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Skin and Bone

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"Anna Elizabeth James, twenty-seven years old, originally from California? Oh, you're far from home." Sebastian's voice rung out, eyes scanning the paper with the woman's personal details on in his hands with little interest, he'd already memorised everything on it anyway. He waited for a moment for her to properly come about, her head lifting at his words before bolting upright, her expression confused and tired. Her fingers found the ends of her hair, bunching it in her fist as if it would stop the migraine she knew was coming on. In the background, an old-style 20s jazz song could be heard, courtesy of Pippa's personal music tastes. Sebastian was less fashioned like that. Or at least that's what she had concluded based on the limited information she had about the man, other than his Aryan features and his borderline obsession with his guns.

"What- What's happening, Moran? What are you doing?" The woman, Anna, spoke through gritted teeth, making an attempt to move before realising her wrist was tied to the pipe on the wall beside her. Sebastian watched as she looked around the dim room, avoiding eye contact with him and the poker-faced girl stood to the side of him.

"Boss thinks you're lying to him." Sebastian began with his arms crossed over his chest, leaning forward on the chair he was perched on before continuing, "Thinks you're gonna tell someone about Holmes, maybe tip him off or something." His tone was filled with boredom, paying no mind to either of the other individuals in the room and instead deciding to wipe the smudges off the twin pistols that usually sit neatly at his sides.
"You hum in your sleep, Anna. Did you know that?" Pippa's voice, quieter and softer than Sebastian's, held just as much intimidation and confidence as her comrade. Standing at five feet and two inches, the need to sound harsher than she looked was everything. However, next to Sebastian's six-foot self, she resembled that of a school child. Her exposed thigh was decorated with a garter, a small holster attached to it in where her knife was, making no attempt to conceal it from the woman staring at her. With one hand rested on her hip, the other brushed the knife before pulling it from its leather home.

"I was relaxing, y'know? The first-day boss has given me off in months, I was looking forward to drinking myself into a coma - But then, Moran here, calls me asking me to come talk to you. Boring really."

"Well, maybe you should let me go, then go have your relaxing day," Anna spoke again, her voice strained but clearer than before. Pippa considered her for a moment, before bursting into a small fit of laughter, causing Sebastian to glare at her with pursed lips before she muttered a quiet apology.

"Just tell Moriarty he's crazy, I've never even spoken to Holmes before-" Anna continued, Pippa purposely tuning her whiny voice out as her thoughts turned to how Jim managed to keep her around so long, considering how quickly she was buckling.

Their voices soon became muffled to Pippa, watching the two communicate for a few moments as she fiddled with the handle of her knife. Pressing the tip to her index finger, she pressed down just hard enough for blood to come to the surface, the skin piercing ever so slightly. A smile graced her lips, tuning back into their conversation as she began to walk towards the woman, tutting under her breath.

"Jim knows you're a rat," she spoke with venom, "He doesn't like rats." She held her hand out to show Anna the knife, a healed pink 'M' scar on her palm being exposed as she did so. She moved to kneel, plunging the sharp blade into the woman's thigh and pulling it back out in one swift movement, watching the blood pool up against the fabric of her jeans. Pippa repeated the action further down her leg, closer to the knee this time, leaving the metal for a few moments longer and twisting it ever-so-slightly before pulling it out again, bringing it to her mouth and licking off some of the blood from the blade.

"Moriarty doesn't appreciate being lied to, Anna," Sebastian chimed in, reminding Pippa she wasn't alone causing her to roll her eyes into the back of her skull, "So either you admit to us that you're lying and you live, or you wait for Moriarty to kill you slowly."

Anna's eyes widened, clear fear and trauma in her face for a second before she swallowed the lump in her throat, nodding slowly.

"Fine. I tried to get in contact with Sherlock Holmes, but his brother got in the way so I was unable to give him any information regarding Moriarty."

Pippa's eyebrow raised as she listened, still kneeling next to the woman before turning her head up to Sebastian. His hand reached to one of the twin pistols at his side, Anna's eyes flickering between the two as he passed it towards the smaller woman kneeling.

She flashed a toothy grin at him, considering the pistol in her hand for a second before turning back to Anna. Raising to her full height, Pippa lifted her foot and pressed it down against the open wounds on Anna's thigh, cocking the gun before pressing the barrel of the gun against her forehead.

"I'd rather not be getting my hands dirty, but the fact that you clearly don't have a brain if you think you can go against Moriarty." She began, nudging Anna's head with the barrel in an attempt to get her to look up, "If you don't know your place here, then you shouldn't be here. Simple."

"Let me leave then- I won't do it again- I just-" Pippa sighed, interrupting her pleas by letting her finger slip on the trigger, the sound echoing in the room. Neither her nor Sebastian reacted to the noise, Anna's body slumping back against the wall.

"Thanks, Moran." She muttered, wiping the pistol absentmindedly with the sleeve of her shirt before passing it back to Sebastian, turning on her heel to leave the room. As she walked out, she nodded to the guard stood outside and told him to call someone from cleanup, ignoring Sebastian walking out moments after her.

Several hours later, Pippa sat in her onsite flat, the radio playing a song she couldn't remember the name of out against the walls of the barely furnished living room. The book in her hands had been long forgotten, rereading the same line several times over before her phone sounded out.

Never realised you'd been branded. -SM.

Her eyebrow raised momentarily, eyes flicking to the palm of her hand, having forgotten about it quickly after Jim had stopped re-carving it when it began to heal, before typing out a reply.

Never realised it was any of your business. -PR.

Thankfully, she didn't receive a reply. She'd assumed everyone had seen or at least knew about, the scar Jim left on her hand. It wasn't that she tried to hide it, the scar showed her loyalty to her employer. If anything, she grew surprised Sebastian didn't already have a similar scar somehow on him. However, another part of her felt smug knowing he didn't, reminding her that when all else fails, she's still Jim's favourite - Regardless of how childish it seemed. She'd worked for Jim for several years before Sebastian came around, her position as her bosses right hand being put into question by the ex-army colonel. Her thoughts were interrupted once more by the buzz of her phone, putting down her book as she reached to grab the deceive again.

My office. Now. -M

She was out the door before she could even consider what Moriarty needed, slipping her phone into the pocket of the jean shorts she'd donned when told she had the day off, hoping to have the chance to at least sit in the summer heat for at least a half hour. Unlikely. The garter on her thigh no longer acted as a home to her knife, which now sat on her couch after having been cleaned. Reaching to pick it up and return it to the holster, she turned to walk out of the door.

"Three minutes and fifteen seconds." The first thing Moriarty said as she knocked on the door and walked in, "You're getting slow Ricci."

"Sorry boss had to grab my knife before I left. What can I help you with?"

"You were with Moran earlier, correct? When he was talking to James?"

"Yes, sir. Proved quite therapeutic if I do say so myself, I missed using guns."

He nodded, clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth as he considered the woman in front of his desk. Her dark hair trailed down her back, kinky in places from having been tied up. Between her shorts and the Led Zeppelin sweater, she seemed like an ordinary citizen rather than the firecracker Moriarty knew her to be. Her small stature made it easy for her to be underestimated or overlooked, which is what she hoped for in opponents.

"Let me see your hand," Moriarty spoke again, his accent coming out stronger than normal due to the venom present in his voice. Pippa nodded, holding out her hand towards the man and letting him inspect it, attempting to ignore him reaching for his own knife sat neatly on his desk.

"You don't mind, do you? It needs... a bit of a touch up, is all." He hummed, a sick smile tugging at his mouth. Swallowing the lump in her throat, Pippa nodded permission and letting out a breathy hiss as she felt the cold blade press against the long healed skin, splitting it roughly. She intentionally avoided looking at it until he finished, the feeling of blood dripping off her hand and down towards her wrist.

When he made a noise of completion, she turned her attention back to him, watching as he wiped the blood from his knife with a handkerchief. He looked up at her, raising an eyebrow as if waiting for a response."

"Thank you, boss-"

"Go away, you're boring me now."

Pippa simply nodded, clenching her fist and leaving the room, making a b-line to the onsite infirmary in the hopes of having her hand cleaned and bandaged, not particularly wanting to contract an infection.

Turning the corner down the hall from Moriarty's office, Moran spotted her before she saw him. Blood still seeping out of the cut, her nails covered both on top and under from how tight her fist had been.

"Ricci- What happened?" He inquired, his tone filled with worry for a split second before returning to the ice-cold facade he presented.

"Brand needed redoing," Pippa responded, not wanting to bother waiting for a reply as she stalked past him.

He only saw her once more that day, an hour later as she was scolding a peon twice her height. This time, however, her hand was bandaged and she was donning black jeans and a black button-up shirt, a leather holster over her shoulder with a handgun tucked snugly inside. The height difference between the two was laughable, the male Sebastian was unsure the name being maybe a foot taller than her. Despite that, the fear was evident on his face as she dismissed him.

