The Pumpkin King returned to his hometown. He was earlier than he had anticipated,
but the convocation been winding down so Jack took the opportunity to say his farewells.
Now he crept against the stone walls surrounding Halloweentown. The mayor
and all of the townsfolk would want to welcome him home and hear every detail of his
trip, which was well and good in its time, but first Jack wanted to reunite with his family.

"You're going to be tired all day Shock, you didn't sleep long at all.", Sally said.
She sat in the kitchen having a very late breakfast of oatmeal. Shock was offered a bowl,
but refused in favor of two more muffins.
The front door slammed.
"Babydoll! I'm hooome!", Jack called happily. Sally beamed. Shock coughed
on her muffin. Wasn't he early? She had been hoping to get out of here before Jack
showed up...
Jack strode into the kitchen with his customary grin. Ah, to be home! His cozy kitchen
with the copper ceiling and leaded windows, a large pot steaming on the stove, a loyal
ghost dog flipping through the air, his beautiful wife Sally lighting up the room with her
smile, Shock eating muffins, happy bone babies snuggled in their carrier... Jack paused
in his reverie. Shock!?!? Jack blinked his eye sockets twice. Sally jumped in.
"Shock decided to keep me company last night. Wasn't that sweet, Jack?
Remember I invited her?"
Jack nodded.
"Hello Shock. It was so kind of you to stay with Sally."
Jack took a nervous glance around the kitchen. Nothing seemed broken...or on fire. The
Pumpkin King regained his train of thought and embraced Sally.
"Oooh, I missed you Baby Doll. Was everything all right in my absence? You
didn't have to pull rank on any of the constituency did you?", he joked.
Sally laughed and nuzzled under Jack's chin.
"We missed you Jack.", she purred.
A quiet snort came from Shock's direction. It was so quiet, Jack couldn't be sure he had
not imagined it. The witch girl was a picture of wide-eyed innocence when Jack glanced
at her.
"Oh! I have to greet the princes!" Jack knelt on the floor beside his sons.
"Helloooo! How are my little pumpkin seeds? Do you two feel better?" Sally
leaned over the basket.
"They are brightening up, I think. No more fevers."
Jack took a seat at the table beside Shock, across from his wife. Shock stared
self-consciously at her teacup. The trio liked to talk about how silly Jack was. They
always made fun of the king when goofing around in the treehouse, but deep down all
three were afraid of him. Sally filled Jack's teacup, then leaned across the table and
kissed his skull. He turned to their guest.
"Erm, Shock, I really do want to thank you for staying here last night. It's good to
know that Sally had someone here. I trust you two had a nice time?"
"Yes, Jack.", Shock said. Jack grinned and patted the child's hand, oblivious to
her trembling. She stood up suddenly.
"Um, I need to get back to the treehouse now. Those boys, they can't handle not
having me around, 'cause I'm the only one who knows I had better go." Shock
picked up her burlap bag.
"Wait a moment Shock. Remember I told you I would send some food home for
you three.", Sally said, gathering pumpkin muffins and bread. She walked Shock down
narrow stairs to the front door, then handed her the bundle of food. Shock promptly
stuffed it into her overnight bag before heading out.

"I am soooooo happy to be home Sally.", Jack laughed. He stretched his
impossibly lithe frame even taller and rested his fingertips against the hallway ceiling.
Sally grinned at him from the babies' nursery. She was changing Nicholas while he
squirmed on the table. "Why, I can even say I missed this business!", Jack proclaimed
gesturing to the diaper bag. "And I was only away for a night! Who would ever believe a
little family could be so enchanting." Sally handed Jack his tiny namesake.
"Far be it from me to stand in the way of your enchantment your majesty. I shall
bestow upon you the honor of presenting Prince Jack with a new nappy." She tickled her
king playfully as she walked from the nursery into their bedroom. Jack changed his son
with the ease of a father who was becoming accustomed to such rituals. When he carried
both little ones into the master bedroom he found Sally scrutinizing her profile in the
full-length mirror.
"So now that she is gone you can be honest love. How was your night with
"Hmm? Oh, it was very nice Jack, honestly! We had some good conversation
and I think we learned a great many things about one another."
"Wow, really?" Jack was impressed.
"Mmmhmm...", Sally murmured, obviously distracted.
"Jack, darling?", She asked several minutes later. "Jack, do you think I have"
Jack looked up suddenly, caught off-guard.
Sally scowled at her reflection in the mirror. She looked over her shoulder at Jack
pointedly then cast her gaze downward. Jack followed her eyes.
"Ooooh..." He grinned and scratched his skull sheepishly. "Sally, goodness.
You have twins after all. You look beautiful as you always have. ...And I'm sure no one
in town even notices any change in you."
Sally looked back at her reflection. Well, Lock had apparently noticed. The queen made
a mental note to let out all of her dresses.

