Neal Island

Master List


Below is a master list of all of my White Collar fics, art, and icons, organized by genre and posting date, from oldest to newest. Currently, any pairings written are canon. I will update this list to reflect changes as the need arises. Please feel free to read and enjoy, just please do not repost anywhere without my permission. Thank you for stopping by!

Friendship | Bromance | Family

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AU | Alternate Ending

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Feel free to snag if any strike your fancy!

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Peter - Like

A Meme!

Swiped from the lovely elrhiarhodan, who gave me the letter "s"! This is such fun!

Something I hate: student loans, spiders, stains on your favorite tee shirt

Something I love: Satchmo!, Sara Ellis!, sunrises, Saturdays, Brent Seabrook

Somewhere I've been: Skagway, Alaska; St. Louis, Missouri; Seattle, Washington; Saint George, Bermuda

Somewhere I'd like to go: Southern Italy; San Diego, California; Spain

Someone I know: Does myself count? Also, my Aunt Sam

A film I liked: Seabiscuit (one of my favorites, actually); and of course, Space Station 76

If you want to play, leave a comment for a letter of your very own. If you've already played, let me know what letters you have had so I don't give you a repeat. :)

Together, They Fought (A Five Times Fic)

Title: Together, They Fought (A Five Times Fic)
Author: eldorah
Word Count: 4,395
Rating: PG
Characters: Mozzie, Peter, Neal
Spoilers: 6.06 – Au Revoir
Warnings: None
Beta Credit: Many thanks to the lovely rose_of_sharon1, who diligently read more revisions of this than I can count. Thank you, my friend. Any remaining mistakes are mine.
Summary: Set during what is perhaps the worst year of their lives, five times Peter Burke helped Mozzie, and one time Mozzie returns the favor. 

The First Time

The grass was soft beneath his feet as he slowly made his way across the park. The flowers that were blooming on the trees above him dropped petals like a path leading to where he knew the others were gathered. The sun teased him with brilliant rays, touting a perfect day. But Mozzie could tell almost everyone’s lie, and this day was far from perfect.

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It's A Wonderful Life, Part II

Title: It’s A Wonderful Life
Author: eldorah
Word Count: ~8,000
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Neal, Reese Hughes, Mozzie, Peter/Elizabeth, Jones, Diana, Satchmo, Estelle, Neal Burke 
Spoilers: Up to 6.06 – Au Revoir
Warnings: Angsty moments for Neal, Peter, Mozzie; moment of non-canonical death of a canon character (resolved shortly after)
Beta Credit: rose_of_sharon1
Summary: Reese Hughes, guardian angel of Peter Burke, tracks Neal to show him what life is like for those he loves now that Neal Caffrey no longer exists. Response to a prompt by kessiebabe during the whitecollarhc 2014 Advent Calendar. Many thanks for the beautiful, beautiful artwork by kanarek13!

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Neal - new default

It's A Wonderful Life, Part I

Title: It’s A Wonderful Life
Author: eldorah
Word Count: ~8,000
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Neal, Reese Hughes, Mozzie, Peter/Elizabeth, Jones, Diana, Satchmo, Estelle, Neal Burke 
Spoilers: Up to 6.06 – Au Revoir
Warnings: Angsty Neal, Peter, Mozzie; moment of non-canonical death of a canon character (resolved shortly after)
Beta Credit: rose_of_sharon1
Summary: Reese Hughes, guardian angel of Peter Burke, tracks down Neal to show him what life is like for those he loves now that Neal Caffrey no longer exists.

Author’s Note: This is a fill for kessiebabe’s prompt over in whitecollarhc who asked for a fic in which Neal sees what the world is like if he had never existed, a la the Christmas movie It's A Wonderful Life. It was written for the White Collar 2014 H/C Advent.     Author rambles...Collapse )If you have not seen the series finale, episode 6.06, please do not read this if you don't want to be spoiled. For those of you who have seen the series finale, if you choose to read, I do hope you enjoy. Thank you to kessiebabe for an epic prompt. I hope you don’t mind the artistic license I took with the interpretation, given the fun ambiguity canon has now given us to play with.

Thank you so much to the very wonderful and oh-so-talented kanarek13 for taking the time to make beautiful, beautiful cover art for this story. I am a very lucky author. J


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Neal Island

Famous Last Words - Drabble Meme

Time for another drabble meme, this time with a twist!! Prompt me with any "famous last words" quote and a character or pairing, and I shall write you a drabble/short fic of at least 100 words. :)

Some examples of "famous last words" are included under the cut - but no need to pick one of those if you have something else in mind! :)

I will do my best to fill every prompt, it just may take some time. :)

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Neal Island

Of Rhythm and Blues, Master Post

Title: Of Rhythm and Blues
Author: eldorah
Artist: embroiderama
Beta(s): rose_of_sharon1
Rating: PG13
Characters/Pairings: Peter Burke/Elizabeth Mitchell, June Ellington, Neal Caffrey, Mozzie, Matthew Keller, Reese Hughes
Warnings: None
Spoilers: Through the end of Season 5 (This AU contains canon elements of Neal’s family history, which we receive various bits of info about throughout different episodes and seasons.)
Word Count: 16,153

Summary: When Peter Burke, well-to-do talent agent of both his billboard topping wife, Elizabeth Mitchell, and the legendary soul singer, June Ellington, finds raw talent unlike any other in the form of a young man recently relocated from the Midwest, he must find a way to gain the young man’s trust while helping him share his talent with the world.

Author's Note: I would like to thank my very wonderful friend, rose_of_sharon1, for without her continual encouragement, support, guidance, suggestions, betas, and occasional poke and prode, I would have given up on this project a long time ago. There are not enough thanks in the world I can give you, my friend. Thank you also to my artist, embroiderama, who created (four!) lovely, lovely peices for my story. They are beautiful, and you should definitely go leave her love at her art post (linked below)!

