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Late at Night


Title: Late at Night
Series: Original
Disclaimer: Wholly original work.
Characters/Pairings: Original Cast
Rating: AA
Summary: Separated in a cemetery, Mike gets himself about as lost as he can get.
Notes: a former seenzien exclusive

"Johnny," Mike hissed, peering around the tall gravestone, half afraid of Johnny waiting to scare him, and half afraid that Johnny wouldnít be there to scare him. Heíd only turned around for a moment to tie his shoe - there was no explanation for Johnny disappearing so quickly unless it was part of a game.

If it was a game, it was a shitty game. They hadnít exactly walked all the way into a cemetery at night to run around like hooligans - the blanket Mike was clutching was proof of that.

Johnny loved the occult. It was his idea to come.

Mike let out his breath - nothing lurked behind the gravestone. He kept walking forward, not wanting to yell but really wanting to find both Johnny and his bearings. It was cloudy, the moon obscured by the clouds, and since Mike didnít know which direction was which to begin with, he was currently more lost than ever.

The cemetery was expansive, stretching in every direction he could see, complete with rolling hills and a couple of terrifyingly shadowy mausoleums to Mikeís right.

He looked again, before spinning around. They had been to his right, at least. He hadnít walked that far, but he couldnít see them anymore.

"Johnny..."

Mike clutched the blanket even tighter to his body, half-tempted to unfold is and drape it around him like a cloak. He wasnít going to admit that he was scared. The second he admitted it to himself, then Johnny would come along and scare the daylights out of him.

A breeze rustled the leaves above him, causing Mike to look up. The clouds parted for a moment, letting a sliver of the moon shine clear white light down. It only caused the gravestones to look even more menacing, the white ones shimmering and the black ones pulling in the light and keeping it for themselves. All of them cast long shadows, overlapping one another.

Mike did not like the shadows, but found himself incapable of staying out of them. His own tall, dark shadow seemed to mock him, running along in front of him faster than he was... running? Mike hadnít even noticed how quickly his steps had become.

He was sure heíd lost Johnny now, probably for the entire night unless by some bit of freak luck they stumbled upon one another. But Mike didnít want to give up. He kept walking, heading to his right again, hoping to find even a road. Theyíd started out on a narrow, dirt road that had led into the oldest, darkest depths of the cemetery. Somewhere nearby the road had to reappear. Maybe Johnny would be on that road, waiting.

A chill bit into the air as the breeze picked up. It wasnít a cold night, but finally Mike was compelled to unfurl the blanket and sling it over his shoulders.

He heard a noise in front of him, something crunching on the ground on the other side of a poorly kept but still liberally fenced family plot. It had to be Johnny, it had to be.

Mike picked up his pace again, side-stepping a pair of bushes before finding himself face to face with thin air. Whatever had made the noise had already vanished.

"Johnny!"

Still nothing - the rustling leaves grew louder and Mike looked up. The tree that towered over him was tall but partially dead. Old, dry leaves that still clung to the dead limbs shuddered as the nightís breeze turned into a steady whipping wind.

Mike nearly lost his blanket, having to grab onto it with both hands and clutch it to himself to keep it from leaving him.

He headed left, sure there was nothing but growing darkness and endless rows of gravestones in the direction he was headed.

Clouds covered the moon again, plunging everything into darkness. Mike missed a low, misplaced stone and tripped, sprawling to the ground.

The air knocked from him, he barely managed to turn over enough so that he didnít have a mouthful of grass.

"Johnny..." His lips moved, but nothing came out. He couldnít get enough air, and the last thing he wanted to do was die in a cemetery. It was almost too ironic.

Five minutes later, he was on his feet and inspecting what had tripped him up.

"Elizabeth Hart," he read, tracing the edge of the stone as he looked at the date. "A baby."

A moment later he realized that the stone wasnít so much misplaced as sitting at the foot of the motherís grave.

