Author's Note:

So it has been 568 days since I last updated… Holy moly. I dunno what else to say… just that I'm thankful to whoever's still stuck around and reads this! I admit, one reason this chapter took so long to come out is that it never quite satisfied my perfectionist self but I've slaved away recently until I felt alright posting it. I'll probably give it more minor-ish edits in the future, but here it finally is! I won't waste any more time with this A/N, just on with the story!

Among clutter in a backstage room of the Town Hall, Sally kept her agitation perfectly to herself.

Fidgeting and the like, with blue fabric skin shown greyer in this closed-off interior. Her head of vibrant red hair also paired to this dulled trend by appearing slightly browned.

In all fairness, a quiet environment such as this one should ease her bubbling nerves and anxieties from creeping up onto her again. But everything failed, and it did so quite spectacularly. Making her surrogate muscles tense and legs wedge together tightly, chew into her bottom lip and heart beat outside of any ordinary pace.

Even supposing "everybody" has predicted this news to come since forever ago, it's as if her whole state of being demanded the warrant of dread– and just before they're to confirm the years-long hearsay! She should see this as any other monthly meeting. Today's ordeal is likely to lift an immense weight off her shoulders! Or to… only add to the stress that's been gnawing away at her like moths for countless weeks.

Sally sighed, why does she do this to herself? And to think she used to look forward to these commonplace events…

Then another presence promptly disrupted her thinking, randomly waddling their way in with an excessively verbose scroll occupying his grasp. Sally should have guessed immediately whoever else should ramble on back here — that was, if not for her present mindset's distractions, so she jumped at the sound before it was revealed to be a close pal of Jack's and his top Halloween representative, the Mayor.

Causing her to blink several times and break the trance she slipped under alone to watch as the politician's stubby fingers underlined the rows of extensive paragraphs, skimming words fastly, as he approached his hazy-eyed queen. Mindlessly stepping to where she seated herself on a sizable wooden crate against the wall.

Sally didn't need to wear a watch to guess how it must have been a while since she and her husband arrived at the city hall — long before the citizens were scheduled to come through those doors out there, and considering someone has now come to check in on her, valuable time must be running low…

"—Okay!" Mayor boomed brightly at work — utterly engrossed in his long-held, top job's element. "People are already arriving! And Jack insisted you were needed on stage — assisting him in some way with the production presentation, I presume," speaking loud and jovial, voice bouncing off the disturbingly tight surrounding walls. But when the Mayor received barely a sound in response, his tone dropped considerably. "Miss Sally…?" His grin faltering partially.

Sally shook her head quietly, bending so she faced the ground. "I'm sorry," she apologized instinctually. "I—I just, um…" the doll hushed. "Mayor…?" She briefly glanced up. "Would… would you mind fetching Jack for me? Only quickly… I need to talk to him. Please…"

"Oh…?" Mayor gave a nod, trying to stay on the positive side. "He might be a little busy," he stated professionally, "but I will see what I can do."

Sally went to make eye-contact and opened her mouth to thank him– although, by that time, the official was too far gone to appreciate anything more. On to busying himself out the door with this newly fixed task, ergo this new month's meeting will welcome June without so much as a sly hitch.

He thusly and thoroughly considered the decked layout of the backstage area in search while humming a sped-up version of the town's reputed theme. Combing through the building so absolutely as he did, the politician quickly came to find the king where the curtain blocked the stage.

"Ah, Jack!" The Mayor greeted enthusiastically, momentarily interrupting Jack's rearranging of kooky objects, minor rehearsing and similar last-minute prepping. "There you are!"

"Good evening, Mayor," he greeted warmly. "I assume everything's set and ready to go?" Shaking out a stiff wrist, Jack pulled back his sleeve to peer at his watch.

"As far as I'm concerned, everything is running quite horribly thus far! And the citizens should be arriving very shortly," the passionate politician gladly reported.

"Fantastic!" Jack declared heartily, getting back to his preparation. "I'll see you out there."

"Ah, positively splendid, Jack!" Mayor replied and turned to the way out, going to oversee the seating of individuals soon to flood in, as per normal. Then stopped dead in his tracks, seldom remembering precisely why he found his colleague in the first place… and pivoted back 'round. "Oh… and, uh… Jack? I almost forgot. Sally asked me to fetch you for something…"

"Sally?" Jack instantly looked up. "What is it? Is she alright?"

"Gah– um– yes-yes! I believe everything is completely fine on her part, she just wished to go over your 'secret announcement' before the meeting, I believe!" The Mayor said with hands on his lapels, stressed to keep his toothy grinned expression front-facing.

Jack stood tall and played a single nod in his direction. "Thank you, Mayor. Where can I find her?"

"She's—" he jerked a freakishly small finger over his shoulder, "—on the other side. That is, in the storeroom."

