out of his arm. "Can you get them to... to get this out of my arm, please?"

Mary's brow furrowed slightly. "John, you should really keep it in..." she started, and trailed off when she saw the look on his face. "Alright. I'll ask them." She didn't ask why. 

He nodded a little, trying to calm slightly. The needle ached a little in his arm, and it set him on edge. He reached out for her hand with his free arm, needing to feel her solid against him. Real.

She took his hand gladly, squeezing once. She was relieved to see him, and even more relieved to see him almost entirely intact. But now that she looked there were track marks in his arm, and the telltale lined bulge that signaled bandages across his stomach. "I was quite worried, as you can imagine. Sherlock's already gone trotting off to do his thing. Bit impatient, isn't he?" She asked, smiling. 

"That's an understatement," he says, nodding a little. He watches their hands, rubbing their knuckles. "What... Mary, when was the last time I was in Afghanistan?"

She raised her eyebrows. "You haven't been in Afghanistan for three years, John. Maybe more, now. What happened to you?" 

He shook his head, looking away. "Nothing. Just checking."

She frowned slightly, but didn't comment on it. "Alright. If you need to.. check something else, I'll help you. I want to see you better." 

His left hand curled and uncurled a few times under the sheet, where she couldn't see. He wasn't sure what to think. Obviously Sherlock and Mary were alive, real, but... He'd been certain he was in Afghanistan yesterday. That wasn't right, obviously... Unless he'd lost more time than he thought... Or maybe he'd been dreaming, then. Or was dreaming n-

He stopped that thought before it finished. Here was reality. Here was reality. 

 Mary watched him, thinly veiled concern on his face. She'd seen plenty of people come out of psychological trauma looking worse, but it was different when she was so... invested. "Do you want me to get you anything from the caff? I don't think the staff will object to you getting a little tea into your system, yeah?" 

"Hmmm?" It took him a moment to concentrate on figuring out what she'd said. Then he nodded, a touch of relief breaking over his face. "That would be unbelievable."

"Alright." She leaned over the bed to kiss him on the forehead. "I'll be back up in a few," she smiled, trying for reassuring and coming across as more worried than anything, then quietly slipped out the door. 

He watched her go with a quiet sigh, then turned his eyes up to the ceiling. 

He froze. There, flickering in bluish light, were the words Wake up, Captain Watson.
He sat up immediately, ignoring the pain and everything else, trying to get himself out of the bed. The window... it had to be coming from the window...
He looked up again and the words were gone. The heart monitor was a loud and fast-paced, beeping urgently in the background, but his eyes were on the blank ceiling, searching for the words that had been there just moments before. 

While Mary was stuck impatiently in line down in the off-white, tired looking cafeteria, Lorna was slipping into John's room, dressed the same as every orderly that walked by. Just to rattle him. Holmes was on the other side of London, anyway. She gave a strained smile when she saw Watson half out of bed, gliding forward to nudge him back down. Oh, she was glad he hadn't seen her enough to commit her to memory. Moran couldn't do this. "Sir, if you'll just lie back down..."

He jumped at her touch, eyes whipping to look at her, eyes hard, a touch of fear beneath them. "I need... I need to see out the window..." She looked familiar... He couldn't place it. 

"Sir, I can promise you nothing exciting is happening outside. Come now, you'll strain yourself," she scolded, the hand guiding his shoulder becoming a little more firm. "You don't want to pass out and crack your head, do you?" 

He lay back quietly, distractedly, still looking at the window. "Look out... can you please... just look out there," he urges quietly. "Someone's out there."

She made a tsking sound, but went over to the window as he asked, putting her hands on her hips. "I'm afraid there's no one out there. Not even a pedestrian. Now, if you'll excuse me...?" She turned around looked at him expectantly, an impatient cant to her stance.

His expression wilted just slightly, but he nodded. "Right... of course. My apologies."

"Later, Doctor," she nodded, turning on her heel and briskly walking out just as Mary reached the door on the other side. In a quick flurry of apologies and an appraisal of the other and then the encounter was over. Although something about the other had both of their teeth on edge.

