Mycroft Holmes threw down his pen and puts his head in his hands. He'd been staring at his Latin homework for the last ten minutes, unable to put pen to paper and produce anything constructive. The sound of pots and pans being lifted, cutlery banging about and chairs scraping along the floor have been coming through the floorboards for a ridiculous amount of time now, and he'd had quite enough of it.
He put his dressing gown on, and headed for the door with his best I'm-trying-to-be-top-of-my-class-and-I-can't-do-it-with-all-this-incessant-noise face on. His mother and father were both out at some sort of event, and usually Mycroft would have been invited along too, but he was just coming up on the start of his end of year exams at Harrow. His father had been insistent that he was not to spend his time doing anything other than what he described as 'educationally beneficial'. As standing in a posh hall in his best dinner jacket eating vol-au-vents didn't fall under this category, Mycroft had found himself in his bedroom, his head buried in volumes of language, history and science textbooks whilst his three year old brother Sherlock was allowed to run about the house causing chaos.
"At least he's being creative," his mother said, after Sherlock had used pondweed to line the inside of the fridge for fear of the chicken livers getting 'too cold'. And after the time he attempted to see how many custard creams a dog could eat before it was sick. Or that fateful day he filled the oven full of coal because someone had told him coal plus heat equals diamonds.
"Do you think maybe he could be creative somewhere else?" Mycroft had pleaded.
"Come now, Mycroft. You know what he's like. He'll do what he wants and there's no stopping him," Mrs Holmes said, before adding fondly, "and as much as you don't want to admit it, I know you love that about him. Imagine how boring a house this would be if we didn't have your little brother running about doing his experiments."
Still, Mycroft had the feeling that little Sherlock had seized the opportunity of a free house (ignoring big brother and babysitter Mycroft) to go about creating some sort of military base in the kitchen, ready for full-scale chemical warfare.
He pushed the door of the kitchen open.
Mother and father were going to be furious.
It appeared Sherlock had managed to empty every cupboard, standing on chairs to reach the high ones, pulling out the contents of each one until he found what he was looking for. He had his back to the door, standing on a chair by the cooker. What looked like (and probably was) the entire Holmes preserve collection was scattered about the countertops; the fruity perfumes of marmalades and jams filling the air. Sherlock was stirring the contents of a large pan, his cheeks red from the heat and the tips of his thick black curly hair just starting to stick to his face.
Mycroft didn't bother to announce his presence in the room. He just started shouting.
"What the HELL do you think you're doing Sherlock?"
Sherlock jumped out of his skin, dropping the wooden stirring spoon. His feet, clad only in woolly socks, slipped on the varnished wood of the chair he was standing on, and as he lost his balance one of his little hands reached out to the first thing he could grab to keep his balance. Unfortunately, his fingers found the scalding hot metal of the pan on the hob and he yelped with pain, before falling backwards off the chair and onto the sticky kitchen floor.
Mycroft stood motionless in the doorway, unsure of what to do. The wailing of his little brother snapped him into action and he ran over to him. He turned the hob off, and bent down to where Sherlock was bawling his eyes out in a heap on the floor. He was clutching his burnt hand close to his chest.
"Come here," he said softly, "come on Sherlock, let me see."
Sherlock took some shaky breaths and sat up, offering Mycroft his hand. His fingers were red, and sore, as he discovered when he gently prodded one and fresh tears rolled from Sherlock's eyes.
"Up to the sink, quickly," he ordered, "put them under the cold tap."
He lifted Sherlock from behind, his arms wrapped around his little brother's chest. He twisted the cold tap and Sherlock put his hand under the flow of water. Mycroft felt him relax a little in his grip. His arms started to ache, so he sat Sherlock on top of the draining board with instruction to keep his fingers under the tap and not to move, do you understand?
Sherlock nodded sadly, his lips in a pout. His face was snail-trailed with tears and snot.
Mycroft left the kitchen to go to the medical cupboard. To be honest, he didn't really know what he was looking for, so he grabbed some antiseptic cream and a bandage and went back into the kitchen.
