Reese

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!

Click for Part 1!


~~~~~

When Neal opened his eyes, he was once again sitting alone in the wicker chair at the café in Paris.

“Refill on your coffee, Mr. Spade?” the waiter asked, and Neal startled.

“No, no, I’m fine, thank you. Just the check.”

“It has already been taken care of, sir,” the young man said, sliding a paper tab across the table to Neal, “Same time tomorrow?”

“Yes, same time tomorrow. Merci,” the conman said as the waiter quickly turned to leave. Curious, Neal picked the small square of paper.

Remember, Neal: No man is a failure who has friends.* Do the right thing.

Neal smiled, turning the paper over in his hands for a moment as he mulled over his decision. Finally coming to a conclusion, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a deck of cards he had bought while at the airport. Taking out the queen of hearts, Neal folded back a corner so that the Q just touched the top of the Eiffel Tower printed on the back. Then, he took out his burner phone, snapped a picture, and sent it to the contact listed as Dante Haversham.

~~~~~

For Peter, this was almost worse than the day he held Neal’s slowly chilling hand before he was lifted into that ambulance. Nothing had been certain that day, and even when the doctor had come to give he and Mozzie that heart-wrenching, life-changing news, he had at least had some time to prepare for it. He hadn’t let his hope run too wildly lest Neal Caffrey actually prove to be a mortal human being. And mortal so he had been, at least for this past year, until a certain vintage bottle of Bordeaux gave him the courage to hope once more.

Now, as he sat in a wicker chair in a café in the heart of Paris, Peter couldn’t imagine anything worse. Doubts crept in from the corners of his mind that maybe, just maybe, he had misread the whole point of the storage container. Maybe the bottle meant nothing more than goodbye, as Neal had once told him about that same bottle and Kate. Maybe the card in the storage container was a bluff, or maybe it was a duplicate, acting as Neal’s good-hearted attempt to keep Peter’s hope alive. Or maybe Mozzie had planted it there, leaving behind his only connection to his friend with the rest of Neal’s things before he moved on to the next chapter in his life. None of these scenarios were what he had flown his entire family to Paris during Christmastime to find, though, and it made the wound from Neal’s death rip open raw once more.

Peter sighed and buried his head in his hands, and snow softly began to fall around him.

“The usual for you, sir?” a waiter approached him and asked in a French accent with a smile too big for someone working on Christmas morning. Peter had never been here before, but he nodded all the same. He didn’t have the heart for idle conversation, and he nearly broke down then and there when the young man returned with a steaming cup of Italian Roast. Coffee just didn’t have that same jazz too it as it once had, especially his late partner’s favorite brew, and all Peter could taste was the bitter sting of his broken heart.

The new father scanned the crowd in a final, half-hearted attempt to find a familiar face before he had to head back to his hotel to pack up for his return flight home to the States. There were too many finely dressed, beautiful people out on the streets on this snowy Christmas morning, none of which bore the likes of Neal Caffrey. He was about to stand up to leave when suddenly, a sleek, black fedora floating just a few inches above the other heads caught his eye.

Peter watched in rapt attention as the hat floated closer and closer, finally breaking out of the crowd to reveal its owner. A tall, thin, finely dressed man, with dark curls and suave shoes approached the café, head down as his hat collected flakes of powder. The delicate hand of a beautiful brunette was nestled in the crook of his arm, and the couple sat down outside just two tables away from Peter. The man had done a stellar job of hiding his face from the agent, but the second he heard the voice, Peter’s heart fluttered in his chest.

In a voice Peter could never forget, the young man began his conversation with his date.

“My name is Elliot Spade,” Neal started, loud enough for Peter to hear clearly, “And I have lived in Paris for about a year. I left my home to keep my family safe – if I had stayed, my past would have caught up with them and they surely would have suffered. Now, I am free. I have a loft in the city but spend a lot of my time in a villa along the Cote d’Azur. I like to paint, although not originals, I’m afraid.”

“What do you do for a living?” the beautiful young woman asked in French.

“I am an artist by trade, doing restorations here and there, and work part time as security in the Louvre, for now. I have other hobbies, none of which we need to discuss here,” Neal responded in English as he leaned into the conversation, “You never know who might be listening.”


At this, Peter chuckled. Some things, despite his best efforts, never changed, and Peter thought that if he was honest, he might not have it any other way.

“Are you happy here in the city?” the woman asked, now sounding a little too rehearsed.

“I am,” Neal replied slowly, “I am. Nothing can replace the life I left, though. Nothing can replace my family and the place I once called home. I miss them.”

“Will you ever go back?” the woman asked, again too rehearsed.

“I don’t think it’s safe,” Neal responded, “Not for me, not for my family. But, I will see them again, I am sure. After all, that is what the saying ‘Au Revoir’ is for, no?”

The woman lightly chuckled and Neal stood to go, gently kissing her hand.

“That is all you get for now,” Neal said, his back still toward Peter, “The rest you will just have to figure out on your own.”

