Title: I (Still) Luv Halloween
Rated: T? for teenage boys kissing and general swearing
Summary: Let's see…It's just another ordinary Halloween in Turgid meadows, which of course, means bloodthirsty dinosaurs run rampant throughout the city, and Finch struggles to understand the mystery that is Devil Lad. Slash, DLxF
Disclaimer: I Luv Halloween and its characters, setting and any other related nouns are property of Benjamin Roman and Keith Griffin and probably Tokyopop. No copyright infringement is intended, no money is being made off of this, and all that jazz
Author's Notes: Mostly for chickienine, because she forced me into reading this manga (for which, coincidentally, I am somewhat grateful), but also partly for myself, since I went through this entire fandom in like, half an hour and immediately decided I needed more.
Finch was sitting in an old lawn chair by a small park, opening a can of soda and waiting for the sun to set. Beside him, Mr. Kitty and Pig Pig were arguing about something or other, sitting cross-legged on either side of him. Mostly, they were just background noise to Finch, who waited, eyes trained on the horizon, for a glimpse of him.
Around them, the park was alive with the excited murmuring of costumed children, eagerly awaiting a night (potentially) filled with candy and sugar. Briefly, he thought back on the days when all he cared about was candy and extracting revenge on those who didn't supply him with it.
He missed those days and his lost innocence, for all the wrong reasons.
He missed his childhood for the simple excuse of wearing a mask without getting the raised eyebrows and disapproving looks from his peers, for the fresh smell of blood mingled with sweat and sugar that permeated the air. But mostly, he missed it for the perpetual sound of Devil Lad's voice, passively mocking, sometimes genuine, mostly sarcastic as he stood by Finch's side, hands in his pockets, hood up. Finch could picture it so easily even after six years.
So lost was he in his quiet reminiscing that Finch nearly forgot where he was. He didn't realize how silent it had become until Mr. Kitty cleared his throat and grabbed a Dr. Pepper from the ice chest off to their left.
"Think he'll come?"
Mr. Kitty popped the top of his soda; it made a loud fizzing sound and the carbonated liquid bubbled out, covering his hands with the drink. He scowled and muttered a couple of curses under his breath, while Finch watched stoically.
"He always does," he answered in the same tone he used every year, expert now in stifling his doubt and eagerness.
Finch kept his gaze firm and uncaring even under his mask as he scanned the streets for what must have been the hundredth time. Every year his excuses were gradually diminishing; without the alluring promises of candy and sugar to lure the other in, there was less of a chance for Devil Lad to come by. He could feel something very close to despair well in the pit of his stomach as another October slowly crept by, hoping that there was still enough reason for Devil Lad to come, at least for one more day.
Beside him, Mr. Kitty stood and stretched languidly, the bottom of his dark red shirt riding up slightly and exposing a patch of lean skin. He and Pig Pig both had long ago abandoned their Halloween costumes, and sometimes, Finch wondered if he still only wore his mask to make Devil Lad feel less alienated. Mr. Kitty caught sight of something in the distance, an older woman perhaps, and narrowed his bright yellow eyes, a devious cat on the hunt for large-busted prey. He hissed something at Pig Pig, who awkwardly climbed to his feet.
"We're gonna go look for Moochie," Mr. Kitty said smoothly, casting an expectant glance Pig Pig's way.
"Yeah," he said, a small smirk quirking up the corners of his lips. "We'll—uh—be back in a bit."
Finch held up his hand without looking at his friends, eyes trained on the horizon.
"Sacred moment," was his only explanation.
The other two turned and watched the sun sink under the rooftops in silent acquiescence, until the harsh colors of dusk melted away, and they were drenched in semidarkness.
"Last I remember, Moochie ran off with Triple K somewhere," Finch said.
Mr. Kitty nodded and headed off in a random direction with Pig Pig in his wake. Finch sighed and looked down at his drink, not bothering to watch his friends' retreat.
