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The Frost Child

Chapter Text

  

 

 

 

 

 

Whose woods these are I think I know.   

 His house is in the village though;   

 He will not see me stopping here   

 To watch his woods fill up with snow.   - Robert Frost

 

 

It wasn't hard for even the most oblivious passer-by to deduce what Sherlock’s Gift was. Stealth was most certainly not part of its ability, nor did tact particularly play a central factor in the detective’s personality. The Magick of it ran thick through the man’s veins, something that John could sense like a slap to the face from the second he had walked into Bart’s Hospital, cloying and preening and undeniably, vibrantly alive. It seemed to thunder in the man’s blood, turn his every step, every movement into a graceful storm that crackled with precious energy, lightning rebirthed with the sonorous tone of his voice. It was so strong that Sherlock’s eyes, sometimes flying open in the wake of his talent, would glow electric blue.

 

Secrets. Deducing them, observing. That was Sherlock’s Magick. In the medical field, a type B level Gift, scientifically in the category of Servo, abilities designed to glean information from the world around their user. Impressively strong, John had been instantly dazzled by its allure, pulled in by the firm tug of it, a magnet sucking in everything in its path.

 

“Afghanistan or Iraq?”

 

The army doctor tasted peppermint on his tongue as he’d replied, interested after endless months filled with nothing but blandness and boredom “How did you know?”

 

****

 

Sherlock assumed John’s Gift was a subsection of some kind of Curatio ability, common in the medical field. Possibly of a stronger level than was statistically average, if the scar on the man’s lean shoulders was anything to go by, but predictable. A bit dull. Still, the detective wasn’t one to merely dismiss a person’s Gift, provided it could be useful. Magick was an unpredictable thing, and so often it manifested itself into something diverting but ultimately useless. Surely, Mrs Hudson’s D level telekinesis ability was little more than a parlour trick, handy for cleaning when a broom needed to do its sweeping job by itself, but little else.

 

But a Healing ability, even a low level one in the hands of someone trained in the medical profession, oh, there were endless possibilities to cheat death, to survive.

 

At first, it was the reason that Sherlock took interest in the man, so often covered in safe woollen jumpers and an approachable smile. Quiet, golden-boy John Watson, a soldier with surprisingly more steel in his spine than even the detective’s Gift had been able to account for.

 

John to his credit, said nothing, and let Sherlock continue on believing his deductions were correct. After all, they were so very rarely wrong, and John wasn't particularly inclined to deal with his friend’s stroppiness when he was faced with the fact that his Gift, though keen and well-trained, could in fact be prone to error.

 

The first night John Watson slept in 221 B, the detective woke to swirling frost patterns adorning his window sills. A kiss of winter approaching. The detective played Christmas carols completely out of season, and Mrs Hudson smiled while John sipped his tea and read his newspaper, deep blue eyes giving nothing away.

 

****

The other kids used to make fun of John, when he was very small. Shorter than most, and with no Gift manifesting even by the time he was ten years of age, they found an easy target. Sometimes, the army doctor reflected on those lonely nights when he’d sit curled in the small bedroom he’d shared with his sister Harriet, staring unblinkingly out the window. He could remember the way he’d clasped his hands together, pressing them to his chest, wishing, willing his eyes to change colour, for something to happen to him, for him to feel the large, gaping emptiness inside of him fill. To suddenly understand the words presented to him in class, Latin phrases that he should be able to read and songs he should be able to hear but couldn't.

 

Eventually, the kids began attaching a name to him. A hated word, an insult whispered to one another under their breaths:

Abnormis.

 

And though John’s ability lay dormant inside of him, though he couldn't read Latin, he knew what the word meant. And it filled him with a kind of shame that he couldn't quite hope to quantify to his secretly worried parents, or explain to his sister, who was as mocking as the other children his age.

 

****

 

Mycroft knew.

Then again, it was near impossible to hide anything from someone with a Clairvoyance ability. John had been able to tell the moment he had stepped out of the car, as well as the fact that it was an A level. Simply put, the elder Holmes’ eyes had a habit of glowing when the occasion arose for him to test his ability.

 

Test it, he did, and apparently immediately labelled the unassuming army doctor as a threat to his younger brother. So much so in fact that as John had gotten into the car, he had stiffened, feeling the warping of his Gift and without turning, hissing “Null.” to Anthea.

The woman, still staring at her phone, had only grinned a cryptic and yet all too telling smile.

 

In the end, Mycroft hadn’t scared John away.

Yet the enigmatic democrat had found them separating with a new chill in his spine, and the tang of peppermint lingering in the future.

Mycroft, alone in the empty parking lot in which he had arranged the meeting, found himself whispering “Oh, Sherlock. What have you done?”

 

****

The case was on fire.

 

literally.

 

John had been running, but his legs literally locked in place at the sight before him, mouth falling open in a moment of pure shock, hand lashing out instinctively to hold Sherlock back, to shield him from the sheer wave of heat that rose like a wall before them. Buildings, townhouses, the sun was blotted out by the thick and curling clouds of smoke. The heat alone put a fifty foot space between the house and Lestrade’s police cruiser’s, forcing the fire department itself to rear back, look on only in helpless horror as the integrity of the entire block threatened to crumble under the wave of fire.

 

John could only think one thing, and his heart dropped to the bottom of his stomach, even as Sherlock’s thrill-dipped voice shone with complete and total awe.

“Ignatius.”

 

As if he had spoken a fervored curse, a sudden eruption exploded from the roof, accompanied by the distinct wail of a child. John forced Sherlock down lower to the ground, feeling the heat of the flames sear the back of his neck. The roar of the fire was enough to nearly deafen him. Sulphur and ash flew into the sky, choking out oxygen. John felt Sherlock beneath him, squirming to get a closer look, but the soldier’s grip was like iron. Snarling into the curly-haired detective’s ear, John held him in place. His voice was battle-hardened, sharp from years of shouting over bombs and bullets.

 

“Stay bloody still you idiot it’s a level A Elementum, not some child doing a card trick!”

