Hi there! Happy New Year, a little belatedly. And speaking of belatedly... yes, this IS a Halloween story :P Only a month or two late :P
With many thanks to my pal ChibiDawn23 for allowing me to write this as a sequel to her story 'A Halloween Treat'!
Please enjoy :D
'Hey, hey! What's up, little buddy?' Danny lowered himself down beside the scrunched-up, tearful figure of his son. 'Want to tell me about it?'
Face hidden in his folded arms, the four year old shook his head. Danny frowned and ruffled Louie's hair. 'If something's bothering you, maybe I can help?'
Again Louie shook his head and wrapped his arms even more tightly around his knees, squashing his bulky robot costume.
'Something wrong with your costume?' Danny tried again, and this time no head shake came, just a muffled sniff.
'OK… So, don't you like it? You want to be something else?'
Another shake of the head. Danny sighed. 'C'mon kiddo, talk to me. Tell me what's wrong and maybe I can fix it.'
Hearing shuffling near the door, Danny turned and saw Lucy sidling away.
'Lucy?' he called and slowly his daughter reappeared in the doorway, peering round it with a flushed face. 'Something's upset Louie about his costume. You know anything about that?'
Eyes downcast, Lucy twisted from side to side, bunching her shirt in her fists.
Danny nodded grimly. 'I'll take that as a yes. So, what happened?'
Louie raised his head and glared at his sister. She returned him a ferocious scowl, which faltered when Danny fixed his gaze on her.
Lucy's cheeks flushed even more. 'Um, so, Louie wanted to borrow my Elsa crown but I said no, 'cause it's my crown and then he grabbed it, so I, um, took it off him and he tried to pull it, but I'm stronger'n him and… and then he runned off, and - and that's it.'
'I see.' Danny turned to Louie, who was red-eyed but defiant. 'That true?'
Louie nodded once.
'All right.' Danny nodded and gestured at his daughter. 'Sit down, Luce.'
After a brief hesitation, Lucy plopped down to the ground and sat, arms folded, legs crossed.
Still deciding on the best way to deal with it, Danny looked between them both. 'First up, we got …' He checked his watch and raised his eyebrows. 'Twenty minutes, tops, before we got to leave for the party.' He paused to let that sink in. Both children sat up straighter, eyes wide as they stared at him.
'So let me get this straight – Louie, you want to borrow your sister's crown, right?'
Louie nodded, flashing another glare at Lucy.
'What about the mask you got with your costume, you don't want to wear that?'
Louie's face set. 'I want a crown.'
Danny shrugged. 'OK, no problem.' He turned to Lucy. 'So, how about it? You're not wearing it for the party are you?'
'Nooo…' Lucy admitted reluctantly. 'But it's my crown, daddy.'
'No one's saying it isn't, pumpkin, but do you think you could let your brother borrow it, just for the party?'
Lucy scowled down at her Wonder Woman leggings and said nothing.
Inwardly Danny groaned. He turned to Louie.
'How about you say sorry for grabbing, and then ask your sister again, see what she says.'
Louie gazed at him with his big brown eyes, but said nothing.
Danny looked between the two of them, grave-faced. 'Less than fifteen minutes now till we got to leave, and you know what'll happen if we get there late, don't you?' The children stared. Danny raised his eyebrows. 'If we get there late, and Uncle Flack's there before us, what do you think's going to happen?' Realisation, and alarm, dawned on Lucy and Louie. Danny nodded grimly. 'Yeah, that's right - Uncle Flack will eat all the candy. There won't be nothing left for you two.'
Gasps of horror rose.
'All of it?' Louie squeaked.
'All of it. Won't even be a twinkie left,' Danny said seriously. 'So we got to get this problem sorted out real quick.'
Louie's head shot round towards Lucy as he gabbled, 'Sorry for grabbing, can I borrow your crown, Lu-lu? Please?' he added after catching Danny's eye.