Jack acknowledged the Mayor one last time before rushing away, disappearing to find his wife upon her pigeoned request — not by means of your typical raven or crow, but a mayor brief to pose as her personal postman. Zigzagging through the maze that formatted the restricted backstage. Rubbing boney palms together which miraculously had picked up a clean-cut paper smell, the day's work having literally worn off on him, though Jack hardly picked it up in that second. He skirts one last corner and closed in on the storeroom he was directed to. Coming to face a rather antagonistic shut door which his wife is told to be huddled behind.

"Sally, my dear? Are you in there?"

A familiar, however faint reply sounded. "Yes! Yes, I'm in here… Please come in."

The skeleton entered the stuffy room with the newfound permission. Seeing bland crates, multi-purpose props and bundled supplies– among which Sally stuck out like a sore claw, and both locked eyes with one another.

"Sally…" he cared not to hide the heavy concern dripping from his voice. "Is everything alright? The Mayor said you needed to speak with me." Jack stepped in further and closed the door over again for added privacy.

Breaking their eye-connect, she started to speak with hard hesitancy. "I'm fine, really, I-I'm fine. I just– I… I just don't think…" she choked back and clenched her teeth. "I can't go out there… I can't do this, Jack." Sally finally let herself break down in front of him and buried her head into her hands, defeated.

Jack only spent a single split second to swoop down before her and kneel into the floorboards. Gently prying her hands away from her face to take them into his own, rubbing his thumbs along her soft knuckles. "You're shaking. Tell me, what is it?"

"It's… I think it's my stage fright… and, mostly, well…" Sally sighed and squeezed her eyes shut. "How will everybody react? You must remember when we announced our relationship those years ago… and I feel like this is a much more important matter! Who knows what some might think… and of me. All over again…"

"Sally. I know for a fact each and every citizen has warmed up to you immensely since that announcement, and our relationship! Why, remember when we announced our engagement? Nobody rejected us then!" Jack dons a comforting smile.

"But we've even crossbred, by some means…" she rambled on aimlessly, taking her hands out of Jack's and she began tugging at her closet strand of hair.

"Sally…" he pressed.

"A-And what if the townspeople only want a prince so there can be another king ruling after you? We can't help whichever it turns out to be!"

"Sally, listen to me. I highly doubt any one of those people out there will be unhappy in the slightest if it turns out to be a girl, and our children don't have to–"

"A–And what if… what if he or she looks more like me than a skeletal being like you? Rag-dolls aren't that scary..."

"Of course you are!"

"Enough to be a ruler of Halloween?"

"Sally." Jack cupped her face. "Listen to me. What others' opinion is remains completely up to themselves. But I for one, would be over the moon if our child were to resemble you — they would be lucky to inherit such features from their mother! Your stitch marks, soft blue complexion, beautiful hair… Heck, mulling over it aloud, I wouldn't mind changing into a rag doll similar to yourself, myself, my dear!" Jack laughed.

Sally rubbed the bridge of her nose, a small smile gracing her ruby lips. "Thank you, Jack… I'm just still not sure about everyone else."

"Well… might I remind you of how well a queen you've turned out to be? The Mayor tells me quite often how impressed he is in you keeping me in line and motivated, which I'm sure the Holiday Leaders are inclined to agree with! The children around town too always feel comfortable with you and know to see Miss Sally if they need their questions answered — that surely is queenly material, engaging with the young. And somehow you still find the time to run your sewing shop the way you do? The werewolves I know are especially thankful to you each time you mend chew toys, and the street kitty for welcoming into our home, and Jewel back when you helped her adjust to life here–!" Jack exasperated. "Need I continue, my love?"

Sally's cheeks flushed, tensing her shoulders up to hide her neck coyly. Making Jack shake his head, grinning.

He continued on anyhow. "We already have support from the Doctor and Jewel, whom I consider the most important individuals to receive a blessing from. Oh, oh! Not to mention Zero! He's ecstatic to have a new future playmate! And don't forget, my dear, I am the Pumpkin King! I'm sure people will warm up quickly to my child," her husband joked. "The only three I expect to have an off reaction is Lock, Shock and Barrel because they'll soon have some competition for candy!"

She tsked. "Y-You're right… I am sure you're right…" Sally conceded though still tucked her head in a little closer to her chest. "I'm sorry… I just don't think I can go out on stage," she whispered softly.

Jack seized the sides of her head, pulling her close to press his mouth against her forehead in a firm, nevertheless tender, kiss. Having an immediate tranquilising effect the woman on the other end of his contact. "Sally," he addressed softly. "I'm sorry if it seemed as though I were forcing you to go out there with me. You don't have to get up on stage. You do not have to do anything! I can handle all of this," Jack reassured. "In fact, we're not being ordered to announce anything tonight. We can always make it known at a later date. If, indeed, you would feel more comfortable?"

