Peter pulled up to and parked in front of his house, and Neal warily looked out his car window.
No Elizabeth. No sign of her storming from the house, no clicking heels of rage coming to pull him from the car. He felt a calm come over him and his suave nature settle back in place. He wasn't even being tasked with informing Elizabeth of what he'd done. Peter had relented and had done it for him. He must have realized how horrible he was to me, Neal thought.
He glanced at Peter, who gave him an encouraging nod. Neal offered a dazzling smile in return and looked back at the house with growing joy and excitement.
Elizabeth knew - she knew what he'd done, she knew how Peter had handled it, and now she was baking cookies for him to make up for it. All he had to do was walk in that door and let her fawn all over him, to feel sorry for him and pamper him for what mean old Peter had done. This was turning out to be a great weekend - he was so grateful that Peter hadn't let him run.
Neal climbed out of the car and walked towards the house with a swagger while Peter grabbed his bag for him.
Peter, for his part, looked up from the trunk at Neal and suppressed a grin. He shook his head and dutifully carried Neal's bag and followed his troublesome CI to the door. The two shared an amused look, albeit for differing reasons, as Peter found the correct key and unlocked his front door while Neal eagerly bounced on his heels.
"Honey, we're home," Peter called out as he walked in, Neal bounding in behind him and quickly past him, eager to be pampered. Peter chided him with a tsk and pushed past him .
The comforting scent of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies wafted over them both. Neal couldn't help smile as Elizabeth came from the kitchen and wrapped her husband up in a hug.
She gave Peter a kiss and then set eyes on Neal.
Neal put on an impish yet well-scolded facade and flashed his blue eyes at her.
"Hi Neal," she said in the warning tone of a mother who'd been well tested too many times in one day, and wrapped him up in a fierce hug, kissing him on the cheek.
"Hi," he said in a sheepish tone. He gave her his biggest, most pathetic kitten eyes and slouched his shoulders, laying it on as thick as he could.
Peter shook his head and huffed, his jaw jutting to one side in irritation. It was one thing for Caffrey to be fragile, but it was an entirely different matter for him to try and con his wife into feeling sorry for him. Peter put his hands on his hips and narrowed his eyes at Neal.
Elizabeth looked up into Neal's kicked puppy-ish expression and made a sad face before pulling him in for another hug. Neal caught Peter's sour expression over Elizabeth's shoulder, and his eyes went wide in what he would attest was sincere confusion.
Peter would call it feigned confusion.
"You gave us quite a scare," Elizabeth said as she pulled back from the hug, assessing Neal at arms length with her hands on his shoulders.
"Oh I know that now and I'm very sorry, Peter made that painfully clear," Neal said as pathetically as he could. "In front of Sara. With his belt."
"From what I've heard, it was well deserved," Elizabeth said.
Neal's eyes widened at that. This was not what he had expected her to say, and it definitely wasn't what he wanted to be hearing!
"Whatever Peter told you was probably much worse than what really happened," Neal said. "You know how he can get."
"That's it, mister..." Peter started, but Elizabeth held her hand up to quiet him.
She raised her eyebrows at Neal, the last vestiges of pity replaced with ice. "I've never known my husband to exaggerate or bend the truth, Neal."
Neal knit his brow together and gave his best abashed grin. "No! No - of course not. It's been a rough night," he said quietly. "I'm sorry," he said with large, sad eyes.
Peter was tired of the emotional manipulation Neal was performing on his wife, and stepped forward to say so when Elizabeth proved, yet again, that she was quite the amazing woman.
"Not as sorry as you're about to be, young man," she said. Before Neal could react, her hand snatched hold of one of his ears and she pulled him down to her eye level, eliciting a pained mewl from the young con as her angry eyes met his large, surprised eyes. "I am not happy with you," she told him, then she turned on her heel and tugged him along behind her as she made her way towards the dining room.
"Ow, Elizabeth!" Neal gasped in a vocal range higher than he'd like to admit he was capable of, and that was when he saw it - a bed pillow, laying in the most unlikely of places over the back of the head dining room chair. Next to it, on the table, sat Elizabeth's wooden hairbrush. "Wait! Elizabeth - "
"I will not wait, Neal," Elizabeth scolded. "Over the back of the chair. Now," she said, finally letting go of his ear.
Neal reflexively grabbed his sore ear and defensively tried to massage the pain from it as he looked at her in disbelief.
"Don't make me tell you again," she said.
Neal may have gotten a taste of this side of Elizabeth just days before, but he couldn't help being rooted to the place he stood in a mixture of surprise, disbelief, regret, and a quickly spinning mind desperately trying to find a way out of this horrible situation. The surrealness of it all was significantly slowing his abilities.
"But," he tried and faltered, and then had it, "but Peter already spanked me. In front of Sara!" He knit his brow together and looked as pathetic as possible.
Elizabeth put her hands on her hips and looked down, tears fell down her face and her fear finally broke through, replacing her anger momentarily. "We almost lost you, Neal. Again," she looked up at him and her chin quivered. "How could you?"
Neal's own lip trembled and, surprising even to him, he felt his eyes prickling with tears just looking at her. He wanted to apologize to her, but he knew his voice would crack and so instead he shrugged.
"Doesn't it matter at all to you that you nearly went back to prison? What kind of a life is that?"
