Stand Up

Chapter 3

Sebastian had never really been popular with anyone so when the world's greatest consulting criminal phoned to ask him to move in, he was both surprised and scared. But also a little touched. He had only spoken to the man for all of five minutes roughly two years ago. He must have made an impression. Not bad going really. Sebastian had wasted no time in taking Moriarty up on his offer. Especially as he was going to be paid for the occasional bit of work. He played cards in the evening to supplement his work as a freelancer but the two combined were barely paying the rent. He was talented in both arenas. He just needed people to realise it. Especially his brother. Sebastian’s volatile mood swings driven in equal measure by frustration, anger, guilt and fear had caused him on more than one occasion to harm himself after one intolerable nightmare too many. What followed was a period of remorse and self-loathing at his own ‘weakness’ which rendered him unable to do very much at all.

Sebastian’s “instability”, as his father had put it, had lead to him having to live with his older brother Christopher in order to receive financial support from his parents. He was kept very much under Christopher’s thumb in the belief that spending time with his older brother would set him back on the straight and narrow. In reality the constant comparisons between himself and his older brother were now more frustrating than ever. Christopher was a tall, blonde, powerfully built man who by most accounts was more than just a little handsome. His blue eyes and Hollywood smile had lead to a string of girlfriends and immense popularity. The world, it seemed to Sebastian, was a very shallow place. Recently Christopher’s philandering days had seemingly come to an end and he had settled down. He had had the same girlfriend, Sienna, now for a little over a year. She, like Christopher, was perfect. He worked in banking whilst she worked in PR. They both earned a lot of money and knew how to spend it. A match made in heaven surely.

Christopher had an ease with people that Sebastian never had. He always found himself feeling awkward and inadequate next to Christopher. Like Christopher he was tall, but he was also skinny. Christopher jokingly called him a “bean pole” when he first moved in. Sebastian was desperate to point out that he was actually quite strong its just that his strength didn’t manifest itself in bulging muscles. As if to prove his point he began running again and lifting weights. With his sleek black hair, green eyes and lean frame, in his opinion, he would never look like the greek god that was Christopher but he had to prove to him that he could still outrun him if he ever needed to. Much to Sebastian’s relief the feelings that had so recently driven him to recklessness were now being dealt with through sport. He begrudgingly admitted to himself that he probably wouldn’t be so active if he didn’t have to walk into the kitchen to see a shirtless Christopher every morning. His parents had picked up on this improvement as well and his mother kept on commenting on how ‘well’ he was looking, whatever that meant. But that didn’t mean he was completely free of problems. Lately Sebastian’s mother had developed a nasty habit of asking when exactly it was that he was going to find himself someone while his father kept telling him to ‘be a man’ and toughen up as no girl would want to marry a man who still cried out at night after a nightmare, nearly three years after the event.

That evening when Christopher came back from the office he wouldn’t be greeted by Sebastian playing poker on the iPad but rather a note on the kitchen island explaining his absence. As Sebastian rode away from the flat on his racing bicycle towards Moriarty, he felt a sense of relief that he hadn’t felt since the last time this man had swept in and turned his life around.

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Living with Moriarty was not what Sebastian imagined it to be like. For a start he requested that Sebastian call him Jamie. After all, its what his “nearest and dearest” called him. Sebastian lived in a separate wing of the apartment and was pretty much allowed free reign but Jamie insisted that they have dinner together on Friday nights and that they took it in turns with the trips to Waitrose. It was all oddly domestic. He'd even met Jamie’s rather extensive family. Sebastian was only called upon twice to do some work for Jamie but other than that he was able to freelance. It was quite refreshing really. Jaime's pay meant that a weight was lifted off his shoulders. If he didn't get so much work one week, no big deal. Sebastian had called Jamie out on this once and asked if he could do anymore work for him. It didn't seem fair to be doing so little but receiving so much. Jamie replied that he would rather Sebastian act as ordinary as possible.

Part of acting as ordinary as possible even extended to having a girlfriend. He thought it might be a problem what with Jamie being who he was but Jamie was surprisingly OK with having another person swan in and out of the apartment. Sebastian had met Jo through his freelance work. At the end of the job everyone involved who had made it to the end was invited by the main contractor to cocktails in a high end club whose prices made Sebastian’s eyes water. It was a surprise outing so almost everyone was dressed entirely inappropriately but no-one seemed to mind very much. Roughly ten minutes in Sebastian was ready to go home. But he stuck it out. He never really contributed much to the conversation but he nodded in all the right places. He hoped. As the night wore on and the company got progressively drunker, they decided to move onto another club. Sebastian, who was now thoroughly sober, decided it was time to call it quits. As did Jo. As she said her goodbyes and was hugged by everyone and told what a lifesaver she was, she replied politely that she probably didn’t deserve such praise. The rest of the group insisted that she did. As one member was slurring his way through an offer to walk her home Jo’s gaze caught Sebastian’s.

