A/N - Well, it's finally here. Ah, the pressure is on. *nervous chuckle* :p Hope you guys enjoy it!

Peter had been descending that very stair case for years. Every day when he left for work, every day after work, and countless times in between. And yet, he could swear he never accomplished such a feat in his life.

El had a hand pressed to his back urging him to continue his necessary descent. After all, there was truly nothing to worry about. It's not like this next encounter would alter any of their lives forever. No, nothing like that at all.

The push to his back proved helpful and they finished the reluctant decline in a matter of moments. Once they entered the living room, Peter was the one to shake the kid awake.

"Peter?" Neal startled, eyes blinking rapidly. "Did I just fall asleep in the middle of the day?"

"Yep. And with the TV on." Peter gestured to the re-run Yankees game projected on the screen. ESPN sure knew how to reel you in. The agent could already feel his attention slipping.

"Oh. Well, that explains it."

Peter just smirked at the kid before settling down next to him, any semblance of concentration lost. He watched mindlessly for about a minute or so before he felt an arm nudge him slightly.

"Hey, Peter?" Neal's voice was cautious as he pointed to the glaring woman standing beside him, an unreadable expression on her face.

"Oh, shoot."

The once high strung, unbearably anxious, 'unable to walk down a flight of stairs', Peter, had almost entirely forgotten about he and his wife's initial plan.

It was easy to do so, really. After all, it all felt far too - normal. Sitting on the couch with Neal while he tuned out some game Peter had seen countless times before. It was far too normal to be so radically disturbed.

"I feel like I'm missing something." Neal interjected, staring curiously at the couple.

"No, sweetie." El's response was quick as she moved to sit down in a chair across from them. "You just - you know how I hate it when he gets glued to that thing."

"True." Neal fixed his questioning eyes on the silent, almost wary, couple. Either he didn't know these people at all or something was definitely up.

"So, how're you feeling?" Neal turned to the agent then, choosing to put a halt to the couples' never-ending staring contest. "Don't see any band-aids on you. That a good sign, right?"

"Oh. Yeah." Peter answered without delay, resisting the urge to shake his head at their novice mistake. He could have at least used a band-aid or two. That might have justified the extent of time they'd spent up there.

Then again, who knows how long Neal had been asleep for? He might have no concept of how long they had been upstairs. Upstairs talking. Talking about what they had to discuss right now.

Peter swallowed roughly, looking over to his wife for assistance. More than anything, he just wanted to tell Neal and get all of this over with already. All he needed was Neal to accept their ludicrous offer and allow his stomach to un-knot itself.

All he craved was a few minutes of peace.

Can't a guy just sit with his family for five minutes, in peace?

Family? Yeah, the sooner they did this the better. The stress was clearly getting to his head.

"Yeah, um, I'm fine." Peter added, hoping to expel the inquisitive stare on Neal's face. "We just - El and I, we need to talk to you about something." Peter reached for the remote then, switching off the TV. "Got a few minutes?"

"Uh, yeah. Sure." Neal turned to El then, hoping her reflection would give off more than the Agent's vague one had. But it didn't. And he remained hopelessly in the dark. "What's up?"

"Oh, Neal." El sighed then as she stared at the boy, a thoughtful gleam to her eye. Peter knew what she was thinking about. He could only hope that she'd stick to the plan and keep her thoughts and her squishes and whatever the heck else, safe within her mind. At least for the time being.

"Well, for a while now, Neal. A couple of months before I even met you, Peter and I had been discussing something. Something - really important to us."

Neal only nodded, not trusting himself to speak at the moment. He was almost certain that he secretly knew what this was about. Their prospective, adoptive child, of course. Yes, the child that wasn't him.

But what on Earth did the Burkes want to inform Neal of their plans for?

And Neal's heart dropped in a mixture of guilt and accompanying sadness as it registered.

"See, there are some details involved that we need to ask you about." El spoke slowly, her gaze meeting Peter's as her initial brave front diminished with every hesitant word. "Well, it's more of a question, really."

Neal felt both sets of eyes glued on him and yet he made no effort to move. He knew what they were after.

They needed him to leave. Not tomorrow. Not later today. But, now.

Maybe they were picking up the kid soon. Or, maybe they needed to get the house prepared or - well, whatever it was, he could bet it didn't involve the presence a mooching, con-man, teenager.

"Oh, um, okay. Shoot."

"Well," Peter sighed and El was relieved to see a foreign calmness to his expression. After all, the first step was always the hardest. And with that tortuous plunge taken, she was more than willing to hand over the reins. "It's just a little more complicated than that."

