Half an hour before the end of the school day, Jacob announced homework.
"Okay guys, I want you to do some research on a charity that you feel connected to, or that has inspired you. You should look at the history of the charity, it's impact, and, if you can find the figures on where it sends it's money, that would be great. We will be doing presentations the day after tomorrow."
"Cool. What charity are you going to do?" Jamie asked the little group of boys sitting around a table to the far right of the large classroom.
"You know what I'm going to do! I always do Follow Your Dreams" Tom rolled his eyes
"What's that?" Mycroft asked tentatively.
"They help disabled children play and do art and stuff. My brother goes to their workshops." Tom smiled at Mycroft's sudden embarrassment. "Alex has Downs Syndrome. He's six."
"I-I'm sorry" Mycroft looked away.
"Don't be! He's happy and healthy, and he's a really special kid."
"I- um- okay."
"You and I know what it's like, don't we?" Tom put his arm around Mycroft.
"Know what what's like?" Mycroft frowned, hoping Tom wasn't going where he thought he was.
"To have different siblings. Sherlock" he said when Mycroft still looked confused "isn't he autistic?"
"No." Mycroft said, flat out.
"Oh. Sorry dude, I just thought-"
"You thought wrong, dude."
"Listen, I really am sorry, I didn't mean to be rude." Tom bit his lip.
"Don't... don't worry about it. Sherlock just needs some time to grow into himself. Jamie, what charity are you going to do?" Mycroft suppressed the seething anger. How dare they think about Sherlock like that?
"British Deer Society. Dad and I do lodes of campaigning against hunting, and we set up a wildlife centre in a field near my house."
"That's really cool" Tom interjected, checking Mycroft's reaction. He relaxed when he didn't register any distaste. "What about you, Mycroft?"
"I don't know. I'll think about it." As he finished his sentence, the bell rang for the end of school, and the boys cleared up their stuff, grabbed their bags and made their way out to the front of the school. After saying goodbye to his friends - friends - Mycroft met Harry at the gate to Bayside. They went in together, exchanging small talk about their days, and collared their siblings when they ran near them. The four children, the older two listening half attentively to the younger two, walked towards the car that had just pulled up outside. Lizzie opened the window and smiled at them. Mycroft and Harry strapped the boys into the back row and sat down in the middle. Lizzie asked them each how their day went, going in age order from Sherlock around to Mycroft. He told her about his homework project.
"I don't know what to do."
"Do some research when we get home, find something that captures your interest. Perhaps something that could have helped you" she suggested very gently. The subject very quickly changed when Mycroft asked if she'd had any post for him. Lizzie smiled. "You are getting to be a popular boy. I just approved an invitation from a Greg Lestrade inviting you to his birthday party."
"Awesome." Mycroft said noncommittally, busting with delight inside. Lizzie could tell he was excited, and smiled.
"Well done, Mycroft. I know you'll be fine. Told you you'd make friends."
"Mum, can we have fish and chips tonight? I want to watch a movie." John asked loudly from the back seat.
"Yeah, that sounds nice. Your Dad could take you boys down to the shops when it's time for tea, and Harry and I will get the den ready."
"The den?" Mycroft asked. He had never been anywhere in their house that could be considered a den.
"Did no one show you the basement?" Harry asked. Mycroft went pale, and Lizzie quickly started talking, effectively distracting the other children from Mycroft' discomfort.
"The den is just a nice room at the bottom of the house. We have bean bags and a big television, it's where we usually have film nights."
"Oh. Okay" Mycroft said, his breathing returning to normal, the warmth of her voice pushing away the cold tendrils of memories.
"What movie do you want to watch, John?" Lizzie asked, keeping an eye on Mycroft.
"Fox and the Hound" John said. Harry groaned. Apparently a favourite. Sherlock sat up straight.
"I've never heard of that film" he pouted, staring daggers at the back of his big brother's head, feeling like he had missed out somewhat.
"Sounds like a good choice then" Lizzie smiled in the mirror at Harry, who rolled her eyes.
When Kevin got home from work, Sherlock and John immediately bombarded him with requests to make the promised visit to the chippy. Sherlock was almost dancing with excitement. He had never had fish and chips, and Mycroft felt incredibly guilty that his little brother had missed out on things that seemed so key to Harry and John's childhoods, like Disney movies, chips and family nights. The four of them walked down to the shop, John and Sherlock walking slightly ahead, whispering their conversation. Kevin smiled.
"They seem to have got pretty close".
"Yeah. Sherlock's kinda let him in, if you know what I mean."
