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Richard 2.0

Chapter Text

I was not very clear, how he ended up here. Thinking. Reading. Hearing people voices in the wood-and-paper library. He was sitting on a sofa, in a corner, hidden from the usual muffled fuss of the library, a book on his lap.
He could not read the book. Somehow it was impossible for him to read it, to focus, to remember. The hero had his name and it was a play, by Shakespeare, not one of the best-known.
But he could not focus on the story. It was like a hole. Not a problem of language or style, or that the plot was too complicated for him to understand, no; Richard was clever enough to get all this stuff. However for some reason, he just fell asleep and forgot.

* * *

A bit puzzled by his unexpected nap, he stood up and stored the book in the first place he found. It was beautiful, covered with leather and a golden title. This hole was not its place but it was a secret corner Richard always chose when he went there; by this little trick he made sure to be able to find it next time.
Even the richest students are summoned to a limited number of borrows at the school's library.

Richard Langley had a good life but not a happy one. He was the grandson of president of King&Langley's company, specialized in nothing and owner of multiple others specialized in everything from toothbrushes to Chinese food, from insurances to cars. The man died of cancer at the healthy age of 83, and his eldest son got the cake and would have ruled the whole kingdom built by his father if he had not hanged himself after the death of his own eldest son, Matthew.
Facing this succession of men buried in the family's mausoleum, Richard. He held his name and surname from his great-grandfather, whose marriage with Margaret King had started to make their name stand. It was a lineage of strong, virile and sensible men. But Richard held everything from his mother.
He had been left with her, a slim and soft-spoken woman. Those losses had filled her heart with tears and grieves; his, only with anger.
Years after years he would keep vivid memories of himself in mourning black, standing, his feet making the dead leaves crack, in front of this three-times warm grave, of this lineage of first-borns.

-You still had me.

He whispered it between his teeth.

-You have lost him. But you still had me.

Chapter Text

He was fifteen now, with shaggy caramel hair, three or four spots and bony hands. He was of average size, but so skinny he looked little, and had huge glasses covering half of his face. He already had a sharp jaw, sharp nose, big chocolate-brown eyes and his forever white skin got decorated by a colony of freckles in the summer.
His mother – who dyed her own caramel into sophisticated blonde – could not bear the losses. She could not handle a depression and a child so she had sent him as soon as she could into a boarding school in Bordeaux. Funny thing, he was born there. Far away from his family, who hated him anyway, except he believed his uncle John, who ruled things there in London and left him read and get bored.
Young Richard Langley was a high-achiever but not a very loved student. He had a few friends, of course, but was mostly staying in his own world. Often enough, he would sit by the railings that separated them from the girls (it was a single-sex school) and dream. He watched their quiet games, there running and their rope games. Somehow he felt wrong being here with boys that seemed to become more and more about their penis, smelly sweat and dirty jokes. Until he met her.

* * *

There was a secret bond between her and him. Intensity. He could touch it now and then, every bond between him and some other person in his life. Even when they were long gone.

-Hey! Hey! Psstttt!

It was a quiet day of September, warm and soft, smelling like new books and sheets. She was as lonely as he was. Curious, Richard got closer. A face smiled at him on the over side. She had curly and messy black hair, high cheekbones and a mischievous light in her blue eyes. He was surprised.

-Hello!
-Hell...
-I saw you had a book yesterday in your bag about history of guns during the 20th century's war.
-Mmh, yes... so?

Why would a fourteen-year-old teenage girl would interest herself in such a topic? He personaly used this kind of thing to hide his diary.

-They do not have such books in our library you see.
-What?! But... why do you possibly want to read such a thing?
-I want to become a weapon engineer.

What a strange idea. He thought of Langley&King's; their major activity under his grandfather had become weapon industry, especially for the American and European armies. Tough business, not joking with marketing, art or quality. And the French and German competitors were quite severe ones. Later, he would leave this shit to Henry or other bullies.

-What is your name? He asked.
-Anne. And you?
-I am Richard.

With Anne, arms and bullets had not the same sound. They sound nicer, almost like peace. She was peace but wanted to built war. Against what? He could almost feel the tomboy under the plaits. The railings where loose enough for her to reach him with her hand.

-I do not really need that book anyway, he said, vaguely blushing, he did not know exactly why. I can give it to you tomorrow.
-Thank you! You are so sweet. Don't worry, I'll hand it back as soon as I can.
-You... are welcome.

He watched her run away and smiled. He liked her; not loved her, not exactly, but he felt close to her, closer than all his male friends. Her beam was like the entire sun. He did not need the weapon manual anyway and he thought he could trust her. After all, she was part of the ones he felt he had a special bond with. Red, these bonds. The colour of blood and old literature.
Later in the day, he came back at the school library, in his secret corner. A corner no one knew except him; even the librarian never came to tidy it up. Nothing ever moved here if it was not by his own will.
Richard II was gone.

Chapter Text

-Where is my lipstick?

