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Tabula Rasa

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Neal gently swayed in the rocking chair in the corner of a sleeping Sara's hospital room and marveled at the perfect little person they'd created. William Peter Caffrey-Ellis weighed a little over five pounds and was eighteen inches long. He had ten little fingers and ten little toes and lungs that wouldn't stop when he was upset or hungry or wet, which was pretty much all his waking moments. Still, Neal hadn't stopped smiling since he'd been born.

Baby Will was sleeping, soft sighs escaping parted lips every so often. Neal spoke quietly to him as they rocked. “Hi, Will. I think I should tell you that you've been named after two good men. I didn't get to meet your grandpa William, but your mommy assures me that he was an honorable man, worthy of passing on his name to you. And Peter... Well, Peter is your godfather, and he's the best role model that you're going to get in this world.”

Will shifted, little fingers clutching at the air. Neal rested his pinky in one of Will's tiny palms and beamed when the baby clutched his finger. “One day, I'll tell you all about the things I've done because I want you to be a better man than me. I grew up wanting to be just like this mental image I had of my dad, but it wasn't real, and it wasn't right. I don't want that for you.”

Neal honestly regretted little in his life. He was clever and resourceful, kind and adventurous, and some might even say recklessly intrepid. He only stole from the rich or the corrupt and never hurt anyone, if he could help it. However, Will was a tabula rasa, and he'd be damned if he let his son grow up the way he had – dreaming of emulating a man that didn't exist. If he couldn't be there for his son, he knew that Peter would be, and Peter wouldn't lie or sugarcoat the truth about Neal.

“We have a lot of friends here in New York who will teach you a lot of things. Mozzie will give you some skills that I hope you'll never have to use. Elizabeth will introduce you to all of the best foods and help you learn how to make them. I've already passed on my good looks and charm, if the nurses are anything to go by. Your mommy will surely train you to take down a man twice your size with nothing more than a stick and a scowl. And Peter will show you how to be brave and strong and chivalrous.”

Neal leaned down to place a gentle kiss on Will's head. “But don't worry,” he added, “I'll teach you how to flirt.”


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