"There's nothing on Earth so beautiful as the final haul on Halloween night."
~~Steve Almond

Hi all!

Happy Halloween!  So I wasn't going to do any more stories til Christmas but then I realized the last reference to Halloween in Dyeland involved Adam and JenniAnn being weepy over Andrew's paper clip ring.  Not the mental image I wanted left with for still another year...  So!  Here is some Halloween fluffiness.

Have fun and stay safe whatever your plans are!

God bless,

October 1st, 2013

Shelby peeked out from her hiding spot behind the umbrella tree in a corner of the Willowveil Ballroom.  The space was becoming too small for her growing nine-year-old body but she'd yet to figure out a new spot with so good a view of Andrew's and Psyche's favorite bit of the dance floor.  In truth, Shelby was becoming increasingly aware of how wrong it was for her to hide and spy so.  And yet she still came.  Not very often any more.  She'd come all the time when she was little then stopped altogether a couple years back.  But after Andrew had come back so hurt... Shelby had found herself doing it again.  She tried to limit herself to twice a month.  But she couldn't stop entirely.  Being there... seeing them together not as caretakers or teachers but as themselves...  It made her feel safe and, for a time, filled the empty spot in her heart that seemed to grow along with her.  When Andrew and Psyche danced, as she was sure they soon would, all was right with Shelby's world.  Almost.

They weren't her parents.  Shelby knew they never could be.  She had only been two when her parents had died in a car crash that she and her brother, Asher, had survived.  Sometimes she thought she remembered them but only in flashes: a man throwing her up into the air, only a little ways up, and catching her as she giggled.  A woman softly singing as she held her close.  She knew they'd been named Sandra and Corey. 
And Asher had told her about how excited her parents were when she came along.  They had waited many years for her.

Asher talked about them sometimes.  More now than he used to.  He had earlier in the day, even, when Halloween costume preparation among the children had morphed into a discussion of holiday memories.  Asher had grinned as he
'd told of the Christmas their father had insisted on a real tree and then, after lugging it several blocks back to their apartment, discovered it was too big.  Her brother had laughed as he described watching their dad half the tree, set the top half up as a proper Christmas tree in their living room, plop the bottom half in their room, and declare them the only two children in the world to be proud owners of a Christmas shrub.  By this, Shelby knew that her daddy was determined, inventive, and definitely quirky.

Asher's memories of their mother always seemed to involve one of two things: a book or a sewing machine.  His tale that afternoon involved both.  His voice had grown soft as he told of how, one day a week before his ninth Halloween, their mother had found him crying.  His friends at school had excitedly told about their new Halloween costumes and he'd known he would have to wear the same one as the year before.  Now eighteen, Asher blushed when he told of how he'd begged their mother to buy him a Star Wars costume, not realizing at the time that they couldn't afford it.  But his eyes sparkled as he continued to tell of how, when Halloween dawned, he'd woken up to find a mound of fabric folded beneath one of his favorite storybooks, one that told about Joseph and a very special coat.  It was his very own coat of many colors, one his mother had made for him.  He'd worn it proudly to the school's Halloween party and all through the neighborhood that evening.  And as for Shelby... she'd been swaddled in a wooly white blanket and made to look something like his little lamb.  So Shelby knew her mommy was creative, talented, and caring.

But Shelby herself remembered none of this. 
When she'd been asked about her earliest memory involving Halloween she'd come up with one from when she was four... one that had taken place right there in Willowveil with Andrew and Psyche.


October 2008

With the girl three days into a nasty cold, Father had concluded that Shelby might be aided by some time away from the Tunnels.  Next thing the little girl knew, she was bundled up and Vincent was carrying her through halls and caverns with JenniAnn beside him.

"I wish you weren't sick, Shel, but I'm so happy that you're gonna be staying at Willowveil for a few days.  I promise it'll be really nice and, if you feel up to it, we'll watch movies and drink lotsa yummy, warm cocoa.  Or maybe hot lemonade if you'd prefer," JenniAnn offered.  "And I have lotsa ice cream if your throat is sore.  And popsicles, too."

"You'll be in very, very good hands with Psyche, Shelby," Vincent assured.  He smiled proudly at his godchild. 

