Author: J. Rosemary Moss
Fandom: White Collar
Author's Website: J. Rosemary's LJ
Author's Notes: Thank you to FicWriterJet for the prompt fest and to Elrhiarhodan for the beta! Any mistakes are, of course, my own. Summary: Peter and Neal find their own way to clear the air.
LIKE STARTING OVER
"How did you get your hands on a copy of the partial manifest?"
I swallowed, letting the words hang in the air between us. "I, uh"
"You what?" Peter demanded, leaning forward.
I glanced up from my glass of wine and forced myself to look him in the eye. I promised myself that I wouldn't flinch at any hint of anger.
We were sitting opposite each other at his dining room table. It was the first time we'd spent together as just friends sincesince everything with Keller and Moz and that stupid Nazi loot. Or the first time we were trying to spend together as friends. The fact that Peter wanted to turn our get-together into an interrogation wasn't a good sign.
I sighed, suddenly glad that El was at her sister's for a few days. She'd been putting on an 'I'm fine; I just want to forget the whole ordeal' mask for me whenever I saw her. I hated it. I'd rather deal with Peter's fury again than her forced calm.
Peter's voice called me back to the question at hand. "You were going to be at your weekly poker game," I answered, resisting the urge to stare down at my glass again, "but you got stuck in the van instead. El went out with Mozzie. Before they left, Moz made sure to unlock the back door. I slipped inside and disabled your alarm."
Peter didn't say a word, but his were eyes boring into me.
"II figured you had a safe in the bedroom. I walked up thereSatchmo followed mefound it and cracked it."
He still didn't say a word.
"And the manifest was in there. I took pictures of it, but then you called me." I cocked my head at him. "Do you remember that call? You offeredyou were treating me like a real friend again. For the first time in a long time."
He grunted. "Yeah, I remember."
"That call made a difference, Peter." I needed him to know that. "It's whatit made me realize that I didn't want to leave."
He still didn't say anything. He just looked away and started clenching and unclenching his fists, presumably at the thought of me breaking into his house and rummaging through his bedroom. The bedroom he shared with El. And why the hell not? It's hard to imagine a worse breach of trust.
I stupidly tried to lighten the mood with a lift of my eyebrows. "Are you thinking about beating the crap out of me?"
I meant it as a jokeor as a half-hearted joke, at leastbut he stiffened up. Right after Keller kidnapped El, Peter came damn close to attacking me. I remember the look in his eyes; I remember thinking that he would pound me to pulp. The only thing that stopped him was the realization that I wouldn't fight back.
"I don't want to beat the crap out of you, Neal. I don't think I ever did, not even that night."
I risked a shaky laugh. "You gave a damn good impression of it."
That almost brought a smile to his lips. "All right. I was close. I was in such a rageand I didn't know if El was alive or dead. I blamed you for what happened."
"With some justification."
He shrugged. "Maybe. But even theneven then, I would rather have taken it out on your ass."
"My ass? Ah, I'm a bit old for a spanking."
He grunted again. Peter's good at thatsomehow he comes across sounding more like an exasperated authority figure than a caveman. "Oh yeah? I'm not so sure."
I felt a grina genuine grintugging at my lips. "Hey, if spanking me will make you feel better
He gave me a sharp look at that, his eyes suddenly unreadable. "Com'ere."
I stared back at him for a moment, and then shrugged. Whatever it took, I told myself. Then before I could change my mind I stood up and walked around to his side of the table.
He stood up as well. In fact, for a long moment we just stood there facing each other, awkward and uncertain. I remember noticing the tense lines of his face and the trace of stubble on his chin. I found myself wondering how I would capture them in a sketch. But then Peter surprised meand himself, I thinkby taking a firm hold of my arm, twisting it behind my back as if he were preparing to cuff me, and bending me forward over the table.
I gasped as he used his free hand to deliver three sharp smacks to my rump. They weren't painfulnot reallybut I could feel the anger and frustration behind each one.
Then it was over. I felt Peter release my arm and heard him take a step back.
I stood up slowly, trying to make myself believe that what just happened had actually happened. When I finally turned to face Peter, I realized that he was just as shocked. His face was bright red with shame.
"INeal, I'm sorry, I don't know what the hell I was thinking"
I almost wanted to laugh. And then I wanted to tell him that he had every right to punish meand that I was grateful that he wanted to punish me on a personal level; grateful that he wasn't content with the formal, impersonal punishment of the Bureau.
And relieved that he really didn't want to beat the crap out of me.
But I couldn't find my voice, so in the end I just hurled myself against his chest. I should have been embarrassed as hell to do thatwhat was I, five?but at the moment I didn't care. I think he was still in shock too, but he managed to wrap his arms around me. A moment later he started rubbing my back, making small, comforting circles.
"Are we okay now?" I asked, finding my voice at last, even if it was muffled by his shoulder.
"Yeah," he said, his tone gruff but reassuring. "We're okay."
Back to Twenty-Five Prompts Page