Hello one and all! :D Well, here is a follow-up to my one-shot "Afterlife Goes On" just as I said I'd probably write.
And here it is!
So, you can either consider Afterlife Goes On as a stand-alone story, or you can follow this story along as a sequel. It's up to you.
On the other hand though, YOU HAVE TO READ IT! MUAHAHAHA!
Just kidding. XD
It is, however, in Jack's perspective most of the time. :)
But I won't lie. I'm a selfish Jally shipper. I want Jack and Sally with no one but each other. That's just how I feel. If you don't like it, then that's not my problem. I may be cheating here, but I don't care.
So yes, in the end, as you guessed, Jack and Sally get together anyway. But it won't be at the drop of a hat. I'm doing all I can to make them work for it. Jack especially.
All characters belong to Tim Burton
Being around a very long time, for centuries even, you see a lot of things. You hear a lot of things. And moreover, you remember a lot of things. When you're around a long time, you create a lot of memories. Some you remember, some you may not remember at the moment. Memories of all kinds fill your mind over your afterlife, good or bad.
Even though this wasn't a long memory, as it only happened just about a year ago, it was still one that stuck with him ever since it happened. At this moment, even now, he still could not get it out of his mind.
That memory was the day that Sally confessed that she was in love with him.
Naturally, Jack of all people would know how it felt to have an admirer. All the women in the town, aside of course from Bertha the Corpse Mother, as she was happily married, were admirers of his. Always screaming with joy, pawing at him if they could, propositioning him, endlessly praising him, all that stuff. He knew they meant well and were only being honest, and he appreciated that, but still. It just wasn't what he wanted in a woman.
Sally, however, was something else. Not only did he know her and interact with her personally, but she while she was partial to him, she was more quiet and subtle about it. And when she spoke her love for him, it was nothing short of genuine. And in a sense, given that they were friends and knew each other well, Jack could buy it.
It was both a sweet memory, and a heartbreaking memory.
To see her so warm, so happy, and full of glimmering happiness as she expressed how she felt, despite how shy she was acting, was wonderful. But within an instant, her entire countenance became saddened, fearful, and heartbroken. She even broke down right in front of him. Jack felt like a complete jerk. He had made a woman, his dearest friend, Sally of all people, cry like that. It was a horrible sight, and not the good kind. He could see how she was feeling in all of this. She was a woman very much in love with a man, and he turned her down.
As much as he could hold on to the fact that he was honest with her, and didn't lie to her or lead her on, it didn't help. All he could remember was Sally's brokenhearted face and her crying. She couldn't help it, she was just that kind of person. She wasn't manipulative nor trying to change his mind with her crying, she wasn't like that. Sally had been genuinely upset and brokenhearted to the point that she was unable to hold back from crying in front of him, he could see that. And it made him feel even worse. He just wanted to hug the sweet rag doll and assure her that it would be okay, but there was no way he could rub salt on the wound.
He had offered to help her with anything, but she refused it. As much as Jack hated to see her like this, so alone with no help, he respected her wishes and stood back, leaving her alone. If she asked for his help, he would oblige. But until then, he respectfully stayed away from her so that she could grieve and hopefully feel better in private. She deserved that much.
At that time, Jack felt worried about her. Very worried. Sally was a strong woman in her own right, but deep down, she was still a fragile woman. She had been imprisoned in her own home, reduced to being a maid and caretaker to an ungrateful creator, berated and yelled at that, all alone and isolated with no one to turn to. Her dreams were all she had. She had been in love, with him, and it was more than likely that it helped get her through the day.
But then that was gone, hopeless. He could imagine just how horrible she must have felt when even that dream was tossed down the drain. He just hoped she would be okay, and would come through. The Sally he knew was clever, and very smart, and would always find a way to make a bad situation work in her favour.
Jack even prayed that she would. Prayed with all he had, that Sally would find a way.
A part of him even couldn't help but wish he could muster an ability to love her back. But that wasn't what love was about. Not unless he genuinely was in love with her.
Then there was a miracle. Sally was walking around outside in the town. Whether she snuck away or not, he didn't know. But she was walking around. Her expression, however, was empty. A touch of thoughtfulness, but she seemed so robotic. Jack felt as if he were stabbed painfully upon seeing her like that.
Time went on. She was out more and more, and seemed calm, warm, though still very sad. But she was trying to put on a brave face.
Eventually, she said hello to him. He'd smiled and said hello to her right back. Then she was on her way, and neither said a word further. This went on for a few days, which turned into weeks. Eventually the "hellos" were joined by "how are yous", slowly but surely.
After a couple of months, they exchanged more than one or two sentences with each other. Small talk, not quite conversations, but getting there.
Jack could see, plain as day, that Sally was trying to move on. She was still living her life. The heartbreak was still there, but it was fading. Sally was okay. She was going to be okay. In these times, he had not felt more relieved. She hadn't done anything drastic. Nothing such as dismembering herself and becoming completely destroyed, though that was hard to think of since he could not imagine a life without Sally there. She didn't run away, nor did she become a robotic recluse accepting her fate.