Shelby nodded, glad to be going to the castle and hoping that she might see Andrew.  But she felt too poorly to share much in her teacher's excitement.  Sniffling, she burrowed her face into Vincent's vest and fell asleep. 

Once they'd reached Willowveil, JenniAnn tucked Shelby into a little bed made up on her couch and sang her a song about angels and hills and someone named Dale.  She drifted to sleep once again and awoke sometime later to find JenniAnn gone.  But Shelby could hear her.  And someone else.  Andrew!  Despite her sleepiness, the little girl got out of bed and ambled into the adjoining office.  For a moment, she knelt just inside the doorway and listened.  She became even more alert when she heard the magic word, Halloween, and listened intently to the adults' conversation.  Andrew seemed to be unhappy and JenniAnn was hugging him.  And then...

"Well, looks like we have a little trick-or-treater come early, Laja."

Shelby looked around, wondering who was there.  Next thing she knew, she was in Andrew's arms. 

"How you feeling, little one?"

"Stuffy."  She rested her head against Andrew's shoulder.

The angel smiled sympathetically.  "Colds are no fun.  But Psyche'll fix you right up.  And... I made you my five star chicken soup."  He kissed her hair.

JenniAnn came near, setting her hand on Shelby's forehead.  "You don't feel as hot as you did earlier.  That's good!"

Shelby nodded.  Then she remembered what they'd said.  "Will I be able to go trick-or-treating?"

Andrew and JenniAnn exchanged a look. 

"Well, Shel, I'm totally sure that you'll be feeling great by Halloween.  And we'll do a little trick-or-treating Below.  But then we're gonna have a big party here.  In the Fields of Gold.  Remember we were there for Andrew's birthday party?" JenniAnn asked.

Shelby nodded.  She didn't remember the previous Halloween.  But she'd heard about it: cocoa and candy and endless treats and music and dancing and something called a hayrack ride.  It gave her something to look forward to.  So much so that she forgot about her sniffles.  When they were settled in the kitchen, she fired off questions about their Halloween celebration in between spoons of soup.  She was sure Halloween had to be the best thing ever.


October 1st, 2013

Behind the umbrella tree, Shelby quietly sighed.  She still loved Halloween in Dyeland.  But of late Asher's story and the tales of some of the other children had been tempting her with talk about trick-or-treating Above.  This was a foreign concept to the children who had been born Below or were, like her, too young when they'd arrived to remember anything else.  The idea intrigued her... and made her long for a taste of the life she might have had.  She loved the Tunnels desperately and could imagine no other home.  But to experience something more of life Above... in the world she'd been born into... she wanted that.  She was sure she could be happy with the usual party in the Fields.  But to trick-or-treat properly, just once, before she was too old...  Like Asher had in his coat of many colors.  Like her parents must have.

Shelby's thoughts were interrupted by the castle's front door creaking open. 

"There now, they should be set for the night.  You girls ready to curl up in front of the fire for a bit?" JenniAnn asked.

"I'm thinking they're each hoping for one more pumpkin biscuit, Laja."

"So spoiled.  Aren't you so spoiled?" the woman asked in a baby voice.  "There ya go."

Treats devoured, Fawn and Lulu came trotting into the ballroom. 

Shelby held her breath.  By some miracle, the dogs always kept her secret... completely ignoring her when she hid.  She hoped this would remain the case.  Sure enough, they made a beeline for some cushions in front of the fireplace and looked expectantly at Andrew.

"Hold on!  Just give me a couple minutes."  Andrew added some kindling and soon had a fine blaze going.  Meanwhile, JenniAnn was poking through some CDs and finally settled on one.  The angel smiled when the familiar song started.  "I was under the impression you thought this song was inappropriate for us."

"I've decided life's too short to play lyrical literalist.  So... join me for a 'fantabulous' moondance?"  JenniAnn approached the crouching angel and held her hand out.

Chuckling, Andrew stood and embraced her as they began to dance.  "My pleasure."

"So... you gonna tell me why you looked so sulky when you first showed up?"

The angel frowned.  "Wasn't planning to."

"I'm thirty one years..."

"It's not that.  I promise.  It just... it's not a big deal."

"It bothered you... whatever it was... so it is a big deal to me."