As the years had slowly inched by, the gang spent less and less time on Halloween together. Usually, Mr. Kitty was off harassing the adults and Pig Pig was either tagging along or off with Monica. Moochie was never around anymore either, but that was no different than any other year. Ever since she'd discovered that the opposite sex wasn't just expendable meat in her morbid and perverse fantasies, she'd been off almost every other night with a different boy. Finch had decided long ago that he didn't want to know what she might have been up to.
But Devil Lad, he was different. Even as Finch's confidence in the other's return diminished, he always came by, refusing to leave Finch's side. Ironically, he was the only thing in Finch's life that was solid, immovable.
The thought left him somewhat depressed.
"Waiting for the sun to set again or something?" a familiar voice asked from somewhere behind him.
Finch stood and turned to see Devil Lad standing there in his usual manner, hands in the pockets of his red hoodie, hood drawn tight over the stoically smiling devil's mask. Finch suppressed the urge to smile even through his mask; he was sure Devil Lad would hear it in his voice.
Instead of rushing forward and wrapping his arms around the other boy like every instinct in his body ached for him to, Finch merely shrugged. He opened his mouth and felt the words I was waiting for you about to escape his lips, when a blood-curdling scream pierced the night air. So instead, latching on to that excuse, he said:
"Waiting for the excitement," and they both turned in the direction of the sound. "Let's go."
They walked off silently, side by side, in the vague direction of town. Finch rubbed the back of his neck quietly and contemplated the advantages and disadvantages of asking Devil Lad why he kept coming back.
"Mr. Kitty and Pig Pig?" Devil Lad asked after a full five minutes of silence.
"Looking for Moochie."
"Ah." Silence. Then— "Why?"
Finch just shrugged.
"Didn't think to ask."
"Oh, of course you didn't," Devil Lad replied. "Who would?"
Finch chose not to answer that. Instead, he pointed silently at the most likely source of this year's mayhem. Towering above them was a 30 foot tall dinosaur, happily munching on what looked like some unfortunate person's arm.
"Not bad," Devil Lad replied as the dinosaur heavily stomped away, sending throngs of screaming people running in every direction. "A little small for its kind, but still, very impressive."
Finch rolled his eyes and silently agreed. They watched the monster for a little while longer, then turned as one and headed in the opposite direction.
Another five minutes passed in utter silence, and finally Finch mustered up the courage to ask.
"So, I've been wondering," he began quietly, voice nothing more than a gentle rumble.
Finch stopped and ran a hand through his spiked red hair, eyes trained on the floor. He watched Devil Lad's sneakers come to a halt not a foot away from him, and if he strained his hearing, he could just make out the other's steady breathing over the frantic beating of his own heart. Finch looked up, locked eyes with the fragile barrier that lay between them, and slowly pulled his own mask up.
"Candy dried up for us a long time ago," he continued, finally noticing that Devil Lad was probably waiting for him to continue, and he'd just been staring like an idiot for almost a full minute.
"I'd noticed," Devil Lad remarked dryly, one hand coming out from its place in his pocket to tug at the corner of his red mask. "So?"
"So there's no real reason for you to keep coming back."
Finch had no idea what could possibly be going through Devil Lad's mind in the silence that followed that statement. Thousands of possibilities rushed through his paranoid brain before Devil Lad looked away and shook his head slightly.
"Why do you think I'm still here?" he asked, examining his nails with vague interest.
"I don't know," he said in the most genuine voice he possessed.
Devil Lad just looked at him again, or well, Finch supposed he looked at him. The mask was pointed in his direction and the eerie yellow mask-eyes were trained on him.
"You really don't know?" he asked, disbelieving, and took a tentative step forwards.
Finch shook his head, throat suddenly parched, but said nothing. Devil Lad's hand slowly, haltingly came up to finger with the long pointed ear of his mask, as if contemplating something.
There was another silence, in which Finch thought up ways to turn back time and un-ask that awkward question, but then Devil Lad just shook his head and let out a weak chuckle.
"What are we gonna do tonight?" he asked instead of answering.
"Monica's throwing a party," Finch said, latching on to the change of subject like a life preserver. He pulled his mask back on and checked the nearest streets sign for a clue to their current location before continuing. "Mr. Kitty and Pig Pig'll probably show up there later on tonight."