 

Even as he spoke, John’s words proved to be both right, and wrong. Over the blare of the sirens, there was the distinctive screaming of a child, and chancing a look upwards, the army doctor felt whatever hope he had once held for the situation sink even deeper into his stomach. For floating above the flames, their eyes so blue they were nearly white was a small boy, a child. Except, their skin was the colour of molten lava, their hair flame-gold. Glowing, crack-like fissures were erupting over their skin, and they were screaming an unholy rage that formed into words in John’s ears, Latin broken and terrified.

 

“I WANT MY MOTHER! YOU TOOK HER AWAY FROM ME! I WANT MY MAMA!”

 

With the exclamation came another surge of flame, radiating out from the child like a radioactive heat. The earth trembled with it, even the fire-trucks’ sirens burned out by its abject fury. John closed his eyes then, hot ash running down his back. He could taste cold on his tongue, peppermint and steel and a familiar tingling in his bones-

 

Then Lestrade was somehow beside them, breaking John’s concentration. the sergeant was already covered in a layer of hot ash, face streaked grey and grimy from it, and he was coughing rattlingly into his sleeve. His voice was raised above the din, dark eyes wide with the kind of controlled fear that only came with having the lives of innocent civilians thrust regularly upon one’s shoulders. Still, his voice was trembling with uncertainty.

 

“We got the call almost half an hour ago, neighbour reported it!” Sherlock struggled out from John’s grip then, blue eyes alight with manic focus. Blue eyes blazed bluer as he looked at the house and the floating child above it, analysing the situation with knife-like precision. His voice, crackling like ozone before a storm, carried over everything in envious clarity.

 

“About ten or twelve, I’d say! No manifestation of abilities until now, something triggered it…! Lestrade, the child is distressed!”

 

At the sound of his deduction, the wailing from the boy seemed to pick up in volume, and Greg winced, clapping a hand over one ear. His Gift, magnification of sound, couldn't be doing himself any favours at the moment.

 

“Yeah, Got that much! That’s the problem! He keeps screaming for his mum, but no one knows where she is! He was supposedly home alone, everyone evacuated the buildings! No one can get a hold of her and we can’t reason with the kid when he’s like this!”

 

John felt a coldness in his chest, because no, there wouldn't be reasoning with the child, not when they were so far into their Magick as to change physically. Not if no one could even get close... He knew… he….

It came to him, clear as day.

He had to stop it…

There was… He could…

 

He had to.

 

He wouldn't let this happen again.

 

Had To.

 

“What’s his name?” His voice, coming out far calmer than it felt, called out. Lestrade blinked in surprise, and Sherlock narrowed his gaze, fascination turning into apprehension as he read John, trying to deduce his intention. Greg answered in confusion, taking his hands away from his ears as he replied

 

“Mark… Mark Mathers… But, Mate… what are you-”

 

“John.” Sherlock snapped then in warning, seeming to sense what the army doctor was thinking. Yet already John was on his feet, ignoring the detective’s arm reaching out to grab him, pull him down, running blindly towards the heat.

 

The last thing John heard before he was deafened by the flames was his friend’s voice, turned wild and high with fear. More fear than he had ever heard before in Sherlock’s bass rumble.

“JOHN!”

 

Then the army doctor was engulfed in a wall of smoke and flame.

 

****

The breaking point for John came when he was fifteen, drunk, and when Harry took it a step too far in her teasing.

 

New years, the snow outside had been falling heavily, incredibly heavy for London. That year people had laughingly compared the streets to that of Canada, citizens seriously concerned as to whether or not they would freeze to death before the streets got up and running once more.

 

The party had been a family get-together, code for a platform for John’s relatives to boast over their children, preen about their Gifts and how his many cousins were spending time perfecting and learning about their Magick through spells and ciphers and texts. To his credit, he put up with it in good humour for the first hour or so, only dipping into the champagne by the next half hour in. By the end of the evening, he was pleasantly drunk, had been given exactly ten backhanded compliments by aunts and uncles attempting to be sympathetic, and was deeply, thoroughly sick of the Winter Hols.

 

Cue Harriet, also pleasantly drunk, her Gift of being a charming socialite only slightly slurred by the champagne glass in her hand and the wicked glint in her eye. She entered John’s room after the midnight bell had tolled its cheery greeting to the newly crested year, hiccuping and giggly and all in all looking for trouble. She had wasted no time, catching John curled on his side in his bed, trying to block out the ringing chill that had seemed to fill his lungs and his breath and his teeth since the evening had set in.

 

“Awe, shivering Johnny?” His sister had laughed by the way of greeting, kicking off her sharp-looking heels and stumbling over to clumsily sit at the foot of his bed. John, not in the mood to deal with too much bullshit given the fact that his head felt like he was currently drilling one of his sister’s shoes into his temple, groaned a dismissal.

 

“Go ‘way Harry.”

Christ, he felt unwell. What had been In that booze?

 

Harry was not to be deterred. Instead she pressed onward, ignoring the tension in her brother’s shoulders, carrying on as if she hadn't heard.

“Mum’s been going on all night about me, talkin’ ‘bout my Gift. Thinks I could go into politics.” She preened for a moment, sloppy and proud. John felt a prickle of annoyance leech into his bones, simmering just under the surface. His voice was a warning. But his sister, loosened by drink and by her own personality, didn't seem to see.

 

“Harry…”

 

“What? Can’ be happy for your older sister for once instead of being so bloody bitter?” Her tone soured then, approaching malicious glee. She tossed her blonde curls, eyes flashing a brief, glasz blue before returning to their natural shade. “Or is ickle Johnny have such a bloody power complex-”

 

“Harry-” John snarled, feeling something rushing through him. Something violent and malignant and inherently wrong-

 

“That he can’t even admit that it doesn't matter his grades, doesn't matter how much work he puts into things, he’ll never be enough-

 

“STOP!”

 

And John, without thinking, without even pausing to blink or breathe, twisted about onto his back and lashed out, as if to strike her. Except… Except his hand never made contact, because in that moment, Harriet was flung across the room, champagne glass falling from her fingers to spill onto the carpet, her body being pinned against the wall as her eyes flew wide and the room exploded into Ice.

 

Black. freezing. Ice.