"Ricci," Sebastian called over, waiting for her to turn and respond to him.

"Yes, Moran?" She hummed without looking at him, picking up a few pieces of paper he hadn't realised were on the floor. Standing straight, she held the papers in her not-bandaged hand.

"What happened there?" He questioned, tilting his head towards the peon she had been yelling at moments before. She let out a sigh, raising a hand to her head to rub her temple before replying.

"He was being stupid, had no common sense and wouldn't listen to me."

"Got any tips and tricks, then?"

"Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids." Pippa did not question whether he would have understood the reference, instead giving him a half smile. She ignored his eyes wandering towards her hand, not wanting to answer any questions he had, which he more than respected.

After a few moments, she nodded to him before turning on her heel and leaving towards her onsite flat. When she arrived, she immediately kicked off her shoes and let out a sigh, staring at the digital clock on the kitchen island: 19:45. A whole day off wasted on work either way.

Chapter Text

January 11, 11 years prior.

"Are you still awake?" Levi's voice called out from across the dark bedroom, waiting for a moment for a response. He saw her shuffle around on the bed before sitting up, causing a small smile to tug at his lips as he stepped towards Pippa, sitting at the edge of the bed.

"How was your day?" He inquired, taking hold of her hand which laid on top of the duvet, raising an eyebrow as she shook her head, "Nothing happened?" "What do you mean?"

"Hmm, it just wasn't very interesting," She shrugged, silently questioning why he was so talkative all of a sudden, usually he preferred to keep to himself.

"Well, we've got to go out." His tone went from the softness he usually spoke with, to demanding and almost aggressive. He stood up from the bed and made his way towards the door, before turning his head back to say they'd be leaving in ten minutes.

She let out a groan once he left, he always did this. He'd come home in the middle of the night only to say they had to go somewhere straight away. No explanation, no nothing. But that didn't change the fact she'd always go along with it.

After pulling on the jeans and shirt that lounged on the chair by her vanity dresser, she grabbed her shoes before making her way out of the bedroom and towards where she assumed Levi would be, considering it was the only room with a light on.

He didn't pay much attention as she walked into the kitchen, he was too preoccupied with his phone as per usual. Although, as she practically slammed her boots on the table, he couldn't help but look up at her irritated expression. The tiredness on her face was enough to make him not say whatever sarcastic quip he had ready in his head.

"Where are we going this time?" She mumbled, taking one of the shoes and pulling it onto her foot, tying the lace before doing the same with the other one.

"Moriarty wanted me to pick something up for him." His tone had returned to the soft one that she cared for so much, but somehow she could tell it wasn't genuine. She nodded, waiting for a moment before he finally stood, turning on his heel and making his way towards the door without so much of a glance towards her.

It was times like this that made her wonder how on earth their personalities worked. They were like chalk and cheese, they'd never go together. But somehow they did. Somehow his harsh and blunt personality moulded well with her soft and careful one. It didn't take much for someone to see how in love they were, but they never managed to see it themselves.

She made her way outside, walking towards his car, where he stood against the driver's side door waiting for her. Each step she made seemed to make her want to take two steps backwards. What had she ever done to be pulled from bed at three in the morning to pick something up for someone she'd met once? Moriarty was a careful man, Irish if she remembered properly. Only those who needed to know his face did and being the fiancee of his right-hand man, Pippa was one of them.

She'd met Levi when she was fifteen, he'd lived on the estate she walked through to get home. Her parents weren't around enough to notice when she began coming home late, reeking of cheap spirits and smoke. Their whirlwind romance didn't last as long as she wished, but she knew how she felt.

He lifted his hand up, revealing the baseball cap he held in his hand, waiting for her to look at him before placing it on her head and pulling the loose ponytail that rested on her head through.

"So nobody can recognise you." He stated matter-of-factly as he took a deep breath, lightly pushing her back a bit so he could get into the car. It may have been a tacky, cheap car but he still thought of it as his baby, his pride and joy. She couldn't help but smile at it.

By the time they'd arrived, he'd also handed her a face mask to cover the bottom half of her face, telling her to put it on. He also told her that if anything seemed off, she had to run and leave him there. Nothing had gone wrong in these situations before, so why would it start now?

She didn't bother arguing, but maybe if she had, he'd never have been such an idiot. If she had put up a fight, would he have gone through with it? Of course, he would. He was an idiot, she knew that her feelings towards him would never come between him and what he claimed to be work.

But that didn't change the situation they were in. That didn't change the fact that she had to hold her best friend, her boyfriend, the man she intended to spend her life with until they died of old age as he took his last breath.

What was supposed to be a quiet, easy drug run had somehow resulted in Levi being shot. By some idiot sent by Moriarty, by the one who wanted him there in the first place, even though the peon swore he didn't mean to shoot at Levi. What a load of bullshit.

"Stop it, you idiot. You're fine." She almost hissed, her throat was too sore from crying and yelling to be loud anymore. She just wanted him to stand up and tell her it was going to be okay.

"Don't go to sleep- Levi, dammit. Stop- No, no, don't close your eyes."

"Would you remember me?" He questioned, pausing for a moment while speaking as if he were trying to word it a different way. But there was no other way to word it. He was going to die, they both knew that, although she hoped that if she told him to stop enough then he'd be okay. How could she have been so foolish to let him go?

"Baby I want you to know how much I love you." That was it, his eyes slowly closed as his breathing slowed down, and that had been the breaking point for her. She'd gone through too much with him for it to just end there, but for some reason that was it. Maybe she deserved it for surrounding herself with such people. But maybe he deserved it more for getting her involved with that lifestyle.

It was like a car crash. Some people run away, some stand and watch. And she couldn't tear her eyes off the man led before here, with blood dripping down his chest and onto the floor, onto her denim-clad knees. Her breathing was laboured, but his gradually slowed until it finally reached a standing point, his eyes staring up at the sky with a look of content mixed with sadness on his face.

She began to rise, a deep sigh coming from her chest as she choked back a sob. Life went on, with or without Levi. But that didn't make it any easier.

As she did so, a set of footsteps began to echo against the walls. Pippa spun on her heel, rage filling her body as she made eye contact with Moriarty. Her eyes flickered to the gun still on Levi, grabbing hold of it and aiming it towards the man in the span of a second. He possessed a calm expression, clearly knowing she wouldn't shoot him.

"Pippa, calm down. He needed to die- He wasn't loyal."

"He was the loyalist person I've ever know, you asshole-"

"Please, listen to me." He interrupted her rant, his accent becoming significantly stronger as he let out a huff of breath before continuing, "I'm giving you a choice here. Stay here with Levi. Or come with me. Levi told me you're good with a knife, apparently not as good with a gun based on how you're holding that but you'll improve."

"I don't want to come with you." Pippa's voice shook, her throat tightening as her eyes moved between Levi's body and Moriarty.

"Let me rephrase it. Either, you come with me or you get shot right here. I don't like loose ends."


 

Pippa woke in a cold sweat, her breathing heavy with tears welling in her eyes. She turned her attention to her alarm clock, 08:02. Letting out a long sigh, she sat up, wiping the tears beginning to roll down her cheek with the back of her hand. Stop crying, she hissed in her head.

Before she even had a chance to think, her phone buzzed.

My office. Need to talk to you and Moran. -M

Scrambling out of her bed, Pippa moved sluggishly towards her wardrobe and pulled out a pair of black denim jeans and a black jumper, tugging them on over her underwear-clad body. She felt as if she were on pilot mode, moving around the apartment grabbing the essentials before taking her leave.

She didn't run into Sebastian on her way, causing her to assume he was already there. That would look bad on her, fuck.

"Nice of you to join us," Jim mumbled, looking through a pile of papers as Pippa walked into the room. She didn't respond, just looked at Sebastian and nodded before slumping down onto the couch against the wall with a huff.

She turned her attention to the large tinted window on the far wall whilst the two spoke, watching people walk past with no knowledge that she could see them. The building was an old, Victorian style place that had been abandoned for some years before Jim bought it. She never knew what it used to be, but she assumed it was a school of some kind. The streets of London were already busy, between street vendors that had set up hours ago and wandering bodies with cups of coffee in their hard grasp. The weather was becoming brisker and warmer with the changing seasons, many with scarves wrapped around their necks to protect them from the spring wind.

Jim watched her, her eyes squinting while she watched a mother trying to stop her son from crying. She was calm, for the most part, with or without the severe anger issues. Her appearance was nothing to be afraid of, besides the several piercings he knew she had, only six of which were visible with clothes on: the cartilage between her nostrils, three on the top of her right ear and two on her left. She'd always had dark hair since she met Jim, but he was aware it wasn't natural. The light, barely-there freckles on her face indicated that she was a natural red-head. Not that Jim had ever seen it. It was uncommon for Italians to have naturally red-hair, making him doubt his deduction skills. He'd known her for more than a decade, and still had no clue what her natural hair colour was. Dressed in entirely black, she looked significantly smaller than normal. Her phone in the pocket of her jeans with her garter wrapped around the fabric-clad thigh, a familiar silver of her knife sparkling in the rising sunlight.