Devil Lad nodded his head slowly, hands creeping back into his pockets.
"Optional," Finch replied, nodding his head in the direction they had just come from.
Devil Lad turned from the waist up to where the trail of dinosaur destruction was still clearly visible, turned back to stare at Finch, remained silent.
"What?" Finch asked, raising an eyebrow.
"You want us to get eaten or something?"
"What makes you think we'll get eaten?" he replied as another thousand-decibel roar pierced the night air. Another, deeper cry called out in response, making the very ground beneath them rumble.
"Nothing, I guess," Devil Lad answered, shaking his head again. "When does Monica's party start?"
"An hour ago."
"Oh. Well, I guess it's always good to be fashionably late," Devil Lad commented dryly.
"Since when do you care about being fashionable?"
Devil Lad shrugged, sidestepping the mangles remains of one of Finch's neighbors without a second thought as they started walking again.
"Maybe I was always fashionable."
"Maybe," Finch said, not bothering to hide the sarcasm dripping from his voice.
"You don't believe me," Devil Lad said, tone more amused than accusing.
"Nah," he answered, "not for a second."
Then Devil Lad laughed; a strange, foreign sound that caused a balloon of giddiness to swell up in Finch's ribcage. He smiled softly to himself and pointed at a seemingly random house. Cars were already parked out front, and even from their spot on the sidewalk, both could clearly make out the shrill screaming of Monica's favorite Death Metal band thumping over the stereo.
"We're here," Finch said, watching Devil Lad's posture for any sign of interest or lack thereof.
But, as usual, Devil Lad just stood there for a moment, presumably drinking in the sight before him. Neither boy flinched when a prehistoric roar again shattered the silence hovering around them, nor when Pig Pig came barreling by, leaving a trail of blood in his wake.
"Shit, shit, shit," they heard Pig Pig mumble as he ran by. "Fucking T-Rex nearly bit my head off. I'll—"
"Hey Pig Pig," Finch said to the boy's rapidly retreating form, "not going to Monica's thing?"
"I'll be there in a bit," he yelled back, a bit louder than was strictly necessary. "I've gotta go save Mr. Kitty from the T-Rex."
And with that final disturbing thought, he turned sharply into an alley way, and vanished.
"Sounds like they've been having fun," Devil Lad said.
Finch silently agreed but decided not to comment on the matter. He brushed passed his friend (as if every bone in his body wasn't begging for him to take hold of Devil Lad's hand) and showed himself into the Goth girl's house.
The place was crowded with people, many of whom Finch had never seen before. He wondered if there were even that many teenagers living in Turgid Meadows, or if they were all Halloween Party Poachers themselves. A handful of the party-goers were dressed in costumes, mostly women looking for a day they could dress like whores and have people compliment them on innovation. Finch could feel the comforting presence of Devil Lad by his side, shoved into closer proximity than normal by the sheer amount of humanity stuffed into the house. Finch felt Devil Lad's arm brush his own, just a shock of warmth that sent a startled shiver up Finch's spine, and he silently thanked Monica for inviting so many people.
"We should go find Monica," Finch said, leaning in closer to make himself heard over the music, and if he took a moment to relish in the feeling of being so close to Devil Lad without being questioned, well, no one would have to know.
Devil Lad nodded his head once and veered off through a side door, head craning to look over the sea of people. Finch trailed after him, doing the same, but mostly keeping his eyes from scanning the body of the boy before him.
They found Monica after 20 minutes of aimless wandering, but she was too busy hitting on a Donnie Darko impersonator to pay them much attention. She only waved them off vaguely in the direction of the kitchen with the promise of getting them something to drink later on. It was the most they were able to get out of her before she turned back to the smugly smirking guy with an unenthusiastic toss of her long, black hair.
