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Gallows Humour

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A very long time had passed since Jeff had turned his mind to them. It was the problem of living for a very long time. Things tended to be put aside to deal with tomorrow. After all, it wasn't as if his life was ever going to be rudely cut short.

He had never liked graveyards. They were creepy depressing places, filled with grief and sad memories of better times. No one ever left happy memories in graveyards, just the sad longing for family and friends and lost children. It was very easy to get lost in those emotions and never quite manage to claw your way back out again.

No, he did not like graveyards at all, but he had been drawn to one, he felt, against his will. His ship had steered him here before he could stop her. He would never choose to come here, to indulge in grief and sadness for lost friends and lovers. He was afraid that if he started, he might not ever be able to stop.

There was no gate, just a stone arch covered in ivy. A low stone wall surrounded the graveyard, showing off the rows of headstones. The grounds were well-kept and neat, and the large trees shading the graves were lush and healthy. A woman knelt by one of the graves, setting some flowers down. She paused a moment, perhaps saying some prayers, before she got to her feet again, crossed herself, and made her way towards the archway.

Jeff stood back in the shadows, just outside the grounds, watching her. She glanced at him as she passed and continued down the dirt path back towards town.

"You're a greedy bastard, you know. How bloody long has it taken you to get yer arse down here, hey? I don't know why I bothered waiting," said a voice from behind him.

Jeff turned and saw Kelly standing there, translucent and pale, but still thoroughly annoyed with him. Jeff wasn't sure how to reply. Kelly looked just like he did the last time Jeff had seen him. He was ashamed to admit it had taken centuries to visit this particular graveyard, and even now, he was still reluctant to enter.

"I don't suppose a sorry will cut it, hey?" Jeff said.

"I believe you owe me more than a bloody apology. What's wrong? Can't bring yerself to step inside? Geez, you are a bloody coward, aren't you?" Kelly said.

Jeff just stood there as Kelly brushed past him and walked into the graveyard. Jeff wanted to follow, but that would mean talking to Kelly properly, and he wasn't sure he was ready for-

Kelly turned to face him halfway down the path. "Jeff, do hurry up, will you? Honestly, when are you going to grow up?"

After yet another moment's hesitation, Jeff stepped inside. Kelly gave him an impatient stare and Jeff made his way down to join him. Kelly took him past various graves, their headstones still perfectly brand new though their ghosts had died centuries ago, until they stopped at a small headstone belonging to Roy. The engravings were filled in with gold, and the script was a beautiful soft font, flanked by two angels.

Jeff didn't want to look at it. He didn't see the ghost of a young-looking Roy hiding behind a tree. He vanished when Jeff looked in his direction, and Jeff wasn't sure if he'd seen anything at all.

Intellectually, he had known all along he was dead, they were all long dead now, but he had never quite come to accept it as he avoided thinking about them. But it hit home then, seeing his gravestone. Jeff lived on, and on, and on, while they lay in the ground. Bev appeared next to him, but Jeff didn't look at him.

"All he wanted was a phone call, you know. Just something to show you still cared. He died a broken man," Bev said softly. "He asked me to speak for him. He wasn't prepared to see you."

Jeff fought back a tear. "I jus'... I just forgot about him. Like I forgot lots of people."

"Y'know, sometimes I don't think you realise just how lonely you are. He missed you so much, but you never had any time for him, or for me," Bev said.

Kelly turned his back on him, glancing at him over his shoulder. "Selfish bastard. You didn't even come to my funeral. Or his, if I remember correctly. Roy's, I mean. Too busy playing God, were we?"

"I was hardly gonna turn up, was I? Didn't think it was right. Didn't think you'd want me there anyway," Jeff said.

"That's right, wave your magic wand over the past, just pretend it never happened. That worked so well, didn't it? Not once did you even try to make peace with me. I would've listened, you know, if I thought you meant it. But no, I died, and then, well. I wasn't going anywhere til I'd heard from you. Being dead changes you. Maybe that's why you're still so fucked up. You ain't died yet, you're just existing like a lonely island, drifting through time lost in your own little world. I hope the pain rips you apart cos then you'll know what it felt like, what you did to me."

