Richard woke, still himself. Schooled himself to act Moriarty, opened his eyes. He was in bed in a small hospital room, a drip in his arm, patches of bandages over his burns and a medical gown over those. Outside the glass door Seb was bent over a sheaf of papers.
Richard took a second to appreciate the view. Moran still made his pulse race. Then he sat up, ripped the needle (carefully) out of his arm and threw the drip and stand against the door.
"So what exactly happened?"
"Exactly, Sebastian?" Scornful was very useful, Richard had already found, to deal with the wrong questions. "You're trained in neurophysiology now? Want to take a look at some MRIs? No?" He sighed. " Listen carefully. Dumbed down to a level that even you might have a hope of grasping, what exactly happened was that while I was in a state that you might, inaccurately, compare to extremely deep hypnosis, my utterly incompetent bodyguard completely failed to prevent Doctor John Watson from hitting me over the head with an iron bar. The consequence, as any neurologist could tell you, is neural disruption. Memory loss, to you."
"Shit!" Seb's concern would have been rather heartwarming if Richard had been its target. It was wasted on Moriarty. "So you need the top neurologist. I'm onto it."
"Don't be terminally stupid!" Richard hissed. "You breathe one word of any neurological problems to any living soul and what's going to happen to Watson will be nothing but a dress rehearsal for your agonising and lingering death. You know what I need to. You will provide me with data, using absolute discretion at all times, and in return I will give serious consideration to letting you keep your external genitalia despite that little incident with Brook."
"Got it. You want a general overview for now?" Seb's husky voice sounded suitably subdued. Richard told himself that taking over from Moriarty and keeping away from both Holmes was his first priority. Figuring out whether he was sleeping with his second in command, and if not how to start, would have to wait. A day or so, at least.
"Coffee, overview, report on both brothers. I want to know absolutely everything about Sherlock's reappearance."
Seb nodded. "Been tracking Sherlock personally. Boys are on Mycroft- give me ten minutes to debrief." His mouth twisted, wry. "Good to have you back, Boss. Sorry about the Brook thing, but a man's only human. You've got to admit that swanning around being all sweet and innocent with those big brown eyes wasn't really playing fair." He was out of the room before Richard could formulate an appropriate reply.
Two weeks later Richard was safely ensconsed in what Seb casually referred to as "home" on the outskirts of north London. His lieutenant/bodyguard was live-in, with a set of rooms of his own.
Their arrangement was working well. Moran had an excellent grasp of Moriarty's affairs. Richard added the touch of inspired insanity. London's underworld was falling quietly back under the control of the Moriarty empire and Mycroft was already encountering dead ends and the occasional dead subordinate.
Sherlock,recuperating in hospital, was taking very few visitors. The newspaper journalists were still milling outside. John's internet posting of his interrogation of Brook had been pulled almost instantly by Mycroft but there were rumours of copies circulating. John himself was nowhere to be found. Richard Brook had, of course, vanished.
Richard had been getting better at walking the thin line between acting Moriarty and becoming him. He was sure that one day Jim would take over while he was sleeping, but there was nothing he could do about that except recite the familiar mantra as he fell asleep; I am Richard Brook.
Right now he was reading an update on Sherlock's condition. Improving fast. Soon he would have to dodge both siblings; he sighed.
"Anything I can do, Boss?" Seb looked up from his own laptop.
"Just a headache," he said, without thinking, cursed himself. Jim doubtless didn't get headaches.
Seb closed his laptop quietly. "You might not remember but I'm pretty good with those headaches of yours. Why don't you put that aside for a few minutes, come into the bedroom?"
Richard forced himself to pretend to read a couple more paragraphs before he logged out of his machine. "You might as well make yourself of some use." With a huge effort of will he managed to sound bored at the prospect.
Seb followed him into his large bedroom. "Shirt," he suggested, quiet and confident. He was unbuttoning his own. Richard followed the polite instructions until he was face down on the bed half naked with a half clothed Moran sitting across his thighs and the sweet smell of massage oil permeating the room.
