I realized I've been publishing fics on AO3 and not on here so I'm spending a bit of time catching up again, lookout for about 4 more fics in the near future XD.
I was recently just enjoying the simple dynamics of the White Collar office when things are just normal. We see bits and pieces of the sweet camaraderie throughout the show and I wanted to show some of that with Neal, Peter, and the team (of course adding in an interesting revelation for Peter which is kinda the focus of the fic).
I wasn't quite sure where the best place to set this is...there's no identifying bits, I'd honestly love to know your guys' thoughts on when they might've had this particular realization...
It was a random nothing of a day in late November when Peter realized it.
The White Collar division hadn't seen an interesting case in about a week and life had fallen into the sort of pattern that was comfortably boring and gladly lacking in kidnappings, close calls, and near death experiences.
It was around mid-afternoon and Peter allowed himself a moment or two to slack off, stretching slightly and looking out onto the bullpen. Neal was sitting on the edge of Jones's desk tossing his rubber band ball from hand to hand, engaged in telling some story that Jones was clearly entertained by. Diana was pretending to be working but Peter could see absolutely nothing was happening on her computer screen—she was listening in as well.
Peter grinned to himself as Neal stood and took possession of Jones's stapler and pencil holder, apparently needing props to illustrate something as Jones sat forward in interest and Diana gave up all pretense of work. The story wrapped up after a few minutes as Jones laughed and Diana aimed a playful punch at Neal who smoothly dodged it. Neal looked up and noticed Peter watching, grinned, and lightly mounted the steps to Peter's office.
"Hey yourself. I noticed the drama club down there." Neal grinned,
"Oh it was just an old sto— hypothetical story. Jones was the one who asked about it, I was doing my work." He added innocently.
"Shouldn't you be working that mortgage fraud case I assigned you instead of preforming that one man production of the life and highjinks of Neal Caffrey for Diana and Jones?" Neal rolled his eyes and let out a dramatic sigh,
"Come on Peter, it's been all mortgage fraud for the last week, my mind is shriveling up and dying. I might need to paint a highly accurate reproduction of Rembrandt that I will never sell ever, if I don't get something else to do soon."
"Go and get your case and bring it up here. You're too distracting down there." Neal opened his eyes widely in the sincere expression that only ever meant trouble,
"Peter, it's not my fault, I was born this way. I can't help it that even Diana is looking."
"I walked right into that one didn't I?"
"Go get your case."
"I'm going, I'm going."
Peter did feel slightly bad that there wasn't anything more worthwhile to put Neal's mind to, but just because there wasn't any interesting cases didn't meant there weren't cases. Neal returned with the file and sprawled into the chair opposite Peter putting his feet up on the desk.
"Feet off my desk Caffrey." Neal rolled his eyes and took his feet down. "Okay take me through it."
"It's always helpful to have a set of fresh eyes."
"I don't need help Peter, I'm just not particularly motivated to do it."
"Maybe an orange jumpsuit could motivate—"
"—fine, okay." He rolled his eyes and opened the file, "If you look over here..."
They spent several minutes poring over the details until Neal sat up suddenly. "Wait."
"Just a sec." He looked down at the page, looking up again a few seconds later, frowning in thought. "I'm not sure this is a mortgage fraud case Peter. Or at least...it's not... just a mortgage fraud."
"Well what is it?"
"I'm not sure yet. Here—just—give me a few minutes." Neal grabbed a pen and bent studiously over the file, making small notes in the margins, circling various numbers and connecting them with crisp lines.
Peter smiled as he watched Neal begin to distill the torrent of confusing information into a neatly cracked case and turned back to his own work, enjoying the companionable silence.
It was a random nothing of a day in late November. No excitement, no terrifying situation, no moment that caused him to flashback his life and the lives of these he cared about, when Peter got a sudden shock sitting across from Neal who was still working on his case-file. The question had flown into his mind without warning.
When had convicted criminal Neal Caffrey become his—FBI Agent Peter Burke—his best friend?
Peter immediately seized on the question and examined it more closely.
Neal wasn't his best friend, that didn't make sense. Just because he worked more closely with Neal than anyone else, or invited him over regularly for dinner, or genuinely liked being around him (when he wasn't being a complete nuisance or trying to walk off with every painting in New York), or knew easily what Neal would say in most situations, or—wow.