 

And the next thing John knew, he was standing in his bedroom, eyes wide and outstretched hand trembling, the entire upper floor of his home blue and clouded with a thick layer of ice as deep as a yard stick. And under it, still somehow very much alive but very much frozen solid to the wall was Harriet, her face a contortion of a silent scream, eyes wide and blank and staring at John, almost as if she were locked into a sleeping dream.

 

****

Sherlock wasn't used to panic.

From the time of childhood, he was used to being able to collect all of the facts, gathering data, studying action and reaction and piecing together events, all but predicting the future. He had come into his Gift at the remarkably young age of three, and from then on had never looked back, never bothered to wonder what it would be like to not be able to see all the variables, know them.

 

With John Watson, he was beginning to know the feeling.

 

“Let me go.” He murmured, voice rising as Lestrade refused to lessen his grip. The detective’s struggles became more desperate, more frantic as seconds passed, slowly turning into minutes as his voice rose in volume, cracking with burgeoning panic.

“Let me go, Lestrade! John!

 

Sherlock’s eyes were wide with panic, his figure writhing in Lestrade’s grasp like an eel struggling to break free from a net. Smoke formed a halo about his curls, making him look undone. There was a ringing in the detective’s ears, drowning out even the thunder of the fire, the smoke and flames making his eyes sting and his breath catch and surely that was why he couldn't breathe, surely that was the reason behind the buckling of his knees-

 

Greg’s voice was in his ear, magnified so that it shouted at him like a foghorn calling back a shift gone adrift to sea.

 

“Sherlock! Sherlock stop it won’t help anything-”

 

But the detective couldn't hear him, his own pounding heart seeming to drown him in blood and panic. Because his friend, his army doctor had just leaped into fire in an attempt to save a boy that neither of them even knew and surely John’s Healing abilities might have been great but even the strongest level of Curatio would be unable to withstand the level of damage that the heat would produceandSherlockhadn’tevengottentotellJohnhisgreatestdeductionyethehadbeenwaitingfortherighttimeandnowJohnwouldneversitacrossfromhimagaininhisoldarmchairormakehimteaand-

 

John.

 

And the edges of Sherlock’s vision turned black with panic, and Lestrade wasn't particularly surprised to be honest when the detective curled sharply towards the ground, vomiting rather unceremoniously all over the detective Inspector’s shoes.

 

****

 

The inside of the building was like stepping inside of a bonfire. John was sure that if he had any other ability, he would have been scalded upon entry. Greasy charcoal clung to his jumper already, and the army doctor briefly mourned the article of clothing’s inevitable loss in the future even as he spared a glance at the stars that lead to where Mark Mathers was undoubtedly floating. What he saw through the thick haze of smoke wasn't comforting. The steps, blackened to charcoal and looking fit to crumple at the slightest touch, were completely unusable. Taking a deep breath the army doctor realised that he had even less time than he thought he did, a stopwatch running even shorter than normal:

 

He could take water from the air… But only if there was water in the air.

Closing his eyes, John could feel the heat around him, muffled in the chill that enveloped him in times of need, getting warmer by the moment. A breath filled him, and he breathed in smoke, cloying and hot, and moisture, fast being eaten away.

 

And John called upon his grief, called upon the fury that usually served him so well, called upon his anger at being an outcast and anger at being shot and anger at every living thing in this world-

 

And his eyes flew open, blazing so blue they were nearly clear.

From his hands, black ice sprung forth.

 

****

Anger.

Each Gift a person possessed could be fuelled by an emotion, strengthened by a character trait, the feeling behind a memory or mood. In cruder circles, it was nicknamed a Knack. For Harriet as a child, it had been a feeling of superiority. Similarly, Sherlock admitted after the shooting of the cabbie that his Knack was danger, the thrill and adrenaline of having his life threatened. Put him in the line of fire, and the detective’s already whip-sharp deductions heightened to a God’s level.

 

For John, his Black Ice’s secret was fury. Anger, pulled from the darkest wells of his chest, tightening in his spine and shoulders. For someone so mild-mannered, John was incredibly angry, much of the time. His bitterness only served to fuel his Gift, and his parents, once so ashamed of their son, grew wary of his moods, fearing the amount of power their child held hidden just beneath the surface.

 

John feared his rage, so he learned to control it. To hide it in cotton-wool, lest anyone else end up like his elder sister, eventually chipped free from the wall emotionally traumatised and crying. He worked at layering his anger, turning it inwards instead of out. In the army, he learned to use it. To take a pinpoint amount, let it churn and build until it allowed him to strike with the precision of a sniper, attack and ensure that his target, and no one else, would be hurt. He had to, in the end. Elementums, especially higher levels, had powers that not many could hope to control.

It was up to John, and no one believed that a teenager could hope to master such a latent ability.

 

He found himself determined that no one would ever look at him with the kind of terror his family did ever again.

 

John learned to control his anger… but he was never able to find another emotion that could fuel his Gift.

There hadn't been any other emotion that was strong enough.

 

In the end, even when he had been bleeding out in the middle of a fucking desert, John had been unable to let his rage go. Instead, he used it to freeze his blood, stop the bleeding so that the back-up could reach him in time, and prayed dizzily to himself that God would let him live long enough to make it, though he wasn't quite sure what for.

 

****

 

Sherlock regularly tested his resolve. True, the detective rarely actually incited pure wrath from John, but the army doctor often found himself annoyed, quite regularly, almost on a daily basis.

 

Heads in the fridge.

 

It would have been enough to drive most sane men around the bend, he was sure. Then again, John would be the first to admit that he wasn't exactly like most sane individuals at all.

 

As a result, he frequently found his Gift rising to the surface.

Cups and saucers would be wet from melted frost lining their rims, patches of black ice on the floor, conveniently placed where Sherlock might happen to walk. John’s subconscious mind and his active mind found themselves at war with one another, both actively wanting the same thing in the end:

Sherlock’s attention.

 

His ability, so often strong enough as to almost have a mind of its own, seemed to surge around the detective, even when John didn't feel particularly pissed off. Without thinking, John found that the strange, peppermint taste on his lips would come as he watched Sherlock twirl about like a child on Christmas morning, eyes alight with joy over a case, or when the man would do something unexpectedly nice for John, showing a softness and vulnerability that so often Sherlock couldn't afford to show around others, lest they take advantage of it.

