A/N: Yes, I know…I should be working on Haunting Temptation but I'm at an impasse that's driving me nuts and the weather is quickly turning from Summer to my favorite of all seasons…Fall! The colors, the air, the cooler weather…love love love it. So from a particularly beautiful pre-fall day while sitting on swing bench in my parent's front yard under the shade of a huge tree and enjoying a cup of coffee while my dad, mom and daughter tended to the chickens, inspiration to write this struck and I went with it. I know it's a bit early but…ENJOY! And a HUGE thanks to my Kitty (Arietti) for being my beta on this one!
Disclaimer: I own nothing of Beetlejuice and make no profit from the writing of this fic.
Observation was a part of the artistic process. To some, it was the most important part. Just sitting, taking in what gifts lay before you undiscovered by others, filling your mind with the sights, the smells and sounds of what you wished to capture…appreciating it - that was where the true drive to create lay. Some sat and waited to be inspired…others went out and found that inspiration through the simple act of watching. Lydia Deetz was one of those who watched and found what spoke to her.
Her favorite time of the year to make such studies was in the fall. And it just so happened that the perfect day to do so presented itself one brisk, gorgeous Halloween afternoon while she was sitting in her backyard enjoying the way the chilled breeze contrasted with the subtle heat of the sun.
Lydia stared out at the sloping hill that tapered off into a line of thick forestry and provided an uneven resting ground for the souls laid to rest in the Peaceful Pines Cemetery. The splash of red, gold and lingering green leaves shifting restlessly with the crisp breeze provided a beautiful autumn backdrop for the array of gray stone monuments, the colors glaring from the setting of the pristine blue sky.
Beside her sat a to-go cup filled with a luxurious pumpkin spice latte that she'd picked up at a quaint coffee shop next to the hardware store in town. Lifting it, Lydia held it to her nose, closed her eyes and deeply inhaled the scent of hot coffee and spice.
The only sound aside from the rustle of leaves was the occasional snap and billow of the sheets Delia had hung on the line earlier. Sheets were the only thing she would bother to hang out this time of year with the wind being too cool to decently dry thicker clothing and towels. And Lydia was always very willing to let Delia give her sheets that treatment. The scent of Fall and late season bonfires clinging to her sheets was something she couldn't help but love.
Opening her eyes again, she cast her gaze to the blank sketch pad in her lap and frowned slightly. Despite the perfection of the setting, her muse seemed elusive today. She looked back to the landscape and almost immediately her eyes settled on the expanse of the graves. And then she was no longer thinking of inspiration or capturing a moment. She was thinking of Beetlejuice and wondering what form of trouble he was possibly getting himself into at that very moment.
She hadn't seen him for several days which didn't worry her in the slightest. As the years had passed and she'd grown older, there was a mutual acceptance of her growing independence. With every birthday that passed, she seemed to rely on him being there less and less. And it seemed…alright. They still shared a close friendship where no secrets were kept but it was calmer…more…adult. Lydia would even venture to say that Beetlejuice had grown much more subdued in nature over the years. There was a maturity to him now that seemed to manifest at the rate her own maturity had…almost like he was adapting to her changing persona to remain that common ground they were both so comfortable with.
Of course, with that maturity came a startling realization that her feelings towards the mischievous poltergeist were starting to shift quite dramatically. It hadn't been sudden. Lydia had been given plenty of time to study and understand what was happening. Every hug, every touch, every compliment tucked deceivingly within a teasing jumble of words continually provoked reactions that would leave Lydia confused and questioning the innocence of their relationship until one day she saw Beetlejuice in an entirely different light that had nothing to do with friendship and everything to do with wicked, lascivious intentions.
Even with time though, the insight to her shifting emotions still bewildered her. Falling for a ghost that she'd known for most of her young adult life was worth getting a little shell-shocked over even if it did make sense. Aside from her father, he was the only male influence in her life. And he was the only male influence who understood her nature and accepted it when no one else seemed to be able to do so. Her father and Delia both made every effort to…but despite their intentions, it was obvious that the young woman was just a complex being they couldn't quite wrap their heads around. Beetlejuice though….
She sighed and pulled her jean clad legs to her chest, wrapping her arms around them and propping her chin between her knees. Beetlejuice was always there and even when he couldn't quite understand what she might be going through, his efforts to help her deal with any situation were still endearingly sincere.
