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Out of the Darkness: One Shots

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Neal walked into work one morning with four year old, Ellen, in tow. Peter was standing near the door looking at a file when he saw them.

“Hey guys.”

“Hey, Mozzie’s can't watch her today so,”

“It's okay.” Peter bent down to the girl, “Hey, Ellen!”

She smiled and waved with her bear Mozart in her hands, “Hi!” She adjusted the small pink backpack on her back.

Peter stood back up and told Neal, “We can bring a chair near your desk or something. Also, I’m briefing everyone in 10 minutes about our newest case.”

“Alright cool.”


 “...The gems were stolen right from the case in front of everyone, yet not only did the thief get away but they still aren't identified.” Peter briefed the room on a new case of a gem heist at a downtown museum.

“How did they do it in front of hundreds of people and still not get caught?” Diana asked sitting at the conference table

“It’s not that hard.” Neal commented across the table, “It’s mostly about subtlety and distraction.” He turned his head to Peter, “Peter, what’s the most valuable thing in your office?”

“My Metal of Honor. Why?”

“I bet you I can steal that by the end of the day.”

Peter was very interested now, “Oh really?”

“Yes.”

“What if you don’t have it by the end of the day?”

“Then I’ll work the next four weekends.”

“And if you do?”

“Then you do all of my paperwork for the next two weeks.”

Peter thought for a second, before he could respond Jones piped up, “If you want to make it more interesting it should be a race. Whoever has it at the end of the day wins.”

Peter and Neal were very interested in that and wondered how they never thought of that. Diana gave Jones a look at said, don't condone this.

Neal brought up, “Well if it’s a race then it should be stolen from somewhere else. Like the middle of the office.”

Peter nodded, “Sounds reasonable.”

“How about a lockbox in the center of the office. To make it fair, it can be a simple one that even you can get open with no key.”

Peter raised his eyebrows, “Excuse me?”

“Well you don’t exactly have a criminal’s skill set. You’ve never even stolen anything. I’m clearly at an advantage here.”

Peter huffed, “I know how they act, what they do, how they do it.”

“Then why do I work here?” Neal shot back with a satisfied smile and leaned back in his chair.

Peter gave bitchface and retorted, “When was the last time you planned a heist?”

“Last week.”

“That doesn’t count. It was for a sting and you had Bureau and Mozzie’s help, which is off limits by the way.” He teased, “Maybe you’re getting rusty.”

Neal scoffed, “I think you’re the one who’s getting rusty. If how often you need my help and how often I’ve been solving cases before you are any indication.”

Peter looked at Neal who got up and offered Peter a handshake and Peter returned it. “Game on.”

They picked partners Diana was on Neal’s team and Jones was on Peter’s. They put the plaque with the metal in a lockbox and put it in the center of the office.


 Jones and Peter went into his office. Peter sat down and Jones stood on the other end of the desk.

“So do you have a plan?”

“Yes,” Peter said, voice fierce, “We are going to bring. Him. Down.

Jones tried not chuckle at how serious he was being about this and Peter noticed.

“Don’t laugh. This isn't a joke. I need to win. I need to beat him.”

For them it was all about proving who’s smarter.

 

Diana and Neal were at his desk. Ellen was sitting next to him drawing on some printer paper and Neal was watching her while talking to Diana. “We’re going to need a hiding place and a distraction.”

Diana got an idea, “What about Ellen as a distraction?”

Neal gave her a look of daggers, “I’m not using my kid as part of a heist.”

Diana nodded, “Okay, I’m just saying it would be a good distraction.”

As the day went on absolutely no work was getting done. The first few hours of the day were spent planning and making sure the other didn’t see what they were planning.  The bet was the talk of the office. Other agents were curious who was going to win and even started a betting pool.

They had the odds of Neal winning 5 to 1.

Only the real risky or kiss ass agents were betting on Peter.


 Around lunch a pizza guy came into the office, “Pizza for Peter Burke.” Peter had been keeping watch over the bullpen from outside and inside his office. He was immediately suspicious about a pizza that no one ordered.

He immediately went over to Jones and demanded, “Guard the box.”

“Got it.” He immediately walked down to the box.

Diana said was standing nearby, “So they’re taking this pretty seriously.”

“Yep.” Diana said, looking straight ahead, “The pool has Caffrey winning 5:1.”