With that, Neal started off in the direction from which he had come, his head still hidden from Peter’s view.

“Turn around, Neal,” Peter muttered under his breath. He was desperate for just a glimpse of those baby blue eyes and that devious smile - just one glimpse. That was all he needed. “Turn around.”

The agent let his eyes linger on the conman’s back as he walked further and further down the street, hesitating with every step, as if some force was pulling him forward that he didn’t quite want to obey. He was just about to disappear into the crowd when he, at last, turned around to face Peter.

The agent let out a year’s worth of held breath and the emotion surged through his veins. A distance away, Neal too quickly batted at his eyes as well before reaching up and giving his hat a tip. Then, he held Peter’s steady gaze and waited for a response.

Peter, tears of relief freely flowing, nodded ever-so-slightly in understanding to Neal. An out-of-place holler of a fake birdcall sounded, and the agent could no longer contain his composure as he sniffled and broke into a boyish grin through his flood of tears.

Neal’s smile mirrored his partner’s, full of relief and fulfillment. The conman briefly broke his gaze to look past Peter where Hughes was standing beyond the café, unbeknown to the agent. The contentment was evident on the angel’s face. Neal caught eyes with him for just a second, and silently thanked him for what he had done. Reese simply nodded in approval before turning and walking away. The conman watched the angel turn the corner, and then looked back to Peter, taking off his hat. Clear-as-day, he called out to his best friend.

“Merry Christmas, Peter! You’re the only one.”

“The only one what?” the agent replied, his smile huge.

“The only one I trust, who ever caught me, who saw the good in me… Who will find me again. Take your pick.”

“Neal, there’s so much good in you that it’s impossible to ignore,” Peter said as another tear rolled down his cheek.

At this, Neal smiled, flipped his hat onto his head and peered out sheepishly from under its brim.

“Au Revoir, partner,” Neal called back. Then, like magic, after one last look back, he disappeared between the snowflakes behind the next passerby, gone as quickly as he had come.

“Until we meet again,” Peter whispered under his breath, the smile still cemented across his lips.

The agent remained sitting at the café for another few minutes, letting the tension that had built up from a nightmare of a year leave him. He desperately had wished he could have sat down and really talked with Neal, reached out and touched his face to make sure that he truly was there, but he understood his partner’s hesitation. That would come in time. This, this was the start of a new chase, one he was absolutely thrilled to take part in. One day, he might bring Neal home again, but for now, it was simply enough to know that his partner was still alive.

In the distance, the agent saw his wife approaching him in the snow with his baby boy, who was now nearly two, in her arms. He stood to greet her, stealing one last glance in the direction in which Neal had disappeared.

“Hon,” Elizabeth said, reaching Peter before he could move, “I know you are devastated, but we need to catch our plane. And it is too cold out here for Neal.”

Peter chuckled at the thought of two Neal’s in his life now, the perfect amount. He kissed his wife atop her head and put his tan wool coat over her shoulders, effectively sheltering her and his son from the chill of the snow flurry.

“I saw him, El,” Peter said, his face aglow, “He’s alive.”

“Peter,” Elizabeth gasped in disbelief.

“He’s alive,” Peter nodded in confirmation, and Elizabeth kissed him deeply. “He’s alive.”

“Did he leave already?”

“He’ll be back,” the agent said, pulling from his wife’s embrace, “We will see him again.”

In Elizabeth’s arms, baby Neal started to fuss.

“Oh Hon, I wish we could stay, but please, we need to get going.”

“It’s alright. I’ll be right there, El.”

As Elizabeth turned to leave, Peter turned back once more to scan the street. There was no sign of Neal Caffrey, but the agent knew his partner was close by. He always was.

“Merry Christmas, partner, until we meet again,” Peter said jovially, his arms spread wide, seemingly calling to no one in particular.

A fake birdcall hollered again from what sounded like the roof of the café.

“And Merry Christmas to you, too, Mozzie,” the agent said in the general direction he thought the quirky man might have been.

Looking around at the beautiful city, he thought that this might be the most perfect ending to their story. Neal would stay close, he was sure. Forever just out of reach, always elusive, ever-elegant in any disguise, and always, always, always one step ahead, but his partner would never stay too far away. Of this he was definitively sure.

With this certainty drilled solidly in the back of his mind, Peter turned to catch up with his wife and beautiful son. They would soon leave this stunning city behind, but that was fine.

Now that Neal was back in it, his life was whole again, and that was truly wonderful.

