Peter poured syrup over his waffles. "El, you know I'd do anything for you, but I don't understand why I need to buy a new tuxedo when I already have a perfectly good one. It looks fine—no rips or tears, no shiny elbows or knees, and it still fits me."
Elizabeth sighed, and refilled her cup of coffee. " I know, but…it's ten years old."
Neal froze, his forkful of waffles halfway to his mouth. "Ten years old? Peter—"
Peter rolled his eyes. "Don't you start." He turned back to Elizabeth. "I… it's a tuxedo. It fits. I like it."
"Go put it on," Neal said. Peter opened his mouth to reply, but before he could make a sound, Neal held up his hand. "Go and get it and put it on and come back down here and show me."
Peter snorted. "So you can mock it like you mock my best suit?"
"Your 'best' suit is a travesty." Again Peter opened his mouth, and again Neal held up his hand. "Peter, there are a very few, very specific things that I do better than almost anybody. This is one of the only ones left that I can still do and remain a free man."
Elizabeth put her hand over Peter's. "Please?"
Peter sighed. "Fine, fine, I'll put it on." He stood up. "But I'm not buying another one." He went up the stairs, shaking his head and grumbling. Elizabeth and Neal followed him as far as the living room, and sat on the couch with their mugs of coffee, waiting for Peter to return. Elizabeth turned to Neal, an earnest expression on her face.
"Neal... look, it's not awful, but—"
"It's Peter. I'm imagining the worst, so that whatever comes down those stairs doesn't cause an aneurysm."
"I just need you to, you know, bring him up to date. Spiff him up a little. But...please try not to hurt his feelings."
Neal smiled his Oh-Elizabeth-I'm-On-Your-Side smile. "Don't worry. I'm pretty good at, uh, fooling Peter."
Elizabeth smiled her Oh-Neal-Don't-I-Know-It smile. "I think that he thinks that you and I are in cahoots far too often for his liking."
"He's not wrong."
Elizabeth laughed, but stopped with a little choke as Peter came down the stairs and stood in the middle of the room, looking at both of them expectantly.
Neal stared, and stared, and put his head in his hands. His shoulders began to shake.
Elizabeth gave a quick, sympathetic look at Peter as she laid her hand on Neal's back. "Neal, you promised."
Neal looked up again, his face bright red, and put his face back in his hands.
Peter looked back and forth between them. "It's. A. Tuxedo."
Neal took several deep breaths before looking up again. "Oh, Peter... it really isn't."
Elizabeth stood up and kissed Peter on the cheek, smiling gently. "Honey, Neal is going to take you shopping."
"OH no. No, no no no no no. Threaten me with that, and I'll do anything. Anything. I'll buy a new tuxedo, but I won't do it with Mister Rat Pack in tow."
"No." Elizabeth tugged Peter's lapel, pouting at him. "El, no! That's not going to happen. Final. Non-negotiable. No."
Neal walked up to Peter and untied his bow-tie with one swift pull.
"Hey! I just—"
"Elizabeth, are we talking formal or extra-super-formal?"
"Well, it is black-tie only, so white-tie is out, I suppose." Elizabeth fingered Peter's tie, lightly bumping her finger against Neal's. "Though you would look great in white-tie, honey."
"Other than the fact that one is black and one is white, what's the difference?"
Neal rolled his eyes. Elizabeth closed hers. Peter looked back and forth between them.
"Peter, if you don't know that, I have to go with you."
Elizabeth pulled the tie off and stuffed it in her pocket. "Honey—"
"If this thing is black-tie, I won't buy a white tie. I think I can handle at least that on my own."
Elizabeth and Neal were silent.
Peter, feeling crowded and more than a little flustered, took a step back. "This is ridiculous. I go to the store, I ask for a tuxedo, the guy gives me a tuxedo, I pay for it—which is stupid, because I already own a tuxedo—and that's that."
