Peter trotted up the stairs, searching for his CI. "Neal?" he whispered urgently, hoping to get some, any, sort of response. "Neal?"
"Two lovers kissed and the world stood still!" he suddenly heard, right past a doorway in the hall. "Still, still!"
Oh, god. That was Neal. Singing. Peter opened up the door, not having to go far before he found what he was looking for. And still, yet, not what he had been expecting at all.
"That was nature's way—" Neal continued. What the hell was going on?
"Oh, my god." Peter couldn't help but stare at Neal; strapped down, drugged, still singing, Neal. "What did they do to you?"
The singing stopped when Neal heard Peter's voice. He lifted his head, thrilled to see his friend. "Hey, Buddy!"
"Neal." Peter didn't even try to hide the surprise on his face.
"Hi." Neal was smiling at him. God, he was so high on—whatever he was on.
"Hey.." Peter closed the door, quickly making his way over to the younger man. He went to check his pupil's, to see how dilated they were, when suddenly the singing started again. Loudly. "Hey! Shh, shh." Peter hushed urgently, turning to check just how tightly his CI was strapped down.
"Alright, we have to get you out of these restraints—" Peter had no sooner finished his sentence than Neal had shaken the straps off, throwing up his hands. "Oh, you mean these? What?" He was still laying back, his eyes half closed. "I never met a lock I couldn't pick." He sat up, gesturing to his foot. "Except my anklet. I don't know what it is about—"
He stopped when he realized Peter was picking him up, pulling him from the table. "You're strong." He slurred, leaning heavily against the older man. "I've—I've got it." He assured Peter, pushing away, only to fall flat on the ground.
Peter managed to carry, well.. drag Neal down the hallway, hushing him the entire way. He dropped him once more when they finally got into a conference room where Peter figured nobody would look for them just yet. He managed to pull Neal up again and prop him up in a sitting position against the wall.
"I cannot believe you. Why would you do something like this?" He questioned Neal, half-expecting no response at all from the drugged man.
"Peter, I've done sooooo many worse things that you don't even know about." Neal bragged, his unsteady gaze wandering the room.
Peter couldn't help that his curiosity was piqued, but as soon as Neal began confessing, he was already resolved to pretend he'd heard none of this.
"Who cares, Peter? It's not what's important." Neal carried on. "Its not about money, it's about.. people." God, he sounded so sincere. Still, Peter couldn't help his frustration.
"Good. Because you're going to be spending a lot of quality time with people in orange jumpsuits once I get you out of here."
Neal was staring up at him now, realization starting to dawn on him. "Alright." His gaze wandered the room again. This time there was a certain look to him, though. None of his usual spark. None of the fight. Just.. resignation.
"I'm going down once they see those security tapes of me breaking in here." Peter swore Neal was talking more to himself than he was talking to him. It was like he was just now realizing what a bad idea this was. God, Neal just had to be so—so impulsive!
"There's surveillance cameras.." Peter confirmed, thinking about what he could—no, he couldn't pull the tapes. That was so, incredibly illegal.
"Hey, before I go back, you should know this." It seemed like Neal was trying, really trying, to hold eye contact now. Something he hadn't done since Peter had found him in that room. "Out of all the people in my life—" He continued. "Mozzie—even Kate, y'know? You're the only one." He gestured at Peter, his eyes fixed on Peter's now.
"The only one, what?" Peter wasn't sure what Neal was getting at.
"You're the only person in my life I trust."
Peter actually, physically felt his chest start to hurt at that, starting to ache. Neal was blinking now, his eyes glossed over, and Peter tried, tried to convince himself that it was from the drugs, and not unshed tears. That wouldn't explain the wetness in his own eyes, however. God, why did Neal have to do this to him? Why?
The agent reached over, running a gentle hand through the dark hair before pushing himself up from the ground, going to retrieve a chair. He tried not to see that resigned look, again, as he cuffed Neal to it, commanding him not to pick this lock.
He wanted to be surprised when he returned with the tapes, and Neal hadn't moved, not at all. But he wasn't. He'd known by the look on the CI's face. He wasn't sure what Neal had been expecting him to come back with. Surely he'd not thought Peter was going to call some other agents to come and get him—no. No, Neal said that he trusted him. He trusted Peter. And Peter wasn't about to let him down.
He tried not to smile at the look—the shocked, awed look he received when he held up the tape for Neal to see.
"What is that?" Neal thought he knew, but.. he also wasn't exactly in a great state of mind at the moment, so he could be wrong.
"Surveillance tape." Peter confirmed his theory, and he couldn't help but stare up at the older man. "Peter?"
Peter reached down, pretending not to see that look Neal was giving him. Disbelief, relief, gratitude, adoration. How many emotions could possibly show on his face at once? That Neal Caffrey mask the man always wore was gone.
