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White Collar story: Father's Day

Title: Father’s Day
Author: OhWilloTheWisp

Fandom: White Collar
Word count: 2,9
Rating: P
Characters: Peter, Neal
Genre: Gen
Notes: This was written for noiproksa_vids as part of a story exchange over at collarcorner.  To read the amazing story that was written for me go here: http://noiproksa-vids.livejournal.com/1132.html
Summary: Neal and Peter celebrate Father’s Day together.
Spoilers: Minor spoilers for season four.
A/N: This is not tied to a specific episode, but it is set in season four.

Neal laid in bed staring at the ceiling.  The morning sun was just rising, sending rays of color out to push away the grey of the night.  He normally wasn’t up this early, but today he had found himself awake and couldn’t seem to fall back to sleep.  He still had trouble believing how far he had come, how much his life had changed over the last few years.  He had spent so much of his life running, moving from one place to the next, rarely allowing himself to make permanent bonds with anyone.  Father’s Day was quickly approaching, and he let his mind wander back to his past.  Father’s Day had always been difficult for him.  Every year it came as a reminder of what he didn’t have.  Other kids would excitedly prepare for the holiday, picking out cards and gifts and making plans of how to spend the day with their dad’s.  But for Neal Caffrey it was just a reminder of what he didn’t have, what he would never have.  It was a bitter-sweet time, knowing his father was not a part of his life, but looking up to his memory, admiring the man he believed his father was.  He believed his father was a noble man, a hero.  Someone Neal strived to be more like.  But it was also a sharp painful reminder of the father he would never really know.  Finding out that his father was not the hero he once believed him to be, only made it worse.  After Ellen told him the truth about his dad, the bitter-sweet time became simply bitter. Father’s Day became a reminder of the pain and feeling of betrayal.  A man he struggled not to become.  A past he spent his life running from.

But this year was different.  He didn’t feel the dread he usually did when Father’s Day approached.  That pain was noticeably absent this year.  The empty feeling he had when he thought of his dad was gone this year, and Neal had a feeling he knew why.  Somehow through all the chaos and web of lies that was his life, he had found a new family, one that would never betray him the way his dad had.

The sun was fully risen now, and though it wasn’t time to leave for work yet, he figured it wouldn't hurt to get out of bed and get ready.  He could see what trouble he could get himself into before he had to leave for work.
Neal met Peter as they both walked to the FBI building.  That morning’s reminiscing still on his mind.  He figured this would be as good a time as any to get the answers to a few questions he had been wondering about for a while now.

“Why didn’t you and Elizabeth ever have kids?”

“Good morning to you too.  What brought this on?”  Peter was more than a little surprised at this seemingly out of the blue question.  Apparently Neal had chosen today’s topic of conversation to be “major life decisions and their consequences.”  Neal was full of surprises.

Neal shrugged, a smooth graceful movement.  Everything Neal did seemed graceful.  

“Father’s Day is coming up, and it just made me wonder, I know you and El would make great parents.”

Peter was aware that Father’s day was coming, but he had not given it much thought.  Every year on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day Elizabeth went to spend some time with her parents, beyond that the holiday had little significance to Peter.  It was just another day to him.

However, he realized the day must hold quite a bit more significance to Neal.  Considering Neal’s abysmal relationship with his own father, the holiday must be a painful reminder of what he didn’t have.

He supposed it made sense that the issue of kids, and the Father-son relationships would be on Neal’s mind this time of year.

Peter sighed, resigning himself to the conversation.

“We talked about.  It’s not that I don’t like kids; it just didn’t seem like a good idea.  My job is dangerous and I work odd hours.  And this isn’t exactly the kind of job I can leave at the door when I get home.  When I first joined I thought the White Collar division would be a safe department of the FBI to work in.  But it didn’t take long to discover that this job has a way of bleeding into every aspect of my life.  I am not saying I regret  joining the FBI, I love what I do.  It just never really seemed like the best environment for a kid to be raised in.”

They walked in silence for a moment as Peter thought out how to phrase what he wanted to say next.

“Neal I know this must be hard, growing up without your dad, only to find out he was no hero.  If you ever need anything, you know I am here for you.”

“Thanks Peter that means a lot, really.  But I am fine.  When I was a kid it was pretty tough, seeing other kids walking with their dads, it hurt, made me miss him all the more.  And all those cheesy Hallmark cards, telling people how they are supposed to feel, and what an important part of a kid’s life a dad is.  But I don’t know, it doesn’t really seem so bad now.  I just don’t want to spend my life feeling sad about a dirty cop who was never part of my life.”

Peter nodded in approval, “I’m glad to hear it.  That sounds like a very good attitude.”

They were nearing the FBI building now, not much time left to talk before their day of catching bad guys started.  Neal decided to circle back to their original topic of conversation, he couldn’t help his curiosity.

