Neal sits isolated in the conference room of the office, watching Peter’s frustrated pacing in front of him.
“Peter… it’s okay,” Neal attempts to reassure, flashing a half-hearted charming smile that Peter immediately scoffs at.
“No, Neal, it’s not,” Peter responds, blunt and to the point as usual. He sighs, running a hand over short hair and taking a seat across from Neal. “We haven’t proved or disproved your involvement with the Nazi treasure, but that does not give them the right to send you back to prison until we do.”
“Do you believe I did it?” Neal cannot help but ask, a little morbidly curious while waiting for the response.
Peter closes his eyes briefly before his brown eyes stare into Neal’s. “I’m not sure, Neal. I haven’t really given much thought to it, and I’ve been so angry at you with El and all.”
Neal nods, understanding Peter’s position completely. The man had been overwhelmed with fear and relief over his wife’s safety, and he had only started talking to Neal an hour ago when he received word from Hughes that the higher ups were sending Neal back to prison.
“I wouldn’t blame you if you did, everyone else seems to think so,” Neal provides, and it really was both heartbreaking and fascinating for him to see that everyone did believe or suspect he had something to do with it, from Mozzie to June to Sara to the FBI office. The reactions varied from Sara’s outright belief of his guilt to Mozzie and June’s skeptical disbelief that he would not be guilty.
“I want to believe that you didn’t,” Peter states finally, and Neal huffs a brief laugh, because it was so like Peter. So suspicious, yet so willing to believe that Neal was a good person. “But, right now, I’m not objective. I can’t be objective yet, not when this got so personal.”
“I understand,” Neal confirms, and he really did. Peter would not want to look at this with bias already formed one way or the other. “You should really go home, Peter. Get some rest; spend time with El and Satchmo. I’ll do alright in prison until you can look at the case.”
Peter glares at him, a bit half hearted, but with a hint of his own morbid amusement. “You and I both know that prison after being a CI would not be a good place for you.”
Neal shrugs. “Request isolation for me?”
Peter stares at him for another long moment, brown eyes both sharp and concerned before his whole frame slouches in resignation. “I’ll see what strings I can pull.”
Neal flashes his charming smile at Peter in thanks.
“Neal… were you involved?” Peter asks after a long moment, and Neal is slightly surprised that Peter would ask the question, knowing what he could feel and gain from a straight up answer. In this case, though, Neal could be sincere.
“Peter, I was in no way involved with the theft of the Nazi treasure,” Neal finally states, not putting on a front of any kind. Peter’s gaze stays on him for a long moment before he nods.
“Okay, hang in there until we can get you back out. I’ll come see you in a few weeks, unless I have something sooner,” Peter finally gives, willing to believe Neal. The smile on the man’s face at the statement reassures Peter that he is doing the right thing, giving Neal the benefit of the doubt.
“Thanks, Peter,” Neal responds. Peter swallows hard, nodding and making his way out of the conference room.
The ride back to prison is a bit uncomfortable, but Neal is surprisingly calm about the transfer. Prison was hardly the worst place he had been and knowing that one person believed him, that Peter believed him, made this process a whole lot more reassuring that it was just a temporary situation.
Entering the prison, his eyes narrow as he is not lead through the normal procedure, but into a conference room just inside the facility. He swallows as he feels his heart drop to his stomach once he sees the familiar face across the table. His cuffs are removed, and he is guided to the seat across from the woman.
“You’re going to be given two choices,” she states, getting straight to the point.
“I’m not going to like these choices, am I, General?” Neal cannot help but pipe.
“First choice is you stay in prison and in a few days time get placed in a courtyard with several criminals who do not particularly care for snitches,” she lists easily, raising a brow at him as if to press him to comment. When he does not, she continues. “The second choice is that you receive a trip back to the farm for a refresher course.”
“I like the first option,” he immediately states, causing a scowl to sour her face. He continues a little less sarcastically. “You cannot be serious about this. I died the last times I worked a mission for the CIA. I ended up needing months of physical therapy after being shot, twice mind you, and was just lucky enough to recover full mobility. And, I still flinch every time I see a gun! Why are you even considering taking me out of retirement?”
“Because you’re the best,” she replies simply, leaning forward. “You had your vacation with the FBI, but I highly doubt they will find something that will clear Neal Caffrey. Wouldn’t you rather the rest of your days not be in prison? To do something that makes a difference in the world?”
“I’ve done enough to deserve the prison sentence,” he states levelly, but he knows that the little piece of the child and teen he was is caving to her words. Because, before he was Neal Caffrey, before he was Bryce Larkin, he was Richard Grayson. Richard Grayson had only ever wanted to bring justice and make a difference. And, despite making sure that nobody in the world could connect the disappearance of Richard Grayson with Larkin or Caffrey, the general had managed to find the one trait in him that was the same through all three of his faces.
“You’ve saved more than enough lives to negate that sentence,” she counters easily.
Neal resigns himself, because no matter what, there was only one way this was going to end.
“Welcome back, Agent Larkin,” she states after his several moments of silence.
“Yes,” hisses Peter after a moment, eyes widening as he takes in the information. He glances over it several more times before he states louder, in celebration. “Yes, yes, yes!”
“Peter?” Elizabeth asks, rubbing her eyes as she takes in her husband’s form, standing over their kitchen table with glee. Peter swoops over to her, drawing her into a relieved embrace.
“Five weeks, El, I finally found it,” Peter breathes against her lips. Elizabeth’s lips tug into a smile.
“Found what?” she asks between his kisses, leaning into his embrace willingly.
“Neal’s innocent,” he finally breathes, brown eyes alight with excitement, with relief. Elizabeth’s own eyes widen, happiness filling them. Peter had been looking, the only one who believed Neal innocent in the investigation. “I’ve got to get to the office, start the process of getting him out of prison.”
El looks at the clock, stating an early 3:47. “Why don’t you get a shower and change first, honey? Neal is probably sleeping, so an extra hour won’t hurt.”
Peter blinks, looking over at the time before nodding in agreement. He was still wearing the same clothes from yesterday after all, and no doubt Neal would comment on his appearance if he showed up as he was now.
At just before nine, Peter provides the prison with the paperwork needed to release Neal back into FBI custody. The security guard looks up after a few moments at the computer before stating unsurely. “Ah, Agent Burke? There isn’t a record of Neal Caffrey currently in residence.”
“What?” Peter’s eyebrows narrowing. “What do you mean there isn’t a record of Neal Caffrey here?”
“Well, I mean, there is a transfer record last month, but he did not enter the prison past the conference room,” the security guard reads off the computer screen.
“Where was his transfer?” Peter asks, a moment of silence falling as the guard types away at his computer.
“It says that he was transferred into the custody of General Diane Beckham,” the guard reads off, the printer whirring as it begins to print off the request. “She is the National Security director.”
“The National Se-,” Peter cuts himself off, taking the papers the guard gives him and throwing a distracted thanks over his shoulder as he quickly leaves the prison, dialing the number for Hughes.
Later, Peter sits across from his boss in the conference room, both looking at the request and the information they had pulled as they wait for the video call set up. Finally, a stern looking woman dials in, a brow raised at them.
“What does the FBI need?” she inquires after the greetings.