John stared up at the ceiling, trying to think. It was possible they were gone. Very easily possible. Turn off the light and disappear. Or... It was possible- much less possible, a possibility he didn't like to consider- that he was, actually, dreaming. He suddenly felt less inclined to tea. 

Mary was distracted as she set the tea down on the tiny little tray that protruded over his cot, trying to keep an image of the nurse in her head. She'd looked like a nurse on the surface, but she didn't smell like one. Expensive alcohol, expensive perfume, and of, strangely, mint, but not a nurse. "John? You don't look as well as I left you. Are you alright?"

He shrugged a bit. "Just... feeling off all of a sudden," he said quietly, not looking at her. "Might try to sleep a bit."

"Alright. I might need to pop into the office while you're asleep, let everyone know why we're not showing up to work," she murmured, reaching to squeeze his hand. "So if you wake up and I'm gone, that's why." 

He almost laughed at the simplicity of that statement, and how close it was to his fears. What if I wake up and you never were? But he kept that to himself, just murmuring a quiet "Okay..." as he closed his eyes. 

Figuring that was the last she was going to get out of him for a while, she stood to go. Maybe she'd have time to check in with Sherlock's progress.

He listened to her go, but didn't fall asleep, eventually opening his eyes again to watch the ceiling. If it was someone, he wouldn't miss them again. 

 


 

Sherlock stooped over the damp, charred ground, torch in hand, working over the site a piece at a time, looking for any indication of what had happened before they arrived. The crowd and the fire had done nothing to make his life easier, and even he was having difficulty picking out tracks in that mess, so instead he was at the outskirts, slowly circling, looking for signs of someone being dragged. 

Mary had decided to just call their coworkers in the cab she took to the site they'd rushed to so quickly the night before. Even now, it was early morning. Very early morning. She spotted Sherlock the moment she shut the cab door behind her, and begun picking her way over the trash from the festivities. "Anything promising?" 

He glanced up at her, but seemed unsurprised to see her. "It's difficult to say given the debris. I'm trying to find where they brought him in from. There's a partial footprint under the wood, a man's heel, but other than that it's all been destroyed by the fire or the firetruck or the panicking crowd. How's John?"

"He's..." she trailed off for a moment, unsure of what to say. "He seems shaken. He asked me how long it's been since Afghanistan." She almost mentioned the odd nurse for a moment before remembering that that was stretching the limits of what Sherlock could easily accept. A lead to follow on her own, then. 

He nodded slightly. "Someone did their homework," was his only comment as he ducked his head again, continuing to walk along the exterior of the park. 

Mary followed a few steps behind, giving his field of view the widest spread possible. She wasn't very good with mud. "Who would go through him to get to you?" 

"Oh, a lot of people," he said quietly. "I didn't make friends while I was gone, Mary. I was dealing with Moriarty's organization... I've made myself a threat, proven myself capable of more than just detective work. Caught a bit of the wrong sort of interest, it would seem."

"It seems like that sort of thing usually does, unfortunately," she sighed, slipping her chilled fingers into her pockets. "Maybe cross out a few that don't have the resources for this sort of thing? One of the nurses told me he'd had some weird drugs in his system. And you know that's not John."

He stooped a moment later, running his fingers over a rut in the soft ground. A heel scrape. Likely John's, judging by the size and shape of the impression. "They're obviously someone who knows what they're doing. Or at least, they've hired someone who is. I have a few thoughts but nothing confirmed. I'm working on that."

"It's my understanding that you don't just pick up people like that on the street," she commented, running through a few people in her own database. "And I imagine they go for a lot of money." That nurse again. She sighed. 

"There's a lot of rich, powerful people with connections to the underground, Mary," he said, leveling an interested gaze at her. "Do you have any thoughts as to who this could be?"

She raised her eyebrows, letting out a short bark of a laugh. "No. Your guess is better than mine, Sherlock, believe me."

He stood, straightening his coat. "I need to go speak with the homeless network. Someone may have seen something."