'Don't know,' Lucy mumbled, and Danny groaned. The candy warning had been his best shot…
He tried one more tactic. 'Luce, how about you go get the crown and we'll try it on Louie, see if it fits him, then you can make a decision, OK?' The hint of firmness in his voice reached Lucy who, after a brief waver, got to her feet and trailed out of the room.
'No more grabbing,' Danny warned Louie who wiped his nose and nodded.
Dragging her feet, Lucy reappeared holding the disputed crown. Danny took it with a thank you.
'All right. Let's see. No good if it's going to be too big or too small for you, huh?'
Louie's eyes shone, fixed on the glittering prize as Danny settled it on his thatch of blonde hair.
'Looks good to me,' he pronounced. 'Fits exactly right.'
Beaming, Louie scrambled to his feet, thrusting his chest out. 'I'm a king!'
'You sure are.' Danny grinned and turned to Lucy. 'What do you think, sweetie? It'd be a real nice thing if you let your brother wear it for the party. Think you can do that?'
It took a heavy sigh and a toe dug into the carpet before Lucy mumbled, 'I guess so.'
Danny kissed the top of her head. 'That's a super cool big sister thing to do, Luce. I'm proud of you. What do you say to your sister, Louie?'
'Fanks!' The little boy threw his arms around his sister, squeezing her in a tremendous hug. Danny felt his heart swell with pride, right before he heard Lucy say, 'Only for the party, then you got to give it back…'
Rolling his eyes, he hustled them out of the room to get their shoes and coats on, and most importantly, grab their buckets, reminding them that their mom would only be able to keep Uncle Flack away from the candy for so long…
Thirty minutes later, they drew up on the street where the Hammerbacks lived. All three held hands as they made their way to the house.
'Daddy, will baby Holly be there?' Lucy asked, skipping along beside Danny.
'Uh, I think so…'
'Is she gonna have a costume?'
'If your Aunt Stella has anything to do with it, she definitely will.' Danny smiled down at her. 'Remember when your brother was a baby and he wore his Olaf costume?'
'And I was Elsa!' Lucy beamed.
'Yes you were.'
'And Uncle Adam scared me.' Lucy shivered.
'Yes, yes he did.' Danny took a mental note to remind Adam that three years later, his daughter still recalled the scary movie incident at the lab employees' Halloween party right before he stopped to gaze in awe at the Hammerbacks' front yard.
The lawn had almost disappeared under sheets of billowing white phantoms; pumpkin lanterns glowed in the trees; thick, hoary cobwebs lay over every shrub and in them lurked giant, glittering-eyed spiders. Sepulchral music played in the background, casting the final spell of ghostly magic.
Lucy and Louie stood open-mouthed, thrilled, rendered speechless until they caught sight of a figure in a long, old-fashioned dress standing on the front porch…
Shrieking in unison, the two children ran towards Lindsay, while Danny cocked his Stetson with a grin and swaggered after them.
'Well howdy, little lady,' he drawled, leaning in for a kiss.
'Hey, cowboy.' Lindsay fluttered her eyelashes at him. 'You're looking mighty fancy.'
Giving her an exaggerated wink, Danny swept his gaze over her saloon girl style, wine-coloured dress complete with velvet choker and black feather boa. 'Not as fancy as you, Mrs Messer.' He cleared his throat, mind racing.
Lindsay dabbed his nose with the end of her boa, before turning to the little ones who clamoured questions at her.
'Is Uncle Flack here?'
'Yes, he is…'
'Oh no! Did he eat all the candy? Did he, mommy?' they wailed.
'No, he didn't. There's plenty left.'
They sagged in relief.
'Is baby Holly here? Can we see her?'
Lindsay bent down as best she could in her form-fitting gown and hugged them both. 'Not yet, darlings, but she'll be here soon with Uncle Mac and Auntie Stella. Come on in and show off your costumes to everyone. You both look awesome.'
'I let Louie borrow my crown, mommy,' Lucy said, with a quick, smug look at her brother.
