?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Five Ghost Stories (Sherlock)

Title: Five Ghost Stories
Author: Morgan Stuart
Fandom: Sherlock
Disclaimer: This universe does not belong to me; I'm just an appreciative visitor. I make no profit from this fan work.
Description: Every haunting is different.
Author's Note: This is a standalone offering made in the spirit of the Halloween season (and on the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's death), written in the same style/format as my earlier story, "Five Nightmares."
Chinese Translation: by xxecoh available here
Warnings (Highlight to Read): Angst, general references to alcoholism and abuse



#1

Thunder growls in the distance. Through the drawn curtains, through her closed eyelids, bright white lightning flashes. A steady downpour pulses against the window like the drumming fingers of a giant's monstrous hand.

It was a dark and stormy night, she tells herself wryly. She burrows deeper under the duvet.

A sudden draft of air caresses the exposed skin of her ear and neck. It's moist and warm, as if someone curled behind her has exhaled in a long sigh.

She blinks in the darkness.

Herbal soothers, she thinks. Play tricks with the imagination, don't they?

Later, as she drifts in the limbo of almost-sleep, she feels the gust again. Her skin ripples into gooseflesh.

The sky seems to moan; the thunder sounds suspiciously like a still-remembered voice: "Martha."

For several moments she curls into herself, foetal and forlorn, her wild heartbeats indistinguishable from the reverberating echoes of thunder.

"Martha…"

"Martha…"

Well, hiding under the covers like a frightened schoolgirl wasn't getting her anywhere, was it?

"Oh, honestly," she frets out loud. She sits, resting her back against the headboard of the bed.

"You're dead, Bill Hudson," she says. "Dead and gone. And unwanted here, you…"

Herbal soothers, she thinks. Rather limit one's vocabulary, don't they?

"… you dead man."

The floorboards creak, and then creak again.

Not beside her bed. Above.

Then the poignant lament of a violin descends from the sitting room upstairs. The sound is melancholy, but Mrs Hudson smiles.

"I've better men than you in my house these days, Bill," she tells the not-so-empty room. "One's a genius whose mind could run circles 'round yours."

She finds it best to omit the fact that said genius proved instrumental in helping Bill along on his journey from man to spectre.

"The other," she continues, "is a doctor and soldier, a war hero, with more courage in his little finger than you ever had in your entire body."

Both appreciate and care for me, she adds to herself, more than you ever did.

She goes silent, waiting for a response. A deep roar of thunder rattles her teeth, but she doesn't flinch. Instead, she crosses her arms and shakes her head.

"You'll have to do better than that, Bill, if you want to scare me."

Minute after minute passes. She receives no reply.

"All right, then," she says with a nod.

She tucks herself back into bed with a minimum of fuss. How odd it is, that she now feels peace, even contentment.

Herbal soothers, she thinks. Marvellous, aren't they?

She falls asleep listening to the violin's melody as it matches the rhythm of the rain.


#2

Late night fades into early morning – just as black, just as fathomless – as he choreographs an intricate dance between individuals and nations and the interests of both. Finally, when calls and texts and emails are concluded, and the necessary reports filed, he dismisses his assistant and pours himself a small brandy.

Mycroft Holmes feels empty, figuratively and literally.

He savours the three swallows of brandy he's allowed himself in a way that he will never savour his accomplishments of the past fifteen hours. This despite the fact he's quite possibly saved the Free World from imminent catastrophe. Yet again.

With methodical precision he exchanges his suit for his silk pyjamas and dressing gown.

His stomach growls.

He washes his face. He brushes his teeth.

When he gazes into the mirror over the sink, he finds not one reflection there, but two.

He sees his own features, pale and drawn with fatigue and stress.

Off to one side, like an echo or an afterimage, he sees another's. Sterner. Older, of course. Much heavier, as well.

Even so, the resemblance is uncanny as that thick-jowled face frowns at him in frank disapproval and distaste.

I did well today, a small, perpetually young part of Mycroft yearns to say.

I'm not you, another of his compartmentalized selves wants to shout.

He pulls himself up straight, dons the best of his aloof and impenetrable masks, and meets the eyes of the second reflection.

