The Best Lies
White Collar fanfic
"Just remember that the best lies carry an element of truth." – Neal Caffrey, "Pulling Strings"
The company party was in full swing, and Neal and Peter did their best to blend in. The case was fairly run-of-the-mill. They were making slow headway in unearthing an embezzler, but the culprit had covered his tracks so carefully that it was difficult even to ascertain exactly where he was siphoning the money from. The team hoped one of their suspects would let something slip during the company's 25th anniversary bash.
Peter was easily keeping his cover as new accountant Peter White, but hadn't been able to draw any confidences out of his coworkers so far. He'd made sure to get Neal an invitation to the party, hoping his charming partner would have better luck. An hour into the gathering, he desperately wished he could have brought El—she was so much better at party small talk than he was. He had just taken advantage of his empty glass to extract himself from a painfully boring conversation about sales figures for one of the company's myriad widgets and doodads when he ran into Neal at the drinks table.
"How's it going?" asked Neal.
"If I have to hear one more time about the new advertising campaign, I may go insane," said Peter. "It doesn't even make any sense!"
"It's advertising," said Neal, shrugging, "It doesn't matter if it makes sense as long as it gets people to buy the product."
The peace of chatting with Neal was short-lived. An executive's wife was making a beeline for Neal, with several other people in tow. Neal groaned slightly when he saw her coming. "Oh, god, no. That must be the daughter she was insisting on introducing to me. I really hoped she was joking about that." He noticed Peter's raised eyebrow. "What? You said hobnob, charm people, and get them to talk to me! I was being charming like you asked—how was I supposed to know she'd try to set me up with her daughter?"
"Well, lesson learned, I guess" said Peter, trying not to laugh. It wasn't helpful for their mission to have Neal warding off would-be girlfriends or their mothers, but it was certainly amusing to see the always-suave Neal Caffrey as uncomfortable at a party as he was. On second thought, he wasn't looking forward to being trapped in a conversation with that woman, either. They'd met earlier, and he had gotten the distinct impression that she considered mere accountants to rank somewhere around medieval serfs on the social ladder. Neal's good looks and charm had obviously landed him several rungs higher in her regard.
"There you are, Neal, dear," she gushed, beaming at him, "I thought you'd disappeared just when I wanted to introduce you to people." She glanced at Peter with a much dimmer smile. "Hello again, Mr..."
"White" supplied Peter.
"Mr. White. Yes, of course." She turned back to Neal, flirtatious again, "Neal, dear, I just realized that I never got your last name! How silly of me!"
Neal was about throw a monkey wrench in the works. Peter didn't know how he knew that, but he did. There was just something about the way Neal straightened up and flashed his most dazzling smile that warned Peter that all their carefully-laid cover stories were about to be turned upside down, and it was too late to do anything about it.
"So, Neal what?" she simpered.
"Neal White." Neal gave his listeners a split second to start connecting the dots before wrapping an arm around Peter's shoulders and asking impishly, "You don't see the family resemblance?" He stage-whispered to Peter "I don't think they do, Dad. I told you, you should have worn your hat."
Peter silently cursed Neal for putting him in this situation, but he'd had enough experience dealing with Neal's ad libs to cope. Oh, what the hell, he decided, and said the first thing to pop into his head as he looked at Neal's dark hair: "Well, you do take more after your mother."
Neal burst into laughter. "Mom has some strong genes," he commented, eyes twinkling.
"Very strong genes," agreed Peter, gravely.
Neal leaned conspiratorially towards their puzzled but interested audience to let them in on the joke: "I'm adopted."
The ice was broken in a roar of hearty laughter. Neal fielded most of the following getting-to-know-you questions, every inch the charming, gregarious imp, allowing "Dad" take a more reserved role. Peter learned that he and his wife had adopted Neal when he was 12, after he'd bounced from foster home to foster home, and that Neal had been an established troublemaker who he'd wrangled back onto the straight and narrow (Peter enjoyed corroborating that part of the tale—gently needling Neal with truthful commentary and anecdotes that fit quite plausibly into Neal's fictitious childhood).
The rest of the party went incredibly smoothly. In the space of one conversation, Peter's image among his "coworkers" had gone from asocial workaholic to reserved, modest family man. This new impression was only reinforced by Neal talking as if his "dad" had hung the moon and Peter's (futile) attempts to rein in the story before it got too elaborate and out of hand.
By the end of the evening, they had heard way more confidences, speculation, and general company gossip than Peter had expected. There had been no earth-shattering revelations, but they had picked up several solid leads—a good night, all-in-all, and considerably more fun than he'd anticipated. He and Neal stepped into the van to touch base with the rest of the team...and were met by huge grins from Diana and Jones. He'd forgotten that they'd been listening in the entire time.
"So, Peter, why didn't you tell us you and El had a kid?"