Sebastian disappeared a couple of days after their last argument, the one ending with the sentence “do you want to be relieved of duty, Sebastian?” and the slamming of a flat door. Jim let him be gone for a week before he sent someone after him. By the time his contacts reached Sebastian, he was gone forever. Jim never asked about the details and he never spoke of Sebastian afterwards. He continued ruling his empire from the shadows and never let anyone cross into his personal space. He in return never stepped into anyone else’s personal space, at least not in person.
"I don’t know." He answered honestly, speaking more easily as Jim’s grip on his jaw slackened slightly. He really didn’t know the answer; he didn’t suppose there was one beyond the idea that he didn’t see the point in continuing to live.
It wasn’t intended as an insult to Jim or the new life he’d been offered; on the contrary, he supposed it was an emotional relic from his past life, but he couldn’t be certain it wouldn’t be taken as an insult. He didn’t know how to put the words together to make it anything but.
"You don’t know.."
His fingers twitched a little on Sebastian’s jaw before he removed his hand completely.
He knew Seb wasn’t commenting on the life Jim fixed him, it still made his eyes narrow a little, the wording didn’t please him. He kept staring into Sebastian’s eyes, watching his reaction.
"Do you want to be relieved of duty, Sebastian?"
Sebastian didn’t resist as Jim dragged his face up to look into his eyes, not wincing, even as Jim’s short, sharp fingernails pressed into the skin. He breathed through his nose for a few moments, trying to collect his thoughts before answering.
He knew there was no benefit in lying; that his only hope now was honesty.
"Yes." He hissed, trying to form the word despite the pressure on his jaw.
Jim’s eyes were glued to Sebastian’s, looking for something, possibly a regret following the word Seb uttered, but he found none.
The was no tone behind the question, no pressure, no expectancy. He simply said the word, as though the answer wouldn’t change anything.
"No sir." He answered honestly. “To go, without knowing the consequences, would be naivety." He justified, trying to ignore the pity and sadness in Jim’s voice.
Surely the man wasn’t upset; he’d been threatening to kill Sebastian for years. All Sebastian had done was give him an excuse.
"I do realise that I’m usually the person to carry this out, sir." He began again after a moment, his voice still quiet in an effort to sooth the tension. “I can contact another member of staff on our usual channels on your behalf, if you’d like."
He realised he was giving Jim a massive hint as to why he’d left, at this point. Letting the man in on his fragile state.
He could only sit, staring at his lap, and hope that the man didn’t notice.
Jim jerked up right as though something had hit him. He stared at Sebastian, eyes not dead now. The were intense, flitting all over the man beside him, taking in all details presented before him and every clue he had in his head already.
He swallowed quite visibly. Eyes going bigger, deeper, further away, guarded.
He said it almost quietly. Eerie was a good word to describe the vibe he was giving off now.
"How peculiar… that’s what you want. This is what you want."
His fingers twitched when he reached out his hands, grasping Seb’s face with a claw-like grip, turning him so he was face to face with Jim.
"Isn’t it, Seb?"
"Yes sir." He confirmed, still not moving at all. Survival instinct was so ingrained within him, but should he even prepare himself to fight back?
Surely, he thought to himself, if Jim kills him then he gets what he wanted, but graciously avoids the label of weakness that his peers would assign to him if he did it himself.
Maybe he should let Jim kill him and just have it over with, but the traitorous voice in the back of his mind continued to remind him that he’s all Jim has. If Sebastian wasn’t around, Jim would no doubt enter a downward spiral of legendary proportions and then the man would get himself killed too.
It was better to keep the man happy in this life than to face his wrath in the afterlife.
Jim’s anger was overshadowing the little voices screeching at him from the back of his mind. The anger shut them up, silenced their reasoning and fuelled the fire burning him from the inside out.
Jim closed his eyes then, rethinking his options. He didn’t like any of this. This was the sort of situation he had always told himself to avoid, and had so far managed to dance around. Now he was staring it right in the face and it was a smug I told you so that accompanied it.
Dealing with this was not something he wanted to do.
