(Chapter 8)

Dinner on the terrace became a habit after that night. Peter and El would come over often to visit, their worries about what had happened and could happen pushed into the background while everyone tried to get back to some semblance of normality. There was still the matter of whether or not either of them would be working with the FBI, but for now they were going to enjoy each others company and do what they could to heal.

Another month passed and Peter stopped by to visit, a knock on the door and June's voice announcing him to the young con. Neal stood up, hobbling only a little on his injured leg as he went to open the door.

"Hey Peter, June..." He saw June smile curiously at him as she excused herself and Peter walked into the room closing the door behind him. Neal noted the look on his friend's face like he was thinking hard about something but he wasn't sure how to broach it.

"Neal... I have to talk to you about... Any chance you have a beer handy?" Peter rubbed at his chin nervously, walking around as if something were eating at him, Neal shaking his head.

"I have some petrus but I don't think you'd like..." Neal was surprised when Peter interrupted him with a nod.

"I just need something. You might too." Peter kept walking around as if something was bothering him. Neal was worried now, pulling the bottle of wine out and two glasses. He put the bottle back and brought both over to where Peter stood, making a motion to the couch. Peter nodded, walking over and plopping down as he looked at the glass curiously and held it up.

"A toast..." Peter's voice had changed suddenly, a smile starting to curve his lips as he gave a curiously happy sidelong glance at the younger man. Neal held up his glass in confusion.

"... to reinstated Agents and... CI's." He said it softly but quickly, clinking his glass to Neal's. Neal just blinked as the words suddenly made sense to him and he stood up, his eyes bright.

"We're back?" Neal was looking down at the agent incredulously, Peter nodding and smiling suddenly. They heard a sound at the door and Peter rose to open it. He was grinning now, June walking in with a cake full of candles with El right behind her. Neal was looking at everyone confused as the news sunk in. They were going to be ok? They were working together again? He wasn't going back to jail...

"Neal?" June's voice broke his thoughts as she gently hugged him.

"You ok? You look a little shocked." She looked over at Peter and El setting up plates and silverware around the cake. He nodded dumbly unsure how to react yet. He was going to stay. Peter had his job back. How...

"Yeah... I am." He still looked surprised if not shocked and she smiled, patting him on the arm gently.

"Come on... we have cake waiting for us and I have a nice bottle of wine a friend sent me from their vineyard. I figured this was the right time to use it." She was smiling at him gently, motherly almost and he nodded back finally waking from his stupor and joining her, El and Peter at the table on the terrace. El was smiling the first real smile he'd seen in a long time. They had been through quite a bit over the past two months with Keller and the kidnapping. He was glad she was ok and Peter was doing well. She turned smiling at him in her friendly manner and walked over.

"Neal... you look pale. I told Peter not to play his cards too close. I guess he decided to go for the element of shock. Are you ok?" She was whispering now, one arm curled around his. He looked into her blue eyes and smiled back.

"I'm more than ok... Just seeing you and Peter..." He paused and she nodded at his unspoken words, planting a small kiss on his cheek. He blushed which made her grin as did he.

"So who's blowing out the candles? It's not my birthday." Neal said as El led him back to the table and Peter glanced up where he sat. A mock look of annoyance covered his face suddenly.

"I only just got my wife back, you could at least wait a bit longer before trying to steal her from me, Neal." Peter's glance curved up into a smile as El slapped him playfully on the shoulder.

"Honey, behave! Neal can hold my arm if he wants. Besides, you know you're the only one for me." She detached her arm from Neal's to hug her husband and kiss him on the lips. June and Neal gave each other a look, the older woman placing a knife to cut the cake on the side.

"So, who wants to blow out these candles before we have a wax sculpture?" June's voice sounded like a mother at a kid's birthday party. Everyone stood up and hovered around the cake.

"Together on the count of three..." El's voice sang.

"One... Two... THREE!" Everyone counted together and the candles were blown out by all four, the act followed by laughter and the popping of a wine cork. El started cutting pieces of the cake up, a lovely three layered velvet chocolate cake with creamy filling. Neal took a plate and passed it to June then one to Peter before he took one for himself. They all sat down around the small wrought iron table on the terrace, talking and laughing, the wine making them even more happy. June took that cue to start up her famous Italian roast for later, adding a few sandwiches and some chicken her cook had made to the feast.

