Six months later
John looked up from the forensics report when Alexei entered the office.
"You've got the translation done already?"
The teenager didn't bother to hide a smug grin. "It would have been done half an hour ago, but there was a deplorable amount of slang."
John smiled too. Modesty and tolerance for the common man had never been Holmes attributes.
The HWL (Holmes-Watson-Lestrade) detective agency was a huge success. It had officially opened after they'd all left the North London safe house, and the media had gone into a feeding frenzy. Separating undercover journalists from genuine clients had been difficult and sometimes required harsh measures: before leaving for her new life in Prague, Petra had broken a poorly disguised Kitty Reilly's nose. Gradually, the circus had abated and the agency took on one case after another.
John loved it. But right now, as he opened the folder of printouts that Alexei handed him, he was also missing Mycroft.
The elder Holmes was in North Africa, representing Britain's interests during a major amendment to a trade agreement. He was due back in three days, which couldn't go by quickly enough for John. During his absence, Alexei was staying with Sherlock and John at Baker Street.
The boy had been depressed for days after Elena's private burial near the Holmes family plot in the Yorkshire Dales. He'd eaten only when coaxed, and didn't sleep so much as collapse from exhaustion after pacing in his room for hours on end. John had tried to talk to him, but only got a pained smile for his efforts. Mycroft, although worried, said, "Sherlock was the same when our mother died. Alexei knows we're here for him. We have to let him set the terms of his recovery."
Letting a fourteen-year-old set the terms for anything sounded dodgy to John, but Mycroft was right. Alexei eventually came out of his self-imposed exile and calmly accepted his new circumstances. He'd always gone by his mother's surname of Nowak, and when he told Mycroft and John one day that he wanted to change it to Nowak-Holmes, they knew that he was ready to get on with his life.
John flipped through the pages Alexei had given him. Two days ago a wealthy woman had come to the office, worried that her eighteen-year-old daughter had left England with her Russian-born ex-husband. She'd found the girl's diary, but it was written in Russian, which she did not understand. Alexei, who went with Sherlock and John to the agency offices each weekday and spent five hours in an impromptu classroom with a tutor, had volunteered to translate the small volume, and completed the task surprisingly quickly.
"So what do you think?" John asked as he perused pages of complaints about co-workers, former friends, and other annoyances that were the bane of a young woman's life. "Did she leave willingly with her father?"
"Willingly, yes, but more quickly than she originally intended," Alexei replied, sitting in the chair opposite John's desk.
"How can you tell?"
"Obvious." He held up the leather-bound diary. "She didn't take this with her. No eighteen-year-old with this much resentment toward her mother would leave her diary around to be translated."
John couldn't hide his awe but, like Sherlock, Alexei revelled in the admiration. Once again, John forgot how young the boy was. He had the speech and mannerisms of an adult, and a seasoned one at that. Mycroft, with whom he lived, had admitted that Alexei was more intelligent and clear-headed than most of the people on his staff. Everyone who met him loved him- once they got over the initial shock of learning that Mycroft Holmes had a son.
Sherlock appeared in the doorway, looking disgruntled. "Nothing interesting is going on here," he groused. "I'm going to Barts. Molly texted and said there's an unclaimed cadaver I can run some tests on."
"Did you take your iron supplements?" John asked.
"You wouldn't be lying just to get me off your back, would you?"
"I do frequently, but not in this instance." Sherlock nodded in the direction of his office. "The bottle's in my drawer. Go count them if you don't believe me and have nothing useful to do."
Sherlock had gradually recovered from his collapse at the safe house, but his blood work results still weren't completely normal, and John had insisted that he take supplements. Most were administered via injection, which John took care of each morning, but others had to be taken orally, and Sherlock was typically unreliable when it came to his health.
"He took them," Alexei said.
"Oh?" John arched one brow. "How can you tell?"
"When he's lying, he puts his right hand in his pocket. He's not doing that now."
