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NEAL'S PHONE: hey peter
NEAL'S PHONE: peter?
NEAL'S PHONE: peter
NEAL'S PHONE: peter
NEAL'S PHONE: peeeeeeeeter
NEAL'S PHONE: peeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
NEAL'S PHONE: ter
NEAL'S PHONE: hit send too soon
PETER'S PHONE: YES, WHAT?????
NEAL'S PHONE: you werent answering
NEAL'S PHONE: i thought there may have been a problem
NEAL'S PHONE: dire circumstances of some kind
NEAL'S PHONE: like
NEAL'S PHONE: devoured by bookworms
NEAL'S PHONE: buried in a cratealanche
NEAL'S PHONE: lost in a maze of identical corridors
NEAL'S PHONE: and forced to subsist on confiscated caviar
PETER'S PHONE: No, the problem is I can't take personal calls at work.
NEAL'S PHONE: this is not a call
NEAL'S PHONE: its a text
NEAL'S PHONE: super seeeeeecret
PETER'S PHONE: If you have time to pester me via text,
PETER'S PHONE: Diana and Jones obviously aren't keeping you busy enough.
NEAL'S PHONE: we're in the van
NEAL'S PHONE: the VAN, Peter
PETER'S PHONE: Oh no.
PETER'S PHONE: How awful.
PETER'S PHONE: That sound you hear
PETER'S PHONE: is the world's tiniest violin
PETER'S PHONE: playing the world's saddest song.
NEAL'S PHONE: ;ppp
PETER'S PHONE: I distinctly remember telling you earlier
PETER'S PHONE: if you used emoticons again
PETER'S PHONE: I would arrest you.
NEAL'S PHONE: have to catch me first
NEAL'S PHONE: youre across town
PETER'S PHONE: Diana has handcuffs.
PETER'S PHONE: Incidentally,
PETER'S PHONE: did you steal all the apostrophes off your keyboard
PETER'S PHONE: when I wasn't looking?
NEAL'S PHONE: you know, peter
NEAL'S PHONE: no one is going to take away points or anything
NEAL'S PHONE: if you fail to use correct punctuation
NEAL'S PHONE: in a text.
PETER'S PHONE: I prefer to sound like an adult, thanks.
NEAL'S PHONE: well, when you develop carpal tunnel
NEAL'S PHONE: i will laugh
NEAL'S PHONE: in texts
NEAL'S PHONE: typed with my carpal-free thumbs
PETER'S PHONE: Neal, seriously, amusing as this
PETER'S PHONE: isn't
PETER'S PHONE: I really have to work.
PETER'S PHONE: And so do you.

 

[15 minutes later]

NEAL'S PHONE: peter?
NEAL'S PHONE: hey peter
PETER'S PHONE: This better be work-related.
NEAL'S PHONE: sort of
PETER'S PHONE: how much is sort of?
NEAL'S PHONE: well, i'm in the van...
PETER'S PHONE: Goodbye, Neal
NEAL'S PHONE: i made you a swan
NEAL'S PHONE: diana's is a rabbit
PETER'S PHONE: Origami?
NEAL'S PHONE: no a real rabbit
NEAL'S PHONE: its name is mr bunny
NEAL'S PHONE: yes, origami
NEAL'S PHONE: out of sandwich wrappers
NEAL'S PHONE: see, youre getting the whole van experience
NEAL'S PHONE: minus the van
NEAL'S PHONE: here is your swan
NEAL'S PHONE: [attachment: picture of origami swan]
PETER'S PHONE: That's
PETER'S PHONE: actually I'm not really sure what to say
PETER'S PHONE: It's a nice swan?
NEAL'S PHONE: if it was really there
NEAL'S PHONE: you could put it on top of your computer
NEAL'S PHONE: for luck
PETER'S PHONE: Where it would last all of five minutes
PETER'S PHONE: before Patterson sees it.
PETER'S PHONE: Speaking of, here he comes
PETER'S PHONE: Gotta go
NEAL'S PHONE: good luck

 

[10 minutes later]

NEAL'S PHONE: peter
NEAL'S PHONE: peterpeterpeter
NEAL'S PHONE: peter
PETER'S PHONE: AAAAAAAAAAA.
NEAL'S PHONE: are you bored? hey! me too.
PETER'S PHONE: I am WORKING.
PETER'S PHONE: As are you.
PETER'S PHONE: As per the terms of your WORK release.
PETER'S PHONE: In theory.
NEAL'S PHONE: i asked diana if i could bring you the swan
NEAL'S PHONE: in actual person
PETER'S PHONE: She said no?
NEAL'S PHONE: well
NEAL'S PHONE: yes
PETER'S PHONE: That's because you are in the van
NEAL'S PHONE: I KNOW
PETER'S PHONE: surveilling.
NEAL'S PHONE: is that a word?
PETER'S PHONE: It is absolutely a word.
PETER'S PHONE: Look it up.
NEAL'S PHONE: eureka!
NEAL'S PHONE: we could play
NEAL'S PHONE: a game
NEAL'S PHONE: in texts
NEAL'S PHONE: i spy
NEAL'S PHONE: with my little eye
PETER'S PHONE: Neal, tell Diana to send you for coffee.
NEAL'S PHONE: peter...
PETER'S PHONE: RIGHT NOW
DIANA'S PHONE: Caffrey says he needs to get coffee
DIANA'S PHONE: and you said so?
PETER'S PHONE: It'll get him out of the van for a while.
DIANA'S PHONE: on it, boss

