Title: Feeding the mind
Author: fanficwriter101
Pairing: Sherlock/John
Fandoms: Sherlock
Disclaimer: The characters from the show aren't mine, they belong to others. No copyright infringement intended. Any characters you don't recognize are mine. Feedback would be nice, positive feedback would be nicer. Enjoy!
Category: BBC Sherlock 2010 angsty fic
Rating: PG/R overall just for painful things that will crop up
Characters: Sherlock, John, and later Mycroft and a whole cast of OFC's/OMC's
Series: No
Spoilers: The unaired pilot - almost all of this isn't canon but lines/themes from the ep will probably crop up
Summary: The origin (in my Sherlock universe) of Sherlock's hate relationship with food. John learns (the hard way) not to tease Sherlock about his lack of appetite. Another side to the apparently self-confident consulting detective is revealed.
Archive: Just tell me where it's going
Additional 'stuff': I'm happy to be corrected on medical detail in this fic. Set immediately after the end of the pilot episode. Mostly from John's point of view with flashbacks - they're in *italics*.
WARNING WARNING WARNING: Terrified teen Sherlock and unpleasant medical procedures in this fic


Sherlock had seemed keen enough to eat at the Chinese he had apparently discovered near the flat when we were trying to escape from Lestrade.

Unfortunately, by the time we were seated in the restaurant - surprisingly busy given the late hour - his appetite seemed, once more, to have deserted him.

I wasn't planning to order much - I'd eaten at Angelo's and after everything that had happened in the last few hours, I didn't have much of an appetite - but I wanted to encourage Sherlock so I kept badgering him until he ordered a single dish from the extensive menu while I ordered a light beansprout and prawn stir-fry.

After ten minutes, the sticky chicken and rice dish in front of Sherlock was both cold and thoroughly mixed. I'd watched him stir the sweetly-scented food round and round the plate. If he'd been a toddler, I'd have been tempted to tell him to stop playing with his food.

We kept up a more-or-less continuous flow of conversation as I ate and Sherlock pretended to. Finally, I just *had* to ask. I tried not to sound like a nervous parent or, as I'd told Lestrade earlier, Sherlock's doctor.

"Sherlock...you must be hungry. Why don't you eat?"

Sherlock waved his hand dismissively. "Boring."

"It's not *boring* Sherlock, it's essential." Something in his expression told me I was treading on extremely thin ice and I wouldn't have been surprised if Sherlock had simply got up and walked out. But I was, thankfully, wrong. Sherlock scowled and began, once more, to toy with his food. Still, even though he now knew I was watching him, not one morsel made it from his plate to his stomach.

**Sherlock...what a funny name...your parents must have been in a funny mood. Come along now...hop up on the scales and let me see just how much you weigh...**

Intending to tease Sherlock out of his stroppy mood, and concerned he was suffering some after-effects of the drug or the taxi-driver's death, I picked up a forkful of my food and moved it towards Sherlock's mouth. "Just one prawn...some beansprouts. Come on Sherlock...for me."

**If you don't eat, sweetie, they'll put this tube in your nose...into your tummy and there's only a choice of vanilla or strawberry flavors...come on...just a little mouthful, be a good boy now...**

Sherlock grabbed my wrist, pushing it away firmly, the food spilling onto the table and my lap. "Don't ever do that again John!" His eyes blazed angrily and he got to his feet, pulling on his coat.

Sherlock's reaction, or, rather, over-reaction, attracted stares and whispered comments from the other diners.

I was embarrassed, and my voice was louder and sharper than I intended. "Sherlock! Sit down...don't be sill..."

But I was talking to myself. I was alone at the table and had to call the waiter over for the bill with everyone's eyes on me.

Just as I'm getting into a cab and wondering if I should head to Baker Street or call Mike Stamford and ask him if I can kip on his sofa for a night, my phone rings. It's Lestrade. Apparently Sherlock's not answering and he confirms we can go home. The house has been cleared of dead bodies and forensic evidence. I think I'm supposed to be amused by his comment. I'm not. We don't talk for long.


