Author's note: All characters who appeared in the show belong to the show's creators. All others to Mary and Amanda. This takes place shortly after the handfasting story. Thanks to my beta/ co-authoress. The song that appears is old enough to be in public domain. Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks to God for the gift of words to read and to write.

Changing Traditions

Amanda

November 22, 1976

"Do you, Edward Henry, take Martha Marie to be your lawfully wedded wife; in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, forsaking all others, until death do you part?" Reverend Farley asked gravely.

Ed Peavey could feel at least one or two pairs of ghostly eyes glaring at his back, daring him to chicken out, though he had no intention of doing so. Nor did he feel inclined to point out to the parson that whether death would do them part was highly debatable, as he had learned not that long ago. Instead, he simply looked at Martha and firmly stated, "I do."

Reverend Farley repeated the vows, and Martha replied "I do," almost before he could finish them.

The rings were exchanged next, and then, finally, the pastor pronounced them man and wife.

Several hours later when the reception was over, Mrs. Muir, Candy, and Jenny joined Martha in her old room to help her finish packing. Martha's sister, Evelyn, had offered to, but Mrs. Peavey said she really wanted to have a chance to say good-bye to the family privately.

"Your aim is so good that I bet Claymore tries to get you on the Oysters next spring," Candy grinned as she locked Martha's cosmetics case. "Your bouquet went straight to Mom."

"Actually, Candy," Martha remarked dryly, "I think the flowers had a little help getting there, even if I did want you to catch them, Mrs. Muir."

"Well, Dash does feel like he's on a roll, getting you and Ed down the aisle at last," Carolyn Muir blushed. "And since Candy and Jenny are a little too young..."

"I'd be almost an old maid in his day, though," Jenny pointed out with a wink.

"Let's not toss that word around lightly," Martha said. "Old is a four letter word, no matter how good ghostly blarney is." She paused and looked at her family seriously. "I know Ed wouldn't like it, but we COULD delay the honeymoon a few days and spend Thanksgiving here with you all."

Carolyn walked over to put an arm around her friend. "Martha, no. I do appreciate it, and we will miss you, but you've waited a long time for this. I promise, we'll manage just fine."

"It'll be a big crowd," Martha continued to fret. "There's you three, the Captain, Jonathan eats enough to count as two, Sean, Dash, and Tris all have healthy appetites, and didn't Adam say he was going to be here?"

"And maybe Dave," slipped out from Jenny. Since it was too late to unsay it, she added feebly, "He is alone for the first time." Her eyes dropped; she didn't want to point out the similarity of their situations.

"See? We need to just hold off. A day or two won't matter," Martha said briskly.

"Martha!" the other three ladies chorused in protest.

"Granted, I am not much in the kitchen," Carolyn grimaced, "but, you did teach Candy a good bit about cooking, and I know Laura taught Jenny."

"I always helped out," the girl nodded.

"We'd feel awful if you waited on our account," Candy said. "It'll feel weird, but we don't want to mess up your honeymoon. You were a great teacher, the - Fontenot of the kitchen — so trust me. Jen and I can handle it."

"The Fontenot, huh?" Martha said, wavering. "Well, I guess you're right. But, when I get back, I better find my kitchen in as good a shape as when I left it."

The girls hugged her. "Promise," they said in unison.

"And we won't give anyone food poisoning either," Candy grinned.

"But, I want to know when I get to meet this Fontenot guy that makes even the Captain look awed, a little," Jenny added. "He sounds like—"

"He is," the others assured her emphatically.

"But, we never know when he'll turn up," Carolyn finished, closing the last suitcase. "Now, Martha, I want you to just enjoy your trip and not worry. I promise, we will not starve to death. The girls have helped you cook before, you know. Holiday meals are just bigger than ordinary ones."

"You're right, I know. And this isn't like when I was leaving forever," Martha nodded. "Or so we thought, anyway. I'll be back in a couple of weeks, and after that, only a phone call or a ghost pop away." She sniffed.

"If it was farther, we'd have problems," Carolyn put her arms around the older woman. "Now, be happy. You deserve it."

Before things could degenerate into the realm of maudlin, there was a knock. "The groom is getting rather impatient to catch your flight," the Captain's voice called through the door.

"I'll be right out," Martha replied.

November 23, Tuesday

Fortunately, Candy, Jon and Jenny's teachers did not even attempt to instruct their classes on the last day before the Thanksgiving break. The kids would have been in trouble if they had, since they had been up late with Martha's wedding the night before. Ed had refused to change the wedding date to the weekend just because the day he had picked was on a Monday. He wanted to be able to remember it easily in the years to come, and that was final. Besides, the rates would be better for their honeymoon flight during the week.

Carolyn was in the kitchen with Daniel taking a much-deserved coffee break when Jenny and Candy burst into the room, Jonathan followed right after with Scruffy tagging along behind him.

"Good, you're both here," Candy panted. "Jenny met me in town after school let out, and then we picked up Jon and came right home... Mom, we gotta get moving. The store is already looking crowded..."

"Yeah, we don't want to get caught short," Jenny added.

"Moving? Moving on what?"

"Thanksgiving menu," Jonathan said briefly. "Dunno why you want ME here, though."

"Yeah, we know old hollow-leg, here will eat anything, but we need to get the menu down for Thursday, and I don't want anybody saying we missed anything," said Candy. "I know one end of the turkey from the other, but there are a million things we need to get together before we go grocery shopping with you, Mom."

"She's right," Jenny nodded. "And we need to see what Uncle's Sean and Dash and Tris want... and your guru, Fontenot. I'd hate to cook him something he really hated, first time meeting him, and all. If I meet him, that is."

"Somebody call me?" Tris said as he popped in, perching on top of the ice box.

"Not really," Daniel replied. "And why do you seem obsessed with inventing crows' nests on my ship?"

"Dunno," Tris shrugged. "But you ought to be happy for me. Circumstances being what they were, I could detest high places, and that would be a sad thing."

Daniel gave him a sharp look. Tris had never really expounded on the means of his unfortunate demise and this really wasn't the time or the place.

"But, you're always welcome," Candy chimed in, not seeming to notice Tristan's remark. "We do need to know what you want to eat for Thanksgiving."

"I thought turkey was the customary thing," Dash drawled, materializing in the room. "Is that not the case? You know, turkey being native to America, so Benjamin Franklin said, anyway. I suppose if funds are low we could have a chicken instead... but if that is the case, I would be more than happy to contribute to the cause... After all, I tend to deplete the stores regularly around here."

Carolyn shook her head. "Funds are fine. The girls are merely trying to get a jump-start on the menu for Thursday, and I suppose they are right — but we've all been wrapped up in Martha's wedding, and..."

"As well we should have been," Daniel nodded decidedly. "The dear lady deserved a special day — though I so wish Ed had picked another one! Thanks to that madman, Oswald, it's one of those days that will live in infamy, like Pearl Harbor."

"Well, it's already happened, so we might as well think of it as a happy day from now on," Carolyn soothed him. "You were saying, Candy?"

"Saying..." Candy paused. "Oh yeah — menu."

"It's not really a jump-start, Cousin Mom," Jenny protested, cutting in. "You should see the lines at the store already — and all we have is the turkey. Martha did want to do some shopping, but we told her we could handle it, right, Can?" She bit her lower lip. "Mama always seemed to start Thanksgiving stuff right after Halloween... things have been... So different this year."

"But we STILL need to know what you all want," Candy said, putting an arm around her 'sister in love's' shoulder and giving her a squeeze. "Where's Uncle Sean, Uncle Dash?"

"Right here. Tryin' to keep out of the way," a voice said from near the back door as Sean appeared. "Unless there's something I could do to help."