“Ma’am, almost six weeks ago, the transfer of Neal Caffrey was authorized by you,” Peter starts, the woman’s nod cutting him off.
“Yes, after I saw the FBI removing a valuable asset, I made sure that he was released to the CIA,” she confirms easily, surprising them with the willingness with which she shared the information. “I am surprised the FBI is looking back into him after sending him back to prison.”
“We had to complete the investigation into his involvement with the stolen Nazi treasure,” Hughes immediately states. “Having a convicted criminal involved with an investigation that he was also a suspect in-“
“Yes, I’ve read the report on why he was returning to prison,” the general cuts him off, Hughes’ eyes narrowing at the abruptness of her. “I also know based on our intelligence that he had no involvement in the theft. We were not going to let an asset rot in prison.”
“You knew he was innocent and didn’t clear his name?” Peter questions, feeling a bit turned around and frustrated.
“Which name, Agent Burke?” she proposes back, causing both of them to be taken aback by her question. “Neal Caffrey is just another cover for him. I don’t need ‘Neal Caffrey’ or ‘Nick Halden’ or any of his other aliases; I just need the man behind the Caffrey. He can be an asset under any name.”
“Neal Caffrey had a life here,” Peter retorts in frustration.
General Beckham looks almost amused as she replies. “Neal Caffrey no longer exists, Agent Burke. He will not be returning to the FBI.”
The screen goes black, and both Hughes and Peter sit in silence for several moments.
“This isn’t ending here,” Peter finally breaks the silence, and looking at Hughes, he knows that his boss will back him on this – if only to get one over on the sour woman.
He tilts his head back, feeling the breeze through his hair and the sun shining on his face. He opens his eyes to take in the view of the water beside him, admiring the light reflecting upon the buildings from his spot outside the restaurant. He smiles at the waitress as she places his dessert in front of him, refilling his coffee.
It is the little moments he enjoys right now, the ones where all he worries about in life is watching the ocean and the people and enjoying the food and drink placed in front of him.
Until a plate is placed on the table across from him and a man takes a seat. He waits a moment, taking in the situation, before he directs his attention to the man that interrupts him. He swallows, his widening just slightly at the man’s gaze, which is staring at him with a seriousness that goes far beyond an enemy or ally catching up with him.
“It is you,” the man breathes, green eyes staring into his own blue. “I’d recognize those eyes anywhere.”
“Pardon?” he questions in response, trying to regain his composure. The man across from him snorts at the response.
“Do you really want to play this game?” the man questions, and thinking about it for a moment, he decides he really does not. He has had too many years being thrown around, directed where he is best utilized, and not enough years gaining a connection to people. He is not a willing asset this time around, only a reluctant one.
“Not really,” he finally admits after a moment, placing his mug of coffee down on the table and giving the man a genuine smile, all charm and familiar affection. “It is really good to see you, Wally.”
The redhead softens at the admittance, relaxing into his seat. “I’ve missed you, Dick.”
Neal hums at the familiar name, so long since he has heard it. They stare at each other for several long moments, taking in the changes that the years that passed had brought. Last time they saw each other, they were still teenagers after all.
“Gosh, that’s so unfair,” Wally finally states, waving a hand up and down him. “You’re unrealistically attractive, like unfairly so.”
Neal cannot help but laugh at the statement, giddiness at the interaction filling him in a way that only Wally could. “You haven’t grown up so bad yourself, West.”
“Yeah, but I’m like a normal handsome,” waves off Wally easily, and Neal thinks that it is nice to see Wally as a man. There is a confidence that Wally had gained past the awkwardness of teenage youth.
“What brings you to Greece?” Neal asks after a moment, turning half his attention to the view of the sun starting to set over the ocean. Both have a touch of a smile on their faces that will not seem to go away at the sight of each other.
“Late night snack?” Wally offers, glancing briefly at his plate of baklava. Neal grins, taking a bite of his own dessert. “I’m surprised to see you here.”
“I guess my feet carried me here without meaning to,” Neal states easily, and it was partly true. He is so tired of having to curb his likes and dislikes for which name he bears. He just wants to bask in something familiar, in this case baklava. As a child, it was a favorite of his, something that his parents and he had every time they performed in Greece. As a teen, after he admitted it to Wally why his favorite dessert was baklava, they would sneak away every time one of them needed comfort to this small café along the coast of Greece. Neal cannot help but easily admit to the other. “I guess I needed comfort.”
“I always come here for comfort,” Wally states, making Neal smile at the other before his face falls slightly when Wally tacks on. “Or, when I’m missing you.”
“Wally,” Neal breathes, unsure how to respond. He hesitates, and Wally picks up on the conversation easily.
“You know, we all thought you were dead. I mean we held out hope that maybe you just wanted to go to college without the fame, why you pretty much deleted yourself from everything – paperwork, databases, surveillance,” Wally lists, staring at him both in a bit of residual anger that was overwhelmed by a whole lot of relief. “After a few years, when you turned eighteen, I guess we all kind of gave out hope. You hadn’t contacted us, and we assumed maybe something went wrong. That you couldn’t contact us.”
“I… I don’t regret leaving, Wally,” Neal finally states, knowing that an apology is not what either of them really needed right now.
“I figured,” Wally acknowledges after a moment. “Will you disappear on me again?”
“Are you going to mention that you’ve seen me to anyone else?” Neal inquires, and that really did matter for his response.
“If that means you’ll disappear on me again, I won’t say anything. I can be a bit selfish,” Wally responds easily, and Neal relaxes a bit into his seat.
“Wally… it isn’t that I don’t miss them,” Neal states, feeling he has to reassure the other. “But, if they have already mourned me, I would rather not put them through this twice. There is a good chance that I could die suddenly.”
“That’s with all of us, Dick,” Wally quirks his brow at the statement, reminding Neal of the fact that most of his family and friends were vigilantes of some sort.
“I know, but being a ghost suits me,” Neal finishes lamely, looking pleadingly at Wally to just drop the subject. Even with all the years that passed, it was so easy to fall into the familiarity of each other. Wally snorts a laugh, letting the subject drop for now. Neal grins. “So, you’re a teacher?”
Neal had refrained from looking too much into the people from his past, but he did keep tabs on everyone occasionally – to make sure he knew if anything important came up - like how Wally became a teacher and how Wally had long since retired from his hero days. The look Wally gives him lets him know that Wally knows exactly what he has been doing.
“High school chemistry,” admits Wally easily, looking a bit exasperated by life. “I almost went into forensics, but I needed something more fulfilling than being by myself all day.”
“Understandable,” nods Neal, finishing his last bit of baklava and picking up his coffee mug to warm his hands.
“I dated Artemis for awhile, almost proposed to her,” Wally highlights, Neal feels a little surprised by that.
“Almost?” he questions, curiously.
“Yeah. We had a good romantic relationship, but we were sexually incompatible,” the redhead freely admits, Neal choking a little on his coffee.
“Dude!” Neal accuses, seeing Wally’s nonchalant attitude and amused eyes at the involuntary reaction and phrase. The man had meant for him to react. Wally quirks an eyebrow at him in challenge, and Neal rolls his eyes. “I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years. I’ve not been close to married, but I’ve fallen in and out of love a few times. I don’t really think my life could handle a marriage, not with someone who couldn’t understand.”
