“Trick or treat!” Sarah Gardener called, knocking on the door in front of her. Behind her, her older sister, Deborah, hung back at her father’s side.
“Go on, Deb,” David encouraged. “Go get some candy.”
“Daddy, that’s kid stuff,” the fourteen-year-old told him.
“Kid stuff!” Colin blurted, in fake shock. “Do I look like a kid to you?”
Deborah Gardener turned to him and giggled. “You look silly, Uncle Colin.”
Behind her Joshua snickered, but Colin squatted down beside her. He was dressed in a Kelly-green jacket with long tails. A bow tie and high-top hat of the same color completed his costume. In his hand was a trick or treat container in the shape of a pumpkin. “Hey,” he said, taking the Deborah’s hand. “I’m going after some candy! Don’t you like candy?”
“I love candy,” Deborah said, still giggling. “But trick or treat is for kids isn’t it?”
Colin drew himself to his full height. “Deb, am I a kid?” He held out his hand. “C’mon. Keep me company. Let’s see if we can get more candy than Uncle Josh.” He bent to her and whispered: “He thinks his crappy costume is better than mine! Let’s show him!”
Sarah turned from the door, her trick or treat bag in her hand, and pointed at him, giggling. “You said a swear, Uncle Colin!”
“Shhhhh!” Colin said, waving his hands. “Don’t tell! Your dad will yell at me!” He took Deborah’s hand and they moved toward the door. “Josh, c’mon!” he yelled over his shoulder.
Laughing, David turned to Joshua. “Well get up there! The integrity of your costume has been called into question.”
Joshua sighed heavily and looked down at himself. He was dressed as Superman, complete with red cape and tights. “WHAT integrity!” he asked David. “He stuck me into this ridiculous costume so he could laugh at me, and he hasn’t stopped laughing since I put the damned thing on!”
Nate snickered and offered Joshua a bite of chocolate. “Have some chocolate. You’ll feel better.”
Joshua ate the chocolate then grimaced at Nate. “I do NOT feel better.” He heaved a huge sigh and moaned: “WHY did I let him talk me into this?”
“Because you love him?” Nate suggested. “And because he can talk you into anything!”
“Not anything!” Joshua protested.
“Probably not your most effective argument while you’re standing on a public sidewalk dressed in red and blue spandex,” Nate said, choking with laughter.
Meanwhile Colin and Deborah had knocked at the door. “Trick or Treat! Leprechaun come callin’!” Colin called in a faked Irish brogue which caused Deborah to giggle uncontrollably. “Open the door if you want to have good luck!” The door opened and Colin bowed low from the waist. “Greetings, Madam,” he said using the same exaggerated Irish accent, then leaned toward the smiling and very attractive young lady. “This young lass and I have come in search of candy! Have you any to spare?” He grinned his engaging grin and held out his pumpkin. Deborah continued to giggle but when Colin nudged her, she extended her trick or treat bag as well.
The woman laughed and dumped a large handful of miniature chocolate bars into each of their containers before arching an eyebrow at Colin. “I’ve never seen a Leprechaun trick or treating before,” she said, her tone clearly flirtatious.
Behind them Joshua rolled his eyes. “Oh, here we go!” While David and Nate doubled over with laughter.
Colin took the woman’s hand and kissed it. “Aye, me dear. I am a Leprechaun. Lost me pot of gold and come searching for candy with the help of this fine Irish lass. We thank you for helping us on our quest.”
“Where’s my good luck?” She asked with a coy smile.
“I’ll bring it back for ye’ later,” he murmured, then waggled an eyebrow and bowed low again, before taking Deborah’s hand and leading her back to where the rest waited.
“No fair, Daddy,” Sarah pouted, examining Deborah’s recent haul. “Debbie got more chocolate bars than I did.”
“I suspect it’s the company she keeps,” Joshua muttered, then elbowed Colin. “Knock off the damned flirting!”
Colin shook with laughter and kissed his cheek before quickly dumping most of his chocolate bars into Sarah’s container. “There you go, Lassie,” he said, bending to kiss the top of her head.
Sarah giggled. “You’re funny Uncle Colin.”
Colin handed his pumpkin to Joshua, then took each of the girls by the hand and began skipping down the sidewalk, singing as they went.
La ta tee, da diddley dee, la ta tee ta tee da
La ta tee, da diddley diddley dai
La ta tee, da diddley dee, la ta tee ta tee da
La ta tee, da diddley diddley dai
There’s a leprechaun in my room.