Aunt Delphina was shouting this question all over the Langley's mansion. It was during Christmas holidays. Richard had come back for the traditional Christmas Eve with the entire Langley clan. Aunt Delphina was the fourth one and eldest sister of the seven Langley siblings. She was married to a man called Michael Blackbird. She was a bit fat, red-faced and as dark-haired as her two sons, Edward and Peter. She was a wise women who loved her children more than anything. Edward was a year younger than Richard but was already a grown man. The latter was somehow ill-at-ease when he was in company of his cousins. The girls, like Uncle Lionel's daughter Philippa or Uncle's John Catherine and Elisabeth, were nicely grown, with soft skin and round shapes, even for the youngest. The boys, Henry, Edward and even Peter were already strong, squared, especially Henry. Richard looked down at himself, all skinny and shapeless, as uncomfortably trapped between the two. Somehow, the idea of being like Henry disgusted him; at the same time, women appeared like an ideal beauty but without any of this predatory desire he had heard boys were meant to have towards girls.
Something was wrong about him, he could already sense it.
Aunt Delphina was shortly disturbed in her noisy search by two big loud laughs in the garden. Uncle John, her brother, and her husband Michael had arrived. It was their tradition to stop working from the 23rd to the 1st, to reunite around an entire week of fat meals, turkey, Yule log and pudding. Grandmother Philippa, as a true Frenchwoman, had brought champaign and foie gras to the traditional meals. The two fathers worked together with Lionel, the eldest brother alive. Delphina greeted them and asked where the latter was.

-We were almost here when Thomas phoned, Michael said. He said he would be at the station very soon.
-He could not call a taxi?
-Well, you know, he is... in his socialist and green phrase, where poor people deserves a fairer life and everything. It is university, sometimes, it does that to people. Hello boys!

Henry, Peter and Edward were outside playing soccer.
Thomas was the youngest brother; he was not even thirty and as he knew his chances of ruling Langley&King were as big as the capacity for an octopus to fly, he had used his part of his father's money to study medicine and travel the world with Doctor without borders.

-So Lionel went to fetch him?
-Yes he did.

Delphina grunted. She did not like all this. He could have a bad influence or her sons.

-Where is Eugenie? John asked.
-She came with Richard. They arrived yesterday.
-Where are they? Richard is not playing soccer with the boys?

She shrugged.

-Eugenie went to have a walk outside. You know, since George and Matthew passed away, she...
-I know.

The angel of death flew around them. No one really wanted to discuss George's self-slaughter after Matthews accident.

-And Richard?
-Oh, him. Probably reading in his room. This kid is just good at this anyway. He will end up literary and artist or anything and what a fat lot of good that'll do to us, humpf. I just hope that it will draw him out from our business because no good is coming from this child, I tell you.

Actually, she was right. Richard was in his room. He was trying her lipstick.

* * *

A few days before, when he arrived at his mother's place, he was surprised how calm and comfy it felt. When his father died, they had moved to a simpler house in a village close to the sea, with pale blue walls and only one storey. A maid came three times a week to do the few chores that had to be done. He did not had much time to get attached. When Eugenie came and welcomed him home, he noticed how old she had got. Her hair was a bit shorter, her wrinkles a bit deeper. When she had touched his way too long hair, she just smiled instead of saying he needed a good haircut. She gave him tea in a white and gold cup and made him sit.

-You are so like me, Richard, she started. When I remember Matthew, all I knew was that bearing him was the only way I knew your father had not made him on his own. But you... you are my child.

It was the first time she spoke to him of his father and his brother with such a calm voice. She held his hand and kissed it.

-The Langleys always tried to tell me what to do with you and to rule us, to tame us.

His mother, he knew it from conversation bits and innuendos made by his uncles and aunts, had an agitated life before she met his father. She was a model and had got married twice, and was highly desired by all the rich suitors of Europe and America, from crowned heads to industrials and film stars. The prince of Wales had even tried his way before she choose Richard's father.

-But it is in your blood. You are not the same breed as them. They are down-to-earth and greedy economists. We are fame and glitter artists.
-What is happening to you, mother? He asked roughly.
-I have breast cancer, Richard.

She could not help a cry. Richard took her in his arms, awkward. He was realizing he did not knew his mother as well as he should, and perhaps did not love her as much as he wanted.

-It is one of the best-healed cancers but I must admit I am still a bit scared.
-It is going to be fine, mother. I know you. You will not lose this battle.

But words of comfort felt wrong in his mouth. His mother was tired. Her husband and half of her children had died and Richard's father had pretty shown that the other half did not worth to survive.

