"That's not a word." Peter folded his arms, staring daggers at the man across the table.
"Go ahead. Challenge it." Neal smirked, glancing sideways at Elizabeth who was having a hard time keeping a straight face. Peter looked flustered as he stared at the board and then at the dictionary, wondering if it was worth the challenge. Neal watched his friend; pleased that he was finally getting back to the person he was before the incident. It had been three weeks since their drive to the river and so far Peter was following his doctor's advice, albeit with a far amount of grumbling and complaining. She felt it was an acute psychotic episode brought on by the accident and lack of sleep; prescribing the short term use of an antipsychotic drug and counseling. Peter hated both but he wanted back what he lost and knew he had to complete the therapy to get that.
"Peter, you know there's a time limit right?"
"Shut up!" Peter picked up the dictionary and started thumbing through it, certain that Neal had made up the word. He hated Scrabble and the fact was Neal was smart…too smart for this own good most times. He could blame the medicine but he knew that wasn't the cause, even without it he would lose as he did every time they played. He quickly found the correct page and of course it was a word, he hadn't won a challenge yet.
"Told ya" Neal said, big smile on his face.
"If I use all my letters, I get extra points right?" Elizabeth blurted out.
"I give up!" Peter slammed the book on the table. "Satch. Let's go for a walk." The dog's ears perked up when he heard his name and immediately he was at the door tail wagging.
"Are you coming Einstein?" Peter asked as he attached the leash to the dog's collar.
"Of course" Neal answered, jumping out of his chair.
"I'll have desert ready when you get back" Elizabeth said as they slipped out the front door.
They walked in silence for nearly a block before Peter spoke up. "Are you going to ask me?"
"I thought you would tell me" Neal countered.
"I was waiting for you to ask" Peter retorted, a slight smile playing on his face.
"Fine!" Neal gave in first. "How did the meeting go today?"
"OK" Peter mumbled as he stopped at a tree, waiting for Satch to do his business.
"Do you care to share?" Neal shivered, wishing he had a grabbed a jacket. Summer was just around the corner but the nights were still cool. He knew how worried Peter had been about today but Neal had been out the whole day on a case and spent the drive home telling Peter about it.
"I get to stop the medication and I will get my driver's license back…"
"Does that mean I have to give up mine?" Neal was the proud owner of a driver's license…the first legal one he has had since he was eighteen and got it taken away.
"Neal, you get to keep yours."
"Good. How about the car?"
"Neal, it's my car and I'm taking it back. Now, do you want to hear the rest or are you going to keep interrupting?" Neal didn't need to hear the rest. He could tell by Peter's tone that he wasn't getting his gun back, which meant no field work and Neal was stuck with Jones. He didn't mind Jones, but he enjoyed being around Peter and he missed working with him…not that he would admit that. Neal shoved his hands in his pants pockets and walked ahead, his mood taking a downward spiral. He wanted things back to normal, as normal as things could be since Kate died.
"I think someone misses me" Peter said as he neared the younger man. "Neal, we both knew this was going to happen if I came clean and I had too." Peter briefly touched Neal's shoulder. "I almost got you killed and I couldn't take that chance again. Besides", he added brightly, "It's not that bad. I have to go through an evaluation process and if all goes well, I should be fully reinstated in a month." Peter smiled. "You can handle Jones until then right?"
Neal shrugged and started walking. Peter quietly walked beside him, allowing the other man to gather his thoughts and talk if he needed to.
"Do I depend on you and Elizabeth too much?"
"What?" Peter wasn't expecting that seemingly out of the blue question. After a few minutes of silent walking Peter countered Neal's question.
"Do you think you depend on us too much?"
"Probably" Neal admitted quietly. "I guess I talk about you guys a lot…" he paused and Peter knew he was talking about his sessions with the therapist.
"You could talk about Moz…"
"No" Neal shook his head fiercely. "Can't talk about Mozzie…"
"Probably not" Peter agreed. "That might get you more sessions" he added, eliciting a small chuckle from his partner. Peter sighed heavily. "Neal, you are limited on where you can go…I don't mind you being around and neither does Elizabeth. I also know how you are when you're alone."
"Think too much" Neal admitted and they both knew who he thought about.
"No more thinking tonight." Peter lightly pushed Neal, getting him moving towards the house.
"Do you think you would still be friends with Frankie if he were alive?" Peter stopped so suddenly that Satch whined in confusion. "Easy boy." Peter reached down and scratched the dog on his head, until he calmed down.
"Sorry." Neal muttered, seeing Peter's reaction. It was the first time either had mentioned the boy's name since that night at the river.
"It's ok" Peter said, turning his attention from the dog to Neal. Would he be friends with Frankie? He silently mused. His first gut reaction was no; they were too different and they would have drifted apart as they grew and found other interests. But then he looked at Neal, who was looking rather uncomfortable at the moment. Here was a con artist he had put in jail…twice, yet Peter was not ashamed to admit how much he had learned to care about Neal or how much their friendship meant to him.
"I think it's possible" he finally answered, his even tone putting Neal at ease. "But I also think it's time we both stop living in the past." As he said that, he briefly wrapped his arm around Neal's shoulder, squeezing gently. "Ok?"
Neal took a deep breath, knowing it wouldn't be that easy to forget about Kate. But he also knew he had a future to look forward too, amid people he knew cared about him. "Deal" he said, as the protective arm left his shoulders and they continued their walk home.