Soon, they found themselves sitting on the floor somewhere by the kitchen, two untouched plastic cups of alcohol sitting innocently beside them. Neither boy had said a word since they had been handed their drinks, almost half an hour ago. Finally, Finch sighed, tired of the silence that always seemed to follow them, despite the noise of the party just a few feet away. To Finch, it might as well have been in another dimension. So, just to get rid of the silence, he said the first thing that came to mind.
"You smell different."
Which was mostly true, since Devil Lad used to smell of pure evil and burning sulfur, and now he smelled like well, nice. Like something earthy and preternatural and delicious that Finch couldn't quite place consciously. It wasn't something that people said aloud however, (unless the two were fucking, and wow, Finch really didn't want his mind to go there), so he wasn't at all surprised at the awkward silence that followed the statement.
When Devil Lad finally came up with an appropriate response, however, he didn't mock Finch; he didn't call him a fag or remark on the weirdness of the statement.
All he said was "You noticed," in a voice that sounded a bit too pleased that Finch's nose was in working order.
It really was an odd remark (Finch's previous one notwithstanding), because really, how could Finch not notice something like that? But, at the risk of losing the mask of total apathy he'd spent years cultivating; he kept his mouth shut and shrugged.
"You got like, a date later on tonight or something?" he asked when he couldn't take it anymore.
And he tried to ignore the hot flame of jealous anger that swelled up in his gut as he asked the question; he really did. But then Devil Lad was just sitting there impassively, not denying it, and what if that damned mask was hiding like, his blush or something?
"Could have already seen them," Devil Lad said, in that characteristically vague way of his.
Devil Lad picked up his red plastic cup after that and swirled the contents around, not bothering to look up from where he might have been staring intently at the floor, might have been casting surreptitious glances at Finch. Suddenly, Finch wanted more than anything to rip off that mask and see what the other boy was thinking; he was so sick of having to guess.
"Oh," he said, hoping his white hot jealousy wasn't too painfully obvious in that simple syllable.
Devil Lad looked up at that, set his cup down and messed with the corner of his mask again. He could have been smiling, could have been rolling his eyes in fond exasperation.
"Sometimes, I don't know why I even bother," he said quietly, so quietly that Finch almost didn't hear it over the sudden shrieking that filled the house.
"Nothing," Devil Lad said, standing and holding out a hand to Finch. "Dino's coming."
Around them, a stampede of drunken teenagers ran about hysterically, screaming and bumping into each other and clutching at bloody stumps that used to be various limbs. Finch took the proffered hand and felt his breath catch at the silky feeling of DL's hand closing over his wrist as he gently pulled him up. Devil Lad kept a tight hold on him even after Finch was up, silently leading the way through the sea of chaos.
They forced their way out of the kitchen slowly, through the living room (where a portion of the ceiling had caved in), and outside. The dinosaur in question was currently wrestling with another dinosaur, this one built more like a tank than a reptile. They left a path of destruction around them, razing houses and cars like they were made of sand.
"Cool," Devil Lad said as they passed by, unnoticed for the time being.
"Yeah," Finch agreed, watching as the smaller, more heavily armed animal swung its spiked tail and carved a gash through the T-Rex's gut. The animal gave an enraged shriek as the blood began to pour out the wound, but still did not back down.
Devil Lad kicked open the wooden doors of what was probably Monica's cellar then, just in time for them to watch two other Dinos charge by (if Finch had to guess, he'd say they were raptors).
"And we're going into the storm cellar because…?" Finch asked as he was unceremoniously pulled down after Devil Lad.
He turned back to face Finch as they reached the bottom of the staircase, Devil Lad flipping a switch somewhere and letting a dingy, weak light illuminate the place. Finch tried not to feel disappointed when Devil Lad finally let go of his wrist and went off to examine a collection of flamethrowers hanging innocently on the wall.
"Dinosaurs have really bad depth perception," he finally explained. "They'll never be able to get down a flight of stairs."
Finch sighed and ran a hand through his hair again, feeling the familiar silence descend upon them. He collapsed onto the floor heavily, back to the wall, hands resting on his drawn-up knees.
"What do you think a girl needs so many flamethrowers for?' Finch asked instead of commenting on the sheer stupidity of Devil Lad's staircase explanation. "You'd think one would be enough."