"Alright. I'll go back to the hospital. John said he was going to sleep, but I don't believe a word of it," she shrugged, looking back toward the street. It was turning into a disgustingly gray day outside. "See you." 

He nodded slightly. "Anything odd, let me know immediately." Then he was gone. 

She didn't bother making a confirmation to empty space, so she just turned and trudged back to the road, weighing the pros and cons of telling him about the strange hospital encounter. 

 


 

John was awake when she returned, lost in his vigil of the ceiling, one hand tracing absently over the bandages on his torso. The IV needle still throbbed in his arm, and his left hand was clenched in a tight fist by his side. 

She sank quietly into the seat by John's bed, keeping herself from reaching out to him for the time being. "John... it's alright. You can relax." 

He jumped when she spoke, eyes flashing to her face for the briefest moment before he forced himself to calm slightly. Mary was here. Right here. Mary was real. He knew that. "Everything set at the clinic?"

"Yeah. I told them all you got a particularly bad case of food poisoning. I figured that they wouldn't ask you questions, this way," she smiled slightly. "No one's ever curious about that." 

"Thank you," he said softly, nodding. He swallowed, debating, before deciding that his pride would need to be on hold. "Look... I know it's stupid, but... the IV... if there's any way..." He didn't meet her gaze.  

"Alright," she acquiesced, standing and walking around his cot. "I'll get it. I'm sure the nurses will only fuss over it anyway."  

"Thank you," he said again, quietly with absolute sincerity. He shifted his arm out from under the blanket, fist still clenched tightly. 

She bent over his arm and carefully removed the needle before rolling the IV stand a few feet away and setting the dangling tube on the side table. "There you are. Better?" 

He sighed in relief, tucking his arm against his chest almost protectively despite the fact that it was still oozing a bit of blood. It was an unbelievable relief, and some part of him relaxed for the first time. "So much..."

"As long as it helps," she murmured, returning to her seat with a slight frown on her face. Eventually, she was going to have to push John for answers. She didn't look forward to that.

"More than you know," he murmurs, checking the ceiling carefully before turning to look at her. "Did you talk to Sherlock?"

"Yeah," she nodded, "He said he didn't have much to go off of." She didn't mention that they were trying to get to Sherlock. John would either blame himself or blame Sherlock, and neither would be particularly helpful.

He nodded just a little. "Maybe that's for the best," he said absently. 

She raised an eyebrow, surprised. "What? Why do you say that?" 

He shrugged. "You know how he is... He'll pursue this if he finds these people. And... We just got him back, Mary. Maybe it's better he just... stay low for a while."

"Good luck convincing him of that," she snorted, reaching to clasp his hand in hers. "I'm sure it will be fine."

He gripped her hand back absently, watching their fingers. "These people.. They're different."

She sighed, running her thumb over the back of his hand. "I know. I know."

  


  

The next few days were slow and painful as John recovered. The doctors tried several times to get him to accept the IV again, but he wouldn't budge on the issue. The light never returned to the ceiling, and after a while he began to wonder if he'd really seen anything at all. It wasn't reassuring. 

Mary came in on the third day, carrying a tote bag with John's clothes inside. "Hey!" She smiled, "They gave me the all-clear at the front desk, we can go home. Luckily I'd already packed some clothes for you." 

"Brilliant," he murmured, sitting up gingerly. He was still sore and wrapped in bandages, but there was nothing more they could do for him here. "Thank you."

"Yep," she smiled cheerfully, setting down the bag at the foot of the bed. "I thought you'd just want to get out of the hospital gown, to be honest." 

"You're a saint," he said with a quiet sigh, digging in for his pants and trousers. 

"I know," she chuckled, putting her hands on her hips. "Your old landlady.. Mrs. Hudson, yeah? She tried to send fruitcake, but I managed to deflect her." 

"I should go see her," he murmured as he pulled on his clothes. "Should have done, the whole time, but I should more now."

