"I think these are the Watsons" Mycroft said, pointing to a red seven seater Ford as it pulled into the drive of the government building.
"I don't like them."
"You haven't even seen them yet!"
"I don't like them" Sherlock repeated. Mycroft sighed. Four people got out of the car, a plump woman with mousy brown hair, a stocky blonde man, a girl with blonde hair shorter than her father's and a boy dressed in jeans and a woollen jumper.
"They look nice, Sherlock, and they're going to give us a home. That's kind of them, isn't it?"
“Yes,” the little boy admitted that grudgingly.
"Let's give them a chance, huh?"
"Okay" Sherlock grabbed Mycroft's hand as they stood up to meet the Watson's.
As they were about to go out the large front doors, their assigned social worker, Mandy, appeared. Mandy was young, and Sherlock thought she was beautiful. She had met them at the hospital, and had held Sherlock's hand while he told the police what had happened. She'd been sitting there when they reset Mycroft's shoulder. She'd been there when the doctors had run their tests. Mycroft couldn't quite make eye contact with her. She knew. He wasn't used to people knowing. Mandy smiled encouragingly at them.
"Go on, Sherlock, open the door. There's a good boy." She said softly. The little boy looked up at her angelic face, steeled himself, and wrenched the door open.
As they exited the building, Sherlock turned his body in to face Mycroft's, clutching his hand and wrapping his other hand inside his brother's jacket.
"Hello boys! You must be Mycroft" the plump woman said, extending a hand towards the boy. Mycroft disentangled himself from his brother and shook her hand, then the man's. He had large hands.
"I'm Kevin, and this is Lizzie" the man said, putting his arm around his wife's shoulders. The girl pulled her iPod out of one ear and said hello sullenly.
"I'm Harry, and that's John." she said, not looking at either boy.
"Hello Harry, I'm Mycroft" he said, extending a hand for her to shake. She was a year younger than him, perhaps, around eleven. She looked disdainfully at his hand and plugged her iPod back into her ear. Mycroft lowered his arm, feeling painfully self conscious.
"Never mind our Harry, she's a bit moody at the moment."
"I understand. It's fine" Mycroft said stiffly, moving to shake John's hand. He looked down at Sherlock, who was hiding behind his knees. "Come on, Lock. Meet Kevin and Lizzie"
"Hullo" the little boy said, nervously. He wasn't usually nervous, but so much had happened today.
"Hello Sherlock" Lizzie knelt down near him "We're going to be looking after you and your brother for a while. Is that okay?"
"I suppose. Do you have any animals?"
"A dog, Jake. He's a Yorkshire Terrier"
"I like dogs. My dog died this summer." Sherlock tightened his grip on Mycroft and lowered his head in mourning.
"Im sorry to hear that. I'm glad you like dogs though, because one of your little jobs is going to be walking Jake with Kevin and John."
"Mycroft can come if he wants to. We want you to feel safe, Sherlock."
"I want Mycroft to come."
"Okay" Lizzie said, smiling at the dark haired child sadly. She had the outline of their case, if not full details. She turned to her son, the boy a year or so older than Sherlock wearing a beige woollen jumper and corduroy trousers. He looked like a child taken straight from 1950. Sherlock liked him instantly. He had a hint of intelligence that Sherlock hardly ever saw in children his age. Sherlock smiled at him, and he smiled back. The little boys did not introduce themselves to each other, and did not shake hands. Instead, they looked each other up and down intently, both with an analytical look on their faces.
Mycroft and Sherlock yawned in unison.
"Oh, you must be so tired. You've had an exhausting day. Let me talk to your social worker and get the last papers signed, whilst you go and wait in the car, okay?"
"Sure" Mycroft said, glad to be one step closer to being able to lie down. His ribs and back were sore. Kevin opened the car door for him, and Mycroft buckled a sleepy Sherlock into the back of the seven seater. John scrambled up into the seat next to him. Mycroft sat in front of John, and Harry sat silently, tapping her leg to the beat of her iPod, in front of Sherlock. Kevin jumped into the driver's seat and turned around to talk to Mycroft.
"I bet you're exhausted."
"Yeah." He mumbled, his forehead resting on the window.
