He had finally sat down in one of the armchairs, staring at the green wall with the flat screen attached to it, his gaze, however, turned inwards. At some point he must have dozed off, because when he woke with a start, a nurse and a doctor were standing in front of him by the armchair and he hadn't noticed them coming in. He gave the two a puzzled look.
"Apologies, Sir. We thought you might want to be informed instantly in case of any news."
Mycroft blinked his eyes a few times to chase away the sleep and to find his bearings. He sat up from his slumped position and signalled the doctor with a nod to fill him in.
"Sir, we were able to remove the bullet from your brother's skull successfully. Fortunately, it, so to say, just scratched the surface. The dura is still intact. If that projectile had hit his head in just a tiny different angle or at a different place, it would probably have killed him instantly. He's not out of immediate danger, though, as the impact of the bullet and the fall backwards caused a grade two brain trauma. Standard procedure requires analgosedation, so he won't be responsive until we can be sure that the intracranial pressure doesn't increase. He's attached to permanent EEG and we had to insert an intraventricular catheter, just in case."
Mycroft looked at the doctor quizzically. He knew a lot more about medicine than most people thought he would, but these explanations were unintelligible for his brain working in slow-motion.
"That is...?" he probed, stifling a yawn. It had been a hard night.
"He's in a drug-induced coma and we had to insert a catheter to his brain as well as electrodes on the dura. It is possible that swelling or bleeding may occur, so with the catheter and the EEG we can immediately diagnose any change and reduce the pressure in the brain."
Mycroft sighed. "I see. – Will he be alright? I mean, what's the worst outcome?"
"Erm, what do you mean?"
"Will he be the same as before when he wakes up?"
The doctor hesitated. "Chances are about forty per cent."
Mycroft jumped from the armchair, his eyes wide open. "Forty percent?! What about the other sixty per cent? What do they mean?"
"According to statistics, sixty per cent of patients with a grade two brain injury suffer from minor to major disabilities after recovery. You... you have to be aware of the possibility, though, that there is still a severe risk of complications which can inevitably change the current state and can even result in death."
All colour vanished from Mycroft's face and he suddenly felt his knees buckle. He dropped back into the armchair, burying his head in his hands.
After a couple of seconds he looked up to the doctor, his eyes glistening treacherously.
"He wouldn't want to live with his brain damaged. It's ... - you wouldn't understand it anyway. Do everything that is possible and necessary to avoid damage! Everything!"
"Of course, Sir."
"No, you don't understand. Everything!"
Mycroft looked intently at the doctor, who endured and returned the look with unspoken understanding. The man in white shook his head briefly.
"I'm afraid, Sir, there is nothing of that sort we could do." He turned to leave, the nurse following him.
"Don't you get incredibly high amounts of money to fund your research? Why isn't there anything you could do?" the older Holmes burst out, even though he knew that that would only alleviate his desperation, without really helping his brother.
The doctor sighed, then turned to leave, the nurse following him. "I'm sorry. We're doing our best."
Mycroft closed his eyes for a second, then remarked quietly, "I know. - What about Dr Watson?"
The doctor turned around again, the door handle already in his hand.
"We're still fighting for his life. My colleague will come soon and tell you the details. It doesn't look too good, though."
Mycroft sat back in his armchair, closing his eyes and sighing deeply. Something had gone terribly wrong. Sherlock and John had been under maximum surveillance and it was simply inexplicable how this bastard had been able to shoot the one and run over the other!
As many people as he could muster were already investigating the case, but he himself couldn't think about it right now. His mind was blocked by, curiously enough, sentiment: Sorrow, fear, hatred, sadness, disappointment, anger, scorn - all of which had never before hit him that hard.
"Can I see my brother?" he croaked.
"If you want to follow me, Sir, I can bring you to the ICU. But... be prepared. It's always a shock for family members to see their loved ones in an induced coma with all the equipment."
"I'll manage", Mycroft replied, although he wasn't entirely sure of it himself. He felt somewhat weak and his legs were slightly shaking when he stood from the armchair.
The older Holmes straightened his shoulders, blanked his facial expression and followed the doctor down the corridor to the ICU. In an anteroom he put on the obligatory sterile gown and protector for the shoes and hair. He had to disinfect his hands and put on rubber gloves. The nurse who had assisted him told him that he didn't have to worry. They just had to be very careful because due to the intravetricular catheter, and the, therefore, open blood-brain barrier, it had to be strictly avoided to let any germs enter the ICU.