“Neither could mine… I always admired Uncle Barry and Aunt Iris for making theirs work,” Wally states, and Neal nods in agreement. The Allens were one of the few stable relationships he had seen in his life. Wally leans forward a little. “You know, I always regretted not being able to date you.”
“What?” Neal feels a little tossed around at that, swallowing hard.
“Yeah, I dunno when it happened, but one day I was sitting there and the thought crossed my mind,” Wally looks a bit relieved to be stating it, as if he thought he would never get the chance. “You were always my best friend, Dick, and I always loved you. What form that love took given the chance…”
“Wally,” Neal is once again at a loss for words. He leans back in his chair, running a hand through his hair and breathing out a sigh. “Did you have a list somewhere of subjects to bring up if you ever saw me again?”
“Yep,” Wally pops easily. Neal laughs quietly, it was the only reason he could think of that Wally would be so calm about this, why he was bringing up these topics in this order. The redhead had years to overthink and compile a list and theorize outcomes, as a scientist it was in his nature.
Neal smiles fondly at Wally before standing, watching the redhead’s expression slacken in surprise at the response. They had both changed over the years. Wally stands abruptly, almost knocking over his seat. The redhead curses slightly under his breath, straightening the chair as Neal leaves money on the table, and he follows after Neal as the man begins to walk away.
“Wait, where- we aren’t finished,” Wally denies the end of the conversation. Neal pauses, turning to face Wally and observing the redhead with an amused tilt to his lips.
After a moment, Neal thinks that he can deal with the consequences later. He has spent too many years of his life only thinking of the consequences and not living. He leans forward and presses his lips to Wally’s. He brings his hands up; threading one through windswept hair to keep the redhead’s lips to him and the other cupping his jaw, thumb stroking over a freckled cheekbone. Wally is only still a moment, his own hands resting on Neal’s hip and lower back respectively, lips responding. It stays chaste for a moment, movement over warm lips to find the right angle. Wally is the one who escalates, a nip of teeth to his lower lip and a swipe of tongue.
Standing there, kissing his childhood best friend and first crush, Neal is reminded that he too regretted not having a chance with Wally. Especially since it is now reinforcing the chemistry he had known they would have, the connection that came from someone knowing who you are that he had never achieved with the lies that littered his relationships with Sarah and Kate, and even Chuck to an extent.
He pulls his lips away a bit reluctantly, just moving a breath away to speak with his mouth brushing over Wally’s, their eyes linked to one another’s. “Would you regret it if you came back with me to my hotel?”
Wally only pauses a moment, his eyes widening in surprise momentarily.
“Lead the way.”
Later on, Neal stares at the sleeping face of the redhead, contemplating what he should have done before he slept with the other.
“You’re thinking too loud,” Wally’s voice is rough as he opens his green eyes, Neal huffing a small laugh at the complaint. He presses another kiss to the redhead’s lips, lingering briefly before pulling back. Wally’s palm is flat against his chest, stroking over the prominent scars as Neal moves to lie on his back. Wally rolls over to straddle his thighs, hovering above him and tracing over the scars of his torso. “You weren’t kidding when you said you could die suddenly.”
“Mm, those ones I was legally dead for,” hums Neal in response. He had several bullet holes on his torso, but the last two were the most prominent. He had been cut open to repair internal damage, causing a long, jagged scar on both his sternum and side. Wally’s fingertips brush across it, eyes darkening.
“What the hell have you been up to, Dick?” Wally finally asks, but it is more rhetorically than in actual need of an answer. They both know that is not a conversation they would be having today. Wally gives him an understanding smile. “So, is this the part where we say goodbye?”
“Depends,” Neal states after a long moment, tilting his head to allow Wally’s lips better access to his neck. “Do you have anywhere you have to be today?”
“Depends,” mimics Wally, pulling away slightly so they are looking at each other. “What do you have in mind?”
Neal’s grin turns a tad wicked, catching Wally just off guard just enough to reverse their positions, Neal grinning down at the speedster fondly. “Well, first, I thought I would start slow and thorough on top of you, take my time to… ride out our pleasure.” Dick’s hand trails down Wally’s torso, teasing over the ridges of muscle. “Next, I thought we could order room service and watch the sun rise.”
“And, then?” asks Wally as Neal’s mouth begins to follow the path his hand took. His breathless tone causes Neal to grin.
“Well, there is a spectacular shower in that bathroom that needs a trial run. I have no doubt you could hold me against the wall, pinning me exactly how you want me,” Neal continues, fingers finally wrapping around Wally and causing a low moan to echo through the room. “And, after that, we could picnic at the beach before coming back here to see whether last night’s talk on vibrations was actually true or all talk.”
“It is so very true, babe,” Wally confirms, watching as Neal’s mouth lowers on him briefly before pulling back – those blue, blue eyes staring up at him.
“Then, we will break for dinner before, finally, we will end the night right back here,” Neal says, tongue tracing over Wally briefly. “That’s when you’ll make sure that I will be feeling you for days afterwards.” Neal moves up, their bodies sliding against each other, until Neal’s lips are brushing Wally’s as he repeats. “So… do you have anywhere you have to be today?”
“Right here with you,” Wally responds easily, drawing Neal’s lips to his. Neal smiles against the redhead’s lips before pulling back.
“Do you want to call off work first?”
Wally scowls at Neal avoiding his lips before sighing. “Fine. Way to ruin the mood, you troll.”
Neal’s fingers skate downwards again, wrapping around Wally. “It doesn’t feel ruined.”
Wally curses under his breath, scowling as he sits up to reach for his phone. Neal stares at him, faux innocently, as he discards the sheet still covering their lower halves. Wally sharply inhales at the sight, propped against the headboard as Neal moves his way back down.
“Aren’t you supposed to be dialing, Wally?” asks Neal, pressing his lips back to him.
Wally curses again.
He leaves a very brief message.
Wally wakes up alone the next morning to a note scribbled on a piece of paper.
I’ll text you. ;)
The redhead expects it, and it takes two weeks before he receives a message from an unknown number.
You’re mission, should you choose to accept it…
Wally laughs and meets him in Spain.
Three months since the start of their liaison, Wally meets Neal in a hotel room in Las Vegas.
“Dude, you look like shit,” Wally bluntly declares as he closes the hotel room door behind him. Neal gives him a smile that is more of a grimace. There are lines of stress on his face and dark circles around his eyes.
“Thanks, Walls,” Neal’s response is only half sarcastic as he moves back over to the bed, flopping down on it and throwing an arm across his eyes. “I only texted you ‘cause you made me promise to next time I had time off. I’m really not feeling up for anything strenuous today.”
Wally huffs a laugh, sitting beside Neal on the bed and pressing soft kisses to the younger man before pulling back to look at him. Neal’s gaze is focused on him. “Well, lucky for you, babe, I am not only with you for your sexy body.”
Neal rolls his eyes. “Lucky me.”
Despite trying to make his tone sarcastic, Neal’s voice is more sincere than anything, gaining a fond smile from the redhead.
“Why don’t you take a nap? I’ll borrow your key card and go pick up a few supplies and dinner. Sound good?” Wally states more than asks between soft kisses. Neal hums in response, response time slowing until Wally pulls back to see Neal asleep with a smile.