Seb was good at this. Strong hands dug into muscle, smoothed across skin. Richard closed his eyes, floating, forgetting everything but the feel of the hands, the weight of the man on top of him and his own insistent erection pushed against the mattress.
"How's the head?" Seb's voice was soft. Richard loved it that way.
"Want me to do something about this as well?" Hands slid down and under Richard's narrow hips, brushed the edge of his cock through his trousers.
Seb rolled him over, careful of the burns and bruises, undid his belt and stripped the rest of his clothes off. He crouched low on the bed, his tongue running warm and wet up the inside of Richard's thigh.
"This what you want?"
He had to be Jim, here more than ever. He pushed thoughts of hot kisses aside. "Why's that mouth still moving to so little effect, Moran?"
Seb was as efficient at this as with everything else. Hands and mouth brought Richard to a rapid, soundless orgasm, tidied up, dressed him again. Richard slipped sideways as they got up from the bed, cursing Seb's clumsiness, but he'd found out what he needed. His lieutenant was hard as a rock under the khaki trousers.
He ached to do something about that, but he didn't dare offer, not yet. Instead he jerked his head towards Seb's quarters. "Seven minutes max and back here focussed, with my coffee."
Seb looked slightly startled, but he nodded, went. Richard used the time to compose himself, to think. Moriarty used Seb, so he could. More- he had to. Any shift in the dynamics between them had to be gradual, believable, but first he had to find out just what Moran was expecting to be ordered to do.
The answer to that came quickly and almost by chance. He and Seb had been working for some time on accessing Moriarty's really private records from three years before. They'd got through several layers of security, got stuck, but after a number of unsuccessful attempts to figure out the final password, Richard had finally remembered how he'd accessed the mobile phone under his bed. He waited until Seb was absent, then dropped a little of his control, felt Moriarty surging underneath, let his fingers tap at the keyboard. When the screen cleared to a neat row of file icons he hissed "I'm Richard Brook" to himself, until he was sure that he was back in charge.
He didn't tell Seb that he'd accessed the files. If Moriarty had chosen to keep them from Moran, so would he. He'd expected names, dates, amounts, other secrets and he got those, but he also got video.
Richard copied the files to his tablet, watched them late at night under his bedclothes, simultaneously aroused and disturbed by the experience of watching his own body engaged in sex. "Used" had been spot on. Jim liked having Seb helpless and begging, writhing in pain and frustration. It was difficult to tell what Seb liked, but his erection appeared resilient against all but the worst of the mistreatment and when Moriarty let him he came hard and unselfconsciously loud.
Richard turned the stuff off after he'd masturbated to soreness, then lay awake for a while, thinking. He had no illusions about the nature of Moran's loyalty. If Seb thought Moriarty had weakened then the gunman would rip him to pieces and take the criminal empire for himself. He could not afford to appear one whit less heartless than Jim.
For the next couple of weeks Richard was careful not to show a hint of interest in sex with his second in command but he knew he needed to find a better answer, long term. Seb had taken to crowding him physically, just a little, pushing for a reaction that Richard dared not yet try, and before long disinterest would be taken as impotence.
Fortunately there were other things on both their minds to distract them. Sherlock was back in Baker Street and using every bit of blandishment, blackmail and Mycroft that he could muster to get John out of the sort of trouble that came with fortifying and booby trapping one's house against the police. Kidnap and GBH charges had been dropped in the absence of the supposed victim, but Seb had killed five police officers on his way in to recover his boss and Lestrade blamed John for creating the whole situation.
What little sympathy Richard could muster for any of them lay with the police officer. Sherlock's abrupt reappearance and the discovery that he had been right all along about Brook/Moriarty seemed to have done little for John's tendency to instability. The blog entries now verged on outright paranoia, ironic given the terms of
Richard's deal with Sherlock. Watson was a nuisance; in possession of a little too much information for Richard's comfort and surprisingly good at making connections and broadcasting snippets of Jim Moriarty's business to the world.
