"Sherlock, are you all right?" Kevin knelt down beside the quivering child.
"He was going to hit me. Like Daddy." He let out a choked sob, wiping his eyes violently.
"He didn't mean to. He's just had a really bad day."
"Will he have to go to hospital again?" Sherlock whimpered.
"Why?" Kevin's eyebrows furrowed.
"Last time Mycroft had a bad day, we had to take him to hospital because of all the blood" Sherlock looked up at Kevin, wide eyed, as the man swore and got up. Kevin ran up stairs, wishing his mind had jumped in the same way as Sherlock's quicker. He burst into the boy's bedroom and groaned when Mycroft wasn't there. He dodged out and went to the bathroom.
"Mycroft! Mycroft, are you in there?" There was no answer. Kevin seized the handle and rattled it, but the door was locked. "Mycroft!" He took a step back and launched himself shoulder first into the wood, cracking it. “Mycroft, open this door, right now!” He launched again and broke through the door, pure adrenaline pushing aside the pain in his shoulder. Mycroft was bleeding, his eyes half closed, a smile flickering at the corner of his mouth. "Lizzie! Get me a first aid kit!" He fell down beside Mycroft and inspected his arm.
"'M fine. Happy." The boy slurred as though he was drunk.
"You are not fine, you idiot. What do you think you're doing?" Kevin almost shouted, his heart was beating in his throat. Mycroft tensed away from him, pushing blood out of his cuts. At that moment, Lizzie came in with the first aid kit. She balked at the sight of the almost teenaged boy leaning agains the bath, blood stickily attaching itself to his arms and t-shirt.
"Kevin, I'll see to Mycroft. You go and watch television with the others, try to keep everything normal. I left Harry in her room. She's a bit shaken up. Can you carry Mycroft to bed please?" Kevin picked up the boy like a rag doll. He was so light, as though he has spent the vast majority of his life hungry. Kevin placed him carefully on the bed, and went away, kissing Lizzie softly on the forehead. Lizzie sat down on the end of Mycroft's bed and ripped open the antiseptic wipe. She dabbed it over his cuts, making him wince. The one closest to his wrist was nastier, more like a slash than a thought out cut. Lizzie sighed. She bandaged up his arm and then just sat, waiting for him to resurface. After about twenty minutes, he opened his eyes and sat up a little.
"I..." Words failed him.
"You haven't had a good evening, have you?" Lizzie said ruefully. To her surprise, Mycroft started laughing. It felt good to laugh. His side ached in a way that was absolutely not reminiscent of being kicked. Lizzie started laughing too, astonished at his change in mood. Mycroft lent forward and rested his head on her chest.
"No. Not a good evening." He said more sombrely.
"Want to tell me about it?"
"It's not Harry's fault, she knows that, right?" He bit his lip, concerned.
"Yes. She knows. But I also let her know it's not okay to hit you, or anyone else."
"She didn't mean to... You shouldn't punish her just because I didn't react like a normal person." His top teeth worried at his bottom lip, crushing the pale flesh.
"I know. But she did. I think that seeing the consequences of her actions is quite punishment enough. And you reacted normally for someone who has been in your kind of situation. You did nothing wrong." She laced her fingers into his thick hair.
"I got stuck. It was frightening."
"What do you mean?"
"In my head. Has Sherlock told you about his Mind Palace?"
"Yes, yes he has" Lizzie smiled.
"I taught him that. I have a sort of similar thing, to help me remember things. Or to not remember them. Mine is a bank. Each memory has a different vault, and they can be locked with secure or insecure codes, or just left open. There are some vaults buried deep into the ground, with state of the art protection. And there are some in the open, before you go down, in a Cathedral like place with huge high ceilings and stain glass windows." His head still leaning on Lizzie's chest, she didn't see the whimsical look on his face. And he didn't see her look of absolute astonishment. "The technique works by walking through the imaginary corridors until you find the memory you are looking for. Everything is up there, you just have to find the right vault. Sherlock finds it easier to delete things he doesn't think will be useful, to make room, but for me, everything I've ever read or seen or heard is in my Mind Bank. I can usually find what I'm looking for quite quickly. When Harry..."
"When she hit you" Lizzie provided.
"Yeah. When... When she did that, the doors to the cathedral part slammed shut, and it was like I was trapped. I just ran, deeper and deeper in, trying to find an escape tunnel. I kept thinking that I must have built one. How stupid is it to have somewhere like that without a back door? Anyway, I thought I found the exit, and I unlocked a door and went inside, then that slammed on me too. That was when Kevin grabbed my wrists. And then I was stuck. The vault wasn't a way out, it was a memory. It wasn't a good one..." He tailed off, thinking deeply. Lizzie stroked his hair, flabbergasted at the sparking intelligence of her older foster son. It was so much more obvious in Sherlock, so much more brilliantly refined in Mycroft.