Neal, whose gaze fell to his shoes, again shrugged. His face burnt with a deep blush and he had to work very hard at keeping his breathing steady.
"You're so smart, and so special, and so creative, and the thought that you very nearly got thrown in jail again tears me apart inside," Elizabeth said. "Look at me when I'm speaking to you," she said in a gentle tone.
Neal looked up from his shoes and a tear rolled down each cheek as he met her eyes.
"You're important to me," she told him.
His chin quivered and he ran a hand over his face and attempted a suave smile that instead looked needy.
"Do you understand that we care about you?"
He blinked slowly at her, and then nodded. But she saw it, saw the quick flash of distrust and confusion before he had clamped down on it with his facade.
Elizabeth took a deep, cleansing breath and nodded back. "Ok," she said, and her eyes scanned the room before she looked back at him. "I don't know that you really do understand, but I promise you that you will by the time you go back to June's."
"Ok," he said quietly, finding his voice.
"Do you trust me?" she asked him.
Neal nodded and knit his brow together, thinking it a very strange question for her to ask.
She again nodded back at him, "Good. I'm going to tell you what I'm thinking, Neal, and I want to know what you think."
"Ok," he said cautiously.
"I'll be honest, I don't think you have very good impulse control, and I think it plays a big part in all of your problems," she said.
Neal took a deep breath, again thinking of Mozzie's comment about this fact and likening him to a child. He sighed, hating that Elizabeth obviously felt the same way.
"Can you honestly disagree?" she asked him.
Neal opened his mouth to disagree with her, but second thought it. He couldn't flat out lie to her, not to Elizabeth. He made an irritated noise and finally shook his head.
"Thank you for being honest, I could see that wasn't an easy thing to admit," she said kindly and gave him a proud smile.
Neal smiled back, acutely aware of the pride blooming in his chest from her praise.
"What I think needs to happen is that we make our dynamic a bit more official," she said.
"What does that mean?" he asked.
Peter took a few steps forward, interested in what she was going to say even though he knew the basics of what was happening from their phone call.
Neal gave Peter a wary look and fixed Elizabeth with a questioning gaze.
"I know how Peter handles it when you've … " she faltered, trying to find a way of saying it that wouldn't hurt Neal's feelings.
"When he's broken the law," Peter said.
"More than that, when he's put himself in danger," Elizabeth said. She looked back at Neal. "I don't want to embarrass you, Neal, but you do it so often that I think you could do with some guidance."
Neal balked at the 'don't want to embarrass you' part. "You just dragged me over here by my ear," Neal countered.
Elizabeth nodded, "You're right, I did do that to you, and we need to talk about that. That's a part of this."
"A part of what?" Neal asked.
"I have a couple of friends, who are a couple, and they have a DD relationship. Do you know what that is?"
"No," Neal said. He was beginning to worry this was going in a sexual direction and, while Elizabeth was beautiful, he already had both her and Peter cemented as parental figures in his mind. His pulse spiked thinking that, yet again, he was about to be let down.
"It stands for domestic discipline, it means that there are set rules and punishments that both sides agree to. I think it's usually a thing between couples, but …. Neal … we … we think of you as a son," she then began speaking very quickly, "I know, I know, the age difference isn't really there. But that's how we see you, and you just keep doing these horrible things that are either going to get you thrown in jail forever, or," her eyes filled with tears again. "...or killed," she said quietly.
Neal looked quickly from Elizabeth to Peter, and back again. What he saw was concern, and pain, and fear in their eyes, and he felt a little guilty for suddenly feeling so happy that they thought of him and cared about him in the same way he did of them. He couldn't help but smile, even as his eyes - yet again - prickled with unshed tears.
"She's saying you're our kid, and when you're bad that Mommy and Daddy are going to spank that insolent ass for you," Peter said.
Neal huffed even as he laughed, "Nice, Peter."
"Well, it's true," Peter insisted, looking to Elizabeth for confirmation.
Elizabeth nodded, "That's exactly what I'm saying. But, this is only going to work if you agree to it."
"I don't see why he has to agree to it," Peter said. "Anything's better than him going to jail or worse, it's not like we're going to abuse the kid."
"It does matter," Elizabeth said. She looked back at Neal, "I meant to have this talk first, I'm sorry. You were manipulating me and I got angry and, while I had a valid reason to be angry, I should have started with this talk. Are you ok?"
Peter made a frustrated noise at the question and turned away, not wanting his annoyance to ruin what Elizabeth was trying to do.
Neal saw all of this. He saw Peter's fear for his well being coming out as anger and determination to do whatever it took to keep him safe - Neal's opinion be damned. He saw Elizabeth's concern for him and her motherly instincts weighted with a need for Neal's agreeance to this, to not disregard his boundaries - and for a moment he just stood there, thinking.
Elizabeth shifted nervously as Neal remained silent. She didn't know what they'd do if he disagreed. She wanted so desperately to keep him safe and to let him know he was loved, but she wasn't going to do this if it went against his wishes, and she silently berated herself for almost doing so. The other day she'd misunderstood, thought an agreement between Neal and her husband was already in place.
