And So It Begins: Halloween

"Alan, I want to talk to you about something and I don't want my head bitten off when I do." Denny Crane and his husband, Alan Shore – Crane, were sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace in the living room of their suburban home enjoying after – dinner cigars and brandy.

Alan looked up from hand – warming his snifter with a confused expression on his face. "Why would I bite your head off for wanting to discuss something with me?"

"Because I want to throw a party and the last time I did, I didn't see you for two days, that's why.* At Alan's furrowed brow, he added, "I want to throw a costume party for Halloween. I think it would be nice to have our friends come over for a fun evening. What do you think?"

"I'm not going anywhere anymore, Denny," he replied softly as he shifted on the couch to look at the older man. "I think it sounds like a good idea. Halloween is a Wednesday this year; do you think we could convince people to come out on a 'school night' as it were?"

Denny snorted, "Why wouldn't they? We're the Cranes! We're a social force in Boston. People will come. Besides, I'm not talking about hundreds of people; I'm talking about a dinner party for, at most, twelve. Picture it, Alan, twelve people around our dining room table, all in costume and eating lobster."

Alan nodded, he could picture it. "You know, maybe we could have a theme for our costume party."

Denny's eyes widened in excitement. "Yes! The women could all dress like famous movie hookers! One could be Julia Roberts as Pretty Woman, another Brooke Shields as Pretty Baby, somebody, Clarence maybe, could be Creole Lady Marmalade…"

Alan burst out laughing, "Denny, Denny please; before you turn our home into a Halloween brothel, hear me out. I don't see Shirley or Katie dressing up as prostitutes. Maybe Claire, she's fun, but I wouldn't dare ask her. We better think of something else."

The older man thought a moment and then said, "We could tell people to come dressed as their favorite television characters."

Alan shook his head. "That won't work; everyone would come dressed as themselves. I suggest that we invite our guests to come dressed as a literary figure. That way, if there is a lull in conversation, we can always ask someone to explain why they chose the character they did. Also, I think we need to provide an incentive for people to dress up."

Denny flicked his lighter and began puffing on his cigar to relight it. "Incentive? They'll be here, with us! Denny and Alan Crane! What more do they need?"

Alan placed his right ankle on top his left knee and sipped his brandy slowly. An idea had come to him and he took a moment to examine it before telling Denny. People were surprised to find out that of the two of them he was, on many levels, the more conservative one. "I'm thinking, Denny, that we should have a prize for best costume with the winner's favorite charity receiving a ten thousand dollar donation from us. Our friends would dress up for that."

Denny was about to object when the light bulb went off over his head and he smiled. "That would make our party tax deductible! Perfect! Stick with me, Alan; I'll make you a Republican yet!" The smile faded when another thought occurred to him. "Alan, who are we going to get to judge?"

"Why don't we ask Rodeo, Olympia and Dave? Our friends all know them and we can offer them a hundred dollars apiece to do it."

Denny leaned forward and poured some more brandy for himself. He held the decanter up to Alan who declined. Replacing it on the table, he said, "Having the staff judge sounds good to me; let's run with that." He clapped his hands together. "Okay, so now who shall we invite to our soiree'? Carl and Shirley?"

"Of course. And I'd like to include Jerry and Katie, Clarence and Claire and those two couples we met at the Boston Pops symphony last month; Frank and Joanne Gladstone and Hilton and Jessica Lanford."

Denny puffed out his chest. "Invite anyone you like, but why them?"

"It occurs to me, Denny, that we live a very insulated, bordering on isolated, life. If we're not fulfilling some social obligation, we're alone together or we're mostly with Carl and Shirley. I want to expand our social circle."

Denny stood up, stretched and then patted his belly. "I've expanded as much as I want to, but I want you to be happy. I'm going upstairs now and popping a movie into the DVD player. Are you coming?"

"Sure. After you." As Alan followed he asked, "Do you want to know who I decide I'm going to be?"

"Let's surprise each other."

"I'm sure we will," Alan agreed happily.

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Denny on a mission was an amazingly single – minded individual and he was determined that this dinner party was going to be a success Alan was impressed with the way Denny worked with the party planner to prepare for Halloween night. Though he had told Alan that he would handle everything, Alan was consulted about the style of the invitations, the menu, and every aspect of the party. They had approached Rodeo, Olympia and Dave together about judging the costumes and they had agreed to do it.

He knew that Denny had been going to his tailor for costume fittings and was being completely tightlipped about who he planned to be. Alan had no idea who he was going to be, but he was fairly certain he was not going to have anything custom made. He had been online with a few costume rental businesses looking at what they had to offer. He had toyed with the idea of being one of the Three Musketeers. He liked Aramis' costume best, but then he decided to check one more site and at Boston Costume he found the perfect outfit. This suits me.

He started to just fill out the screens to have his rental delivered, but he didn't want to chance Denny getting to it before he did. He saw that the brick and mortar store was right on Boylston Street so he called and made arrangements to pick it up two days before Halloween.