It was late when they finally decided to break up the party. El offered to help June clean up as the two mean sat and looked out at the lights of the city, quietly sipping at their coffee. Neal had offered to help clean but El and June insisted he sit and relax. He got the feeling there was another surprise coming. When El and June disappeared downstairs with the remaining leftovers and trash, Peter turned and looked around a moment before speaking.

"I wanted to talk to you a moment... about everything." Peter's voice was calm with only a hint of something that made Neal curious what his friend was going to tell him. He was ready to refute any apologies from Peter when the agent held up a hand silencing him a moment.

"I know it seems we... shouldn't have been reinstated but I thought you should know what happened after you gave your testimony. Hughes wasn't supposed to tell but he felt we needed to know... well you needed to know. He said to pass it along to you." Peter's voice was quiet, his brown eyes a bit watery. It confused Neal but he let his friend continue.

"The higher ups seemed pretty sure that I was a liability and that you were a corrupting influence..." His voice paused there, his eyes glittering with anger a moment before he continued. Neal felt a pang of anger himself but held back to listen to what Peter had to say.

"Diana and Jones offered their own commentary but the Higher ups were inclined to exclude it due to their closeness to the situation. Hughes argued against that but that's all he could do. Then more people started to come forward to offer up testimony of a kind even those who weren't involved with the situation." Peter's voice sounded a little more upbeat now, something like surprise in his tone. Neal continued to listen.

"Remember Derrickson from Violent Crimes?" Peter saw the flush of color on his partners face, Neal nodding ever so subtly.

"How could I forget? He threatened to send me back to prison when I showed him a clue he missed. Remind me to never try to help them again." Neal was only being partially sarcastic, Peter understanding all too well what he'd gone through with the man.

"Well, let's just say he might not like you but apparently he's not a total ass. He heard what was going down and came to give testimony... for us. Said you helped solve an unsolvable case and he couldn't see why an agent such as myself with a record like mine would be slighted for what I did. He apparently got several of his buddies to come and vouch for us both. Talk about stranger things happening." Peter's eyes looked more watery suddenly before he continued. Neal's own face was starting to show surprise but he let the agent continue.

"You wouldn't believe how many people came out of the woodwork to vouch for me and you. I guess they knew about my record and since you'd come into the scene, my record had grown larger. They knew there must be something to it. I think you have more friends than you know it... or fans maybe." He smirked, Neal nodding with a smirk of his own.

"It would be nice to hear it from them at other times other than this but at least they stood up for us. Wow... I... I guess you know how I feel right now. I can see why Hughes wanted you to tell me. It does make the news that much sweeter. Thanks Peter." He reached over and gave him a half hug, Peter doing the same before they let go and smiled.

"Did you tell El about this?" Neal was grinning now, the cheshire cat having nothing on either man at the moment. Peter was about to answer when they were interrupted.

"Tell Mrs. Suit what, praytell?" Mozzie's voice traveled from the doorway, Peter and Neal both turning to see the little guy standing there. He walked half-way and looked between the two men curiously.

"Uhm... should I tell him or you?" Peter was smiling broadly but Neal stood up and limped over to his friend. Mozz looked suspicious as Neal pulled him outside onto the terrace and started to speak with him. It was only seconds lately there was a loud:

"YOU'RE BACK?" Mozzie nearly screamed then there was quiet as they spoke silently, the little guy nodding before turning back towards Peter and then both men came back. Neal walked over to the kitchenette, pulling out some wine again and drawing a glass before coming back. He put it near Mozzie who was sitting by Peter now, a strange expression on the little guy's face.

"So... you convinced the other suits to let you back into the fold." Mozzie ended his statement abruptly, taking a quick sip of the wine as Peter looked at him and blinked.

"Mozz... be nice." Neal sat back down, leaning on the armrest of the sofa near Mozz. The little guy was still looking at Peter in a strange manner.

"Yes, they let me back in. My badge is reinstated which means Neal can continue to work with me instead of going back to prison. Any other questions?" Peter was being sarcastic but it seemed to roll off of Mozz who nodded, his manner still rather odd.

"Ok well then I guess that's a good thing. Neal doesn't look good in orange. Congratulations! I heard there was cake?" Mozz was looking around as if interested in a slice, Neal nodding as he stood up with a slight wince and smiled.

"I put a piece for you in the fridge. It's lactose free. June thought you might want some." Neal saw the look on Peter's face as the little guy nodded and walked towards the fridge for the cake, wine glass in hand. He whispered to Neal.

"He didn't seem all that happy about this till I mentioned you staying out of. Figures." Peter's tone was sarcastic, Neal smirking every so slightly.