Lindsay glanced up at Danny, eyebrows raised before smiling back at her daughter.
'That was awfully nice of you, Luce…'
'I know,' Lucy said, even more smugly.
Lindsay's mouth twisted, but she merely told Louie he looked fabulous and ushered them all inside.
'That's a pretty hot Halloween outfit you got on, Montana,' Danny murmured in her ear as they went inside, brushing his fingertips down her exposed back. 'Maybe you ought to wear it more often.'
'Oh, it was just a little something I thought would fit with your costume, honey.'
'It's a perfect fit.' Danny slipped his hand round her waist and stole a too-brief kiss.
Once inside, Danny stopped again. If the front yard had been amazing, the house was spectacular. He whistled and shook his head. Hammerbacks' House of Horrors, a banner proclaimed on the far wall, while all the other walls dripped with black and orange tinsel streamers, balloons, strings of glittering skulls and more pumpkin fairy lights casting weird orange light on the milling guests. Even the stairs had spider webs woven between the spindles.
Adam's Spooky Sounds Disco (as the neon sign flashed) had drawn the children of the lab employees and a cluster of them danced and jumped on the cleared floor space, while Adam - Frankenstein's Monster - bopped behind his decks. Elsewhere Danny spotted cauldrons with dry ice boiling over, and even a giant plastic toad with a hat.
'Wow…' Danny breathed, blinking 'Sid, my man,' he said as the ME approached, grinning behind his Egyptian pharaoh make-up and headdress. 'You've outdone yourself yet again,'
'We couldn't have done it without Lindsay.' Sid smiled over at her. 'Who knew she was so good at party decoration?'
'Too kind, Sid,' she said, laughing. 'Anyway, I had a lot of fun and I got to sample your food in advance. I think I got a pretty good deal.'
'That's sweet of you,' Sid said, clearly pleased, before his wife in her Sphinx costume glided over to escort him to another group of guests.
'Sid's looking good,' Danny said in a low voice with an appraising eye.
Lindsay nodded. 'He really is. He's been in remission for six months now, so he's pretty positive he's beaten the cancer.'
'Fingers crossed he's right about that,' Danny said fervently, just as a squeal from Louie grabbed their attention. With a sigh of relief, Danny saw he was squealing with laughter as Flack tried on his crown. Then he rolled his eyes as he heard Lucy telling Flack about lending the crown to Louie.
With a wry look, Lindsay asked, 'What's the story there?'
Chuckling, Danny related the evening's events, adding, 'Least it wasn't a repeat of last year and the costume tug of war.' The snap as Lucy's spider man costume had split and torn irreparably still made him wince.
Flack caught sight of them a grin breaking over his face as he waved them over.
'Themed costumes - that's cute, you two. Very cute.'
'Al Capone, Flack? Nice.' Danny nodded approvingly, giving Flack a sly grin. 'Suits you.'
'Funny,' Don retorted. 'Anyways, my hat's better than yours.' He doffed his trilby and waggled his eyebrows.
Danny snorted. 'Pity about the face underneath it.'
'Suck it up, Messer…'
Lindsay intervened hastily. 'What's in your case?'
Flack smirked. 'Wouldn't you like to know? But,' he turned to the children, 'I'm still waiting for you two to ask me the all-important question…'
'Tricker treat!' they cried in unison and Flack laughed.
'In that, uh, case, little buddies, we'd better look in the case.' He crouched down besides the two excited children, balancing the violin case on his knees. 'Any guesses what's in here?'
'Treats! Treats!' they shrieked.
'Let's see…' He popped open the case and at the sight of the violently-coloured hoard of candy bars, the children's eyes went as wide as the full moon. Flack dropped several bars in each bucket and snapped the case shut.
'Got to keep the swag secure.' Winking, he tapped the side of his nose.
'What do you guys say to Uncle Flack?' Danny said automatically, his attention diverted by the arrival of more guests – Mac, Stella, and baby Holly. He took in how they were dressed, and whistled softly in disbelief.
