"His name is Sherlock. Sherlock William Holmes."
Mycroft furrowed his brow and stared at the tiny, squalling infant in his mother's arms. Its face was round and pink, and it hadn't stopped crying since Mycroft's daddy opened the door and led him in. The high-pitched cries were making his head hurt and he wished it would stop.
Needless to say, this baby certainly didn't look like it deserved such a dignified name, but the expression on his mummy's face was so happy that he didn't think it would be right to say as much.
"He cries a lot," he said instead, frowning harder.
"He's a baby, darling. That's what babies do."
"I never did."
She chuckled softly, exchanging a smile with his daddy. "I'm afraid you did, love. But you know, he might stop if you were to hold him for a little while."
"Because you're his big brother."
Mycroft considered that for a moment. He was getting tired of all the crying, and it didn't look like the baby was going to stop anytime soon. Finally, he nodded. His daddy made him sit in one of the hard chairs, and then the bundle of blanket and wailing babe was handed to him very carefully.
"Mind you support his head," his daddy said.
"I am." Mycroft leaned back, out of his daddy's reach, and continued his inspection of this strange little creature. In spite of what his mummy had said, the crying didn't stop. He stood up, leaning away from his parents when they both reached out, and walked back and forth across the small room a couple of times. It still didn't stop.
But on the third turn, the baby - Sherlock - blinked, as though only just realizing he'd been handed over to someone new. He took a wavering breath, hiccoughing a few times, as the tears slowly stopped. Mycroft stopped and the two brothers stared at each other in quiet fascination.
"There now, see?" his mummy said with another smile. "I told you. That's what big brothers are for."
"Sherlock, Mummy said no biscuits before dinner."
Mycroft sighed and closed his book. If Sherlock got hurt, and it happened more often than he thought it should considering that his little brother was only three years old, then Mycroft would be the one who was blamed for it. Mummy had always told him that Sherlock was his responsibility.
Reluctantly, he set his book aside and trailed Sherlock into the kitchen. There was no sign of their parents, and Mycroft realized his brother had deliberately waited until the precise time every day when their neighbour was out walking her dogs and Mummy went out to have a chat with her. He couldn't help the proud smile that crossed his face; Sherlock was advancing quickly.
At the moment, Sherlock was pushing a chair closer to the counter. Mycroft could see exactly how this was going to end, and it did not bode well. He crossed the distance between them in a handful of steps, gripping Sherlock beneath the arms right before his little brother would've tried to crawl up on the chair. He hefted Sherlock up, leaning against the counter. It was a little harder now than it had been before, but he managed.
Sherlock's hands gripped at his shoulders and he blinked down at his brother before he beamed, as though he wasn't sure how they had got here, but he liked it. "Biscuit?"
"Yes, Sherlock, biscuits," Mycroft said with a sigh. Between the two of them, they were just tall enough for Sherlock to be able to reach the jar of biscuits.
They were scolded later, but it was worth it.
It was dark in the room when Mycroft opened the door, but that didn't stop him from creeping inside. He gently shut the door behind him and set his bag down on the floor. He looked at the lump on the bed and shook his head a little, making sure to wipe the fond smile off his face before he spoke.
"I know you're there, Sherlock."
"If we leave now, Mummy will never have to know that you were late."
"I don't wanna go."
Mycroft sat down on the edge of the bed and tugged at the sheets until they slid free of Sherlock's grip. As he'd been expecting, his baby brother's face was tear-stained, eyes red and swollen and upper lip shiny with mucous, but that made it no easier to see. He looked down at Sherlock and waited, not saying a word, until Sherlock gave in with a cracked sob.
"I hate school," he said. "Everyone teases me. The other kids think I'm weird."
There were lots of platitudes Mycroft could have said, but he knew all of them would have rung false. So he sighed and reached down to stroke Sherlock's messy hair. "I know."
"I hate school and I hate them and I hate -"
"You're smarter than them," Mycroft said, knowing that if he let his brother continue the list of things that he hated, they would be here for a while. "They're just jealous of you."
"Yes. And I'll tell you a secret. I was teased, too."
"You?" Sherlock sounded thoroughly confused. "But... you're amazing."
Mycroft preened a little. "If you go to school today, we can work on the next step of our experiment when we get home. And Mummy doesn't have to know. I'll write you a letter to give to your teacher."
Sherlock pouted but nodded. "Will you carry me?"