“Do you ever regret it?  Not having kids?”

“Not really,” Peter answered honestly, “I know it is the right decision.  I can’t help wondering what it would be like, sometimes.  To have someone to teach to play ball and all that.  And I know El would make a fantastic mother.  But the work we do is important, putting bad guys behind bars.  This job involves a lot of sacrifice, but it is worth it.”

They walked in silence for a moment, before Peter’s countenance brightened. “Besides, being around you is like having a son.  I stay up at night worrying about you, I am constantly afraid you are going to get yourself into trouble, and every time I get a phone call I am sure someone is going to tell me you are in jail, the hospital or worse.  And when you succeed I am just as proud of you as if you were my own.  It’s just like having a son, only better, because I am not entirely to blame for the way you turned out.”

“Maybe you can get a “Proud parent of an ex-con” bumper sticker.”  Neal joked.

He made light of it, but Neal couldn’t deny feeling pleased over Peter’s word, it was then that he resolved to plan the Great Father’s Day Caper.  Okay, he was going to plan a regular Father’s Day, but Neal had a flare for the dramatic and adding “caper” made anything sound more exciting.

Neal was not entirely sure how to proceed with the whole Father’s Day thing.  He knew Peter was more of a father to him than anyone else had ever been, and he knew he wanted to find a way to express that.  But he was a little lost as to how to go about it.  He lived his life cloaked in lies, spinning clever tales to hide who he really was, and what he really felt.  The truth did not come easily to him.  Lies were second nature to him, honesty, particularly about his emotions were more difficult.  A charming smile, and a well-placed lie were always at hand, but the truth felt farther away.

He decided to fall back on the one thing he knew as well as cons: art.  Art was always honest.  Even his forgeries were not exactly lies.  He may claim something he created was really done by someone more famous, or he may lie about the time a particular painting was made, but the art itself was truth, emotion.  An artist, a good artist, poured his soul into his art.  Every piece expressed something, sometimes what it expressed was dark and violent, but every piece of artwork was honesty, even beauty in its own way.  Emotion and soul laid bare on the canvas.  Some looked at modern art and saw splattered dots of color on a canvas.  When he looked at it he saw balance, and color and beautiful chaos.  He decided if he wanted Peter to know how he much he meant to him, his art could express the sentiment in a way he never could.

He painted late into the night.  Father’s Day was fast approaching, and he was determined to have his work done by then.  He was only halfway through when he realized his art needed something.  As it was, he was simply replicating someone else’s work, someone else’s art, someone else’s emotion.  It was almost perfect, but it needed something more, something personal.  He stared at the painting for a moment thinking.  He smiled as he realized what it needed, what touch would make it perfect.

Neal finished his painting a few days before Father’s Day.  As it turned out he was a bit overzealous in his rush to get done.  He decided to pick up a card, it seemed like a nice touch, and it was traditional after all.  After a bit of searching he found a store within his four mile radius that sold Holiday cards.

The sale clerk was an attractive young woman; she gave Neal a genuine smile as she looked him up and down.  After assuring her he didn’t need any assistance, she commented that most of her patrons were not so well dressed, and then went about her business, leaving him to the task at hand.

Neal wasn’t terribly surprised he was better dressed than most people who passed through the store.  He usually found he was the best dressed person any room.  Granted, he was also usually the only ex-con in any room, but the latter was a less impressive distinction.

He stared down the rows, and rows of cards.  The aisles of cards loomed over him in a daunting fashion.  They covered every conceivable topic, even a few that he didn’t realize people sent cards for.  After locating the Father’s Day Cards section he was surprised by the sheer number of cards of every genre.  He looked through a few, finding most were ill fitting.  They expressed sentiments that didn’t quite fit his particular situation, like “Family by blood, friends by choice.”  Apparently, “Thanks for being my FBI handler/Surrogate father” was not a sentiment people usually wanted to send a card for.  He finally found what he wanted, simple to the point.  He headed to the cashier to make his purchase.  For the first time in his life, Neal was looking forward to Father’s Day.

When the Friday before Father’s Day finally came Neal spent the better part of the day filling out paperwork.  They didn't currently have any big cases.  Which was good in a way, since Father’s Day was Sunday, he and Peter’s weekend would be free, and not spent in a life threatening situation.  Neal could not wait to show Peter what he had painted him.  But it also meant that absolutely nothing interesting was happening.  Neal had plenty of time to contemplate the fact that making Peter a painting for Father’s Day made Neal feel like he was six, and had made Peter a finger painting to hang on the fridge.  This led Neal to think about what his life would have been like if Peter really had been his father growing up.  This led to rather pleasant “what-if” days dreams about growing up with Peter as his dad.

Before he knew it the end of the work day had rolled around.

Neal walked up the stairs and stood in front of Peter’s desk.

