"Disgusting," Josef groused. "Absolutely disgusting."
"What?" Mick asked, almost in alarm at his friend's caustic tone. "What's the matter?"
Josef turned to look at Mick in the passenger seat of his parked car. "Whatta you mean 'what's the matter'? Look around! Can you believe it? Unbelievable! It's gotten way out of control."
Confused, Mick looked around, even ducking his head a little so he could see clearly past the windows and windshield. He even turned around to peer out of the back window of the car, but turned back to Josef, even more confused, when he saw nothing noteworthy enough to garner the other vampire's disgust. Mick wondered if he should worry about Josef's odd behavior, and looked closely at him to see if he could pinpoint anything else odd about him than the strange way he was acting.
"See what I mean? Totally out of hand," Josef reiterated.
Maybe his last freshie was on something. Drugged out or something, Mick speculated silently. He leaned forward a little, trying to see if he could detect any signs of drugs in Josef's system. His eyes weren't dilated, but vampire's didn't always react the same way as a human's more fragile body. Maybe-
"Stop that!" Josef snapped, causing Mick to jump in startlement and pull back. He hadn't realized that he'd come within inches of Josef's face in his attempt at silent examination. "What's the matter with you?" Josef asked in irritation as Mick leaned back against his own seat. Josef was looking at him oddly. "Are you on something, Mick? Did you get a bad batch of blood?"
Mick sighed- an unneeded act, but still a habit nonetheless- and shook his head in denial. He wasn't going to bother explaining to Josef that he'd been wondering the very same thing about him.
"I don't see anything, Josef. Just the people and shops and cars. The same as always."
"No, no, no. Look!" With the exclamation, Josef pointed straight out the windshield at the window of a shop nearby.
"Yeeaah," Mick said slowly. "So what? You don't like costumes?"
"No, I don't like costumes. Not like this. Halloween isn't even a real holiday! It has no religious or national signifigance. It's just another way to monopolize people's time and money, and normally I'm all for that, but not when it makes life harder for me. Do you know every one of my freshies want halloween night off so they can go party? More than half of my human employees at the office want off, too, so they can take their kids out. It's ridiculous!"
"C'mon, Josef," Mick was amused more than anything now. "Let the humans have their fun. They don't have as much time as us. I know you're no spring chicken, old man, but I'm sure even you can remember when any reason to celebrate was reason enough. Hell, you still do that. It only lasts one night, then everything will be back to normal. Well, for a while." Mick decided not to mention Thanksgiving or Christmas. He'd prefer to wait until those holidays approached before finding out quite what Josef's opinions of those days might be. Mick could only handle one holiday rant at a time.
"I know," Josef agreed, sounding almost resigned. "But it's one night that just doesn't make sense. I mean, who thought up these traditions? What does any one aspect have to do with the other? People dress up, children knock on stranger's doors, they beg for candy. Then, of course, there are the pranks that get pulled by some of the most immature of the lot. And the pumpkins! Where do they fit it? Look at that one in the display window. Have you ever seen a creepier face? What's with that?"
Mick looked at Josef, more amused than ever at this rant. Mick was certainly never bored with Josef around. "Josef, what has a jack o' lantern ever done to you?"
"They creep me out. What? It's not funny! It's a fruit made to look like a grimacing head with a candle stuffed inside. Stop laughing!"
Mick stifled his laughter until it was no more than a chuckle, but that was the best he could do. The mighty Josef Kostan was afraid of Jack o' lanterns! "I loved trick or treating when I was a kid. Didn't you ever go trick or treating, Josef?"
"Of course not. That was over four hundred years ago, Mick. Besides, that wasn't exactly the norm in my birth place."
"Well, you missed out. It was fun to dress up. You could be anyone or anything you wanted for one night, and you got candy, too. I loved it."
"Yeah, you said that. Is that nostalgia I hear? Does little Micky St. John want uncle Josef to take him trick or treating?"
"Very funny," Mick retorted, but he couldn't hide his embarrassment at his friend's teasing, and judging by the smirk on Josef's face, he'd noticed. "Let's go on inside," Mick suggested in an effort to change the subject. They'd been parked at the curb for several minutes, and he was sure the person they'd come to meet was wondering where they were.
Josef seemed content to drop the subject and Mick thankfully followed him into the building. Mick, however, couldn't seem to erase the conversation from his mind, and the first little nugget of an idea began to form.
Two nights later, Mick sat in Josef's office, his shopping bag on the floor at his feet.
"C'mon, Josef. It'll be fun. Live a little!"
"I said no. And what's with this new attitude of yours? Are we in the Twilight Zone? I'm usually the one trying to get you to 'live a little.'"
"What's one night out of your life, Josef? I bet you'll have more fun than you think. It might even change your opinion."
"No, Mick. I am not dressing up! I am not trick and teasing!"
"That's Trick or Treating, Josef. Please? Just humor me. Just this one night."
"Fine," Mick gave in. He wasn't by any means giving up, but he figured a momentary retreat was in order. "Well, I am. Wanna see what I got?"
"No," Josef said.
Mick ignored his friend's answer and leaned down to reach into the bag. He pulled out the first package and held it up. Josef, despite his denial of interest, leaned forward for a closer look.
"Make-up?" Josef asked, perplexed. He looked askance at Mick. "You're gonna dress as a woman?"
