Disclaimer: Without Prejudice. The names of all characters contained here-in are the property of
John Watson, MGM, Trilogy, etc., no infringements of these copyrights are intended, and are used here without permission.
Note: Each week there is a drabble challenge offered on several lists (thanks Phyllis!). In October 2003 one of the challenges was to write a drabble (100 word scene) on Halloween. I wrote a serial drabble (100 words from each of the seven on the same topic/scene) on carving Jack-O-Lanterns. I thought it was time to put it into story format. The information on Jack-O-Lanterns in this story comes from the website: http://www.pumpkinnook.com/facts/jack.htm
Universe: Little Britches - ATF AU
Feedback: To MMW
Chris sighed as he walked into his office. Tonight was the night they were supposed to be carving pumpkins out at the ranch. The four of them had been looking forward to it, Chris more than he wanted to admit. He had actually been excited about this first Halloween together. Pumpkin carving had always been his favorite part. Unfortunately, he had been called in to a late meeting with Travis and the other Team Leaders. The meeting had run long.
Setting his papers on his desk, he grabbed his coat. Slipping his arms into the sleeves, he turned and headed toward the door. He was startled by the sight of his long-time friend Buck Wilmington just stepping off the elevator. "What are you still doing here? Thought you would have been home a while ago carving pumpkins."
Buck sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "The DA wasn’t happy with my testimony so we had to go over it, and over it, and over it and… Well, you get the picture." He saw Chris wince and nod in sympathy.
"Why don’t you drop your stuff off on your desk. That way we can leave together," the blond suggested.
Buck nodded and headed off to do just that.
As Ezra rinsed the final plate and handed it to Josiah to put into the dishwasher, the men turned to see the two boys sitting as patiently as they could at the kitchen table. Their hands were folded in their laps and they were watching their ‘Uncles’ intently. The men couldn’t suppress smiles as they saw the duo.
Nathan walked into the kitchen, having just finished an important phone call. Seeing the four sitting there waiting he said, "So what are we waiting for? Are we going to carve these pumpkins or not?"
His question was greeted by a boisterous cheer from JD and a huge grin from Vin. Josiah laughed at the enthusiasm and Ezra’s smile broadened.
Taking charge, Nathan quickly gave instructions for newspaper to be placed over the tabletop, informing the boys that pumpkin carving was a messy business. He watched as they scurried away to grab some newspaper. Josiah moved to get the knives they would be using to carve the pumpkins. Ezra moved to get the markers the boys would use to draw the pumpkins' faces. Nathan grabbed two mixing bowls, a strainer and two cookie sheets.
Soon the boys were back and the table covered. As Josiah and Ezra began moving the already washed pumpkins onto the table, the suddenly less-than-happy faces on the two boys surprised them.
"What’s wrong, boys?" Josiah asked, crouching down to be eye level with them. He saw Vin bite his lip and shrug. JD sighed heavily.
Ezra seemed to understand. Sitting on a chair, he drew both boys toward him. Reaching a finger under their chins, he tilted their faces upward until he could see them. The emotions he saw in their eyes struck a far too familiar chord within him. "They will be here as soon as they can," he assured. "You know the wouldn’t miss this for the world any more than we would." He saw the boys nod in agreement.
Josiah moved forward. "I’ll tell you what," he said quietly. "Why don’t we carve my pumpkin, Nathan’s pumpkin and Ezra’s pumpkin. By then Chris and Buck should be here and then the four of you can do your pumpkins as well."
"What if they’re really late?" Vin asked softly.
Nathan walked over and rested a hand on each boys’ shoulder, drawing their attention to him. "If they get home too late tonight, then we just finish up tomorrow," he assured.
The three men waited, not realizing they were holding their breath, as the boys debated this option. Finally, they were rewarded with two brilliant smiles. "OK," Vin said softly. JD cheered and things began moving again.
Ezra pulled out a camera from somewhere and began documenting the whole procedure.
The three men had a lot of fun as they watched the boys plan out their first pumpkins. JD picked up his washable marker and started right in on the face. Vin pulled out a few sheets of paper and began drawing various faces until he had one he liked. Then, with meticulous care, began copying the face from the paper onto the pumpkin.
When the first faces were drawn onto the pumpkin surface, Josiah carefully took one of the orange gourds and cut a neat circle at the top. Prying the ‘lid’ off, he revealed the insides. Both boys leaned forward, curious about what they’d find.
"Eewww!" JD called, wrinkling his nose. It looked really gross in there.
Vin watched as Josiah smiled and then reached inside the pumpkin, grabbed a handful of the pulp and seeds and drew it out, placing it in one of the bowls Nathan had set on the table.
Vin looked from the pumpkin to the contents of the bowl, his eyes wide. "Do we gotta take the pumpkin’s guts out?" he asked.
Nathan chuckled quietly at the question while Ezra looked a little ill at the turn of phrase. "Yes," Josiah assured. "If we don’t remove the ‘guts’ of the pumpkin, we won’t be able to put light inside."