There were times she was out with Dr. Finkelstein and his latest creation, Jewel. The three walked together...almost like a family. Even if Sally stuck out like a black pumpkin among the two of them. They still looked like a family.
He could recall one time he had visited the doctor to bring him some plans for the next Halloween...
"Doctor, if this inappropriate of me to ask, I do apologize. How is Sally doing?"
Dr. Finkelstein looked at him, hard eyes, and then sighed, shaking his head. "She's fine, my boy. She's moving on with her life."
"...I see." Jack gave a short nod. "Doctor...I only want you to know that I never meant to hurt her. That is the last thing I would ever do. But I am deeply sorry that I did. She deserves far better than that."
A sigh escaped the old scientist as he nodded. "Yes, I suppose I can merit you for the fact that you didn't lead her on or lie to her."
Even with that, Jack still felt like a louse. "That may be, but it doesn't excuse how much I hurt her. But Doctor, thank you for being there for her. I think she needed a support system more than even, and I can't thank you or Jewel enough for being there for her. Seeing her like this tore me apart, and I'm grateful she's had someone to turn to."
There was a silence as the doctor cleared his throat. "Y-yes...I did my best, my boy."
The Pumpkin King smiled a bit. "It shows, Doctor. I think you did a wonderful thing reaching out to her like that. Sally needed it." He then grew solemn again. "I only wish I could give her the happiness she desires. Nothing warms my bones more than seeing that lovely smile on her face."
Dr. Finkelstein looked at him and managed to say amidst clearing his throat, "Well Jack, we don't always get what we expect or want in life. But at least we can make the best of what we have."
It had been then that Jack knew that he could still try to be Sally's friend, to be there for her in some form. If she accepted that, he would be there.
As time went by, they became friends again.
You would think that Jack would feel awkward around her, considering there was one-sided romantic feelings on her part. But strangely, he didn't. After all, he accepted that Sally was in love with him. He didn't blame her, it wasn't her fault. She couldn't help how she felt. And if anything, she was still just as quiet about it as ever. If not more so. Sure, the cat was out of the bag, but she wasn't actively talking about them, and he understood that.
Sometimes, ever since then, a part of why he could still remember it so much was just the thought of it. Sally, his dearest friend, had romantic feelings for him. In love with him. He'd never had a woman genuinely in love with him like this. In all honesty, he was very curious. To think the sweetest, most understanding and compassionate woman he had ever known felt that way. And really, the idea wasn't at all terrible.
Then of course Jack berated himself for such thoughts. It would likely lead to him liking the idea of her. And he feared that all the more.
But then his thoughts would drift again. Partly he would feel completely unworthy of her affections. And he did. He really did. He didn't deserve her feelings. Not if he couldn't return them. At the same time, her feelings piqued his curiosity. To be loved like that. What had he possibly done to be loved by her?
Then he weighed his own thoughts on the matter. Despite everything, if he did love her back, he wasn't at all opposed to the idea. Not even just in the sense that he knew it would make her happier than he could imagine. But that Sally really would be a great person to love. Being her friend all this time was a bit of an attest to it. Yes, romance and friendship were two different bonds and oftentimes, even if two people are good friends, doesn't always mean they'd be romantically compatible.
But despite that, it seemed like a sweet thought. She was kind, understanding, thoughtful, soft-spoken, clever, articulate, intelligent, sweet, and had such a realistic awareness of the world he couldn't wrap his mind around. She was the smart one, the one person who could keep his skull out of the clouds and right on the ground. Even with that, she had quite an imagination and was a bit of a dreamer herself.
The one person who listened and understood him, and was compassionate and sympathetic. If he expressed he had a problem to her, she would listen, offer advice, or even just listen. Either way, she always understood that he had issues, or even just needed to escape once and a while.
Anyone else, it would take time for them to understand the sentiment. Jack did appreciate the townsfolk and liked every single one of them, but he simply couldn't confide in them like that. Not only that, he never wanted to burden them with his problems. Even in his worst moments, he always managed to put on a brave, friendly face to them and let them know he was there for them, always.
Sally however, was different. With her, he felt he could talk about anything, and she wouldn't laugh and think it were silly that he felt a certain way. She understood more than just about anyone that even though he was the Pumpkin King, scariest of them all and the Master of Fright, he was still a person, and still had problems. And he appreciated that about her so much.
In short, she was his closest friend. Someone he could talk to, confide in, and just spend time with to escape from everything. She liked to talk about things, anything that was on her mind, and he loved to listen to her talk or to join in on the conversation with her. They could talk about anything, from the weather to wondering about why object A was similar to object B, and so forth. It didn't have to be about Halloween or his scare tactics, it could be about anything they wanted.
Jack had to wonder. He'd always liked her. So what was wrong with her? What did she not have that he was looking for in a romantic partner?
It wasn't that he thought she wasn't good enough for him. Oh heavens no, that was ridiculous. If anything, even back then, he felt he wasn't good enough for her. But regardless, that wasn't the case.
The more Jack thought about it, the more confused he was.
But in time, he resolved to just let it go. Be her friend, be there for her, and just move along.
