Rating: rating: R for violence
Genre and/or Pairing: Neal Caffrey and Peter Burke, White Collar
Probably should be considered preslash but there is no overt sexual acts
Notes: Written for a prompt on the White Collar Kink memo
Spoilers: Possibly for episode one
Word Count: lots of them
When Peter is hurt in the field, Neal is solicitous.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Peter is at some boring meeting that Neal is not allowed to attend. Hughes is like that, keeping Neal distant as much as he can.
Neal sincerely believes that Peter's boss wishes that Neal could be kept locked in a closet when he is not being used. Yet Hughes has allowed Peter to let Neal out of prison and Neal has to appreciate that. Lauren brings the file and, on Peter's behalf, knocks Neal's feet to the floor from their perch on Peter's desk.
"Hey, you're not Peter!" Neal argues, but Lauren is off, probably to work on one of the lesser cases with Jones. Peter keeps the best cases for Neal and himself. Lauren hates that. Jones doesn't mind. He likes that he has his own cases even if they aren't the big brain teases.
Picking up the file, Neal opens the binder and quickly shuts it again. He never likes splatter films. They upset his stomach and his sensibilities. After shoving the folders away, toward Peter's side of the desk, Neal gazes at them between fingers spread over his eyes, a childhood habit he could not break when confronted with things he could not abide. Slowly, he lowers his digital guard and draws the folder back, quickly upturning the pictures so he does not have to look at them.
Neal is curious as to why what seemed a violent crime investigation was coming to Peter. He reads through and has an ah-ha moment. Peter's part in the investigation is to trace Grendel's use of forged bonds, bilking deluded women he met on the internet. For the most part, Grendel did nothing more than steal whatever cash he could garner. Peter has been tracking the man for almost as long as he stalked Neal.
They had better catch this guy. Neal wanted to keep his place as the most frustrating client Peter has ever chased.
Surreptitious look around him, Neal appears to be alone. He calls Moz.
"What?" Moz answers, sounding somewhat breathless.
Neal sighs, suspecting the cause of Moz's lack of oxygen.
"I told you, couch, Moz. Bed, Neal." Neal said.
"How do you know I'm in your bed?" Moz asks.
"I didn't. You just told me," Neal said, He adds, "Get off my bed, Moz, and change the sheets if you've been doing what I suspect you have been doing."
"Hey, man, that's kind of personal and all."
"In my bed, not so personal," Neal said. Moz has a thing for him. He did. Moz finds sleeping in Neal-scented sheets overwhelmingly stimulating. Neal no longer slides into bed without checking his linens.
"All right, all right, did you just call to sexually harass me or you need another favor?"
"Moz, dear, it was your slip up that sent me to jail and I have been so good about not telling Peter, that he really did not catch me. He caught you."
"I'm sorry. I am so damn sorry" Moz said.
"I know. I did four years. You would have done life," Neal said. "I wish I could tell Peter though. Take the wind right out of his sails. Anyway, you hear of someone called Grendel who sends love letters?"
"The guy who has been luring them and chopping them up lately?"
"That's him," Neal said, reading through the file again. It puzzles him. Grendel had peacefully defrauded for years. Why recently has he taken to killing AND mutilating the women he lured to his home.
"Find him for me and Peter," Neal said.
Peter returns from his meeting, sits down, and grunts. He holds his hand out for the file.
"Weird," Peter remarks. "Non violent as you for two years now suddenly rabid. Something happened."
"You know, Peter, the thing about the internet is that people are anonymous. So how do we know that the Grendel you chased is the one who killed three women? It may be the same modus operandi, but possibly someone stole his identity?"
Peter sets down the files, stares at Neal, stands up, and says, "Don't let them tell you I only love you for your body, because that brain is gorgeous."
Neal would not mind a little love for his body. Peter was forbidden. Peter was married to the marvelous Elizabeth. Neal is a little in love with El. A lot in love with Peter. And where did that leave Kate? Out there where she seemed to want to be.
"It would be nice if your Mr. Haversham lent his talents to this chase. I really want to get this guy."
"That's what I like in a junior partner, anticipation of my wishes before I even express them."
Showing just a flick of his tongue, Neal said, "You should experience how good I am at that."
"Stop that," Peter orders.
"You lack humor," Neal criticizes.
"I do not," Peter said. "Ask El."
Neal reaches for his phone; Peter dives across the desk and stops him. "That was rhetorical, a smart guy likes you knows rhetorical."
