Title: The Dare
Author: Neoxphile
Website: visit my new url! www.mulderscreek.com
Category: Halloween challengefic, see end notes
Spoilers: up through "The Truth." Assume that movie two didn't happen in this universe or was tackled by other agents.
Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, and William were created by Chris Carter. Everyone else belongs to me.

Summary: Set in the Only Broken Universe. William's younger brothers find more trouble than they bargained for Halloween Night 2016.

Author's Note: This story follows "Only Because He Needed Us" and "Broken Mosaic," which can be found at the link above. I guess you don't need to read them first, but be aware that Mulder and Scully parted ways in 2002, and Mulder had children with his first wife before marrying Scully in 2014 after both lost their spouses.


Falls Church, Virginia
October 31st, 2016
5:45 PM

Mulder and Scully's home in Falls Church was seldom a place of calm, but it was usually less of a riot of activity that it was just before trick or treating began. By the front door very small fingers closed on the stem of a pumpkin, but this did not go entirely unseen.

"Oh no you don't!" William grabbed his almost two-year-old brother, Cole, under the armpits and set the toddler on his feet, but he knew enough to keep one hand on the little boy's shoulder. Cole had just attempted to remove the lit candle from a jack-o'-lantern.

"Mine!" Cole shrieked while trying to squirm away from his oldest brother.

William picked him up again. "Who is supposed to be watching Cole?"

The only reply he got was a small voice saying, "Not me."

He looked down at the very small princess and smiled. His youngest half-sibling was only four, so clearly she wasn't in charge of their younger brother. "Laney, do you know where my mom is?"

"Mommy!" Delaney called as she dragged her plastic scepter down the hallway.

"Want down, Will," Cole complained.

"Unh uh. You can't be trusted." William shifted the dark-haired little boy to his hip. Other than having blue eyes, Cole took after their father in coloring like their four half brothers did. Delaney, the only girl, favored William's late stepmother, Cat. William was the only kid in the family who looked like his mother.

William's friends occasionally noted that it was a sort of strange family dynamic given only his youngest sibling had both the same mother and father as he did, but he shrugged it off as something that happens when a child's wish of Mom and Dad getting back together actually came true. It wasn't the whole story, but he didn't really feel like sharing the truth.

When his sister didn't return, William decided to look for his mother himself. He found her in Avery's room, applying face paint to the six-year-old. "Oh, wow, that's pretty scary looking, Av."

"Of course it is. Wolfmen are always scary." Avery waved his hands, which had fake fur glued to them, in a menacing way. It didn't scare William, but Cole hid his face against William's neck.

"Avery, I can't finish this if you keep wiggling." Scully's voice was overly patient, so William suspected this wasn't the first time he'd been told this.

"Sorry."

"I caught Cole trying to get at the candle in the jack-o'-lantern by the front door," William announced. "The lit candle."

"What? Your dad is supposed to be watching him."

"Where are they? I'll bring Cole back to him."

"In the kitchen with the rest of the pumpkins."

"Okay..."

"Send Kyle up next, would you? I need to fix something on his costume."

"Right."


The kitchen wasn't the pumpkin guts splattered mess that William expected. Instead his father was bent over the last pumpkin, putting in a candle. The rest of William's brothers gave stage directions as Mulder tried to find a level spot on the bottom for it.

"Missing something, Dad?"

"No, I don't think so," Mulder said before straightening up and seeing the toddler in William's arms. "Oh."

William put Cole in his high chair. "Kyle, go see my mom, okay? She said something about fixing your costume."

"Yeah, I lost a horn." The eight-year-old scrambled off his chair and made for the stairs.

"He'd better get that fixed," Benji remarked in their younger brother's wake. "How scary is a no-horned purple people eater?"

"40% less scary," their father intoned over Cole's wordless whining, making them all grin.

"Will, are you sure you won't come with us?" Owen asked plaintively. His faux pirate beard bobbled up and down as he spoke.

"He's going to the dance," Benji told him. "Apparently girls are more fun to hang out with than us."

Owen gave Benji a look of disbelief before turning to William. "That's not true, is it?"

"Of course it is." William smirked. "You'll understand when you're older."

"We are older!" Owen protested. "We don't even have to stick with Dad and your mom when we go trick or treating tonight."

"I mean a lot older," William told him. "Like me."