"Doubt things could possibly get more complicated." Neal feigned a laid-back smile, catching Peter's troubled gaze.

"Wanna put money on that?" Peter almost whispered and El cleared her throat loudly.

"Neal," She interjected and the teen found his gaze shift to hers once again.

He couldn't bear this little, playing dumb, game anymore. It was taking everything in his power not to simply blurt it out for them already. Anything to stop this brutal prolonging of the inevitable.

Neal we are going to have a normal family soon and we need you gone. Try not to let the door hit you on the way out.

No, they wouldn't do that.

Would they?

At this point, he would say anything just to save them all from this sure to be uncomfortable conversation and smile indifferently once he was through.

"We - we've been considering adoption." El spoke up suddenly, quickly capturing the full attention of both Neal and Peter. "For a while now."


And it was odd.

Neal didn't even have to feign his surprise at her statement. Hearing her say it out loud for the first time was surprise enough. "Wow, that - that's awesome, you guys. Really. I'm so happy for you."

And it was odd.

He didn't even have to feign his delighted smile either.

Whether this mystery child was going to snatch what was barely his or not, it didn't seem to matter anymore. At least, not right now. The smiles radiating off the couples' lit up faces matched his almost entirely and Neal could only feel joy for them. After all, they deserved nothing less.

Neither El nor Peter made an effort to say anything for a good moment or two. All they managed was to stare endlessly at him. Smiles still rightfully in place.

Neal took the opportunity to peek from the loving, nurturing and brilliant art-fanatic before him to the generous, witty and dependable without-fail agent beside him before looking down to his lap, despondently.

"Um," Neal cleared his throat, rescuing the couple from their borderline painful period of silence. "Not like it matters," He continued, trying to curve his distressing tone to one of a subtle, supportive nonchalance. "But, you guys are gonna make just the most incredible parents. I know that."

And El's breath hitched audibly.

"Hon, you okay?" Peter asked quickly, pretending as if he didn't understand what had just caused his wife's inopportune reaction.

Pretending as if he hadn't almost exhibited an identical response himself.

Pretending as if his eyes hadn't just opened to an almost dangerous extent.

Pretending as if the knots in his stomach hadn't just knotted themselves securely around more unrelenting, already knotted knots.

"Neal?" El asked after a moment, voice finally even and gentle smile still in place. "Remember when were hanging up that wonderful present you made me?"

Neal nodded, looking up from his lap to return her gaze with his own slightly perplexed one. Why on Earth was she bringing that up now?

"Remember how I mentioned that the kitchen had always been missing something?"

'This kitchen was always missing something.'

'Not anymore. Now, it's got everything it needs.'

"Um, yeah. I remember."

"Well, turns out, it was a lot more than just the kitchen that was missing something. You know what I mean?"

Yes, Burkes. You want a child. Your home was missing something and now it won't be. You don't need to be a genius to understand that.

But what Neal couldn't understand is why they were still harping on it. What were they really doing here? He didn't have the faintest, concrete idea. Yet, he pushed away the harassing feeling that they were just rubbing it in.

No, they would never do that.

Then, what was really going on?

"Yeah, I do. You meant that the whole house was missing something." Neal finished casually, hoping his small smile negated his slightly frustrated expression. "It needs a family. The, you know, the adoption."

Neal found it harder to say that last phrase than he had expected. He could only hope that the couple hadn't noticed his peculiar reluctance. "And you're going to have that now, right?"

"Well, that all depends." Neal could almost feel the familiar, brown eyes burning through the side of his head, insisting on his full attention. And Neal obliged, turning to meet the agent's patient stare.

Depends on what? How fast I can pack my stuff?

No, they wouldn't do that.

Would they?

"Depends on what?"

"Well, more like depends on who." El added, smiling as she shared a knowing look with her husband and Neal realized that he had just about enough of this. They were already going to break his heart without even knowing it, why couldn't they just stop messing with him already? What did they need from him? A letter of recommendation? Honestly.

"Okay." Neal attempted to keep his voice neutral, willing the pain to stay back where it belonged. In his heart. Just carelessly eating away. "Depends on who?"

"Well, on you. Of course." Peter smiled wider than he had in a very long time and Neal felt his heart stop entirely.


"You, kid."

Huh. There's that endearing moniker again. And Neal sincerely hoped that it was normal for him to have missed it.

"Me? Why me?"

"Neal," El interjected, her voice holding just the slightest bit of unease. Neal could not have sounded more shocked. He had to know what was going on by now. Didn't he? Unless he did. And it just wasn't what he wanted.

"We - we want you to stay with us. Here. You know," She paused momentarily, sharing a brief glance with her husband. "As a family."