"Yes, Peter," Neal said. "Gonna go get some coffee."
"Say hello to Mr. Haversham."
"We getting that much into old married couple all ready?"
"Honestly, dear, I'm considering a divorce."
"I'll go buy a hot red nightie and see if I can spark us back up."
Peter's curiously interested gaze follows Neal out of the room. Maybe Neal will buy some sexy lingerie…
By the time, Neal arrives back at his room; Moz has changed the sheets on his bed and sent them to the laundry. His bed is pristine again, fresh and tempting. Neal hadn't slept well the night before. Moz has made him coffee and a sandwich so Neal will drop the issue of Moz, of Moz in his bed, and what Moz seems compelled to do in his sheets.
"I shouldn't have let you do it," Moz said sadly.
It's an old conversation. Neal is Neal. Moz is his Moz. He really did not see it as choice.
"I didn't give you a lot of choice," Neal said. "I couldn't let you go to prison for the rest of your life. All those strikes, chronic offender status, not that you ever hurt anyone."
"Shhh, Moz, what's done is done. Did you get me anything?" Neal said.
"Waiting for an im," Moz said, peering at his lap top.
Neal ate his sandwich, sipped his coffee. He feels guilty for dredging up his friend's guilt. He tries not to resent his choice. In the beginning, Moz had protected him, hectored him, taught him cons and his craft like a penguin teaching an eagle to fly. Moz loves Neal unconditionally, richer and poorer, young and naïve, and older and getting cynical. If later, it was Neal bailing Moz out of ill-thought schemes, well then, it was payback. Going to prison for Moz… that had been love, not romantic, sweeping love, but faithful, everyday, warts and all affection.
It has lost Neal, Kate. She didn't know it was Moz's forgery. She knew Neal was convicted and Neal has forbidden Moz to tell her more. After all, it was not that Neal was innocent, just not guilty of the crime he had been sent deep into hell for doing. Neal admits that if he knew what prison was really like, he might not have made the choice he did.
It is water under the bridge. Curious thing, Neal has landed someplace that is not only safe, but which delights him. He's not bored with Peter. Peter makes him work.
Still, Neal doesn't like having guns aimed at him. That's not fun.
On the bright side, Peter is so sweet when he is being protective.
Moz interrupts Neal's musings about Peter. He either guesses where Neal's thoughts take him or Neal thinks about Peter way too much.
"Hey, sunshine, head out of dreamland. You're here with me, not with your FBI agent, and I got you an address. My pal says he needs an Area 51 pass forged. Can you do it? Pay back."
"Get me the specs and I could get the devil's key to hell," Neal said blithely.
Moz snorts and replies, "All of that and modest too."
It is good. Back to the usual, snipping and sniping. Neal likes it that way with Moz and loves it with Peter.
Snark is one of Neal's favorite flavors.
Waltzing back in to Peter's office, Neal executes a spin in the doorway and sails his hat to perfect harbor on Peter's credenza. Neal loves that Peter had a credenza even if it is not a mossy family heirloom or three handled. Neal plants his ass on Peter's desk, inches from Peter's hand.
Peter looks up, takes in Neal's smug look. He leans back and stretches; Neal wants to rub Peter's back, but for some reason, Peter hardly ever lets him. All that tension… Neal could think of so many ways to relieve it.
Peter lets his smile blossom on his face. Neal is addicted to that delighted smile on Peter's face. It makes him feel like a puppy dog, the way he responds to it, but considering who holds the leash, Neal doesn't mind. "What do you have for me?"
"An address and an IP," Neal said, handing Peter Moz's notes. Moz has an odd little flourish to his signature that Neal copied when he was Luke at Yoda's feet. Moz can do a perfect Neal signature and Neal, a perfect Moz. Peter gets a strange expression as he reads the note. He does not hand the piece of paper back after he copies the information.
"You will thank Mr. Haversham for me?"
"As always," Neal said, reaching for the slip of paper.
"I'll just keep this," Peter said, putting it in his wallet.
Oh, oh, Neal sometimes forgets that Peter did catch him even if for the wrong thing. Peter has a dangerous mind, a beautiful mind. It's breathtaking.
"There's an old file on Grendel in the basement. Look under Love Note, not Grendel. Grendel is for after he started killing. Go on."
"He thinks I'm a file clerk!" Neal grumbles, doing his patented slow grudging walk out of Peter's FBI aquarium.
In actuality, Neal's friend, Caroline, queen of the files, finds him the file while Neal munches one of her famous cookies.