And there were times when he looked at her that she swore she could see the same confused emotions she was feeling reflected in his eyes. Then he would look away or make his usual crude jokes, leaving her to second guess what she had thought she saw.
With a disgruntled roll of her eyes, Lydia stood, leaving her sketchbook abandoned in the yard as she made her way down the hill to the cemetery. She'd thrown a dark violet sweater on before leaving the house and now pulled the ends of it tightly around herself before crossing her arms in a gesture that was both slightly defensive and an effort to ward off the autumn chill.
Contradicting her attempts to stay warm, her feet remained bare. With every step, Lydia reveled in the feel of the grass brushing the soles of her feet and tickling the small gaps between each toe.
When she entered the cemetery, a soothing calm washed over her. There was a familiar serenity there amongst the stone markers that spoke to her. It was another one of those things people just didn't understand about her. She found peace, stability and beauty where others found grief and a testament to the cruelty of life.
Passing by one large, ornate headstone, she plucked a frail red leaf from where it rested in the curved joint of an angel's wing. She twisted it idly between her fingertips and wove her way through the markers, careful not to tread over the raised earth where the dead rested. She had no purpose to her wandering aside from the need to clear her mind and do something besides agonize yet again over her feelings for Beetlejuice.
She lifted the leaf high above her head as the breeze picked up and let it go, watching as the wind twisted and pulled it away from her. It settled on a fresh mound of turned earth. Looming over it was a gruesome headstone. Demons flanked the side, their forked tongues lolling from mouths lined with long, pointed teeth. Black roses laid over the grave, scattered as if someone had carelessly thrown them there without much care for where they landed. The marker itself was nearly black. There was no date, no uplifting message meant to sooth the hearts of the mourning. There was just a name – Beetlejuice.
Lydia laughed softly and bent to pick up one of the roses. Unlike the respect she paid to the other departed souls, she walked right over this one and placed the rose tenderly on the curved top of the headstone.
"This is dramatically gross…even for you," she muttered.
The wind shifted and dropped several degrees, pulling at the thick mane of black hair she'd opted to wear down and teasing it. He liked it down. He'd told her that once.
With a patient sigh, she went to her knees before the headstone and traced the name with the tip of her finger, whispering softly as she did so, "Beetlejuice…Beetlejuice….Beetlejuice."
A hand with long, red lacquered nails suddenly appeared in front of her face.
"Does m'lady require assistance?"
Laughing, Lydia took Beetlejuice's hand and let him help her up. "Chivalrous," she intoned, arching a sardonic brow at the poltergeist lounging on the top of the headstone.
"What can I say, Babes." He grinned and held out the rose she'd placed where he was now sitting with his free hand. "I'm a classy guy."
Any other time and she would have returned fire with a sarcasm-laced quip. However, it had been five days since she had last seen Beetlejuice and she couldn't ignore the sudden joy and unsettling flutter of nerves in the pit of her stomach that his appearance provoked. Dropping his hand, she took the rose and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. "It's good to see you, Beej."
"Surprised you even remember who I am," he pouted while hugging her back. "Five days and not a word."
"The mirror goes both ways. You could have visited." Lydia moved away, brushing her hair out of her face and tucking it behind her ear.
Beetlejuice shrugged indifferently. "Yeah, could have."
"I'm sure you were far too busy to spend any time with your living little Lydia."
"Cute." He jumped off the headstone, falling into step beside her as she started moving leisurely through the cemetery once more. "So what's the plan for tonight? Spookin' the suckers, hittin' a party? Maybe a little trick or treating? Emphasis on the trick, of course."
Lydia smiled at his horrible pun. "Of course." They walked on in comfortable silence for a while before she answered his question. "I was actually thinking about…staying home tonight. Watch some scary movies, eat some popcorn, maybe a séance just for the hell of it."
"Yeah well…" she shrugged helplessly and offered him a smile. "So does the same stuff we've done for the past seven years."
"Aw, come on. I thought the prank we pulled on your parents last year was pretty impressive." He nudged her lightly with his elbow. "Guess my living little Lydia's all grown up now. Too mature for any Neitherworld Shenanigans, huh?"
Lydia laughed and slid her arm through his, leaning against him. "It's not that. Even though…I have grown up, if you didn't notice."
"Oh, trust me Babes, I've noticed."
Lydia glanced up at him through the thick fringe of her lashes. "You have?"
