Ever since their Young Justice days, Tim, Conner, and Bart had a little tradition. It had evolved over time as their relationship to one another had changed, but the core of it had stayed true. Through the month of October, the three of them would meet up as much as they could and watch old horror movies. At first it had been Bart weedling Kon and Tim into watching the movies with him since he knew nothing about 21 st century horror movies, but over time it had become a fun night for the three of them, eventually four of them as Cassie joined their trio. They ate a lot of food, laughed at obvious plot holes and terrible dialogue (their work as heroes had desensitized them to much that the horror genre had to offer), and caught up with each other’s lives. It was a grand time.
Tonight they were watching some terrible modern reboot of a terrible 70’s adaptation of a halfway decent foreign horror movie from the 40’s. They had mostly lost interest in it and were chatting through the predictable plot and wooden acting.
“That’s so fake,” Tim scoffed as gore splattered across the scene. “There’s no way guts would go flying like that.”
“Those don't even look like real guts,” Conner said, “It looks like someone but red dye on cooked pasta.”
“What was the budget for this movie anyway?” Bart asked, munching his way through a second bowl of popcorn.
“Seriously,” Cassie said, “It looks like the cheap ass haunted house the theatre club used to put on in high school.”
They all laughed at that, but after a moment, Bart spoke up. “You know I’ve never been to a haunted house?”
“Yeah you have,” Conner said, “We’ve been to to lots of haunted houses.”
“No I mean,” Bart sat up a little. “I’ve never been to a fake haunted house. You know the ones where people dress up and jump out at you. Those ones.”
“Oh,” Conner said, “Yeah I’ve never been to those ones either.”
“Seriously?” Cassie asked, “Neither of you? You both went to high school.”
“Yeah, but we were never young enough to be fooled by that stuff, and we were heroes so it wouldn’t have been that scary,” Conner said, “I was ‘born’ at the age of fifteen, and I never actually went to school for long enough until way later, remember?”
“I grew up in a video game simulation and aged so rapidly that by the time I was three I looked twelve. I never had the chance to do any normal kid stuff,” Bart said, “I’ve never even been trick-or-treating.”
“Right,” Cassie said, “It’s still weird to think about it.” She turned to Tim, “What about you? You grew up normal, you’ve been to a haunted house, right?”
“Haunted house once yeah,” Tim said, “But I’ve never been trick-or-treating either.”
Cassie frowned. “What, seriously? You can’t have always been a serious weirdo,” she said, poking him in the side.
Tim batted her away. “I wasn’t, I just never had the opportunity,” he said, “My parents were always away in October, and their schedules never aligned where they were able to take me. The nannies they hired never cared enough, and besides that they always had the holidays off.”
Cassie raised her eyebrows. “So you never went trick-or treating, ever?” she asked again.
Tim shrugged. “Sometimes I would cobble together some makeshift costume and wander around the house, knocking on doors and saying ‘trick-or-treat’ into the empty rooms, but that was about it.”
Now everyone was looking at Tim. “Dude, that is so sad and pathetic.” Conner said, looking distressed.
“Screw you,” Tim huffed, reaching over Cassie to shove at Conner.
“I always forget how garbage your parents were,” Bart said.
“I can’t believe I’m the only one out of the four of us that’s ever been trick-or-treating,” Cassie said, staring at the TV screen blankly in a state of existential horror.
Tim rolled his eyes. “It’s not that big a deal,” he said, “Besides, it’s not like we can go back in time. It is what it is.”
“Yeah,” Bart said forlornly, “Too bad we couldn’t go trick-or-treating now either. We’re way too old.”
Conner hummed. “Wouldn’t it be neat if we got caught by one of those de-ageing curses just around Halloween? Then we could go do all the kid stuff we never got to.”
“That would be pretty fun,” Bart said, “Dressing up and getting to eat a bunch of candy. Sounds lots of fun.”
“Yeah, it always looked like so much fun on TV,” Tim said, “It was all the other kids at school could talk about for days.”
“It would be pretty neat to relive the childhood wonder,” Cassie said.
Tim hummed. “Yeah, too bad there’s no chance of that happening right around Halloween,” he said.
They lapsed into silence, each contemplating the lost childhood innocence, robbed either by the passage of time or cruel circumstances. The small pleasures either lost forever or never experienced, never again to be regained. On the TV, a woman screamed as she was bifurcated in a spectacular spray of blood and gore.
In a rare moment of insight, Bart turned to the others and asked, “Hey, do you think Zatanna knows how to de-age people?”