 

John tried to convince himself that it wasn't a bad thing, that it he didn't need to be afraid. Still he felt the chill in his fingers, begging to be released when Sherlock would step just outside of his personal space, hovering and warm and alive.

 

Imagining Harry’s face was the only thing that kept John from indulging, reaching out, more times than he would ever be comfortable to admit. The ache that would fill him after such resistance often felt like his heart was frozen to stone.

 

****

 

The staircase was glistening and dark, black-blue and frigid under John’s feet. It creaked unsteadily, already melting under the press of the flames, growing hotter around him. beneath his toes, the pressure caused hairline fractures, spider-webbing outwards.

 

John ran.

 

Above, the flames climbed through the gaping hole in the roof, where Mark must have burst through in his desperation to find his mother. The army doctor’s staircase only reached so far, and John grit his teeth and lunged, shoulder tingling in pain as he gripped the smoking plaster and hauled himself up onto the roof. The scald marks were barely noticed,lingering pain at the back of his mind as he scrabbled for purchase. In his ears, the crackling of the flames singes his hair, the back of his neck. The crying was now right above him, sounding less like a snarling poltergeist, and more the heartbroken shrieks of a small boy very much afraid of what was happening.



John could sympathize.

 

Warm air blasted back the hair from his scalp as he levelled himself onto the edge of the roof tiles, crouching army-style against the wind generated by the force of the flames. Mark, floating above him and too busy screaming, didn't seem to particularly notice him, curled as he was like a pill-bug against the gale.

 

From far, far below John could just make out a barely-discernible shout, ant-like figures pointing up at him. Sherlock’s form, gesturing wildly in what seemed to be both relief and panic, just visible through the flickering embers and smoke. John took as deep of a breath as he could, coughing and hacking when clouds of the thick grey substance filled his lungs.

Gathering himself, he called out Mark’s name.

 

“Mark Mathers!”

 

The shrieking, having been keeping a steady wave up until that moment, lowered only infinitesimally. Mark, turning his head, had his teeth bared in a snarl of savagery, feet connecting back on the roof with a jolt as the small boy turned to address the new threat. The thick, static hiss of Magick filled his voice.

 

“DON’T WANT YOU. WHERE IS MY MUM?”

 

With his words, flames tried to lick at John, attempting to ignite him. The army doctor calmly collected his rage, dampening it into the ground. The low steam of ice melting into water against heat surrounded him in a ring, billowing more clouds into the air.

“Mark, I need you to listen. My name’s John, John Watson. Down there is a colleague… a good friend of mine. Sherlock Holmes… Do you know the name?”

 

The little boy, glowing eyes blinking in reptilian consideration, didn't seem to overly much care who John was. Instead, his gaze darted to John’s hands, pressed against the heated metal-roofing, unburned and only pinkened with the strain of holding onto his anger.

 

His features twisted in consideration, words tumbling in a messy scrawl of Latin that John could almost see in the air, the strength of the boy’s powers so far holding him.

 

“You… You’re like me…”

 

John, now raising his hands in supplication, rocked on his heels. He nodded by way of reply, tongue darting over chapped lips, eyebrows lowered in concentration. He confirmed Mark’s question by answering

Glacies, yes. An Elementum.

 

The boy, seemingly fascinated, approached. With each footstep, fire licked an imprint into the roof. John held steady, even when the boy reached out, heat now blistering. He willed himself not to flinch, even when one hand like a branding iron came to rest on his cheek, Mark apparently too far gone to even realize how out of hand his ability had gotten. John for his part grit his teeth, struggling not to cry out, even as his Gift cooled his skin- fast but not quite fast enough.

 

“Mark,” He murmured, trying to reason with the little boy lost in the fear and confusion “I need you to tell me what happened, what went wrong… do you think you can tell me?”

 

The boy’s features twisted from confusion back into rage, and the flames grew hotter as he looked about, searching for a face he couldn’t find. “Mama…” He whimpered, small form quivering “He took Mama… she told me to hide… And I did but then he took her…”

 

Mark’s lower lip quivered then, and he pleaded with John, snatching his hand away, his voice high with terror.

“I… I can’t control it! It’s… I’m afraid! Want my mum!” Around them the flames grew, swelling with the child’s distress. John could feel a burn, slight but handprint-sized, developing on his cheek. Sweat trickled down his forehead. His time was running out.

 

Standing, he held his hands out in supplication, forcing his voice to remain as calm as he could make it. Soothing.

 

“Okay… Okay Mark, I need you to breathe. Your mother is going to be fine…  I promise.”

 

“Took her.” The boy sniffled, but his voice sounded slightly more human somehow, less lost. The flames banked slightly, and John took it as a sign to continue. He approached slowly, keeping his voice low, forcing Mark to listen to hear his words.

 

“I know… I know. But we’ll get her back… I promise you, Mark. See that man down there?” Pointing, both John and the child looked then to  Sherlock, who was staring up at John with wide, disbelieving eyes. The ex army doctor’s voice was filled with confidence, a sturdy rock that Mark could attach to, even while stranded in his own personal sea.

“That man down there is Sherlock Holmes, the bravest and wisest man I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. He’ll find your mum, Mark. I believe in him. Do you think you can, too?”

 

The little boy’s angry red glow was starting to fade, and his eyes flickered, brilliant gold to normal brown. Soft. Tear-stained. Around him, the flames began to dissipate, peter out into ash, cold and dead.


It was an eternity, an entire millennia later, when the boy, taking a shuddering breath, nodded his head. His voice was small, tears beginning to stream down his face as the last of the light left him, and the flames about him dissolved like they were blown away by the wind. John found himself with an armful of sobbing child, clutching to his very much ruined jumper. Mark’s wails of “Please, find her!” the only thing echoing in the stunned silence of the audience that was Scotland Yard.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

 But I have promises to keep,   

 And miles to go before I sleep,   

 And miles to go before I sleep. - Robert Frost

 

 

 

John Watson

Age: 39

Height: 5”6

Weight: 10.36 St.