"Sure. You're way taller than you were when you were a kid."
And cue the disappointment. Lydia stifled a sigh, looking away. On the other side of the wrought iron fence that enclosed the cemetery, a mother walked with her arm around a small paper sack of groceries. In front of her, two little girls dressed like fairies danced hand-in-hand along the pavement, swinging empty Halloween bags that would, no-doubt be full by the end of the night.
Maybe Trick-or-Treating wasn't such a bad idea. True, neither of them was of an age where they could really partake of the festivity without catching a considerable amount of grief but it could provide a perfect opportunity for Beetlejuice to revert to his old, juvenile ways and quell some of those errant sentiments.
It all seems so one-sided, she thought. Maybe now would be a good time to see if I can make these feelings stop.
"Your parents home?"
Lydia tore her gaze from the children and looked back up at her long-time friend. "They are now but they have some costume party to go to at Brewster's."
"Aww, and you didn't want to go? You and your best bud Clair would have had such a great time," Beetlejuice gushed.
Lydia smacked him and he laughed, trying to avoid the hit but making it a point to keep her arm tucked in his. "Easy Babes. You k now, we could stay in…carve some pumpkins; splatter some trick-or-treaters with the guts to freak 'em out. Bet they're playin' all the old horror flicks tonight, aren't they."
"Yeah. One channel is. They're starting it out with Rosemary's Baby."
"Classic. Gotta love the oldies. So we'll stay in."
Lydia tilted her head to the side and contemplated the ghoul, slightly surprised that he'd caved almost too easily. "Are you sure?"
Beetlejuice nodded. "Yeah! I could answer the door lookin' like Pinhead." Hundreds of nails suddenly protruded grotesquely from his face and Lydia laughed. He continued on, shifting his appearance to match that of the character he was mentioning. "Or Leatherhead, or Dracula…maybe Dr. Frankfurter."
"No!" Lydia shouted through her laughter, stepping in front of him and placing her hands on his chest to stop him before he could make the dramatic shift from a caped vampire to a cross-dressing psychopath. "How about a pirate?"
"A pirate, huh?" He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, then snapped his fingers. The cape and dark clothing was replaced with a pair of scuffed black boots, black and white stripped breaches, a simple shirt under a weathered leather coat and a pirate hat that had certainly seen better days.
"You carry off the pirate look very well," Lydia mused softly, reaching up to flick at the feathers and beads that hung from a thin braided section of his blond hair.
He grinned and tipped his hat. "Aye, but who will be me wench?"
Lydia released a long suffering sigh. "I guess that would have to be me."
Before she could move her hands away from his chest, he snagged them, holding them right where they were. "Ah, but what a wench ye would be," he murmured.
There was something in his eyes that stilled her breath, something that drew her in. She hardly noticed the change in her own attire until Beetlejuice glanced down and destroyed the moment by saying in true male fashion, "Where the hell did those come from?"
Lydia lowered her eyes, shocked to see the expanse of cleavage displayed proudly from the bodice of her elaborate gown. He'd spared no expense in dressing her. The black lace and blood red satin corset was form-fitting and scandalous. It clung to her briefly to her hips before tapering off into a pair of black leggings that may as well have been painted on her. The leggings disappeared into a pair of black high-heeled, calf-length boots.
"Those," she started, opting for cool and calm instead of freaking out over the fact that she was showing of much more skin than she had ever dared to before, "are part of growing up. I suppose you didn't notice though, did you."
"I'm noticin' now," he muttered, his eyes quite literally glued to her chest. Well, not quite literally. Knowing Beetlejuice, he could easily make that happen, a visual which Lydia decided was somewhat unappealing.
"Uh-huh." He didn't bother looking up.
"Hey…I'm up here."
"Don't send me back," he grumbled distractedly. By now the feel of his gaze was a bit too close to that of a lovers caress. Lydia inadvertently leaned closer to him, shivering. That seemed to pull him from his transfixed leering. A look of worry erased the look of lecherous intent immediately.
"You cold, Lyds?"
"A little bit." She smiled up at him and shrugged. "I was wearing a sweater for a reason."
He pulled her close, wrapping his arms low around her waist and drawing her against his chest. As he did so, the pirate garb vanished and she was once again in her large sweater and jeans, the cold earth biting into the bare soles of her feet. With a sigh, Lydia curled her arms around Beetlejuice and pressed her face to the lapels of his striped suit. He smelled of aged dirt and slight decay, a scent she'd long since gotten used to. It no longer offended her as it once had. Now…it was a familiar source of comfort and stability.