* * *

He was thinking about what she had said to him. No one else knew. He had done some information dugging. Indeed she used to be gorgeous. She said he looked like her so he was ready to give it a try.
And then, there was Edward.
The two boys did not meet very often during their childhood. The first thing Richard had felt when he saw his one year younger cousin was a bit of jealousy. He looked like a bird fallen from his nest, with spiky jet-black hair and water eyes. He was smaller than him (Richard was at that time growing at the speed of bamboo) but manly grown, virile, with kindness in his face. He had never looked at him truly until this Christmas; but it was not necessary to make he feel. At lunch on the 23th, he was just sitting next to him and it was the best and the worst thing that happened to them. It was like he said a word to him, and got an answer, and it was enough for him to be happy for hours. He liked to watch Edward playing football with the boys. It actually made him go outside for a change.
Edward did not seem to notice anything. He hoped he did not, and at the same time imagined millions of strategies to make him do so. This obsession was shameful but at the same time comforting. He could not help thinking about his cousin, even if he knew it was not normal. And touching himself. And now, he was trying his aunt's lipstick.

* * *

All this was also Anne's fault. They have kept meeting since their first encounter. Always the same spot. He gave her books about war and very specialised subjects in science. She gave him friendship and advice.

-You are different from the other boys I know, she had said once.
-Why?
-I don't know. I tried to ask another guy for a book, and the only thing he tried to do was kissing me and touching my breast.
-And what did you do?
-I told him to fuck off!
-Oh!
-And then he tried again, so I whispered “Man, my dad owns a missile company. If you want me to call him and make your little face explode right here right now, just do that again and you'll see if I'm kidding”. And he just ran off.
-Did you really said that?
-No. I just punched him in the face and run away. But that would have been a cool phrase to say.

He giggled and then went to a big loud laugh. It was the first time she saw him this happy.

-I heard later that he had told it to the headmasters but they never managed to track me down. Fuck him.

She had a rude language sometimes. He admired her, how tough she was, and how beautiful. He wanted so hard just to be on the other side of the fence.
When other boys were trying to bully him, they called him words in French he did not knew well, but started to get the meaning. Once they punched him, like Anne with the kisser.

-Your a fag, he said to the mirror in the Langley's mansion. And now you are trying Aunt Delphina's lipstick.

He did, and found him desperately beautiful and dirty. It was like blood. It tasted like filthy grease. He got rid of it, fast. He knew how they called this by an ugly name but he could not stop.
It was bad but it felt good. There was a word for it in the Bible.
Sin.

Chapter Text

Anne was doing him good. With her he felt normal. He forgot a bit Edward, and this boy he saw once in the locker. A blond one, shiny skin, muscles like a Ken doll. Hot like hell. They came back, at night, when he would touch and suffocate himself with a pillow. She saw him loosing his smile that was not very present already. Once, she waited a little before coming and observed. She saw him pressed against the fence, sighing like an animal in a zoo eager to fly away. She got closer. When he saw her, his eyes illuminated but not as much as before.

-What's wrong, Richard? You seem preoccupied.
-Nothing. Do not worry.
-You can tell me! I'm your friend.

He remained silent. Behind his glasses that ate half of his face, she could see little tears.

-It is the boys, again?
-Yes.
-Richard... You need to stop this.
-What am I? He moaned.

She looked away. It was not easy for her too. Being surrounded by girls, by their legs, by their skirts, by their eyes crowned by endless eyelashes. And she liked Richard, because Richard was... almost like them, without being them. He was not a predator; he was not also a girl, and not desirable. With him, she forgot.

-Richard, you are...

She wanted to say “homosexual”. It was not a beautiful word, too scientific, not poetic, not him.

-You are an angel, that's all.

* * *

So all this started with meeting her outside the fence?

Richard heard the question coming from very, very far. Everything was white around him.

The fence was like the walls of this prison that was his room. Except it was the frontier between boys and girls, between blue and pink, and the walls of his room was the limit between the living and the dead. And that he did not knew if he was alive or dead and his favourite colour had always been purple.

* * *

-You need to be more confident.

She was nursing him with ice she had found he did not knew how, on one evening after a hundredth beating-up. Almost a year had passed; it was October again.

-You told me you are going to rule your grandfather's multi-national.
-Yes, I did. What the link?
-The sharks you will face in you Administration Committee, they are pretty much the same ones that are kicking your teeth in high-school. You need to show them who's the boss!

She ruffled his hair, that had got much shorter since the winter holiday. If he tried to look more masculine, he had failed; but as for making himself miserable, it was a success.

-But, Anne... I am a stick bunch of nothing!
-Power is not in the fists. It is in the brain. You are not made to be the war hero with squared shoulders our fucking patriarchy praises to the skies. So you have to impose your style.

He did not utter a word. She was brilliant. She was his feminist boyish geeky girl friend and she was his. He could not size how lucky he was to have her.

-Let grow your hair. Be effeminate. Love boys...
-I'm not gay!
-And I'm the Queen of England! I know you. You like boys, and I like girls and some people like both. And it is okay, I swear!
-You... what?!
-Oh, shut up!

She was right though. When his cousin Philippa, who was five years older than him, had asked him if he had a girlfriend, first thing he thought about was Anne. But no. He would never be able to want Anne as a girlfriend. When he saw girls, they were all like shiny but without taste. He did not want them. He wanted to be like them.