"Mozz cares in his own manner. I don't think he'd like to see you and El on the street any time soon. A suit in a breadline? That's just odd." Neal grinned as Peter caught the last bit.

"Now you're sounding like him, Neal. Next you'll be asking me how many shots off the grassy knoll." Peter was about to say more when he was interrupted.

"I heard that Suit... and for your information... nevermind, you probably already have the stats. Hey this cake is really good, Neal! Did June say where she got it?" Mozzie was more like a little kid than Neal at times, Peter shrugging as he just dealt with the situation.

"So when do we go back to work? I've been antsy for some action. I want to go undercover and help put some scum away." Neal sounded a little more gung ho than usual, Peter blinking at him then holding up a hand as he shook his head.

"Hold on, Deputy Fife. I have some fun stuff for you till your leg is fully healed. I saw you hobbling around, so you can't lie to me. We have plenty of case files to fill your time till Hughes and I think you're back up and ready for field work. You go in on Monday so you have four days to get ready." Peter was smiling evilly almost, Neal sighing like a little kid.

"Case files? I bet their all mortgage fraud ones too. Geesh, Peter... I thought you said I was an asset? You heard all the agents say so." Neal was giving him puppy dog eyes and squirming like a little kid trying to get their way. Peter crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head.

"Nope... no... nada... you're doing case files till otherwise noted. And yes you are an ASS...et although I guess I could just call you... partner." He said the last word quietly, standing up to walk towards the bathroom. Neal blinked and followed till they got to the door.

"Did I hear you say something Peter. I swear I heard you call me your..." Neal was interrupted by Peter making a lalalala sound suddenly which made Neal smirk and chuckle.

"Come on... just let me hear you say it without whispering it or inferring it JUST once. Please?" Neal was begging now like a little kid but Peter just shook his head, acting like he couldn't hear as he slipped into the bathroom and closed the door. Neal stayed outside leaning on the door and whining.

"Just once... that's all I'm asking you, Peter. Just let Mozzie hear and I won't ask again. I promise!" Neal was sounded more annoying now but Peter was quiet, the sound of the toilet flushing then running water. Peter opened up the door practically tripping on Neal on the way out.

"You heard me. Be happy with that. Now... I need to go find my wife so we can go home and you can rest up till Monday. Remember... bright and early. I'll be out front waiting or I'm coming up to drag your butt out of bed." Peter was smiling that smile he reserved for people he knew were guilty of something. Neal dropped his shoulders and nodded resignedly.

"Fine but..." He saw Peter's look and stopped as they both went downstairs to find El and June and say good-night.

()()()

Sunday came around and Neal was enjoying his last day of mandated vacation. He wasn't looking forward to doing case files but at least he wasn't going back to prison and El was safe. Peter had his badge back and his job which made everything perfect. He smiled to himself as if he had accomplished something devious, someone sneaking up on him, their hand reaching to touch his should as he jumped.

"Nervous much? Hey Neal... didn't mean to surprise." Mozzie moved around to sit beside him on the couch, Neal sitting up and moving aside. Mozz looked like he was trying to figure something out.

"You seem pretty happy. I guess the idea of not going to prison makes you giddy? Too bad you're stuck with the suit still but it could be worse. Could be a work release in Siberia." Mozz made a motion of wrapping his arms around him as if to imitate cold. Neal rolled his eyes.

"Yeah... I'm happy. I'm just surprised those agents all came forward. I never expected them to actually take my request seriously but for Peter... I had to do something. Even Derrickson said some nice things and he hates me but he likes Peter so he did it out of respect for him. I guess he's not so bad after all." Neal leaned back against the sofa, eyes staring up at the ceiling thoughtfully. He had managed to get everyone he thought hated him to go in and stand up to Peter. Neal had used the oldest con in the book and it worked out in the end. Nobody wanted to see Peter hurt and they knew as long as anyone thought badly of Neal that the agent would be benched so they all went along with his scheme and played nice.

"Derrickson, the one who said he would personally call all your enemies in if you were sent back and make sure you got a skiv in the back, Derrickson?" Mozz had paled a bit and Neal nodded with a little smirk.

"I really don't know how you do it, Neal. You have to tell me your secret sometime." Mozz fiddled with his collar a moment as Neal's eyes moved to meet his.

"Clean living..." Neal stood up and stretched, limping ever so slightly over to the kitchenette as he pulled out a bottle of wine and some glasses. Mozz suddenly looked interested as he walked back with them.

