More than he would admit, even to himself, Mycroft was relieved that John had woken up and was as good as could be expected under such circumstances. Before he had paid him a visit, he had talked to the doctors. The fractured bones and the external wounds were healing quite well; the liver and spleen didn't show any signs of failure, so John had been very lucky indeed, particularly when taking the three cardiac arrests into consideration. The risk of hypoxemia, and, therefore, possible brain damage and a real coma had been terribly high, so it was rather a miracle that nothing of the like had occurred. They didn't venture a prognosis as to the likeliness of a limp in John's leg, though, but time and physical therapy would be the best treatments to prevent any impairment.
The drainage in Sherlock's brain had served its purpose, so that the dreaded operation in order to remove the skull cap to give the brain enough space for swelling hadn't been necessary. The swelling had decreased and most of his brother's reflexes were rather normal again. They had already reduced the dosage of the narcotic and with the next reduction the next day they expected him to wake up. They could only hope that neither the projectile itself nor the trauma had done any damage to Sherlock's admittedly exceptional brain. The neurologists had decided to leave the permanent EEG in place for a couple of days to see the reactions of the brain when his brother was awake. However, the forty per cent recovery-chance was still nagging at the back of Mycroft's mind. What if Sherlock didn't fully recover? He pushed the thought away – first things first. What-ifs wouldn't help him at all.
The very first thing he had to do was to instruct his people to pick up the scent of the assailant's connections to the expelled family who had tried to kill Sherlock before. He would never have thought that they would dare take any steps towards any member of the Holmes family after his very clear threat against them. In the highly likely case that Sherlock had been right – as much as he loathed Sherlock's "work", he couldn't suppress a tiny whiff of admiration for his brother's hit rate -, they would definitely and terminally regret their foolishness.
When Mycroft was ridding himself of the protective clothing, Molly entered the anteroom. He had seen her a couple of times, but hadn't spoken to her much. She looked pale and tired. He knew that she was spending far too much time guarding Sherlock and John, neglecting her own duties and needs. Mycroft had known that she was loyal, but hadn't even distantly imagined that she would commit herself to her task as much as she did. A thought suddenly crossed the older Holmes' mind: would anybody do the same for him? He forced it back, but as quick as it had been, it had already left trails of a feeling of sadness and emptiness - he couldn't think of anybody.
"Hi," Molly interrupted his thoughts, giving him a shy smile.
"Good evening, Ms Hooper," Mycroft replied politely, producing an equally honest smile.
"How are you?" she wanted to know, scrutinizing him.
"They're fine, according to the circumstances."
"No, I wasn't asking about them, Mr Holmes, I was asking about you," she butted in on him, looking at him bravely.
How could he have missed that?! He had simply been too absorbed in his thoughts about John and Sherlock – and the realisation that having someone who cared for you wasn't too bad after all. "I'm fine, thank you for asking," he added quickly.
She gave him a strange look; and with a hint of shaking her head, she stated, "You're all the same, you and Sherlock, you know?"
Mycroft had just been about to ask her about her own well-being, but the words got stuck in his mouth. He pierced her with a questioning gaze.
"What do you mean?" he wanted to know.
"Nothing. I'm sorry... nothing." Molly replied quietly, lowering her eyes.
The almost tender calling of her name surprised both the addressed person and the speaker. Mycroft hardly knew Molly and she knew him even less, thus he was really intrigued by what she had said, however, his vocal chords had just played a trick on him. There was something fragile about Molly on the one hand, but on the other hand her openness stunned him – he liked her. Was that what had happened to Sherlock? Did he "like" her? Neither he nor Sherlock frequently, if at all, used this word in connection with persons, things or activities. Sherlock wouldn't even say he liked playing the violin. He would rather call it "being helpful", "relaxing", "stimulating", but simply not that he liked playing the expensive instrument.
Mycroft could see that Molly was squirming with uneasiness, so he decided, for the time being, to leave it with that.
"They are going to wake Sherlock tomorrow. I hope you understand that I would rather be there then, no offence. I will call you as soon as we know how he is."
"Um, yes, it's ok. Fine. I'll be at Mrs Hudson's, so... um... I can tell her. She needs some rest anyway."
"Yes, and so do you. Don't stay up all night, Molly. You won't be of any help if you collapse from exhaustion."
