Disclaimer: All characters and history of
Buffy the Vampire Slayer are property of Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox, and Mutant Enemy Productions. Peanuts and its characters and features belong to the estate of Charles Schultz. All various and sundry other comic strip characters are properties of their creators, distributors, and publishing newspapers and websites. All candy bar names are trademarked by their manufacturers. No infringement is intended. No profit will be made.
Author's Notes: My timing is a little off, even though I did initially think of the story after reading a rant on my favorite message board about the size of candy bars distributed on the day in question. At this rate, I'll post the Christmas chapter sometime near Easter. At any rate, this is a one-off, and not bound to the story arc of the full Haven and Home story, so I'm posting it by itself. Hope you enjoy.Fun Size Is An Oxymoron
Word got out before official rounds even began. After all, in kid world, news like that traveled faster than light. The only reason this was not an established fact of the science world was because most physicists, no matter how childlike – or childish, depending on your point of view – they remained, non of them could really pull off Trick or Treating anymore.
The house, that weird haunted one the adults somehow never noticed, the one all the kids dared each other to touch the gate, the one that no one ever
entered the yard for a lost ball (even though the lost ball would have miraculously rolled back onto the pavement when no one was looking) - that
house . . . was handing out full size candy bars to Trick or Treaters.
And not just one brand either, to the relief of the kids with peanut allergies who always got handed a Snickers and the ones who just hated coconut in any way, shape, manner, or form. They were handing out at least ten different kinds
. And packs of gum. And blow-pops. And beef jerky. And caramel apples (that you picked off
the tree and dipped in the molten caramel yourself, so your parents wouldn't freak out). There was even a bucket of lonely toothbrushes, in case someone had a dental hygienist for a mom.
The catch, and of course there was one, was that you had to open the gate, walk aaaaaaaaaaalll the way up the sidewalk, climb the steps of the front porch, ring the doorbell, and yell “TRICK OR TREAT!” properly, or you didn't get a thing. The little ones, shepherded by parents, were coaxed onward by twinkling Halloween lights, and girls dressed like fairies or princesses. Very frightened children found themselves taken in hand by the best Mary Poppins anyone had ever seen outside of Main Street, Disneyland, who jollied them out of their fear with a song and dance. The older children had to follow a slightly different path – one populated by howling wolves, a cackling witch stirring a bubbling cauldron, zombies stumbling and dropping body parts, and a collection of singing jack-o-lanterns that no one could figure out.
There was even, further back and almost out of sight, a realistic graveyard, where several specters sat and discussed how much better Halloween was back in their day. Their costumes were impeccable. One looked like a Knight Templar, another like an alchemist, and yet another like a dusty Victorian gentleman. He was the only one not complaining. Indeed, he merely sat on his tombstone and grinned like a Cheshire Cat as the parade of Trick Or Treaters passed by.
It was -
“The best Halloween ever,” Xander announced, completely satisfied. He closed the door behind him as the last group of children trooped off, their eyes still wide as platters at the haul they'd gotten.
Dawn gave him a look of tolerant humor. “So, we make a little over eleven million dollars in our little yard sale, and you're determined to spend it all on chocolate?”
She had gone steampunk – or as she referred to it “Gaslight Romance” - with a vengeance this year. Like a cross between a Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter and a Girl Scout Ready For Combat Patrol, she had goggles, a rubber apron and galoshes, thick leather gloves, a pocket blowtorch, a telescoping spyglass, and a utility belt filled with wrenches, screwdrivers, geegaws, and doodads, all of them operational. She'd managed to sway Xander away from Classical Pirate to Privateer Ornithopter Pilot without too much argument. Mostly it was the offer of the coat – a brown duster with sheepskin collar and cuffs – along with a silk aviator scarf, boots with flared tops, and a dashing, wide-brimmed hat with a band of bronze fireflies.
“This,” Xander answered, wagging his finger at the universe, “is justice, and I serve its purpose.”
The doorbell rang – changed from its Big Ben chimes to something more funereal for the night – and Xander opened the door to a chorused shriek of “TRICK OR TREAT!”
