Disclaimer: I'm not USA / Jeff Eastin / etc., so I don't claim to own them.
Characters/Pairings: Peter/El/Neal; Past Neal/Kate; Neal-Centric
Word Count: 900
Beta: All mistakes are mine
Written For: 12 Days of Ficmas - Day 09 for sinfulslasher
Summary: Neal's love for art was the one constant throughout his life.
Neal sat nervously as Peter and El looked at his wrapped present. He'd gone through two rolls of paper to make sure every corner was turned precisely and that the tape didn't show. Of course, it was all just a show to mask what he was really afraid to give the two people who meant the most to him.
Finally, the paper was removed, but neither Peter nor El was talking.
"Like it?" Neal asked tentatively.
Instead of answering, they both grabbed him for a kiss leaving the painting of the three of them smiling to bear witness.
"Elizabeth?" Neal was startled by Peter's wife's sudden appearance in his loft.
"That's a Gauguin, right?" Elizabeth asked as she moved closer to the canvas he'd been working on.
"Yeah. Tahitian Women on the Beach actually," Neal said. He was at a lost as to how to direct her to a different topic.
"You need a deeper red on the dress," she commented. "I stopped by to see if you could tell Mozzie I'd like to have lunch with him. He didn't leave a number. And I won't let Peter know you're painting this. It'll be our little secret."
Neal wasn't a fan of tattoos in general. Having anything permanently placed on his body led to easier identification. Not that it matter if he was identified anymore. He was sure the government now had measurements of every inch of his body.
At the same time, tattooing was a form of artwork, a form that his fellow inmates loved. Any hack could coble out a swastika, but true artists were few and far between.
Granted, putting a detailed picture of the Virgin Mary on a man convicted of four murders was pushing his limits. But it kept him safe.
Her response didn't thrill him. Neal had anticipated excitement and kisses that would lead to sex. Instead, she was complaining.
"But it's not the real one, Neal," Kate said with a whine that was more fitting on a three-year-old who didn't get what she asked Santa for.
"But you like my work," he tried to reason with her.
"I do. But your work doesn't give me the rush that holding the real one would. You said you'd get it."
"And I will," Neal promised. He had some planning to do if he was going to steal a Raphael.
Working for Adler didn't leave him with much free time. Especially when he factored in plans with Mozzie and sleeping with Alex. But he always made it a point to take a little time each day for some work. Even though he had natural talent when it came to art, he needed to keep in practice.
Currently, he was working on a piece as a gift to Mozzie. The man puzzled him, but he finally figured out something the man would like. He smiled as he added the finishing touches on the UFO in The Madonna with Saint Giovannino.
Since leaving home, Neal had learned to make money any way he could. He'd already resorted to pick pocketing, however, it wasn't his preferred means of getting cash. The one thing he did like doing was drawing portraits in the park. It was hard to fly under the radar of the cops patrolling, but he enjoyed it nonetheless.
His favorite subject had been a dark haired woman named El who wanted a present to send her parents back home in Illinois. Neal had loved her eyes and smile. It was even better when she tipped him an extra fifty.
Danny stared at the unfinished portrait of his father. It was supposed to be his crowning achievement for his upcoming senior art exhibit. Instead, it was a bitter reminder of the truth that Ellen had dumped on him the night before. His father wasn't a hero, had never been a hero. And he wasn't even Danny.
"Neal," he said out loud, testing the name on his lips. It didn't feel quite right, but Danny wasn't right anymore either. He was a nobody all because of the man in the painting.
Grabbing an X-Acto knife, Danny slashed painting and left.
His mom's mood changed like clockwork. For a few weeks, she would be motivated and eager to do anything with him. Then she would spend a few weeks barely able to get out of bed. It was during those high moments that she taught Danny how to make pottery.
She preferred using the wheel, but he enjoyed creating pieces freehand. They would work in silence for hours and then go to a museum once they were done.
Danny tried not to cry the day she smashed the blue vase he'd made her. He'd matched the color to his eyes.
Neal had torn through his Christmas presents like a little whirlwind. He was proudly wearing the police badge that matched the one his daddy had. His dad even played the bad guy when Neal had pointed the toy gun at him and shouted, "Bang!"
But the set of crayons Santa had brought was his favorite gift. His mommy had given him some paper and told him to draw something for her. So with as much concentration as he could muster, he drew his mommy and daddy and put himself in the middle. They were holding hands and smiling.