He swats me with a broom.
That’s the reason I forget the words of this song.
Oh, he shows me a four-leaf clover,
and before me song is over,
He’s buried it in a bowl of Lucky Charms.
The other three men strolled behind them, shaking their heads and laughing. “I never thought I’d see the day he’d actually admit to being a Leprechaun,” Joshua chuckled. “He hates them!”
“He’s doing it for the girls,” David said, nodding toward Colin who was teaching the girls the lyrics to his Leprechaun song. “He’s great with them.”
“Why wouldn’t he be?” Joshua laughed. “He’s a kid himself!” He gazed ahead at his husband. “He has the ability to blow off inhibitions and throw himself into the moment with all the innocence and joy of a child.” He smiled and shook his head in wonder. “God, I love that about him.”
A few steps ahead of them, Colin crouched before David’s daughters. “Now when we go to this next house, what are we gonna’ do?”
“Sing: La ta tee, da diddley diddley dai!” they both crowed.
“Perfect!” Colin said, then took their hands and walked with them to the door.
“C’mon, Uncle Josh!” Sarah called, waving him forward. “Bring your pumpkin!”
Nate snickered and gave Joshua a gentle shove. “Yer’ on, Caped Crusader!”
“Oh, good lord above,” Joshua moaned, moving toward Colin and the girls with a slow, plodding step while behind him David and Nate grinned at his discomfort.
“C’mon, babe!” Colin encouraged. He reached to grab Joshua’s arm and pulled him close. “Now when the door opens… you know what to sing don’t you?” Colin asked, his green eyes sparkling with suppressed laughter.
Joshua glanced at him through narrowed lids and a furrowed brow. “Do not make me do this.”
Colin’s hand fell onto his shoulder and he doubled over with laughter. He tried to respond but was laughing so hard that he couldn’t form words.
Joshua rolled his eyes and sighed and just as he did… the door opened.
“La ta tee, da diddley diddley dai!” Deborah, Sarah, and Colin sang. Then Colin did a dance step that could only have been an Irish jig and gestured toward Sarah and Deborah with a flourish.
Joshua couldn’t help but laugh as the girls did their best to imitate Colin’s jig, then held out their trick or treat bags to receive their candy.
“Doesn’t Superman want some candy?” the woman at the door asked.
“Sure he does!” Colin said, reaching back to grab Joshua’s arm. “He’s just shy,” he whispered to the woman as he dragged Joshua forward. “We found him hiding in a phone booth and convinced him to come along with us.” He nudged Joshua’s arm and nodded toward the woman who was holding out a handful of candy and laughing at Colin’s antics.
Joshua accepted the candy then bowed. “Thank you, ma’am.”
“Strange company you’re keeping,” she said with a grin.
“Ma’am you have NO idea,” Joshua muttered, then turned back to Colin and the girls. “Can’t I please just stay hang back with Nate and David?”
“You don’t want to trick or treat with me?” Colin asked, his hand on Joshua’s arm.
Something in his tone caught Joshua’s attention. This whole evening had been a lark. A frolic to entertain David’s two daughters and give Colin a chance to do what he did best… enjoy himself. But his question to Joshua held a surprising note of appeal.
I hurt his feeling. Joshua thought. I have to fix this.
The girls were tugging on Colin’s arms, but he stood, unmoving, staring into Joshua’s eyes, his hand still grasping Joshua’s spandex covered arm. For the first time that evening, his eyes were shadowed. Joshua smiled and reached to caress his cheek. “Of course, I want to go trick or treating with you,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss a chance to share Halloween with my very favorite Leprechaun, would I?”
Colin smiled. “Come on then,” he said, taking Joshua’s hand in his. “OK, girls,” he told him pointing to the next house, “I’ll bring Uncle Josh, you two just remember to sing our song when they come to the door.”
The girls scampered ahead and as soon as the door opened, sang Colin’s song and gave a fairly good impression of his Irish jig. Laughing, the man at the door filled their bags then glanced back at Colin and Joshua who were standing behind the girls, hand in hand. “Superman with a Leprechaun?” he asked, holding a handful of candy out to them.
“Well, sir,” Joshua said, stepping forward. “This Leprechaun here was encouraging these young ladies to play pranks on the other children, which as you know is not in keeping with truth, justice and the Halloween way.” He accepted the candy and tilted his head toward Colin. “So, I’m forced to follow him around tonight… to make sure he behaves himself.”