Summoning his most disinterested voice, he says, "Go away, Father. It's been a long day, and I haven't the time."

Then Mycroft turns on his heel and goes to his bed.

Hungry.


#3

She's a woman of science, of medicine, well educated and highly skilled. A professional. An expert.

But Molly Hooper also is a study in contradictions. Sometimes she weds her own self-image to the success or failure of a new hairstyle or lipstick. Sometimes she falls for men who are entirely wrong for her: gay or married, criminal or sociopathic (albeit high-functioning).

And sometimes, when she's all alone in the morgue at St Bart's, she talks to the corpses.

Or sings.

The habit didn't begin intentionally, you understand. It simply felt right.

Dr Crawford, the dear man, donated his body to science. When it – when he – wound up on Molly's slab, well, she told him all about that particularly difficult autopsy, the poisoned-first-then-immolated murder victim. She knew he'd appreciate the unique technical challenges it had posed.

Then, when the woman who so resembled Molly's grandmother arrived, it seemed fitting to relate Gran's best stories of her days with the Wrens during World War Two.

Next, that beautiful baby boy appeared – for once fulfilling the old cliché, looking as if he merely had fallen asleep – and Molly found herself first humming, then singing to him her favourite lullaby.

After that, things progressed naturally.

She isn't a religious woman or a superstitious one.

Although her life occasionally feels like an emotional rollercoaster, and she suspects her relationship with her cat borders on unhealthy dependence, she is perfectly sane. And she's never, ever hysterical.

But Molly Hooper also is a study in contradictions.

And sometimes, when she's all alone in the morgue at St Bart's, she fancies that the corpses talk back to her.

Or sing.

She doesn't mind at all, truth be told.

She's met evil. She's known fear. Very recently, in fact.

Both come from the living, not the dead.


#4

He wakes with a gasp and a start, nearly tumbling onto the rug. His body is made of sore lines and stiff angles, payment for collapsing on the sofa earlier that night and nodding off there.

Squinting, he stares at the muted telly around the clutter on the table: the half-full bottle of once-cold and now-tepid beer; the untouched plate of once-reheated and now-lukewarm leftover takeaway. He stares, but he doesn't see.

A single thought possesses him, expanding until it fills him to overflowing.

Perhaps this very thought is what shocked him from his exhausted rest in the first place.

He repeats it to himself: I can't remember the sound of her voice.

Frowning, he squeezes his eyes shut and holds his breath, fighting to prove himself wrong, to conjure the memory.

He recalls how she looked. Of course he does. He has photos, after all, which he revisits on an all-too-regular basis. He even can remember the details of how she appeared when she spoke to him.

Her eyes, warm and brimming over, as she whispered, "Love you so much."

Her lips, curling in mirth as she laughed, "It's a grey hair! Won't you be a sexy thing? My own silver fox."

Her face, flushed with exertion as she cried out his name in pleasure.

But her voice… It's gone. He's lost it.

A wounded, inarticulate sound catches in the back of his throat and struggles there.

After several long minutes, he rubs a hand across his face and tries to gather his crumbled pieces together again.

His abortive attempt at supper mocks him from the table. He's a practical man at heart. He tidies his mess, does what needs doing.

After disposing of the beer and takeaway, he finds himself standing in the kitchen, as bewildered as a lost tourist. He can't bear to go to his bed tonight. It's too empty, too bereft, too cold.

Stripping to his boxers and vest, he returns to the sofa. Lies down. Turns over. At last he pulls the pillow out from under his head and hugs it to his chest.

I wish I believed in ghosts, he tells himself. I wish she'd haunt me. She could rattle chains, chant curses. Wouldn't matter, as long as I could hear her voice again.

He surrenders to slumber at last. The muted telly plays restless patterns of light across his furrowed brow.

But later, at the sensation of slender fingers combing through his silvering hair, Greg Lestrade smiles in his sleep.


#5

It begins with a slamming door.

It always begins with a slamming door.

Then footsteps follow, unsteady and graceless in their thump-thump-thumping.