"No, not yet, anyway," Jenny said. "We don't have anything bought to help with, which is why we need to know what everyone wants. I don't guess you could pop Adam in to get his two cents' worth on it?"

"We can't pop humans, lass," Sean smiled.

"Actually, that's not a certainty. No one's ever tried, due to the inherent risks" Tristan corrected. "Not that I know of."

"But Adam's too valuable to experiment on," Carolyn interjected.

"And cute," Candy whispered to Jenny. The other girl nodded.

"Precisely, my dear," Daniel agreed with a wicked grin. "Which is why I suggest we test the idea on Claymore."

"It would take a vast amount of energy expenditure," Dash countered. "Whether it worked or not. And if it did, we'd become less than glorified — chauffeurs is not the proper term, but does convey the notion. We'd be having him demand that we pop him everywhere. Sorry, I'm not a taxi service."

"Not even an English taxi, Uncle Dash?" Jenny grinned. "No... Guess not. That's Tris' thing...and then it's driving, not popping."

"Uh... how long is this going to take?" Jonathan asked, grabbing an apple from the bowl on the counter. "I was gong to call Conner and Kyle and see what they are doing this weekend — we were thinking about catching a movie on Sunday."

"Jon's right, down to business," Candy said, sitting down at the table, Jenny following. "We have a turkey... currently defrosting in the bottom of the fridge. Now — what else is on the menu?"

"Chocolate of some sort, I trust," Dash spoke up immediately. After all, what was the point of not having to worry about such things as overdoing it if one didn't take full advantage?

"Dessert's for after," Jon pointed out. Though he was entirely sympathetic to Dash's position, he'd been reminded of that too often not to do so when he had the chance to be the one saying it. "But I'd go for that. Chocolate pie, maybe?"

Candy nodded and put it on the list. "That's simple. Make a pie crust and fill with chocolate pudding and/or whipped cream." She frowned. "We tried meringue once. Sea air's too damp."

"I really liked those dinner rolls you two made a few weeks ago," Tris said. "They were even better toasted for breakfast, but if not Thursday, a repeat would be appreciated soon."

"Thanks, Tris," Candy said with a smile. "That was kinda an experiment for us — they weren't what you would call hard, just took a little time." She paused and made a note. "Jenny and I were thinking more about... main course stuff."

"Oh..." said Dash. "Well, I myself, am quite happy with Martha's sage stuffing. I don't know what she does that Aislynn didn't, but I am quite fond of it."

"Actually, I was wondering if we couldn't make a change in that this year," Daniel interjected, pulling his ear.

"Such as?" Carolyn asked.

"No... Never mind. Sage is fine."

"No it's not — you were going to ask for something else, Daniel. This is an open forum; now what is it?"

"Well, I... I'm delighted to even be able to eat, as you know, but I was wondering how you would feel about finding a recipe for oyster stuffing? Of course, if the costs on that are too dear, maybe a cornbread stuffing might be even better? And also use cranberries, apples, walnuts, and etcetera?"

"Now, that sounds like the one Aunt Violet used to cook every year!" Sean O'Casey chimed in. "It WAS marvelous, Daniel! What on earth made you think of it?"

"Martha was watching one of those cooking shows she is so fond of, and they happened to mention it," the seaman said. "It got my attention... I'm not really in the habit of watching such shows you know." His look challenged any claims to the contrary. "It simply sounded as if they had snagged her secret recipe, and I wondered how they had managed."

Candy nodded. "I think I have seen a recipe for it. I don't think it would take any more chopping than what we have to do for our usual one. I just need to know about how to do the cranberry part of it."

Jenny grabbed the notepad and started to write down 'cranberry stuffing' then stopped and looked up.

"Can this stuffing be cooked in a pan? I can't figure out how the cranberries will cook right – unless maybe you pre-cook them — like you are making jelly."

"You've got me..." Carolyn shrugged. "My Thanksgiving kitchen duties lean more toward chopping, not mixing and organizing. I left that entirely to Martha... and years ago, my mother. She's a good cook. It just didn't rub off on me." She shrugged.

"We can look it up," Candy said firmly. "Jen, why do we need a pan for it anyway? It's going inside the bird."

"Inside?" Jenny frowned. "Mama never did that — she never put anything inside the turkey, except butter and seasonings. Can't you get botulism stuffing a turkey? You did promise no food poisoning."

Candy shook her head. "Na — not if you do it right! Rumors. It is called stuffing, you know! Only way to get botulism is if you stuff the turkey the night before with the warm stuffing and let it sit there. Then, you are breeding bacteria, or something. Stuffing in the bird is WONDERFUL. I've been eating it that way since I had teeth! Only thing is, it adds to the cooking time. Can't remember how much — I'll have to look it up on the turkey chart." She glanced at her cousin for a moment. "But if it really bugs you, we can make extra, and cook some in a pan, too, but you gotta try it from the bird."

"Okay..." Jenny nodded slowly. If you say so. What else?"

"Potatoes?" Sean suggested.

"So, put marshmallows on the list," Tristan said with a nod.

"What does hot cocoa have to do with potatoes?" Jon frowned.

"For the sweet potatoes," Tris replied in a patient tone. "Or, you could just candy them with brown sugar. Both are wonderful, actually."

"I meant ordinary white potatoes, mashed," Sean said. "Ye're bad as Dash, there, wanting the whole meal to be dessert."

"You never haunted anyone in the Deep South, I take it?" Tristan drawled, leaning back against the wall. "It's required that those be on the table, even if you don't eat them. Tradition, you know. And, of course there are those apples cooked in syrup."

"Seems redundant, though, to have something that's so much like the pumpkin pie," Dash commented.

"I didn't invent the tradition," Tris shrugged. "I'd think you'd welcome the notion, though."

"Maybe we should stick to what we know HOW to make?" Candy practically suggested. "Anything new you want, we'll try to learn in time for - something else." Then, because she hated to disappoint any of the ghosts, especially that one, relented, "Anything TOO new, that is. Actually, the sweet potatoes sound pretty easy --- if you guys don't faint if we use ones from the can, rather than raw ones. We have the brown sugar --- and I think there's a sale going on marshmallows."

"Maybe some raw vegetables, pickles, that sort of thing?" Carolyn offered as an idea. "With a dip?"

"Fruit salad?" Daniel asked.

"Ambrosia?" Carolyn turned to look at him.

"Not exactly." One finger rubbed the curve of his ear. "In Aunt Violet's cookbook, there was a recipe she invented, using cherries, oranges, marshmallows, and a special dressing she made."

"And it's been ages since we had it," Sean smiled.

"But, as I consider the notion, it might be on the 'learn later' list," the Captain concluded.

"We could look at it," Jenny said. "But, no promises. Mama did do one like that, sorta. Only hers also had Apples, bananas, celery, and more marshmallows."

"Right now, let's finish the list," Candy begged. "The shopping will be murder."

XXX

The shopping was maddening, but they got it done and everything put away. After sharing a bowl of Martha's soup with the family, the three crewmen departed for the evening. When the family was left alone, Carolyn looked at Daniel tentatively. There was a moment of tacit communication, and then he nodded.

"Kids, you know, we do have an extra room now," Carolyn said. "The Captain and I have been wondering which would you all prefer; to move Jon into Martha's room, since it's a little bit bigger than his and one of you girls take over his current one, or one of you girls move into Martha's room."

"Of course, this does not mean we are forgetting Martha," Daniel added. "After all, she will still come in several days a week. But, I hardly think she wants us to keep a shrine to her, either."

The kids looked at each other, then their 'parents,' then back at each other.

"Uh, we already kinda talked it over," Jon said.

"We weren't trying to jump the gun, but Martha did mention, off-hand, sort of, that we might want to think about who got her room," Candy added hastily.

"The thing is, and Candy said it's okay with her," Jenny put in, "I don't really want to move out of our room..."