-It is a sin, Anne.
-To like people who are the same gender?
-Yes, it is.

Now, she was the one unable to say something, shocked that her best friend was so self-destructive he had internalised others' prejudice towards himself.

-I am a sinner. A criminal.
-And so am I? Because you want to fuck I don't even know who, but I am pretty sure he also has a dick?
-I do not know for you. They do not speak about girls with girls.

He saw her face shut, but not her fist. She was not as strong as the last-year students, but it hurt more. When he finally got on his feet again, she grabbed him by the collar. Her face was against the grating and looked so weird because it was scattered into rectangles. She was angry like never before.

-Now you listen to me very carefully, Richard Jasper Langley. I do not know who's the mother-fucker of priest that had filled your head with this bullshit and I do not care. But you need to stop this right now, because I care for you and it will surely break you into pieces. You are clever, you are handsome, you are the heir of one of the biggest companies that rule this world, and yes, you love men. Let them deal with it, and deal with it yourself.

He stopped crying. She was so right, she knew she was. Sometimes he was such an idiot.

The fence was still there. But if you stop to believe in its existence, does it still exist?

Chapter Text

Beep. Beep.

White walls. A corridor. The word was spinning around, slowly. He tried to collect his memories. He heard nurses voices and felt the ground rolling under him. The light was too strong. He tried to lift his head. Red on the sheets. What happened? It hurt. His heart was racing in his chest to pump up all his fear. Where was he? Pain everywhere. He managed to rise his hand and saw he was still holding a ticket. But his glasses were broken, he could not read the letters.

* * *

It had all started hen Anne and him first met without any iron walls between them. Richard had already turned seventeen. It was during the summer, before last year of high-school. Anne's parents were quite liberal and even if they did not quite understand the ins and outs of their relationship, she said he was a friend and that was good enough for them.
They met in a park, close to where Anne lived. He had managed to get a few days off his own family's yoke. Seeing her in other clothes than the uniform, and whole, without anything to block the view, now it was something. They hugged for a long time without saying anything.

-You look great, he finally said.
-So do you.

He got a little bit closer. Her breath was soothing. She kissed him on the forehead.

-I have a gift for you.

She sat up and got a parcel from her bag. It was squared, heavy and covered with red paper. He opened. It was a rich edition of The Complete works of Shakespeare, made of black leather and silver letters. Inside, each play and sonnet was enhanced by delicate nib illustrations.

-I thought as you were such a literature nerd you would like this.
-Thank you. And I am not a nerd.
-Yes you are!
-Fuck you!
-Ho ho! I made you say a rude word, Mister Poshy! Did you enjoy the experience of speaking like normal people?

He frowned and pretended he was upset, but after a few seconds just forgot about it and laughed. He even kissed her on the cheek and said:

-Thank you.

They lied for a moment on the burned grass beneath the pines, her head on his chest. It was a great feeling, just to hold her, to know she was there, fine and happy. To be together. She closed her eyes; he kept his opened.
He thought of this book he had took once in the school's library and that had completely disappeared. He never knew what became of it. The librarian had told him that it had not been borrowed, but when he looked for it in the entire library, he could not found it. He put Anne's gift in his own bag.

When he got back at the place he was staying, he opened the book again, checked the table of contents and opened at Richard II.
All the pages had been torn away. It was neatly done, but very frustrating. But it was a gift, it was not like he could just phone Anne and ask her why for god's sake she had offered him a book where an entire play was missing. He grazed the root of the sheets that had been plucked out. They felt wrong, just the look of it made him sick.
First time he tried to read this piece of work, the book had disappeared. Now the pages were gone. Whatever strange spirit was after him, it surely had became more aggressive. Before telling anybody, he decided to investigate.
The day after, he went at a bookshop. It was a large place, in a very modern centre. They had a section for plays. He headed right to it. They had a full shelf for Shakespeare works; but no Richard II. He expected that; nevertheless it crossed him. So he went to an employee and asked for it.

-We don't have it in our stocks, but I surely can order it for you.

The place was so modern they already had installed computers to register customer's requests. The woman went to one of them and entered the book's reference. She made a confused face, typed a few things, pressed harder and harder any random key. He waited for a few seconds, and then politely asked:

-What is the matter, miss?
-I am sorry sir, the computer has crashed.

He raised an eyebrow, not ready to freak out.

-Maybe I can go to the desk and note it down. I will enter your order when this thing will work again.
-No, it is okay. I am only here for a few days.

He went out bewildered but not dissuaded by these failures. He walked a little and found another bookshop. The name was “At Marlowe's”. Sounded English and catchy. It was smaller and they did not have computers, only an old man with tiny golden glasses and a long silver beard.

-What can I do for you, young man?
-I am looking for a play by Shakespeare, it is call...
-No! I hate Shakespeare! I have no Shakespeare in my library! Don't speak to me about Shakespeare! I...
-Okay, okay!