For a moment, everyone in the room absorbed Bart’s question. After a second, they all came to the same realization looked at each other in shocked excitement; the kind of expression one adopted when they knew they were about to get into some major shenanigans.
“So you want me to cast a de-aging spell on you,” Zatanna said, the skepticism obvious in her voice. “So you can go trick-or-treating?”
“That’s about the gist of it yeah,” Tim said, trying to subtly shove Bart over so he wasn't pressed so hard into his side. The four of them were crowded around Tim’s laptop, video chatting with Zatanna; they had been lucky enough to catch her while she was in this dimension.
Zatanna furrowed her brows. “Why?” she asked. She was in her dressing room, having just finished a show.
“None of these guys have ever been,” Cassie said, “I’m the only one of them that had a normal childhood.”
Zatanna’s eyebrows shot up. “Really?” she asked.
“I was born a teenager,” Conner said, “Bart’s from the 30 th century, and Tim had a shitty childhood,” he said, “So yeah, really.”
“Yikes,” Zatanna said, “I do know a few spells, but I don't know about using them for recreational purposes.”
“It’s just for one night,” Tim said, “A few hours at most.”
“I don't know,” Zatanna said, still doubtful of the wisdom of this plan.
“We can pay,” Tim offered.
“Yeah, then it’s sort of like a commission, right?” Bart offered.
“I suppose that’s true,” Zatanna said, “Alright, I think I can whip something up. But this can’t be a regular thing,” she warned, “Magic like this is not something you can play with.”
“It’ll just be this one time, we promise,” Tim said, “We know better than to mess with that stuff.”
“Good,” Zatanna said, “I’ll give you a call tomorrow okay? I’ll do some research into which spell will work best for this.”
“Thank you Zatanna,” Tim said.
“No problem kid,” Zatanna said, smiling. “This will actually be pretty fun. I’m used to breaking these spells for people. It’ll be a nice change to cast one.”
They said their goodbyes and signed off a few minutes later. Tim turned to the others and they all grinned excitedly. This was going to be amazing .
“We should do a group costume,” Conner said some days later. “That would be fun.”
“I’ve never done a group costume,” Cassie said.
“What would we even go as?” Tim asked.
“We could just go as us,” Bart suggested, “But like really dumb kiddie versions. That would be hilarious.”
“Nah,” Tim said, “Too obvious. Something else?”
“It has to be something for four people,” Cassie said, “Something really creative.”
“The Scooby gang? There’s four of them and we can bring Krypto along,” Conner suggested.
“Maybe,” Tim said, considering it. “But that would make either me or Bart a girl.”
“Why us?” Bart asked.
Tim gestured to Conner. “Obviously Fred,” he said, “We’ll put the idea in the ‘maybe’ pile.”
“How about the four elements? You know, fire, wind, water, and air?” Conner suggested.
Bart vibrated excitedly. “We could go as benders from Avatar!” he exclaimed.
“Eh, a little obscur maybe?” Cassie said, “I don’t want to have to answer questions about what we are the whole night. So unless we go as specific characters, I’d have to say pass.”
“We could go as characters from something,” Conner said, “Avatar could work.”
“Or Korra,” Tim pointed out. “We could always do historical figures. Or just go in period costumes.”
“Knights and a princess?” Bart said.
“Or prince,” Cassie said, reaching over to flick Bart’s ear.
“It doesn’t have to necessarily come from a group of four either,” Tim said, “We could go as chess pieces.”
“Nerd,” Conner mocked fondly, reaching over to ruffle Tim’s hair. “I don’t know, I kind of liked Bart’s first idea.”
“Just going as us? Seems lazy,” Tim said.
“Yeah I agree,” Cassie said, “Though I’m not against doing something similar.”
“So maybe we go as heroes?” Conner suggested, “We could go as our mentors. Flash, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman.”
“Again, seems a little obvious,” Tim said.
“There has to be a way to jazz it up a bit,” Cassie said, “So it’s not quite as predictable.”
They sat in silence for a minute, trying to come up with something that would make the costumes better. After a few minutes, Conner excitedly waved his hands around.
“I got it!” he cried, “I totally know how we spice up our costumes!”
Beyond the practical side of things like arranging for the spell to be cast and making the costumes (which was harder for Bart and Conner because they had to guestimate the measurements they would have as children whereas Tim and Cassie could just find some of their old clothes and use those as baselines), there was also the business of telling everyone who should know about their plan. Their families would have to be notified and they’d have to take Halloween night off from their work, both civilian and hero.