Neal waltzes back, handing Peter the file and one of the cowboy cookies. Peter accepts both and rolls his eyes.
Peter's pet judge has a search order in less than four hours. Peter won't slow down to call El so Neal purloins his phone and calls her, "Honey, we won't be home for dinner," Neal announces.
"Thank you, dear, for being thoughtful enough to tell me," El replies. "Neal?"
"Yes, El?" Peter calls her 'El' so does Neal. No one else does. He does not look at that fact too closely. Neither does Peter.
"Neal, you are not Peter. You are not a trained FBI agent. I worry about you. I really worry. Get him the information, but stay safe."
"Safe." Neal rolls the word around in his head. Safe was okay for sheathing up during sex. It's not the way Neal lives.
"It would kill Peter if he gets you hurt," El said.
El plays dirty.
"I'll be careful," Neal said.
"Give him a kiss for me," El says before ending the call.
El plays very dirty.
Peter does take a call from El while they are getting ready to search Grendel's location, which is a loft over a warehouse down by East River. Perps should have better locations. It ought to be a law.
Peter keeps looking at Neal as he speaks, but Neal is having his own conversation with Moz and can't pay attention to find out why he is the subject of yet another husband and wife discussion. Neal is seeing if Moz's hacker friend can check back to see if Grendel has changed IP locations significantly. Neal still thinks that is odd that a non-violent criminal has suddenly become a bloody demon.
In the car, Peter asks, "You get anything more for me, Pip?"
"Working on it," Neal said. "Mr. Haversham has to court his ghosts."
"Effective spirits if they can out hack FBI computer crimes," Peter said. "This case is a muddle. Grendel lures female investors with forged stock certificates. My case. He uses internet lonely heart clubs to reel in his prey. Sandowski's computer crime territory. Then he starts killing his marks. Ruiz owns that. Hail, hail, the gang's all here."
"And you get to be in charge," Neal said, smug on Peter's behalf.
"Not so much a tribute to my skills," Peter admits humbly. "Sandowski and Ruiz do not get along."
"I like Sandowski already," Neal states. Ruiz bugs him. He would put Neal back into prison so fast that he would have whiplash from the sentence. And Ruiz fails to respect Peter. The man is a lowlife.
Neal gazes out the window. Long stretches of East River are now gentrified. There have been attempts to clean up centuries old pollution, to paint over graffiti promptly. For all Neal knows, the Mafia now has to file an ecological impact statement before dropping another body in the toxic water.
This part of East River has steadfastly refused to be reformed. It's dark, dreary, dirty, and crowded. Even the rats carry guns down here.
For every legitimate business in this area, clandestine deals, knock off palaces, and drug manufacturing sites occupy equal footage.
Peter has his game face on. He's excited and, thankfully in Neal's opinion, he's nervous. El doesn't like this part of Peter's job, facing armed criminals. Neal doesn't like it either.
Peter tugs his flak jacket straight and Neal realizes that Peter has not said one word about the fact that Neal is not wearing one. Neal wonders if Peter has stopped caring. Peter gets out of the car and Neal slides toward the door to follow. Peter leans in the open door and he looks guilty.
"Stay," Peter said, poking his finger at Neal's chest. "I really mean it. El says she will have my hide if she hears about you getting a gun pointed at your head or chest or any part of you one more time."
"No, but Peter this time," Peter insists.
Surprise move and Neal is handcuffed to the steering wheel. "Peter, this is not acceptable! What if something happens? What if."
But Peter is already striding off.
"This is not the time or place to explore bondage," Neal explains to the absence of Peter.
And Peter, Peter, Peter, handcuffs? Really?
Neal's tie tack is a gift from Moz. It's a lock pick. It takes no more than two minutes. Neal ponders the warehouse. Should he or shouldn't he?
Moz saves Neal. His ring tone is a few bars from La Traviata. "Got it, kiddo."
"Mucho big IP switch. I analyzed the style of his emails and this dude is not the same guy at all."
"Ah ha," Neal said, pleased that he was right.
His pleasure is interrupted by the distant sound of a gun being fired. More shots. Shouts. Coming nearer. Neal stops leaning on the car, goes around, and crouches behind it. Someone runs out, zig zagging, really really fast guy.
The running man flies down a narrow pathway between buildings, disappears.
Most of the pursuit thunders off magnificently….in the wrong direction toward East River. Peter stops, looks toward Neal as if he let him here just to watch for the perp. Peter is totally unsurprised that Neal is sans cuffs. Neal points toward the walkway and Peter runs flying after.
