Comments: Just a bit of silliness.
JD bounded down the stairs of the apartment he shared with Buck and darted into the living room. Despite the fact that it was still several days before Halloween, the room was decked out in cobwebs, black and orange streamers and an assortment of paper witches, ghouls, and goblins.
Buck, dressed up like a pirate, was setting out homemade cookies and other delights Nettie and Mary had baked for the upcoming party.
"Hey, Buck, the others here yet?" JD asked, glancing around.
"Some of us have the good grace to arrive on time, Mr. Dunne," Ezra replied smoothly as he stepped in from the kitchen, his Count Dracula costume flawless. "Others, however, require more training. And, would someone please explain how, exactly, we ended up volunteering for this particular, um, duty?"
"It's called the boss's grandson needs a Halloween party, and we were volunteered," Nathan said, walking in with Rain. Their matching Egyptian costumes were stunning.
"Besides, this should be fun," Rain chided Standish. "The kids will be so adorable in their little costumes."
"I think you look pretty adorable, too," Nathan whispered softly into her ear.
Rain blushed and grinned at the man, the sparkle in her eyes full of promise.
Chris came in next, bent slightly under the weight of the plastic tub that was filled almost full with water. With a grunt, he set it down on the empty hefty garbage bags Buck had spread out on the carpet, careful not to slosh any of the water onto his outfit.
"Gee, Chris, didn't take you long to find that costume, did it?" Buck teased, shaking his head over the man's black boots, black jeans, black western bib shirt and black duster. A black leather gunbelt completed the outfit, but the twin white, stag-grip Colts were missing. Still, the "cowboy look" suited the man.
"I didn't have time to find anything," Larabee grumbled, shooting the ladies' man a glare that only served to widen Wilmington's grin.
"I think you look great," Rain told Chris. "Very Old West bad guy."
"Chris isn't a bad guy, he's a famous gunfighter, right, Chris?" Billy enthused as he sprinted across the room to join Larabee. He glanced around, smiling. "This is gonna be the bestest party ever! Brian's gonna be so mad he didn't get to come."
The ATF agents already knew that one of Billy's classmates had a party planned for Halloween night, but he had failed to invite Billy and five other children in his first grade class. Billy had been heartbroken and inconsolable until his grandfather had come up with a solution a party of his own, one that he could invite the other snubbed children to attend. And he had just the men to pull it off on one day's notice.
Mary hurried into the room, glancing around for her son. Billy was also dressed up like a cowboy in jeans, western pearl-button shirt, boots, leather chaps and holster (housing his favorite water pistol) and a mini Stetson. She, however, was dressed in a form-fitting gown of shimmering fabric and lace that made her look every inch the princess she was supposed to be.
"Billy, you haven't finished helping Mrs. Wells with those apples yet."
"But, Mom, Chris is here and"
"No buts, young man," she told him.
"JD, come help me with the apples," Casey called from the doorway into the hall.
"See!" Billy cried. "Casey and JD are doin' the apples. I'm gonna help Chris." He turned beseeching blue eyes on Larabee. "Right, Chris?"
"Sure," he replied, trying hard not to smile. That look reminded him of another member of his team a member who was suspiciously MIA.
"You heard Billy," Casey said to JD. "Come on."
Dunne grinned. Casey looked a lot cuter in her commando outfit than he'd expected. "Yeah, okay." He tugged down the shirt of his Star Fleet uniform before he headed for the kitchen.
Josiah sidestepped JD, lifting the huge bowl heaped with candy to keep it from getting knocked out of his hands. He shook his head and set the bowl on the table, already nearly filled with cookies, cupcakes and other confections guaranteed to produce long-lasting sugar rushes in the children and parents they were expecting.
"Wow, Josiah, that's a lot of candy!" Billy said, hurrying over to check out the bowl. Then he stopped to take in the man's outfit. "Wow," he breathed almost breathlessly.
"Yeah, my thoughts, too," Sanchez said, wishing he could smile a little easier in the makeup, then added, "Pardner."
Billy grinned, admiring the costume and makeup that left the big man looking decidedly scary. "Who are ya supposed to be, Josiah?"
"What?" the big man asked, deep voice booming from his chest, "don't you recognize the Beast?"
