"He's gone," Lestrade said in a rush of frustration.
Sherlock Holmes's head snapped to Lestrade. "John?" he asked, rising from his chair.
"No, no," Lestrade assured, gesturing Sherlock to return to his seat in the hospital's waiting room. "This Moriarty fellow. He's vanished."
"Right," Sherlock said distractedly. "Well, that's to be expected. He's much too clever for you lot." When his comment was met with silence, Sherlock broke from his racing thoughts and looked at the Detective Inspector. Lestrade met his look with a seething glare. "Oh, don't get all offended, Lestrade. He's incredibly smart and several steps ahead of us."
"Several steps ahead of you?" Lestrade scoffed, then paused. His next comment was spoken gravely. "Heaven help us."
"Don't waste your time pleading to the heavens, Lestrade, when you have me," Sherlock shot back. "Anyway, he won't always be ahead of me. He had the advantage of knowing what kind of game this was long before I did." His gaze took in the myriad cuts and nicks littering his clothing, along with the darker stains of John's blood drying into his shirt. His voice hardened to steel as he continued. "What of the marksmen?"
"Shot dead. Not merely shot, actually. Executed. All of them." He paused before adding, "And not by my team."
"Of course," Sherlock said. "A clean-up team, standing back, prepared to take action should things go awry." His mind raced through the scenario from several hours prior. The stand-off. The ambush by Lestrade's men. Moriarty kicking the vest into the pool just as it exploded, sending gushes of water and debris throughout the room and creating a chaos in which it was all too easy for Moriarty to escape. And John. Shot.
Sherlock tried to recall and deduce, to hunt Moriarty down, but it wasn't happening. Every time he tried to delete the extraneous and focus on the crucial details of the last several hours, images of John wounded and bleeding pushed into his thoughts.
He scowled and mentally replayed the moment where Moriarty kicked the vest into the pool, and the explosion that occurred seconds after the vest was submerged. "At least one man," Sherlock explained to Lestrade, "was waiting and ready to shoot the vest as soon as it was submerged, positioned to be minimally destructive but hugely distracting. As if that was the plan from the start."
"You think Moriarty was expecting us? That he knew your brother was monitoring your posts?"
"Of course," Sherlock replied impatiently. "He expected your arrival." What else, he thought. What else was there? His concentration broke as another image jumped forth in his memory. John, lying on the floor, bleeding from his chest, as Sherlock himself tried to stem the blood flow, shouting for medical assistance and tuning out the rest of the commotion, including Moriarty.
"Damn!" Sherlock exclaimed. "It's no good." He turned to Lestrade. "As soon as John is out of surgery, you have to let me stand guard at his room."
Detective Inspector Lestrade's eyebrows shot up. "You want to be John Watson's bodyguard?"
"Not want to be," Sherlock clarified. "Have to be." Lestrade looked poised to refuse him, and Sherlock rushed on, "Like I said, we don't know Moriarty's game. Yet. Clearly, though, he has focused his attention on me. Before the arrival of your team, he said he intends to burn my heart out. There's not much that can hurt me, Detective Inspector, and Moriarty knows this. Which makes John a target. Now, given the great deal of planning he has already exhibited where I am concerned, it is not unreasonable to assume that his next move is already laid out and therefore imminent. Moriarty has already shown an impressive influence in the criminal world, meaning it would be more than easy for him to infiltrate this hospital and hurt or kill John. While your people do what they can, they are no match for the likes of Moriarty. I am. Therefore, I must be present to observe and assess anyone with access to John during his stay here. And I must have the support of your men should I refuse anyone's admittance."
Lestrade was silent for several long moments before responding. "Holmes. Be realistic. If Dr. Watson—when," he corrected when Sherlock cut him a withering look, "when Dr. Watson comes out of surgery, he will need at least a week of hospital bed rest before he's released. You can't stay here, awake and alert, 24 hours a day for his entire recovery." His look was not without sympathy as he asked, "If we are so incapable, what then? What about when you sleep? Eat? Shower?"
Sherlock didn't have a chance to answer. "I will watch over Dr. Watson when my brother is away." Sherlock turned to watch his brother's approach. Mycroft's attention was on Lestrade as he spoke. "If there's anyone more capable to protect Watson than Sherlock, it's myself."
Mycroft flashed Sherlock a smile intended to goad as he shifted his focus to his brother's irritation. He dropped the smile a moment later and said with compassion. "The surgery's over. Dr. Watson has pulled through and is being moved to recovery."