It was pitch black around the manor house. Mycroft walked across the lawn rather than the long, sweeping driveway, avoiding being seen by most of the downstairs windows. He crept around the outside of the house until he was directly underneath his brother's window. There was no light on inside, but hopefully that just meant he was asleep in bed. Mycroft gulped and began to climb. He'd climbed down a few times, but usually went back in through the back door considering how close it normally was to morning. He grabbed a dusty red brick that stuck out slightly and used it to get his feet up onto the ivy. Pulling himself further and further up the side of the house, he cursed the bandages around his wrists. They got in the way. Eventually, after two slips and one outright fall, he managed to get to the ledge of Sherlock's window. He could see the little lump and the shock of dark curly hair in the bed. He breathed out, relieved that he was safe. Mycroft pushed the window, knowing that Sherlock kept it a little open, and slipped inside, landing noiselessly on the carpet. He avoided the creaky floor board and knelt down beside his brother's bed.
"Hey Lockie, wake up"
"Mhhff" he groaned, clutching a piece of fabric tighter in his sleep. Mycroft looked at it curiously. It was a small piece of soft, brown furry material shaped like a pouch, full of white stuffing. He had no idea what it was. He shook his little brother by the shoulders, and the boy stirred, opening his eyes. "Croft!" He smiled, throwing his arms around the older boy, ecstatic to see him.
“Shhhhh. Did you miss me?"
"Yeah, lots!” Sherlock whispered
"Are you okay? Daddy didn't hurt you, did he?"
"I- maybe..." Sherlock wouldn't look at his brother, ashamed and frightened.
"What did he do?" Mycroft's nose twitched with unadulterated fury towards the man.
"He hit me, with his belt. It really hurt, Croft." Sherlock said, his bottom lip wobbling.
"Damn it. Let me see your back." Mycroft pulled up the boy's shirt over his head without waiting for a response. He sighed at the bruises there, gritting his teeth. "I can't believe they sent you back!"
"Daddy said you knew. He said you didn't care." Sherlock looked away from his brother, simultaneously worried it was true and ashamed to be feeling so abandoned.
"Listen to me, Lock. I will always care about you. I could never stop caring. I worry about you, constantly."
"Yes. I promise. I will love you until the end of the world, baby brother. Now let's get you out of here, yeah?" Mycroft managed to push his rage down deep, but his hands still shook with fury. How dare the man touch his baby brother? How dare he hurt him? How dare he convince him that his brother didn't care? The poor kid was only five.
"Yeah, I wanna go home" the boys got out of the window and down onto the ground without difficulty. But the walk was much longer than it had seemed to Mycroft on the way. Sherlock was hurt, his back sore and his ribs aching, and Mycroft was exhausted, his body not quite recovered from his own injuries, the adrenaline wearing off. It took hours to get to the only safe place they knew, the Watson's house. In the dark, the small semi looked even more welcoming. The adults were still downstairs watching television, Harry obviously had a torch on under the duvet, and John's nightlight was shining blue out of his curtains. Mycroft smiled slightly, and knocked on the door. They watched as Kevin disentangled himself from an apparently asleep Lizzie and walked to the door.
"Mycroft? What are you doing here?"
"I'm sorry, but I couldn't let Sherlock stay there." The boy in question appeared from behind his brother's legs, and Kevin shut his eyes.
"I'm so glad you're okay. But you shouldn't be here. Mycroft, you're meant to be in hospital. And you, Mr Sherlock, should still be at home."
"Daddy doesn't want me at home."
"I'm sure that's not true" Kevin said, trying to sound comforting but knowing how right the child was.
"Sherlock got hurt." Mycroft said, looking down and away from both of them. He had let his brother get hurt. He hadn't done anything to stop it. He had failed in the one thing he'd been trying to do since Sherlock was born: try to keep him safe.
"Come inside, boys. I'll get you a hot chocolate, how does that sound?"
"Yes please!" Sherlock nodded vigorously. They went inside, and the door was closed behind them. Mycroft felt his shoulders drop from their hunched tension. They were safe. Kevin wouldn't let anything bad happen to them.
"Liz!" Kevin shook his wife's shoulder gently "Mycroft and Sherlock are here"
"What?" She woke up groggily and rubbed her eyes. Seeing Sherlock, she automatically opened her arms. He went running to her, throwing himself onto the sofa to sit next to her.
"I'm going to make hot chocolate for the boys, do you want one, Lizzie?" Kevin asked.
"Yes please" she smiled, stroking Sherlock's hair.
"Mycroft, can I get a hand?" Kevin asked. Mycroft followed him into the kitchen, knowing full well what was coming. "How come you left the hospital? You're not better yet."
"I couldn't leave Sherlock there. Not alone. And good job I didn't either! He's hurt, our father started on him almost the minute he came home, as far as I can tell. I can't believe you all let him go back there! Adults are so thick sometimes! If you'd all just listened to me, I'd have told you!" Mycroft hit the wall with his fist in utter frustration at the stupidity of the adults currently in charge of his life. Pain shot up his arm from the cuts, and he saw a flash of white light for a moment.
"Calm down, Mycroft." Kevin warned "I understand. I agree with you. But that's the way the system has to work. In the morning, we'll call the social worker and get her to file a report.
And hopefully, neither of you will have to go back."
"I bloody well hope not!"
"Mycroft, you know it wasn't your fault, right?"
"It was my fault. I let him get sent back. They weren't even going to think about it for ages before I... went to hospital."
"You father had been planning it since you come here. He had obviously just been waiting for something to happen, anything at all. It wasn't your fault."
"Right." Kevin stared intently at the angry twelve year old, trying to put his point across as irrefutably as possible.
"Even if you convince them to keep us away from our father, we don't really have anywhere else to go." Mycroft said sadly, his shoulders slumping in defeat.
"Yes you do. You are always welcome here, Mycroft, and so is Sherlock. There will never be a time in your life when we will not be ready to welcome you back here. You don't need to worry about it anymore." Kevin put his hands on the boy's shoulders, and looked directly at him until he looked away. Mycroft had got the message. He was okay.