Neal yells in the direction of the other agents, "Hey, you morons, back Peter up. He went that away!"
Neal is out from behind the car without thinking about it. He has no weapon but his speed and brains but he doesn't consider that. Peter should not go after Grendel alone.
There's a dumpster and there's Peter. There's Peter's hand grabbing Neal roughly, shoving him behind Peter's body, and holding him there.
"You never stay where I put you," Peter yells.
"You never put me where I will stay," Neal replies, muffled.
Peter leans out as the herd comes galloping. He yells, "Stay back. Stay back."
Neal spots Grendel. He's on the fire escape climbing. Neal points. Peter nods.
Jones fires and Grendel is off the ladder, onto the roof. Peter dashes after. Neal wants to follow, but the big chunky FBI agent lifts him off his feet, shoves him at Jones who puts a hold on him. Neal struggles, his heart thudding after Peter.
There are more shots, more yelling.
Neal could imagine horrific words. "Moz dead. Kate dead."
He never knew that the worst ones of all were "Officer down."
Neal knows it is Peter and he wrenches free of Jones with strength he did not know he has. He is an acrobat without a net. He is Neal without Peter as he scrabbles up that ladder to the roof.
Peter is sitting up. Cruz is with him. She yields though when Neal wings to Peter's side as if she knows who belongs there. Good Lauren.
Neal's hands fly over Peter. There is no blood. Not even a hole in Peter's flak jacket. Grendel is shoved face down on the roof. The blond agent who lifted Neal like he was performing a pas de deux has Grendel pinned with a massive foot. That's Sandowski. Neal can see his name tag. Good man, although Neal would encourage him to set that foot down a little harder.
"Peter, you're not shot," Neal said.
"It's my ankle," Peter said. "I tripped over that…"
Peter points to rusty pipe extruding from the roof.
Cruz adds, "It saved his life. Grendel's bullet gave Peter's hair a new part.
There is a thin trickle of blood that Neal missed right across the top of Peter's beloved head. Neal feels woozy. His head spins. He is out of it briefly and when he comes to call on reality, Cruz is saying, "Put your head down between your legs. Easy, Neal."
"Pretty boy can't stand the sight of blood," Ruiz sneers.
It's true that Neal doesn't like blood. He is orderly and likes things where they belong. Blood inside skin where it should be. Himself by Peter's side. However, he does not faint because someone bleeds. It's Peter's blood that freaked him out. It's the idea of a bullet violating that sacred head. It's the concept that Peter is vulnerable.
Taking a deep breath, Neal sits straighter. He is okay, more or less, while medics come and Peter is lowered to the alley. Grendel is hauled off, spewing vile threats. Jones drives Neal to the hospital and Cruz goes after El, who will be wanting to kill Peter herself if she hears that Peter went after the perp without back up.
El better stop with the protecting Neal bit. He has the good sense to duck. Neal has this belief that Peter will be fine as long as Neal has him in sight. It's a working theory, but Neal has no desire to try alternate experiments.
Peter needs him.
At the hospital, Elizabeth folds into Neal's arms for a moment, seeking comfort even as he reassures her, himself that Peter is fine.
"Neal, did Peter take any unnecessary chances?"
Oh. Oh. Oh.
Neal hangs his head, looks away. Isn't there a Geneva Convention that protects FBI consultants? El's gaze is torture.
When Neal dares to look up from not answering, El is nodding as if he had told her every detail.
"Just what I thought," El states. "I'm going to chain you both up."
At Neal's little interested startle, El jabs a finger at his chest and said, "Don't even go there, mister. You are in trouble too. You stay. I am going to see when I can bring Peter home, where he will wish that he called in sick today."
On general principal, Elizabeth has Lauren drop Neal off with her and Peter. Peter is on pain killers and has no comment when Elizabeth starts arranging things the way they need to be.
Between Neal and Elizabeth, Peter is settled in the marital bed, undressed and is soon asleep. His ankle is broken and he is going to be desk bound for weeks. El is thrilled. Safe. And no one else is usually allowed to take Neal in the field so both of HER men should be kept out of mischief for a while. She is reasonably pleased.
Neal is feathering over that tiny line, already healing over on Peter's scalp with a slightly shaking finger. El understands. She feels that way a lot. She, unlike Neal, can not watch over Peter. She knew what she was getting into. She loves who Peter is and he is an FBI agent. He is her FBI agent and Neal is. Neal is Peter's, but El is coaxing him closer day by day. He might be hers too.