"And I don't want her to," Candy agreed, re-enforcing the other girl's statement. "It's neat the way things are."

"And I just got my room fixed the way I want it completely," Jon contributed. "I really don't want to start all over."

"I hate to waste the space. I guess we could use some storage room," Carolyn frowned. "Daniel, would you like to move the wheelhouse to a lower deck?"

Fingering his ear, the seaman smiled, "Thank you for the offer, my dear, but I get the sense our crew here has something in mind." He rather hoped it was not to suggest Tris get his own room; he liked the lad, but having him around every day without a break might be a bit much.

"We thought maybe it could be like OUR wheelhouse," Candy blurted. "A workroom, like where you and Captain Dad write or his office?"

"What did you want to do in it?" Carolyn blinked. "I didn't think you were that into homework."

"We aren't," Candy rushed to say.

"No way," Jon shook his head. "But Jen does have interesting homework from college. Her art stuff takes up room."

"And I'd like to try some of that," Candy said.

"And Jon has his models," Jenny contributed. "It wouldn't always have the same purpose, probably, but whatever it needed to be, the room could be."

"Well, I don't have a problem with that," Carolyn said. "Captain, since this is your ship, too...?"

"I approve, as long as you lot are sure that you don't each want your own quarters," he replied.

"Thanks!" three voices exclaimed.

XXX

Wednesday morning was spent cleaning the house, but in the afternoon, the two girls started the preparations. The turkey had begun thawing in the refrigerator on Monday evening, but cooking it was the simplest of the tasks ahead of them.

"Need any help?" a voice asked a second before Tristan popped into the kitchen.

Jenny and Candy looked at each other, and, reaching a silent agreement, nodded.

"Yeah. We need to start the prep work on the stuffing so it has overnight to cool before we put it in the bird tomorrow morning. You get to chop the onions and peppers, since they won't make your fingers sting or eyes water," Jenny announced.

Candy wrinkled her nose. "You can get the guts out of the turkey, too."

From the corner of the table where he was enjoying a light lunch, Jon made a face. "I hate it when sisters turn into girls."

"I think she came into the world as one," Tristan remarked, with a wink in said sister's direction. "Fairly sure they all do, actually."

"Yeah, but why'd she have to get girly?" the boy mourned.

"Not wanting to get cold hands fishing out bird guts isn't girly," Candy frowned. "Besides, they get stuck in there, sometimes. And sometimes they put them in BOTH bird cavities."

"I'll be delighted to help," the ghost said firmly, before Jonathan could manage to put his foot in his mouth more firmly than the giblets might be lodged in the turkey.

"Good day, Tristan. What brings you here?" the Captain asked as he entered the kitchen for coffee refills. Carolyn was trying to polish an article in time to get it in the mail before the holiday, and the seaman knew she dealt with pressure better if she had ample caffeine.

"Reporting for duty, sir," Tristan saluted with one hand while popping a knife into the other. "Vegetable chopping and getting rid of the objectionable parts of yon bird."

The Captain nodded.

"Did you ever go out and shoot one for Thanksgiving?" Jonathan asked.

"Once or twice," Daniel allowed as he poured. "However, hunting was not something seamen are wont to engage in often." He set down the cups and rubbed his beard. "Still, it is a pity the notion did not come up sooner. I could probably have done so."

"Ah, that's okay, Captain," Jenny said.

"Yeah. We wouldn't want to be any trouble," Candy nodded.

"Or have to dress and pluck one," Jenny admitted. "Eww!"

"Farm raised taste better, besides," Tristan contributed. "Less… gamey."

"I thought you hated farm animals," Jonathan said.

"No, just tending them," Tris grinned. "Eating them means there are fewer of them, after all."

"I think that is a losing battle, lad," Daniel chuckled. "I do not know of anyone who could eat enough chickens or pigs to make them extinct. Not even a ghost."

Tris shrugged. "Ah, well." He returned to the task at hand. "So, where are my fellow crewmen?"

"Right behind you," Dash replied. "Sean pointed out that our able assistance could be useful."

"The kitchen will get too crowded if you're all in here," Jenny said. "But, thanks."

"Maybe you guys, this means you, too, Jon," Candy added, "could sweep up the leaves and so on outside?"

"Gladly, lass," Sean nodded. "D'ya need any wood chopped?"

"The furnace keeps the place warm, but the atmosphere would be nice," Jenny said. "Not much wood. Just enough for…"

"Atmosphere," Sean agreed. "Right. I've chopped a log or two in my day. No trouble at all."

XXX

By the early evening, as much work as could be done was finished for the day. Knowing how much food was going to be consumed the next day, the girls decided on a very light supper.

"By the way, Danny, what is your name, these days?" Dash asked. "I do not think calling you Daniel is the thing to do in front of young Farnon."

"Myles Fleming," the Captain said, after thinking a moment. "I just hope that imbecile does not forget and call me 'Captain' or dare to call me 'Uncle.' Why is he coming again?"

"Because it's the nice thing to do," Carolyn replied firmly. "And Claymore really doesn't have anyone else. It would be mean to expect him to eat at the drugstore, or something."

"I have told you a thousand times, Madam, that I am NOT nice," he grumbled.

"Yes, you are," she smiled. "I'm just not supposed to call you sweet." Her twinkling green eyes, however contradicted her statement.

"We did a paper on how Thanksgiving used to be celebrated," Jonathan piped up.

"Did you get a good grade on yours?" Sean asked.

"Yeah," the boy nodded. "It used to be really cool. There were shooting contests on Thanksgiving morning. I bet the Captain won them all, didn't he?"

"Now, lad, Sean and I weren't bad shots," Dash said.

Tris cleared his throat.

"Well, I never saw you fire a gun," Dash said. "I take it that Tristan was a decent one, also."

"Fair, anyway."

"In any case, I outshot both of them," Dash concluded.

"Hey! You did not! Not always," Sean argued.

"I believe it was I who was the better marksman," Daniel cut in.

"Danny, really. I'm the one who…" Sean began to counter.

"We could settle this in the morning, you know," Dash said. "I think my thrice-blasted relations left my firearms at the house."

"No need. I know precisely were my weapon is," Daniel said firmly. "Though I thank you for the offer. I have a pair of dueling pistols. Sean, you can use one."

"Then, would you like one of my spares, Tris?" Dash asked.

"Absolutely. Shall we wager?"

"What with?" Sean asked practically.

Not a one of them saw Carolyn waving for their attention, so she finally almost yelled, "Hold on, all of you!"

Four sets of blinking eyes turned to her. "Yes, my dear?" Daniel asked.

"Since Adam is not here to go through a list, allow me," she stated. "One, HOW would I explain gunfire? Two, I do not have a license to carry a gun. Three, you're invisible."

There was silence, then, Daniel said gently, "Dear lady, we have been seen."

Carolyn blew out a breath. "I mean, you are invisible to the law. Not one of you has a legal identity that could have a gun permit."

"I have some old water guns?" Jon offered.

"Doesn't have quite the same - panache," Tristan opined.

"Bows and arrows?" the boy tried again.

"Dash is quite the archer," Daniel nodded. "I will admit he is the superior in that area. He did try to teach me once, but we almost stopped speaking to each other in the process of my education. From what I hear, Fontenot is also an expert."

"Better than I am," Dash agreed. "He has been practicing for centuries, though."

"If we can find the instruments, it might be interesting to if you will pardon the pun, give it a shot," Daniel concluded.

"Better than having football run on the television," Carolyn muttered.

Thanksgiving

Early in the morning, the Captain began to sense a niggle of disquiet in the area. Knowing full well that he would only be underfoot as the women folk flustered around getting the last minute things that mattered a great deal more to them than they did to him; the fussy, female stuff, he followed the "signal" to Sean's cottage. There, he found his first mate pacing moodily.

