Writing shorts off finished books is kind of… an odd feeling. I like doing it for the Escaping Indigo series characters because, since they continuously appear in the next books in the series, it always feels like there might be a little bit more of their story to tell, even though their individual stories are complete within their books. With Half it’s a little different—Kin and Luca’s story is finished, and I’ve never had any plans to pick it back up or add to it. But I miss these characters. I miss being in Luca’s mind, I miss writing Kin. And when I thought about writing a short for Halloween—my favorite time of year—I realized that, if I was going to write about characters from a book, Luca and Kin were the perfect fit. So… *gestures grandly* I hope you enjoy it as much as I liked writing it. ❤ Happy Halloween.
(Practical notes: This should be mostly non-spoilery and non-confusing if you haven’t read Half yet—it’s just cuddling and thoughts about pumpkins and Halloween. Trigger warning for the brief mention of the death of a parent.)
I crossed the room, shutting off the lamp, stepping carefully in the dark. There was moonlight coming in through the window, reflecting off the tiny array of frost along the glass, glistening on the ice’s crystal pattern. I shivered, even though it wasn’t actually cold in the bedroom, and crawled under the covers. Kin held them aside for me, then tucked them around me when I curled up against him.
“What do you usually do for Halloween?” he asked, continuing a conversation we’d started and abandoned more than an hour ago.
I leaned back against him, snuggling in more against his chest. I liked this quiet time we had in the dark, the moments right before we drifted off to sleep. It had always felt, to me, like a space that was mine and Kin’s, where nothing could intrude or break the magic of us just… being together.
“Usually I go check all the glamour around my father’s house,” I answered.
He laughed, and I could feel the movement of it under my shoulder. “Seriously?”
“Uh-huh. The, uh…” I didn’t have a good word for what happened around Halloween. “The space between worlds gets thinner and the glamour gets weaker. But mostly I do it because, when the glamour’s weak, sometimes it gets… tested. People like to poke the thin spots and see what happens.” Not ghosts—just your run of the mill pixies and spriggans and anyone who thought it might be fun to see what they could get away with.
He wrapped his arm more tightly around me. “Those are the most boring Halloween plans ever.”
I smiled in his skin. My lips brushed one of his scales, a deep blue one like a chip of ice, right near his shoulder. “What do you do for it, then?”
“I carve a pumpkin.” There was absolutely no embarrassment in his voice over admitting that. Only a slightly smug satisfaction.
“You do?” I had to raise myself up on an elbow to stare down at him, but I wasn’t sure why I was surprised. It was a Kin sort of thing to do.
He nodded. “Yeah. My mom always thought it was fun. She liked celebrating. And that’s how we did it.”
“Where do you get your pumpkins?” I hadn’t been in a grocery store in a good six months—I went for necessities, sometimes, but mostly, Saben or my father or the flock of brownies who’d taken me in delivered those things for me. I could imagine Kin in a store, though, bouncing through the aisles, buying a whole cart of whatever looked interesting to him.
“Grocery, sometimes,” he said, confirming my thoughts. “My mother used to grow them, but… not anymore. Not for a while.”
I lay my head back down and went quiet. Kin liked to talk about his mothers, and I liked to listen. But every now and then he got snagged on a memory that hurt, something that hadn’t had enough time to heal. Something that probably never would. Like the fact that Midori didn’t grow pumpkins anymore, because they reminded her too much of Catherine.
“I know a pumpkin patch,” I said quietly, instead of telling him I was sorry. I let myself cling to him a little closer, though.
“Yes. Do you want to go? We could bring Saben, too.”
He was quiet for a long minute, and I wondered whether suggesting that had been the wrong thing to do. But, “I’d like that,” he said at last, and I nodded, and we were quiet until we fell asleep together.
I asked Riyad if he wanted to come out and pick pumpkins with us, but he shook his head and shooed us out the back door. He told me he’d wait for Saben to arrive, and send her our way when she did.
The patch was a ways from the house, and I realized why Riyad had told Kin to take a wheelbarrow. I wouldn’t have wanted to lug three or four good sized pumpkins back afterwards. We walked through the big front field, over plant stems brown after the first frost, leaves crunchy underfoot. The ground sloped ahead of us, so I could see the woods directly in front, and then more hills and valleys, covered in fields, puddled out before us as far as the eye could see. When we got to the section growing pumpkins, I looked back, and could just make out Riyad’s house, small and low, and cozy looking even from a distance. A thin trail of blue smoke rose from the chimney.