“Thank you for the offer Lucas but Sebastian is walking me back I think” This statement was followed by a fair bit of harmless catcalling which Jo easily smiled off. Sebastian looked a little taken aback, but relieved nonetheless. As the pair began to walk out he murmured his thanks in her ear. They had just about made it to the door when Sebastian’s name was called by a voice he wasn’t too pleased to hear. Christopher’s booming tone carried across the club as he strutted towards Sebastian, flanked by two girls, neither of whom were his girlfriend.

“Sebastian! My darling brother. See you haven’t killed yourself then” Sebastian reluctantly turned round, his snarky tone that he had no cause to use over the past few weeks making a return,

“Evidently not” Sebastian’s hands were balled into fists. Christopher sniggered and looked his younger brother up and down before turning his gaze to Jo who was stood a little behind him.

“See you’re about to get laid though” he turned to talk to Jo “Listen, you look like a nice person, so I’m going to warn you now. This boy is more trouble than he’s worth. You’ll invest time and money in him and what do you get in return? Nothing. Well actually that’s not quite true. What you get is a moody sod who cries at night and slits his wrists every now and then for attention” Christopher smirked at his own joke whilst Jo looked completely impassive, as though she heard this sort of outburst everyday. Stepping forward next to Sebastian, who was now looking translucent, she pulled her phone out of her jeans pocket and much to Sebastian’s surprise began a conversation with his brother;

“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name?” She smiled at him in her usual disarming manner. Apparently thinking that he had managed to pull Sebastian’s date away from him, Christopher lent in and kissed her lightly on the cheek before replying;

“Christopher. I actually make decent money in banking, unlike my brother. Might be worth coming over to the side of the man who made over fifty million today. And what’s your name?”

“Jo” She then started tapping on her iPhone, the screen dimmed so that neither Sebastian nor Christopher could see what she was doing. Before Christopher could try and seduce Jo any further Sebastian stepped in;

“Well, I can’t say it was nice seeing you but we really must be going, Jo?” Jo was now holding up her iPhone mumbling something about signal. She stopped and asked the names of the two girls accompanying Christopher and offered them a pleasant goodbye and wished them a lovely evening. Sebastian thought she was going to ignore Christopher, which Sebastian would have loved, but she didn’t.

“Well, nice meeting you Christopher. Sienna says hello by the way” The pair left a dumbfounded Christopher standing by the bar with the two women and walked out into the London night air. Sebastian was livid. He closed in on himself and was about to let the barriers close completely around him when he stopped himself;

“You know Sienna?” He hadn’t meant the question to come out with such venom but it had done. He instantly wanted to rewind back and not turn around to face Christopher, then he might have been in with a shot at having a decent conversation with Jo, someone who he had secretly admired from afar for some time after holding open a door for her on her first day. It was soft of him he knew and he slightly wished he’d snap out of it.

“No I don’t. Didn’t even know you had a brother until about five minutes ago” Sebastian looked puzzled “After he was not particularly pleasant to you, to put it mildly, I asked him his name and looked him up on Facebook. Wifi in these places is a godsend. Found out he was in a relationship with someone called Sienna. Took a look at the two girls. Deduced that neither of them was Sienna. And there you go. Think he is a bit scared don’t you?” Sebastian was still looking bemused “And if you want, only if you want mind, a picture of Christopher flanked by two said girls, may find its way into Sienna’s phone from an unknown number” Jo passed her iPhone to Sebastian and there was indeed on it a picture of Christopher and the women “I wasn’t looking for signal Sebastian. Anyone knows that if you’re looking for signal you hold the damn phone against your head”

Sebastian handed the iPhone back to Jo, his hands shaking. She took the phone back off him and pocketed it.

“Why did you do that? Why stand up for me? You barely know me?” He was trying to keep his tone as even as possible but he was treading a dangerous emotional line between elation and fear and he didn’t really want to let it show. Jo merely shrugged.

“You’ve always seemed like a nice guy. Seriously. Ask Kristin. I’ve said you were nice from day one. He, on the other hand, seemed like a jerk. Plus the fact I know you’re a true gentlemen”

“I don’t think true gentlemen ‘cry at night and slit their wrists’ though do you?” Sebastian mimicked his brother before his face returned to flint once more. Jo looked across at Sebastian

“Oh I don’t know. True gentlemen defiantly don’t cheat on their girlfriends. But they do hold open doors”

Sebastian slowly smiled at Jo who returned with a grin. As they walked past a rowdy couple of pubs Sebastian slung his arm around Jo’s shoulder and as the two made a dash across the road she lifted her hand up to meet his, the other snaking around his waist. Once the two reached the other side they remained that way, either not noticing or caring as they talked about anything that came to mind, laughing easily as they did.