He stepped back. The old man's reaction was a bit extreme and there was a light of madness in his eyes.
Richard went out very disappointed. It was like a curse or something. There was a third library but it was closed for business. He came back at his place.
Perhaps all this was just a big, big coincidence. He wanted to talk about it to Anne, but even her would tell him that he was a lunatic. Moreover we would have to criticise her gift and he did not want to upset her. He decided to wait until he was back in London, at Uncle John's place, to figure it out.

* * *

Uncle John had started to teach him how he could rule the thing, as soon Richard would be eighteen and fully in charge. But it was hard for him to ever focus. He did not care about getting richer if it was for something he did not see the beauty of, like weapons. Anne had changed on this matter, she was still in science and concrete things but more if it would help security, like buildings shields. Knowing the bullets is the best way to know how to protect yourself from them. When he would be at the head of this, he would invest into something that would shine his light into the skies.

Four more bookshops had turned him down. The first would shut down in a month and did not take orders any more. In the second one, the man in charge had accused him of thievery when he said he did not find a book that must have been there. Third one was a bit of a concern: the bookseller had fainted at the moment he asked for the book, making quite a fuss that he crept away from, afraid someone would blame it on him. He had been so focused on not making any noise he almost fell by missing the entrance step.
The fourth one, now that was something that made him call Anne. The light turned off when he had reach the shelf. In the complete darkness, he knocked his head on it. Dizzy and in pain, he had fell on his knees. When the lights returns, the book he reached for had disappeared once again.
He would have swear he saw a white shape in the corridor. Too tall to be a woman, but with a sort of long dress and long hair. There was a voice too, that whispered in his ear.

Too soon.

Maybe a witch was after him. That was scary. He decided to stop, to give up. That was a curse he could do with, not being able to read one work in the world's entire production.

He managed it until he saw this poster for a rehearsal of the play in a cheap theatre in London.

He called Anne to tell her all what happened. She paid a lot of attention even if he was persuaded she thought he was as a hatter. What worried her, though, was the fact he had knocked his head. She did not know if it was a spell of something random, but it seemed quite dogged. Then he told her of his intention to intend a live performance of the play.

-I am not scared, he said.
-I know.

She was concerned a bit. This stuff had made a lady faint. What if something serious happened to an actor or someone in the audience?

-I will go to this. There is no way it can go wrong and I will know the truth about all this.
-Yes, Richard. Just... be careful, right?

He was in such an intense mood he did not took her advice seriously. He just went to the rehearsal by foot, as it was not that far. He looked both ways before crossing; he did not saw the car heading too him way too fast. All what he saw was this light shape trying to tell him something. It happened in . Ithe blink of an eye.
The shape was screaming but he could not hear a thing. Then, another one, darker, meaner, came and put his hand on what was ought to be the ghost's mouth. Half a second later, Richard heard a tyre squeal.
And then, the shock.

Chapter Text

Richard blinked an eye. The light around him was different, as if it came from the things itself, not the sky. He ached everywhere. A sour liquid poured by a transparent tube thrust in his veins made it bearable, somehow. He breathed hard. His tensed face reflected his battle against the pain and the ghost new it because it was leaning over him, looking after him. Its face was buried in the shadows of the night, Richard did not saw it, but the shape, the body language, the profile cut in the dark... all this was too familiar. Suddenly, it held his hand. Cold as death but not scary. Its mouth was moving for sure, but did not utter a single sound. Richard could feel it shake from what he strangely understood being fear. It was so human from something so beyond human. Richard tried to rise his hand and touch its face but the ghost turned away; all what his eyesight caught was a glimpse of light over locks of very long hair.

* * *

When he woke up for real, it was a different type of ghost who was sitting next to him. It would have been a lie to say chemotherapy did not damage his mother. The most elegant headscarf and the most perfectly executed make-up could not completely hide the deep illness that carved her.

-I came as soon as I could, she simply said with a broken voice.

She had wept, that he could tell. The memories of what had happened to him were not yet completely clear. All he remembered yet was car crash, lights, and pain everywhere.

-It could have been worse, she added abruptly. For God's sake, Richard, what did you have in mind?
-I am sorry, mother.

It was merely the truth. He tried to sit, but it was impossible.

-You broke your leg, and a few ribs. You'd better stay still.
-How long have I been here?
-Almost three days. You hit your head. Also, broken glass got into the skin; see?

She took his hand, and made him feel the left side of his head. Instead of hair, he could feel thick stripe and it stung hard. He took a look around. Except his mother, nobody's in sight.

-Where is everybody?
-At work, mostly. The world does not revolve around you.
-Yes it does.
-What?

He tried again to raise himself a bit. It hurt like hell and thing became more blurred when he did.

-I am their boss, technically. I am the one who owns the thing.
-No you don't! She shouted. You are under eighteen and I am responsible for what you possess.
-Well anyway they are not very loyal. They should come and visit me. Why are they not here?

Eugenie bit her upper lip. If she told him, he surely would become angry like he never did.

* * *

-John?