"No! Josef, for someone that's been around as long as you, you seem to be very ignorant about some things."
"Well forgive me for not caring about the heathen holidays of the mortals."
"It's not a woman's make-up, Josef. It's face make-up."
"Women put make-up on their faces, Mick."
Mick heaved an exasperated sigh. He could swear Josef was being deliberately obstinate. "Not this kind," Mick explained with failing patience. "This is the kind that's used for Halloween. To paint your face."
"Whatever." Josef waved a hand in dismissal and turned his attention back to his computer.
Mick shook his head at Josef's attitude. He dropped the package back into the bag, then rummaged around until he found the next item. He pulled it out and held it up.
Despite his claims of disinterest, Josef raised his eyes to see what else Mick held. When he saw the next part of the costume, Josef's eyes rose in suprise and amusement. "You've got to be kidding me," Josef smirked.
"Hey, it part of the costume. It'll work, with the make-up."
Josef just shook his head in bemusement. "But, Mick....you have the real thing! Why are you gonna use fake fangs? Just use your own."
Mick shook his head. Josef just didn't seem to be getting the point of this holiday. "If I use my own, then it wouldn't be dressing up."
"This is ridiculous, Mick. If the holiday is all about being something you're not, as you say it is, then why are you dressing up as a vampire? You're already a vampire."
"Oh, well....Halloween's tomorrow night. I couldn't find one place that had costumes left, so I just had to work with what was left, and this was it. Mostly just face make- up and novelties, like the fangs."
"Why even bother?"
"Because it'll be fun. Wanna see the last part of the costume?"
"Whatever," Josef said nonchalantly, but Mick noticed that this time Josef didn't even pretend to divert his attention. He simply waited for Mick to pull out the next item.
Mick reached into the bag and pulled out the last item, a folded garment. Mick stood and gave it a hard shake, and the garment unfurled in a heavy wisp of red-trimmed black silk.
Josef's eyes grew wide, and he nodded in approval at the long, collared cape. "Now that's more like it," he said to Mick.
"You like it?" Mick asked as Josef rose from his seat and fingered the material.
As if realizing that he let down his facade, Josef straightened and removed his hand from the beautiful, obviousy costly cape. He gave a nonchalant shrug. "It's nice. I guess it's okay."
"Good," Mick said, trying to hide his triumph. " 'Cause this one's yours."
Josef looked at Mick. "Mine? Why mine?"
"Because I thought you'd like it. You do like it, don't you?" Mick asked cleverly. He knew Josef wouldn't be likely to deny it if Mick offered it as a gift.
"Well....yeah. Yes, I guess I do. It is nice."
"Then it's yours," Mick said, and held it out to Josef. But as Josef went to take it, Mick pulled it back. "If you promise to use it tomorrow to dress up and go out with me."
Josef's eyes narrowed. "That's bribery."
"Go out where?"
"Trick or treating, vampire style."
"Of course," Mick said. He couldn't help a surreal feeling about the situation. It felt strange to be the one explaining something to Josef. Usually it was the other way around, Josef- having so many years on Mick- was normally the one instructing Mick in something or trying to talk him into something. "No candy," Mick explained now. "Guillermo's giving a party. He'll be distributing little vials of rare blood types. I'm sure he'll have live donors, too."
"Why didn't you just tell me this earlier?"
"It wouldn't have been as much fun. Besides, I still want you to dress up. I think you should experience that at least once in your life."
"Is it a costume party? Will everyone else be dressing up?"
"I don't know. Does it matter?"
"I'm dressing up."
"I don't know about this, Mick."
"I'll tell you what. I'll leave the cape here, and if you decide you want to wear it, then wear it. If not, then don't. You can have it anyway. Okay?" He reached over and set the cape on Josef's desk. "I've gotta get going. I'll see you later, okay?"
"Yeah, sure," Josef agreed, reseating himself behind his desk and turning to his computer. He didn't look up as Mick left the room.
Mick stopped just outside the door, peering in. He suspected that Josef had liked the old-fashioned piece of clothing much more than he'd let on. As he watched, he observed Josef's glance flick continually from his computer screen to the garment lying across the end of his desk.
After several minutes, Josef stood and reached over his desk, picking up the cape. He examined it closer, feeling the material and holding it out at arm's length for inspection.
Behind the door, Mick smiled. It was working. But he was still suprised when Josef slung the cape around behind him and draped it over his shoulders, then fastened it at the front. Josef reached up and adjusted high collar and the way the matierisl draped over his shoulders.
Mick was hard pressed to smother a snicker as he watched Josef approach the floor to ceiling windows of the office, reflective against the dark night outside. Josef admired himself for several minutes, turning this way and that, nodding in satisfaction.
Then, Josef spun quickly, pulling up on side of the cape to cover his face up to his eyes, then he peered over the edge of the material at his own reflection, baring his fangs in a hiss.
Mick held a hand over his mouth tightly to suppress the laughter that wanted to bubble up. He suspected that Josef would not be very forgiving if he found out he was under observation.
Josef repeated the same move, and other similar moves best found in a Dracula movie, then straightened up and stared once more at his reflection.
He nodded his head. "There just might be something to this holiday after all," he said quietly to himself.
Mick nodded his head in victory, then stealthily crept away. He was sure Josef would be wearing the cape to the party.