"It's probably a girl thing that we would never be able to understand."
"And giving birth," Devil Lad finished wisely, coming by and taking a seat on the dirty floor beside him.
Minutes passed in silence.
Finch wondered why they never seemed to have anything to say to each other.
"You never answered my question," Finch said after a ridiculously long pause. "From earlier, I mean."
Finch bit his lip and tried not to fidget as he watched Devil Lad intently, waiting for his response.
"You really need for me to spell it out for you?" came the response.
Devil Lad turned so that he was completely facing Finch, hands resting on the floor not inches from Finch's leg. And Finch thought, at that moment, that he felt a mutual sort of something hovering in the air around them. He felt his skin prickle for the electricity in the air, and a hopeful part of Finch wanted so desperately to believe that, yes, there was something more between the two of them than there should have been. He felt the beginnings of an answer creep up on him. You really don't know? And it had to mean something. But those damned masks were just too inanimate, and they made everything so secretive and uncertain that for a second, Finch felt so utterly lost he wanted to scream.
Suddenly, Devil Lad brought up a hand to cover up a portion of his mask, a standard you've-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me face-palm gesture.
"You do need it spelled out for you," he said, sounding quite astonished.
A flash of instinctive irritation flashed through Finch (because alright, so sometimes he could be a bit of an idiot, but even he heard the God, what are you, some kind of idiot? That was weakly hidden in that statement), but his angry retort faltered before it even reached his lips when Devil Lad moved almost imperceptibly closer. It was just a shuffling of fabric, a scraping of hands as they came off the floor to wipe away the dirt, but it was enough to alight Finch's body with some unnamable heat. Devil Lad subtly repositioned himself so that he was kneeling on one knee beside Finch, both hands on the hood of his jacket.
And just like that, the hood was off. Finch saw a shock of jet black hair, sticking out stubbornly over the top of the mask and shining brilliantly even in the dim lighting; he saw the ghost of a sharp jaw and a lean neck, previously hidden in the shadows of his hood. Finch forgot how to breathe.
"I've been wanting to do this all night," Devil Lad said, and in one fluid movement, his mask was off, hanging limply in his hand.
Finch sat up abruptly and yanked his own mask off, so his vision wasn't restricted to the small eyeholes. Then he just sat there and looked at the other boy, knees folding under himself almost automatically, and he really looked at Devil Lad for the first time in his entire life.
Devil lad was pale pink lips, shaped into the ghost of an embarrassed smirk; he was sharp cheekbones and finely arched eyebrows and a pair of large, dark brown eyes that were blazing with amusement and anticipation and relief all at once. In that moment, Finch decided that DL was definitely not from Turgid Meadows, because Finch would have noticed someone like him before. But what struck Finch most of all was the idea that this was familiar, that this face he was currently emblazoning onto his memory, it might as well have been the mask Devil Lad had worn so religiously all these years for the feeling of rightness that it carried.
"Enjoying the view?" he asked quietly.
Finch watched with thinly veiled fascination as Devil Lad bit his bottom lip and simultaneously quirked an eyebrow, and fuck, after seven years of not getting a glimpse of this, Finch thought that he could spend an eternity, just watching the emotions play across his friend's face.
"Yeah, actually," Finch said before he could come up with anything more apathetic to say. "I am."
However, he was rewarded for his slip in ennui when a smug smirk flitted across the planes of Devil Lad's face.
"Answered your question then?" he asked as he scooted closer still, until he was sort of leaning over Finch, a mischievous glint sparkling playfully in his eyes.
"Almost," Finch answered just because he could.
He licked his lips slightly and marveled at the way DL's eyes flickered to the movement before darting up to meet his gaze again. That was about when his brain short-circuited because Devil Lad's lips were over his, hot and soft and yielding when Finch tentatively slid his tongue over them. Slowly, they explored this other new treasure, unaware of the cold around them or the faint rumbling in the distance that gently rattled the tools and flamethrowers hanging on the walls. None of that mattered right now because Devil Lad's tongue was sliding over his and Finch brought his hand up to grab hold of impossibly soft hair, and it was all so new but somehow so familiar too, so different but kind of not. And it was just so right and fuck, if Finch had been lost before, he was in a whole different universe now.