“Hey!” he exclaimed, grinning. “Look at this, Dawnie! It's Spider-Man! Thanks, for stopping by, Spidey. Think you could put a few more webs up for us on your way out?”
He held out a tray of choices, the weight supported by a strap across his neck.
“Sure!” the skinny blond boy agreed, his eyes alight over a Milky Way bar as long as his forearm.
“Joe!” his sister hissed at him, “you can't make real webs! You're not actually Spider-Man.”
“We take what we can get around here,” Xander told her. “But you look like a real princess.”
“I'm not,” the little girl answered solemnly. “I'm actually a pony who's been enchanted by a wizard to look like a princess.”
“Ruthie,” her brother sighed, “willya let go of the pony outfit thing?”
“My brother was supposed to be the back end,” she said darkly, just before taking a Butterfingers.
The siblings went their way, still bickering, and Xander shut the door.
“You don't know what it was like,” Xander told Dawn. “You and Buffy didn't move in until I was too old to trick or treat.”
“Yeah, well, I was young enough to, and everyone
knew not to bother with your house.”
“Not once did my parents pony up for candy,” he said. “Not. Once. But they always forgot to turn the light off, and who
had to answer the door? The other kids never
let me live it down.”
“But you're not bitter
,” Dawn muttered under her breath. “Oh, no.”
He started to answer when the doorbell rang again. This time, the door revealed a redheaded Indian with painted on freckles and a stuffed tiger doll.
Xander and Dawn stared down at him for a moment.
“Okay,” Xander admitted, “I'm looking for a theme, but I just can't seem to find it.”
“This was not my idea,” the boy said, gritting his teeth. “I wanted to go as H. M. Stanley, but Dad wouldn't get me a pith helmet.”
Xander continued to stare. Dawn elbowed him.
“'Dr. Livingstone, I presume?'” she quoted.
“Right! Well, pith helmets are kind of pricey these days. So you're an Indian chief?”
“I wanted to be a cowboy!” the boy yelled, gesturing at the utter futility of his desire. “But Mom said the only figure from that overwrought historical era I could pull off would be Red Chief.”
“Well, I like your tiger's costume. Where did you find a Tigger outfit so small?” Dawn asked.
The boy gave them a glare that Third World dictators and potentates would have paid money to learn at an all day symposium.
“Trick or treat,” he growled, making it a threat. Then he took a king-sized Reese's peanut butter cup package and package of peanut M&Ms.
Then he looked down at the tiger.
“No, they don't have tuna! This is Halloween, you self-referencing marketing ploy of the corporate hegemony over traditional festivities, you!”
Dawn and Xander exchanged a look.
The boy replaced the peanut M&Ms and took a Violet Crumble.
“I don't even know what it is,” he told the tiger. “And I'm sticking you in the transmogrifier as soon as we get home, just to see what'll happen.”
“We should keep an eye on that kid,” Xander said, as they watched him march back down the pavement, dragging his tiger with him.
“Ari and Lucy tag-teamed him on a babysitting gig,” Dawn said. “Took 'em a week to recover. I think he's the one that made all those snow . . . goons last week.”
“Great. We're one chaos magician away from a real life Snow-maggedon,” Xander answered.
He shut the door.
“Anyways,” he continued, “Sunnydale's gone, I'm in charge of the house, I've got enough brownie points with Giles to do Halloween right, and that means everybody gets real life candy bars in their haul tonight!”
“Are there any Cadbury bars left?” Giles asked, sauntering into the foyer.
“Check the box over there,” Xander pointed without looking.
Giles wore a brown coat even longer than Xander's, a striped scarf looped around his neck so many times it could have served as a rescue ladder, a wig of curly brown hair, and a fedora.
“Jelly baby?” he offered.
“Stop that,” Dawn said. “You know those things weird me out. Jelly beans or gummi bears. Jelly babies are just wrong.”
Giles picked up a Cadbury bar, considered it for a moment, and made his way out, tutting to himself.