Neal closed his eyes for a brief moment trying desperately to clear the fogginess of the jumbled reality around him. What on Earth did she just say?

His voice came out barley like a whisper and if the couple hadn't been sitting directly beside the kid, they never would have heard him. "A family? You - you want to adopt me?"

"Yeah," There was no hiding the tinge of anxiety from Peter's otherwise confident voice as he tried desperately to read Neal's indecipherable gaze. "We do."

"But remember, it all depends." El gave him a gentle smile and Neal knew that this was his cue. But how could it be? No, it certainly couldn't be. How can you speak when you don't necessarily recall how to? Well, it wasn't particularly easy, that was for sure.

"Neal, if you need some time to think about-"

"What?" Neal suddenly found his voice then, deciding to snap out of his dream-like trance in favor of confronting this somehow tangible dream before him.

"Time? No. No, I mean yes." He said hurriedly, the joy and shock competing in his heart promptly accumulating to unparallel amounts. "Yes. I mean, of course, yes."

"Oh, sweetie." El squealed, moving immediately to pull the startled kid into a tight hug.

Peter could only stare at them for a moment, feeling a rare, yet welcoming warmth locate his heart and settle there. He could finally relax again. He felt as if the most taxing of weights had just been lifted from his shoulders. And he could finally relax. With his - his family.

How could a concept so new fit like he's known it for ages?

"Neal." Peter smiled, clapping a hand on his shoulder and Neal grinned back, feeling an unwelcome sting behind his eyes. "What'd you think we were gonna ask you?"

"What? Oh, I don't know." Neal shook his head, only just registering how unbelievably caught off-guard he must appear. "Doesn't matter."

Peter nodded before sharing a glance with his wife whose eyes were gleaming just as bright as Neal's were.

"Guys?" Neal asked after a long moment, swiping at a runaway tear that threatened to rid him entirely of his virtually demolished machismo front.

Peter glanced from the boy's small, endearing smile to his unfortunate, albeit expected, furrowed brow before putting a hand up immediately.

"Neal, please don't ask why."

Neal's smile remained intact but his still-glossy eyes flickered with their usual mischief and Peter couldn't say he was even the slightest bit surprised.


"You know why."

Neal only stared at him expectedly. His questioning expression remaining mercilessly intact.

Peter let out an impatient sigh before he shrugged, his composure relaxed. "You know, there is a reason, actually." He replied smoothly. Two could play this kid's games. "I was just trying to test if some advice worked."

"What? What advice?" Neal looked to El for reassurance but she only shrugged, shaking her head at her clearly moronic husband. "Did it work?"

"Well, I'm not sure. Were you caught off guard?"

"I mean, yes." Neal stared quizzically at the agent, trying to figure out what he was missing here.

"Pretty unexpected, right?"

And Neal's mischievous smile was slowly replaced by a knowing one and he felt like shoving the agent off the couch. "Yeah."

"Hm. I guess it was some pretty sound advice then."

"Care to enlighten me, you two?" El chuckled, gaining their attention.

"You know, hon, some smart-alec teen once told me that you wouldn't try to catch someone off guard by doing something they'd expect."

El just raised an eye brow at him before rolling her eyes in fond exasperation. "Yay. I got someone else to help me put up with you now."

Neal smiled at her, still feeling his head spinning and the world around him hazed by a trancelike fog. "Lucky me." And not the slightest bit of sarcasm could be detected.

"I'm going to go get Satch." El stood up, elated grin having yet to budge. "We can all tell him the good news together."

But before she turned, she had to stare down at the boy for a long moment, her eyes fixed on his.

"By the way, sweetie. My husband often substitutes actual emotion for ill-timed, dysfunctional humor." She only rolled her eyes at Peter's child-like huff.

"That's not why."

Neal moved to peek from the life-saving agent with his complementary sense of humor, back to the affectionate woman with a smile of eternal reassurance, a thoughtful expression on his face.

Then, he thought about himself for a moment.

He recalled his trust issues and his intimacy issues and his letting people in issues and his depending on people issues and even his accepting affection issues - until suddenly, he didn't. Because he didn't have to. Because none of that mattered anymore.

"Yeah." Neal smiled, speaking a truth that not even the most skilled of con-men could pretend wasn't real. "I know."

A/N - Yay, they're one big happy family only.. 24 chapters later! Lol. Thanks so much for all of the continued support guys. You're all rad and I hope you enjoyed this chapter. xD

Ps. Apparently Fed-Ex can't ship cats named Moe. Something about 'protecting animal rights.' I know, its an abomination. Anyway, I'll call back later and complain, don't you worry.. :p Thanks for reading!