“Don’t count Peter out.”

Another pizza man came in, “Pizza for Peter Burke.” Jones gave her a look. More pizza men came in, until there were about two dozen confused pizza men.

Peter knew that Neal organized this and he also didn’t see Neal anywhere. “JONES! THE BOX!”

He muttered to himself, “He wanted me to know when he got it...or it’s a great bluff.”

Peter, Jones, and Diana wondered through the crowd of confused pizza guys. They soon cleared and Neal was standing behind his desk.

“You ass.”

Neal smiled back, “What do you mean?”

“You ordered all those pizzas.”

“Come on, Peter, big shows aren’t my style.” Peter picked up the box. Neal remarked, “Yeah check the box.”

He opened the box and nothing was there.

“Your move.” Neal gave him a satisfied smile. Since Peter was not going to take his eyes off the box Neal thought that chaos and confusion would be the best conditions to steal it under.

Peter started back towards his office and motioned for Jones to follow.

Peter sat down with a smile.

“You’re smiling, but Caffrey has the plaque.” It then came to him, “But that’s what you wanted.”

“I know Neal better than he knows himself. I knew he would try something first. By him making the first move it’s easier for me to get the plaque when it’s not sitting in the middle of the office.”

Jones was impressed, “You used Caffrey to move the plaque. Where do you think he moved it?”

“Evidence Storage.”

Jones was surprised he knew. “How?”

“He wasn’t there during the pizza chaos but he was when it ended. So he left, but somewhere close. Really close. I’m looking at the elevator camera footage and he gets off on Evidence Storage.”

“So he’d be on video there.”

“No, he’s not that stupid. He avoided the camera.”

Jones was in a confused shock, “H-h-how?”

“He’s Neal, but I know it’s up there. Send a probie up to get it and put it in the spot we discussed.”

“Got it.” And Jones left the office.


Neal told Diana, “I’m going to check the plaque.”

“How many times are you going to sneak into evidence today? How the hell do you even know how to do that?”

“You don’t wanna know.” Neal responded innocently before leaving.

When he came back she asked discreetly, “So?”

“It’s gone.” Neal sat down and turned his attention to his child who was sitting at the desk drawing.

“How?”

“Peter must have found it somehow. I knew he’d find it. Now we have to get it back.”


Peter continued to watch the bullpen, knowing he now held the plaque. He noticed Ellen coming up to his office.

“Hi Uncl’ Peter!”

“Hey, Ellen.”

“Whatca doin’?” Ellen asked as she came around his desk.

“Someone took something and I’ve trying to get it back.”

“Oh okay. Taking things is bad.”

Peter chuckled, “Yeah, it is.” He had the thought as soon as she came in his office, ‘ Did Neal put her up to his? Would he use his kid as interference?’ “Did your Daddy send you here?”

Ellen shook her head, “Nope. I’m bored. Daddy’s too busy to play.” She pointed out into the bullpen where he and Diana were talking.

“He’s just working. It’s okay.” Peter then got an idea and wondered if it was a little too devious...but he did it anyway, “Hey, do you want to play a game?”

Ellen perked up, “Yah!”

“How about hide and seek?” Peter asked with a smile, she nodded, “Okay, go hide. Hide really well, okay. Just stay on this floor. No using the stairs or elevator. Got it?”

“Got it!” She gave him a thumbs up and ran off.


 Shortly after Ellen left Peter’s office Neal and Diana disbanded to start their plan and he immediately noticed that Ellen was nowhere to be found. Under normal circumstances he would go into a panic attack...but he knew exactly what happened.

He stormed up to Peter’s office, “You ass!”

Peter played innocent, “What?”

“You’re trying to distract me by using my child against me.” Neal was pretty irritated.

“She came up here because she was bored so I suggested that we play hide and seek...I haven’t found her yet.” Neal gave him a death glare, “You know, she really takes after you. She’s very good at hiding.” He gave Neal a satisfied smile. “You only have,” He looked at his watch, “Three hours to find the metal after you find Ellen.”

"I'm going to win and you know it."

"Don't be too sure about that, Neal." Peter leaned back in his chair with a smile.

Neal stormed out and met with Diana outside the interrogation rooms where he explained what happened. “...He knew this would be the only thing to take me out for a while and waste time until the end of the day.”