On the one hand, Neal absolutely did not want to be spanked. It hurt, it was humiliating, and deep down he knew it'd effectively divert him from pulling some wonderful cons. On the other, all he ever truly wanted was the love and acceptance of a family. Of parents, specifically. Here was that opportunity. Why was he hesitating? Peter'd already put his neck out for him so many times, and this is how he repaid the man? By continuing to do crimes? If he said no to Elizabeth's offer, what would it mean? He doubted they'd pull away from him, but it would probably put a stop to growing the family dynamic sort of relationship they had brewing. He'd nearly gotten thrown back in jail, and now he knew - without a doubt - how crushing that'd be to them.
But, he was a grown man. Despite what Mozzie said, he was not a child. … People really had these discipline agreements? He'd have to look that up at home. Still, he needed to come to a decision, and despite the objections that were screaming at him in his head, at his core he felt that this was right.
"I'm not letting him ruin his life," Peter said. "I don't care what he says."
Elizabeth opened her mouth to argue with her husband, when Neal finally spoke up.
"Ok, I'm in," Neal said. "I agree."
Peter and Elizabeth both went silent, mouths open and wide eyed for a split second before looking at Neal, who nodded, and then they looked at each other with what Neal uncomfortably thought looked a little too much like congratulatory looks.
He found he didn't have any doubts with his decision, but he still did not like the look of excitement on their faces at the fact that they now had his permission to spank him.
But that's not it, Neal thought to himself. That's not why they're happy. They're happy because I've basically agreed to be their son. Neal felt warmth spread over his chest and - annoyingly - his eyes tingled as they yet again filled with tears. If this were a court of law, he'd insist that the record show that he was not normally a cryer. But today, today was a special day. And those were the only thoughts he was able to think before Elizabeth grabbed him up in another hug and, to his surprise, Peter wrapped them both up in an even bigger hug.
"Guys," Neal feign-whined, and they giggled and let him go. He was not surprised to see tears rolling down Elizabeth's face, but seeing them sneaking out of Peter's eyes honestly scared him.
"So, maybe we can celebrate with some of what smell to be delicious cookies, then me and the old man can catch the game on tv?" Neal joked with a charming smile. It was a risky move, being this obvious in trying to sneak away from what Elizabeth had had planned for him. But they were so happy now, and he knew they'd think he'd taken a big step in maturity by agreeing to this new facet to their relationship. He liked his odds. Until he saw their faces.
Elizabeth gave him a sad look, "Oh Neal."
Neal's smile fell and a worried expression took its place.
"No cookies," Peter said. "Not yet."
"Those are for after," Elizabeth agreed.
"But, wait. He already did that tonight, and he used a belt, and it hurt," Neal said quickly as his hands went back to cover his assets.
"I know," Elizabeth said patiently. "I think it's important for Peter and I to both express our feelings with a firm spanking when you do something this dangerous."
"How exactly is this going to work?" Neal asked.
"Why don't we sit on the couch and talk about that," Elizabeth said.
Neal nodded eagerly, happy to prolong the use of that horrible brush on his hindquarters as long as possible, and the three of them sat on the couch, Elizabeth making sure Neal sat between her and Peter.
"So," Elizabeth said and then faltered.
"Sooooo," echoed Neal nervously.
Elizabeth quirked her mouth to the side and looked at him. "Ok, here's what I was thinking - spankings happen for things like putting yourself in danger, whether physical or by breaking the law…"
"Breaking the law? Really?" Neal whined.
"You don't think the possibility of going back to prison is dangerous?" Peter asked in a stern tone.
Neal glared at him.
"Besides, we already have a precedent for that consequence," Peter added.
"How many do I get?" Neal asked.
"You'll always get one from me. Every time," Peter said.
Neal looked at Elizabeth, and she widened her eyes like a deer caught in headlights.
"You do realize most people don't ever break the law," she said to him.
Neal looked vaguely guilty.
"I think that if you're putting so much effort into getting as few spankings as possible for breaking the law, that it's important for us each to give you one," she said. "It's clearly a good deterrent."
"No," Neal said, "that's not fair."
"Ok, explain how," Elizabeth said with sincerity. "I need to understand how you're seeing this."
Neal was going to argue that it was unfair to get spanked twice for the same discretion, but he knew what Peter would counter with - Peter would say that it beats going to jail for life, and that was true. But Neal didn't want to get spanked at all, and definitely didn't want them both to spank him - especially Elizabeth.
"I," Neal started. He glared over at Peter before looking back at Elizabeth, "I don't want you both to do it. I don't want it twice."
Neal rolled his eyes and huffed.
"Why do you think?" He asked sarcastically.
"I think I know, but I want to see you get there," she said.
"Because it would hurt and it's embarrassing," Neal said.
"So just don't do anything that would cause you to get spanked by us both," she said and looked at him as a mother would who was trying to teach their child addition.
Neal's eyes flew to hers, though he tried to keep his face passive. But she knew. She obviously had him already figured out. He didn't want to stop pulling cons and heists - they were fun - and that was why she was doing this. He couldn't stop himself. Mozzie was right, he had no damn impulse control, and he absolutely wasn't interested in gaining any. The only way he was going to stop was if something horrible like this loomed over him. Something he couldn't con his way out of or break out of - he needed something iron clad and steadfast, and that was the Burke's.
He sighed sadly.
"Tell me what you just realized," she said.
"You're the one who should be in the FBI," Neal told her, which caused Peter to give a surly 'hey.'
Elizabeth smiled at Neal's quip, and then said, "I want you to tell me."
Neal huffed, "You know I'm not good with pain, and so I'm going to try and get as few-"
"Neal," she warned.