"Clean living... HAH! I admit your fastidious to a fault but clean? That's like saying the Mother Theresa was really using her charitable means as a front... So what wine is this? It looks new." Mozzie was like a big 5 yr old, his attention drawn to things as quickly as it ebbed away.

"Something from June's friend. I wish I could meet this friend. They seem to have a nice selection of wines." Neal popped the cork, pouring the amber liquid into two glasses handing one to Mozz.

"Nice flavor... I could do with a visit to this friend myself. I may have to see what June will tell me of this vineyard." Mozz was sipping at the liquid as he leaned back against the sofa, eyes only partially opened. Neal walked out onto the terrace with his glass and looked out over the city as night descended upon it. He was looking towards Peter and El's home although from here he couldn't actually see it. He wondered what they were up to at the moment.

"Neal... mind if I grab another glass of this stuff. It's good!" Mozz was already holding the bottle when Neal turned and nodded, smiling at the little guy and thinking of how well he had it. He was just happy he had been able to help Peter and El despite the trouble he had caused. Keller was his problem no matter what Peter told him.

"Hey there's a kung-fu movie marathon on in a few minutes. Mind if I turn on the TV?" Mozz already had the remote in his hands as Neal walked back over and nodded, plopping down beside him.

"Ooh, I like this one. It's Michelle Yeoh and she plays a woman warrior who dresses as a man. Excellent flick. You have to see the tofu cake scene. Some of the best moves ever!" Mozz sounded like an excited kid, his eyes flashing beneath his glasses as he watched the badly dubbed movie and grinned broadly.

"She was in a James Bond movie wasn't she? She looks familiar." Neal saw Mozz scowl at him a bit.

"Horrible movie... well not the worse but they didn't even let her do any of her own stunts! Stupid American film companies! They have far too many rules and her stunt woman wasn't that impressive. She's done better without a stunt person in Hong Kong! Oh wait... watch this scene!" He started to tug on Neal sleeve.

Neal smiled, watching his friend as Mozz made commentary and gesticulated at the TV as if he were participating in the show. It was something he always found endearing about his friend. They had barely sat there 20 minutes when a knock was heard. Neal walked over to the door and cracked it.

"Hey Peter... Is it Monday already?" Neal was going for coy but saw the agent shake his head as he peered and saw Mozzie getting all excited with the tv set. He whispered.

"What's he watching that's go him all worked up. He looks like he's have a seizure."

They were both peering at the back of Mozz who was just excitedly getting into the show, sound effects and gestures making it look like he was having spasms. Neal shrugged.

"Some Chinese kung-fu flick. You're welcomed to sit down and join us." Neal was smiling, stepping aside when Peter nodded. Mozz barely looked up as Peter sat beside him.

"So... what's this film all about? Ah... I've seen this one before. Pretty fun movie. Clinton rented some kung-fu movies once when we were stuck in the office over night. It came in handy when we had a break. This was one of them. He's into martial arts and the like. She was in a James Bond movie wasn't she?" Peter was smiling till Mozz turned and nearly poked his eye out with his hand gesturing.

"Why does everyone remember her for that horrible movie?" The little guy turned to Neal who was just shrugging at them both.

"Hey... I'm into old movies with people like William Holden and Deborah Kerr. Don't ask me about anything new. I'm surprised I saw that one Bond flick. You were the one who took me now that I think about it..." His voice trailed off as he crossed his arms and looked at Mozzie.

"Well because it had Michelle in it and I thought she was going to do her magic but those stupid laws about protecting actors made sure she had a crappy stunt person... let's just watch this movie. You're missing the good stuff!" Mozz went back to gesticulating and making sounds at the screen, Peter and Neal glancing at him curiously as they whispered to themselves.

"And you're sure he's older than you... right? I mean you act like a 2 yr old and he acts like... well another 2 yr old." Peter didn't even miss a beat as he said it, Neal taking a moment to digest what was said before he got a bit huffy.

"I resemble that remark... but uhm when it comes to these types of movies, Mozz is definitely a fan. So hey... about tomorrow..." Neal didn't finish as Peter held up his hand.

"No buts... case files till we think you're well. Don't worry, I'm going to be supervising you. I'm not going on any big cases soon either. Happy?" Peter tried to suppress his grin but couldn't, Neal nodding back with a grin of his own.

"Long as we're both in the same boat, I guess that makes it ok. Misery does love company."

(The End)