It could have been hours that they sat like that, until they remembered that breathing was, in fact, very conducive to living, and they broke apart, all flushed faces and swollen lips. Finch had to swallow hard and look away before he pulled Devil Lad back down to him, and they both died of suffocation.
So Finch ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath, trying to turn the hazy fog that had filled his head back into a brain. Eventually, Devil Lad pulled away and sat back, and Finch could think a bit clearer. Suddenly, the words were all there, but jumbled into a thousand different questions and statements that all threatened to bubble out of his mouth incoherently. Instead, all he said was:
"The ground's shaking."
Finch could have punched himself.
"Yeah, I noticed," Devil Lad said, casting a weary glance up at the ceiling, where the light fixture was ominously quivering above them. "You think our Dino-buddies are back?"
"Could be," Finch replied, heaving himself up and grabbing his mask.
Yet he fingered with the white bit of plastic for a while, turning it over several times in his hands, suddenly reluctant to put it back on. He watched Devil Lad stand and dust of his khaki jeans seconds later, trying to ignore the bone-crushing disappointment he felt when the other finally pulled his hood up over his hair.
Devil Lad must have seen the expression on his face, however, because as he made to put on his own mask, his eyes locked onto Finch's, and his hands froze in place, mask held close to his chest. A funny sort of smile was playing across Devil Lad's face as he took a few steps forward and leaned in to Finch's personal space, so that his breath tickled the whole length of his neck and caused tight coils of heat to form in the pit of Finch's stomach.
"You're such a sap," he said, ran his tongue along the shell of Finch's ear, and took a quick step back.
Finch closed his eyes and clenched his jaw even as a shudder ran up the length of his spine because, goddamit, that just wasn't fair. His eyes snapped open. He was so close to launching himself at Devil Lad to retaliate—how exactly, he wasn't sure, but imagined it would involve his mouth and DL's too, or possibly other parts of his anatomy—but at that moment, a loud crash sounded from the top of the stairwell and startled him from his purpose. They both turned to where a surprisingly bright puddle of moonlight was soaking the floor and had just enough time to hastily pull their masks back on before Monica, Mr. Kitty and Pig Pig all stormed in, heading straight for the flamethrowers on the far wall.
"Hey Pig Pig," Devil Lad said, presumably to gain everyone's attention. "You guys planning on having a barbeque?"
"Sort of," he answered at the same time Mr. Kitty said "Where have you guys been all night?"
Finch flushed at the memory of Devil Lad's lips against his own, suddenly thankful for masks that hid any and all facial expressions.
"Around," Finch said and saw Devil Lad rub his neck through the material of his hoodie in what Finch assumed was an embarrassed manner.
"Well come on then," Monica said impatiently, pulling two gun-shaped, flame-throwing weapons off the wall. "Those things aren't going to kill themselves."
For one deeply disturbed moment, Finch thought she was talking about dogs again, but that worry was mostly assuaged when Pig Pig and Mr. Kitty both copied her seconds later.
"Two flamethrowers?" Devil Lad asked dubiously, making no move to help any of the three with their loads. "Seems like overkill to me."
"Definitely overindulgent," Finch agreed.
"They aren't all for us," Mr. Kitty explained as he draped one weapon over the back of his shoulder. "Moochie, Spike and Triple K are standing guard outside."
Devil Lad sent a glance Finch's way, and now he could all but see the incredulity dripping from the other's face, one thin eyebrow arched delicately in a silent but easily broadcast question, the corners of his mouth quirked upwards slightly, still a shade darker than normal and kiss-swollen and all because of Finch—
"Hey Finch, you coming or what?" Mr. Kitty asked, and Finch realized with a jolt that he'd zoned out for the rest of the conversation.
