"Did it really hurt?" Sherlock whispered after a few minutes.
"Did what hurt? Oh, this, yeah. A bit." Mycroft shook his head, dispelling the thoughts swirling inside. He moved a few steps to lean against the wall, still looking out of the window, but able to see Sherlock if he turned his head. "Yes, Sherlock, it did hurt. But the doctor mended my arm, he put the shoulder right back in." Mycroft rotated his arm slowly, trying not to flinch, so the five year old could see that it worked. "And he mended my ribs, and stitched up my back. I've got some nice bandages. I'll be fine.”
“Good. I thought…”
“Don’t worry about it, remember?”
“I thought you might die.” Sherlock whispered, closing his eyes. He’d never seen anything as awful in his whole life.
“Well, I didn’t. I’m fine.” Mycroft was decidedly uncomfortable. He felt guilt spreading through him. He hadn’t anticipated the emotional trauma the child might go through from seeing the incident earlier that evening. It was pretty much the first incident Sherlock had witnessed. He should have anticipated this.
“Was it okay to call the ambulance? Did I do the right thing? Are you cross with me?” the small boy bit his lip hard.
“No. You did fine, I told you. I’m not cross.” Mycroft turned his back on Sherlock to look full on out of the window again. Surely they would be here soon. He was so tired. His body was begging him to sit down, to pull Sherlock close and close his eyes. But his mind was racing.
"Will they be nice to me?" Sherlock changed topic, unwittingly choosing the very thing Mycroft was currently worrying about, "the foster parents?"
"Yes, of course they will, you're cute, they'll love you."
"You're not cute."
"Very astute of you Sherlock" Mycroft said sarcastically.
"But you're not. Does that mean they won't love you?" Sherlock asked. Mycroft bit his lip. It wasn't like he knew any better than Sherlock did. Except he did know the statistics. Around half of adolescent foster placements are terminated within a couple of years. Very few placements for children under five break down at all. Sherlock had a much higher likelihood of staying with this family than he did. And whatever happened, he would not allow his age and his screwed-upness to negatively impact Sherlock's experiences. Even if it meant he had to go somewhere else and leave Sherlock behind. Panic swirled in his chest at the thought of leaving the boy. But he would, if it was necessary.
"I don't know."
"Did Daddy love us?"
"That's a very difficult question to answer, Sherlock."
"You wouldn't understand." Sherlock didn't know, would never know, what their father was really like. He would never experience what Mycroft had, the older boy was resolutely sure of that.
"Croft, that's not fair!"
"Sorry. Look, it's difficult to answer because we're more complicated than a lot of families. Daddy has problems with alcohol, and he gets angry sometimes. Sometimes, grown ups are complicated."
"Mycroft, I deduced something earlier today." Sherlock almost whispered.
"What did you discover?" Mycroft smiled, a little indulgently.
"When Daddy hit you, it wasn't the first time. He hits you a lot." Sherlock didn't look at his big brother. Mycroft stared, stunned, at the curly haired boy.
"What?" He breathed.
"Daddy hits you more than you tell me. You didn't stand up for yourself. You didn't cry. You didn't ask him to stop. You didn't fight back. You should fight back."
"Sherlock, that's enough."
"It's true though, isn't it? I'm right?"
"Sherlock, enough!" Mycroft snapped, rounding on the younger boy and brandishing his finger. "We are not talking about this. Not now, not later. Drop it. Do you understand me?"
"Do you understand me?" Mycroft raised his voice, anger swelling inside him. He was not going to have this discussion. He was not going to expose Sherlock to these things.
"Yes Mycroft." Sherlock said quietly, pulling his feet up onto the chair so his forehead rested on his knees. Mycroft turned back to the window, cursing himself for shouting, berating himself for handling the situation so badly. He didn't know how to answer these questions. He didn't know how to deal with this.
“What about Mummy?” Sherlock spoke, muffled, into his knees.
“Mother is sick." Mycroft shut his eyes, relieved that Sherlock had diverted away from the nature of their father and Mycroft's relationship. "She has something the doctors call bipolar disorder."
"It’s when sometimes, you’re sad, really sad, even if there’s nothing to be sad about, and sometimes you get really, really excited for no reason. Remember a few weeks ago, when she stayed in bed for four days?”
“And she hardly ate, and she slept a lot? That’s because she was in a depressive phase. That’s when you’re really sad. And those shopping trips we sometimes go on? When she drags us from shop to shop, buying unnecessary stuff? And she’s so excited? That’s a manic phase.”
“Do I have bipolar disorder?” Sherlock cocked his head “sometimes I’m sad, and sometimes I’m excited.”
“No, you don’t. It’s an illness, Lock. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain.”
“Does Daddy have it?”
"But why did he hit you?"
"I don't know!” Mycroft shouted. He did not want to talk about this again.
"Why are you shouting at me?" Sherlock yelled, looking as though he was about to burst into tears.
“I’m sorry, Lock." He took a deep breath. "I've had a bad day.” Mycroft sighed. He didn’t go to him.
"I know.” Sherlock murmured.
"Yeah. A bad day."