Mike sighed before adjusting his blanket and heading forward. He wondered just where Johnny was. Johnny was probably having the time of his life, admiring gravestones and laying on the ground, attempting to mirror the bodies nestled into coffins below.

Ten more minutes passed before Mike even bothered to look at his surroundings. Heíd given up on looking for Johnny and instead was just trying to find his way out of the labyrinthine maze of gravestones. They were no longer following straight rows, instead appearing almost at random, springing from the ground as though they had been planted by a madman.

The road had to be somewhere. It had to be. Mike started running again, the crunching of his footfalls on the grass seeming much louder than they should and sounding almost as though he was being followed.

If it was Johnny, he would yell, right? If it was Johnny... if he was even being followed - he didnít know. He didnít know, and he didnít want to turn around.

He almost stumbled again when his feet hit dirt. It was a road, narrow and barely wide enough for a car to pass, but it was a road all right.

Finally risking a glance back at where heíd been, Mike saw nothing but gravestones disappearing into the darkness. The wind had let up and warmth was returning to the air, making things eerily calm.

"Johnny?"

Mike thought he saw something move, but it was only an aged mobile shimmering ever so slightly as it lazily spun alongside a thin black stone.

Somehow he had walked up a hill, he realized as he looked down it. The road curved at the bottom, but Mike decided to stay on it.

It seemed darker as he descended, shadows coming from all directions and mixing to form a black blanket that covered everything.

"Johnny." It was a little desperate now. Mike was bouncing on his feet a bit as he walked, looking around him as though suddenly Johnny would appear from the darkness.

There was definitely noise coming from ahead of him. Something was up ahead. It sounded like... singing.

Mike picked up his pace, wanting to get to the source of the singing as quickly as he could. It didnít matter who was singing, just that it was either a human or a radio that belonged to a human or something useful like that. He didnít care if he was going to get in trouble for being in a cemetery at night or for losing his lover in the vast expanse or anything of the sort.

He found himself thinking in crazy vague thoughts, knowing only that he was not going to die in the dark, witnessed only by those already dead.

There was a light ahead too, with the singing. Weaving through tall stones, Mike found himself straying from the road and heading every so slightly back up the hill.

Someone was digging. And whoever was digging was also singing. Mike didnít recognize the song, but it was upbeat.

A stick snapped under his foot and suddenly he found himself face to face with a big man holding a pointed shovel.

If Mike could have found his voice, he would have screamed. Instead, all that came out was air.

"Evening," the man said, lowering the shovel as though he hadnít even realized it could be seen as threatening. "You lost out here?"

Mike nodded, shaking.

"Well, thereís a reason this place is closed at night. People get lost during the day too, but at least they can see whatís going on around them."

Mike nodded again, not wanting to move from his spot.

"Have a seat," the man said, pointing to a long, low stone that spanned the entire length of the grave beneath it. "As soon as Iím done here, Iíll make sure you get out to the street."

"Thank you," Mike muttered as he shuffled over to sit on the resting place of Claudine Jorgensen.

A moment later the man had slung himself back down into the half-dug grave and was working again.

"I didnít scare you, did I?" Mike asked after a moment.

"The dead donít walk," the man said matter-of-factly. "And thereís no point in being scared of someone whoís probably scared nearly to death already."

There was a pause.

"Bad pun, Iíd say... My nameís Tim. If you hadnít guessed, I dig graves around here."

"Mike," Mike replied. He thought about possibly saying something along the lines of ĎNice to meet youí, but it wasnít really that nice. It was more luck and stupidity mixed together.

"Nice to meet you, Mike," Tim said, stealing the words. "I canít see asking any questions about just why youíre out here, but Iím assuming you werenít alone to begin with."

"We got separated," Mike explained. "All I did was turn for a second."

"You should have stayed where you were," Tim chided, sending a couple of shovelfuls of dirt to his pile. "So when your friend-or-whatever realized you were gone, youíd be in the last place you, well, were."

Mike wanted to kick himself. That made plenty of sense, now.