He liked Sebastian. He was perfect. But he failed, like he was doomed to, and now he had to be eliminated, only.. he didn’t want him to? He didn’t want him to.
His body leaned a little in on itself without him noticing, as if shielding himself from the situation at hand.
"Of course you know…"
He opened his eyes, staring blankly at the floor, hands shaking a little.
"Of course you know. Of course I know. We all know. Not knowing would’ve been better, though, right Sebastian?"
Sebastian continued to look down at his lap, despite Jim’s proximity. “No sir. I have no further appropriate comments.”
He glanced across at Jim’s feet which were not trickling blood onto the floor; staining the glass and trickling into the seams between the floorboards.
He knew Jim wanted him to look up, but he resolved to wait for the request (or indeed the order) for him to do so. He knew that his initiative was the last thing that Jim wanted right now; that his boss just wanted him to submit to his command and will to reassert the power.
Jim retracted his fingers from Sebastian’s knee, but didn’t move away. He felt as though movement right now would mess him up more, it’d halt his thoughts and ruin his wavering control for good. He was trying to calm himself, not at all happy with the turn of events, but his mind was racing and some of the different scenarios seemed tempting at the moment.
He breathed in deeply, calmingly, and out again in a rush, not at calmed.
He stopped a little, thinking through his next words. Thinking of different outcomes, anger still running under his skin.
"You know what I’m supposed to do to you now, right?"
Sebastian clenched his jaw and continued to look at his hands, knowing that Jim was trying to bait him into looking up again; trying to bait him into snapping and arguing back.
He wasn’t going to let him win. He stayed silent, contrite, looking every bit the subjugated soldier; respectful of his senior officer. He flinched at the sound of the glass scraping along the wooden floor, releasing a high pitched squeal as they dug into the floorboards.
He knew that Jim was close to snapping and attempting to injure him and Sebastian reasoned with himself that the best course of action was simply to limit the damage done by restraining the other man until he wore himself out. It was the same technique as he always applied in these situations, but he’d never seen Jim this angry before.
Jim knew what Sebastian was trying to do, but somehow the significance of that didn’t seem to settle in his mind. He didn’t care, and even though that was dangerous for him to think he couldn’t care less. It was as if Sebastian had found the last straw and pulled it ‘till it snapped. Until he snapped.
He was aware of the glass shards digging into the soles of his feet, could feel the blood starting to flow, but then again when was he afraid of a little pain?
It was Sebastian who should be afraid of pain. The pain Jim’s brain was conjuring up. The pain he intended to inflict on Sebastian when he got his chance. His chance wasn’t now though, but he could still pretend.
He scooted a little closer to Sebastian, a flicker of something darker than death and torture playing behind his eyes, though he knew Seb couldn’t see it with his eyes fixed on his hands and all.
"Don’t you have anything to say, Sebby?"
He used his feet to grind the glass down on the floorboards, creating the same squealing sound as before, ignoring the pain now shooting up his legs.
"Don’t," he scooted even closer, almost pressed up against Seb now. "you," he dragged his feet after himself, blood streaks followed. "have," he blew a breath in Sebby’s ducked face. "anything," he fingers twitched, placed on Seb’s knee. "to," fingers curled, nails digging in. "say," he sneered at him.
Sebastian opened his mouth to speak before swiftly closing it again, deciding to rethink everything before he says it. He could see Jim’s anger, could taste it with every word and he didn’t know how to respond.
He knew if he admitted his weaknesses they would only come back on him tenfold. Jim would make him regret every word he uttered if he continued with the blind honesty, so he changed his tone.
“Of course sir. I apologise.” His tone was sincere as he finally looked down in a display of professional submission to his boss. “It won’t happen again, sir.”
Jim looked at him, looked at him even after he broke the eye contact. His fingernails were scraping against his glass and in a second he had dropped it completely, letting it smash to the floor, near his feet.
"Apologise? You apologise? Oh yes, Sebby, now everything’s all right again. No harm down. Let’s get back to the way things were, you killing people I told you to kill. I can fully trust you again. Perfect. Every problem is solved now."
