When Will's second birthday came around, everyone vowed to make it better than the previous year, which had been spent partially in the hospital as Neal recovered from a gunshot wound and partially at an FBI safe house with no decorations and a single cupcake for the birthday boy. Sara enlisted Elizabeth's help to put together a superhero-themed party in the Burke back yard with a few of Will's friends from his daycare.
The party was well underway when Sara glanced out the back window and had to stop and watch Neal playing with the kids. He was wearing a bright red Superman cape, which matched Will's – leftovers from their Halloween costumes as Superman and Superboy – and was making each kid, in turn, fly around the yard in his arms. They were all giggling and laughing and chasing him around no matter which direction he went.
"He's so good with them," Elizabeth said, from Sara's side. She was grinning too when Sara turned to look at her.
"He is. He's always been great with Will."
Elizabeth smirked and nodded at her husband, who was manning the grill on the far corner of the patio with the other fathers. "Peter, on the other hand…"
Sara couldn't help but burst out laughing. Peter had been very awkward around Will when he was a baby, but the older and more independent he got, the better Peter did with him. "I'm sorry. That's just very true."
They were interrupted by a mother of one of the other kids and had to step away from the entertaining scene outside. The other parents had been invited as well and were either in the living room enjoying a rare glass of wine or were out on the patio with Peter talking sports and burgers.
By six in the evening, all the other kids had gone home and Sara was helping Elizabeth and Peter clean up around the house. They all stopped dead in their tracks when they walked out onto the back patio and found Neal laying on a chaise lounge with Will sprawled across his chest. Both were sound asleep and dirty and sweaty from their hard day of playing together, and both were still wearing their red capes.
"I've got to get a picture of this," Sara whispered.
Elizabeth pulled her cell from her pocket and held it out to her friend. "Here. Do it quick before one of them wakes up."
Sara snapped several shots and then walked over to them. She leaned down and kissed Neal softly on the lips until he stirred and smiled up at her.
"Hey," he said, yawning. "What time is it?"
"A little after six. We should go home and get out of Peter and Elizabeth's hair. Get the two of you in a bath and then bed."
"What about clean up?" Neal held Will against his chest as he sat up and looked around. Though the decorations were still up, the rest of the yard was spotless.
"Already taken care of." Peter walked over and gave Neal a hand so that he didn't overbalance with the added weight of the toddler.
Neal smiled sleepily. "Thanks for letting us use your house. Having six two-year-olds running around is a lot."
"It wasn't a problem, sweetie," Elizabeth said. "You guys can stay here tonight, if you want. It's a long trek home at this hour."
Sara and Neal shared a contemplative look and a couple of shrugs. It wouldn't be the first night they'd stayed over in the Burke guest room. There was even a toddler bed in there for Will. "If you're sure it's not too much trouble," Sara replied.
Elizabeth waved away her concern. "Come on. I'll see if there's sheets on the beds while you run a bath for the birthday boy."
As the women made their way back into the house, Peter looked over at Neal. "How does it feel?"
"Having a son that's growing up so fast."
Neal chuckled. "The truth?"
"He's at a really good age, and it's only going to get better, I think. He's learning things all the time, and he's thisclose to being potty trained." They both laughed at that. Will had inherited a stubbornness from Sara and an ability to think outside the box from Neal that made his toliet training quite the interesting endeavor.
"He's a great kid, Neal. I'm proud of you and Sara."
Neal blushed a little and grinned. "Thanks, Peter. That means a lot."
Thanks for reading!