It took a lot of getting used to. Jim had never heard his voice; only his moans, or his sighs. Grunts of exertion or groans of pleasure, huffs of frustration or gentle breaths of contentment. Sebastian remained silent through the days and nights, simply smiling at Jim’s inappropriate jokes (written down on paper), or shaking his head when Jim suggested semtex (again) for a hit (with enthusiastic ‘Boom!’ hand expression).
He’d lost his hearing in the war, Jim knew, from the papers he’d read on the ex-Colonel. An IED explosion that had rocked the jeep he’d been driving had busted out his eardrums and left him deaf. The shockwave would do that, Jim knew, but the sniper never did recover his hearing. Decommissioned due to impairment, they’d stamped across the Colonel’s file.
James had taken to learning sign language to help communicate better with his sniper. It had taken him a few months, but he mastered it, and the criminal and his lover were able to carry on conversations together, learning as they went along.
But it was his laugh that Jim wanted to hear, and call the Irish fuck sentimental, but the house was too quiet. Sebastian was self-conscious of his voice, now, not knowing if it was too loud or too soft, too nasal or too quiet. Music was lost to the sniper, and there were moments of frustration when Moran would see Jim swaying in the study, and knew that music had to be playing on that old record player Jim had. The tiger wondered what sort of music Jim liked, and when he looked over the records and didn’t recognise any of the names or songs, his frustration grew.
The flat sometimes only clicked with the assembly of Moran’s rifle in his hands, or the rustling of fabrics being folded and hung, fresh from the dryer. The tiger’s heavy footsteps echoed in the home, and really, their lives were good, this way. There were times when Sebastian would hum, singing to a tune inside of his own head, and those days, Jim appreciated. It was the closest thing to Sebastian’s voice that Jim was allowed to hear.
Moriarty lived for those sounds, no matter how nasal they were. And at times, Sebastian would get drunk after too many shots of whiskey, and try to talk to James, his voice drawn out and loud, but the sound itself was enough to make a crack of a smile slither across the Irishman’s lips.
There was one day, however, when Sebastian finally spoke Jim’s name, just as James wanted. Clutching the Irishman’s limp body to his chest on the roof of St. Bart’s hospital, Sebastian finally allowed his voice to be heard, a nasal and broken, “James,” with bloody hands and trembling fingers.