“Sounds like he seized an opportunity. Toddlers run off. It’s what they do.”

“In this bet, he’s still an ass. Go find the plaque. I’m going to find my daughter.”


 So Neal spent the better part of the afternoon looking for Ellen. He later found her in a rather large cabinet in the storage room on the floor. The plaque changed hands another two times before four that afternoon when Neal had it again and was hiding it in his desk.

Neal was sitting at his desk, just waiting until the end of the day. He only had to keep the plaque another hour to win. He wanted to defeat Peter more than anything , just so he could say he did it. All they wanted to do was defeat each other.

Ellen, being the curious child she is, was playing with the drawers in Neal’s desk. Neal unlocked the bottom drawer where the metal was and put some files on top of it. Ellen saw the metal and got curious, “What’s dat?”

“It’s an award.”

She went to pick it up to look at it. Neal went to stop her, “No no no. It has to stay in there for now.”

She looked up at him confused, “Why?”

“Because it has to stay hidden for a game.”

Ellen looked interested, “A game? Can I play?”

Neal chuckled, “I’m sorry, sweetie. Maybe we can play another game.” Ellen gave him an overdramatic frown and turned back to her pink backpack with some toys in it. Before Neal could relock the drawer he was called away by another agent.

He came back a few minutes later and quickly noticed that his bottom drawer was slightly opened. He sighed and opened it, “Damn it.” The plaque wasn’t there anymore. He knew that Peter must have stolen it again and the other agent was a distraction.

He called Diana over and updated her. They had under an hour to find and take the plaque again.


 When five o’clock rolled around Peter slowly walked to Neal’s desk. “It’s the end of the day, Neal.”

Neal looked up and smiled, “Yes it is.”

Peter crossed his arms in annoyance, “So let’s get this over with. You won, you bested me. You happy?”

Neal immediately realized, ‘ He doesn’t have it. He thinks I have it. So if neither of us has it, then who does?’ But Neal went with it, “Of course I was able to best you. I am smarter than you.” He gave an annoying smile, “It’s okay though. It’s only natural to get rusty with age.”

Peter death glared at him. “Can I have the metal back now so I can go home?”

Neal thought, ‘ Shit...I don’t have it.’ Before Neal could try to talk his way out of it Diana admitted,

“We don’t have it. We thought you did.” Peter was confused

“So if neither of us has it, then who does?”

“I don’t know.” Peter took a hard look at Neal, trying to see if he was lying or not. He didn’t think Neal was lying.

“When did you last see it?”

“Probably an hour ago. It was in my desk.”

So they looked around the office and asked around. After a while of searching they decided to go home and pick it up in the morning. They figured it had to be in the office somewhere, even though no one in the office knew where it was.

Neal told Ellen, “Ellen, grab you bag, we’re going home.”

“Okay!” She was happy to go home. She grabbed her small backpack and her stuffed bear, Mozart. The bag wasn’t zipped close so when she picked it up the front flap fell down revealing the small amount of contents inside.

“Uh-oh.” Ellen said and put it down so she could try to zip it. Neal turned around and immediately thought, ‘ Noo. It can’t be.’

“Ellen, what’s you got there?”

“My stuff.” She replied while she zipped the bag.

“Can I see it real quick?”

She was confused but she handed him the backpack with her two small hands. He opened it and sighed in defeat.

“Peter, I found it.”

Peter was behind him, ready to leave, they were going to walk out together. “What?”

Neal pulled the Metal of Honor plaque from the kid sized backpack and showed it to Peter. Neal had an embarrassed look of defeat on his face.

Peter’s jaw slightly opened in shock, “You’ve got to be kidding me?”

Neal kneeled down and asked her, “Ellen, where did you get this?”

She pointed innocently to Neal’s desk. “You said I can’t play in your game where you hide the ‘ward. I was mad. So I took it so I can play.”

Neal rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed. By now the few left, including Jones and Diana, were listening and trying not to laugh.

Jones said, trying not to laugh, “I didn’t see that coming. She’s exactly like you, Caffrey.”

Diana added with her hand slightly over her mouth, trying to hide laughter, “If she’s like you, you’re going to have problems with her. Good luck.”

“You’re both getting rusty. You were beaten by the next generation.” Jones commented

Peter took the plaque from Neal and brought up a semi-related point, “...So who actually won this?”

