I thought I should probably post this now, while it's still safe for me to wander the Sherlock fandom freely. After tomorrow I have to start looking for spoiler warnings. I'm really not amused by this whole "Being American" thing right now. Anyways, this is just something I scribbled out about Sherlock dealing with his own ability to care for others. Also, a friend of mine, (on here as Freidon) urged me to write a series of one-shots to further flesh out "Learning." So I guess this is also the first one-shot in that series. We'll see how far I get in that series.

Oh. And I don't own Sherlock Holmes or the BBC show Sherlock. I'm just borrowing both from people who are more clever than me.

I hope you all enjoy. If you have a moment, please review and let me know what you think!

"I am sick, you know," Sherlock Holmes intoned from where he was sprawled across the sofa, his wrinkled dressing gown pooling around him.

"Hm?" John Watson responded, not paying much attention as he henpecked out another blog entry. The latest escapade had occurred a week ago. A little boy had been brutally murdered, and although everyone wanted to see the killer brought to justice, no one really wanted to come within ten metres of the case. It was too much. John had seen the horror of the crime scene. Even from the safety of Baker Street, he was hesitant to type up the story. Naturally, Sherlock had solved it easily and—John hesitated to admit—with relish. He had called it an exceedingly crude job, as if an elegant murderer would have been preferable.

"I am."

"You are what?"

"Sick."

John glanced up hesitantly, then kicked at the takeaway box at his feet. "Chinese not suiting you?" he questioned, wondering if he should be concerned. He had finished off the box Sherlock had picked at, refusing to eat much in his listless mood post-case.

"No," Sherlock snorted back, indignantly. He stared up at the ceiling, steepling his fingers just under his chin.

"Got the flu? I warned you—"

"No, John," Sherlock sighed and didn't speak for a few moments, leaving John to decode his cryptic comment. Finally he repeated, quietly, " I am sick. Very sick, so they tell me."

"Who's 'they'?" John took on a newly guarded expression, fingers curling and uncurling to keep himself from reaching for the gun in his desk drawer. Something about the way Sherlock said that word made it sound evil and a little bit dangerous.

"Oh," Sherlock grunted, pushing his toes against the far end of the sofa, leveraging himself into a lazy sitting position. He reached behind his head, fingers searching for a box on the end table next to the sofa. John saw how the fingers crept blindly over the table and he shoved his laptop aside, jumped up, and grabbed at the cardboard box.

"No," he said, in the exact tone with which he might have reprimanded a particularly un-trainable puppy.

"John…"

"I can't stop you from fueling this bloody nicotine addiction, but I can hold these until you answer my question."

"I could go get more," Sherlock challenged.

"Yeah, like you'll be moving from the sofa any time today," John said, going to sit back down, the box of nicotine patches clutched at his side.

Sherlock glared for a moment, his eyes icy cold. Then he swung his legs off of the sofa and stood. He twisted once, and John cringed at the sound of bones cracking. The world's greatest consulting detective then proceeded to straighten up his dressing gown regally, cinch the belt tightly around his stick-thin waist, shove his feet into a pair of deep blue slippers, and step over the coffee table.

"Where are you going?" By the time John could ask, he was already in his coat and throwing his favorite blue scarf around his neck.

"Nicotine patches," Sherlock said, as if everything about the scene was normal and reasonable.

"Oh, no you don't!" John hissed, setting his laptop aside haphazardly on the floor and springing up. He sidestepped Sherlock and barred his way to the door so easily that his flatmate must have allowed him. "Off with it," he ordered. Sherlock scowled, but shrugged off his coat and loosened his scarf. Tossing both on the floor, he darted away, jumped fleetly over John's laptop, and grabbed at the nicotine patches, slightly hidden under the Union Jack pillow which wasn't John's, but could have been, given the way he tended to cling to it. John just rubbed at the bridge of his nose, trying to quell his frustration as Sherlock attacked the box. "No three patches this time," he ordered. "None of this 'three patch problem' nonsense. You've got nothing going."

Sherlock heeded him, but not in spirit. He applied two patches to his forearm and sighed with pleasure before pocketing the box in his dressing gown.

"There. Very good, Sherlock. You've had your idiotic way. Now have a seat and explain."

"Explain what?"

"That comment, about being very sick. Are you feeling ill, or not?"

"Not feeling ill, no," Sherlock mumbled oddly. He stepped over the coffee table again to collapse dramatically onto the sofa.

"Then what's the problem?" John drilled onwards. He picked up Sherlock's coat and dusted it off before hanging it back up and draping the scarf around the hanger.

"The problem?" Sherlock's eyes drifted shut for a moment as he took in the effect of the nicotine patches. They opened again, slowly, and he stared up at the ceiling, where a tiny crack ran towards the light fixture in a way that John had never been quite comfortable with. "The problem is that I'm not feeling anything."