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The day of the party was filled with holiday hubbub and excitement. Everyone had RSVP'd that they would be coming and Denny had arisen early to oversee what was happening.

All day long the staff, under Rodeo's supervision, made sure the house was immaculate and decorated with Halloween ornaments and pumpkins, the silver was polished, the table was set and the dining room closed off until the guests arrived.

Alan had placed his costume in one of the guest bedrooms and told Denny he would dress in there. The guests were due at five for cocktails and Alan had finally gone upstairs to get ready. He had insisted that Denny lie down for a nap a couple of hours earlier and he had been pleased to see the older man asleep and snoring like a pig when he went to check on him. He could hear Denny moving around in their bedroom now and knew he was getting ready, too.

He put his costume on and turned to admire himself in the mirror. The clerk who assisted him at Boston Costume had told him he looked devastatingly handsome with his sword, shield and helmet. Alan had rolled his eyes and said nothing; the man would have said he was a dead ringer for Paul Newman if he thought that was what Alan wanted to hear. The silver – colored leather really does kind of look like armor and my legs do look good in leggings and pointy shoes, he thought. He knocked on the wall. "Denny! Are you almost ready for the big reveal?"

"Two minutes and then, step into the hallway!" came the response.

Exactly two minutes later, both men stepped into the hallway and stared at each other. Alan broke the silence first. "Denny, you look fantastic! Who are you supposed to be?" he asked as he walked around the older man smiling approvingly at his clothing.

Denny was wearing a black suit, with wide, full – cut pleated slacks with a three inch waistband. The single - breasted jacket had wide lapels and a crisp linen pocket square sticking out of the front pocket. His white shirt was high – necked and his tie was bold black and white stripes. "I'm Nick Carraway; Jay Gatsby's best friend in the novel "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. And to whom am I speaking?"

Alan bowed from the waist with a flourish of his right hand while his left held his lance and shield. "I am Don Quixote de La Mancha."

Denny grunted, "You look good, but why couldn't you pick an American literary figure?"

Alan just smiled and headed toward the stairs. "Come on, our guests will be here soon."

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The party was a wonderful success. It was obvious that everyone had put a lot of thought into their costumes though the only characters Alan recognized easily were Carl and Shirley as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara of "Gone with the Wind".

Katie was judged the winner of the Best Costume contest for her portrayal of Lady Macbeth complete with "bloodied" hands and she named England's National Autistic Society as the recipient of her ten thousand dollar prize. There was even more applause when Denny stood up and after congratulating Katie, announced he would donate ten thousand dollars to the Autism Society of America in her name.

"Denny," Alan beamed, "That is very generous, I am so proud of you!"

"Of course you are. Denny Crane! Besides, an American charity should benefit and it's another tax write – off for us," he said as he lit a cigar. "We should talk about throwing several tax deductable parties a year!"

Alan threw his head back and laughed heartily. "Denny, let's get through this party first! I'll be right back. I told the staff that as soon as the contest was over, they were finished for the night and now the bartender needs more ice." Just then, the Gladstones and Hilton Lanford walked over. "Joanne, please tell Denny the story you told Jerry and me earlier. You'll like this, Denny, it's really funny. I'll be back soon."

He stepped into the hallway and put his lance and spear against the wall before walking to the kitchen. He entered the pantry area and filled one of the buckets next to the ice maker. The snick of the door closing behind him caused him to turn around quickly to see one of his party guests standing there.

"Jessica, you startled me! What can Don Quixote do for the lovely Lady Chatterly?" She closed the gap between them swiftly and took him into her arms, lips seeking his and tongue demanding entrance to his mouth. When he did not respond, she opened her eyes to see that he was staring at her blankly. "Have I given you some signal that would make you think I wanted you to kiss me? Because if I did, I do apologize."

"Alan, stop pretending! It's fine; we won't be missed for a few minutes. Let's have some fun!" She tried to lean into his body, but was stopped by Alan gripping both her arms and holding her in place.

"Exactly what is it I'm supposed to be pretending?"

She exhaled loudly in exasperation. "That you're involved in a real marriage! You're straight, Denny's straight; there is no betrayal if there's no marriage. Hilton has a…problem that prevents him from performing his husbandly duties. It's been that way for years. He knows he can't do it, so he turns a blind eye when I find someone who…can. Come on, Alan, we're wasting time." She stepped toward him again only to have him step aside.

"You may be dressed as Constance Chatterly, but I am not your lover. And, you may think it is fine to cuckold your husband, but I assure you, it is not fine to cuckold mine." He held his left hand up in front of her face and waggled his ring finger so that his wedding band caught the overhead light. "My vows meant something to me and I took them seriously as did Denny. And, if I did decide to betray my marriage, believe me, it would not be with the likes of you."

"If I were you, Jessica, I would go back to the party and think of some excuse to tell your husband so that you two can leave without my having to embarrass you publicly by telling you to go." At the shocked look on her face, he smirked, "I will allow you ten minutes to go make your excuses and if when I return to the party you are not saying goodnight, I will tell Hilton why he has to leave and will never receive another invitation here again."