"What troubles you, old friend?" Daniel asked quietly.

Coming to a halt, Sean lifted the corner of one side of his mouth into a welcoming smile. "Just… restlessness. I know full well I've much to be thankful for; you, Carrie, the children, Martha, Adam, Dash, even the lad. Don't tell those two I said that, though. They're full enough of themselves, most of the time. But, still, the one I want most... If I could just know if she's here or has gone on." He shrugged. "I'm almost at the point of concluding Molly did go to the light, Danny. I've been up one side of this continent, down the other, and all points in between, but nothing."

Quietly, the Captain asked, "So, are you thinking of going off again?"

Sean thought about it. "Eventually, aye. But, not for months or years at a time. Not again. It feels good to be somewhat settled. I didn't realize until I became tied to your family that I'd missed it. Besides, as I said, I think she must have passed over. That only makes sense, after all."

Daniel nodded. "She was a truly good soul." Then, with a grin, had to point out, "Even if she couldn't find her way across town without your guidance."

Sean laughed, then grew sober. "Aye. Which is what worries me. If she is still on this plane, she might be looking for me, trying to find Schooner Bay. If she moved very far away, Lord only knows how she'll find her way here again."

"If she is still around, I truly believe you will find her," Daniel said solemnly.

A third presence had entered the room. "I have to agree with Danny," Dash commented. "Full of myself? Hmph. Perhaps, slightly, but what better thing to be full of? I just wonder, old son, if you have lost hope, are you planning on moving on?"

"From Schooner Bay or romantically?" Sean asked. "No, to the first. And to the second, just as soon as you do, OLD son. Find someone else to set a likely lass up with."

"Fair point. Do you think we can go to dinner now?" Dash changed subjects.

"I think there are still hours to wait," Daniel snorted.

"Patience was never my favorite virtue," Dash noted.

Grinning, Daniel gave his ear a tug and said, "I do not believe the girls have it ready as of yet, but you can come along to the house."

As the three ghosts appeared, they heard Candy call out, "Someone come take Scruffy for a walk before we trip over him, or stomp on him, please!"

Pausing to wave to the guys, Jon got off the couch where he was watching the parades to go rescue the dog. As the two returned from the kitchen, the boy explained, "Scruff's been goin' nuts since ten, when the turkey started to smell."

"How are things proceeding?" the Captain asked.

"Dunno. I've been staying out of the way," Jonathan said, nodding for emphasis. "I don't want to get stomped on, either."

Tristan appeared a second later. "The rolls are rising," he said happily.

A few minutes later, the girls emerged from the kitchen. "We got the preparation tools washed. At least the ones that we're done using," Jenny sighed. "Everything's either cooking or ready to be cooked when it's closer to time."

"Except the rolls have to be punched down once, but not yet," Candy added.

"Now that you are back, Daniel, we need the leaves put in the table in the formal dining room," Carolyn said.

"I will see to it, my dear," he promised.

"Right, then, I have a surprise for you all," Dash announced. "Since firing off a gun would make entirely too much noise, I found a dartboard, with backing, and darts in a forgotten corner of my house. I think we could have a shooting match of that sort. It is shooting, after a fashion."

"Cool," the girls said.

"Can we play, too?" Candy asked. "Er, sorry, Mom. May we?"

"I don't see why not," Carolyn nodded.

By the time Jonathan got Scruffy's walk taken care of and Daniel had the table assembled, Dash had the dart board in place.

"As Captain and patriarch, you get the first shot," Dash invited, handing Daniel a dart.

Each of the three older men took their turn and scored fairly well. Then, it came to Tristan. "Hmm. I don't know about this," he said, right before hitting a bull's eye.

"Great shot!" Candy cheered.

Taking a bow, Tris stepped aside to let Jon, Candy, and Jenny each take their turn. Though they managed to land on the board, none of them came near to even the worst score made by the ghosts.

"The mortal side is losing, bad," Jon intoned.

"Hey, don't count me out," Carolyn chided.

"You?" several voices, among them, the Captain's, asked.

She simply extended her hand for a missile. Under their skeptical eyes, Carolyn took aim and fired, knocking Tristan's dart from its place to land the second bull's eye of the morning.

"Way to go, Mom!" Candy and Jon cheered, with Jenny adding her congratulations.

"Not bad for a female, eh?" she winked.

"Or for the 'kid'," Tristan added.

"I'll admit we were bested," Sean said ruefully. "Unless ye two had beginner's luck?"

"I won a dart championship in Bristol several years ago," Tris confessed. "They are probably quite annoyed that I never did cash the check, but how could I?"

"I've played a game or two, in my day," Carolyn smirked.

"You've played far more than 'a game or two,' my dear," Daniel said, giving her a look.

"Aye," Sean nodded. "Come now, Carrie. Tell us."

"I don't know if I should," Carolyn said, turning her back to the dart board and throwing one over her shoulder, thereby scoring another bull's-eye. "It seems to me a woman needs some mystery."

"Female, eternally female," Daniel observed to the ceiling and anyone else listening.

"You shouldn't say that to someone with something pointed in their hand," Carolyn smirked, and threw another dart just as the doorbell rang. The shot went wild. "Blast!"

"Wonder who that is?" Jenny asked. It's just noon now, and I didn't think anyone would be here before two, anyway."

"Not Claymore, for sure," Tris put in.

"Aye — He'll wait until the prep work is done, I'm certain." Sean added.

"Wonder what his contribution will be this year?" Candy mused. "Last time he brought a roll of paper towels for napkins."

"Toothpicks?" Dash suggested. "Or perhaps he considers that merely gracing us with his esteemed presence is more than ample recompense."

"Long's it's not Dave, not yet," Jenny whispered, all too aware that she was mussed from working all morning.

From the door, Candy called back, "No worries anyone, it's Adam." While the attorney was definitely someone the girls liked to look at, he'd seen them smudged and unmade-up often.

As the attorney entered, he said, "I found a wild turkey for you guys."

"Ah — that's sweet, but..." Jenny began.

"It was just sitting on the counter of the liquor store when I picked up the wine, yesterday," Adam went on, brandishing a small, brown bag. "So, I thought maybe some hearty seamen would like a glass of bourbon, later. There's ginger ale for the under-aged crowd, too. That means you, also, I believe, Tristan."

"At least while Dave's here," the youngest ghost agreed loftily.

"Fair point, but I really don't see you drink that much, regardless," Adam shrugged as he looked around the living room. "The house smells marvelous, by the way. What's that dartboard doing here? I don't remember seeing that before. What are you folks up to now?"

"Being whipped by Mom/ Carolyn/Tris at darts." the ghosts and humans said, together.

"Ah. May I?" he asked, very casually reaching out to exchange the liquor for a dart.

"Of course," the Captain nodded.

Adam let the small weapon fly. Though everyone truly expected him to land a bull's eye, it landed just short of doing so.

He shrugged. "Been a while since I played. Used to have a picture of my least favorite professor tacked up over a board. Never failed to hit true with that incentive."

"Always worked for me," Carolyn shrugged and tossed, beating Adam's score.

"My turn," Daniel rumbled, and then turned to Carolyn. "You were going to tell us how YOU became so good at this game, my dear. "I've never seen such an excellent player. If I had known how good you were, I would have found a dart board ages ago. Your father — or perhaps even your Uncle Arnold taught you, perhaps?" The seaman tossed, and his dart came much closer to the center than the time before. "Blast,"

"No, my mother."

"YOUR WHO?" came from every male voice in the room, including Jonathan, but Candy and Jenny just started giggling.

"Sounds like grand-ma!" Candy choked out.

"Cool!" Jenny agreed, eyes shining. Baffled, the seamen shook their heads.

"Where on earth did Emily Williams learn how to play darts?" Daniel asked, mystified.

