"Can I ask you a personal favor?" Peter asked. He held the door open for Neal and they stepped out into the cold, damp afternoon for lunch.
Neal raised his eyebrows, surprised. "What's the favor?"
"El and I are going to a big Halloween party this weekend. A friend of hers hosts it and we go every year. Everyone goes all out with the costumes and this year El and I are dressing up as 20's gangsters. Pinstripe suits, the whole deal."
"If you need help getting into character, I don't know anything about being a gangster except for what I've seen in movies," Neal replied. He pulled up the collar on his coat to block the wind from the back of his neck.
Peter smiled. "No, it's not that. You see, El's costume came with a hat, but mine didn't. I was wondering if--"
"Oh, I see." Neal grinned. "After all of your complaining and eye-rolling over my hats, you want to borrow one?"
"For a Halloween costume."
"Should I be offended that you want to wear something from my everyday wardrobe for Halloween?"
Peter shook his head. "I don't think so."
"Of course you wouldn't think so." Neal pushed his hands into his coat pockets. "Yeah, it's no problem. Honestly, Peter, you'd look good in a hat. You should come over tonight, and we'll find you one."
"Why can't you just bring me one tomorrow?" Peter asked.
"It might not fit as well or look right." Neal paused as Peter gave him a look. "I can eyeball it."
"Thank you." They walked for a few steps in silence until Peter said, "If you don't have plans, you can come. It's a huge party, and it's in your radius."
Neal smiled appreciatively as they walked into the small deli on the corner. "Thanks, but I told June I'd help her hand out candy. She gives out good stuff, and she's known for it, so kids come from all over to trick-or-treat there."
"Sounds like fun. You have a costume?"
"No, no costume. Dressing up isn't really my thing, believe it or not."
Peter snorted, clearly falling into the "or not" category. "You could go as a law-abiding citizen," he suggested as it was their turn at the counter.
"I don't think anyone would get it," Neal replied, and Peter laughed.
--- --- ---
"Do you think that's it?" Neal asked, looking up and down the block for anymore stray trick-or-treaters. All he could see was a man standing awkwardly while his dog peed on a tree. "There haven't been any for a while."
"It's been officially over for fifteen minutes," June replied from beneath the brim over her oversized witch's hat. "I think the last of the stragglers are out of luck. I can clean up here if you want to head in."
"I don't mind." Neal smiled. The kids had come in swarms, and he wondered how June did it by herself for so many years. But the evening on a whole had actually been fun. The kids' costumes were cute, though a few of the kids had questioned his costume (his sheriff's badge pinned to his black sweater) rather rudely. Maybe next year he could invest in a cowboy hat to go with it. He chuckled.
After he and June had the candy and the jack-o'-lanterns brought in for the night, Neal headed upstairs. He opened a bottle of wine and settled on the sofa with a book.
The next thing he knew, his phone was ringing.
Neal looked around for a clock. It was just after midnight. He yawned. Handing out candy was more exhausting than he thought. He reached for his phone and glancing at the screen answered it. "Hey, Peter, what's up?"
"We're at your front door," Peter replied, "and we didn't want to wake up June. Don't ask questions right now. Can you just let us in?"
"Sure." Neal ended the call and dropped the phone onto the table. He headed downstairs and opened the door to where Peter was standing, with Elizabeth hanging off his arm. With the hat and his beige trench coat, Peter looked more like an old fashioned PI than a gangster.
"Neal!" Elizabeth exclaimed once he opened the door. She pulled herself away from Peter and threw her arms around Neal's neck. He had to admit, she looked adorable in her black fedora with a pink hatband.
"Hi, Elizabeth," Neal replied, hugging her gingerly. "How much did you have to drink tonight?"
"That's the explanation," Peter said. He gently pried Elizabeth off of Neal. "She wouldn't hear of getting in a cab and going home when we were so close. Seven blocks."
"And now my feet hurt," Elizabeth said. Neal looked down and she was wearing six-inch heels.
"No wonder," Neal said. "Kick 'em off and come upstairs."
Elizabeth struggled out of her shoes, and Peter picked them up for her, then handed them to Neal so he could wrap an arm around Elizabeth's waist to help her up the stairs.
Once they were in Neal's room, Elizabeth shucked off her coat, revealing the full extent of her costume: a sleeveless pink pinstriped black minidress with a pink tie, and pink suit cuffs around her wrists. But what caught Neal's attention the most were her black fishnet thigh-highs.
"Eyes up, Caffrey," Peter said in a low voice.
Neal jerked his head around and grinned at Peter, who was pulling off his own coat. He was wearing a black and white pinstriped suit, black shirt, and a white tie. Surprisingly, he pulled off the look quite well.
"You guys look great," Neal said, dropping Elizabeth's shoes by the door. "You're just short a couple of tommy guns."
"Strangely, I didn't feel comfortable carrying a fake gun on the subway," Peter replied.
"Says a guy who carries a real one around most of the time," Neal said, and Peter made a face. Apparently, that was different. Neal decided to change the subject. "You guys want some candy? We had a million kids and there are still candy bars and gummy worms left. June didn't spare a cent."
"Oh, we ate a lot of Halloween cupcakes at the party," Peter said. He sat down at the table and removed the hat.