Neal's eyes widened at her change in demeanor and he slouched back on the couch and folded his arms and said demurely to his lap, "I don't want to stop. It's too fun, so you're going to make sure it's not fun anymore."
"Yes, and that's how we're going to keep you safe," she said, beaming so proudly at him that he'd told her the truth that Neal couldn't help but give her a small smile in return.
"Fine," Neal said. "Groundbreaking," he added, widening his eyes and raising his brows in a snotty way. "Is that it?"
"You're also grounded," Peter said.
Neal whipped his head around to look at the older man.
"You can't ground me," Neal said.
"Neal, I've always been able to ground you. What do you think that anklet is, a fashion accessory?" Peter said.
Neal glared at him.
"You've been released into my custody. This is a foregone deal," Peter said. "All of this," he said stubbornly.
"But," Elizabeth said, giving Peter a significant look before looking back to and smiling gently at Neal, "we think that the basic idea should be expanded…"
Neal gave her a pained smile, shot Peter a dirty look and loudly whispered, "When did you two decide all this?"
"While you were packing," Peter grinned.
"I did not take that long packing," Neal said. He found none of this funny. At all.
"Neal," Elizabeth said.
Neal turned back to her with a poorly hidden scowl and mutinous eyes.
Elizabeth raised her eyebrows at him and he looked down and muttered a barely audible 'sorry.'
"We think your groundings would hold more meaning if they were more family oriented. So-"
Neal's head popped up, "So I stay here when I'm grounded?"
"You do," Peter said.
"We have a guest room that we'll permanently convert into your room," Elizabeth said.
Neal looked back and forth between the two of them. He had not been expecting this at all. Permanently convert? That meant he had a real home now. He smiled widely, and Peter patted him on the back.
Elizabeth laughed, "So that's an easy agreement, good. You can of course stay here when you're not in trouble, too, this is your home now."
"Ok," Neal said, unable to keep the amazement out of his voice.
"But Neal," Peter said, "when you're grounded, there's no Mozzie. No going out. And you might have chores to do."
"Chores?" Neal and Elizabeth said in unison.
"Well, he might," Peter said to Elizabeth. "Sometimes he might deserve to be given chores."
Neal fell back against the couch in disdain, "Uh, Peter."
Elizabeth pressed her lips together as she thought it over, "Well, he can be pretty naughty. You're probably right."
Neal's head rolled towards Elizabeth and he had a deeply put out frown on his face. He did not like that word, and he was about to say so, but decided against it when she raised her brow at him. Instead he looked back at Peter, "I'm not doing chores."
"So you'll loaf it over here and let us clean up after you? No," Peter said. Neal sat up again and turned to face Peter.
"I didn't say I was going to loaf around and not help out," Neal said.
"Boys," Elizabeth said.
"That's exactly what you said," Peter said.
"Those words never came out of my mouth!"
"Enough," Elizabeth said.
Peter and Neal stopped arguing and looked at her.
"That's better," she said. "Neal, you're a part of this household now and when you stay here you're going to help out."
"Of course I'd be happy to," Neal said.
"As long as it isn't a punishment," Neal added.
"Why does the idea of chores upset you so much?" Elizabeth asked. Peter leaned in, curious as well.
"I'm not a child," Neal said.
"You're going along with getting spanked," Peter said.
Neal gave him a tight lipped look for a long moment. He couldn't explain it. Somehow, the idea of being given chores felt terribly demeaning to him. He hated the spankings, it was true, but they didn't feel demeaning - and that fact made him feel a little too vulnerable for his liking.
"Neal, please trust us," Elizabeth said. "We can be closer the more honest we are with each other."
Neal sighed and looked at her. "I'm not a servant."
Peter's brow rose, his mind quickly piecing together Neal's desire for the finer things and his admitted feelings about chores. There was more to that story, and it was probably very significant to how Neal ended up the way that he had.
"Ok," Peter said gently. He knew the significant pieces of Neal came in small pieces, parcelled out. With what the young man still had coming, he didn't want to push for more on this at the moment. "No chores then." He patted Neal on the back, and Neal leaned towards him.
"Thanks," Neal said. He released a deep breath and asked, "Anything else?"
"I want family dinners. At least one a week?" Elizabeth said with such eagerness that Neal smiled at her.
"I'd be honored," Neal said sincerely.
"Good," Elizabeth said a bit shyly, then flashed a smile at Peter, who grinned back proudly.
"We may tweak things as we go," Peter said.
Neal raised an eyebrow and gave Peter a hesitant look.
"If things aren't working, or if we need to add things," Peter explained.
"But we'll talk about it first," Elizabeth said, giving Peter a significant look.
Peter inclined his head, "He'll always have warning of something new."
Elizabeth pursed her lips, knowing this was the best she was going to get from Peter, it being his actual job to keep Neal in line and out of harm's way. She glanced at Neal, and from the look on his face knew that he was thinking the same thing.
"Ok," Neal agreed.
"Well then," Peter said. "I guess it's time."
Neal's eyes went impossibly large and he looked from Peter to Elizabeth.
"No...wait," Neal said.
"Fraid so," Elizabeth told Neal sympathetically. "Come on."
"No!" Neal said, pushing himself deeper into the couch.
"Neal," Peter warned, "Don't argue. You knew this was coming."