The first person she had phoned when the hospital told her what happened to Richard was her brother-in-law. He was staying in London with her son, and was the most able to do whatever was necessary.

-I had a phone call from a hospital in London. They told me Richard had an accident.
-I know. He was going to attend a play. He was so eager to go, I am sorry Eugenie!
-But... did he go alone?
-No. I had sent one of my men to look after him from far away. But it happened so fast. How is he? I cannot go to the hospital right now, I am still in Cardiff, but Henry and Constance are surely there.
-I will join them as fast as I can. They told me to come, fast. I'm afraid it is not good news.

She turned off. John stare with a blank look at the window of his office.

* * *

Late in the evening, he finally arrives in London. Eugenie and his own wife are already there. Eugenie sobs softly.

-Can we see him?
-I'm afraid not, his wife Constance says. He is in a bad state.
-Is he going to die?

Eugenie's tears became louder.

-They don't know. He fell in deep comatose. Even if he lives... His head has been touched. They say there is a strong possibility that he becomes...
-Vegetative?
-Yes.

John sat, and thought. His nephew. His boss, in a year. The boy had started to care about the business. He was not like some other Langleys, like Lionel or, more recently, Thomas, who were actively plotting to buy some parts and kick him out before he even begin. But bloody hell! He had rule the thing for years now, and no one was granting him for it. His son, Henry, would only get few, even if he was working harder than his cousin ever did.

-What will you do? He asked Eugenie. If our competitors find out about Richard, they surely will stimulate the press to turn it against us, and claim letting him own Langley&Kings is irresponsible.
-I don't know. They do this since he has inherited from George.
-Yes they did, but think a little: in a year, he will have what you handle today on his behalf. And we won't know what will cross his mind. He might not be himself and throw us away.
-What do you suggest?
-Sell his parts to me. You are not that rich, on your own; you can always argue that you did this because you were afraid not to be able to pay for Richard's medicine and facilities. I will distribute it to some of our best allies, to smooth our speculations.
-But it is illegal! I can't use his inheritance without his consent!
-He won't be able to notice it! You will have safe money to take care of him and I will rule this company fairly, as George would have wanted it.
-All right, I will.

The morning after, Richard was still in comatose and Uncle John would produce the contract for his mother to sign it.

Chapter Text

A evening of January, the 7th, to be precise. Tension was in the air in the blue house of what remained of the Langley's family. The house cat, Milly, opened an eye as she could hear yelling and crying and sobbing. She closed it when a final hitting stopped it all over, and Richard entered the room, took her in his arms and threw her away in the corridor.

"I cannot believe she has done that!" he moaned. "That... that b..."

But insulting his mother who had carefully lied to him when she soon understood that her son had not quite turned vegetative was beyond his still-lessened strength. All he could do was typing with his shaky fingers Anne's phone number on the dial.

"Hey Richard. What's up dude?

-Stop talking like a gangsta. I need help over serious issues.

-Okay, Mister Poshy-poshy. What's wrong?

-My mother. She sold all my shares in the company, so I am not the main shareholder anymore.

-WHAT? But how could she, they're yours!

-I still have the parts that I directly inherited from my grandad. But the ones from my dad and my brother, she was responsible for them until my 18th birthday, and could sold them in case of hard times.

-Hard times? Which hard times? Yours are wealthier than the Crown!

-My uncles are. My mother is not that much, so she gave away a lot of her own, and when she did not have any left, she said she needed my money for the accident.

-And this worked?

-The lawyer is a friend of her and she sold it to my uncle, to be sure it stays in the family. Of course it bloody worked!"

He took a deep breath. This situation was mental. How could people just believe all these lies? It was nonsensical.

"So what are you going to do?

-I do not know, Anne. I called my uncle this morning, as I am an adult now. I have been pleading him for months but of course he said I was too young, that I would just do silly things with the money and that is was better that I finished my studies.

-Of course. And don't you have a cousin who could support you?

-No. They all hate me.

-Don't say that. I am sure it will work out. You are legitimate in you claim. Do you want me to come by? You sound very upset.

-If you like. You are welcome whenever you want."

He closed his eyes and lay on his bed. He did not want to admit he desperately needed her. She was the only one with who he could just stop pretending. He wanted to speak to her about all this money issue, his head on her lap and her fingers in his hair. She would not try to trap him, she would not lie to him. She would call him an idiot when everybody just bow or give poisonous advice. She would just be there as she has always been there.

* * *

"Hey Richard, I am here, it's me. Oh my God, what happened to your head?"

The hospital in London. These words were the only words he really wanted to hear. She had awaken him, and he was too sleepy to utter a word but it did not matter for she did all the talking.

"It is okay Richard. I arrived at the airport this morning. The doctor told me your injuries are quite serious. I was so afraid you know.

-Anne please stay with me.

-Of course I'll stay with you idiot. I did not travel from Marseilles to London just to have the pleasure of meeting the Queen! "

She sounded aggressive but he could hear tears in her tone.

"I am alive, he whispered. Do not worry.