Peter eyed Neal suspiciously.

“You look like the cat that ate the canary.  Should I be worried?  I have a terrible feeling that this is one of those times that is going to end in jail time for one or both of us.”

Neal’s eyes widened in fake shock, “Seriously Peter?  After everything that’s happened you still don’t trust me?”

“It’s because of everything that has happened that I don’t trust you.”

“What are you doing this weekend?” Neal asked in way of answer, which did nothing to reassure Peter.

“Nothing really.  El’s gone to visit her parents, so it will just be me and Satchmo.  Probably watch the game, well, I will, at least.  Satch will probably nap; he has no appreciation for sports.”

“You should come over to the loft this Sunday.  Nothing illegal will happen I swear.  Not everything’s a con.”  The last part was added in response to Peter’s look of suspicion at the invitation.  Technically this was a con of sorts, but he was telling the truth about it all being strictly above board.

With a tip of his fedora and a swirl of fabric Neal was gone, leaving a sealed envelope behind on Peter’s Desk.

When Peter opened the envelop he saw it was a card.  The front was a beautifully done version of Van Gogh starry night, with the swirls in the sky spelling “Happy Father’s Day.” When he opened it a loud and upbeat rendition of Happy Father’s started playing to the tune of Happy Birthday, sung by some sort of cartoon voice.  This caused everyone left in White Collar division to look up, startled by the unexpected music.  Neal stood in the glass doorway to the White Collar Division smiling; he didn’t mind those cheesy hallmark cards so much after all.
The time passed in a blur of anticipation for Neal.  He finally understood why people got so excited for Father’s Day, it was all quite fun.

When Peter got to Neal’s loft, Neal was standing next to an easel covered with a white sheet.  Neal was eager after all the work and planning, and decided to skip the preamble.  With a flourish he pulled away the white cloth to reveal a beautiful painting.

“This is A Sunday on La Grande Jatter originally painted by Georges Seurat,” Neal explained, “This particular painting was done by yours truly of course.”

“Neal it’s beautiful,” Peter said in awe.  He never ceased to be amazed by Neal’s artistic skills.

“You are now the proud owner of your very own Neal Caffrey painting, not many people can say that….At least not knowingly.”

Peter stepped forward to take a closer look.  The painting depicted men and women lounging and picnicking near the water on what appeared to be a beautiful sunny day.  Through his time pursuing, and more recently working with Neal, Peter had become increasingly familiar with famous works of art.  This had always been one of his favorites, which Neal no doubt knew.  The artistry itself was something to be admired, the colors were beautiful.  But it was also more than that.  The whole scene looked so peaceful and serene.  Looking at the painting he always felt like he could simply step into it, and join the figures sitting in the shade, enjoying the sun, looking out at the water.

As Peter studied the painting he realized with a shock that it appeared as if he really had stepped into the painting itself.  In amongst the familiar ladies with dresses and umbrellas, and the dapper looking men there were two new people.  A man in a sharp suit and a fedora, and another man in what he would bet was a Brooks Brothers suit.  They were painted in the same style and with the same colors as the rest of the painting.  But these two were unmistakably new.  Neal had painted Peter and himself into the scene.  They were sitting, reclined on the grass in the shade, looking outwards the water.

It was such a beautiful idea, he realized.  To be immortalized into such a perfect happy scene.  As if no matter what happened, no matter how horrible or dark the world could be, he and Neal, at least a version of them, would be forever sitting on the grass, looking out at the water, on a perfect Sunday afternoon.

“Neal…I don’t know what to say.  This is so perfect.”

“It was either this or one of those tacky fish ties.  They don’t have any “Proud parent of an ex-con” bumper stickers.  Believe me, I checked.”

Neal became more serious as he continued, thinking over his words, trying to decide how to say what he wanted to say.

“I know ours is not the most traditional relationship.  But after everything that has happened you have been there for me, even when no one else has.  You are the one person I know I can always rely on, the one person who is always there for me, no matter what happens.  I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate that.  My father has never been a part of my life, and to be honest, that is probably a good thing.  I have spent my whole life running, but you gave me a reason to stop, to want to stay in one place.  You have been more of a father to me than my real father ever was.”

Moved beyond words Peter pulled Neal into a tight embrace.

“Happy Father’s Day, Peter.”


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 18th, 2013 09:18 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!

The Father's Day present was a very nice idea. Neal would think it's easier to express his feelings through painting. Heeeeee, and the "proud parent of an ex-con" part made me laugh.

I love how you ended the fic on a hug -- there can never be enough Neal & Peter hugs! :)
May. 7th, 2015 08:29 pm (UTC)
I love how Neal painted them into the picture.. The story is a nice tribute to their relationship.
May. 8th, 2015 02:09 am (UTC)
Warm and fuzzy. I loved it.
Neal chose the perfect gift for Peter.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )