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Thursday, September 2nd, 2010 08:21 am
Author: J. Rosemary Moss
Genre: White Collar; Gen/Friendship 
Rating: PG 
Disclaimer: Alas, I don't own White Collar or the characters
Summary: Neal has a little fun with Peter's 'advanced' age. 
Notes: Part of my 'My Old Man' verse

~oOo~

Neal knew the exact moment the con was born.

He had been lunching with Peter at their favorite Chinese restaurant when Bai popped over to their table. She didn’t attempt to steal one of Peter’s socks this time; she was more interested in learning magic tricks. Neal obliged her by showing her one way to make a quarter disappear.

“My G-d, she’s adorable,” Neal said as she left the table. “Don’t you almost want one?”

“A kid?” Peter asked, looking horrified at the thought.

Neal rolled his eyes. “Yeah, a kid.”

Peter shook his head. “No, thank you. Raising you is hard enough.”

Neal grinned, tempted to feel warm and fuzzy inside. But he hardened himself, knowing that remark called for revenge.

His chance came right after a February snow storm. He’d been wide awake that Saturday morning, musing over the fact that the Burkes would probably be feasting on Elizabeth’s fresh pancakes. That settled it; a trip to Brooklyn was in order.

Peter’s walkway was already pristine when Neal arrived. No surprise there--that workaholic agent had probably gotten up at six in the morning to shovel. But the walk next door . . . that didn’t look so good. A middle-aged lady was standing on it now, struggling with her shovel.

Neal jogged up to her. “Hi there,” he said. “Mind if I help?”

She turned turned around to face him, leaning on her shovel as she caught her breath. "Are you sure you want to go through that trouble?"

“Why not? That’s what neighbors are for,” Neal said, hoping to put her at ease. It was close enough to the truth; he spent a good portion of his life at Peter’s place.

“Thank you," the lady gushed. "My son usually does it for me, but he can’t come today. To tell you the truth, I was about to ring your doorbell. I know your father would do it if I asked him--or is Peter your brother?” 

He bit back a laugh. He knew the woman was fishing, but he didn't mind. Here was the perfect opportunity for revenge, and the perfect opportunity to practice a harmless con. “Peter? Yeah, he’s my father.”

“Really? I’ve seen you around, but I didn’t think the Burkes were old enough to have a grown-up child--”

“Oh, Elizabeth isn’t old enough,” Neal said chivalrously. “She’s my stepmother. I’m the result of a teenage indiscretion on Peter’s part.”

The woman laughed. “Ah, that it explains it. I was wondering. Well, thanks for the help. I’m Mrs. Murphy, by the way.”

“I’m Neal,” he answered, deliberately leaving off his last name. No need to complicate matters.

Neal finished Mrs. Murphy’s walk within half an hour. He didn’t mention his good deed to Peter and Elizabeth when he walked into their house and helped himself to pancakes. He just basked in the triumph of his revenge. Poor Peter. But he'd probably never know that Mrs. Murphy believed he was old enough to be Neal’s father.

Which he technically was--although thirteen was a little young for a teenage indiscretion.

Neal had almost forgotten about the con when he was climbing out of Peter’s car two months later, right in front of Peter’s house. It was a warm spring afternoon, and Mrs. Murphy was sitting on her front steps. She waved them over.

After exchanging greetings, the lady smiled at Peter. “You must be so proud of your son. He’s such a sweetheart.”

Neal saw the surprise register on Peter’s face--along with some other emotion that he couldn’t quite read. “My son?”

She nodded. “Neal shoveled my walkway after one of those snowstorms we had over the winter.”

“I, ah, spilled the beans. I told her what happened when you were a careless and stupid teenager,” Neal explained.

He knew Peter wanted to roll his eyes. But to do the man credit, he kept a straight face as he put an arm around Neal.

“I am proud of him,” Peter said, squeezing Neal’s shoulder. “He’s a good kid when he puts his mind to it.”

Neal raised his eyebrows, surprised at the sincerity in Peter’s voice. He swallowed, realizing he was perilously close to a warm, fuzzy feeling again. “Thanks, Dad,” he managed.

Peter gave him a playful glare for the ‘Dad’--but that was almost drowned out by the genuine pride in his eyes. Then he turned back to Mrs. Murphy and skillfully extricated them from the conversation.

“Nice work,” Neal whispered a couple of minutes later, as Peter unlocked the door to his house. “I thought we’d be stuck for hours hearing about her grandkids.” He'd had to do some fast talking of his own to escape that fate last time. 

The agent just grunted as he opened the door and put the keys back in his pocket.

“And I know you’re not quite old enough to be my father,” Neal continued. “I mean, I can understand the lady making that assumption, but--”

Peter responded by giving Neal a fatherly smack on the ass. “Never mind your insults,” he said. “Just go get your old man a beer.”

Neal laughed. “Yes, sir,” he said as he headed for the fridge.

~The End~

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