By the time Mycroft got home from school the next day, he was a bundle of nerves. Greg's party was less than four hours away. Lizzie, smiling widely at his endearing excitement, put a film on to distract them until it was time to get him ready. They watched Lion King, and Sherlock adored it, spending the remainder of the evening pretending to be a lion. At five thirty, an hour and a half before the party, Lizzie took pity on Mycroft, who was actually twitching with excitement and nerves, and steered him upstairs to get ready. She sent him to the bathroom to shower, and she went to narrow down his selection of clothes. She eliminated all six of his new baggy hoodies, and got out the smart shirts. He had three shirts; pale blue stripes, checkered green and light grey. She laid them all out for him to decide. Mycroft came in, his hair damp and fluffed up from where he'd rubbed it with the towel.
"Okay. You get yourself dried up, choose a shirt and get dressed. I'll be in my bedroom." Lizzie left the room, smiling. Mycroft rubbed his hair some more and then picked up the hair dryer. He blow dried his hair for a few minutes until it was bone dry, and then turned to the bed, dropping the bathrobe. He slipped on underwear and his pair of black trousers. The trousers were a little tight on him, he had gained five pounds since he had come to the Watsons'. Mycroft looked at the three shirts on his bed. Grey was boring. He didn't ever like the green one, which left the blue one. Mycroft slipped it on. It was uncomfortable, too tight around his neck. He couldn't breathe properly. He looked in the mirror and saw that the shirt didn't match his eyes at all, and that the thread at the bottom was frayed, and that he bulged very slightly out of it. The sleeves were too short, revealing the scars on his arms, the physical mark of his emotional agony those first weeks. He had nothing to wear. He'd look like a moron. Greg would never bother with someone like him.
Mycroft let out a muffled shout of utter frustration that hurt his throat and ripped the collar off his neck. Lizzie burst in, having heard him yell. As she opened the door, Mycroft grabbed the back of the shirt and pulled it forcibly over his head. It caught on the top of his head, and he felt claustrophobia overpower him. He let out a guttural moan and fell to his knees, the shirt caught around his head. If he hadn't looked so frustrated, so disappointed in himself, so sad, it would have been amusing. Seeing her in the doorway, Mycroft curled up into an ashamed ball, his back to her, close to breaking out into full blown sobs, his whole body shaking. Lizzie gasped. The boy's back was covered in scars.
The majority were short, white lines from what was most likely a cane. There were some white lines making three sided rectangles from what she assumed to be a riding crop. Across his lower back there was layer on layer of yellowing bruises from a thick belt, still present a month after being taken away from his father. Lizzie hated to think how hard he must have been hit to leave marks for that long. Most horrifying, though, were the three long white cuts, one starting on each shoulder and curving down to his lower back, and the third going around the back of his middle, starting on the left side of his waist and going jaggedly across his spine, stopping at the other side of his waist. That line was ragged, clearly not the same as the perfectly straight ones leading down from his shoulders.
"Oh Mycroft, what did he do to you?" Lizzie whispered into the silent room. Mycroft twitched, undoing a button on the shirt and pulling it off his head. He sat up, keeping his back to her, not wanting her to see the tears that were falling down his face. He rested his forehead against the wall and the cool plaster calmed him slightly.
"Anything in particular?" He said, trying to sound bored and indifferent. He wasn't fooling his foster mother, but she allowed him the shield.
"The two long scars off your shoulders-"
"That was the one and only time he used a whip on me. It cut so deep I couldn't go to school for a week."
"Oh God. And the one around your waist?" She whispered. Mycroft looked down at himself and traced the jagged line with his finger.
"That wasn't his fault" he said quietly. "He really didn't mean it. After it happened, all the punishments stopped for a month. He really, really didn't mean it. He'd never do something like that on purpose." Mycroft wiped his tear stained cheek with the back of his hand, desperate for her to believe him. His father would never have gone that far.
"What happened?" Lizzie said under her breath, silently thinking that Mycroft was cutting the man a lot of slack.
"I was eight. He left me with his friend Ronald, to... you know..." He trailed off, embarrassed. Lizzie made an understanding, sympathetic noise. "Anyway, I started crying. It had only happened five or six times by then, and it hurt. He was... bigger than father. He got so cross." Mycroft's hands began to shake uncontrollably. "He took out this knife, bigger than anything I'd ever seen, and he stabbed me in the side. Father came back when he heard me scream, and he yelled at Ronald. Ronald jumped when Father yelled,
and the knife just slipped, and then I rolled over because it hurt so bad, and it was sticking out of my side. It made a cut all the way across. Father, he looked scared. There was so much blood. He couldn't think of a good cover up for it, so we didn't go to hospital. Father stitched it up. There was so much blood... He didn't mean it, I promise he didn't." Mycroft put his head on his hands, curling around the scar.
"Oh baby, I know. It's okay. You don't need to worry about it." Lizzie was crying now, streams of tears racing down her face. Mycroft turned to her.
"Can you pass me a t-shirt, please?" He whispered. She went to his draws and took out his current favourite, a black, baggy shirt that used to belong to Kevin. It came down almost as far as Mycroft's knees. She sat down on the bed, and he leant up against the wall. "I have nothing to wear. I'm going to look stupid, and they won't like me."
"You look fantastic in everything, My, and they all like you already. You don't need to impress them. Would Greg invite you to his party if he didn't like you?"
"He doesn't know though! I mean, I'm sure that the gossip has spread to him by now, but he doesn't actually know any details."
"He doesn't need to, love."
"But when he finds out... he'll know what I did. He'll know how weak I was."
"Do you mean trying to kill yourself?" Lizzie asked, cocking her head to one side.
"Obviously" Mycroft bit his bottom lip, looking up at Lizzie from under his long fringe.
"No one thinks you were weak, Mycroft. And especially now they know how much you have overcome, people genuinely believe you are strong. You are the strongest boy I have ever known. You protected Sherlock from everything. You withstood physical and emotional pain adults would crumble under. You kept yourself sane when nothing around you made any sense. I am so proud of you. I know everyone keeps telling you that, but that's only because it's true." She almost went to hug him, but restrained herself, not knowing if he would want physical contact. Mycroft hung his head, but his spine seemed straighter, his shoulders broader. Perhaps the message everyone was trying so hard to drill into him was working. "Now then, now we have that sorted out, we need to find you something to wear."
"I don't have anything descent. I wasn't paying attention to what I was buying when we went shopping that time." Mycroft shut his eyes, fighting the tears from coming back.
"What do you feel most comfortable in?"
"Jeans and a t-shirt. But I can't wear that."
"Why not?" Lizzie smiled. She went to his drawers and took out a pale blue long sleeved t-shirt and dark blue jeans. She laid the clothes out on the bed and left the room. Mycroft stared doubtfully at the clothes. He would look too casual. Greg would think it was weird. He slipped the black t-shirt he was wearing over his head and replaced it with the pale blue one. He pulled on his jeans and a pair of red socks. Mycroft stood in front of the mirror and didn't recognise himself. The boy standing opposite him confident, handsome, comfortable in his own skin. Mycroft smiled. He was ready to go.