A/N: Well, that's it! Today I'm gonna post the last chapter. It was an incredible time and I want to thank you all for reading and reviewing. It was good to know about your support, your thoughts and your opinions. It helped me enormously and confirmed me in so many ways!
Many thanks again to my fantastic beta Rainey13. You're one of a kind! Thanks for everything!
"Peter, I don't think that's a good idea," Neal frowned while they slowly made their way through the crowd.
"Are you joking? I think that's a fabulous idea," Peter objected. It was obvious that he completely enjoyed the moment.
"Just because it's your idea it doesn't have to be a good one."
Hearing that, Peter stopped and leaned heavily on his cane. "Relax," he just grinned. "We'll have a good time, trust me." Taking in a deep breath, he closed his eyes, taking every scent of his surroundings. After a moment he opened them again. "There's no way that you can ruin my anticipation. I've been waiting for this day too long." He pointed to a certain area and limped slowly forward. "Over there. Come on."
"You're enjoying this way too much," Neal grumbled but followed him.
Once Peter had reached his destination, he leaned the cane to one side and let his eyes wander around. Boy, he just loved this place! "Aah, there's no better place to be," he exclaimed with a big grin on his face before he slowly sat down.
"I beg to differ," Neal objected, still standing. "I can think of at least ten better places. The Guggenheim, the MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art…," he quickly rattled off.
Peter's grin didn't vanish, because he already knew Neal wasn't pleased with this situation at all. But he didn't care. "Nothing you'll say or do can change my mood," he shook his head firmly.
"Have you consumed too many pain meds this morning?" Neal asked scornfully and grabbed his ringing cell phone. "Caffrey." He listened and grinned as he walked away. "He's way too cheerful, El. That's scaring me…" After a few moments, he answered, "No need to worry, I don't mind. In fact, I'm enjoying this too." Nodding, he continued, "Yeah, thanks, I will. See you." Standing a few feet away, he watched Peter who looked like a kid in a candy store. "Hey Peter, I'll get us something to eat, okay?" Not waiting for a response, he went for the nearest hot dog cart.
"Oh, this day is gonna be perfect," Peter rejoiced at the sight of his friend balancing the food and two cokes.
Neal took the seat next to Peter, handing him his share and not believing his eyes. "You know, I should have been suspicious when you called me to get to your house on a Saturday afternoon. And that you recommended wearing jeans and t-shirt was just the icing on the cake, I guess. But still I didn't get it. Not until you stepped out of your house wearing a Yankees t-shirt and a Yankees baseball cap," Neal said while he unwrapped the hot dog. "Those things gave it right away."
"Hey, I told you a while ago that I have those tickets," Peter smirked.
"Yeah, but I thought you would like to go to the game with some friend of yours."
Peter turned around. "You ARE my friend."
"That's not what I meant, but thanks anyway." Neal leaned back. "I didn't think that you would ever invite me. Not that I would be angry about it. I mean, it's…I simply didn't expect it."
"Well, then you'd better start believing, buddy." He took a sip of the coke and looked at Neal. He was well aware that the ex con man wasn't into sports. But, like Neal had said once, 'one could hope'.
"You're just doing this to torture me," Neal frowned. "Like you did when you punished me with gardening last weekend. Or washing your car. Or walking the dog. Which by the way wasn't that bad, though. Did you know that women like handsome men with dogs? Amazing," he added then said to Peter with an accusing look. "And don't tell me your leg hurts oh so much. You seem perfectly fine when I'm not around."
Peter held his heart in mock surrender. "Are you stalking me?"
"No. I wouldn't do that."
"But Mozzie would."
"You are paranoid, Peter."
"Wait a second," Peter furrowed his brow while he weighed his options. "Did El talk to you?" It seemed not too offbeat, because he knew El was worried that he overestimated his current health status. And he was pretty sure his wife was the one who had called Neal just minutes before, asking how he was. "Are you thinking that I'm gonna let you pay for shooting me?"
Shrugging his shoulders Neal answered, "I admit that thought crossed my mind."
"And why's that?"
"Maybe because you dragged me to this game against my will?"
"I'm not dragging you," Peter huffed. "I've invited you."
"How can one possibly hate baseball?"
"I'm not saying that I hate baseball," Neal countered. "It's just…," he looked at Peter obviously trying not to annoy him, "I'm more into football."
Peter almost choked on his coke. "F-football?"
"What?" Neal sounded amused, showing a surprised face. "What's wrong with football?"