She presses her back to the wall and sinks to the floor in awkward, hitching stages. Her fingers tremble and tighten around cool glass.

Dead. He's dead.

And yet he's here. Right now.

This time, little brother isn't there to stand in front of her, as tall as he's able, square-shouldered and stubborn in his protectiveness. This time, he can't shelter her from this drunken, lumbering storm.

Tonight, she's all alone.

And whose fault is that, hmm?

Thump-thump.

A shriek rises in her throat. She swallows it down and sobs around the knot it makes in her chest.

Thump-thump. Thump-thump-thump.

Dad is dead. But Dad is coming.

Nothing for it, then. She raises the bottle to her lips and drinks deeply.

As she welcomes the burn of the cheap alcohol, a moment of clarity passes over her before disappearing altogether.

She thinks, I'm glad Clara and I never had kids. I'll have no one to haunt when I'm dead.

The thump-thump-thumping grows louder. Harriet Watson drinks herself to deafness.


THE END

Vital Stats: Originally written in October 2011.

This story won First Place in the "Ghost Story" Challenge at great_tales in November 2011.

Comments

( 73 comments — Leave a comment )
Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>
archea2
Oct. 7th, 2011 06:23 pm (UTC)
Ah, so beautiful and powerful. Mycroft's vignette was the most impressive to me - perhaps because it crosses part of my headcanon too. And I'm glad you allowed Lestrade some peace in the end.
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much! I'm delighted that you liked this and found it to be powerful, especially Mycroft's vignette. It's wonderful to know I touched on part of your headcanon! I'm also pleased that the ending of Lestrade's scene worked for you. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, my friend!
methylviolet10b
Oct. 7th, 2011 06:29 pm (UTC)
This is utterly splendid. I feel particularly badly for Mycroft - yes, even more so than for Lestrade - because he *is* so hungry and empty in this, emotionally as well as physically. I hope you have some plans to comfort him soon. :-)

Brava!
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
I'm so very happy that this worked for you! I'm glad to hear that Mycroft's vignette made you feel for him; As I thought this through, I ached for him. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, my friend!
mazarin221b
Oct. 7th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
I like these, very much. Everyone has their ghosts to contend with, and they do so in many different ways. Beautifully told, and very atmospheric.

I do find it interesting that it's pretty much everyone's fandom headcanon that Lestrade's wife had died. Where did we collectively get that from?
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - morganstuart - Oct. 8th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - morganstuart - Oct. 8th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 05:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm so glad you found this to be atmospheric! That was a main goal of mine for this piece. Thank you so much for this. I really appreciate it.

I do love Mrs Hudson! ;)
prettybirdy979
Oct. 7th, 2011 07:42 pm (UTC)
Oh wow. These were...wow. Lestrade's was so sad and bitter-sweet and I love the back-story you've given him.

I also love how these are all characters other than John and Sherlock. You've given the expanded cast a depth that is just heart-breaking at points.

Thank you for this lovely read.
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 06:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm very happy this worked for you, especially Lestrade's vignette. It's so wonderful to hear that you liked the fact I focused on the secondary characters, and that you found these scenes to be moving. Your kind words mean a lot. Thank you so much for them!
monkeybard
Oct. 7th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
These are all lovely, but I think my favourite has to be Molly. It's so sweet, with a hint of melancholy, while at the same time shows her utter practicality. What did you say? A study in contradictions? You've illustrated them beautifully in such a small space. Brava!
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 06:18 pm (UTC)
This makes me so happy! I'm so glad you liked these, especially Molly's. It's wonderful to hear that the "study in contradictions" worked. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words. I appreciate them!
thesmallhobbit
Oct. 7th, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC)
These are all really clever, picking out the unspoken fears of the characters. I particularly liked Mrs Hudson and Molly for whom the ghosts do not have any power.

And Lestrade. He can't bear to go to his bed tonight. It's too empty, too bereft, too cold. So sad. Yet in the end he smiles in his sleep. This is such a beautiful picture.
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 06:30 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad that you liked these! Especially Mrs Hudson and Molly; as you say, neither is intimidated by their respective ghosts.

