"It’ll just be part time to start," she says, and shoves black hair out of her pale face, smiles. Sebastian thinks she is the most singular woman he has ever seen. "I had a deal with my sister, you see, and now one of her people needs a more… personal touch. How about it, Mr. Moran?"
Sebastian looks around. Two minutes ago he’d been flat on his back in a filthy hotel room, half-drunk already and contemplating what to do when his money, inevitably, ran out. Now he is standing nowhere-in-particular with a woman he almost recognizes, being offered what he thinks is a job, and he knows from the feel of his nail digging into the crook of his elbow that he is not asleep.
"What do I get in return?" he asks, watching the not-light of the place reflect off the silver ankh hanging around her neck. She laughs, and holds out her empty hands.
"You get what everyone gets, and what you don’t have."
He tilts his head at her, questioning, and she executes a neat pirouette, a study in black and white.
"A life, Mr. Moran. You get a life."
It’s three days later when the man finds him, slouching against the bar in a shitty little pub in the bad part of London, and Seb takes one look at him and remembers the firm feel of the pale woman’s hand in his own. (You’ll know him, she’d said. Look at his eyes.)
"They tell me you killed a man in cold blood," he says, without prelude, and Seb sees a man who is all elegance and brutality wrapped up in a dark gray suit. His mouth is a little open in a grin that is not sane, and there is nothing human about his eyes. Sebastian puts his drink down. He doesn’t even know the other man’s name, but it can be no one else.
"He deserved it."
There is a long silence, and then: “Yes, Mr. Moran. I rather think he did.” He puts out a hand. “Jim Moriarty. I could use a man like you, and you could use a job. Let’s talk business.”
The first time Seb kills somebody for Jim, the consequences come as a surprise. Just after the gun goes off and the mark drops in a spray of her own blood, Seb finds himself in the company of a woman who says nothing, who only looks at him with quiet eyes, whose outline shimmers and drifts, at whom he has just been looking through the scope of a rifle.
Without thinking about Seb says, “It’s time to go,” and puts out his hand. She takes it, and they are walking down a path next to a wide river, and ahead there is a bridge. “You cross this alone,” he tells her. “I can’t take you any farther.” She smiles at him, steps forward, and Sebastian is back on the rooftop with his phone ringing in his pocket and no time has passed at all.
"There’s a waterpark at the end of the world," the girl says, and her voice tastes like raspberries and motor oil and dying flowers. "And on the last day it will open and all the dead will take their bones and fling them through the spray and it will be awful and so funny, don’t you think, with their skulls all wet and gleaming." She twists her head on her neck, long reddish dreadlocks falling over her face and then twisting, shortening, and the colors in this place are too bright, and Sebastian’s skin feels like it is trying to crawl off his body.
Shutting his eyes doesn’t help, so he keeps them open. A moment ago he’d been sitting across from Moriarty in a cab. He suspects his body is still there.
"What do you want," he says, and his voice comes out all wrong, like he’s feeling it instead of hearing. One blue eye and one green stare into him.
"I want you to take care of him, Bastian. Until the world burns and the skies fall and the waterpark opens, or you won’t like what I do to you at /all/."
Sebastian opens his mouth to tell her, That’s not my job, but shuts it without saying a word, because he knows that’s not true.
Moriarty is his, until the very end.
For the next three years Sebastian kills for Jim, keeps watch over him during the days and sleeps with him at night, and in those moments of not-time after the gun goes off he takes the hands of ghosts and spirits and leads them into death. He is alive, and every moment is fierce and mad and precious.
And one day, waiting in a stairwell, he hears a gunshot that does not come from his rifle, and when Sebastian looks to the left there is Jim, sitting quietly, saying nothing. Seb’s eyes burn and his throat feels tight, but his voice is gentle.
"It’s time to go, boss."
Jim’s fingers twine with his, and they are walking down a path next to a river, and when they come to the bridge Seb says, “Wait for me, Jim,” before he lets him go.
The stairwell is cold. Sebastian puts his head down on his knees, too numb for tears, and then he turns his gun around and pulls the trigger. When he stands up she is there, pale and smiling in black jeans and sleeveless shirt.
"It was well done, Seb. You have my thanks," she says, and then Death reaches out to him, palm up, and he has never welcomed anything as much as this.
"Take my hand."
(I accidentally a crossover. I’m not sorry. You may want to look up The Endless and Sandman, though.)