Billy's eyes rounded and he smiled broadly. "That's right! Miss Beauty and the Beast!"
"Pretty amazing," Buck agreed.
"Indeed," Ezra added. "Who in the world did you get to do that?"
Josiah's eyes twinkled. "A, uh, friend of mine works at the Buell in costuming," he explained. "Seems she has a thing for deep-voiced beasts "
"I'd like to meet this, uh, friend," Buck nearly purred as he wagged his eyebrows at Josiah.
Nettie swept into the room.
"Mrs. Wells?" Rain asked, not sure at first if it was the older woman behind the hideous green face paint. She giggled.
The older woman smiled at her. "Like it?" she asked them, giving them a 360 to show off her costume.
"I most certainly do," Ezra said in a thick Transylvanian accent. He licked at his fangs.
Nettie rolled her eyes and shook her head. She really ought to have known better. "Be careful, m' pretty, or I might just turn ya into an' ol' warty toad," she threatened.
"Guess she's the wicked witch," Billy whispered softly to Josiah.
Mary giggled softly. "That's a really wonderful costume, Nettie."
"A friend of Josiah's helped me with it; did a wonderful job. Sweet girl, too," she said, looking pointedly at Sanchez.
"I would completely agree," he said, holding his hands up in a gesture of surrender.
"Isn't Vin back yet?" the older woman asked them.
"Not yet," Casey said as she and JD came back into the living room, Dunne carrying a tray of candied apples one for each of the children who would be coming. She re-settled the web belt on her hips, then headed for a paper bag sitting near the door. "It's almost time for the rest of the kids to come. I'm going to put out the mat and light the pumpkins, okay?"
"Good idea, Rambette," Buck said, heading over to pour himself a cup of coffee and grab a ginger cookie before JD and Ezra devoured them all.
Casey rolled her eyes and shook her head.
"I'll help ya, Casey!" Billy called, trying hard to capture Vin's Texas twang. He hurried after the young woman.
When the boy was gone, Mary looked around at the others, saying, "Thank you, all of you. This really means a lot to him."
"Our pleasure," Buck replied with a grin. He gave her a low, sweeping bow, his sword almost slipping out of its scabbard.
"I'm very glad to hear you say that," Orin Travis said, coming in from the front to join them. He was dressed like an old time riverboat gambler.
"Children can be, well, mean to one another," Mary said. "Billy was really counting on going to that party "
"Now he has a better party to go to," JD told her.
"Ah, so I take it the festivities are about to begin?" Orin asked.
"That is one word for it," Ezra drawled, deadpan.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Casey stepped outside the condo and scanned the street for any sign of Vin's Jeep, but it appeared that he hadn't arrived yet. That or he'd had to park farther away and was walking.
"Casey, you think Vin will be able to find a piñata for the party?" Billy asked her.
She frowned down at the boy. He wasn't supposed to know about the piñata, but she knew it was hard to keep children from overhearing things. She laid the ghoul-faced doormat down in front of the door, then stepped over it and went about carefully lighting the small votive candles sitting in each of the carved pumpkins. "Sure he will, Billy. Vin wouldn't let you down."
"I hope so," Billy said, frowning slightly. "Brian Taylor says he's gonna have two piñatas at his party, but Rachel said he was just gonna have dorky games."
Casey smiled. "Well, we'll have good games, and lots of cookies and candy, too. And if there are any piñatas left, Vin'll bring one of them, too."
With all the candles in the pumpkins burning, they headed back inside, both of them leaping over the doormat. Billy slammed the door shut before running back down the hall to see what was going on now.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Vin parked his Jeep and climbed out. Walking around to the back, he opened it and pulled out his prizes three colorful burro piñatas. He hoped Billy would like them. It had taken him five stores and an extra twenty bucks to get the damn things, but it seemed that all the rest had been bought up for Halloween.
He looked up at the condo building and grinned, wondering what kind of costumes the others had managed to find on such short notice. He was rather proud of his, and it hadn't cost much.
He headed for the front door, noting the pumpkins arranged around the entrance, their faces all shining as the candles burned inside of them. He smiled. The one he and JD had carved was definitely the best of the bunch, no matter what Buck and Ezra said about their efforts.