Andrew settled his chin on her hair.

"Not like you haven't listened to me go on about things that are 'not a big a deal,'" JenniAnn continued.

Andrew didn't want to lose that.  He nodded.  "All right.  I was working in a store, stocking some Halloween candy.  I saw these two boys... brothers... looking at the costumes.  The youngest, right away, picks up a Spiderman costume.  His brother, meanwhile, goes for the goriest, creepiest looking Grim Reaper costume."

"Poor love..."

Shelby smiled when JenniAnn stood on tiptoe to kiss Andrew's cheek.

"It gets worse..."

"Poor, poor love..."

"So... the little guy asks the older one what his costume is.  And big brother says he's the Grim Reaper.  Little guy doesn't understand.  Big brother proceeds to tell him that the Grim Reaper comes to people when they're going to die and then he said a lot of scary stuff about the scythe and fire and apparently his eyes glow green right before the end."

"Good gravy.  What did the lil one say?"

"He started crying.  So I went over there to try to console him and told the older brother that what he said wasn't true and there were no such things as Grim Reapers.  Then he called me a loser and said I was spoiling the fun and that his brother was a 'stupid baby.'  Then I said it was wrong to call people stupid but their mother showed up and gave me a look and pulled the kids away."  Andrew shook his head and dragged his hand through his hair in exasperation.  "And this, Laja, is why I hate Halloween... except for our Halloween."

Behind the plant, Shelby frowned.  That settled that.  She supposed she could ask one of the other grown-ups to take her trick-or-treating.  Psyche probably would... but this was also the first Halloween since...  Tears welled in the girl's eyes as she remembered the previous year.  Andrew gone and missing.  Psyche looking so sad.  No, she couldn't separate them for this Halloween.  It would have to be someone else.  But it wouldn't be the same without Andrew and Psyche. 

Oblivious to the young intruder, JenniAnn caressed the angel's face.  "I'm sure the lil boy will remember your words, Andrew.  And by Halloween he'll just be so excited to be Spiderman that whatever his brother gets up to won't even matter.  And as for you... you will always have a good reputation with me.  As will your entire AOD ilk."

Andrew grinned.  "Thank you.  We appreciate it.  Very much.  And I'm sure you're right about the kid."  Feeling better, he dipped her.

JenniAnn giggled.  She blinked as Andrew lifted her back up.  She'd glimpsed something... someone... behind the umbrella tree.  When she was upright again, she whispered.  "Look behind the umbrella tree.  But don't be obvious about it."

Curious, the angel of death guided their steps so he was facing the tree.  He looked briefly and...  "Shelby.  Why is Shelby hiding here?"

"I have no idea."

"We need to say something.  For one, it's not right to spy on people.  And for another... what if I'd been telling you about one of my more violent assignments, Laja?"

JenniAnn could tell the latter possibility weighed far more heavily on Andrew.  Considering he'd barely told her anything until she was well into her twenties, it was hardly surprising.  "I know...  I'll go over there."

Shelby had grown uneasy when she saw the adults cease dancing and begin speaking in hushed tones.  And then she saw her teacher walking towards her.  She braced herself for a lecture but was surprised when Psyche sat down beside her.

"Shelby, honey, what are ya doing here?" 

"I... I'm sorry.  I didn't... I mean I didn't come to... to spy.  At least not like...  I mean I don't do it cause..."  The girl began to cry.

"Shel..."  JenniAnn wrapped an arm around her shoulders.  "We're not angry at you.  I mean... we need our privacy but... but we're more concerned than anything.  This isn't like you."

Shelby began to cry harder.

JenniAnn frowned.  Maybe it was like her...  She could have very well pulled this before and she and Andrew simply hadn't noticed. 

Watching the scene, Andrew approached and crouched near them.  "Shelby, sweetheart, it's okay.  Psyche and I just need to know what's going on.  No matter what it is, you can tell us."

Shelby shook her head.  "You... you won't like it."

Andrew reached for her hand.  "Well, as you already know, I've heard other things today that I didn't like.  And I'm still here.  I think I can take it."