Neal looked desperately to Elizabeth, but she looked resolute. "I was still sore from the other day and Peter still spanked me -"
"He wasn't bruised at all," Peter told Elizabeth.
Neal pointed at Peter, "he used his belt, and then took my clothes down in front of Sara!"
"I used my belt a few times over his sweatpants while he was being rude, and then used my hand on his bare butt," Peter said.
Neal gave Elizabeth a pleading look.
"Neal," she said, "I knew all of that already, honey. Peter told me while you were packing."
Neal made a desperate sound in the back of his throat.
Elizabeth held her hand out for Neal, "I don't enjoy doing this, please don't make it harder."
Neal glared at her and folded his arms.
"Looks like he wants angry Mommy," Peter said.
"No I don't," Neal ground out and kicked the coffee table. He didn't want Elizabeth to be angry with him, really he didn't, he just didn't want another spanking. The fact that they had just had a lengthy discussion about him accepting spankings from them - which he had willingly agreed to - was now a moot point. He couldn't simply give himself over to this, couldn't willingly go to his doom. He kicked the coffee table again to emphasize that last thought and flashed his blue eyes at them.
"I think that you do," Elizabeth said, and she stood up and put her hands on her hips as she looked down at him. "I think that maybe you need it to happen this way. So I'll tell you what, you are going to get up right now and follow me to the dining room, or I am going to get a hold of your ear again," she said in a warning tone.
Neal's mouth fell open in momentary surprise, "You wouldn't."
"Try me," she said.
Neal folded his arms tighter and glared at her again.
"Alright Neal," Elizabeth said, and she bent over and attempted to grab his ear.
"Nooooo," Neal whined and kept squirming side to side with his hands up guarding his ears in order to evade her. He wondered if she'd give up and leave Peter to deal with him.
"Dammit Neal," Peter hissed. He leaned forward to help his wife, but Elizabeth held a hand up.
"I've got this, babe," she told him, and a moment later she had a hold of Neal's earlobe. "You were warned, young man. You've just made this worse for yourself. C'mon."
Eyes squeezed shut and brow furrowed in pain, Neal had no choice but to follow along where his ear was pulled. She had him hunched over, following behind her to the dining room table, with a tight, painful grip on his ear, and yet he felt so safe in that moment. Elizabeth Burke was not going to leave him be or let him get away with anything.
She walked him to the table and in front of the head chair, then pulled his ear so that they were face to face. He looked up at her with large eyes, waiting for what she would say next.
"Neal, honey, I know this is hard for you, but you need to understand that if you fight me on this that you could hurt me," Elizabeth said.
Neal knit his brow together, hating that idea.
Peter walked closer to them, in case he was needed.
"I need you to bend over the back of the chair. I'll help you get into position," Elizabeth told him. She had a feeling he wasn't going to just simply put himself in position for her, or rather from all she knew about him, that he probably couldn't. She knew there'd be resistance, but also knew that Neal was in very good shape and she didn't want any accidents that either would regret.
"Ok?" she asked.
"There's no getting out of this?" Neal asked.
"No," she said.
Neal heaved a heartbreaking sigh, "Ok."
Elizabeth gave him a sad smile, "Good boy." She let go of his ear and took hold of his left arm. He gently pulled away after she had a firm grip, but she easily kept her hold. Using her hip and her other hand on his back she guided the slightly struggling Neal up to and over the back of the chair, making sure the pillow stayed in place to keep his tummy from getting hurt by the chair back.
"Hon," Peter said behind them, "how will you know if you're bruising him?"
Elizabeth again looked like a deer caught in headlights.
"If you're going to use that brush on him, you need to see what you're doing," Peter said.
Neal knew this was a possibility of getting spanked by Elizabeth, and truth be told the idea of it didn't bother him any worse than when Peter did it to him. He actually wasn't modest at all. But none of that made it easy while in the moment during a punishment. He knew from experience how much more painful this was now going to be.
"Oh, you're right," Elizabeth said, discomfort clear in her voice. She was silent a moment and then added, "Neal, take your slacks down please, honey. I don't want to accidentally injure you."
Neal pushed up and looked at Elizabeth shyly, the heat of a blush reddening his neck and face even as affection bloomed in his chest for her and the lengths she was willing to go to for him. He made quick work of undoing his slacks, then shot her what he hoped was a look so pitiful that she'd take mercy on him. If she were uncomfortable and he looked pitiful enough, maybe she'd let him keep his slacks up and only use her hand.
Elizabeth gave an encouraging nod towards his slacks and gave him a sad smile.
Well, it was worth a shot, Neal thought. He took a deep breath and slowly lowered the slacks, but kept his legs far enough apart to prevent them from falling all the way down.
Elizabeth took hold of Neal's arm and helped him get back in position up and over the back of the chair. "Good boy," she told him and noted how he was much more agreeable this second time around.
Neal lay over the back of the high-backed dining room chair, with his bottom well presented in black briefs, his chest, elbows and palms on the table and his toes touching the floor. His stomach rested safely on the pillow and his shirt tail covered most of his bottom.
Elizabeth stepped up to him and assessed him for a second and then, seeing no bruising or red marks from his previous punishment, lifted and neatly folded his shirt tail up over his lower back. She ran her hand over it to smooth out the fine fabric. Neal felt his stomach flip flop at being further prepared for punishment.
