Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween fluff with Duke & Viola

Happy Halloween, y'all.
I have my devil horns headband, the tail that attaches to the back of my jeans, my black cat socks, and a big bowl full of Snickers. Tubular Bells and the theme from Psycho have been playing on my computer speakers all day. It's like Christmas round one. My co-workers don't necessarily share my enthusiasm (though they don't mind the candy or the pumpkin cupcakes).

Here's a little Duke and Viola backstory to celebrate the Wfsals' favorite holiday.

October 2001

The Ashwood house wasn't on his way home, but Duke veered off course just to check. He'd been stuck helping Sebastian and Viola clean up after the two little McClary bastards down the street had papered and shaving-creamed the entire house. If a five-minute detour meant he didn't have to waste an entire morning picking up soggy toilet paper, then he didn't mind in the least.

Of all the things he expected to see when he drove by the red, two storey house, the blazing porch light wasn't one of them. Sebastian had been bragging about his invitation to some fancy Halloween party for weeks. Olivia lived on the Rice campus and rarely returned to the house during the week. The littlest Ashwood hadn't said much about her plans, but he'd assumed she had a rave or party or séance penciled in her date book.

He parked his truck in the driveway, grabbed his leather jacket to fight off the early fall Canadian cold front, and jogged to the front door. A grinning skeleton pointed a bony finger at the doorbell. He rolled his eyes at Viola's obvious handiwork and rang the bell. A tone that reminded him of the Addams Family echoed from inside the house. He heard the slap of bare feet on a tile floor seconds before the door opened.

"Happy Hallo-- oh, it's you." The orange melamine bowl of Snickers and M&Ms was replaced by a cotton-candy pink frown and pale, wrinkled nose. Silver-lined hazel eyes studied him critically. "Nice costume. Almost didn't recognize you. Tracker was a good choice. I especially like the authentic Mokiis stench."

"What are you doing home, Shortcake? Would have thought you'd be out somewhere with the rest of your kind. Isn't this your national holiday or something?"

Pearly white fangs peeked out from under Viola's lips. "Bite me."

Duke took a step back to take in her short, pink skirt, matching t-shirt and the tiny pink flowers clipped in her short, dark hair. The light, pink-themed makeup and long, pink fingernails were something he expected to see on Olivia and not the normally Goth-centric Viola. "Vampire cheerleader?"

"Bunny the Brainless Vampire," she corrected with a fangy grin. She pulled the door all the way open and jerked her head inside in a wordless invitation. "You're scaring away all the trick-or-treaters."

"Seriously, what are you doing home?" Duke's eyes fell to her feet. Neither of her ankles looked swollen and the scratches that had covered her a week ago seemed to have faded. "Still sore after the Graca attack? Bas didn't say anything about you hurting."

Viola waved a hand dismissively. She let the door swing shut and led the way into the living room. "I'm fine. Spent four days in the training room and three days getting my ass chewed by Coach, but I'm fine. Bas grounded me, that' s all."

Duke arched an eyebrow. She'd never let a little thing like being grounded stop her from going out when she wanted. She was sneaky as a cat-burglar. He couldn't count the number of times he'd caught her slipping in or out of the house past her curfew.

Her grin broadened. "It suits my needs to be at home tonight."

"I don't even want to know." He sniffed the air as the mouthwatering aroma of freshly baked cookies wafted from the kitchen. His stomach grumbled. "Are those Granny's snickerdoodles?"

"Yup," she said, popping the p and bouncing on her toes. "She dropped 'em off this afternoon."

"What was she doing here?"

"A favor for me." The smug twinkle in her eyes made it more than clear she wasn't going to expand on the type of favor or the details of his grandmother's visit.

Two minutes later, Duke was in the Ashwood breakfast nook seated across from Viola with a plate of his grandmother's warm, buttery cookies between them and an ice cold glass of milk by his elbow. Every time the doorbell rang, she popped up like a sparkly, demented jack-in-the-box and he stole another cookie.

"So what are you in for this time?" he asked when she returned from yet another doorbell run. He brushed stray crumbs off his lip and nudged the half-empty plate towards her.

"Nothing, yet. Do you know how utterly unfair it is to have a psychic as your guardian?"

Duke chuckled. He did, in fact, know what she meant. His future-seeing grandmother had often punished him for transgressions he hadn't committed. "What'd the wonder weenie see?"

"A's girlfriend is going to dump him in the quad next week. She's been seeing Frankie behind A's back. For weeks. Apparently, I'm going to kick Miranda's ass in the parking lot after track practice."

"Sounds like something you'd do, Via-mia." If this Miranda really was cheating on the nice but freaky dude with the Mohawk, Duke felt sorry for her. He'd watched a nine-year-old Viola verbally emasculate a boy who'd slighted her sister. The girl who’d broken up with Sebastian in college had wound up with slashed tires and a car filled with creepy clown statues.

"Yeah. 'Cept now Miss Miranda and I are going to have a long talk after school tomorrow. I'm not going to wait for her to humiliate A in front of the entire senior class."

"Grounding you didn't do much good, did it?"

"Nope. But double jeopardy means I can't get grounded twice for the same ass kicking. Captain Justice can’t argue against that, can he?"

They shared a laugh. Had Duke been in Sebastian's shoes, he would have kept the details of the vision to himself and punished Viola after she got in trouble. Sebastian still didn't understand how his baby sister's devious mind worked. He kept trying to treat her like she was a carbon copy of himself or Olivia.

Just as they were set to battle over the last cookie, the sound of a bell chiming came from the vicinity of Viola's waist. Small fingers wriggled under the waistband of her skirt and retrieved a small, rectangular box. She shushed Duke with a glare and waited for the bell to chime a second time.

With a manic, gleeful grin, she pressed the button with her thumb. Twin howls filled the air. Duke dashed to the front window. Viola followed at a more sedate pace. Two soaked sheet-clad figures raced off the Ashwood lawn in the direction of the McClary house. Clumps of sodden toilet paper trailed behind them like breadcrumbs.

"Granny warded the yard and I grabbed the remote for the sprinklers." She bumped his hip with hers and dangled the remote under his nose. "Told you I had a good reason for staying home. Wanna make fun of that Ghost Gabbers Halloween special?"

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