Shelby studied both of them.  She knew Andrew couldn't lie.  And Psyche wouldn't... not to her.  So she shouldn't lie herself.  After drawing in a deep breath, everything came pouring out.  "I just feel better when I come here every so often a-and watch you dance and then everything feels normal and like nobody's going to go away and everyone will always be here.  And I wish I remembered more about my parents but I don't and all I have is what Asher tells me.  A-and when he talks about our mom and dad taking us trick-or-treating, I don't even know what that's like.  He said my mom made him a Joseph costume so he could go trick-or-treating and not be embarrassed and that I was a lamb but I don't remember that.  B-but maybe I could imagine it a little if I just knew what trick-or-treating Above was really like?  But you don't like Halloween and I don't want to not be with you on Halloween cause last year none of us could be w-with Andrew and everyone was sad and..." 

Andrew let out a ragged sigh and brushed at the tears trailing down Shelby's cheeks.  He looked over to JenniAnn and saw she was crying, too.  "Let's all go sit somewhere a little more comfortable.  I think we're long overdue for a talk."  He helped both girls to their feet and led them to a nearby couch, motioning for Shelby to sit in the middle before he took the spot to her right and JenniAnn to her left.  "Shel, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret.  Grown-ups... even very, very, verrrry old grown-ups like me... we don't know everything.  And we don't always know what we're supposed to do.  And that's true for human grown-ups like Psyche and for angels like me.  Sweetheart, we have both loved you so much since that very first day you came Below.  And Psyche and I..."  Andrew looked to JenniAnn.

"We've tried to... to a walk a fine line between being there for you as much as we can and yet not... we know we will never, ever replace your mommy and daddy.  And we just didn't want you to ever think we were trying to do that."

"B-but I don't remember them.  N-not really.  I... I only remember you," Shelby admitted.

Andrew hugged her.  "And that is very normal.  You were only two when they died.  I bet Psyche doesn't remember much of when she was two."

"Very, very little.  Random snatches of time.  That's all.  Do you... are you feeling badly about not remembering them?"

The girl nodded, staring at the floor as tears pooled in her eyes.

"Shelby, they wouldn't want that," the angel gently stressed.  "They understand.  They just want for you and Asher both to live happy lives and to love and be loved."

"Yeah...  I know.  But it still... it doesn't even hurt as much as just feels... feels... empty?" Shelby tried.

JenniAnn kissed her hair.  "I'm so sorry, honey.  I wish you would have told us about this before.  I hate that... that you've been carrying this with you."

"I didn't even know how to say it til now."

Andrew nodded.  "Sometimes it's hard to put feelings into words, huh?"  He handed her a tissue.

Shelby wiped at her eyes and nose and nodded.  "I... I am sorry I was hiding and watching."

"We know," JenniAnn affirmed.  "And, well..."  She glanced at Andrew, unsure what more to say about it.

Andrew smiled gently at her before redirecting his attention to the girl.  "Shel, why don't we go get you some cocoa and cookies so Psyche and I can talk for a little bit?"  He stood and held his hand out.

Shelby nodded and took his hand, walking with him and JenniAnn to the kitchen.  Once there, she took a seat while JenniAnn set about preparing the cocoa and Andrew put some cookies on a plate. 

"You okay to sit just for a lil bit?" JenniAnn asked, smoothing her student's hair.

"Yeah.  I need a little time to think."

"Okay.  We'll just be in the dining room," Andrew assured.  He knelt beside her chair.  "Don't worry.  You're not in trouble."

Shelby managed a smile and hugged the angel.

After returning the smile, Andrew followed JenniAnn into the dining room.  "This is tough..." he murmured.

JenniAnn nodded.  "I... I should have realized how she felt before.  I should have..."

"Laja, how could you?"

"I'm with her at least three times a week and all the time she stayed right here last year when..."

"When..." Andrew nodded.  He knew what that meant.  "Here we have a child who has lost her parents.  Thankfully, she came to a place... a home... where she is loved and cared for.  And she bonded with us.  And she grew up mostly knowing only... only the good parts of our lives.  Then last year... I was gone."

JenniAnn hugged him.  "Andrew, you couldn't help..."

"I know.  Just stating the facts."  Andrew stroked her hair as, for a moment, he remembered those dark days.  He sighed, grateful that they were in the past.  "And so... so she stayed with you."