For Tim and his family, Halloween was an especially busy night, with many rogues trying to pull crazy shit, often trying to outdo each other. Calendar Man and Scarecrow often both planned for something for Halloween night, completely independent of the other. One year it was so bad that the two villains had stopped and started fighting each other for ‘control’ over the holiday. The fight had ended when Joker had come out with his own plan which was on such a scale the entire family and half the rogues gallery was on red alert.
At first, Bruce had denied Tim’s request to take the night off, citing that they would need Tim around just in case something went really wild. It took Tim a while to convince Bruce to let him go.
“We haven’t heard any chatter about any plans this year,” Tim pointed out, “Whatever is going to happen is going to be small beans.”
“But something is going to happen,” Bruce said, “Something always happens,” he said in a more defeated tone.
“So we’ll prepare in advance,” Tim said, “And if things start getting really bad, you can give me a call and I’ll come home. We can set it up with Zatanna so she’s on call or I can break the spell on my own.”
Bruce grumbled. “I still don't think it’s a good idea,” he said, “Why are you so insistent on this? You’ve never really been a holiday person.”
Tim shrugged. “I guess I wanted to have one Halloween, since I didn't get to do any of that stuff when I was little. My parents were never around, so I never really got a Halloween, or a Thanksgiving, or even Christmas some years,” he said, thinking back on all the holidays he sat by the phone, waiting for it to ring. “I figured if I was going to re-do one holiday, Halloween with my best friends could be the simplest of them all.”
Bruce’s face took on a slightly pinched quality. “You’re trying to guilt trip me,” he grumbled.
“A little,” Tim admitted, “Is it working?”
Bruce let out a long sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Fine,” he said in a long exhale, “But we’re going to set up some safety measures just in case, alright?”
Tim broke into a big grin and leaned across the desk to wrap his arms around Bruce. “Thanks dad!” he said, squeezing him tightly.
Bruce huffed out a small chuckle and patted Tim’s back. “Laying it on a little thick now,” he said, though he didn't move to extract Tim from his person.
“Just making sure,” Tim said, grinning up at Bruce brightly. Bruce rolled his eyes, but they stayed that way for a minute longer anyway.
After a few weeks of making plans and getting organized, the day finally arrived. They had decided to meet in Smallville, at the farm, which seemed like the safest option. They’d managed to acquire a little mini-teleportation device that would take them to specific neighborhoods in Gateway City, Central City, and Metropolis, and then to Titans Tower at the end of the night. They’d toyed with the idea of going to some of the nicer neighborhoods of Gotham, but had scrapped the idea on the grounds that Tim didn’t think he’d be able to sit things out if he was so close to whatever was going to go down in Gotham that night (plus he didn't want his brothers meddling with his night if he could help it). They’d planned it out so they could hit the best neighborhoods for trick-or-treating at the prime hours (the different time zones had helped with that, so they wouldn't end up being out too late). It was a well researched and thoroughly checked out plan, with many failsafes and contingencies in case things went a little crazy. Hopefully things would go well though, since this would be the first (and only) Halloween Bart, Tim, and Conner would ever have.
“Is everything ready?” Cassie asked, shielding her eyes from the bright Kansas sun.
“Almost,” Zatanna said, setting up a few more elements she needed for the spell. “We should be good to go in a few minutes.”
“And this won’t hurt at all?” Martha Kent asked, watching slightly anxiously from the porch. Despite her reservations, she had her camera ready to take pictures of the four of them as children. She’d promised to take a bunch of them for everyone’s families.
“We’ll be fine,” Tim said, “We’ve researched the spell, and there shouldn’t be any adverse effects.”
“If anything goes wrong, I’ll have my phone on,” Zatanna said. She finished the last rune and stepped back. “Okay, that’s everything. Everyone get into the circle.”
Tim, Bart, Conner, and Cassie all stepped into the circle and tried to keep calm as Zatanna began the ritual. The spell was simple enough to do, but it had been modified to only last for the night, so they should be normal by morning tomorrow. Zatanna had also put in a way to break the spell with a word in case they ran into trouble.
As Zatanna began to chant the backwards words, the circle began to glow, eventually enveloping the four of them in a column of light. With a final wave of her hand, Zatanna finished the spell and the light receded, and in the place of the four young adults were four young preteens.
“Holy shit,” Conner said, his voice much higher than he was used to. “This is so weird.”