The younger man wakes up a couple hours later to the smell of something he had not had in years. He sits up slowly, looking at the coffee table in front of the sofa piled with take out and video games, Wally hooking up the console to the television.
“Is that Mama Rosie’s?” Neal’s mouth is salivating, taking in the containers with undisguised lust. “You went to Gotham to get me food?”
“Well, I know how much you love-,” starts Wally before getting cut off with an absolutely filthy kiss that moves into something slower, more passionate. When Neal pulls back, Wally’s face is flushed and eyes a bit dazed.
“You are absolutely perfect, Wallace West,” Neal declares, punctuating his statement with one last chaste kiss before moving to the food containers and practically inhaling his first few bites with noises of pleasure.
“Eating food should not sound that sexual,” Wally states idly as he sits next to Neal on the floor and pulls a container to him.
Neal snorts a laugh. “I haven’t had this since I was sixteen. And, to be fair, this is better than some of the sex I’ve had.”
Wally takes a thoughtful bite of the food before he laughs regretfully. “You know what, I have to agree.”
After Neal thoroughly assists Wally in putting a dent in the large amount of food, he gives a groan, leaning back against the sofa. “I ate too much… I regret nothing.”
“I probably shouldn’t mention that I also brought dessert for later?” Wally asks in between bites, pointing to the table by the door behind them. Neal’s eyes widen when he sees the pastry box, looking back at Wally with adoring eyes.
“You’re perfect,” Neal repeats, Wally grinning at the other as he finishes up and begins to start the console. Neal hesitates. “Wally, I have to admit to something.”
Wally looks over at the younger male, feeling his heart drop at the serious look upon his face. “What is it?”
“I haven’t picked up a video game in over eight years,” Neal finally admits, Wally’s frame deflating in relief. The redhead throws a pillow at the laughing brunette, glowering.
“You troll,” Wally declares, flopping beside Neal on the sofa and passing a controller. The mock anger only lasts for a moment before Wally looks over in glee. “That means I have a once in a lifetime opportunity to utterly kick your ass.”
“In your dreams, West. I may be out of practice, but I doubt you’ve improved that much,” Neal states with a roll of his eyes.
“Wanna bet on that, Grayson?”
After late night and playing games well into the morning, Neal wakes in the late afternoon lying against Wally, the redhead’s fingers combing through his hair as Wally watches the television quietly. He yawns, not bothering to move away.
“I’ve killed a lot of people,” Neal states, Wally’s fingers pausing in his hair before resuming.
“Why?” Wally asks after a long moment.
“Because I was young and naive and believed better of our government,” he finally breathes out, wrapping his arm around Wally’s waist and trying to move closer despite the fact they were already pressed tight together. “When I left, I made a new identity and ended up getting recruited by the CIA…”
Neal highlights his life as a ghost as the sunsets beyond the horizon, finishing on explaining just who Neal Caffrey was and how much Neal missed being him.
“What’s stopping you?” Wally asks once Neal pauses. Neal looks up at the green eyes staring down at him. “I mean, you left being you. Why can’t you get rid of CIA you and be Neal?”
“I could have, I mean, Peter cleared the name months ago,” Neal swallows, before finally answering honestly. “But, you aren’t a part of Neal Caffrey’s life, and I don’t want to be- no, I can’t be Richard Grayson again. Not now at least.”
“So, make me a part of Neal’s life,” Wally says easily, smiling at him. “Dick, I would go to New York every night to be with you if you wanted. I would move there if you say the word. You aren’t losing me again. And, I won’t be giving you up.”
Neal stays silent, relaxing against the other for several moments before a fleeting idea pops into his head. And, they were in the perfect city for it.
“Will you marry me?”
Wally shifts, moving so they are lying beside each other instead of propped up. They stare into each other’s eyes for several long minutes.
“You sure?” Wally finally asks, as if to make sure it is not an impromptu question stemming from the serious conversation.
Neal hums, smiling. “Absolutely.”
“Now?” Wally continues, his own smile spreading across his face.
“Yep, right now,” confirms Neal, before pausing a moment and continuing. “I love you, I hope you know that.”
“I love you, too,” Wally responds, that soft look coming across his face at the words.
“This isn’t a spur of the moment decision,” Neal rushes to reassure. He is a romantic at heart, and this is something he had been longing for since he was a kid - to have that relationship like his parents had. “I’ve been wanting to ask for weeks now, but I didn’t want to without explaining-“
“Dick… Neal,” Wally cuts him off. “I understand. Now, let’s go get married, babe.”
“What the-,” Peter starts at the knocking on the back door, reaching across to the chair to grab his gun from where it is draped over his suit jacket.
“Figures the one time you are home for dinner,” El states with the expected air of a law enforcement spouse. Peter shoots her an amused glance as he steps through to the kitchen, opening the door to light flooding across a very familiar figure clutching a bleeding bicep. Peter lowers his gun.
“Neal?” Peter’s tone is surprised, and Neal grins sheepishly at the man.
“Do you mind if I borrow your first aide kit?”
After Peter retrieves the kit, he watches guides Neal to sit at the table, discarding his suit jacket and singlet to be left in a t-shirt that he rolls up to his shoulder to reveal a steadily bleeding knife wound.
“Oh, no, I’ve got this, El, thanks. I was a bit careless on the way here,” Neal throws her a charming smile. El eyes him for a moment before conceding, sitting down across from him and moving her plate over to Satchmo. The dog only takes a moment to hop onto the open chair to clear away the remaining dinner. Peter huffs, pushing his own plate across the table.
“So, seven months, Neal?” Peter finally clears his throat, watching as Neal threads a needle and begins closing the wound with familiarity that Peter wishes he did not see. It means Neal has been hurt enough that he is experienced with stitching himself up.
“Ah, well, I needed to get rid of a few identities, you know? Make myself less appealing to the CIA,” Neal explains after a moment, deft fingers tying off the stitching and applying gauze and tape over the wound.
“And, how did that whole thing come about?” Peter interrogates, getting jabbed by El’s elbow. “What? I thought that was a perfectly reasonable question.”
“He’s right,” confirms Neal, tidying up the first aide kit. “You both have a right to an explanation.”
“Really?” Peter looks dumbfounded by the sentence coming from Neal, the promise of truth that he normally had to pull teeth to get.
“I’m sure you have already guessed some of it,” to which Peter nods in confirmation.
“At some point before your deal with the FBI, you worked for or with the CIA,” Peter states, it being the only thing that makes sense. He had had several months to figure out and accept the realization that Neal had been more than a conman.
“For,” confirms Neal, leaning back in his chair and giving them his full attention. “I was barely sixteen when I was recruited.”
“Sixteen?” repeats El back, looking a little bit devastated by the thought.
Peter scowls. “You were just a kid.”
“Yeah,” agrees Neal easily. “I was young and naïve, and they preyed on my need to make a difference. It had not really hit me that there was a darker side to the government – that I would be forced to take lives to save them -, and I realized pretty quickly what I got myself into. Unfortunately, by then I was already too tangled in their web.” Neal pauses briefly, choosing his words. “Neal Caffrey and his aliases were a government created identity, one that granted me the connections to the less than legal aspects of things – counterfeiting, forging, crossing borders. It was an identity I nurtured and cultivated, because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to depend on the government at some point in time.”