"And I tried to keep her from seeing when I... when things were really... bad.  But she must have sensed and so... so I can't blame her for sneaking around.  I mean... if you felt like you'd nearly lost someone... especially when you've already lost your parents... wouldn't you take every chance to ensure he was still there... still safe... still happy?"

The angel of death nodded.  "But I don't think it's just about me, Laja.  I think it's us.  And we can't...  She can't be allowed to hear everything that goes on between us.  It's not...  Laja, what if she was there for some of our talks while Chava was telling her story?"

"We do need to figure out what Shel's been up to.  But the thing is... I can remember being little and not deliberately spying on my parents or anything.  But if I had to get up in the middle of the night and glimpsed them cuddling on the couch watching a movie... or even if I ran unexpectedly early into the kitchen and found them kissing... I felt... secure.  Their love for each other seemed like a cocoon sorta.  Protective.  So if Shelby feels something of that... I probably woulda resorted to spying for it, too.  Especially if I'd already lost that sense of peace and belonging once then had feared losing it again."

"I can understand that.  And surely she hasn't... I mean the ballroom has always been fair game.  Not that we expected people to hide and watch us.  But we always knew that it's sort of..."

"Public space.  Like areas of the White House, in a manner."

"Right.  But not certain other areas... your bedroom, office, and so on."

"No.  So surely she's respected that.  And it's not like we have major heart-to-hearts in the ballroom generally.  Really is just dancing...  Maybe we just... I mean I know we don't have an abundance of alone time as is... but maybe we should make more of a point of asking Shelby over for dinner more often and just to... be.  Let her see us on laundry night!  If she wants normalcy... well, we can give her some of that.  And I do think that's what she wants.  Poor kid."  She rested her head against Andrew's shoulder.  "A-and it might be good for us.  In a few years' time... she'll be a teenager and..."

Andrew patted her back to reassure her but couldn't escape his own wistfulness.  Already Shelby had stopped climbing onto his lap whenever she saw an opportunity.  And earlier had been the first time in a long while that she'd held his hand.  "You're right.  And... Laja, brace yourself."

JenniAnn looked up in alarm then relaxed when she saw the angel's eyes twinkle.

"I want to go trick-or-treating Above."  Andrew smiled.  He meant it.  As much as he hated the gore and the fear-inducing costumes, he loved Shelby more.

JenniAnn knew this was no small thing.  Not sure what to say, she simply hugged him more tightly. 

"Now... let's go talk to Harriet the Spy."

Laughing, the woman nodded and headed back to the kitchen with Andrew.


Shelby was dunking a cookie in her cocoa when she heard the approaching footsteps.  She drew in a deep breath and waited.  She relaxed when she saw that both grown-ups were in good spirits.  They even looked like they'd been laughing.

"So... Andrew and I have chatted," JenniAnn began as she took a seat.  "Shelby, we just need to know... how often have you done this before?  And do you always hide behind the umbrella tree or in other places?  Maybe even other rooms?"

The girl adamantly shook her head.  "I don't hide in the other rooms ever.  I never have, I swear!"

Andrew patted her hand.  "We believe you.  But you have... been doing this for a while?" he asked.

Shelby blushed.  "Since I was four..."

"Because it makes you feel better?" JenniAnn checked.


"Sweetheart, you could have just asked.  We would have let you come and we would have spent time with you.  We would love that," Andrew assured.

Shelby shrugged.

"What is it?" her teacher prodded gently.

"I heard Isaac telling Asher that his mommy and daddy stopped spending much time together and then they got divorced."

"Shel, sometimes that happens.  It's very sad but... what does that have to do with you hiding?"

Keeping mum, JenniAnn blushed.  She was remembering her own childhood, in particular a time when she'd feared Catherine and Vincent were going to divorce... because she fretted they weren't together enough.  Now here was Shelby...  It was funny how life worked out sometimes.  She smoothed stray curls behind the girl's ears.  "Were you afraid that if you took some of Andrew's and my time, just the two of us, away that... that we'd drift apart?"

Shelby kicked the leg of the table and pushed a crumb around on her plate.  "Maybe."