'Linds!' He nudged her with his elbow.
'…Please don't overdo it with the candy,' Lindsay was warning Flack.
'Hey, forget the candy, you got to see this,' Danny hissed.
Lindsay turned to look and her eyes widened. 'Wow… Stella's finally done it.'
'Mac Taylor wearing a Halloween costume. Never thought I'd see the day…' Flack said.
Danny took in Mac's black tail-coat covered in silver moons, and Stella's witch dress with full black skirt and a star-spattered hat. 'And he's matching with Stella. Taylor family Halloween costumes. Unbelievable.'
'Believe it,' Lindsay said, before she exclaimed in delight at five month old Holly dressed as a black cat complete with a tiny tail and a hood with ears. 'Oh that is too cute,' she gushed.
From her father's arms, the baby took the awws and coos from her admirers in her stride, gazing at everyone with fearless blue eyes while her parents greeted their co-workers.
'Looking good, boss.' Danny smirked as he and Lindsay sauntered over (leaving Flack to the mercies of more children determined to win treats from him). 'Is that a new suit? That's nice.'
'Thanks, Danny,' Mac said dryly, brushing the tail-coat self-consciously.
'Good job, Stella.' Danny winked at her before adding, 'First Halloween for the bambino, eh? What's she make of it all?'
'I think she likes it,' Stella said, caressing the baby's cheek, 'Don't you, baby girl?'
In answer, Holly gave a shriek of delight and grabbed a fistful of her mother's curls. Danny grimaced in sympathy as Stella, wincing, untangled the tiny fingers with skill and speed.
'Taylors! Welcome to all three of you!' Sid hurried over and stopped to look Mac up and down, his face splitting into a grin. 'Hey! Good to see you in costume at last, Mac. It's definitely your colour.'
Adjusting Holly, who was busy making another grab for Stella's hair, Mac looked resigned, while Stella failed to hide a triumphant smirk.
The next moment, two small people came racing towards them, shouting greetings to Auntie Stella and Uncle Mac, before stopping to gaze in enchantment at Holly. The baby chortled and waved, wriggling almost out of Mac's arms. Balancing her with care, he knelt down so the two Messers could admire Holly and hold her hands. While they did, Stella peered into their buckets.
'Huh… looks like you guys are doing pretty well for candy so far.'
Mac stood up, glancing at Stella with a meaningful look. 'I don't know, they seem a little empty to me.'
'Tricker treat!' They jigged up and down, and Holly gurgled in excitement.
'In that case, I guess we'd better find something, hey, Mac?' Stella gave him a crooked smile before she patted her pockets and her face fell. 'Oh no, I think I left the candy at home…'
Dismay crept over Lucy's and Louie's faces, and Danny watched with interest, not quite fooled.
Mac, too, searched his pockets and shook his head sorrowfully. 'I got nothing.'
Stella looked at Mac, and Danny caught a glimpse of mischief in her eyes before she turned to Lucy and tipped her head on one side. 'In that case, how about a trick and a treat?'
Uncertain, Lucy glanced up at Danny and he gave her a reassuring smile.
'OK…' she said to Stella, and gripped Danny's hand, waiting.
He looked on with amusement and curiosity as Stella adjusted her pointed hat, and then reached out to Lucy's head, wiggling her fingers. Then, with a flick of her hand, she produced two candy bars apparently from thin air, and dropped them into the little girl's bucket with a broad grin.
Lucy's mouth fell open and she goggled. 'Auntie Stella, you're magic…'
The smile on Stella's face grew even bigger as she kissed the top of Lucy's head. 'There you go, kiddo. And Louie, I think Uncle Mac might be able to find something for you.'
Mac looked solemnly at the small boy, who waited with his hands pressed together, trembling with excitement. Slowly Mac reached around behind Louie's head, and with a flourish produced a scarlet silk handkerchief. Louie held his breath. Mac remained poker-faced as he stuffed the handkerchief into his fist, opened his hand… and revealed two more candy bars.
