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Winter's Child

Chapter Text

Mycroft Holmes had always been a cold baby. When he was first born the doctors had kept him in observation for two anxious weeks while Mr and Mrs Holmes watched on, afraid for his circulation.

Nurses had prodded him with stethoscopes, monitored his heartbeat, even placed gently heated pads under his clammy stomach to try and raise his temperature. Mycroft had blinked at them all confusedly, and cried when the heat of the pads was pressed against his bare skin.

The medical staff could not understand how each limb still appeared perfectly healthy when his skin was cold as ice. Eventually, after weeks of blood tests and monitoring, Mycroft was wrapped up warmly in blankets and sent home with his parents.

Mr Holmes bled all the radiators in the house, keeping the heating on all week. Mycroft’s chubby hands, when his parents cooed at him, still retained their wintery chill.
“Oh, he’s perfect the way he is,” Mrs Holmes declared, as she and he husband stood sweating in the nursery. It had become clear, after several days of rubbing Mycroft’s arms and legs and wrapping him in warm winter blankets, that the claustrophobic heat seemed to only irritate the child.

Mrs Holmes stroked a finger soothingly down Mycroft’s face, feeling the cool smoothness of his skin. “If he wants to be cold, then we’ll let him. Sometimes you just have to trust nature.”

And so they did. When he was gurgling, sleeping or staring confusedly at his father’s attempts at funny faces, Mycroft’s body temperature was even close to normal. It was when he was hungry, crying or teething that his parents felt the chill through their layers of clothing.

“Goodness, the little mite is freezing,” Mycroft’s grandmother said, after visiting the child for the first time. She held Mycroft gingerly, his pink little hands reaching out to touch her face. “Get me a blanket, Violet, the little one has quite the chill.”

His parents came to accept that everyone that held their baby inevitably asked for blankets, and – in one memorably instance – gloves.

***

The first time something unusual happened, Mycroft was three years old. His skin was pale and a mop of ginger hair had begun to grow in, much to his mother and father’s delight.

“He takes after his father,” Mr Holmes said proudly, bouncing Mycroft on his knee. “He’ll get the freckles to match before long, just you wait.”

Mycroft grinned up into the man’s face, enjoying the attention. He had grown used to people avoiding his touch now, especially the other children and teachers at the day nursery. It felt good to have his parents still stroke fingers over his cheeks, kiss his head before he fell asleep or cuddle him in the mornings.

“What do freckles do,” he asked, voice breaking slightly as he was bounced. Mr Holmes laughed quietly, his wife still pottering around the kitchen.

“They’re beauty spots,” his father said, bringing Mycroft’s hand up to touch the small amount of freckles he had on his own face. “Not everyone has them but –”

The smoke alarm went off in the hall, thin trails of smoke drifting up from the toaster.

Mrs Holmes muttered about cheap appliances and went to turn off the alarm, opening a window to dissipate the smoke. Mr Holmes scooped Mycroft up to balance him on his hip and moved over to unplug the toaster. As his fingers wrestled to get the plug out of the wall, he saw Mycroft leaning down to reach for the toast.

“No, Mycroft –”

“Oww!”

Before Mr Holmes could yank the boy’s hands out from between the burning slats, the small white toaster had turned unexpectedly blue. He froze in shock, holding Mycroft close to his body. The opaque surface of the toaster had turned shiny, and a thin layer of what looked like ice had formed over the opening, the buttons, and even some of the wire.

Mycroft was crying, a pink burn mark on his pale hand where he had touched the hot metal. When his wet face pressed against his father’s neck, Mr Holmes felt an unmistakable chill as if his son had been playing in snow. Swallowing down his shock, he went to run Mycroft’s hand under the tap, his thoughts racing.

***

After the incident with the toaster, things began to happen more regularly. Encouraged to blow on his food before eating, Mycroft would accidentally send a layer of frost over the entire plate. Rolling over in his sleep caused the duvet cover to harden into becoming solid, before thawing out again in the morning. Cups that Mycroft held occasionally shattered. The incidents were small, but growing in number.

At a loss for to was happening, Mr and Mrs Holmes withdrew Mycroft from nursery school. They touched him more often now, attempting to accustom him to restraining his powers around people.

There had been an occasion, when Mycroft’s last baby teeth were pushing through, that he had given his mother frostbite as she stroked his back comfortingly. Mycroft’s despair at her pain, and the subsequent crying fit which had lasted three days, convinced his parents conclusively that their boy was not yet in control of his gift. After her fingers had been bandaged (thankfully able to be saved by medical intervention) Mrs Holmes kept a more protective eye over her son.

“We can’t pretend this is normal,” Mr Holmes said one night, as he and his wife lay awake in bed. Mycroft had cast a layer of ice over his entire bedroom floor that day, and could be heard laughing as he slid across it all afternoon.

Mrs Holmes sighed, not knowing what to say. They had agreed to keep the situation a secret, refusing to take Mycroft back to the hospital for tests. So he was different, why should it matter? She refused to think about his life after childhood, when he would no longer be under their protection. Deep down, she knew that other people felt uneasy around her son.

“This is who he is, my darling,” she said, reaching out under the covers to find her husband’s hand in the dark. The fingers of her other hand still burned occasionally from Mycroft’s touch. “We cannot prevent it, and we cannot ignore it. Perhaps if he practises, if we attempt to teach him…”

“And how exactly do we teach him something like this? Are we to be building snowmen in the halls, Violet? Making igloos in the living room? Move to the North Pole?” She felt him heave a sigh, more upset than he was letting on. “I just…I want him to be able to live a normal life. One where he doesn’t have to feel different, every single second of every damn day.”

She squeezed his fingers gently, unwilling to admit she had similar thoughts.

“He doesn’t feel different, dear. He feels loved.” As long as she had strength in her body and a tongue in her mouth, Mycroft Holmes would feel loved every day of his life. “And perhaps building snowmen isn’t such a bad idea. We have acres of land and no neighbours watching over us. He’s a smart lad, he’ll learn quickly.”

“And then?”

She thought for a few moments, heart heavy. “We teach him to control it. Enough so he can lead a normal life.”

That night, after her husband fell asleep, Mrs Holmes dreamt of the lake she had fallen into as a child, and of the icy water covering her face. She wondered if that was how Mycroft felt all the time, and woke up crying for the first time in years.

***

It took only until he was four years old for Mycroft Holmes to realise he was different from his parents. Aside from obvious differences of age and experience, he also saw the world in a different light. Numbers his mother had to write down to remember were already in his head, tucked away. His father’s inability to remember where he had left things was also something Mycroft never suffered of.

If he read a book, he remembered it forever. His father’s expression, when Mycroft patiently explained he had taught himself to read, was almost funny.

“My smart little man,” Mummy would call him, as they played guess-the-shopping and he could correctly identify all of the items, based on the shape of the bags. “I don’t know where you get your brains from, Mycroft, I really don’t. How do you always know so much, hmm?”

But everything is always so obvious, Mycroft wanted to say, but settled for shrugging politely instead.

The second difference was the ice. Having moved on from children’s books before his fifth birthday, Mycroft could not find any evidence in all his reading that other people could produce ice at will. His mother and Father certainly couldn't.

The news on television showed that the rest of England ground to a halt at the winter snow, and people in films were always taking comfort from log-fires and warm houses. His parents, when they went outside, wore thick coats and hats, with gloves covering each individual finger. When he went outside, even in the coldest moths of the year, he could wonder about in loose summer clothes impervious to chill.

Sometimes, he wondered what it must be like to feel so sensitive to cold. The snow always felt merely cool on his skin, and wind had no temperature at all.

Every day, without fail, his father would take him into the garden, watching and guiding him into making snowmen, ice sculptures, small patches of hard ice. It came so easily, all of it, that by the time he was five it was almost second nature.

“This time I want a snowman as tall as I am, Mycroft,” Father would say, and then watch carefully as Mycroft set about it. The ice and snow seemed to form from his fingers themselves, like a spider producing silk. He had never found any hole or gap that the ice came out of, but it always appeared when he wished it, like flexing a muscle. However, just like a muscle, he was only as good as his training.

Some days when he tried to produce an ice sculpture of Mummy in the garden, all he could create was snow. Likewise, some snowmen refused to melt for days on end, revealed to be tightly compacted balls of ice.

Father never seemed disappointed though, no matter what Mycroft made. Even after five years he and Mrs Holmes still seemed enchanted by his ability, incredulous that their tiny son could produce winter at his touch like no one else alive.

When Mummy and Daddy told him about the new baby, the special bump that nudged at Mummy’s jumper, Mycroft felt nothing but excitement. Finally, he would have a companion, someone he could cuddle without the danger of frostbite. His baby brother or sister wouldn’t shiver like his parents did, and they could spend the whole day making snowmen in the garden or skating on the pond.

Mummy frowned when he mentioned this, watching him bounce with excitement next to her on the sofa.

“You think the little one will have the same abilities as you?” she asked gently, stroking the hair off his face. His skin really was so pale, utterly translucent and smooth.
“Of course!” Mycroft grinned, already planning all the winter adventures he would have with his new sibling. “The conditions are exactly the same! You and Father made me, so now you can make another version of me – only a different one for me to play with!”

He jumped off the sofa with a laugh, throwing his hands into the air triumphantly. Mrs Holmes felt a spike of sadness settle in her as snow drifted down from the ceiling.

***

It became clear, after Sherlock was born, that he and Mycroft were not the same.

Where Mycroft’s skin was white as snow, Sherlock’s was pink and ruddy, a purple vein standing out on his forehead as he screamed. He felt warm to the touch. Mycroft had sagged against his father’s side when he was allowed to stroke a fingertip over the baby’s leg; certain he would feel his own chill echoed back at him. The chubby skin under his fingers was warm and soft, and Sherlock pulled away from his cold hand immediately, letting out a piercing shriek.

