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That One May Smile

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Richard didn't own much; only the bits and pieces he'd acquired since prison, and he'd been too short of money to buy more than a few basics. (A thought flickered- he must have had stuff before; clothes, cds, books? Didn't matter. They were gone now, anyway.)

It didn't take long to repeat the search of the night before, systematically now, tidying up as he went. He found a microphone behind his headboard, remembered murmuring one particular name aloud into the pillow as he brought himself off, felt utterly sick. Wedged underneath his mattress was a small inconspicuous pocket made from the same material as his sheets and inside a sleek, expensive mobile phone. Richard turned it on, found it was charged and locked. He didn't understand how it fit in with the surveillance; he turned it off, left it under his pillow.

Downstairs Richard reached for the closed living room curtains. "Don't open them!" came, urgent, from the doorway. That was Andrew, with Mike close behind.

"There are journalists and photographers all over the street. I've had to disconnect the doorbell. Are you OK, Richard?"

He looked at his housemates. Genuine concern? He couldn't tell. "Yes, I'm OK. Just-you know-shaken up a bit. The police chap was crazy; it was horrible. For a bit I really thought they were going to charge me."

"Fuck!" Mike was shaking his head. "That's insane! But you got out?"

"They let me out, yeah. But it's all pretty awful. They haven't arrested anyone else, have they?"

"Not on the news, anyway. Want me to make you some breakfast? You won't be able to go anywhere today until those creeps outside go away."

Richard managed a smile at Mike. "That would be great. I'm sorry about all this."

"Shit, don't worry about us. We're fine." Andrew nodded agreement. If they hadn't been Mycroft's people they would have been pretty good guys. Everything decent in Richard's life had been turned over, broken open, shown to be rotten at the core.

 

Around eleven am the noise from outside died down. Andrew twitched the curtains aside, reported the street empty, apart from a silver car drawing up outside. "Hey! It's Mycroft!" The boys knew Richard's regular visitor, of course. Of course.

Richard opened the door, turned up the stairs to the bedroom without responding to the polite greeting. He closed the door behind the two of them, walked to glance out of the window at the empty yard. A shout from Mike told him that the journalists were already coming back.

"It's sort of funny," he said without turning. "I keep going to myself, you must think I'm so stupid. Really dumb, to have believed anything you said for a moment. To have cared. And that feels awful. But then I remember, you can't think I'm stupid. You don't think I'm here at all."

Silence. He went on, words he'd been rehearsing all morning. "I can't even accuse you of lying to me, can I? You were talking to Jim Moriarty all the time, and he was never expected to believe a word of it. Only poor stupid Richard did that and who cares what an imaginary character feels?"

A slow hand clap from behind him.

"Good." Mycroft's dry voice. "Very good indeed. Now is this intended for our joint entertainment, or are you still wary of recording devices? You destroyed all those in here and I assure you that I am not 'wired'- an undignified process, and unlikely to be effacious in this case. We could just talk."

Richard turned round, the sight of the other man, tall and unbending, almost physically painful. "Why can't you believe it's me standing here? What have I done to make you doubt me?"

Mycroft shook his head. "I'm not to be lured into debating with a fiction, Jim. I know you beyond the least shadow of a doubt. Richard Brook is a fiendishly clever invention but I was part of the web that you wove to trap Sherlock. I don't forget."

"It was all Sherlock's idea," Richard said, hopelessly. "All of it." There was nothing to be gained by pleading further. "What do you want from me now, Mycroft? What are you doing here?"

Moriarty would have known the answer, of course. Richard reminded himself that that was who he would be today. Jim, playing games, not Richard, aching with betrayal. Make Mycroft chase phantoms; his small revenge.

"Lestrade still thinks you had a hand in Finney's death. He's right, naturally. I imagine that what Finney did was intolerable. Pride, Jim, will be your downfall in the end, just as it was Sherlock's."

