A/N: Aha, welcome to my second foray into White Collar fics! White Collar is my current obsession, because it's just so freakin' good! This particular fic is slash. Nothing graphic, but there are implications, and it revolves around the discovery of an established relationship. If you're curious as to how I went from writing a strictly friendship-fic to writing slash you may consult slantedwonders, because it's all her fault, :) And most of this was inspired by conversations with her during the course of our White Collar marathon the other day, so you can thank her for that too.
Disclaimer: I really wish that I owned White Collar, but alas I do not.
Excuses, Alibis, and Awkward Truths
Or, the Five Awkward Conversations Neal had to have
because of Peter,
and the One Conversation that was perfectly natural
1. June (Clue: The Sheets)
He's barely inside the apartment for two minutes before there is the light rapping knock on his door. He looks towards the door from where he's slumped on the couch and groans. In the past forty-eight hours he has examined several medieval manuscripts painstakingly in order to find their counterfeited flaw, has gone undercover again, has had to flirt with another woman that he cares nothing about, has had a pointless argument with Mozzie, has had yet another gun pointed at him—god, he hates guns—and now he is exhausted. He just wants to sit and relax and he does not want someone knocking on his door.
There's another knock and he sits up, frowning. The lock is too light to be Peter's knock, too regulated to be Mozzie's—and said supposed best friend is angry at him anyway—and he can't really think of who else would disturb him at this time of night. He shakes his head and straightens up and makes his way over to the door. "Coming," he calls, to ward away another succession of knocks.
He pulls the door open and his frown eases into a smile. "Hey, June," he says, and mentally calls himself an idiot for not realizing that she was one of the obvious answers. Then again, June doesn't normally bother to knock, since it is her house after all. Now she stands on the other side of his door, holding a tray that bears a tea pot and two cups, and there's a certain uneasy tension to her, present in the stiffness of her usually warm smile. He notices these things and then steps aside to allow her entrance, his own smile unwavering. "Is everything alright?"
She crosses to the table and places the tray down, then nods for him to take a seat. "Yes, of course." He slides into the chair across from her and watches as she pours the tea into one of the cups, then offers it to him. He takes the cup, the porcelain warm against his skin, and looks across at the older woman. "Milk?" She asks.
He shakes his head. "No, thank you." She fixes her own cup, and he knows that she's not here for a simple visit, not when it's nearly midnight, not when she can see how exhausted he is. "June, as much as I appreciate the tea, you're not just here for a visit, are you?" He's much too tired to be subtle, and June is a blunt kind of person anyway. He's discovered that quite quickly over the course of their relationship.
She smiles. "I'm sorry for coming by so late, but you're always so busy that I never want to disturb you. But, well, we need to have a discussion, dear."
His back straightens. "Am I in trouble?" He says it in a jesting tone, flashing that charming smile of his, but beneath it he's serious.
"No, dear, not at all I. I'm just…concerned." His forehead furrows and he tilts his head to the side. "I—ah, I know you don't like the maids in here, so I came in to get your laundry earlier and I…." He has never seen June so flustered before. It's almost amusing, but he has the terrible feeling that it's about to get very uncomfortable. For both of them. "As I was changing your sheets I found some, ahem, odd stains…."
He chokes on his tea, and sputters for a few moments, feeling his face grow hot. "Oh, uh…." Dammit. He is Neal Caffrey and he should not be at a loss for words over the fact that his neighbor/landlord found a few embarrassing stains. "I—."
"Just tell me it's not that Meilin girl."
He shakes his head violently, still choking a little, and she seems to relax a little. "Oh, good." Then her eyes narrow. "It's not my granddaughter, is it?"
He's fairly sure that his face is the brightest shade of red it has ever been. "Oh my god, no, I would never—." His hands move wildly of their own accord, waving his assurances in the air.
June laughs at him. She actually laughs at him, apparently highly amused by the fact that he—Neal Caffrey, who is supposed to be a smooth-talking criminal mastermind—is blushing so fiercely that his skin is scalding and is choking on his own words. She quiets and then she looks at him again, searching. Finally the lines of concern ease from her face, and her eyes clear and she smiles truly.