“What do you mean?” El asks at the statement, Peter being the one who answered.
“If an op went bad, the government would abandon the situation to avoid international incident,” Peter states, Neal nodding.
“Yeah. It isn’t something you want to think about in the field. It was probably our worst fear, to be stuck in a country with no name, no resources, and no help,” Neal admits, swallowing as he feels a flash of remnants of that fear. “Neal was always going to be my backup plan.”
“So, what happened that made you take up being Neal fulltime?” Peter asks, reading between the lines easily.
“I had a series of ops that went… well, badly is an understatement. Perhaps, FUBAR would be the right term?” Neal shakes his head with a morbid chuckle. “Anyways, it was twice in too little time that I was recovering from a GSW that should have killed me. I went to gather my effects when I was discharged from the hospital, and I realized I did not want to pick up that gun again… So, I just checked myself into prison to recover. Being a non-violent felon with a passion for life seemed like a good way to rehabilitate myself.”
They all see the irony of the statement, if the amused smiles touching upon their lips are any indication.
“It was more than that, though,” Neal continues hesitantly after a moment, looking at them both with apologetic eyes. “Neal was someone I wanted to be and who I want to continue to be… it was not just another identity to me.”
“We are more than okay with that,” El states, eyes warm as she reaches across the table and rests her hand briefly on top of Neal’s. Neal’s eyes flicker to Peter, who nods in agreement.
Peter clears his throat, disrupting the moment. “I thought that sour general got rid of Neal Caffrey.”
Neal huffs a laugh in amusement. “General Beckham was just saying that to deter you from looking further – a bluff, really. She knows that she won’t be deleting anything I don’t want her to.” Peter quirks a brow, and Neal continues with a smirk. “I was originally recruited to the CIA for my technology skills, until they quickly saw my potential as a field operative… there isn’t much information out there I don’t have access to.”
Peter groans at the revelation. “That explains so much.”
El laughs at the byplay, her sincere gaze pausing on Neal. “We’re so glad you’re back, Neal.”
Neal swallows at the genuine moment, unsure how to react before simply stating. “Thanks, El.”
Peter again breaks the moment with the question they were both contemplating. “So, what do you plan on doing now?”
“Well, ideally, retiring in New York and continuing to consult with the FBI. I was planning to visit June after this, see if she is still willing to let me rent off her,” Neal lists, going through his mental checklist.
“She will. She’s kept your place the same as you left it,” confirms Peter, standing from his seat. “Want a ride over there? We can plan on what to present to Hughes on the way.”
Neal nods, standing and turning to El. “Sorry for interrupting dinner, El.”
“It’s not a problem, Neal,” El states, moving to hug him gently. “You’re always welcome.”
“A fed,” comes an accusing voice in the darkness, Neal flicking on his light to see Mozzie sitting on his couch with his arms crossed over his chest.
“Might as well get yourselves comfortable,” Neal gestures June in as well, the woman giving him a smile as she joins Mozzie in the living area, taking the arm chair.
Neal drops his bag on the floor, moving over to the cabinets and withdrawing a wine bottle and three glasses. He flops onto the sofa to sit between June and Mozzie, pouring glasses before Mozzie erupts.
“And, not just a fed, a spook!”
“Peter been keeping you up to date, than?” asks Neal curiously instead.
“He wanted to see if Mozzie or I knew anything,” June interjects calmly, looking just as expectant as Mozzie – if a bit more regal.
“Okay, yes, at one point I was employed by the CIA,” Neal admits easily, holding up a hand to stave Mozzie off. “But, I had already faked my identify before that, so perhaps I was a criminal undercover in the government before?”
“Huh, now that’s an interesting thought,” Mozzie pauses, face falling thoughtfully. “Are you straight?”
“I mean, I’m not going out of my way to do anything to put me back in prison, but I’m also not going to turn anyone in who is not already on the FBI radar,” Neal states carefully, looking pointedly at the both of them as they subtly relax at the statement. He continues a bit more directly. “Look, none of our… less than legal activities have physical or irreparably harmed anyone. Just… keep me on the edge of the loop unless you need me. I’ll always help if you need it.”
“Well, this doesn’t mean you’re forgiven, spook,” Mozzie states pointedly.
“Neal,” corrects Neal at the title.
“Still?” June asks curiously. “You won’t be picking up your real name?”
“I’ve never worked under my real name, and I don’t plan on it. It’s my failsafe retirement plan,” explains Neal easily, not at all worried by the question. “I prefer Neal anyways.”
“Spook until forgiven,” Mozzie declares, getting a groan from Neal.
“Okay, what do I have to do to earn forgiveness?” Neal finally prompts them, getting matching mischievous grins in response.
“June and I have had many weeks to think over the steps to forgiveness,” Mozzie starts, pulling out a familiar set of several DVDs. Neal groans at the sheer awfulness. “To start, we will be binge watching our favorite cult classic.”
Neal waits twenty minutes to confess.
“So, in spirit of getting to know each other again, I should probably admit that I don’t usually mind awful movies.”
After an evening catching up with June and Mozzie, Neal slides into Peter’s car early the next morning to meet with Hughes before anyone gets in the office. The sun is only just starting to rise.
“No suit?” Peter states, looking surprised at the faux conman. Neal’s outfit is casual by his standards: dark wash jeans, an un-tucked black button up, and combat boots with a leather jacket he is just slipping on to combat the cold.
“We’re in a new era of honesty, Peter,” Neal drawls out with a hint of a smile playing at the corner of his lips. “And, to start that honesty, I have to admit that though I wear a suit damn well, it was never the uniform I wanted in life.”
“Really?” Peter is honestly surprised by that. “I always thought that as your signature. You seemed comfortable. More comfortable than me, at any rate.”
“I am comfortable in them, Peter,” Neal confirms, thoughtful for a moment. “I spent a lot of years in a suit, from a school uniform to formal events. Suits became normal. But… as a kid, suits were not a thing. I expected to grow up, follow in my family’s footsteps. Suits were a straight jacket then. You couldn’t work in a suit.”
Peter stays silent for a moment as they drive, finally asking. “In this era of honesty, do I get a name?”
“My given name?” Neal clarifies, though there is really no need as emphasized by the sidelong un-amused glare Peter shot him. “If you swear that this goes no further than this car, I’ll give you a first name.”
“Swear to god,” promises Peter, a smile touching upon his lips.
“Richard,” Neal states after a moment before continuing. “And, that ends here. I went to a lot of trouble to make sure that not even the CIA could find out what my given name is.”
“Wait, the CIA doesn’t know?” Peter’s eyes are wide at that, surprised at the revelation.
“I deleted myself when I was sixteen. Any connections between my identity before then and my new identity were destroyed,” Neal confirms, Peter whistling impressed.
Peter glances at him from the corner of his eyes. “I can’t see you as a Richard.”
“Well, I prefer Neal,” Neal huffs a laugh, rolling his eyes. “Though, to be honest, everyone shortened it to Dick.”
After a moment of silence, Peter cannot help to say. “Now, that I can see.”
“So, are we calling you by your real name now? I mean, it’ll be weird, but I think I could transition to Bryce,” Diana asks teasingly, leaning on Neal’s desk.
“Well, if we are going by real name’s, it wouldn’t be Bryce,” Neal grins, leaning back in his seat and crossing his arms.