Neal really was his best friend. When had that happened?
Peter found himself looking across the desk at the dark head bent over the case-file, almost as if he'd never seen it before, though they'd worked like this dozens for times. A feeling of intense affection welled up in his chest. Somehow, between the distrust, hurt, and countless secrets, Neal had become, not only a friend, but now a friend that Peter wasn't entirely sure he could do without.
Neal looked up, smiling triumphantly,
"Okay I got it—" he noticed Peter looking at him. "You okay Peter? Something wrong?"
"What? No—no nothing's wrong. Show me what you got." Neal looked slightly dubious but obeyed, showing Peter the unusual patterns he had noticed in the data.
Within a few more minutes the case was thoroughly cracked and they both leaned back in satisfaction, Neal preening slightly at his discovery and subsequent solving of the case. Peter shook his head in mock disgust,
"I was going to say 'good job' but you're acting like you just decoded the enigma so I'm not gonna say it." Neal just grinned like butter wouldn't melt and brushed imaginary dust off his shoulder.
"Hey, I already know that I'm the best, I don't need you to tell me." Peter just huffed a sigh and rolled his eyes, pushing back his chair.
"Well, there's plenty more mortgage fraud—but it can wait until tomorrow. What do you say we get out of here early and you can come over, help me make dinner?" Neal's eyes lit up,
"If it's pot roast I'll cut the carrots because you always cut them too large so that you can't have a bite of carrot and pot roast at the same time. See, Peter, ideally the carrot to roast ratio would be..." Peter fought a grin as he collected his briefcase and made his way through the office, trailed by Neal who was still critiquing his carrot cutting technique and waxing eloquent on food ratios.
Friend. Best friend. My best friend. Peter turned the phrase over in his head a few times to test it. The idea of having a 'best friend' had felt a bit like a middle school distinction to Peter most of his life, but he was wondering now if, maybe, it was because he had never actually had a best friend—not really—until now.
Best friend. Neal Caffrey. It fit.
Not that Peter would ever say it out loud, but it was a nice thing to have settled in his head—even if it largely contradicted almost every other label that applied to Neal.
Neal Caffrey, criminal informant and best friend. Peter shook his head in amusements only Neal could have taken those two titles on simultaneously. Oh, it certainly complicated things—everything really. Neal tended to do that, Peter had noticed, but complicated didn't mean bad. Life could use some complications once in a while. Neal was complication, a pain in the neck, and hassle—but he was a complication, pain, and hassle worth having.
Neal was still chattering about cooking, Peter realized vaguely, but broke off with a pleasantly confused expression as Peter clapped a hand to his far shoulder, his arm wrapped loosely around the CI's shoulders, pulling him in so they walked closely side by side. It was an affectionate gesture and one he'd certainly used on Neal before, but usually under less mundane circumstances, after a close call or a big win perhaps.
"Peter? What's going on with you?" Peter grinned and shrugged,
"I'm just proud of you for cracking that case."
"Really." Neal's eyebrow was skeptically raised, but he was grinning too.
"Okay." Neal shrugged, smiling with amusement over his handler's unexpectedly good mood and a bit of genuine pleasure over the compliment.
They got into the car, each pleasantly silent with his own thoughts before Neal started fidgeting with the radio. Peter slapped his hand away,
"My car, my radio."
"Come on, Peter." Neal whined, stretching out Peter's name like an actual four-year-old.
Peter was unmoved.
"Nope. Put on the game."
It was an argument they'd had dozens of times. It rarely ended without Neal sulking to some extent and making passive aggressive comments from the passenger seat, but Peter wouldn't give it up—wouldn't give any of it up for the world.
Because, annoying, childish, thief, artist, con man, and criminal Neal Caffrey was also so, so much more.
"And the Yankees score with a double— —we'll be listening to one of Bach's most iconic pieces—"
"Neal, I swear to G-d if you touch that damn radio one more time—"
He was Peter's best friend.
Genuine question, was my use of italics excessive or helpful in reading the tone and emphasis of the thoughts/dialogue?
Thanks for reading, I'd love to hear your thoughts, they genuinely make my day! Also I'm open to hearing Fic requests, several of my coming fics were written from prompts/requests and while I can't guarantee, I love to hear them (no slash or explicit material!)