“My hands are so small!” Bart exclaimed, looking over his much smaller body in awe.
Cassie ran her hands over her flat chest. “I forgot how it felt to not have boobs.”
Tim rolled up his too big sleeves. “I forgot how short I used to be,” he grumbled.
“Used to be?” Conner teased, leaning over Tim. They were all around twelve physically, but Conner was still around a whole head taller than Tim. “You’ve always been short.”
Tim glared, but was still rather dismayed to notice that he was the shortest of them all now, even Cassie, who as near adults was about two inches shorter than him. Now she was at least two inches taller than him. “Whatever,” he said, “We should get into our costumes.”
“Oh goodness,” Martha said, grinning brightly. “You four are so cute !” She picked up her camera and came down the steps to mush Conner’s cheeks in her hands.
“ Maaaaa ,” Conner whined, not pulling away from her grip but clearly not happy about being coddled. “We’re not actually twelve.”
“I know,” Martha cooed, “But I can’t help it. You're just too cute!”
“You really are a cute bunch,” Zatanna observed, sipping from a glass of orange juice Martha had set out for her. “Like a group of plucky kids from one of those coming of age movies.”
“You look so much like Clark at that age,” Martha hummed, pulling Conner into a hug. “Just adorable.”
“Ma!” Conner said, finally wiggling away from her. “Don’t you have to take pictures?”
“Of course,” Martha said, taking up her camera and turning it on. “Smile cuties!”
With a few more eye rolls and begrudging posing, they took a few photos for posterity. After a few minutes, they managed to extract themselves and head inside to get into their costumes. They’d worked hard on them and were pretty excited to get to wear them, if only for one night. Martha sat patiently on the couch, flicking through the photos she’d already taken on her camera. In the setting Kansas sun, the photos had come out very nicely. Martha smiled a little wistfully at their youthful faces; it was easy to imagine that the children in the photos were just that, children, without the weight of the world on their shoulders, having witness the worst of humanity and gone through unspeakable traumas. Bart’s gap toothed smile, Tim’s bright and clear eyes, Cassie’s rosy cheeks, and Conner’s carefree expression all belied the terrible things they’d experienced in their short lives.
Martha was startled out of her reverie when something thudded at the bottom of the stairs. She looked up to see a small figure in a red, blue, and gold costume and a black wig.
Conner grinned wide and stood to his full height, putting his hands on his hips in the classic power pose. “This is awesome ,” he declared, eye sparkling with delight.
Martha barely had time to react before a little black shadow zipped through the room. It stopped in the darkest corner of the room, but Martha could still clearly see that it was a tiny Batman, complete with a little utility belt.
“I’m Batman,” Bart growled, his attempt to mimic Bruce coming out more like a squeak than the deep growl Batman used.
Tim and Cassie come down the stairs a moment later, Tim’s hair styled and curled in a familiar way and Cassie’s blonde hair had been gathered into a ponytail that was sticking out of the back of her red cowl.
Martha laughed in delight. “Don’t you bunch just look so spiffy!” she said, readying her camera again. “Now smile!”
After a few more minutes of smiling for photos, Tim finally checked the time on his phone. “We should get going pretty soon here,” he said.
“Alright, I’ll let you kids go,” Martha said, flicking through the dozens of photos she’d snapped. She was definitely going to print some of these out, and she knew Alfred, Ms. Sandsmark, and Barry would want copies as well. “You have fun, and be safe okay?”
“We will,” Conner promised, tossing a lock of black hair over his shoulder.
“Everyone’s got their candy bags?” Tim asked, setting the teleporter. It was a little bulky, but it could clip to his belt at the back and be hidden by his red cape.
“We’re good,” Cassie said, holding up the old pillowcases they’d borrowed for the night.
“Let’s go get some candy!” Bart said, hopping around excitedly.
Tim smiled and readied the teleporter as the others crowded around him. With the press of a button and a quick flash, they were suddenly miles away, in a secluded spot in Metropolis. They were starting on the east coast and moving their way west, following the timezones so they could get all the neighborhoods they wanted. Tim, with the help of Bart, had done some pretty extensive research on what neighborhoods were the best in each city. Tim had taken into account a number of different things when doing his research, such as relative peacefulness, quality of decorations, and quantity of candy.
“Okay, does everyone remember the plan?” Tim asked, pulling up the map on his phone. “We want to hit every house we can in a short amount of time as possible.”
