It was hours later, and the four of them were gathered in Mycroft's living room. John would have preferred Baker Street, but had let Mycroft convince him to stay.
At least he had managed to avoid the hospital, insisting that his thigh only needed stitches that, damn it, he could do himself if he needed to. That, plus Sherlock's insistence (and Mycroft's authority), had convinced the paramedics to tend to him at the house and now he was ensconced on Mycroft's comfortable couch with strict orders not to get up.
As much as he would have liked to have gone home to his own bed, John couldn't help being intrigued by the way Sherlock and Mycroft were circling around each other. They were throwing off sparks like wet cats in a sack, but there was an uncertainty when they looked at each other that hadn't been there before.
Admittedly, it had been a bizarre week for them. Mycroft's memory gap had caused a communication vacuum that had actually forced the brothers to talk to each other. Now that Mycroft's memory was restored, they needed to reassess, re-file, re-examine their relationship, and to do that, they needed to be in the same place, at least for a while.
John looked up to see Anthea standing, offering a cup. He took it with a smile, awkwardly shifting on the couch so he could hold it without spilling. There was something to be said for cups-and-saucers rather than just mugs, he thought as a few drops splashed into porcelain. "Thank you."
"No, John. Thank you," was all she said. He tried to brush it off, but she just met his eyes for a long, telling moment before turning away.
That was going to take some getting used to—the thought of Mycroft and Anthea not only in a relationship, but engaged. He had heard Mycroft sending someone to search Porter's flat for the stolen ring, but ring or not, the question had obviously been asked and answered. The pair might not be indulging in sappy displays of affection, but Anthea had been following a little closer than usual, and Mycroft's face was fond whenever he looked at her.
Sherlock breezed into the room and flung himself into the armchair at John's right. "Bored."
"Of course not, why would I kid about something like that? The case is over, John, and we're stuck at Mycroft's. It's practically the definition of boring."
"Right. It's been at least, what, two minutes since the last person left. Of course you're bored." John sipped at his tea, resolutely ignoring Sherlock's pout.
"Not just me," Sherlock said. "You, too."
John almost spilled his tea after all. "What? Me? Why would I … I'm too tired to be bored, Sherlock."
His friend's eyes were steady as he said, "Not true. You're coming down off of an adrenalin high and that often comes with a lack of satisfaction or purpose."
"Tomorrow, maybe," John said with a short laugh. "But right now? Believe me, I'm more than happy to sit here and drink tea for a while. How about you, though? How are you doing now that this is over?"
"What, me? I'm fine."
John watched the way Sherlock's fingers picked at the rolled fabric along the arm of his chair. "Your brother was almost killed today."
There was a pause as Sherlock's eyes flicked down to John's leg as his jaw tightened. "My brother was not the one who was shot."
"Maybe not, but he was next," John said, trying not to squirm. Had Sherlock meant that the way it sounded? It wasn't like he had done anything helpful, just let himself be captured at gunpoint … again. And, well, yes, he supposed he'd come through at the end, but only because Mycroft had slipped him a gun. Without that, he had just been a liability. There had to have been something he could have done differently, done better, though he didn't know what, exactly, and in the meantime, damn it, he had been shot because he hadn't been sufficiently on guard.
Still, he'd been able to stop Porter from hurting Anthea, and that had to count for something. "Incidentally, I saw how you kept Mycroft out of my line of fire. Thanks for that, because that would have been … bad." John took another drink, carefully placing the cup back in its saucer with a crystalline chime. "But that doesn't change the fact that he—that both of us—were in danger. It's normal if that bothered you."
"I'm not bothered," Sherlock said, eyes on the fraying chintz.
"Well, good then," John said. "For myself, I'm glad he's okay—and with his memories back, too. That's a relief."
"And engaged now, too … to Anthea, of all people," John said, trying to suss out how Sherlock felt about this. "Or whatever her name is. Do you suppose they'll put her real name on the wedding invitations? Assuming I'm invited, that is."
"You just single-handedly saved the life of the groom—and the bride. I think it's safe to say you'll be invited—if not asked to be best man. He certainly seems to like you better than me."
