A Little Night Music
Sherlock had gone to bed, but John was too restless for sleep. He'd hoped that reading for a bit might put him in a dozy state and had chosen the conservatory for it so as not to disturb his sleeping partner. He settled into the wing-back chair he preferred and opened his book.
A chill ran down his spine, making him shiver despite the cosy warmth of the room. A more superstitious person would have said someone stepped on his grave, but John figured it was a simply a draft. It wasn't that he didn't believe in spirits. He knew for a fact the Holmes house was haunted. The resident ghost was a friend.
Another chill raced through him and he wondered for a moment if he might be coming down with fever. There'd been no hint of it that day and he felt all right otherwise. He put a hand to his forehead. No fever. He was fine.
When the mysterious chill struck a third time, John had a good guess as to what was up. He shut his book, holding his place with one finger.
"Ford? Is that you?"
"I know you're there."
"Are you trying to scare me?"
Still more silence.
He began to doubt whether it really was the young ghost playing with him. Did other dead Holmes ancestors walk the halls of the big old house? It wasn't impossible. Surely a fair number of Sherlock's predecessors had died on the premises. He scanned the room, but could see nothing beyond the shadowy outlines of furniture beyond his small oasis of lamp light.
John jumped so high he nearly dropped his book.
"Ha! Gotcha!" Ford grinned ethereally at him.
John tried to feign nonchalance while his heart slowly returned to its normal rate. "Yeah, all right. You did. 'Boo', though? That's the best you could come up with? Hardly original."
"It was enough to scare you."
"You set me up."
"Of course. That's how it works!" Ford sat down on the settee across from John. "You're up late."
"Couldn't sleep. Thought I'd read for a while." He tucked a proper bookmark between the pages and set the book on the little table beside the chair.
"Does Sherlock snore or something?"
John chuckled. "Not usually, no."
"Lucky you. Mycroft does."
"I don't need to know that," said John.
Ford swung his legs. Instead of bouncing against the couch as a living child's would do, they passed back and forth through wood and cushions. It was a disconcerting effect. "No. I suppose not."
The ghost was being unusually reticent.
"Is something bugging you?" John asked.
"Are you staying?"
"No. We're leaving in the morning."
"You should stay. There's plenty of room. You should live here!"
It didn't escape John that, had he lived, Sherrinford would have inherited the house and the land it stood on. "That's very generous of you, Ford, but we have our own place in London."
"So? Sherlock can go back if he wants. Good riddance to dumb brothers. But you should stay here."
John felt for boy. "You're lonely, aren't you?"
"No!" Ford looked away. "Yeah."
"I'm sorry, Ford. You know I visit whenever I can. It's just not up to me."
"Yeah. I know."
"I don't suppose you can visit Sherlock and me in London?"
Ford shook his head. "I tried."
That was a surprise. "Isn't there anyone else you can talk to or play with here? What about when the village kids come at Halloween or Christmas?"
"That's only Halloween and Christmas."
"Or one of the servants?"
"I did that once. It didn't go well."
"I'm sorry to hear that. I wish I knew what to tell you, Ford. I'll do my best to make sure Sherlock accepts every request from his mum to come here, but I don't know that there's anything else I can do."
"Yeah. I know. Thanks, I guess."
John dearly wanted to cheer up the boy. He glanced around, again taking in the dark shapes within the room, searching for inspiration. His eyes landed on the dark blob that was the baby grand piano.
"Hey, Ford. We had fun playing the piano yesterday, didn't we?"
Ford perked up at that. "Yeah, we did."
"You want to play again before I have to go? Maybe we can play something quiet that will help me get to sleep."
"Yeah." Ford nodded slowly and then leapt to his transparent feet. "Yeah! We can do that!"
They played together for an hour or so, until John's fingers were tired and his eyes were heavy.
He yawned hugely. "Sorry, Ford. I'm beat."
"That's okay. I had a nice time."
"Me too. Good night, Ford."
"Good night, John. Pleasant dreams."
"Thanks." John wended his way upstairs and soon found his way into bed next to Sherlock.
Sherlock shifted and his eyes opened a fraction. "John," he muttered sleepily. "Missed you."
John's heart warmed at the sleepy confession; Sherlock never would have admitted it when awake. "Sorry," he whispered. "I'm here now."
"Mm." Sherlock's eyes fluttered shut. "Did I hear a piano?"
"No. You must have been dreaming."
John smiled in the darkness. "Yeah. I bet it was."