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This story is No. 1 in the series "Going Home Again". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: Crossover with White Collar. After reinstating his deal with the FBI, Neal comes across a file for a missing person who looks like a younger version of his aunt. He tries to look into that while keeping Peter from learning about his family's business.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > White CollarBerserkerNWFR71534,12058432,28919 Aug 105 Feb 11Yes

Learn to Grieve

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1: Come Home.

Notes: Due to positive feedback, this is being continued. Barring unforeseen circumstances, this story will end at 15 chapters, including this one and the previous chapter. I have created a few original characters, but only because I can't see Xander and Dawn being the only couple in the group to have children. Also, there will be spoilers for any Buffy/Angel episode and up to Unfinished Business for White Collar.

BTVS timeline: post-Chosen/Not Fade Away
White Collar timeline: post-Out of the Box.


New York, 2010

Moz walked into the room to find Neal, dressed once again in an orange jumpsuit, slumped at one of the tables, face buried in his hands. The young con artist's hair was in disarray, the reason obvious when Neal ran his hands through it, gripping clumps of it in frustration. Moz sighed and walked over to the table. He got a bit worried when Neal made no indication that he knew someone was in the room with him. He set his briefcase down on the table with a soft 'thump', causing Neal to jump up in alarm. His eyes were bloodshot and raw around the edges.

"Hey Neal. How are you doing today?" he asked, kicking himself internally for the dumb question. Neal shrugged. "Is there anything I can get for you? I mean, I doubt you'll want to buy another bakery, but I can get you the paperwork if you want to. Just say the words." It bothered him to see the kid so down and hurt. If Neal asked for all the makings for his own air fleet, Moz would find a way to see it done. He suspected, in the back of his mind where he could ignore it, that the Suit would help.

"Moz?" Neal asked, his voice rough from screaming and the smoke from the explosion. "Would you ask my parents to come?"

Moz had to stop and think for a moment. Neal hadn't seen any member of his family since right after the Suit started chasing him. Even then it was just to visit his oldest cousin and meet her new baby. Would the family still be living in Ohio? Or should he start with the cousins in Vermont? They were closest... and he hadn't heard anything about them moving.

"You got it. Give me a week. I'll be back then; hopefully with your family."

"You don't have to bring my whole family, Moz," Neal told him, the barest hint of a grin peeking out. Moz felt his chest swell. He had helped Neal feel better. Him. It was an incredible feeling. No wonder the Suit let Neal get away with so much.

"I doubt your whole family would fit in here. I'll ask the ones I find, but you know that clan. Aside from you, where one goes the rest will follow."

"That's only the Scoobies. Most of the Gen2s have made our own way." Moz raised an eyebrow at him. He had met a good number of Neal's family, and only three branched away from their home without bringing a sibling or cousin along. Neal was one of the three. "Okay, only a few of us have made our own way, but you don't have to make it sound like we can't survive without each other."

Moz nodded and turned the conversation to legal matters. Neal asked that his deal be reinstated. He missed even the limited freedom the anklet provided. Moz knew, though, that the main reason he wanted out was to find the person responsible for Kate's death.

One week later...

Neal resisted the urge to pull away from the guard as he was lead to a seat. He was grateful to have a visitor, but the guard's grip was tight, and talking through an inch of Plexiglas was never fun. He looked up to find seven of his family members waiting for him, instead of the expected two. Dawn was seated across from him, her hand already on the divider. Xander stood behind her, both hands on her shoulders. His mouth was tight as he glared at the guard after catching Neal rubbing his arms. The eye patch made the glare all the more menacing.

Unexpectedly, Neal found himself desperately wishing for a hug. His mom and dad were right there, only an inch of materiel separating them. His weird two-aunts-and-an-uncle trio stood to Xander's right, while their twin daughters stood to his left. Seven years was suddenly much too long. He held back the tears he could feel building and gripped the little table top, desperate for something -anything!- to say.

The older twin, red-headed TK, broke the silence. "So the gallery's doing well," she announced. "We've sold another of the paintings you had in there when we took over. Oh, and we're thinking about moving to an apartment and opening that top floor as a world exhibit. Uncle Oz and Aunt Faith brought back some amazing Tibetan artwork last Christmas, and Cor and Parker sent over a few shawls and things their neighbors made. They're gorgeous."

