AN: So how could I resist doing something Countdown related before the next episode airs? This was the part of the preview that really stuck out to me and I've been thinking for a while on how Neal would answer the question "Do you deserve to be free?" This is what I came up with.

New AN: This was originally based on the season preview before 3.5 aired. I had assumed that instead of a commutation hearing, it was whether or not Neal would go to jail.

Disclaimer: I do not own White Collar

Neal was at his hearing to determine if the FBI should keep him as a consultant. As he sat there, before the three higher-ups who would decide his fate, he hoped he seemed calmer than he really was. To be honest, (well isn't that the word of the day) he was feeling better as the questioning went on. They would ask and he would answer. It was simple as that. He had already told Peter everything right before they caught Keller and saved El, so it's not like there was anything new. Neal thought it was actually going pretty well. Maybe this would be all over soon and everything would be okay. Then one of the questions caught him completely off guard.

"Mr. Caffrey. Do you deserve to be free?"

Neal hoped that is easygoing expression didn't falter too much. What does one say to that? If he said yes, that would make him seem insincere. And if he said no? Well why should the FBI think he shouldn't be in jail if even he didn't?

Neal took a deep breath before answering, "I've done a lot of bad thinks in my life, but even when I was in jail, I never felt any remorse. If anything, I was just more motivated to not get caught next time. Then I started working with Agent Burke. I saw the good I could do. I saw that I could help people and make a difference. For the first time, I felt sorry for the things I've done. If I was still in jail, I never have felt this way. So do I deserve to be free? No. Probably not. But is it the only think that's going to reform me and actually make me an honest man? Yes. Definitely."

His questioners seemed to mull over his answer for a minute. That was fine with Neal as he was pretty shocked by what he had just said. He didn't even know where that answer came from.

Finally, the same women who asked him the last question said, "Thank you Mr. Caffrey. You may go now. You will hear our decision soon."

With that, Neal left. He needed to get some privacy. Away from the stern looks and silent judgment he had been receiving. When he was finally alone, Neal sank to the ground. He had made some terrible mistakes over the past months, but he really hoped that he could make things right and that everything would be okay.