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When Jo was not freelancing she worked as a relief worker for a large charity which made Sebastian wonder why on earth she was even remotely interested in someone as complicated as him. Surely when you had been working with people in desperate situations, you would not want to come home to someone as broken as Sebastian. He was still struggling to recover from his short spell in Helmand and would frequently wake up calling out in terror at a nightmare, or more often, a memory. When this happened and Jo was with him, she was patient and caring without an ounce of judgement. Sebastian felt more relaxed than he ever had been in her presence, although always slightly wary that one day she would wake up and realise that she didn’t love him anymore. These thoughts particularly plagued him whilst she was abroad working.

Usually when she returned home Jo would fall into his arms, rather literally, but she never showed any indication that she found her work, or indeed Sebastian, a strain. However this time something was different. Her usually bright, optimistic demeanour was somewhat subdued. Things came to a head four days later following the wedding of one of their co-workers on the project where they had met. Jo had looked lovely, she always did. He had donned a suit for the occasion which had turned a few heads. It seemed he brushed up well. Throughout the service the two sat with their hands entwined, Sebastian gently running his thumb along the back of her hand. But Jo was clearly somewhere else. She looked like she wanted to be anywhere but next to him. During the reception they had made polite conversation with each other and those around them. She even cracked a smile at his ridiculous dancing that he only ever seemed to bring out when he was a little drunk. As they headed back to the hotel, and left alone with Sebastian, Jo withdrew once more. While they got ready for bed, Sebastian felt that he could wait until morning to hear the worst. He would have one more night with her by his side before she left. But as she appeared in the bathroom doorway, he lost all resolve. He needed to know. It was cruel to linger in such agony.

“Jo?” Sebastian’s voice shook as she turned to him and he was shocked by just how tired she looked “Do you not want to be with me anymore? Because the last thing I want to do is make you unhappy” Instead of offering a response Jo bowed her head and Sebastian felt like he was going to be sick. She exhaled and looked up, her green eyes locking onto his;

“Bas, the last thing that you could do is make me unhappy”

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Sebastian awoke at four in the morning as his body was undergoing the mass destruction of the alcohol it had consumed the previous day. He moved to try and untangle himself from Jo when he realised that she wasn’t there. Sitting bolt upright he scanned the room for her. Turning on the light he saw that her glasses were still on the bed stand but her iPhone had gone. He got up and checked the bathroom. She wasn’t in there either. Getting worried now he quickly found a t-shirt and pyjama bottoms. Grabbing his phone and keys he headed out the door and was about to call Jo when he stopped. There she was dressed in a pair of his boxers and her favourite old t-shirt doing pushups on the corridor floor. When he had whispered her name Jo had continued on, almost in a trance. As he approached her he saw the small white earbuds of the new iPhone he had got her on her return. Still apparently not noticing Sebastian, Jo switched to using only one hand. She tucked her left hand behind her back and continued on. Sebastian knew she was strong but he was now both impressed and a little worried. Tentatively he crouched down and lightly touched her left hand on her back. The result was instantaneous. Jo sprung up, the headphones breaking loose as the iPhone clattered to the floor. Her eyes were focussed as if ready to run. She had gone into flight or fight mode. She had gone somewhere else. Sebastian stood up slowly, reaching out to her to try and anchor her back to England, back to him rather than the hell on earth from which she had just come from. It took a moment but Jo’s eyes softened and Sebastian pulled her into a hug. She latched onto him, taking shuddering breaths but never shedding a tear. Although he ached to see her unhappy, it was nice to be able to offer comfort instead of just receiving it.

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After that night things changed. Jo had told Sebastian what had happened in Afghanistan, what she had witnessed. Sebastian shared her fury over what had happened but also her fear. When she had been asked to go back to Afghanistan to assess some new infrastructure for water provision for a two weeks, Sebastian was reluctant to let her go. He wanted to know that she was safe. What was more was that he didn’t want her to take any unnecessary risk. But she did go and when she was away he worried almost constantly. Jamie picked up on this and probed Sebastian for why exactly it was that he seemed so distant. Sebastian had just finished another of Jamie’s jobs for him and as he received his cash in hand he sat down and told Jamie Jo’s story. When he had finished Jamie said nothing and pulled out his iPhone. He tapped out a text and was about to press send when he stopped and looked at Sebastian squarely in the eye:

“I can stop this but you must promise to do something for me in return” Sebastian was instantly suspicious. What more could he do for Jamie that he wasn’t doing already? “There is a very important job that I need you to do in the future. I don’t know when exactly it will be but I need you to promise that you will do it. Do I have your word?”