“Well, she’s my kid so I say I win by default.” Neal gave a smile.

Peter shook his head, “No no no. You can’t win ‘by default.’ No.”

Ellen piped up, “I win!”

Everyone chuckled, Neal bent down and picked her up with a smile, “Yeah. You win.” She cheered.

Peter smiled but said determined, “You know what this means. Rematch.”

“Oh you’re on. And I’m going to win this time.”

“Don’t be too sure about that.” They smiled and left the office.

Chapter Text

Peter came by Neal’s desk, “Hey, I have to cancel dinner tonight.”

Neal looked up from his boring paperwork, “Oh why?”

“My dad’s coming into town to visit an old friend and wants to have dinner tonight.” Peter didn’t sound too excited and Neal noticed.

“You don’t seem excited.”

Peter tried to find the right words, “...He...I love him and he’s a great dad…”
“But...”

“But he can be a bit intense sometimes. A bit inappropriate. My mom said that as he’s gotten older and, to be honest, a little senile, it’s gotten a lot worse.”

“Well I can handle inappropriate.” He lectured

Neal thought it would be your garden variety old person racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.

Neal was completely wrong. It was more that he didn’t have any regard for social etiquette.

Peter was alarmed, “No no no. You’re not coming.”

Neal playfully wondered, “Why? In all the years we’ve worked together I’ve never met your parents.”

“Yeah.”

“You’ve met my dad.” Neal defended

“That’s different!”

“Oh come on. Please!”
“No.”
“You know that if you don’t invite me I’ll just show up anyway.” Neal leaned back in his chair.

Peter sighed. He knew he was defeated, “ Fine .”


 

That evening Neal knocked at the door. Peter answered.

“He here yet?”

“No. Not yet.” Neal walked in and Peter could tell he was excited. “Would you stop looking so damn excited.”

“I get to finally met the man who raised you.” Neal walked into the kitchen, “Smells amazing.”

Elizabeth came in from walking Satchmo. She took off his leash, “Hey Neal! Glad you could join us.”

“Yeah me too. Excited to meet Peter’s dad.”

“He’s quite the character.” Elizabeth remarked with a smile as she walked to check the oven.

The doorbell rang and Peter went to answer it.

“Hey Dad!”

“Hey Son.” They hugged. Albert Burke was pushing 90 years old and looked it. He was short, what little hair he had left was pure white, which offset his thick black glasses, and he walked with a silver metal cane. He was the kind of old guy who yelled at kids to get off his lawn.

Elizabeth came and greeted him with a hug. “Hey, Albert!”

“Oh Elizabeth, beautiful as usual.”

After Peter introduced Neal, “Dad, this is my friend, Neal Caffrey.”

As Neal offered a handshake a lightbulb went off in Albert’s head. “Oh, you’re that conman Peter used to complain about all the time.”

Peter’s eyebrows raised and he had to stop his jaw from dropping. He delivered his first of many scoldings of the night, “ Dad!”

Albert ignored his son. He sincerely asked,  “Have you finally gotten your life together?”

Dad!”

Neal didn’t really know how to respond to that. He offset and hid his intense uncomfortable feeling with a smile and small chuckle.

Peter silently pleaded with Elizabeth, “Please tell me dinner is ready.”

Elizabeth’s eyes wondered around then back to the men, “Yeah. I think it should be.”

“Thank God.” Peter was already wishing for the night to be over. Elizabeth was just in general shock. Neal was curious as to where this evening was going.

Here’s where it went.


 

As they ate Elizabeth’s delicious pork chops Albert mostly dominated the conversation. He mostly complained about his neighbors and how they inconvenienced him.

“I also don’t like those Goldbergs. It’s not because they’re Jewish...but because I’ve got to know them over the years. They’re terrible people. They fight all the time and decide to have all their fights outside during the day. They don’t recycle.  I swear Joshua cares more about his lawn than he does about his kids! Maybe if he and Joanna cared more about his kids they would have turned out better!” The three sat in shock at Albert’s more than candid remarks.  He stuffed some mashed potatoes in his mouth and swallowed, “Their two girls come over with their batch of illegitimate children. I swear each kid has a different father. Those irresponsible douchebags apparently were never involved. Maybe if they were raised right they would have chosen a better singular man.”

