"Good morning, boys" Lizzie said softly, shaking Mycroft a little. He sprang awake, retreating into a foetal position, protecting his head and vital organs. “Hey, it’s okay.” Lizzie spoke quietly, reaching out to touch his hair. Mycroft flinched away, but when no blow came, he looked up, confused. As he recognised her and the room around him, he relaxed, embarrassed. Unable to look at her, he slid off the bed and stood by Sherlock’s, his back to her.
"I'll get Sherlock up.” He said stiffly, not looking round.
“Mycroft, it’s okay.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Watson. I’ll be downstairs with Sherlock shortly.”
“It really is okay. See you in about fifteen minutes?”
“Yes." Mycroft said. Lizzie smiled sadly at him, and left the room. Mycroft’s shoulders drooped as the door closed. He’d screwed up already. He took a moment to collect himself, clenching and relaxing his fists several times. "Sherlock, it's time to wake up."
"No." Came the muffled response a moment later.
“Yes. Get up. Look, I really, really need you to be good today, okay? It’s our first day with these people. I want you to do your best to be calm and nice for them. Please?”
“Mycroft, Lizzie said I could walk the dog today!” Sherlock, as always, completely ignored his brother.
“Sherlock, did you listen to me? I need you to be good. Can you do that for me?”
“Will you come walk the dog with me?”
“Yes, but are you listening?”
“I love dogs! You like dogs too, don’t you?” Mycroft didn’t, really, and he’d only tolerated Sherlock’s dog because it made the boy so happy.
“Sherlock, listen. I will come and walk the dog with you, but you have to promise to be good!”
“Wahoo!” Sherlock cried. He jumped out of bed past Mycroft, and pulled off his clothes from the day before. Mycroft handed him the little rucksack he had packed with a spare set of clothes for each of them. Sherlock got dressed and took his toothbrush to the bathroom.
"Remember to comb your hair, Lock, okay?" He almost shouted after him. He heard Sherlock blow a raspberry with his tongue, and smiled to himself. Mycroft sat down on his bed, slowly pulling off his socks. Lizzie had hugged him, had stayed with him until morning. He had been safe all night, no one had hurt him, he hadn't had to look after Sherlock. In fact, he had been looked after. Someone cared enough about him to have looked after him. 'stop it, Croft' he whispered to himself. No one cared. Not about the Holmes boys. No one had ever cared.
"Morning John" Sherlock said brightly.
"Hello" John replied, looking curiously at the younger boy who had climbed onto the seat next to him.
"Would you like some cereal, Sherlock?" Lizzie asked gently.
"I don't eat when I'm on a case" he said, pushing the empty bowl away.
"What kind of case?" Lizzie asked, smiling widely, intrigued.
"Well," Lizzie said, "let's hope it gets solved quickly, before you get hungry"
"I don't get hungry," he said, cheerfully.
"What's the mystery, Sherlock? Perhaps we can work it out together?"
"Well, I want to know why Harry has short hair and a boys name, but says he's a girl"
"Sherlock!" Mycroft chastised, his cheeks going bright red, mortified at the question.
"It's fine" Lizzie smiled at the child, who was staring at her, waiting for an answer from under his chocolate curls. "Harry's full name is Harriet, and she cut her hair last year. It used to be long, but she didn't like having to tie it back for school"
"Why is she called Harry?"
"It's her nickname, like your brother calls you Lock sometimes"
"Okay." he said, satisfied "Can I have Corn Flakes please?"
"Of course you can" she smiled. She smiled a lot, Mycroft noticed.
"Mrs Watson, can I talk to you?" Mycroft said. Lizzie followed him out of the room, away from Sherlock's curious ears.
"Are you all right?" she asked. Mycroft nodded.
"It's just... Sherlock... He doesn't like change, and sometimes he has melt downs, because he gets all panicked." He was wringing his hands together, desperately nervous to be saying this to anyone, let alone a stranger when he was alone in the room "I... I need to be with him. There have been too many times when I wasn't there. I need to be there for him." He hadn't made eye contact with her once, and he'd hardly breathed, almost tripping over his words.
"I understand. We'll make sure you're together as much as possible, okay? Is there anything else you need?"
"No." Mycroft said stiffly, his voice barely above a whisper. She hadn't mocked him. She hadn't been angry. She had taken his concern seriously. He had no idea how to respond. Lizzie pulled him into a small hug, lasting only a second, and he stood awkwardly until she let go, embarrassed and completely out of his depth.
They went back to the kitchen together. Sherlock had finished his cereal, and he and John were whispering to each other under Kevin's amused watch.
"Kevin, can you get Jake's lead, please?" Kevin stood up and got the lead. He whistled, shaking it, and a small dog bounded down the stairs, yapping.
"Good boy, Jake, good boy! Come here then, let me put this on" Sherlock brightened at the sight of the dog. He pulled himself down from the chair, and went to the dog, extending his long fingered hand to his muzzle.
"Hullo Jake" he said. Jake licked him, and he giggled. Mycroft stayed away from it. He would never admit that he found him mildly frightening. Especially not to Sherlock.