Cassie rolled her eyes. “Sure thing, ‘General’, way to take the fun out of trick-or-treating,” she said, “Come on you nerds, let an old pro show you how it’s done.”
The boys followed Cassie out of their little nook into the Metropolis suburb, the setting sun casting a warm orange glow over the neighborhood. Children of all ages scurried from house to house, shrieking in excitement. Plastic ghosts hung from almost-bare trees and front doors where garlanded with cotton cobwebs. Motion sensing devices screamed and jerked as people walked past, delighting children and startling adults. The smell of singed pumpkins filled the air, the Jack O’Lanterns glowing invitingly from porches and steps. Brown, yellow, red, and golden leaves crunched underfoot as the four of them walked down the sidewalk, their heads turning to take it all in.
“This is so cool,” Conner said, watching a trio of Powerpuff Girls skip past. “It’s really just like on TV.”
“Do you think we’ll encounter a ghost?” Bart asked, “Or like, some sort of monster?”
“It’s not outside the realm of possibility,” Cassie said, “For us at least.”
“Well, I for one hope we don't see anything paranormal or supernatural,” Tim said, “I want us to just have as normal Halloween as possible.”
Conner groaned. “Man, way to jinx it. Now we’re gonna get stuck fighting an army of zombies or something.”
“We’re not gonna be fighting any zombies,” Cassie said, “We’re going to go trick-or-treating, get a fuck-ton of candy, eat way too much and make ourselves sick, and pass out watching crappy horror movies. The worst we’re going to encounter tonight is some middle school bullies who try to spook us and steal our candy.” Cassie’s face went serious, “By Hera, I declare it.”
Conner laughed. “You declare it?” he teased.
“I declare it!” Cassie shouted, throwing up her hands and getting a few looks from the adults meandering about. Undeterred, Cassie pointed to the first house on the block. “Onward!” she cried, taking off as if to battle, Tim, Conner, and Bart following her, giggling the children they looked like.
The first neighbourhood they passed through offered no hindrances, supernatural or otherwise. Conner, Tim, and Bart followed Cassie’s lead as they went from house to house, ringing bells and knocking on doors, shouting ‘trick-or-treat- excitedly and holding out their treat bags. Middle class housewives exalted with glee at how adorable they were, dutifully handing out candies and complimenting them on their costumes.
After thoroughly canvassing the entire neighborhood, making sure no houses were missed, the four of them quietly wiggled into a secluded spot and took out the teleporter. The setting sun was beginning to dim, casting long blue shadows that contrasted with the orange light.
With a nod from the others, Tim clicked the device and sent them hurtling through space until they landed in Central City, once again in a quaint suburb populated by upper middle class families. From their secluded nook, they could see gaggles of brightly coloured children being escorted down the streets.
With the same enthusiasm as before, the four of them ran up the street, laughing and teasing each other good naturedly. For the moment, all responsibility was off of their shoulders. There were no bad guys to fight, no companies to run, no classes to go to, no impending futures to make tough decisions about; it was only the four of them, having fun and laughing like they hadn’t in years. They felt like the children they looked like, like the children they had never gotten to be. Conner shrieked and kicked up masses of fallen leaves, sending them fluttering through the air. Bart hopped around, getting into character and swishing his cape around his ankles. Tim smiled and hummed along to himself, his steps bouncy and light. Cassie watched her boys with a deep fondness, happy to see them so carefree for once. She’d had a normal childhood until she didn’t, but these three, her boys (and they were hers, no matter what anyone said), had never had anything of the sort. It filled her heart with painful joy to see them laugh and play like they had never gotten to.
Their time in Central City went as well as Metropolis had, and soon they were ready to teleport to Gateway City, the last stop on their journey. They were starting to slow down, their energy waning even as their enthusiasm stayed.
“Man, this is so much fun, but I hope we get through this next neighborhood fast,” Conner said, “I’m not used to so much walking.”
“You’re Kryptonian?” Tim pointed out, “How are your feet hurting?”
“When I have to travel this much, I usually just fly,” Conner said, “Plus I think these shoes are a size too small.”
“We’re close to being done you guys,” Cassie said, “Just two streets left and we can call it a night.”
“This has been so much fun though,” Bart said, “I kind of don't want it to ever end. If we had to fight some horror movie monster right now, that would be the freaking best . I’m so amped up.”
“Yeah, because you’ve been eating your candy on the go,” Tim said, “You’re supposed to wait until we get back home to go through the candy.”