Andrew chuckled.  "Well, I'll tell ya right now that it's not gonna happen, Shelby.  It is important for married couples to have some alone time.  And, yes, even though Psyche and I aren't married but instead really, really good friends; we do still like having time to talk just the two of us.  But that's something for us to figure out.  You shouldn't be worrying about it at all.  So we'll make more of a point of letting you know when we're both here and then if you want to come over, we'd love that.  Okay?"

"K-kay."  Smiling gratefully, Shelby hugged them both.

"And it just so happens that Andrew and I are both free on Halloween night and..."  JenniAnn beamed at Andrew.  "He has something to tell you."

Andrew held one of Shelby's hands in both of his.  "So you heard me talking about that costume earlier, huh?"


"Well, Shel, I never have liked Halloween very much.  But I love you so much more than I dislike Halloween.  And... because of that... I think I'd really enjoy going trick-or-treating Above with you this year.  What do you think?"

Shelby's eyes lit up.  "Really?"

"Really.  We can go kinda early and still have time to party here," JenniAnn reasoned.

"Thank you...  I-I love you.  Both of you.  A-and I'm glad that I do... I have memories of you from when I was little."

Tears welled in JenniAnn's eyes as the girl flung herself at Andrew and hugged him.  She stroked the girl's hair when her own turn came.  "We're so... so glad you do, too."

Andrew blinked back a few tears and smiled.  "So... what do you think I should dress up as?"

Shelby grinned.


October 31, 2013

"Maja has mad make-up skills!" 

Rose laughed.  "That is pretty impressive, JenniAnn.  He looks..."

Violeta tilted her head.  "Really old..." 

"He looks lovely," JenniAnn countered fondly.

"'Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?'" Max sang.

Andrew tried not to laugh, afraid of messing JenniAnn up.  "I'm so glad we could provide you three with some pre-trick-or-treating amusement."

Max held a bowl out.  "Yup.  Even brought popcorn.  Want some?"

JenniAnn added more shadowing to Andrew's forehead then stepped back.  "Go ahead.  Break time."

The angel of death rose from the chair he'd been sitting in for several minutes.

"Want to see?" Rose asked, holding a hand mirror towards him.

Andrew turned back to JenniAnn.  "Can I or do you want me to wait?"

"You can look."

Andrew blinked when he caught sight of himself.  He'd known for some time that JenniAnn was fairly accomplished with stage make-up after years of doing it for Tunnel plays but to see the results on his own face...  "Wow.  Laja!  That's great!  I look ancient!"

She hugged his arm.  "You are ancient, love.  Now you just look it."  JenniAnn laughed and peered into the mirror with him.  "Still super handsome, though..."

Violeta nodded, unable to take her eyes off her supervisor.  It weirded her out to see him like that.

Andrew noticed his protege nervously twirling her pink-streaked Tonks hair.   He smiled and hugged her.  "So what's left?" he asked JenniAnn before grabbing some popcorn.

"Just the beard and wig.  And costume." 

Violeta stepped away from Andrew and examined the robe.  "It's really perfect."

"It is!  You'll make a great Dumbledore, Andrew," Rose gushed.  "Shelby... or should I say Luna... will be thrilled with how her choice turned out."

"We, Harry and Hermione, are definitely pleased to consider you our headmaster.  And I'm sure Kemara, representing the learned house of Ravenclaw, will feel the same way when she sees you this evening."  Max beamed as he set an arm around Rose's shoulders and played with the crimson and gold scarf around his neck.

Andrew looked in the mirror again.  "I'm still just... wow..."  He grinned at JenniAnn.  "You do have mad make-up skills."

"Most anyone with any theatre make-up experience could do it.  And now ya really know... if you ever have a theatrical assignment and need a make-up artist, I'm your girl."

A chill went through Andrew as he realized what her words meant.  He'd be directing Jesus Christ Superstar... with Joshua.  And she would be there... doing his make-up.  And what of the others?  What would they be doing?  How would they feel?  Especially if they found out Joshua was re-enacting his own death?

Assuming the angel was momentarily troubled about his impending aging, JenniAnn nuzzled his shoulder.  "It'll be all right.  You'll look much more natural in reality.  And I will still need you... and love you... and I suppose feed you when you look 64 and beyond."

His unease dissipating, "Professor Dumbledore" laughed.  "You foresee this, my dear Professor Trelawney?"

