Author's Note: This is the sequel to Collateral Damage. If you want to know how Sherlock came to be injured, and the circumstances that lead to Mycroft taking on Moriarty, then read it first. It seems a rite of passage for authors in this fandom- the sickfic. While I have enjoyed reading a lot of great stories in this genre (Beautiful Fictions's Electric Pink Hand Grenade being my all-time favourite, closely followed by Kate221b's Madness and Memory), most others are (in my view) unrealistic about both the length of time it takes to recover from a significant injury, and the psychological effects of such an injury. So readers beware; this is about pain, both physical and mental. I am hugely indebted for medical input from Kate221b, but all mistakes are my own.

Chapter 1: Prologue

Dry. His mouth was so dry. His tongue moved instinctively, trying to find some saliva somewhere. Mistake. Bruised and sore, the movement felt most peculiar. He willed his tongue to stop moving in the hope that the feeling would go away. Something in the back of his throat felt just so odd. He swallowed. Pain. Yes, something definitely wrong with his throat. Sore and bruised, too, with something pressing very awkwardly.

Noises, but he couldn't make sense of what they were or what they meant. He was being moved, felt his balance oddly affected. He tried to take a deeper breath in, but found that he couldn't. Most peculiar. His brain commanded breathe! but nothing really happened. He could hear something, a noise in his left ear, then something pulled and pushed him into a sitting position. That hurt, a lot.

Something dragged across the back of his throat; hard and it scraped painfully, but then the pressure back there seemed to ease a little. He felt himself panting shallowly, but just couldn't manage anything more useful. Where was the rest of his body? He was just a dry mouth, a sore throat, a shallow gasp.

The cough came out of nowhere, reaching right down into his lungs with a burn. PAIN. What little oxygen he had in his lungs was sucked out as he gasped in shock. Fire blossomed out of somewhere, travelling up nerves he didn't even know he had from somewhere vaguely registering as below his throat, to the left, a foot or so. The pain spread out, touching nerves and re-introducing his chest to his brain. Now, he could feel hands on him.

Breathing, even the little shallow panting, was painful. And he became aware of something being pushed onto his face. It smelled horrible; plastic and artificial. The air he was breathing stank of polyethylene, it was too wet, too thick, something wrong with it. What was this thing pressing on his face, poisoning him? He wanted to push it away; it must be causing the problem and the pain. Without knowing how, he became reacquainted with his fingers which scrabbled against the something hard sitting on his face. It was suffocating him, he had to get it off of him.

Now his ears caught up with his sense of touch and smell. Noises differentiated into a cacophony of different machine bleeps, and whirrs, thumps, high pitched electrical whines, braying voices? Everything too loud, too painful to be able to decipher, voices. Something pulled his hands away from the thing on his face. He struggled against it, and that finally seemed to break through the barrier so he could take a deeper breath.

And instantly regretted it, as the explosion in his chest made him cry out. The rest of his muscles woke up and tried to get into the game; he was fighting for his life now against this thing on his face. His skin felt like it was on fire. There was something touching him everywhere, pressing on him, restraining his ability to move, the sensation was overwhelming. It was like every square inch of him united to scream PAIN. He tried to open his eyes; if he could see the enemy, he could try to fight it. The light blazed into his retinas and he cried out again- colour, blinding, things moving. It was absolutely terrifying. And PAIN, pain that was too much, just too much. Something pressed down across his chest and legs for a moment, and then blackness swirled up into his brain and he was gone.