And Neal, who was drinking the finest wine, entertaining the most beautiful of women, creating a new life of the most extraordinary kind, and who was undoubtedly sure he was half of a partnership that no amount of miles could tear apart, whole-heartedly agreed.
~~~~~
Thank you for your time, and Happy Holidays!

* This is a direct quote from the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”.
Breathtakingly brilliant! I wish I had thought of it.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read it.. I am so glad you enjoyed it! :)
OMG, beautiful :D Yes, I just need all those happy ending fics coming my way, heee. They will most certainly be back in each other's lives in no time :D

I can already see summer vacations at Neal's villa in Cote d'Azur, heee :D

Love it, it's perfect and just YAY \o/
Yay! So glad you enjoyed this!! Yes, I have no doubt that our boys would be back together in no time. :D Thank you again for the cover!! ::hugs::
(Anonymous)
beautiful!! I need it :-D Marta
I am bawling like a baby right now, but for the best possible reasons. This was beautiful, brilliant, and an utterly fitting continuation of the story of Peter, Neal and the whole gang.

Hughes as the guardian angel! Neal determined to keep doing what he thinks he needs to do to keep everyone safe. Peter's quiet breakdown. Neal's helpful 'date,' asking all the right questions. The new life Neal has made for himself, but the admission that nothing can ever replace his family.

If I'm not careful, I'll just list everything that was in the story...amazing, heartbreaking, but then heartwarming and so very hopeful. Thank you so much for this!

Edited at 2014-12-21 02:18 pm (UTC)
Aww, wow, thank you so very much! I am humbled by such kind words! I am so glad you enjoyed this and found it to be a fitting continuation of the story of our beloved characters. Thank you again for taking the time to read and leave feedback, I really appreciate it! :)
This is beautiful. Just so much love in this story. Hughes as the guardian angel is perfect. I love how Neal thinks he is doing the right thing protecting those he loves and how his shown that even by protecting them he was hurting them.

Neal and his ‘date’ were the perfect way to communicate with Peter and of course Mozzie and the bird call :D

Thanks so much for sharing this gem.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and give feedback! I am so happy that you enjoyed it! :)
This is beautiful love the idea of Hughes being Peter guardian angel. It was so sad to see everyone reaction to Neal's death almost hearing him or seeing him. Glad you added a reunion in the end. Of course Mozzie would also come
Thank you so much!! Yes, I imagine Mozzie will be on the first plane to Paris as soon as he learns of Neal's whereabouts. :) Thank you again!!
That ending in the cafe was kind of what I was hoping for, especially after a recent viewing of a certain Christian Bale movie I won't name in case there are people who haven't seen in.
I'm glad the ending was what you wanted to see! I am not sure of the movie you are referencing, but I will have to look it up. Now I am intrigued.

Thank you for taking the time to read and leave feedback! :)
(Anonymous)
I absolutely love the movie and I think the essence is so true. That was a nice twist of the post finale events. Great story.
Oh sweetie, this is heartbreaking beautiful! I hardly cry while reading, but especially the first part with Neal's heartbreak and helplessness had me in tears. While the second part brought some hope and joy into my heart that the story of the epic bromance between Neal and Peter will continue in another volume. Thank you for sharing this gem! Happy Holidays!
Aww, thank you so very much. I am so glad that you enjoyed reading this. As you said, Peter and Neal do have such an epic bromance that is hard for me to imagine that it would do anything but continue, even though they are so many miles apart. Thank you again for reading and leaving feedback! :) Happy Holidays!
Oh, this is perfect. I've been crying a lot since the finale and this sums up my feelings perfectly.

What a beautifully written story - so many perfect moments you've captured. Especially the hopeful and happy ending.
Thank you, friend. I know how you feel. I have been such a mess since the finale, but writing this, especially the ending, and reading other reunion fics (like yours!) has helped to heal a little bit. ::hugs::
That was absolutely amazing. I loved the part Hughes played in it. My heart is so much lighter now that everyone knows Neal is alive and well. So beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing.
Aww, thank you so much. I am so glad that you read and enjoyed this. It will be my head canon for now and forever that Neal is alive and living well in Paris, with Peter never too far away. :)
A perfect, magical ending to Season 6. Too bad Eastin didn't a seventh episode this week. This would have been the absolute BEST way to end the series on Christmas week of all times.
Thank you so much!! Yes, I only wish we were able to see a canon reunion between our boys, but writing/reading reunion fics has definitely helped get some closure. Thank you for taking the time to read it, and Merry Christmas! :)
Finally had time to read it and I love it. I´m glad you took the finale because it fits wonderfully. ( yet still I´m curious about the other one as well) I loved Hughes being an angel and Neal going back. And especially the scene at the café. *happy sigh* Damn that we probably won´t get any new scenes on screen by them ever. But at least there´s fanfic.
Thanks so much for writing this!! :-)

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!
Yay!! I am so glad you liked it! I was hoping you wouldn't mind the twist I put on things by incorporating the finale. I think I will eventually edit the other one and post it - I just wasn't quite ready to keep working with it after the emotional roller coaster that was the finale.

But yay! Thanks again for such a creative prompt. I hope you have a fantastic Christmas as well! :)
It's a wonderful life when Peter and Neal reunite. Great addition to an old classic and Hughes makes the perfect guardian angel. Thanks for the lovely holiday gift.
I agree - life is wonderful when Peter and Neal are together! Thank you so much for taking the time to read it, I am so glad you enjoyed it! :)

Edited at 2014-12-24 06:20 am (UTC)