Author's Note: This is a fan fiction from the show White Collar. It's a 'missing scene' from the episode, 'The Portrait'. For those of you who haven't seen the show, Peter is a FBI agent. Elizabeth is his wife. Neal is a con man who does forgeries. Mozzie is Neal's friend. Peter spent two years trying to catch Neal, and finally did. Now Neal, with a prison anklet, is working for Peter as a consultant to help catch other criminals, until his sentence is up. This story is just a little crack blurb for fun. Many lines are taken directly from the episode, and the story might not make sense if you haven't seen the episode. Written November 2009.
It's a Start
"Do you think he stole it?" Elizabeth asked.
"Yeah I do," Peter said, regret evident in his voice.
"What will it mean for his probation if Dorsett gets away?"
Peter shook his head. "It doesn't look good."
Across town in Neal's apartment, Mozzie paced the floor while looking at the stolen painting and said with disbelief, "You stole the painting?"
"I was going to give it back to Julianna," Neal said, trying to justify his actions.
"You're like a child. No sense of consequence."
"Okay, look at the inscription." He held it up for his friend to see, and said, "The curator said he authenticated the painting before it was stolen. He saw that it belonged to Julianna. He chose to ignore it."
"And you're Robin Hood." Mozzie deadpanned. "And did I forget to mention the part where you stole the painting?"
Neal shrugged. "I didn't think Dorsett would get away."
"This is because you don't like the curator. You did this for spite."
He couldn't deny that. "I've done things for a lot less." Then he said with a sigh, "I can't let them hurt Taryn."
"So what are you gonna do?" Mozzie asked.
That was the million dollar question. Neal hadn't been thinking of anything else since getting the threatening phone call from Dorsett. He'd tried, and failed, to come up with a solution to the problem that didn't involve telling Peter what he'd done. "I need a ride to Peter's house. Depending on how that goes, I need you to buy me some paint on the way home."
Mozzie shook his head, thinking this was a bad plan, and said, "Okay."
Neal got out his cell phone and dialed Peter's number. After a few rings, Peter answered, "Hello?"
"Neal? It's… almost midnight."
"I need to come over. I have something to tell you."
"Can't it wait for tomorrow?"
Closing his eyes, and putting a hand on his forehead, Peter thought he could feel a headache starting. "Okay, I'll call the station and clear you to leave."
Once Neal hung up, Mozzie said, "All set to go?"
"Give it five minutes. He's already going to be upset." Neal pointed to the electronic anklet and said, "No reason to make it worse by leaving my area before I'm cleared."
Mozzie nodded, and they waited for a few minutes before leaving.
The phone call had woken Elizabeth up. She listened while Peter called the police station and cleared Neal to leave his two mile radius. Once he hung up, he turned to her and said, "Sorry I woke you." He kissed her forehead. "Go back to sleep, I'll try to be quiet."
"What's going on?" she asked.
"Neal's coming over. Said he needs to talk to me." Peter got out of bed and pulled a tee shirt over his head.
Instead of going back to sleep, Elizabeth got up as well, and put a bathrobe on. "Do you think he's going to confess?"
Peter sat back down on the edge of the bed, and thought about that. "On the one hand, if he did take it, I hope he'll trust me enough to confide in me. On the other hand, I hope he didn't steal it in the first place."
She sat beside him on the bed, and rested her head on his shoulder, "What will you do if he did steal it?"
"I don't honestly know."
"How about I make us some hot chocolate while we wait? We could always add some Kahlua if he did it."
He chuckled and gave her a kiss. "Sounds good."
Half an hour later, they were sitting at the kitchen table with their drinks, when the doorbell rang. Elizabeth went to answer it, and when she saw Neal's face, she knew why he'd come.
He came in and said, "Sorry it's so late, Elizabeth."
"That's okay," she said, as she shut the door. She gave him an encouraging smile, and then looked over at her husband. Following her gaze, Neal saw the back of Peter's head. Peter was sitting at the dinning room table, muscles tense, and waiting. Swallowing down his nervousness, Neal walked over to the table, and took Elizabeth's recently vacated seat. Elizabeth stayed by the front door, giving them some space, but still listening.
Peter gave Neal a warning glare and said, "This better be good."
"I took the painting," Neal confessed.
After a loud exhale, Peter said, "Damn it, Neal."
Neal turned pleading eyes towards Peter, "I wasn't gonna…"
Without looking at his face, Peter cut him off with a hand in the air.
Trying again, he said, "I did it for…"
Again, Peter cut him off without looking.
Not liking the guilty feeling this was giving him, Neal took a second to think about it, and said quietly, "We can use it to catch Dorsett. He doesn't know I work for you."
That one made Peter take notice. After a few seconds to think that over, he said, "We'll set it up for tomorrow."
Neal nodded in agreement, and gave Peter a tentative smile. Peter looked him in the eye, disapproval and disappointment clearly written on his face. "Now get the hell out of my house."
Knowing Peter had good reason to be pissed at him, Neal stood and muttered, "Kay." On his way out he said, "Night Elizabeth."
She put a hand on his arm and said, "Neal, could you wait on the porch for just a second?"
