Disclaimer: I'm not USA / Jeff Eastin / etc., so I don't claim to own them.
Word Count: 700
Beta: All mistakes are mine
Written For: 12 Days of Ficmas - Day 07 for hawk_soaring
Summary: Neal realized he has no one to celebrate New Year's with. June is away. Mozzie is out of town. Peter and El...
Neal had learned as a child that holidays are sneaky things. His mother wasn't the celebrating type and he somehow managed to ignore all the telltale decorations until it was too late to purchase something with his meager allowance. Ellen usually gave him something to wrap on Christmas Eve and his mother would just mumble a thanks. She didn't even realize that he hadn't received anything from her in return.
Once he was on his own, it was even easier to ignore the big days. Mozzie was very anti-establishment and that included the, in his words, corporate run days of family ruination. The only holiday that Neal did find time for was Valentine's Day when he was with Kate. It was imperative to his continued sexual satisfaction.
So when everyone started wishing him a happy New Year as they vacated the office early on a Tuesday afternoon, Neal was flummoxed. He usually remembered New Year's since it came on heels of Christmas. But this year it had caught him by surprise. Even worse was the prospect of no one to spend the evening with and toast as the clock struck midnight.
Before prison, he had always sought out a party for the festivities and the ease of picking pockets. He had surpassed the need for wallets and jewelry, but he always enjoyed keeping his skills honed. In prison, the guards had always played the countdown over the loud speakers and allowed the prisoners a few moments of cheerful celebration as they toasted toilet bowl wine.
This year, there was nothing. Times Square was outside his radius and even then, the crowd didn't appeal to him. June had taken a trip to visit one of her daughters that lived out of state. Mozzie was holed up in one of his safe houses like he didn't every New Year's Eve. Neal realized that he was right back to where he was when he was a kid… sitting home alone with a television for company. Only Dick Clark wasn't even around to celebrate it with anymore.
Thoroughly dejected, Neal slipped out of the office at his appointed time without a goodbye to anyone. It was easy as pretty much every desk was empty. He didn't risk glancing towards Peter's office. He hadn't seen the other man go to the elevators, so he was still in the building somewhere. Peter was the last person he wanted to see.
Once he made it home, he looked around the empty space and sighed. If wasn't so cold, he would have sat on the balcony and listened to the sounds of the celebration. Instead, he opened a bottle of wine and settled in front of his easel with the painting he'd been working on.
He'd intended for it to be a Christmas present for Peter and El, but finishing it was taking longer and longer. It was a painting of the two curled up on the couch. Neal had witnessed the scene enough times to paint it from memory. And every time he worked on it, he became lost in the memory of how loving they were to each other. It was something that Neal himself longed to have. Logically, he knew he'd never experienced it before, not even with Kate.
Instead of picking up his brush, he just stared at the half finished painting, the wine glass clutched in his fist. If life had dealt him a fare hand, he could have been the one in the painting. He didn't care if he was in Peter or El's place, he just wanted a place to belong.
He was so intent on the painting that he didn't hear the door or realize anyone was in the room with him until he heard the gasp from El's lips.
"It's beautiful, Neal," her voice startled him enough that he dropped the wine glass where it shattered across the floor.
Neal found himself staring in shock at Peter and El who were standing behind his chair. It took several moments before he was able to speak.
"Why are you here?" it came out more bitter than he intended. But their response floored him.
"Please come home with us tonight, Neal."