JenniAnn laughed.  "I do.  And I foresee a certain head of school getting a crazy amount of hugs on account of his being extraordinarily unselfish tonight... and perhaps even a partner for the Jitterbug."

Andrew grinned.  "Ya do, huh?"  He led her in a few steps.

"Weirdest fanfic ever..." Rose whispered.

Max burst out laughing.  "I vote we title it 'Hepcat Hogwarts.'"

"And I would definitely read that.  But for right now... beard and wig time.  Shelby's gonna be here soon."  JenniAnn waved to the chair.

The angel of death took a seat, surprised to find that he was looking forward to the evening.  It didn't matter how many ghouls, goblins, or Grim Reapers there were.  He'd have his students and his sibyl and a slew of children, not to mention a newly reunited King Arthur and Guinevere, to focus on.  And who knew what other surprises might be in store?


That evening Andrew, JenniAnn, Kemara, Max, Rose, and Violeta were joined by Monica and Arthur, dressed as the latter's eponymous royal and his queen.  They were all thrilled when they saw a heavily padded, Hagrid-esque Adam come ambling towards them.  The adults escorted a group of about twenty Tunnel kids.  After an hour of trick-or-treating, most of the children were ready to head to the portal and begin the annual party in the Fields of Gold.  Some, however, were reluctant to leave.

"Not yet!"

"It's not even very dark..."

"Just one more block?  Please?"

"Pretty please?"

JenniAnn laughed as Adam finished out the chorus with his plea.  "All right, we'll do this last little street here and then we're going to the party.  It's about dinnertime, anyhow."

All the kids agreed to this and bolted off towards the next house.  After three houses, they came to one boasting a yard maze filled with tombstones and wraiths.  Screeching with glee, almost all of the children ran off.  The adults, save Andrew and JenniAnn, hurriedly followed. 

JenniAnn grimaced.  "Ugh."

Sighing, Andrew felt someone tug at his hand.  He smiled when he saw it was Shelby.

"I'll wait on the sidewalk with you," she offered.

The angel crouched down and hugged the girl.  "Thank you.  But I bet they have really good candy.  You go on ahead with Psyche.  I'll be just fine."  He smiled and tweaked her chin.  "Promise.  Who knows?  They might even have a Crumple-Horned Snorkack."

Shelby giggled and hugged the angel.  "Maybe.  Be right back."

"You're sure?" JenniAnn checked.

"Definitely.  And I can even come if you think..."

"Naw.  Take a breather.  You deserve it.  See ya in a bit."

Andrew smiled after them as they trotted off.

"Cool make-up."

The angel spun around when he heard the familiar voice.  He burst out laughing when he saw Joshua standing there in a tawny faux fur-covered sweatsuit.  "You really got into the spirit of things.  Love the costume."  He smiled, remembering how displeased Joshua had been when Satan had spent a Halloween skulking around in a lion's form.  Joshua definitely made for a better lion... even if he did look a little goofy at the moment.

"I just wanted to drop by and say that I'm really proud of you for doing this for Shelby.  It means more to her than she can say.  She's been sending up prayers of thanks ever since the 1st."  Joshua beamed.  "You've done very well, Andrew.  And..."  He hugged him.  "And don't worry about next spring.  It'll be exactly as it's meant to be and it'll be good.  I promise."

Andrew sighed gratefully.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

They both watched as the others dashed through the maze, laughing and hollering as they did.

"I could do without the decor... but I do love that sound of happiness," Andrew mused. 

"Me too."  Joshua smiled tenderly. 

A moment later, a childish wail pierced the air causing Andrew to look around in concern.

"That's my cue.  It's Dalia's first year trick-or-treating and she's gotten separated.  I need to get her back to her parents.  Happy Halloween, Andrew!"

"Happy Halloween!" Andrew called as Joshua hurriedly turned down a side street.  He had no idea who Dalia was... but Joshua knew.  And if ever there was someone skilled in shepherding people home...  The angel of death smiled.  He was still smiling when Shelby came rushing up to him.

"You were right!  They did have good candy!  And I finished the maze before anyone else in our group!  And..."  Shelby flung her arms around Andrew.  "Now when Asher tells his story, I... I'll be able to imagine it as it maybe actually was.  And I've had so much fun.  Thank you." 