John lifted his eyebrow at the bitterness underlying Sherlock's tone. "He hasn't known me as long. There's still plenty of time for him to come to dislike me for my stubbornness and refusal to rat on my best friend."
"True," said Sherlock, tilting his head thoughtfully.
"Not to mention that his memory is back … which means he also remembers how little he likes me. I'm just his brother's friend; you're hisbrother."
Sherlock shifted in his chair, and John hid a smile behind his cup, letting the subject drop. As nice as it would be for this truce between the brothers to continue, he couldn't imagine it would last much longer. He just hoped they would both remember some of the things they'd learned about each other these last two days.
Across the room, he saw Mycroft hang up his phone with a sigh and then come to take the empty chair across from Sherlock's. Anthea handed him a cup of tea and then perched on the arm of the chair, shoulder touching Mycroft's.
"How's your leg, John?"
"Sore, but fine," John said with a shrug, not wanting a big deal made of it. "How's your head? I was worried earlier."
Mycroft made as if to rub his temples, but then lowered his hand to entwine his fingers with Anthea's. "Also sore, but fine. It's the oddest feeling—all those lost memories are back, but they don't feel quite like mine, yet, like they haven't fully integrated."
John was intrigued. "Probably a good night's sleep will help with that—give your brain a chance to sort through everything that happened today."
"I don't know, John," Mycroft said with a laugh. "It was really quite an eventful day. One night's sleep might not suffice."
Mycroft had a drink of his tea and then leaned forward to put the cup down. "My memory clearly isn't perfect, though, because I can't recall if I thanked you for saving Anthea's life earlier—not to mention mine."
"You don't have to thank me for that, Mycroft. It was my pleasure," John said. It was true, too. He would have preferred not being shot, but his leg would be fine, Mycroft was alive with his memory recovered, Sherlock was still being civil, and Anthea had actually looked at him as if she knew who he was for a change. And this tea really was excellent. All in all, he didn't have any complaints.
"Nevertheless, I'm grateful."
"Any word on Porter?" John asked.
"He should regain most of the mobility in his hand. We'll see to it he gets the care he needs—physical and psychiatric."
John nodded. "Good."
"Good?" Sherlock asked, disbelief drenching his voice. "How can you say that? He tried to kill all three of you."
"Not really," John said, disagreeing. "And try not to sound like you're feeling left out. He was troubled and not thinking straight—he obviously needs help, but until that last second, he hadn't tried to kill anyone. It's why I didn't take a headshot."
In his chair, Mycroft gave a nod. "I had wondered. I think I can definitely count my debt to Porter cleared now, though, which is something of a relief. I can finally get someone truly competent in that place."
Sherlock's eyebrows lifted, a look of revelation on his face. "January 2006?"
"Exactly," Mycroft said.
John watched the play of emotions on Sherlock's face as he realized exactly what Mycroft had done. Had he been there when Mycroft explained to Porter exactly why his memory had defaulted back to that day? Did he realize how much it meant for a man like Mycroft to keep someone like Porter on staff out of gratitude?
Sherlock leaned forward to snatch a biscuit from the tray. "Luckily, John's a good enough shot to take care of things—even if he is handicapped by sentiment."
That answered that question, thought John. "Maybe so, but there are worse handicaps, Sherlock."
Mycroft relaxed back into his chair, Anthea a warm presence by his side. There was still a residual ache in his head, but he felt better than he had in days—certainly more like himself.
It had been a curious experience, losing such a large chunk of himself, of his memories. It had been disorienting and he had not at all enjoyed the feeling. He had hated the lost feeling of not knowing how he spent his days, of being dependent on others for everything from his computer password to knowledge of his friends.
It had been a bit of a blow, in fact, to remember that he did not, in fact, have any true friends. His fond hope that maybe Sherlock and John came visiting from time to time had been dashed, too. In many ways, his life had not changed that much since 2006.
Except for Anthea, of course. How had he possibly forgotten her? Or, if not her exactly, what they meant to each other. If John had been a miracle in Sherlock's life, then Anthea was the one in his—and it was unthinkable that he had forgotten.