Neal Island

Of Rhythm and Blues, Part Four

Title: Of Rhythm and Blues
Author: eldorah
Artist: embroiderama
Beta(s): rose_of_sharon1
Rating: PG13
Characters/Pairings: Peter Burke/Elizabeth Mitchell, June Ellington, Neal Caffrey, Mozzie, Matthew Keller, Reese Hughes
Warnings: None
Spoilers: Through the end of Season 5 (This AU contains canon elements of Neal’s family history, which we receive various bits of info about throughout different episodes and seasons.)

Summary: When Peter Burke, well-to-do talent agent of both his billboard topping wife, Elizabeth Mitchell, and the legendary soul singer, June Ellington, finds raw talent unlike any other in the form of a young man recently relocated from the Midwest, he must find a way to gain the young man’s trust while helping him share his talent with the world.

Art Post | Master Post | Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four



Friday Evening, Beacon Theater

“You ready?” Peter asked Neal, patting him on the shoulder, “You are going to be great.” They were backstage at the Beacon Theater, and Matthew was two songs away from finishing his set. Soon, Neal would be on.

“Yeah, I think so,” the young man answered, sans his usual confidence. He had been uncharacteristically edgy all day, and Peter was not convinced it was solely due to tonight’s show. He did not have much of a backstory on the kid, and he had been quick to pick up each and every dodge he had made whenever the subject of his past came up.

Looking out across the stage, Peter thought back on the week. On one hand, the mysteriousness of the young man’s past added to Neal’s charm. You never quite knew what he had up his sleeve, and it kept Peter on his toes. But on the other hand, Peter got the vibe that Neal had not grown up as privileged as his current situation might imply. The most heartfelt of his three new songs told a painful story of a young boy who leaves his home, and Peter couldn’t help but wonder how much of those lyrics had been autobiographical.

“I’m definitely ready now,” Neal said, standing a little taller and smiling wildly, holding a shot glass in the hand not clutching his guitar. Peter blinked when he saw who had seemingly materialized next to him.

“Did you just give him a shot?” the talent agent hissed incredulously, “Please don’t tell me you just gave him a shot right before he is about to walk onto that stage.”

“A little Jameson never hurt anybody,” Mozzie smiled as he held up an ornate flask, “You want some, Suit?”

“What? No, no I do not want some. Why are you even here? How did they even let you back here?” Peter seethed.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him,” Diana swooped in suddenly, putting her hands on Mozzie’s shoulder and turning him toward the exit.

I do not need taken care of,” Mozzie garbled, a little too loudly, “Get you hands off me, Lady Suit!”

Shaking his head, Peter turned back in time to hear Keller announcing this as his last song. He glanced at Neal, whose eyes were glued on Keller as the first few bars began. The tune sounded oddly familiar, and as the talent agent watched his young new artist lose all of the color in his face, he finally realized what was happening. By the time Keller hit the first verse, there was no denying it. Keller was singing Neal’s new song. But then, a thought slowly dawned on Peter. What if it had never been Neal’s from the start?

“What did you do, Neal,” Peter hissed, “What is this about?”

“I didn’t steal his song, Peter, you have to believe me,” Neal said pleadingly.

“I told you not to hang around Keller, but you didn’t listen!”

“To be fair, I hadn’t heard your ‘intellectual properties’ comment yet,” Neal snarked, but was immediately silenced by an icy glare from the agent.

“Peter, Neal, what is this?” Hughes appeared from around the back of the stage, steaming, “Isn’t this the song you just played for me the other day?”

“It was, it’s my song,” Neal said in a hushed voice, “I wrote this song.”

“That’s not what Matthew Keller told me right before he went on stage,” Reese fumed, turning to Peter and shoving sheets of paper into the agent’s hands, “Matthew said he found this next to Neal’s backpack the other day. ‘Of Rhythm and Blues, by Matthew Keller.”

“This is the whole score,” Peter said quietly as he turned the pages over in his hands, “Did you steal it, Neal?”

“No!” Neal said, bewildered, “No, no. I – I wrote that song. I lived that song!”

Peter and Hughes both shot Neal a quizzical look, and Hughes opened his mouth to say something just as the familiar voice of Matthew Keller filled the airspace, nearly shouting over the cheers and applause. All three men turned to look at him from the side of the stage.

“Thank you, thank you. It has been so good to share that last song with you. Now, without further hesitation, I’d like to introduce you to a new friend of mine. Some of you may recognize him from Adler’s, Mr. Neal Caffrey!”

Quickly, Peter and Hughes turned back to the young man.

“Neal, just do the other two songs and we will sort this –“ Peter started, but stopped short, “Where the hell did he go?”

Hughes looked at Peter and shook his head, the disappointment weighing heavy in his eyes. The agent wasn’t sure how it was possible, but the young man had completely disappeared.

If there was one thing Neal had learned how to do growing up, it was how to disappear. He had actually come to depend on the ability as a default when things got rough, and growing up he had gotten out of many a conundrum this way. Usually he felt slick to have the to seemingly dissipate without being noticed, but this time, everything was different.

Neal had left the Beacon Theater about two hours ago and still hadn’t fully regained composure over what had happened. Sure, Mozzie and Peter had both warned him that Matthew Keller was no good, but he never thought the man would actually steal his song and hang him out to dry. Apparently, he had misjudged.

As he walked through the city streets toward Mozzie’s apartment, though, it occurred to him that Matthew wasn’t truly what bothered him about the whole situation. It was Peter, and the way he had looked at him when he realized what was going on. Peter thought Neal had lied, and now, he probably thought he had run as well. This pained Neal the most. He hadn’t realized how much he had grown to like the talent agent, and how much he respected him and appreciated his guidance. Peter was a good man, and the only thing the man had done since Neal arrived was bend over backwards to make this work for him. He hated this had suddenly been brought upon Peter – Keller had made a mockery of both him and Peter in front of one of the most powerful men in the business, and he only hoped that he wouldn’t lose his job for it.

Sighing, Neal thought sadly to himself that again, he had no choice but to leave. Clearly, it would be better for Peter that way.

Finally stopping in front of the huge mansion’s steps, Neal took a deep breath before going inside. He needed to collect his things, but he hoped no one was home and that he could sneak away unnoticed. He really hated goodbyes, and he had had enough of them in the past few weeks already.

“He’s gone, Mozzie,” Peter said angrily, “He ran.”

