A/N: I know this is very late... I started this story in October at least. Then real life and another story came between me and finishing this in time for Halloween. Now, a month late, I can't even call it fashionably late anymore. Or can I? No? Ok!
But I hope you'll still enjoy some pumpkin season feels now.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters! I only borrowed them for another 'adventure'. ;)
It was October 30th, the day before Halloween, the celebration of ghosts, witches, and sugar rushes, in short: the spookiest holiday of them all.
It seemed like the whole of New York City had turned into a sea of orange and black, adorned with skeletons, skulls, spider webs, and all other sorts of scary decorations.
Of course Abe had put up decorations in the big shop windows as well. Additionally, a skeleton was looking through the glass in the door and artificial spider webs hung from the corners and even adorned some of the larger antiques. Unfortunately, he had had to decorate twice.
On the day he put up the decorations the first time Henry had worked over time, as he had done the whole week before, and when he had arrived home the shop and apartment had been dark. Abe had already retired for the night – not being as young as he used to anymore! – and Henry's sleep-deprived brain hadn't been awake enough to realize in time that the spider webs had definitely not been there in the morning and that there was absolutely no way cobwebs that huge could have formed overnight so to speak.
So, tired as he had been Henry had taken a duster and his apron from the broom closet and had proceeded to clean everything, in the middle of the night mind you, until the whole place had finally been spotless.
He should just have gone to bed! He painfully realized this mistake when he was woken the next morning after only about 3 hours of sleep by Abe's horrified exclamations from downstairs. His son was exasperated at his lack of common sense and none of Henry's explanations of how tired he had been, and therefore obviously not thinking clearly, did anything to ease Abe's disbelief.
Henry was painfully aware that he would never live this down. He would be humiliated for a long time to come!
Now it was only one more day before the crescendo of festivities and Henry was hoping the calendar would turn to November sooner rather than later. Halloween had never quite been his cup of tea, but in recent years it had only gotten worse. Henry hated the commercial aspect of the holiday – of all the holidays nowadays if he were honest with himself.
Of course not all was bad about it because yes, he liked spending time with his son reading horror novels or even watching scary movies with him on television. But what he enjoyed most of all about Halloween was the pumpkin carving with Abe. It had been a family tradition for as long as Abe had been big enough to first enjoy and later help with the task.
This year though Henry had been swamped with work and not been able to get home at a decent hour recently. So the pumpkins sat on the rooftop terrace waiting patiently for their time to shine even one day before Halloween.
But today, today would be the day they would finally be transformed by skilled hands. Fate had been nice enough to materialize in the form of Lieutenant Reece giving everyone the afternoon off in light of all the extra hours of late and lack of a new case.
Henry had just been visiting upstairs with Jo and Hanson when the good news were announced and was now smiling brightly and in a considerable better mood than when he had left the house that morning.
"So, Detective Martinez, do you have any plans for this unexpected cumulation of free time?" Henry asked still noticeably happy.
"No, not really. Probably turning off the porch lights and then hiding in the dark with a couple beers, practicing for tomorrow," Jo laughed, turning her head and winking at Henry not being serious at all. Or was she? Then, with a mischievous glint in her eyes, she turned back around to Hanson and gleefully asked "Mike, you have any nice plans for tonight and tomorrow?"
"You know full well that I don't," he grumbled in response. "I'm to return home at once. Home, where Karen is doing her best to prevent our two monsters from getting into the candy jars, so that there'll still be something to give out tomorrow. And to keep them from the inevitable sugar rush as long as possible. How did we even get into this mess?" He sighed dejectedly.
"Well, you know the story with the birds and the bees? Because I sure as hell don't want to have to tell you!" Jo teased good-naturedly, trying hard to keep a straight face.
Hanson just rolled his eyes at his partner who was supposed to have his back and not mock his misery, huffing indignantly.
Then suddenly Hanson turned into a flurry of activity at what Jo gawked openly very surprised at this sudden speed he showed so seldom while Henry raised one eyebrow in question. On his way past his colleagues towards the elevator he threw some jumbled words over his shoulder. Henry and Jo could only make out parts of what Hanson was saying, but with things like "Karen", "having my head", "monsters", "candy", "already late", and "couch" they got a pretty good picture of what had their colleague so frazzled.
Jo was the first to recover her skills of speech and dryly remarked "He does realize that Karen will probably be very happy to see him so early. But let's let him hurry home to his beloved family. In an hour or two he will totally regret not staying any longer for our teasing." She snorted amused, her joy turning into some full-blown laughter while Henry just shook his head chuckling along.
After a little while the partners calmed down again and Henry continued where he'd left off previously.