"Like five and a half years is so much," Owen muttered.

"It's more than half as long as you've been alive, Squirt," William pointed out. Owen would be turning ten in three days, and Benji thirteen just after Christmas.

"Whatever."

"Will, could you tone down the smugness a couple of notches?" Mulder asked, handing Cole a powdered donut to distract him. "It's a bit much from someone who can't drive yet."

"Ha." Owen stuck his tongue out at William.

"And you," Mulder waved the top of a pumpkin at Owen. "Are not showing me that you're ready to go trick or treating without me and Dana."

"I am!"

"I'm not interested in punishing Benji, who is acting much more mature than you but would have no fun alone, so I'll give you another chance. Don't make me regret it."

"Sorry, Will."

"I'm sorry too, Owen."

"Now that you've made up, lug these pumpkins out to the front steps and light them, would you?" Mulder asked with a still cranky Cole now in his arms. "Dana bought this one a 'cute little devil' costume, and it's turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy."

"Sure, Dad." The three of them each grabbed a pumpkin and made for the front door.


After lighting the last candle, William put the matches back and grabbed the cape to his costume. "See you guys later."

"You're not going to wear the cape there?" Benji asked, smiling.

"Uh, no. I don't want Madison to think I'm a complete dork."

"But she knows you. She already thinks you're a dork." Owen immediately ducked away from a feigned punch.

"But maybe not a complete dork," Benji suggested helpfully.

William gave him a dubious look. "Thanks, I think."


Benji and Owen watched him go. "I can't believe he's going to a dance instead of getting candy with us tonight."

"I said that to him too, Owen. And he said he can just use his allowance tomorrow to buy all the half-price candy that he wants."

"But it's not the same thing! Buying it is totally different from earning it."

"Tell him that. Come on, we better get our costumes on too. It's getting dark."

"Yeah."

It only took them ten minutes to put the rest of their pirate costumes on, but twilight gave way completely to darkness in that short a time.

"You guys have your flashlights, right?" Mulder stopped them just outside front door to ask. He'd been filling a bowl with candy for the trick-or-treaters they'd miss seeing in person.

Benji nodded. "Of course we do. I wish we had huge ones like you and Dana used to have back in the day."

Mulder looked amused. "Back in the day?"

"When you were FBI partners," Benji explained.

Though Mulder returned to the FBI to become an AD nearly two years earlier, Scully continued to teach at Quantico. It suits them both well, and Mulder has his hands full supervising soon-to-no-longer-be junior agents Kryder and Praise as well as Doggett and Reyes.

"Uh huh. Don't forget to say goodbye to Dana before you leave."

"Bye, Dana!" Benji and Owen Mulder called to their stepmother before heading out.

Her head poked out to see them. "Be careful!"

"She always says that," Owen muttered to his older brother.

"I think she's hoping we eventually follow her advice."

"Fat chance. She tells us that we're just like Dad, and he's never careful, so what does she expect?"

Both boys stopped smiled back innocently at her anyway, and noted that her fingers were now intertwined with Mulder's. Just behind the couple, Avery, Kyle, and Delaney stood in the doorway, clambering to get going too.

Owen spoke in a low voice as they made their way down the driveway. "They're getting mushier."

"Well, they're married."

"But-"

"And now they act like it," Benji concluded. "It's good."

"But they are already seven kids," Owen said in a worried voice.

"They're not to have another baby, Owen! Cole was a designer baby because Dana was too old to have a baby with her first husband the old fashion way, and we all know how badly that turned out." Or, at least Benji himself understood it all. He had borrowed the books Dana had bought William to explain how her DNA had been inserted in a donor's egg that had been stripped of its own DNA. And even Owen understood the problems Dana had had with the surrogate who had carried Cole. Both sort of comprehended the lab mix up that had resulted in Cole being Mulder son instead of Ethan's. "No way they'll try again."

"Oh, okay." The younger boy looked relieved. "It's good that they're happy, I was just worried about us outgrown our house and having to move again."

Benji cuffed him on the shoulder. "Not going to happen." He paused. "Well, unless they adopt."

"Aww man!" Owen exclaimed. "They wouldn't, would they?"

His brother just shrugged noncommittally.

By this time they had reached the first of the neighbors' homes, and joined the group of kids already holding out their bags. They added their voices to the chorus. "Trick or treat!"