“Which ones should we take?”
I pulled my attention back to Kin, standing there, hair tied back, sleeves rolled up, pair of clippers in hand, in the middle of the patch. There were pumpkins scattered around his feet—Riyad had said there weren’t too many left, and there weren’t. He’d already picked the small ones, to cook with. But there were a few that he’d left to grow, and we had a selection.
I glanced around at the pumpkins, wandering back and forth and inspecting some that looked about the right size and shape for carving. It had been an awfully long time—I couldn’t remember what the very best characteristics were. I found myself picking ones that had personality—nothing perfectly round, nothing without blemishes. The pumpkins were cool to the touch, their skins smooth and waxy, the orange color bright against the hard dirt and dusty green vines. I liked the way they looked out here, doing their own thing, growing and soaking up the chill of autumn. I almost couldn’t picture what they’d look like inside.
I set my hand on one I thought might be nice and stared up at Kin. He’d dropped his glamour—he always did when we were at Riyad’s—and the dark tan of his skin was all set off with sparks of color. The scales on his hands matched the pumpkin patch—deep browns and emerald greens. It was like he belonged out here, with the plants. Like he could have grown right alongside the pumpkins. He was so lovely and wild and fey that it almost hurt to look at him.
“Maybe these ones,” I said, dropping my gaze and pointing out a few. “You should pick which one you like best, though.”
I stared down at the pumpkin in front of me, listening to the rustle of Kin’s clothing as he moved, cutting through the vines with the clippers. I kept running my hand over the pumpkin’s gentle ridges, the rough spot where the stem started at the top. The sun was just starting to set, and it washed everything in gold, gave the air a hazy quality. Made it shimmer like a glamour that’s been touched, a ripple of magic. Except this wasn’t any magic but the season, and the pumpkin patch, and the warmth of Kin when he knelt down beside me.
“Doesn’t this feel more like Halloween, to you?” he asked. When I turned, he was so close beside me that I could have kissed him, so I did. Just a brush of lips, my hand coming up to run through the thick black fall of his hair, getting tangled in the hair tie.
He smiled at me, and I smiled back. I didn’t know what Halloween was supposed to feel like. It had always been one more holiday that displayed, so perfectly, how I never fit anywhere. I couldn’t treat it like a bit of fun, like the human kids I’d known had. And I couldn’t see it the way my father and Saben did, as something wholly serious, a time for tasks. I was always caught in the middle. I hadn’t ever known how to celebrate, because nothing about it had ever sat comfortably with me.
But Kin made things comfortable. He took me into a pumpkin patch where I could breathe in the cool air, feel the chill of the season, smell the earthy, rich scent of the pumpkins. Where I could see the change of seasons with my own eyes. Where I could imagine I felt the magic of Halloween all around us, the narrowing of that dark space between life and whatever came after. It wasn’t scary, that feeling—especially not out here, with Riyad’s house in sight, and this place more familiar to me, almost, than my own home. Not with Kin right by my side. It was just… nature. Just magic, in its simplest form.
Later, we’d take the pumpkins back up to Riyad’s and use his kitchen knives for the completely wrong purpose of carving faces and designs into the tough skins, and maybe Kin and I would take one back to my house and put it on my front steps, and leave the porch light on for any trick-or-treaters who came by. And maybe all of that would bring back good memories of Halloween for Kin. I wanted to do that for him.
And I wouldn’t be able to feel like I didn’t fit. I wouldn’t feel like I was celebrating wrong, or like none of this was for me, because Kin wanted it to be for me, and he wouldn’t ever let me feel left out. Because for Kin, I was a part of everything he did. I was a puzzle piece that fit snugly into his life. And that was, for me, the most incredible magic.
“Yes. It does feel more like Halloween.” I leaned into him and we kissed again, a little longer this time. So I could taste the fall air on his lips. So I could feel his hands when they came up and framed my face. Then he pulled away and laughed, and pressed a kiss into my copper colored hair.
“You match the pumpkins.”
I laughed back and ran a finger over his scales. “I was just thinking that about you.”
He grinned at me, and then we had to pull away and stand up, because Saben was coming down through the fields towards us, and there were pumpkins to pick and load into the wheelbarrow, and the whole night ahead of us for whatever we wanted.