"Oh," Vin said, still resisting reaching in to scoop out the insides. Finally, taking a deep breath, he inserted his hand inside and grabbed hold of the slippery contents. Making a face at the odd feel, he pulled the mess out and dropped it in the bowl, shaking his hand slightly to get the stringy remnants off.
JD watched the other boy closely. He could see Vin didn’t really like the feel, but the older boy reached back for a second handful. Deciding it was something that wouldn’t hurt him, the brunette slowly built his courage.
JD stuck his hand inside the pumpkin and grabbed a handful of the slick inner filling. "Eeewwww!" he exclaimed as he pulled the goop out, though he had to admit that it was kind of cool at the same time. He hadn’t done this before but decided it was fun. He remembered the last Halloween with his mama. She had never been really fond of the holiday, but he’d seen jack-o’-lanterns in other people’s homes. Eventhough they didn't have a lot, she had gotten a small pumpkin and together they had made a jack-o-lantern.
Dropping his handful of pumpkin into the bowl next to him, he looked up at his uncle and asked, "Uncle ‘Siah? Why do we make jack-o’-lanterns?"
Vin had been curious about that too, but didn’t want to ask because he thought that most kids his age already knew. Turning his wide blue eyes to his uncle, he waited for an answer. Uncle Josiah knew all this sort of stuff - why people did things, how they started doing those things, what they meant... Vin knew that Josiah would answer all their questions and never once make them feel silly or stupid.
Looking at Josiah’s twinkling blue eyes, Vin felt a smile curve his lips. Uncle Josiah would be telling them a story tonight, not a boring lecture. He always liked Uncle Josiah’s stories
Ezra paused in the midst of taking pictures to look at the boys and the Profiler. He smiled slightly at JD’s request and then turned his attention back to the task at hand - documenting their adventure for those who would be arriving late.
Settling back a little in his chair, he waited for Josiah’s story.
Nathan took the nearly full bowl of "pumpkin guts" as Vin called them and replaced it with an empty one. He had been almost as excited as the boys about this first Halloween together. He had remembered the toasted pumpkin seeds his mother used to make when he was a child. A quick call to his sister had garnered him the recipe and instructions. He was certain the boys would enjoy the seeds.
He smiled slightly at JD’s question and could only hope that Josiah would keep in mind that his audience was young and impressionable.
Josiah smiled. He loved it when the boys asked him questions. Looking at his nephews, he quickly edited the version of the story he normally told. When telling adults the tale, he would embellish it and make it truly scary, but he was reluctant to tell the same story to the young boys, despite the horrors they had already witnessed. He smiled slightly remembering the looks on Buck and Ezra’s face when he’d first told his teammates the story. He had never seen such looks of terror on their faces before or since.
Deciding to stick as closely to the facts of the legend as possible, he began, "Well, the first jack-o’-lantern was a turnip, not a pumpkin." He smiled at the exclamations of disbelief and the faces made. "But our story begins with a man named Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack lived a long time ago and was not a very nice man. He liked to play mean tricks on people."
"That’s not nice," Vin declared.
"No, it’s not," Josiah agreed as he began carving along the lines of the first pumpkin face, allowing the boys to continue with ‘pumpkin gut removal’. "Stingy Jack was so mean and so tricky that he even tried to trick the devil," Josiah said, watching to see if the boys were still OK. He didn’t see any signs of fear and they appeared to be listening intently.
Continuing with this story, he told how Jack had trapped the devil, making his voice low and scary when he spoke as the devil and higher and shaky when he spoke as Jack who was supposed to be older. He told of how Jack made a deal with the devil and that he wasn’t allowed into either Heaven or Hell when he died, but had to wander the dark spaces in between; his only source of light a hollowed-out turnip with a coal inside.
"… and they say he still walks the Earth today searching for someplace to rest. So we carve pumpkins to let Jack know that he shouldn’t stop here," he finished, turning the first pumpkin around for approval.
Vin felt a chill run down his spine at the end of the tale. He didn’t want to admit it to anyone, but he was scared. The idea that Jack could come and hurt his family was not a pleasant thought. Seeing that Josiah was waiting for approval on the carving, Vin looked at the freshly carved face and smiled. It looked even better than they thought it would. It was definitely scary enough to chase away Jack.
JD took one look and cheered, apparently unaffected by the tale.
As Josiah moved the second pumpkin into place to begin carving, Buck and Chris walked in the door.
The two boys ran toward their fathers, wrapping their arms around the men before either adult could stop the pumpkin-covered appendages. If the boys clung a little more tightly or seemed a little more reluctant to let go, neither man noticed, too tired from the day to care and too happy to be home to question the extra attention.
"Well, what do we have here?" Buck asked as he stepped into the kitchen. He took a deep breath and smiled at the smell of fresh pumpkin and toasting seeds.