The three just sat in an uncomfortable silence. Not completely knowing what to say.

As Albert dug into his food he asked, “So Neal, you want kids?”

As Neal pushed some food around his plate he responded, “I actually have a four year old.”

That caught Albert’s attention. He stopped and looked at him with a scowl. He noticed Neal didn’t have a wedding ring, “You’re not married. You divorced?”

Albert had very traditional views on marriage and children.

Neal continued pushing food around his plate and looked at him, “Never married.”
Albert’s tone turned interrogative, “You engaged?”

“No.” Neal replied innocently and took a sip of his wine.

It came to him, “ Oh. So you’re one of those irresponsible men who knock up a woman.”

DAD!

Neal choked on his wine.

“You know it’s okay to have unprotected sex. Just as long as you’re married. So if you have a Hail Mary baby, as they called them in my day, then it’s okay.” He turned his attention to his food, “Having a baby out of wedlock isn’t as big a deal as it used to be. So long as you made it right. Are you still with the girl?”

DAD!

He went to a semi related point. They noticed over the course of the evening that he had a tendency to get off on tangents, “You know, I saw on Dateline that a woman conned a man into staying with her by getting pregnant.” He added as an afterthought, “Although she ended up killing him.”

DAD!

It was one of the very few times in his life that Neal was rendered just completely speechless.

Peter tried in a desperate attempt to change the subject, “So how about those Yankees this season?” Figured that may be a better strategy than just yelling at his dad. He was wrong.

But Albert yet again ignored his son and continued, going back to his first point. “I believe if you take a girl to bed and she gets pregnant, then you have to be a man and stick by her. Make it right. For better or worse, you have to make it right to her and your child. As it’s said, it takes two to tango.”

Peter was desperately wishing for the sweet release of death. Neal was wondering if this was real life. Elizabeth found an excuse to get up, “How about desert?” She immediately got up and left for the kitchen.

Albert continued, “So, are you doing that ‘co-parenting’ thing?”

“Isn’t time for you to leave to catch your train?” Peter desperately asked

“No I’ve got time.” Albert answered and turned his attention back to Neal.

“It’s just me.” Neal simply responded

“Oh so she left you.”

DAD! Stop!”

In a move that surprised no one, Albert continued, “It’s okay. Sometimes people leave you. Did you try to stay with her and the baby?”

Neal was just staring in complete shock. Still wondering if this was really happening.

“You know, sometimes it’s better to separate.” Peter defended

Albert quickly shot him down, “Oh who are you to talk? You never made me a grandfather.” Peter looked like he was smacked in the face but thought, ‘ Not this again.’

As Elizabeth came back with some cake Albert asked,

“So why the split?”

DAD!”

Neal tried to pick his jaw off the floor. “Why’d she leave?” He asked again.

He finally responded, “Irreconcilable differences.”

“You didn’t work it out?”

“There wasn’t anything to ‘work out’.”

“Alright. You know, there were times when Peter was a baby that I considered leaving.”

WHAT?”

But I didn’t. Because I’m a real man. Forget what society tells you about having to be macho to be a real man. A real man stands by his family and protects them. At all costs. You’d be surprised by what terrible things people can do.”

Neal turned sincere and serious, “I try my damnedest to protect my daughter and provide her with the best life possible. I try to be the best father possible. If that involved moving Heaven and Earth I’d do it in a heartbeat. ”

Albert gave Neal a smile. It seemed sincere. Like he finally approved of Neal.

He responded to Albert’s last point, “It’s hard for people’s terrible actions to surprise me anymore.”

Albert smiled again in solidarity, “Yeah, I’ve had war buddies who’ve said that afterwards.” He wasn’t referring to Vietnam or Korea.


 

After dessert they said their goodbyes Elizabeth drove him to Penn Station.

As soon as the front door closed Peter immediately apologized, “I’m so sorry. I haven’t seen him in a while. I didn’t think he’d be that bad.”

Neal was lost in thought, “What he says and, more importantly, how he says it, means nothing to him. It’s fascinating really.”Now Peter was confused, “Don’t get me wrong. That was a very uncomfortable meal. The most uncomfortable meal I’ve had in a very long time. It’s just so fascinating how he seems to have no filter when he speaks. And it’s not really your typical sexism or racism.”

Peter uselessly defended, “He was better when he was younger.”

