The whole situation that was unfolding before John's eyes was a mess. Molly was sitting on a chair, tied to it, and it seemed as if only the bonds were keeping her in a more or less upright position. Her head was sunk to her chest, arms hanging limp at her sides, and there was blood slowly dripping from a wound at her temple. She was apparently unconscious.
Sherlock's complexion was standing out against the dark colour of his coat and the brownish-greyish colour of the room lit by cold neon light, which added to the menacing atmosphere.
The sound of a body hitting the floor had, to John's great dismay, obviously been Mycroft, who was now down on the ground in a short distance to his brother, apparently struggling to breathe. John couldn't make out what was wrong with him. Was he probably merely acting as a means of diverting the woman's attention from his brother?
John's target was standing between Sherlock and Molly, aiming at the younger Holmes. She was still laughing, throwing her head back. "Oh, this is funny, don't you think, Sherlock? Some problems seem to solve themselves! Weak heart, have we, Mycroft?" she asked, mockingly serious.
Sherlock was still standing motionless, facing the woman. Through the gap of the door, John tried to catch a glimpse of Mycroft's face. Cursing inwardly, he realised that she seemed to be right. Mycroft's skin appeared to be greyish and covered in sweat, his face contorted in agony. He wasn't acting; he was having a heart attack!
Damn! John thought, realizing that in fact there had been signs of an imminent heart attack lately, but everyone - most likely Mycroft himself as well - had blamed his condition on the whole stressful situation during the past weeks and months with his brother's life constantly in danger. Now that he thought about it, he had undeniably noticed the older Holmes rubbing his arm and chest surreptitiously during their journey to the factory, but John had simply been too absorbed in his own thoughts to let his perception get through to his medial brain. Grey complexion, cold sweat, pain in the arm and chest - John scolded himself for having been so bloody ignorant!
Sherlock still didn't move. He was staring at the woman, or so it seemed, as he was standing slightly sideways so that John could only see a part of his face. He was sure, though, that his flatmate didn't pay any attention to his brother's agony. He seemed to be rather paralysed.
Time was becoming too precious as definitely two, if not three people needed an ambulance. Therefore, and against his better judgment, John decided on dropping his guard.
"Vatican cameos!" he shouted, flinging open the door and using the moment of surprise to fire. John was extremely relieved that the military code used by the Britons in World War I, signalling to get down and protect yourself, which he had immediately recognized back then when the CIA agents had intruded Irene Adler's house, was working just as well with Sherlock, who reacted instinctively, ducking down. The bang of the gunshot was deafening, the sound reverberating from the tile walls. The ex-soldier felt the force of the recoil spreading in his shoulder muscles. He pulled the trigger a second time and another bang filled the air. The woman sank to her knees, then fell sideward and remained still.
The first shot had hit the woman's right hand holding the gun, most likely causing permanent damage to it, and the second shot had been aimed at her knee to fully incapacitate her. John hadn't wanted to kill her, but wanted to secure she wouldn't be able do any harm anymore.
After the echo of the shots had subsided, John limped over to the woman, ignoring his desire for checking on both the Holmes brothers and Molly and following his however illogical Hippocratic obligation to look after the woman first in order to make sure she wouldn't die from his hands - damn the struggle between soldier and doctor! He knew that it was ridiculous, but he couldn't help it. To his satisfaction he found that he had once again proven his ability as a marksman. The woman was unconscious from the shock, which itself was dangerous, but she was likely to survive if she received medical attention soon. It wasn't his task to take revenge, although he had plenty of reasons for killing her, but he was sure that she would receive her sentence, of whatever kind it would be.
John turned around, looking at Sherlock, who was still standing there, petrified, gloomily staring at the bleeding woman in front of him.
"Sherlock!" John called his friend. "Sherlock! Look at me!"
Woken from his paralysis, the Consulting Detective did as he was said. His movements, though, seemed to be rather mechanic and even clumsy. "Sherlock, check on Molly! Get her off that chair!"
John limped over to Mycroft, whose hands were clenching the cloth of his jacket.
"Mycroft, you need to breathe calmly. Inhale...exhale…. inhale… "
The doctor saw panic in the older Holmes' eyes. He quickly opened the buttons of Mycroft's shirt to ease his breathing. Fidgeting with the buttons and ignoring the fierce protest of his leg that really hadn't healed enough to stand the burden of a combat, as this was nothing else, John briefly but thoroughly scrutinized his friend.
"Sherlock, you ok?"
Although his flatmate seemed to be outwardly rather unharmed, he wasn't sure of his true physical and psychical state.