"As lovely as an evening in the dark with alcohol as your companion sounds, would you like to join Abraham and I for some pumpkin carving and dinner afterwards, Detective?" Henry enquired looking into her eyes expectantly.
"Pumpkin carving? Today? Henry, don't you think you are running a little late with your pre-Halloween activities?"
"Indeed, I realize we are running late this year, but with working so much practically the whole month Abraham and I haven't got around to it yet," Henry explained a touch of regret in his voice.
"And Abe couldn't have done it on his own sooner?" Jo asked, always thinking practically.
"Absolutely not! We've been carving pumpkins together ever since…" Henry trailed off. Jo was first a little taken aback by his uncharacteristic outburst, but then everything fell into place in her head.
"Ever since Abe was a child, am I right?" She finished his sentence for him, softer now, all traces of mockery and banter gone.
"Yes," Henry admitted quietly. He sometimes still forgot that Jo now knew everything and with that had become one of his very few confidants.
"Thanks for your offer, but Henry, I wouldn't want to impose on your father-son traditions. I'll just go home."
"No! I mean, you would not be imposing in any way, Jo. Abraham and I would be happy to have you. Plus, he always cooks so much we could feed a small army. Please join us. You wouldn't want all this food to go to waste now, would you?" Henry nearly begged her, his charm in full effect. Jo studied Henry's expression for a bit weighing her options, before conceding defeat.
"Fine Henry, I'll come," She agreed, smiling and shaking her head at herself while collecting her things. It had been way too easy to get her to say yes to his offer. She couldn't quite believe how easy it had become for him to talk her into agreeing and how easy it was for her now to be ok with his proposals.
Jo drove them over to Abe's shop. The drive was spent in a comfortable silence with the radio softly playing in the background. At some point Henry muttered something about it playing Christmas songs day and night in only a couple more days and they both agreed that this was still way too soon, but sadly inevitable.
Jo parked her car in the back alley and together they made their way to the front door. At this fairly early hour the shop was still open and Abe behind his desk waiting for customers. When he looked up at the jingling of the bell above door and saw the pair approaching, he came around his desk, surprise evident on his face.
"Dad, you're home early!" He declared happily. Then he turned to Jo at Henry's side and smiled widely at her. "And you brought company too! Hello Jo! You're here for the pumpkin carving event of the year?" He asked her merrily.
"That and Henry here kind of bribed me with the promise of food," she admitted teasingly. "But only if I'm not intruding on your father-son-time," Jo added as an afterthought ever thoughtful and never one to barge into anything uninvited – except for when her job called for it.
"Not at all! We like having you around!" Abe assured her with a bright smile. Then he proceeded to lock up the shop early. "I'll just go and get the tools and pumpkins ready. Dad, you're responsible for the necessary accessories as always." And with that he was bustling away, excited like a child again.
"See, I told you not to worry. It seems though as if I have to remind you, Detective, that there wasn't much 'bribing' as you put it needed to convince you to accompany me here." Henry gave her a pointed look then smiled warmly at her, hung her coat up and bustled away too.
Jo was still standing in the same spot Henry and Abe had left her in, contemplating how she was so easily agreeing to most of their suggestions these days, when Abe came back with a fairly large box and a stack of newspapers and proceeded to drop them onto the middle of the floor.
"Abe, can I help in any way?" Jo asked, tired of feeling useless.
"Oh yeah, of course. You could spread out the newspapers on the floor for the unavoidable mess." With that Abe turned around and was gone again faster than she could begin to move.
While covering a large portion of the floor – they were three adults after all and there had to be some reason Abe had brought so many newspapers – she heard some bangs and crashes followed by muffled curses from somewhere in the back of the building.
Jo was just about to check out the source of the noise, when Henry – still grumbling a little – came back into the room, his arms laden with … pillows?
"Oh, don't look so confused, Detective. Even though we'll be sitting on the floor, we can still make ourselves as comfortable as possible. We're not as young as you anymore either." Henry was teasing her unabashedly and enjoying every second of it by the looks of it. "Plus, I couldn't find the spare apron in the back of the closet and rummaged through the whole device, rather clumsily I might add what you undoubtedly heard."
"Of course. It's a very messy activity we're about to engage in." Henry didn't bat an eye at her obviously – for him at least – stupid question and before he could reply in any way Abe returned with a crate filled with pumpkins of different sizes – ranging from tiny to middle-sized.
Jo did a double take. "So many?" she turned to Henry, "What in the world are you planning to do with so many pumpkins?"