“He hates me,” Mycroft had mumbled, feeling tears burning his eyes.

Father had taken Mycroft to one side and wrapped his hands up in thin gloves, giving him a comforting pat on the head. He was then told, sternly, that he was not touch Sherlock without them on. It was fine to touch Mummy and Daddy, but Sherlock was still very delicate. Normal little babies needed to be kept warm and comfortable while they were growing.

Full of tears, Mycroft tore the gloves off and ran to his room. He hated normal babies, and he hated Sherlock.

For the first two months that the house was full of screaming, Mycroft tried to pretend that Sherlock did not exist. He practised making snow angles in the garden, no longer allowed to chill whole rooms of the house or make frosted patterns on the windows. Sometimes his father would still join him, looking tired and worn.

“You were such an easy baby, Mycroft,” he would say, and Mycroft would feel a rush of pride at being well behaved. Sherlock kept everyone up nearly every night, and both Mr and Mrs Holmes looked constantly tired with the antics. On days like this, where the man’s eyes were ringed with dark shadows, Mycroft put extra effort into making his father smile with silly sculptures.

“You know that you don’t have to stay away from him, don’t you?” asked Mr Holmes, after another month went by and Mycroft continued to leave any room which Sherlock was brought into. “You won’t harm your baby brother.”

Mycroft shrugged, brushing the comment off.

“I’m serious Mycroft. I gave you the gloves as a precaution, because you’re not used to being around other children. The incident with Mummy’s fingers…”

Mycroft didn’t need the reminder. Seeing the blackened skin still caused the occasional nightmare.

“…that was just an accident, when you were still a baby yourself. There’s no need to be worried around Sherlock.”

“But what if I…” The words didn’t want to be formed. That morning when he had woken up, the whole room had been sparkling with frost which he hadn’t intended to conjure. His pyjamas had been frozen solid onto his body. “What if I do something bad? What if it happens when I don’t mean it too?” The thought of hurting Sherlock, of turning his brother’s pink skin blue…it made Mycroft want to hide away forever. Hating the little screaming bundle was much easier than caring about his small brother.

Mr Holmes reached out a hand and gripped his son’s shoulder tightly.

“I’ll be there the whole time,” he said, his breath fogging into cold mist between them. “Your mother and I will never let anything happen to either of you. Do you believe me?”

Still not convinced, Mycroft nodded anyway.

“Let’s go in now. I think it’s about time the two of you properly met.”

***

Sherlock was bigger than Mycroft remembered. He forced himself to look at the tiny body which was nestled tight against his mother’s chest, feeling his heart pound faster at how fragile his baby brother was. His feet were covered in knitted blue booties, his body wrapped up in a warm-looking jumpsuit. The idea of bringing his cold presence to the warm scene made Mycroft take a quick step back, wanting to flee to his room.

“Not so fast young man,” Mr Holmes said, steering Mycroft closer. Mummy smiled welcomingly, tilting Sherlock up so he appeared to be standing, supported by her strong hands.

Mycroft fumbled for something to say, feeling incredibly shy in front of his adult audience. “Hello, Sherlock,” he whispered, staring at the floor. Risking a glance up, he saw grey eyes staring at him in a deep frown.

“He looks like he’s really concentrating on you, dear,” Mummy said with a laugh, jiggling Sherlock up and down. Mycroft thought it was more likely that the baby was judging him.

“What do I say to a baby?” he asked his father, still feeling out of place. Mr Holmes looked at him comfortingly.

“You don’t have to say anything at all, if you don’t want to. You can just stand and look at him, or if you want to hold him I could go and fetch the gloves…”

Mycroft shook his head quickly, not wanting to hold Sherlock. “No, no, not yet. But…maybe I could…” he lifted a finger to get Sherlock’s full attention before forming a perfect snowflake on the tip. The child’s eyes widened, and for a second Mycroft was sure he was going to start howling again.

“He looks quite confused,” Mummy said, smiling at Mycroft encouragingly. “Can you make another, darling?”

Mycroft raised both hands, palms open, and created a soft flake of snow on each fingertip. Something tight inside him seemed to unwind as Sherlock’s face lost its scowl, his huge grey eyes fixed on his brother’s hands. Mycroft drew his long fingers in to create a fist and then opened them again to reveal a snowball, fully formed and perfectly round. He laughed, startled, when chubby fingers reached out for it demandingly.

“It would seem you have a fan,” said Mummy, softly. “Perhaps you’d like to hold him now, give your dear old mother a break?”

Mycroft hesitated, feeling his hands suddenly itching with cold. Sherlock was too perfect, too breakable, to be touched by him. He tried not to notice his mother’s crestfallen expression when Mycroft shook his head.

“I’ll take a turn,” Mr Holmes said quickly, pulling the baby onto his lap. “Just keep doing what you’re doing, Mycroft, this is the quietest I’ve ever seen him.”

Happy to be in front of Sherlock rather than holding him, Mycroft allowed himself a small smile. He twisted his hands in small movements, feeling the air moulding and bending beneath his touch. He could still only shape basic things, but his father said his abilities were growing stronger. Moving his hands just so, he tentatively produced a solid cube of ice, completely transparent and smoking slightly from its freezing temperature.

Sherlock gurgled in pure delight and Mycroft felt his throat constrict. No one had ever shown him so much instant adoration as his younger brother, Sherlock. Sat in their living room conjuring soft swirling patterns of snow, Mycroft decided he was going to be the best big brother ever.

Chapter Text

“Mycroft, you’re doing it wrong again.”

Mycroft pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to hold on to his patience. Sherlock was sitting in the middle of the wide sitting room at the back of the house, the one mother and father had gifted him as being his own space. His declarations of pirate savagery and bellowed approval of imaginary rum were thoroughly distracting Mycroft from his work.

It wasn’t a hard textbook per say, but Sherlock’s constant interruptions made it difficult to focus on the words. As had been the case for several weeks, his younger brother was in full pirate regalia, scowling at Mycroft with the half of his face which was not hidden behind an eye patch. Mycroft thought it highly likely that his brother would never grow out of it, and be buried as an old man in his bandanna.

“Sherlock, either be quiet or leave. Some of us are working.”

“Some of us are boring.”

Sherlock swished around the room at the assertion, his cape billowing out majestically. At Mycroft’s stoic insistence that pirates didn’t usually wear capes, Sherlock had given his brother over an hour of backstory into all the uses of the fabric. By the end of the lecture, Mycroft knew more than he ever wanted to know about how to strangle smugglers humanely or cradle injured seabirds to safety.

“I know it’s a lot to ask, Mycroft,” Sherlock snapped sarcastically, and Mycroft shut his book with a sigh, resigned to the interruption. “But if you could just provide your one small contribution, that would be swell. Seeing as how you never join in, and everything.”

“You always cast me as the Pirate Queen,” Mycroft said, for the hundredth time. “And, as I have previously expressed, I am not raiding Mummy’s wardrobe to satisfy your whims. If I could play another character –”

“Or course not. I’m the Pirate King.”

“Then perhaps I could play the Ice King.”

Sherlock’s nose scrunched up in distaste. “No. But I suppose you could be the Ice Queen, if you wanted.”

Mycroft rolled his eyes, not wanting to hear the logic behind that one.

“Do the magic, brother.”

“You’ll fall over,” Mycroft told him, playing out the argument they always had.

“Pirates have perfect balance. Now, do it. Come on, Ice Queen.”

Mycroft heaved himself out of his armchair, affecting a put-upon sigh. In truth he always felt satisfied watching Sherlock’s fascination with his gift. As they had grown older their parents had begun to touch Mycroft less, rationalising that an eleven year old boy surely didn’t want his mother and father constantly hanging off him. Mycroft had laughed and agreed when they mentioned it, but then gone upstairs to bury himself in a snowdrift.

“Mycroft,” Sherlock growled, annoyed at the delay.

Mycroft pointed the toes of his bare foot and tapped daintily at the hard-wood floor. A beautiful pattern of frosted ice spread out a couple of feet, and Sherlock’s whine was predictable. Before his brother could begin battering him with his plastic sword, Mycroft brought his whole foot down in a sharp stomp, and watched ice rush into every corner of the room.

Sherlock allowed a small laugh to escape him as his feet slid instantly apart, but quickly covered it with a pirate-growl.

Mycroft only allowed himself to snigger once, when Sherlock toppled over while waving his sword at the curtains. Mycroft’s character was relegated to simply being ‘Winter’ after that, and was allowed to read his book peacefully in the corner. The expectations of Winter were to conjure the occasional swirling flurries of snow to battle through, or cracks in the ice to jump over. Mycroft watched covertly from over the top of his book, and found he didn’t mind at all.

***

Dinners were usually tense affairs in the Holmes household. Mycroft had long since accepted that since learning to speak, nothing would stop Sherlock saying exactly what he thought. Several of the household staff had left as a result of it, unnerved by the five year old.

“Why have you fallen out with the butcher, Mummy?” Sherlock asked, after the dinnertime talk had fallen into a short lull. He ignored most of the food on his plate, pushing it around idly with his fork. Occasionally he would throw a pea at Mycroft, who could flick a hard hailstone back in retribution.

“Why do you ask that, darling?” Mummy said, pretending she did not see most of Sherlock’s peas collecting around the opposite end of the table. Sherlock beamed, ecstatic to be asked.

“Because the meat has changed from the one we normally get on a Sunday. It’s usually thick-sliced whereas this is thin, and this tastes saltier. It tastes cheaper too, less high quality, which we have no reason to switch to because we’re still rich. So, you fell out with the local meat provider and went to the nearest supermarket instead. And because you’re not used to choosing from there, you just picked one at random. Is that right?”

Mummy and Daddy looked at each other covertly, and Mummy showed a small thin smile. “No deductions at the table, sweetheart,” she said, the words sounding strained.