"Fine," was his curt reply, so he wasn't ok at all, John concluded. As long, however, as he didn't collapse as well, he had to be content with it now.
Sherlock had untied Molly and, after taking off his coat and spreading it on the dirty floor, laid her down on it cautiously. She was still out cold.
"Get here, I need your help. Mycroft, that is. You need to sit down behind him and support him. We have to bring him into a sitting position. I can't sit down that way and I need to look after Molly."
"John, he's just acting," Sherlock said, his voice strangely monotonous.
"What?!" John exclaimed in disbelief, blinking his eyes from bewilderment. Even Sherlock had to see that his brother wasn't acting. Only then did John notice that he was swaying slightly and his gaze was strangely absent. The Consulting Detective was going into shock, John realized, mild panic rising in him. A room full of injured people and the only doctor injured himself - that was inexplicably not good.
"Sherlock, sit down here!" John bellowed and the power of his voice of command seemed to lead the younger man to him, obeying his order spinelessly. Very quickly and, surprisingly, without any resistance from his friend, he examined Sherlock and was relieved that the shock that was apparently settling in him, didn't seem to be too deep. Fainting wasn't unlikely, but he would be able to cope with it if both Holmes brothers were sitting in the correct position.
With firm orders that allowed no protest, John arranged the brothers back to back, providing something to lean at for Mycroft and preventing Sherlock from falling if he passed out. He needed to lie down as well, but it simply wasn't possible now.
The ex-army doctor stumbled over to Molly. The wound at her temple was lacerated, nothing deep, but her continuing unconsciousness was what worried John the most.
"Molly? Molly!" he called her repeatedly, patting her cheek, and finally, her eyelids fluttered open. John could instantly see the comparatively slow reaction of her pupils in the bright light, so she definitely had a concussion, if nothing more severe. The doctor gave her a wide smile.
"Hi, Molly," he said softly, her hand still resting on her cheek, giving her some warmth that inwardly he wasn't feeling because he didn't know what to do about the further medical treatment.
The pathologist moaned and grunted quietly, pressing her hand against her head.
"John," she murmured, "I've got such a headache!"
"Yes, Molls, I absolutely understand. Can you tell me what day it is today?" he asked, hoping that she would remember.
"Ooh," she groaned, "where's Sherlock? Is he safe? Where's Brigitte? And where the hell am I? And what are you doing here?"
In view of so many questions regarding the short time before the blow to her head, John was rather relieved. If she knew the details so well, she should be quite ok. They had to be careful, though. Probing again for the date and some other personal detail, John made sure that there was no imminent danger for the pathologist.
"Molly, you need to stay put. It's likely you are concussed. I have to look after Sherlock and Mycroft. Don't worry about - Brigitte, you said? Don't worry about her, ok?"
The young woman blinked her eyes in response. Behind his back, John heard some shoving noises. Upon turning around he saw Sherlock kneeling by the woman's side. He was glaring at her, however, he didn't touch her or anything. The doctor watched him carefully, preparing for an intervention, but all Sherlock suddenly did was spit at her scornfully before getting back on his feet and shuffling back to his brother without taking his position behind the older man's back again. He just stood there, observing every strenuous breath of his next of kin.
"Sherlock! I need your help!" John tried to wake his flatmate from his evident mental absence.
"What for?" he replied slowly.
John got to his feet, inhaling sharply through gritted teeth from the pain that shot through his leg, and limped over to his friend. He knew that, if a severe acute stress disorder manifested in Sherlock, he wouldn't reach him anyway, but he had to try, even though he was well aware of the risk he was taking. He slapped his friend's face hard - once, twice, when all of a sudden he achieved the wanted reaction and just managed to protect his face from the counterblow.
He grabbed Sherlock's arms and held them to his side firmly, trying to lock eyes with him at the same time.
"Sherlock," he hissed, exhausted, "are you with me? I need your help!"
"I'm with you." was the relieving answer, and John saw in his friend's eyes, that he spoke the truth. For the time being, he could rely on the Consulting Detective. Later, however, he would indeed very likely be in need of the despised orange shock blanket.
"Ok, good. - Listen! Mycroft's heart attack is real! He's not acting! He needs help urgently! Got that?"
"Real?" Sherlock asked, disbelievingly, and the look on his face renewed John's assumption of an acute state of shock.
"I need to call emergency, but this here is very likely to raise some suspicions among the paramedics and will cause us the hell of trouble! Mycroft has left his army in the stall and I think he wouldn't be all too pleased if we just called 999. So, who am I supposed to call for help?" he yelled, desperate, knowing that the older Holmes was no longer able to help since he couldn't speak and could easily lose consciousness and he would have to start cardiac pressure massage.