"I'm sure she'll be happy to see you. Although she might be too busy fussing over Sherlock to notice you at first," she shook her head, remembering the woman flitting around the last time she'd been over there. 

"Oh, she fusses over me, too. Used to anyway. Don't you worry." He put a hand on the bed rail, getting slowly to his feet. He'd barely put weight on his left leg, however, when it gave out from under him and he stumbled sideways with a curse, weight on the rail. 

She hurried over to help support him, carefully keeping from messing with his bandages. "You alright?" She should have thought to bring his cane. She cursed internally. 

"Fine," he said a bit shortly, frustrated with the development. "I'm fine." He didn't want to discuss it. 

"Okay," she agreed carefully, slowly stepping away to give him back a sense of control. She knew better than to prod. "Want me to go check you out and meet you in the lobby?" Did he want her to leave while he made any potential fumbles getting dressed? 

He hesitated, glancing around the room, before he looked at his shoes a bit stiffly. "Maybe have someone find me a cane," he said quietly. 

"Alright," she popped up onto her toes to kiss his forehead, "I'll back in a couple minutes then, yeah?" She turned to briskly exit the room. 

He was grateful now more than ever for her practical viewpoint when it came to this sort of thing, and started gingerly working his way into the rest of his clothes. 

It didn't take her long to find an unused cane that looked about John's size even without the help of a nurse, whisking it back to John's room in record time and slipping it inside the door before heading back down to the front desk. She hadn't forgotten about the strange woman from a few days before, and the sooner she got John out of a public place, the better.

He finished dressing and made his way carefully over to the cane, leaning on it heavily as he started down the hall towards the lobby. His clothes felt bigger on him than usual, though that was mostly psychological, he knew. He met Mary in the lobby with a nod. 

She finished up with the tired-looking man at the computer and then went to John's side, sliding her hand into his. "I just brought the van this time. I didn't think we needed to fuss with a cab. Parking was hell, though." 

He nodded a little in thanks. "Let's go home, then, yeah?"

"That sounds like a good idea to me," she snorted, beginning to walk towards the door, letting him set the pace.

The pace was slower than he would like, but eventually they reached the car and get on the road. He relaxed in the seat, relishing the smell of something that wasn't hospital. He looked around at the buildings as they pass, familiar streets, reassuring himself again and again of where he was.

She didn't initiate conversation as she drove them home, deciding after a glance to his face that he was more absorbed in their surroundings. She bit back yet another question about what happened. He'd tell her of his own accord.

Their house was an incredibly welcome sight. After everything that had happened over the past week, he wanted nothing more to relax in a familiar environment. He could see the questions behind Mary's eyes, but he didn't want to talk about it. Didn't want to try and make sense of it, get told he was crazy, that it wasn't possible that he'd been where he was. Didn't want to break the only comfortable explanation he had, which was a lack of one. 

She didn't try to help him out of the car more than handing him his cane as he got out. "You hungry? I think I can probably make something better than whatever that hospital can whip up."

"That would be great," he said, nodding a little and giving her a small smile. "So... what have you been up to?"

She'd been going through a list of the few remaining contacts she'd had looking for a match on the nurse in the hospital, because she was certain that the woman was connected to the people who had taken John. One of them had thought she'd rung a bell and promised to look into it. But she just smiled. "Got a bit of lead on the last batch of library books I checked out. Vacuumed. Got bored and watched the news for an hour. Terrible idea."

He raised an eyebrow, smile growing a little. "A week of freedom and you vacuumed? Sounds thrilling."

"Oi, what else was I supposed to do?" She laughed, unlocking the house and stepping inside. "Did you want me to take up skydiving?"

"I don't know, at least go to a movie or something," he said with a soft smile, walking inside and taking a deep breath of the familiar smell of home before making his way over to the couch to sit down, tired already. 

"What, alone? Nah," she chuckled, heading into the kitchen to make something hot. He looked like he could use a rest. Now she just had to hope Sherlock didn't suddenly find something and steal away John's rest.