She laughed a little nervous laugh, but he could also see something else in her eyes. Gratitude?
"Take care – and thank you," Mycroft said and honestly meant it.
He turned around and left the anteroom. The past week had left its marks on him as well. He was sleep-deprived, and an occasional throbbing pain in his chest warned him to take some rest as soon as possible as well.
The next morning John felt much better. The actual restorative value of his sleep was noticeably increasing. Coming off the sedatives was good and he felt a lot more powerful than the day before. He even took a first attempt at raising his headboard so that he was almost sitting in his bed. This, however, caused him waves of pain in his guts, so he rang the bell and lowered himself into a flatter position. He still hadn't got any information as to his own condition, and reaching for his record at the end of the bed was simply impossible.
Only seconds after his ringing, a nurse entered the ICU and left again to fetch the doctor in charge after John had asked her about his injuries.
Upon entering the ICU, the doctor greeted John with a broad smile.
"Good morning, Dr Watson. I'm very pleased to see you this well. I heard you would like to know what damage the car did to you."
He sat down by John's side.
"Since we're talking at eye level, I won't try to gloss over the truth."
John felt his hands become cold. He could see the external fixation device on his leg and he knew that it wasn't used for simple fractures. Also, the constant pain in his abdomen and the fact that he had been put into a coma for a couple of days told him that there was something more, something more severe. With his eyebrows raised expectantly, he listened to the doctor, who matter-of-factly gave him a complete medical report on his injuries.
John's heart started pounding when last he told him about his cardiac arrests. He lowered his gaze, watching the IV cannula on the back of his hand with sudden interest. He now knew that mainly liquid substitutes, pain killers and antibiotics were flowing through the needle into his veins, but unexpectedly, he had a distant feeling of the many different drugs administered and the hectic hustle accompanying a patient's cardiac arrest. It was a strange thing to hear about yourself being so close to death and not having the faintest clear memory of it. However, there were again those two words reverberating in his mind which didn't make any sense to him: Don't go. Why did he always have those words in his head?
His thoughts were interrupted by the doctor getting up from the chair by his bedside.
"You know, Dr Watson, there must be something here on earth that clings to you so much that even the grim reaper isn't strong enough to pull you on his side. I'm glad you made it."
He smiled again genuinely, pointing into Sherlock's direction.
"And in an hour we're waking him up. I hope he'll do as well as you did."
"So do I." John spoke from his heart, although his mind was still overwhelmed by the doctor's narration of his own injuries.
The doctor left the ICU and John laid his head back into the cushion and closed his eyes. What was one supposed to think or feel when getting to know that they had escaped death three times and had a good chance of recovering almost fully?
"Thank you," John whispered without even knowing whom he addressed. He was just grateful, otherwise, however, entirely numb. He had expected more or less what the doctor had told him, and yet, he had to process the information.
The impending limp was the only thing that annoyed him. He had had a limp for too long and he would do any exercise that would prevent him from developing a limp that wouldn't be psychosomatic!
"Damn leg!" he yelled, hardly resisting the urge to beat the bloody limb, which wouldn't have been wise in many ways. Damn leg, he murmured again, exasperated and yet sensing that a limp wouldn't be the worst compared to brain damage. If only Sherlock was ok - nothing else mattered at the moment.
Some time later John was woken from the nap he hadn't noticed he had fallen into by a medical team entering the ICU, accompanied by Mycroft. Although the older Holmes possessed a natural authority, he looked slightly forlorn among the doctors. A thought struck John that the reason for this impression lay in the fact that Mycroft was scared. It had to be the same feeling of fear that he felt himself, caused by the uncertainty of the outcome of Sherlock's awakening. John knew that today they would only be able to see if there were any signs of an awakening at all.
He shifted in his bed trying to reach for the remote to raise his headrest to get a better sight of Sherlock. A nurse came to his assistance, adjusting the tubes and cables so that he couldn't remove any accidentally. This second attempt at a sitting position went far better than the first one and John assumed that they had to have administered him a higher dose of the pain medication. He was fairly sure that they had talked to him about it, but it wasn't uncommon for recently woken patients to talk and answer questions without remembering later.