Sally's eyes went half-lidded as she smiled. "Thank you for understanding, but… we should do it tonight."

Jack absently reached out to smooth her long scarlet locks, still holding her train of sight. "Get it over with, huh?"

Sally nodded quietly. "Yes. That would probably be best."

"Well… the good seats are getting snapped up fast at the moment by some early arrivals! You better get out there quick, my dearest."

"Oh, no — that's okay. I have my seat worked out with a friend." She smiled.

Overlooking the darkened hall, the rag doll felt like a cat on their favourite perch. Sat atop a strong branch of the friendly Hanging Tree, Sally kept a tight enough hold on the gritty bark to stay safely balanced and was sure to adjust her legs out of the views of two skeletons dangling by noose under her.

At the moment the scene consisted of the backs of heads, all monsters in pews below with attention turned towards a friend beside them or the curtain drawn at the front, filling the shared space with unintelligible dialogues. Though for Sally, she sat back and realized just how substantially more at ease she felt after her reassuring conversation with the man of the hour… Able to collect and compose herself — or as much as one in her position could manage to, anyway — with the chance to speak what was on her mind working odd wonders.

And again, she was quietly appreciative to her husband when the curtains drew back and he bravely walked onto the stage. Silencing the indistinct chatter with his mere image and a swift hand, letting the spotlight — provided by the Mayor high in the rafters — illuminate his regal physique tenfold.

For a brief moment, he was able to pause and caught dim sight of his wife at the back. Spotting her small affirmation, Jack returned it with his own covert nod before proceeding on to begin the 'show.'

The meeting moving on in all known order; with Jack greeting the citizens, specifying revisions on Halloween's early production as a whole… When to the delight of certain members in the crowd, the Pumpkin King commended persons where credit was due — whether they've achieved outstanding success in their chosen fields of scaring, improved the holiday (despite how insignificant) or other feats akin to.

But once these formalities were eventually all spoken for, Jack knew it was time to broach the new subject in need of announcement, and he started by addressing the mass. "Folks, before this meeting comes to a close…" initiating slowly, he crossed both arms to make an 'X' over his chest. "I must admit, this skeleton has been hiding something– something you all should know, my dear citizens."

The crowd was silent until muffled whispers naturally erupted with people glancing to those either side of them.

Jack cleared his throat, nervously. "As you are all well aware, Miss Sally and I have been married for a long while now…" he trailed off and waited only for a moment.

Although it proved enough time for the spotlight above to pan to the doll in the very back of the hall, to which every monsters' eyes naturally followed. The Hanging Tree and his men looking up also to where it had partially stopped onto them. While Sally herself, appearing like a deer in headlights, shrunk into her shoulders a little and tried to smile.

"A-a-and, ah–!" Jack desperately tried to direct the attention back over, lifting a hand as he did so, and the Mayor's light shone to him again. "–Ahem, well–" one more breath "–we are surprised and very pleased to announce that we… are expecting something– or rather someone new to be joining us this year who I hope you can welcome and teach our traditions to." Jack smiled now. "A prince or princess, in fact!"

The crowd was silent again. What kind of heir was their king talking about? Someone from Easter Town…? St. Patrick's Day, or possibly the land of 'Valentines'?

Jack chuckled to himself. "In other words; I am going to be a father!"

He glimpsed gaping faces in the darkness before then roared the crowd's loud gust of applause. Shouts of congratulations thrown front and back — though mainly forward ways to the guy on stage. The sudden and sheer number of clapping hands and paws almost enough to make the Mayor and his hat slump over!

The Hanging Tree and his skeleton men looked up to give the queen their personal kudos too. "Oh congratulations, miss!" The hanging men sang in chorus as Hanging Tree carefully let the rag doll down, with her grasping his branch hand during her descent in joining her husband on the floor.

And Sally smiled shyly, thanking them each as Jack likewise came down from the stage ahead to make his way down the middle aisle too.

The Zombie Band standing behind pews on the opposite side clapped also. "I suppose we'll have to start callin' you Rag-Mama now," the leader joked.

When a random witch exclaimed, "I, for one, hope it's a girl! We need more girls in this town!"

Then the Mayor cried out. "Oh, when? When, Jack?!" To which the skeleton-man replied simply with "Christmas!"

Sally shyly met her husband in the centre now. Jack taking her hands and whether they realized it or not, they both were smiling. Whilst people close by patted Jack on the back, the Undersea Gal giving her personal congrats to the also expecting pair and others shouting numerous name suggestions. Spouting out ones for boys, girls and some to fit both; "Leufroy! Antoine, Susan? Camille!"

Jack gazed down to her in their hug. "See? I told you everyone would be just as excited as us."

"I suppose you were right… this time," she joked lightheartedly.