Her hand was resting on his shoulder and as if knowing what he was thinking, she gave it a gentle squeeze. Really, he was luckier than he deserved.
He thought back to how helpful Sherlock and John had been the last two days. He considered the conversations they'd had, and wondered at how incredibly lucky Sherlock was to have John in his life. One advantage to this entire fiasco was that Mycroft remembered all too clearly how little hope he had had for his brother five years ago. As 2006 began, he had doubted that Sherlock would ever see the end of it, but here it was 2011 and he was not only here, but thriving, and that all came down to John.
John Watson, who had saved and been saved almost more times than he could count, and who had now saved his life as well.
Mycroft watched him shifting on the couch, trying to find a comfortable position for his leg and wondered what he could do to show the man his gratitude. Not that John would take anything of substance—he was well aware of that—but still …
Ah. An idea occurred, and he stretched up to whisper to Anthea. She flashed him a smile and then left the room.
"You know, Sherlock," Mycroft said, "There is something that I remembered that I want to ask you about."
He watched a flicker of concern flash across Sherlock's face and imagined all the possibilities that Sherlock was considering—drug use, their parents, that enormous row in 2008. He waited patiently, though, until Sherlock simply asked, "And what is that?"
"When did you become so cruel?"
"Cruel?" Sherlock looked utterly surprised—of all the adjectives Mycroft had used to describe him over the years, that had never been one of them.
Mycroft nodded. "Indeed. Why would you possibly have inflicted that dreadful Hazelnut Latte on me the other morning? Telling me I'd grown to love them? I stand by my choice of adjective. That was cruel, Sherlock."
John had just taken a sip from his cup and was choking now on tea and laughter as Sherlock jumped forward and held his shoulders steady, trying to keep the poor man from jarring his wounded leg too much. "Now who's being cruel, Mycroft?"
"Indeed. My apologies for the timing, John," Mycroft said as John waved his hand in forgiveness, still catching his breath. When his coughing had subsided, Mycroft continued, My question, however, remains, Sherlock."
Sherlock was back in his chair, lounging with his legs outstretched. "I don't know what you're complaining about. I think I resisted temptation remarkably well while you were … indisposed. Nothing else I told you was a lie, Mycroft—I don't see how you can complain about my buying you a luxury cup of coffee."
Mycroft hadn't missed the way Sherlock emphasized that nothing else had been a lie. The tender things his brother had told him when he'd been alone and afraid had been true.
It was almost worth the amnesia to know that he cared.
From the corner of his eye, he saw Anthea returning. "I want to thank you again, John, for your invaluable aid today. I am truly most grateful. You should, of course, stay off your leg as much as possible for a few days, and I hope you'll accept this to aid you. Consider it a thank you."
He nodded Anthea forward, and she glided up to John and, with a short bow of respect, presented him with a beautifully carved wooden cane.
"This belonged to our grandfather, who was just about your height, John. I don't know if you still have that generic metal monstrosity from rehab, but would point out that the weight of this stick makes an admirable weapon … and that's not even counting the secret I think you'll appreciate in the handle."
John's eyes were alight with amusement as he took the walking stick, hands running over the sturdy oak handle to where it connected with the hand-carved base. He examined the join and then, one eyebrow raised, gave it a sharp twist and then laughed out loud. "A sword-cane. I should have known. I'm speechless, Mycroft."
"It never hurts to have something you can depend on, John, and if the support you lean on can also be a weapon to protect you? All the better, don't you think? I did think about giving you one of my umbrellas, but they're not meant for serious walking support."
He met the man's eyes, letting all his appreciation, respect, and yes, affection show and gave a smile as John raised the stick in salute. "I don't think I can carry off the elegant brolly thing like you do, Mycroft, but I thank you. This is beautiful, and will certainly be helpful."
Mycroft's eyes drifted over to his brother. He was watching him with a rare glimmer of affection in his changeable eyes. As Anthea came back over to sit next to him, Mycroft gave a sigh. Really, he was almost grateful to Porter for showing him how much he had to be thankful for.