“But was I right though?” Sherlock asked, whole body coiled with expectation.

Mycroft focused on chewing his food in measured bites, not looking at his mother’s end of the table. Her relationship to the butcher was not something he wished to dwell on, and especially not with Sherlock’s keen eyes on him.

Sherlock threw a spoonful of mash potato at Mycroft angrily, frustrated at being ignored. Mycroft wiped the food off his chin with no outward emotion, despite feeling faintly sick at the sludgy feeling beneath his fingers.

“Sherlock Holmes you do not throw food at your family!”

“He was ignoring me!”

“With good reason! We do not get people’s attention by throwing things!”

Mycroft thought that father had the right approach. The man had continued eating, leaving the argument to peter out of its own accord. Mycroft helped himself to another cut of the inferior meat, ignoring how full his stomach already was.

“Did I get it right, though? Mycroft? Did I do it right?”

The meat tasted dry and too salty. His fingers were beginning to itch unpleasantly, the way they sometimes had before Sherlock was born. Ice was forming under his clammy palms, closing the gap between his skin and the cutlery.

Mycroft set down his knife and fork carefully, breathing in deep breaths. He could sense Sherlock casting about for something else to throw, and Mummy girding her loins to chastise him. The house was always a second away from conflict, and had been since Sherlock had come screaming into their lives five years ago. Or perhaps it would have always been this way, Mycroft thought bitterly. Perhaps their parents found it difficult, having abnormal sons.

“You worked that one out quite skilfully, brother,” Mycroft said, wishing he could let go off the metal frozen to his hands. He worked on loosening one finger at a time. “Your deductive powers are progressing nicely.”

Teaching Sherlock how to deduce had been a double-edged sword, as all of his time spent around Mycroft was now with intense observing eyes and a volley of questions. Mycroft, why did you miss a belt loop; was it because you’re putting on weight? Mycroft, why does Father stay at the office later on Friday nights?

Mycroft caught his mother’s troubled expression and let go of the cutlery with a dull splintering of ice. The sound was covered by Sherlock’s jubilant crowing.

“Is something wrong, Mummy?” Mycroft asked, in the brief pause that Sherlock drew breath.

Mummy made her smile a little wider, but it seemed to take real effort. She shook her head at him, earrings swishing with the movement. Any possibility of a conversation between them was once again lost under Sherlock’s chatter about the varying texture of the meat. Mycroft sometimes wondered if she knew how many years ago he had realised about the butcher, or if she knew at all. He held her gaze for only a moment longer before looking away.

“ – and so that’s how we know it came from the cow’s upper leg. Probably. Or perhaps the flank, or the back. Without proper experimentation –”

“Sherlock, be quiet and eat your dinner.” It was father’s only contribution to the conversation thus far, but Mycroft could tell it had been an ill-timed one.

Sherlock’s whole face had turned a blotchy shade of pink, and Mycroft recognised the long-standing signs of an impending tantrum. He sent a flick of white snowflakes gliding over the table anxiously, wanting to circumvent the storm. Sherlock did not even appear to see them.

“You always ignore me,” he hissed, young face scowling at Mummy painfully hard. “You never even listen to my deductions. Not ever. You always listen to Mycroft.”

“I listen to you too, sweetheart.”

“You don’t love me.”

Mummy drew in a suffering sigh, and Mycroft slid his hands beneath the table, turning his napkin to solid ice. He could see it playing out in a way the others couldn’t. To Mummy, any declaration of devoted maternal love would fuel the sulking boy, and to Sherlock her lack of instant reassurance would act as confirmation. Father, as usual, would let the scene play out.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Mycroft said loudly, blurting the first thing which came to mind. The words felt heavy in the suddenly quiet dining room.

Sherlock’s nose was running, and Mycroft found himself wishing for the younger boy to swipe his sleeve across his face. Sherlock’s scowl had not abated, but was now fixed on Mycroft with a fierce intensity.

“They only love you because you’re magical,” Sherlock sniffed, words wobbling with the force of not crying or screaming. “Take that away and you’re nothing, just like me.”

Mycroft’s hands were trembling under the table, the cold building in them rapidly. He locked his fingers together resolutely, not allowing the ice to come out. His fingernails dug painfully into his skin, as he smiled coolly at Sherlock.

“I think they would love me rather more if I were power-less, brother mine. I can assure you, your normality has absolutely nothing –”

“Shut up!” Sherlock leapt from his chair and threw his cutlery at the floor. It clattered loudly in the otherwise silent room. “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” Father pushed his chair back and made to intercept Sherlock, but the younger boy ducked around him with ease. “You’re all horrible and I wish you were dead!” Sherlock ran to the door and slammed it as hard as he could, the sound of his footsteps hammering up the stairs.

Mycroft looked mournfully at the rest of his dinner, wishing he could finish it. Eating was always much easier than dealing with Sherlock.

“I’ll go and find him,” he said, letting the now-solid napkin slide delicately off his lap to shatter under the table. Before he could reach the door, Mummy caught his wrist gently. They both shivered at the touch, but for Mycroft it was a comfort. He hadn’t realised how long it had been since his mother had touched him.

“We love you equally,” she said, the words forceful and low.

Mycroft looked at his mother’s delicate fingers, which were already pinked with the chill of holding his wrist. He shook her off gently, and smiled. To love them equally would imply that they were essentially the same. Sherlock did not have the control which Mycroft practised daily. He could easily imagine waking up one morning to find that Sherlock had frozen the entire house for an experiment, and mother and father had died of hyperthermia.

Mycroft stepped away from her extended hand, his insides clenching at having to physically evade the much-desired touch.

“I’ll go and sooth him, mother.”

“Mycroft…”

He turned away quickly, not wanting to discuss the rest. He slipped out into the hallway, glad to escape the tense atmosphere that had developed. He was sure that mother and father would have begun talking about him as soon as the door clicked shut, and he hurried away so as not to hear their conversation.

His fingers were itching with cold, and he felt a spike of panic when he couldn’t make it go away. Usually the ice came when he wanted it and became nothing more than a dormant chill when he didn’t. Not since he was a baby had he lost control of himself.

Needing to release the pressure which had been steadily building throughout dinner, Mycroft touched one fingertip to the bannisters of the staircase, jerking it back quickly when a flood of ice crystals wrapped around the wood.

He stuffed both hands into his trouser pockets, pressing against his slightly warmed thighs to dissipate the chill. After a few moments of steady breathing, the burning cold in his fingers retreated. Mycroft took to the stairs, deliberately not looking at the iced-over railing. He was going to find Sherlock, and that was all. Then he’d go back to his room and sleep it off, hopefully to wake up the next day feeling refreshed.

He knocked on the door to Sherlock’s room and then entered, knowing he could never be invited in. The room itself was a mess of different interests, with large wobbly-drawn diagrams of bees covering the wall by the window. Mycroft noticed that the small lump laying half-covered by blankets was wearing pirate boots.

Mycroft picked up Sherlock’s small plastic sword from the floor, and poked it gently against the lump. Sherlock did not move, his bad mood obviously impervious to the occasional stabbing. Mycroft stood listlessly by the side of the bed, feeling rotten.

“Permission to come aboard?” he asked, not expecting an answer. To his surprise a small snuffling assent was granted, and he carefully settled down next to Sherlock.

“You took longer than I thought you would,” Sherlock said, and Mycroft had to lean closer to hear him. “I thought you would have followed me.”

Mycroft sat with his hands locked together in his lap, no longer feeling the icy weight. He wondered if Sherlock would be cold if he rested a comforting hand on top of the blankets, or if the many layers would offer some protection. He decided not to chance it, thinking what Mummy would say if Sherlock were to come downstairs to breakfast tomorrow shaking with cold. He tucked his hands back into his trouser pockets, miserably.

“I got delayed,” Mycroft said truthfully. “Mummy wanted to check –”

“That I wasn’t like you?” Sherlock threw the covers back, his black hair standing up in a halo of static. His face was blotchy and pink, and Mycroft noticed how shiny his eyes were. He was also still scowling darkly, so Mycroft continued to calmly address his gaze somewhere above his brother’s head. “She wanted to make sure she still had one gifted child, rather than two?”

“You possess extraordinary gifts, Sherlock.”

Sherlock huffed out a laugh that sounded angry and tight. “I can’t do anything.”

“Quite the contrary. You are the most brilliantly clever five year old that I’m sure the world could ask for. You know more about pirate culture than it would take me two lifetimes to learn. Your experiments are absolutely –”

Sherlock hit him sharply on the arm. “I’m ORDINARY.” The tone told Mycroft this was a problem which had been building for more than a year.

“We are only as ordinary as we believe ourselves to be, brother mine. In my eyes you are an incredibly gifted boy. Besides, I have a seven year head start on you. Who knows what you will have achieved by the time you’re my age?”

With a moan of frustration, Sherlock rolled closer until he could bury his face in Mycroft’s soft abdomen. Hands trapped in his pockets, Mycroft sat absolutely still, his throat tight. Sherlock was still mumbling away into his shirt, and through the fabric Mycroft could feel the lips moving against his skin. The touch was intimate and brotherly, something he had never allowed between them.

“I know I don’t have it,” Sherlock was saying miserably, face still pressed against his brother. “Mummy told me you were doing it since you were a baby, and I’ve tried so hard…”

Mycroft could not bring himself to push his brother away. The feeling of being embraced was too novel, and Sherlock’s body was like a small furnace of heat. The image of being thawed out was one that he had dreamt of so many times, and Mycroft began talking to dispel the thought.

“When you were born,” he said, and had to clear his throat roughly to continue. “I wanted us to be the same. I wanted you to have ice-cold skin and grow up with the same power as me.” Sherlock had stilled, obviously listening intently. “But you weren’t made that way, brother. You were made better.”