Nearly two years older than the Christmas when he'd asked Scully to move in with them, Owen Mulder was getting better about not blurting things out. Which is why even though he'd been anxious when his father had been mad at him, he didn't say that he and Benji had a goal other than trick or treating in mind that night. From watching them going house to house for the first hour on their own, no one could tell what else they were up to.

That only began to become clear when the pair came to a halt outside the White Cross Cemetery. The cemetery was definitely not handing out candy.

"So what exactly is it that we're supposed to do again?" Owen asked, looking into the dark graveyard. Only the eponymous cross was backlit; clearly the cemetery thought that it was a waste of money to illuminate the place after dark.

Benji toyed with his half full bag of candy for a moment before replying. "We are each supposed to pick a rose off of the rose bush in front of McAllister mausoleum. Then bring it to school tomorrow."

Owen frowned. "Won't some guys just buy their flowers at the grocery store or something?"

"First of all, it would have to be a white rose, which is the color that grows on that bush. And second of all, all of the roses on the bush are dead because it's Halloween. So, if they bought one at the grocery story that would be a live rose and would give them away pretty quick," Benji explained.

"But why? Why do we have to do this?" Owen asked plaintively, giving the dark graveyard an apprehensive look. They couldn't see the McAllister mausoleum from the gate.

"So we don't look like chickens tomorrow?" Benji suggested. "We don't want to be the only guys who said we do it, and then backed out, do we?"

"Won't Dad be mad at us for giving into peer pressure?" Owen was wishing just then with all his heart that they had not accepted the dare that eighth-grade boys had given them and some of their classmates on the bus.

"It's just a wilted flower. There's nothing scary in the graveyard."

"Benji! The graveyard is full of dead people!"

"And there's nothing scary about dead people. Look, when Dana was at the FBI with Dad, she cut up a whole bunch of dead people, and nothing scary ever happen to her. And those were dead people that she had to touch. These are dead people are under six feet of dirt, how much trouble could they be?"

"I don't know..."

"Come on." Benji grabbed his brother by the arm, and dragged them through the gateway. The fact that the gate was open suggested that some of the other kids had beat them there.

"Don't!"

Benji ignored his brother, and resolutely pointed the flashlight towards where he knew the mausoleum was supposed to be situated in the graveyard. It only took seconds for his flashlight beam to pick out the imposing marble structure.

Whoever the McAllisters had been, they had been a family with money. The date outside the mausoleum said that had been built during the Great Depression, but this family had obviously not been hurting for money the time. It was designed in the ostentatious Greco-Roman style that their father had said signified someone had more money than class or imagination. Two white marble columns stood to either side of the door, which to both boys' relief, looked firmly shut. The white rose bush stood to one side.

They both stared at the rose bush for a moment before Benji darted forward and plucked a browned blossom off of one stem. He tucked it into his pocket before turning to look at his younger brother. "Go on, it won't bite."

"What about thorns?"

"I'll shine my flashlight onto the bush, so you don't catch any thorns accidentally."

"Okay..." Owen looked slightly green, but after a deep shuddering breath, he did break a flower off the bush as well. "Can we go now?"

"Sure-"

"Hey! You boys!" Came a faint cry.

Benji and Owen whipped their heads around, trying to spot who was yelling at them, but seeing no one. At first Benji was afraid that it was a security person, but then he realized that the voice had not belonged to an adult.

Glancing at his brother's face, he saw that the same concern must have occurred to him. "Relax, it has to be another kid. Probably somebody else who is doing this dare."

"Oh."

"Where are you? We can't see you," Benji called to the unseen child.

"I'm here!"

When they looked up, they saw a girl round the side of the mausoleum. Owen immediately decided that she was younger than him, and guessed that she was around nine years old. She smiled as the approached them.

"Are you doing the dare too?" Owen asked, looking her up and down. She wasn't dressed to go trick or treating, but instead wore a fussy looking dress like the ones Laney was forced into for family pictures. And her long blonde hair was held back by a bow at the nape of her neck.

The girl looked puzzled. "The dare?"

"Picking roses off that bush." Benji pointed at the wilted roses.

"No."

"Then what are you doing here?"

"I don't know." She looked a little scared. "I just want to go home."

