Josie Saltzman spent the afternoon wandering through the Salvatore School garden—specifically, through the gourd section—examining each pumpkin on the vines. She had a special project in mind and needed the perfect pumpkins.
Hope Mikaelson spent a mid-autumn Saturday afternoon outside with her paints, as had been her habit—at least one such time a month—since spring. This time, she was capturing the vivid colors of the leaves in turn as the seasons progressed, leaving the heat and flowers of summer behind in preparation for the cold and snow of winter. The maples were displaying various shades of gold, orange, even crimson; the sweet gums were a brilliant yellow; the oaks contributed quieter, richer reds. For a season of death and decay, the colors were vibrant and full of life, Hope mused. Soon the brisk wind would down the foliage, leaving the trees stark and bare against the sky; as it was, some of the lower school students had magicked the already-fallen leaves into a large pile and were jumping into it—she saw Pedro make a particularly flamboyant jump.
A brief gust of wind sent a momentary shiver down Hope’s spine, reminding the auburn-haired girl that days were getting cooler, particularly in the waning afternoons, and she had come out to paint without her usual Salvatore sweater. “Sweater,” she thought, her mind immediately jumping elsewhere, to the girl whose trademark yellow sweater would be right at home among the hues of the leaves today. A second gust of wind dropped a flurry of tiny, colored parachutists and spinning tops from the trees, landing all around her in a growing blanket of crunchy color. With a sigh, Hope began packing her paints and canvases for the trip back to her room.
Not long after Hope had finished cleaning and storing her paints, her plans to clean herself were interrupted by two quick, sharp knocks on her bedroom door. Hope opened the door to find her favorite yellow sweater swaddling its owner, the gorgeous brunette with chocolate eyes, a goofy grin plastered on her face and a smallish orange gourd displayed in each palm. “Hello, pumpkin,” Josie uttered with complete sincerity.
Hope groaned briefly and watched the goofy grin on the witch’s jovial face turn into her other trademark, the perfect pout, accompanied by a serious case of puppy-dog eyes. Then, simultaneously, both girls broke into a round of laughter. Hope wanted to swat the brunette playfully, but she was certain that would cause the siphoner to drop at least one of the pumpkins, and the tribrid most certainly did not want to clean up pumpkin goop at her doorstep. “Who are you calling ‘pumpkin’? The only pumpkin I see are the ones in your hands,” the auburnette teased instead.
“Aww, you’re no fun,” Josie replied in tone of mock sadness, before extending one of her hands—and, by extension, its pumpkin—to Hope. The shorter girl simply smiled and took the proffered pumpkin, allowing Josie to trace the fingers of her now-free hand over the spots of paint that adorned the tribrid’s face. “…But you’re so adorable when you’ve been painting. Beautiful, really,” the younger girl finished breathlessly, tucking a stray strand of hair behind the young Mikaelson’s ear. Her tactile exploration complete, Josie then grasped Hope’s free hand with her own, intertwining their fingers and gently pulling the autumn-haired girl down the hall. (Hope closed and locked her door with a quick, hushed spell as she was led away.)
Predictably, the pair ended up in the Salvatore School kitchen, where Josie gently deposited her pumpkin upon the island and Hope followed suit. “These are baking pumpkins,” Josie noted. “I cheated a little and already made the purée earlier,” she continued, gesturing towards pumpkin remains in the compost container as she produced a bowl of blended orange pumpkin goop. The witch began assembling other ingredients, and Hope soon realized they were for ice cream, so the older girl retrieved her machine from its hiding spot and set it up. Shortly, Josie had the mixture ready; Hope poured it into the freezer bowl and let the machine work its magic.
While the ice cream maker spun, hard at work, the two girls talked about their days. Josie inquired about Hope’s painting, but mostly the question was an opportunity for her delicate fingers to absentmindedly caress the various paint spots that dotted the tribrid’s cheek and other locations on her face. Josie giggled when Hope described Pedro’s jump into the leaf pile, wishing that she had been there to see it—no, wishing that she had been there to jump in herself and pull Hope along with her. Both of them carried the stresses and burdens of being closely-watched Salvatore students and had far less fun than they should—Josie knew she needed to have more fun but, unlike her free-spirited sister, was less successful in following through on her own recommendation.
“So…why pumpkin ice cream?” Hope asked, breaking Josie from her own thoughts.
“When we were younger, our dad always used to tell Lizzie and me stories about this place in DC he frequented when he was in college, Max’s Best Ice Cream. Dad claimed it was the best ice cream he had ever had, and each fall, the eponymous Max made a special pumpkin flavor that it became a tradition for Dad and a few of his classmates to have. Sadly, Max was forced to close years ago, so we never got to experience it…but I may have tracked down Max’s daughter and gotten her to share the recipe with me. Ever since I discovered your secret machine, I’ve thought about recreating that experience, starting our own version of that tradition. We might not have Max or Max’s, but we do have the Salvatore kitchen and Max’s pumpkin ice cream recipe,” Josie concluded softly, an expectant look on her face.
Hope pulled the taller girl closer, her arms wrapping around the siphoner. She gently pressed her lips to the brunette’s, holding them for a moment before pulling back just far enough to allow their breath to exit. “I love it. I love all of your thoughtful gestures and plans. And I love you,” the auburn-haired girl whispered in the brunette’s ear, before placing another kiss on her cheek.
Josie broke into a full smile, one of contentment, even bliss. “I love you, too, pumpkin,” she replied sincerely, somehow managing not to break into laughter.
Hope chuckled. “You’re lucky I love you so much—even your bad puns…pumpkin.” Josie’s smile morphed into a pout for the briefest of moments before she joined her beloved in laughter. They were made for each other, and when each had realized that, it had been the best thing that had ever happened to them.
By this time, Hope’s machine had stopped its whirring, signifying the ice cream was ready (at least if you liked soft-serve; the full ice cream experience required a few hours in the freezer—or a quick-freeze spell). After pouring the ice cream into its container, Hope disassembled, cleaned, and stored her machine, while Josie—after a brief, gentle grasp of Hope’s arm accompanied by a reddish glow—performed the aforementioned spell and readied two bowls with spoons—and two glasses. After scooping some pumpkin ice cream into each bowl, Josie deposited the tub in the freezer and hid it with Hope’s trademark ice cream-hiding spell. The younger girl returned from the refrigerator with a jug of fresh apple cider from the orchard not far from the school, filling the glasses before returning the cider to its place just as Hope finished storing her machine.
“Ooh, fresh cider!” Hope remarked excitedly.
“Only the best for you, pumpkin.”
Hope went to playfully swat Josie for the remark but instead found her arm being interlinked with the siphoner’s. With glasses in one hand and bowls in the other, they made their way to the grand foyer where a fire already crackled in the fireplace in front of the couches. The two melted into each other as they enjoyed their ice cream and cider, cuddling and stroking each other’s hair as the day wound to a close. Josie sighed with contentment. Maybe she didn’t have fun often enough, but she had Hope, and these quiet times together, just the two of them, were worth their weight in gold. Maybe that really was good enough. She placed a brief kiss on Hope’s cheek—on a fleck of gold paint—and laid her head on the tribrid’s shoulder, snuggled closer, and soon dozed off.
When she awoke, Josie was greeted by Hope’s face staring at her, deep blue eyes and trademark Mikaelson smirk in full effect. “Hello, pumpkin. Enjoy your nap?”