“Wait, your name isn’t Bryce either?” Diana’s face falls at the revelation.
“Of course not, and I prefer Neal,” the man states easily, watching as Diana swears under her breath and pulls out a twenty dollar bill. Clinton grins as he takes it from her and pockets it.
“Thanks for paying for my lunch,” sincerely states Clinton, leaning against the other side of Neal’s desk. “So, what is your real name?”
“What? Don’t have a betting pool for that, too?” Neal asks curiously, Clinton and Diana looking affronted at the question.
“So, who was Bryce Larkin then?” Diana continues with curiosity.
“Oh, well the name is mostly real,” admits Neal, getting Peter’s and Clint’s attention. “I met a woman named Ellen who took me in for a little bit. She helped with the name.”
“Uh, oh,” murmurs Neal from where he sits beside Peter, having pulled a chair around the desk so they both could look at the files on the computer.
“That is not a good sound,” Peter immediately states, looking away from his computer and following his line of sight. “But, accurate. You going to talk to her?”
“Nothing’s changed, Peter,” Neal immediately states, still looking at the redheaded insurance investigator.
“Well, all of law enforcement now knows you used to be CIA,” Peter drawls with amusement, leaning back in his seat and leveling a stare at the younger man.
“Okay, things have changed, but not with us,” Neal rolls his eyes at the man, gaining a smile.
“Looks like you aren’t going to get a choice,” Peter nods, watching Sara talk to Diana, who gestures up the steps towards his office. “You need me to refill our coffees?”
“Don’t take longer than five minutes,” pleads Neal, looking up with wide eyes at the man. Peter snorts a laugh, standing and clapping Neal on the shoulder in solidarity before picking up their empty mugs to refill in the break room.
“Sara,” greets Peter as he passes, letting the door shut behind the redhead.
“Hi, Bryce,” she greets, now in the closed space with the man. Neal watches her as she watches him, taking in the more casual clothes he wears that are so different from the suits he previously donned.
“Sara,” greets Neal, not standing to greet her or offering a seat. “I prefer Neal.”
“Oh,” Sara breathes, eyebrows furrowing. “Why would you, I mean, Neal is still a criminal?”
“What are you here for, Sara?” sighs Neal, not answering the question.
“I thought we could give it another try, since everything is now-,” Sara finally starts, voice steady only to have Neal cut her off.
“Nothing has changed, Sara,” Neal quirks a brow at her. “The only difference is you’ve found out most of my alleged crimes are either faked or sanctioned by the government.”
“But, that does change things,” Sara protests immediately with a frown.
“Not between us it doesn’t,” Neal states with finality. “And, even if it did, approaching me about something… personal like this in my place of work is not a good way to go about starting something.” Neal cannot help the reprimand that spills out in face of the unprofessional behavior. At her surprised expression, he sighs. “Go, Sara. If we cross paths professionally, fine. But, personally, we are done.”
“Not even a chance, huh?” Sara concludes in disappointment, taking a step back towards the door.
“Absolutely not,” Neal confirms, watching as Peter opens the door with his hip, holding the two mugs.
“Do you need an escort out, Ms. Ellis?” Peter inquires, getting a shake of her head in response.
“No, thank you, Agent Burke,” Sara takes her leave, moving down the stairs and towards the elevator.
Peter whistles, retaking his seat and passing Neal his coffee mug. “So, everything taken care of?”
“Yep,” Neal states, pointedly taking a sip of his coffee before scrunching his nose. “Did you put sugar in this?”
“Yeah, only way to drink that swill,” Peter’s brows furrow. “Don’t tell me even the way you take your coffee was fake?”
“Well, if it helps, I didn’t fake my shoe size,” teases Neal.
“So, how would you like to accompany your wonderful husband to his school’s holiday party?”
Neal’s eyebrow rises at Wally, who gives him his best charming smile, and he plays along. “Well, as your husband, I am happy to support you in all your endeavors.”
“Great! The principal kind of gave me the speech about building relationships with your coworkers and ‘you can’t keep skipping holiday parties, West’,” Wally mimics, Neal laughing at the gruff impression, moving over to the kitchen to continue to stir the sauce.
“Is that what he sounds like?” Neal inquires, to which Wally looks a bit sheepish.
“Actually, he is really a she, but I can’t get my voice that high,” Wally admits with a grin, Neal laughing again. “It sounds better in the gruff voice.”
“How many of those have you missed to deserve the gruff voice?” asks Neal curiously, Wally pausing thoughtfully.
“Well, the spring event, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas/Holiday parties… for the last three years,” Wally states, holding it out for suspense.
“Gees, no wonders she’s giving you the gruff voice,” Neal teases, moving the plates of food over to the table while Wally pours the wine.
“It’s not all my fault. Some of those were … unavoidable incidents. Others I forgot about…. They are just so boring without anyone to bring, you know? It is all ‘here is my spouse’ and ‘here are my 2.5 children dragging our white picket fence’,” Wally mimics as Neal sits, gaining a grin. “But, now I have a wonderful spouse of my own to suffer with me and make fun of people getting tipsy.”
“Alright, so when is this night of suffering?” Neal asks as he plates his dish.
“Well, since winter break is two weeks away,” ponders Wally thoughtfully. “It would be tomorrow night.”
Neal rolls his eyes, pulling his cellphone from his pocket and dialing. “Hey, Peter, you and El free in about an hour? I have dessert that I was – Oh, great, see you then.” Neal places the phone on the table and casually states before starting his meal. “Peter really likes my desserts.”
“So, I finally get to meet the Burkes, huh?” Wally concludes.
“Oh, yeah. I may not be on a tracking bracelet anymore, but I don’t want Peter to think I’m missing again,” Neal gives easily, looking up with faux innocent eyes. “After all, I just got back. It would be rude to make them worry.”
Wally and Neal arrive at the Burkes an hour later, Neal holding the cake he made before dinner and Wally holding a bag with the ice cream to compliment it. Peter opens the door and immediately raises a brow at the accompanying redhead.
“It’s your favorite,” bribes Neal, holding up the cake. “And, I’ll explain once we get the dessert plated.”
“Oh, fine,” huffs Peter, standing to the side and opening the door wider so they can step past him.
“Great,” Neal states cheerfully, greeting El with a kiss to the cheek as she takes the cake to place on the table.
Once settled, with plates of dessert and first bites savored, Peter raises a brow at Neal.
“Well, in the ongoing interest of honesty,” starts Neal, clearing his throat briefly. “I wanted to introduce you and El to Wally.”
“His better half,” Wally finishes, knowing Neal is enjoying their looks of utter surprise way more than he is.
“Wait- what about-,” starts Peter, recovering quickly, thinking of all the women that went along with Neal Caffrey.
“I’m primarily pansexual,” Neal cuts him off, knowing what he was going into. “Wally and I reconnected several months ago and decided to give each other the chance we didn’t take years ago.” Neal pauses briefly. “This is another one of those things I am asking you not to look further into, Peter. Wally’s not government or a criminal… I just wanted to trust you with another aspect of my life, as my friends.”
At that, Peter deflates any further interrogation with Neal pulling out the big guns like trust and friends. “Oh, alright. I promise I won’t look further into Wally.”