"Oh," she says, and he straightens even more, staring her, his eyes wild. He doesn't like the sound of that oh of hers. She nods, as if to herself. "I have been foolish, haven't I? There is only one obvious choice after all."
And now it's his turn to say "oh", but his isn't full of revelation, but rather packed with panicked confusion.
She reaches across and pats his hand and then gathers up the tray, leaving him with the cup in his hands as she walks towards the door.
"Say hello to Peter for me," she says, walking through the door without looking back. The door closes behind her and he stares blankly at the door.
He's going to have a heart-attack. He's sure of it. He gulps down his tea—which is frigid and hard to swallow because the sugar isn't dissolved all the way—and shakes his head. He's not going to think about it. He's really not. He's going to pretend that this little conversation never happened at all. He's erasing it from the confines of his memory.
Yes, that's exactly what he's going to do.
He shakes his head and starts towards the bedroom. He is going to go to sleep and when he wakes up this will all have been nothing more than a dream.
2. Jones (Everybody Knows)
Neal Caffrey knows that Jones keeps giving him these odd, amused looks, but he really doesn't see what is funny about the current situation. Hell, he's barely able to keep from having a panic attack right now, because he's positive that something is going to go wrong with the operation. Something always does go wrong, it seems.
He wasn't happy about this plan from the very beginning. Sure, sending him undercover is practically routine. He's the perfect choice, because, after all, who is better at pretending to be a criminal than an actual criminal, particularly one who stakes his reputation on becoming someone else? And he's fine with that. He's good at going with the flow, keeping his cover, thinking on his feet. But sending Peter in? By himself?
He's not happy with that idea at all. It's one thing if he and Peter are in there together, and it's one thing if he is in there by himself, but it's a completely different thing for Peter to be in the midst of things completely by himself. Things can change so quickly, and if they do then he can't get there in time to help, because he's sitting in a freakin' FBI van parked around the corner, pacing and looking over Jones' shoulder and dammit he hates this.
So really, he can't understand why Jones is so amused.
They're getting to the end of the operation, the part when things always go bad so fast. He's fidgeting, relentlessly drumming his fingers on the table top and bouncing his leg up and down and he would pace but the rest of the crew in the van had given him dirty looks the last time he did that (probably because he almost pulled one very expensive piece of equipment to the ground). The calculating part of his mind is listening carefully to the audio, but a large part of him has dedicated itself to fitful worrying.
And he swears to God that Jones is smirking at him. At least, that's what it looks like. A kind of amused, subtle smirk, but Neal Caffrey knows smirks. He glowers at the agent as he slides into the seat next to him and looks over his shoulder at the computer screen.
"Shouldn't he be out by now?" He asks, seeing the time. He taps his fingers on his leg—the one that isn't bouncing so much that it seems it's trying to escape. Jones looks at him sideways and shakes his head a little.
"Relax. Burke will be fine."
"I'm not worried," he says automatically. Jones just gives him a look, and he folds his arms, self-conscious.
"He's been undercover in the field before, you know."
"I'm not worried."
Jones rolls his eyes, and then leans closer to him, looking around as though checking to see if anyone is listening to them. Of course, everyone else is doing their job—although if Lauren had been there she would have been listening in—so they're not paying attention. Still, when Jones speaks his voice is lower, louder than a whisper but close.
"Neal, I know."
He narrows his eyes, confused. "Know what?"
Jones lifts his eyebrows. "I know."
Neal is fairly sure that his heart skips a beat. It's impossible for Jones to be talking about what he thinks he's talking about. "I don't have a clue what you're talking about."
"Sure you don't, Caffrey." Jones says, and there's a smug assurance to his voice. He stares at the agent, arms still folded over his chest. He can't know…. He leans in.
"I have no idea what you are talking about, Jones." He whispers furiously.
Jones turns back to him and leans in as well. "Yes you do. You know exactly what I'm talking about. You'd like to think that I'm talking about something completely different, but you know that I'm talking about what you think I'm talking about. Truth is, Neal, everyone knows."