“I don’t think he ran,” the bald man said, slamming his hand into the tiny dining room table of his apartment, “And you know he didn’t steal that song.”

“Well, even if he didn’t run, how are we going to find him again?” the talent agent asked, sliding the music scores Hughes had given him across the table, “And how do we explain this?”

“He played the song at Adler’s the other night,” Mozzie mumbled, “He wanted to see how people liked it. Keller was there.”

At this, Peter fumed. “I told him not to hang around with Matthew Keller, I knew something like this would happen.”

“He didn’t know, Hon,” Elizabeth said from across the table, “Let’s focus on how to find him again. He’s just a kid, and we can’t let him out on his own in the city like this.”

“I can use my resources,” Mozzie said after a while, and Peter shot a skeptical look in his direction.

“I can ask around too,” Elizabeth said, “If he is still in New York, he is going to need a place to stay and a way to make money. Surely, someone will see him.”

“And I guess I will talk to Hughes Monday morning,” Peter finished, “And see if I can convince him that this is really Neal’s song. He has so much talent, I don’t know what it would take to make him realize it.”

Neal had easily picked the lock to June’s house and gotten inside, but his mission was halted by the sounds of Peter, Elizabeth, and Mozzie coming down the steps. Swiftly, he ducked around the corner and waited for them all to pass, and then raced upstairs to collect his things. Then, he grabbed his fedora, flipping it onto his head with smooth flip of his hand, and disappeared again, before any of them had even known he had returned.

Hesitantly, Peter stood outside Hughes’ office. It was 4:45 on Monday afternoon, and they hadn’t heard from Neal all weekend. His belongings had disappeared from Mozzie’s house, though, and Peter had a sinking feeling that he had left town for good.

The talent agent had been putting off this conversation all day, in some vain hope that the young man might contact him. He wasn’t sure why, but he was worried about this kid he barely knew, and he wanted to make sure that he was okay after all of this. But Neal, to his dismay, had not reached out.

Sighing resolutely, Peter knocked.

“Come in,” Hughes called from the other side.

“Hey, Hughes, I wanted to talk to you about Neal,” Peter started but stopped aburptly, surprised to find Matthew Keller already sitting across from his boss, “But I see someone may have already gotten to you first.”

“What is there to talk about? The kid was out to make a buck. He stole Keller’s song and ran away when he was caught.”

“I don’t know if it is that simple,” Peter continued, keeping a watchful eye on the slippery, leather-clad song artist, “Neal played the song at Adler’s the night before, and Keller had been there. I think the song was Neal’s, and Keller stole it. “

“Hey, you weren’t even there,” Keller yelled, jumping to his feet, “This kid came out of nowhere and stole my work, and you defend him? That takes a lot of nerve, Burke. We don’t even know this kid. Where did he come from, anyway?”

“It takes a lot of nerve to steal someone’s song,” Peter mumbled under his breath, ignoring the question that had plagued Peter since the first day he met Neal.

“And how about him leaving me out to dry on stage Friday night? I introduce him, and he chickens out? I looked like an idiot out there,” Keller continued.

“I’m sure that wasn’t his intention,” Hughes started.

“Maybe that was always his intention,” Keller interrupted, “You know, he used to want to rig the stints at Adler’s? He would come to me with set lists, saying we would split the money down the middle.”

“Oh, and you had nothing to do with it, did you, Keller?” Peter seethed, frustration bleeding into his voice.

“Why do you even care?” Keller yelled, “You don’t even know him. He was just some wash up that got lucky to land in the right place at the right time.”

“He is good, Keller,” Peter said defiantly, “He has more talent in his little pinky than you do in your entire body, and that scares you, doesn’t it?”

“Listen, it doesn’t matter,” Hughes said calmly, stepping between the two men and trying to restore order to the situation, “Neal ran, and he isn’t coming back. So let’s just all move on and make like this never happened.”

“I didn’t run.”

All three men in Hughes’ office suddenly turned to find Neal standing in the doorframe.

“Neal,” Peter started softly.

“I thought you had left town, Neal,” Keller said, surprise and hatred evident in his voice.

“I was going to, but I thought I owed Hughes and Peter an apology,” Neal said, turning to Peter, “I didn’t mean to disappear like that, I just didn’t know what to do.”

“Did you steal the song?” Peter asked directly.

“No, that was my song from the start, and I brought someone who can back me up.”

“So help me if you bring in the little man, Neal,” Peter hissed under his breath as the prodigy left, only to return moments later followed by June.

“June,” Hughes said, “So wonderful to see you again. How do you know our new friend Neal, here?”

“Hello, Reese, Peter. Neal has been staying in the third story apartment at my house with our mutual friend, Mozzie. He came to me this weekend looking for advice, and I was appalled when I heard he was being accused of stealing this song. I was there the night he played it at Adler’s for the first time, and there’s no way it was written by Keller.”

“That is not true,” Keller stood up to look June in the eye, “There’s no way you could know that.”

“As someone who has been such a successful influence in the business for the past thirty years, I think she can,” Hughes spat out at Keller, “Now sit down, and let her continue.”

“Thank you, Reese. I saw the way Neal performed the song, with an emotion that you just cannot ‘steal’. You see, there’s a huge difference between the songs you write yourself, and the songs someone writes for you to sing. The songs you write yourself come from your own heart, and they have meaning, wisdom, and emotions beyond any that another person can write for you. Good musicians let that seep into their performance, and Neal did. He didn’t steal it from Keller. Keller stole it from him.”

A proud smile crept across Peter’s lips as June dabbed at her eyes. Neal wasn’t sure if she was actually crying or just playing up the emotions, but he was glad for her support either way. He smiled gratefully to her as she excused herself, and she winked as she walked by.

“Keller, why don’t you wait outside as well,” Hughes directed, “I want to talk to Neal and Peter in private. Then I will deal with you.”

“Hughes, you can’t believe –“

“That was not a suggestion, Matthew,” the company owner cut him off bluntly.

Looking flustered, Keller stood up to go.

This won’t be the last you see of me. That is a promise,” he whispered quietly as he brushed shoulders with Neal.