Sherlock turned to his nephew slowly, looking both impressed and irritated. "I can't wait for you to enter your rebellious phase. Then you'll be the recipient of my deductive reasoning, and you won't like it. I will know when you've stayed out past your curfew-"
"So will anyone with a clock."
"Or gone off with a girl-"
"Maybe I'll go off with a boy then, just to make you feel stupid."
John laughed and shook his head. Sherlock and Alexei adored each other, and their verbal sparring, which sounded harsh on Sherlock's end and disrespectful on Alexei's, was a source of enjoyment for both of them.
Sherlock left for Barts, and Alexei went back into the small office that doubled as his classroom, where he played video games and waited for the hired tutor to return from lunch. Two burly men in business attire sat outside its door, tapping on their phones and tensing whenever a potential client came in. They were armed bodyguards from Mycroft's office, there to prevent the Consortium from getting Alexei back.
When John heard his stomach growl, he decided to take a break. "Greg," he called down the hall as he got up and put on his coat, "I'm going out for a bite. Need me to bring you anything?"
"No, thanks," Lestrade responded. "I brought some sausage rolls."
When John left the building, he paused on the pavement and breathed deeply. It was mid-November, and all the signs pointed to an early winter. Perhaps they would see snow today: the sky was a brackish shade of grey, and the weather report indicated the possibility of flurries.
As he walked down the street, heading for his favourite Dim Sum restaurant two blocks away, a public telephone started ringing. He glanced at it and kept going until he reached the intersection. While he waited for the signal to cross, another phone, this one only a few feet away, rang repeatedly.
John's heartbeat quickened, but not from fear. Every nerve in his body buzzed, saturated with the energy aroused by a now-distant memory. A memory of the last time this had happened, and the meeting that had followed.
The light changed colour and he crossed. As soon as he stepped onto the curb, a third public phone demanded his attention. Grinning from ear to ear, he stepped into the booth and picked up.
"Hello, John," a soft voice said.
"Mycroft." John knew he was glowing when a few passers-by did a double take. "Where… where are you?"
"Back early." A pause. "I've missed you."
"God, you too."
A black Audi pulled up to the curb. The window rolled down, and Anthea waved, looking amused.
"Get in the car, Dr. Watson," Mycroft purred down the phone.
John smirked. "I don't have any choice, do I?"
"None at all."
John hung up, crossed the pavement, and slid into the back of the car, next to Anthea. She beamed at him before taking out her Blackberry and tapping contentedly away.
John Watson could not remember the last time he'd been so happy.
Twenty minutes later, he was walking across the same half-empty warehouse that had hosted his first meeting with Mycroft Holmes over two years ago. This time he wasn't limping or using a cane; his step actually had a spring in it.
Mycroft was waiting. As John drew closer his smile broadened.
"You," the elder Holmes said, "are a delectable sight for my weary eyes."
John smiled too. "And you are a dramatic show-off."
"I decided that three weeks was long enough for our contact to be limited to calls and texts." Mycroft crossed the remaining distance between them, his expensive shoes slapping wetly against the damp cement floor. He enveloped John in a strong hug that was warm and smelled of Moroccan spice and Clive Christian No. 1.
John returned the embrace, relishing the feel of the fine wool coat beneath his fingers. "Yeah. I agree."
"Unfortunately, our respective obligations will continue to separate us like this from time to time." Gloved hands ran all over John's back. "We shall just have to make the most of these precious moments."
"Got anything in mind?"
"Yes." He lowered his hands and grasped the doctor's wrists playfully hard. "John Watson, I am taking you home with me and keeping you under personal observation. I believe you to be a serious threat to my libido."
"Are you kidnapping me?"
"Of course. It's Friday. You're mine for the weekend."
"Actually," John whispered as their lips met, "I'm yours for life."
A/N: This is the final chapter of The Devil in Devon, but not the conclusion of this Johncroft AU. A third story featuring Mycroft, John, Sherlock, Lestrade, and Alexei will commence on August 11. Not sure yet what the title will be, but there's time to decide :)
Thanks to everyone who left lovely reviews and provided encouragement. Special thanks to my wonderful beta, chasingriver, without whom... not.