“I wonder if he talked Jenny into dressing up as Leela,” Xander mused.
“So not going to happen,” Dawn answered. “Romana, if it's not Sarah Jane.”
“How would we know if she's Sarah Jane?”
“Only sane one in the room,” Dawn answered.
And again the doorbell rang.
“TRICK OR TREAT!”
It was quite the crowd of kids, all in traditional, homemade costumes. A ghost, a witch, another ghost (with blond hair), a Frankenstein's monster, a ghost who'd lost a fight with a vacuum cleaner bag, and a ghost who'd gotten a little obsessive-compulsive about cutting out eyeholes. One of the ghosts had even dressed his dog up as a World War I flying ace.
“Hey,” Xander smiled, “it's the gang! I've seen you guys all over the place. Where's the one with the blanket?”
“My stupid brother is waiting in your pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin to arrive,” the witch snapped. She took an Almond Joy without saying thank you. “Look what I got!”
“The who-za-what?” Xander asked.
“The Great Pumpkin,” a smaller ghost answered. “Every year, the Great Pumpkin chooses the most sincere pumpkin patch he can find and then hands out toys to all the deserving boys and girls. Can I have a caramel apple?”
Dawn handed her a plastic knife to stick into one of the apples and dip it into the caramel.
“Look! I got an apple!” the girl declared. “Now I'm going to go join him, because he's my sweet Baboo.”
“Yeah . . . that sounds like a plan,” Xander agreed. He turned to Dawn. “We have a pumpkin patch?”
“Where do you think the jack-o-lanterns came from?” she asked.
“Well, uh, is it sincere?” he asked.
“Willow planted it,” Dawn replied. “What do you think?”
“I think blanket boy may be in for some looming pumkinosity tonight,” Xander replied.
The next ghost was up. He sighed and held up his bag. It was filled with rocks.
Xander considered it.
“You know, I don't really want to point out the obvious,” he finally said, “but, you've got a sack of rocks there. Traditionally, it's supposed to be candy.”
The boy sighed again. “I got a rock. Every house, I got a rock.”
“Does this happen often?” Dawn asked.
“Every year. My dad thinks he'll be able to finish the wall in the garden this winter.”
no!” Xander declared. “You dump those rocks out over there, and you get back here for some chocolate. Whatever you like, however much you like. If you can carry it, you can take it.”
Almost in disbelief, the boy did as he was told. Dawn and Xander had to start scooping candy into his bag before he really believed it. He stared into his bag for a moment, and then summoning his courage, he looked up at Xander.
“Every year, I get a new kite, and I try to fly it, and every year, that tree in your yard,” and he pointed at the guilty tree, “eats my kite. Do you think maybe this year, you could tell your tree not to eat my kite? Or maybe just give it back once it's had a taste?”
Xander nodded. “No problem, kid. You just let me know if that tree gives you any trouble.”
The kid in question jumped down the stairs from the porch, tripped once on the hem of his sheet, caught himself, and dashed off.
“And, hey, kid!” Xander called.
The kid stopped.
“Anyone offers to hold a football for you while you kick it, it's a trick. Kick her in the face!”
“You got it, mister!”
The kid ran off, the last of the group to depart except the dog.
It was a beagle. It gave Xander a dignified 'woof', licked Dawn's hand, and then took a can of root beer delicately between its jaws and trotted off.
“Aw, you were nice to the funny looking kid,” Dawn said, taking Xander's arm.
“His head is kind of round,” Xander agreed. “Besides, how could I not. I don't think I've ever met anyone who had a worse Halloween than I did. I might not have gotten any candy, but at least no one gave me a rock.”
Late, long after the last of the trick-or-treaters had dragged their loot home, the wrappers had been cleaned up, the girls had descended from their sugar highs, and Mary Poppins had directed the stragglers off to bed, Xander made his way out to where Dawn said the pumpkin patch could be found.