“Yeah,” Cassie said, pushing some of her blond hair back into the neck of her costume. “You always wait until you get home, then you start negotiating trades with your friends, or siblings if you have them.”
“So many weird little nuances,” Bart said, “Whatever, I’ve mostly been eating the chocolate covered raisins.”
Cassie paused. “Dude, no one likes those. I know you’re… you , but no one likes the raisins.”
“They’re just dehydrated grapes,” Bart pointed out, “And these ones are covered in chocolate . What’s not to love? You like grapes.”
“I like grapes , not raisins,” Cassie said, “There’s miles of difference.”
“Raisins are good for energy, they’ve got lots of vitamins and minerals,” Bart said, “No wonder you guys are so pooped.”
“So I guess everyone’s giving their raisins to Bart,” Conner said.
“I don’t mind raisins,” Tim said, “My favourite are the white chocolate covered ones.”
“So you get the white chocolate raisins then,” Conner said, “Any other weird candies you guys want?”
“Guys, we’ll figure that out later,” Cassie said, “Right now we’re still in the candy acquisition stages. Negotiations can happen later.”
The four of them continued on their route, arguing amongst themselves about the merits of raisins, chocolate covered or not. By the time they were nearly finished with the neighborhood, the sun was starting to dip below the horizon.
Tim paused to stretch. “This has been great, but I think if we try to stuff anymore candy into these, they’re going to rip,” he said, holding up his bulging pillowcase of candy.
“Three different neighborhoods of upper middle class people who can give out full sized candy bars might have been overkill,” Conner said, “But we’re nearly done Tim, just a couple more houses.”
“Then we can head back to the Tower and stuff ourselves sick while we watch horror movies,” Cassie said, “The perfect ending to a perfect night.”
Tim smiled. “This has been pretty great. I’m glad we got to do this.”
“Maybe we can do it again next year?” Bart suggested, soundly a little far away, a little sad.
Conner hummed. “Nah, I don’t think it would be the same,” he said. He passed a low window and caught his reflection in it. Even without the wig and the costume, Conner was a little thrown by his appearance. He’d never known what it was to be a child, and the sight of himself was jarring to say the least. It was tempting to make plans for next year, to make plans for other holidays, other childhood experiences that he’d missed out on, but the temptation was a slippery slope.
Bart, as though knowing exactly what Conner was thinking by reading his face, fell into step beside him, giving him a sympathetic look even as Conner tried to smile through the melancholy. Their hands found each other and they squeezed, both needing the support of the other. Bart had been denied the normal experiences of childhood as much as Conner had, forces outside of his control conspiring to cheat him out of anything normal. They both had never even been given the chance to be normal, and though they both had come to terms with their lives and couldn’t find much to be regretful about, there was the lingering thoughts of ‘what-if’.
What a pair the two of them made.
Tim and Cassie seemed to notice the dip in mood and let the silence settle around their shoulders for a while. Conner and Bart continued to walk hand-in-hand, enjoying the support for the moment, while Tim and Cassie stayed close, ready to offer their own comfort should it be wanted.
They walked for a while that way, wandering through the streets. It was dark now, the street lights blinking on, attracting moths that cast ominous shadows on the ground. The joyous shrieks of excitement had grown quiet as adults herded their packs of children back into the safety of their homes. The particularly young and exhausted enjoyed the luxury of being carried on their mother or father’s shoulders, who ignored the greasepaint stains on their clothing for the moment. The sky darkened, the oranges and pinks giving way to inky blues and purples, with only the hint of light glowing distantly on the horizon, like a tired friend not just ready to say goodnight. The air picked up a chill, though there was just enough of the lingering warmth of the day to stave off the usual maliciousness of the cold.
With a long sigh, Cassie leaned her head on Bart’s shoulder. “Think it’s time to call it in?” se asked quietly.
“Yeah, I think we’re good,” Conner said.
“Let’s walk a little more,” Bart said, “Just a few more houses.”
“We’re not ready for it to end,” Tim said.
With that, they cast off the feeling of lethargy that had come over them. Though the night was winding down, there was still more to do. Older children and a few young teens still prowled the night, and houses had not exhausted their supplies of treats. Leaving aside the momentary somber feelings, the four of them pressed on, eventually deciding to even do a few extra streets, just for the heck of it.
“Okay, I think these are actually going to burst,” Tim said, “We have to stop now, there’s no way to get more candy into these without breaking the laws of physics.”
“Agreed,” Cassie said, “I think we have more candy in these than I’ve ever had from trick-or-treating as a kid combined .”