Gift: Level A Elementum- Glacies

 

Sherlock read the file again, the evidence before him clear as day, in black and white medical text. Still, it would not compute, would not make sense.

John…

 

His John…

 

Mr fuzzy jumpers, soft smiles and gentle manner…

 

An insidious voice whispered at the back of Sherlock’s mind then, purring in satisfaction at the final piece that had been niggling in the back of his mind that was just now falling into place.

The final puzzle piece, surely. John couldn't be normal, not if he could fascinate you so…

 

“Shut up.” The detective murmured to himself aloud, and his hands curled about the file. Unbidden, his gaze flicked upwards, landing on the prone man lying still in a hospital bed only three weeks away from Christmas.

 

John looked impossibly small compared to how he had appeared on that rooftop, eyes blazing white, skin a glittering blue and frost trailing behind him like mist. Now, he was pale and nearly swallowed whole by the engulfment of the hospital cot he lay in, eyes closed and face mottled purple, a hand-print laying claim over half of his cheek.

Extreme dehydration, the doctors had cited when John had collapsed after carrying Mark Mathers out of the smouldering remains of his house. Sherlock, having been already half out of his mind by that point, had rushed forward to catch his friend, panicking when he’d pressed a hand to the army doctor’s throat, finding it ice cold with his heart beat thudding wildly.

 

As it turned out, the chill for John was normal.

 

A day later, and the army doctor still hadn't woken. Sherlock had remained by his bedside without hesitation in that time, despite suggestions from the doctors that he keep his distance. Elementums, as shown with Mark, often struggled to keep a tap on their abilities, especially if confused or injured. The nurse’s kind warnings of 

“He might not recognise you at first when he awakens, Mr Holmes.” Only proved to put Sherlock’s teeth on edge. Instead he ignored them all, slouching in a blue plastic chair, gaze hard and penetrating on his flatmate’s still form, as if he could hope to glean something from John’s psyche even as the good doctor slept on.

 

Fragile.

John… the only thing Sherlock’s ability could deduce at the moment, was that his friend looked terribly fragile, hooked up to fluids, hair gone so blonde in the sun that it was silver-white. For a moment, the detective’s deductions melted away, observations erased from his thoughts like the kiss of rain, and Sherlock only felt one thing: a curious kind of yearning to reach out, to touch.

 

At that moment, John’s eyes blinked open fuzzily, and the army doctor muttered a confused and slurred out “Sh’lock?”

When he did, the detective noticed that fogged breath left his lips, and a small curling of frost suddenly coalesced in John’s hair. Sherlock pretended not to notice, swallowing down his shock and alerting his friend to his presence. He couldn't let his friend panic.

 

“John. I'm here, everything’s okay. You’re in a hospital but everything is fine.”

 

The army doctor didn't seem to quite understand, blinking blearily at the detective, voice raspy and rough. Smoke inhalation, though it had been lessened due to John’s Gift layering his vocal chords in ice during the fire escapade. His voice was slurred, slow to come and confused, and Sherlock found a tightness in his chest as he worried, wondering if the army doctor didn't have some kind of brain damage.

 

“Where’ M’rk?” It took Sherlock a second to realise that John was referring to the child who had set the entire block on fire, and when he did the detective couldn't help but laugh, the sound low and rumbling. Only John would worry about someone else even while lying prone in the hospital. At the sound of his laugh his friend’s brow only furrowed, questioning Sherlock’s amusement. The detective didn't bother to elaborate, instead answering the doctor’s question.

 

“Safe with his mother, John. It was her boyfriend. Abusive, wanted the son for his own and tried to take him. The mother objected… strenuously and so Liam Jives, otherwise known as our attempted murderer, stole her away to a more private location to… take care of the problem. He didn't know the boy was in the house… Mark’s mother was fine, if a bit shaken up by the time the Yard arrived. All thanks to you, John.”

 

Sherlock added the last bit, relaxing at the open relief on his friend’s face. John breathed heavily through his nose, sinking back into the pillows. The exhalation left him in a trailing imitation of Dragon’s Breath, and his eyes widened after a moment, flicking to Sherlock’s face in horror at the detective’s evident lack of surprise. His lips parted, and Sherlock could see him scrambling for an answer through the haze of morphine and other painkillers, searching for some kind of excuse. Before he could, the detective was up in a swirl of long coat and put-upon haughtiness, rolling his eyes in exasperation.

“For God’s sake, John, you can rarely even lie to me when in complete control of your mental faculties. Don’t embarrass yourself.”

 

The look on John’s face was a mix of sickly amused and dreading, and he slumped back in his pillows once again, eyes closing as if bracing himself for some kind of invisible blow. Sherlock for a moment worried that the doctor had aggravated his wounds somehow, yet that brief fear soon dissolved into incredulity as John sighed through his mouth, murmuring

 

“Well, that’s that then. I’ll be gone from your hair as soon as I can be up and about again.”

Sherlock was on his feet again even though he had only just sat down, glaring down at John in a sudden thunderous outrage. His voice was cracking like a whip as he gripped the edge of his companion’s bed, brows lowered and voice deadly serious.

 

“You are not going anywhere. I do not know what stupidity has gotten into your brain but if you would be so kind as to get it out and listen, you might understand that I very well near lost you not too long ago and I am not amenable to the idea of doing so again.”

 

John, paling slightly at the detective’s expression, regained his voice with surprising ease. He sat himself higher, a bull-terrier facing down a great dane, his blue eyes hard and disbelieving even as his nose twitched in minute exasperation.

“Sherlock, I'm… my Gift is considered dangerous to those around me. Until now, we've been very lucky I haven’t accidentally frozen you in your sleep! Mark will likely wind up spending most of his life in hospitals, learning how to control his Magick just so that he can finish school!”

 

“Nonsense.” The detective dead-panned even as John sputtered in protest “You have excellent control in all things, John. If not, you wouldn't have been able to hide so well from me in the first place. Think about it, my Gift is to see people’s innermost secrets and observe their faults and flaws and abilities and you managed to hide in my very home!”