Mycroft felt strange and helpless in his disguise. When finally the door to the ICU slid open, he was overwhelmed by these feelings the sight of his little brother surrounded by innumerable machines and attached to innumerable tubes and cables.
He swallowed down the "Oh my God" that had almost slipped off his tongue and stepped towards Sherlock's bed. The head of his bed was slightly lifted so that he was lying bare-chested in a half-sitting position. His eyes were closed and he didn't really seem to be alive. Only the beeping of the heart monitor and the hissing of the mechanical ventilation showed that he was indeed.
Sherlock's head was partially covered in a net cap that held two dressings in position; one at the side of his skull, from which a small tube was running, and one over his left eye. His mouth was held slightly open by a mouthpiece for the endotracheal tube that supplied him with oxygen. On his chest there were the already familiar electrodes for the heart monitor. What caused Mycroft waves of nausea were the numerous cables that stuck out of Sherlock's upper skull. He gasped in shock.
The nurse had noticed his reaction and touched him at the arm soothingly.
"It looks worse than it is. That's the intracranial EEG. To be able to control his brain activity at all times we inserted electrodes under the surface of the skull bone on top of the dura mater."
Mycroft deeply inhaled and exhaled a couple of times to fight the urge to vomit, which had not become much better after the nurse's explanation.
The latter pointed to a stool by the bedside, on which the speechless man let himself sink thankfully. He raised his hand to touch his brother, but let it hover above his arm since he didn't dare place it somewhere for fear that he could do any harm to his ill-treated body or affect any of the tubes and cables that held him alive.
The nurse took his rubber-gloved hand and gingerly placed it on Sherlock's arm.
"It's good that he knows that you're there."
"I hope so," Mycroft whispered with stifled tears. He looked down at his hand on Sherlock's forearm. Even there were a tube from the IV and a cable for the intra-arterial blood pressure testing. It had been long years since one of the Holmes brothers had touched the other one out of compassion or in a soothing gesture. It felt odd and yet familiar – and it was the only thing Mycroft could do.
Sherlock was so still, all the energy that he was normally radiating having vanished completely; a fact that distressed Mycroft even more than the drips and apparatus. Even though he had often found it unnerving that Sherlock was such an energetic person, who never could sit still or simply do nothing, he missed just that right now. Sherlock was only really alive when he was in motion - and he even was when he was in his mind palace- the quietest moments one could experience with Sherlock. Mycroft sighed.
Obviously the nurse either didn't know who he was, or she didn't care about people's rank, when she tenderly and reassuringly squeezed the shoulder of one of the most powerful Britons and encouraged him to talk to Sherlock as it would help him heal despite the fact that the coma was drug-induced and he would most likely not perceive much of it anyway. Then she left.
Mycroft sat there, his hand on his brother's pale, yet warm skin, which he started stroking with his thumb gingerly. He didn't know what to say. For so many years all their talks had been filled with resentment and cynicism; the last brotherly exchange he remembered had been in the morgue the Christmas Day when, supposedly, Irene Adler had died.
"You know, my little brother, we haven't always been like this. We were once good friends, you remember?" He paused, feeling a bit silly about talking this way. And still, it was what he really wanted to tell Sherlock. It had slowly emerged on the surface of his thoughts during the times his brother's life had been in immediate danger. He didn't want to end up with regrets one day when it was too late to say it.
"I've always cared about you as much as my innate stony heart allowed me to. We only became cold after your abduction. Things had changed from one day to the next and we two had built our protective walls. Nevertheless, I've always...," he turned around, checking the room to see if anybody could hear him, then whispered, "... always loved ... my little brother."
Mycroft felt his cheeks blush with embarrassment. Damn, it was his brother, so it should be a natural thing to express your affection! Other people did so too! Yes, other people, but they weren't like other people. The older Holmes was relieved that nobody had heard him – and that he had finally said it.
"Please, Sherlock, fight! Will you?"
Mycroft looked up to Sherlock's face. There was no movement behind the eyes, no reaction at all. The skin looked waxen and strange. The black curls had partially been shaved where the EEG cables stuck out from his head. The sight made Mycroft cringe.
Suddenly there was the sound
of the door to the ICU sliding open and Mycroft let go of Sherlock, turning
around to see who it was. A doctor was standing in the entrance, shaking his
head ever so slightly. Mycroft shivered.