Jessica's mouth set into a firm thin line as shock gave way to anger. "You really are a bastard, aren't you? Well, Hilton and I also have some social standing in this town so we'll see who never receives another invitation!"

Alan buffed his right fingernails on the front of his costume. He splayed his hand so he could inspect them while he said, "I agree that you and Hilton enjoy some social recognition in Boston. Some. However, the Crane name not only carries more social cachet; as extremely successful attorneys, we safeguard the secrets, the wealth and, sometimes, the freedom of the very people you think you can turn against us. I think not. I think it is past time for you to go; I'm sure we've been missed." And with that, he turned around to pick up the bucket of ice, walked around her and exited the pantry. He placed the bucket on the kitchen island and grabbed a jar of cocktail onions to take to the bar. After a moment, he heard high heels click – clacking behind him as the spurned woman stalked out of the kitchen.

"Alan?" He turned to see Shirley standing there in all her Southern belle finery. "Jessica Lanford just blew past me looking like a thundercloud. What did you say to her?"

He handed her the jar of onions plus a jar of olives. "If you would be so kind." He picked up the ice and explained, "Jessica chose me to be her latest sex partner."

Shirley smirked, "I see. Didn't take kindly to being rejected, did she?" She laughed as she followed her host back to the party. She and Carl knew better than most the depth of Alan's commitment to Denny. Once Denny convinced him that marriage was the right choice for them, Alan had entered the covenant with the same fierceness he used to fight for his clients. Indeed, when he had argued for the right to marry Denny and for Denny to receive his experimental medication, he had declared in open court both times that he loved Denny with all his heart. "Were you diplomatic, at least?"

Alan stopped and turned to look at her. "No. She should be collecting Hilton and getting ready to leave. A favor, Shirley: Please do not mention this to Denny. I won't ask you not to mention this to Carl, but I will ask you not to mention this while you're here. Deal?"

"Deal."

They entered the living room and Alan noted with satisfaction as he handed the ice to the bartender that Hilton was holding his and Jessica's coats as they stood speaking to Denny who caught Alan's eye and motioned him over.

"Alan, the Lanfords have to run and since Frank and Joanne rode with them, they're leaving, too."

Hilton reached to shake hands with Alan. "I'm so sorry we didn't get a chance to talk more. Thank you for inviting us. Perhaps we'll see each other during the holiday season."

As Alan shook hands he replied, "Perhaps." He stared pointedly at Jessica and added, "Or, perhaps not. In any event, it was a pleasure meeting you, Hilton." Just then, Frank and Joanne walked up with their coats on. "I hope you two had a good time."

Joanne glanced from Alan to Denny and back again before responding, "Yes… it was a most pleasant evening. I'm sorry to have to go, but Hilton drove so…"

Denny grunted, "Perfectly understandable! We're just glad you were able to come tonight. Aren't we, Alan?"

Alan smiled broadly as he held his right arm out to encourage the foursome to walk ahead of him to the front door. "Absolutely!" he chirped as he and Denny followed them. He stepped around and opened the door for them. As they stepped outside, Jessica shot him a dirty look before heading toward their car. When the car lights flashed indicating Hilton had unlocked the doors, Alan waved and called, "Goodbye!" before shutting the door. He turned around to see Denny studying him closely. "What?"

"Why do I get the feeling, 'Don Quixote', that more happened here then just four of our guests having to leave earlier than expected?"

Alan gave his husband his most innocent look. "I have no idea; let's go back to the party, shall we?"

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It was almost midnight when their six remaining guests decided to call it a night. When all three sets of tail lights disappeared down the driveway, Alan followed Denny back into the house, tipped the bartender and saw him out while Denny grabbed two glasses, filled them with ice and took them to their bedroom where he kept their special one hundred year – old scotch. By the time Alan came upstairs, Denny was already in his pajamas propped up in bed sipping his drink.

He plopped down on the bed and toed off his shoes and then pulled off his leggings. He could feel Denny's eyes boring into his back as he wordlessly got undressed and into bed. He accepted the glass of scotch Denny offered, sipped and sighed deeply. "Tonight was great, but I'm happy to be in our bed. And, you may be right, Denny; perhaps we don't need to expand our social circle after all."

Denny grunted in agreement and then fell silent. They finished their drinks and slid down under the covers to go to sleep. Denny reached out and turned off the lamp. Just as Alan was sliding closer to snuggle, the older man put his hand on Alan's chest to stop him. "Since you won't tell me why the Lanfords and Gladstones left early, let me ask you this: Is whatever happened going to result in consequences?"

Alan gently removed Denny's hand and laid his head upon Denny's chest. He sighed in weary contentment as his husband's left arm encircled him. "I don't know, Denny," he admitted, "but if it does, I promise I will let you know what happened tonight. Deal?"

"Deal. Goodnight, Alan."

"'Night."

To be continued…

*ref. "Honesty"