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Barrel stuck his tongue out at Carver.

"Better late than never."

The trio walked alongside Jack to the pumpkin patch, still giggling from the results of their trouble. Even Jack couldn't hide his smile, at least until they got to the front door, where he noticeably put more effort into regaining his poise. Shock picked up the battering ram on the way out and slung it over her shoulder.

"Gotta give this back to Agatha," she said with a grin.

"Agatha let you borrow it?" Jack asked.

The two young witches weren't exactly known to get along, and usually at best tolerated each other.

"She saw a monster in need and offered assistance," Shock said sweetly. "Isn't that what we're supposed to do?"

Jack sighed and shook his head. Shock ran ahead of the group to get to the witches' shop, where Agatha currently ran the counter. After a quick verification that the shop witch got her toy back in the same condition that she lent it, and that they'd settle the debt on the next scorpion exchange, Shock raced to the pumpkin patch to meet up with her brothers. Lock and Barrel kept pace with Jack, mostly so the Pumpkin King would have no reason to give chase and potentially set off the nitroglycerin if he accidentally jostled Carver's cage.

Once they reached the gate to the pumpkin patch, Shock caught up and expectantly held out her hands to take Carver. Jack carefully handed him over. Unfortunately for Carver, he hadn't forgotten what he said earlier.

"Find a head, carve it, then bring him back to my house," Jack said. He glanced up at the sky. "It looks like you'll have plenty of time to do it before sundown."

Shock gingerly adjusted Carver's cage in her arms. She barely bit back a grimace, but Jack not only let them get away with battering the door down, he intentionally let them cause trouble and got Carver away from Finklestein. All things considered, it wasn't worth arguing with him when they were on the Pumpkin King's good side.

"...Okay, Jack," the trio said.

They turned to head into the pumpkin patch.

"See you--" Shock called over her shoulder.

"--Later--" Lock said as he waved to Jack, then followed his sister.

"--Jack!" Barrel said with a grin.

"Before sundown," Jack said firmly.

He watched the tricksters disappear among the pumpkin piles, then headed home to set up a space for Carver.


Jack did a round around town a bit before sunrise to ensure the pumpkin creature's arrival. He then sat down with Carver and made a list of anything else they needed to retrieve from the Finklestein home, anything else he needed from the Finklesteins themselves, and times the two of them agreed upon for Carver to check in with him before going off with the trio. Jack was aware that Carver at times went off for days at a time with the tricksters, and therefore didn't require it every day, but he wanted it to be at least often enough for the two of them to touch base and ensure Carver was getting what he needed.

Jack accompanied Carver the following morning to the Finklestein residence to retrieve some personal possessions and drop off some specifications for the new endoskeleton. Jewel and Igor had gotten the lab back into a manageable enough condition that a temporary one could be ready that afternoon.

For their part, Lock, Shock, and Barrel didn't put up much of an argument about Carver's living situation. Shock had taken the nitroglycerin back once Jack had been out of sight yesterday, and she and her brothers let Carver pick a pumpkin, that the three of them then worked on with input from the tapping code.

The three eyes were non-negotiable. They had their wicked hearts set on it, and each of the trio carved their own design to better personalize the pumpkin.

Today, as Carver was getting a new, proper body, the trickster siblings had other things to do.

Like celebrate their victory and yesterday's trouble properly. Lock and Shock went to procure refreshments - Lock to the sewers to barter with some of Halloween Town's better brewers for a good hard cider, and Shock to the pumpkin patch to bargain with Behemoth for some of his best pumpkin lager - and in the meantime, left Barrel to get their friends together.

His task, he felt, was the easiest: find their friends, invite them, go home and start making snacks. No way he could mess that up!

Probably best to start with Agatha. She did loan them the battering ram, after all. Barrel strolled into the witches' shop. After the familiar greeting - and brief pause that often came when one of the trio entered - Barrel got straight to business.