"I didn't stay away because I was busy," he said in a voice so low that she almost didn't hear him.
"Just because I don't call you doesn't mean that I don't need you," she returned just as softly. She pulled back slightly and lifted her head, searching his gaze. "Why did you stay away?"
He shrugged, looking somewhere beyond her and although he was keeping an outward façade of apathy, Lydia knew he was struggling internally.
The wind suddenly picked up, blowing the dry leaves around their feet. It whipped Lydia's hair free from behind her ears and sent it in a tangled, feathery mess over her eyes.
"Always liked your hair down," Beetlejuice said, the tips of his red nails grazing her temple as he tucked the strands carefully back behind her ear.
"I know." She dared to sway forward, to tilt her head up slightly and tempt what fates await them.
Beetlejuice's hand fell to her shoulder and hesitated there for a minute before sliding around her neck. Lydia tried to remember how to breathe, how to think, but failed miserably. The only thing she could focus on now was how close he was, how hot her skin felt where he touched and how, for the first time in her life, the man she wanted was holding her in a way that told her he wanted her too.
"What the hell are we doin', huh Babes?"
"Not really sure," she replied breathlessly. "Nothing yet."
The insinuation of the simple word 'yet' shifted the moment dramatically. They were no longer two friends standing amid the dead leaves and tombstones. They were two adults hesitating on the precipice and staring uncertainly down at the unknown that tempted them. Would they jump? Should they jump?
"Beetlejuice…" she whispered, swaying closer to him, drawn more by the thought of being in his arms than the pressure of his hand at the nape of her neck.
"Lydia," he returned in a deep, possessive murmur that weakened her limbs and forced the breath from lungs that already felt much too tight. His hawk-like nose brushed hers and she yielded completely, pressing her body to his, feeling the tumultuous rush of need, anxiety and anticipation overcome her like wildfire.
"You're about to be kissed by a dead guy."
It was his last effort to be joking. Or at least the last effort she would allow him. "He should probably just shut up and get to it then," she murmured.
And then his mouth was whispering cautiously over hers. There was an awkward hesitation following the brief touch, a moment that hung tentatively in the cool autumn breeze, an unspoken question. Was this something they really wanted to do?
Lydia made the decision for them, moving her arms from his waist to around his neck. She went up on her tip-toes, simultaneously pulling him down and kissing him with every shred of hunger she felt and suppressed for the poltergeist up until this point. He groaned, his hand fisting in her hair, the nails of the other digging gently into her back. He nipped at her bottom lip and she opened for him, gasping when his tongue brushed erotically against hers. The concept of friendship was instantly shattered, taken over by lust and something near-carnal that most people would probably never understand. They didn't need people to understand though. They knew who they were, where they stood and what they were to each other. It would be the only thing they ever needed.
"Mmm, Lyds," Beetlejuice pulled away and grinned lazily down at her. "Been wantin' to do that for a while."
With a smile, Lydia closed her eyes, sank back and leaned heavily against him. "Same here." When she opened her eyes again, expecting only to see headstones and bright fall foliage, her breath left her in a startled gasp when she instead stared at the blood red perfection of a single rose.
"Happy Halloween, Babes."
"It's beautiful." She took it from him and lifted it to her nose, deeply inhaling the musky aroma before turning her gaze up to the ghost she now knew she loved. "Happy Halloween to you too, Beetlejuice."
A deafening crack filled the air, silencing what Beetlejuice was trying to say and Lydia suddenly found herself very much alone. The wind whipped angrily around her, drowning out the colorful cussing Beetlejuice had left in the wake of his departure.
Lydia couldn't help it…she laughed. She laughed long and joyously. Of course their first kiss would end with her accidentally spitting his name out for the third and final time. Of course any further actions would be cut short inadvertently.
Wandering leisurely back to the headstone he'd left standing, she kissed the rose and placed it lovingly on the ground before running her fingers over his name. "See you later, Beej."
Then she turned and started back for home. Her muse was back in full force, inspiration running through her veins and mingling pleasantly with the lingering giddy excitement Beelejuice had provoked. She would paint, buy her time until her parents left…and then call him back to finish what new Halloween tradition they'd started which sounded far more perfect than anything she'd originally planned.