“So he didn’t always ask people he just met very specific and intimate details about their personal lives?”

“No he didn’t.” Peter walked back towards the kitchen, “I need a really hard drink.” He pulled out some good whiskey.

Neal followed, “Make that two.”

Chapter Text

“That’s good.” Ellen put the pastry bag full of white icing down. She had just finished icing the last gingerbread cookie.

“That looks great, sweetie.” Neal was standing next to her.

She grabbed a cookie from the plate, “When’s Santa coming?”

Neal grabbed a cookie as well, “He comes at night when you’re asleep. Remember?”

She gave an over dramatic frown, “Awwww! I wanted to see ‘im!”

“Maybe one day. Want to watch a movie?”

She perked up, “Yeah! The one with Snoopy!” Referring to A Charlie Brown Christmas.

He smiled, “Good choice.”

Neal grabbed the plate of cookies and followed the excited child over to the couch.

“Don’t forget da milk!” She called from the couch

“Right.” He grabbed some milk from the fridge and two glasses from the cabinet.

He came over and got the movie ready then sat down. She crawled into his lap. After A Charlie Brown Christmas they watched It’s a Wonderful Life .

After it was over Neal said, “Okay. It’s time for bed.”

She gave another over dramatic frown, “Noooo! Little more. Pease!”

“It’s getting late. Come on.”  He picked her up and walked to her bedroom.

After a few stories Ellen asked, “There’s lots of fireplaces in the house. How will Santa know which one is ours?”

Neal was sitting next her. He closed the book, “He’s really smart. He knows these things. He’ll get it right.” He got up and gave her a kiss, “I love you, goodnight. Merry Christmas!”

“I love you too, Daddy! Merry Christmas!”


 

Ellen laid in bed and tried not to go to sleep. She wanted to see Santa. She waited for the sound of hooves and sleigh bells. She made sure to have some gingerbread cookies and milk leftover for him. Eventually she heard something outside. She jumped out of bed and started to run out but then stopped, “Quietly.” She reminded herself. She tiptoed into the decorated main room. The only light coming from the mid-sized tree and the light from outside. Her mouth dropped in a gasp when she saw the back of a man in a large red velvet suit and hat both with white fur trim.

“Santa!” The man turned around. “It’s you!”

He turned around with a smile and said in a deep voice that sounded a lot like someone she knew, “Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!”

The little girl was in awe. He went into his bag and pulled out some wrapped presents and put them with the rest of the gifts under the tree. He closed the large black bag and grabbed a cookie from the table. He took a bite, “Delicious!”

“I made ‘em with my Daddy!”

He took a gulp of milk and said, “I’ll take a few for the road if that’s okay. Still have a lot of houses to go.” He put a couple of cookies in his jacket pocket.

She couldn’t contain her excitement, “Yay!”

He gave her the now empty plate and said, “Can you put this away? Don’t want to make a mess.”

“Okay!” She excitedly took the plate and put it in the sink. She turned around and Santa was gone. She looked around, “Santa? Santa?” She soon heard sleigh bells and hooves again. She excitedly ran over to where her Dad was “asleep”.

Ellen tried to shake him awake, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”

He ‘woke up’ “What? What’s up?”

“Daddy! Santa was here! Santa was here! I saw him!”

He sat up, “Oh wow!”

“He liked the cookies!”

“Well we knew he would.” He smiled and pulled her up into bed for a hug. "Merry Christmas, sweetie."

"Merry Christmas, Daddy!"

 

Neal would thank Mozzie in the morning when everyone came over.

Chapter Text

Peter took Ellen to the park one sunny Saturday afternoon so Neal and Sara could have an afternoon/evening alone. Elizabeth would have joined them but she had an event that day. She'd be home by the evening.

As she ran around the park playground Peter watched her and the entire park like a hawk stalking its prey.

Much like Neal, Peter was fiercely protective of the little girl. There wasn’t much to survey since the park didn’t have too many other kids on it. There were a couple kids playing on the monkey bars and a few moms off to the side gossiping. He assumed they were all together.

Due to Elleen’s social butterfly nature that she most definitely got from her father it didn’t take her long to become befriend the group of kids and for them to start playing together. They played until the moms called their kids over so they could leave. Peter let Ellen play some more, figuring it was the best way for her to release her seemingly boundless energy.