"Is Agatha in?" he asked.
Lock casually tossed something particularly corrosive onto a nearby machine and grinned at the hissing and sputtering of melting metal and wires. Barrel had since finished the jar of leeches, and was now chugging the preserving liquid from the jar. Shock was just putting the finishing touches on her device as Finklestein thrust Carver's cage into Jack's arms. Jack shifted Carver to hold him comfortably.

"All right, you three," he said. "Playtime's over."

"Aww!" Barrel whined. "We didn't even find the metal shavings yet!"

"Bet those would have been catastrophic," Lock said with a grin.

Shock made one last tweak to her device as Jewel called their mayhem to a close.

"Pity," she said. "We were about to have a blast."

She and her brothers all snickered in unison. Shock reached up to pet Loki before she stood up.

"But we had fun, didn't we, precious?"

Loki chittered and gently pinched her ear. Mom was happy, they caused trouble together, and he had a fat, juicy beetle in his future. Shock ran the tip of her finger over his shell.

The trio all burst out laughing at Finklestein's screeching through his nose.

"All that brain power--" Lock started.

"--And you can't figure out tape!" Barrel grinned.

He loudly knocked on Finklestein's skull plate, then tossed the empty leech jar over his shoulder.

"Thanks for the snack, anyway."

Shock got Lock's attention and gave a small nod to Jewel's desk. She crossed her arms and subtly pointed towards the bottom where she hid the nitroglycerin. Lock nodded, and caught her warning to be careful as she subtly tapped a message with her fingers. Shock then strolled up to Jack and Carver to keep their attention while Jewel dealt with her husband.

"Well, that was fun," she said brightly. "We should really--"

"--Do this--" Lock continued.

"--Again sometime," Barrel said with a grin.

Jack glanced down at Shock.

"There won't be a next time," he said, "because from now on, Carver will stay with me."

Lock - pretending to be on one last round of admiring their handiwork - had carefully slipped towards Jewel's desk and used his tail to feel for what Shock hid. He'd barely gripped it, when he cried out in unison with his siblings:


"But what about--" Shock protested.

She didn't need to work to keep Jack's attention now, not when he'd just started an argument."

"--Him staying with us?" Barrel asked.

Lock kept his tail carefully positioned as he passed Jewel and joined his siblings so she wouldn't see what he'd pilfered.

"He practically lives at the lair anyway!" Lock added.

"Come on, Jack!" Shock said.

"Please?" Barrel begged.

"You didn't let me finish," Jack said, gently. "It's not permanent. I want to personally ensure anything else I need to sort out with the doctor gets taken care of, and it's easier if I know where he is so I don't miss anything. Right now--" he gave a quick glance around the lab, with the smoking pile of corpses, wrecked machinery, and still-dripping paint, "--his prior guardians need time to decompress and sort a few things out themselves."

While Jack spoke, Lock subtly shifted the nitroglycerin to one of Carver's vines for the pumpkin creature to put inside his cage.

The trio frowned, but nodded.

"Okay, Jack," they said.

Jack smiled.

"Come on," he said. "It's been a long day, and I believe you four need to get to the pumpkin patch."

Lock, Shock, and Barrel nodded, then started to leave with Jack, when Barrel remembered something.

"I was gonna pull the switch!" he cried.

Barrel turned and dashed across the lab. He dove over the lab table, knocked off whatever Loki didn't get to, and grabbed the switch. Barrel yanked it down with a grin as the room filled with lightning, much to his older siblings' amusement. Satisfied, Barrel rejoined the group.

They would be almost halfway down the ramp when a loud bang accompanied by a softer swoosh came from the lab. Shock grinned.

"Told him I could time my explosions."

That got another round of laughter from the trio. The silicate powder getting all over the lab was the perfect cap-off to their mayhem.
Lock and Barrel both sniggered at Carver's explanation of "manhood".

"You could always just ask," Barrel said with a shrug.

Jack wasn't sure he wanted to know, but picked up enough context from Lock and Barrel to somewhat guess Carver's interpretation on the drawing. He shook his head when he picked up on the initial euphemism.

The rattling stopped. Lock glanced at Jewel. His tail flicked in annoyance, but he gave her a curt nod to acknowledge her point.