Halloween, in Slayer world, was their one certified day off every year. While the walls between this world and the next might thin enough to let some of the dear departed visit, as a rule, no demons, no spells, and certainly no vampires disturbed the evening. You could run around in a Slim Goodbody outfit with all your veins marked and a prominent “O+ for discerning tastes!” sign around your neck, and the worst that would happen would be a quick mental evaluation at the ER.
The previous champions of the tree and its dryad had returned to their rest. The pumpkin patch was half-harvested. The rest waited for Thanksgiving and a crusty, filling fate. In the middle of the patch, glancing occasionally at the sky with doubt and trepidation, was a young boy with a blue blanket. He hadn't bothered wearing a costume, as he chose to stand vigil the entire night, every Halloween, waiting for the one he knew would come.
“So,” Xander greeted him, taking a seat beside him, “you do this every year. You miss out on the costumes, the tricks, and the treats, and you do it all for the Great Pumpkin.”
“He'll come this year,” the little boy said, gripping his blanket. “And I'd rather the Great Pumpkin than Santa Claus any year.”
“Hot chocolate,” Xander said, handing him a thermos. “Why's that?”
“Well,” the boy began, taking the thermos and smiling his thanks. “Santa certainly does a good job, bringing toys to all the boys and girls, but he operates merely from a standpoint of doing his job well. It's his occupation. The Great Pumpkin has a moral obligation to recognize the most sincere pumpkin patch and reward the boys and girls who tend to it and have faith in it and him.”
“Have you considered growing your own pumpkins?” Xander asked. “You strike me as the sincere type.”
“Oh, I am,” the boy assured him. “But my yard's too small. So, I keep an eye out for promising patches, and when I find one, I stop by and do some weeding when I can. To make my own small contribution.”
“Even though you've never seen the Great Pumpkin and none of your friends believe in him?” Xander asked.
“Even so,” the boy said simply.
“What if,” Xander began, then paused, “and, I'm not saying this in any way to imply that the Great Pumpkin doesn't
exist. Who am I to doubt his existence? But, at any rate, what if it's not about getting the toys or even being recognized as the most sincere pumpkin patch? What if it's just about taking care of something, watching over it, and keeping the faith even when others doubt?”
The boy sat in thought. “There is something to what that. This might only be a metaphor for the existential struggles of mankind, or even a commentary on holding a faith the majority doesn't.”
“There's a play you might enjoy,” Xander suggested, “it's called Waiting For Godot
. Kind of the same idea.”
“Do you believe in the Great Pumpkin?” the boy asked him.
“Let's just say that I'm open to the possibility of the Great Pumpkin,” Xander answered. “My friend, the one who planted this pumpkin patch, is definitely one of the most sincere people I've ever known. And I've seen a lot of stuff that five minutes previously, I would have told you couldn't possibly exist. It's definitely a lesson to remember.”
“This is really good hot chocolate.”
“Yeah, Mary Poppins' own recipe.”
The boy made a very impressed face.
There was a sound from behind them, a roaring whoosh like winds through cornfield or a wave crashing onto a pebbled beach. Xander glanced over his shoulder, saw an enormous looming shape, and threw himself over the boy.
He never got a clear look at it. Definitely orange, extremely
large, but he couldn't make out traditional facial features, limbs, or what words it might have been calling. There was a sudden wash of fragrant nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger. A pelting of small objects rained down on them. Then, it was gone.
“HE CAME!” the little boy screamed in joy. “HE CAME! LOOK!”
Xander scanned the ground around him and saw that the small objects which had fallen were an assortment of action figures, tiny stuffed animals, boxes of crayons, finger puzzles, sticker books, and all manner of toys and goodies that would otherwise fit in a stocking.
“I don't believe it,” Xander murmured, turning over so the little boy could get to his feet and run around the patch with rapturous joy. His blue blanket stretched out behind him like an unfurled banner.
“HE CAME! WE HAVE THE MOST SINCERE PATCH IN THE WHOLE WORLD!”
“Well, that's a new one for the books,” Xander said to himself. “Come on, kid. I'll help you pack up the toys, and then you need to head home."