John did not respond, just crept back over to his chair and nested into it again, rearranging the pillow and resettling his laptop. He waited for Sherlock to speak again. Sherlock always spoke again, eventually. This time it took him almost three minutes, but he said "Mycroft was the first to suggest it. When my parents still thought I was perfect, my brother pointed out that I did not smile."

John shivered involuntarily at the idea of a very young Sherlock, cradled in his mother's arms, refusing to smile back at her anxious, pleading grin.

"At the time, Mycroft was only seven, but he was…advanced for his age. As I grew older, he kept track of my progress. It was hardly difficult. I refused to speak for years."

John quirked an eyebrow at him. "Really?"

"Yes. No one could find anything wrong with me, but there it was, that I did not speak a word. At the time, I was considered… deficient."

John shook his head in amazement. "Hard to believe. Can't get you to shut up, now."

This actually earned a smile from Sherlock. "Yes, well. I spoke eventually, when there was finally something to say. I spoke so that a killer would not run loose—but of course he did anyways."

"The Carl Powers case, yeah?"

"Yes. Powers was only a few years older than me at the time. Apparently I should have been terrified."

"But you weren't."

"No. I was exhilarated. I loved it. I lived for it. That was the problem, I imagine."

"Lived to watch others die."

"Not good?"

"Bit not good," John admitted. Those words had become a code of sorts. When Sherlock demanded to know if something was 'not good,' John could see him scrambling for a foothold, or for anything to cling to in the real world. Those times were the only times Sherlock ever scrambled for anything.

"Well," Sherlock said, and that was all for a while. "I was young, at the time. They say children are heartless, don't they?"

John nodded, briefly remembering the cruelty he and Harry had doled out upon each other's heads. Somehow he doubted Sherlock had been the type to pull childish pranks. "Y-eah. I guess so."

"From that time on, my brother and I would sit for hours each evening poring over news stories of unsolved crimes. He drilled me on them, asking me questions and taking notes. Of course, nothing came of it. Scotland Yard didn't have the patience for a child who knew murder better than they did."

John shivered involuntarily. "So you just solved them all and let them go?"

"Mycroft recorded them for me. We kept them in a book. Roughly seventy percent of the time, the police came to the same conclusions I did."

"What about the other thirty percent?"

"They were wrong."

"Still, seventy percent," John had to marvel. "High rate for anyone, let alone a child. Did people take notice?"

"Oh, yes. I was a child prodigy for a time. A thinking machine. A parlor trick. But it didn't last long."

"Oh? What happened?"

"They say children are heartless, don't they?" Sherlock repeated, with a bored sigh.

"Oh."

"When I turned twelve years old Mummy stopped telling people that I would grow out of it. When I turned thirteen she stopped telling herself," Sherlock shrugged to himself. "They took me to see doctors, like any good parents would."

"And what did the doctors say?"

"That I was sick," he would not elaborate.

"And you believed them?"

"You wouldn't?"

"Probably," John was forced to admit. "But you don't believe anything. You don't listen to people. God knows, you don't listen to this doctor."

Sherlock snorted, but didn't speak again.

There was silence for a moment, just long enough to make John stupidly, irrationally angry. "Where is this coming from, anyways? Why are you telling me this now?" It was the only reaction he could think of, as he couldn't go and punch the doctors.

"Ugh," Sherlock grunted. "Does there have to be a reason for everything, John? How dull," he rolled over to stare at the sofa fabric.

"No, no. You're not getting away so easily," John nettled. "You're thinking about something. Something—something's bothering you."

"Nothing is bothering me."

"Of course," John said, not bothering to hide his sarcasm. After a second he added, quietly, "This is about that case, isn't it?"

"Which case?"

"The dead boy. The one no one wanted. No one except you."

"Don't be so melodramatic, John."

"Sherlock, you solved a murder. You helped convict a man who killed an innocent child."

"And it was easy," Sherlock said. For once, that wasn't an insult. He wasn't taunting the murderer. Instead, his tone made John remember the way he had studied the mutilated little body like it was nothing more than a particularly interesting lab specimen. Sherlock's shoulders tightened visibly under his dressing gown. His tone was almost unbelievably vulnerable as he demanded "Why, John?"

John could only shake his head helplessly. "I don't know," he admitted. "I can't answer that, Sherlock. I'm sorry. I wish I could."

Sherlock didn't speak again for the rest of the evening. Eventually he reached for another nicotine patch and John did not try to stop him. He couldn't. He just sat, trying to come up with the right thing to say. He never thought of anything.

John had never seen this side of Sherlock, the side of him which was a vulnerable, broken child. Selfishly, he hoped never to see it again.

Sherlock fell asleep on the sofa, curled into a ball. John let him stay there, but tucked a blanket around his thin shoulders before heading off to bed himself. "You're not sick," he mumbled to the sleeping form.

He couldn't quite explain, then, why he was so desperate to make him well.