"Fine," he said, then grinned. "Guess I can go see what Shock hasn't smashed yet."

He ran over to the chemical cabinet. Barrel had found a jar of leeches and was snacking on them when Jewel gave him "the look". He just shrugged and stuffed a few more in his mouth. Shock saw Jewel in the corner of her eye.

"Wasn't planning on it," she said, then glanced to Dr. Finklestein. She brought back her sweetest tone. "At least, not yet."

"Shock..." Jack warned.

Shock simply went back to tinkering.

"Like I'd blow this place up with my family in it, or all the toys we haven't played with yet," she said. "Really, Jack, that's not practical."

"But there's always after you three leave," Jack said, "and what gets left behind."

Shock grinned and moved so he could better see exactly which chemicals, parts, and wiring she had - minus the silicate powder, which she kept behind the device she was building. If Jewel wanted to inspect, the chemicals in question would be annoying to clean up after, but not too dangerous. There also weren't enough materials for anything too complex.

"Don't worry, Jack. I know exactly what I'm doing."

She watched Finklestein get Jewel's attention regarding Carver's limbs and smirked, then calmly went back to work. Jack still watched her suspiciously for a moment, but left her alone when he couldn't find anything too out of place.

Lock had since pushed a metal cart to the chemical cabinet so he could access the ones on the top shelf, when he heard Carver tapping. He turned his head to translate.

"We can make you a new one," he said cheerfully.

"We'll stop by the pumpkin patch on the way back," Barrel said. He licked his lips, both to catch some leech juice, and at the thought of getting a good pumpkin to eat while they were there. "Yum!"

"Three eyes?" Shock suggested after a quick glance at Carver. "You haven't rocked that look in a while."

"And a second mouth--" Lock said.

"--On the back of the head!" Barrel finished.

They all grinned in excitement.
Lock, being under the machine and currently working on the re-wiring, was protected from all the paint spatters. The machine started to jitter and sputter as he got some of the wires reconnected - bare now, thanks to the wire strippers. Whichever Finklestein ended up fixing the machine, they were going to have to rip out and re-do the wiring entirely. He peeked out long enough to see what Barrel's "good idea" was, then ducked back under once the paint started flying.

Jack used the chestplate to protect his skull and bowtie long enough to duck behind a different machine. His suit would still need cleaning, as a few splatters hit him before he got to safety. Shock happily took Jewel's suggestion to dump the acid over Barrel's "creation" of random corpse parts, and then what pieces he hadn't used yet. A burning, acrid smell filled the room as the acid ate away at the dead flesh, bone, and muscle, and hissed and bubbled at the floor. The only reason it didn't eat a hole in the floor too was due to the Finklesteins' lab safety reinforcements.

"What a mess," Shock said gleefully.

She tossed the empty bottle on top of the mess of melted body parts, then cheerfully gathered a few more supplies, before she started tinkering. Shock left the nitroglycerin where she hid it, but still made the occasional trip to the chemical cabinet. She did also notice a jar of silicate powder that would work beautifully for what she had in mind...

Neither Shock nor Barrel minded the flying paint. Barrel laughed at the paint that landed in the Tesla coil and fried, then picked up random objects to "catch" the splatter to create "art" out of them. He took care to avoid the acid pile, but once the paint stopped flying, he quickly looked for something else to do. Shock, covered in paint herself, just kept tinkering with spare parts and chemicals.

Jack dared to come out once the coast was clear. The entire lab now looked like an art room exploded. Lock crawled out from under the machine once the jittering became too dangerous for his comfort. With how the machine spazzed, he doubted he needed to do much more to damage it. He looked over to Carver's body, and snerked at the "drawings".

"What's that supposed to be?" he asked, as he pointed to what looked like a hooded figure between a pair of legs.

Shock just focused on her work as she listened to the tapping. She turned her head to see what Carver was doing now.

"I'm kind of busy at the moment," she said. "Lock can do it."

"Lock can do what?" Jack asked.