Unsurprisingly, the flat was dark by the time I got home. There was no light coming from under Sherlock's bedroom door and I was just about to head up to my room when something stopped me. The sounds coming from Sherlock's room. Muffled but unmistakable. Sherlock was crying. 

I wasn't sure what to do and I stood outside the closed door for a couple of minutes but Sherlock didn't quieten down and I had to do something.

"Sherlock...it's John." I felt a bit stupid identifying myself but I wanted to give him a minute or two to decide if he wanted me to leave him alone.

"What do you want?!" Sherlock's voice was tired but angry.

"Just to talk...can I come in?"


Trying not to smile, I opened the door a fraction. "Because I wanted to say sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."

Sherlock was lying, fully dressed, on top of his bed, his back to me, curled into a tight ball.

"Sherlock...you have to eat...you'll make yourself ill. And I'll have to explain to Mrs Hudson why there's another dead body in this flat." My attempt at humor appeared to have fallen on fallow ground. Sherlock didn't laugh. Or move. Or speak.

I moved over to the bed more for something to do than because I thought it would help. Sherlock seemed to sense the movement and he pulled himself upright, his eyes boring into me. "Why do you care?!"

I shrugged to give myself some time to compose a sensible answer. "Well...because I'm a doctor...Hippocratic oath and all that...and I'm your flatmate. I can't afford the rent here on my own if you stop paying your half."

That elicited at least a small ghost of a smile. It was momentary, but I'd seen it and Sherlock seemed a little calmer than he had minutes earlier, laying back on the heap of pillows behind his head.

Sherlock's gaze fixed on the framed print of the periodic table on the wall opposite his bed. He was silent for a few seconds then: "When I was twelve we got a new school Matron. She made us parade around the school hall and as I walked past her, she asked the Headmaster if I'd been ill recently. He said no, I was just skinny. She sent for me before lunch and a couple of hours later I was on my way to the local hospital. She said I was 'malnourished'."

I tried to ignore the worsening twinge in my leg as I listened.

"The doctor examined me and agreed with her that I was too skinny. He sent me out of the room and I found out later that he'd phoned Mycroft. My brother gave him permission to do whatever he wanted."

Sherlock's voice tailed off and he pulled his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms around them, rocking slowly, his eyes fixed on a spot on the opposite wall, pupils dilated.

**Stupid boy! As if you could get away from here. The hospital's miles from your school. Well, we'll soon put a stop to your little escape attempts. Nurse!**

I didn't have any choice. I'd read cases of people slipping into catatonic states as a result of traumatic memories. Ignoring the angry reaction of my leg to the movement, I climbed onto the bed and grabbed Sherlock's shoulders, shaking him. "Sherlock! It's all right. Come on...look at me!"

**Mycroft! Please...take me back...I'll stay at school...I'll eat everything...please!!**

Suddenly Sherlock blinked several times, chest heaving with the effort of breathing, torso shaking. "John? What happened...I don't remember..."

If I was concerned before, I was really panicking now. Sherlock was clearly in trouble but I knew he wouldn't take kindly to me calling an ambulance. I reached for his wrist, intending to take his pulse but he howled as if my touch had burned his skin and rolled away, falling hard to the polished wooden floor.


**No...it's too tight...it hurts...please...I won't do it again...Nooooooo!!**

I haven't moved as fast as I did just then since I was being shot at. The shortest route was across the bed but there was no way I could lift Sherlock back onto it from there so I didn't really have a choice. I climbed down and knelt beside him, not bothering with his pulse this time. "Okay...come on Sherlock, help me get you back in bed. That's it...put your arm around my neck...there...okay...now, slowly...there."