"They were good!" Elizabeth said, spinning around, the bottle of wine Neal had opened earlier in her hand. "They had eyeballs on them."
Neal and Peter exchanged a look, and Neal went over to her. He took the bottle out of her hands. "Or we could have coffee," he suggested quickly.
"No, I think I just want to sit," Elizabeth said, plopping down on the sofa. She pulled off her hat and tossed it at the television. It missed by a foot.
"I'll make some coffee anyway," Neal said. He took the bottle with him as he headed over to the kitchenette. Peter gave him a grateful smile.
"So, a million kids?" Peter asked.
Neal chuckled. "Maybe not a million, but there were a lot. June's house is popular." He prepared the coffee, and as it brewed, he sat down at the table with Peter.
"I was thinking about on TV shows, when the main character is costume on Halloween, he always gets called in to work to do something and looks ridiculous." Peter grinned. "I sort of hoped something would happen and I'd have to go in like this. But I might have left the hat with El."
"The hat makes it!" Neal said. He picked up the hat and spun it in his hands before flipping it onto his own head.
"I would have be razzed so hard for wearing that into the office."
Neal grinned. "It'd be worth it. You look good. Were there a lot of good costumes at the party?"
Peter shrugged. "A lot of the typical stuff. Fred and Wilma, Catwoman, Superman. Crazy doctors and naughty nurses. I think I saw a law-abiding citizen by the punch bowl."
"Good costumes for the kids?"
"For the most part, it was so packed, there wasn't a lot of time to really get the details of the costumes. There were a lot of Iron Mans."
"El and I used to hand out candy before we moved into our house, when we were in an apartment. If you decorated your door, the kids knew the knock," Peter said. "Did you do trick-or-treating as a kid?"
Neal frowned thoughtfully and lifted the hat from his head. He set it down on the table. "When I was really little. My dad took me. Then he left when I was eight, and I didn't go anymore. What about you?"
"My mom had to make me stop when I was thirteen. Couldn't resist the free candy. After that, my friends and I used to troll around the neighborhood. We egged a few houses."
"Did you go back the next morning and help clean up?"
Peter laughed. "Once." He sat back in his chair. "Coffee smells good."
"Want some? I know it's late." Neal stood up and moved toward the kitchen, but he stopped in his tracks. Somewhere in their conversation, Elizabeth had moved from the sofa to the bed, where she was now sound asleep. Her hair was flopped over her face, and one fishnet stocking was pushed down below her knee, like she thought about taking them off, and fell asleep in the middle.
He looked at Peter and nodded toward the bed.
Peter turned and his smile softened. All of his love for Elizabeth was right there, evident on his face.
Neal smiled, feeling suddenly lonely. "You can stay if you want," he said. "I don't mind crashing on the couch."
After hesitating for a moment, and looking like he wanted to say yes, Peter shook his head. "I would, but we need to get home and take care of Satchmo. He'll need out."
Neal nodded and went to the kitchenette to pour coffee for Peter and himself. It didn't matter if they were actually going to drink it or not. He brought the mugs over and sat back down. "The party sounds like it was fun."
Peter shrugged. "They're all El's friends. I'm not really good at all that stuff. And somehow, I was the one who didn't get completely drunk. Then again, I have to go to work in the morning. They were doing shots." He smiled fondly. "She can't hold tequila."
"I can't either," Neal admitted. "I'll stick with wine."
"We should go," Peter said. "Or we'll never leave and come home to a mess in the morning."
"Yeah, of course." Neal smiled. "Do you want me to call you a cab? I don't think you want to walk around anymore than you have to with Elizabeth in those shoes."
"Good point. Thanks."
Neal watched as Peter went over to the bed, sitting down on the edge. He knew he should be calling the cab, but he was entranced as Peter gently shook Elizabeth awake. That lonely feeling tugged deep within Neal's chest.
"Hey, sweetheart," Peter said, brushing her hair away from her face. "We're going home. Neal's calling us a cab."
"Mmm." Elizabeth's eyes opened and she smiled at him. Her hand reached out and sleepily touched his cheek. "I can sleep here, it's okay."
"Yeah, no kidding. But we need to go home and take care of Satch."
"Can't you do it?" she asked, her eyes closing again.
"I'm going to, but you can't stay here."
"Sure I can. Neal doesn't mind."
Peter sighed and stroked her hair again. He looked over his shoulder at Neal. "That offer for you to sleep on the couch still there?"
Neal smiled and nodded. "Sure. What about Satchmo?"
"I'll take that cab home, and take him out. Then I'll bring the car back with a change of clothes for both of us."
"You can bring Satchmo here if you want. As long as he won't mind Bugsy."
Peter shook his head. "No, he likes other dogs. Thanks."
"Oh, don't forget toothbrushes," Neal said, pointing at him with his cell phone.
"Yes. Smart." Peter turned back to Elizabeth and she was already asleep again. He leaned over and kissed her forehead before standing up. "I'll be back in an hour or so." He walked over to Neal and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you for this. Really."
"Oh, don't forget the hat," Neal said, turning to the table.
Peter laughed. "Don't push it."
Once Peter was gone, Neal picked up his coffee mug and sat down on the sofa. It wasn't going to help that lonely feeling he'd been battling all night, seeing Peter and Elizabeth together in his bed, but it was better than being alone.