Like Jewel, he was trying to make sense of Carver's gestures.

"This," Lock said.

He jumped onto the work table that Loki had been knocking things from to use as a springboard to get to one of the round metal plasma balls used in the creation process. He held the wrench in his tail as his fingers gripped the round, smooth surface. It took a moment to properly pull himself up onto the top, then started disassembling the wires and opening the casing on top. Lock tossed the cover to the floor, then threw the wrench inside the large metal sphere, before he jumped down to the floor.

"Hey, Barrel - pull that switch over there!"

Barrel ran to grab the one his older brother pointed at. The plasmas ball turned on, but the wrench inside rattled and created quite a bit of racket as the electric charges lifted it up and dropped it.
Shock calmly pet Loki again.

"I don't think he took me seriously," she said casually. "Do you?"

Loki chittered and gently bit her ear. Shock calmly picked up the nitroglycerin.

"Didn't think so."

She tossed one of the two remaining jars of paralyzing fluid behind her solely so Jack and Jewel would pay more attention to that while she swiped the nitroglycerin and a potent acid. She turned her back to them so they wouldn't see what she held as she picked a spot in the lab to work in. Shock smirked in Finkelstein's direction, though it seemed the good doctor was currently more focused on trying to get his wife's attention than he was on her.

Jack looked over at her when he heard the glass shatter, and the puddle of paralyzing liquid grew bigger. He watched Shock walk away from the cabinet, and, figuring she had gotten bored with its contents for the moment to destroy something else, checked on her brothers.

Lock had beaten the machine pretty badly with the wrench, and at Carver's suggestion, grinned. He grabbed a wire stripper from the toolbox.

"Sounds like it's time for another experiment!"

Jack chuckled, but then looked at Finklestein.

"It sounds like that machine might do more damage than the trio. Wouldn't that be a sight to see?"

He trusted Jewel would make sure Lock wouldn't go too far in the re-wiring. Lock retrieved the soldering iron at Carver's direction and crawled under the machine to get to work.

Barrel had since found the stash of spare body parts, and was putting them together at random with the roll of duct tape. He giggled as he listened to the countdown. Jack did another round of checking in on the trio, and turned his attention to Shock. He noticed that Finklestein became more frantic when she got back to the chemical cabinet, and as amusing as this was, it might not also be unwarranted, knowing the eldest trickster's more methodical sense of trouble.

Shock had since stashed the nitroglycerin out of sight near Jewel's desk, where it would be safe from her brothers' mayhem. She noticed Jack's eyes on her, and held up the acid.

"I was just looking for the perfect thing to use this on," Shock assured him.

"I see," Jack said, then turned to Jewel. "Any suggestions?"

Shock and Barrel turned as Carver's head hit the floor. Both of them smirked at random gestures that followed its conclusion, but listened for the tapping code.

"Oh, that's a good idea!" Barrel cried.

Jack, having watched Craver's gestures, tried to make heads or tails out if it, only for Barrel to go to another part of the lab and pick up a small can of paint. He then went to the head-sorting machine near the creation slab and dumped huge globs of paint on each head. Once each head was dripping with gloppy paint, Barrel picked up the remote and turned it on. The machine gently span and showcased new heads. As Barrel messed with the remote, it started to spin faster and faster - and with it, it began to splatter paint in every direction.

Jack quickly picked up Carver's chestplate to use as a paint shield. Shock took advantage of the new chaos to gather bomb supplies.
"Gladly," Shock said.

She made sure to hold her breath as she reached over the wheelchair and grabbed Finklestein's wrists. She pulled his hands behind the chair and made sure to grip just shy of breaking bones as Carver waved the pepper in his face. She let go when Jewel entered, then calmly walked down the ramp.

Lock and Barrel both snickered as their sister wandered back over to the chemical cabinet.

"He just couldn't help himself," Jack said calmly.

Shock shot Finklestein a devious smirk, then calmly reached up to pet Loki...where her hand would also conveniently be near the nitroglycerin container.
Jack positioned himself to better keep an eye socket on each of the trio. He briefly glanced at Carver.

