Wow, it's been a long time! I made this chapter extra long though to make up for the long delay. Like I said earlier this is my first fanfic story so I think I got a bit overwhelmed there for a while but hopefully I am back on track. Thanks so much for all the wonderful reviews and favorites! They really do help out a ton. Enjoy!
"Look what I made at school Moz!" Neal said to the teenager who had just climbed into the backseat of Elizabeth's car. He was holding up a spider made out of black pipe cleaners and a lollipop. "We read a book about a spider that saved Halloween. He dressed up like a pumpkin and went trick-or-treating with his friends. Aunt Elizabeth, am I going to go trick-or-treating?" Neal asked as he rummaged through the papers in his backpack.
El smiled to herself and quietly exhaled. She had no idea how much an eight-year-old could talk. The car hadn't been silent since she picked her nephew up from school fifteen minutes earlier. She heard everything about his first day from what he had ate at lunch to his home-run he had kicked during their kickball game at recess. She heard a lot about a girl named Sara which made her happy that he had made at least one friend. To be honest though, she was more concerned about Mozzie making friends at school. It was always more difficult to make new friends the older you were. Before she merged onto the street she turned around in her seat to face the two boys. "Of course you can go trick-or-treating Neal. We will have to start thinking about a costume for you. How was your day Mozzie? Did you enjoy your classes?" She didn't want to come right out and ask if he had made any friends in case he hadn't.
Mozzie knew El was trying to figure out if he had made any friends. He thought back to the day he had just had. His first day of high school was definitely not what he expected. He really just wanted to float through the day and just get by these next two years with as little interaction with his peers as possible. His plan was going pretty well until his third period English class when all the students were supposed to be writing in their daily journals. A group of students behind him were whispering to one another how they were having a predicament. Mozzie was trying not to eavesdrop but he also knew he was very good at solving other people's problems and it usually ended up with him being richer in either money or that person owing him a favor later down the road. This was a great opportunity to get back into the business of enriching people's lives with his proficient skills.
As he listened in he found out that a huge Halloween Party that Allie was supposed to host at her house now had to be cancelled because her parents were no longer going to Boston for the weekend. This meant they were either going to have to find another location for the party or they were going to have to cancel it. Mozzie quickly thought for a moment while he listened to the group throwing out other possible homes or venues. "Perhaps I can be of assistance." Mozzie whispered as he turned around in his chair towards the five teenagers. They all looked at him in shock as he continued to whisper, "I couldn't help but overhear your dilemma you are facing with your Halloween bash. I think I have a solution to your problem."
"I'm sorry. Who are you?" The girl Mozzie figured was Allie asked in disgust. She didn't exactly whisper it though so the next thing they knew their English teacher was walking towards them and telling them to stop talking and continue writing.
Towards the end of class, Allie leaned forward and told Mozzie to meet her at lunch if he really did have a place in mind for their party. Mozzie pushed his glasses up further onto his nose and drew a small picture of a stack of money on his empty journal page. He was back in business.
"School was… enriching. It's good to be back" Mozzie said as he thought back to his business transaction he had at lunch. Allie and her group of minions were more than happy to do whatever it took to accept Mozzie's offer of an elite venue he could get for them. Mozzie still had his connections with the outside world. He knew it wouldn't be difficult to secure a rooftop or apartment flat for their affair. He would still be coming out on top after the whole ordeal was over and done with.
"That's great Mozzie! I am so glad both of you boys had a good first day. Do you guys have a lot of homework?"
"I don't have any! I finished all my work at school." Neal said matter-of-factly.
"I have a little. It shouldn't take me too long to finish though." Mozzie answered.
"Oh good. Well we need to go by Peter's work and give him a ride over to the auto shop where his car was getting fixed. So we'll head over to the FBI Building."
Mozzie and Neal both went stiff in the backseat. Neal looked over at his brother and eyed him nervously. They were both thinking the exact same thing. They didn't want to step foot in a Federal building. "Moz… We can't." Neal's voice barely carried above a whisper. Mozzie was very good at lip reading, even if he wasn't though he still would've known what his little brother was trying to say to him just by the scared look on his face. Mozzie pulled out his English journal and scribbled 'play it cool' onto a blank sheet. He showed it to his brother and was glad to see Neal relax a bit after he read it. 'act normal, it'll be fine' Mozzie knew that Peter didn't know about any of the illegal things they have done. They weren't going to walk in there and get thrown into an interrogation room and get handcuffs slapped on them. He knew why Neal was freaking out though. His Dad got locked up about two years ago and it was really tough on Neal. Mozzie was just glad he was there to take care of him while James was serving out his time. It was for a petty crime so he was out nine months later but it made Neal even more paranoid of anything and anyone to do with cops or feds. It didn't help that James was constantly badmouthing the system.