"Well, you have probably heard of the 12 Days of Christmas, yes?" At her nod of recognition Henry continued, "And, you see, Abraham and I have a tradition that we call the 11 Days of Halloween which is my most cherished Halloween tradition. Starting on October 20th we carve or decorate a pumpkin every day leading up to Halloween. Except for this year, where we couldn't start until today. So, you see, there are still a lot of pumpkins left over now." Henry explained this all a bit ruefully, even though it hadn't been his fault at all that there had been so much work recently.
"Wow," Jo breathed astonished. Now she felt even more honoured to be part of their special tradition this year. She also felt a little overwhelmed at the feelings this realization brought to light. At the top of her list was the affection she felt for these two men who had become like family to her over the past year.
"So, it's even more beneficial for us that Reece gave us the afternoon off! If there is still so much work to be done, we'll better get started!" Jo proclaimed vigorously, to what Henry and Abe could only agree.
Henry handed Jo a blue-chequered apron which she donned promptly. Once finished, she looked up and burst out laughing at what she saw.
Henry was wearing the most flowery apron she had ever seen with basically hundreds of tiny flowers in all shades of pink and purple adorning the fabric. But, come to think of it, it kind of really fit in a way which, coupled with the funny look on his face, made Jo laugh even harder. She actually had to force herself to take a few deep breaths to calm down.
Now she wasn't sure whether she should chance a glance at Abe's apron or better leave it unseen just in case. This felt a little like a Schrodinger's situation to her. That was what the dead cat guy was called, wasn't it? High School seemed was too long ago to remember everything clearly.
Maybe it wouldn't be as bad as Henry's. Maybe it was just something neutrally patterned or something nerdy like 'I am Batman'. She'd always pictured Abe to like comic books and baseball cards when he was young and she hadn't been surprised when this suspicion was confirmed one evening over dinner and a bottle of wine. Or maybe it would be the simple 'Kiss the Cook' one which would certainly fit too.
Jo had learned over time that she really shouldn't be surprised about anything concerning these two. So, when she finally dared to look in Abe's direction, why did it come as such a surprise to her that Abe was wearing an apron with a male torso and a very prominent six-pack on it? She sighed internally and just barely kept herself from shaking her head. These two were the biggest dorks in private she had ever met.
Her gaze swept over the pumpkins again and she was startled back to the task at hand. Henry and Abe must have realized why they were standing here in the first place as well as all three of them settled in on the floor in a circle and tried to get as comfortable as possible.
Abe basically dumped the contents of the box in the middle, revealing many carving tools and possible decorations for the pumpkins. It really looked like they could all let their creativity run wild. And Henry set out about half of the pumpkins for everyone to choose from.
Jo grabbed a fairly small pumpkin while both Henry and Abe took a bigger pumpkin each to start on and after a moment of contemplation and brainstorming all three of them got to work.
Henry, Jo, and Abe worked easily side by side for the next couple of hours, alternating between a comfortable silence and captivating conversation. Jo most enjoyed hearing about what shenanigans father and son had gotten up to for Halloween over the years. She laughed about the story of little Abe dressing up as his father and telling everyone on his trick or treating tour that he was an immortal. He had obviously overheard some parts of conversation between his parents he wasn't supposed to hear. Henry was still fidgeting and cringing a lot at the story even all these years later.
Then, Henry and Abe told her about their worst decorating fails and Jo learned that Abe was looking for inspiration and new ideas every year – now mostly on the internet on sites like Pinterest and Buzzfeed. Jo would've never imagined him to resort to such matters, but between the lines she had also learned that so many years of decorating pumpkins had led them to feel bored using the same techniques year after year and that these were desperate times for the pair. And desperate times called for desperate measures after all.
After these entertaining couple of hours a lot of pumpkins had already been decorated by hard work and the motivation that came from working together in an enthusiastic team.
First, they had started with painting some silly faces onto their pumpkins to get into the right mood for the occasion. Then, they had turned to decorating the pumpkins in other ways. So that now they were rewarded with an illustrious assortment of colourfully decorated vegetables.
They had let their creativity run wild and now had painted pumpkins, painted black and spooky with ghosts on them, and painted in rainbow colours or colour block fashion. Some were painted in tartan and red and black argyle pattern. One had been enthusiastically covered in glitter by Jo who had also managed to get glitter practically everywhere else, after which Henry had put his foot down and banned glitter for the rest of the day – at least. They had decorated pumpkins with thumbtacks, washi tape, ribbon, big sequins, buttons, and little bats as well. Abe had painted one to look like a giant piece of candy corn and of course Henry immensely enjoyed painting one like a giant, but very realistic-looking, eyeball. At one point Abe handed out old cookie cutters and all three 'carved' some pumpkins in probably the easiest way. Finally, there were only three bigger pumpkins left.
