A/N: I apologise deeply for my tardiness, and I also apologise for the amount of fluff in this bit, which wasn't actually what I had in mind for the next in the series but I've been having a bit of a hard time of life recently so yeah, fluff. This is set when they were younger, obviously, so the series is officially not in chronological order!
Beta-ed by wordonawing, you took your time love but oh well, love you anyway.
There were four of them. They caught up with him on the lane just past the library, sufficiently far away from both the school and any other buildings, including his house, that no one would hear them.
He was pushed in a puddle and onto the path and his knee got cut and they rubbed soil on his face, but he mostly mourned for his books. His bookbag wasn't waterproof and he just knew that all the work inside would be ruined. That was probably the point. They didn't like him because he was smarter than they were. Than everyone else at the school, actually.
Which was part of the reason why he didn't have any friends.
He didn't mind though. His books were his friends. And Sherlock and Mycroft. But they didn't count. Because they were his brothers and they were supposed to like him. Though they probably didn't like him anyway.
"You're late, midget." Sherlock's voice echoed down from above.
Q sniffled slightly and rubbed a hand over his nose. In a bedroom on the second floor, a pair of eyebrows furrowed. There was a creak as Sherlock scrambled out of his room to stand at the top of the stairs, gazing down at his little brother.
Mycroft peered over the banister, eyes widening minutely when he saw the youngest member of their family, then growing cold as he fully took in the state of his sibling. In the silence, a drop of muddy water dripped off Q's bookbag.
"How many were there, Q?"
"Don't k-know what you m-mean." His eyes shifted restlessly around the entrance hall. He knew his brothers wouldn't believe him, but perhaps if he denied it they would lose interest and just leave him alone.
"How many." Q flinched. His oldest brother wasn't even phrasing that as a question.
"I see." He heard footsteps, and risked a glance upwards. Sherlock was standing on the top step, eyes flicking over his little brother's body, cataloguing. And Mycroft, Mycroft was…coming down the stairs towards him?
Q watched with wide eyes as his eldest brother, his absolutely spotless eldest brother, who refused to touch the piano without wiping the keys down first (or rather, getting someone else to wipe them down for him), was kneeling on the floor in front of him?
"Come on, let's get you cleaned up."
Q gave him a wide-eyed look. Mycroft hated getting his clothes dirty! But his brother was nodding, and his back was there and Q's knees were sore so he dropped his bag and scrambled up.
It was the end of the school day, and Q was happy. Why wouldn't he be happy? Just then, he had lots of reasons to be happy. There had been carrot sticks at breaktime and he got full marks on his numeracy test and his teachers were really nice about him not being able to give in his homework because the sheet got wet, and his knees weren't even sore because Sherlock had mixed some of the ointments so that they wouldn't sting and Mycroft had found Winnie the Pooh plasters. They had different characters but Q had chosen Tigger because he was his favourite, and then Rabbit and Owl because they reminded him of Mycroft and Sherlock.
But when he got into the playground he paused. What if those boys were there again? They were probably stupid enough to do the same thing twice in a row (which Sherlock, of course, had told him never to do). There were no other ways for him to get home and he couldn't wait for them to get bored and leave because it was getting dark and he was meant to be home before five anyway. He licked his lips nervously. What to do?
He was still contemplating the problem when he heard it.
"Where is he? We can't have missed him, the gate's right in front of us."
"He's probably just talking to the teacher, he'll be here soon."
"Well he's clearly not talking to the teacher, Mycroft, because that's his teacher over there. Why is he taking so long? I never took this long to get out of school!"
"Sherlock, will you please just be quiet."
His older brothers were standing by the gate, both scowling moodily. Or rather, Sherlock was scowling moodily, Mycroft would never so something so undignified. Q beamed. His brothers were here. Here! At his school! The school that Sherlock had pledged he would never return to because he hated it so much! He bounded up to them.
"Hello, Q. Finally out?" Mycroft was smiling. It wasn't big, but Q could definitely see it.
"Took you long enough." The smile grew slightly sharper. Uh oh, not a good sign. Just when he thought his brothers were about to start arguing, they exchanged a glance and Sherlock stepped forward.
"Come along, Q." He blinked, surprised. Usually that would be Mycroft's next line. Ah well. He grabbed Sherlock's hand. It was only when they had passed the gate that Q realised his eldest brother was not with them. He glanced around, puzzled.
"Mycroft's gone to talk to some people."
"Who needed to be talked to."
"Oh…" Not surprisingly, this hadn't exactly cured Q's confusion, which Sherlock seemed to sense.
"So, what asinine, banal activity did school bring you today?"
"We had carrot sticks at breaktime! You know, the ones you buy from supermarkets that are full of chemicals so they go mouldy about a day after you open the bag, even if you put them in the fridge? But it was okay because they open two bags and everyone gets some and if you stay a little longer before you go out into the playground then you can grab one extra, and Miss Rogers gave me another because I got full marks on my test and she said it couldn't hurt, and…"
Mycroft joined them about fifteen minutes later, and the boys didn't bother him again.
Thank you so much to everyone who has read, reviewed, favourited and followed this story so far, I love you all.