“You mean they just give you candy?” Ollie asked. His big, blue eyes were full of awe as he looked up at Sam. The extent of his trust always brought Sam to his knees. He couldn’t imagine loving anyone more than he loved Vaughn and his kids.
“Yep,” Sam said as he helped him get ready. He finished tying the tiny shoe and patted the side of Ollie’s foot. “All you have to do is say ‘trick or treat’.”
“Twick or tweat,” he tried.
Sam’s heart broke a little bit. Ollie didn’t baby talk when he first arrived, soaking wet and determined to find a safe place for his brothers and sisters, but with constant reassurance and a lot of cuddling, he’d started turning some of his ‘r’s into ‘w’s. The counselor they’d finally found for the kids explained that the regression was normal. “Perfect. Now, what do you say when they give you some?”
Ollie tilted his head to one side as he thought about his answer.
“Come on, buddy. It’s not that hard. You know what to say when someone gives you something.”
“Thank you,” he cried out, a huge smile lighting up his face. He kicked his feet together to make the soles light up.
“That’s right, little man. Now go get your bag.”
Ollie hopped up and gave Sam a hug before running off through the house shouting trick or treat over and over. His Buzz Lightyear wings clipped Vaughn on his way past, and the alpha scooped him up to settle him on his hip before he could inflict any further damage to the house. They’d already lost a vase of flowers because of the costume’s wingspan. Vaughn’s costume, on the other hand, was causing another kind of issue, one Sam couldn’t do anything about for several more hours. Sam took a moment to admire the way the green fatigues fit across Vaughn’s ass and the tight T-shirt defined the width of his shoulders.
“Hey there, spaceman. You gotta be careful with those things,” Vaughn said.
“Sorry, Alpha.” Ollie still reverted to formal responses with Vaughn when he was in trouble. It would be heart-crushingly cute if you could forget about his past and the ever-present fear that Vaughn would abandon them. All of the kids were growing more confident by the day, but it didn’t make it easier to help them through the rough patches.
“It’s okay, bud. We’re all excited for tonight. Now go finish getting ready, but be careful, okay?”
“Okay, Daddy,” he said before leaning in to smack a noisy kiss to Vaughn’s face. Once he was back on his feet, he was off again. Vaughn shook his head and let Sam pull him into a hug.
“Will my heart ever not skip a beat when I hear that word?” Vaughn whispered into Sam’s neck.
“Doubtful,” Sam replied.
There had apparently been a mini pack meeting where the kids had grilled their grandparents on whether or not Sam and Vaughn would allow them to have the names Daddy and Papa. The debate had been fierce apparently, but only because Nana Jean had given them a list of potential names to choose from and the kids all had different ideas on which ones to pick. Apparently, Grandpa William had put his foot down to stop the arguing and they’d settled the debate like “grownups” by flipping coins. The pack meeting that followed, where the kids shared the news with Sam and Vaughn? Well, Sam couldn’t say who’d started crying first, but it wasn’t him. He stared at his mate fondly as he remembered the expression on Vaughn’s face the first time Ollie had called him Daddy. He’d never loved his big-hearted alpha more.
“So, I hope you plan to have the whole pack here when we get back tonight. We might need the entire hellhound pack, too,” Sam said.
“Do you expect there to be trouble?” Vaughn’s eyes glowed blue in alarm. He relaxed when Sam chuckled.
“No, but I don’t think we can handle a six-year-old werewolf hopped up on candy by ourselves. That one will take a village tonight.”
“No doubt. But to answer your question, yes, we will have the entire village here tonight. No one wants to miss this. Even Meshaq.” Vaughn pulled Sam’s hips tight and leaned forward to whisper in his ear. Sam’s arm broke out in goosebumps when Vaughn’s beard scraped his neck. “Maybe we can retire to our quarters and engage in some PT later?”
“PT? I’m not sure that means what you think it means.”
“It means let’s get physical, Mr. Baker,” Vaughn said as he ground his hips into Sam’s.
“Simmer down there, Alpha Jerrick.”
Vaughn growled and tried to pull Sam even closer when he used his title but Sam merely wiggled his eyebrows as he gave his mate a much needed reminder.
“We still have to put on the green face paint before we get this party going. Besides,” he started when Natasha came walking through the living room, already calling out for him. “That.”
“Papa, have you seen my vest?” she asked. She was already wearing her new boots and cow-print pants for her Jessie costume, but they ‘didn’t have enough style’, according to her. She decided she needed a jeweled vest to match her red cowboy hat, and Sam couldn’t say she was wrong. She looked adorable.
“Last time I saw it, you were wearing it. Where’d you take it off?”
“Um, I’m not sure?”