He stood alone in the center of the cellar, a flamethrower hanging loosely at his side (with absolutely no idea who might have handed it to him) and Mr. Kitty standing at the foot of the stairs, brow furrowed in a mixture of confusion and concern. Finch shook his head once to clear it, and stalked passed his friend and up the stairs quickly.
Outside, he found everyone standing in a loose semicircle, watching a pair of strangely glistening dinosaurs happily traipse a path of destruction across the neighborhood.
"Stir fry Dino-dinner!" Moochie said, excited, and yanked a flamethrower from Monica's slack grip.
Then, with a war cry that would have made a Viking proud, she ran off, wielding the oversized gun before her like she'd been to war and back, Shirley Temple curls bouncing brightly after her and tap shoes clicking out a happy funeral march.
"So Moochie dressed as Shirley Temple this year?" Devil Lad asked as if he had known all along it would happen.
Nobody answered him, however, because by then Moochie had come up to one of the Dinosaur's feet, looking tiny and helpless in comparison. She raised her weapon to its right foot without a trace of fear, and for an almost worrying second Finch thought the Dino might swallow her up whole, but Moochie only laughed hysterically and pressed down on the trigger.
Moochie had aimed for the reptile's toenail, or great big claw, really, and ordinarily Finch would have pinched the bridge of his nose and cursed the Halloween Gods for bestowing him with such an idiotic lunatic for a sister, but then something unexpected happened. Instead of merely irritating the animal—and possibly causing it a minor burn—the whole thing almost immediately burst into flame.
The creature, crippled by terror and pain alike, blindly ran into its companion, who similarly burst into flame. Finch turned to watch the expressions on his friend's faces, all of whom were watching the incident as if dinosaurs frequently burst into flames around them. He decided that he definitely didn't want to know.
But, on the other hand…
"Ok. What just happened?"
"Oh, I got this one, you guys," Devil Lad said in a confident sort of way that did not reassure Finch in the slightest. "Monica, apparently, kept all those nice flamethrowers in her storm cellar on the off chance there'd be a massive dinosaur invasion. When it did happen, she suitably forgot about them until she ran into Moochie, Spike and Triple K right as a heard of Dinos charged into a gas station, becoming conveniently flammable. They came back for aforementioned flamethrowers only to find Pig Pig and Mr. Kitty waiting in the driveway, wondering about how they'd managed to miss the party. Did I get everything?"
"Yeah, I think so," Triple K piped up, looking kind of ridiculous in his Count Dracula costume.
"Everything that's important, anyway," Pig Pig said, casting a sideways glance to Monica.
"I be Spike," Spike agreed.
"You guys sure missed a lot," Monica said in a strange voice that immediately put Finch on edge. "But then again, we probably did too."
There was an annoyingly wise air about her as she said that, eyes flickering between Finch and Devil Lad in a way that said she knew a lot more than she was saying. Finch narrowed his eyes and tried very hard not to call her out on it.
"Let's go fry some dinosaurs," he said instead.
And so it was that Finch and Devil Lad spent the rest of the night hunting flammable dinosaurs and burning them to a crisp. Everyone else had gone off separately as well, with Spike staying behind and presumably following Moochie as she went on a rampage. For four hours, they searched for and killed maybe a handful of monsters, until they stopped exploding into flame so easily. Then they had to come up with another way to make dinosaurs flammable, and both drew a blank.
Finch pulled his mask up once they were done pretending to have ideas about what to do next, just to help him see his targets, he assured himself, and not because he was kind of hoping Devil Lad would do the same. When the other boy did, miraculously, pull his mask up so that it was flattening his hair under his hood, Finch was at a loss as to what to say. But then, it seemed, that Devil Lad was tired of talking, because he had taken several purposeful steps closer and was kissing him again, and Finch forgot about everything except the way their lips moved against each other.
He felt Devil Lad's fingertips stroke his chin softly, tilting Finch's head up slightly for a different angle, apparently so that he could slide his tongue deeper into the crevice of Finch's mouth. It was soft and sweet this time, as if Devil Lad was trying to memorize the taste of him and the feel of him—
And then Finch pulled back ever so slightly, a black, ugly ball of understanding forming in his chest. Because Devil Lad was trying to memorize the kiss, Finch was suddenly sure of it. He wanted to lock this moment up in a little box inside his mind and pull it out on the days when Finch wasn't around anymore. When Devil Lad left.