“It’s going to take ages to eat all this,” Conner said, “This is so awesome.”
“Let’s head back to the Tower,” Bart said, bouncing up and down on his heels. “We’ve got movies to watch and candy to eat!”
As they began to search for a secluded spot, a group of older boys, maybe around fourteen or so, stepped in front of them. They stopped, curious as to what these teenagers wanted.
“Hey kids,” the lead teen said with a mean grin. “How was your night?”
“It was great, thank you,” Bart answered, looking to the others in confusion.
“That’s good, glad you had fun,” the teen said, his friends starting to snicker behind him. They were all wearing hockey masks with fake blood on them, like the laziest group costume ever.
“Do you need something?” Conner asked, raising an eyebrow. The physically older teens towered over them, but Conner still had the mentality of an adult, and worried for a moment that these kids needed help.
The teens only laughed harder. “Yeah man, we need something,” one of them said, “We need you to hand over your candy.”
There was a short pause. “Seriously?” Tim asked, “Is this—is this actually happening?”
The lead teen took a step forward, probably intending to be intimidating. “Yeah, this is actually happening,” he said, “So why don't you fork over the goods before someone gets hurt?”
If the four had been actual twelve year olds, the sight of these five teens looming over them might have been frightening, but having stared death itself in the face before, they were rather underwhelmed.
Cassie sighed and rolled her eyes. “Come on guys, let’s go,” she said, starting to walk away from the teens. The boys turned to follow her, leaving the teens in a state of shock.
“Hey!” the lead teen shouted after them. “Don’t fucking walk away from us you little shits!”
“Ignore them,” Cassie said, “They just want attention.”
“Who steals candy from kids?” Conner asked, “Like, how low can you get?”
In a fit of rage, one of the teens picked up a rock. “Fucking little assholes!” he shouted, whipping the rock directly at the back of Conner’s head.
Now, the spell Zatanna had used had deaged them, but not depowered them. They had all their powers and memories, just in case they ran into any trouble. Conner heard the rock whistle through the air and reacted instantaneously. He whipped around and smacked the rock out of the air, misjudging the distance and catching it against his forearm. The rock pinged against the Wonder Woman arm cuffs Conner was wearing and flew back the way it came, striking the teen who threw it right in between the eyes. More shocked than hurt, the teen stumbled back and fell on his ass.
“Oops,” Conner said, “You okay?”
“You guys are dead!” the lead teen shouted, beginning to charge, his boys following close behind.
It was over laughably quickly. Five teenagers against four superheroes hardly seemed fair, even when those superheroes were deaged.
One teen went after Bart, telegraphing his punch so hard Bart almost felt bad avoid it. One second he was in front of the teen, the next he was behind him, the shadows and his black outfit masking his movement. The teen nearly overbalanced from his wild swing and stood for a second, dumbfounded.
Having too much fun, Bart leaned forward and tapped on the boy’s shoulder. “I am the Night,” he growled.
The teen yelped and spun around, taking another swing, but Bart was already gone, disappearing into the shadows.
The smallest teen went after Cassie, mistakenly assuming the girl would be the easiest target. He charged full speed at her, like he was going to tackle her. Cassie quickly stepped out of the way, watching the boy go head first into a bush with a wince. The boy yelped and struggled, tangling himself in the bush and scratching himself on the dry branches.
The biggest teen zeroed in on Tim, lumbering toward him like a bull. Acting on instinct, Tim leapt up and vaulted over the boy’s shoulders, sailing over him with a precise flip. He landed several feet away, his cape swishing around his feet. The teen blinked dumbly, trying to figure out what just happened.
The last two teens, the leader and the boy who’d thrown the rock, charged at Conner. They rushed at him, both trying to grab him, but Conner just put his hands on their chests and shoved them backwards. The two boys tumbled backwards, winded from slamming into Conner’s hard-as-steel body and being flung backwards. They landed on their asses, coughing.
“What the fuck?” the lead teen groaned, slowly picking himself off the ground. “What are you guys?”
The four looked at each other, all thinking the same thing. Conner stood over them and put his hands on his hips in the classic pose. “What do we look like?” he asked. The light from the streetlamp haloed them in yellow light, casting long shadows on the ground.
With a squeak, the lead teen scrambled up and started running, his friends following quickly behind him. They watched them go for a minute before bursting into laughter.
“‘What do we look like’?” Tim asked through his laughter. “Seriously?”