 

As he spoke, Sherlock became a mixture of reluctantly awed and agitated, fingers curling and uncurling in their long, spider-like way about the handlebars of John’s bed. The army doctor felt himself flushing, a peculiar medley of pride and panic filling his blood. Surely, Sherlock could see that they couldn't go on as they always had, could they?

 

“In college I nearly froze my room mates. In the army there were times I nearly froze my colleagues, Sherlock. You’re not understanding the danger you’re putting yourself in.” As he spoke, John let his control slip, just the slightest amount. Around his bed, a thin sheet of ice began to form, crawling over the tiles like a glossy coat of paint. The detective just barely managed to avoid slipping at the sudden lack of traction beneath his feet. Sherlock scowled, annoyed at John’s stubbornness and inability to understand.Sherlock would not be letting him get it into his head that he was better off alone. John couldn't leave. Sherlock needed him. Needed him in a strange, unique way that was quite unlike any other drug the detective had experienced yet which left him with cravings that were as impossible to ignore as nicotine.

 

“John, you keep insisting you’re a danger because of your powers, but frankly, you were dangerous even before I knew. You’re an ex soldier, and a crack-shot. You carry illegal firearms. You… you've never been safe. If those factors couldn't deter me, what makes you think this will?”

 

John’s hands, curled in the bedsheets, tightened further even as an impossible hope bloomed treacherously in his chest. He kept his voice firm, despite the fact that it threatened to crumble, to crack. He kept his gaze resolutely from Sherlock’s sharp features, lest whatever he see in them prove to be his undoing.

“It’s different. This is… this is different, Sherlock. I made a mistake in moving in...I… I knew I was dangerous..  I knew yet I took the risk and I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry but I’m trying to make it right now and I promise I’ll pay the rest of the months rent and let Mrs Hudson know and-”

 

But Sherlock, having heard enough, suddenly cut John off by grabbing the front of the man’s hospital gown in both hands. John, ending abruptly in shock, barely had a second to think, a second to breathe before the detective was crowding him, pressing him so gently but inexorably towards the pillows and the air was hot and tight despite the fact that John was as cold and icy and snow and Sherlock’s lips were so warm when pressed up against his own and God those hands-

 

Before the army doctor even fully understood what had happened, it was over. Sherlock, pulling away, two bright spots of colour in his cheeks standing out, growled out his confession. The one he had been chanting even while holding onto John beside the flaming embers of the house, rocking him in his lap and waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

 

“I love you, John Watson. I love you and you can’t leave. Please.” And Sherlock’s voice cracked over the rushing in John’s ears, because this was impossible, improbable, it had to be some kind of sordid dream on John’s account-

 

Then Sherlock was kissing him for a second time, likely having read the doubt in John’s expression, and the army doctor forgot everything he thought was truth, everything he thought was a lie. Because the man he had been quietly following, quietly falling in love with all this time, was holding him like John was something treasured, something worth loving.

 

When the detective parted himself from the cool of John’s form, he couldn't help but laugh. After a stunned silence, John joined in, hand lifting to cover his mouth even as tears filled his eyes. Lining Sherlock’s curls, dusting them it seemed like cinnamon sugar over a blackforest cake, was a thin layer of sparkling, glittering snow.

 

For just a moment, John’s power manifested itself not out of fury, but out of love. It felt and looked, as clear and clean as a winter storm on Christmas morning.

 

****

“John…”

 

No, Sherlock. That’s my final statement on the matter. No.”

 

The army doctor glared across the room from his comfy chair over the newspaper he was reading, scowling at his partner’s bony and curled form. Sherlock Holmes had his hands pressed to his lips, something boyish and mischievous lingering in his eyes. It was the kind of expression that made John instantly aroused and at the same time wary, having seen one too many explosions occur in the kitchen under that sparking gaze. As it was, the detective didn't seem particularly perturbed by the threat of his companion’s wrath, hands parting to grip the armrests so he could swing his feet underneath himself. Bare and long, they curled into the fabric of the cushion, elevating Sherlock up further so that he looked not unlike a particularly observant bird of prey. John pretended that the swan-like curve of the man’s neck wasn't catching his eye, though he wasn't exactly sure if he succeeded. Sherlock had a habit of looking right through people, though John was better than most at hiding himself from him.

 

“All I'm saying is that you've done it before. You've managed to summon your Gifts through other emotions, ones that aren't so emotionally crippling in the long run. Surely, you’d like to learn to harness that ability, wouldn't you? Wouldn't it be far more expedient if, perhaps for example, you could control your Magick through joy? or excitement?”

 

“Anger means it doesn't go all willy-nilly.” John denied, flicking through the pages of his newspaper without actually seeing them. “It takes a lot to get me worked up these days, although you being a right git do your best to see to that. So big tricks like freezing people solid or creating a blizzard aren't everyday occurrences. Trust me Sherlock, it’s safer to leave parlour tricks to little emotions, in the long run.” The detective scowled the further along in John’s monologue he got, shifting impatiently to stand, looming over his partner a moment before touching his feet to the ground to stalk into John’s personal space. To his credit, the army doctor took it with good-natured patience, allowing the detective to invade even to the point where Sherlock was nearly cumbersome, tucking himself like a koala in John’s lap, forcing the man to discard his attempts at reading. The warmth of the detective’s body was like a furnace to John, arousing and comforting him somehow at once. Both emotions grew as Sherlock tucked the crook of his nose against his lover’s ear, voice purring and rumbling like a curious cat’s as he wheedled his case. Sherlock was good at wheedling, John privately admitted. Of course, the decided brush of a prominent bulge against his own seemed to weaken his defences against any kind of persuasion.

 

He was determined not to let the detective know just how easily he could get his way pressed against John like this.

 

“Studies have shown that negative emotions strain the human body, John. Make it more prone to illness and exhaustion. Elementum’s have on average a shorter lifespan due to their Magick core burning brighter than most, not to mention the ostracization they face puts them at a high risk of suicide and depression.” At his words, John felt Sherlock’s hands tighten minutely in their grip on his jumper. The army doctor thought briefly of his gun, what it had once been for. He felt a lump lodge itself in his throat that he couldn’t quite get past. This proved to be to Sherlock’s advantage, as the detective pressed on.“I would… do most anything to ensure that you remain with me for as long as is humanly possible, John. And though your power is… intimidating when used to its full potential, it clearly wears on you as the hospital visit only proved.”