After saying goodbye she continued to play on the playground by herself, constantly calling to Peter to watch what she was doing, even though he already was. After a while she jumped off the monkey bars and ran over to him.

“You’re quite the little climber.”

“I can go ‘cross the whole bar!” The monkey bars were about 10 bars across.

“I saw!”

“I’m hungry!” She rubbed her stomach for emphasis.

Peter took her hand and they started to walk towards the park exit, “Well it’s almost dinner. Can you wait?”

“Auntie El, cooking?”

“No, she’s working. I was going to make something.”

Ellen didn’t miss a beat, “But you can’t cook.”

Peter stopped his tracked. He pursed his lips and let out a stressed sigh.

He was just sassed by a five year old...and she was right.

A ice cream cart at the exit of the park caught her eye, “I want ice cream!”

Peter saw the guy with the ice cream cart, “No, we’re going to have real food.”

“Ice cream is real food. From cows. Like milk. So it’s healthy.” Ellen ever so thoughtfully argued.

Peter sighed. Every time he watched Ellen he had a new respect for Ellen Parker.

Because Peter had no doubt this was how Neal acted as a child. Everything was a debate.

“Please, please please!” Ellen begged with her biggest smile and sapphire blue eyes. She pulled on Peter's arm.

“No. We’re going home.” He insisted and was about to continue walking from the park when they heard an older woman’s voice.

“Oh come on, Grandpa. Let her have some ice cream.” They turned around to see an older woman, probably mid 60’s, with short grey hair. She was holding a book in one hand and a to-go cup of tea in the other.

Ellen started to uncontrollably giggle, “Hehehehe, Grandpa.” Peter stood in shock with his jaw dropped, at a true loss for words. He didn’t think he looked that old. He looked down at Ellen and he could tell from her face that she wasn’t going to let this go anytime soon.

“Grandpa.” She repeated and pointed at Peter.

He sighed and pursed his lips again, “Okay. If I get you ice cream, will you pretend this never happened?”

Ellen looked up in thought for a few seconds, “Okay.”

Peter let out a brief sigh of relief with a muttered, “Thank God.”

He got her some strawberry ice cream from the cart. Once the guy handed her the cone she thanked him then looked up to Peter with the most endearing smile, “Thanks, Grandpa!”

Peter’s jaw dropped again, ‘ Son of a bitch. Did she just con me?’

The young man who operated the cart complimented, “You have such a polite granddaughter.”

Peter bit his lip and nodded, “Thank you.”

They walked home with Ellen happily licking her ice cream cone and skipping along.


 

Once they got home Elizabeth had recently gotten home.

As Ellen played with Sachemo she was sure to tell Elizabeth about the old lady in the park and her new nickname for Peter. What caught Peter’s attention was that she still called Elizabeth ‘Aunty El’.

“Wait, how am I Grandpa then? Wouldn’t that make her Grandma cause we’re married.”

“You look more like a Grandpa. She doesn’t look like a Grandma.” Ellen simply responded with made Elizabeth physically hold in laughter.

Cause kid logic.

“You can call me whatever you’d like, sweetheart.” She gave Ellen a kiss on the head.

Neal picked her up the next morning after breakfast. She said goodbye to Elizabeth with a hug and kiss. She went to hug Peter, “Bye, Grandpa.” Which made Peter sigh and Neal just about burst out laughing wondering where that came from with made the others, except Peter, laugh.

“Wh-what?”

Peter got defensive, “There was a woman in the park yesterday. It was a misunderstanding. Now she won’t let it go.”

“Okay, but was it really a misunderstanding?” Neal smirked, “Grandpa.”

Peter raised his eyebrows, “Shouldn’t you be going?”

“Yeah, we need to get you your Reader’s Digest and AARP Magazine  in the large print.” Neal joked which got a laugh from Elizabeth and Ellen but a glare from Peter, “You do have some grey hairs.” He started pointing, “There and there, there.”

“Alright stop. I get it.” Peter went to open the front door.

“Don’t forget your reading glasses on Monday.” Neal joked as they started to walk out the door.

“Real funny.” Peter deadpanned.

Peter thought that Ellen would forget about it and move on.

She never did.

The nickname stuck.

From then on Ellen always called Peter ‘Grandpa’. Which he quickly grew to love and cherish.