"There's nothing wrong with football. It's just…," Peter was looking for the right words, still somewhat stunned. "…YOU? "
Swallowing his bite, Neal seemed to think. "I loved playing and I still love the game," he stated simply.
Neal was always good for a surprise and Peter realized that he still had some blanks to fill from Neal's missing years. So he gave it a try. "Senior year?"
"Yes, until I dropped out of High School."
Peter nodded and grinned mischievously. "So…next time…Giants?"
"Sounds like a plan," Peter smiled and leaned back. After a few seconds, he cleared his throat. "So…how's the therapy going?"
Not liking the change of the subject, Neal sighed. "Oh, she's really nice," he said smiling.
"Don't you have the same one?" Neal tried to sound innocent and flashed a smile.
"Apparently not," Peter growled. "And don't smile at me like that. It's not working." He thought for a moment. "Why do you always get the girls?" Not that he was surprised at all.
Neal held up his hands in defeat. "Hey! You're the one who made the appointments. I had nothing to do with it," he grinned broadly.
"What's her name?"
"Why is that so important?"
Peter squinted his eyes. There was definitely something wrong. He could tell it by the sound of Neal's voice. "Her name, Neal," he insisted.
"Dr. Tarr. Ashley Tarr."
"You were supposed to talk with Dr. Harrison Russell. What did you do?"
"Okay. It might be that I - accidently of course - switched the schedules of her and Russell while talking to the receptionist."
Not believing what he just heard, Peter sighed, closed his eyes and held the bridge of his nose with his fingers. "And why would you do that? Care to explain?"
There was a pause and Neal seemed to be uncomfortable. He licked his lips and took a deep breath before answering. "Honestly?"
"I would appreciate it," Peter said quietly. His gut feeling told him that there was more behind it so he patiently waited for Neal to response.
"Because first I didn't want to go. And since my charms work better on women, I chose her. I thought I would be able to sweet talk my way out of these sessions…you know…flirting with her… use my gorgeous smile, the puppy eyes. That kind of stuff. But somehow she…," he shrugged his shoulders, "…she got into me and I stayed. We talked for what seemed an eternity and I guess it might work."
"I'm glad to hear it," Peter exhaled and relaxed. Talking with Neal about his true feelings was never an easy task and therefore he was thankful that Neal trusted him. "And I'm glad you chose to stay." Knowing that Neal really had to deal with his demons, he would make sure that his friend continued his meetings with the psychiatrist.
"So am I." There was another pause.
"But let's not talk about the sessions today. We're here to enjoy the game, aren't we?"
"Right," Neal nodded and looked at Peter, winking at him. "Thanks for dragging me here. At least I got the chance to drive the car this time."
"You're welcome, buddy. But don't overuse your luck," Peter chuckled knowing that Neal had wanted to drive the Ford ever since they met. "I'm cleared to get back to work next week. So you better behave."
"I bet you had that line right on the tip of your tongue, right?"
"Yep." Peter took another sip.
"You sound like I'm a bad boy," Neal grinned.
"Well, what can I say? You're a convicted felon, so one can assume that you are indeed a bad boy!"
"Once again I want take the opportunity to point out that I'm a former con man. I try my best to change. You know…being an important part of human society. That kind of stuff."
"Which I am thankful for. Makes my life easier. And I'm proud having you as my friend." It was simple statement but both men knew the meaning behind it. He patted Neal's shoulder.
Not saying a word, Neal had to swallow and he looked at Peter for a moment. Then he nodded, "Me too." Clearing his throat, he broke the eye contact before he stood up. "I think I'll get us some ice cream. The game's starting any moment so chances are good that there will be fewer people in line."
"Oh, wait, I'll give you the money…," Peter cut in and reached for his wallet.
"Don't worry about that. That one is on me." He turned to leave. After a few steps, he turned around, stepping towards Peter and saying, "Thanks for having my back. I know you having a hard time with the investigation going on about the hostage incident and I -"
"Neal," Peter shook his head, "there was no need to have your back. We've already talked about the case, right?" A smile appeared on his face. "And I'll always have your back, no matter what."
Grinning, Neal nodded and took a few steps, then hesitated and turned around. "And thanks, for the back-up. I'll keep that in mind. Just…in…case, you know," he winked at him and went to get the ice-cream.
Peter was still smiling as he watched Neal made his way through the crowds. They had started as an FBI man working with a con man. Then they claimed to be partners. And now…they were friends. No, more than that. They were family. Looking back he wouldn't change a single thing. Sure, they had their ups and downs in the past. But he believed that everything had happened for a reason. Also he strongly believed that Neal had changed for good.
And he certainly wouldn't complain about that.