"How far from home are you?" Benji asked her.

"A ways," the girl admitted. "A mile, maybe. I don't want to walk home in the dark myself because I don't have a light like yours." She looked at their flashlights with an envious longing.

Benji frowned to himself. He wanted to get back to trick or treating, but his father told him that it was his responsibility to help people who needed it. "We'll walk you home."

"But what about trick or treating?" Owen yelped in dismay.

"A mile isn't so far, Owen. We'll have plenty of time to beg for more candy once we've brought-" Benji turned to the girl. "What's your name?"

She looked shy. "Anna."

"Once we've brought Anna home." He smiled at the girl. "I'm Benji and this is my brother Owen."

"Oh. Nice to meet you."

"If you're not here because of the dare, why are you here?" Owen wanted to know.

The girl shrugged. "I thought I could take a shortcut through here. Turns out that I was wrong, and it got so dark so fast."

"I don't mean to be insulting, but you do know how to get your house from here, right?" Benji gave her an apologetic look, but he wasn't sure that Kyle could find his way home from mile away, and she didn't look much older.

"I know where the house is," the girl said confidently.

"Then let's go already!" Owen demanded impatiently.

With that the three of them headed out of the cemetery.


After a quarter of a mile in the direction from which Benji and Owen came, the girl had them turned right onto a road that neither boy had ever been on before. Some parts of Falls Church were lit up brightly, but this road was clearly an exception. Not only was the road unlit, it was unpaved. Benji's flashlight picked out hardpacked reddish soil under their feet.

"My dad says that sometimes he feels like Virginia is just on the cusp of civilization, and this road must be something like what he has in mind," Benji said, trying to keep unease at bay. He didn't like being on that unfamiliar road.

"That isn't very nice," Anna said, clearly insulted. "There's nothing uncivilized about my road."

"I didn't mean..." Benji trailed off hopelessly. He didn't have any idea how to talk to girls, even ones he had no interest in, but was hoping he'd eventually figured out like William had. At the moment, at least half the things Benji says to girls come out wrong like this.

"Do you like living on this road?" Owen asked with a hint of incredulity in his voice.

"Why?" The girl was clearly wary of his question.

Before he replied Owen swung his flashlight towards the side of the road. "Look at how thick the forest is-"

"It's hardly a forest," Anna said defensively.

"Whatever. There's a lot of trees. Doesn't that bother you?"

"Why would trees bother me?"

Owen shrugged. "It feels all closed in. The only place that doesn't have the trees like this is that apple orchard we passed. And that's creepy."

Benji nodded to himself. He thought that the apple trees were creepy too, with their limbs all twisted and seeming to reach down towards the ground. But, he also thought that the two of them believe that because apple trees were meant to look creepy in that old Sleepy Hollow movie that their father played for them last week.

It didn't seem wise to agree with his brother in front of the girl, who was already upset, so Benji decided to try to smooth her feathers. "Don't mind us. We've only lived up here for couple years. We used to live in New Mexico, and there weren't as many trees as this, so it seems little strange to us still. I'm sure it's nice if you lived here all your life." Though what he was thinking was that you'd have to like living here to enjoy these creepy trees.

As insincere as he was, he seemed to have made the girl feel better. "Sorry, I was being rude too. It's just that I've always loved living here, and never want to leave, so it feels bad when someone doesn't love it as much as I do."

"That's okay."

"Are we almost there yet?" Owen asked. "It seems like we've been walking forever."

"I'm not sure," Anna tells them. "I never can tell how far I am from home. It always feels like I'm far from home."

How helpful, Benji thought but didn't say. It was beginning to seem to him as though they had been walking for quite a long time as well. He pulled the cell phone that his father had given him on the first day of seventh grade out of his pocket, and opened it to see the time. To his dismay. There was no cell phone reception on that road.

Owen noticed that Benji had his phone out. "Who are you going to call?"

"No one. I just wanted to see what time it was. But we don't get any reception here."

"There must not be a tower, then."

"Obviously." Benji rolled his eyes.

Anna looked at the phone with interest. "That's a telephone?"

The look that Owen gave her suggested that he thought the girl might be a one of their father's little gray men. "Of course it is, you've seen a cell phone before."

The girl shrugged. "Not like that."