"I do" they were silent for a few minutes, before Kevin cleared his throat. "Look, I was talking to Lizzie, your social worker and the therapist from the hospital the other day, and I... came to the realisation that I maybe wasn't handling you quite right."
"What?" Mycroft frowned.
"You know, making you tell us things you might not have wanted to. The psychologist said it... that it was similar to what your father did, that I took away your control. So I'm really, really sorry if you felt like that, even in a little way. I genuinely didn't mean to. I'm used to dealing with kids with different needs to yours. Lizzie is much better at this than I am. Much better at all of it, actually." Kevin's face was flushed deep red, unused to the vulnerability of his emotions. He hadn't realised until the others had talked to him that he was being at all insensitive. But with hindsight...
"I- I don't know what to say." Mycroft said.
"Don't worry about it. If you ever want to tell me anything, you feel free, I will always listen. But you don't have to" he added quickly, his blonde hair merging with his red face.
"Kevin, I don't..."
"Sorry, I shouldn't have said anything. I just wanted to make sure you knew I was sorry."
"Look, I didn't think that, okay? I was nervous, when we came here, because I didn't know what was going to happen. But you were fine, really."
"Usually though, I'm better than fine. I've won two awards, you know that right?" Mycroft nodded "They gave me this little silver trophy, for 'Excellent care taken of at risk children'. But with you, I have not been excellent. I wasn't prepared for some of the things you have experienced. I've never taken care of anyone with your kind of background. Lizzie has, she worked for a while at a half way house with rape victims" Mycroft went pink "not that it's the same thing-" Kevin quickly amended.
"There's really very little difference in the resulting psychological issues" Mycroft said clinically, turning away slightly.
"I've done it again. Said the wrong thing. I'm sorry. Like I said, Lizzie is better at this than me, much better."
"It's okay, really."
"Listen, what this amounts to, in a round about way, is that I didn't cope very well with treating you in the best way possible. I made a few mistakes since you came, especially when you ran away from hospital. But I want to wipe the slate. Just think of me as a friend. Any advice you need, any help with anything, I'm your man."
"Thanks" Mycroft said awkwardly, unsure how to proceed with the unfamiliar social situation. Just because Sherlock was worse didn't mean Mycroft didn't have social problems too. At that moment, they arrived at the shop, Sherlock stoop up on his tiptoes, his hands fluttering in excitement. John put a hand on his friend's shoulder, and the younger boy calmed down at once, smiling at John. Mycroft raised his eyebrows. He had never seen Sherlock transform so quickly from a high to a happy medium. John was a good influence. Mycroft ruffled his brother's hair, who uttered a nondescript word of protest before he touched the black curls.
"Six fish and four large chips please" Kevin said to the bored looking girl at the checkout. He handed over the money and went to the back of the shop to wait. Sherlock was sitting on the windowsill between the other boys, sniffing in deeply. "Whatcha doing?" Kevin asked the young boy, smiling.
"Storing the smell" Sherlock said.
"In my Mind Palace. Mycroft told me about it once, when I was sleeping in his bed. It's a memory technique. You have a building with loads of rooms, and in each room you store facts or memories. You can lock rooms, blow them up, or keep them open and bright to remember properly forever. I put the smell in the entrance room, so whenever I want to remember anything, the first thing I'll remember is the smell of you lot in the chippy" it was the longest speech Kevin had ever heard Sherlock make. He was, frankly, amazed but the five year old's ability to remember and store knowledge.
"Can you remember a lot?"
"Yes. Only useful things though."
"What order do the planets go in?"
"I have no idea. I remember Mycroft teaching me, because we were lying on the floor with my Space book, and he had to prop himself up because his ribs hurt, and he told me everything about space. But the knowledge is pointless. When would I ever use it?"
"I don't know." Kevin said, bemused.
"Never. I can tell you anything you want about blood, though." Sherlock went into a long speech on the qualities of blood, its uses in forensics, and the amount you have to bleed in order to die. He was oblivious to the other customers staring at him as though he was a total weirdo. Eventually, their food was announced, and the boys took it off the counter. Kevin let Sherlock carry the bag of chips home, John watching him carefully without seeming to.
"I thought we could all go to London next weekend. John loves the science museums, and I know Lizzie wants to see a show. We could stay the night, and do the Natural History museum too, if you liked." Kevin proposed to the boys. Mycroft smiled. He was very quickly warming to the man, despite their awkward start.
"Yeah! I love the Museum! Sherlock, you'd love it too, it's got everything!"
"Mycroft?" Kevin asked.
"Yes. I'd like that" the boy smiled. Kevin smiled back. Mycroft sighed. He was safe.