Everything is different.
Jim comes back, but he's not the same. Physically, he is mostly unchanged; he's lost weight, yeah, and there's a tightness around his eyes which wasn't there before, but overall Seb looks at him and sees Jim. Small, deceivingly so – it used to amuse Sebastian, how Jim barely came up to his shoulder, because it didn't seem right, that someone capable of such destruction could look so harmless. Part of the irony surrounding the whole idea of James Moriarty, Jim had called it. Seb had preferred the name 'chaos in a tiny package'. Jim had whacked his arm, annoyed, and Seb had smirked, and let him.
Now, Jim looks at him with the same dark eyes, speaks to him with the same lilting voice, and Sebastian feels like ripping a hole in the sky because Jim has no right to look and sound just like he used to, when so much has changed around them.
He's not quite as playful as he used to be. Seb isn't sure whether he likes it. Jim's playfulness was as magnetic as it was irritating; sometimes, he'd sidle over to Sebastian with that gleam in his eye which said he wanted to play a game, and Sebastian would raise his eyebrows, indulgent, and go along with it. Other times Jim would prod him hard, making demands and whining at him when Sebastian was absolutely Not In The Mood for Jim's games, and Seb would give him a shove that told him exactly where he could stick his fucking games.
(He usually ended up playing along anyway. Jim didn't like being told no.)
Their relationship has changed too. The night when Jim comes back – turning up at his door out of the blue, pale-faced and exhausted but grinning, as though he'd been out for a couple of days instead of three fucking years... it's a catalyst, for them. Sebastian had nearly thrown up from the shock of it. Jim had just been muttering something along the lines of 'Making a man who shoots people for a job sick from shock? Should I be proud?' when Seb had wheeled around, grabbed Jim by the collar and slammed him against the wall. Jim's eyes had widened, slightly, because whilst Sebastian wasn't above manhandling him, it was the first time he'd done it with such fury in his eyes. Seb had held him against the wall and very calmly told him that he was lucky he didn't have Seb's fist in his face, and then he'd punched him anyway, because goddamn it, the bastard deserved it. And Jim had been silent. He'd let Sebastian pin him to a wall and demand answers from him, white-faced and seething. Their relationship had never been a stable one, but Sebastian felt himself gaining ground on Jim that night. For once, he'd been the attacker. It was a modicum of control which he wasn't going to let go any time soon. He'd told Jim he'd better fucking explain right now, and instead they'd ended up kissing – but then again, stability wasn't one of their strong points, and it never would be.
(Jim explained everything that night, curled against Sebastian's chest. He'd been thinner than before and unusually still. Seb's arm had been wrapped around his shoulders and he'd had to close his eyes, because for once he wasn't imagining the warmth next to him.)
After that night, three weeks pass before Sebastian calls him by name. He knows it's frustrating Jim, knows it from the way Jim's mouth twists in annoyance at Sebastian's calm, measured tone as he calls him... anything but Jim. Boss, mostly. Occasionally 'you bastard'. But he's been talking to Jim for three years, whispering his name and trying to pretend that he wasn't dead. He lets Jim stew for a while. He deserves it, after all. But three weeks in, Sebastian is resting on the sofa, savouring his evening off and trying to read. Jim is annoying him, and he can't help the irritated snap of, 'James' which escapes his mouth. Jim withdraws after a moment, eyes on Sebastian, curious. Seb pauses, then glances at him. 'Jim,' he amends, and he thinks he sees Jim's eyes soften infinitesimally.
They're alright after that – alright being a relative term, but it's fine by Seb. Something slipped back into place that evening, and they both feel it.
The first time Jim doesn't pick up his phone after a job which could easily turn nasty, Sebastian nearly loses it. Jim slips into the flat a few hours later, no explanation. Sebastian's sharp 'Where did you go?' is met with an amused 'Aww, were you worried?' Seb is on his feet before he can stop himself, seizing Jim and shaking him, snarling in his face – half-coherent insults and then, finally, a 'Of course I was worried, you absolute prick.' Jim looks at him, properly this time, and Seb can see the realisation as it slots into place in that infuriatingly brilliant mind. Three years spent alone with a whiskey bottle, two months coming to terms with the fact that Jim is here, with him again, and then Jim ignores his calls like that. Jim nods when he realises, and he doesn't say anything, but the next time Sebastian calls him, he picks up after a couple of rings.
(It's sixteen days since Jim returned. Sebastian is cleaning out of his favourite rifle, carefully, almost lovingly. Jim is watching him, quiet for once.
"You don't want to," he says suddenly.
Sebastian resists the urge to sigh. So much for quiet. "I don't want to what?"
Jim pauses. Sebastian glances up. Jim's eyes are contemplative.
"Forgive me," he says eventually, and it almost sounds like a request.
Seb shrugs slightly. "Can you blame me?"
Jim doesn't answer for a few moments. When he speaks, his voice is lower than before. "Will you?"
"Eventually," Sebastian murmurs. He smoothes the oily rag over the barrel of his rifle one more time, then sets it down. He looks up at Jim and smiles slightly. "I can't say I want to, no. But you know how it is." Their eyes meet, and Seb knows he won't be able to keep this up for long. "I'm getting there, Jim. I'm getting there.")