"You a'right, boss?" Pippa asked, her attention now directed at the man staring right at her intently. He coughed abruptly, causing both Pippa and Sebastian to raise an eyebrow before he nodded.

"Yes, I'm fine Ricci." He spoke, "Just wanted to let you both know that I'll be leaving for a few days. Here is a file of the job I want you both on while I'm gone, I trust you not to mess it up. Mostly mingling, the Foreign Secretary has been silent as of late and it's making me anxious."

Pippa nodded, looking at Sebastian for a moment to get some kind of indication of how he felt about working with her from his stone cold face. No luck.

"Of course, boss. We won't mess up. I have to ask though, the business you have to attend to, is it to do with Holmes?" Sebastian asked. Jim looked at him for a long moment, passing the file to him before nodding. Pippa snickered childishly, causing both men to look at her for an answer.

"It's nothin' boss, honest. Just that you're leaving us in charge so you can go see your boyfriend, it's funny." Jim took a sharp breath in, nodding again before shooting Pippa a harsh glare. She immediately stopped laughing, moving to stand in the same second and mumbling an apology.

Sebastian watched the two interact, intrigued by the lack of punishment Jim had to threaten to get an apology. Everyone knew their relationship went beyond that of employee-employer, but no one knew how far or in what way. Romantic, maybe. Platonic, more likely. Sebastian knew little of her background, just that Jim 'helped' her when she was in a rough spot; what that really meant, he was unsure. She'd been there four years longer than him, having between Jim’s right-hand and personal sniper. Two years after he joined, he essentially took her spot. Part of her resented him for it, knowing it made her seem less than. However, a larger part was thankful as it meant she had more space to breathe and had to deal with Jim less. Sebastian knew what she was like, level-headed and calm, hardly one to step first and think second. She was excitable in the same way a child would be, likely a reflection of her own childhood, or lack thereof.

He noted that she tucked several strands of hair behind both ears as she stood, her hair lying straight down her back as it wasn't tied back for once. She had a scar trailing down the side of her neck, not noticeable unless you knew it was there. Once again, Sebastian knew nothing of it and didn't really care to ask either.

A loud knock at the office door followed by it opening broke his concentration, Jim's secretary, Addams, peeking her head in as if to not disturb the conversation. Too late.

"Mr Moriarty, your car is here. You're scheduled to fly in seven hours, the President-" She coughed, clear anxiety in her throat from being in a room with three murders, "will be meeting you when you land in Washington." Jim nodded once again, waving his hand to dismiss her.

"Well kids, time for daddy to take his leave." Pippa stifled a laugh as Sebastian's expression turned sour at Jim's words. Jim pushed back his chair, standing to his full height, a fair bit taller than Pippa but still shorter than Sebastian. He adjusted his suit, 'Westwood' Pippia mimicked in her head, and his tie before flashing a toothy grin at the two and moving to leave the room.

He left the two alone, both files still sat at the edge of the desk. Pippa was the first to reach for one, opening it and immediately being faced with an image of a middle-aged white man. She knew the face, but couldn't place a name. He did government work, she knew that much. Under the image, in bold red letters, was "EXTERMINATE AT FIRST CHANCE".

Sebastian had also picked up his, she noticed as she turned to him, eyeing the two pieces of place card in his hand, adorned with gold, cursive writing. Invitations? That made things easier. She took one, tucking it into her file before turning on her heel to leave, mumbling a 'goodbye'.

Getting into the party was the least of their worries. The security guard didn't recognise them, nor did any of the other guests. With one arm wrapped around Sebastian's, Pippa straightened her navy blue dress, and Sebastian donned a matching tie, his rigid stature making Pippa laugh as she nudged him in an attempt to tell him to relax. She looked so different in comparison to her everyday attire, the silver jewellery removed from her nose and ears, her hair tied back into a low bun.

"I'm going to go and scope the place," Sebastian mumbled in her ear. His hand fell down onto her waist for a second before pulling apart, disappearing into the sea of well-dressed people.

Pippa let out a long breath, her hand on her stomach as she did so. She took a champagne flute from one of the trays, wandering around and smiling charmingly at those she passed. She walked past a group of younger woman mumbling and laughing over drinks, slowing to listen intently.

"Did you see the man who just came in? The one with the woman - dark hair, dark blue dress? Oh gosh, he's gorgeous." One mused, fanning herself with her hand. Another, presumably her friend, let out a laugh and playfully hitting her friend on the shoulder. Pippa rolled her eyes, she knew Sebastian was handsome, everyone at the network did, but no one ever acted on it. For all she knew, he could've been a virgin. Although she doubted that.

Moving on from the shrill voices, Pippa looked around until she found someone who looked interesting enough. Within minutes, she'd attached herself to a handsome young man who, despite being startled at her presence, smiled and introduced himself.

"Daniel Matthews." He spoke calmly, everything about him screaming politician.

"Lara Edwards." The lie slipped through her teeth, pulling back from him for a moment and holding her hand out to him. Another smile. He took her hand, placing a kiss on her knuckle.

Unbeknown to Pippa, Sebastian stood watching from the corner of the crowded hall. The small woman held the attention of many people around her, her mere presence enough to captivate people. It was crucial for someone in her field of work to act like you owned the room. Her smile could be seen and identified from miles away, her laughter light like clouds.

By the time she spotted him, he'd finished scoping the building and was beginning to mingle. She excused herself from the man she'd been talking to, Daniel? Was that his name? She couldn't really remember.

"It's rude to stare," She hummed, coming up behind him and leaning her chin on his shoulder, "I can't talk when someone's burning a hole in my back." A stiff laugh left his mouth, followed by a soft shove to her shoulder.

"What did you find out?"

"Johnson isn't here yet, he's expected to be soon though. Like, really soon. God, I hate rich people. This dress is so tight I think I might die."

Immediately after speaking, she locked her focus on the man walking in through the door. Chandler Johnson. Pippa nudged Sebastian, turning his attention to the man as well. He nodded, moving away from her and reaching into his blazer to pull the gun from the holster on his side. Pippa's hand moved to her leg, the slit in her dress high enough to reach the knife attached to her thigh but not too high that it was exposed to everyone to see.

Before she could speak, Sebastian had already made his way over to the man. A smile on his face as they began to talk, Pippa approaching behind him shortly after. Johnson's eyes widened slightly at the feeling of Sebastian's gun now digging into his back.

"Come with us, and it will be fine." Pippa purred in his ear, standing at his side, "Don't come with us and... Well... I think you know." Johnson didn't bother responding, he simply started walking alongside the two to an empty room Sebastian had found when he was scoping the area.

"Stand outside, if anyone comes then knock, got it?"

Pippa nodded, clearing her throat as she watched Sebastian walk the man into the room, the door closing slowly behind them. She stood there silently, her hand carefully placed on the handle of the knife should she need to use it. Her body tensed slightly as a group of older men walked past, flashing them a smile in the hopes of her being stood there alone wouldn't raise any suspicions.

A few minutes after they left, a gunshot echoed in the room behind her. The door opened, Sebastian walking out less than a second later. He muttered something about calling the cleanup crew, already turning to leave while he cleaned off his pistol.

Shrugging the bag on her shoulder off, Pippa pulled out her phone and began to type out a new text message to Jim before leaving.

CJ is dead. Cleanup is dealing with it. Leaving now. -PR

Chapter Text

In the midst of spring, dark grey clouds hung over the skyline of London, wind whipping around the brave individuals who dared to leave their homes. Pippa let out a long breath, her head leaning against the car window while watching the trees along the railings sway in the breeze, waiting silently for the car to start moving through the traffic again. Sebastian sat next to her, a feeling of concern filling him at her mood. She hadn't spoken since they left, and something was clearly bothering her, but he hardly expected her to talk to him about her problems. The dull weather was a nice change from the heat that had been picking up and holding her predominately black wardrobe hostage. In the front was Andrews, who was in charge of weaponry and acted as security if Moriarty wasn't around.

Sebastian leant over the seat, mumbling something in Andrews' ear and several minutes later, the unmarked car stopped outside a small cafe, much to Pippa's surprise. He turned to her, nodding towards the door as if to tell her to get out. Placing her hand on the door handle hesitantly, she climbed out of the car, followed by the giant of a man. She stood on the side of the pavement, shaking her head slightly as if to shake the feeling of dread holding down her shoulders as the car moved away back into the city traffic.