"Oh. Dad did buy him the newest model. I'm hoping that what I'm old enough to have my own phone mine is even cooler."

"Dream on." Benji smirked at him.

"Oh yeah? Maybe by the time I'm in seventh grade they'll have something even cooler than cell phones."

"Like what? Electrodes put into your brain so you can be telepathic with all your friends?" Benji asked sarcastically.

Owen grinned. "Maybe. It would be pretty cool, because your teachers wouldn't be up to do anything about it. They can make you put your cell phone away, but not taken an electrode out of your brain."

"Ha. You know how Dad feels about electronic implants of any kind," Benji said, the two of them having heard all about implants and cancer. "It would be a cold day in hell before Dad and Dana would let us have anything like that."

"Like they'll ever make anything like that for real."

"You never know."

"You never do," Owen said, laughing.

Anna hadn't said anything for while, and Benji got the sense that they lost her conversationally a long time ago. "Sorry. We're just talking about silliness, and we didn't mean to leave you out."

"It's okay. People tend to forget about me."

"Oh." Benji was a loss for words. He and his siblings had always been reasonably popular, even quiet little Kyle, so he wasn't sure how to help someone who felt invisible. "That must suck."

"You get used to it eventually. I know I did." Anna then gave him a smile. "The two of you have ignored me less than most people have. And you're helping me get home, so I can't complain if I don't understand your private jokes."

"Well, we shouldn't do it anyway. It's rude."

Anna shrugged, obviously not offended.

"Hey," Owen said suddenly. "Why aren't you trick or treating, Anna?"

"I'm not allowed to."

"How come?"

"My mother told me it's dangerous," Anna explained.

Benji nodded. "It could be, I guess, with all the traffic and occasionally there are stories about poison or razor blades in treats."

"Not that kind of danger," Anna disagreed. "She meant danger of the supernatural kind."

"Ha," Owen snorted. "That sounds like Dad and Dana's friend Monica."

"Be quiet, Owen. I want to hear about what Anna's mom meant."

"Well, she said it's the one night of year that thins the veil between this world and the next."

"And that's bad?" Owen asked, curious now.

"Yes, because you never know what might be lurking on the other side," Anna said ominously.

Owen grinned. "Ooh, like witches and ghosts."

"Werewolves and vampires."

"Even demons," Anna added quietly. "She said children are especially vulnerable to all of those things, so no trick or treating for me."

"That sucks," Owen said sympathetically. "I can't imagine Halloween without candy."

"We have Halloween treats," Anna told him. "We make donuts and popcorn balls, and hard candy too."

"Wow, you make candy?" Owen was amazed. "Close as we get to that in our family is my step-grandmother's homemade fudge."

"Step-grandmother?" Anna's eyebrows rose. "Do you mean your father got a divorce from your mother?"

"No. Our mom died," Benji said defensively.

"I'm sorry..." Anna looked contrite. "I jumped to conclusions. It's just that I've never met anyone whose parents divorced, and I was curious."

"Wow, really?" Owen asked. "I know lots of kids whose parents got divorced."

"I guess my friends were lucky."

"Our dad got remarried after our mom died of the flu," Benji explained. "Dana's first husband, Ethan, died of it too. It was awful." Anna struck him as very old-fashioned and more than a little judgmental, so we decided to keep the fact that their dad and Dana had had William before either of them married to himself.

"That's terrible," Anna's voice was small. "I knew a few people who died of the flu, mostly older brothers of my friends."

"I'm sorry."

"Me too." Benji paused, scanning the distance ahead to see if the girl's house was coming into sight yet. It wasn't. "At least that's all done with. No one has died of the flu in months."

"Thank God," Anna said. "But it must've been very hard to lose your mother like that."

"It was. We miss her a lot," Owen told her.

"Do you like your stepmother?" Anna asked. "I hope she's not evil like in those Brothers Grimm stories."

Owen looked confused, so Benji said, "Disney movies like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty came from the Brothers Grimm stories."

"I thought that was Mother Goose."

Benji cuffed Owen on the shoulder. "No, you goof, Mother Goose is nursery rhymes. The Brothers Grimm collected all sorts of fairytales from Europe a long time ago. There are fairytales in other places too, like Asia, but most of the ones we've seen as movies came from them."

"Oh."

Benji looked at Anna. "To answer your question, we like our stepmother a lot. Dana makes Dad happy, so that's good enough for us."

