Reese sat alone in his study with a tumbler of bourbon and cried. Peter had stopped by the hospital that evening and delivered three words that he thought he'd never hear - We found Daniel. The other proverbial shoe dropped almost immediately; he and Neal Caffrey were one in the same.
It was hard to believe that it had been twenty-four years ago that Cathy had called him from home, panicked and on the verge of hysterics. He'd managed to get the gist of the situation from her, but it was the NYPD that had filled in all the pieces. Cathy had taken their three children to the park to play and had left three-year-old Daniel in the care of his older brother Michael while she ran home with Emma. She had left the boys for less than ten minutes, but that was all it took.
Reese had immediately feared the worst and shuttered the family away, but there had never been any evidence that it had to do with his work at the FBI. There had never really been any evidence of anything outside of a simple abduction. Little Daniel was in the wrong place at the wrong time and someone had taken him away.
The first few years were the worst and watching Emma grow up, hitting milestones she should have hit with her brother, only made it all the more difficult. On the fifth anniversary of Daniel's disappearance, Reese and Cathy had a full-blown fight where they blamed each other and the kids for that awful day.
Reese moved out and the stress started to affect his work. His ASAC firmly suggested he see one of the Bureau's psychiatrists, and eventually the doctor referred him to a family therapist for all of the Hugheses. That was when they really started to come to terms with losing their child.
As a realist, he assumed that he would never know what happened to his son. It didn't matter if Daniel was gone forever or if he was living a happy, healthy life somewhere. Reese needed to move on with his life, and he needed to help his wife and children move on as well, so he had to process the loss as a death. He mourned but never forgot the smiling face of his little boy.
Neal was full of smiles. Little smiles of triumph, grins of deceit, smirks whenever Peter matched him wit for wit. Reese had been opposed to Peter's deal with the conman from the beginning, but Peter had been convinced that Neal would be a great asset to the department. He wasn't wrong, but Reese wasn't sure it was always worth the headache.
He appreciated that Neal was smart and that he had an unconventional approach to the work, but he also liked to pull Peter, and subsequently the department, outside the lines. That wasn't okay. He couldn't deny that it produced results, but he couldn't let it become the SOP either.
Now, he wasn't sure how he could stay subjective on the matter of Neal. He couldn't bear to see the boy transferred, but he couldn't walk into the office and treat him like he was any other employee either. Maybe, Reese mused as he swirled the last of his bourbon and downed the alcohol, it was finally time to retire. He could spend more time with his kids, all three of them, and Neal would still be able to work with the White Collar department without any conflicts of interest.
He poured another two fingers of bourbon and swallowed them, taking comfort in the familiar burn. His life felt like it was spinning without an end in sight, but if he were honest with himself, he'd never been happier. His family was whole again.