"Why did they take us away?" the little boy pulled at his brother's jacket.
"What did you think was going to happen when you called the ambulance?" Mycroft said gently, with a hint of frustration. He could have handled it.
"You said that I should call the number if I felt frightened. I was frightened. So I called the number." Sherlock pulled at his brother's jacket again "Was that okay?"
"Yes. It was okay. I know it will be okay." Mycroft sighed. He had no idea. He couldn't offer real reassurance. He sounded fake, even to himself.
"You know everything" Sherlock said, looking up in awe of the fountain of knowledge that was his big brother.
"No I don't."
"You knew when Daddy was drunk. I didn't know, not until after he caught me with the book."
"I told you how to know, though, didn't I? Pupils dilated, slurred speech, clumsiness, anger, smell. You even know how to tell without seeing him. Remember, we studied this."
"How he opens the door.” Sherlock sighed, “I forgot to notice."
"How can you forget to notice?" Mycroft's lip twitched. He knew it was unfair to blame the kid, but he should have been paying closer attention.
"I don't know. Mycroft, why was Daddy cross with me?"
"He was drunk, Lock. He didn't mean it" he excused.
"But it hurt" Mycroft looked down at the child, who was staring at him from under his brown curls. He had a large bruise covering his cheek and eye.
"I know. You've got to be strong, now, though."
"Do we have to live with strangers?" He looked down at his trainers, scuffing the floor.
"Yeah. Yeah we do. But they'll be nicer than Daddy, you just wait and see." He sent up a tiny prayer.
"But you promised you wouldn't let Daddy hit me, and he did." Sherlock looked frightened. He had always trusted his big brother. Mycroft had never broken his promises before.
"I've always managed to stop him before tonight." Mycroft was proud of very few things in life, but protecting his brother was one of those things.
"Not always." Sherlock whispered, grinding his toe on the carpet.
"Not other than tonight? He's never hit you before?" Mycroft asked, panic rising in his chest.
"Yes he has."
"When, Sherlock? Why didn't you tell me?"
"Last week he hit me with his belt. Only once. It really hurt."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Mycroft's eyes stung with the threat of tears. He hadn't done enough to protect his brother, to inspire confidence. He had failed.
"He made me swear not to tell you. He said I should know what it felt like. He said that now I'm big, I should know what it felt like, and that I should know what you do for me. What did he mean?"
"Has he ever asked you to keep anything else a secret, Lock? Anything at all?" Mycroft knelt down, gripping his brother's shoulders, shaking him slightly, desperate to know.
"Let me go, Mycroft" Mycroft stood back up, dusting his trousers. Sherlock slipped his hand into his brother's.
"You did a good job, Lock. I promise." The older boy sounded almost toneless, robotic, as though he was no longer focusing on the conversation at all.
“What did Daddy mean? When he said I should know what you do for me? What do you do? I don’t understand.”
“Don’t worry about it. Look, it’s all over now. Just… don’t think about him anymore, okay?”
“Sherlock! Just stop, please!” Mycroft took a deep breath, stilling his rising anger. Why couldn’t the kid just drop it? Normal five year olds dropped things. Sherlock turned away from him and sat down on one of the waiting room chairs. A pile of toys lay, untouched, in the middle of the room. A large map of the world covered the whole wall on one side, and a huge window filled most of the opposite wall. Mycroft stood at the window, peering at the road through the dusk light. They had been bought to this building from the hospital. Mycroft didn’t know what the purpose of this building was, but the whole thing felt like a waiting room. They were waiting for the foster family to pick them up. The social worker had left them about half an hour ago, to go and finalise things. Mycroft didn’t fully know what needed finalising. He knew a lot of things, but the intricacies of the British social services system were not in his Memory Bank.