His tone was shrilly, mimicking the tone he used to talk to Sherlock near the pool, but it was at the same time nothing like it. It wasn’t collected. If a stranger had heard it he’d probably say it sounded like someone panicking.
"There was one rule to our agreement. You went ahead and broke it. You tilted the game board, Sebastian, now the pieces are on the ground."
His feet dragged on some of the glass shards on the floor as he said that.
Jim had turned his body towards Sebastian on the couch, his entire being turned towards him and the previous ice-demeanour was gone. He almost looked like he was seconds away from clawing at Sebastian’s face.
“Yes.” Sebastian answered honestly, maintaining eye contact with Jim and ignoring the surge of adrenaline as his body prepared for a fight.
“I was… Not in a good place.” He explained quietly, before reaching for his mug and taking a small sip of tea. He set it down again before continuing, still looking Jim in the eye.
“I was becoming a liability; a dangerous one. So I removed myself from the situation for a few months to give myself time to recover and to make sure I was useful to you once again. There was no point in me being around if I would only put you in danger, sir.”
Jim slowly blinked. He was for honesty, he just didn’t expect it, ever. He didn’t look away as Sebastian wasn’t. His eyes were rapidly turning icier by the minutes, the anger inside him going from boiling to ice in a matter of seconds.
He lifted his glass off the table, taking a careful sip while Seb drank from his cup. He kept a hold on the glass, ignoring the slight tremble that broke through the surface of the content.
"I am the one deciding whether or not you are allowed to be removed from situations. I am the one deciding whether or not you are a danger to me. You don’t decide that, not without my consent, not when you work for me."
The words were sharper than a knife’s blade and went well with the sour expression slowly etching itself into his face.
“Water it is.” He agreed, pouring Jim a glass of mineral water from a bottle he had; knowing how much the man hated tap water. He made himself a cup of tea before heading back into the living room.
He set the both the glass and the mug down on his coffee table, before touching Jim’s shoulder gently. “Come on, you’ll have to sit up; boss.” He encouraged, sliding a hand under his back to help him sit up and turn around.
He wasn’t sure how to answer Jim’s question, but he decided in this instance honesty would be the best policy. “Because you would’ve followed me.” He stated simply after a moment, perching on the opposite end of the couch to where he’d helped Jim sit up.
Jim closed his eyes again, the light was not agreeing with him. He listened to Seb walking about, undoubtedly making tea for himself. It did calm his racing thoughts a little, only using one sense.
When Seb was close enough for Jim to feel him, he opened his eyes again, staring at the roof to put off having to look at Sebastian. He would’ve flinched away if he had had a bit more peace of mind when seb touched his shoulder, but because of the messy state he was in he didn’t shake Sebastian’s hands off and even let him dragging him up to a sitting position.
It was no longer an option to not look at Seb so he turned his cold eyes on him, folding his hands in his lap to keep from reaching out to break something (read: someone). He didn’t even trust himself enough to hold his glass of water.
"So you figured just leaving would be better than trying to reason?"
“Just making sure you’re still alive, sir.” He explained before straightening up and gracefully rolling up to his feet, heading over towards the kitchen.
“Can I get you anything? Cup of tea, something to eat?” He suggested, trying to coax another response out of the man lying on the couch.
Sebastian knew that these moods were always the worst, where Jim was concerned. He knew that the man was just trying to lull him into a false sense of security, but Sebastian had been around too long to fall for that one now and instead he would just keep himself busy until Jim came out with what he had to say.
"Hm." he just hummed in responds to that. He didn’t bother showing any reaction beside following Sebastian with his eyes as he left the room. "No. Maybe water though."
He didn’t feel like pretending everything was fine anymore.
He didn’t feel like doing anything right now.
He was almost thankful he was lying down, because he was almost certain that if he was standing he’s be shaking. Also he’d probably stalk after Sebastian into the kitchen, demand an explanation and show him just how much his little disappearing act had taken its toll on him.
The speed his thoughts were moving in was almost causing Jim pain. Scenarios upon scenarios passed by his eyes and each of them were worse than the previous. They all involved Jim somehow losing it long enough to cause Seb more harm than he ever had.
Warning signs aside..
"Why didn’t you tell me?"