Sherlock pushed away from him, and Mycroft tried not to miss the touch.

“It’s not fair,” Sherlock sniffed, avoiding Mycroft’s eye. “You don’t even want it. You don’t appreciate what you can do.”

He had appreciated it, Mycroft thought, before Sherlock was born. The snow had felt beautiful and silky to his touch, and mother and father seemed to accept his gift, even if they did not share it. He had thought them a close family then, before Sherlock arrived. But Sherlock was allowed to fall asleep on Mummy’s chest while breastfeeding, or walk around the house undressed with no one minding. Mycroft had always been covered up as a child, always touched only enough to be placated.

“I don’t hate it, you know,” Mycroft said, needing Sherlock to believe him. “It’s just sometimes…” Sometime he imagined living alone, where every wall and window was lined in ice. A place where he could do anything he liked with no restrictions, without the constant worry of hurting anyone. Without dreaming of Mummy’s frostbite. “I wish I could touch you,” he said instead, the words slipping out.

Sherlock looked at him incredulously, reaching out a small hand for Mycroft’s face.

Reactions quicker than he gave himself credit for, Mycroft rolled away from his brother’s reach, sliding off the bed. Sherlock moved across to look down at him on the floor, his expression confused.

“Best not to, brother dear,” Mycroft said uncomfortably from the floor. “I was only joking.”

Sherlock was still staring at him appraisingly though, so Mycroft stood up and sat back down on the bed, as far away from Sherlock as possible.

“I don’t wish you were dead,” Sherlock mumbled suddenly. “Mummy will be cross I said that.”

Mycroft imagined himself scooting closer and dropping a reassuring hand onto his brother’s shoulder. He remained where he was, hands folded in his lap. “She won’t. I think they’re more worried I’m setting you a bad example.”

They were silent for a few minutes, each boy content with his own thoughts. Before long however, Sherlock was done with the quiet time. “You’re not as cold as you think you are,” he said, and the words made Mycroft catch his breath. Before he could stop him, Sherlock had crawled across the duvet cover and rested a hand gently on top of Mycroft’s knee.

Mycroft waited for Sherlock’s expression to change, or for him to take back his hand with a gasp. Neither of these things happened, and his brother looked at his worried expression sarcastically. “See?” Sherlock said, after a few seconds. “Not turned to ice. Not as powerful as you think, are you Ice Queen?”

Mycroft was startled into a laugh, and Sherlock poked him with the end of his sword.

“They don’t love me more, Sherlock.”

“Why not? I would, if I were them.”

“You’d love the child you couldn’t fully touch? The one with ice cold skin and hands which turned things instantly to frost? Or would you prefer the warm little boy who was brilliant and clever and desperate for approval?” Mycroft thought about the first year of Sherlock’s life, where he had sought daily refuse in the garden. How he had practised making snow on his own, when mother and father had been caught up in their new baby.

He remembered how hard the jealousy had struck him, watching Sherlock being swung into the air by father. How Sherlock had clung to father’s bare forearms, where Mycroft’s hands usually encountered sleeves. He remembered burning with the need to switch places, to offload the curse onto Sherlock so he might be free. But then the love had come, too. Sherlock reached for him constantly, and cried when Mycroft moved out of range. By the age of two he was smart enough to understand that his older brother was for looking at, not for touching. Whenever Sherlock’s face lit up at the sight of his gift, Mycroft forgot to resent his normality.

“I’m so glad you’re normal,” Mycroft said, not caring if he was misunderstood. “I’m glad you’ll grow normally, and grow wonderfully, and be able to have normal friends. I’m glad that one day you could get married, and have children, and all of those other things adults do. I used to wish we were both cursed together, and I know you think it would be great…but honestly, brother. I’m glad.”

Mycroft let his head drop forwards onto his chest, the emotional confession sitting uneasily with his usual manner. Sherlock’s small hand was still a barely-there presence on his knee, and the feeling was uncomfortably warm.

Sherlock suddenly wacked him, causing his leg to spring up jerkily. “Pirates don’t get married, Mycroft. And children! What would I do with children!” he went on to describe the merits of a child-populated crew and Mycroft fell back onto the covers. For the first time in hours his hands felt perfectly calm, not burning with pent up ice. Listening to Sherlock chatter held its own kind of childish serenity. Mycroft found it strangely peaceful.

Chapter Text

When Mycroft was fourteen and Sherlock was seven, questions and deductions gained a sudden surge of importance. Why did Mummy change the brand of washing powder they usually bought? Why did Mycroft sometimes sneeze when eating asparagus? Why was Daddy’s grey jumper always washed on a Wednesday, even when he hadn’t worn it all week? Not only were the questions asked more sincerely than Mycroft had ever witnessed from his brother, but the answers were relentlessly hounded out of him.

Mycroft never hated his own name more than when it was being hissed loudly through the keyhole of his door at two AM, on the certain nights Sherlock needed an answer immediately. Since touching his brother two years ago after the dinnertime outburst, Sherlock had been more insistent on physical contact. The touching bothered Mycroft a great deal, as his brother seemed to view it as an engaging experiment. A good night’s sleep was frequently ruined by Sherlock’s bony limbs crawling into bed with him, sharp elbows jabbing into his abdomen and chest.

After another exhausting night (listening to Sherlock explain in exacting detail about the origin of the ginger cat hairs on father’s trousers) Mycroft sat doing his work at the table. He had trained himself by now to both listen and read simultaneously, even if it meant that he accomplished neither task to a high standard. He made thoughtful humming sounds every now and then in Sherlock’s direction, but kept his eyes on his Greek translation.

Father often liked to remind Mycroft, in tones of nostalgic superiority, that he had been just as inquisitive at Sherlock’s age, with a hundred unanswerable questions burning to be known. Mycroft liked to wonder how father would feel if he were the one receiving nightly visits to be shown diagrams of road-kill.

Occasionally, when Sherlock threw a tantrum at him, Mycroft remembered wishing someone had answered him, when he was too small to be taken seriously. This was the only thought that stopped him from ignoring Sherlock.

Sherlock’s feet were resting on the table, and from the uncomfortable-looking angle of the pose Mycroft was certain he was doing it to purposefully obscure the pages of the textbook.

He put down his pen to look at Sherlock, who was scowling at him severely.

“Well, why do you think she changed the washing powder, brother dearest?” Mycroft asked, mentally reviewing the last few seconds of Sherlock’s chatter. Sherlock’s frown cleared a little, but the suspicious look remained. “Use those deductive powers you’re always telling me we share.”

“She changed it because – because –” he wrinkled his nose, and Mycroft tried not to find the expression endearing. “Because it faded the clothes?”

“I suppose it did, a little. But what kind of washing power did we have before, as opposed to now?”

“It used to be loose powder, like the kind I used in my toad experiment. But now it’s in little sealed capsules so it’s much harder to…wait, was it because of me?”

“Bravo, Sherlock. I doubt Mummy wants you using the household products as preserving agents for your menagerie of dead animals. I believe the switch in product-type was meant as a gentle deterrent.”

“Well if you’d just freeze them for me like I asked –”

“Sherlock I am not touching your hoarded collection of road-kill experiments. I refuse.”

“You wouldn’t have to actually touch them –”

On childish impulse, Mycroft stuck out his tongue. Sherlock looked at him in surprise, more used to Mycroft’s verbal sparring than face-pulling.

“I hope you boys aren’t bickering again,” Father announced loudly as he walked into the kitchen. The argument dropped, both Mycroft and Sherlock settling into a mutual glare.

“You boys better relocate outside now, I’m starting the dinner. It’s a beautiful night tonight, one of the warmest we’ve had all year. Perhaps the two of you could start a fire on the burner.”

With a longing glance at his books, Mycroft felt Sherlock’s bony fingers wrap around his wrist, dragging him wilfully towards the garden. He pulled out of Sherlock’s grip indignantly, sending a warning glare at the younger boy. Sherlock merely shrugged and grabbed his sleeve instead. “Do you want to build a snowman?” Sherlock suggested, the second he and Mycroft had stepped out of the back door.

“Must we?” The air was still, the garden bathed in the golden light of the dying afternoon sun. Though he couldn’t fully appreciate the warmth of the evening, Mycroft thought that Summer looked perfect on the grass, the soft colours of the flowers majestic in the shrubbery. He wanted to sit outside until the sun sank, letting the heat attempt to warm his pale skin and light up his thin auburn hair.

Sherlock let go of his sleeve and folded his arms. “Fine. Snowball fight.”

“Sherlock…”

“…Mycroft.”

Feeling the futility of the argument, Mycroft cast a regretful look at the sun-lit lawn. Bumblebees were buzzing around a creeping wisteria plant, and the patio chairs looked inviting.

With a few sweeping gestures (purposefully overdramatizing it, feeding Sherlock’s love for theatrics) he flicked both of his hands to the sides, covering the garden in a thick covering of snow. He flicked an additional finger at the trees, coating them all in a thin icing of frost. All traces of the Summer evening were smothered in a cruel white blanket, the air turning instantly fresh and cool. Even the sound of the bees had stopped, and Mycroft hoped he hadn’t killed them accidentally.

Sherlock leapt at the snow with a delighted yell, already claiming the North end of the garden as his territory. Mycroft couldn’t hold back his own small smile at the sight, building two opposing snow forts at either end of the long garden. He ducked behind his own quickly as a snowball came launching at him.

“Not fair!” he called, laughing breathlessly and watching it form cool mist. “Attacking a man while he’s working is below the belt!”

Sherlock never fought fair, and Mycroft found a strange admiration towards him for it. It was all sneaky trick shots, crafty double bluffs and saving the occasional snowball for the dinner table, when Mycroft was caught unawares. His parents still treated his magic with subdued uncertainty, constantly reassuring him that he was normal. Only Sherlock just accepted what he could do without comment.

