sheenianni: (hedgehog)
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Title: The Caffrey-Ellis Family
Author: [livejournal.com profile] sheenianni
Fandom: White Collar

Characters/Pairings: Sara Ellis, Neal Caffrey (Neal/Sara)
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Seasons 1-6
Word Count: 1600
Summary: A long time ago, Sara didn’t think they would ever get to this point. And yet, here they are.

A/N: Written for [livejournal.com profile] esgeee, who asked for Neal/Sara HEA. Unfortunately, fluffy mood evades me. This is as close as I could get right now.

___________________________________



Rummaging through her wardrobe, Sara tries to find the right outfit for the occasion. She checks her watch. Luckily, they still have plenty of time. So what is appropriate today? Should she wear something casual? Something formal? Not that it matters that much, but–

She stills as Neal hugs her from behind, placing his chin on her shoulder. “Hey. Are you ready?”

“Yeah, just give me a minute.”

“Do you want me to help?”

“No, I got this. Wait for me downstairs?”

“Okay.” Neal kisses her cheek before letting go.

Waiting until her husband leaves the room, Sara allows herself to breathe out in relief. Of course Neal understands the purpose of masks; he has used clothes as armor before. He’s always been good at recognizing when she needed space.

She hates to admit it even to herself, but she is nervous. She doesn’t like feeling this insecure.

Today is going to change their lives forever. After all those years, the biggest decision she and Neal have made is finally coming to fruition.

Biting her lip, Sara sits down on the bed, taking a moment to once again think about everything that has brought her to this very moment.

It has been eleven years since she first started dating Neal, eight since they were reunited after his shocking return from the dead. She was so mad at him; all of them were, but Sara more than the rest. Neal knew what Emily’s disappearance had done to her, and yet he faked his death. Sara’s stomach churns unpleasantly. Even though there were extenuating circumstances, that particular betrayal still hurts.

Internally, she shakes her head. Against all odds, they have overcome the past, and her current relationship with Neal is strong. Even though she is (scared out of her mind) a little bit tense, Sara is confident in her and Neal. That’s not the problem.

No, the problem is that she has never envisioned herself as a mother. And that scares the wits out of her.

It was part of what made Neal so appealing in the past. He was playful and charming and always on the move, always with an angle, not the kind of man you would expect to settle down and play the typical happy American family. Caffrey and settling for the white picket fence? Please.

He promised her a life in the clouds, and they had that at first. They were young and they had fun, they took risks and jumped without looking. But after Neal returned, those shoes never quite fitted again, until they returned to New York, until they started putting down roots, until their marriage came, until suddenly they had a house, a car, permanent jobs and mortgage and a houseplant.

(It’s a spider plant, and it would have died long ago if not for Mozzie and Elizabeth because both Neal and Sara constantly keep forgetting to water it. And if they can’t even take care of a plant, how are they going to raise a baby?)

Sara swallows.

Neal is waiting for her downstairs. She should just pick a shirt and a skirt, put them on and go on to join him. Piece of cake.

They have talked about all of this, of course. They had the rational talks when they weighted their finances, options, risks, changes to their careers, changes to their house… and then they had the emotional talks, like when Sara confessed her deep-rooted fear that she just wasn’t cut out to be a maternal material, or when Neal admitted he often watched Peter with his son to pick up clues about how to be a good father, because James had clearly been lacking in that category.

Sara first realized that Neal wanted children when she saw him playing with the Burkes’ toddler son and Neal’s face lit up with pure joy and longing. It made her uneasy, thinking that this would be a big obstacle in their relationship.

Women who saw a baby were supposed to start cooing or make funny faces. People didn’t seem to get irritated by babies that just wouldn’t stop crying or kids that were throwing a tantrum. Except Sara wasn’t the nurturing, caregiving type. She didn’t enjoy feeding sick people soup. She didn’t melt at the sight of a baby or a puppy or kitten. She could fake it to avoid insulting the respective parent or owner, but it seemed that she lacked that warm cuddling compulsion that women were supposed to possess.