"What happened, My? In the memory?"
"He said that he was going to hurt Sherlock. He wasn't even a year old. Just a baby. You have no idea how cute he was." Mycroft's eyes went unfocused, remembering the adorable baby with the raven curls. "Father had just finished... beating me for something else, and then we made a deal. He promised he wouldn't hurt Sherlock if I took his punishments for him. If I always volunteered, he would never hurt him. As long as I was strong, I could protect him. We signed a contract in my blood.”
"Did he hurt you that night?"
"Yes. I cracked three ribs. I had to stay in bed for two days."
"Oh baby. Is that why you got so over protective of him this evening?" She felt him nodding, his head still resting on her chest. "Don't worry about it. He's safe now. You don't ever have to worry about him again."
"Not even when he's a teenager?" Mycroft smiled, and Lizzie grinned hard, happy he was making jokes.
"Maybe you can worry then" she pulled him around so he was leaning sideways against her and she was sitting against the wall on his bed. "Remember that first night? When you couldn't sleep, and you could hardly keep eye contact with me? I'm so proud of how far you've come."
"How can you possibly be proud of this?" Mycroft raised his freshly bandaged arm. "How can you be proud that I... that I almost hit Sherlock?"
"I'm proud that you sterilised the blade. That means you were absolutely aiming to survive in complete health. I'm proud at how shallow the cuts are. I'm proud that you managed such a stressful evening for so long. I'm proud that you didn't hit Sherlock. I'm proud that you're sitting here with me, making jokes and laughing. I'm proud of you, as a person, and of what you have achieved."
"Mycroft, Kevin and I are so proud of you. We love you and Sherlock. As long as you are allowed to stay with us, you will have a home here."
"Thank you" he said, shutting his eyes.
"Now, I think we need to go downstairs and join the others in hot chocolate and a Disney movie, how about you?" she asked cheerily, elbowing him gently.
"I think that sounds like a good plan." They stood up, and Mycroft threw a hoodie over his pyjamas, taking Sherlock's blue dressing gown with him, and followed Lizzie downstairs.
"Hey Mycroft" Kevin said casually. Harry jumped from where she had been nestled under her father's arm, her face red and streaked with tears. Mycroft smiled at the younger girl and extended his hand to shake hers. She threw her arms around him and hugged him tight.
"I'm so, so sorry, I don't know why I did it. Please, please don't be angry with me!" She was close to crying again, and Mycroft rubbed her back in small circles. She was a good two inches shorter than he was, and his chin rested comfortably on top of her head.
"Apology accepted. It's not your fault. I'm not angry." He said the words softly, almost melodiously. Eventually, Harry pulled away, embarrassed, and, without making eye contact, she slunk back to curl up under her father's arm again. Mycroft took note of his little brother, his knees hunched up under his chin, deliberately not looking. "Lock, you'll get cold." Mycroft said, holding out the dressing gown. Sherlock's eyes flicked towards him.
"Did you get hurt?" Sherlock said, just above a whisper.
"No." Mycroft lied. "And I'm sorry. I've had a really bad day, but that's not an excuse at all. I should never have done that. I promise I won't do it again." The younger boy unfolded his long legs and reached out for his dressing gown. Mycroft sat down next to him, pulling the soft blue fabric around his brother. Sherlock shoved his arms inside it and curled up against Mycroft.
"Mum!" John whined, extending the word "you promised we could have hot chocolate! You said!" Lizzie laughed and scruffed up her son's sandy hair.
"Fine! John and Sherlock choose a movie, and I'll go make hot chocolate. Cream and marshmallows?" There was a general chatter of consent, and Lizzie went to the kitchen, laughing to herself. When she came back, not even ten minutes later, all four of the children were almost asleep. Mycroft was sitting with his feet up, Sherlock curled up next to him, his head leaning on his brother's knee. John was trying to keep his eyes open and watching The Lion King, his head lolling forward and snapping back up. Harry was curled into an even tighter ball than Sherlock, Kevin's arm draped over her. Mycroft, Harry and John stirred when Lizzie came back with the tray of hot chocolate, but Sherlock slept on, not waking up until he found himself in Mycroft's bed, his big brother's arms wrapped tight around him, feeling as right as he had ever felt in his life.