A/N: This fic may be slightly preachy, but it's totally a fic in support of John and Sherlock's epic friendship - the kind of friends that are closer than brothers. I honestly think that it degrades their relationship to bring it down to a mere sexual level and make them lovers. But that's my soapbox and I'll leave it be for now.
Also, this fic is the explanation behind John's note to his grandmother in Time of Echoes, if you're following that. If you super dislike the idea that he has some sort of family, pretend that this just happens in that AU. :D
John Hamish Watson was an Englishman by birth, but his ancestry on his mother's side was purely Scottish. Hamish had been a family name for longer than anyone had bothered keeping records, and his grandmother Rose Connell—nearing ninety-three and as likely to kick up a jig as she had been at thirteen—was as full-blooded Scot as they came.
Once a month, as regularly as he could manage it, John took a weekend to visit her flat in Glasgow and eat her fresh-baked shortbread and listen to her complaints about "the youth of today" and how nobody in the government knew what they were doing. Her reedy voice and sharp wit kept him laughing long after he had started home, and she always sent him back with a sack full of sweets. He'd have lived with her, had it been reasonable, after he came back from Afghanistan, but Gran Rose's tiny one-bedroom flat was too small for two, and she couldn't really afford it anyway. Instead, he visited as often as he could. Goodness knows Harry didn't, and they were more or less the only family Gran Rose had left.
Today, on a spring day that was unusually warm for the season, they sat out on her tiny balcony, overlooking the park that backed up to her housing complex.
"Look at that, then, Johnny," she was saying as he handed her a mug of tea. "Look at all those little ones all out playing in the sunshine. Makes me wish I still had the energy to run around a playground like that."
"Gran, you could do anything you put your mind to." John sighed and sank into the chair beside her. Sherlock had kept him out late the last three nights running—literally, running—and between chasing his flatmate through the streets of London and keeping regular hours at the surgery, he was ready for a bit of rest.
"That's nice of you to say, Johnny," Gran Rose chuckled. She wrapped her long, thin hands around the hot mug and blew away the steam. "But most of my get-up-and-go has got-up-and-went."
They sat in silence for a few minutes, sipping their tea and watching the children chasing each other about. The bright colors of the playground and the fresh hints of pink and green in the trees set a quiet, cheery mood over the day, and John felt himself sinking into a feeling of peace he rarely felt these days. It was too often that an emergency patient or one of Sherlock's cases jerked him out of it.
"Tell me about yourself, then, John," Gran Rose said at last, breaking the quiet. "What have you been up to since I saw you last?"
Reluctantly pulling himself back, John ran over the events of the last month in his mind. "Well…I told you about my flatmate."
"That Sherlock Holmes fellow, yes." Gran Rose squinted at him. "And is he working out?"
John grinned. "I think so, yeah. Life with Sherlock is never boring."
Gran Rose nodded in satisfaction. "Men of our family don't hold with boring," she agreed. "Tell me about him."
"Mm…describing Sherlock Holmes. That's a new one." He usually didn't have to explain his flatmate. Usually, the name alone was enough to get a reaction—and usually, the reaction was not a positive one. "He's an odd bloke, I'll say that much."
"What does he do? For a living, I mean."
"He's a sort of…detective. He works with Scotland Yard, mostly, but takes a lot of private cases too."
Gran Rose's raised an eyebrow in fascination. "Really, now. Smart, then?"
John laughed. "Brilliant. I've never seen anyone as quick-witted as Sherlock. Bit too smart for his own good, actually."
"What do you mean?" Gran Rose sat back in her chair and sipped at her tea.
Just yesterday, Sherlock had informed a grieving widow that her dead husband had been a philandering waste of skin with a string of lovers and a pile of debt taller than the London Eye. All of which, of course, he had deduced from the contents of the man's bedroom. The poor woman had refused to believe him, but Sherlock had flung each individual deduction in her face until she was a quivering, weeping mess on the couch. John's insistent, "Sherlock!" finally broke through the man's self-made cloud of obliviousness, but he didn't seem to understand, even when John tried explaining on the walk home, just exactly what he had done wrong.
"He can tell you what you had for breakfast by the crumbs on your shirt and where you went to school by how you tie your shoes." John shrugged, and took a drink. "But he hasn't the faintest notion of tact or…or…" he waved a hand helplessly. "If I hadn't stitched him up three times in the last week and seen for myself that he bleeds like any normal bloke, I'd be convinced he was some kind of robot."
"Mm." Gran Rose nodded, closed her eyes, and pushing her rocking chair into motion. She opened one eye and squinted at him. "But you're sticking around."
Only two weeks ago, John had nearly been killed—had nearly gotten a friend killed—by Chinese crime lords. There was still a rush of adrenalin through his system whenever he thought about how close Sarah had come to being skewered, Sherlock to being strangled, and himself to being shot.
"Yeah." John shook his head. "God help me, I'm sticking around."
Gran Rose nodded. "Good for you."
"People assume all sorts of things, though." John tried to keep the irritation out of his voice, but Gran Rose had known him too long for that.
"Two apparently unattached men living in the same house and getting into all sorts of scrapes together?" She grinned cheekily. "I can only imagine the rumors."
John grunted. "It's pretty…annoying, to say the least."
"But you do like this fellow?"
"Gran, he's the sort of bloke you either hate or can't get out of your head." John waved a hand vaguely, trying to encompass the enigma that was Sherlock Holmes. "Sometimes I want to…want to pelt him with his own chemistry set, but I can't imagine London without him."
"Ah." Gran Rose nodded wisely. "Anam cara."
John furrowed his brow. "An emcar-what?"
"Anam cara. It's an old Gaelic notion." Gran Rose set aside her tea cup and leaned forward, motioning with her hands. "The old Celts believed that your soul was sort of…a cloud around you. Like an aura or some such."
He wasn't really following. But he recognized Gran Rose's storytelling voice when he heard it, so he didn't interrupt.
"They believed that when you met someone, your soul literally touched that persons', and if you spent a lot of time with them, your souls would sort of…" she made a stirring motion with both hands. "Intermix."
"Are you saying—"
She gave him an arched-brow look that said, I'm not done yet. He snapped his mouth shut.
"People who were really close friends, then, would actually have some of the other person's soul inside of them. Which is, of course, utterly mental, but it's a nice thought. Anyway." She picked up her tea again. "They called these sorts of really close friends anam cara. It means soul-friend."
"It's a quixotic notion, I'll give you that," John ventured. "But I hardly think my soul has…has mingled with Sherlock's. That's actually a bit…a bit repulsive."
Then again, he was suddenly reminded of the Chinese tong case, and how well he and Sherlock had teamed up. It hadn't just been Sherlock getting all the ideas and chasing all the leads…Maybe the detective was rubbing off on him, just a bit. And he couldn't deny that Sherlock's manners had changed somewhat—for the better, he'd wager—during their acquaintanceship.
These thoughts flashed through his mind in the space of a breath, but Gran Rose was watching him with a look just as keen as any he had ever seen on the pale face of Sherlock Holmes. She smiled at him over the edge of her tea cup.
"Most people these days talk about anam cara in its romantic connotations," she shrugged. "You can get all sorts of cheap rings and things. But originally, it was more connected with brothers and men who fought alongside each other."
"War does tend to forge bonds," John agreed, another voice in his memory saying, when you walk with Sherlock Holmes, you see the battlefield…welcome back.
He frowned—a deep, lining frown that set his whole face into wrinkles—at his grandmother.
"Anam cara, mm?"
She smiled, and took another drink, her gaze drifting away from him to look down at the still-playing children. "Mm. Anam cara."