When the three of them were finally alone, Hughes addressed Neal.

“I’m sorry we accused you of stealing, Neal. The circumstances surrounding all of this were… are… a little fuzzy,” the company owner started, “But I’d like to re-establish your previous terms with you, with a chance to showcase your work, and providing that is successful, a possible record deal.”

“Thank you,” Peter said, shaking Hughes’ hand, “That is a generous offer –“

“I don’t know if I want that,” Neal responded quietly, stopping his friend in his tracks, “I just wanted to apologize and to make sure I hadn’t left things in a terrible mess for Peter.”

“Neal,” Peter said, “This doesn’t change anything, you are still one of the most talented musicians I have ever seen. You still deserve this opportunity.”

“I don’t think that New York is really the place I should be, after all,” Neal replied, “But thank you, Peter, thank you so much for giving me this chance.”

With that, Neal turned and walked out, leaving Peter and Reese standing in the office speechless.

Quickly, Neal bounded down the steps and through the lobby of Reese’s Records, throwing open the door to the city street as fast as possible and resisting the urge to look back. For the second time in two weeks, he found himself in the unusual position of not having a plan or a place to go. He did know one thing, though – he wanted to start over, again.

He stalled for just a minute, trying to decide which way to go, and suddenly, Matthew Keller appeared next to him.

“What, did you follow me out here?” Neal asked dryly.

“Come with me,” Keller said as he walked off around the back of the building. Every instinct in Neal told him to run, but against better judgment he followed him around the building.

“Look, I wasn’t trying to make things difficult –“ Neal started, but was interrupted when Keller grabbed him by his shirt collar and pinned him up against the wall.

“They are going to cancel my record deal for this,” Keller fumed, laying a punch into Neal’s side, “You do know that, right?”

“Maybe you should’ve though about that before you stole my work,” Neal gasped as he tried to gain enough purchase to throw Keller off.

“Maybe you should have just left town when you ran off on Friday night. Maybe you should have never decided to one-up my stint at Adler’s,” Keller continued, landing a punch square across Neal’s jaw. “Maybe you should go back to whatever hole you crawled out of, or can’t you, Neal? Don’t you have someplace else to go?”

“Are you threatened by a little talent, Keller?” Neal said, now fuming, as he was finally able to land a punch against his rival, “Afraid you weren’t going to be able to keep up with me, so you had to bring me down?”

This comment sent Keller into a rage, and despite Neal’s best efforts at defense, he was brought to the ground by the sudden onslaught.

The struggle ensued for a few moments until suddenly, Keller caught a blow across the jaw that was not from Neal. Looking up, the young man was surprised to see Peter, who had come to his defense.

“Leave him alone, Keller,” Peter growled, “Get out of here now or I’ll bring Reese out here to end you career for good.”

Grumbling Keller stood up and wiped himself off.

“Fine, but if you want to side with him, I guarantee you I will end his career,” Keller threatened.

“I’d like to see you try,” Peter retaliated, his brown eyes burning holes into Keller’s back as he stalked off.

His whole demeanor softening, Peter then bent down to Neal.

“Need a hand, kid?” he asked gently.

“Thanks,” Neal said, sorely climbing to his feet, “Some people just don’t like to be wrong, I guess.”

“Some people don’t know how to be decent human beings,” Peter grinned, “You alright?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” Neal responded, rubbing his bruising cheek and wiping a splash of blood away from a cut on his forehead.

“You want to come back to my place?” Peter asked, “You can get cleaned up, and Elizabeth makes great Cornish game hens.”

Neal smiled. “I don’t even know what that is, Peter.”

“They’re like little chickens. Come on, she’ll be glad to see you.”

“Sure, if you don’t mind, I’d love a hot meal before I head out.”

“Not one bit,” Peter assured with a smile.

“Elizabeth, that was the best meal I have ever eaten,” Neal said, sitting back in his chair in the Burke’s dining room, “I’m not kidding. What were they called again?”

“Oh, sweetie, thank you,” Elizabeth gushed, “Cornish game hens. I picked up the recipe while we were… was it Nashville, hon?”

“Yes, Nashville, I think,” Peter confirmed. An easy silence settled in the room. Neal thought absently how strange it was to see Elizabeth Mitchell in her home, doing mundane things like cooking and cleaning up. She was such a tremendously well-known singer, yet here she was, a normal person, as beautiful on the inside as she was on the out. Neal felt privileged that the Burke’s had included him in this part of their lives, even if only for one night.

“So, Neal,” Peter started hesitantly, in a way that Neal understood that this conversation had just become serious, “Where are you headed?”

“I don’t know,” the young man answered truthfully.

“Do you mind if I ask you what you meant Friday night at the Beacon when you said that you had ‘lived’ that song?” Peter probed.

Immediately, Neal had to suppress the knee jerk reaction to spin a lie in response to the question about his past. He didn’t want anyone to know where he had come from. He didn’t need anyone else to carry that with them.

“We don’t mean to pressure you,” Elizabeth said, “We are just a little worried about you.”

At this, Neal looked up. Why would the Burke’s be worried about him?

“You don’t have to worry,” Neal said, “I can make it on my own.”

“We know you can, Neal,” Peter said, “We just want you to know that you don’t always have to.”

Neal sighed and looked away. He hated these kinds of conversations, but Peter had given him a chance. He was still giving him a chance, and Neal thought that the least he could do was give him the whole story.

“I grew up in St. Louis with the name Danny, thinking my father, who was a cop, had died a hero in a hail of gunfire. My mother wasn’t all there after my father passed, so my dad’s partner, Ellen, took care of me a lot of the time. As I got older, I found ways to earn my own money, mostly hustling pool halls and picking wallets off of people. I loved – I still love – school, and I had a full ride on an academic scholarship to study art history and civil law at the University of Missouri, starting next fall.

“On my eighteenth birthday, a few weeks ago, Ellen had me over after school and told me that my dad wasn’t a hero. He was, instead, a dirty cop, and he was still alive. She also told me that the three of us had been placed in a witness protection program, and my name wasn’t Danny. It was Neal.”