For the moment however Richard was content just to monitor the Scotland Yard/Baker Street situation. His active interest was elsewhere in London; the small offices in Whitehall from which Mycroft Holmes untangled the government's problems. Mycroft had betrayed Richard. Mycroft had, according to Seb, kidnapped and tortured Moriarty. What better victim to establish Moriarty's credentials again?
They'd been setting a macabre trail for Sherlock's brother, dipping in and out of the various matters he was currently concerned with, a trail waymarked with his crippled or dying agents but always leaving those closest to the man untouched. The message was clear and Mycroft read it; when the invitation was finally tendered, he came.
They met in a near empty Hyde Park on a grey and windy afternoon. Richard was in a sleek designer tracksuit. Moran had acquired a shabby leather jacket and large bull terrier who tugged incessantly on the chain lead in a way that belied Seb's claims for her reliability.
Mycroft had eschewed camouflage for his usual three piece suit and the ever present umbrella. He sat on the designated bench doing nothing, apparently preferring the sight of the City skyline to what passed for nature around him. Richard jogged up and sat down next to him. The dog was snuffling around a tree a few yards away, Seb as ordered out of earshot of quiet conversation, in range for everything else.
Mycroft spoke first. "What is it that you want, Jim?"
Richard leaned over to retie a shoelace. "What's the rush? Let's talk for a bit. I've missed our little chats over cups of tea. Real friends are so hard to come by, these days."
"What, then, do you want to talk about?" Mycroft's voice was quiet.
"Tell me about your day. I always liked that; so domestic."
Mycroft didn't turn his head from the skyline. "I went to visit your ex-housemates."
Richard tutted, sympathetically. "Yawn. They always were tedious company. I don't know why you bother." He stretched his legs out, leaned back. "So had they anything interesting to say?"
It was unlikely that they had. Mycroft's voice shook very slightly. "They will both survive."
"Less inanely, though, I imagine, without tongues. See, I've improved them for you. It would be polite to say thank you."
"What do you want!" Voice just perceptibly raised, stress showing. "What will it take to stop you doing this?"
"What makes you think there's anything I want from you? One game for another, Mycroft. I've finished taking the pawns. Knights next, do you think, or bishops? Knights are traditionally considered less valuable, but I like the way they leap."
"I do not understand the nature of this particular animosity." Mycroft had control of his voice again. "I'm not aware of having done anything to warrant it."
Richard kept his own voice steady. "Come now. You were positively beastly to poor Richard, and you well aware of his little crush, too. As his only flesh and blood, I feel obliged to reciprocate."
Mycroft was staring at him now. "Brook was a front. We both knew that."
"Ah, but he didn't."
Mycroft shook his head. "John said you'd lost your mind."
Richard snorted disdain. "That from a paranoid obsessive. You ought to have someone watch him, you know. I believe you've a couple of people left with functioning visual systems. Tell me, did you like Richard's company?"
"Richard was irrelevant. I was always talking to you."
"All the time? You never slipped, not once?"
Mycroft frowned. "Of course not. Do you really think that I could be in your presence, Jim, and somehow overlook the fact? Richard was an impressive performance but I knew you existed, after all. You couldn't both be real."
It had started to rain. Mycroft erected his umbrella, held it politely over the two of them. The wind tugged at it, failed to pull it inside out. Richard could feel the power of his performance as Moriarty ebbing away. It had been a mistake to meet Mycroft out here. His anger wasn't strong enough to survive contact with the man; he just wanted to be himself, to explain everything, to have Mycroft speak to him, just once. Sherlock knew the truth; why shouldn't his brother?
Too late. He'd ordered Mycroft's agents maimed, mutilated and killed. There was no going back now to Richard Brook, actor. He had to be Jim Moriarty, or no-one, and right now he was floundering, drying up, his script forgotten and no prompt to help.