-Do not worry? DO NOT WORRY? How could I not worry about you? I love you!"

She stopped crying. She was in deep distress, so he made an effort to sit and keep his cries of pain in his mouth. She smoothly forbade him to execute his purposes by pushing him down very slowly.

"Don't be silly and stay still, for your ribs' sake.

-Anne, do not be angry. My ribs will be fine, I swear.

-And your head? They told me... they told that you could...

-Lose some abilities? I know. They told me so. But for know, when I do not sleep from the painkillers they give me, I can think normally. And I did not loose any memory or something like that."

While saying this, he nervously reached a hand to the part of his skull that was still covered with stripes. He figured himself now has having to sides. The side that was still the same, covered with gorgeous locks, clean from all pain, kingly permanent; and the injured side, hurt, painful, mortal and undoubtedly leading him towards madness of the mind.

"It will grow back, she said, a little calmed.

-I know. Do you think I am just a Barbie who only cares about his mane and his looks?"

She laughed, and he laughed a little bit too. It was good to make her laugh. To avoid and forget his anxiety before the future. To know that she would be there at least, in that future, because he could not figure it out without her anymore. Maybe he loved her, even if what he did knew about love was so different; he though is was heat in his belly, stress in his cock and emptyness in his mind that they called love, and this was more descriptive of his feelings when the boy of the locker-room came by, or when he sat next to a handsome student of the younger high-schoolers, or when by chance he met his cousin Edward at family parties. He never felt this way with Anne; her was the happiness in his chest, stimulation of his brain and definitely nothing his cock. However no other word could be found so far and he could not tell her. 

"I love you, he said when she left. I love you, do not leave me. Oh, Richard, your such an idiot!"

* * *

Of course she would not leave him. A few days after, they were already back to school for the last year, the only one when they were mixed together, also with the students who choose to stay in the school for two or three years more to prepare for the best schools. So that was also when Richard got to meet Henry, who suprisingly was indeed in these post-high-school classes. 

First, Henry thought well of this unexpected meeting with his cousin; they used to be close relatives in their childhood, despite their little difference in the age. Henry was on the rare Langley who, despite his father's bitterness, did not nourish any bad feelings towards Richard. He was even very opened to his cousins strange customs, like keeping his hair long or reading instead of playing football with them in the yard. Henry had everything in hand for his own success: he was rich, clever, hard-working, and handsome. His African mother, daughter of one of these endlessly wealthy African dictators, had left him her deep brown eyes and her strengh of character. He was Black enough to be fetichised by the white-as-sheets girls of his class, and white enough to be seen by the white-as-sheets boys as one of their kind. According to him, he was born in a racist society; the best way to make it was to take advantage. 

Ophelie was one of these white-as-sheets girls who was too good to covered her face with make-up that would make her browner, but also too naughty not to dream about this mixed-race cock of his. She was popular and beautiful as hell, and he liked knowing she was under his virile spells. For his binary, hetero brain had draw the unquestionnable conclusion that Richard was too gay to compete with him on this conquered territory, girls. 

On this precise morning though, he went to the dining-room, and saw his cousin laughing, surrounded by girls, including many of his friends, a few of his friendly exes, Ophelie, the weird girl called Anne who seemed to hang with him everytime, and even a few boys who appeared even more gay than Richard, if something like that was even possible. 

"Is Richard your cousin?" asked Ophelie. "He is very nice and pleasant! And he know so many things! It is such a pleasure to have the honor to talk to him!". 

She had laughed and stroke her hair. He looked at Richard, and Richard laughed, and stoke his hair. At this very moment, he knews there was going to be a problem. 

Chapter Text

He was happy then. When he would look back to the mirror, he could remember these times of studies, easy life and joy. During Spring holidays, two months after his birthday, Henry, Anne, Ophelie, another girl called Ismena, and him had agreed to join Henry's younger sisters Catherine and Elisabeth, and their cousins Edward and Peter. A sort of family reunion of the new generation. They would go to Normandy, on the Seine's borders. It was a surprisingly warm season.

Henry fucked Ophelie, Richard had quite got that. And their relationship was not placed under the sign of peace and trust in each other. He could feel the tension in the air everytime he would address the young girl about anything. They shared an interest in literature that simply made Henry fume like an angry bull. But he could not tell Henry that there was no reason to worry, for he was gay as a rainbow; and anyway it was simply too much fun.

They went in one of Uncle John propriety. Richard had the seductive advantage that he was not the boring son of the “Father” who owned everything and whose title was invoked every now and then during the exploration of the house; he was the naughty, joking cousin, with a birdy face and artist-like manners, old-fashioned way to speak and piano abilities that simply made even his cousins fall for him. And not only the girls.

 

* * *

 

He enjoyed being the star. Anne knew him better than everyone in the room, and she witnessed the comedy drama Richard was building here. She did not care much, for she knew that after diner, after all these pointless discussions and these flirty jokes, he would join her being the house, close to the river, and they would talk in the half-night. And he would listen to her, even to her silence.