“Shut up, it was the best I could come up with on the spot,” Conner said, shoving at Tim’s shoulder.
“What did I tell you guys? Nothing but some middle school bullies,” Cassie said, wiping her eyes. “Come on, let’s get back to the Tower.”
The Titans Tower was silent when the arrived in the main room, the lights off but the light of the stars of the sky casting an eerie glow as they shone through the windows. Still giggling, the four of them made their way through the Tower, not bothering to switch on any lights. They found their way to the big media room and finally flopped down in front of the TV.
“Geez,” Conner groaned, tossing off his wig and reaching down to pull at his boots. “What a night.”
“It was good though,” Cassie said, pulling the headpiece off of her costume. She started to wiggle out of the top half, unshy of the boys seeing her in just the tank top she had on underneath.
“Best Halloween I’ve ever had,” Bart quipped, causing them all to giggle.
Once they were all stripped out of their costumes and in nothing but undershirts and shorts, they began sorting their candy, negotiating trades and shoving anything unwanted at Bart, who’d eat it on principle. Once they were satisfied with their hauls, they started to set up the movies.
“Just a sec,” Tim said, “I promised I’d call when we were done.”
“Hurry up,” Bart whined, “We’ve got movies to watch and candy to eat.”
“I’ll be quick,” Tim promised. He slipped out of the room and quickly dialed Dick’s number, knowing he was the most likely to pick up.
“ Hey Tim! ” Dick answered, “ How was your night? ”
“Hey Dick,” Tim said, “It was really good, we had a lot of fun.”
“ That’s so great, I’m happy for you, ” Dick said, “ You didn’t run into any trouble? ”
“Not really,” Tim replied, leaning back against the wall. “The worst we came up against was some teenagers trying to snatch our candy bags.”
Dick laughed. “ Seriously? So cliché, ” he said, “ You back at the Tower? ”
“Yup, we’re going to watch horror movies until we pass out,” Tim said, “What about you? How was your night?” he asked with a bit of trepidation.
“ It was really good, surprisingly, ” Dick said, “ Super quiet. ”
“Really?” Tim asked, shocked, “Halloween is usually so busy.”
“ Right? It’s crazy, ” Dick said, “ What happened was that Scarecrow had some sort of really complex plan, but he must have cut some corners because one of his gas tanks backfired and dosed him and his crew. Crane of course tweaked out and fell off his platform thing and broke his ankle. He’s going to in the hospital for weeks, ” he explained.
“Damn,” Tim said, “What about Joker and Calendar Man?”
“ Well Day is apparently down sick. Mono or something, ” Dick explained.
“Seriously?” Tim asked, laughing a little.
“ Seriously, ” Dick confirmed, “ And Joker is locked up tight in Arkham. The worst he did tonight was try and shiv Killer Croc with a plastic fork. Not something I think he’s going to try again, seeing as Croc gave him a pretty nasty whupping for it. ”
“You never know with that lunatic,” Tim pointed out, “I’m glad you had a slow night. No one got hurt?”
“ Jason landed funny and pulled his ankle a little, but yeah, we’re all fine, ” Dick said, “ You don't have to worry about anything Timmy, you just have fun with your friends, okay? ”
Tim smiled. “Will do,” he said. They said their goodbyes before Tim hung up and went back into the media room.
Conner, Bart, and Cassie were in various states of sprawled over the floor, pillows, cushions, and blankets having been gathered into some kind of nest. Cassie was valiantly defending Tim’s stash of candy from thievery, though he was pretty sure he’d never be able to eat the mountain of sweets by himself. He took his place in the middle of them and they fell together, crowding into one another’s space. It wasn’t quite ‘cuddling’, too many deliberate elbows to be considered that, but it was close, intimate. They draped limbs over one another, feeling the reassurance of each other’s presence. Occasionally there would be a flutter of activity, someone shifting and having to move someone else, and they kept up a steady stream of idle chatter.
By the time the fourth movie was rolling the credits, they were mostly all asleep. The movie had been some awful foreign slasher that had been badly dubbed over; the TV screen cast the whole room in an eerie glow, but it felt comforting. Cassie felt the breathing of her friends around her and smiled, glad for the one last chance at capturing some nostalgic childhood wonder, but incandescently joyful that she’d been able to share in giving her best friends something that they’d never been able to have. She drifted to sleep on that happiness, surrounded by the boys, her boys.
When they woke up they were back to normal size, tangled together even worse and sick from eating too much candy. None of them would have had it any other way.