Disclaimer: Not mine. Sadly.
A/N: Belated Father's Day story. I actually thought of it a few days before Father's Day, but have been too busy to write so I figured I'd just let it be, but unfortunately this particular plot bunny was rather persistent. …And possible rabid. So, I've typed this up at 1a.m. to make it go away. If it sucks, chalk it up to sleep deprivation. If not, review. Ta.
When Neal was in Elementary school, he hated the month of June. He dreaded it, counted down the days as it approached with the same sort of trepidation most children reserved for dentist appointments and visits from their great Aunt Marge and her cats.
He had nothing against June itself really. On it's own he imagined it was a perfectly acceptable month - sometimes a little hot, and sometimes a little rainy, and not as full of glimmer and cheer as December, but still, he wouldn't really have any complaints about it on it's own. Except it wasn't on it's own. June heralded a holiday.
June was the month which boasted Father's Day.
Every year, when June came around, the teachers and students would start making a fuss about the holiday. Every year, they would read poems and write essays and make cards.
And every year Neal sat with an empty piece of construction paper folded in front of him.
When Neal was in the fifth grade, he got tired of hearing the other kids bragging about their dads, and discussing the presents they were getting them. He got tired of making an empty card, and getting that look from his teacher every time he had to explain that he didn't have a dad. So when Neal was in fifth grade, he invented a dad. His name was Charlie, and he was tall, and went to work every day in a suit and loved him and his Momma more than anything in the world. After school he'd teach Neal to play baseball in their backyard, and on weekends he took him to art exhibits, and he had been trying to convince Neal's Momma to get him a puppy for Christmas.
That year, Neal made a card for his imaginary father, and told Davie Brawnson all about the tie he was getting his dad so that he could show it off at work, and wrote a paper just like all the other kids about "What My Father Means to Me".
Only they were supposed to present it to the class.
Halfway through his presentation, Neal felt like his throat was closing up and his chest hurt a little bit and he couldn't breathe. He ran out of the room and went home early, claiming he had a stomach ache. When he got home he hid the card he'd made in a book he'd checked out from the library about baseball, and he never talked about Charlie again.
Neal glanced once more at the tie. It was a horrible, garish pattern, only slightly redeemed by the lovely shades of blue and expensive silk it was made of. It had taken him three stores and a little over two hours to find just the right one, a tie that would befit the intended owner's, ahem, unique sense of style, without overly offending Neal's more cultured sartorial tastes. Not that he would ever let anyone know the thought he'd put into this. Not so long as he did it right.
He tucked the tie back into his desk, and closed the drawer just as Peter appeared from his office.
"Hey," he greeted, turning around. "Coffee?"
Peter nodded, holding up his empty mug, and they walked over together, discussing the case they'd been working on, and who they'd be interviewing next. When Neal had poured himself a cup of what the FBI tried to pass off as coffee and leaned over for some creamer, he overbalanced and tipped the mug in his hand, but tried to correct quickly, splashing hot coffee down Peter's tie.
"Ow! Damn it!" Peter cursed, quickly setting down his own cup and reaching for a stack of napkins.
"Sorry, sorry," Neal told him, the picture of innocence, handing him a few more napkins, and wiping at the mess on the counter.
"You're not usually so clumsy," Peter remarked, glancing at the brown stains on his once yellow tie forlornly.
"Late night, sorry. Here, you can't interview Mr. Krapowski like that, come on."
They left their coffees on the counter while they headed to Neal's desk, Peter removing his tie on the way.
Neal pulled open the drawer and removed the blue-patterned tie. "Here, this should match well enough."
Peter looked it over before swapping it out with the yellow one. "Hey, this is kind of nice," he commented, smiling at the pattern. "Not really your usual style though, is it?"
The con shrugged in a carefully practiced casual manner. "It was a gift. You can keep it if you want."
Glancing up from the knot, Peter asked "Really?" and Neal shrugged again, trying not to smile too much. "Like you said, not really my style."
"Don't mention it."
When Neal got home that evening, he tucked a hideous coffee-stained yellow tie into a book on baseball, next to a card with "DAD" written in crayon on the front.
When Peter got home, Elizabeth complimented him on his tie, and asked him where he got it. "Oh, Neal got coffee on my other one, so he gave me this. Nice, huh?"
Elizabeth smiled, and wondered if Peter even realized it was Father's Day.