Oh. Dear. God. That's impossible.
"I don't believe you. What do you mean everyone knows?"
Jones shrugs. "Well, maybe not everyone. But there's a betting pool going around for when Elizabeth finds out."
Neal feels cold all over. He's fairly sure, now, that they are in huge trouble.
"Got it," comes Peter's voice over the speakers, "all units move in."
Well, at least that's over with.
Jones gives him one last knowing look before throwing open the back door of the van and heading out into the streaming sunlight.
3. Mozzie (Clue: The Sounds and Incriminating Evidence)
When Mozzie bangs repeatedly on the door to Neal's apartment and then waits impatiently in the hallway, he has no idea that he has come at such a bad time. Neal, on the other hand, goes into full-blown panic mode, because this absolutely can-not-be-happening to him.
"Hurry up, Neal!" Mozzie calls, and even from the other room Neal can hear the suspicion in his friend's voice. He hurriedly pulls the shirt over his head and tries to sweep his hair into some semblance of order, then whispers "hide" quite fiercely—to which the responding look is "well I'm not stupid"—and races out through the living room. He stubs his toe on the couch and curses, and then makes the rest of the way hobbling and cursing under his breath, all while Mozzie is pounding on the door.
When he pulls open the door and sees the look on Mozzie's face—especially the expression after his friend's eyes sweep him up and down—he knows that this isn't going to end well.
"Hey, Moz," he says, nice and casual and easy, giving a charming smile.
"Don't 'hey Moz' me, Neal Caffrey!" He says, pushing his way in, and instantly the short criminal becomes a bloodhound; he's searching the apartment, starting with the living room, sharp eyes looking for any sign of disturbance. "Exactly what are you doing in here?"
"Nothing. Has anyone ever told you that you're paranoid?"
"It's been mentioned." Mozzie stands in the middle of the living room and turns, staring him down. "So, who is it?"
He folds his arms and tilts his head, giving his friend his best puzzled look. Mentally he's placing himself into the mind frame of a perfectly innocent person who has absolutely nothing to hide and was certainly not doing anything, with the hopes that he can portray such a person accurately enough that his best friend will buy it. "Who is what?"
Mozzie's eyes narrow behind his thick glasses. "Whoever you're screwing around with." He says, and turns, searching the living room. He overturns the pillows on the couch, as though expecting there to be a person hiding beneath. "Y'know, for all the running around I've been doing for you trying to find Kate—," here he flinches, because that was a low blow and Mozzie knows it, "I didn't expect you to start screwing some floozy."
"Did you just use the term floozy?"
"Redirection!" Mozzie says, accusing, and he throws open the doors to the balcony, heading out. "So who is it? And where are they hiding?"
"Moz," he says, placating, "you're being paranoid. There's no one here but the two of us."
Mozzie searches the balcony and the whirls and stalks right past him, back inside. "Your shirt is buttoned wrong and your fly is down!" He calls over his shoulder, as he heads for the hallway that leads to the bedroom and bathroom. Neal looks down at himself and sighs, because he's such an idiot. He pulls his fly up and unbuttons his shirt, so that he can properly button it, then realizes where Mozzie is headed and breaks into a near run.
"Aha!" He hears, and he does break into a run. Mozzie is standing in the bedroom, and Neal winces as he walks in, because it is quite evident that there was something going on. The state of the sheets say that quite well. But what Mozzie is holding between his forefingers is more incriminating, and he has to stifle a groan when he sees it. "Still going to hold to your denials?"
"Ah, that's mine." He says quickly.
"Nice try, Caffrey. You don't own anything like this. You burn things like this if they so much as touch you."
"That's not true…."
Mozzie tosses the sock—because that's what the item is, a bright green sock decorated with black dogs and white bones—at him and drops to the floor. He catches the sock, rolls his eyes, and tosses it haphazardly to the side. "Mozzie, there's no one under the bed."
The shorter man climbs to his feet and looks around the room. His eyes land on the closet and he points accusingly, then charges over. Neal breathes a sigh of relief and slips over to the door to the bathroom, because while there's no way he could be that stupid…of course, then he opens the door and sees those wide startled eyes and this is un-be-lievable.