Placing a hand on her shoulder, Sebastian led the woman into the cafe. asking what she wanted and waiting for her mumble of a reply before moving to the counter. To Pippa, it felt like everything was moving at a mile a minute. She nodded, watching him walk away before looking around to find an empty table.

"What's wrong?" His voice rang out as he returned, pulling Pippa back to reality. She looked at the mug filled with hot coffee he'd placed in front of her before looking up, her eyebrows furrowing as he continued, "You've not said a word since we dropped off Moriarty."

"Nothing is wrong, I just don't like his plan- It isn't safe, he's being stupid."

Sebastian nodded, he agreed wholeheartedly. But it wasn't their jobs to agree or disagree with Moriarty, just to make sure he stayed safe doing it. But Pippa seeming so thrown by Moriarty not agreeing with her that something was unsafe was new to him, to her too it appeared. She was used to Jim trusting her enough. He watched as Pippa pulled a small, silver flask from the inside pocket of her jacket, pouring some of its contents into her coffee before looking up and seeing an older couple looking at her disapprovingly.

"What?" She muttered, staring right back at them, "It's medicinal. Cramps." Today was not the day to test her, Sebastian could see that. Instead, he turned in his chair to offer a curt apology and then turning back to her.

"What do you actually know? About me? I know you've read my file, I've seen yours but it's mostly army lingo that I don't understand." Her question surprised him slightly, but she was right in that he'd read her file. In reality, it was stupid to ask because if he'd seen it then she knew what he knew. In her file was her date of birth, where she was born, family (dead or alive), trigger points and several other pieces of information Moriarty deemed useful. Alongside it all was a particularly old, unbearable picture of herself a year before Levi died. A younger version of herself, with striking pink and black hair. What she was going in the image she couldn't quite remember, knowing it was likely some kind of deal she'd been roped into going to with Levi. She knew what Moriarty having the picture meant from the moment she found it; he'd been watching her, and Levi's death had been planned much longer than she was originally led to believe.

No one had loved her more than Levi, she was well aware of that. Moriarty 'replaced' Levi quickly after Pippa joined him, in the same way that she replaced Levi; who had been Moriarty's right hand before her. He'd been with Moriarty from the start, which was the only reason he recruited her in the first place rather than killing her. Levi's act of disloyalty was shocking to everyone, resulting in many people turning their noses up at Pippa. Not that she cared. The feeling of not wanting her in the network was mutual.

Before Sebastian had a chance to respond to the woman, her phone sounded out. She put down the mug, leaning down to grab it from her backpack.

URGENT: JM has been injured, come back now. Infirmary.

Without even speaking to Sebastian, she dropped her phone on the table and stood ready to leave, waiting for him to read it himself. She was out the door and waiting for him on the sidewalk by the time he'd processed it. The same unmarked car pulled up as he walked out, the two of them climbing into the car.

Tearing her gaze from the window, Pippa stared at her phone in the hopes of receiving another message about Moriarty's condition. As she drummed her fingers against her thigh, Sebastian let out a sigh, wanting to comfort her in some way despite his own worries about the situation. Against her side, hidden by her jacket, sat a switchblade. Her immediate thought was 'How injured does he have to be for me to be allowed to stab him?'.

The atmosphere shifted as they finally pulled up to the Victorian-style building they were so used to, her gaze focusing on the two black vans parked in the garage they pulled into. Pippa was the first to get out of the car, immediately walking inside and straight to the onsite infirmary. Looking around until she found a member of staff, her heart was racing out of fear, mostly because she hadn't received another message since the first. When she did finally find someone, she asked which room Moriarty was in.

As she walked into his room, there he led. Fast asleep, still with a smug smirk plastered on his lips. He looked frail, like a small bird, with a bandage wrapped around his exposed chest, blood coming through in spots. Pippa was still unaware of what happened, but seeing him, relatively safe, was comforting.

"Come to see poor ol' me?" The Irish accent was enough to put Pippa into a fit, her attention turning to him. A harsh sigh passed her lips as she moved closer to the cot. She was unsure whether she felt like hugging him or hitting him.

"Jesus, Jim- What did I tell you? I can only keep you safe if you let me-"

"I know what you told me, Pip." She nodded timidly at the harshness of his voice, his lips pursing as he struggled to move up the cot to sit more comfortably. A cough from the doorway brought their staring content to an abrupt end before she turned to see who it was. Sebastian. Of course.

"Sorry to interrupt whatever this is. I just wanted to check you were okay, boss." Jim looked at him, muttering a response that Pippa didn't bother listening to. Instead, she pulled up one of the plastic chairs from the corner of the room to sit next to his bed. Her hand sat at the edge of the cot, not quite touching Jim but enough for him to be reminded she was there. Once again, it made Sebastian question the nature of their relationship. He knew from her file at one point or another, they'd been involved romantically. That explained both her attachment to him, and her work, as well as the scarred over branding on her palm.

"Pippa? Are you listening?"

"Sorry, what?"

"I need you to finish this for me. Clearly, I'm unable." Her eyebrow cocked as he spoke, confused as to why he wanted to continue with something as unsafe as what he wanted her to do.

"So, you want me to finish what put you in the infirmary?" Moriarty nodded, not flinching at her tone. Sebastian could sense the tension building and opted to pull Pippa out of the room before she could argue, telling Moriarty that he'd fill her in when she calmed down.

Several hours later, moving into the late evening, Pippa sat at one of the most privileged and sophisticated restaurants in London alongside several security guards. Usually, Sebastian would've accompanied her, not that she needed the protection. It was only out of sheer luck that she managed to convince Moriarty to tell Sebastian to stay with him.

Pippa knew something wasn't right when their waiter left suddenly towards the kitchen. She slumped slightly against her seat, letting out a long puff of air as she adjusted her dress. Tight dresses were her least favourite thing to wear, regardless of how nice it made her body look. Catching one of the guards eyes, she raised her eyebrow and nodded her head towards the kitchen door. There was no movement behind the glass of the door, her interest peaking significantly. Following an instinct, she nodded to the guard again before standing from her seat, walking slowly towards the kitchen. The rest of the restaurant was practically empty, several couples sat in dimly lit areas not paying attention to the Pippa.

Looking through the frosted glass window of the door, she could make out the shape of several people, likely armed. Pulling up the hem of her dress, she pulled a knife from her garter, waiting for one of the guards to come up behind her, a gun pressed to his side.

Pushing at the door slowly, the man stood to the side turned towards her before she grabbed hold of him, pulling her knife up and creating one long, deep cut in his throat with one swift movement. Quickly patting down his body, she grabbed the gun from his holster before dropping him and aiming the barrel towards the other men in the room. She stepped into the kitchen further, carefully watching them as they raised their own guns towards her.

"Ah, ah, ah. Don't shoot. I'm here on behalf of Moriarty."

"Moriarty sent you? You look like a pixie, he's slipping."

Pippa frowned slightly, tilting her head and clicking her tongue. She moved to place her knife back in its leather home against her thigh, not putting down the gun. Moving forward towards the man, his laughter not having died down. She heard the gunfire before she saw who shot it, the man who laughed falling to the floor seconds later. Another man, much taller and stronger than Pippa, attempted to grab hold her arm. She struggled slightly before bringing the pistol butt against his temple with a forceful smack with her free hand, hitting his nasal cartilage in the same moment, the crack sounding out around the room. The third man followed suit, gripping her forearm, causing her to drop the pistol before she could step away, punching him square in the jaw and pulling her knife out again, driving the tip into the dip in his neck. The blood dripped down her hand and onto her wrist as she twisted the knife, the mans face contouring in pain as he slumped on his knees in front of her.

"The next one to touch me is getting worse than this guy." She muttered, dropping his body on top of the first man, "I didn't come to argue or fight with anyone. Just to remind you that Moriarty doesn't take well to disloyalty. We're going to leave now, if you decide to follow us then I will kill you." Her voice was level, fear clearly shooting through each of the men watching her movements.

By the time they arrived back to the network, the blood on Pippa's arm has dried. No one was dumb enough to follow them, thank the Lord. Andrews was the one to greet her, asking if she was okay and needed medical attention to which she shook her head and said she was going to her apartment.

As she walked through the door, she tugged at the fabric wrapped around her skin and pulled it over her head, tossing it into the hamper sat next to her washing machine. Instead of looking for clothes to replace the dress, she took a seat on top of the counter, leaning her head against the cupboard.