"Are you guys okay back there?" El couldn't help but notice the boys had suddenly grown quiet behind her.
"Yep, we're good. Just tired is all." Mozzie reassured her as he put his notebook back into his backpack.
"He looks nothing like you Peter." Diana said amusingly as her, Peter and Clinton made their way down the stairs from Peter's office towards his family who had just entered from the elevators. Peter wasn't sure if the whole group was really his family though. Sure his wife and nephew were but he still wasn't completely sold on the lanky teenager who was constantly pushing his thick framed glasses further up on his nose.
"Really Diana, I think Peter looks exactly like his nephew. The same paranoid expression, nervous fidgeting and haven't you noticed Peter's hairline has definitely been receding." Clinton said as he reached up to tousle his hair.
Peter saw it coming and quickly dodged Clinton's hand before he could dishevel anything on his head. "At least I have hair. And besides that is not my nephew," By now they had reached his family. He noticed the two boys had big smiles on their faces but every now and then they would glance around nervously or fidget with their hands. They obviously didn't want to be here. "This is my nephew." He said as he wrapped his arm around the small boys' neck. "Neal, I would like you to meet Diana and Clinton. Guys, this is my nephew, Neal and his friend Mozzie who is staying with us."
"Pleased to meet you." Neal said as he shook both their hands. Was he really pleased to meet them though? They seemed nice enough but they were still Feds. He could feel Peter's eyes watching him curiously so he kept the fake smile plastered on his face as he stepped back towards his aunt and Mozzie.
"You ready to go Hon?" El asked realizing that was all they were going to get out of the boys.
"Yeah, I think I have everything I need." Peter looked down to make sure he had his coat and briefcase that was full of a half a dozen case files that he would have to go through sometime tonight. He hated bringing work home with him but they still hadn't had any leads on the current case his team had been assigned to.
"It was very nice to meet you Neal and Mozzie!" Diana said eagerly as they turned to leave.
"Yeah, stop by anytime." Clinton said as he waved goodbye.
"They're not stepping foot in here ever again, are they?" Diana asked as the two of them made their way back to their desks to gather up their belongings so they too could head home.
"Doubt it, not unless they are forced to. They looked like they wanted to bolt for the door the whole time. I wonder what has them so freaked out. It's not like they are criminals or anything." Clint said jokingly as he held the door open for her.
"Shouldn't you be getting ready for bed?" Peter asked still focused on the case files in front of him on the dining room table.
Neal was shocked. He could usually sneak up on anyone and not be detected until he was ready to be noticed. He didn't now how Peter did it. "How did-" He started to ask.
"You need something Neal?" Peter didn't mean for it to come out so abruptly but he was really under the gun on this art forgery case. At least they figured it was an art forgery case. They really didn't have any proof that the painting the museum had in their possession was in fact a fake but Peter had his suspicions and so did the museum.
"What are you looking at?" Neal was curious to get a closer look at the beautiful pictures of the painting his uncle was studying so fervently. His parents had always made sure he had a great love for art so every time he saw a new piece even a glimpse of one for a slight second, it usually stuck with him for days. "Can I see?" Neal asked hesitantly as he took a step closer.
His nephew was just going to continue to be full of surprises Peter decided as he scanned the opened folders for anything inappropriate for an eight-year-old to lay his eyes on. When he didn't see anything he turned and waved the boy over to the table. It was a good thing he didn't work in homicide.
"So you get to work with paintings everyday at work?" Neal asked incredibly. He leaned over to the middle of the table and scanned his eyes over to a close up photograph of the piece of art. The painting was a big swirl of mostly yellow, orange and red. It looked like a big ball of fire. It was definitely abstract but it made Neal feel warm and happy inside when he studied it.
"A lot of our cases seem to have art involved in them in one way or another. You are quite the little artist Neal. What is your expertise?"
Neal thought about that question for a second before he answered. His expertise? Well he knew how to pick locks, pickpockets, play cards, and talk his way out of almost any situation with a little white lie and a charming smile. His art expertise though, that was a different story. "I guess paints."