“I am scared.” he said once.

She was stroking the very short hair growing on his formerly injured side.

“Why?”

“I am scared for the future.”

“Because of the money problem?”

“No... The money is one thing. No, it's about you.

“Me?”

“It is just that... I... I love you Anne. But... I am afraid I will never make you as happy as you deserve.”

“What? Why?”

“Because I am gay.”

She rose on her elbow and frowned. He was shamefully watching the sky. She noticed he was not wearing his glasses any more, just lenses, and clothes that suited his thin shape much more. He had become pretty at last.

You will want to have sex, children, kisses, to live a couple normal life. And this I just cannot do.”

Why would I want to have sex with you? I know you since you are fifteen! I have seen you with acne and experimental haircuts! You are possibly the last person on this planet I would fuck.”

But you said at the hospital that...”

I love you, Richard. Love, not sex.” He stared at her, mesmerised. “Plus, butches are more my type.”, she added to loosen the atmosphere.

It did not work.

Are you insinuating that you assimilate me with one of those lesbian women you lay with?he hissed.

Come on Richard! Be realistic about yourself for a minute. You wear nail polish and Armani perfume. I may even have more hair than you do!

He turned his back to her. She knew she had said something she should not have. She put her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek.

I did not mean to hurt you.”

I know they expect from me to be someone else. But I just can't ok? I just can't be like Henry, all masculine, with muscles, a bright smile and straight tastes. And I know that's why they are just not able to behave and accept me as their boss. I am trying to show them that I can deal with the business even dressed in Italian costumes and with nail polish, because I like Italian costumes and nail polish. But it seems rather an unfortunate departure so far.”

What is an unfortunate departure?”

A third voice had raised from a few feet away. In the bright darkness, they both recognized Edward Blackbird, Richard's cousin. His name was quite deserved, with all this spiky jet-black hair and these wet green eyes, with the exterior a bit lower, giving him a permanent look of pitiful sadness. She had always see Richard as the Eighteenth-century fag without the wig and the lipstick; Edward was now the Romantic Nineteenth. She could almost picture him as a character of the Miserables.

Can I join you? The others are boring.”

Sure” answered Anne.

I am sorry Richard for the problem with Uncle John. Mother said she was ready to help you but I think Uncle John scares her a little.”

“How much does she have?”

“Well, when Grandfather died, he gave 50% of the total to your family, and then 8% to each of the others. He though that this way, the elder branch would keep a firm hand on it, that it would not dissolved in personal quarrels. So, so far, her and Dad have raised their own 8% to 10%, even if it has been traded and un-traded. You, when your Dad died, you got everything, but your mother could sell 50% of your own part if she got in money trouble.”

“And she did sell it. So know, I have 25% left, and Uncle John as his 8% plus 25%, which makes 33%. He only need 18% to be the main shareholder.”

“If your Aunt Delphina sells you her 10%, you will be at 35%. A bit higher than him, but not enough to be sure you are more powerful.”

Money gave the three of them a fever they had not expected, a feeling of alliance. When they were children, Edward was always the one willing to play with Richard. He had taken great interest in the elder books, even if he did not understand much and quickly got rid of them to go and play outside with the others. When he grew up, he also grew impressed by the brains and the noble aura of Richard. A strange wish to get closer had invaded him, and his “The others are boring” was in fact an excuse to get closer. He silently stroke the fabric of Richard's shirt. The warm conversation had made the three of them sit.

“There also must be a lost 8% somewhere” Edward said suddenly “that is not in our family”.

He was quite good at counting, and he has reached this conclusion by adding the parts of Richard, John, and the others brothers and sisters.

“It is own by little common people” answered Richard. “Easy to get this one. I wonder why Uncle John did not do it already, by the way.”

“Which raises us to 45%. We still need 6%, so most of one of your uncles or aunts.” Anne added.

“So the question is not “How do I get 26%” any more. It is...”

How do I get 6%?

 

* * *

 

He thought about it for weeks, while trading to get the 10% owned by common people, while Aunt Delphina was selling him her stocks little by little, to make their manipulation blend into the usual perpetual selling and buying. How do I get 6%? Uncle Lionel was part of the crew who directed Langley&Kings, so he was surely too close to Uncle John to give him anything, any approach would be told to John if he tried to get an alliance with him. Aunt Delphina had already been bribed. So he was left wondering, until one day, he saw an advert in the Financial Times that lead him to an illumination.

“DOCTOR WITHOUT BORDERS NEED YOUR HELP

TO DONATE, PLEASE PHONE OUR DONATION LINE

WE ARE ACTUALLY LEADING A CAMPAIGN AGAINST AIDS IN AFRICA. CHILDREN NEEDS YOU.”

A full-page photograph, behind the text, portrayed three smiling people in the middle of a desert landscape; a Black man, a red-haired woman, and a white man in his thirties and a clean-shaved face, smiling with all his teeth.

His uncle Thomas.