That used to be okay. She had her job and her baton. Bryan McKenzie didn’t want children. She used to be comfortable in her own skin.

Damn Neal for messing her up.


When she realized, she almost broke up with him on the spot. Instead, Sara brought up the topic a few days later over dinner, and to her relief, Neal had claimed that she was all the family he needed – and besides, he was more suited for the role of a cool “uncle” than a parent. Helping Peter and Elizabeth or occasionally babysitting Theo Berrigan was good enough for him.

That discussion eventually led to their engagement.

And it worked. For a while, they were happy like that.

Running a hand through her hair, Sara lets out a soft sight as she tries to remember. When have things changed?

Has it been when she has been miraculously reconciled with Emily after the joined forces of Mozzie, Peter and Neal tracked her down? Has it been when Sterling&Bosch offered her another promotion and the satisfaction just wasn’t there? Or has it been one of those days when she babysat Theo and little Neal; one of those ordinary days that somehow became so special?

Maybe it came with having Emily back. Or maybe it was talking to Elizabeth, who continued to successfully run her business, or Diana, who managed to be an Agent, to remain her super-competent badass self and yet also be a mother. Somehow, Sara realized she could still be herself even if she had a kid. There would be sacrifices, but she could live with those. The decision slowly grew in her, until one day it hit her. She wanted a family with Neal.

With that thought on her mind, Sara smiles. Because this feels right. They are ready for this.

Feeling stronger, she gets dressed and briefly checks her make-up. With everything in order, she grabs her purse and goes to meet Neal in the living room.

She finds him on the sofa, reading yesterday’s newspaper. When he spots her, he sets the paper aside and stands up. “You took a while back there. Is everything all right?”

She smiles at him. “Just some last minute nerves, I guess.”

“Sara…”

She shuts him up by pulling him into a kiss.

A moment later, they step apart.

“Let’s go and pick our girl,” says Sara resolutely.

Neal hesitates. “You know we can’t change our minds later. If you’re not sure–”

“If I didn’t change my mind during the whole adoption process, I’m definitely not changing it now. Trust me, I want this as much as you.”

“Good.” Neal takes one of her hands in his. “I know you didn’t sleep much this past week–”

“It’s hard to believe this is finally happening. I spent most of my time at work yesterday just looking at her picture.”

“I know what you mean.”

They spent three years trying for a child. They were crushed when the doctors finally gave them the bad news. No Connie and Conrad for them.

A few weeks later, it was Sara who suggested adoption.

Neal’s felony record and his history of running turned out to be a problem, but eventually, they found a way. (Through Mozzie. And Mr. Jeffries. And the statements of Peter and other people, who all testified that the Caffreys would be good parents. For all the times Neal’s past worked against him, he has also made friends, people who stood by them.)

And after all the waiting and struggles, it is finally happening. Sara feels the goosebumps on her skin, nervous, thrilled and excited like she hasn’t been since their wedding.

Neal smiles softly at her. “Okay.”

Grabbing their coats, they walk out of the house. Sara locks the door while Neal pulls out the car keys. They bought the baby seat last week, and now it’s prepared in the back. Sara’s stomach makes a little jump as she imagines little Zoey there, for their first trip together when they bring her home.

She blinks away tears and grabs Neal’s arm before he moves to open the car. Turning to her, he pulls her close and kisses her lips. Sara pushes Neal against the door, dimly aware that they’re giving the neighbors a show but needing this moment with her husband–

“I love you,” she breathes when they finally break apart.

“I love you,” Neal echoes when he catches his breath.

She takes his hand and smiles. “We should really go or we’re going to be late.”

When they climb into the car, Sara catches Neal’s hand before he can start the engine. He grabs her thigh, and she can feel his heart beating fast as they kiss again–

“Let’s go pick up our daughter,” says Neal at last.

Daughter. Sara turns the word over in her mind before deciding she likes it. “Well, start driving, Caffrey.”

He grins at her and turns on the engine.

Their child is waiting for them.
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