“Start with the bathroom. It can’t be that hard to find. It’s covered in rhinestones.” Sam shook his head.
“We could just shine the flashlight around until we see the sparkles,” Henry suggested.
“Alpha, why don’t you help her go check her room again? Maybe it fell down next to the bed. And check on Emily while you’re up there, please. See if she needs help with her costume.”
Vaughn dropped his forehead to Sam’s shoulder and sighed. “To be continued.”
“Story of our lives,” Sam mumbled.
“Come on, cowgirl, let’s mosey on up and check out the bunkhouse,” Vaughn said, taking her hand and leading her up the stairs.
Sam turned to look at Henry. “Shine a flashlight?” Sam asked while he adjusted the army helmet on his head. He still couldn’t believe Henry’d convinced them to be army men. Half the pack would be decked out in the green costumes per Henry’s request.
“Well, that would be an easy way to find it, Papa.”
“That’s one way to go about it,” Sam said with a chuckle. “So, are you nervous about tonight?” They still didn’t go out too often, but he’d be surrounded by pack, along with at least three hellhounds. When Teague heard Meshaq was joining their group, he volunteered to come along with Calliope.
“A little? But the pack will be there, so we’ll be okay. And Zaire said she’d be there too.”
That was one of the only reasons Sam agreed to allow trick or treating. He was still learning about the whole supernatural world, and the powers that marked Henry as special. And as a target. That terrified Sam, to think there were people out there hunting his eleven-year-old son. When you added the prophecy…it was just too much weight to rest on his shoulders. Sam would just as soon hide him away from it all, but they were all excited for tonight.
“We’ll be okay,” Henry said, seeing through Sam’s mood.
“Yeah.” Henry smiled and nodded with a finality that Sam couldn’t argue.
“Well, all right then. Let’s get your face painted so you’re good to go.” He put an arm around Henry’s shoulders and led him into the master bathroom. Sam had given the room a quick cleanup earlier to make sure they’d put the lube away after their shower that morning. They really didn’t want another embarrassing conversation as to why the lube didn’t work as either shampoo or body wash. Sam had turned fire engine red but Vaughn had calmly explained that it was for grownups. Jack had accepted the explanation, but Sam made it a point to always put the bottles away from little eyes. He sat Henry down on the chair he’d brought in for the kids to sit on while he helped them finish getting ready. “You know what to do out there?”
“Say ‘trick or treat’ and ‘thank you’ when they put candy in our bags.’”
Henry grabbed his hand as Sam moved to start smearing the paint on his cheek. “What if they say trick, though?”
“Usually, they’re just kidding, and they’ll give you candy anyway.”
“Oh. That’s good. I don’t want to trick anyone.”
Sam chuckled. All his kids were so kind-hearted and loving, even with how much they’d been through. Sam was in awe of their resilience. He was saved from dwelling on it by Ollie running through the bathroom and back out in a blur. “You’re not letting him have any candy tonight, are you?” Henry asked, his forehead creased in a worried wrinkle.
“Ollie,” Sam called out, causing him to come stampeding back into the room.
“Trick or treat,” he shouted.
“I’m going to need you to calm down a little bit, okay, buddy? We’ll be leaving soon, and you don’t want to tire yourself out before we go, do you?”
Ollie sighed, a heavy, put-upon sound for such a tiny person. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay to be excited. We all are.”
“Hey,” Ben called as he lumbered in, munching on one of the blueberry cereal bars from the Snack Stash. “Zaire is here.”
“Woody!” Ollie shouted as he jumped up to grab Ben’s arm and swing up onto his shoulders. Sam reminded himself to find his camera before they all took off. Ben had grown so much since he’d gotten there. He now towered over both him and Vaughn. His long, lanky frame made the perfect Woody. With Ollie’s Buzz, they made an adorable picture.
“Okay, I think we’re done here, huh, Sarge?” Sam asked Henry.
“Yes, sir!” Henry hopped up and ran back to the living room.
Sam followed at a more sedate pace. He raised his eyebrows at Zaire’s Bo-Peep costume. It was actually more sedate than her normal, tight-fitting, cleavage-baring tanks and leathers. That didn’t mean it wasn’t still sexy, but it wasn’t one of the really trashy drug-store costumes. She even wore the full hoop skirt.
“Thank you for coming.”
“Wouldn’t miss it. I’m glad they are ready to try this.”
“I just hope it’s not a mistake.”
“We’ll make sure they’re safe. And we’ll have three hellhounds with us. If anything happens, they can portal the kids out to the safe zone until we handle it.”
Sam nodded. Logically, he knew the odds of anything happening to the kids was slim. They were going to be trick or treating in his old neighborhood. His father still owned the house he grew up in and would be their first and last stop of the night, and they had a solid safety plan in place. At the first sign of trouble, Teague would open a portal and get the kids to the safety of Meshaq’s bar. No one would dare start trouble at the hellhound’s home turf. They could handle this.