At this, Neal paused to compose himself, and Elizabeth moved around to the other side of the table to put her arm around him.

“I didn’t know what to do. You know, when someone tells you everything you thought you knew about yourself was a lie, what are you supposed to do? I chose to run away from it all. So I bought my guitar off of a street musician and hopped a bunch of rides until I landed in New York City. I hadn’t really planned on being anything more than a street musician, until I stumbled upon Adler’s and met Mozzie, who introduced me to you guys.”

“Honey,” Elizabeth said, stroking his shoulders, “Your mother and Ellen must be so worried about you.”

“My mother hasn’t tried to get in touch with me since I left,” Neal responded, pain bleeding in his voice, and Elizabeth pulled him closer, “Ellen had called a bunch of times, and I’ve spoken to her once. She said WitSec was relocating her, which means they will change her name and her contact information. I didn’t want them to find me again, so I got rid of my phone that day.”

“Is that who you were talking to the day we went in to speak with Hughes?” Peter asked, and Neal nodded solemnly in response.

After a few moments of silence, Peter spoke again.

“So that leaves us with the question, where are you going to go?”

Neal looked up at him, trying to fight back the tears.

“I told you, I don’t know. I don’t have a place I can call home, but I’ll be fine on my own.”

“You can stay here,” Elizabeth offered with a warm smile, “As long as you want to.”

“You guys have done enough for me already…” Neal started, his voice trailing off.

“Neal,” Peter said firmly, “You’re a good kid. You’re a talented kid. You deserve a life that’s better than running from your past all of the time. Stay with us.”

The young man looked up at Peter, whose concerned brown eyes were almost pleading with him. And he thought, that for the first time since he had become ‘Neal’, that he might have finally found a place to call home again.
2 Years Later

“And now I would like to introduce a very special guest this evening, Mrs. June Ellington!” Neal called from the stage at the Beacon Theater, and his fans went wild.

“What shall we sing, then, Mr. Caffrey?” June asked playfully as she sauntered on stage, the lights catching her diamonds and making them glitter, “How about my favorite?”

Neal simply smiled and flipped his old fedora onto his head as the beginning bars to his first hit song began to play. As June began to harmonize to the melody of the first verse, Neal stole a quick glance to the side of the stage, where Peter and Elizabeth were both looking on. He never would have guessed two years ago when he was sitting on the steps of the St. Louis Arch that life would have ever brought him to this moment, but he was so glad it did. It seemed like such a long time ago now, but the years had passed so quickly.

As the chorus came around, Neal chimed in with June in perfect rhythm, singing the song of his past proudly, knowing that he had come a long way since that eighteen year old who had landed awkwardly in the heart of New York City. These days, the memories the song brought back didn’t hurt as much. He had a story and he wanted to tell it, just as June had told him once years ago.

And to the side of the stage, Elizabeth Mitchell whistled and Peter Burke stood proudly looking on. Throughout this journey, they had been his biggest fans, continual sources of encouragement and support. They had showed him he didn’t always have to run from his past, and he was so glad he listened. He was so glad he had stayed.

Thank you so much for your time. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it. :)
Neal Island

Of Rhythm and Blues, Part Three

Title: Of Rhythm and Blues
Author: eldorah
Artist: embroiderama
Beta(s): rose_of_sharon1
Rating: PG13
Characters/Pairings: Peter Burke/Elizabeth Mitchell, June Ellington, Neal Caffrey, Mozzie, Matthew Keller, Reese Hughes
Warnings: None
Spoilers: Through the end of Season 5 (This AU contains canon elements of Neal’s family history, which we receive various bits of info about throughout different episodes and seasons.)

Summary: When Peter Burke, well-to-do talent agent of both his billboard topping wife, Elizabeth Mitchell, and the legendary soul singer, June Ellington, finds raw talent unlike any other in the form of a young man recently relocated from the Midwest, he must find a way to gain the young man’s trust while helping him share his talent with the world.

Art Post | Master Post | Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four



Peter was napping on his couch, not expecting Mozzie to arrive with his ‘prodigy’ for at least another few hours. Suddenly, an alarming bark from Satchmo proved him otherwise.

Jolting awake, Peter looked at the clock. 12:01. He should have known better than to be so vague as “afternoon” with Mozzie. Sighing, he got up and opened the door.

“Suit,” Mozzie acknowledged curtly before pushing past him without waiting for an invitation. Stunned, Peter turned to watch him in disbelief.

“Hi, Moz,” Elizabeth said sweetly, coming in from the kitchen and planting a kiss on Mozzie’s cheek, “It’s good to see you again.”

“And it’s always good to see you, El. June sends her regards.”

Shaking his head at Mozzie, Peter turned to the young man still standing on his doorstep. He looked like he stepped out of a photo shoot of the Rat Pack, dressed crisply in a sleek grey Devore complete with a fedora. Long, dark wisps of hair peeked out from around his hat. He was a lot younger than Peter had expected, but something in his baby blue eyes told him that this young man wasn’t as innocent as he appeared to be.

“Hi, I’m Neal,” the boy said, extending a hand.

“Hi, Neal, I’m Peter. Would you like to come in?”

“Sure, thank you,” Neal said, stepping past Peter into the humble Brooklyn townhome. He was immediately greeted by the Burkes’ yellow Labrador, and Neal fell to his knees to pet the dog.

“He likes you,” Elizabeth said, smiling, and Neal looked up, surprised to recognize the voice. For the second time in a few hours, he was struck speechless by who was standing before him. He looked wordlessly from Mozzie to Elizabeth to Peter, and finally said the only thing he could.

“Are you kidding me?”

Elizabeth, Peter, and Mozzie all laughed in unison.

“I take it he’s met June, then?” El said.

“Yes, this morning,” Mozzie said, “Peter, Elizabeth, this is Neal. Neal, this is Peter Burke and Elizabeth Mitchell.”

“Hi,” Neal said, extending his hand to Elizabeth, “It’s so nice to meet you. I’m such a fan.”

“Oh sweetie, stop,” El said, “Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Water?”

“No, I’m fine for now, but thank you,” Neal replied, still in awe.