Elizabeth picked up her hairbrush and stepped even closer to him, wrapping her arm around him and holding him against her side. She rubbed his cheeks with the brush, causing Neal to quiver, and then she pulled the hairbrush back.
Neal squeezed his eyes shut just before a surprisingly loud smack echoed throughout the Burke's home. Less then a second later, pain bloomed across both his cheeks.
"Ah!" he breathed, and one of his feet involuntarily kicked out. "Ow," he said in surprise, trying to adjust to the pain before the second smack fell.
It came too quickly for him.
"Ah! Nooo," he whimpered. This felt much more severe than what he'd received from Peter.
Elizabeth was not swayed. A third smack from the hairbrush landed low on exposed cheek, and Neal hopped under her arm and gave a high pitched 'yeow.' His palms lightly slapped at the tabletop as he tried to manage the pain. She waited for him to calm and then struck low on the other cheek's exposed skin.
"Ow ow ow," he hissed and pawed at the tabletop some more, sweat-slick palms sliding over the woodtop.
Elizabeth focused in on his right cheek, smacking the same area three quick times, waiting a moment and aiming three more sharp swats to the same area.
The pain quickly reached unbearable heights for Neal.
"Owww," he screeched and tried to push himself up onto the table and away from her.
Elizabeth held on tightly and pulled him back towards her. "Where do you think you're going, young man?" She had no intention of letting him get away.
Neal mewed and breathed heavily, then looked at her over his shoulder, his lips pulled back in a pained grimace. "It hurts!"
Elizabeth leaned forward and gently ran a finger over his exposed skin but saw no damage, just redness. Neal stilled himself while she inspected him. He was rewarded with a gentle pat between his shoulder blades.
"Try to remember how much it hurts the next time you get one of your naughty ideas," Elizabeth told him, then continued his spanking with a hefty smack to the middle of his bottom.
Neal bucked and hid his reddened face in his folded arms as she continued to spank him. Naughty. He truly hated that word. Hated the childishness of it, hated how just hearing it twisted his stomach in knots, and hated how much it made him feel loved and looked after because, after all, he wanted to do as he wished and did not want to feel vulnerable. ...Except that he did want to feel loved and looked after - it was all very complicated.
Elizabeth fell into a rhythm of lightly spanking the left and then the right cheek, earning a slight jolt and a muffled 'ow' from Neal.
"I want you to take some time and think about how you got here," she told him, continuing her rhythm.
"I've thought about it," Neal insisted.
She delivered a sharp swat, causing Neal to yip loudly. "I don't like that snotty tone," she warned.
"M'sorry," Neal whimpered.
"That's better, now tell me about what you've been thinking," she said warmly.
"It's sad, you're going to make me stop pulling cons and heists. I'm going to miss it," he said. He looked over his shoulder at her and added, "I'm really good at them."
"I know, honey, but it's getting too dangerous," she said, and glanced up at her husband. "And your work with Peter lets you do some of the same sort of things, now doesn't it?"
"Yeah," he agreed unenthusiastically. "But there are so many rules."
It was not lost on Peter how much more forthcoming Neal was with Elizabeth, and he realized he had another piece of the puzzle: whatever Neal's past, his maternal figure was the one he was closest to growing up. That's where he felt safest. That bit of information would make a world of difference in safely rehabilitating their young man.
"But now you're going to be working for the good guys. Helping people," Elizabeth said.
"Yeah," he said a bit more brightly and with a good dose of his normal Caffrey spunk.
"So that's not so bad," she said.
"Maybe it's not," Neal said. He didn't sound totally convinced, but Elizabeth could tell he was at least giving it some real thought.
"But," she said, putting more strength into her swats again, "even then, you do things safely."
"Ow! I'm safe," Neal's head bobbed up and he whimpered a pitiful 'ow' at each hefty swat.
"No, you put yourself at risk on a regular basis, and that ends now, Neal. I mean it," Elizabeth said, anger clear in her voice, and focused a swat on each of his exposed sit spots.
"Oww, Elizabeth!" Neal cried out and began squirming.
Elizabeth pulled him closer under her left arm, and with her right hand she gently pulled up on the band of his briefs to expose more skin.
Neal mewled and quickly parroted her words back to her, "It ends now, I promise."
She patted his bottom with the brush, taking aim, and then pulled back.
"I promise," Neal said urgently and looked back at her with worried eyes.
"I'll make sure you understand how non-negotiable this is," she said to him in a reassuring tone, and brought the brush down sharply on the exposed middle of his left cheek.
Neal took a sharp intake of breath and then cried out.
Elizabeth landed another swat just under the last and then another under that one before Neal had a chance to react. On and on she went in this manner, reddening his cheek and eliciting hisses and yips from him, until she reached his sit spots. Then she repeated the process on his right cheek, until they were both red from his briefs to just above his sit spots. She stopped and looked down at him.
"I understand," Neal told her pitifully, hoping to end it there, knowing where she was headed.
"Neal, honey, you're going to do as you're told and you're going to do it legally and safely. You will not risk your safety or your freedom. Ever. I don't care if we have to do this every night to get that message through to you. I'll do it. Is that understood?" Elizabeth said, hairbrush at her side.
"Yes, Elizabeth," Neal answered her in a small voice and with very sorry eyes.