We're both breathless by the time Sherlock's lying back on the bed and my leg feels like someone's sticking a red-hot knife in my thigh. Despite my own discomfort, I know I need to check Sherlock's arm. From his earlier reaction, I suspect it's at least sprained - it's possible the drugs he's been injected with and the shock of what happened this evening suppressed his pain response - but I'm careful to move and speak slowly. I don't want to frighten him a second time. "Sherlock...is your hand okay? Let me see...I'm just going to push your shirtsleeve up, okay?"

Sherlock nods, a fraction of a proper confirmation that's heard me and is okay with being examined but I'm watching him carefully and I see the slight movement. I also see the silent tears but now's not the time to mention that. As carefully as I can I examine Sherlock's hand, wrist and arm. I can't find any reason for the amount of pain he evidently felt when I touched him. What I do see, just in the bend of his elbow, are old scars. I add those to the list of things which can wait for another day.

"You're a doctor...you're not supposed to treat people against their will."

Sherlock's soft comment was, I'm certain, not about what I was currently doing. And a bit of a minefield. I know the answer he wants, but it's not that simple. "Well, sometimes you have to do something to help someone even if they don't consent."

"So it was OK the doctor tied me to the bed and shoved a rubber tube up my nose!"

"He...probably...thought he was...helping you...making you better, Sherlock." It's really late, I've had the second worst day of my life and now my flatmate's apparently verging on a breakdown.

"Mycroft let him. He said it was OK...he just stood and watched."

I have only Sherlock's view of events, of course, but my limited experience of him suggests he isn't lying.

"I didn't know then...my stomach was too small...it was small because I didn't ever eat much...and they tried to put a whole jug of this...stuff...in me. I threw up all over the doctor's shoes. He was furious. But he learned his lesson the second time. I only got half a jug."

I knew what the doctor apparently didn't. That someone who doesn't each much over a considerable period of time will end up with a smaller stomach than someone who eats regular meals in normal portions. But Sherlock's slight smile indicated that his small victory over the doctor had given him some pleasure both at the time and now, as he remembered the incident, slightly lessening my concern for his current mental state.

"I begged Mycroft to take me home but he made me stay in that...place..." Sherlock shivered and I pulled a blanket off the bed and wrapped it around his shoulders. "...for a week. The school Matron said I couldn't come back until I could eat a full meal. I did it on Sunday afternoon and they let me back to school on Monday. Every time I eat now I taste the food they gave me that day...dried up mince, boiled potatoes and overcooked mashed up vegetables. It all tastes the same. Everything."

Okay...I confess, right then, that minute, I didn't have a *clue* what to say. I've been living with Sherlock less than a week. Until a couple of hours ago, I didn't know he had a serious eating disorder. And until a few minutes ago, I didn't even know he had a brother. I don't know why the hospital called his brother and not his parents when they wanted permission to treat him. I don't know why someone who is obviously as clever as he is doesn't recognize the need to keep up his blood sugar levels.

But those are, again, all questions for another day. Tonight, we both need to sleep. But it doesn't take a genius to recognize one thing we're not going to get anytime soon tonight is any sleep. Sherlock's digital clock's red numerals remind me of something I could have guessed - that it's almost two o'clock in the morning.

"That's why you don't enjoy food. Because of the taste."

Sherlock nods a little, evidently trying not to let his irritation at my need for clarification show on his face but I see the slight tensing of his facial muscles.

"You need to talk to someone about this Sherlock. You're too young to let this...thing...go on."

Sherlock's face showed his feelings about that particular idea of mine. And I did do a rotation in psychology, a couple of decades ago, but still...

"We'll talk about it in the morning, all right?"

Sherlock smiles a little, but I'm not sure if it's relief we're going to talk in the morning or that we're not going to continue the conversation tonight. As I'm getting up from the bed, suddenly feeling unbelievably tired, I remember something important.

"Is your wrist okay now?"

Sherlock frowns, clearly at a loss to know what I'm talking about.

"My wrist? It's fine."