"This is your idea of a hiding place?"He hisses, and just gets an apologetic look. Mozzie is absolutely destroying his closet, but he's going to turn any second now. "We are going to have a long conversation about your hiding skills later." He whispers furiously. "Go out the other door." Mozzie is turning. "Go!" He hisses, and then closes the door.
Mozzie straightens and turns, looks from him to the door and then back to him. "The bathroom!" Mozzie says, and practically shoulders him out of the way, grappling for the knob. He pulls the door open to find…absolutely nothing, and Neal heaves a sigh of relief.
Which changes to panic when he sees the way that the other door is slightly ajar. Panic moves to full-blown terror when he hears a muffled curse from the living room. He meets Mozzie's gaze for a fraction of a second—and all the accusation lying there within—before the short man is running out of the bedroom and he's following right on his footsteps.
They emerge into a living room where the couch is just slightly out of place—which explains that muffled curse—and where the front door hasn't close all the way, but there is no one in sight. He breathes a sigh of relief, but Mozzie isn't done yet. He heads right out the front door, and Neal follows him.
"Moz, if you just calm down and relax I'm perfectly willing to explain—."
"Oh, hello Mozzie." June says, coming up the stairs. "And Neal, dear. I just saw Peter leaving and he seemed to be in quite a rush. Anything wrong?"
Mozzie turns slowly towards him, eyebrows high above the rims of his glasses, his mouth gaping open. Neal just closes his eyes and groans low in his throat and lets all the breath rush out of him. "Just fine, June."
He turns and retreats into his apartment. Now it's Mozzie's turn to follow, and his friend is right there on his heels, his mouth opening and closing like the gaping mouth of a fish. He sinks down into a chair and just shakes his head, numb, while Mozzie walks straight past him and collapses on the couch.
"This is all an elaborate joke, isn't it?"
For half a second he considers whether or not he could get Moz to believe that yes, it is all a joke. Then he looks over at his friend and sees that underlying current of danger and decides that he's screwed either way. In the end he decides to just remain silent. But Mozzie is staring at him and he just shrugs.
"A shrug? A shrug? What, the great Neal Caffrey doesn't have an explanation?"
"Moz, I can explain—."
"You're screwing the Suit. Aren't you?" He opens his mouth to respond but Mozzie just keeps going, rambling. "Oh my God, you're screwing the Suit. Oh my God, I touched your bed." A visible shudder runs through the shorter man, and then he jumps off of the couch, looking as though he's been burned. "The couch! Did you screw him on the couch?" Not this time, he thinks, but clearly there's an expression in his eyes that says he has at one point or another, and Mozzie freaks out even more. "I've slept on that couch! Where you screwed the Suit!" Mozzie paces. "Oh God. I'm going to have to burn these clothes, and then scrub off a layer of skin, and then probably shower in bleach just to be safe!" He stalks over to the kitchen and starts pulling at the cupboard doors. "Where's your bleach?"
"Mozzie," he groans, his eyes closing for a moment. Mozzie straightens up and whirls around to face him, eyes flashing.
"Is this how you got out of prison? Are you screwing him so that you don't go back? Are you using him to get to Kate?"
"Mozzie!" He says, and now his voice is sharp and hurt, because he can't believe that his best friend would actually think something like that about him. Mozzie shifts, the apology in his eyes, and folds his arms across his chest defensively.
"Well what do you expect me to think? You're fornicating with an FBI agent! You're consorting with the enemy! Bad enough that you were already a slave to the man, but now you're—"
He sighs. "I'm what, Moz? I'm not using him to get to Kate, I'm not using him to stay out of prison, and I'm not 'consorting with the enemy'."
"No, you're just fucking around with your FBI handler. Is this why you haven't run? You've turned to the dark side, man. You've been corrupted. What are you thinking?" He knows that things are serious when Mozzie curses, but he's suddenly so tired that he can't even think straight.
"I—Mozzie, I don't…."