 

NEAL'S PHONE: so, peter
NEAL'S PHONE: this is embarrassing
NEAL'S PHONE: i seem to be a little bit
NEAL'S PHONE: kidnapped
NEAL'S PHONE: DON'T CALL ME
NEAL'S PHONE: very bad time
NEAL'S PHONE: they dont know i have my phone
NEAL'S PHONE: i had it out when they grabbed me
NEAL'S PHONE: about to text you actually
NEAL'S PHONE: from the coffee shop
NEAL'S PHONE: for work purposes, i swear
NEAL'S PHONE: due to having seen the guys we're surveilling
NEAL'S PHONE: in a surveillance blind spot
NEAL'S PHONE: sadly they saw me too
NEAL'S PHONE: i dropped the phone into my shoe
NEAL'S PHONE: on purpose, in case you were wondering
NEAL'S PHONE: they didnt even check
NEAL'S PHONE: amateurs
NEAL'S PHONE: PETER, CHECK YOUR TEXTS
NEAL'S PHONE: honestly
NEAL'S PHONE: peter?
NEAL'S PHONE: kind of alone here
PETER'S PHONE: Neal!
PETER'S PHONE: Are you okay?
PETER'S PHONE: Calling help now!
NEAL'S PHONE: no!!!!
NEAL'S PHONE: already texted diana :)
NEAL'S PHONE: b4 you actually
NEAL'S PHONE: rescue is on its way
NEAL'S PHONE: she says
NEAL'S PHONE: ... peter?
NEAL'S PHONE: hey peter?
NEAL'S PHONE: not that i'm complaining but
NEAL'S PHONE: you know, kidnapped
NEAL'S PHONE: in the dark
NEAL'S PHONE: could i get some acknowledgement here
PETER'S PHONE: sorry, on the phone
PETER'S PHONE: diana called me.
PETER'S PHONE: where are you?
NEAL'S PHONE: in a van
NEAL'S PHONE: again
NEAL'S PHONE: and i have to say
NEAL'S PHONE: i prefer ours
NEAL'S PHONE: it has windows
NEAL'S PHONE: and coffee
NEAL'S PHONE: and no thugs with guns
NEAL'S PHONE: though moz might disagree with that last part
NEAL'S PHONE: no offense
NEAL'S PHONE: oh hey look
NEAL'S PHONE: i still have your swan
NEAL'S PHONE: in my pocket
NEAL'S PHONE: for all the good that'll do me
PETER'S PHONE: Neal, if anyone can pick a lock
PETER'S PHONE: with an origami swan
PETER'S PHONE: you are that person.
NEAL'S PHONE: the van is stopping
NEAL'S PHONE: gotta go
PETER'S PHONE: Neal
PETER'S PHONE: just
PETER'S PHONE: dammit.
PETER'S PHONE: Use your head.
PETER'S PHONE: Wait for backup.
PETER'S PHONE: Don't do anything reckless.
PETER'S PHONE: are you even reading these?

 

PETER'S PHONE: Neal?

 

DIANA'S PHONE: All clear. got Caffrey.
DIANA'S PHONE: Dont go running off and get written up
DIANA'S PHONE: as I know you were about to
DIANA'S PHONE: or possibly already in the process of
PETER'S PHONE: everyone ok?
DIANA'S PHONE: mostly
PETER'S PHONE: what does THAT mean?
DIANA'S PHONE: they knocked Caffrey around a little
PETER'S PHONE: a little?
PETER'S PHONE: how much is a little?
DIANA'S PHONE: uh, concussion, sprained wrist? I guess?
DIANA'S PHONE: not a doctor
PETER'S PHONE: Which hospital?
DIANA'S PHONE: oh no you don't, boss
DIANA'S PHONE: STAY PUT. you're off in
DIANA'S PHONE: two hours
DIANA'S PHONE: it can wait that long
JONES'S PHONE: You heard the lady
JONES'S PHONE: We've got it, boss

 