Mycroft formed a snowball of the palm of his outstretched hand, keeping it soft and light so as not to accidentally hurt Sherlock. The day he had inadvertently lobbed a chunk of ice at his brother had been a memorable one. He launched it over the low wall in a smooth over-hand throw, and received three back for his efforts. It always came down to Sherlock’s athletic ability versus Mycroft’s wintery powers in the end. Though he had initially always won, the older Sherlock had gotten, the closer the contests had become.

Sometimes Mycroft wondered if he should be teaching his brother about more than simply snow and deductions. The regret flared briefly, accompanying the image of making awkward conversation sitting by the outside burner. The snowball that hit the exposed top of his head knocked the thought away. Sherlock didn’t need anyone’s help.

With a war cry that Sherlock had insisted they use since the age of five, Mycroft ducked out from behind his barricade and jogged the length of the garden, dodging the volley of snow being thrown at him. The snowballs that got too close were broken into a soft shower of snow with one hand, much to Sherlock’s howling.

Leaping over the igloo with a huff of breath, he caught Sherlock round the middle, lifting him up into a fireman’s lift. His brother screamed and kicked at him, hammering his fists against Mycroft’s chest and back.

“Mycroft, no–”

“Stopping’s not an option, brother mine. A man must keep the courage of his convictions.”

He dumped Sherlock in a conjured snow drift, admiring the boy-shaped hole for a second before darting away to avoid retribution. Sherlock had taken him down with a triumphant rugby tackle before he had taken three full steps.

***

Using his gift always made Mycroft feel alive like nothing else he had ever experienced. The snow of Sherlock’s last well-aimed attack was dripping icily from his hair to the nape of his neck, and he had to fight to keep his face dignified against the tickling sensation. Sherlock’s sneeze drew his attention back to the dessert course.

His brother was slumped forwards slightly in his seat, picking absently at his icecream. His hair was also wet from the snow drift and his cheeks were pink with cold. He grinned when Mycroft caught his eye, but Mycroft noticed his teeth chattering.

“Are you well, brother mine?” He kept his voice smooth and unaffected, laying down his spoon with care.

Sherlock rolled his eyes and continued eating, the spoon rattling in the dish. Mummy reached across a quick hand and stroked the skin of Sherlock’s damp forehead, frowning at the touch. He leant away from her like a skittish animal, in much the way Mycroft had taken to doing. Mycroft chose to believe it was an isolated incident, rather than an aversion to parental contact he had learnt from his older brother.

“You’re ice cold,” Mummy said uneasily, exchanging a covert glance with her husband over Sherlock’s head. “It’s the middle of summer! What were you boys doing outside?”

“Do you even need to ask?” Sherlock griped, rolling his eyes with an exaggerated sigh. “We were doing what we always do. The season bares no relevance.”

Mycroft sometimes wondered if his parents found it odd to be addressed so imperiously by a seven year old. Perhaps they were simply used to it by now, and had given up the hope of having normal children.

“Sherlock, you’re shivering,” Mummy said, and Sherlock had moved far enough away from her outstretched hand to be almost off his chair. “Let’s get you into some warmer clothes. Come on, upstairs.”

“But Mummy, I’m fine!”

She set her napkin to one side and stood up, her expression giving Sherlock no choice. Sherlock left the room gracelessly, and the sound of their argument could be heard all the way up to his brother’s bedroom.

Mycroft attempted to return to his food, but his father’s stern face stopped him. The mouthful of cool icecream he had taken was suddenly tasteless in his mouth. So Sherlock was cold, so what? Mycroft had accepted long ago that the entire world was cold. His own temperature never varied much, and he sat on the drafty window seat in the sitting room while his parents and Sherlock sat by the fire. Everything was fine, existing as a perfect ecosystem.

“Mycroft,” father said seriously, and Mycroft felt the ecosystem crack at the word. “We want you to stop using your magic around Sherlock.”

The room was abruptly very silent, aside from the pounding of Mycroft’s heart against his chest. Not use his ability? The contentment he had felt from earlier was replaced with a heaviness that settled in his stomach. He had never gone a single day before without expressing his gift. His father caught his shift of expression.

“I’m not saying you have to change who you are,” he said quickly, watching as Mycroft sunk lower in his chair. “But you have to remember that Sherlock isn’t like you. He feels cold, he gets ill, he can’t keep up with you all the time. You don’t seem to notice when he’s wet through, or got chilblains on his fingers, or rushes outside in his t-shirt and shorts. But you’re his older brother and you need to start looking out for him more.” He rubbed at his mouth, a sign both Sherlock and Mycroft had identified as one of stress. “Your mother and I have discussed it. We think you should start wearing the gloves again, son.”

The gloves again. Mycroft hadn’t worn them in years, since he had held Sherlock for the first time. He remembered the pale blue fabric brushing against Sherlock’s hair, remembered wanting to touch his brother with his bare skin rather than with a barrier between them. They had made his fingers tingle unpleasantly, the chill feeling pressed inside him. He had resolved to keep his hands to himself that day, and the gloves had been put away.

“Mycroft?” his father asked, watching his son’s glazed expression.

“Of course,” Mycroft said, snapping himself out of his thoughts. “You’re quite right. I’ve been behaving very selfishly, and it’s impacting his health. I’ll…” What, stop playing with him? Because that would go down SO well with Sherlock. He could cut back on the time he spent around his brother, but with only the house and the gardens to roam, it would take under an hour for Sherlock to find any of his hiding places.

His father was giving Mycroft a sympathetic expression.

“I’ll tell him tomorrow,” Mycroft lied, looking down at his lap.

“Thank you, Mycroft.”

When Sherlock re-entered the dining room, grumbling loudly about being put into his pyjamas before seven o’clock, Mycroft could not meet his eye.

***

“Snowball fight?”

“No, Sherlock.”

“Snowmen, then?”

“No.”

They were both studying in the library, books covering the table and overlapping each other. Mycroft kept his eyes on the page in front of him, pretending he was alone.
Sherlock reached out a hand for an anthology and knocked Mycroft’s elbow with his knuckles. He drew the hand back with a yelp, and Mycroft’s face snapped up to look at him.

“What? What is it?”

“Cold,” Sherlock muttered, cradling his hand into his chest. “You’re just…You’re freezing. It was like an electric shock.”

Mycroft hadn’t allowed himself to conjure anything since his talk with father three days ago. He had slept pleasantly enough on the first night, luckily with no nocturnal visits from Sherlock. He hadn’t felt anything at all until the next morning, when the ache came on suddenly like hunger. The abruptness had startled him, never having tried to control his gift before.

“Oh. Fine.” As long as Sherlock was unhurt. The impulse to examine the hand was strong, but Mycroft bit his tongue to restrain himself. He should have been wearing the gloves, but he wanted to try a little longer without.

“I’m bored,” Sherlock told him, apparently over the incident already. Mycroft noticed that he seemed to have stopped note-taking and started drawing miniature dragons in the margins of his notebook. “Entertain me, My.”

He had been valiantly trying to entertain Sherlock since before the boy could talk. Providing distractions had been his constant job for nearly seven years, and taking it away (he could not believe it had not yet been three full days), was difficult. He shook his head minutely.

“Work is so boring,” Sherlock moaned, lolling back in his chair like he was drugged. “And you’re boring, too. Do you want to be boring?”

Mycroft’s eyes focused on the page references of the book, blocking out the whining. He had been feeling uptight for days, something Mummy had patronisingly labelled ‘hormones.’ The need to crack his pen into solid ice, or else bury Sherlock in a wintery grave, was growing progressively stronger.

“We could do an ice sculpture contest,” Sherlock suggested, undaunted. “Come on, come on, let’s do something. Or are you too fat to stand up? I heard the pantry door open last night.”

It was with immense effort that Mycroft held back a retort. Yes, he’d been into the pantry last night, but saying so was petty. The need to remind Sherlock of his only recently past bed-wetting stage was childishly strong.

He sighed, pretending to be riveted by what he was reading.

“You’re a rubbish big brother,” Sherlock sniffed, and Mycroft felt his whole body tense at the accusation. Sherlock noticed his stiffened posture and laughed. “Heard that, did you? Come on, Mycroft, do something fun.”

“I’m busy.”

“You’re BORING.”

Mycroft stood up abruptly, pushing his books away from him in one smooth movement. Not bothering to look at Sherlock, he collected his notebooks and pens and walked calmly out of the library. Sherlock was calling him back in amused tones, but Mycroft walked on.

The second he was out of the library door, and had walked far enough down the corridor to be out of earshot, he began to run. Taking the stairs two at a time, Mycroft felt his laboured breathing constricting his chest and his heart hammering wildly. Making it into his room with what felt like seconds to spare, he slammed the door shut and sunk against it, letting go.

Ice crystals shot out from every angle, coating the floor thoroughly into an ice rink, and particles of snow hung suspended in the frigid air. Mycroft held his hands up to his eyes, examining them for any noticeable differences. They had never hurt before, beyond a mild tingling. Now it felt like he had shards of glass wedged into them, a burning cold that settled in his palms and fingertips.

Catching his breath, Mycroft sank back against the door, allowing himself the brief indignity of drawing his knees up to his chest and pressing his eyes against them. His breath was shaking, and it took a few moments to master himself back into normality.

Mycroft forced himself to look at the room, analysing the damage. The ice appeared thin and soft, not unlike what he usually conjured onto railings and work surfaces. It was the speed of the outburst, and the force, which alarmed him.

So, that was it then. Repressing it only led to a stronger eruption later. He would need to let it out gradually, by himself, at regular intervals throughout the day and contain himself around Sherlock. As if the thought had summoned him, Sherlock’s knock came quietly at his door. Mycroft rested his head back against the wood, close enough to hear Sherlock’s breath on the other side.

