Two Weeks Later
Sherlock was running in the playground at Bayside. He was chasing John and his friends, trying to catch them in their makeshift game of stick-in-the-mud. The playground was loud, filled with just less than fifty happy children. A teacher was sitting on the bench, talking to a girl with plaits from her class. The teacher looked around every few seconds, checking everyone's safety. She didn't notice the teenage boy leaning on the fence that separated Bayside from Bayhill. Mycroft was staring at his brother. The curly haired little boy was laughing, sprinting at full pelt towards John. He had bounced back so quickly from the night he spent alone with their father. He had recovered completely, with no lasting physical, or it seemed psychological effects. In fact, he seemed happier than he had been before. Mycroft didn't understand it. He had been so sure that he had failed Sherlock, that he had started him on the same path he had been on himself. He had convinced himself that his little brother was irreparably damaged by his own foolishness. But it seemed that he was wrong.
Mycroft sighed as the teacher watching the children stood up and shouted that it was time for everyone to go inside. Sherlock went back into his classroom, but came back out a moment later to wave at Mycroft and roll his eyes. Mycroft smiled. Nothing got past his little brother. He pushed himself off the fence and turned back to his own school. He was a bit of a loner, even though the boys in his class had been wonderfully accepting of him. He knew that their teacher had told them he was sick when he'd gone to hospital. And for that privacy, he was eternally grateful.
He had been on guard since he came back, waiting on eggshells for the bullying to start: waiting for the taunting and shoving and punching that had plagued his existence at his old school. There, he had been the too-thin, too-tall, too-clever, too-rich kid who always got changed for games in the toilet to avoid showing his classmates the patterns of bruises on his torso. They had hated him anew every time he answered a question in class, or failed to catch the ball in rugby or managed somehow to insult them. He knew he had frightened them with his deductions. They thought he was a stalker, that he knew things because he watched them. If only someone had deduced him and got him out quicker. Mycroft walked over to the school buildings, and along the way he was greeted by almost every student with a 'hello' or simply a smile. By the time he reached the building, he felt a foot taller, and his shoulders were no longer slumped but squared, ready to take on the world.
Tom and Jamie, the boys he had met on his first day, were waiting for him so they could start their science experiment. They were in the Blast Room, where you had to go if there was a chance your experiment might explode or set fire to things. They were planning to set fire to Tom's sister's old pair of jeans, to see what colour the flame would be. Armed with fire extinguishers, they prepared the jeans in a metal bin and Tom got ready to drop the match. Mycroft grinned, almost feeling like he belonged there.
No one mocked him for liking science, or for enjoying learning. No one cared that he had allowed his appearance to deteriorate significantly since he had come back from hospital. He now wore very scruffy jeans and oversized hoodies in dark colours. His hair was longer, curling past his ears as though it would be like Sherlock's if he let it grow that long. No one cared how he looked here. It was liberating.
Tom dropped the match and the jeans slowly caught fire, then quickly engulfed themselves in orange and blue flames. The boys laughed, half disappointed in the lack of explosion. The flames crawled slowly over the material, and they sat around the bin, watching the fire as though it held power over them.
"Are you going to get Greg anything for his birthday?" Tom asked Jamie.
"I dunno. I don't really know him that well..."
"Who's Greg?" Mycroft asked. He knew a lot of people by name now, but this boy had escaped him.
"Guy in the next class down. He's smart." Jamie said.
"He's a little weird. Really into sports and stuff. He's cool though." Tom chipped in.
"What does he look like?" Mycroft asked, trying to place him.
"Dunno. Thin, tall, athletic? Blonde hair cut short, but he spikes it up."
"Oh, Greg Lestrade?"
"That's the one. He's fourteen on Thursday, and he invited me to his party, so I thought I'd better get him something."
"Mum wouldn't let me go to the party. It's on my Great Aunt Meredith's birthday." Jamie sounded so despondent that Mycroft laughed.
"Did you get an invite, Mycroft?" Tom asked, interested.
"It'll probably come in a couple of days cause of the foster care thing."
"What?" Mycroft raised an eyebrow.
"His mum will have to write to Lizzie Watson and ask if they can invite you before they do." Jamie said "the last kid they fostered was only here a month and he had to get permission to do stuff like go to the newsagents! I think he'd been in juvie though."
"Yeah, I can do that kind of stuff. I'll ask Lizzie if she's heard anything." Mycroft was almost, almost daring to hope that he'd been invited. If he had, it would be the first party he'd ever attended. He crossed his fingers behind his back, superstitiously wishing for the invitation to come. He didn't know why it was so important to him, but his chest almost ached with longing for that piece of card.