"Don't say it like that," Owen complained. "She's nice to us too. Our little sister is only four, and sometimes she forgets that Dana is not her real mom. It used to bother me, but then I realized it was because she was still a baby when our mom died. The rest of us don't like her quite as much as Laney does, but we think she's pretty cool."

"Are the three kids in your family?" Anna asked.

"Nope," Owen said. "We have an older brother named William, and younger brothers named Kyle and Avery, after them came Delaney, and last another younger brother named Cole. So there are seven of us."

"I have five sisters and four brothers," Anna said. "All of them are older than me, and don't live at home anymore."

"Wow, that's even bigger than our family."

"I guess that is kind of big," Anna said. "But I go to school with a couple girls who have even more brothers and sisters."

Benji's eyes widened. "Yikes."

"I'm thinking about something. You don't go to our school do you?" Owen asked. "If you do, I've never seen you there before."

"Owen, it's big school," Benji reminded him. "There are probably lots of kids we've never seen before."

"I don't go your school." Anna shook her head. "I go private school for girls."

"For girls?" Benji looked surprised. "I didn't know they have any schools like that anymore."

"I guess my parents are sort of old-fashioned."

"And don't forget superstitious," Owen added.

"Owen!" Benji groaned.

"That's okay. I know what my parents are like." The girl looked off in the distance, and Benji wondered how far she could see in the dark. "There it is!"

"You see your house?"

Anna pointed. "There it is! Don't you see it?"

Benji and Owen looked hard. "I think I see it," Owen said first, sounding uncertain.

After a moment Benji realized that he could see it too. Though it seemed as if the greater portion of the building was hidden behind overgrown trees, Benji was surprised that the house was smaller than his own. Anna had more brothers and sisters, but a smaller house. He decided that maybe they were spread out in age, so they hadn't needed a ton of bedrooms.

"Anna! Anna?" A voice from the house drifted towards them. The girl began to walk much faster.

"Momma?" Anna called to the unseen woman.

"Anna is that you girl?" This time a man's voice called to her.

"I'm here!"

In the next moment the three children broke free of the trees and entered the front yard of Anna's home. A man and woman stood by the front door, and they were smiling at Anna. She ran up to them, and threw her arms around them.

"Oh, Anna! You're finally home," the man said in a choked up voice.

"We've been waiting for you," Anna's mother added.

"I'm sorry, I got lost and couldn't find my way home. But these boys help me." Anna pointed at Benji and Owen.

"Hey," Owen said shyly.

"Thank you for bringing our girl back." The man looked grateful, and Benji wondered how long Anna had been missing. Hours, probably.

"No problem." Benji turned to Anna. "We've gotta go now, but it was nice to meet you."

Anna looked at him from the cradle of her mother's arms. "Thank you both so much for helping me."

Owen waved. "Bye."

They could still hear her talking to her parents as they started back from where they came from.


When they reached the end of the dirt road, it was a relief to see streetlights. Benji had almost forgotten what it was like to walk down a well lit street. It was definitely nicer in the road they'd just left.

"Hey! What are you guys doing down that road?" A voice called from behind them.

Benji and Owen whipped around to catch sight of William hurrying towards them. "What happened to the dance?" Benji asked.

"Madison felt sick, so she called her dad to take her home. But we were talking about why you guys were down that road. Well?"

"We walked a girl home," Owen explained.

William stared at them. "No you didn't."

"Yes we did." Benji gave him a confused look.

"No. You didn't," William said firmly.

Owen finally lost his patience. "Will! What are you talking about?"

"You couldn't have walked anybody home on that road, because nobody lives on that road."

"Do too."

"Show me," William challenged them.

"Fine, we'll show you." Benji swung his flashlight in the direction they just came from. "I don't know how you could have missed the house, it's big. Not as big as ours, but pretty big."

"Benji, it's pretty far down the road. Maybe he just didn't ever go that far," Owen suggested reasonably.

The three boys walked down the road, which seemed even darker than it had before Benji and Owen had brought Anna home. It must've struck William as creepy as well, because he said, "I can't believe you two came down here all by yourself in the dark."

"Will, we didn't come down here all by ourselves," Owen explained again. "We brought a girl to her house."

"Saying that over and over again doesn't mean that you're more convincing."