But the dad side of him…the dad side of him just wanted to keep his babies safe, and if that meant locking them away from the world, so be it.
“Hey, guys. Everyone ready?” he called out.
“Trick or treat!” Ollie shouted from his perch on Ben’s shoulders. Henry stood next to him, along with Teague and Calliope. The hellhounds were pretty much going as themselves.
“Well, we’re halfway there,” Sam said. “Jack? How’s it coming?”
“I lost my ear,” Jack said as he shuffled into the room. He swam in his Mr. Potato Head costume. It covered nearly his whole body, and he’d somehow gotten the nose upside down. Sam grinned.
“I found it,” Natasha said. Her vest glittered in the light as she came in and helped get Jack’s ear back on. She shook her head before she got to work rearranging his face.
“I have to find my camera,” Sam mumbled.
“I have it,” Nana Jean said from behind him. She had a simple witch’s hat on along with her frilly apron. She was going to stay back at the house and get some bubbling punch and caramel apples ready for their return. “I’ve already got a bunch of cute ones. Oh, my, look at her,” she said as Emily came pounding down the stairs in front of Vaughn.
“I’m wild!” she said with a growl. She stomped in front of Sam and turned her head to play bite him with her giant foam T-Rex mouth.
“Oh no! The ferocious dinosaur is going to eat me! Who will help?” Sam asked as he dropped to one knee, throwing up one of his arms to protect his face.
“Me!” Jack cried as he jumped in front of him.
“I got you,” Henry called, grabbing him to pull him back, and Sam fell dramatically to the floor, taking Henry and Jack with him.
“I’ll save you all,” Vaughn cried as he wrapped an arm around Emily’s waist to pick her up and jog off to the side with her.
“No! It’s too late. She got me.” Sam grabbed his stomach and curled into a ball. “Go on without me.” Natasha leaned against the table and rolled her eyes.
“Okay, Papa!” Ollie called. “Trick or treat!”
“Oh, I see how I rank. Free candy, and then me.”
“Yep. Sorry, Pop,” Ben said, grinning at their antics. He held out a hand to help him stand.
“Okay, gang, are we ready?”
“I think so,” Vaughn said, stepping up next to him to survey their troop. He must have gotten his face paint on while he was upstairs helping Emily get ready. They had their Buzz and Woody, Jessie, Mr. Potato Head and T-Rex. And their Sarge Henry would have a whole platoon of army men to surround him tonight. Nana Jean flittered about snapping pictures of everyone as the moved around to grab their bags.
“All right. Everyone have their bags?” They had spent one weekend decorating plain pillowcases with reflective paint in preparation for tonight.
“Papa? Why are we using pillowcases for bags?” Henry had asked.
“Easy,” Ollie answered enthusiastically. “They hold more candy!”
Everyone shook their bags and Sam nodded. “Then let’s go.”
“Let me get one more picture of you before you go. Maybe outside?” Nana Jean said.
They lined up on the porch and arranged themselves for a picture. Just as she got ready to take it, a flaming portal opened up and Meshaq stepped through. She clicked a few more pictures before she managed to turn and get some of Meshaq before he growled.
The entire ‘menacing hellhound’ look was ruined by the floppy ears of the Slinky Dog hat he was wearing. Somehow he’d even managed to get silver coils to float around his body to go with the costume and…another set of legs was in the back end of the costume. Sam bent down and a face he didn’t recognize smiled back at him from behind the black mesh.
“Shaq?” Sam asked.
“Cosmo, meet Sam & Vaughn. Cosmo owed me one.”
“Cosmo requires much free beer for his service!”
Sam didn’t bother to stifle his laughter, and Henry giggled as he ran to hug his uncle. No one else in this world, or any other, would have been able to convince the hellhound to dress as the Slinky Dog to go with their group outfit. And Goddess forbid anyone laugh at the hellhound.
“You look great Uncle Meshaq!”
“Slinky!” Ollie squealed and ran to Meshaq, using his hellhound uncle as his newest climbing post. He was in Meshaq’s arms and poking his painted nose and whiskers within seconds.
“All right. Now are we ready?” Sam asked. Everyone nodded and looked at him expectantly. “Then let’s go.”
Ollie threw his little fist in the air. “To infininy and beyon!” he shouted, making everyone laugh and shout with him as they made their way to the caravan of SUVs.
Sam smiled as he watched his chosen family working together, all of them dressed as another chosen family.
“What are you looking at?” Vaughn stood next to him and Sam leaned into his side, turning his head to smile at his mate.