The wardrobe was dark. Darker than normal. Mycroft's head was spinning, his vision a little blurry, and as he leant forward, trying to find the slit in the wood, he realised that he was facing the wrong way. In fact, he was lying on his side, facing the back of the wardrobe. And it was the wrong wardrobe. The one in his father's bedroom was much larger. He attempted to raise his hand to itch his face, but couldn't move it more than a quarter of an inch. His hands were tied behind his back. The itch on his face was traveling closer to his mouth, and he stuck out his tongue, trying to find the source. The metallic, all too familiar taste of blood trickled into his mouth. He was bleeding. His thoughts were coming much too slowly. How long had he been here? With a pang of hunger, he realised that he was starving, and with that revelation came the undeniable, unquenchable thirst. Within seconds, he registered the stench of the air around him, and immediately felt like vomiting. He tried to move his feet in the attempt to kick the side of the wardrobe, but they were tied too. Mycroft almost began to cry. He looked upwards, trying to find something of interest to distract him. Small clothes were hung neatly above him, big enough for an exceptionally long and thin one year old. Sherlock's wardrobe. In Sherlock's room. Mycroft began to rock like an upended turtle, and managed to flip himself on to his front. He used the wall to leaver himself up onto his knees, and tried to see between the slats. It was clearly nighttime, as the room was dark. Sherlock's blue night light was on, glowing serenely. The child was snoring lightly, bundled up with a small stuffed bear under a blanket in his crib. Mycroft tried to barge the door open, banging his shoulder against it, but all he succeeded in doing was creating a bang. He regretted it that instant when Sherlock began to cry. Mycroft held his breath, and, sure enough, as inevitable as if scripted, there was a loud and angry shout from downstairs. The shout was followed my heavy, quick footsteps coming closer to the room. Mycroft shoved his side against the door again, whipping himself into a panicked frenzy. He had to get to Sherlock before their father. He had to. The door to Sherlock's room swung violently open just as Mycroft toppled out of the wardrobe, his hands and feet tied. The two looked at each other for a moment, and Mycroft's terrified eyes flicked towards the wailing dark haired baby. Their father laughed a short, barking laugh and stomped towards the crib, kicking his older son back when he attempted to scramble up.
"Now then little Sherlock, what have we here? Do you need a change? More milk? Or would you just like a little walk around?"
"Milk, Dada" Sherlock replied quietly, distracted from his father by his brother, apparently lying on the floor playing. "Want play"
"No one is playing at the moment, it's the middle of the night" Rasul picked the child up and held him up to his shoulder.
"Mycroft is being naughty. I will talk to him after we get you some milk and out you back in bed."
"Good boy. Now, let's go and get some milk. Mycroft- get back inside and wait for me."
"No one is playing, Sherlock. I already told you. Mycroft, now" Rasul raised his eyebrows at his older son, and Mycroft went pale. Sherlock looked down at him, looking curious and yet rather sleepy. "I'll be back in a moment, Mycroft. Get back inside, before this turns nasty." He said it lightly, almost in a baby voice, as though he was talking to Sherlock. Mycroft wriggled in his bonds and ungracefully managed to pull himself back into the wardrobe. Rasul shut the door.
"Play, Dada?" Sherlock asked, truly confused.
"No playing. Your big brother is a very naughty boy, Sherlock. He doesn't get to play. Mycroft is bad, do you understand?"
"Do you know what happens to bad boys?"
"That's right. Are you a bad boy?"
"No! No Dada!" Sherlock vehemently denied.
"No, that's right. You're not bad. Not like Mycroft. Now, let's get your milk and go back to bed, huh?"
"Yes Dada" Sherlock nestled contentedly against his father's shoulder. They left the room, and Mycroft's heart beat wildly. He was in so much trouble. He could not remember what his original offence was. But it had been bad. Otherwise he would not be here. After about five minutes, Rasul re-entered the room carrying a sleeping Sherlock. He laid him down into the crib, and stood watching him for a moment. Then, rage filling his eyes, he flung open the wardrobe door, dragging his son out by a fistful of hair. He dragged the boy into his bedroom, the smallest room in the house.
"You woke him up" he growled. "You moved, and you woke him up, and I had to come upstairs and sort the little brat out. All because you couldn't just sit there until morning!"
"I'm sorry!" Mycroft gasped as the first kick hit his exposed stomach.
"I had to" another kick "come up here" another "and give that snotty kid" another "freaking milk!"
"I'm sorry!" Mycroft was trying to curl inwards to protect his organs, but the rope simply cut further into his skin.