Janna, golden blonde and younger by five minutes, rolled her eyes at her sister. "You think that's amazing, you should see the new basement at home! We finally finished remodeling it, and your dad made the coolest axe case I have ever seen. The double-sided axe is at the top, and then the two-handed axes are sort of surrounding it, and then the next tier down has larger single-handed axes separated by the throwing axes. That's art. Aunt Faith and Mama K even let me practice with them!"

Neal smiled as he listened to his cousins bicker good-naturedly. Surrounded by his family, he could almost pretend that this was any gathering throughout his childhood, not a prison visit following his girlfriend's death.

Dawn caught the shift in her son's mood immediately. She stood up in a huff, shoved Xander into the seat in the place, grabbed Willow's arm, and went to find someone in charge. She was not going to be able to comfort her baby easily if she couldn't even hold him. Willow was dragged along because they hadn't yet met someone who could withstand the 'Resolve Face'. Luckily, Willow caught on quick.

Xander watched them walk away fondly. He loved those women dearly, each in her own way. The one-eyed man turned back to his son. "They're going to see what they can do about this divider," he explained.

"It's required. I doubt anything's going to be done about it. I'm a dangerous criminal, remember." TK, Janna, and Kennedy snorted. Andrew and Xander actually started laughing.

"You're about as dangerous a criminal as Andrew was an evil mastermind. Yeah, you stole from people, but you never hurt them. And even if you did do something as dangerous and awful as pick my pocket, I'm your father. I still have the ability to turn you over my knee." Neal flushed. Then Xander leaned closer, as if to share a secret. "Not that I want to do that, you understand. Unfortunately, you've become such a good thief that even if I did forbid you from having anything to do with Little Debbie, you'd be able steal the cakey goodness right out of my hands. That really restricts my punishment options... I guess I'll have to leave the mean parent role to your mom," he finished with a happy shrug.


Willow watched as Dawn gave the man across from her an evil look. Sometimes, the witch wondered how old she and her friends really were. Her only nephew was in jail for bond fraud and a jail-break, and his mother was engaged in a staring contest with the man in charge of the jail. She didn't even know for certain how it happened. One minute, the man was denying Dawn's request to speak to him in an interrogation room or something on the grounds of Neal being a 'flight risk', and the next, they're staring at each other as if all it took was a battle of wills.

She sighed as she leaned against the wall. There wasn't much to see in this hallway. Grey brick, white paint, metal doors; a window every once in a while, just to break the monotony. She was about to call Dawn back to Neal's side when two people walked in. The man looked to be right between her and her daughters in age, and was wearing an old suit and tie. The woman with him couldn't have been more than four or five years older than the girls, with striking blue eyes and dark brown hair. Her blue dress added a splash of color to the drab interior. The couple was about to walk past them when a shout from Dawn caught their attention.

"He's not going to run! He knows better than that now! And he's not a dangerous criminal. Neal Caffrey is in here for forging bonds! The boy hates guns with a passion, and considers life sacred. He's not going to hurt us! And even if he was dangerous, I'm his mother. I can make him cry just by acting disappointed... or at least, I could when he was twelve... The point is-"

The guard never got to hear the point, however, as the new man interrupted at that point.

"Is there a problem here?"

Dawn turned to the man. "Yes, there's a problem here!" Her blue eyes were bright, and her cheeks were flushed in anger. "My son is sitting in there, barely holding himself together after his girlfriend was murdered in front of him! And because he's a so-called 'flight risk' they won't let me comfort him. All I can do is watch while he tries to be strong, instead of going in there and holding him. He needs a hug! And who are you?" she finally asked, realizing in the middle of her rant that the new man was not wearing the uniform of the prison guards.

"Agent Peter Burke. I'm the one who caught Neal," he told her. He stilled as soon as the words were out of his mouth. He knew better than to tell a distraught mother that he was the one who arrested her child. Something about this one, though, made him think she wouldn't hold it against him. Luckily, that something was right.

"Dawn Harris," she introduced herself. "This is my sister-in-law, Willow Rosenberg." Willow waved hello. "He really respects you," Dawn told him.