“So, I hear you are quite the musician,” Peter probed, shooting an annoyed look in Mozzie’s direction.

“I dabble here and there,” Neal replied with a small smile.

“Well, shall we play, then?” Peter asked abruptly, leading him upstairs to the second floor. He guided them into a small guest bedroom housing an old upright piano.

“I’m sorry it is so small,” Elizabeth said, “But make yourself comfortable.”

Hesitantly, Neal walked over to the piano and sat down. This whole thing was awkward at best, and he had no clue what to play. He barely knew these people, and it was absolutely absurd to think that two days ago, he was sitting on the steps of the St. Louis Arch, his whole word in shambles around him. But music had always been an outlet for all of the tough situations in his life, and he was no stranger to the ivory keys of the instrument before him.

So, Neal took a deep breath, and for the second time in less than a day, and began to improvise a melody, letting his emotions create the rhythm.

Peter hated when Mozzie was right. Actually, hate didn’t seem like a strong enough word – he loathed, maybe even abhorred, when Mozzie was right.

But, as much as he hated, loathed, or abhorred the idea, he had been correct about this. Neal, in fact, had turned out to be an amazing musician.

The young man played a few original songs and then did a cover of one of Elizabeth’s, singing in perfect harmony with his wife and revealing he had the vocals to back up his musical chops as well.

Peter sat there astounded as his wife and Mozzie looked expectantly back and forth at the pair.  Neal just sat there smiling a big, white-toothed, dazzling grin that melted Peter’s heart in a second, and in the end, he didn’t really have a choice.

“I’ll take you in to the studio and we can record a demo Monday morning,” Peter said stoically, “No promises, just a chance for my boss, Reese Hughes, to hear you out.”

“Thank you, Peter,” the young boy said, standing up from the piano and reaching out to shake the talent agent’s hand, “Thank you so much. I appreciate the opportunity.” He was beaming from ear to ear.

“No promises,” Peter reminded, “You impress Hughes with this chance, maybe we can make this deal something permanent.”

“He will impress him,” Mozzie said confidently and then produced a bottle of wine of and four glasses, “Don’t worry about that. Now, let’s celebrate.”

“Where did you get that?” Peter asked, bewildered, “Aren’t those glasses mine?

“From the kitchen,” Mozzie said matter-of-factly, as if it was obvious, and Peter looked desperately at Elizabeth for help. But his wife just took the glass Mozzie offered her.

“To Neal,” she said, raising the glass in a toast before taking a sip.

“To Neal,” Mozzie repeated and did the same.

And Neal, accepting his own glass of wine despite his age, just smiled.


One Week Later

“Neal,” Mozzie said, sipping the vintage red Elizabeth had brought over on her most recent visit, “How’s the new song coming along?”

It had been about a week since Peter had taken Neal to record a demo and play it for Hughes. The company owner had absolutely loved it and had given the go ahead for Peter to offer Neal a tentative deal. If he wrote a few original songs, he would set him up with a chance to try them out in front of a crowd. If that went well, a record deal was possible in his future.

The dark-haired boy shot an exacerbated look in Mozzie’s direction as he straightened out his skinny tie in the full-length mirror. “You can’t rush perfection, Moz. Besides, I’ve been busy at Adler’s. Keller and I have been working together.”

“You and Keller?” Mozzie exclaimed, nearly choking on his wine, “What did I tell you about him? He is a conniving, back-stabbing, talentless excuse for a –“

“Easy, Moz. It’s not a big deal. We are staging some sets together. You know, coming up with set lists that will really get the crowd moving,” Neal said, and then added with his million-dollar smile and a wink, “And paying.”

“Neal, you know that is against the rules.”

“And since when have you been the epitome of a rule follower?”

“What, you’ve known me a week and you have my personality all mapped out?”

“No, I’ve known you a week, and I can recognize a fellow conman when I see one. You’re not the straight and narrow you make yourself out to be in front of Peter and Elizabeth, are you?”

Mozzie subtly smiled. “I knew you weren’t as innocent as you pretended to be either, kid. Listen, just be careful around Keller. He’s been in the business long enough to have a reputation, and his is not a good one. You don’t want your name tied to his.”

“Dually noted,” Neal said, playfully flipping on his fedora, “Besides, I always give the crowd a good show. We don’t do anything more than throw a few song names around beforehand. But now, I must be off. My fans await me.”

“That hat isn’t going to fit on your head anymore if you keep this up,” Mozzie teased, but Neal just smiled as he walked out the apartment door.

Neal grinned as the familiar sound of applause and hollering filled the fancy coffeehouse. Looking over at Keller, he nodded just before placing his fingers to the piano. They duo had left room in their sets for Neal to test out one of his new original songs he planned to present to Peter this week, and he was hoping for a good reception. Technically that was against the rules, but Keller had promised that no word would ever get back to Peter or Reese, so Neal had agreed.

The song was a relatively somber one, so the two musicians had built up the energy in each of their first two pieces. This was Neal’s last song, and Keller had agreed to respond with something of the same tempo, so as not to overshadow the young man’s slower choice.

Like many of songs Neal had written in his life, this one had flairs of blues and jazz and featured a syncopated beat. What truly connected him to this piece, though, were the words. He frequently wrote lyrics to his songs but seldom shared them; they were often too personal for him to risk rejection. However, for this particular piece, it had been deeply therapeutic to write, and he could only hope it would be as salutary to share with a crowd as well.

The song told the story of a young boy growing up in a big city with very little money. Each evening, the young boy went to the pool halls downtown to hustle a table and earn cash to bring back home to his mother. Throughout the song, the boy grows up, and one day, a storm hits and the boy has to decide whether or not he was leaving town. It ended with the boy watching his city skyline fade into the distance as he drove away, moving on to his next phase in life. He hadn’t titled the song just yet, but he knew that the lyrics would never change, for they bared his soul in a way that he wasn’t quite ready to admit in any other way.