"From her father. He wanted someone to play with, and my grandmother didn't want to play."

"I see… and she taught you, because..."

"Dad's never been good at darts. He likes bowling. And poker. "Mom taught me to play for the same reason grandpa taught her. She wanted someone to play with on the nights her league didn't get together."

"And, it's good for eye-hand coordination, you know," Adam said. "Now, is there any help I can offer to get dinner on the table?"

Candy shook her head. "I don't think so — not yet. That's the only problem with Thanksgiving. Everything comes in the last hour before you eat. In an hour or so, if you want, you can peel the potatoes, I guess."

"Right," Jenny nodded, throwing another dart at the board. "There's the potatoes — and the pies are almost ready to go in the oven when the turkey comes out — and we have gravy to make..."

"I can help with that," Carolyn smiled. "I have but a few talents in the kitchen, but once the rue is done, I can stir as well as the next person."

"I have a fire ready to go for later," Jonathan said, taking his turn at the darts and not succeeding. "Blast. I should have stayed with watching football. Your turn, Uncle Dash."

The ghost fired, making his best score yet, but still not quite as high as either Tris' or Carolyn's. "Drat. I'm terribly out of practice — and I am much better with something more lethal than this."

"Guns, knives, or sabers?" Carolyn lifted an eyebrow. "I hope it is two or three — I can't say I am terribly keen on the idea of guns in the house."

"All of them, actually, but I would only fire a gun in the house if someone needed to be shot."

Adam moaned. "Great. Now I need to see if you have firearms available with which to shoot your grandchildren."

"Now, I hadn't really thought of that!" Dash grinned. "But truthfully, my boy, they haven't been loaded in years. I only thought of them because Jonathan mentioned he did a paper about what went on in our day on Thanksgiving morning."

"Nothing like what that department store puts on," said Sean, taking another shot and doing better. "Thanksgiving Eve there was a turkey raffle, and along with the shooting contests on Thanksgiving Day, if I remember correctly, in large cities, not here in Schooner Bay, the children went in the streets in costume, begging fruit, vegetables, and money."

"That sounds more like Halloween," said Candy. "Except... trick or treating for vegetables? Yuck."

"Not if you were poor and just needed something to eat," Sean pointed out. "The Vicar McShane made Thanksgiving rounds with what food he collected, and I helped him." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. We usually dined with you and your Aunt Violet, as I recall, didn't we, Daniel?"

"That you did," the seaman nodded. "As I recall, the vicar could have burnt water."

"Aye," Sean grinned. "It was lucky for him the ladies of the congregation stepped in to cook on a regular basis. Still I learned that breakfast wasn't the most important meal of the day. Toast sufficed."

"I wish everyone would stop talking about food," Jon moaned. "The house is starting to smell great, and we haven't had any lunch yet. Barely had breakfast."

"Sorry," Candy shrugged. "But that's a big bird we have out there, and the cookbook says it's going to take at least six hours."

"We really didn't think about lunch-lunch," Jenny said apologetically.

"We have plenty of appetizers," Carolyn pointed out. "But it would be nicer to wait to eat those until the rest of the company gets here... Dave and Claymore..."

"Dave, anyway," Tris chuckled, taking one more turn with the darts. "He'll want something, and if we put them out too early, and Clay gets here, he'll be stuffing his pockets, practically." The dart landed dead-center again. "We do need to finish this game, you know."

A few minutes later, Carolyn had soundly defeated them all, with Tris a close second, and the late comer, Adam, placing third.

"Maybe we could turn on the TV, or something, to take our minds off our appetites?" Adam suggested.

"Holiday television usually has very limited offerings," Carolyn said skeptically.

"How's that distinguished from ordinary times, then?" Sean asked.

"Now, Sean, I do like that Charlie Brown thing," Dash chided with a wink.

"Now, there's a thought," Daniel said.

"Captain, that was on two nights ago," Jonathan said. "And it's a cartoon!" He was either too old or too young for cartoons at this point, or so he thought.

"I realize that, lad," the seaman replied. "However, as I recall, that impudent young woman did hoodwink the dubious hero of the piece into attempting to play football. Perhaps we could try that, with better results than young Mr. Brown."

"The teams won't be even," Dash said. "Unless we wait for Dave or Claymore to arrive."

"Claymore?" a chorus exclaimed.

"Good point," Dash nodded. "By the by, I did instruct him earlier in the week on what words to avoid; terms such as 'spooky, ghost, spook face,' etcetera. He will also not say 'captain' or 'uncle.' Well, not as a form of address. He might if we reprise the dart game. Somehow, I think he would lose soundly."

"Dave could still even things up, unless one of you ladies would care to?" Tris said, raising a brow.

"No thanks," Jenny made a face.

"Ditto," Carolyn nodded.

Candy fidgeted, and then shook her head. "Same here." She would never be "girly," but did care about being seen as a girl, now.

"We still need to kill some time," Adam noted.

"I COULD do the Mad Conductor, if anyone's interested," Tristan offered.

Before anyone could dissent, Candy grinned and said, "Yes! That'd be super!"

"The what?" Jenny blinked.

"Just a routine I was inspired to create after watching Leopold Stokowski during a thing on PBS," the ghost shrugged.

"Dave will probably be here soon, and I'd really like to play football," Jon said. "And, it would, too be even now. You guys can't count. There are four ghosts, Adam, and me. Six divides by two."

"But the conductor is so much fun. I love it!" Candy said. "And, even if Dave saw Tris doing it, so what? It's not ghostly, Jon."

"Maybe I could do it later?" Tris said, trying to please everyone.

"Just a little bit, now? Jen's never seen it," Candy said. "Full version later?"

"I hate to repeat myself," he wavered.

"You never do. It's always original," she prompted.

Tristan pretended to think it over for a moment, and then nodded. Bowing grandly, he said, "Very well. But, only for you, milady." He gestured. "Have a seat. Let me get in tune."

With varying degrees of patience and anticipation, his audience assembled. Donning a serious expression, Tris began limbering his fingers and rolling his neck, as if preparing for strenuous athletic activity. After several moments of this, he nodded briskly and picked up a ballpoint pen. He had just executed the first flourish and begun to contort his face when the phone broke into his concentration.

"Now, I DID NOT signal for that player!" he huffed indignantly. "That will be - TEN demerits. Shall I answer it?"

Carolyn knew that Tris was warmed up and ready for mischief, so she was not about to allow him near the phone. "I'll get it." She rose and hastened to the shrilling device, a smile on her face as she anticipated her mother's voice, or maybe Martha's. When she received an answer to her "hello," her face and hopes fell. "Oh, Happy Thanksgiving, Ralph." With effort, she pushed a smile back onto her lips. He was still her two kids' grandfather, even if she had discovered how much of a pain he could be.

"Yes, I do hear the thunder. It's unusual weather for Thanksgiving, yes. I'm sure you are having lovely weather in Philly. We do here, too. Most of the time." There was a pause as she listened. "Yes, I am seeing a very nice man." Her lips thinned. "I'm quite sure he is a good, masculine influence on Jonathan. There are men in the area. Very good, positive influences." Her composure was not helped by the fact that Daniel was glaring, Dash had leaned over to ask if they would consider him a good man, Sean had a disgusted look on his face, Tris was tapping his "baton," and even Adam had an expression of mock offense.

"I'll let the kids, yes, Candy and Jonathan, talk to you and Marjorie. Do you want to speak to Jenny as well? Let me see if they're done talking to Myles. Yes, that's the man I'm seeing." Tris waved, sweeping his pen in a grand gesture to encompass the other men. "Oh, ah, Sean, Dash, Adam, and Tristan all send you their best. Yes, there are a lot of guys here. I have many friends. Here are the kids."

