I own nothing. White Collar belongs to Jeff Eastin and USA. They are awesome, I am making nothing on this. Thanks for reading!

Set a week after Kate went BOOM!

Peter can read Neal really well, so Neal's charismatic smile didn't fool him. He could tell the ex-con man's eyes weren't backing that smile. That was only one sign that Neal was lying when saying 'I'm fine, Peter… really.' The other one was the stubble that started to appear on his partner's face.

Neal, known for his clean shaven face and somewhat mussed hair, was growing a beard. And Peter was not the only one who worried.

"Peter, what are we going to do about Neal?" El blurted out one afternoon, but still didn't catch Peter by surprise. This was the unasked question that had been going through the Burkes' minds since that faithful day. "and most of all, why does he have that beard?" The house stayed quiet, for neither had an answer.

Week after week, Neal walked out of June's house, sat in Peter's car and stared straight ahead. Week after week El texted Peter, 'Is the beard still there?' And week after week Peter sadly had to answer yes.

One month later, El dreaded getting another 'yes' text back, but still sent the question. Her phoned buzzed. 'Neal doesn't have a beard.'

This wasn't the end, but it was a huge step in the right direction.