Blue eyes growing bluer with misery.
"I can't just stay behind. If I'm involved, Peter looks out for me and that means he looks out for himself."
El never considered that. She looks at Neal sitting on her and Peter's bed. He is waiting her judgment. She nods.
"It's a full time job, looking after Peter. I need help."
Elizabeth mulls it over in her mind and says it from the hip, the way Peter loves her, "We'll have to share."
Neal continues to draw El into his eyes. She is in the vortex. She is being analyzed by a machine that even the best chips and super fast processors cannot duplicate. If the human brain is a marvel, Neal's brain is a miracle.
"I can do that," Neal agrees. He is serious, sincere, and he sounds the way Peter sounded when they made their vows.
"I can too," El explains. "I have to go get his prescription filled. You watch him. Do not let him out of bed except to go to the bathroom. If he does go, you will not let him shut the door and you will make him lean on you."
"Can do." Neal said.
"I'd like to stay tonight if that's all right," Neal said, "in case you need help taking care of Peter."
"You think I'd let you loose?" Elizabeth said.
Neal grins, but she is serious.
A kiss for Peter and one for Neal. Lips. Forehead. Yet both are kisses. One is love and one is affection, but such a thin hair of a line divides.
Peter is irritated or he's trying to con Neal into thinking so. Neal carefully adjusted Peter's pillows for the fifth time in an hour.
It's cute. It's pure delight. Peter is only pretending to hate the fussing. He's eating it up.
El can read Peter. She knows when he is engaging in a little fantasy and she knows this one.
Peter is a sultan in his harem and El is his precious wife. Neal gets to be his dancing boy and so much more. Wine bold, Peter told her that one and El agrees it is a lovely picture. Peter probably has forgotten telling her. El smirks.
"You could hot wire the car even if you don't know where the keys are," Peter points out.
"You couldn't drive it with your ankle in a cast," Neal replies, checking the label on Peter's pain pills.
"You could drive," Peter coaxes.
"Oh, Peter," Neal responds. Eyelashes flutter, flutter, flutter. "You can't really be thinking of having me drive when you haven't let me get my license back." Neal looks even more flirtatious as he adds, "Daddy."
"You don't need a license to get around in two miles of New York." Peter said. "You could consider this practice for the test if I am going to let you get your license." Peter's lips quirk as he adds "Son."
Oh, 'son' sounded so dirty the way Peter said it. El likes.
"I just couldn't let you compromise yourself for me, Peter."
"Yeah, since when?" Peter jabs.
"Since now," Neal states, putting down the bottle. "El, this is supposed to be taken with food."
"Soup's on the stove. Tray is ready. We'll all eat here and then I have to get back to work," El said.
"You get to go to work." Peter grumps.
"Be nice or I won't let Neal carry the small TV up here for your game."
"The two of you are monsters," Peter complains, but he is starting to smile despite himself. Peter likes being spoiled.
"We're your monsters," El says, "Your very dear protective monsters."
"Peter, about Neal?"
Hmm, pearlescent layers of not quite guilt. Nothing to truly regret, but Carter-like, Peter knows he has sinned in his mind and it worries him.
"Yeah?" Peter asks warily.
"I want you to go ahead and take Neal into the field."
Ah, Peter thrown off his calculations. El can, on occasion, beat Peter on chess because she throws the classics out the window and plays the moment to zoom through his defenses. How do you think a woman like El married a cautious man like Peter? Neal is an interesting opponent or is he an ally? Either way, sometimes he is as calculating as Peter. Sometimes he plays wildly as Elizabeth. He is fascinating.
"Why?" Peter asks.
"Because he will go running after you anyway so at least if you know he is behind you, you can keep an eye on him," El lies with perfect grace and reason.
Peter is suspicious, but he lets it go. "The way you like Neal, all the ways you like him," El shoots in. "I think he's good for you."
Elizabeth can see that Peter turns and turns her words in his mind. He is off balance. El hears Neal coming up the stairs and she is distracted from what she is saying. She gets the bed table ready and arranges the two occasional tables for Neal and herself.
"You just think you need reinforcements to deal with me!" Peter claims.
"It's a full time job," El states. "I love the way Neal takes care of you."
Neal has entered and he hears. He gives to Elizabeth such a charming, radiant smile that she knows she is right.
These are dangerous shark infested waters but sometimes you just need to plunge in.
El can swim very well.