When Sally came to him and the Mayor announcing that she wanted to open a sewing shop, Jack was floored. Just about as floored as when she told him that she was moving out of the doctor's manor.
He was so, so proud of her.
Of course, in looking over her plans, he and the Mayor approved it, and offered to make sure she had all the help she needed in getting it built. Lo and behold, her quaint and creepy sewing shop was built and open for business!
Jack knew all the more, that Sally was moving on with her life, and he was just so proud of her. To think she made a life for herself just as she was right now, really proving to the doctor that she could manage just fine on her own. He was glad too, that her heartbreak hadn't dragged her down with it. No, the Sally he knew, the one with cleverness and spunk, was back. Tenfold. He was so happy for her!
Unable to resist the fun of it all, Jack was a pretty frequent customer (And made sure to tip her very generously!), even if he just wanted to stop in and chat with her when business was slow any day. Sally really was growing up, and embracing a new life of her own. She had a quaint home, a great shop that housed her amazing talent, and she seemed warmer and happier than before.
He had even told her how proud he was, when he had given her that little housewarming gift after she first moved into her new home. And he had given her a hug!
Jack never forgot it. Yes, he'd hugged her before in the past, but that time just held such a special meaning. And there was just something about holding her small, warm body like that, so close. He felt such a warmth and comfort whenever they shared a hug, and at that moment, it had increased tenfold. It was a sincere feeling he'd never felt before.
This particular little memory stuck with him because it was the first time he realized that whenever he hugged her, her never wanted to let her go. In the past, he liked her hugs, simple as that. But this was the first time he realized the extent of how her hugs felt and meant to him. He didn't want to let go of her. Whether it was because he still felt like a louse for breaking her heart, or because he just liked it that much, he didn't know. It was just clear that letting her go was not easy.
Luckily, Jack didn't dwell on it too much. He figured it was probably nothing, anyway.
When Jack came to Sally's shop, she was closing up for the evening, just as he had left the Town Hall from the meetings he'd had to attend with the Mayor and other townsfolk. He decided to see her, chat with her a little, and even walk her home.
"Good evening, Sally." Jack said with a warm smile as he walked up to her. "How are things?"
"Oh, things are all right." Sally replied, placing her shop key in her pocket and turning to him. "How are you doing, Jack?"
"Oh, horrible as always!" Jack grinned. "Next Halloween is going to be a cynch, I can feel it in my bones!"
Sally smiled and giggled, nodding. "That's great to hear, Jack. I'm looking forward to seeing it all." She then shifted her feet a little. "Um...I was just heading home now...would you...like to walk with me?"
It was as if she could read his mind. Jack nodded and smiled. "Certainly, Sally! That's why I came here to see you, I was going to offer to to walk you home."
"Oh! Well, all right." Sally looked relieved, and nodded. "Thank you very much, Jack. It's nice of you."
"You don't have to thank me, Sally. You're my friend, and you're a lady, you deserve to have a man escort you home safely." Jack waved it off with a grin.
The rag doll giggled and they walked alongside each other as they headed toward the residential area together. A comfortable silence befell them as they went along, and within it all, Jack felt relaxed. Even if they weren't speaking, they could still enjoy each other's company. It was amazing. Normally Jack always had to be looking for something, looking for a feeling, but there were moments that he could just...relax a little, observe everything around, and just go about things quietly. At first, their silences when they were together were awkward. A glowing ghoul in the room.
But now, no longer the case. They could comfortably bask in each other's presence in silence with no problem.
When they reached her home, they had barely exchanged two sentences with each other. But that was all right, they had their quieter days, and this was one of them.
"Thank you for walking me home, Jack. I appreciate it very much." Sally said softly before raising her head slightly to look up at him.
"You're welcome, Sally! Anytime at all." Jack smiled widely. "You have a good evening, all right?"
Giggling, Sally nodded. "Thank you, and same to you, of course. Take care, will you?"
"I will, Sally. I promise. You take care as well." Jack smiled more, and gently touched her hand, brushing it.
She nodded, and then the two shared a warm embrace. Her scent of pumpkin spice, and some kind of musk filled his nostril sockets, and he barely managed not to sniff her hair further. To most, she smelled okay. But to him, it was a sought-after scent he couldn't get enough of. She always smelled horribly nice. Not only that, but he had to hold back the urge to stroke her hair. Her impossibly soft hair! He loved her hair. He had never seen such hair like hers before. It was fascinating to him since the moment he met her, and he'd wanted to touch it, to run his fingers through ever since. He'd been given the opportunity many times since then, from brushing it to playing with it or braiding it. He liked her hair so much... But no, he had to hold back from such a thing right now, despite how much his hand was practically shaking to touch it.
Jack wasn't sure how long they hugged, but he had that same feeling again. The inability to muster up the strength to let her go. But he had do, and he did. Was it really going to get harder and harder each time to let her go? He hoped not. What kind of message would that send to her?
"Goodbye, Sally." He pulled away from her, with regret.
"Goodbye, Jack...see you tomorrow." Sally said softly.
His gaze on her lingered for a moment, especially upon making sure she entered her home safely, and then proceeded down the streets to head back into town.
'What is wrong with me?'