A/N Here's chapter five of this series and I really hope you enjoy it, it's based off of a prompt left in the reviews. I won't be able to write much of anything this coming week because all my time will be occupied entertaining my Italian exchange. Bane of my life. So there, an apology in advance. Hopefully this slightly longer chapter will tide you over until then.
"There's no other love like the love for a brother. There's no other love like the love from a brother." - Terri Guillemets
Sherlock is smiling a lot more than he used to. At first, Mycroft was at a loss to explain his brother's rapid change of heart, but then he finds the half-eaten packet of crisps at the foot of his brother's bed. Sherlock doesn't eat snacks like most other little boys, tells him (and the exasperated faces of their parents) that the activity is boring; you can't talk with your mouth full, you can't use your hands effectively when one of them is shoved into a crisp packet and eating, even a small bar of chocolate or cheap packet of crisps (the ones that only have a handful in them, the majority of the packet filled with air) make Sherlock feel a little sleepy, and slow his though-processes down by a fraction of a second. So Mycroft can only conclude that the packet is not his, and as it is certainly not something that Sherlock would bother to steal, it must have been given to him. People aren't often in the habit of giving his younger brother treats or presents. Many have tried over the years, distant family members bringing him cuddly toys and childish board games for Christmas and various birthdays. Sherlock's look of absolute disgust usually deters them from trying again the following year. Conclusion: someone that his brother hasn't known for very long has performed an act of kindness and given Sherlock the present of the remaining half of their own packet of crisps.
Mycroft forcibly wills himself to smother a small flicker of hope on his chest that his brother may have actually found a friend. He was in no way ignorant of the fact that his eight year old brother should have a small handful of close friends by now; other children that he could play with, laugh with, be with. He was also very aware of the fact that Sherlock wasn't very much like the other boys and girls his own age, and that his attempts at friendship at the past (the most memorable being Sherlock animatedly introducing a small girl his own age to the dead frog that he had scooped up from the middle of the road, for the girl to burst into tears and run away from his brother's rather confused form), had only conditioned him to avoid them at all costs, eventually adapting to prefer his own company, much as Mycroft had learnt to do at his age. There was always that part of him however, that still fervently believed that Sherlock didn't have to end up like him, that there was still hope of finding a similarly morbid and like-minded boy for him to befriend. He didn't want him to be alone.
So Mycroft fights every part of himself that longs to find out who this mysteriously charitable person is. Clearly Sherlock is happy, and even more clearly, he does not want Mycroft to 'shove his fat face into his business' (Sherlock's artful phrasing, not Mycroft's). Two weeks go by and Sherlock is as happy as Mycroft has ever seen him. He talks more to everyone, less about dead animals and interestingly coloured mould, and more about the games he'd discovered he likes to play.
Then one day he returns home from school and his smiles are a little smaller and more brittle, until they eventually disappear completely, at least when his parents aren't around anyway. Mycroft finds him curled up in a small ball on the windowsill of Sherlock's bedroom one evening. He has a book open on his knees (slightly gangly like the rest of him which their mother assures him he will one day grow into), although it's clear enough that he hasn't been reading it. He doesn't react but for one lightning-fast glance, remaining as still as a statue, probably hoping that Mycroft will eventually become bored and wander off. It's almost flattering that his brother thinks them so similar however wrong he may be; Mycroft is anything but impatient. Sherlock's a fast learner though and quickly realises that his silence is ineffective, changing his tactics accordingly.
"Shouldn't you be somewhere else, brother?" Sherlock almost spits the last word. Incredibly vindictive for such a young boy, Mycroft despairs internally.
"The kitchen, perhaps. There is some dessert left after all. We wouldn't want it to go to waste now would we?" He smirked at his own clever twist of phrase.
Mycroft has been confronted with this version of his brother before, and he knew without a shadow of a doubt that he wouldn't get through to him this way. So he left. Time to think.
Mycroft quickly decides that he needs more data in order to help his brother. He can't fix him unless he knows the real root of the problem. So he follows him to school, keeping far enough behind his brother that he should have enough time to duck into a store front should Sherlock peer over his shoulder, yet close enough that he won't lose track of him, even in the early morning crowd of people. Mycroft grows even more anxious over his brother's state-of-mind when he realises that a part of himself had wanted Sherlock to spin round and accuse him of following him all this time, and that ultimately he hadn't been trying very hard to keep hidden but still Sherlock hadn't noticed anything. He observes as his brother suddenly straightens his posture, chin up, back ram-rod straight. That's when he sees them, a small group of boys standing and laughing with each other next to the sweet shop. There is a slightly taller boy at the back and Mycroft immediately targets him as the source of his brother's initial happiness, and then his shattered mimicry of it afterwards. The boy's almost blindingly bright blond hair is the exact shade to match the hair or two that he'd found stubbornly clinging to a couple of Sherlock's books and blazer. Mycroft hates him a little. Said boy raises his head, his eyes catching Sherlock's, and it's only a matter of seconds for the other boys around him to follow his gaze to Sherlock, who had resolutely refused to lower his own piercing stare.
Then the mindless name-calling began. Mycroft watched as his brother rolled his eyes and continued walking up the road, ignoring the words much as Mycroft was, tuning them out until it became a stream of nonsense. But then Mycroft noticed Sherlock's slight miss-step and replayed the last couple of seconds worth of gratuitous heckling in his mind and had to take a step back himself as he heard the last few echoes of "freak" resound in his head. Mycroft's gaze hardened. He knows it would be pointless to intervene whilst his brother was still in ear-shot, announcing himself would do nothing but shame Sherlock and only furthering the distance which has been steadily growing between them these past few days. So he waits until his brother has turned the corner before making his way over to the huddle of snickering boys. He listens to their mindless, heartless chatter and learns that the blond boy's name is Peter and that his voice matches perfectly to the echo still ringing in Mycroft's ears.
They quiet as he draws close, squinting at him in the early morning sun, unconsciously widening their stance as he approaches.
"What do you-"
"Hello, Peter," Mycroft interrupts the dark-haired, rather grubby boy at his left, focusing solely on the blond boy in front of him.
"How do you know my name?"
"Irrelevant. How long have you known Sherlock Holmes?"
The group seem to smirk as one.
"Couple of weeks, met him when I moved here. Why?"
The time-frame adds up and quietens any lingering doubt that Mycroft had that this was the boy who hurt his brother.
"I see. What do you want to be, Peter?"
"What? Why'd you want to know-"
"Let me clarify. What kind of job do you want in the future," Mycroft glances at the name tag on the boy's satchel, "Peter Hammond?"
The boys visibly startled, though a couple of them tried to hide it behind suspicious eyes and dirty looks. Both of which Mycroft was painfully used to by now. He sighed as he realised the boy wasn't going to be particularly forthcoming about his answer.
"Answer and I'll walk away. Answer honestly and you'll never have to see my face again."
Peter glanced at the boy next to him, who only huffed impatiently and tipped his head towards Mycroft.
"A doctor, satisfied? Now clear off."
Mycroft inclined his head, and did exactly that.
Peter never did see Mycroft's face again after that.
He did however, feel the aftershock of Mycroft's rage.
It's not until quite a few years later when Sherlock is scanning the headlines of the paper resting in his lap, that he reads of one Peter Hammond being forced out of medical school for allegedly cheating on one of his papers. He pauses for a moment, letting the words sink in and find a permanent place in his mind palace, and realises for the first time quite how far his brother was willing to go on his behalf. He allowed himself a snort of amusement, making a note to invite his older brother for a long-overdue verbal sparring session later that week.