A knock at the door pulled her attention away from her thoughts and imagination before she called out to say it was open. Less than a second later, in Sebastian Moran walked with a raised eyebrow at her attire (or lack thereof). The way her body looked her become normal for her, small scars littering her hips and the tops of her thighs. He knew what they were, he knew how she got them, but he never bothered questioning beyond what was in her file. When Pippa had begun working for Moriarty, he put her through hell. She'd been abusing drugs and alcohol before meeting him, and he told her to either get clean or she'd get killed faster than the rate she was already going. So, to make up for the lack of drink and drugs, she'd resorted to self-harm as a means to feel something, to remember that Levi dying wasn't just a nightmare she couldn't wake from. It didn't take long for Moriarty to find out. It ruined his original plans for her as a spy rather than a sniper, scars didn't tend to be appealing when you were trying to get information through sex. But ultimately, it ended up being beneficial in that Moriarty helped train the best sniper he'd had.

"Did you want something, or are you just going to stare at me?" Pippa's voice rung out, making Sebastian concentrate on her again and remember why he had come.

"Boss said well done. And to thank you. Said to go see him in the morning, he'll likely still be in the infirmary." Sebastian's voice was as cold and hard as he was, his accent not as strong as Moriarty's but still noticeable. Like Moriarty, he'd lived in London for several years so it made sense for his accent to have faded over time. But it still held a certain roughness that Moriarty's did not, Jim had a childlike way with words and how he presented himself as if everything was a joke to him, which it was most of the time. Sebastian, on the other hand, held dominance and attention. His high ranking position in the army was clear from how he held himself, despite the dishonourable discharge.

She nodded, not bothering to speak as she noticed him looking at the scars again. He could see why Moriarty found her attractive, her everyday clothes did a decent job in hiding her body, enough so that even he felt surprised. Her hair was coming loose from the bun she'd had it in, the dark strands falling past her face. At that moment, it felt like he knew her. She couldn't see them, but he had his own scars too. For different reasons, but scars nonetheless. But still, in reality, he knew nothing more about her than he had done three hours prior. He felt unnerved, he wasn't used to seeing her like this. He couldn't be used to it.

"Was that everything, or did you need something else?" Her voice pulled him from his thoughts once more, confused for a moment as his vision focused on her face. He shook his head, muttering his farewells before turning to leave the apartment.

"You did good, Ricci." He spoke as he walked out of the threshold, the door falling shut after him. She knew he felt uneasy over not being able to read her in the same way he could do with Moriarty, he was unsure of what to expect from her.

Upon waking up the next morning, Pippa made her way straight to the infirmary without bothering to change out of her pyjamas. She smiled at the staff, apologised to anyone she may have yelled at the day before, and walked into Moriarty's room.

"Morning, boss." She mused, cocking a brow at the fact he was already awake, a mug of what she assumed was coffee on the tray and a book at his side. The bandages had been replaced and were now covered by a loose fitting t-shirt, presumably Moran's from how big it looked on him and the fact that Pippa knew he didn't own any t-shirts. The chair she pulled next to the cot was still there so she sat, looking at Moriarty expectantly, waiting for some kind of response from him

"Mm, morning." He spoke quietly, not looking at her as his hand brushed against hers tenderly, her own wrapping around his and squeezing lightly. She'd die for him, he was well aware of that. It was part of her job description. However, he was also aware that he would not do the same for her. His hand moved up to her cheek, his thumb trailing over her cheekbone before he dropped it back to his side.

"So, what's the damage?" Pippa asked after a moment, leaning to the end of the cot to grab his chart before reading it out loud, "Shot in the stomach, bullet removed successfully. Cut on the chest, not deep. Sprained wrist. All should heal well. That's good, at least you'll be okay. Just don't be stupid, okay?"

"I'll be fine, Pippa. I assume Moran told you what I said?" She nodded, "Good. I meant it, by the way. I'm thankful that you finished what I started, even if you could've been hurt. But clearly, you hurt them more than they did you." He made note of the bruise she hadn't noticed on her forearm from being grabbed but didn't comment on it any more.

"What are your plans today?" Moriarty continued, changing the subject poorly. Pippa had stood from her seat, moving to clear up around him, taking the now empty mug and placing it on the table at the end of the cot.

"Nothing really, training some new recruits with Moran. That's about it, unless you had a job?"

"No, I was going to say you could have the day off but you seem excited about training." Pippa nodded, smiling shyly at him. She hadn't had the time to participate in training for a while, her excitement of screwing with new recruits obvious.

"If there's nothing else, I'm going to go get ready to beat some peon's ass."

Less than an hour later, Pippa walked into the onsite gym, where the training sessions were held. Sebastian was already there, along with several other recruits, and he immediately turned to her with a smile.

"If you are not already aware, this is Pippa Ricci. She had worked for Moriarty for more than a decade, and while she may not look like much, she could take each and every one of you out like that." He snapped his fingers to emphasise his point, resulting in the sneer from a girl stood at the back surrounded by her friends. Sebastian raised an eyebrow, looking through the list of names on the paper in his hands.

"Amy Johns?" The girl who sneered looked up, her eyes slightly wide as she nodded, "Good. Come here, you're up first. If you're so sure of your abilities, then prove it." Pippa tilted her head to the side, letting her neck crack as she adjusted the waistband of her leggings and waited for Amy to come to the front.

She let out a hum, relaxing slightly as Amy moved into a fighting position. Too tense and stiff. Without warning, Amy grabbed her by the shoulder, attempting to pull her into a headlock. Pippa was faster than she expected, turning and ducking low to wrap an arm around the girl's shoulder, pulling her down to her level and then onto the floor. Stepping back, she waited for Amy to stand to her full height again. She had a muscular body, her figure being that of an athlete. Her wearing a sports bra meant that every muscle shifting in her torso was visible, she just didn't seem to know how to use those muscles properly.

Amy let out a grunt, moving in for the same tactic she had before, but instead twisted Pippa's shoulder and let her out of her grip. Pippa's moves were graceful, causing Sebastian to look at her in admiration, as she kicked the back of Amy's foot, watching her fall to the matt once more. Pressing her foot against the girl's chest, Pippa smiled.

"Don't underestimate someone because they're smaller than you, remember that. If I had a knife, you'd be dead."

Sebastian nodded at her words, telling the others to go for a five-minute break. As they dispersed, he moved towards Pippa, nudging her gently with a laugh.

"You finished admiring me yet?" She asked, stretching out her arms for a few moments each side before leaning down to touch her toes.

"Barely even started." He responded, an odd feeling swelling up in Pippa's stomach at his tone.

Chapter Text

"Tell me. Quickly. And don't lie." Sebastian walked into her apartment, not having bothered to knock at the door. Pippa sat on her couch, a mouth full of chow mein as the familiar tune of 'My Girl' echoed around the room. God, why did he always pick the worst times to walk into a room?

"About what, Moran-" She swallowed quickly, moving to place the container on the table before standing up.

"Everything, Ricci. I'm sick of not being in the loop. Your file doesn't say half of the things Jim knows, but he won't tell me shit."

She cocked her head to the side, her eyebrows furrowing. Why was he suddenly so interested in her file? What did he want to know that wasn't in it, or that he wasn't already told? Unless Jim was being difficult? Likely. But regardless, this had been the most... emotional she'd ever seen Sebastian, even if he wasn't being emotional about it.

Sebastian looked down at her hand as she moved it up, in a 'sit down' motion. Nodding, he moved to take a seat on the stall next to the island. She sat back on the couch, waiting for him to speak and ask her what he wanted.

"Who exactly is Levi?" He spoke after a moment. How didn't he know that at least? Pippa was aware of the majority of people working for Jim, from those before her and those who will probably be her 'successor'.

"My ex-boyfriend," She began, Sebastian noted how she tucked her knees up to her chest as she spoke, "He was Jim's right hand before me. We met when I was still in school, not that I was there much. I spent most of my time dealing and going to shady meetings with him. But he fucked over Jim and paid the consequences, I was given the option to live and work for him or to die. It's obvious what I picked. You know about the drugs, and about the self harm, attempts on my life and whatnot. That’s already in my file.” "Jim trained me himself when he was able to, he made it clear that he wanted me to replace Levi. Some of his underlings didn't like that, but they're not even here anymore so it doesn't matter. I got into this when I was young, younger than you at least. Must've been 16, maybe 17? But Jim and I didn't get involved uh, romantically if you will, until I turned 21. Literally on my birthday." A smile pulled at Pippa's lips, laughing dryly as she thought back.

"At least you had the army before, Moran." She continued after a few moments of silence, "I was thrown into this, never wanted it. But it beats being dead. When I agreed to go with Jim, he completely removed me from the system. As far as anyone is concerned, I died alongside Levi in a drug deal gone wrong. I went to my own funeral, Jim made me. He said no one would recognise me because no one really cared, and he was right."

"I got this," She pulled her hair behind her ear, motioning to the scar down the side of her neck, "About two years after joining. Jim wanted me to try grifting in between training, said it would help me gain experience. But I got into a bar fight on a night off, some skank smashed her bottle and stabbed me with it. Between that and the fact I had been cutting myself, Jim was mad because it meant grifting was out of the question, scars bring down value after all."