I'm especially happy that you liked the ending note of Lestrade's vignette.

You've put a huge smile on my face! Thank you for reading and for your kind feedback.
shefa
Oct. 7th, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC)
So beautiful. I especially appreciate the psychological astuteness woven into each one. Each haunting an echo of something unresolved, something lost, something internal, something necessary to face. Powerfully drawn, each one. Gorgeously written, too, of course. :)
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 06:32 pm (UTC)
I'm so very glad you liked these vignettes, both the premises and the writing.

I especially appreciate the psychological astuteness woven into each one. Each haunting an echo of something unresolved, something lost, something internal, something necessary to face.

This means a lot to me! I'm so pleased these ideas came through and seemed fitting. Thank you so much, my friend, for your generous words.
jerel
Oct. 7th, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC)
I keep trying to think of profound things to say, but all I can come up with is how much I like each and every one of these.
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
This makes me very happy indeed! Thank you so much. I really appreciate your kind feedback.
beledibabe
Oct. 7th, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
As always, you unerringly place your finger right on that deep bruise -- the one that will never heal -- for each character.

::bows, with a flourish::
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 06:37 pm (UTC)
Oh my. This brings tears in my eyes. Thank you, so very much, my friend.
(Deleted comment)
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm tickled that you liked this, and I really appreciate your kind words.
lawless523
Oct. 8th, 2011 01:42 am (UTC)
These are beautiful, with such precise language and backstory. It's also interesting how you picked characters other than the leads. And I especially liked Molly's, since it fits very well with headcanon about her, and the show, IMO, gives her short shrift.
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
These are beautiful, with such precise language and backstory.

Oh, what a lovely thing to say! Thank you so much.

It's funny; I didn't start out with the conscious plan to omit Sherlock and/or John, but as the piece took shape, I grew to like the symmetry of the two spouses and the two fathers, with strangers in Molly's vignette in the middle. So it just turned out that way. I'm glad it worked for you, and I'm especially happy to hear that Molly's scene fit with your headcanon!

I really appreciate your reading and taking the time to leave such kind feedback. Thanks!
witch_in_winter
Oct. 8th, 2011 03:02 am (UTC)
These are strong characters and you gave a bright illumination to each of them and their ghosts. As a widow I understand what Lestrade wants, oh do I understand it. Was impressed with your take on both Mrs. Hudson and Molly, again very well done. I felt so sorry for Harry, the only one that will be done in by her ghosts.
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 06:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for your kind feedback! I'm very pleased you liked my take on Mrs Hudson and Molly in particular.

I'm gratified to hear that Lestrade's emotions come across as authentic. And my heart goes out to you. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

I really feel for Harry. You're right in pointing out that the others will manage, one way or another, but Harry's footing is far more precarious.

Thank you again for your generous words.
eanor
Oct. 8th, 2011 03:26 am (UTC)
Wow, you did a wonderful job there to give each of the characters a in-depth background story and a very personal ghost! My personal favourite has to be Molly's story because that's totally my head canon for her, too! :)
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much! I'm delighted that you liked this, and that my background stories for these characters work for you. I'm especially pleased that Molly's story fits with your headcanon! I really appreciate your kind words. You've put a big smile on my face.
mazaher
Oct. 8th, 2011 11:00 am (UTC)
It's so sad that people tend not to talk about these things to anyone else. I'd like Harry and esp. Mycroft to know about the way Martha Hudson sets boundaries, and the wisdom of Molly Hooper. "Dead man" indeed: the dead cannot do any more harm, and even a dead father's disapproval is nothing more than one (dead) man's opinion.
Thank you for writing this.
morganstuart
Oct. 8th, 2011 06:56 pm (UTC)
'd like Harry and esp. Mycroft to know about the way Martha Hudson sets boundaries, and the wisdom of Molly Hooper.

Yes indeed! Harry and Mycroft both could learn a lot from these ladies. I love how you characterize the lessons we can draw from these experiences. Beautifully put.

It means a lot to know that this worked for you. Thank you for your thoughtful feedback. As always, I'm grateful for your kindness.

Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>
( 73 comments — Leave a comment )