"Look, Da!" JD cried, pointing to the finished jack-o-lantern. "Uncle ‘Siah maded the face I drew. Can we put a light in it?"
Buck smiled down at the boy. "In a little while, Little Bit," he assured. "Just let me change and I’ll be right out to help you with the pumpkins."
"’K," JD agreed happily. Then in a whisper not much softer than his normal talking voice he confided, "You can pull out the pumpkin guts. I think they’re icky."
The men chuckled to themselves and Buck ruffled JD’s hair before heading off to his room.
Chris was led by Vin to look at the face Josiah was currently carving. "Did you draw that one?" Chris asked, looking at Vin. He received a smile and a nod. Smiling back he assured, "That’s just about the best jack-o-lantern face I’ve ever seen." He was rewarded with a beaming smile and a giggle. "I’ll go change and get ready to help with the carving."
"’K, Dad," Vin said, turning his attention back to his next creation.
The carving went well and the toasted pumpkin seeds were a huge hit. Vin sat and watched in amazement as Chris carved an intricate design on his pumpkin’s face. His eyes grew wider as he realized the shape Chris was carving freehand was that of a running horse - tail and mane flying in the breeze.
When they were all done and the mess cleaned up, Ezra brought small, battery operated lights they could put in the bottom of the pumpkins. He assured them they were safer than candles.
The men and boys gathered around the kitchen table where all the jack-o-lanterns sat lit and glowing in the darkened room.
"Wow," JD said, his voice hushed, though his face was split in a wide grin, his eyes showing amazement and awe.
"You can say that again, Little Bit," Buck replied quietly.
The collection of pumpkins sat before the makeshift family, each reflecting something of its owner. Josiah’s bore a wide, friendly grin. They had insisted Nathan’s have a band-aid glued to it so they would know it was his. For Ezra, the boys had insisted on attaching a card for all the card tricks he showed them. Buck’s had a mustache. JD’s had large eyes and a big smile. Vin’s was missing its two front teeth and Chris’ had the horse he’d been carving.
Shortly afterward the three uncles headed for home while the boys got ready for bed.
Once the two boys were asleep, Chris and Buck settled into their chairs, each releasing a sigh of relief.
"Wish we could have been here for the whole thing," Buck said, staring at the ceiling.
Chris sighed. "We didn’t miss much. They only had the one pumpkin done when we got here," Chris said, trying to assuage some of his own disappointment at having been late.
"Came out alright, though," Buck observed with a grin.
Chris only nodded.
"Is it a bad sign that I’m ready to go to bed at the same time as the boys?" the dark haired man asked.
Chris chuckled and pushed himself up out of his chair. "Just a sign you’re a dad," he assured, returning the proud smile that creased Buck’s face as he headed for his own bedroom.
Buck snuggled down into his bed. It had been a long, arduous day and he was more than happy to finally be able to sleep. Though he wished he could have been there for the whole thing, he was glad the pumpkins were carved. It was one less thing to try and squeeze in during their already busy evenings.
Sighing in relief as his eyes closed, he was startled awake by a sound and the smell of freshly carved pumpkin seemingly just a few minutes later. Looking over the side of his bed, he found JD standing, holding his jack-o’-lantern lit by the small light inside. "Little bit?" his sleep-laden voice asked as he sought out the clock and saw it was almost two in the morning. "What are you doing in here with your jack-o-lantern?" he asked as JD moved closer to the bed.
JD looked down at his toes. "Don’t want Jack to get me. Can I sleep with you?"
Normally he and Chris discouraged such behavior, walking the boys back to their own room and staying with them until they fell asleep, but Buck was just too tired to put forth that effort tonight. Sighing, he instructed, "Put the jack-o-lantern on the floor by the nightstand and climb in the other side."
JD sighed in relief as he moved to obey. Setting his pumpkin carefully on the floor, he raced around to climb into the big bed.
Buck’s sleep befuddled mind finally sorted through what JD had said and a few moments later he figured out that Josiah must have told the boys about Stingy Jack. A small shudder ran through him as he remembered Josiah’s telling of that tale. No wonder the boy was having nightmares. He would have to talk to Josiah in the morning, he thought as he drifted back to sleep.
Chris awoke from a sound sleep, becoming aware of the small body pressed tight against him. Worried that Vin had had a nightmare, he looked down at his son.
As if sensing Chris looking at him, heavy, sleep-filled blue eyes blinked up at him. "’ris," came the greeting.
"You ok?" Chris asked, concern evident in his voice.
"Yep," came the reply as the eyes drooped closed. "Don’t want Jack to get you."
Seeing Vin was asleep, he puzzled over the comment until he spotted the lit jack-o’-lantern sitting on the bedside table next to the clock that read five minutes to two in the morning. "Josiah," Chris sighed. He knew he should pick Vin up and carry him back to his own bed, but he was just too tired. Reaching over, he pulled the covers up a bit more over Vin and kissed his forehead goodnight before settling back to sleep.
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