"You will have to show me some of your paintings sometime. I remember your mom always had a sketchpad in her hand growing up. She always expressed herself best with her drawings." Peter choked up a bit when he remembered his sister's room full of drawings of their childhood. Black and white sketches of the two of them fishing and riding bikes. A picture of their pet dog resting his head on their dad's lap and one of their Mom baking cookies in the kitchen in her frilly apron. He missed her and seeing Neal and the way he also had a love for art made him miss her even more. They were more alike than he realized.
"They both taught me." Neal said solemnly. He didn't look up from the folder in his hands but Peter could tell the kid was about to cry. He had to remember he wasn't the only one who missed his sister.
"Hey, you okay? I'm sorry I brought your mom up. It's okay to miss them Neal. You don't have to go through this by yourself. I miss her too."
After a few minutes Neal gained his composure and finally looked up at Peter, "I'm glad you brought her up. I don't want to forget her. I think it's already starting to happen though." Neal whispered the last part and quickly looked down at his shaking hands. "I can't remember her voice." His own voice had started to crack and he started to get up.
"No, Neal. Stop." Peter reached out and grabbed his arm. "It's okay buddy. Come here." He said as he pulled the little boy onto his lap.
Neither one of them spoke for several minutes as Neal wrapped his arms around his uncle's neck and cried into his shoulder. At first Neal was ashamed and embarrassed to let his emotions out so freely in front of someone and he made a move to release himself out of Peter's hug but Peter gave him a reassuring squeeze and started to rub his back soothingly. Neal couldn't help but feel safe and secure in his arms.
Peter thought to himself how this whole grieving process was much easier when there was someone there to go through it with you. He continued to rub small circles on the boys' back until Neal had cried himself to sleep. Peter looked over on the table at all the case folders he still had to go through. They could wait.
"Who was that on the phone?" Neal asked his brother when he walked into their bedroom just as Mozzie was ending a call on his cell.
"You wouldn't believe what a great deal I just got on a venue for the Halloween party at school. You know Billy, the one who owes-"
"Mozzie! You're going to get us in trouble." Ever since Mozzie had told him about the Halloween party he was putting together for some kids at school, Neal had been a nervous wreck. He didn't want Peter and El to find out that Mozzie was making some pretty sketchy business deals with some even sketchier people.
"Neal relax, I am going to cut you in on the deal. Of course I am doing all the work so you understand that it won't be fifty-fifty."
"I don't want a part of any of it Moz! Peter's going to find out and he will kick us out."
"He's your uncle Neal. He may kick me out but he wouldn't do that to you."
Neal was about to say something about how they were brothers and how he didn't want to be separated again all because of a stupid business transaction when Peter and El stepped through their bedroom door. "Everything okay in here?" El asked hesitantly. She and Peter had heard yelling from their room which was surprising because she didn't think the two boys ever fought.
"We're fine." Neal said angrily as he made his way to the door.
"Hey, whoa. We came up here to tell you two that El and I will be going to a FBI benefit dinner tomorrow night. You two will be on your own for a few hours." Peter said as he caught the escaping boy before he could bolt out the door. He wasn't sure if this was such a good idea to leave the two of them alone for an evening after coming upon their bedroom door and hearing them fighting. He wasn't sure what the argument was about but it didn't sound like it was resolved.
"Don't worry though, you won't starve. I will make you guys some dinner before we leave." El said sweetly. She kneeled down and gave Neal a quick kiss on his forehead before she turned to leave. She couldn't help herself he just looked so upset. His cheeks were red with fury but after the kiss they turned a darker shade of red with embarrassment.
In bed that night long after all the lights had turned off in the household, Mozzie whispered to his still fuming brother. "Looks like we won't have any Federal Agents looking after us tomorrow. What say we hit the town? We could have a little fun like the good ol' days."
Neal didn't answer right away. He knew Mozzie knew he was still awake though. He didn't want to relive the good ol' days. The good ol' days sucked. He liked his life now. Peter was going to find out they snuck out and he was going to kick Mozzie out. No, it wouldn't end well for any of them. Why couldn't Mozzie understand how good they already had it? He was going to go tomorrow anyway though, if he went with him or not.
"Neal? What do you think?"
"Fine! Can we just go to sleep now?" Neal had no idea why he had agreed to go with him. Maybe if they did get caught, Peter would go easy on them if they were both involved. Hopefully they wouldn't have to worry about any of that though if Peter just didn't find out.