Surely Moriarty would feel a flicker of rage at that. Richard had played enough Shakespeare to know how to almost hide it behind another wail of unhappy innocence. Mycroft would see both. Yes, there was the glimmer of satisfaction. Mycroft thought he'd spotted his prey.

"I was here all the time. You know that." That much at least was on his side. He ought to be safe from the murder investigation and Lestrade's spite.

"Oh, you didn't kill him personally. There had to be someone else. Someone to manage Moriarty's interests while you played at being Brook."

"Invent more conspirators? Isn't that the action of the desperate playwright? I didn't want him dead. I wanted my audition."

"Richard Brook wanted an audition. What did Jim Moriarty want?"

Richard sighed, both frustrated and grimly satisfied at the other man's persistence. "What does Hamlet like for breakfast? What's James Bond's opinion on the Arab Spring? Moriarty was created purely to showcase Sherlock's frauds. Without Sherlock he's nothing, and he wants nothing."

He sat down on the bed, eyes half closed. He could hear the crowd outside. "You really think a man like Jim Moriarty was meant to be would have fallen so low as to do what I did last night? Then wipe out whatever tiny gain had resulted by killing Nels?"

"I believe you would do whatever suited your plans, Jim. This conversation, the murder, your demonstrations of unrequited love. Each an arrow aimed at me. Whatever your intention is, I will foil it."

Mycroft hated him. Richard couldn't do this any more. "Go away, please. I know you'll put back the cameras and your spies, but you won't find Moriarty that way. I didn't kill anyone. I'm an actor."

Mycroft was watching him with cold eyes. "An actor. Show me, then."

"Show you what?"

"Show me how you play Jim Moriarty, 'Richard'."

Would Moriarty do it? Would Brook? For a moment he was confused between his identities. What did he want Mycroft to believe, again?

Then he smiled, wide and cruel, relaxed. "Is this who you're looking for? Your brother's evil nemesis? Going to get revenge? Sorry!" His voice was high and gleeful. "It doesn't work that way. There's no-one who can go up against me and win. How can there be? I'm the perfect villain. I have no scruples, I have no weaknesses. My web is everywhere. My schemes are continent-wide and years in the making. I have no equal, no challengers. And I don't exist."

He took three steps towards Mycroft, reached out to drag his fingertips lightly down the man's immobile face. "Chase my shadow, pet. Chase it as long and far as you like. In the end it will take you where your baby brother went so eagerly, splattered all over the pavement with a phantom still whispering fictions in your ear, because you were both too weak to survive in a world without someone like me."

Richard stepped back, looked down at Mycroft's fingers clenched white around the handle of his umbrella. He felt very tired and muzzy headed.

"'As I am subtle, false and treacherous.' It's acting, that's all."

Mycroft took a long breath, but when he finally spoke his voice was steady as usual. "You obviously can't stay here. I will send the car for you at 2pm. Be packed."

Richard nodded. There seemed little point to protesting his independence. He had nowhere else to go.

"Good." Mycroft turned to the door. "One final thing. Regardless of whom you pretend to be, you will regret mocking my brother's death."

He closed the bedroom door behind him and Richard could hear the precise tread down the staircase, the front door opening.

He lay back on the bed, feeling tears welling, let them come. His life in tatters. His adored friend and sole supporter thought him a fraud and a vicious killer. Only Sherlock could have convinced his brother of the truth and Sherlock was dead.

There was nothing he could do about it. He ought to start packing. Richard turned over the pillow, picked up the mysterious phone, rested it in his palm, pressed some keys at random. The lock couldn't have been set properly because it cleared. The call log was empty and the phone book had only one number.

Nothing ventured...he pressed call. It was picked up within a couple of rings.

"Yes." A man's voice, deep.

"Who am I speaking to, please?"

The other man hung up.

So much for that. Richard looked down at the phone uneasily. Maybe it belonged to one of his housemates. Maybe Mycroft had left it under his bed for reasons of his own. It had to be one if those two. He'd remember if he'd bought it, surely. His memory problems couldn't have become that bad, and he didn't have the money, anyway.