Jeff moved away from him, unwilling to accept his criticism. He leaned against a tree, staring out at the road beyond.

"It wasn't like that. You got it all wrong. That's not why I-" But he stopped, because he knew he was just lying to himself. That's how it had always been. He'd eventually stopped making friends because they always left, always died and left him all alone, if he didn't push them away before they had a chance to leave.

Bev approached him and sat on the wall. "You know, I didn't want it to end. You and me. It's hard to throw away a friendship that lasted that long, but you didn't want to listen. Why should I bother when you had no passion for it anymore? You'd moved on to all your other friends, your more famous friends, while we were left behind. I hope you're pleased. Tell me. Did you ever go home again? Or did you hide away and pretend that's where you belonged?"

"Of course I never went home. I couldn't face you. Any of you. And by the time you'd died, it was too late anyway," Jeff said. "I always wanted to say sorry, y'know, but it required more strength than I ever had. Things got outta hand. It was all my fault. I should've been better to you."

Bev stood. Jeff didn't like the look he gave him, but he knew it was all he deserved. "Yeah, you should've been. Bit late for apologies now, don't you think? You never did know how to take responsibility for your shit."

Jeff watched him walk away back to Kelly. Kelly took his hand and they glanced back at him before vanishing. Jeff wiped his tears away. He still didn't know why he'd come here. If it was supposed to make him feel better, it had failed. All it had done was make him miserable.

He perched on the stone wall, gazing out at the graves. The more time he'd spent there, the more he realised this wasn't just a small graveyard out in the English countryside. All the graves belonged to people he'd once known, once loved, once shared a life with. All of them had passed away many many years ago. If there was ever a more visible sign of just how alone Jeff was, this was it.

He didn't sit there very long. He caught sight of someone flitting between the graves, passing in and out of view as they disappeared into thin air, but it was too brief an occurrence to tell who it was. Truth be told, Jeff wanted to leave, and quickly, hoping his bad memories would stay behind with the graves of his friends. As he turned to walk back to the archway, there was George standing before him. Jeff went to dodge him, but George stopped him, taking his arm gently.

"Hullo Jeff." George smiled as he spoke, his voice soft and forgiving.

Jeff wasn't convinced. "I'm just imagining you. Aren't you 'sposed to be, y'know, reincarnated or something? I never did understand all that stuff properly."

George laughed as he wrapped a rather solid arm around his shoulder. "There's a lot about the Afterlife you don't know about. It's been four centuries. You'd think I'd have progressed since then."

Jeff pretended he understood. Really, he wasn't at all sure what he was talking about. Jeff went to leave him behind again, but George kept pulling him back. Eventually, Jeff gave up.

"How are you really doing? And don't you tell me you don't get lonely because it's written all over you. That's one lonely heart you're carrying around in that chest of yours," George said.

Jeff swallowed his grief as he met his gaze. "Two hearts. I got two hearts, and they're both aching with sorrow. What did I ever do to deserve this?"

George gave him a soft hug. "Oh, Jeff, I think you already know the answer to that one."

And with that, he was gone. Jeff looked around for him, but he couldn't see him anywhere. Again, he thought he saw a face behind one of the columns of the archway, but when he looked again, there was nothing there.

Deciding he'd had enough of ghosts, he left the graveyard behind, not bothering to give it one last look as he walked out onto the road. He wondered what he should do now, but no answer was forthcoming. Tired and ready to leave, he sat on the small stone bench outside the graveyard and wept. Nothing good had come of this trip, nothing at all, and he had been tormented by ghosts who had told him things he had not wished to hear.

As he sat there, he felt a hand on his shoulder and a very familiar voice singing softly to him. He sang words Jeff knew far too well, words meant only for him.

"Wear a fast gun and you'll live today. Through the fire and stand by me. Wear a fast gun and you'll live tonight. Put it on, put it on, take your place and stand by me," Roy sang, stroking his head gently in sympathy.

Jeff didn't look up; burying his face in his hands, he wondered if he'd ever be able to make things up to him. He had never heard Roy sing it with so much sadness before. He would've said something, if he'd been able to think of something to say, but by then, Roy had vanished. All Jeff had was his words, his song, hanging in the air around him. He knew he'd never forget those words as long as he lived.