Peter got to the office early on Monday morning. Although the White Collar Crime Unit's case closure rate was definitely down since Neal was gone, it was still impressive and he had a stack of files he needed to sign off on from last week. It was 3 months since Neal left and Peter's strategy for coping with his loss had been to work harder than ever. Diana and Jones were not entirely enthusiastic about the increased work ethic, but they missed the former Criminal Consultant too and it was extremely satisfying to be solving so many white collar crimes. Peter sat at his desk, pinching the bridge of his nose, still not fully awake. He leant back in his chair, taking a swig of his coffee when he locked eyes onto the most beautiful women he had ever seen. She looked down at him, a soft smile playing on her lips. Elizabeth, the love of his life. He almost dropped his coffee cup in surprise. Her portrait hung directly opposite his desk. It was a perfect likeness of his darling wife, capturing exactly the instant before she would start laughing. He didn't need to look at the signature to know who had created this work of art. He knew how it must have pleased Neal no end to have been able to add his initials to the piece, unhidden this time. In the bottom right-hand corner was a back to front capital 'D' with a capital 'P' sharing the down-stroke.

Hughes strolled into Peter's office and followed his gaze to the portrait. "Well, well Peter," said his boss with a smile, "At last we have an original art work in our offices, and a Daniel Peterson at that!" He studied it carefully. "Why on earth he wasted his talent on forgeries I'll never know." Peter's phone rang and he noticed it was Elizabeth. He put her on speakerphone. "Hey hon, everything okay?" he asked. "Oh, everything is great!" she chirped back. "Guess who I am looking at as we speak?" she asked her husband. "Is it me, by any chance?" Peter asked. "How do you know?" Elizabeth exclaimed. "Because I am looking at you!" Peter replied. "So much for the security system at Burke Premiere Events." Elizabeth commented. "So much for the security system at the FBI!" Hughes added. "Oh, hello Reese." Elizabeth called out. "How do you like our boy's work?" she added. "It's exceptional." Hughes replied, "But then the subject matter is so beautiful to begin with, it would be hard not to end up with such a stunning piece!" "Oh, I love flattery, and so early in the day." Elizabeth cooed. Peter coughed, "I am still in the room you know." He said with mock hurt. Hughes and Elizabeth laughed. Reese's phone rang and he went back to his office to get it, "Well, speak of the devil!" Peter heard him say. This was going to be a good day.

They were all invited to June's for lunch at 1:00PM. Mozzie, Sally and Neal were back in town. The morning passed slowly as Peter worked his way through the case files he was signing off on. He was unable to focus for any length of time; his attention constantly wandered either to Elizabeth's portrait or to reminiscences of his escapades with Neal. In the end he gave up and left in order to buy June some flowers en route. Elizabeth would be at the florists to sort out orders for this week's events so he would meet up with her there and the two of them could go together to June's. The irony was not lost on Peter that it was the same florist where she had been headed the day this wild ride started. Although both Peter and Elizabeth were almost giddy with excitement at meeting up with Neal they had to contain themselves around the store owner, Matthew, for as far as he knew their friend had been killed just a few months earlier in the much publicized prison riot.

Once out of the store, they hugged each other and set off for June's sharing their cell phone pictures of the paintings Neal had secretly gifted them. Peter's portrait showed him looking down and laughing as though he had just shaken his head over some typical Neal transgression. Elizabeth loved it. She couldn't wait to thank Neal in person. They positively skipped up the steps to June's town house, unable to wait a moment longer to see their errant son. June opened the door, and greeted them warmly. "Come in, come in. It's so lovely to see you both again." Sally was sitting on a settee, sipping an aperitif, her legs curled under her. She waved and got up to join them in the foyer. "The boys are in Neal's old apartment." She said, answering their expectant glances around the room. "Mozzie still insists we go everywhere by car, so they took shifts driving through the night. They went up to shower and catch a nap before you all arrived. Let's go check on them." She headed up stairs with Elizabeth following behind. Peter presented the flowers to June and took off his coat before going up after them. As he entered Neal's room he saw Sally and Elizabeth standing by the bed, covering their mouths to stifle their giggles. He quietly crossed the room and joined them. There were Mozzie and Neal sound asleep on the bed. Mozzie was sitting against the headboard; his head tilted back, glasses askew and his mouth open, snoring loudly. His legs were bent up toward his chest and there was an open book propped against his knees. One hand lay across the book while the other was holding Neal's, who was sprawled beside him, with Bugsy, June's dog, at his feet. The little dog was resting its chin on Neal's ankle, where the tracking device used to be. Neal's head was turned away from Mozzie and his right thumb was stuck in his mouth. He couldn't have looked less like the old Neal. There was no trace of the suave con-artist. The Devore suit had been replaced by jeans and a short-sleeved button down shirt, which was un-tucked, showing his stomach as tanned as his face. His hair was longer and quite curly and the designer stubble was gone. He looked about four years old!