Her eyes darted over to her husband, and Neal knew she was going to try and smooth things over between them. Not wanting to make her feel bad, or get the two of them into a fight, he said, "I really should be getting home."
There was no refusing that. "Okay."
She patted his arm, and watched him walk out. She went to her husband, and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, hugging him from behind while he sat in the chair. She said, "Well, he told you the truth about the painting."
Not quite believing she was trying to stand up for the guy, Peter said, "Because they threatened Taryn."
"It's a start," she insisted.
"Yeah," he gave in, "It's a start."
"Are you going to give him a chance to explain?"
"Do you think there's any excuse that would make what he did okay?"
Walking around the chair, she sat down in his lap. "No, but it might make it easier for you to forgive him."
Scrutinizing his wife, he asked, "Why should I forgive him at all?"
"It's not a question of should, it's a question of how soon."
Peter opened his mouth to protest, but she cut him off. "Don't give me some line about how you shouldn't forgive him. I've seen the two of you working together, and I know you. Like it or not, he's growing on you. You need to stop thinking of him as a criminal, and start thinking of him like a partner."
"A partner?" he asked. "Seriously?"
She smiled. "I don't mean partner as in equal. I mean a younger, inexperienced partner, who's in need of some guidance. Can you honestly tell me you don't see the way he looks up to you?"
He still looked skeptical. She added, "You're the one who keeps telling me he acts like a child, but you say it with exasperated fondness, not anger. So don't send him home thinking that you're never going to forgive him. Let him explain himself, give him a slap on the wrist, and send him home wanting to do better next time."
"You're not giving up on this are you?" She shook her head. He sighed and said, "Okay, you win. I'll let him explain."
She kissed his cheek, and went to the door. Peter stood, and walked half way to the door with her. Elizabeth opened the door, and Neal came back in. "You boys work things out. I'm going back to bed," she said to the both of them.
They both said good night to her, and then watched her go up the stairs. There was an uncomfortable silence between the two men, until Neal couldn't stand it anymore. "I wasn't gonna keep it."
Peter crossed his arms, turned to glare at Neal, and found he couldn't deny any of the things his wife had said. "Were you going to sell it?"
"No!" he was offended that Peter would think that of him. He'd never steal from someone like Julianna. He did have standards.
"Okay, then what were you planning?"
"I was going to give it back to Julianna. That curator was a jerk. He doesn't deserve the painting." He'd been looking at Peter while he said it, but now that he saw Peter didn't agree, he stuffed his hands in his pockets, and looked over at the couch, waiting for the lecture.
Peter pointed a finger at him and said, "It is not our job to decide what is fair. It's our job to uphold the law. The law says that the painting belongs to the museum. If Julianna has any legal right to the painting, then she can sue the museum, and get it back legally."
He could tell by Neal's angry pout, that he didn't agree. Softening his voice, Peter said, "I know it's difficult when things don't seem fair. It's hard for me too sometimes, but that doesn't mean we stoop to vigilante justice. Once that line is crossed, we become the criminals."
Neal's face was flushed with anger. "You're wrong. It's criminal not to do something about it, when you see an injustice."
Glaring, Peter's mind reeled with that statement. He couldn't help but turn it against Neal. There had been so many times he would have loved to take matters into his own hands instead of doing things legally where Neal was concerned. He doubted Neal would think so highly of vigilante justice if it were being used against him instead of by him. Peter asked dangerously, "Is that right?"
"Yeah, that's right!" Neal raised his voice, defending his position.
Peter grabbed him by the arm, and started pulling him towards the kitchen table. Neal rolled his eyes, and let himself be lead, thinking Peter was going to make him sit and listen to an even longer lecture. Instead, Peter pulled a chair out, sat down in it, and pulled Neal down across his left leg. Startled, Neal flung his arms out to catch himself, and grunted when his lower stomach made contact with Peter's thigh. Before Neal had a chance to put up a fight, Peter had him pinned. His right leg pinning both of Neal's legs in place, and his left arm around Neal's lower back kept him from getting up.
After trying to stand up, Neal quickly realized he was stuck. He stopped struggling and scrunched his eyes closed, trying to bock out the reality of the situation. His voice was unusually high, as he asked, "W… What's going on?"
Keeping his tone casual, Peter said, "It's good to know that you believe so strongly in vigilante justice. I can't tell you how many times I've thought you deserved a spanking, but that would be assault, which is against the law."
"Let's be honest here, prison really hasn't done you any good. It hasn't improved your behavior, if anything, it's made it worse. You think it's criminal not to do something to rectify the situation when you see an injustice, right?"
"I didn't mean…"
Peter cut him off. "Well I know you've gotten away with plenty of crimes, simply because you haven't gotten caught. I know you're taking advantage of this work release program every chance you get. And I know you're pleased with yourself every time you get away with something."
Shaking his head, and wiggling to get free, Neal said, "I've changed my mind! Vigilante justice is bad. You've made your point, so could you let me up please?"
Smiling at the quick change in attitude, Peter said, "Not just yet. Elizabeth pointed something out to me tonight, and I think I should tell you too."