"If you say that you 'don't know', I'm scheduling you for a psychological assessment. You're clearly not in the right state of mind."
He sighs. "Moz, look—"
"And you lied to me. I mean, I've been suspicious for a while now—why else would you keep sticking around unless you had ulterior motives? Though I didn't think that your ulterior motives were getting into the Suit's pants…but the fact that you didn't tell me! That's unforgivable, man!"
"What was I supposed to say? Oh, hey, I'm sleeping with an FBI agent even though it's probably the worst idea I've ever had."
"It is the worst idea you've ever had! And that's saying something, because you've had a lot of bad ideas over the years."
He glares. "Just keep kicking after I'm already down."
Mozzie sighs and then glares at him. But he's adept at reading the nuances of his friend's expressions, and he sees that the initial anger is receding. "Neal, what are you doing man?"
"Honestly, Mozzie, I haven't the faintest idea."
The shorter man hesitates and then crosses the room, sitting in the chair across from. The chessboard sits between them, all the pieces left in the same position from their game the other day. Mozzie looks at him and then sighs. "Well, I'm glad to know that some things never change." Those eyes narrow. "Tell me that you didn't really screw him on the couch."
He gives one of his most charming grins and Mozzie stands. "Bleach," he orders.
Neal grins. "It's under the counter. You're not really going to shower in it, are you?"
"No, I'm going to sanitize the couch."
"Moz," he says with a frown, "you can't put straight up bleach on the couch. It'll stain."
"Watch me. It's either that or burning it."
4. Elizabeth (Oh, She is MAD)
When Peter comes knocking on his door, his face drawn and pale and his eyes dark and sad and almost angry, Neal knows that it's not going to be good. Peter just looks at him and says two words—"She knows"—and then pushes past him. The FBI agent dumps his duffle bag on the floor and settles on the couch, and then he just kind of shuts down.
So, Neal does the only thing that he can think of to do, given the situation.
He goes to the house. He knows that he's activating his anklet—damn two mile radius—but he's pretty sure that this will be worth it. He hopes. He strides up to the front door of the quaint little house and then he pauses on the front step. He's really not prepared to enter into the lion's den; he doesn't have any tidy explanations, and while he's good at improvisation he's been lacking recently. He's been having trouble coming up with convincing lies when everyone seems to know the truth.
And, well, there's just no good explanation for the truth.
Still, he owes it to them, to both of them, to at least try this.
He knocks on the door and then waits, hands shoved in his pockets. The door opens and he finds himself face to face with Elizabeth. She looks oddly composed; he'd been mentally preparing himself for a wreck, but instead of a weeping, sobbing creature he finds himself looking at the same strong woman she's always been. Albeit, her mascara has run a little, drying in stiff black marks like war paint, and her eyes are red, and her lips are chapped.
He's honestly not prepared for the look in her eyes though. As soon as she sees him the emotion in her eyes shifts from melancholy to such fierce anger that he just wants to run away.
"Eliza—." He only gets half of her name out before she slams the door in his face, the force of the motion so strong that the house seems to shudder. He sighs and knocks again. "Elizabeth," he shouts through the door, "I need to talk to you!"
"Go away Neal!" She shouts back, her voice muffled.
He knocks louder. "Elizabeth, please open the door?"
"Yeah, like that's going to work," he hears her say, quieter. "Go away!"
"I'll stay out here all day if I have to!"
"No you won't!" She hollers back. "Just…go away, Neal!" Her voice is getting farther away, and he mentally maps her route, through the living room, through the dining room, probably heading into the kitchen. He scowls at the door, blaming it for all of his problems.
"I don't want to have to do this!" He yells, but there's no reply. "Alright then, Elizabeth," he says in a normal speaking voice, "it's time for more drastic measures." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a slightly worn, much loved leather case. Flipping it open he extracts two of the lock-picks and crouches to put the lock at eye level. "I really hope she didn't lock the deadbolt," he mutters.