"Do you regret it?" He asked hesitantly after a few minutes, not wanting to upset or irritate her.

"Which part?" Pippa asked dryly, "No. None of it. Jim looks after me, so I look after him. I belong to him." Sebastian knew she was referring to the carved 'M' on her hand, which had likely healed over again now. Would Jim redo it? Sebastian was curious when he did it, and what she'd done to deserve it. But that was a separate conversation.

He nodded, unsure if he got what he wanted. But he certainly got more than what was in her file. Straightening his back to stand tall, he cleared his throat before mumbling a quiet 'thank you' and taking his leave.

Pippa sat back on her couch, her eyes moving to the pot of noodles sit sat on the table. Her appetite had disappeared. Letting out a sigh, she began to wonder why she had told Sebastian anything anyway. It wasn't his place to know. Not if Jim wouldn't tell him. She reached for her phone sat next to her, beginning to type out a new message before tossing it back onto the fabric couch.

Need to talk. Why is Moran prying? PR.

She received a reply less than a minute later, scrambling to pick up the phone again.

Come to my office. Can't be bothered to walk down there, kitten. JM.

Three minutes and seven seconds later, she stood outside Jim's office door. He called out a soft 'come in' before she could even knock. As she walked in, she assessed the man sat behind the desk. He had recovered quickly from his injuries like the doctor said he would. But Pippa still worried about him. He was still an idiot for getting himself into such a situation. But she'd promised not to dwell on it.

"What can I do for you?" His voice pulled her out of her thoughts, looking at him from the doorway and moving to sit on the chair in front of his desk. But she didn't respond. Instead, she sat and listened to the quiet classical music playing. Bach? Mozart? No... Dmitri Shostakovich, that was it. She hummed along to the tune, unaware of Jim watching her with amusement in his eyes and a small smile on his lips. Whether he'd ever admit it was another question, but everyone knew he cared deeply for the woman. She was several years his junior, resulting in many people assuming they'd have a sibling relationship. Although that assumption came more from how they'd bicker than the age gap.

By no means were they in love, despite knowing they loved each other in a more platonic way. It was a convenience. She was lonely and Jim didn't trust anyone else enough. He remembered the first time they had sex like it was yesterday. For someone so small, God did she have some lungs on her. Her body was glorious, despite several scars littering her soft skin.

"What'cha starin' at, boss?" Pippa spoke with a laugh, her London accent coming out thicker than she had intended. Now it was Jim whose thoughts ran off with him, rather than her. He coughed, waving his hand at her.

"Nothing. Now, what do you want?"

"Moran was asking questions and I want to know why. Why don't you just tell him what he wants to know?" Jim stood from his seat as she continued speaking, not really listening to her talk.

"Boring, boring, boring. Oh, do stop talking, Pip." She shut up immediately, watching as he circled her before moving to the couch against the back wall, beckoning her towards him.

"I've missed you, Kitten." He hummed as she sat next to him, an animalistic fire burning in his eyes. His voice had shifted to something darker, something terrifying. Pippa suddenly felt afraid of what he could, and most likely would, do to her. In a moment of familiarity, she felt Jim's hand cup her cheek, his thumb brushing against the skin. Her eyes fell shut as his lips brushed against hers, carefully to begin with before he deepened the kiss. The man wasn't exactly big himself, but he was still taller than Pippa and used it to his advantage every chance he got. She hated to admit that she felt safe in his arms. Her mind raced as her heart thumped in her chest, threatening to jump out as Jim pulled her onto his lap, one leg on either side of him. Her hair fell down against his face, causing a soft laugh to be pulled from his throat before he released her lips. She wasn't used to this, the softness of his actions. Desperate for more, she kissed him again, allowing his tongue entrance into her mouth. In what felt like seconds but was really several long minutes, her shirt was removed and Jim's had been unbuttoned, his suit jacket left on his desk chair. He admired her torso, looking at each small mole or scar covering her olive skin.

She pulled him up for a second to push the dress shirt off his shoulders, allowing him to shrug it off. He was muscular, but still relatively small. He wasn't like Sebastian, who probably spent most of his free time in the gym. Jim had no real use for working out, he didn't need to use hand to hand combat like Pippa or Sebastian. But he was gorgeous. The light on his pale skin made him look like he was glowing, the few shadows emphasizing each dip in his skin.

"Come on, kitten. Do something." His voice grew deeper with each word, muffled as he planted kisses against her breast, his hand kneading the other over the fabric of her bra. The arousal building up in Pippa slowly became unbearable and she couldn't ignore it. They'd had sex plenty of times before, but never like this. Never had he been gentle with her, it was always a simple task of getting off and then it was done. She also couldn't ignore the way he reached up to touch her cheek again, brushing the hair that fell in front of it behind her ear.

Jim's blatant sexual interest in her made her stomach flip, despite being completely aware that that was all it is: sexual interest. Neither harboured romantic feelings towards the other and they knew that-

Before Pippa was able to finish her thought, the office door swung open and there stood Sebastian, staring at the two. Pippa didn't feel the slightest bit conscious about it, fully aware of him as she dismissed him and continued to nip and suck at the skin down the expanse of Jim's throat.

"What do you want, Moran?" Jim asked, "In case you can't tell, I'm busy."

"I noticed boss," Sebastian laughed, nodding towards Pippa's disregarded shirt on the floor but avoiding looking at her, not entirely wanting to see the plain black bra covering her chest. He'd already looked, of course he had.

"Mycroft Holmes wants to have a meeting with you, tomorrow morning."

Pippa let out a huff, removing herself out of Jim's grip and leaning to grab hold of her shirt, pulling it back over her head. Another thing she was unable to ignore was the apparent hurt she saw in Sebastian's eyes. She didn't know if that was really what it was, he'd turned and walked out before she could look at him properly.

"I take it as Moran and I will be joining you tomorrow, boss?" She asked, turning on her heel to look at him again. He was still shirtless and Pippa didn't even have to look to know that he was still at least half hard in his trousers. He nodded at her, watching as she raised her hand in a salute before walking out.

Sebastian still stood outside, smirking in amusement as she walked out of the office. The smirk fell as she did though, her expression anything but happy.

"Why do you have to come into rooms at the worst time?" She spoke harshly, vocalizing her thoughts from earlier as they walked side by side to the elevator. Sebastian simply laughed, shrugging as they stepped in in silence.

The next morning, Pippa had made it back upstairs to Jim's office before Sebastian. She felt smug about that. She could see that Jim hadn't slept very well, however she was unaware that the reason he'd been unable to sleep was that his mind had been too busy imagining all the ways he could've fucked her on the couch before Moran had interrupted. On the couch, against the wall, on his desk-

"Morning, boss." Sebastian walked in ten minutes later, his presence almost completely ignored as the two were already engulfed in conversation about Mycroft Holmes. He listened to as much as he needed, his interest peaking at the mention of a sister. Eurus? Sebastian would have killed himself if he were part of the Holmes family, their parents must've been asking for them to get bullied with those names.

"Ricci is going to join me when I meet her." Jim's voice sounded out, obvious confusion covering Sebastian's face. He understood that Pippa would be just as useful, but he was Jim's right hand and he-

"God, Tiger. Don't look so sour. Mycroft quite likes her, that's all."

A snort left the woman's mouth. The times she'd met the eldest Holmes, they'd gotten along like a house on fire, much to Jim's distaste. But she couldn't help it, they'd bonded well over a mutual hatred for practically everything.

This was the first time Sebastian had properly acknowledged her since walking into the room. Looking at her, he noted the small red mark under her jaw that he assumed was the work of Jim. As much as he didn't want to pry, the two made it very difficult considering they didn't even try to be subtle. Not that they needed to, after all, Sebastian knew it was none of his business.

Within the hour, the three had left the building and were sat in the back of an unmarked car. Pippa had no idea who was trying, maybe Andrews? More likely to be Johnson. She shifted between the two men, Jim's hand placed casually on her thigh whilst Sebastian sat stiff as a plank of wood. She didn't bring a gun with her, there was no point when Sebastian and the other underlings in the car that followed theirs were already packing.

Upon reaching their destination, Pippa frowned. Mycroft really had a flair for the dramatic. She looked up at the building, it looked like it had been abandoned for some time and may have once been used for deliveries of some kind. She could smell the saltiness of the ocean, but couldn't see it, meaning it must've been behind the building. She didn't recognise much around them but knew they were still in London at least. Turning to speak to Jim, she saw Sebastian looking around in the same way she had, probably looking for decent vantage points if he needed them.

"Ah, hello!" Mycroft's voice could be heard across the building as they walked in, him taking next to no notice of Jim or Sebastian and instead moving to take hold of Pippa's hands and smiling at her. She smiled back, greeting him before moving to stand next to her boss quietly.