As first, Neal stole quick glances in between notes to gaze out over the crowd, trying to gage whether or not they liked it. But soon, the song threw Neal back into a sea of memories from his former life he had recently left behind. Every time he pounded on the keys he could hear the sharp snap of a pool stick against the cue ball, or the rowdy cheers from the burly men way too old to be hanging out with a young teenager like Neal. The haze from the stage lights danced in the air like the smoke from the men’s cigars, and if Neal concentrated hard enough, he could almost make out their faces in the crowd. As he sung the chorus, he could see Ellen’s face, soft, concerned and empathetic as she told Neal news that would change his life. And as the song ended, he could vividly picture the last sunset he had watched before he left, in all of its brilliance sinking lower behind the arch, silhouetting it against the sky in the perfect photo. These memories were still raw and painful, and it hurt to revisit them.

Slowly, he pulled himself from the memories, taking a moment to compose himself before he stood to acknowledge the crowd. Silently, he hoped that those memories, as painful as they might be, would never let him go. They were his childhood.

The crowd remained silent for a painfully long second before responding, and Neal thought momentarily that his song had indeed been a failure. But slowly, one by one, the classily dressed members of the audience before him rose, until the whole room was cheering in a standing ovation.

“I think your song is a winner,” Keller whispered from across the stage, his eyes wild and fiery with envy, “You should give it a name, so they remember it.” The young man shook his head slightly, indicating that it didn’t have a title just yet, before taking a bow. When he straightened up, however, he found Keller standing next to him with a microphone.

“Neal, Neal, Neal,” his nasally voice slithered through the air, “You’ve outdone yourself this time. And what is your new hit called?”

The young man turned to Keller, shooting him a resentful look just in time to catch the fire in Matthew’s eyes. Suddenly, everything Mozzie had told him about Keller was blatantly, obviously apparent, and Neal got the sinking feeling that maybe he shouldn’t have hung around him at all. Narrowing his eyes, he took the microphone and turned back to the crowd.

“Of Rhythm and Blues,” Neal answered, smiling as the small crowd applauded. He wasn’t sure why Keller had put him on the spot like that, but the new title seemed like the perfect fit. As Keller began to play his final round, a song way too quick to be any he and Neal had agreed upon beforehand, the young man sat down. He was elated that his new song had been received so well, but he hoped that he hadn’t made a mistake by sharing it in front of Keller.

“I heard you have been hanging around Matthew Keller a lot lately,” Peter said as he handed Neal a coffee on the busy New York street. It had become customary for Peter to pick Neal up at June’s on the mornings they were set to record something in the studio, and Neal had grown rather fond of this new habit. In fact, he had grown rather fond of Peter’s company.

“Good morning to you, too,” Neal responded, a hint of annoyance in his voice to mask the apprehension he had felt about Keller last night, “We both play at Adler’s in the evenings. It gives us both some extra spending cash.”

“Well, he isn’t exactly the upstanding type,” Peter warned, “He doesn’t have the best reputation.”

“I keep hearing this, but no one has told me exactly what he’s done.”

“Staging sets at Adler’s, for starters,” Peter said, looking disapprovingly at Neal.

“We don’t stage the sets, we just throw around some ideas beforehand.”

“Regardless, those are supposed to be impromptu performances. Vincent Adler is a powerful man who could end your career before it even starts if he finds out you are rigging duels. And besides, you could do for a better partner than Keller. Intellectual property laws were never his cup of tea.”

“You mean stealing?”

“Yeah, you should read up on copyright laws sometime,” Peter said just as the two reached the door to the studio, “I have a guide in my office I could pass along to you.”

Before Neal could respond, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Instinctively, he checked the missed call, and his face paled when he saw the number.

“I gotta’ take this, Peter. I’ll meet you inside?”

“Sure,” the talent agent responded, eyeing Neal inquisitively, “I’ll tell the secretary to let you in.”

Neal nodded and then walked a few steps away from the building where he could get some privacy. He had been keeping his phone off since he got to New York, but last night, after his song’s debut, he couldn’t resist the urge to check it.

When he turned it on, he had found six voicemails and twelve texts from Ellen, five voicemails from the Marshalls, a few texts from various friends from school, and one automated voicemail suggesting he call back to claim his prize vacation.

However, there had been not a single word from his mother.

Now, as he looked at his missed call from a few seconds prior, he was surprised to see that he didn’t recognize the number. However, the 314 area code hinted that it had come from his home city of St. Louis.

Hesitantly, he redialed the number. He only had to wait two rings until he heard Ellen’s voice.

“Danny?” she said, but he remained quiet.

“Danny, is that you?” Still, Neal did not speak a word.

“Maybe you prefer Neal now,” Ellen said gently, “I just want to know you listening. Please.”

“I’m listening,” Neal choked out, his voice sounding nothing like his own.

“Oh thank goodness,” Ellen said, deftly avoiding calling him by name again, “I just wanted to know you were alright.”

Again, Neal chose to stay silent. He wasn’t sure why he was treating Ellen this way. It wouldn’t have killed him to return one of her calls or even just a text. Part of him was scared she was mad at him, and part of him was scared she would make him come back home.

He didn’t want to do that. He couldn’t just pick up and become Danny again. He was Neal now, but Neal didn’t have a home to go back to. Neal didn’t have a family.

Ellen, slowly realizing that this conversation was going to be rather one-sided, continued.

“I know you probably don’t want to talk to me. I gave you some pretty tough news the last time we talked. But I thought you needed to know, please understand that. There is so much more to this story that you don’t know and that I can’t share with you right now. But the Marshalls are relocating your mother and I since you left. They don’t know I’m trying to contact you. I figured if you wanted to be found you would have let them find you.”

She paused again to allow Neal a chance to respond, but he stayed quiet. He wasn’t sure what she wanted to hear, and after a pause, she continued.

“I don’t know where we will end up, but I’m always going to be here for you. I promise. If you ever need anything, please reach out. You are like a son to me, and I just want to see that you are okay.”

“I’m okay,” Neal said softly, too quickly. Even if he wasn’t, he didn’t want to worry Ellen anymore. She had done too much for him in the past eighteen years. “And you can call me Neal.”

“Good, good,” she said gently, her voice clearly fighting through tears, “How have you been?”