It takes him about forty seconds to pick the lock, a fact that he will never tell Peter. Thankfully she didn't set the deadbolt, so he pushes the door open and steps into the familiar house. Elizabeth is nowhere to be seen in the living room or the dining room, and he hadn't heard her on the stairs, so his assumption that she is in the kitchen is probably accurate.
Said assumption is confirmed when he gently—silently—pushes the door to the kitchen open and finds her sitting at the counter, a can of chocolate frosting and a spoon in front of her.
"Isn't that supposed to go on a cake?"
She whirls, spoon held like a weapon, and he holds up his hands to show that he's no threat. Her eyes narrow and she glares at him. "Did you pick the lock on the door?"
"Guilty," he says. He keeps his distance, standing in the doorway, because he's fairly sure she doesn't want to be near him right now. That and he's afraid that she might hit him with the spoon.
She looks away from him, setting her jaw. "Get out of my house, Neal."
"Don't call me that," she says her voice furious. "You have no right to call me by my nickname." He nods.
"You're absolutely right. Elizabeth, please, I just want to talk to you."
She balances the spoon across the top of the frosting container and turns to face him. "Guess what, Neal? I don't particularly want to talk to you right now. You're not exactly at the top of my favorite people list."
"Good. Be sorry. I don't give a damn about how you feel." Her hands curl into fists, and he's half afraid that she's going to fly across the room at him. She shakes her head, shaking a little. "How could you do this, Neal?"
"I didn't mean for—."
"Yes, you did," she says, cutting him off. "If you didn't mean for it to happen then you wouldn't have done it. Remember? You're Neal Caffrey, criminal mastermind. You pretend to live on a whim, but when you want something you plan every last, meticulous detail. You take whatever you want and you think that you're entitled to just because you can."
He thinks that she's being unfair—just a bit—but he doesn't try to say anything. He's the one in the wrong, and he knows it.
She looks away, and he sees the abnormal shine to her eyes. "You know what, Neal? You're selfish. You're a goddamn selfish bastard who does whatever he damn well pleases and takes whatever he wants and doesn't care about who gets hurt in between."
"Elizabeth…," he whispers, and she shakes her head violently.
"No. You listen here. I lost three years of my life to you, when Peter was chasing you. And then, even after he put you away, you were still always there. You couldn't let go, sending him your little birthday cards and presents and always making sure that you were still there. And after he got out I accepted you as a friend, and what did you do? You stole my husband. Again." She shakes her head. "Get out, Neal. I don't want to look at you."
He stands there in the doorway, looking at her. "Elizabeth, for what it's worth, I do think of you as a friend. And I never meant to hurt you. Neither did Peter."
She doesn't look at him. "Well guess what, Neal? You did. And there are some things that you can't just undo, some things you can't take back."
She sighs, her eyes closing. "So am I."
He walks backwards, letting the frosted pane of glass in the kitchen door separate them. Then he turns and leaves, because this is a place where he is no longer wanted, or welcome.
He hopes, he really hopes, that it's all worth it.
5. Kate (Clue: Rumors and Straight-Up Truth)
He knows the moment that he pushes the door open that someone has been there. More to the fact, he knows exactly who it is. There's that trace scent of her perfume—the perfume that he gave her, the one that cost hundreds of dollars—in the air that hits him right when he walks in. Funny, that's she's still wearing it, even know.
He closes the door softly behind him, because he has the idea—feeling, really—that she's not gone. He doesn't think she would have worn the perfume if she didn't mean to be found. He steps quietly through the living room and makes his way for the bedroom.
Sure enough, when he pushes open the door, there she is, standing in front of his open closet. He doesn't make a sound, but she knows he's there, just as much as he knew of her presence the moment he opened the door. Things might have changed, changed beyond recognition, but some things always remain the same.
"Hello, Neal," she says, without turning to face him.
"Hello, Kate," he replies. He leans against the doorframe and just looks at her. She's remarkably unchanged, her hair long and flowing over her shoulders. Her perfume drifts to him, a sweet floral scent that fills the air between them, seeming to grow stronger in the silence.
"I see that the rumors don't lie. You've never shared a closet, not even with me."
