Disclaimer: I'm not USA / Jeff Eastin / etc., so I don't claim to own them.
Word Count: 800
Beta: All mistakes are mine
Written For: 12 Days of Ficmas - Day 08 for weird_fin
Summary: For Neal the beginning of each year was always different, this one is no exception but could be the start of a new tradition.
January 1, 1980
His mommy had been shouting the name for a while and he wasn't sure why. So Neal just continued to play with his crayons and paper. It was all that really made him happy since they left home. He missed daddy and he didn't know why Aunt Ellen was the only person they still got to see. He wanted to go home, but each time he asked, his mommy just cried. So he stopped asking.
"Danny! I was calling for you."
Neal looked up.
"Not Danny, Mommy. I'm Neal," and he turned back to his drawing.
January 1, 1987
Men in suits had knocked on the door at midnight and they'd spent an hour talking with his mom and Ellen in the bedroom. Danny had tried listening in with his ear against the door, but he couldn't make out any of the mumbled voices.
At first he'd been afraid that it was the police coming to find out why he'd stolen some food from the store down the street. But they'd ignored him.
Then the men left and his mom was crying. Ellen told him to pack a bag. They were moving again. Life wasn't fair.
January 1, 1992
Danny had done what any respectable fifteen-year-old would do… he'd gone to a New Year's Eve party and was completely trashed. He always fit in better with the older kids, and it was easy to blend in when the beer started flowing.
Now he was sitting on a little cot in a police department with his ringing head buried in his knees. He'd already puked once and he just wanted to be at home.
He looked up when he heard Ellen's sharp voice talking with the officer on duty. Going home may not be the best option.
January 1, 1995
He had life figured out. Granted, Danny did love his art, but logically he knew he couldn't make a living at that. He wanted to do something that would have meaning, but more importantly, he wanted to make things better for his mom.
He'd decided on the police academy. Danny wanted to be a cop like he vaguely remembered his dad being. He'd already been taking firearms training and had joined the rifle team at school. He'd be a shoe in when the recruiters saw that his father died in the line of duty.
He was ready.
January 1, 1996
Last year, everything had been perfect. Now he was at rock bottom. The money he had stolen from Ellen was long gone and he'd been roaming the streets of New York for weeks. He knew he needed to find a way to make some money and fast.
Then he overheard two guys walking by talking about cashing out some bonds so the one could treat his wife to the island getaway she wanted. That's when the idea sparked.
Neal headed for the public library hoping it was open on the holiday. He had some research to do.
January 1, 2002
Neal was flying high. He'd relieved some rich guy of his valuables. He was looking forward to giving the mother-of-pearl necklace to Kate. She'd been making noises about his recklessness and he needed to appease her.
But right now he was enjoying a nicely expensive steak in a very expensive hotel. He didn't have a care in the world. Although, he did give a moment to wonder what Agent Burke was up to. The man had captivated him.
Eying his sketchpad, Neal decided it was time to see if Burke was a true cat to his mouse.
January 1, 2005
Neal put another mark on the wall after the guard told him it was past midnight. On the outside, people were toasting and kissing as the new year started up. He was sitting a ratty mattress with the occasional sound of some fellow inmate jerking off. It was his new reality and Neal hated it.
He idly thought about the days when Danny had dreamed of the police academy and being a good guy. It caused him to snort. Danny had been a fool. Neal knew that blood was blood and he was just like his dad.
January 1, 2015
Neal stood on the balcony at June's, watching the fireworks light up the sky. He was free and had been for a month. Everyone thought he would have been to some faraway destination by now, but it wasn't in his heart anymore.
His heart, as cliché as it sounded, belonged in New York City. He'd lived there longer than anywhere else in the world. He had friends, no, make that family.
He turned at looked as Mozzie and June played with Theo on the floor while Peter and El talked with Diana and Jones. This was home.