"Okay." Talking was good. Talking meant no hitting, and Neal was all for no hitting.
"I don't think of you as a criminal anymore. I think of you as my partner."
Craning his neck around to look at Peter, Neal said, "Really?"
Taking note of the hopeful expression on Neal's face, Peter nodded. "My much younger partner in need of guidance, which includes some vigilante justice to keep him out of prison when he messes up."
The wide-eyed expression of surprise and worry on Neal's face was almost comical. Peter said, "You stole the painting, it was the wrong thing to do."
Neal watched, as Peter's focused moved from his face to his ass. As Peter raised his right arm high above his shoulder, Neal pleaded, "Come on Peter, can't we… Ow!"
Peter looked at Neal to gage his reaction. As he'd suspected, there was no anger in his face, only surprise and distress. He knew that if Neal wanted to press charges over this later, Peter wouldn't have much of a leg to stand on, and could very well lose his job. But he'd gotten to know Neal better over these past few months, and seriously doubted it would even occur to him.
Neal could tell from Peter's serious expression that there was no getting out of this now. He shook his head again, but Peter just raised his arm and swatted him again while keeping eye contact. "Ow!"
Satisfied with what he saw, Peter nodded to himself, and concentrated on the behind over his leg. He wasn't spanking particularly fast, but each swat was strong enough to jerk Neal's entire body forward with the impact.
Not quite believing this was happening to him, Neal yelped in pain with each swat, and tried to focus on something other then the little voice in his head, which was telling him that Peter was right, and that he deserved each swat.
After twenty-two swats, Neal blurted out, "Okay, I get it!"
The two made eye contact again, and Peter said, "What do you get?"
"No more stealing. It won't happen again. Okay?"
Peter started to shake his head, and Neal rushed to add, "And I'm sorry!"
"You're sorry?" Peter asked, clearly not believing it.
Nodding furiously, Neal said, "Yes, very sorry. Ow!"
After the last swat, Peter released his hold on Neal and said, "Don't overplay the sorry, it makes me not believe you."
With a hand on Neal's upper arm, Peter helped him to stand up. Neal quickly put both hands over the injured area, and backed away. Peter put his hands on his hips, and regarded the young man in front of him. "You'd better mean it Neal, because this was just a trial run. Steal something again, and we can do the full blown version." He pointed a finger at him and said, "I plan to make sure you stay out of prison, whether you like it or not."
Nodding quickly, Neal said, "I do mean it. No need for a full blown version."
Taking a deep breath, Peter let himself smile slightly. "Okay then, tomorrow you start fresh, with a clean slate."
Not sure what to make of the change in Peter's demeanor, Neal rubbed his butt a few times and asked, "Okay… Can I go home now?"
"Yeah, you can."
Neal kept an eye on Peter, to make sure he wasn't following, and made his way to the door. When he got to the door, he took his hands off his rear for the first time since getting off Peter's lap, and squared his shoulders, before putting a hand on the doorknob. Before he could open it, Peter said, "Hey Neal."
"I hope you understand that I'm trying to help you. I don't want you rotting in prison. You're better then that."
Neal felt a rush of warmth in his chest at those words. He gave Peter a small smile and said, "Thanks Peter," before walking out.
As soon as the door shut, Elizabeth came rushing down the stairs, glaring at Peter. "You didn't do what I think you did, did you?"
Holding his hands up in surrender, Peter said, "I know it's not what you expected, but…"
"I told you to work things out! I told you to let him explain!"
"And I did!"
"How can you say that? You hurt him! I could hear the smacking and the yelling all the way upstairs. It sounded like you were killing the poor boy."
Peter fought the urge to roll his eyes, and pulled her into a hug. "He's fine Elizabeth. No worse for wear, I promise. He even said thanks before he left, but even if he'd stormed out of here ready to call my boss, I still wouldn't be sorry I'd done it. I'm trying to help him stay out of prison."
She sighed, and felt slightly mollified by his words and touch. "He's really okay?"
"Really." After a pause, he said, "It's been a long night. Let's go to bed."
After getting out of Peter's house, Neal practically ran to the car. He got in, and tried not to wince as he sat down.
Mozzie had been ready to go for a while. As soon as Neal opened the door, Mozzie turned down the music, and said, "Well that took forever."
When Neal didn't comment, Mozzie added, "You know you have no impulse control. You steal the picture, you run to confess. You're like a…"
Raising his voice Neal said, "If you say I'm like a child, I swear I'm going to push you out of the car."
Mozzie gave his friend a sideways glance, not sure what had gotten into him. "Okaaaay, so I take it things didn't go well."
Leaning his head back on his seat, Neal closed his eyes and said, "Just drive."
After starting the car, Mozzie said, "Straight home then?"
"No, paint first."
"But I thought…"
"Mozz, I really don't want to talk about it."
Neal was glad when he felt the car moving, and didn't hear anymore talking. He was busy thinking about the painting he'd taken. He needed to go over his plans more carefully, because there was no way he wanted to get caught again. He wanted to prove to Peter that he was better then prison, and he knew that good criminals didn't get caught.