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Haunted House or Not?

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Tom Paris walked slowly through the holodeck and watched as the various zombies, monsters, and other boogie men jumped out of the shadows and attempted to scare him. He was, of course, not scared. He had spent hours and hours designing this virtual haunted house with his best friend and co-conspirator, Harry Kim; nothing here made him frightened. Actually, not much frightened him at all these days. The scary parts of his life were in the past and he didn't want to spend another minute worrying about them.

Unfortunately his immediate past was causing problems. More for Harry than for him, but the spillover was unavoidable. The two of them had spent a rough few days wrongly imprisoned on a Akritirian penal station and now Harry was uninterested in anything that was dark or scary. And zombies, monsters and boogie men were right out of the picture. The first and only time Tom had gotten Harry to visit the Haunted House program had lasted a mere thirty seconds and Harry had left pale as a sheet and vowing never to set foot in the holodeck again. Not very helpful when the ship celebrated Halloween in three days ship time and the program wasn't done. Tom sighed and again tried to find a way to both help his friend and finish the program. He wasn't getting very far.

The next morning Tom woke up with an idea. An idea that might both save Halloween and keep Harry from never speaking to him again. His first stop was the mess, to beg some certain special food stuff from Neelix. His next stop, hydroponics, to sweet talk Ensign d’Arnaud into giving up the oddly shaped gourds that were supposed to be soup next week. Or if he couldn't have the gourds themselves, at least some detailed scans of them so that he could use them in the holodeck. Mission accomplished! His final stop was Commander Chakotay; it was going to take some time to recreate the entire program now that he knew what he needed to do. He needed the Commander to give him both the time off and the extra holodeck time to get it done. Thankfully, he agreed and Tom hunkered down in the holodeck for the duration, hoping that he would be done by the time the party was supposed to start.

*******

Tom glanced sleepily at the wall display of the holodeck clock and realized that he was finally done and with six whole hours to spare. Time to get some much needed sleep before the party went live. He half stumbled back to his quarters and collapsed into bed.

********

Tom woke up to the incessant sound of his door chime alternating with the banging on the door. Sleepily he stumbled to the door and opened it to find Neelix standing there with a spatula and a large pot.

"Mr. Paris, you shouldn't be late to your own party!" admonished the alien morale director. "What exactly am I supposed to do with the apples and this pot? I know you said not to ask Mr. Kim for any information but..."

"You didn't ask him already, did you?"

"No, Mr. Paris. But I really need your help."

"Ten minutes, Neelix. I will be ready for you in ten minutes," said Tom as he let the door close and stumbled to find his costume. No zombies or ghouls or anything scary; after much thought he had discarded all of those ideas and settled on something far more in keeping with the atmosphere he hoped to create, and if it gave some people fodder for jokes for a while... then that was worth it. He pulled on his red coat trimmed with white and the matching hat and looked at himself in the mirror. Father Christmas looked back with a grin. Now onto the party!

Tom arrived at the holodeck at a dead run and skidded to a stop in front of the door. He input the code for the door and entered a woodland scene. There were the maple trees with the leaves turning red and a bonfire already lit in a clearing with tables of the mystery gourds three times larger than they had been while in hydroponics. An assortment of carving tools were on the table as well and a banner reading Pumpkin Carving hung between two of the trees. There were also a table of sharpened sticks and hot dogs waiting to be cooked over the fire later. There would be something similar to marshmallows and chocolate to make s'mores later. Tom could barely contain his happiness; this was better than he could have imagined. Neelix was a miracle worker when it came to food.

"Mr. Paris! I am glad you finally arrived," said the excited alien. "I did everything you asked, but I don't understand what to do with these apples? You want me to put them in the water?"

"Exactly, Neelix. In the big tubs of water. It is called bobbing for apples," said Tom.

"And you are sure this is a traditional holiday party?"

"It is a harvest party rather than the original haunted house idea, but yes, it is a traditional party."

"What else do we need to do?" asked Neelix.

"Just wait for everyone to arrive and then enjoy the party."

****
Four hours later, the party was a roaring success. The Delaney twins had teamed up to create an amazing carved pumpkin in the unmistakable visage of Chakotay much to the amusement of everyone. The bobbing for apples was going well and everyone seemed to be having a great time. The only person missing was Harry.

Tom tapped his communicator and asked, "Harry, why are you down here? You are missing the party."

"I don't feel much like Hallloween or parties, Tom," was the quick reply.

"Harry, there is no haunted house, just a party and you are missing the fun! Even Chakotay is having a good time."

"I don't want to go, Tom."

"You can either come and enjoy the party or I will tell the Doctor about the nightmares..." threatened Tom.

"My shift will be over in about an hour, I will come down for a little while then," said Harry reluctantly.

An hour and a half later Harry walked into the holodeck, obviously braced for being terrified. But it didn't happen. The warm glow of the bonfire and the smell of roasted hot dogs instead greeted him.

Tom looked up to find his friend just starting to smile. This was the best party ever!