Fandom: BBC Sherlock
A/N: Written for dognmonkeyshow in the Summer 2015 round of holmestice. The title is a reference to a chess manoeuvre used for capturing pawns.
Also available on AO3.
Summary: To succeed in politics, one must excel at planning ahead.
Sometimes, when Mycroft was neck deep in reports and had had nothing pressing on his agenda for a week or two at a time, he could sympathize with Sherlock's preference for a more… dynamic career choice. If Mycroft was doing his job correctly, excitement was the last thing he had need to expect, which Sherlock would have found intolerable. A shame, really. Sherlock could have done well in politics.
Not to mention the sad fact that his desire for instant gratification deprived him of the opportunity to experience the truly satisfying elements of Mycroft's career.
"Mr. Bancroft to see you, sir," Mycroft's assistant said, through the intercom.
Such as having his prey walked right into his den without his lifting a finger.
"Send him in," Mycroft said, and smoothly shuffled the highly classified proposal he was reviewing underneath something far more appropriate for a minor government official to be working on. He folded his hands neatly in front of him and arranged his face into a pleasant smile.
The doors opened fifteen seconds later to reveal a blond, rather rotund man whose immaculately tailored suit did little to disguise the corpulence of his frame. Mycroft watched his progress across the floor, assessing. Nigel Bancroft, 43 years old, educated at Brighton, currently a mid-level statistician working for the Treasury. One of the innumerable members of the gentry who liked to clutter up the workings of the state with their inbred sense of entitlement, although admittedly less ineffectual than some. Had his eye on the position of Economic Secretary, but was too above-board to manage it on his own merit.
Mycroft, on the other hand…
"Mycroft," Nigel greeted. "I appreciate you seeing me on such short notice."
"Nigel," Mycroft said, with carefully cultivated welcome. "How lovely to see you. Please, have a seat. I trust that you've been well?"
Nigel nodded. "Tolerably well, yes. Blood pressure's been a bit dodgy, but the doctor's put me on a new medication which seem to be helping out."
Mycroft made a noise of interest as Nigel sat down, and they partook of several minutes of banal social niceties before Nigel finally coughed and got to the point.
"Actually, I was hoping you could help me with something, Mycroft."
"I'll do my best." Mycroft offered him another bland smile. "What is it that you need?"
"I've, ah, run into a spot of bother," Nigel said. "At the Treasury. Could really do with a fresh pair of eyes on the problem."
By which, of course, he meant that he - quite correctly - suspected one of his peers of embezzling Treasury funds. Mycroft had become aware of the situation two months ago, but Nigel had never been all that quick on the uptake. Still, the fact that he'd noticed at all was impressive, in its own way.
"Certainly," Mycroft said. "I'll have my assistant give you a hand, shall I? She really is extraordinarily efficient."
Mycroft cocked his head in a perfect mix of professional concern and personal curiosity. Come into my parlor, said the spider. "Nigel?"
"I, ah-" Nigel screwed up his nerve and blurted, "I'd take it as a personal favour if you could find some time to look at it. It's, well. It's a rather sensitive issue, you understand."
Translation: I don't know whom to trust and you seem my best option for a non-biased third party who won't take advantage of the situation.
Mycroft's satisfied smirk was entirely internal.
He spread his arms. "In that case, I am at your disposal."
Nigel let out an audibly relieved breath. "Grand. Thanks ever so, Mycroft."
"Not at all. When would you like me to assist you?"
Nigel shrugged with badly feigned nonchalance. "There's no rush," he said, in a tone that said anything but. "Whenever you have a free slot in your schedule in the next week or so. Perhaps over lunch?"
The not-quite covert glance that Nigel threw around the room made it clear that the suggestion that had as much to do with his fear of being overheard as it did his ever-expanding waistline.
Not that anyone had access to recordings of what was actually said in Mycroft's office except his own people - and sometimes Sherlock when he was feeling bored and petty - but Nigel didn't know that. And Mycroft appreciated that the man had at least that much sense. It wasn't as though he was the only one labouring under that misapprehension, after all. Mycroft could think of at least three separate parties that would have been quite surprised to learn it as well, given how much money they'd spent on their surveillance equipment.
Mycroft made a show of pulling up his schedule on his phone. "Would Wednesday be acceptable?" He gestured at the files on his desk. "This brief is rather time sensitive, and I need to get it off my desk by the end of the day. And I'm afraid that tomorrow I've got to sit in on a meeting with the Press Secretary for goodness only knows how long. You know how he does go on."
"Oh indeed," Nigel said, with a conspiratorial grin. Mycroft still marveled sometimes at just how easy it was to endear people to oneself. "Better you than me."
"How kind," Mycroft said dryly. "So, Wednesday, then? At 1pm?"
"Perfect. I know a lovely little place not far from St. Paul's that I'm sure you'll enjoy."
Mycroft refrained from raising an eyebrow. Far enough away to avoid eavesdroppers, but plausibly close enough to be personal preference. Well chosen. Perhaps Nigel wasn't so dire a case, after all.
He would be a useful ally once he became Economic Secretary - which he would. Mycroft would make sure of it. Perhaps he'd eventually make him Chancellor of the Exchequer if he proved useful.
After a few more minutes of courtesy, Nigel took his leave, looking much more cheerful than he had on the way in. Mycroft made a mental note to get him better practiced at subtlety. It really wasn't seemly to wear his heart on his sleeve in such a manner.
Mycroft had just simultaneously gained lawful access to the Treasury's accounts and an ally who was going to wield quite a lot of power in a few years' time and would owe him quite the favour after all this was dealt with. Not bad for a Monday morning before lunch.
Smiling to himself, Mycroft pressed the button on his intercom.
"Mr. Holmes?" his assistant answered, prompt as ever.
"Some tea, I think," Mycroft said. He'd earned that much of a break. "And I need the files on the French elections for this afternoon's meeting with the ambassador."
"Very good, sir," she said, and clicked off.
Mycroft reclaimed his proposal and returned to work. The government's job was never done.