The last we had seen of Louie he had been beaten into a coma towards the end of Run Silent, Run Deep. As of this writing we still haven't been given an update on his condition. This is my theory on what might have happend. The only character who belongs to me is Shiela the RN. I'd like to thank my beta bluepenreader for all of her help. Words alone can't say how much I appreciate it.

Danny pulled into the parking space and killed the engine. He could feel the familar cold dread overwhelm him; the scent of death hung over this place like a thick fog seeping through his skin and deep into his bones, leaving an ache that would linger for days. He thought that coming here would get easier with time but if anything it just kept getting more difficult.Come on Messer, Danny tried to reassure himself. You can handle this. Swallowing hard, he slowly got out of the car and made his way to the hospital enterance.

From the inside, it didn't really look much like a hospital and in fact the staff and the sign outside refered to the place as a "home." But that wasn't entierly accurate either, unless your home was a hotel. What bothered Danny most about the place was how white everything was: white walls, white tile floor, white bedding in the paitents' rooms. The only break in the monotony was the wooden chest of drawers. Danny always tried to remain in sight of a window, his eyes hungry for color. It was too neat, too sterile to be anybody's home. Everything about the place was cold and impersonal.

The staff always seemed so warm and caring, as if it were their greatest joy to care for these people. Danny was sure it was all an act, and the false sympathy made his skin crawl. A part of him told him that he was being unfair: their job was not an easy one by any stretch of the imagination and from what he had heard it was not the sort of thing one did for the money. But he hated this place, hated everything about it-and that rational part of him was mostly ignored.

Danny hadn't gotten very far through the door before he was approached by a nurse. Inwardly he groaned. It was Sheila, his least favorite RN. Danny had a hard time understanding how anybody in her position could be so God damned bubbly and cheerful all the time. It irritated him to no end.

"Hi, Danny!" Sheila chirped. "How are you today?"

Danny smiled back polietly, his heart not really in it. "Fine, Sheila," he lied. "Is Louie up to seeing visitors today?" He secretly hoped not, and prayed that his phone would go off so he'd have an excuse to leave.

"Certainly! I know that he'll be glad to see you," Sheila told him. "He's in his room right now, would you like to meet with him there?"

"uh... yeah, sure. That'd be good," Danny stammered, rubbing the back of his neck. No turning back now, he thought as he followed Sheila down the hall.

Louie was seated in a wheelchair, facing the window which looked out into a courtyard. Even in profile Danny could see the blank, vacant expression on his brother's face. Louie's mouth hung open slightly, and there was a thin layer of drool on his chin. Danny's stomach lurched, and he had to fight against the urge to flee the building.

"Louie, your brother is here to see you," Sheila said in a syrupy tone as she wiped the drool away with a tissue. Red-hot anger flared up within Danny.

Don't talk to my brother like that! He wanted to scream at her. He's a grown man, not a fucking two-year-old! Biting his tounge, Danny instead focused his attention on Louie.

"Hey, Louie, how ya doin'?" Louie didn't respond, didn't give any sign that he was aware that there were other people in the room.

"I'll just let the two of you visit for awhile," Sheila said. "If you need me, I'll be right down the hall."

Danny gingerly sat on the edge of the bed. "Sorry I haven't been around as much, work's been keeping me busy." He didn't really expect a response, he just had a desperate need to fill the silence. It always got so thick he could feel it pressing against him from all sides, crushing him.

Danny's thoughts went back to when he had first heard that Louie had come out of his coma. He had been at work when his mother called him on his cell. At first, Danny had been estatic. Louie's awake, he's going to be all right. Then his mother had told him the sickening truth: Louie had suffered severe brain damage. He could no longer walk, he could no longer talk. He couldn't dress himself, feed himself, do anything for himself. His mother had wanted to take Louie home with her, but he was going to need round the clock care, which no one in the family was trained to do.

Danny could still hear his mother crying when they had signed Louie into this place. He wondered why he hadn't cried. He had before, when Louie's fate had still been unknown. But now that he knew, he had been unable to cry. Maybe he had used up all the tears. He had felt weak and drained.

His mother had promised Louie that she would visit everyday, and Danny found himself making similar promises. He felt as if he had to. After all, it was partly because of him that Louie had ended up like this. Louie had known damn well the risks he was taking when he confronted Sonny Sassone and tricked him into confessing to the murder and clearing Danny's name. Louie had risked his life to save Danny's sorry ass; Danny couldn't ditch him again, not now.

Danny stared at Louie, searching his face for some spark of the older brother he had idolised as a child. Growing up, Louie was the ultimate badass, and he made sure that everybody knew it. At the time, Danny couldn't imagine anybody being able to hurt Louie; he seemed invincible.

Those childhood beliefs seemed so stupid and pathetic now. Louie was a broken man, completely dependent on others to survive. He was wearing diapers now, for fuck's sake; he was totally helpless. Danny almost found himself grateful that he didn't see anything in those eyes. He knew that Louie would rather die than live in such a degrading and humiliating exisitance. But there was this terrible, irrational fear that Louie was still in there somewhere, trapped. It made Danny feel sick and helpless, so he tried to focus on cold logic: Louie was gone. His soul, esscene, the whatever-the-hell-it-was that had made him Louie Messer had died, and now it was a matter of waiting for his body to catch up.

Except, if that were true, then there was really no reason for Danny to keep visiting. Despite what Sheila had told him, it was quite clear to Danny that Louie didn't notice or care that Danny was there, and probably wouldn't notice or care if Danny stopped showing up. Maybe the real reason Danny kept visiting was a guilty conscience.

Danny was jarred from his thoughts by a knock on the doorframe. He looked up to see Sheila enter the room. "Sorry to interrupt but it's time for lunch," she practically sing-songed. "Would you like to join us?"

Danny shivered and shook his head. He remembered the last time he visited during meal time. His mother had been there and she had been spooning mashed potatoes into Louie's mouth and wiping away whatever leaked out with a napkin. The memory gave Danny chills.

"N-no, I really need to get back to work. I just had enough time, to y'know... but I really need to get back."

Sheila nodded and smiled. "Okay, maybe next time then. Have a great day."

Danny couldn't get out of there fast enough. Back in the car he drove with all the windows down so he could feel the cool wind in his face. It had been suffocating in that hospital, and the wind was a welcome relief. All Danny wanted to do was get back to the lab. At work he had to focus all of his attention on the case that he was working on. There was no room for any other thoughts. As long as he could keep busy Danny could pretend that everything was normal. For at least a little while, he didn't have to think about Louie.