As if he had taken John's thought as a signal, Mycroft's hand, which had been holding the cloth of his shirt, went limp and fell to the side.
"Shit! Sherlock! I don't give a damn about trouble, call 999! NOW!"
The sleuth took his mobile from his trouser pocket and hit a single button before putting it away again. Assuming that Sherlock didn't have the emergency call saved on a one-touch dialling button, John wondered whether his friend was still out of his mind, acting nonsensically.
"What was that?" the doctor enquired, bringing himself in the proper position to resuscitate the older Holmes.
"Help will be here in a minute."
Taking the words metaphorically, he barked, "Your brother doesn't have a minute!"
With all the power he could muster, John started the cardiac pressure massage, supporting Mycroft's body in pumping the blood through his vessels.
"Let me!" he heard Sherlock say and felt himself and his hands pushed aside. In just the right pace, the younger Holmes conducted the massage, and John wiped his face from exhaustion, letting his gaze wander around the room that looked like a battlefield.
To his greatest surprise, he heard hurried steps clacking on the staircase and shortly after, an army of fully equipped paramedics rushed into the room, attending to each of the persons in the room. Utterly exhausted and just as relieved, he threw a quick glance at Sherlock, who met his gaze with a tiny smile on his lips, which, newly concentrating on his brother, instantly disappeared again.
Paramedics took over the cardiac pressure massage against rather weak resistance from Sherlock, another one examined Mycroft, and a third attached an IV to his hand. John shook off a fourth paramedic's helping hand that was trying to push him to sit down on a blanket on the floor.
"I'm alright. Leave me alone," he refused the help, watching the medical team do their work.
"Who are they?" he asked Sherlock.
Looking at the green, neon yellow uniforms that all paramedics wore, he replied, "They do look it a bit like it, yeah, and they also behave like it, Sherlock, I can see that! The question is, where do they come from and why do you have the emergency number on one-touch-dialling?"
"I don't. I sent a prepared message. And they come from different hospitals."
John's raised eyebrows and the annoyed expression about his mouth signalled Sherlock that he wasn't all satisfied with the answer.
"They all owe me a favour and won't tell anybody anything."
"They owe you a favour?" The doctor could hardly withhold a laugh. "Why on earth should a bunch of paramedics owe you a favour and not talk about it? Must be a huge favour!"
John's jaw dropped. "What?! Medical malpractice?! Let me guess: the oh-so clever sleuth caught each of them at a case of malpractice and, instead of reporting them to the authorities, blackmailed them?!"
"Close. I secured their support and discretion."
John laughed humourlessly. "Support, yeah. Just another word for blackmail. I keep repeating myself, I know, but you're a creep, a mean creep - and for once I'm absolutely grateful for it! Although... I hope medical malpractice isn't a habit of theirs."
Sherlock contorted his face in something between anger and amusement; the prevailing expression, however, was distress, John realised. The detective remained squatted at his brother's side and suddenly took the unconscious man's hand in his. It was a slightly awkward gesture of support and affection, but it seemed as if it was dawning on the detective that Mycroft's life was in imminent danger. As far as John knew, it had always been the other way round, that is Mycroft worrying about Sherlock numerous times, and the younger brother had so far always been sure of the convenience that whenever he needed him, without admitting it, naturally, he would have come running with an army, a medical team, a place to hide, or whatever he was lacking, up his sleeve.
"I've got a pulse and he's breathing," one of the paramedics said and the other one stopped the cardiac pressure massage. They quickly attached the electrodes of a mobile heart monitor to his chest and the fast beeps of his now audible heartbeats filled the room.
John made a step towards Sherlock and laid his hand on his shoulder. He briefly squeezed it reassuringly. "He'll be ok."
The younger man nodded slowly, but didn't say anything. Knowing that he was of no real use there, neither to help Mycroft nor Sherlock, John staggered to Molly, passing the woman and the paramedics looking after her. He felt no desire at all to dwell on her.
Upon approaching the pathologist, he caught her glance. She was actually smiling at him between screwing up her face from the pain in her head and the burning sensation that was caused by the disinfectant the medical workers were cleaning her temple wound with.
All of a sudden, John was
exhausted, deflated even, and his mind was whirling. The current relief
about having ended the imminent threat of Sherlock and Molly being shot
by the mad woman gave way to utter weariness. He swayed. He didn't see
the expression of fear on his friend's face and he didn't see the
despairing look in his eyes when he couldn't stand upright any longer
and his knees gave in under him. He didn't perceive Sherlock's call of
his name and didn't feel the paramedic cushion his fall. He had passed