PETER'S PHONE: Neal.
PETER'S PHONE: Neal!
PETER'S PHONE: If you can read this, answer me.
PETER'S PHONE: That's an order.
NEAL'S PHONE: hiya
NEAL'S PHONE: they got the guys
NEAL'S PHONE: all took down
NEAL'S PHONE: your team did good
PETER'S PHONE: The important thing is for my team
PETER'S PHONE: to return undamaged
PETER'S PHONE: CIs included, obviously.
NEAL'S PHONE: what did diana say???
PETER'S PHONE: Never mind what Diana said.
PETER'S PHONE: *I* said be careful.
NEAL'S PHONE: i was careful
PETER'S PHONE: I'm going to see
PETER'S PHONE: about ducking out early.
PETER'S PHONE: I can make it up tomorrow.
NEAL'S PHONE: no!
NEAL'S PHONE: stay there!
NEAL'S PHONE: i am just fine
NEAL'S PHONE: woops hospital, gotta go

 

NEAL'S PHONE: pwwwwwwwwwwwwwwrwe
NEAL'S PHONE: *peeeeeeeeetef
NEAL'S PHONE: *peeeeeter
PETER'S PHONE: On painkillers, are you?
NEAL'S PHONE: yes
NEAL'S PHONE: but mostly
NEAL'S PHONE: arm in sling
NEAL'S PHONE: hard 2 type
PETER'S PHONE: Still at the ER?
NEAL'S PHONE: y
PETER'S PHONE: Well, it's 4:59, so
PETER'S PHONE: I'll be over to pick you up innnnnn...
PETER'S PHONE: 35 seconds
PETER'S PHONE: 33
NEAL'S PHONE: good. i have a thing
PETER'S PHONE: 30
PETER'S PHONE: Oh?
PETER'S PHONE: That's ... cryptic.
PETER'S PHONE: 15
NEAL'S PHONE: for you!
PETER'S PHONE: origami swan by any chance?
PETER'S PHONE: 7 ...
NEAL'S PHONE: yes
NEAL'S PHONE: slightly crumpled
NEAL'S PHONE: but still ok
PETER'S PHONE: Sort of like you.
PETER'S PHONE: Okay, heading out.
NEAL'S PHONE: drive careful
NEAL'S PHONE: haha j/k
NEAL'S PHONE: like you ever do

 

Peter picked out Neal's from among the identical, curtained examining stations in the ER by following the sound of laughter. Neal, wearing a scrub top and half-reclining on a gurney, was teaching Diana one-handed magic tricks. He kept dropping coins, although he was still very ably capable of making them vanish.

Peter hung back, watching for a moment. Neal had a black eye and, as he'd mentioned in text, his left arm was in a sling. He also looked abnormally cheerful, though nowhere near Howser Clinic levels of cheerful.

"Peter!" Neal said, with a wide grin, and Diana looked over her shoulder.

"Oh, hi, boss. I was just making sure Caffrey didn't walk off with any bedpans."

"I'm not a kleptomaniac," Neal said indignantly.

"We all know what you are, Neal." Diana patted him on the shoulder.

"Thanks," Peter said to her. "Go home. I've got it from here."

He located Neal's shirt and got Neal checked out. Neal was moving very carefully and he had a prescription for painkillers. While they were waiting to get the prescription filled in the hospital's in-house pharmacy, Neal said, "Quit looking guilty. It wasn't your fault."

"I should have been there."

"You had other places to be. Diana and Jones took care of it."

"I --"

"Didn't have a choice," Neal said. "Would've been there if you could. Peter, we know."

"It could have ended a lot differently."

"But it didn't," Neal pointed out.

"Next time," Peter said. "Next time, I'm not sitting in that warehouse, staring at my phone and waiting for a text to let me know if you're alive or dead."

"Hopefully we'll have you back at the White Collar unit before there is a 'next time'."

After they retrieved the prescription, a companionable silence reigned during the walk to the car. Neal settled into the seat with a little moan of satisfaction to be off his feet, leaned back and closed his eyes. It was a glorious evening, the sun slanting low through the canyons and valleys of the city.

"I took the precaution of calling El and letting her know there'd be a guest tonight," Peter said. "Unless you had your heart set on eating takeout back at June's."

"I can deal with the disappointment. Oh!" Neal opened his eyes again, and reached into his pocket with his good hand, wincing as the movement tugged on his stiffening muscles. He pressed something small and papery into Peter's palm. "Here's your swan."

It was definitely not the best origami animal Neal had ever produced. It was very clearly made from a piece of a sandwich wrapper (including a grease stain) and had been somewhat crumpled during Neal's little adventure in the van.

Peter smoothed out the worst of the crumpling and tucked it carefully into his wallet.

"Er ..." Neal said. "If I'd known you were going to be keeping it, I would have made you one that wasn't made out of trash. Want a better one?"

"No," Peter said. "I want this one."

 

***

 

The next day, the swan was on top of his computer monitor. And he didn't give a damn what Patterson thought about it.