His voice softened then, and Sherlock pressed a warm, gentle kiss to John’s carotid artery. It fluttered under the press of lips, then sped as Sherlock allowed his seriousness to turn a touch wicked, tongue darting out to lick a stripe upwards. John gasped quietly, feeling what little resolve he had weaken even further. Sherlock’s warmth, encircling and shielding him from it seemed the outside world, felt solid and real and whole. The detective’s voice softened, and John thought to himself that he was so, so lucky to be quite possibly the only man to have seen Sherlock like this, vulnerable and caring and worried.

“Please, John. You… you have suffered enough.”

 

The army doctor said nothing in response for a long time, quietly holding the detective to himself. When he did respond, in the quiet of their flat, it was only by pressing a gentle, gentle kiss to Sherlock’s curls. When John drew back, the detective’s breath was leaving him in clouds. The man’s cheeks were tinged pink the only way pressing against something cold could do.

The army doctor, so very fond of Sherlock, and at the same time so very sad, quietly held him a moment longer.

 

The detective to his credit, didn't complain.

Neither of them noticed the snow, quietly beginning to fall outside.

 

****

He had been so afraid to touch... so very afraid.

 

Now... John couldn't ever have imagined why he had indulged in that fear. He couldn't fathom it, not with Sherlock strung out beneath him, writhing and gasping against the bedsheets, a dark silhouette in the night. The army doctor's hands were cool, and the detective's body was like a furnace, burning in the blackness of the bottom floor bedroom. 

 

Always so afraid... John wondered to himself when it was that he had started wearing gloves in winter, even when he had never really needed them. 

Tomorrow, he vowed even as he licked a stripe down Sherlock's bare torso, relishing the whine the detective made in the back of his throat Tomorrow, I'll feel the touch of his fingers, pressed against mine. 

 

With the thought, John's finger trailed along the detective's curls. He might have laughed if his throat hadn't caught in a well of emotion upon seeing a single piece of Sherlock's inky black hair pulse white, before fading back into its natural shade. The army doctor wondered just how his Gift in that moment, felt more like a blessing than a curse. 

 

****

 

John had every intention of trying to train his Gift for Sherlock’s sake, truly he did. Yet the threat of Moriarty threw his daily private lessons with himself adrift, and rattled his distaste and anger, and the black ice made an appearance more often than not when he tried. John tried not to be angry, truly he did, but it was rather hard to manage when people were being strapped to Semtex, and Sherlock was being more machine than man, not to mention the fact that sex wasn't happening because they were on a case and-

 

Well. One got the idea.

 

Truly, it should have come as no surprise then when Moriarty’s men attempted to kidnap John, that he lashed out a bit harder than was likely necessary. The needle plunging into his neck was painful, and John spun about instinctively, hand lifting, a stream of dark ice shooting through his fingertips, growing up into spikes that rose and curled about the masked man like iron binds. The army doctor felt a momentary flush of triumph, only to stumble as the heavy sleeping medication swept through him, causing his legs to sway beneath him. The second man, seeming to sense his instability grinned, and John had barely enough time to react before the man’s hand shot out, smashing the ice to pieces that was ensnaring his partner. Fortis. A Strongman’s Gift, in layman’s terms. John would have sworn, but he was too busy trying to stay upright, throwing a sloppy strike at the man even as one knee buckled, his vision darkening at the edges.

 

Something must have hit, because there was a low cry that rang out in the cold air. However, John was losing himself, and rapidly. He felt rather than saw the hard kick that came from the left to connect solidly with his side, and hissed in pain as the force behind it caused his ribs to creak, his body rolling limply like a ragdoll’s in the dark of the alley.

 

His last conscious thought was for Sherlock, wondering if the detective would even notice his absence, as obsessed he was with Moriarty. Then, John felt bad, the better half of his mind whispering of course and he loves you and the more terrifying you’re really just bait for him, you know.

 

Then John remembered nothing at all, and his thoughts fell into blackness, infinite and painless.

 

****

Sherlock’s hand had been shaking on the grip of the gun.

That would be what John would remember, later on.

 

His fury in the end would be for something so ridiculously irrational, that Moriarty would dare to reduce Sherlock to the stuttering, cold and trembling statue of a man before him. That the madman would dare to strap him to Semtex, grinning cat-like all the while, his Gift causing John to retch and writhe in agony, hot daggers feeling as though they were ripping apart his innards. A torture Gift, something powerful and dark. Almost as dark as the storm John unleashed when Sherlock looked at him, something manic in his eyes as he trained his gun towards the bombs on the pool floor.

 

John didn't think, really. Barely reacted at all as he heard the squeeze of the trigger, his own chest seizing, his power filling him before he could even acknowledge or hope to stop it. Instead, he felt the world go white, and his own skin grow ice cold.

 

Then John remembered nothing, and felt as if he were floating in a dream of snowflakes and silver and frost.

 

****

Sherlock woke to his ears ringing, his breath trailing out in thick clouds, and a splitting headache that was singing through the centre of his skull. The detective for a moment merely lay on his stomach, floored by it and stunned. Bright colours flickered in and out before his closed eyelids, fluttering sickly. They eventually faded to black. 

 

It was ages before he could even consider moving, and when he did, it was only because of the incessant niggling in the back of his mind. A quiet chant of John.

When Sherlock did finally manage to look up, he felt his stomach give a low swoop out from under him. Surrounding him in a thick, impenetrable dome was ice, white as snow save for the slightly translucent quality it held. When Sherlock’s palm pressed to it, he could feel its weight, its thickness. Dizzily, he sat up, breath streaming from his lips in white clouds, realising that below him, was the frigid tiles of the pool.

 

Then it came to him, the explosion, the blast of cold, and John. Quite suddenly, the detective’s shoes were off, and he was using the heel of them in a panic to chip into the ice, striking it with all of his might so that it creaked and cracked under his fingers.

 

For just before he was been blown back, Sherlock could recall something that made his stomach clench in unadulterated panic. He could remember the fear in his lover’s eyes, and how John’s pupils for a moment had shone white, before the army doctor’s form was encased in a solid defensive caste of ice.