Open-mouthed and speechless, Louie looked at Mac and back at the candy bars before snatching them and dropping them in his bucket, before they could disappear as mysteriously as they'd appeared. Mac's face broke into a grin.
Danny applauded. 'Pretty impressive. And, uh, it'd be really great if you two could find a couple tickets to the next Yankees game behind my ear,' he said, and chuckled as Mac looked pitying and Lindsay rolled her eyes.
'Come on, cowboy, let's get these kids something to eat besides candy,' she told him, to which Danny, feeling rumblings of hunger in his stomach, had no objection.
After greeting Jo, who had just arrived with Ellie – mother and daughter dressed as the Wicked Queen and Snow White - they threaded their way through dangling skeletons and bats to the row of tables spread with food. Already piling his plate precariously, Flack had beaten them to it, but the tables were still laden with edibles of all kinds, from neon orange pumpkin cookies to coffin-shaped mini sandwiches.
While they browsed the plates and selected their food, Danny noticed how Louie remained silent.
'You OK, buddy?' he asked after a bit.
Louie looked up at him with big eyes. 'I think Uncle Mac's a real wizard,' he whispered, glancing over his shoulder at Mac.
Danny nodded seriously. 'I think he might be.'
And in an awed silence, Louie continued to fill his plate.
Once the family's plates were full and the children seated and tucking in, Danny dropped down next to Lindsay on a couple of large floor cushions.
Contented, he brushed the back of her neck with his fingertips.
'You good, babe?'
'I'm good,' she said, leaning over to kiss his cheek. Sighing happily, she looked around. 'It's so nice to have this every year, isn't it? Getting together to have fun, just hanging out, everyone relaxed…'
'Getting to see your boss dressed like an extra in a Harry Potter movie.' Danny sniggered, glancing over at Mac who was in the act of passing Holly to her doting Uncle Sid.
Lindsay gave a sudden snort of laughter. 'I asked Stella how she'd managed to talk Mac into wearing a costume.'
'Oh yeah? What'd she say?'
'She said she reminded him that it was his daughter's first Halloween, and how he really should dress up for Holly's sake…'
'And let me guess, Mac had no more objections to make after that?' Danny grinned and looked over again at Mac, who was adjusting Holly's hood.
'You got it.' Lindsay followed his gaze, smile softening at the sight. 'That baby girl already has her daddy wrapped around her little finger.'
'You said it,' Danny said wholeheartedly. 'Daddy Mac… who'd have thought it? Crazy.'
'And you know what's even crazier? Stella was already pregnant at last year's party and none of us knew. Not even they did. We'd only just gotten over the shock of them getting married.'
'Yeah, two of New York's finest forensic scientists and an unexpected pregnancy,' Danny said making his point slyly and Lindsay chuckled.
'Do not say that to their faces.'
'Don't plan to. I like being alive. And uh, we're not really ones to talk, right?'
'Good point…' Lindsay looked sheepish, but continued her reminiscence. 'And two years ago, Mac and Christine had only just split. No one saw that coming.'
Danny looked disbelievingly at her. 'What? I saw it coming a mile away.'
Lindsay's eyebrows flew up. 'You did not!'
Danny scoffed. 'C'mon, Linds, anyone who knew Mac knew who his heart really belonged to. I mean, look at the two of them.'
He waved a hand towards the joint heads of the crime lab, who were still talking to Sid; Mac stood with his hand on Stella's lower back, adoration plain in his face as he gazed at her.
'True… And they're so happy,' Lindsay said, with a soft sigh. 'They deserve it after everything they've been through.'
'Absolutely.' Danny nodded.
They smiled at each other, understanding each other's thoughts without the need for words.
Tranquillity was short-lived, however; an argument over the last potato chips on Louie's plate broke out between the siblings. Seeing the perfect distraction, Danny steered his family over to the dance floor and soon had Louie whirling round while Lucy proved to be a natural at jiving.