Elizabeth let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding and nodded, then looked back to the task at hand. Neal was well-reddened, but the color was not deep and there were no signs of damage or bruising. How was it he always found a way to put himself in danger when something like this could hurt him so badly? She wondered if his reactions to getting spanked were more of an emotional release and need as she took aim at his right sit spot. Either way, she was going to accommodate him.
Neal saw the determination in her face and blanched. He drew his knees up, sucked in a breath and waited.
He didn't have to wait long.
"We love you too much for you to act like this," she caught him square on his sit spot, the sound of it reverberating off the walls so loudly that the loud clap of it echoed in his ears. A moment later, the pain shot through him white hot, and his legs kicked of their own accord as he cried out in pain. She got his left sit spot next, and he nearly wailed from the extra force she was putting behind her swats.
"I'm sorry," Neal cried out as tears filled his eyes, all sense of vanity gone. She was tearing down his walls and totally and completely taking him to task, just as he needed her to do.
"You're going to be one very sorry young man by the time I'm done with you," she told him, and continued spanking one sit spot, and then the other.
Tears crested and spilled from Neal's eyes, his legs rowed out behind him, tangled in his slacks, and he wailed at each punishing swat she delivered. His sweat-slick hands slapped across the table top, mindlessly looking for something to hold onto yet finding nothing. He made sure not to kick her, even in this desperate state as he descended further and further into a world of pain.
She focused lower on the backs of his thighs, and the high pitched sounds Neal made caused Peter to wince. All too soon, he began to cry deep, gut-wrenching sobs and he tensed his muscles so hard that his legs went straight out behind him in the air.
"Relax those legs," she told him gently.
He immediately lowered his legs and waited for whatever was to come next, his breath hitching.
"What are you going to do from now on?" she asked him.
It took him a moment to get himself under control enough to answer. "What Peter tells me," he finally said, then he looked up at her and with wide eyes added, "and I'll do it safely and legally."
"Good boy," she smiled down at him proudly.
Peter was surprised to see Neal smile back at her. And he wasn't arguing, or trying to get away, or asking if they were finished. He was just obediently laying there, waiting and sharing this moment with Elizabeth.
"I think we're done here," Elizabeth told Neal, an almost playful quality coming to her smile. "You can get up," she said and patted him on the back.
Neal pushed himself up to his feet and gently cupped his bottom in his hands. He gave a hiss and tried to rub some of the sting out, then remembered himself and re-adjusted the back of his briefs before pulling up and righting his slacks.
Elizabeth watched him with an amused, motherly smile until he wiped at his eyes with the backs of his hands. She immediately pulled him to her, wiped his tears away with her thumbs, and tucked him under her chin for a good cuddle.
Neal looked at Peter from under her chin with owlish eyes, and then gave into the hug when he saw that it was ok. Elizabeth rocked him back and forth and rubbed his back. She gently carded her fingers through his hair and told him he was loved and that she was proud of him, and Neal ate it up as fresh tears sprung to his eyes.
Elizabeth kissed the top of Neal's head and, feeling the young man calm, she looked back at her husband with a smile. It was a smile that said, this might just work.
Peter smiled back at her as she cared for and calmed their boy.
A few minutes passed this way, until finally Neal became fidgety, remembering himself. He looked up at Elizabeth and then at Peter with an exaggerated goofy look and quipped, "I was told there were cookies?"
All three laughed, and Neal and Elizabeth broke from their hug.
"I even saved a tray to bake later," Elizabeth told him in a conspiratorial tone.
Neal's eyes flashed happily at that, "Really?"
"Really," Elizabeth nodded and then looked more serious. "But, how are you feeling?"
Neal let out a puff of air. He was feeling a lot of different things, and while he was touched that she asked, he was hoping to pull on his suave Caffrey facade and pretend none of this had happened.
Elizabeth patiently watched his wheels turn and saw confusion and vulnerability in his eyes.
"This is a big change for me," Neal finally said with a megawatt smile.
"A change for the better," Elizabeth said with a raised eyebrow, making it clear she was not going to be charmed out of having this conversation or out of seeing past his defenses.
Neal looked at her shyly, then looked at his shoes. These Burkes, he thought, they see right through me. He smiled at that. He toed the floor with one foot and put his hands in his pockets, then coyly admitted, "Yeah."
"So, now that we're doing this, it does work for you? You still want this?" Elizabeth asked. She knew the answer, it was plain as day, but it was important to her to ask him.
Neal looked up at her with large eyes, worried for a moment, and then saw the look on her face. He took a deep breath, wondering how many times that night he'd feel the overwhelming sense of …. love? Family? Good cheer amongst men? Whatever its exact label, he was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. There was no way he was backing out, pain in his ass be damned! Somehow, that pain had morphed into solid proof that he mattered, that he had a place in this world. It was strange and confusing, but somehow this is what worked for him, made him feel safe and loved.
"More than anything," he answered her.
"That's my boy," Peter said proudly. He wrapped an arm around Neal and patted him on the back. Elizabeth went in for another hug, and they all shared in a close embrace before happily breaking apart again.
"So, cookies," Peter said to Elizabeth in an eager tone.
"Follow me," she said.
On the counter in the kitchen sat a large platter full of giant cookies.
"Neal, you set those on the table. Peter, you get the drinks. I'm just gonna pop these in," she said, putting the last tray of cookies in the oven to finish baking.
Neal set the cookies on the table and, as Peter joined him, Neal took his usual seat. He hissed quietly as he sat, but otherwise didn't squirm or fuss.
