Mycroft was tossing and turning, murmuring to himself, the covers wrapped too tight around his legs, his sheets wet with sweat around him. He was dreaming. It wasn't a memory, not really. It was foggy, his mind refusing to see the full picture. But he could see his baby brother, aged around five, sitting in the middle of the fog. He could see the tear stained face under the bouncy curls of hair, he could see the blood soaking his shirt, he could see the bruises blossoming too quickly on his body, he could hear the screaming, echoing around in the fog.
And he could see the arm, coming down repeatedly and hitting the tiny, sobbing child on the floor. But he couldn't do anything to stop it. He stood, rooted to the spot, unable to move or shout out. He was stuck, watching the boy cry. Sherlock noticed him standing there.
"Croft! Help me, please, please!" He begged. But there was nothing he could do. As he realised his brother wasn't going to help him, he looked back down at the floor, his tears coming with renewed force, the blows matching. Sherlock looked submissive, as though he had totally given up on ever getting free. And his form changed. His hair retraced into his head, going lighter, his frame broadened and lengthened, his face shortened and widened, his nose shrank and his jaw dropped. And he wasn't looking at Sherlock anymore. He was looking at himself. Dream-Mycroft wasn't crying, but he was even more battered than Sherlock had been. He took it without word or sound or movement. Mycroft stared at his replica. Before he could pull his thoughts together, he was sitting up in bed, his pyjamas soaking and his throat raw from screaming. Within seconds, Lizzie was beside him.
"It's okay sweetheart."
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I won't cry out anymore, I promise!"
"It's okay. Did you have another dream?"
"Yeah. I should have done something. I should have saved Sherlock earlier. I should have stood up for us. It's all my fault." He burst into muffled tears, trying not to wake the younger boy up.
"Mycroft, listen to me" Lizzie took his shaking hands in hers, calming his panicked breathing. "You did everything you could have done to protect your brother. You didn't allow things to happen to you, things were done against your will. There was nothing you could have done better."
"But- but I should have told someone. A teacher, anyone" he pulled his hands away from her and dug his finger nails into the sides of his face, his middle finger bellow his right ear quickly drawing blood. She grabbed his hands again, trying to stay calm.
"Let's go with that, hypothetically. You are nine years old, just after that story you told us earlier. Next day at school, you tell a teacher. You don't give details. Social Services come to your house. They see a mother and father in a mansion, doting on their two boys. They see a child who told them he was in hell, in an apparent paradise. They go away. Your father sends your mother out of the room. There are consequences. Tell me why that would have been better, Mycroft. Tell me why you failed when you were just protecting yourself"
"There was nothing you could do. You were so very, very brave. You are strong. I'm just sorry you had to find out so young."
"Will you stay until I go to sleep?" He looked at the wall, embarrassed at asking such a childish question. She was sure to laugh at him.
"Yes, of course" he lay down nervously, curled up into a small ball, and she covered him up with the only slightly damp covers, sat down beside him, and stroked his hair until he was asleep.
In the other bed, Sherlock was lying as still as he could. He hated when Mycroft had bad dreams. The little boy curled tighter around his blanket and tried to fall back to sleep. But he didn't have to aid of Lizzie's hand, and he wasn't planning on revealing that he was awake.
Lizzie sighed. He was the saddest case she had ever seen, and she'd fostered more than twenty children over the years. She couldn't imagine him stuck in that terrible place with his father. Lizzie's fists curled up with anger she hadn't felt since early adolescence. How could a father do that to his son? How could anyone do those things to a child? And where the hell was their mother? She got up slowly, brushing her hand over his soft blonde hair. Going back to bed, she slipped her hand into Kevin's. Her husband was awake, waiting for her.
"Is he okay?" He asked quietly.
"I don't know. I'm not sure he ever will be. God, Kevin, he's so young! And even younger when most of this happened. Can you even imagine it? How could their mother have let it happen?" Lizzie was close to tears, and Kevin squeezed her hand.
"I don't know my darling. I just don't know. Go to sleep, Liz, and we'll talk more in the morning.”
"Okay" she rolled over to him, and they lay very close together, his legs wrapped over hers, their hands clasped in front of her. She fell into a deep, dream-filled sleep.