Mycroft couldn’t help smiling a little when he recognised the Morse code being tapped to him through the wood.

“There’s nothing to forgive,” he said, and heard Sherlock grumble that he had spoken the words rather than tapped them out. Concentrating on the warmth of his brother’s wooden apology, Mycroft stood up and took the few steps across to his bedside table. The gloves were exactly where he had left them, years ago. He slipped the light blue fabric onto his hands, until his pale skin was completely covered, hiding away beneath the cloth.

They could be anyone’s hands, looking like this.

He opened the door quickly, slipping out before Sherlock could barge his way in.

“Why did you run off?” Sherlock asked immediately, eyes running over Mycroft’s body in suspicion. “Was it the fat joke? Or was it because – wait, are you wearing gloves?”

Mycroft tucked his hands into his pockets with a non-committal shrug.

“Why are you wearing them? You never get cold.”

“Fashion, Sherlock. Now, let’s go and play a game in the sitting room.”

Sherlock’s face softened at the mention of games, but still looked slightly doubtful. The expression turned to one of horrified confusion when Mycroft went to the cupboard and brought out Monopoly.

“What are you doing?”

Mycroft set up the board in silence, counting out the paper money into piles. Sherlock threw the small metal dog at him, and it bounced hard off his shoulder. Mycroft picked the dog up with a patient look at Sherlock, who was sitting with his arms crossed mutinously.

“Whatever it is you’re bursting to say, Sherlock –”

“Is it something father said to you?” Sherlock was attempting to glare the answer out of Mycroft, his grey eyes piercing and sincere. “I can’t think what else it would be. You’ve been acting strange for days, and the only variable must have been at dinner. You wouldn’t look at me when I came back into the room. Is that it? Did he tell you to stay away?”

Mycroft looked at his seven year-old brother, and felt pride warring with dismay. He could save himself with a confession of the facts, simply recounting the conversation and explaining away his cold behaviour. But Sherlock already treated their parents with distance, and Mycroft could imagine the resulting coldness that Sherlock would develop towards their father.

Better to have Sherlock hate him, the untouchable older brother, than their worried parents.

The gloves felt softer than he remembered, and more hateful. His hands were beginning to sweat inside them, though they were not designed to feel warm.

“Father didn’t ask anything of me, Sherlock.” How he wanted to take the gloves off. “If it appears that I do not wish to spend every waking hour in your presence… Well, we’re both growing older. I need my own space.”

Sherlock looked at him incredulously and opened his mouth to retort. Mycroft cut him off before he could utter a word.

“If I don’t want to build juvenile snow creatures in the garden, or other childish nonsense with you, then that’s my decision.”

“And Monopoly isn’t childish nonsense?”

“I will permit board games.”

“Permit? Permit!”

“I have no desire to fight about this. If you’d rather I left…” he got up and headed for the door, feeling guilty yet relieved. He could take the gloves off in his room, and perhaps ice-over a few items of furniture. Sherlock’s mumbled order for him to wait stopped him in his tracks.

Sherlock was still sitting by the Monopoly set, looking put out. “It…it doesn’t have to be snow, then,” he said quietly, and Mycroft’s heart thudded hard. “We could just play deductions. My room has the best view of the lane, we could watch for people walking by. The postman hasn’t come yet.”

Mycroft nodded, unable to speak. He hadn’t considered the idea that perhaps Sherlock could still want anything from him that was not ice-related. He followed the smaller boy down the corridor, silently clambering onto the bed by the window.

They watched the postman come and go, Mycroft offering small corrections to Sherlock’s otherwise perfect monologue. Watching Mummy leave the house was harder to rationalise, as Sherlock noted that she was taking a canvas bag with the appearance of going shopping, but was also dressed up nicer than usual. Mycroft quickly stamped out the speculations, breathing on the glass to make a spiralling pattern of frost.

Fine, he’d slipped up already. It took Sherlock’s attention off Mummy however, which could only be a good thing.

“If you can make it, why can’t you unmake it?” Sherlock asked straining to see out around the glittering pane of glass. He flopped down onto the bed by Mycroft’s side, and the two brothers shared a few moments of silence.

Mycroft didn’t reply, not wanting to sound bitter. The amount of times he had wished for greater control over his abilities was staggering, none more so than the last few days.

“I wish I had that gift,” Sherlock mumbled, fiddling with the cuff of Mycroft’s pyjamas. “Then we could be together all the time. We could even go to school, if we wanted. You could freeze the other kids, and I could thaw them out again, so you didn’t get in trouble for it.”

Mycroft sat up quickly, knocking Sherlock’s hand away. He turned to make Sherlock face him, looking the younger boy straight in the eye.

“Do you want to go to school, Sherlock?” Mycroft asked, seriously. He had always accepted his parent’s rational – they were different to the other children, they wouldn’t be accepted, it would be better to stay safely at home. Only now it seemed so obvious that Sherlock wasn’t different. He was a smart little boy who just happened to have a strange older brother, and Mycroft felt himself squirm at the injustice he had accepted so easily.

Sherlock was obviously considering the idea too. He shrugged, biting his lower lip, and Mycroft resolved to make it happen.

That night, safely back in his own room, Mycroft peeled the gloves off his clammy hands with a feeling of ecstasy. Turning to look at the wide bedroom door, Mycroft couldn’t restrain the need to frost it over, watching the hinges groan under the abrupt temperature change.

***

“No, Mycroft.”

Mycroft felt his mouth fall open in an extremely undignified manner. He had been so sure, when he can cornered Father the next day to ask him, that the man would accede gracefully.

“Well, why not?” he asked. The explanation had better be good, but the resigned expression on his father’s face did not bode well. Mycroft held his hands tightly behind his back, feeling the cold beginning to tingle there. “This way, everybody wins. He’ll be out of harm’s way; I won’t have to be so careful all the time.” The gloves were a constant source of annoyance.

“Your mother and I have discussed it many times, despite what you may believe, Mycroft. It is better for everyone that Sherlock stays where he is.”

Friends, Sherlock could have friends at school. Both he and Mycroft sniffed regularly at the idea, but it was only because neither of them had any.

Mycroft began pacing agitatedly, not caring if he appeared self-indulgent. “Why can’t he go?” he asked, stubbornly. “He’s normal, utterly normal, and smart too. He’d do brilliantly well in a learning environment, one where he was encouraged and –”

“And he’d tell everyone about his magical older brother, the one who turns water to ice in a single touch? Who makes it snow on the hottest day of the year?” Father sent a frown at Mycroft, who was now looking rather ill.

“If we told him it was a secret –”

“He would tell it anyway. You know what he’s like Mycroft.”

“But –”

“You are both staying right here, Mycroft. It’s for the best.”

Eyes burning with anger, Mycroft left the room as quickly as possible. He barely made it back to his bedroom before letting out a frustrated shout, cracking a pane of glass in his window with a surge of magic.

***

Sherlock never asked him if he had broached the subject with Father, but Mycroft realised that he must have known. It was at times like these, when Sherlock was so accepting of his fate, that Mycroft decided he hated himself. He made extra excuses to fuss around his younger brother, turning his stifled emotions into games.

“Want to play Operation?” he would ask Sherlock, and then lounge around on his bedroom floor with the little metal pincers. Today was no different, and after breakfast he and Sherlock retreated to his room.

He had also noticed that the gloves seemed to irritate Sherlock almost as much as they did him. Though he couldn’t understand why, the blue material seemed to frustrate his younger brother whenever he saw them. Mycroft made the impulsive decision to remove them for their game, feeling the cold rush back to his fingertips as his skin was exposed.

The box was opened, the board set up. Both hands reached for the tongs first, and Mycroft drew back quickly as if burnt. As a general rule he still avoided touching Sherlock. In fact he could count on one hand the amount of times he had properly touched his brother’s skin.

Sherlock sneered at him as Mycroft shoved his hands in his pockets. He held up his own hand for Mycroft to see, waving it in front of his face.

“All fingers still attached, see? Not crumbling away yet.”

Mycroft ignored him, although his fears were abated a small amount. Sherlock snorted, looking away. They played in silence after that, with the occasional sigh as the buzzer went off.

Mycroft gripped the heart with the pincers, concentrating on carefully lifting the red plastic out of the metal frame. He never managed it, but today felt different. He needed some form of success today. Slowly, with both their eyes fixed on the board, Mycroft eased the piece out of the game, blinking rather stupidly when he managed it.

“Well, for the first time in forever –”

“You broke the game, idiot,” Sherlock said, wrenching the pincers from Mycroft's grasp and banging them on the metal strips. “See? You’re so worried about touching me, when in fact all you do is ruin everything else.” He threw the tweezers hard at Mycroft, before leaving the room.

Chapter Text

Time, for Mycroft, became measured in restraint. Some weeks passed quickly without incident, the gloves effectively hiding his true self beneath a smooth disguise, while others seemed to drag on like an unforgiving illness.

The sickness wasn’t purely psychological either, no matter how hard he tried to believe it. The longer he held in his ability, the more his own body felt crippled, like a blinding heat was coiling tight in his stomach. On days that Sherlock was occupied by lessons, Mycroft took refuge in his room, tearing the gloves off frantically and sinking down into as much snow as he could create, hiding his face in wet sludge.   

He had also started wearing long-sleeved shirts in favour of his looser fitting clothes, after noticing with muted horror that the auburn hairs of his arms were turning white. He couldn’t think what would have contributed to the change, other than his new found restrictions. He considered dying them, before dismissing the thought as too ridiculous. He considered shaving them, but recognised how mercilessly Sherlock would tease him. Consequently, the only skin he now showed was on his face and neck, the rest of him hidden away under folds of fabric.

