Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to White Collar. I'm just taking the characters out for a little spin and some fun.

Invitation and Celebration

By: Vanessa Sgroi

Elizabeth Burke poured two cups of coffee, doctored hers to her liking, and carried both to the table, setting one down in front of Neal Caffrey. She took a sip from her mug and sighed happily. "Peter should be down in a few minutes. The alarm didn't go off this morning so we both overslept."

Neal nodded and took a drink of his own coffee.

"You want some breakfast while you wait?" She shook the box of cereal she'd just retrieved from the cupboard.

Neal's eyes lit up and he smiled. "Choco Puffies?"

Elizabeth grinned back and dropped the box in front of her husband's partner. She'd bought the box just for him just like she bought Peter his Banana Muffin Loops. "Now with fiber!" She winked then turned to grab a bowl and spoon, placing them next to the box before getting the milk from the refrigerator. Retrieving her own, more sedate, box of multigrain and flax cereal along with a bowl and spoon, she joined Neal at the table.

"So you're coming to the cookout tomorrow, right?"

Neal looked up from the back of the cereal box. "What?"

"We're having a cookout tomorrow for the fourth of July. I told Peter to invite you."

"Oh, yeah, he mentioned it."

"So you're coming, right?"


"Neal, you have to come! We're having a few people over. It'll be fun."

"You're sure you want me here? I mean, I'm, you know, an ex-con and all…"

Elizabeth huffed out an exasperated breath, reached over and swatted his arm, none to gently. "Don't be ridiculous, Neal Caffrey! You know you're welcome here. Peter's just kidding when he acts all grouchy about it; you should know that by now."

Neal flushed a little and glanced down at his bowl of Choco Puffies. He still really wasn't used to random kindness. And holiday celebrations of any kind during his childhood were hit and miss—mostly miss. "If Peter doesn't mind, I'd love to come."

"Of course he won't mind, silly! Now, what can I make for you? Peter's cooking hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. I'm making potato salad and baked beans today. And I've got a bunch of munchies on hand. So what would you like?"

Neal shook his head. "Oh, you don't have to make anything special for me."

"Oh, come on, there's gotta be something you're hungry for. Peter's already asked me for a batch of Cayenne Pretzels and Rocky Road Brownies."

Neal was quiet for a few seconds. "Deviled Eggs?" he asked rather shyly.

"Deviled Eggs?"

"I haven't had them since I was a kid. I remember loving them though. But you don't have to make them if they're too much trouble!"

"No trouble at all. Deviled Eggs it is! Two dozen ought to do it."

Peter entered the kitchen at that moment, rolling his eyes in mock annoyance when he saw Neal seated at the table munching away on cereal. "Two dozen what?"

"Deviled Eggs," answered El. She got up to refill her mug and pour Peter a cup. "Neal's coming to the cookout tomorrow."

"Good. He can share grill duty then."

Neal shot the FBI agent a worried look. "Uhh, Peter, not a good idea. I don't know anything about cooking on a grill."

"You'll learn. We'll just have to make sure you don't set the house on fire," he joked. "There's just one other ground rule."

"What's that?" Neal asked, thinking that Peter would warn him to stay away from the Burke's other guests. He braced himself for disappointment.

"Stay out of my Rocky Road Brownies."

Elizabeth smacked her husband's arm just the way she'd done to Neal earlier and laughed. "For Heaven's sake, Peter, I'm making enough for everybody!"

"You say that now, El. But you've never seen him eat chocolate—anything chocolate." Peter groused and pointed at the box of Choco Puffies. "He's a maniac."

"I told you I thought you were done with that piece of Chocolate Cheesecake!" protested Caffrey.

Peter shook his head. "You should've seen it, El; he practically swiped it right out of my mouth."

Elizabeth laughed at their antics and shook her head. "I'll make sure I make two BIG pans. And since I know YOU," she poked Peter in the shoulder, "like Deviled Eggs too, I'll make another dozen."

Peter finished his coffee in two quick gulps. Slipping into his suit jacket, he kissed Elizabeth on the cheek then gestured to Neal and headed for the door. "C'mon, junior, let's go to work."