"Sit on the chair, Sherlock," Mycroft said and Sherlock dutifully slipped off the draining board and sat cross-legged on the chair so that Mycroft could kneel in front of him and dry his hand carefully in a tea towel. "What were you even doing? Why all the jam and marmalade?"
Sherlock looked down and mumbled under his breath, "expennyment."
"Well it wasn't a very good one, was it? Look at the mess you've made!" Mycroft said, dabbing antiseptic cream on Sherlock's fingers. Sherlock suddenly looked dangerously close to tears again so Mycroft asked softly, "what were you making?"
"Jmmld," Sherlock whispered to the floor.
"A mix of jam and marmalade?" asked Mycroft, now wrapping Sherlock's hand in the bandage. Sherlock nodded. "Why?"
"For good luck," his little brother answered.
"What do you mean 'good luck'? I thought we didn't believe in spells and potions," Mycroft said, tying the bandage off. Sherlock prodded it and dropped his hands to his lap. "Eh, Sherlock?"
"Good luck for you," Sherlock said quietly, looking up into Mycroft's eyes, "for you exams."
"Oh…" Mycroft realised suddenly.
Sherlock knew that Mycroft loved both jam and marmalade. Every morning he'd have two slices of toast, one spread thickly with jam and one with marmalade, because he could never choose between them. Mycroft understood at once that what Sherlock had been attempting to do was create one big pot of both mixed together, jarmalade, so he wouldn't have to choose. It would be one less thing to worry about come exams.
He went and took a teaspoon from the large pile of cutlery scattered on the kitchen table, and took it over to the big pan on the hob. The contents of the pan didn't look all that appealing; a large brown sticky lake of sugar that smelt of blackberries, oranges and burning. He dipped the teaspoon in and took a small amount back over to where Sherlock sat watching him.
He put it in his mouth. It tasted foul.
"Sherlock," he said, "this is delicious."
He let it pass across his tongue, trying not to gag.
"I mean this is really, seriously superb."
"Do you know what? I feel more confident already."
Sherlock was no longer looking sad. He was absolutely beaming at his older brother. He was ecstatic that Mycroft liked his present. He stood up on the chair and grabbed him in a tight hug. Mycroft hugged him back, ruffling his dark curls.
"Have more," Sherlock said, pulling away.
"Well, first things first, someone has to clean up this kitchen before mother and father get home," Mycroft said, "and since you've hurt your hand making me such a lovely good luck present, I think I should be the one to do that before I allow myself some more, don't you?"
It took Mycroft a good hour and a half to clear the kitchen, putting all the pots, pans and cutlery back, wiping down the sticky surfaces, mopping the floor, and making sure it looked exactly the way it did when mother and father left. All the jars of jam and marmalade were returned to their place in the cupboard (the ones with significantly less inside them were put at the back). All the while Sherlock sat patiently, flicking through a book on medieval history that Mycroft had given him to stop him picking at his bandage. All that was left was the pan of jarmalade on the hob. Mycroft had not the foggiest idea what to do with it.
It was late, and Sherlock's eyes were getting heavy. Mycroft put a piece of bread under the grill and poured a glass of milk. When his toast was done, he scraped as thin a layer of jarmalade as he could get away with on the bread.
"Sherlock, come on, I'll read that to you in bed," Mycroft said, offering a dozy Sherlock his hand. He put the toast, milk and book on a small tray in one hand and led his little brother up the stairs to his bedroom with the other.
Sherlock clambered under the covers, and drank the milk. Mycroft read a couple of pages on jousting to him, before looking up to see that Sherlock was absolutely fast asleep.
Mycroft put the book down on Sherlock's bedside table. He picked up the toast. He didn't really have to eat it. Sherlock was sound asleep and wouldn't know any different, but he looked down and saw his brother's poor bandaged hand and before he knew it, he was washing the taste of burnt jarmalade from his mouth with his own glass of milk, tucked up in his own bed.
The Latin homework, by the way, was never completed.