"Let's go." Peter unlocked the handcuffs, pulling Neal up from the ground. He wrapped Neal's arm back around his neck, fully supporting him once again.
"You stole that for me?" The disbelief in Neal's voice was undeniable. Peter could pretend he hadn't seen it in that look, but the way he sounded…
"Yea, it's a regular Kodak moment." Peter teased, dragging Neal onto the next room.
By the time they'd made it to the car, Peter was panting again. "Let's get you in here.." He managed to heave Neal into the passenger's seat of his car, reaching over to pull the seatbelt over Neal's chest, when he felt a pull at his jacket sleeve. "Peter?"
Peter managed to get the belt buckled in, leaning back to look at Neal. "Yes, Neal?"
"Thank you." Before he could reply, Neal was leaning forward, embracing him in a hug. "Thank you, Peter. You're so, so nice to me."
Peter gave him a soft squeeze, returning the hug before pulling back, softly closing the door before heading around to the driver's side. Drugged Neal sure was forthcoming. But.. not in a bad way. He was so utterly sincere.
Peter managed to make it out of the parking lot and onto the road before Neal started talking again. "Peter?" God, drugged Neal also sure said his name a lot. "Yes, Neal?" Peter was trying to make sure they weren't being followed, glancing into the rear-view mirror.
"Where are we going, Peteeee- wait, can I call you Pete, instead of Peter?"
"No. You can't call me Pete. And we're going to my house. I should probably call El to warn her."
"Then what, Peter?" Neal asked, after no more than a minute of silence. "You're not gonna tell on me, right? Not to the FBI.."
"No, Neal." Peter sighed. "Nobody is going to hear about this, okay? This stays between us. Especially the part where I illegally stole the surveillance tape."
"This stays between us." Neal echoed, nodding his head, turning to glance out the window.
Peter was grateful for the silence that followed for a while after that. He couldn't help but wonder what Neal was thinking about, however.
"Peter?" When Neal finally did speak again, his voice was thick with emotion.
"When we get home—to your home, I mean.. are you gonna take me out of this car 'n hit me?"
Peter had to stop himself from slamming on the brakes. He turned to look at Neal, but the con was still staring out the window. "What?" The question was so out of nowhere, so wrong—where had that even come from?
"Or.." Neal turned his head, but only to stare out the front windshield, never turning to face Peter. His gaze seemed somewhere else, far off. Peter had to remind himself to look at the road. "Or, take me out in the back yard 'n use your belt on me?" Peter wasn't quick enough to stop Neal as he reached over to Peter's lap, only to do nothing more besides touch the leather of the belt Peter wore.
Peter managed to catch Neal's hand before he pulled it away, trying to get his attention, to gain eye contact again. He released the hand when Neal stared back at him again, those wide, glossy eyes boring into his own once more. Peter broke the gaze as he pulled into the driveway, putting the car in park. He had to remind himself Neal was still waiting for an answer.
Taking in a deep breath, Peter turned back to meet Neal's questioning look again. How could Neal even ask that? He readied himself to speak, when he was interrupted again.
"You should beat the shit outta me."
Peter couldn't help the utter shock on his face this time. Those weren't Neal's words. The way he said them, the tone he used.. No, those were words spoken to Neal that he was repeating, and Peter swore to god whoever's words those were, they'd better be ready to face his full wrath.
"Neal?" Peter spoke, only once he was sure his voice was even, steady. "Who said that to you? Who—who did that to you?" he wasn't sure this was fair—asking Neal while he was in this state, while he was so, incredibly vulnerable. But he needed to know. He needed to.
They sat in silence for minutes before Neal finally turned and met Peter's gaze again, sitting there another minute before he spoke. "Dad. Dad did, but—Peter, you're kinda like my Dad now. I mean, you're not like him. But you are like a Dad for me, huh? A good one. A really good one. But this time.." Neal took in a deep breath, nodding his head. He still held Peter's gaze. He was far too serious right now for Peter's taste.
"This time, I screwed up. And I know, I know what I did was wrong. But you fixed it for me. So we're gonna go in that back yard, and you're gonna give me that lesson. And next time.. next time, I'll remember. But its okay, Peter. Its okay, because I trust you. You're a different kind of Dad, so after you belt that lesson into me, you'll probably hug me, and tell me 'good job'. Won't you? And then me—me, and you, and El—we'll have some coffee, and we can watch some TV, and we can talk for a while."
When he finally stopped, he seemed to be considering all that he'd said before speaking once more. "Is El going to watch you belt my lesson into me?" He couldn't imagine El would want to see that. He knew that would be good incentive to keep quiet, though. And still, too. No trying to dodge the blows.