"I know you were hoping to meet Eurus today, James," he began, "But there has been some uh, complications... She hasn't been having a good week so we were wanting to push it back a little if that's okay with you." Jim pursed his lips and inhaled sharply before a sick smile overcame his features as he nodded.

"Of course, Mycroft."

The two continued to talk quietly between themselves as Pippa and Sebastian stood back, both ready to move if Jim indicated. But it soon became clear that despite his dislike of Jim, Mycroft seemed not to pose a threat to them. Not right now, at least.

"I hope you don't mind me asking, Miss Ricci, but what is that on your jaw? Looks like you've been attacked." She hadn't bothered to cover the marks before she left, she knew Jim would get annoyed if she had. Besides, she gave just as good as she had gotten. The difference being that only she got to see the marks she left on him.

"I mind." Jim's voice interjected, not allowing Pippa a word in edgeways. Sebastian, like always, took note of her reaction. She appeared visibly annoyed by it. He'd come to know in the years they knew each other that she disliked being outspoken, preferring to speak for herself.

"It's nothing, Mycroft," She hummed, "You should see the other guy." Mycroft let out a curt laugh at her joke, but clearly wasn't particularly amused by it.

"I believe I'm looking at him, am I not?"

"With all due respect," Sebastian spoke up, "I don't think it's any of your business Mr Holmes." Both Pippa and Jim raised their eyebrows, unsure if he meant to defend them or if he was simply sick of hearing about it. After all, walking in on your boss about to have sex? Not his favourite.

Shortly after, they had made their way home and the incident was not spoken of further, with the exception of Pippa mumbling a 'thank you' to Sebastian on behalf of her and Jim because quite frankly they both knew he'd never say it himself.

She waited for Sebastian to walk into his apartment before going into her own, whistling as her phone buzzed in her pocket.

Going out for dinner. Be ready @ 8. JM.

Pippa huffed, nodding despite the fact no one could see her. It was already close to 7, meaning she had less than an hour. She moved around the apartment into her bedroom, pulling the closet door open and searching through to find an appropriate dress. After at least twenty minutes, she had decided on a scarlet number designed by someone she couldn't quite pronounce the name of.

Underneath the dress, clinging to her skin, was black lingerie, accompanied by sheer black stocking attached to her regular thigh garter. It sat neatly at the top of the slit in her dress, unclockable unless you knew it was there. She didn't usually enjoy dressing up unless she had to, but for the sake of a good dinner, she was more than happy to. The dress itself was floor length, tight around her stomach with intricate lace detailing around the bodice.

The material felt good against her skin, the slit in the side showing a significant amount of skin that wasn't already scarred. Her arms, however, required more attention in order to cover the white marks wherein old scars had faded. She focused on her face makeup first, making sure to keep it light as Jim preferred it that way. Then moved onto her hair, making a failed attempt to curl it loosely before huffing in anger and making the decision to pull it into a low, elegant bun.

As she made her way back into the living room of her apartment, shoes tucked under her arms, she put in a pair of earrings she'd been gifted for her birthday a few years before by Jim; they were simple diamonds but they looked beautiful either way. Slipping on her heels, having made sure not to pick ones that were too high in case she annoyed Jim, she made her way outside of the apartment.

As she did, she made eye contact with Sebastian. Part of her questioned why she always had to run into him, despite living across from the man. But, for some unknown reason, a part of her had hoped he'd see how good she looked. She assumed he knew of Jim's plans to leave for a few hours for dinner, and didn't bother to say anything as she moved into the elevator.

Jim was already waiting for her in the garage, having been there for at least 15 minutes, not that he'd tell her that. He hadn't told her why he was taking her for dinner, and he had a feeling she'd be annoyed once he told her. But until then, they could enjoy the time together.

He stood next to the sleek black car, Johnson already sat at the driver's seat ready, as she walked into the room. She was beautiful, there was no other way to describe her. Although, interesting and feisty were also choice words in his mind. His eyes immediately went to her body, the fabric of the dress clinging to each curve and dip. However, her brains always outdid her beauty. Despite her destructive tendencies and potential alcoholic behaviour, she had a brain that could match Jim's... Well, not quite. But she had the drive and potential.

"You look lovely, Pip." Jim hummed with a smile, taking hold of her hand and leading her into the car. As much as she smiled and took the compliment, she still had no idea why Jim had spontaneously made the decision to go out despite having plenty of work to do. But she refrained from asking, more out of fear than anything else.

Soon enough, they had pulled up in front of one of London's flashiest restaurants, Jim climbing out of the car before extending his hand to Pippa to help her out. They walked into the restaurant, members of the staff looking up and greeting them quietly with forced smiles plastered on their face. They were seated immediately, at a cosy table near the window, where they were able to watch people pass by and snigger at their boring, dull lives.

"So, why am I here boss?" Pippa asked after at least fifteen minutes, sipping slowly from the wine the waitress had bought over just before.

"You know exactly what I want in an employee, correct?"

"Unconditional loyalty and respect, when-"

"I call, you jump." He cut her off and continued what she had begun to say with a smug smile on his face. Of course she knew. No one made it working for him as long as her without knowing. Well, no one made it working for him as long as her period. She acted as the only constant in his life, the only one who would be there regardless of whether he wanted her to be or not. He was unsure if that was a good thing or not, but settled on it being mediocre at best. Admittedly, she could be annoying sometimes when she droned on and on about his health. But he knew she came from a good place, a place where her employment depended on him being alive. He was fully aware that if he were to die, then she'd never take over. She didn't have the guts, and that was her only flaw. Sebastian, on the other hand, had the capability and will to continue whatever Jim started. God, he hated comparing the two.

They stayed silent as their waitress served their food, the woman being fair too friendly with Jim for Pippa's taste. She wasn't jealous, not at all, simply irritated by the mop of blonde hair that meant she had to refrain from scoffing down her steak in one go.

"Pippa, kitten," Jim began to speak again after the waitress finally left, "I hate to be the bearer of bad news but... Your family know you're alive. I don't know how, although I'd place bets on Mycroft Holmes being the one who spilt the beans." Pippa simply nodded, her eyebrows furrowing as he continued to ramble. He never rambled, she knew that for a fact, so why was he now? Did he feel concerned?

"Okay, so what do we do?" She asked, cutting him off mid-sentence. She was completely calm, but the hurt in her eyes was noticeable to anyone. She'd made it clear to anyone who asked that she never wanted to leave her family, never wanted to clear herself from any data base. But she did it to stay alive and eventually learned to love her line of work. Her parents never cared enough to stop her from getting involved with someone like Levi, so why should she care for them after more than a decade of them believing she was dead?

Jim didn't respond and instead watched her react, her eyebrows knitted together and her back hunched as she nodded. Clear confusion, mixed with anger, covered her face. He couldn't say he was surprised, but he thought she'd have reacted more emotionally than this. Either way, he knew where her loyalties lied.

Chapter Text

January 4th, 11 years prior.

"I don't understand what you see in him," Emily began, staring at Pippa over the counter top, "Levi is a rude person and a mediocre boyfriend." She continued to serve customers, leaving Pippa to squint and glare whilst she moved to adjust her apron.

"He's not that bad, you're just too picky." She mumbled, looking up and watching as Levi and Alex walked in the room, talking amongst themselves. Pippa missed the heavy footsteps of the two during the day, and the loud tapping of Alex's hands against a table when he took his break to read.

Pippa stretched her arms across the counter with a cheerful hum, letting out a 'goodbye' to the last customer of the evening. The girl could count at least 10 people amongst those she interacted with and served that she had wanted to punch square in the face, thinking about how they'd been rude towards her or Emily in some way.

"Stop staring at Pip, idiot." Levi's voice cut through her thoughts, causing Pippa to look and see him flick Alex, who had indeed been staring at her, in the forehead.

Alex, Levi's younger and quieter brother, nodded. They were polar opposites - Levi stood there, tall and buff in a Nike sweatshirt (that he likely hadn't bought) and jeans. There was a plastic baggie sticking out of his back pocket which Pippa made the decision to ignore. Alex, on the other hand, was shorter and much frailer. His round glasses framed his face well, a book clutched in his hands that Pippa couldn't quite make out the name of. Alex was a year younger than her, he'd seen her around their school several times before she and Levi got involved and had always been under the impression that she was well behaved and, for the most part, law abiding. Since Pippa and Levi had started dating, she went out of her way to look after him around school up until the point she'd dropped out, what? 5, maybe 6, months ago? One day she'd rocked up to school with newly dyed pink and black hair and a happy smile, and less than a week later, there were mumbles about how she'd left because she fell pregnant. Not true. Or at least, Alex didn't think it was.