“Thanks, Peter,” Neal responds sincerely, knowing that there is an unspoken disclaimer that Peter would if a situation arose where he needed to.
“Though, I could probably put you a little bit at ease by stating I’m a high school teacher,” Wally pipes up, ending the moment to both men’s gratefulness.
“How did you two meet than?” asks El, curious to get to know the person Neal fell in love with.
Wally glances at Neal briefly, who merely smiles at him causing Wally to grin. “Well, Neal was eight at the time, and I was ten. We spent the majority of three hours arguing about superheroes.”
“Oh my goodness, that’s sweet,” El gushes, not expecting that at all. Peter chuckles at the brief explanation and the picture that comes to mind. “So, you were childhood friends?”
“Best friends for years,” confirms Neal with a smile at Wally. “When we ran into each other again, it seemed natural to figure out if there was still something there.”
“Which of course there was,” Wally states, not at all in doubt about that. “So, we decided not to waste anymore time now that Neal’s gotten rid of most of his aliases… though, it is tough at times. I’m still living in the Midwest.”
“Really, how does that work for the two of you?” Peter inquires curiously, with a hint of concern. He could only imagine living that far away from El, as it was definitely something he would never willingly do if there were an alternative.
“We weren’t sure yet if it would be safe for Wally to move to New York. Till we feel more confident about it…,” Neal trails off, Peter nodding in understanding. “That’s actually the reason that prompted this tonight.”
“I have a holiday party at work tomorrow night, and as my wonderful, supporting husband,” here both Peter and El laugh as Neal rolled his eyes at Wally’s sugary tone. “Neal agreed to accompany me. So, we wanted to let you know that he’ll be out of town tomorrow and he’ll be coming back on Sunday.”
“Yep, trophy husband for the evening,” Neal tacks on at a deadpan.
The next night, after a long morning ride, Neal finds out just how true that sentence became.
“Wally, good to finally see you,” a woman greets them at the door. She is a pretty blonde in her forties with a no nonsense air. “I wasn’t sure if you would show up tonight.”
“Ah, Julia, nice to see you, too,” Wally greets, half sheepishly before gesturing to Neal. “This is my husband, Neal. Neal, this is our esteemed leader, Principal Julia Valerie.”
Julia’s eyes widen briefly, shaking the hand Neal extends. “I hadn’t realized you were married. It’s nice to meet you, Neal.”
“It’s nice to meet you, as well,” Neal turns up the charm. “I apologize for stealing Wally away from your events so often. I travel a lot for work and don’t get as much time together as we would like, so when I’m in town, I convince him to stay home.”
“Oh, I hadn’t realized,” Julia comments, glancing at Wally briefly before turning her attention back to Neal. “What do you do? Are you a teacher as well?”
“I’m an artist – commissions force me to travel,” Neal states with a smile and a shrug, implying the boredom of the subject to deter more questions.
“Well, it’s very nice to meet you,” Julia nods, before gesturing around the decorated halls. “Why don’t you both go enjoy yourselves? We’ve set up the refreshments and dancing in the gym.”
“Thanks so much,” Neal smiles, slipping a hand in Wally’s and threading their fingers together as Wally guides them to the gymnasium. He leans closer, whispering. “Is the entire night going to be like this?”
“No- probably,” Wally amends after a second thought. “That’s why I needed you here. Imagine if I had to go through this myself. You are the perfect distraction, with your charm and your baby blues.”
“You owe me so much,” Neal breathes out before plastering the smile back on his face as they enter the gymnasium and quickly find an empty table near a wall.
“You want to wait here? I’ll go get us some punch,” Wally states, and moves away once Neal nods in agreement.
Neal internally groans as he watches several single women take note of him a few minutes later, turning audible once a brave brunette breaks her way from the pack.
“Hello, I’m Emily,” she greets, taking a seat next to him.
“Neal,” he offers politely, keeping it to a minimum and turning down the charm.
“Well, Neal, we noticed that you were sitting alone and wanted to know if you would like to join our table,” Emily leads, gesturing to the table of what appears to be the single staff members.
“Oh, thank you, but I am waiting for – there he is,” Neal denies, gesturing to Wally who is only a few yards away. Wally smiles, setting down the drinks and taking a seat beside Neal.
“Hi, Emily,” greets Wally, his smile only vicious to those who really know him. “I see you met my husband.”
“H-husband,” Emily repeats, wide eyed as she looks between the two and then glances pointedly at their wedding bands.
“Oh, yeah. I wear my ring on a chain during the school day most of the time, especially on days when we are dealing with chemicals for labs,” Wally explains easily.
Neal has to admit she recovers quicker than he would have thought. “Well, I am happy for the both of you. It was nice meeting you, Neal.”
They watch her fast walk back to the table.
“That’s going to be around the gym within ten minutes,” states Wally with a touch of amusement.
“Like you’re not enjoying this.”
Monday morning sees Neal yawning at a crime scene by taxi from the train station, dropping his overnight bag in Peter’s car. He had travelled back by train, so as to have record of his cross country travel should anyone ever look into him. Unfortunately, it was a rather long trip and a late night.
“Morning,” greets Peter, looking amused as Neal covers another yawn with his hand and blinks blurrily. For once, he sees the dark haired man nursing a to-go cup of coffee. “Nice weekend?”
“People are vultures,” Neal states lowly, thinking of all the people that approached him at the party and how many times Wally had to tell them they were married. Wally, the sadist, took way too much pleasure at showing him off and crushing their dreams.
Peter snorts, sipping his own coffee. “So? That bad?”
“Actually,” Neal pauses thoughtfully. “It was terrible, but… it was kind of nice, you know? Normal.”
The older man smiles in response, turning his attention to the gallery. “Right now we are trying to determine point of entry and exit. Any thoughts?”
Neal walks around, eyeing the area. The ceilings are vaulted going up at least thirty feet and skylights spread evenly across. Fifteen-foot walls covered in art and four by four pillars around the room with more art on each side. The tops of the pillars were even with the height of the walls, leaving a gap between the top of the pillars and the vaulted ceiling.
“There,” points Neal to a particular skylight near a pillar.
“You would think, right?” Clinton says good-naturedly, wandering over with Diana towards them after finishing with a witness. “But, we’ve found no signs of rope or ladders or anything.”
“There isn’t a need for it,” Neal states confidently, eyeing the amount of space around the room and gesturing as he explains. “A good gymnast, which most good thieves are, would be able to make the jump to the top of the pillar. I would suspect they had a platform they placed the artwork on with a rope around it and tied to their belt, jumped to the pillar, then to roof, and pulled the platform with the artwork up by the rope. No evidence.”
“No way, man, that’s way too high to get up to without something to help,” Clinton denies, looking skeptical at the claim.
“You consider yourself a good thief, don’t you?” Diana interjects, Neal immediately seeing where she is going with this based on his explanation. Before he has a chance to protest, she continues. “So, you would be able to make that?”
“Yes,” Neal states finally after seeing the three stare him down for an answer.
“Wanna bet on that? Ten bucks,” Clinton looks more curious than doubtful at Neal’s claim, like he just wants to see someone prove that it was possible rather than trying to see him fail.
“Now? With all these people in the way?” Neal stalls, but seeing Peter start to smirk in his peripherals, he knows he best prepare himself to prove it.