"Sherlock, you screamed so loudly when I touched your arm if Mrs Hudson wasn't staying with friends, she'd have been up here banging on the door."

Sherlock looks uncomfortable and, once more, turns away in a gesture I now know means 'I don't want to talk about it.'

I can't let this one go. I *have* to know. "Sherlock, I'm going to bed now, but first I want to know why you screamed when I touched you. I know I didn't hurt you and I'm pretty sure your wrist isn't injured."

Sherlock's voice is soft and he's facing away from me, but I still hear him. "He tied me to the bed...with bandages but I pulled them off and he was really angry. He put these leather straps on my wrists. They were really tight and I told him but he said it served me right for being so disruptive."

My leg, which had begun to feel slightly less agonizing in the previous few minutes began to throb painfully again. Putting a twelve-year-old boy in restraints seemed like overkill, whatever the provocation.

Sherlock shrugged. "I suppose you touching me...like that...reminded me of him."

I can't help the sigh that echoes around Sherlock's small bedroom. The sound seems to interest him and he rolls over, looking up at me. "I know you aren't him. I know you weren't going to hurt me. I just..."

I try to smile reassuringly, but I'm feeling very concerned for Sherlock's mental state right now.  "I think we both need some warm milk. Why don't you get ready for bed and I'll be back in a minute?" I try not to make my suggestion sound too parental, but it's all I can think of right now.

Sherlock's nose wrinkles and his face forms into an expression of doubt at the magical problem- and nightmare-solving properties I appear to be suggesting heated cow's milk might have but I really *really* need to sleep soon or I'm going to pass out on Sherlock's bedroom floor and I really *really* don't want to do that, so, warm milk it is.

When I return a few minutes later with two steaming mugs, Sherlock's changed into his blue silk pyjamas and is lying in bed.

"Here you go...careful, it's really hot. I didn't realize the hob would heat that quickly."

If Sherlock is responsible for the souped-up heating ability of our cooker, now is not the time to berate him for it. He's sipping the milk between blowing on the hot surface and yawning tiredly. It's as much as I've seen go into his stomach since we met. It's a small victory but I don't feel victorious.

When both our mugs are more-or-less empty, I get up from his bed for a second time and take it from him. "Goodnight."

Sherlock looks up at me, and I get the feeling he's about to say something else, but all I get is a sleepy 'Night.'

I can't help it. I have to rinse the mugs before I head upstairs to my room. I know from experience there's nothing more evil than coming down for breakfast and finding rancid milk-encrusted mugs on the drainer so I'm close enough to hear it. Sherlock throwing up the small amount of milk he's just drunk.

I run the tap for a few seconds then fill a glass and walk into his room without asking permission this time. He's still in the small adjoining bathroom - there's just a small shower cubicle and a tiny sink - so yet again I sit on his bed and wait for him to come back into the bedroom.

When he does, after a few minutes wait, he doesn't comment at my presence.

"Here...I assume you rinsed your mouth."

Sherlock takes the glass silently, drinking a couple of large mouthfuls, half the glass gone in a few seconds.

He tries to smile apologetically. "Sorry...not your fault."

I smile to reassure him as I take the glass from him, even though I don't feel in the least little bit happy. "Not yours either Sherlock. Sit up for a bit or you'll feel sick again."

Sherlock does as I suggest and after a couple of minutes he lays down and, yet again, I get up and head to the door.

"Go to sleep now Sherlock. I'll see you in the morning, okay?"

Sherlock's voice is soft, rough from his vomiting and the late hour. "It *is* morning John."

I can't help but laugh at Sherlock's correction as I close his bedroom door behind me.

Lying in bed, I smile as I realize what I'm thinking might just work. However, unlike Sherlock, my stomach's full of warm milk and I only have a couple of minutes of silent self-congratulation before I'm asleep.


There's a newsagents not far from the flat where I get the papers every morning and it was a couple of days before I noticed some people went down the back of the shop and came back with handfuls of small plastic bags, paying for them with their newspapers or cigarettes.