"He does?" Peter asked. "Because he always seems to be testing me."

"Of course he is. If he didn't respect you, he wouldn't bother to find your limits."

"Really?" Peter thought about that. In a way, it made sense. Neal rarely did something twice once he knew Peter didn't approve. "Oh, this is my wife, Elizabeth."

"It's a pleasure to meet you both," Willow spoke up. "But unfortunately, we need to get back to my darling nephew before he thinks we've abandoned him."

"Or convinced the others to break him back out," Dawn replied with a smirk. Peter wasn't entirely sure if she was being serious.

"I'll see if I can arrange for a room tomorrow. If you don't mind a guard or agent in the room during your visit, it shouldn't be too much of a problem."

"I don't mind," Dawn answered, "but it may be best if our babysitter was you or someone else he trusts. While we are more than happy to visit and spend time with him again, the main goal of these visits is to help him heal."

Over the next two weeks, Peter watched the odd family help Neal grieve. His parents would hold and rock him as needed, or just sit and talk with him for hours on end. TK brought in art supplies and encouraged him to express himself. Andrew, the strange man who fathered the twins but had never had a romantic interest in their mother, brought baked goods every day, prompting laughter and comments of being a 'guestage' from the older women and Xander. Janna and Kennedy (Mama K, as the twins called her) would get in heated debates with him, and Willow calmed him whenever he got too upset. During the process, he pieced together more about Neal's life before The Chase.

One day, Peter announced that a judge had signed off on reinstating the deal. He had been working towards that goal from the moment Neal walked back into the prison.

"I can't wait to get back to fresh air," Neal breathed, eyes closed happily as he imagined it.

"You're in New York, buddy, I'm not sure there's a whole lot of 'fresh' to be found," Xander commented, dodging the hand swipe from his wife.

"You know what he means! Oh, we should celebrate! What do you want, Sweetie?"

"You don't need to make anything special," Neal protested.

"C'mon, Son-O-Mine! You're the only other person in the family who enjoys her concoctions. Make her happy. Give her some random, off-the-wall list of ingredients to turn into a gourmet meal fit for a Picasso's palate." Xander received odd looks from Peter, TK, and Elizabeth. Neal, on the other hand, simply grinned at his father.

"Mom's combos are good! It's not our fault you ate the apple-peanut butter-mayonnaise sauce topped cheesecake." The impish grin on Neal's face lead Peter to believe otherwise.

"I thought it was my Reese's cheesecake! And it was so your fault. I had those slices labeled, and you, devious little creature that you are, switched them!"

Neal affected an innocent-little-boy look, staring at his father through large blue eyes. "How could you think I would do something like that?" He turned to Dawn. "Can you believe this, Mommy? My own father would accuse me!" By that point, nearly everyone was gasping with laughter. Xander was chuckling, and even Peter couldn't stop his smile. Somehow, Dawn and Neal both managed to keep a straight face.

"You poor child," she cooed to Neal. "It's okay, I'll protect you from Daddy's mean words." And then, they lost it too.


Neal said his goodbyes to his family the day he was released back into Peter's custody. Xander, Dawn, and Andrew were needed in Ohio for a big event, Willow and Kennedy had been away from Brazil for too long, and Janna had duties in Tibet to get back to. Even TK had to leave, claiming the gallery had been in Cassie's control for too long already.

"Then get back there and reclaim your territory," Neal ordered her with a smile. He turned to Peter and explained. "Cassie has her own system for running the gallery, and without TK there to balance her the place would look... like the inside of a mausoleum."

"A mausoleum?"

"After being looted," Neal clarified. "Dust all over; some interesting things scattered around, but nothing of real value left."

"Ah," Peter nodded. "And what is the gallery? You've all talked about it, but none of you ever explained what it held."

"It's called Surviving Pieces. It's just a little art gallery with sculptures, artwork, and other knick-knacks and homemade items from all over the world."

"Surviving Pieces, huh?"

"The other option was Recovered History, but that sounds more like a book or antiques store."


Rosenberg Family

This chapter featured Kirsten Dunst as TK Rosenberg, and Christina Applegate as Janna Rosenberg. Images were found online.
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