A couple of hours later, the party began to wind down. The Taylors had left for their tiny daughter's bedtime – Holly already asleep, curled up like a kitten in Stella's arms. Others, too, were beginning to say their goodbyes. So with Louie clutching his prize for best under 10s costume and Lucy holding proudly her trophy for best dancer, Lindsay caught Danny's eye and mutual agreement that it was time to depart passed between them.
'You're going to have a tough job to beat this year's party, Sid,' Danny said as he shook hands with the ME at the front door. 'Thanks for an awesome time.'
'My pleasure, safe journey all of you.'
'So long.' Danny raised his Stetson and the Messer family trooped back to their car.
The journey home was certainly safe and uneventful, until they pulled into their parking space.
As Danny had to admit, it was his fault. Somehow, in helping a very tired Lucy out of the car, he knocked her candy bucket out of her hand and it fell into the street, the contents tumbling down the drain. When Lucy realised what had happened, her face crumpled and she began to howl. Upset by the noise, Louie followed suit and Danny found himself carrying two sobbing children up to their apartment while Lindsay wrestled with bags and keys.
'I am so, so sorry, Luce,' Danny said once they were inside, the sight of his daughter so upset bruising his heart. 'Listen, we can get you some more candy tomorrow to replace it…'
'But it was my Halloween candy,' Lucy wailed. 'And it's all gone down the drain and-and rats are gonna eat it…' She spluttered and coughed, and Danny felt wretched. 'And-and it was special candy 'cause it was from Uncle Flack's case and Auntie Stella's magic trick…' She broke down while Danny looked imploringly at Lindsay, who looked as helpless as he felt.
All he could do was rub Lucy's back and try to calm the juddering sobs.
Until he felt a tap on his shoulder.
'Daddy…' Louie stood there, his eyes big and round. 'Lu-lu can have some of my candy 'cause she borrowed her crown to me.'
Danny felt a huge smile break over his face. 'Louie that is an awesome and kind thing to do, sweetheart. Hey, Luce, you hear that?' Gently he peeled Lucy away from him. 'Your brother's offered to share his special candy with you, how about that?'
Louie thrust his bucket towards his sister. 'You can share, Lu-lu,' he said shyly, and Lucy gulped and managed a wobbly 'thank you'.
'Good girl,' Danny said, glancing at Lindsay as they both sighed with relief. And then his eyes widened as he caught sight of just how much candy was in his son's bucket. Lowering his voice, he said to Lindsay, 'Didn't you say something to Flack about not overdoing it with the treats?'
Lindsay sighed resignedly. 'That likely is his idea of not overdoing it.'
After wiping her eyes and nose vigorously with the sleeve of her costume, Lucy glanced at Louie and mumbled, 'You can keep the crown, if you want to.'
Louie beamed, his whole face glowing and he threw his arms round his sister and smooched her cheek, ignoring her half-hearted 'yuck!'
Danny met Lindsay's eye and they shared a sentimental smile.
Shortly afterwards, both children lay dreaming, too exhausted even to stay awake for their bedtime story.
Cracking open a beer, Danny flopped down on the couch next to Lindsay, almost as exhausted as his children. Lindsay slid her arm round his shoulders as she took a sip from her drink.
'What a day…'
'You said it,' Danny agreed and took a swig from his bottle, considering his words before he spoke. 'But you know something? I think we can be pretty proud of our kids and how we're raising them – so they ain't perfect, far from it, but they're good kids and we're doing a good job.'
'Yes, yes we are. We've got two kids to be very, very proud of.'
'Damn straight.' He raised his bottle. 'To the Messer family!'
Bottles chinked and their lips met, lingering, before Lindsay settled himself on his chest with a contented sigh. With his arm around her, Danny counted his blessings.
I'm a lucky guy, he thought, not for the first time. One heck of a lucky guy.
Thank you for reading, I hope that this is a cheering and fun story in among all the craziness right now. Do let me know what you think with a review, it means a lot! Lily x