While the two Muir children spoke to their paternal grandparents, Daniel muttered, "I am quite thankful that he is not here for the holiday."

"I believe it's a mutual feeling, laddie," Sean agreed.

No sooner had Candy hung up than the phone rang again, but this time, it was Carolyn's parents. They did ask if she was seeing anyone, but the tone was different and they wanted to talk to Jenny as well. Tristan's performance got delayed yet again when Martha called to wish them all a good holiday and assure them she and Ed were having a grand time.

"May I now...?" Tris began, and then dropped his head in defeat as the phone rang once more.

"Oh, hello, Harriet! Yes, we are fine. We are all fine. Better than fine. No, I am NOT being brave. Jenny has adjusted well. I'm sure the parade was nice. Did you and Haze enjoy it?"

When Harriet's call was announced, Jenny and Candy ducked out to wash their faces and brush their hair a bit; Dave would be arriving soon, surely.

They came back just as the phone rang again.

"Who now? The idiot?" Sean asked.

"Surely Thompson wouldn't call," the Captain said.

Carolyn considered arguing, but decided not to and merely answered the phone. "Hello ... oh ... er... yes, Jenny is here, but she is rather busy, Hannah. Right. Well, I guess I'll get her so that you and Eugene can say hello to her." With an apology in her eyes, Carolyn handed the girl the phone as the group fell silent, lending the newest member of the family mute support.

Normally Jenny was unfailingly polite and kind, but her back grew ramrod straight and she tensed. Her words were stilted and clipped. She could barely stand to speak to her aunt and uncle, and was just too honest to hide the fact. Long minutes later, Carolyn tapped her on the shoulder.

"Dave just arrived."

"I've gotta go. My friend is here. Bye." In a rush, Jenny was off the phone, exhaling in relief.

Dave Farnon had never seen anyone so glad to see him as Jenny was, judging from the expression that lit up her face as he walked in. "Happy Thanksgiving, everyone," he said, glancing around at the crowd. "Ah, I brought these..." He awkwardly extended several bunches of flowers.

"Lovely. Matches my shirt rather well, don't you think?" Adam quipped.

"I mean, for the ladies," Dave growled, tossing the older man an annoyed glare.

"Thank you, Dave," Carolyn said, gently relieving him of the burden.

"And, I would have brought a bottle of wine, but you just can't get one if the liquor store owner has known you since you were christened and knows you aren't that old yet," the young man concluded. "So, there's a bottle of cider in the car. I'll go get it. Ran out of hands."

"Thanks," Carolyn repeated.

"Hi," Jenny said shyly. "Thanks, for the flowers."

"Hi. You're welcome."

"Yeah, thanks," Candy called, biting her lip to hold in a giggle.

"I think you know Adam, right?" Carolyn interceded.

"Yes, hi," Dave nodded.

"Have you met Sean O'Casey and Charles Dashire?"

"Dash," the latter corrected.

"I've seen you guys around, but I wouldn't say we know each other," Dave replied, turning a curious look toward 'Myles.'

"And this is Myles," Carolyn flushed. "He and I are seeing each other."

For the third or fourth time in the last few years, Daniel told Dave it was nice to meet him. If Dave caught the glint of amusement in the older man's eyes, he seemed unfazed by it.

"There's still some time before the turkey will be ready to eat," Carolyn said, "and Claymore isn't here, yet."

"It smells great," Dave said, not sure who he was complimenting, but it seemed appropriate, as well as true, to mention.

"Thanks!" Jenny and Candy chorused.

"So, there's time for a game of football," Jonathan chimed in, slightly impatient with the romantic tension in the air.

"We are no longer even," Adam pointed out.

"Since it's all in fun," Daniel observed, "does that really matter? Somehow, the impression Claymore has made upon me does not lend itself to the notion that he would be an asset to either side." Reflexively, he tweaked his ear. Only Adam caught the slightly puzzled look that flashed across Dave's countenance for a second.

"And, D--" Sean broke off in a cough. "Choked on ignorance, sorry. I don't think Clay would arrive until immediately before the food is schedule to be on the table. He might have to help out in some way if he did."

There was laughter, and then Dave asked if there was someplace he could put his jacket. While he hung it up, Jonathan retrieved his football, then, the guys went outside.

Carolyn, Candy, and Jenny ducked in the kitchen to see how things were going, and then moved to the porch so they could watch the game.

After a few minutes of observation, Candy sighed, "You know, I've been to a few games at school, but NONE of the guys look half so good."

"It does help that they don't need those ugly helmets and so on," Jenny suggested. "But, yeah. Guys back in Camden didn't look this good either."

"I would have to agree," Carolyn nodded, placing an arm around each of her girls. "Not even in Philadelphia."

After about an hour, she glanced at them. "Far be it from me to curtail admiring our guys, but don't we need to finish things up?"

Reluctantly, the girls nodded and joined her in going inside the house.

XXX

Three o'clock was approaching as Claymore's old car rattled up the road simultaneously with Adam making a long pass, aimed for Sean. Distracted by the clatter, the ghost missed. Since he did not dare use his powers to corral the missile, it continued on - heading straight at the target Claymore's head presented.

Mortals and supposed mortals alike stopped to watch the inevitable as the pigskin sailed on its way, knocking Claymore's hat off as it thudded into the passenger seat.

"Hey! You promised no tricks! Mrs. Muir!" Claymore yelped indignantly. "Mrs. Muir! He's done it again!"

"Claymore, it was an accident," Daniel hissed.

"And would you retrieve our ball?" Tristan added brightly.

"Mrs. Muir!" Claymore repeated, ignoring the two smart alecks. "Hey, where is she?"

They all turned to see that the porch was vacant.

Adam collected his watch from the top of a lion's head. "Given the hour, I'd guess she's inside, helping Jennifer and Candace wrap up the meal."

"Did I miss it?" Claymore gulped as he hastened up the walk, forgetting his outrage in the fear that he had not arrived in time to eat.

"Wrap up as in finish getting it all together, not as in cover it up to store," Dash explained. "Now, be a good chap and accept our apology that it was a pure accident. No one was attempting to do you injury." This time, anyway, he silently added to himself.

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Okay."

Mentally sighing over the utter density of what was perceived by the general populace to be a Gregg, Daniel suggested, "Perhaps you could go inside, Claymore, and see if they could use some help?" When the lazy landlord hesitated, he added, "Unless you would care to join our game?"

"We could use someone to even the sides out," Sean nodded.

Claymore gulped, adjusting his tie nervously. "Er, well, I- I-I'm not really ... Y'know, baseball is my game." There was no way he was going to volunteer to be chased by ghosts. On that note, he scurried into Gull Cottage and the game resumed.

Upon entering the house, Claymore paused to inhale deeply. "Hello?" he called.

Carolyn came out of the dining room where she had been setting the table. "Oh, hello, Claymore. Happy Thanksgiving. The girls are just finishing up in the kitchen, and then we need to freshen up. You're welcome to wait in the living room. There's some appetizers on a tray in there, if you like. Not into football, huh?"

He shook his head. "Besides, it wouldn't be fair. Whichever team got me would have an advantage over the other one."

"Of course." Carolyn hid her smile. "Gregory Peck" the Second would never change.

"Oh! I brought something for the table!" Claymore suddenly recalled, pulling a small, brown paper bag out of his coat pocket before taking the garment off. "Toothpicks."

"How ... nice of you," she said uncertainly. Daniel had called it. "But, it really wasn't necessary."

"Yes, well, that makes it nicer, doesn't it?" Claymore pointed out.

Choosing not to agree vocally, Carolyn just continued to smile. "Just make yourself comfortable, Claymore, and would you go get the guys inside in about - twenty minutes?"

"Sure," he nodded as he headed toward the fire and food.