“Little does he know,” Colin said from behind him, waving his pumpkin, “that I hid a handful of kryptonite in his pumpkin!”
“Oh no!” Joshua cried, holding his pumpkin at arm’s length while the man laughed. “Not kryptonite!”
Colin waved his pumpkin and gave an evil, wicked laugh. “Beware Superman! You WILL be at my mercy!”
“We’ll protect you, Uncle Josh,” Sarah said, then shook her finger at Colin. “No fair using kryptonite!”
“Awwwww,” Colin complained. “You guys are no fun. I wanted to sap Superman’s strength.”
“One more house, girls,” David called, waving them forward.
Joshua sidled up to Colin and nudged his arm. “I’ll be at your mercy, huh?”
Colin waggled his eyebrows and snickered. “Completely at my mercy.”
“You don’t need kryptonite for that,” Joshua said, poking Colin’s ribs and leaning against him.
“Now, now,” David admonished, chuckling. “None of that in front of the girls.”
Nate had trailed David’s daughters to the final house and was making a valiant attempt to sing Colin’s song and do his Irish jig.
Colin laughed. “Well done, Nate!” He nudged David’s arm. “Has your husband got a touch of Irish blood?”
David shook his head, smiling. “What my husband has is a burning desire to be loved by his step-daughters.”
“Doesn’t look to me like he has any problems in that area,” Colin replied, watching as Sarah and Deborah both laughed and hugged Nate, praising his singing.
“He’s a great step-dad to them,” David said, watching as Nate ushered the girls back to where everyone waited.
“Is that all?” Colin said, a note of sadness in his voice. “We’re all done?”
“Colin, we probably went to thirty houses,” David said. “They have enough candy to keep them wired for a week.”
“Besides,” Nate added, “we have to check it before they can eat any of it.”
“Check it?” Joshua asked.
“Good idea,” Colin said. He dumped most of the candy in his pumpkin and Joshua’s into Deborah and Sarah’s candy bags. “Make sure it hasn’t been tampered with.”
The four men and the girls wandered through the neighborhood and back to David’s home where Nate took the girls to the kitchen table to go through their candy. “How much can they have tonight, David?” he called.
“Just a couple of candy bars,” David said from where he reclined on the living room couch. “Then off to bed.”
Colin went to the kitchen to hug the girls and say goodnight while Joshua donned his jacket and fished his car keys from the pocket. “Thanks for asking us, David. He had a great time.”
“And you?” David asked, rising to them to the door.
“I never went trick or treating as a kid,” Joshua said, looking past David to where Colin stood, joking and teasing Nate and the two girls, threatening to steal choice candy bars. “I don’t know how to unwind and enjoy the moment the way he does.”
“Never went trick or treating?” David asked, frowning.
“The old man wouldn’t let us.”
David shook his head as Colin moved to Joshua’s side and patted David’s shoulder. “Thanks, buddy! I had a blast.”
“La ta tee, da diddley diddley dai!” Joshua sang, then grinned at Colin. “So did I. Thanks for asking us, Davy.”
Colin took Joshua’s hand as they walked to the car. “You learned my song!”
Joshua grinned at him. “Well it’s not like I’d never heard it before. I get it from the shower nearly every morning.”
“I know you were embarrassed in that Superman getup,” Colin said as they climbed into Joshua’s car. “Was I mean to insist?”
“No,” Joshua told him. “It was good for me. The whole evening was good for me.”
When they arrived at home Colin threw his Kelly-green hat to a chair before yanking off the bow tie and removing the Leprechaun coat. “OK,” he said, dusting his hands together. “My time as a Leprechaun is officially over.”
“’Til next Halloween,” Joshua added.
“Yeah. ‘Til next Halloween, when I’ll don it again.”
“I thought we were going to do ‘Slave boy and Master’ next Halloween,” Joshua said with a grin.
“In front of David’s daughters?” Colin asked in fake horror. He walked to where Joshua stood and rested both wrists on Joshua’s shoulders. “Look, I’m sorry if I embarrassed you tonight.”
“You did not embarrass me,” Joshua said. He slid his hands up Colin’s chest then cupped Colin’s face between his palms. “Listen to me,” he said, his voice intense with feeling. “I would give anything to be like you. To be able to throw myself into the fun of the moment without worrying about how I look or what people think of me or any of that neurotic bullshit.”
“You’re not neurotic.”