As soon as the sun went up.
They locked gazes for a moment, Devil Lad's dark brown gaze searching—for what, Finch wasn't sure. He was about to ask, say something, anything that would just make him stay for once, when a powerful explosion suddenly knocked them off their feet. The noise temporarily blinded Finch, made him deaf to everything but his frantic breathing and the wild beat of his own heart, but they were just out of range for whatever that had been to cause any real damage. Finch sat up after a second and rubbed the dizziness out of his head.
When he looked up he saw that Devil Lad was on his knees, rubbing at his temples with one hand. But he managed to look both curious and amused as he trained his eyes on a spot some five feet to Finch's right, where a bloodied arm was still clutching a flamethrower. The black nail polish glinted in the night, and Finch had no trouble figuring out whose appendage that was.
"Hooray!" they heard come from the far side of a building, and when they went around, they saw that the city had basically been burnt to the ground around them.
There was no crater this time, but every building in the area had collapsed from the power of the explosion, and the non-flammable dinosaurs that had survived the flame-thrower purge were now moaning pathetically, half burnt and half blown to bits.
"Why does this seem familiar?" Devil Lad asked as he surveyed the scene.
Finch shrugged, but didn't say anything. He figured Devil Lad knew the answer to that anyway. He turned his gaze to the horizon, where the blackness was already lightening, feeling a sense of dread begin to drown him.
"I should go," Devil Lad said.
No sooner had he taken a single step that Finch reached blindly for the other boy's hand.
"Don't," he said quietly. "Not yet."
Devil Lad's expression was unreadable, but there must have been something in Finch's eyes, because he quietly complied, fingers twining around Finch's as they watched the city smoke and smolder.
Finally, when Finch could no longer pretend that the morning would never come, he sighed wearily.
"The sun'll be rising soon," he said.
"Yeah," Devil Lad answered, still not looking at Finch.
Finch wondered how long it would take him to erase the feel of Devil Lad's lips against his own, or the warmth of his palm and fingers wrapped around his own. He decided he never wanted that to happen.
He loosened his hold on Devil Lad's hand, so Devil Lad could take it as a sign that it was finally time to go. Reluctantly, Devil Lad let his hand fall to his side.
"So, I guess I'll see you, then?" Devil Lad asked, finally turning to stare at Finch.
A pale gray light had already begun to suffuse the area, causing the dark pools of blood and gore and charred body parts around them to sparkle slightly. In a moment, the dark reds and browns and blacks would be revealed to them as dawn truly took hold of the sky. Finch felt his despair creep up on him, slowly, like the rise of the sun, at the prospect of waiting another 365 days.
"Yeah," he said instead of everything else he was dying to tell the other boy. "I'll see you next year."
Finch did not say Don't leave me again. But it was a close call.
They stared at one another for nearly a full minute before Devil Lad silently turned and began his slow walk back to the bowels of Hell. Next year. Finch was ready to quietly sulk for the rest of the year before he heard his own voice call out again.
And he really hated how hopeful he sounded, like he needed Devil Lad for more than just one day a year. And, ok, so maybe he did, but that didn't mean he had to sound like it. Devil Lad stopped and turned around, a shadow of a smile on his face.
"I think that could happen," he said quietly, so Finch was the only one who could hear him.
And even though everyone else was either eaten or burnt to a crisp, Finch appreciated the gesture. This was a conversation that was never supposed to happen, and as such should be kept secret, even from the dinosaurs dying around them. Devil Lad winked and brought his mask down to cover his face. Then, with one last nod of his head, he turned and walked off again.
"I do love Christmastime," he called out over his shoulder, and Finch couldn't help the excited grin that broke across his face.
Christmas. That wasn't too bad; he could wait until then. Finch did some quick math in his head.
Fifty-four days and counting.