Twenty-four minutes later, Claymore remembered to poke his head outside and holler at the players to wrap it up so they could eat.

As the men trooped inside the cozy kitchen to wash up, Claymore asked, "So, who won?"

"Won?" Adam asked.

"We didn't actually keep score," Dave informed him. "It was just for fun."

"Then, what was the point?" Claymore wondered, baffled.

"Just to enjoy ourselves," the Captain said with forced patience.

"Where are the ladies?" Dash cut in, looking around.

"Maybe they took a moment to rest in the living room?" Sean suggested before Claymore could answer. "They've been working hard for days, between the wedding and today."

"Yes, Candy did mention that fact," Tristan nodded. "And it's fairly obvious from the amount of food on display that much effort has been put forth, you know."

"Exactly," Daniel said firmly, aware that none of them should have been hanging about to see the preparations unfold, since they did not "live" there, to Dave's knowledge.

"So, let's go see," the boy shrugged, apparently oblivious to the hasty covering his new friends were doing.

No one was in the living room except for Scruffy, who was sniffing the air anxiously.

"They mentioned freshening up," Claymore said timidly.

There was a footfall on the stairway, causing the guys to turn and look in that direction. Moments later, Carolyn, Candy, and Jenny, all in old-fashioned, formal dresses entered.

"Madam, girls, you are visions," Daniel found his voice.

"Such sights to behold truly inspire thankfulness," Dash added with customary elegance.

"You look- great," Dave said, feeling somewhat inadequate in his speech.

"I second that twice over," Tristan winked.

"I've beheld few things so grand," Sean smiled.

"And I now feel woefully underdressed," Adam noted. "If you had warned me I'd be dining with princesses, I would have worn a suit."

The trio curtsied. "You are too kind, all of you," Carolyn beamed.

"Not at all, my dear," Daniel answered, giving her a look that made Carolyn blush, regardless which of his faces gave it to her. "Would you allow me to escort you to the dining room?"

"I'd be delighted," she answered, her eyes shining up at him.

As the couple made their exit, Dash frowned. "Lads, we have a problem; there are seven of us and two young ladies to escort. I suppose they could be taken in several times each, but that seems rather... gauche."

"I'll take Jen in, just once," Dave offered, and then added, "Er... if that's okay?"

"Better than okay," Jenny smiled, accepting his hand. "So, the rest of you get to fight over Candy. Sorry, 'sis'."

"Having too many good-looking guys around and fighting over you is never a bad thing," Candy grinned. "I do have two arms, but that doesn't solve the entire problem, however."

"Allow me?" Tris stepped up to her right hand side.

"And me..." said Adam, claiming Candy's left. "You four are on your own," he grinned to Dash, Jon, Sean, and Claymore.

"I can live with that," Jon shrugged, falling into step behind the other two couples, who were making their way to the dining room.

"There will come the time they need to be escorted FROM the dining room," Dash pointed out serenely.

"Let's eat," Claymore said. "I'm not going from the dining room for a long time."

"You wouldn't, you..." the Captain started, but Carolyn shushed him.

As Carolyn turned up the lights, all those who hadn't actually been a part of the preparation gasped. The Thanksgiving table was decked out in a way it never had been before — an old fashioned, obviously hand-embroidered tablecloth covered it for starters, and over that was a setting of antique china and silver — including two heavy silver candlesticks at each end, where long taper candles were burning... and every square inch of the table was covered with food — all of which smelled heavenly.

"Is that my..." Daniel stopped, and then started speaking again. "...My dear, everything looks stunning."

"Aye," Sean nodded. "You know, the candlesticks and rest of the silver look like they could have been part of the original furnishings... and I mean that as a compliment. Did they come with the house?"

"Not — exactly, but I understand they did belong to the original owner, Captain Gregg," Carolyn said with a secret smile.

"And I won them back for — for the cottage in the Centennial Games," Claymore preened.

"After giving them away," Jon whispered.

"My compliments to the decorating committee," Dash cleared his throat.

"You're welcome," Carolyn smiled, Jenny and Candy doing the same. "It wasn't hard — I love this house. Dressing it up for the holidays is fun!" She paused, "D...Myles, would you take the head of the table please, and carve, if you would?"

"An honor, my dear," Daniel gave a slight bow, and pulled out a chair to the right of where he would be sitting. "Allow me?"

"Thank you, kind sir," she replied.

Then, Dave seated Jenny, and Tris and Adam managed to do the same for Candy while the remaining group members found their seats.

"I'd like a drumstick," Claymore announced. "And I like my gravy with... Hey? Who kicked me?"

"No idea." Tris and Adam said together.

"I believe we've forgotten something?" Jenny said quietly, and Dave nodded.

"Grace," Dash said, starting to bow his head. A slight, sad smile crossed his lips, recalling that was his youngest girl's name.

"I was going to suggest something..." Carolyn started. "Something my parents and I always did, barring any year Ralph and Marjorie were around, when things usually got so hectic at dinner we forgot... but... Candy, Jon and D... whatever guests we have, have done this in past years, Dave — perhaps we could all hold hands — and go around the table and say what we are thankful for?"

Taking her hand, Daniel said, "I am most grateful for you, and for you sharing your family and friends with me."

"And I for you," she smiled back, her eyes glistening. "For making me and my family a part of your life."

"And I'm thankful for finding a port filled with such grand folks to call home after wandering around for a long time," Sean nodded.

"I must repeat what he said. And I'm still thankful that my earlier impulsiveness has been forgiven," said Tris.

"Well, I'm thankful for my family, and five days with no school, and all this great food and good cooks," Jon put in.

"I'm thankful for you all letting me be here," Dave said. "And for meeting Jenny." The last was a little rushed, as his courage started to wane before the last word.

"And I am thankful that none of you seem tired of my company and so let me keep coming around, even on non-special days," Adam chimed in. "And that I do not have to eat my own cooking today."

"I'll second that," Claymore said, looking thoughtful, and quite sincere. "I'm thankful for this family — my favorite tenants in the whole town, and for being here, and.., and well, like Jonathan said, for the food, too."

"And I am grateful that Ed finally married Martha, though we miss her being with us this year," Dash grinned. "I am also grateful for permeations of fate that brought me to this family."

"I'm grateful for everyone here, also," Jenny said, squeezing, Dave's hand. "I thought this year would be horrid, what with everything that has happened since April, and no mama and papa this year, or ever again, but all of you have made it bearable." She gave a little sigh. "I am grateful for a 'sister' and 'brother,' and various uncles who have welcomed me with open arms, and for new... friends." She gave Dave a long look.

"And I'm grateful to have a new sister and still have the rest of you," Candy said. "And that everything turned out okay."

"Aye!" everyone at the table nodded, and Carolyn turned to Sean O' Casey. "Sean, would you care to say the grace?"

"Certainly," the Irishman nodded, "But not in the usual way."The Vicar — that is, the clergyman who raised me after my parents died, left me with a few traditions, too, and if you don't mind, I would like to share one of my customs with you," So saying, he stood up from where he was sitting at the far end of the dining room table, took two steps back to where the piano had been moved to from it's usual spot in the alcove, and raised the lid. "I moved it in here earlier, when everyone else was busy," he shrugged, giving Carolyn and Daniel a wink Dave could not see. "Now, I really can barely play; singing was more my thing, as they say. Truth be known, this, and a couple of my foster-father's favorite hymns, are the only things I can plunk out decently. This is a very old hymn... the words were written by Matthias Claudius, in 1782, and the music by Johann Abraham Peter Schultz, sometime in the early 1800's. The words might sound a bit familiar to you, as they were re-used by Stephen Schwartz for the musical version of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, Godspell... but surely I am not the only one here that remembers the original tune..." And with that introduction, he began to sing:

"We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land,

But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand...

He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain...

The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain...