Mummy seemed brighter in the house now, something which did not go unnoticed by Mycroft. Her laugh was bright and unburdened, and she put extra helpings of food onto Mycroft’s plate at meals, looking thrilled when he choked it down. He had never noticed before how much he and Sherlock were left to their own devices, until suddenly Mummy was willing to sit in with them. Sherlock relished the additional attention, but it made Mycroft feel uneasy. Mummy would stroke the occasional hand across his hair, remarking delightedly about how much warmer he felt these days. Mycroft was almost certain that she was imagining things. Though he tried as much as possible not to think about it, he knew he had never felt colder.  

Father looked more at ease as well, taking the time to tell Mycroft how well he was doing when the two were alone. Mycroft always grit his teeth into a prim smile, reporting that he was glad they thought so.

At meal times he was the perfect picture of restraint, speaking only when spoken too, and saying a few calming words when Sherlock threatened to start sulking. Mummy smiled at him often, a secret smile he remembered from early childhood. Every mouthful of food turned unpleasantly solid and cold in his mouth, but that was allowed. Only showing it wasn’t acceptable, and Mycroft was fast becoming used to that.  

***

On the day of Mummy’s fortieth birthday, Mycroft could feel the soft rolling of icy nausea before he even got out of bed. His stomach, which had felt settled and well when he had fallen asleep, now felt leaden. He made to throw back the covers, knowing that birthday breakfasts were a large ordeal, and found to his surprise that he had fallen asleep with the gloves on.

There was no point taking them off, not when he had to attend breakfast imminently, and the knowledge rankled. Night-time was the only chance he had to work off the tension of the day, letting the magic pour out until he felt empty. Mycroft clutched at his stomach angrily, unable to believe the costly mistake.

The house was merry and filled with the smells of baking, fresh bread and toast lingering in the hallway. Mycroft tried not to breathe it in too deeply, his every movement feeling sick and bloated.

“Mycroft, darling,” Mummy cried when he walked into the kitchen. “Come and give me a kiss!”

Mycroft hobbled over, hands by his sides despite wanting to wrap both arms around himself. Mummy turned from the oven and enveloped him into a warm embrace, feeling overpowering and hot from the heat of cooking. Mycroft tried to focus on the smell of her perfume (too confusing, she’d been given a different one this morning by father) and her short fingernails scraping gently along his back.

“Happy Birthday Mummy,” he said, when she let him draw away.

Sherlock was already at the table, looking surly and bored. His eyes flicked up momentarily when Mycroft’s stomach gave an angry stab of pain, but otherwise looked unmoved. “I’ve already guessed all of the presents, so you’re too late to show off,” he told Mycroft imperiously.

“Good for you,” Mycroft groaned, dropping heavily into a chair. He wanted to curl back into the soft isolation of his bed covers, be by himself for an hour or two. He could handle this, all of this, if only he had a little more time.

“What’s wrong with you, drama queen?” Sherlock poured him a glass of orange juice in an unusual act of brotherly kindness. Had Mycroft felt up to drinking it, he would have checked it for any obvious poisons.

“Not feeling well,” Mycroft said quietly, not wanting Mummy to hear.

“Morning sickness?”  

Mycroft shot Sherlock his best sneer, griping the sides of his chair firmly. “As if you know anything about sex, brother mine.”

“Who said anything about sex?”

“Shut up.”

Mummy set a steaming plate of scrambled eggs onto the table, passing a plate to Sherlock and setting an already full one in front of Mycroft. She took a seat at the head of the table, flushed with what Mycroft quickly recognised to be post-coital happiness. He supposed he should be glad that Mummy’s relationship to Father was on the road to recovery, but he couldn’t muster the energy to care.   

“So, what’re you boys talking about?”

Sherlock pulled a face, the one he always used when trying not to grin. “Mycroft’s hormonal. I think he needs a girlfriend.”

“Now, now, Sherlock,” Mummy said, but she was smiling happily. Mycroft shovelled scrambled egg into his mouth, feeling his cheeks burn.

He knew he could stop the conversation with a few sobering deductions, including the fact that anyone who made him lose control of his body would probably be turned into an instant icicle. He ignored both of them, knowing that calmness of mind would relate to calmness of body.

“Hungry, darling?” Mummy said innocently, and Mycroft realised with a start that he had cleared his plate. Feeling sluggish and humiliated, he attempted a complicated half-shrug. The food was sitting solidly in his stomach, and he could feel the weight of it like a smothering force.

God, he needed a release. He hadn’t properly let go in…what, four days? Five? He couldn’t even remember. Mycroft wiped a quick hand across his brow, not wanting the others to see his pathetically sweating face.

He stood up abruptly, turning and hurrying to the door. “Bathroom,” he muttered, at Sherlock’s demanding question. Every step of the stairs was torturous, his limbs feeling scarily heavy and uncooperative. 

Slamming the lock over the bathroom door just in time, Mycroft dashed over to the toilet and vomited. He closed his eyes shakily as he did so, hanging onto the cold ceramic. There seemed too much coming out to be entirely normal, and Mycroft let out a startled yelp when he opened his eyes. While the vomit had been fairly instant, his body was now expelling enormous amounts of snow, the vast quantity of which was overflowing the sides of the toilet bowl.

Mycroft allowed his eyes to burn then, resting his head on his hands and letting the magic spill out. At times like this he found it hard to believe that he had been born this way. How could nature make something so flawed, so cursed, so damaged? It hurt too. His throat was beginning to feel raw and exposed, his teeth over-sensitive to the freezing onslaught. Mycroft permitted himself one single sob, the noise low and guttural, before falling silent.

“Mycroft?” The bathroom door handle twisted, held steadily in place by the lock. Sherlock tried again, rattling the knob fruitlessly. “Mycroft, don’t be a brat on Mummy’s birthday. Come downstairs.”

Mycroft slumped against the side of the toilet, the knees of his pyjamas sodden with snow. He held onto the fantasy that he was gone; living somewhere that no one ever bothered him. His older self would live in a fortress of ice that normal people stayed far away from, and each room would be coated in sheets of fresh snow.

Mycroft choked as the tirade of vomited snow petered out, spitting up a few more mouthfuls of dry ice. He rested his head back against the wall and shut his eyes, blocking out Sherlock’s continued questions. In his mind palace he lived alone. Caring was not an advantage.

***

Mummy let him go to bed immediately after that, when he emerged downstairs sweaty-faced and sounding wretched.  Sherlock had watched him shrewdly, eyeing his fresh pyjamas and red face with an open scrutiny that only children possess.   

Mycroft returned to his room, feeling nothing but relief. He pulled the gloves off slowly, one finger at a time, and panted heavily when his hands were finally free. He chilled the blankets with a flick of his wrist and slithered between them. He thought about stripping naked, the desire to be free of his clothes tempting, but wrote the desire off at once. Sherlock came into his room far too often to allow for nudity. Besides that, the bathroom was the only room of the house with a lockable door.

Mycroft sank into the oblivion of sleep, curled up as tightly as he could manage.    

***

Waking only twice throughout the day to use the loo, Mycroft was jolted awake hours later by the soft knocking sound coming from his bedroom door. It was the secret knock that Sherlock insisted on using, a Morse-code request for entry. Before his little brother had even finished the first word, Mycroft shut his eyes again, determined to fall back to sleep. The aftereffects of sickness still lingered on, and the thought of seeing a diagram or a textbook, or being forced to confirm an inane deduction…

He focused on the sound of his own breathing, attempting of force his mind into a state of unconsciousness.

“Mycroft?” The whisper sounded loud, even from outside in the hall. “Brother, are you awake?”

The sound of the door creaking open only made Mycroft groan softly, burrowing deeper into his bed covers. Sherlock slept more lightly than he would have thought possible, and his favourite activity when awake was to ensure that nobody else was in bed either.

Mycroft felt the mattress dip a little as Sherlock clambered over his legs. The cover was ripped away from his face, and small fingers splayed against his neck, taking his pulse. Despite wanting to jerk away from the touch, Mycroft lay perfectly still.

“I know you’re awake, I can see your eyes twitching.”

Or maybe not perfectly still.

“They’re twichin’ ‘cause I’m asleep, Sherlock.” Mycroft rolled over, attempting to turn his back on the smaller boy. “Just like you should be, right now. Go back to your room.”

“You’ve been asleep all day, you have to get up eventually.”

He felt Sherlock’s whole body collapse onto him, and couldn’t keep in the exasperated smiled that the action provoked. 

“I can’t sleep,” Sherlock added unnecessarily, stretching out so that he was smothering as much of Mycroft as possible. 

“That’s because you’re not even trying to. Get into your bed and shut your eyes. If you’re still awake in half an hour, come back and see me.” Except please don’t come back, because I want to be alone. He yawned, dislodging Sherlock with a slight push. “Go on, brother. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Sherlock refused to be moved further than a few inches, still lounging over Mycroft’s chest. “It is morning,” he informed Mycroft cheerfully, waving his tiny plastic wristwatch in his brother’s face. “It’s four am!”

Mycroft’s whole body felt heavier at the knowledge that he had slept for an entire day. “Sherlock, I’m tired. Can’t we discuss this at breakfast?” A few moments of silence were granted, and Mycroft felt himself dozing off again, the small warm hand of his brother now resting on his shoulder.

“Do you want to build a snowman?” Sherlock asked, jolting Mycroft back to full consciousness.

Something in him shuddered at the idea, and Mycroft was struck by the compulsion to order Sherlock out of his room this instant. Snow. Making snowmen with Sherlock. He hadn’t – not in months – surely he would still be able to do it, just for an hour –

Father said no.

Mycroft bit his lip, thinking it over. He had been so sick this morning, needing to use his magic. It had been a violent burst of pain trying to keep it in, and he still felt weak and somewhat swollen. Just the thought of using it, of ridding the ache from his fingertips, sounded wonderful.

Father said no. Father wouldn’t find out.