 

****

 

It took too long. Far, far too long. Hours, years, days. It didn't truly matter to Sherlock. His fingernails were bloody by the time he had managed to chip through, and he was shivering viciously, a bone-deep chill having descended upon him. With his escape, the pressurized air in his domed containment escaped in a rush, new air entering in that he drank gratefully. Sherlock scrambled out into the pool area, the water from the once-still swimming vicinity now rising like a glittering black coiled snake, glossing over everything. The first thing Sherlock saw was the remains of Moriarty, frozen solid, face contorted in an open-mouthed scream of madness. His eyes were dark and blind. Sherlock found himself staring at that face for a long moment, hardly daring to believe that such a powerful man, such an insane one, could be so completely bested. The statue before him was a picture of something feral, a being unhinged. 

 

All of that briefly lit triumph however, soon eclipsed with the other figure he found, frozen solid and looking as if he had just fallen asleep.

Sherlock felt something painful and hot rise up in him, and his cry came out in a breathless, defeated “Oh, John.”

 

John Watson was frozen in the end reaching out towards the dome Sherlock had been protected with, his face completely and totally filled with love. And though the rest of the ice around Sherlock was black like tar, the dome that had protected him was clear, a lightly tinted blue. None of this mattered to the detective, his hands shaking as his fingers reached out to press against his companion’s cheeks. Sherlock found a strangled, torn sound escaping his lips as he held the cold and immovable statue that was John Watson close to his chest, the only sound he was able to make. So he made it, again and again and again, until it echoed out over the silent pool, until the Yard eventually arrived, and Lestrade himself had to claw Sherlock away from John’s statue, the detective’s hand reaching out for John’s until the last possible moment that he was lifted away from the scene of the crime.

 

****

Frozen solid, the doctors stated.

 

This was their diagnosis of James Moriarty, upon looking at his cadaver. He had died instantly, his brain and heart frozen, lungs turned to solid ice. Like a flash-frozen pizza, Molly had joked awkwardly. Sherlock hadn't laughed, instead, he had thrown a beaker across the room. The sound of it smashing had sent the poor girl running.

 

John, was a different matter.

The first time the detective was told that his companion actually had a heartbeat, he had felt his own treacherous organ leap into his mouth in impossible hope, eyes widening in relief. However Sherlock's elation was found to be short-lived. The doctors had been swift to caution that the army doctor’s condition though marginally better, was far from ideal.

John’s powers had protected him, in the end. Followed his basest instinct: survival. Yet, with John in a sleep-like state, there were no brain signals to turn John’s abilities towards thawing him.

In theory, Sherlock was told, his companion might sleep forever.

 

The thought was horrible, cruel and wrong. He found himself shaking his head in denial, hands trembling mutely at his sides. Lestrade had seen the silhouette of the man's back bow in what could only be described as insurmountable grief. 

 

That night, Sherlock chain smoked three packs of cigarettes, yelling at Christmas carollers who came to call on Baker Street’s busy pavements. He didn't care if he seemed monstrous, couldn't be bothered to be polite. John, normally his buffer in menial social interaction, would have shaken his head in disappointment at the detective's behaviour. Sherlock found the thought brought him no sense of guilt, even as smoke billowed in a halo about his curls in the dark. 

There was no joy, no Suggestion of festivity in 221 B so long as John Watson was not around.

 

Sherlock couldn't stand it, otherwise.

Mrs Hudson found the man, curled in John’s chair like a small child, clutching a woollen jumper to his cheek. Teary-eyed, she wrapped him in a blanket against the cold, even as outside the snow fell, blanketing everything and muffling even the sound of the detective’s quiet pleading in the dark that his blogger return to him.

 

****

After two weeks without cases, Sherlock returned to the hospital, haggard and sleepless.

 

John’s still form greeted him, surrounded by the flowers and candy and Get Well Soon cards many of the man’s friends had sent him. There was even one from Harry, though Sherlock hadn't seen her come in. It merely read: You've beaten this once, you can do it again.

 

The detective found himself hugging the cold statue, seeking out comfort from John instinctively. Yet John wasn't there, not really. It didn't feel right, it didn't feel safe like it usually did, and Sherlock felt something crack in him, something treacherous and tearful. He hadn't actually bawled since he was a child, but if he thought the nurses wouldn't kick him out, Sherlock might have, in that moment. He pressed his nose into the cold shell of John’s ear, a vague mimicry of the position he had used when begging John to control his abilities through other means. Voice rough, the detective almost didn't realise when he began talking, only that it felt like the thing to do, the words tumbling from him without any greeting or warning.

 

“You need to wake up.” He began, and once it started, Sherlock found he could not quite stop. “You need to wake up, John. You've been asleep for far too long and it’s unacceptable. The Work is suffering. Mrs Hudson is being hateful and overbearing...You need… you need to stop this foolishness at once, I demand it.” Nothing, and Sherlock’s eyes squeezed shut tightly as if he were a small child hiding from the dark, pain lurching through his heart like a spear. When he spoke next, his voice wobbled, cracked in his whisper and struggle to maintain composure. “Y-you need t-to come back. I don’t care if y-you want to sleep. I'm s-selfish like that, I'm a-afraid.” He laughed then, and it sounded wrong and pained and slow. “J-John.”

 

And Sherlock could say no more, for what could hope to summarize his pain more than that name, uttered with all the agony of someone losing their very existence and being forced to do nothing.

 

The detective broke down, sobbing in the cold statue’s arms.

He didn’t notice the heartbeat, thumping sluggishly but increasing in pace underneath his chest.

****

 

Wake up.

John…

you need to wake up…

 

Dark. So much dark. Swimming in it, lost… so lost...

 

Sherlock Holmes is definitely in danger…

 

He needs you, you git.

 

John!

John Watson!

 

JOHN-

 

And John woke, the ice shattering like crystal from his skin.

 

****

“S-Sherlock?”

 

a tearful, horribly relieved “John.”

 

The army doctor’s Gift caused snow to fall in the hospital that evening, much to the delight of the children staying in its wards.