"It's no use being sorry, boy. Sorry doesn't get me back to my drink any faster. And sorry won't make this any better for you." Rasul drew his foot all the way back and smashed it into his son's side. Mycroft coughed, the air knocked out of him.
"Please don't hurt me any more" Mycroft whimpered, his eight year old body trying hard not to pass out.
"Would you rather I woke Sherlock up again? It's entirely up to you."
"No! No, don't hurt him!"
"If I don't hurt him, then I have to hurt you. You know how this works."
"Okay" Mycroft whispered, closing his eyes. Rasul smiled, leant down and grabbed his son by the rope tying his hands together. After a few sharp tugs, he kicked the boy's legs out from under him and dragged the unprotesting body down the corridor. He stood at the top of the stairs, contemplating. Mycroft uttered a silent prayer to a deity he didn't believe in. Suddenly, he felt himself fall. The fall was never ending. He felt his body hit the wood, bouncing and hitting again and again. He could offer no resistance with his limbs tied, so he simply crashed downwards. He felt as though it was happening to someone else. He felt his head thwack the last stair, and saw flashing lights. He heard his father's slow and deliberate footsteps. He felt his father grab his arm and yank him into the kitchen. He felt the three punches to the side of his chest. He felt himself being shoved into a kitchen chair. He heard the water being put into the kettle. He heard the kettle boil. He felt his father drag him towards the sink. He felt the rope around his arms being untied. He felt his left hand, caught in an iron grip, bing pulled over the basin. He saw, out of the corner of his eye, the gleam of his father's smile. He felt the boiling water hit his hand. He felt the whole kettle being poured over his milky skin. He felt his skin contort and bubble, as though it see boiling too. He felt tears streaming down his face. He felt his father redouble his vicelike grip. He felt the scream building in his throat. He felt his whole body trying to escape. He did not feel the pain.
It took a few moments for the pain to register. As soon as it did, his entire body was on fire. His hand was unspeakably painful. He could not complete the scream. Rasul turned on the cold tap and pushed his hand underneath the stream. Mycroft closed his eyes tight. The cold water burned as much as the boiling had. After a few moments, the cold became soothing. Mycroft felt his body collapse, leaning against his father. Miraculously, Rasul did not push him away, concentrating on holding his hand under the water. They stood there for ten minutes, and then Rasul dropped his son's arm and let him fall to the floor. Mycroft curled around his hand.
"I don't want to have to tend to that boy because of your stupidity again, do you understand?"
"Good. Put a bandage on that in the morning. Don't tell anyone at school." Rasul walked away, firmly shutting the door to the kitchen. Mycroft let himself cry.
Sherlock's first word. Sherlock's first shaky step. Sherlock's first game of pirates. Sherlock's first deduction. Sherlock's alert grey-green eyes staring from behind the bars of his crib. Sherlock's curly hair bouncing as he ran. Sherlock's first tentative exploration of the piano, then the violin. Sherlock's first school report card. Sherlock's first missing tooth. Sherlock's first realisation that his brother was not master of the universe. Sherlock's nervous greeting of the Watson's. Sherlock's first friend. Sherlock learning to read and write, Sherlock going to secondary school. Sherlock's first kiss. Sherlock's first drunken party. Sherlock's first smoke. Sherlock passing his driving test. Sherlock going to university. Sherlock getting married. Sherlock's children. Sherlock, sitting on the edge of Mycroft's bed, begging him to wake up. To wake up. To open his eyes and to see the baby brother, safe and warm, and not to be afraid. To wake up.
"Oh thank God. Mycroft, are you all right?" Lizzie's voice.
"I'm sorry." Mycroft whispered, his voice hoarse.
"You have nothing to be sorry about!"
"You should still all go to London next weekend." Mycroft coughed. Lizzie, Kevin and Sherlock all looked confused for a moment. Then Kevin remembered.
"Mycroft, there is no way we are going to London. We would never leave you at home."
"But you were all looking forward to it."
"I'm not going anywhere without you." Sherlock said quietly, and then flopped down next to Mycroft. The older boy put his aching arm around the younger one, and Sherlock snuggled his head as close to his brother as he could. "You have to stay with me forever now, Croft. You've used up all your chances. I'm keeping my eye on you." Mycroft grinned and pulled his little brother closer.
"You woke me up, Lock. All these images of you growing up kept flashing up. I didn't want to miss it."
"You're not allowed to miss anything. I won't let you" Sherlock buried his head further into Mycroft's chest, and, under the watchful eye of the adult Watson's, the boys slept.