Peter let out a guffaw and Elizabeth pinched his arm, putting her fingers to her lips. "Shh!" she said, dragging him away. "Oh, I should get a picture of this for black-mail purposes! I can't wait to tease him about thumb-sucking." Peter laughed. "Don't you dare!" warned Sally. "When I told him he does it, he denied it and got quite angry! As for holding hands, Mozzie says he's done that since he first met him as a kid. It helps him fall asleep." Their whispers woke Mozzie and he let go of Neal's hand as he reached for his glasses. Quickly the three voyeurs speed tip-toed out of the room and headed back downstairs laughing. "What's the joke?" Hughes asked as they entered the sitting room. "We were just laughing at Mozzie snoring!" Peter lied as Elizabeth shot him a glare. He noticed that in addition to Hughes, Jones and Diana had also arrived, and were enjoying drinks in the sunlit room.

There were muffled noises from above as Mozzie and Neal moved about, and then they heard the door upstairs click as the two men descended the stairs to the sitting room. When they reached the bottom step, Mozzie stepped aside and addressed the group, carnival barker-style, "I present to you, the new, and improved, Daniel Peterson!" Elizabeth and June started laughing and applauding while Sally whistled loudly. The FBI gang were whooping and cheering. Neal obligingly gave them a twirl. He looked every bit the island boy, deep tan in contrast to his white shirt (now tucked in – the old Neal's dress code not entirely lost), faded blue jeans and bare feet. He even had a leather band on his left wrist where his stylish watch used to be. All he needed was a shell necklace!

"You look like cartoon!" Peter said, clapping along with the others. He remembered the first time Neal had swaggered down the stairs at June's, modeling the Rat Pack persona he had inhabited during his previous time with Peter. He had the same air of confidence, the same dynamic smile and dazzling blue eyes, but there was something else this time, something that had always been missing during the previous four years; this time he exuded an air of bliss. His happiness was completely infectious and he looked around the room, drawing them one by one, into his world of childish delight. Finally, Neal stood in front of Peter, arms outstretched with a huge grin on his face, "I missed you, Daddy!" he exclaimed, much to everyone's amusement. Rolling his eyes, Peter got up and gave Neal a bear hug. "I missed you too, son." He replied, kissing him on the cheek. Neal dropped his head onto Peter's shoulder as the older man patted him on the back of his neck. The group gave a collective, "Aaaaah!" before another round of raucous laughter broke out.

Mozzie started popping bottles of Veuve Clicquot and poured for Sally who passed around the Waterford crystal champagne flutes. Once they all had a glass in hand, Mozzie announced, "A toast! To our friends, nay… to our family!" Amidst the clinking of glasses, June announced that lunch was served and they all moved noisily into the dining room. Peter put his arm around Neal's shoulders as they walked in, "You really doing okay?" he asked, with genuine concern. "Peter, I can honestly say, I am fine!" Peter was relieved that he could not discern a hint of guile in Neal's expression. He smiled indulgently, saying "You deserve to be. I'm proud of you." He squeezed Neal's shoulder as he left him behind his chair and moved around the table to sit opposite. Peter pulled out Elizabeth's chair for her as she sat down beside him. "Our boy did well!" he exclaimed to her. "Of course," she answered, winking at Neal. "How could he do otherwise?" Neal raised his glass to her, winking back.

As they lifted the linen table napkins from their side plates, Elizabeth and Peter found a pair of airline tickets tucked beneath. "What's this?" Peter asked, fingering the envelope with the Caribbean Airlines crest at the top. "It seems that you are due a vacation, Suit." Mozzie chimed in. Elizabeth turned to Peter smiling, "Before you start, it's all been okayed; we have a week of R&R ahead of us." "You were in on this?" Peter gasped at his wife. "How could she not have let this slip out?" he wondered. He was definitely off his game. "Our beloved trio here will drive back, and we three shall fly out to meet them once they get to the islands." June said. Peter just shook his head in amusement. This was one Caffrey stunt that he didn't mind having pulled on him. "Business is doing well out there for our talented portrait artist! Thank you, Neal for this wonderful treat." June added, raising her glass to Neal, who gave her his Class A smile in return. Diana and Jones also had envelopes, only their tickets were for Paris, France. "Well, the H. Man thought he may as well close the Unit for the week so he could have some peace and quiet to go fishing. You couldn't all be in the same place, blowing my cover, so Europe it is for you two!" Neal said to them. Diana squealed excitedly and blew him a kiss while Jones reached across the table to shake Neal's hand.

"Given your obvious financial success, perhaps you won't need this after all." Hughes laughed, as he pulled a thick envelope out of his jacket pocket and passed it over to Neal. Neal tilted his head questioningly as he opened the envelope. He let out a slow whistle as he saw the stack of bills. "It's your first consulting fee, Mr. Peterson." Hughes said to him. "Cash, of course. I expect a full written report on how you managed to get in and out of the White Collar Crime Unit without detection, leave nothing out. By the way, I loved Elizabeth's portrait!"

Neal fixed his eyes on Peter and with sly smile asked, "So is your boss telling me, Agent Burke," he smirked, "that crime does pay?" Everyone broke out into laughter again as Peter threw his table napkin at Neal.


THE END

I hope you enjoyed my first fanfic. If so, please take the time to write a review. I did take previous comments on board and this turned out quite differently from my original plan. I am mulling over some ideas for my next story so do keep your feedback coming and I will (per Mozzie) take it under advisement!