Peter felt ill, physically ill. He swallowed thickly, making sure he wasn't going to be sick. "Neal, I swear—I swear to god—I would never do that to you. " God, he'd never even swatted Satchmo as a puppy! Him and El had resolved to use only positive reinforcement. What could possibly have lead Neal to believe he'd ever do anything even relatively close to what he was implying?
"Peter, it's not such a bad thing!" Neal let out a laugh. "It's good to put the fear of god in me once 'n a while."
There it was again. Those were not Neal's words. Peter had heard enough. He slipped off his seatbelt, climbing out of the car and going around to Neal's door, opening it up. "Let's get you out of here. C'mon, hop out." He reached over to unbuckle Neal's seatbelt, keeping a hand on Neal's arm to keep him steady.
Peter wanted to be glad at how readily Neal climbed out of the car, leaning on him for support once again. How could he be so ready to face what he had decided he had coming to him? As Peter led him inside, he felt Neal reach up and slip a soft hand through his hair, the way he'd done to Neal earlier.
"Here we go." Peter muttered, slowly lowering Neal to a sitting position on the couch.
"Hun?" El came in, concern crossing over her face as soon as she caught a glimpse of Neal. "What's going on?"
Oh. He'd forgotten to call and warn her.
"Elizabeth, please don't worry because Peter has everything under control." Neal announced.
"Neal—" Peter attempted to stop him there, but Neal was intent on making sure everything was cleared up.
"I have done some—some, really wrong things today, Elizabeth. Peter is going to take me out there-" He gestured towards the back door. "and use his belt to remind me the difference between right and wrong." Before Peter could stop him, Neal was once again reaching over to touch his belt, tracing his fingers over the leather, almost as if it soothed him.
The look of horror on Elizabeth's face registered only seconds before Peter was dodging a slap aimed directly at his face. "El, El! Wait, I can explain."
"You'd better have a damn good explanation!" Peter managed to catch her shaking hand in his, running his thumb over it soothingly.
"I know, I know. Shh, its alright. El, listen. He's decided all of this on his own, okay? No way in hell am I doing that. His—" Peter lowered his voice, keeping an eye on Neal, who was reaching over to stroke Satchmo. "from what I understand, his father did something along those lines to him years ago, so he's got it in his head that I'm going to do the same. Which, of course, I'm not."
Elizabeth took in a deep breath, slowly nodding as she took in what Peter was saying. How could someone do that to Neal? Sweet, loving Neal who'd never wanted to hurt anyone in his life. "Why don't you try and let me talk to him? Maybe I can get through to him, okay?" She offered, glancing up at her husband. He looked exhausted. "Go change, go shower. I'll talk to him."
"El…" Peter wasn't sure, not with the way Neal was acting right now.
"Oh, I'm sorry. You took that as a suggestion. It was an order. I believe your answer was yes, ma'am."
Peter couldn't help but smile, ducking his head to press a kiss to her lips. "Yes, ma'am." He murmured, casting one more glance at Neal before turning to go do as he was told.
"Neal, sweetie?" Elizabeth went to sit next to the younger man, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. She reached up to stroke a hand through his hair, to which he responded by leaning heavily against her, tilting his head up towards the touch.
"I need you to be a good listener for me, Neal." Elizabeth spoke softly, continuing to softly stroke through the dark curls. "Peter is never, ever going to hurt you. He would never use his belt on you, do you hear me? Never."
Neal opened his eyes, turning his gaze to meet her blue eyes with his own. "You? El, my mom only used Dad's belt on me once, and she cried every time she saw me for three days afterwards. I'd rather you dote on me afterwards." He started to smile. "We can all have coffee together, and watch some TV."
Elizabeth pulled Neal's head towards her shoulder, continuing to play with his hair. "Shh. No. Not me, not Peter. Not anyone, ever again. I promise you that. No beating at all, Neal. You're already a good boy. Do you understand?"
They sat in silence for a while, Neal's head pressed to her shoulder while she messed with his hair. When Peter came back, he went to kneel next to the couch, in front of Neal. "Neal?" He tried, placing a hand on the younger man's knee. "Buddy?"
"Peter, you're not going to use the belt on me today." It was a statement, not a question. Neal lifted his head from Elizabeth's shoulder, reaching down to feel Peter's belt with his hand again, only to find he'd changed into sweat pants.
"Not today, not ever." Peter's voice was a bit hoarse, thick with emotion. He couldn't help it.
Neal met his eyes again, using his hand this time to reach up again, finding its way to Peter's now wet hair. "Peter, thank you."
Peter closed his eyes, allowing Neal to stroke his hair. "Don't thank me, buddy." He felt Elizabeth's hand rest on his knee.
"You're still kind of like a Dad for me, aren't you?"
Peter opened his eyes, unable to help the smile that spread over his face. "I guess I kind of am, aren't I?"
Oh, wow. That was a lot longer than I had intended. Well, please review! Thanks for reading, friends!