With a put-upon sigh, Mycroft sat up in bed, trying to shake off his tiredness with a stretch. He pushed Sherlock off his lap, getting kneed ‘accidentally’ in the ribs as he did so. The wide-awake bundle of dark curls and spindly limbs was bouncing ever so slightly on the mattress, alive with anticipation. The expression on Sherlock’s face was hopeful, as it always was.

Mycroft felt his resolve crumbling. “Not in the hall, we’ll make too much noise. Downstairs,” he said, and watched Sherlock fly out of the room.

It took several minutes for Mycroft to gather himself, locating his dressing gown and slippers through sleep-puffy eyes. As he tied the cord he felt his own anticipation building, despite himself. He hadn’t used his magic properly in weeks, and certainly not from his hands. The last time had been as he was showering; he had brushed against the controls and frozen the water in the pipes.

The lethargy of being sick still lingered on, but Sherlock was already waiting for him. Mycroft couldn’t abandon the game now, or else who knew what priceless ornament would end up broken.

He trailed a hand against the banisters on his way downstairs, leaving a thin trail of ice on each one. Before searching out where his brother had run off to, Mycroft stopped at the kitchen for a carrot, nicking a few dark stones from the windowsill pot plant. He could already hear Sherlock clattering about, and went to stop him before the rest of the house was woken by the noise. He found his brother in the largely unused living room at the back of the house, tugging furniture out of the way. Or attempting to, anyway. Mycroft leant against the doorframe for a moment, watching Sherlock struggle to push an armchair with his limited upper-body strength. Finally deciding to help, Mycroft’s intervention sped the process up considerably.

“Just one snowman today, Sherlock,” he said, stifling a yawn with the back of his hand. “I’m still not a hundred percent.” He handed over the carrot and stones without another word.

Sherlock nodded eagerly, tapping his foot in anticipation. “Just snow then,” he agreed, watching Mycroft hungrily. “Get on with it, brother.”

Mycroft felt a small smile tug at his lips. The pride never wore off at having a skill that Sherlock respected. Every time his younger sibling asked for an icicle, or a snowflake, or an ice skating lesson, Mycroft felt incredibly pleased.

Beckoning Sherlock closer, he crouched down so they were of a more equal height. Holding out his hands gently, he began to twist them together, letting sparks of blue curl around his fingers. The relief was so instantaneous that Mycroft had to shut his eyes for a moment, overwhelmed by the feeling. Sherlock laughed delightedly as the snow began falling, holding out his tongue to catch a few flakes.

“More,” he said breathlessly, and Mycroft acquiesced.

Drawing mounds of snow to form in his hands, he leisurely spun them together, keeping half an eye on Sherlock’s fascinated face. No one could make a snowman quite as perfectly as Mycroft. The sections were heavily pronounced and flawlessly smooth, more immaculate than anyone could ever make by hand. Keeping the snow falling with a flick of his wrist, Mycroft watched Sherlock stand on his tiptoes to jam the carrot gleefully into the snowman’s face. The stones were carefully added by Mycroft’s longer reach.

“Let’s skate now,” Sherlock declared, after the snowman stood proud and beautifully complete. Mycroft considered his tiny brother, thinking it over. It felt so good, so freeing, and already any tiredness he felt had been stripped away. His skin felt raw and tinging, his mind pushing him to do more, and more, and more. He wanted to see what he could do, test himself. He wanted to make something beautiful to show off in front of Sherlock.

But father said no.

‘No’ meant no magic when he was stressed, or angry, or tired, or bored. ‘No’ meant no corrupting Sherlock’s normality, no snow for the sake of it. Those were the rules and he had been doing so well, his parents had been so happy, so proud…

But he supposed he could stop whenever he wanted. Sherlock was the one who had asked for it after all, and what sort of big brother would he be to ignore such a beseeching face? Monopoly was boring. Operation was boring. Card games and deductions and routine were boring.

He raised a foot with a meaningful look at his brother, and Sherlock’s sad-eyed stare turned into a grin immediately. With a shake of the head to remove the doubts, Mycroft brought his slippered foot down on the hard wood floor, watching crystals of ice fan out from his footprint. The ice spread outwards faster than usual until it touched each of the four walls, snaking up the legs of the furniture. Walking across it with ease, Mycroft held Sherlock loosely by the wrists and began to skate them backwards, his feet sure and steady on the ice.

No matter how many times they did this (and they had done this for years, before Mummy and father had even said it was allowed), Sherlock never grew bored of the same games, and Mycroft never grew bored of providing the ice. They skated around the living room for what felt like hours, Mycroft occasionally trying to spin Sherlock by the hands or something else equally ridiculous. Sherlock snapped at him every time, because he wasn’t a baby, or a girl, thank you very much. 

Mycroft laughed, loudly and freely. Sherlock shushed him, calling him an idiot, but seemed strangely entranced by Mycroft’s transformation.

After a while, Mycroft skidded them into a graceful stop, noticing the odd thickness to the ice coating the windows. The green velvet of the sofa cushions was becoming an odd mottled blue, and he didn’t recall doing that. He let go of Sherlock’s wrists abruptly, suggesting they stop for hot chocolate.

“It’ll warm us both up,” he said simply, rubbing his eyes with the back of one hand. His vision felt sharper than it had in a week, than it had been even before he had stopped using his powers. Everything was bigger, more powerful, more intense. His skin felt peaceful after so much magic, but he wondered if he would be able to pull the gloves back on tomorrow without shattering them.

Sherlock looked at him accusingly, unwilling to stop. “You never need warming up, and I’m perfectly fine. You just want us to stop playing so you can go back to bed.”

“Quite right,” Mycroft lied smoothly, brushing snow out of his hair. “Now get moving, or I shall make none for you.”

Sherlock stuck his bottom lip out, unmoved.

Mycroft turned his back on his brother, striding to the door. “We’ve been playing for hours, and now we’re having a break, Sherlock. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.” He turned around to continue, but Sherlock was not where he had been a moment ago. The younger boy had scrabbled up the enormous mound of snow that Mycroft had used to build the second snowman, sitting precariously on the top of the pile. Without thinking, Mycroft reached out a hand and strengthened the pile, giving Sherlock more room at the top.

Instead of spreading his balance over the wider area, Sherlock simply grinned at him. Mycroft saw what he was about to do a second before it happened and felt his whole body go still.

With a holler that would surely wake the whole house, Sherlock launched himself off the edge.

Mycroft’s hands were moving before he had a chance to think, throwing out piles of snow to catch Sherlock’s fall. He was creating stepping stones quicker than he could catch his own breath, and he was vaguely aware of his own shouting, and Sherlock’s laughter.

“Stop it, Sherlock!”

“Catch me, Ice Queen!”

“Stop, stop,” Mycroft panted, feeling his hands trembling with focus. He could do this, he was fine, and when Sherlock grew tired of his childish game Mycroft could scream at him and stop shaking so badly.

It all seemed to happen in slow motion after that. Sherlock’s foot missing a step, Sherlock’s body falling slowly, Sherlock’s hands flinging out to save himself. Mycroft stretched out as far as he could go as if to catch him, something in his chest constricting in fear. Before Sherlock could hit the floor his magic erupted, flying outwards uncontrollably in an attempt to catch his brother.

A thin spike of light caught Sherlock in the head, bringing him down hard on top of the fallen snow. He lay, curled up and unmoving, for the single second it took Mycroft to reach him.

Sherlock – no, no, no, Sherlock!” Mycroft wrapped both hands around his brother’s shoulders, shaking him lightly. “Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock,” he found himself chanting, reaching out to touch his brother’s pulse, feel for his warm breath with the back of his hand. He gasped unsteadily when he found both, and cried as loudly as he could for their parents.

The room was almost totally coated with ice, and it seemed to Mycroft to be creeping in, trying to claim him. The walls were at least two inches thick, icicles hanging from each section of the chandelier. Mycroft sat in the very middle, hugging Sherlock desperately into his chest.

“Please, please, please, please…” He would do anything to make the situation restored, to make his little brother stand up and shake off the fall. Sherlock’s face was as pale as his own, and the steady heat which the boy usually exuded no longer burned Mycroft’s skin. Long lashes tangled with dark hair, and Mycroft found himself feeling utterly sick at the motionless body.

Brushing a hand over Sherlock’s curls, his fingers paused on one particular lock. It sat bright white in amid the black, as pale as Sherlock’s skin. Mycroft felt tears burn at the back of his eyes, wanting to rip the stands clean out of his brother’s scalp.

Footsteps could be heard in the hall, and Mycroft’s stomach clenched at the thought of being found out. It was only Sherlock’s stillness that had him calling out hoarsely, choking back a dry sob. Father entered the room, Mummy a few steps behind, and both rushed forwards when they saw the two boys on the floor.

“Mycroft, what –”

“Oh, Sherlock!” Mummy pulled Sherlock’s body quickly away from Mycroft, shielding him with her arms. She bent close to his face, checking his pulse as Mycroft had done only seconds ago.

“What. Happened.” Father demanded, and Mycroft was suddenly more afraid than he had ever been in his life.

“It was – an accident,” he gasped, his eyes still fixed on his mother and brother. Mummy was talking to Sherlock now, tapping his face gently with her hands. “We were just playing and – Sherlock – I never meant – he just –”

“This has got to stop, Mycroft, your powers are getting too out of control!” Father was waving his hands angrily. As much as Mycroft wished it to disappear altogether, the ice in the room seemed to be growing with each beat of his hammering heart. He opened his mouth to apologise, to beg for his brother back, to try and ask for forgiveness in some way, when he was cut off by Mummy.

“We need to get Sherlock to the hospital right now, Siger. He’s cold as ice.”

Mycroft scrambled to his feet and rushed for his shoes, despite the terrifying feeling that he was distinctly unwanted.