"Our apartment had double closets, if you'll recall. We didn't need to share a closet." He stares at the back of her head. "Of course, you didn't come to talk to me about closet space, Kate. Not after you've gone to such great lengths to get me to believe that you were a damsel in distress. I see that plan has fallen through, judging by your presence."
She turns to him. He's not surprised to see that his heart still skips a beat when her eyes meet his; he's sure that his heart will always beat faster in her presence. It's one of those undeniable truths of life, the ones that you cannot escape from.
"Clearly you don't care about me enough to save me, if you're doing this to me." There's heat to her words, a flash to her eyes.
"Care to define what I'm doing to you?"
"Cheating on me with an FBI agent!" She spits. When her face is contorted in anger like that she's not as beautiful. He can see what's really been lying under her mask the whole time, and wonders how he never noticed it before.
"I didn't think that you would care, Kate. After all, you're the one who's been playing me for a fool. How long have I been a mark to you, Kate? How long have you been manipulating me for your own gain?"
"Oh look," she mocks, "Neal Caffrey, the paragon of virtue, lecturing me on the sins of conning people."
His hands curl into fists at his side. "Here's the question, Kate. Are my sins somehow greater than yours? I've never pretended to be in love with a person and then played off of their emotions for me. Not for money, not for anything."
"You've made a fool out of me!"
He raises his eyebrows. "How? Have I shattered your reputation by tossing you to the wayside and picking up with 'the enemy'? I'm fairly sure that you made a fool out of me first." He sighs, shaking his head. "I would have done anything for you, Kate. I'd have thrown myself in front of bullet for you; I'd have given up everything if you'd asked me to."
The anger in her eyes fades a bit, replaced by some kind of grief. "What changed, Neal?"
He straightens and stares right at her, holding her gaze until she rips it away. "You did. And then, so did I. Or perhaps you were lying the whole time, and I was too oblivious to realize it." He looks away for a moment. "Peter asked you before if you ever loved me." She jerks her gaze up. "And you didn't answer him, but he said that when he looked into your eyes he didn't see love or concern. Let me ask you this time. Did you love me, ever? Or was it all a long con, one long game that got away from you in the end?"
She stares at him. Her lips part, as though she is about to answer, but then they seal again without releasing anything more than a breath. Her eyes flicker down. "Once," she finally says.
He's not sure if he believes her or not. He steps from the doorway and she flinches. He pauses and then nods to the open passage. "I believe that you should be going now, Kate."
He shakes his head. "It's over, now. It's done."
She stoops her head low and heads for the door, pausing in the doorway. "Neal…I…I hope that you're happy. With him." He thinks that she's being honest, but he catches that bitter tone on the last word, and at this point he doesn't trust a single word that she says. She leaves without another glance, and he sits on the bed. He lays against the pillows and closes his eyes, as the faint traces of her perfume swirl in the air around him.
He opens his eyes when he hears the sound of footsteps, and he sits up, preparing himself for if she returns to take a final parting shot at him. He relaxes when Peter steps across the threshold of the room and frowns at him.
"Yes." He says, without waiting for the completion of the sentence. Peter stares at him for a moment.
Then, gently: "Well?"
He smiles, tired. "It's over."
He's glad when those arms sweep around him, because he needs the warmth now when he feels so very cold.
And One More: Peter (Three Words)
"I love you," he murmurs, his lips buried into the curve of Peter's neck.
Peter laughs, soft and light; he feels the movement of the man's chest with those chuckles. "I do," he says, and Peter hits him lightly with a pillow.
"Shut up and go to sleep."
"Your wish is my command," he says, and drapes one of Peter's arms around himself like a blanket, feeling the other man adjust himself to accommodate. He closes his eyes and drifts off into the warm darkness, and just as he slips off he feels the warm breath against the back of his neck, and he knows the shape of those lips as they form three little words.
He smiles, and lets himself be pulled into dream world.
It is most definitely worth all the trouble, just to have Peter here.
After all, he makes a great pillow.
Hmm...may have drowned in fluff there at the end. If you review you will recieve one free character of your choice, complete with all accessories (fedora, etc). Free shipping is included.