"Weíll catch up later."

There were a few minutes of silence as Mike watched Tim work. Tim was strong and apparently well practiced at his trade. His sandy blonde hair hung down into his face, slicked to his forehead by sweat. Mike couldnít begin to image what it took to move so much earth.

"Donít they have machines to do this?" Mike asked suddenly. He was rather sure he and Johnny had passed some equipment on their way in.

"Canít get those down here," Tim explained, gesturing out at the spiraling, randomly places graves. "Not in this old part. Itís rare anyone gets buried here anymore anyway. Most people are over in the new part now."

"Do you know whose grave that is?" Mike asked a moment later.

"Iíd prefer not to know who Iím working for," Tim replied, turning and laughing after a minute. "I made the mistake of checking the paperwork a couple of times and the last time it was my parentsí neighborsí daughter. We went all through school together. It was the hardest grave I ever dug. I donít look at the paperwork anymore."

Mike just nodded. He couldnít even imagine a situation like that.

"Donít you get scared out here?" Mike felt stupid for asking so many questions, but they just kept popping into his head.

"I told you before - the dead donít walk. And even if they did, I think all that theyíd want is a bit of a conversation every now and then. Some people just like to talk," Tim said, smiling in Mikeís direction.

"You were singing to them, werenít you?"

"I canít lie about that," Tim replied, laughing suddenly. "It does get lonely out here. I guess I donít mind an uncomplaining audience."

Mike only offered a grin in return. He rather liked Tim and was growing ever happier that heíd found someone to keep him company until either Johnny showed up or dawn broke.

That wasnít to say he wasnít worried about Johnny - he was. But it was fading because he knew Johnny was stronger and more competent in situations like these.

They kept talking, even as Tim seemed to sink even lower into the earth, carving out the six foot deep pit that would become someoneís eternal resting place.

Mike found himself yawning and reclining lower and lower onto the slab that covered Claudine. With the blanket still tightly wrapped around him, he was warm, cocooned.

He realized he hadnít said more than a few words in the last several minutes, and he knew Tim knew that too.

Tim started singing again. The words seemed fuzzy in Mikeís head, as though they were in a different language. Mike rested his head on one arm and closed his eyes. There was some sort of power in Timís voice that was pulling at something within him.

With the last of his energy, Mike opened his eyes. Tim was still digging, barely visible over the top of the hole. But that wasnít what surprised Mike. It was the people.

Around them sat hundreds, if not thousands of people. They sat on gravestones, on the grass. Some stood towards the back. There were men, women and children. He could see a mother cradling her baby.

He closed his eyes, passing off his vision for a sleep-deprived hallucination. And he did not dream.

"Mike!"

Mike jumped as a hand touched him. He opened his eyes, confused by the bright sunlight and the sudden soreness screaming through his body.

Johnny had a hand out, reaching down.

"I didnít think Iíd ever find you!" Johnny exclaimed. "Have you been here all night?"

Mike nodded, untangling himself from the blanket and stretching.

"I just closed my eyes until..." Mike trailed off as he looked over to where Tim had been digging. There was neither a hole nor any sign that anyone had so much as near the grave beside him in some time. "Nevermind."

"Well, we have to get out of here anyway," Johnny said, throwing off his statement as though the entire night hadnít even happened.

"I know." Mike shifted and stood, glancing over one last time to the calm, even grass beside him. "I just need a minute."

"Havenít you had enough time here?" Johnny asked. "All I know is that I turned around and you were... Mike?"

Mike had dropped to his knees, one hand on a stone that would have been obscured by dirt the night before.

Timothy Bishop, Gravedigger, Entertainer. There were no years listed.

"Some people just like to talk," Mike said softly before standing. "Some people just like to talk."

"What are you on about?" Johnny asked, shaking his head. "Are you okay?"

Mike nodded, following Johnny down to the road and out of the cemetery in less than five minutes. It was an easy trail during the day, yet late at night...

"It does get lonely out here."

...

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