Neal looked him in the eye. "Okay. Let's give it a shot. Single-breasted or double-breasted?"
Peter quickly glanced down at his jacket. "This is double-breasted."
Neal shook his head, sighing. "Oh, Peter, and that was the easy question."
"Well, I didn't know there was going to be a quiz, Neal. I'd have hit the books."
"Which is currently in style: the cummerbund or the waistcoat? Which one goes with a peaked-lapel jacket? Which is more refined: satin or grosgrain facing?"
Elizabeth's face lit up. "Neal—which shirt collar works best with a shawl lapel?"
"I'd go with a turndown spread collar—the shawl lapel will hide the tips. Much more elegant. A peaked-lapel jacket would leave them visible." Neal appraised Peter with an over-exaggerated expression, cocking his head and pursing his lips. "Hmmm. Elizabeth, what do you think: angular or rounded waistcoat?"
"I don't know… maybe rounded? Yes. Better for his, um," Elizabeth looked up at Peter from under her lashes and raised her eyebrows, "shape."
Peter fidgeted awkwardly, frowning a little. Neal could tell that he was beginning to waver, and grinned at Elizabeth. "Okay, let's talk pocket squares. It's our only chance to get some color on him. Do you like primary, secondary, or tertiary tones?"
Peter's expression went from bemused to incredulous. "Now you're just making things up." Neal looked him in the eye. "C'mon, Neal. You're kidding."
Neal's eyebrows shot up in shock. "I never kid about formalwear."
"El, tell me he's making things up," Peter said, a little desperately.
Elizabeth put her hand over Peter's heart, right where a pocket square would go, and shook her head, "He isn't. And Neal," she turned her eyes to him, "adding a dash of color with a pocket square is a wonderful idea. Secondary colors work best on Peter; they bring out the hazel in his eyes, and warm up his skin tone."
Elizabeth looked down and immediately looked back up at Neal. "Oh—don't forget shoes."
"Believe me; I won't. Patent leather pumps."
"Patent leather pumps? What, now I'm a girl going to her junior prom?"
"Oh, Peter," Neal and Elizabeth said in tandem.
"Okay, so I don't know the answers to these...insane questions. But I don't need Neal tagging along and judging me; I can just ask the guy at the store for a tuxedo."
"Peter, 'the guy at the store' can dress you in a proper tuxedo with the proper accessories, but he doesn't know you. I know you."
Neal looked at Peter with an intensity that Peter couldn't quite read. "Your clothes should reflect who you are, Peter. Your clothes should tell the other men in the room exactly where they stand in comparison to you, and that they have been found wanting. Your clothes should say, "I am Peter Burke. I am the best at what I do. I spent four years of my life working towards something that no one else who tried had been able to accomplish, and I did it. Oh, and this stunning, classy, magnificent woman on my arm? She is not slumming. She is my match, and you wouldn't stand a chance. I am Peter Burke, and you, my friend, you are a distant second."
Peter stared at Neal, his mouth slightly open, dumbstruck. Elizabeth stared at Neal with something akin to worship. Nobody spoke.
Eventually, Neal looked down at his shoes, and gave a small shrug. "Or, you know, something along those lines."
Elizabeth blinked rapidly, and Peter closed his mouth. Then he opened it, and closed it again, and cleared his throat.
"So, uh, where's the best place in town to buy a tuxedo?"
Neal looked up at Peter, and smiled his Peter-We-Are-Going-To-Have-The-Best-Time-Ever smile. "I know a couple of places. Go. Change."
Peter took the stairs two at a time.
Elizabeth put her hand on Neal's arm. Neal looked at her.
Elizabeth arched an eyebrow, a puckish grin dimpling her cheek. "What are you doing a week from Saturday?"
Neal matched her, eyebrow for eyebrow and dimple for dimple. "I don't know. What am I doing a week from Saturday?"
"I think you know what you're doing a week from Saturday."
"I think I do too. Luckily, I have a spectacular tuxedo."