He reached for the doorknob, his sock-clad foot coming down squarely on the doormat's ghoulish face.
A deafening, bloodcurdling scream rent the air.
Three burros flew into the air and hit the ground, Vin diving for the nearest cover he could find the short hedge that ran along the front of the building.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
"Hey, someone get the door. That's probably Vin!" Casey called as she walked in carrying a bowl of punch, dry ice making it appear as if fog were creeping up and over the lip of the crystal bowl.
Buck and JD headed for the door, the others following, curious to see what kind of costume the missing sharpshooter had come up with.
"What was that horrible noise?" Rain asked as they reached the door.
"My screaming doormat," Casey said, coming up behind her. "Cool, huh?"
"Vin?" Buck called when he didn't see anyone. He and JD stepped over the mat and picked up the piñatas.
"Three of 'em?" Billy cried. "Wow!"
Chris and Josiah stepped out next, careful to avoid the trap. Nathan waited in the doorway with Rain, the others crowding in behind them.
A moment later they heard a groan, followed by a series of hissed curses that would have had most sailors blushing. The hedge shook, and they all watched as Tanner climbed out, covered in a tangle of sticks, leaves, and dirty white bandages. The Texan was muttering darkly to himself.
"Problem, Junior?" Buck asked, grinning but trying not to laugh.
Casey blushed when she realized what had happened, her hand flying up to cover her mouth as she gulped, "Ohmigod. Vin?" she called. "Vin, I'm sorry. I guess I should've waited to put the screaming doormat down until after you got here, but it's almost time for the party to start and " She trailed off, gaze taking in the battered appearance of the ATF sniper.
Tanner swayed on his feet, Larabee stepping up to steady him.
"You okay?" the blond asked.
"Huh?" Tanner replied, trying to remember why he was being stuck with a hundred needles all at once.
Larabee reached out and tried to pull the sticks and leaves out his costume. "I asked if you were all right."
Noticing that everyone was staring at him, Tanner drew himself up and squared his shoulders. "I'm fine," he said, knowing that he was blushing furiously and hoping that the others couldn't see it.
"At least he didn't shoot that infernal welcome mat," Ezra replied dryly, giving the disheveled man a pat on the shoulder.
Larabee frowned, then dropped his voice and asked seriously, "You don't have a weapon hidden in there someplace, do you? This is a kids' party, you know."
Tanner glowered at Chris. "Course I don't." That glare shifted to the ladies' man as Wilmington reached out and pulled several pieces of flora out of what was left of the sniper's costume.
"Well, at least he's already got plenty of bandages," Nathan said, shaking his head. "Any of that blood real?" he asked the sniper.
"Don't think so," Vin mumbled, pushing past his friends to get inside before anyone else saw him.
Inside, Billy stared up at him, smiling. "Wow, Vin, you look really " He frowned. "Dirty."
"That's 'cause I'm an old mummy," Tanner said, hoping all his work hadn't been wasted.
"Oh. A mummy? Uh, okay," the boy said, his brow furrowing in confusion.
"So, how long it take you to get all wrapped up like that?" Buck asked him.
"Longer 'n it took Chris t' go through his closet," Tanner grumbled.
"Blood's a nice touch," Josiah said, pointing to the drops on Vin's cheek.
"Uh-oh, that's the real stuff. I better take a look," Nathan started.
"No! Thanks anyway, Nate, but it ain't nothin'. What the hell was that out there?" Vin asked, then jumped, head whipping from side to side, looking for a safe place to take cover when the doormat went off again.
"Explanations later," Ezra interrupted, shifting into his accent again to add, "Our guests have arrived, gentlemen." He ended the comment with a decidedly evil laugh as he pulled the door open.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
"You call this a party?" Buck boomed, stalking into the living room. He walked over to the CD player and pressed play. "The Monster Mash" echoed through the living room, along with the laughter and giggles of the children as they raced around from game to game, playing between mouthfuls of food.
A princess accepted a dance from a cowboy, the wicked witch one from a riverboat gambler. And the Starfleet officer and commando were competing at the apple bobbing tub.
Two Egyptians watched over the little ones trying to pin a fuzzy tail on a werewolf.
Beast and the Count answered the doorbell, which wasn't necessary since the doormat loudly announced the new arrivals, and the two handed out candy to the children when they won at the various games and even if they didn't.
