Time stopped. It seemed we were all frozen to the spot. I certainly was unable to move as the import of that shot sunk in. Then tangle of arms and legs on the floor shifted.
Watson's arm, his hand clutching the pistol, rose and fell quickly. It landed with a sickening thud. He pushed himself away from the big American and staggered to his feet.
A rush of air filled the room as the three of us let out the breath we'd been holding.
"Watson, you fool!" Holmes snapped. "What were you thinking!"
Watson smiled shakily, "I wasn't thinking, Holmes. You know how it is. You said so yourself. I'm the protective type."
Holmes laughed weakly, "You're mad."
"Slaney?" Jeremy asked looking at the man lying so still.
"I'll need my medical bag. The shot missed both of us thankfully. But he's going to have a healthy knot on his head when he wakes up. I'll stop the bleeding and bandage it. The police can tend it from there. But first, I need to see to Burke."
"Burke?" Holmes sounded confused, then he looked at me, sitting on the ground a few feet away clutching my arm and blood seeping between my fingers. "Good heavens! I heard the first shot, but was too busy picking myself up to see where it had gone. That explains Watson's burst of heroism, as well," he added with a smile.
Watson ignored him and knelt down next to me, "Here, let me take a look."
"I don't think it's too bad," I said. "I think it just grazed me."
He gave me a level look, "Who's the doctor here?"
I smiled weakly, "Right. Sorry."
He chuckled and bent to examine the wound. "As it turns out, Burke, you're correct," he said after a moment. "It did just graze your arm. It's taken quite a chunk out, but nothing that won't heal in time. Let's get it cleaned and dressed. And you, Brett?" he addressed Jeremy. "You are not injured?"
"No, no, I'm fine," Jeremy replied quickly as he helped me get out of my coat and shirt. Watson set to dressing the wound. Whatever he used to sterilize it hurt like the dickens and I gasped.
Jeremy flinched. "David?"
"Thank you. That bullet would've hit me had you not reacted so quickly."
"Don't thank me too much, Jeremy," I said through clenched teeth as Watson once again doused the wound in sterilizer. "I'm beginning to regret it. Good lord, Watson, what is that stuff? It hurts like the devil himself!"
"Well, it's not something I'll forget any time soon," Jeremy said softly.
Once Watson had bound my arm, he and Jeremy helped me get back into my bloodied shirt and coat. Watson fashioned a sling out of some extra bandages and gently slid my arm into it. He stepped back once it was arranged to his satisfaction. He looked at me for a moment then smiled. "Well done, Burke," he said.
He left me to join Holmes who was talking with the Inspector who had just arrived. I felt unaccountably pleased by his praise.
Jeremy came up beside me, "Doing okay?" he asked.
I nodded. "You were right." I said.
He looked confused. "About what?"
"They're definitely rubbing off on us."
He looked at me for a moment, then just started laughing. After a moment I joined him. The odd looks that Holmes and Watson were shooting us only made it worse and we laughed harder.
Watson approached us after a moment, "Are you sure you're alright?" he asked skeptically.
"Yes, fine," I said as I tried to catch my breath. "Really," I assured him. "Just coming off the adrenaline rush, I guess."
"Are you well enough to give a statement to Inspector Martin?"
Once we had wrapped things up with the Inspector and Abe Slaney was safely locked away in the police wagon to be transported to jail, we headed back to London.
"What say you to a celebratory dinner at Simpson's?" Holmes asked us as we were relaxing on the train.
"I'm not sure Burke is up to it," Watson spoke up.
"Nonsense, I'm fine," I said quickly. There was no way I was passing up an opportunity to see the famous Simpson's restaurant.
Watson raised a skeptical eyebrow.
"Really," I insisted. "Just a bit of painkiller, and I'll be fine."
Eventually he agreed and after a quick stop at Baker Street to get a fresh shirt and coat for me, we were on our way to Simpson's.
The restaurant was very elegant and I felt rather awkward with one arm in a sling, but Jeremy was kind enough to help with anything needing two hands. Even with the awkwardness, at that moment there was no where that I would rather be than sitting down to dinner with these men. All of them new friends and all of them the best men I would ever have the honor to meet.
We talked animatedly through the dinner. Holmes and Watson related a few of their adventures that were not recorded. Jeremy and I talked about our jobs and how popular the two of them still were. They both looked overwhelmed with the knowledge.
On the walk home, I was starting to lag behind. My arm was throbbing painfully and each step I took jarred it all the more. Watson fell back to walk with me. Jeremy and Holmes forged on ahead talking excitedly with each other.
Watson smiled. "I still cannot fathom just how alike they are," he said. "They truly could be brothers."
"Yes. Quite remarkable."
"I must say, Burke, that you have become rather more impressive on further acquaintance." He glanced at me, his eyes warm and amused. "You mentioned once that it was a pleasure to meet me, and now I can honestly say the same to you. A pleasure, sir, and an honor."
I felt my face growing warm. I couldn't help smiling back, "Thank you."
"I'm planning on dining at my club tomorrow evening. Would you care to join me?" he shifted subjects smoothly.
"Yes, thank you, I'd be delighted!"
He nodded and we walked in companionable silence to rest of the way to Baker Street.