There were four doctors, most likely a neurosurgeon, a neurologist, an anaesthetist and the intensive care specialist that John had talked to earlier. He had seen two more of them before at his own bed, so he assumed that the fourth had to be the neurosurgeon he himself hadn't needed.
His gaze met Mycroft's, whose face was now blank of any expression. John had learned from too many other occasions that that meant nothing. He was convinced that the older Holmes was as excited as he was, which was clearly visible from his heart monitor that showed an elevated pulse and an increase in blood pressure. The intensive care specialist stepped up to John, checking on the other data displayed by the monitors.
"A bit nervous, Dr Watson?" he asked casually, winking.
"Quite difficult to hide, huh?" John croaked, his voice still hoarse from the tube.
"Then let's see if we can wake Mr Holmes." He looked at him and Mycroft alternately, the latter being unusually quiet.
One of the other doctors reported on Sherlock's current condition.
"Reduction of the dosage of the narcotic during the last four days has gone well so far. Reflexes are inconspicuous, gag and breathing reflexes are still inhibited. We've decided to suppress the rebound-processes by administering hydrocortisone."
For the first time Mycroft spoke and his agitation was clearly audible in his voice.
"Apologies, Mr Holmes. It is common that patients waking from a coma develop post-traumatic stress disorder due to the emotions they experience during the awakening. This is caused by the influence of adrenaline on the part of the brain responsible for emotions, the amygdala. During the wakening process, the patient's body is literally washed over with adrenaline, so we suppress its uptake."
"Post-traumatic stress disorder!" Mycroft spat, and he set his gaze on John, a suddenly strange smile on his lips.
John raised his eyebrows in surprise. What the hell was that about? He was diagnosed with PTSD himself, but Mycroft had made it very clear that he doubted this diagnosis.
Before the baffled soldier could say anything in reply, Mycroft twirled around to face the doctor.
"If anybody ever speaks of emotions in my presence, I will have them arrested and brain-washed! I will delete this word from their vocabulary!" he hissed between gritted teeth.
Everyone's eyes widened and neither of the doctors dared to speak.
"Mycroft. - Mycroft! Calm down. That's how human beings function, so don't let this unsettle you," John intervened, knowing that his words could very well have the opposite effect of what he was intending.
For a brief moment there was silence in the room apart from the regular background sounds of the various machines. Abruptly, the wild look in the personified British Government's eyes subsided and he seemed to be a little disoriented for a split-second before mumbling his apologies.
The doctors went back to the work they had come for, adjusting the syringe pumps and cutting Sherlock off of the sedative. All they could do was wait and monitor the Consulting Detective carefully. Within the next couple of hours he should show signs of awakening, however weak they might be.
John didn't know how much time had passed; he had obviously drifted into another dreamless sleep. When he woke up again, Mycroft was sitting at Sherlock's bedside, scrutinizing his younger brother. The anaesthetist and a nurse were leaning over his flatmate and John realised that they were removing the ventilation tube. The sound of gagging had apparently woken John.
Gagging was good, it meant that the breathing and gag reflexes were no longer suppressed and Sherlock was at least able to supply himself with oxygen and didn't need the intratracheal breathing aid any more.
"His eyelids are fluttering." Mycroft all of a sudden remarked excitedly. He jumped from his chair, pushing it out of the way.
John felt the same pang of excitement and he wished he could be of any assistance to the doctors. It was odd to be so close to his flatmate but not able to help him in any way. This time he was confined to just being an observer. He tried to sit up even more in his bed, but his body disabused him of doing so. He fell back to his cushions reluctantly without averting his gaze from Sherlock.
"He's opening his eyes," he heard the older Holmes comment what Sherlock was doing.
John saw him leaning in on his younger brother.
"Welcome back, Sherlock," he said softly, giving his brother a genuine smile, however looking at one of the doctors questioningly a moment later.
"He's still very sleepy, Mr Holmes, don't worry that he's closed his eyes again. It looks very good so far. Of course we have to wait until he is fully responsive; however, there are no distinct abnormalities in the EEG so far. It really seems he had had a great stroke of luck."
Mycroft closed his eyes and
wiped his face with his hands. He was apparently extremely relieved. However,
his face displayed an entirely worn expression. It had been hard for him,
leading a country and fearing for his brother's life.