He chucked it onto the bed, started adding clothes to the pile. The boys brought him coffee a couple of times; they seemed suspiciously unsurprised that he was going with Mycroft. The journalists were gone, apart from a single photographer.

An hour before the deadline and he was finished. Still time for a shower. He walked back into his room with a towel wrapped around his waist and the tall man sitting on his bed whistled, quiet but appreciative.

Who the hell? Not someone he'd ever met; Richard would definitely have remembered. The guy was gorgeous, in a rugged sort of way, and he was giving the unclad bits of Richard a flattering amount of attention.

"Did Mycroft send you?"

A flicker of definite surprise, then a small smile twisted the stubbled face. "You're Richard Brook."

Richard was good with voices. "You answered the phone."

A slight nod. "Where is it?"

"Who are you? What do you want?"

"The phone. Please."

The room was chilly. Richard picked up his shirt, started to dress. "I'll give it to you if you tell me what this is about."

The man shook his head, a touch regretful. "Can't. Sorry." Rather like a youngish Clint Eastwood, Richard decided.

"So I'll keep the phone." He picked up his trousers, dropped the towel, unconcerned by exposure. The man laughed.

"Should have expected something like this. You're not much intimidated."

"Should I be?"

The twitch of a jacket back- was that a real gun? How the hell should he know? Okay. Richard looked back into the man's bright blue eyes.

"On second thoughts I think I'll let you have the phone. I've got one already. Anything else I can do for you while you're here?"

That got an outright laugh. "That's rather more civil than... Well, than I expected. Just the phone, please."

Richard pulled his trousers up and went rummaging in the luggage. "Why do you need it?"

"Wouldn't do for your pompous bloody minder to get hold of it. You won't tell him." A statement.

"We're not really on speaking terms right now." He pulled out the bag, tossed it over.

"Thanks."

"You're welcome. Got a name?"

The man sighed. "Fraternising with you is going to get me in so much bloody trouble. It's Seb. And don't pass that onto bloody Holmes either."

"Not a word." Richard liked this guy, far more than was reasonable given that he'd broken into his house and effectively threatened him. "Want a coffee?"

"Christ! You're..." He shook his head, grimacing. "Holmes' people are downstairs. If I get caught out here drinking fucking coffee with you the boss will have my balls. I need to leave now."

Richard couldn't help noticing that Seb wasn't moving yet. "Some other time, then?"

"Yeah." The brief smile lit up his face. "Remember the number?"

"Yes, I think so. I'll give you mine."

A slow shake of the head. "Calling you cold would be really dumb, for all kinds of reasons. Wait till you're absolutely sure you've slipped the bloody cameras, then call me using a phone no-one can have got to. If I'm not working we'll have coffee." The last few words were deeper than the rest, amused.

Seb stood up, unlocked the bedroom door and was off down the stairs silently, leaving Richard grinning for the first time in two days.

Crazy. He knew nothing at all about this man except that he carried a gun and answered a phone hidden under Richard's mattress. And knew, and disapproved, of Mycroft and his spies. And seemed to like him.

So had Nels. So had Mycroft. So had Andrew and Mike. Richard's track record on making friends wasn't good right now.

Fuck that. It was about time that his luck changed, that he met someone real. How long had it been? He didn't remember. It didn't matter. Only the future mattered.

For the first time he began to regret the game he'd started playing with Mycroft. Keeping the man interested in him had seemed like a good idea when he had no-one else; better than being dropped as a non-entity, anyway. Now there was a possibility of someone else, someone kinder, more decent then Mycroft Holmes and he had the man close on his heels.

It wasn't insurmountable. He'd find some way to shake Mycroft and he'd ring Seb, and maybe they'd hit it off a bit more. Richard knew his enemies now; Mycroft, Lestrade, his housemates, even that poor bugger Watson. He could do with some allies, and Seb and his unidentified boss seemed to know what was going on, might just be the ones to help him.