“What is it?” Sebastian would do anything for Jo, but that didn’t stop him feeling a little nervous about what Jamie’s response would be.

“The usual” Jamie’s simple reply caught Sebastian off guard. If was anything as routine as he was doing now then why the cloak and dagger attitude?

“Who is it Jamie?”

“Oh you haven’t seen him in many years but I’m sure you’ll know him when you do. And I don’t think you’ll be too sorry to see him go” Jamie’s eyes flashed with something dangerous. It was the same look that had drawn Sebastian to Jamie when he was in hiding. Jamie was a powerful man. He was changeable but he never failed on a promise. Not a big promise like this one anyway. Sebastian held out his hand to shake Jamie’s;

“You have my word” Jamie pressed send and proceeded to put his coat and sunglasses on. As he left the flat he called back to Sebastian to remember to pick up some soya milk. Sebastian smiled to himself thinking about how bizarre Jamie’s life was. In one breath he was ordering executions and in another he was ordering milk for his lactose intolerant mother who was staying over the weekend.

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Since living with Jamie, Sebastian's work had slowly but surely been gathering more and more attention. He was getting offers for work all over the capital and even in America. In just eight days time he would be heading off to New York to work with some of the best in the business. Although Jamie would never admit to it, Sebastian knew that he had had some influence on this. But he didn't care. He was getting paid to do what he loved. And his portfolio of work was more than impressive. What was even better was that Jo was coming with him. After his work was done today he was going to go to Heathrow to meet her. Sebastian had two shoots today at either ends of London. He had Jamie's cars at his disposal but he preferred his bike. He loaded up his messenger bag with his equipment and left the apartment. His, and now Jo’s, own private space. No more sharing with Christopher. No more talking behind his back. No more feeling like he was second best. No one telling him that he was second best. Not for the first time in his life, Sebastian had been singled out. But this time, it felt amazing.

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John was slowly getting more and more irritated. He didn't mind Sherlock commandeering the kitchen and reorganising everything in the living room, but what he did object to was him coming into John's private space and taking whatever it was that he wanted before disappearing off to Mycroft. He took his holdall downstairs and was about to start rifling through the store cupboard when Sherlock walked in through the door eating a bag of chips.

"How was Mycroft?" John asked. Sherlock shrugged. "You've been spending an awful lot of time with him lately"

"He is my brother” Sherlock managed to get out through a full mouth of food. John was about to reprimand him when he stopped himself. He was turning into Mrs Hudson.

"Yes…that's why I think its odd. Anything going on that I should know about?” John leant back on his heels peering around the cupboard door. Sherlock was still more interested in stuffing his face than having a polite conversation with him it would seem.

"Nothing that you would understand. What are you looking for anyway?” Sherlock ambled over to John who had now stood up holding his gym bag in one had and trying to hide his mild annoyance at Sherlock’s patronising assertion.

'My squash kit. Have you seen it?” Sherlock looked puzzled and jabbed his wooden fork down to the holdall.

'It's in your hand…" John was older than him but Sherlock hadn't counted on the old-age forgetfulness to kick in quite yet. John rolled his eyes. He had had a bad day at work and was going to be late for Paul. Sherlock’s general arsey attitude was not helping.

"No…I mean I ordered a new set of balls and I can't find them anywhere. I'm going to play with Paul tonight and I kind of need them. You aren't doing some hideous experiment with them are you?” John barrelled past Sherlock and began the ascent to their flat. Sherlock followed him, practically bounding up the stairs.

"Nothing that you won't appreciate in time to come John.” John raised his eyes skyward. There were some days when he really did want a best friend that had boundaries and a sense of common decency.

"For god's sake Sherlock. You owe me nine quid.” Sherlock looked blank and then shovelled another forkful of chips into his mouth.

"I think I owe you a bit more than that” He murmured. John spun round and for a moment he looked alarmingly like Mrs Hudson. Sherlock hoped to god he hadn’t heard what he’d just said.

"What was that? Don't talk while you eating."

"I said I've got a case more interesting than that. Squash I mean.” Sherlock looked oddly sheepish, John frowning at him.

"You just said…never mind. What is it then?” Sherlock perked up again, eager to have John back on his side.

"How would you like to save a life rather than solving a murder?"

John put his bag down. Squash could wait. He was starting to remember why it was so hard to maintain normal friendships when living with Sherlock.

"Err…yes. Whose life are we saving?"

"No idea"

"Okay…do you know when this might happen? Or where?"

"No to the first and potentially maybe to the second"

"Not a lot to go on really"

"No" Sherlock thrust the bag under John's nose "Chip?"



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