“It’s hard for me to be that way, Colin,” Joshua continued. “And I’m always…,” he hesitated and glanced at Colin somewhat sheepishly. “I’m always afraid I’ll look stupid in front of you.”
Colin grimaced. “Come on!” he said dismissively.
“I mean it. I’m not able to just be spontaneous like you are. And I’m afraid if I force it, I’ll just look idiotic and embarrass you.”
“Embarrass me?” Colin said, wide-eyed. “I was the one doing a jig while dressed as a Leprechaun singing ‘La ta tee, da diddley diddley dae’ remember?” He cocked an eyebrow. “I’m not exactly fertile ground for embarrassment.” He slid his arms around Joshua’s waist. “Besides, you did get into it, Superman, and you were wonderful!”
“I was also scared to death,” Joshua admitted, resting his forehead on Colin’s shoulder.
“Scared of having fun on Halloween?” Colin asked.
Joshua’s eyes dropped, and Colin drew in a quick breath. “It was your dad wasn’t it,” he said, cupping Joshua’s chin in his hand, lifting his face until their eyes met. “He made you feel bad about having fun.”
“We got in trouble if we laughed too much or got too… rambunctious,” Joshua told him.
“You never really got to be a child, did you?” Colin asked, his voice gentle.
“Not really, no,” Joshua replied. “So, I feel really awkward when I’m in situations like tonight. I don’t know how to act. I don’t know how to be spontaneous. I’m inhibited all the damned time!”
“Except in bed,” Colin teased, nudging Joshua’s arm.
Joshua laughed softly. “Being with you helps with that, believe me.”
Colin stood beside him in silence, staring past him as if thinking. After a long moment he once again, met Joshua’s eyes. “Will you do something for me?”
“Anything. You know that.”
“Will you play with me?”
“Play with me. Go to the park and just… play! We can play catch or – or swing on the swings! I love doing that!” He wrapped both arms around Joshua’s neck and drew him close. “We’re going to hop on the merry-go-round and spin until you’re dizzy! We’re going to go up and down on the teeter-totter! We’re going to play!” He captured Joshua’s face between his palms and kissed him. “Will you? Will you, Josh?”
“Colin,” Joshua said, his voice choked. “God, you’re so good to me.”
“I just want you to trust that when you’re with me, it’s not only OK to be yourself… it’s actually encouraged!”
They climbed the steps to their bedroom, Colin’s arm tight around Joshua’s shoulders. “I’m going to teach you how to be a kid,” Colin told him. “You might even end up being an obnoxious kid.”
Joshua laughed and leaned against him. “You think so?”
“Anything’s possible,” Colin said as they stepped into their bedroom. “I know this much. By next Halloween you’re not going to be afraid to have fun with me.”
Joshua smiled at him. “You nailed it. It’s all about being afraid.” He sighed and began to undress, piling his clothes on a nearby chair.
Colin watched him, slowly pulling his own clothes off as he did. He turned to deposit several items on the bedside table, then turned back to Joshua. “Well, I’m no shrink. But I do know this…,” he said, walking to Joshua and wrapping him in his arms. “There’s not one damn thing wrong with letting your hair down now and then and just having fun. There’s not one damn thing wrong with just being silly now and then.”
“Certainly, you have no problem with it,” Joshua chuckled, then kissed him tenderly. “And I envy you for that.”
Colin drew him to the bed and they both lay down. “Trust me, Joshua,” Colin said, holding him close in his arms. “I’m going to teach you how to play. But more than that… I’m going to teach you how to enjoy it.” He reached to one side and grabbed a small item. “And we’re gonna start with this.” He reached around Joshua to awkwardly pull the wrapper off several small chocolate bars then held one between his teeth and leaned toward Joshua, who burst into laughter.
Colin waggled his eyebrows, the candy held tight between his lips and Joshua laughed again before kissing him, taking his share of the chocolate at the same time.
They both giggled and Colin held a chocolate to Joshua’s mouth. “Your turn,” he said, grinning.
Joshua laughed and took the candy between his lips, waiting until Colin bent to kiss him as they shared the chocolate.
They both laughed, licking the leftover chocolate from each other’s lips. “Now see?” Colin said. “That’s how to be a kid!”
“Happy Halloween, sweetie,” Joshua whispered, his fingers tangled in Colin’s hair. “I love you so much.”
“Same to ya,” Colin said with a grin. “Now pass me another chocolate bar ‘cause I’m just getting started.”