Peter noticed. He set three glasses of milk on the table, tossed the pillow laying across the back of his chair onto the floor and sat down. He picked up a cookie and nodded for Neal to do the same.
Neal smiled and carefully studied the cookies, choosing carefully and then taking a big bite as Elizabeth sat down.
"So, what are we doing tomorrow?" Neal asked.
"Well, we were going to go antiquing," Elizabeth said. Neal shot a quick look at Peter, who was very carefully not rolling his eyes. "But now I think I'll dig out a few puzzles and we can put on some old movies."
"Don't let me stop you from your antiquing," Neal said. He was not able to keep a straight face at the dirty look Peter gave him, but another part of him felt bad at ruining their weekend.
"Don't be silly," Elizabeth said, enjoying a cookie and ignoring her husband's silent reactions, "We'll just go next weekend." Then she leaned forward and added, "You're welcome to join us!"
Peter sighed, resolute to his fate.
Neal brightened, "That sounds great! Can Moz come?"
"Of course," Elizabeth said. "I'll call him tomorrow to make sure he's free."
Peter's head whipped around to look at her. He never did get used to her and Mozzie being friends.
They made pleasant small talk, teasing each other playfully off and on, until the timer on the oven went off. Elizabeth brought the warm cookies in on another plate, and they all went at them a bit more eagerly than they had the cooled ones. After having their fill, Neal and Peter offered to clean up.
Peter put the cookies in their cookie jar and loaded the dishwasher while Neal rinsed things off in the sink.
"You seem much calmer," Peter said.
"Do I?" Neal asked warily.
"You do," Peter said.
Neal went back to cleaning up.
"I think this is really healthy for you," Peter said. "And we - well, we never had kids of our own."
Neal stopped and really looked at Peter.
"I think this is good for all of us," Peter said. "I'm proud of you, Neal."
"Thank you," Neal said.
Peter nodded. He looked around the kitchen, "You all done?"
"Yeah," Neal said, a bit of a questioning tone in his voice.
Peter nodded again, "Time for you to get to bed, then."
Neal was about to argue, but Peter walked out of the room, obviously expecting Neal to follow. So, Neal followed. They went upstairs and found Elizabeth finishing up getting the bed in what was now his room ready for him. His bag sat on the chest at the foot of the bed.
"Bed time?" Elizabeth asked them, and Peter nodded.
Neal noticed a bud vase with fresh flowers on the nightstand and a carafe full of water with a glass as its lid sitting next to it. She had even lovingly set a bottle of aspirin out for him. He didn't feel the need to argue with Peter about going to bed anymore.
"Now Neal, we've only got one full bathroom, so no hogging it," Peter said.
Neal rolled his eyes and Elizabeth lightly swatted Peter's shoulder.
"Hon," she said.
"What?" Peter said. "Who knows how long it takes him to get ready?"
"Not long," Neal said with a smirk. Peter's unease with style and the goings into style never ceased to amuse him.
Peter nodded, "Ok then. We're down the hall if you need us." He pointed towards their room.
"Ok," Neal said.
Elizabeth hugged Neal good night, and they closed his door as they left to go to their own room.
It was then that Neal realized just how exhausted he really was. He waited a moment and, hearing them go into their bedroom, gathered his toiletries and went to the bathroom to get ready for bed. He undressed quickly and turned to look at his bottom in the mirror. It was still red, but there were no signs of any bruising. I don't know how that's possible, Neal thought to himself. He was expecting to see nothing but purple contusions. He jumped in the shower and let the warm water run over him, then cleaned up and slipped into sleep pants. He cleaned up his things and went back to his room.
His room. The thought made him smile. He looked around and thought again about all that had happened that night. Stealing the tape is the best thing I've ever done, he thought to himself ruefully. He sat on his bed, somewhat comforted by the throbbing pain in his backside, and realized he really was home. He laid down, pulled the comforter up to his ears, and was asleep almost instantly.
Peter lay on his back, Elizabeth curled up to him, her head on his shoulder.
"I wasn't spanking him that hard," Elizabeth said, a sense of wonderment in her voice.
"Neal isn't very good with pain," Peter said. "No pain tolerance."
"You'd think he'd stay out of trouble," she said.
"He's a very gutsy, brave young man," Peter said. "I've seen him step in front of guns to save other people's lives," he shrugged and shivered all at once.
Elizabeth snuggled in even closer at that horrific thought. Peter hugged her tightly, comforted by her closeness.
"Neal's one of a kind," he told her.
"Teach him to be safe," she said in a small voice.
"I will," he said, and kissed her head. "But I think you make more of an impression on him."
Elizabeth looked up at Peter and smiled, "I caught that, too."
Peter chuckled. Of course Neal would be more swayed by Elizabeth. "How do you feel about that?"
"I'm ok with it," she said. "I always wanted to be a mother. ...I didn't expect our son to be so close to our own age," she joked, "but, it's good. Does it bother you?"
"Not at all," Peter said. "I think it suits you." He kissed her head again and they snuggled closer together.
"So, an entire weekend of a grounded Neal," Elizabeth joked.
Peter laughed, "He's going to be climbing the walls."
"Maybe not," Elizabeth yawned. "I guess we'll just have to wait and see."
"Mmm," Peter agreed, giving in to sleep.