I doubted the shopkeeper was selling drugs so I wandered over to have a look for myself and realized they were small packets of herbs, spices and seasonings. Just enough for a curry or chili or stew for one or two people. The shopkeeper had spotted a gap in the market - I'd read somewhere it was better to buy that kind of thing in small quantities to keep the stuff fresh - and he sold quite a few of the bags every day. I thumbed through the shoe boxes of packets, picking out those I thought I'd use, paid for them and headed back to the flat, newspapers under my arm, plastic bags in my pocket. I'd also bought frozen chicken breasts, a tub of cream and a packet of microwaveable basmati rice.

Sherlock was sitting at the table, coffee cup in front of him, looking a hell of a lot better than I expected. He smiled as I walked over, handing him his paper. "Thank you John. Nice out is it?"

Poor attempt at deflection Sherlock. Very poor, given the events of last night. "Sherlock, we need to talk."

"No, John, we don't." Sherlock opened the paper and hid behind it.

"So...what...we're going to pretend last night didn't happen?" I tried not to let the irritation I was feeling boil over into throttling Sherlock.

"I think that's best all round, don't you?"

Sherlock's tone - suggesting the conversation was ended by his comment -  made me wonder if I was going to bother with my plan.

"I'm sorry. It won't happen again." Sherlock's soft apology and, frankly ridiculous assumption lessened my anger just enough that I didn't hit him with the color supplements he'd left untouched on the table.

Instead, I decide, in that instant, to go ahead with my idea. "I'm going to be using the kitchen this morning. If you need anything, let me know."

Sherlock's newspaper dips just enough he can look over the top edge at me but he says nothing and, moments later, his face is once more obscured by the front page.


It took over an hour - I'd forgotten how much time making a meal from scratch takes - but finally, just after midday, the rice was heating and I called into the living room where I could see Sherlock using his computer. "Sherlock, lunch."

He lifts his hand from the keyboard just long enough to wave dismissively. "Not hungry thanks."

Walking into the living room, I lift his laptop and snap it closed, ignoring his angry protestations. "Don't care. Come on."

I've divided the curry into two very unequal portions - I'm hungry and I know getting Sherlock to eat anything's going to be difficult - but I've thought it through.

"I've put something in the curry which doesn't belong. If you can guess what it is, I'll do the washing up for a week."

"A month." Sherlock counters. He is, after all, going to have to eat the curry to win the bet.

"Two weeks. Final offer. Well?" I hand him a spoon and a fork and start on my plate.

Initially he's wary, cautiously dipping the tines of the fork into the sauce before tasting it, presumably checking I'm not trying to poison him, he finally takes a bite of the sauce-coated chicken and a little rice. "Coriander...cumin, um.. turmeric. Mmm...garlic , curry powder, obviously...um...salt, pepper...easy...onion...cardamom...it's...I can't quite...ahh!"

Sherlock's face is an absolute picture of horror. I try to keep mine quite blank. "Sherlock?"

Sherlock gets up, knocking the chair backwards in his haste, and fills and drinks a glass of water in the same few seconds. "Chocolate!!"

"So...not mince and potatoes and vegetables then?"

I'm not sure for a moment if he's going to hit me, throw the plate at me or storm out. I'm also not sure which of us is more surprised when he sits down and carries on eating, managing at least half the plateful before sitting back, looking across at the sink and drainer, both piled high with used kitchen utensils and pots and pans. I'm trying not to think about how long that lot's going to take me later.

"Clever trick. I'm impressed." I think Sherlock's being sarcastic, but I'm still getting used to his normal tone of voice so I'm not certain.
"It wasn't a trick, Sherlock. I'm trying to help you."
Getting up again, Sherlock scrapes the leftovers from his plate into the bin. "I'll dry."


"You wash, I'll dry."

"You don't have to."

He nods. "I know."