"I--" Jack shook his skull. "--It was a good trick."

He briefly checked on Barrel, then Lock. Shock took advantage of Jack's attention on her brothers to calmly walk up the ramp behind Finklestein while he ranted and raved at Carver. She wrapped one arm around the old man's shoulders, then clamped her fingers over his lips to shut them. Shock didn't hold back on her strength as the tips of her fingers clawed into his flesh.

"If you say 'her' or 'young lady' one more time, I'll rip them off," she said coldly.

She kept her grip on the doctor's mouth and snapped her fingers with her free hand. Lock and Barrel quickly searched the lab until Barrel found a roll of duct tape and tossed it to her. Shock let go of Finklestein's chest to catch the tape, then quickly started to wrap it around the doctor's mouth.

"And since you aren't getting the hint, I'll make this simple," Shock said as she pulled the tape as tightly as she could. "Shut the fuck up and work."

She leaned down to pretend to get a better grip and kept wrapping the tape around his lips. She lowered her voice so only Finklestein would hear.

"Or I will rig this place to explode. I saw you have nitroglycerin, and I'm dying to show you how good my timed explosions are so you'll maybe stop insulting my intelligence."

Shock stood up and ripped the end of the tape from the roll and shoved the doctor forward.

"Tick-tock, doc," she said, loud enough for the rest of the room to hear and with the most syrupy-sugary sweetness she could muster. "I feel my emotional frailities starting to get out of control."

Lock and Barrel both started laughing, though at their sister's tone, there was a distinct tinge of nervousness. Jack just crossed his arms and watched Shock. Admittedly, she wasn't the only one who had gotten fed up with the doctor's incessant talking.
Lock managed to stand again after a moment. His sides felt like someone jammed them with needles, but the show of Jack's failed attempts to get the rats off Finklestein's face nearly sent him to the floor again. Barrel sat up, saw how the doctor's lips stretched when Jack tried to pull them away, and fell back on the floor.

Jack shot a quick glance to Shock at the mention of her name, before he went back to trying to pry the rats away. Shock had her index finger for Loki to tap his claw against, and mid hi-five turned to them.

"My fault for wh-?" she started, before her brain caught up to the current conversation. "Oh, right, the adderpepper."

She grinned at Carver as Loki finished the "hi-five".

"Couldn't take what you dished out."

"Neither could Barrel," Lock said.

He shot his little brother a smirk. A faint gray tinge appeared in Barrel's cheeks from the remembered backfire of his trick.


Lock stuck out his tongue.

"The downstairs bathroom will never be the same again."

His tail flicked with residual resentment at having to clean it. Barrel growled and tackled his older brother.

"Carver gave me the adderpepper juice!"

Lock went down, but managed to shift enough that he at least wasn't trapped under his brother's weight.

"And you failed at using it!"

Both of them stopped at Jewel's exclamation, as they immediately became more interested in the new source of trouble. Lock wriggled himself free and pushed Barrel away from him. Shock ignored them and casually leaned against the lab table. She snickered at Carver's new trick.

"It's been days at least," she said.

All three of them started laughing again as Jewel doused her husband, but it wasn't nearly as loud or as hard as before. Jack, who had since put his focus one one rat and was using the tip of a bony finger to try to wedge under its claws, suddenly found them more slippery. One of the rats crawled over Barrel's foot in its escape before it disappeared, which got a giggle from the youngest trickster.

"I can help!" he offered, with a small lick of his lips.

All of the trio started another round of laughter at Finkelstein trying to clear the adderpepper juice.

"It's the trick that keeps on going!" Lock cried.

"And this is exactly why you three--" Jack started, then caught Carver in the corner of his eye socket and corrected, "--four aren't supposed to have it."

He turned to Jewel with the implication in his tone that he wasn't going to ask how they got it to begin with - this time.

"I believe we'll be fine for the moment."

Shock settled down first. She held out a hand for Loki to crawl into and lifted him back up to her ear.

"So long as he--" she vaguely gestured to Finklestein, "--behaves, we'll behave."

