He stood on her doorstep, dressed in his best suit, his hair limp from the light drizzle that was falling over Glasgow. Rose Connell pulled her housecoat tighter about her and reached for his arm. "Come in, Johnny," she said. "Come in."
He let her pull him into her small flat and then to the sofa in the living room. She sank down beside him, peering at his face sadly. The blank, shuttered-off look in his eyes broke her heart.
"You look like your granddad," she said softly, brushing imaginary lint off his sleeve. Peter Connell had been sixteen when he left for Germany, and only nineteen when he came home. He had lost friends in the war. Sometimes, Rose had held his hand at night, when he cried for them. The look in his eye then was the same as the one in John's now. Gran Rose knew those eyes.
John said nothing, his lips in a tight line as he looked down at his hands, clenching and unclenching in his lap. Gran Rose reached out, and covered his hands with her own. She could feel him shaking.
"Och, Johnny," she whispered. "John, my boy."
The ticking of the clock on the wall was like a hammer, beating out the seconds that stretched in silence. Gran Rose blinked back tears of her own, but she kept her peace, waiting for her grandson to speak.
Finally, he took a long, steadying breath.
"No one came," he said – and it was less spoken than released, like the hiss of air from a punctured tire. "Just me, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade."
Gran Rose rubbed the back of his hand with her thumb. "What about his brother—that government fellow?"
"Mycroft?" A laugh that was closer to a choke barked from John's chest. "He wouldn't dare." He tucked his chin into his chest, shoulders hunched. "Surprised Molly didn't come, though," he muttered.
"Might be too hard for the poor girl…" Gran Rose murmured, not so much to make conversation as to keep John talking.
"It—" John bit off the words, holding them behind his teeth for a moment before they pushed out anyway. "It's not fair—it isn't right."
He pushed off the couch, pacing the three-stride width of Gran Rose's living room, his hands fisting at his sides. "He helped—helped so many people," he forced out, each word separated from the rest like newspaper clippings in a ransom note.
"Saved their lives—solved their stupid, stupid puzzles—made them safe. And… and none of them came. None of them came. They all believe he was—" His voice broke. "They all believe he was a fraud."
Gran Rose felt a tear trickle down her weathered cheek, and she lifted a hand to wipe it away. "He wasn't," she said. "At least I know that."
"How, Gran?" John moved across the room with the speed of a starving man, desperate for a scrap of bread. He crouched in front of her, taking her hands in his. "You never even met him—how do you know?"
"Oh, John… John, lad," Gran Rose tilted her head and rested her forehead against his. "I know him because I know you. You and Sherlock Holmes were anam cara—do you remember talking about that?"
John leaned back on his heals and closed his eyes. "Yes—soul friends. I…I remember."
Gran Rose loosed one of her hands from her grandson's grasp and rested it on his cheek.
"Your grandfather came back from the war with wounds," she said. "He had a knee that plagued him until he died. But his worst scars were on his spirit." She shook her head. "He lost so many… I never knew all their names. He did. He had them all in a notebook, and every seventh of May, he'd take it out and read them to himself. And then he'd take a long walk and when he came back…" Gran Rose paused, remembering nights when she had held her husband's hand as he cried, and silent mornings when they ate their breakfast in sad understanding, without a word ever said. "Och, Johnny—if I could take this away, I would, I really would."
He stood, and went to the window.
Gran Rose watched him, the way the grey light seeped around him and into him, weighing him down the same way that the drizzle weighed down the world outside. His shoulders—usually in a half-forgotten square of military strength—were slumped, his hand shoved into his pockets, his head bowed.
"It goes on, doesn't it," he said at long last. He half turned, looking back at his grandmother with half his face hidden in shadow. "It goes on, and it doesn't get better… But you have to…" he struggled for words. "You have to… get inside it, somehow. You have to make your world fit inside it and you have to—you have to…" he slumped, and a hand went up to cover his face.
Gran Rose sat helpless on the couch. She couldn't take the pain from her grandson, she could only see him through it. He had lost part of himself the day that Sherlock Holmes died on the pavement. Anam cara was a double-edged blade—she had learned that from her husband.
"I'll make tea," she said softly. "You can stay as long as you like."
John looked up at her, with an expression so lost and young that Gran Rose's heart broke.
"Tea," he said, his voice like a child's. He turned back to the window, to the sky that was weeping the tears he wouldn't shed. "Thank you."
She stood, and went into the kitchen, leaving her grandson standing alone. Picking up her kettle from the kitchen table, she leaned on the counter and closed her eyes.
"Och, Peter," she whispered. "Our boy needs you."
There was no answer. There never was.
Gran Rose sighed, and turned on the water.
A/N: So... I never planned to make Anam Cara more than just a one-shot. I love Gran Rose, but I had honestly never planned to do anything more with her. But today I just had a craving for angst, and none of the fics I was reading were quite doing the trick... So I wondered, John has no one to turn to after the fall... What if he went to his grandmother? And... It kinda just grew from there. Hope you like it. I may, at some point, go back and do more one-shots with Gran Rose. She's a fun OC - no messy romantic bother or reason for OOC Sherlock or John... Yeah. Anyway, enjoy your daily dose of Reichen-angst.
Oh yeah - and seventh of May is the day that Germany surrendered after WW2.