The Makings of an Ice Man: The Diet and the Ring
So I’ve recently heard Birdy’s cover of “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver, and feelings happened.
It rained the day of the funeral. It rained two days before and three days after, as well. In fact, it rained most days in the country, it seemed to Sherlock, so the fact that it rained on the day of the funeral was nothing special, but it stood out to him because it was the day Mycroft started using their Da’s umbrella.
Sherlock stood close to his big brother and curled his arm around him, mostly to get out of the rain and to feel the heat Mycroft always put out like a furnace, and partly because he felt like he was supposed to, what with Mycroft’s arm around his shoulder. He stared at the headstone and the grass and the dark, wet bark of the tree nearby and up at the black brolly he had stood under countless times before with his Da.
He had once asked his Da why he carried a brolly around with him everywhere and had been told, “A Holmes always thinks ahead, Sherly, and is never caught unprepared.” Sherlock wondered if Da had been prepared for this.
The brolly was trembling under the force of the rain pitter-patter-ing on it and Sherlock put his hand out to feel, but the rain was only a light drizzle now. Mycroft’s arm tightened around him and he felt that the trembling was coming from his brother. He looked up worriedly, but Mycroft’s round face was as stoic as it had been for the last week now—if pale and red-cheeked from the cold—and only a slight curve of his eyebrows showed his distress. Sherlock wished Mummy could’ve been here instead of in bed, where she’d been since they had come back from the hospital.
“Will we be alright?” Sherlock asked finally. His feet hurt from standing stiff in the cold.
“Yes, of course,” Mycroft replied immediately. “Come on, let’s go home.”
The rain had stopped, but Mycroft left the brolly open until they reached the car.
Late that night, Mycroft was called into Mummy’s room and didn’t come out until almost half an hour after Sherlock’s bedtime. When he came to make sure Sherlock had brushed his teeth and ready for bed, his eyes were red and he wore Da’s ring on his right hand. Sherlock asked about it but Mycroft would only say that he was the man in the house now. Mycroft was sixteen, nearly seventeen, which Sherlock hardly thought made him a man, but he was polite and didn’t say so because Mycroft looked like he was about to cry.
Things seemed to go back to normal, even wiithout Da. Mummy eventually came out of her room and Mycroft did his A-levels and was going to university soon and Sherlock had collected nearly 50 bugs in jars by the window before Mummy found them and made him throw them out.
Mycroft didn’t play with Sherlock anymore and stopped smiling, not like he did that much to begin with, and Sherlock started to think Mycroft didn’t like him anymore. Sherlock decided he didn’t much like Mycroft anymore either, especially when he started scolding Sherlock for getting mud on his clothes or not eating his beans or for taking Da’s bug book outside to see if the caterpillar he found matched one of the ones in chapter 9.
It wasn’t until months after Da’s funeral, when Sherlock heard glass breaking in the bath and found Mycroft sitting curled up on the floor with his head on his knees, that he realized that somehow things had gone wrong when he wasn’t looking.
Mycroft didn’t say anything when Sherlock said his name, but he sat up when Sherlock touched his hair and shoulder. His eyes were cast down at the towel over his lap and there were dark circles under his eyes, above the sharp edges of cheekbones Sherlock had never seen before in his life. He realized he could see Mycroft’s ribs. Sherlock touched his shoulder again, feeling chilled skin and the hard edge of bone, none of Mycroft’s characteristic fat or heat, and he felt fear creep into his insides. Mycroft still wouldn’t look at him, wouldn’t say anything. Scared, he knelt and wrapped his arms around his brother’s neck.
He saw the blood on Mycroft’s hand from the broken glass, but recognized that something was far more wrong with Mycroft than a cut. He had never been more confused or helpless in his life, not even when Da died. He called for Mummy.
“How’s the diet?” He would say years later while his roommate looked on disapprovingly.
“Fine,” Mycroft would reply firmly, pursing his lips.
And Sherlock would smile.