Shock smirked at the doctor once he got his goggles back on.

"So unless you want your lab blown all the way to Oogie's lair, I would suggest you keep my current emotional frailties in mind."

Lock and Barrel grinned.

"And we still--" Barrel started.

"--Have science to do," Lock finished as he picked up the wrench again. He used it to point to the machine he somehow managed to turn on. "Like that. Pretty sure it's supposed to be busted, so I might have to re-test my hypothesis."

"And there's so much trial and error to see what plays nicest with the Tesla coil," Barrel said.

He grinned and started to wander the lab - in Jack's sight - with his hands behind his back as he perused the potential mayhem like a critic in an art gallery.
Barrel stopped laughing long enough to try to locate the tools the doctor needed. Jewel, knowing the lab like the tip of her fingers, retrieved them first. Lock and Shock settled down so the doctor could work, though Shock tantalizingly tossed a bottle of something particularly volatile in her hand as further incentive for the doctor to start working.

On the work table, Loki scooped up a bolt with the top of his tail, skittered to the edge, and flung it in Finklestein's direction. It missed its target by several feet and clattered along the floor. Shock reached over and gently stroked Loki's shell. The scorpion chittered at her touch and gently poked at her hand with his tail. Reward given, Shock set her focus back on Finklestein.

All three of the trio snickered at Carver's comment. Jack assisted by taking the chest plate and setting it aside so the doctor could work. His subtle amusement quickly became concern when the doctor started wheezing. Jack turned to Carver.

"What did you eat?"

Lock, Shock, and Barrel already started another round of laughter at the doctor's misery, only to double over at the rats. Shock barely managed to put the chemical bottle on the table before falling to the floor with her brothers. Jack ignored the trio and quickly tried to grab one of the rats.

Barrel's laughter got even louder.

"Oh, yeah!" he cried. "We went rat-catching yesterday!"

Which reminded him of the cage of rats in the kitchen that would probably become tonight's dinner. That thought immediately went out the window as Jack tried to pry the agitated rats off the doctor's face and sent him into another fit of giggles.

Lock accidentally slammed the machine again in his own throes of laughter. It sputtered and came to life. He jolted out of his amusement at the sudden sputtering, then looked at the machine. Whatever it was, it seemed to be working despite his prior abuse of it. Lock only grinned and tightened his hold on the wrench. It would just make it more fun when he actually wrecked it.

Shock got ahold of herself long enough to use the work table to hoist herself up. She noticed Loki had tossed himself on his back, kicked his legs up, and thrashed his tail to mimic the trio, with hisses and chitters as he clicked his pinchers. She grinned and helped her scorpion back upright.

"You're getting a beetle when we get home," Shock said, as she pet him again.

Loki let out a soft chirp.
Jack smiled, and gave Jewel a small bow.

"My apologies," he said.

"Oooooh, now you gotta tell us!" Barrel cried.

He started to look around the lab for anything about a five gallon size, and didn't take any care in what he knocked over. Lock tossed the wrench up with his tail and caught it in his hand.

"This looks like it could hold something that size."

He lifted up the wrench and brought it down with a loud BANG! as the wrench heavily dented the machine. Shock tossed the second vial in her hand, then deliberately slammed it on the ground. She grabbed a third, and held it in her hand for the time being, before she scooped Loki up in her other. She let the scorpion nuzzle against her cheek before she set him down on one of the work tables.

"Have fun, precious," she cooed. "Make me proud."

Loki chirped and started pushing anything he could move to the floor: tools, nuts, bolts, screws, notes - some of which, he snipped or tore with his claws first - pieces of scrap metal. Shock went back to the chemical cabinet to decide what to smash next...and where to smash it. There were plenty of machines, after all.

"I'd suggest you hurry, Doctor," Jack said, "while the damage is still salvageable."

Barrel passed by the lab table as Carver fell over laughing. He started giggling too, as did Shock. Lock didn't hear it over another loud BANG! Jack gave Carver a moment to settle down before he picked him up to place him back on the lab table.
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