Andrew knelt down to be level with her.  "Your smile is all the thanks I need, sweetheart.  I am so glad you've had a good time."  He peered up at the house.  The rest of their group was still milling around.  "It's taking them a while.  Must be some maze.  What do you say we go up there and help everyone else out since you're the expert?"

"But the decorations you don't like..."

The angel of death shrugged.  "Grim Reapers don't stand a chance against Luna Lovegood.  I'll be safe."

Shelby giggled and then grabbed Andrew's hand before they ran to the maze. 

Andrew didn't even notice the ghouls and goblins.  Instead, as they rounded up their group, he saw Violeta and Kemara giggling over punny messages on fake gravestones, the former quite obviously enjoying what was also her first proper trick-or-treating excursion.  He saw JenniAnn with her students clamoring for her attention as they marveled at spider-shaped twinkle lights and projected shadows of flying bats.  Adam stood at her side, one of the smallest children balanced on his hip.  He whispered something to JenniAnn and they both laughed.  So unlike the report Andrew had heard of their time together the previous Halloween.  Next, he saw Rose and Max, holding hands as they diligently searched for the exit.  And there were Monica and Arthur, taking time out to marvel at the starry sky although the man's gaze kept drifting back to the angel beside him.  And Shelby still had his hand in hers.

Soon enough, "Luna" had them all through.  When the other children went to the door to receive their candy, she hung back with the adults.

"So this is only part one of the celebration?" Arthur asked.

"Ah yes.  Now we move onto the Fields of Gold for food and dancing and Tess will be there.  You'll finally have a chance to really talk to her.  And meet everyone else that you didn't at your welcome party!" Monica gushed.

Adam smirked when he saw the panicked look in the man's eyes.  He playfully elbowed him.  "I promise, Tess eases up once you get to know her."

JenniAnn laughed, remembering her own early encounters with the angel.  "That she does.  Oh and don't be surprised if a fellow named Logan keeps bowing to you and Monica.  He's really into the whole RPG thing and will probably treat you like actual royalty.  Maybe it wasn't the best idea when Andrew and I knighted him a few years back...  Kinda fed into that, I'm afraid.  But it keeps him happy.  And you'll fit in very well with my cousins!  They're dressed as Tristan and Iseult."

"And Logan is... human?"

"Slash vampire," Violeta explained nonchalantly.

Arthur's eyes opened wide.  "Come again?"

Smiling, Monica hugged his arm.

Andrew chuckled.  "Arthur, my friend, we have so much to tell you.  And show you."

Kemara smiled knowingly.  "Trust me.  Give it a month or two and then it'll seem like your life has always been populated by the likes of us."

Shelby nodded enthusiastically.  "And at the party, we have lots and lots of food.  And Andrew makes butterbeer!" 

JenniAnn beamed at the two.  Shelby was so full of energy and happiness that she'd started doing pirouettes, using Andrew's arm for balance.

With his free arm, Andrew hugged his friend.  "I'm very glad we did this," he murmured into her ear.

She caressed his wrinkly cheek.  "Me too.  Happy Halloween."

Shelby finally stopped spinning and hugged them both.  "A very happy Halloween."

Resting his very bearded chin on JenniAnn's hair, Andrew smiled.  "The happiest."

Then, when all the children were back, they continued onto Dyeland to the Fields of Gold were they celebrated as they always had and, Andrew hoped, as they always would: dancing and joking and talking together, celebrating life and love on All Hallow's Eve.

The End

Songs referenced:
"All Through the Night"
"Moondance" by Van Morrison
"When I'm Sixty Four" by the Beatles

This newsletter is dedicated to John for never failing to make me smile when I think of this scene...

ETA: Please note parts of this story were originally dated as October 25th but switched to October 1st.  I was writing this simultaneously with "The Coffee Summit" and neglected to switch the date in this one when I did a date edit in "Coffee."  Sheesh.  Methinks I need to just write one story at a time!  Or at least get better at math...  I also noticed I messed up Asher's age when he was Joseph for Halloween because I cannot subtract, apparently!


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(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from Touched by an Angel and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.)