He felt a familiar tightness in his gut when she walked into the other room. It had become a pattern, whenever he couldn't see her or Sherlock, no matter how much he disliked it, or thought it irrational. Was it irrational? He just shook his head a little, rubbing his thumb over a rubber seam on the unfamiliar cane. 

"You want leftovers something fresh? I made meatloaf last night," she asked loudly from the kitchen, going through the fridge with one hand and her phone on the other. No missed messages. Damn. 

"Meatloaf sounds great," he called back, finally getting sick of the tension and standing, making his way into the kitchen. 

She slid her phone back into her pocket to get cracking on the meatloaf, whisking it out of the fridge and doling a generous serving onto a plate before popping it into the microwave. "You get any visitors while I was gone? I heard Greg was in to see you." 

"He was, yeah," he said, nodding a little. "And Mike stopped by, that's about it. Nice of them."

She leaned against the counter in front of the fridge, smiling. "That was nice of him. We don't see Mike as often as we should." 

He nodded a little. "We should have him over for dinner sometime," he agreed quietly, moving to sit at the table. He looked over at her. "I missed you."

She blinked, slightly (and pleasantly) surprised. "I missed you, too," she said softly, interrupted from following him to the table by the beeping of the microwave. 

He leaned over to the counter to open the drawer and get himself a fork as she brought the plate over, taking it from her gratefully, The hot food smelled heavenly, and he started eating immediately, if slowly.

She sat down across from him empty-handed. She'd already eaten lunch, before she'd known she could take John home. "Did you watch a lot of crap telly in there? Should I hide the cable box for a week?" 

He laughed softly at that. "You know me too well."

"Mm, maybe I know hospitals too well," she teased, resting her elbows on the table. "What else are they going to do to keep you entertained?" 

"Prod us, poke us, take our pants, all sorts of fun things," he said with a small smile. He took another bite of meatloaf, closing his eyes in appreciation. 

She smirked. "You're only making fun of your own kind, you know. What will all the other doctors think of you?" 

"The same thing I'd think of them if they were a patient. We're all terrible on that end of things," he sighs quietly, rolling his eyes. 

"Oh, I doubt it's just doctors," she smiled, settling back in her chair. Their kitchen furniture was old and banged up, but it was comfortable. 

He shrugged a little. After a moment's hesitation, he reached out to put his free hand over hers. Friendly human contact had been sorely missed. 

She turned hers over to lace her fingers through his. She really had missed him. The house felt too big when he was away for too long. 

"How long was I missing?" he asked, nearing the end of his food. 

She glanced over at him, gauging his expression. "A little over two days. You don't know?" 

"I lost track of time," he said, returning his gaze to his meatloaf. "That's all."

"Okay," she murmured, careful not to push. "Okay." 

He sent her a grateful glance as he finished his food, before standing and limping over to the sink to rinse his plate off. 

"I tried washing the... debris, for lack of a better word, out of your clothes, but they came out still smelling like gasoline, so I had to toss them."

"Okay. Thanks for trying, anyway," he said, heading back over to the table and sitting with a sigh. After a moment he asked "How did you two find me, anyway?"

"I got.. well, a really strange text message," she shrugged. "You'd already been missing for a couple of hours, though I didn't know it. Then I thought, 'Maybe this is a code'. Went to Sherlock. I didn't know he knew how to drive a motorcycle." 

"I didn't either, but it doesn't surprise me, to be honest," he said with a small shrug. "I'm just glad you found me."

"Me too." She cleared her throat to keep her voice from breaking. "It was... it was a near thing." 

He reached out to take her hand again, gripping it firmly. It was. Nearer than she knew, many times. 

She squeezed his hand, grateful for the contact. She didn't like to think about how close he came to being burned. 

"Are you alright?" he asked gently, rubbing a thumb over her knuckles.

"Yeah. Yeah. I think was alright when you woke up after we got you to the hospital. I wasn't the one who got pulled out a pyre." 

He nodded, squeezing her hand gently. He didn't know what to do with himself. It had been like this when he'd just come back from Afghanistan. A sense of separation from the rest of the world. And it was here again. He hated it.