It wasn't often Levi frequented the small cafe Pippa worked in, he didn't understand why she felt the need to when he made enough money to support them both. But she enjoyed it. She enjoyed the cute aprons, red in colour, embroidered with the cafe's logo. The owner was kind enough, paid her a decent amount and didn't question her boyfriend's habits or that she was 16 and living with him rather than with her family. Her coworkers weren't terrible either, although she spent most of her time with Emily, a girl a year older than Pippa. Her hair was styled in a black pixie cut, with earrings covering the majority of both her ears and a few tattoos peaking out of her uniform. She didn't share much about herself, other than that she was saving to get out of their town.

The relationship between Pippa and Levi was complex - They lived in a rundown flat in a dodgy area of London. She'd had moved in with him after close to three months of dating, much to her parents' annoyance. But they didn't bother to stop her. She tried to be polite and friendly to everyone in the flat complex, admittedly trying to avoid the drugged out man on the top floor who yelled at her a lot. She knew Levi had an onsite flat to himself and despite him telling her it was 'safer' and cheaper, she had been adamant on having her own place which is exactly what they had together, it was shit but it was theirs.

She didn't know the intricate details of what Levi did, just enough to know that he was able to keep a roof over their head and food in their fridge, and that was enough. Legal or not, he took care of her. She was on several deals with him, and it was enough to know that she didn't want to be involved more than she had to. Levi had taught her some hand to hand combat skills early in their relationship, explaining that if she ever needed to fight someone off, she should know how to do it properly.

"You ready to go?" Levi's mumbled, pulling Pippa from her train of thought. She nodded, pulling her apron over her head and putting it on the hanger in the office. Waving to Emily and saying goodbye, she made her way out the door alongside the two boys. It was nearing midnight, they'd closed later than usual tonight because of some book signing with an author Pippa couldn't remember the name of.

As they walked, Pippa picked up on the sound of yelling getting louder the further they got down the road. She couldn't quite work out what was being said because of what she assumed to be some kind of accent.

"Do you know how much your mother and I paid for you to go there?" One voice yelled, a clear Irish lilt to the voice, "How many arses I had to kiss to get you in? You ungrateful little shit." Slap. She heard it clear as day, her curiosity peaking as she turned her head to look down that road. There stood a man, and who Pippa assumed was his son. The boy, who looked a few years older than her, hanging his head down. There was a red mark on his cheek, illuminated by the street lamp he stood under. Further down the road, stood in the doorway of a house, was a woman holding her hand over her mouth. His mother, maybe? Pippa's heart hurt for him, wanting to yell at the man. But before she could even think of it, Levi tugged at her hand, telling her to hurry up. His voice caught the attention of the man and his son, both of them turning to the trio with expressionless faces. She offered the boy a small smile as she finally got a good look at him. He had blonde hair and blue eyes, proper Aryan type. He definitely didn't belong in that neighbourhood, judging by the suit pants and blazer he wore.

"Sebastian, honey, come here." A softer, feminine voice called. His mother had walked out of the house towards them, frowning at the older man and covering her son with her arms. It only seemed to make the man angrier, his voice rising again as he yelled something that Pippa wasn't listening to anymore. She was focused on the boy. The way he leaned into his mothers' arms in the same way a child would, but he clearly wasn't a child. She wasn't really sure how old he was - maybe 17, 18 at a push, but he certainly looked old enough to defend himself. So why wasn't he? It was at that point that she noticed a duffel bag at his feet. Were they kicking him out? Tough luck.

She continued to think about him as she walked home alongside Levi and Alex, wondering what would happen to him. If she'd intercepted, would it have made things better or worse? Or would that outcome be the exact same? She didn't know, and she never would, after all, she'd never see that boy again.

Once they arrived home, Pippa practically shoved her key in the lock, muttering under her breath as she pushed open the unnecessarily heavy door. Levi was preoccupied with his phone, typing what seemed like twenty words a second.

"Boss wants me to go see him first thing in the morning." He mumbled with an exasperated sigh, rubbing his hand across his face in tiredness. Pippa only nodded. She'd met his boss a few times, having been told that only important people got to see his face and know his name. He was Irish, on the shorter side and seemed to have a knack for reading people. Overall, he was weird but quite frankly, as long as he kept paying Levi what he did then it didn't matter.

Alex had already wandered off, probably to the living room to avoid whatever conversation would possibly come up, it usually being somewhat uncomfortable. Levi's eyebrow raised at the lack of response, turning in the chair to look at Pippa, who'd busied herself making a strong cup of coffee for herself. She doubted she'd get much sleep either way.

"Are you ignoring me?" He asked in an agitated tone, his face screwing up in confusion. She shook her head, turning to look at him but he-

"Yes, you are. Don't lie to me, Pip." He stood up and moved to stand behind her, his hand winding up in her hair and tugging aggressively. Her hand jerked as he did, coffee spilling over the counter and her fingers. He gripped her chin with his spare hand, mumbling in her ear to tell her not to ruin the evening, not when Alex was still there.

"I'm sorry- Just, can you- Let go of my hair." She hissed in pain as he tugged at the dyed strands once more before letting go and stalking out of the room, probably to go and find Alex.

"Remember Pip, no one loves you as much as I do, okay? I'm all you've got, your family want nothing to do with you." She nodded, cleaning up the spilt coffee with a dry cloth. Her scalp ached, the root of her hair feeling like it would rip out if she touched it. It wouldn't take long for him to come back and say he was sorry, that he didn't mean to hurt her. Tears threatened to spill from her eye as she sniffled loudly, the sound of footsteps moving towards the kitchen, forcing her to wipe her eyes and nose with her sleeve.

"Are you okay, Pippa?" Alex's voice called out, he watched her carefully as she hunched out the kitchen counter, the visible parts of her scalp around her hairline red. What had happened? He didn't really want to ask.

"She's fine, leave it," Levi muttered. Pippa stood straight, smiling at the two and nodding in confirmation. She was fine, nothing happened and she hadn't been crying, it was fine.

The next few days were similar. She'd either go to work and wait for Levi at the end of her shift or stay home and wait for Levi to get home on the days she didn't work.

Somewhere close to five or six days later, Levi didn't return home at his normal time. Instead, without having texted or called at all, he didn't get back until sometime past midnight, she wasn't entirely sure. It had been his heavy footsteps that had woken her, followed by a soft "Are you still awake?". Of course, she was. She couldn't sleep properly without him next to her, especially when she'd gone an entire day not knowing where he was.

He asked her some questions, but she wasn't really paying attention. She felt her body argue with her as she climbed out of bed, grumbling as Levi left the room. She changed, went downstairs and, well, she remembered what happened next.


 

Waking up in cold sweats seemed to be a regular thing for Pippa at this point, her body seemingly forcing her into it at least once a week. Not that she was complaining, it reminded her that somewhere inside of her, she still felt something.

Thinking back to what she could only describe as her nightmare, her face scrunched up. Pippa had known from the minute that she laid eyes on Sebastian Moran that he was the boy she'd seen get slapped She never mentioned it to him, unaware of the circumstances that came with it. Did he remember her? Had he actually seen her? She'd never know because she didn't care to.

She took a deep breath, reaching over to grab the bottle of water on her nightstand. Taking a long sip, Pippa wiped her forehead with her arm, muttering profanities under her breath before clambering out of the bed.

"You're up." As she walked out into the main living area, her eyes locked with Jim's, who sat perched on her couch with a laptop on the table. Why was he here?

Pippa simply nodded, grunting as she moved around the kitchen area to fix herself a decent cup of coffee before engaging in conversation.

"You look like shit." He held a childish tone, making Pippa look over at him again. Out of the several years, she'd known and worked for him, she'd seen him in clothes other than a Westwood suit a total of two times: when he got shot, and right now. He sat there, looking like a child in a candy store, in jeans and a t-shirt. She didn't even know he owned jeans and a t-shirt.

"Off day, boss?" She asked, raising her eyebrow over the edge of her mug. Jim nodded, not looking up from his computer as he continued to type. He didn't have off days, he simply had days where he did whatever work he had somewhere other than his office so he'd be able to say he was 'taking a break'.

He didn't bother to acknowledge her for another few minutes, busy absorbing the lines of data and information in front of him. Pippa took the moments of silence to properly look at him, noting the fact he clearly hadn't shaved for a few days and that he just seemed more unkempt than usual.

"Boss, are you good?" She hesitated in her words before moving to take a seat next to him, peering over his shoulder to look at what he was reading: Something about Mycroft Holmes and his sister, she figured that much but didn't read much more.

"Mm, fine."

"Okay, well why are you in my flat?"

"Quieter. Thought you were out."

Pippa nodded, placing her mug on the coffee table and announcing she was going back to sleep before curling up into Jim's side, resulting in him tensing slightly. She muttered telling him to chill and that she was woken up because of him, which he didn't question, so it was the least he could do. Instead, he nodded, moving an arm to his side so she could lean on it comfortably. He'd practically broken into her flat, even though he did technically own it, so really he did owe her.