As the seaman started the chorus, Daniel, Tris and Dave joined him:

All good gifts around us

Are sent from Heaven above

So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love!

Stopping for a fraction of a second to wipe away something near his eye, Sean began the next verse.

He only is the Maker of all things near and far;

He paints the wayside flower, He lights the evening star;

The winds and waves obey him, by him the birds are fed;

Much more to us, His children, He gives our daily bread.

By this time, everyone around the table was smiling widely, and when the refrain hit, everyone joined in.

All good gifts around us

Are sent from Heaven above

So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love!

When Sean swung into the third verse, his friends, his family, kept singing:

We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,

The seedtime and the harvest, our life, our health, our food,

No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts

But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!

As the third chorus began, everyone had clasped hands again and sung the chorus not once, but twice, and then died away:

All good gifts around us

Are sent from Heaven above..

So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love.

"Thanks, mate," Dash choked out, putting a hand on his old friend's arm, while Jenny patted the other. "You still have a voice like an angel."

"My contribution," the Irishman said softly, a hint of a shadow falling over his face, even in the brightly lit room. "Come, now, D...Myles. How about carving that turkey?"

XXX

Even Candy and Jenny, who were slightly tired of seeing the food after spending so much time preparing it, enjoyed the meal. As it drew to a close, there was a knock on the door. Looking torn, Scruffy diverted his attention away from keeping an eagle eye out for scraps to chirp out a bark.

"Who could that be?" Carolyn wondered.

"I'll get it, Mom," Jonathan offered, pushing back his chair and rising.

A minute later, he returned, accompanied by a man who could have been anywhere from Adam's age to Daniel's, at first glance anyway.

Carolyn slid a glance at the ghosts. She was not altogether sure who this was, but had a suspicion.

"Fontenot! I didn't think you were going to make it!" Dash helpfully exclaimed.

"I wasn't sure either, lad," the young looking guru smiled. "My latest pupil proved problematic to get free of. Then, I wasn't completely sure I wanted to get free."

"Even on Thanksgiving?" Jon blurted.

"She is from Wales and did not realize that it was a holiday," Fontenot shrugged. He smiled charmingly. "I see a new face or two has joined you since my last visit."

Carolyn made introductions, silently praying that he would realize that Dave did not know about ghosts, and that Claymore would not faint dead away.

"And who is your gentleman friend?" Fontenot asked, glancing at Daniel.

Then, Carolyn relaxed. If she called the Captain "Daniel," then Fontenot would know that Dave was in on everything, but if she used an alias, he was sharp enough to realize the opposite was true. "I thought you had met Myles."

"I fear not," Fontenot said. "'Tis a pleasure to meet all of you. I trust you will not hold my tardiness against me, especially as I come bearing a gift." He held up a bottle that Carolyn had not seen before. "This Irish whiskey is not quite as aged as I, but it should suffice. I would have brought brandy, but I recalled that Sean's birthday was just a few days ago."

Dave laughed slightly at what he was sure was meant to be a witticism, though it wasn't all that funny. He had no way to know, of course, that the new guest was actually a three-hundred-year-old spirit.

Dash took the bottle. "Hmm. Well, since you have the best liquor cabinet I know of besides mine, you are forgiven."

"Thank you, Dashire," Fontenot rumbled as he took a seat. "And since not everyone here is of age to drink, I also have this." He handed Candy a velvet pouch.

The girl opened it to reveal a peppermint pig and a small mallet.

"Tradition has it that you are to break the wee beastie there and give each person a piece of it for luck," Fontenot instructed.

Candy considered a moment, and then turned slightly to hand the two items to Tris. "Since you loathe pigs so much, I think you should get to whack one, in effigy."

"Though I fail to see HOW a pig could bring anyone luck," he murmured before doing the honors.

"You have something against pigs, Tris?" Dave queried as he took a section of candy.

"It's a long, sad, beyond boring tale, not worth telling, especially not today," Tristan said. "Though we could add to my thankful list the fact that the only pigs in my life are made of peppermint."

XXX

The Captain, Sean, Dash, Adam, Jon, and Tris insisted on handling the clean-up and letting the ladies have the evening off. Dave offered to help, but Adam said he was a guest.

"Aren't you guys guests, too?" he asked.

"We're here quite often, lad," Sean said.

"Almost like family," Dash agreed. "Though, all things considered, I think that the - that Myles should abstain..."

"Courteously?" Adam quipped.

"Naturally," Dash growled, "from the work. He's newer, and the kitchen only has so much room, after all."

"And you are a matchmaker," Tristan whispered.

Dash merely shrugged.

"We'll have it all taken care of in no time flat," Sean promised.

"Are we all really needed?" Tristan asked.

"Yes," Dash replied firmly.

XXX

The girls, Dave, Fontenot, Claymore, Daniel, and Carolyn retired to the living room. The crew had considered making Claymore help, but decided they could be more efficient without him.

True to their word, the men had everything washed or wrapped up and put away in less than forty-five minutes. Having powers did help. Then, they joined the others in the family room to wait for their meal to settle before dessert.

Although a major movie from a couple of years back was supposed to air later in the evening, there was nothing on at the moment, so Adam suggested a friendly game of poker. Claymore made a face and wanted to play Monopoly instead. Before the dispute could be settled, Candy reminded them that Tris never had completed his Mad Conductor routine, so he finally was allowed to do his act. Because of his earlier frustration, his present good mood, a new audience, and who had asked for it, Tristan's performance had a bit of added gusto. Fontenot and Adam were especially amused by it, and when they settled on charades, there was some minor haggling over which side got the performer. Before the movie began, the girls brought out a cart with the desserts they had prepared on it.

"Your chocolate pie, Uncle Dash," Candy grinned, handing the ghost a generous slab.

"Gingerbread cookies and tea cakes, for anyone," Jenny said. "And..."

"Mince pie for C- Mr. - er Myles," they chorused.

"It's not homemade mince, just canned," Candy apologized. "You'll have to warn us a bit longer in advance next time you want it."

"I admire your optimism that your mother will want to continue keeping my company," the Captain smiled. "Thank you, girls."

"If you will allow me, I'll be the bartender," Dash said. "I'm dying, so to speak, to taste Fontenot's Irish whiskey."

"I thought it was MY birthday gift?" Sean asked mildly.

"And you should not have to wait on yourself," Dash sniffed.

Claymore was the first to leave, followed by Fontenot minutes later. Then, Sean left, and Dash told his "houseguest," Tristan, to come along as well. Adam fell asleep in his chair, so the group grew quiet, letting him nap. Time slipped away pleasantly until Dave looked at his watch and reluctantly said he needed to get home. Jenny offered to walk him out to his car.

The young couple paused on the porch.

"Thanks again for inviting me over," he said.

"Well, you are a good friend, and I liked having you here," she said, glancing down shyly.

"Ah - Jen, would you mind ... I LIKE you, a lot, and - " Dave fumbled.

She looked up, trying to guess what he was trying to say, so Dave took the opportunity to bend and kiss her gently.

Neither saw that Carolyn and Daniel had moved to the window to make sure everything was all right when it had seemed as if Jenny was gone a little longer than they expected.

"He's a sweet boy," Carolyn mused softly.

"You are certain he's good enough?" Daniel rumbled.

"Yes, but you are sweet to worry about her," Carolyn smiled. "Sorry, I did not mean to call you that. Even if it's true."

"Madam, such words invoke a dire penalty," the Captain said. "However, in light of all the considerations; you are the joy I am most thankful for in all my years of existence, it has been a splendid day, and the boy had a very good idea, I think I can be merciful, this once."

"This once?" she started to say, only to find that her lips were too busy kissing his now bearded face to talk.

Just one more thing for which to be thankful. But then, every day was Thanksgiving, in a way, with such love filling their lives.