And, in the doorway to the kitchen, a grumpy mummy kept an eye on the goings on, trying not to twitch and squirm as various pieces of dirt, leaves and twigs poked, pricked and tickled him under his bandages, most of which had slipped down to pool at elbows, hips and neck.
A small butterfly floated over to join him, the little girl looking up at him with a concerned expression.
"Something wrong, sweetheart?" Vin asked her, worried that she was going to announce that she needed him to take her to the bathroom.
Instead, she looked up at him and asked, "Was you in an accident?"
Vin stopped fidgeting and stared down at her. "Uh, no no, I'm a mummy."
"Yep," Vin said rather proudly, trying to pull the circles of bandages back into place.
She smiled up at him. "I'm gonna be a mummy someday, too," she stated matter-of-factly and hurried off to play with a lady bug.
Vin's eyes rounded with surprise, but before he could correct the mistake, she was gone. He heard a chuckle and glanced over to find Buck leaning against the wall, grinning at him.
"Ya sure don't look like my mummy," the ladies' man managed with a straight face.
Tanner's blue eyes narrowed. "Y' better watch it, Bucklin. Might have t' buckle yer swash."
The ladies' man wagged his eyebrows at the man. "Now you know I'm not that kind of pirate matey."
Vin rolled his eyes.
"Of course the ladies do seem to enjoy walking my plank, if you know what I mean."
"And I can haul keel with the"
Vin groaned again, louder this time, and fled, only to be grabbed by JD just as he reached Chris, who was standing in the corner, keeping a watch on the kids and the baseball game playing on television.
"We have a problem," Dunne said, his voice pitched low, but the panic was clear nonetheless.
"What?" Vin asked him.
"The piñatas; we don't have any blindfolds."
Chris grinned. "That all?"
JD nodded, gaze darting over the children, imagining what might happen if they weren't able to have their piñatas.
"Hell, JD, here," Larabee said, reaching out and pulling off a strip of Vin's wrappings.
"Hey!" Tanner yelped, trying to stop the forced strip.
Dunne blinked, then smiled. "Yeah, that'll work! Thanks, Chris!"
"Sure, kid, anytime," Larabee said, ripping off two more strips.
"Hey! Look! Let's unwrap the mummy!" one of the kids yelled.
"Yeah, unwrap the mummy! Unwrap the mummy!"
And then Vin was surrounded, pulled in several directions before he was suddenly twirling around in circles as the children grabbed strips of gauze and pulled.
"And what do you suppose Mr. Tanner has on under those bandages?" Ezra asked as he stood next to Josiah, watching the children as they swarmed around Vin.
"I think we're about to find out "
Vin toppled over, landing on the floor with a heavy thud.
"Aw, he ain't no real mummy," one of the children said.
"Nope," Vin agreed, looking at the gathered group. "But now that y' exposed me t' the light 'a day I'm gonna go crazy and eat yer livers!"
He scrambled to his feet, snarling, his hands shaped into claws slashing at them. The children scattered in all directions, squealing loudly.
"I'll shoot 'im!" Billy said, drawing his water pistol and firing off several squirts at Vin, who stopped suddenly, covering his head with his arms, and howled madly. Then he fell to the floor, twitching a few times before going still.
"Oh no!" the little butterfly cried. "Billy, you just killed somebody's mummy!"
The members of Team Seven broke out in gales of laughter.
Author's Note: This story first appeared in the Mag 7 zine, Let's Ride #7, published by Neon RainBow Press, Cinda Gillilan and Jody Norman, editors. When we all decided to post the stories that have appeared in the issues of Let's Ride that are more than two years old, we opted to use a generic pen name because, while Mary Fallon Zane is the primary author of this story, she had so much help from the other folks writing for the press that it just made sense to consider the story to be written by the Neon RainBow Press Collective! Resistance was futile. So, thanks to the whole Neon Gang Sierra Chaves, Dana Ely, Michelle Fortado, Patricia Grace, Erica Michaels, Nina Talbot, Kasey Tucker, and Lorin and Mary Fallon Zane. Story lasted edited 7-24-2006. Art by Shiloh (firstname.lastname@example.org)