"Now it's time for the part where we carve pumpkins in the most traditional way," Abe explained gleefully handing out the pumpkins. "We always do that on the last evening before Halloween. Sometimes on other days too, but always at least on the 30th."
He got up to put the crate and decorations out of harm's way, but halted suddenly. "Oh, looks like we forgot one! Sneaky little guy!" He held up one very small pumpkin that had obviously been hiding in a corner.
When he had sat back down, everyone grabbed a set of tools and got to work cutting off the top to scoop the gunk out. While Henry and Abe clearly already knew what they were going to do with their projects, Jo seemed a little stumped and hesitant.
"Don't know what to do with the thing now, huh?" Abe observed.
"Yeah, I haven't exactly carved a pumpkin in… well, forever!" Jo exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air exasperated.
"Try it this way: Focus on your pumpkin and react to what it tells you." At her raised eyebrow, he hurriedly added, "I know it sounds ridiculous, but try to keep an open mind. Maybe it will help you."
"You sound just like Henry sometimes," Jo chuckled shaking her head.
"It might really work though." Henry chimed in. He had apparently emerged from the concentrated state of pumpkin carving he had been in. As soon as he had joined the conversation he was back to being oblivious to his surroundings. He gave off the appearance of the stereotypical mad scientist. Abe too dived back into carving, humming a merry tune. Only Jo was left without an idea – until she saw the small left over pumpkin and her eyes lit up momentarily before she snatched it up and got to work herself.
Eventually, Abe and Jo finished their pieces and only Henry was still working on his pumpkin in a very concentrated state still. He was so far gone that he didn't even notice when Jo started flicking pumpkin innards at him. Abe had informed her that the big reveal would only take place once everyone was finished and that it was not uncommon for Henry to be the last to finish his yearly masterpiece.
Another hour passed before Henry was finally satisfied with his work. Abe spent this time telling Jo about his father's biggest Halloween mishaps as payback for taking so long. Like once he nearly set the house on fire with one of his experiments and another time he tried to flood the apartment when he attempted to wash out some particular nasty pumpkin goop and the washing machine wasn't cooperating.
"Finally! Pops, I would think after so much practice you would have gotten more efficient!" Abe threw at him when he had eventually returned to them.
"Enough with the teasing already, Abraham! Instead please show us what you made."
Abe turned his pumpkin around to reveal a friendly-looking face with a big smiling mouth and no teeth. In their place Abe had carved 'BOOH'. Henry and Jo both laughed at what they saw.
"Now you, Jo!" Abe said grinning.
Jo took a deep breath and turned her pumpkin too. She had given the big pumpkin a mean expression and made it eat the small one.
"That was a very creative idea!" Abe exclaimed encouragingly and Henry nodded in agreement.
"Thank you! It's your turn now, Henry!"
Henry showed them his work and Jo's jaw dropped and her eyes widened involuntarily while Abe only cough-mumbled something that suspiciously sounded like 'show-off'.
"Wow, Henry! You really carved van Gogh's 'Starry Night'?"
"Why Detective, I never pegged you for an art enthusiast." Henry sounded truly surprised and gave her a commendatory look.
"Oh don't look so surprised! I'm not into art, but I haven't been living under a rock either! Plus this happens to be one of my favourite paintings. And this is an unbelievably amazing rendition!" Jo was really impressed with Henry's skills, leaning forward and even unconsciously edging closer to get a better look. "Wow," she breathed at all the detail, mesmerised.
She was pulled back to the here and now with a start when Abe clapped his hands together and announced that he'd get some candles to put into the pumpkins.
Henry and Jo placed their day's work decoratively around the shop with the three carved ones prominently displayed in the big window. Once Abe had returned and the candles had been lighted, Henry, Abe, and Jo took a moment to admire their handy work until Abe made to leave in the direction of the apartment above.
"Now, how about you get this mess cleaned up and then food and wine awaits upstairs. We have pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie. How does that sound to you?"
"You had me at food and wine," Jo laughed and helped Henry get rid of the pumpkin remains and other accessories and Abe went upstairs to reheat the soup and put the pie he had prepared this morning in the oven, looking forward to the relaxing part of the evening after this pumpkin marathon.
A/N2: I wonder whether I'm the only one who's always writing herself into corners when the characters have me write things that I then need to explain and expand on. That's why this story turned out about 4 times longer than I had originally planned... *sighs*
Plus, I spent way longer than anyone ever should trying to find out whether pumpkins are considered a fruit or a vegetable, so I wouldn't have to write 'pumpkin' for what felt like the 1000th time. And what did I find? It can be both depending on the definition. ugh! Can't anything ever be easy and straight forward?!