"You're safe now, Mycroft. No one is going to hurt you here."
"I understand that." He hoped that. People could pretend they were nice, and turn awful as soon as you're alone with them. Mycroft knew that. But he hoped, against everything he'd believed his whole life, that these people were different.
"I just wanted to make that really clear."
"Thank you," Mycroft said, stifling a yawn. Lizzie hopped into the passenger seat, and Kevin turned back to the wheel. They drove back to the suburban semi in close to silence, the dark falling outside. Mycroft stared out of the window, resting his head against the cool glass, recounting the day. It was something he'd always done. Remember, Process, Dismiss, Progress.
"I told you not to do that, Sherlock" the man slurred, anger glinting in his eyes. The little boy was backing away from the book he had open on the kitchen table. "You're not allowed books downstairs. I have told you hundreds of times."
"Evidently not sorry enough, or you wouldn't have done it again!"
"Sorry Daddy" Sherlock repeated, retreating further towards the wall. He was licking his lips, trying to soften them, get some of the moisture that had dried with fear back. The tall man raised his fist.
"You're a worthless piece of shit, Sher–" but as the fist was about to hit Sherlock's face, another hand got in the way. Mycroft had pulled his fist off track. Sherlock ducked and cowered down and away. He was terrified. Nothing like this had ever happened before.
"Stop! You promised!" Mycroft yelled. The man turned, furious, on his older son and twisted his arm sharply behind his back. He shoved Mycroft hard against the wall, and the boy gasped as his arm was wrenched above his shoulder, popping loudly.
Through the blaze of white hot pain, Mycroft felt himself being spun around again and punched in the stomach. He sank to the floor, and clutched his useless right arm with his left. His father kicked him over and over in the chest and stomach. "Sherlock. Go up to Mycroft's room. In the top draw of his bedside table, there's a thick, black belt. Bring it to me. Now." Sherlock shuddered, and tried to protest.
"What are you going to do?"
"Now Sherlock!" the man shouted. The boy ran out of the room. Mycroft groaned. This would be bad. He had screwed up big time. His arm throbbed, his vision going in and out of focus. Sherlock returned, carrying the black leather belt. Their father tried to snatch it from him, but Sherlock held on to it.
"Please, don't hurt him" Sherlock whispered.
"Awww, a chunk of humanity from our beloved sociopath" he said mockingly. Sherlock bit his lip.
"You can hit me instead, if you like. Mycroft didn't do anything wrong!"
"Sherlock, shut up and go away! Father, make him go away” Mycroft slurred, not wanting Sherlock to see.
"Shut up." The man repeated. "Go to your room, now, and don't come back downstairs until morning." He dismissed the little boy, taking the belt forcibly. Sherlock lurched forward to keep it in his grasp, but the man swung his other hand around to punch the boy hard in the face. Sherlock flew three feet across the room, his skull thwacking the wall. He fell limply to the ground.
"No!" Mycroft yelled. "You promised!" He could hear his father wrapping the belt around his hand, whacking it against his other hand to test. The pain was already unbearable, his whole body throbbed. He couldn't stand any more. But the blows still fell, buckle first, ripping into his skin and pulling a flap up with every stroke. Twenty of them, in rapid succession, all on the same patch of flesh. Mycroft could feel the copious amounts of blood tricking down his back. He couldn't breathe from the haze of agony. Sherlock was sobbing, curled up against the wall, watching his brother get hurt, powerless to stop it. Mycroft passed out, whimpering.
Mycroft took his head off the window, his eyes misting with the unbearable weight that was crushing him.
"You okay?" Lizzie turned slightly to smile gently at him.
"I'm fine" Mycroft said, stiffly. He hated to share his emotions.
"You're crying" John pointed out
"Am not" Mycroft said roughly, pushing his hands across his eyes.
"Are too. All the foster kids cry on the way home!"
"Well, Sherlock and I don't cry."
"You're crying. Sherlock isn't, but he's asleep."
"Leave him alone, John" Lizzie said gently. "Here we are, your new home" Mycroft looked out of the window at the cream semidetached house with flowers in the window boxes and a yellow front door. He was too exhausted to form a reasoned opinion. But it felt peaceful.