“I’ve gotta’ go, Ellen,” Neal said, a hint of the Midwestern accent creeping into the words. He had been careful to avoid that since he’d arrived in New York, but talking to Ellen, just hearing her voice, made it so easy to slip back into what still felt so natural. It made it too easy to slip back into Danny. “Thank you, for everything.”

“Oh, honey,” the woman said, disappointed, “Take care of yourself, Neal.”

“You too, Ellen,” Neal finished. With that, he quickly ended the call and threw his phone in the nearest garbage. He would have to pick a new one up later, but he couldn’t risk keeping his old one around. It would be too easy to trace as it is.

Neal took a moment to compose himself before heading into the office building. He had largely been able to suppress his emotions throughout this past week and a half, carefully channeling them into song lyrics and not allowing them to escape into conversation. After all, he had just met these people and they didn’t need to be bothered with all of the baggage that was his childhood. However, hearing Ellen’s voice brought all of his repressed feelings to the surface, and he still wasn’t ready to deal with them.

“Hey, everything okay?” a voice suddenly spoke, and Neal registered that Peter had come to find him outside the studio.

“Oh, yeah,” Neal said, playing it off, “I was just coming inside.”

Peter wasn’t fooled. There was something wrong and he knew it, but he seemed to let it go for now.

“Okay. Well, I’m here if you ever need to, you know, talk or anything.”

“Thanks, Peter,” Neal said sincerely.

“No problem. Now, let’s head inside. Hughes wants to talk to you about some possible dates to showcase your new work,” Peter replied with a smile.

“You lead the way,” Neal responded, flashing a convincing smile before following Peter with a heavy heart, leaving the only connection to his former life in a trashcan along the city street.

The first gift Neal ever remembered getting was a violin. He was maybe five or six years old, and it had been wrapped in stunning gold, glittering paper and decorated with a silver bow. He had ripped the paper off to reveal a hard, black leather case, with the inside lined with a velvet cushion that was soft to the touch.

The violin itself had been older, refurbished by its previous owner, but Neal did not mind. It was a ¼ size, and at only five he would have time to grow into it. He was euphoric the day he opened it, euphoric the first time he played it, euphoric during every music lesson and recital and practice session. It was what he loved to do every minute of every day. It made him feel alive.

At first, he had thought that Santa had brought him that first violin, but as he grew up he came to realize it had been a gift from Ellen. She had seen the natural talent in him early, and knew he was going to be an excellent musician. He got that from his father, she would say. His father had played the guitar, a Gibson, to be specific.

“What do you think of that, Neal?” Neal heard Reese Hughes, the studio owner, ask him in a voice full of forced patience. He looked at Peter standing beside him. In all honesty, he had been so lost in the thoughts and memories triggered by his phone call from Ellen that he hadn’t heard a word the man had said.

“Do you think you could come up with three songs by Friday?” Peter questioned, his eyebrows raised in confusion at Neal’s lack of comprehension, “So that you could play them after Matthew and before the title band at the Beacon?”

“Yeah,” Neal stammered,  “Yeah. I already have one written and one in the works. I think I could do that.”

“Alright, then it’s settled,” Hughes said, hesitantly, “You’ll go on after Matthew.”

“Thank you, sir,” Peter said, shaking his boss’s hand, “We appreciate it.”

Neal nodded in agreement and let Peter lead him out of Reese’s office.

What the hell was that?” Peter hissed under his breath as soon as they were out of earshot of Reese, “Is this a joke to you?”

“No, no,” Neal stuttered, “I just got lost in thought, that’s all.”

“Are you sure nothing is wrong?” Peter asked after a short pause, his eyes now wide in concern, “Is this really what you want?”

Neal thought for a moment. Suddenly, everything seemed to be moving so quickly. He wasn’t really sure what he wanted anymore. But as a kid alone in New York City, what other choice did he have?

“I’m thankful for this opportunity,” Neal said with a small smile, easily skirting around answering Peter’s question directly.

The talent agent narrowed his eyes, not missing the evasion, but did not push further.

“Good, then go get to work. You have a lot of songwriting to do before Friday.”

Sitting out on Mozzie’s balcony, Neal could admire perhaps the most perfect view he had ever seen in his life. It was stunning and surreal, and Neal could not believe this all wasn’t a dream.

Tomorrow was Friday, the day he was making his big entry into the music world. He was still conflicted and unsure of whether or not this was the path he truly wanted, but he was caught somewhere between exuberant that he even had this choice and stuck because it was his only choice. He had originally thought that, if all else failed, he could cut ties and move on again, starting over in a new city this time. However, he was starting to like his new life here, or more so, the people in it. Running away wasn’t something he wanted to do again.

“Working on a new hit?” June asked, sauntering onto the terrace with a plate full of lady fingers and a pot of freshly brewed coffee. She was the absolute picture of grace and elegance, and she still left Neal star-struck.

“I am,” Neal responded, standing to take her tray, “I don’t want to disappoint Peter or Reese.”

“Oh honey, with those good looks and that crooning voice, nobody is going to be able to look away.”

At this, Neal smiled, and his cheeks flushed ever so slightly.

“Did you know?” Neal asked, looking up at the legend, “Did you know this was what you wanted to do? Did you know the first time you wrote a hit that it was going to succeed?”

June smiled and sat down next to him at the table, leaning in and placing her hand over his.

“I knew I wanted to do something extraordinary,” she said smoothly, “I knew I had a story, and I wanted to write it. I wanted to tell it to the whole world so that they could realize they had a story too.”

“And your songs?” Neal probed, “Did you know how successful they’d be the moment you wrote them?”

June sat back in her chair, contemplating. “I don’t think I ever knew if a song was going to go over well or not. That’s part of this game, Neal. It’s part of the rush. You never really know. But if you write from your heart, and tell your own story, you are going to be successful. That is the root of good music.”

A silence settled between the two for a moment before June broke it again, her eyes softening.

“I was there the other night at Adler’s, when you played your song for the first time.  It was one in a million, a true hit. You have the talent, Neal. Now you just need to decide if this is what you want to do.”

With this, the legend stood up and exited the terrace, leaving behind the cookies, coffee, and the greatest complement Neal had ever received. Continue to Part Four!