Benji and Owen sighed. They knew when they were beat. There would be no convincing William until he saw Anna's house himself.

Since two of them, at least, knew where they were going the walk to Anna's house seemed faster this time. Eventually Owen pointed. "Look, there it is."

Benji looked, expecting to see Anna and her parents still in front of the house. But he didn't. Something was terribly wrong with Anna's house. In the short time since they left, the front door had gone missing. And someone had broken out the windows.

"What happened to the house?" Owen muttered.

"I don't..." Benji broke off, unable to think of what to say. At first he had thought that the house had been vandalized, but now that he looked closer, that didn't seem to be right. It seemed wore out.

"So, you still think I'm going to believe that you brought some girl to this abandoned house?" William asked. "What were you doing down here? Dad wouldn't like it if you two were playing inside that wreck. One of you could have been hurt. What if the floorboards are rotted out? You could have been killed!"

"Will, we didn't go inside," Owen corrected. "Anna's parents didn't ask us in."

William gave a frustrated sigh. "Stop pretending that there was a girl. I don't believe you."

"There was a girl!" Benji shouted. "She was lost and we brought her home. But the house didn't look like this when we brought her here. I don't understand what happened."

"We should ask Anna," Owen suggested before beginning to shout for the girl. "Anna! Anna where are you?"

They listened hard, but there was no reply.

Looking less angry now, William put his arms around his brothers' shoulders. "Come on, let's go home."

"But Anna..." Owen trailed off in confusion.

"She's dead, Owen," William said eventually.

"What do you mean?" Benji demanded to know.

"At first I thought you two were trying to play a joke on me, but then I realized you are serious. No one has lived in that house, since right after world war one."

"But Anna and her parents-"

"Anna and her parents lived in that house almost a hundred years ago."

"No way! Anna was like nine," Owen scoffed. "Not a hundred and nine."

"She's probably nine when she died," William told them.

"But we saw her," Benji said, confused.

"I think you did. When we get home, ask my mother about the Billy Underwood case. She's never been as eager to talk about her case is on the X-Files as dad is, but that case... she and John saw a ghost that looked like a live boy."

It took a moment or Benji to realize what William was getting at. "You think Anna was a ghost?"

His older brother shrugged. "Unless it was a girl and some other people playing a trick on you."

"But the house changed. How could the house change if it was someone playing a trick on us? It got a lot older, all of a sudden," Owen said. "They couldn't have faked making the house look right for that in the time it took us to walk down the road and back."

"Anna was a ghost," Benji said, trying the idea out. "We brought a ghost from the cemetery to her house. Oh my God." They'd brought home a girl who seemed so old-fashioned, could it be true that she was just an antique herself?

"So you saved a damsel in distress," William pronounced. "I think you've done your good deed for the day."

Owen looked at him. "Does it count as a good deed if the person you do it for is dead?"

"I don't see why not, she asked you for your help and you gave it. Being alive or dead doesn't really seem to matter in that case."

"What do we tell your mom and Dad?" Benji asked, worried about what the adults might think of their strange adventure.

"That I came back from the dance early and join you for trick or treating," William said, pulling a folded up bag out of his pocket. "You still want to, right? I haven't gotten any candy yet."

"Oh, okay."

"Try not to crush your flowers," William added. "I figure you put them in you bags."

Owen peered into his loot bag, and was relieved to see that the wilted flower was still there. "You knew about the dare?"

"Everyone knows about the dare. It happens every year." He gave his brothers a sidelong look. "But I think picking up a ghost afterwards is new. At least no one I ever knew who did the dare found one. Maybe she liked you."

Owen and Benji looked at him with wide eyes. Benji was wondering who Anna had been, because if William was right, she died before the McAllister mausoleum was built. Maybe one of those grown up brothers and sisters had built it, and reinterred her body there. It would explain why she thought she was lost...

"There's a house," William told them, pointing at a distant group of trick-or-treaters. "We better get a move on before the grown ups stop giving out candy."

Still dazed, Benji and Owen followed their brother up the driveway of the house that probably was really there.

The End

End note: Written for the 2009 Halloween Trick Challenge, consider writing your own =)

I write a Halloween fic every year, and you can read fics from past Halloweens here.

Only Broken Universe Return to NeoX's Other Fics