"I am gonna kill her so bad when she gets back here! Help me with this, stupid!",
Lock growled. Barrel whined, but took hold of one side of an enormous iron pot.
"Whatchu' put inside it Lock?", he asked. Lock chuckled.
"Just a return present for Shock. Some black paint, mixed with rotten fish
oil. Now, when she comes outta the elevator, we'll be up in the rafters and we'll dump
this on her, okay? You have to help me, because I can't pull it up to the rafters myself."
Barrel scratched his head.
"I don't know Lock. It's really full. I don't think even both of us can even lift it
up there!"
Lock hung out the window. Shock was coming! She was trudging toward the treehouse
with her bag over her shoulder. It was time to teach her a lesson about acting all big and
going somewhere fun without her cohorts.
"SHUT UP, BARREL!", Lock yelled. "C'mon and help! Lift it up!"
Shock meandered slowly home, swinging her bag. She reviewed the events of the
previous evening in her mind. Shock now knew alot more about the queen, just as she
had hoped. Her initial desire for knowledge was to use it for personal gain. Secret
information would be a good bargaining chip with the boys. It had all seemed like a
good idea, but for some reason Shock felt differently now that the visit was over. She
stepped into the elevator and ascended into the treehouse. About half way up, a powerful
stench assaulted her. Lock and Barrel lay sprawled on the floor covered in some kind of
paint and fish mixture. A heavy iron pot rolled into the side of the elevator.
"Oooow....", moaned Barrel. He rubbed his head where the pot had struck.
Shock laughed.
"Niiiice! Wow, you guys sure had fun while I was gone, huh? I am soooooo
sorry I missed out."
"Did you even bring us back anything good? I'm sure you must have swiped
some souvenirs from Jack's house.", Lock growled. Shock shrugged.
"Sorry. I mentioned to Sally that I should probably bring you guys home some
gifts or food or something, since we were having so much fun, but she said 'no.'"
"I knew it! She is so MEAN!", Lock pouted.
She threw her muffin-filled overnight bag down in the corner.
"Yeah...she hates you two. I had a great time though.", Shock commented
"Hey, did you get any good secrets? Any dirt on Jack that we can use?
What about Sally? Did you get to see her change or anything?", Lock asked.
"I'm not telling you anything you freaky perv!". Shock yelled. The
treehouse grew quiet for a time, aside from Barrel's sobbing at being left out of the
overnight adventure. Shock twirled a bit of her curly green hair around her fingers. She
rolled on her stomach, thinking over the events of the previous evening. Lock stomped
over beside her bed. He was getting ready to give out to her and insist she share
SOMETHING interesting about her evening, when he stopped and looked at her
"What?", Shock asked.
"Nothin', forget's just, you look weird or something today."
"Well I'm making a face and breathing through my mouth because
you and Barrel stink of fish oil.", Shock retorted. Lock shrugged and walked away.
"Nah, that isn't it. I don't know what it is. You're just ugly that's all I guess.", he
called back to her. But for some reason he knew that that was not what he had noticed at
all. He noticed that Shock for some reason did NOT look ugly to him today. She looked
a little different, a little older or something. It wasn't a bad thing at all.

...................not that he would tell her that.