As Peter makes some sort of excuse, guiding everyone but them from the main gallery, Neal sheds his jacket. Thankfully, since he is not wearing suits anymore, his attire is much more appropriate for throwing himself up on high objects. After stretching briefly, he judges the distance and inhales before he cartwheels and flips to land gracefully on top the pillar.
“That’s not just a ‘good gymnast’,” Diana accuses after a moment.
“And, that explains so much about a few of your heists,” Peter muses thoughtfully before gesturing at Neal. “Okay, point taken. Let’s get someone on the roof to see if there was anything left up there. Neal, get down here.”
Neal nods, gently easing himself down to the floor with practiced movements. He winces as he stands and straightens.
“You okay, there?” Peter inquires softly, concern gentling his face.
“Yeah… I really shouldn’t be doing that anymore,” Neal finally decides to admit softly. “Remember I mentioned some GSWs? I was lucky all I got away with was some muscle and nerve damage.” Peter’s face says it all. “I’m fine, swear. Just need to not put anymore stress on it.”
“You tell me if it gets any worse,” Peter demands before easily moving on to the rest of the crime scene.
“Well, we have more information about you now. It wouldn’t be that difficult to pull up some birth-,” starts Diana with a teasing tone, trailing off when she sees the raised eye brow Neal directed towards her. “Okay, what am I missing?”
“Well, you are assuming I was born in the States,” Neal grins, getting three surprised faces in his direction.
“You aren’t American?” Clint questions, stunned.
“Legally I’m American - immigrant,” Neal admits after a moment, shrugging at their stunned looks.
Peter scowls. “Damn it. I really had no chance of finding your legal name, did I?”
“Not really, no,” laughs Neal easily, retaking his seat at the conference room table and sipping his tea.
“So, UK?” Peter guesses, thinking of the name Neal had given him.
“Nope,” Neal pops, Peter looking a little surprise to hear it was not. “And, to give a hint, English is not my native language.”
“I would have never have guessed,” Clint compliments, getting a smile from Neal. “You must have been a child, huh?”
“I was younger, yes,” Neal admits, leaning back in his seat. “Now, what info do we have?”
“That was wonderful, El,” compliments Neal, setting his napkin on the table and leaning against Wally beside him. “Thanks for having us.”
“I’m always happy to have company for dinner,” smiles El, sending a pointed look at Peter, who smiles at her sheepishly.
“It was great, honey,” Peters tacks on as the phone rings. El moves to look at the caller ID.
“Sorry, it’s my dad. Do you mind if I quickly tell him I’ll talk later?” starts El, getting a shake of their heads.
“Of course not,” reassures Neal, El stepping away to take the call, voice already a bit more stressed.
“My father-in-law is an… interesting character,” comments Peter blandly, getting a stifled laugh from both Neal and Wally.
“Lucky you don’t have to worry about that,” Wally nudges Neal playfully, who rolls his eyes.
“Your father not-?” starts Peter after a moment, hesitant and leaving room to change the subject.
“My father wasn’t a good man,” admits Wally easily. “I’ve long since come to terms with that… My uncle was more my dad growing up, and well, he loved Neal.”
“Loved?” Neal states, affronted by the implication that Barry no longer loved Neal. El comes back and retakes her seat at the table, smiling at them apologetically.
“Well, you did let us think you were missing and dead for several years,” Wally counters easily, gaining a look of disbelief from Peter and El towards Neal.
“Well, do you really want to open that can of worms, Wallace?” counters Neal back, raising a brow at him as Wally chuckles. “Because you best be prepared.”
“Prepared for his uncle?” Peter asks, disbelieving. Watching as Wally suddenly stops laughing and pales abruptly. “What?”
“Wally’s just now realizing that if he wants to tell his uncle, he’ll have to tell my dad, too,” Neal states with a smug tone to his voice.
“Your dad thinks you’re dead?” repeats Peter at a deadpan, more stating than questioning.
“Well, it sounds bad when you put it like that,” Neal says after a moment of awkward silence, getting a snort of laughter from Wally. But, even then, Neal has a thoughtful look on his face hinted with regret. “I probably should.”
“Hey, babe, your choice,” reminds Wally with a nudge and a smile, getting a short laugh from Neal.
“Thanks, Walls,” smiles Neal, Wally grinning teasingly back.
“Take your time, actually. All the time in the world, so I don’t have to deal with the sibling fall out either.”
Neal sits outside, moving his phone back and forth between his hands thoughtfully as he stares at the stars.
Wally moves beside him, arm flung over Neal’s waist and breath warm against Neal’s neck. Wally sighs tiredly. “Babe, he loves you. They both do.”
“It’s just, hard to dial,” Neal confesses lamely. He feels the air rather than sees the movement before the phone is back in his hands, screen lighting up with the number under the technology he created to make him a ghost.
“There,” Wally says contently. “Wake me if you need me.”
Neal huffs a laugh, raising the phone to his ear.
“Wayne residence. Alfred speaking.”
Neal takes a deep breath. “Hey, gramps.”
The voice on the other end is startled enough to leave titles off. Neal clears his throat. “Yeah… yeah, it’s me.”
“It’s so good to hear from you,” the raw relief in Alfred’s voice conveys that completely, and Neal feels his eyes start to tear up as he hears a sniff from the elderly man. “Here, let me transfer you to Master Bruce.”
“Just for a little bit. I’d like to have you on the call in a few minutes, too,” Neal agrees, rather wanting to do any explanations all at once.
“Of course… hold one moment.”
Neal had no idea of knowing on the other end of the line as he waits that Alfred moves quickly to Bruce’s office, who had been ignoring the phone ringing as he tried to complete paperwork. No idea of knowing how Bruce scrambled for the receiver in an out of character move once he knew who it was.
“Dick,” his father’s voice is thick with emotion in a way that Neal so often remembered him in private, just their family and no cameras or reporters or coworkers.
“Dad,” Neal swallows, at his own loss for words as he holds back the tears that now start to come. He had long since thought he had gained control of himself, but just the familiar voices of the men who raised him brought him to this. He gave a wet laugh, feeling Wally’s arm tighten around his waist in comfort. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Dickie. So much,” the words come much easier than Neal had ever heard them.
“Could you put the phone on speaker for gramps, too?” Neal asks after a long few minutes, just listening to the noises on the other end of the line.
“Yes, hold on… there we go,” Bruce details, Neal hearing the slight difference in tone from the switch to speaker.
“I’m not sure I want to get into details about everything now… but, I’ve been reminded lately about the past, and I-,” Neal cuts himself off, clearing his throat.
“Oh, Dickie,” comes Bruce’s voice, so comforting and familiar.
“Richard, you don’t need to detail anything right now,” picks up Alfred sincerely. “It is just… we have missed you so very much.”
“I’ve missed you, too,” Neal easily responds, wiping his cheeks of tears with one hand before tacking on. “I ran into Wally.”
“Wally?” repeats both Bruce and Alfred together in a stunned moment of surprise.
“Yeah, he reminded me that I should… that people missed me,” Neal finishes lamely in explanation.
“Whatever the reason, I am glad Master Wallace prompted you to call us,” Alfred reassures.
Neal looks down at Wally, swallowing.
“I’m glad he did, too.”