"Okay." Mycroft got up and reached down, scooping Sherlock up into his arms before his little brother could change his mind. Thin arms closed securely around his neck and then Sherlock was sniffing and rubbing his face up and down Mycroft's shoulder. Knowing he'd have to change now, Mycroft made a disgusted face and gave up all hope of making it to his first class.
Definitely going to be late.
It was nearly two in the morning by the time Mycroft got home. His studies were growing harder and more complicated, and that meant spending more time at the library than ever. He was tired and hungry, and when he saw that the telly in the sitting room was on, he had to bite back a groan. He was not in the mood for a conversation with his parents, especially not when he knew it would only result in another argument about how much he was studying.
But much to his surprise, the figure sprawled on the sofa was not his mummy or dad.
It was Sherlock.
He was on his back, hands thrown carelessly above his head, one leg falling off the sofa. After an unexpected growth spurt, he was still figuring out how to look like a boy and not a young buck that was just learning to walk. Even awake, he often lost track of his limbs.
"Oh, Sherlock," Mycroft murmured, shaking his head. He clicked the telly off, plunging the room into darkness.
Sherlock stirred a little but didn't open his eyes, and Mycroft just barely kept himself from rolling his eyes. Even if he was awake, he knew Sherlock wouldn't admit to it. He was stubborn like that.
Rather than waste time arguing, he bent and slid his arms under Sherlock's back and knees, lifting him with a grunt. Sherlock murmured sleepily at the change in position and curled into him. Mycroft huffed out a soft laugh and turned, heading for the stairs.
"Sherlock, open the damn door!"
For once, Mycroft would've given anything to have heard a smart remark from his baby brother. Instead, he pressed his ear to the door and heard nothing.
"Shall I call for help, sir?"
"Yes, yes." He straightened up, his heart beating alarmingly fast, and slammed his shoulder against the door. Anthea gasped behind him, but he ignored her and did it again. It took two more solid blows before the door shattered.
He burst into the flat, frantically scanning the room. It was a bloody mess, decrepit and filthy, the sort of place that wasn't fit for a rat much less a person.
Sherlock was lying unconscious on the stinking mattress on the floor, the only piece of 'furniture' in the whole place. Mycroft rushed to him, realizing that his brother's breathing was alarmingly slow. His chest was barely moving, and his skin was paler than the previously white mattress.
By the time help arrived, Sherlock would be dead.
He dropped to one knee, pulling Sherlock into his arms in a way that he hadn't done in years. There was no response, but the way Sherlock's head lolled back like he was already dead as Mycroft stood up made his heart race even faster.
"Get the car," he snarled at Anthea, but she was already running through the door and down the stairs. Mycroft followed, carrying his precious burden, praying he wasn't too late.
"No, you're not," John said mildly.
Sherlock glared. "Traitor."
"I can see for myself that you're not fine, Sherlock," Mycroft said before the flatmates could start bickering like children.
"It's just a scratch," Sherlock argued, even as Mycroft and John exchanged glances.
His broken ankle was clearly more than a 'scratch', no matter how much Sherlock might want to argue.
"A scratch you can't even walk on," John pointed out, just to see the way Sherlock scowled at him. "Besides, I've had enough experience to recognize a broken bone when I see one."
Sherlock grumbled something unintelligible. In spite of his protests, the lines of his face were tight with pain and he was clearly suffering. Mycroft sighed. John couldn't carry Sherlock, not with his bad shoulder, and it would be a little while before anyone could reach them. It had been ages since he'd had to carry Sherlock around, but he supposed that one more time couldn't hurt.
The squawk Sherlock let out when his big brother unceremoniously scooped him up was definitely worth the warning twinge in Mycroft's lower back.
"Mycroft! What are you doing?!"
"Shut up, Sherlock," John commanded, trying and failing at not smirking.
The look on Sherlock's face at that moment was absolutely venomous. He squirmed in Mycroft's arms and Mycroft came close to dropping him, already struggling with carrying that heavy a weight. The shifting jostled Sherlock's foot, and he sucked in a sharp breath as his face went dead white.
"Sherlock?" Mycroft said, worried.
Sherlock cleared his throat before begrudgingly wrapping an arm around Mycroft's neck. His voice was weak when he said, "This is under extreme protest."
"Of course," Mycroft murmured, only just barely keeping himself from rolling his eyes, and let John lead the way back up the hill.