Title: Uninhibited Truths
Fandom: White Collar
Characters/Pairing: Neal, Peter, Elizabeth (gen)
Word Count: ~1360
Disclaimer: The characters and situations of White Collar do not belong to me. I make no money from this story. Please don't sue.
Warnings: Spoilers for 1x10 "Vital Signs"
Author's Notes: Written for my 25moments table, prompt 23: "memories." Just a little missing scene from the episode "Vital Signs," set just after the scene in Peter's house with Neal laid out on the couch recovering from his 'visit' to the clinic. This is my first fic in the fandom. Feedback is welcome!
Summary: Neal's missing a little time; Peter's being a little cryptic. Missing scene for "Vital Signs."
When Peter steps away to call Jones with the few names from the fax, Elizabeth reappears with the compress. Neal smiles his thanks as she gently settles it back on his forehead. She remains at his side, studying him silently. After a long moment he just smiles at her again, uncertain and still off his game from whatever was in that syringe.
"Are you sure he shouldn't have taken you to the hospital?" she finally asks. If she resents the imposition of a somewhat tipsy conman on her couch he can't tell; all he can read is concern.
"Then he would've had to explain to several inconvenient people why he had to take me to the hospital," Neal responds a little ruefully. "Really Elizabeth, I'm fine. Just a little hung-over."
She gives him an affectionate pat on the arm. "Well, get some rest then."
"We'll need to get back to work soon."
"You know it'll take time for the others to do whatever research has to be done. I'd say you've more than done your part for the day."
He fights back a grin at the slight admonishment in her tone. He expects Peter will be far more blunt with the same sentiment. "I do tend to get results," he dares to say.
Her eyes narrow ever so slightly. "Which is good, as long as you don't get hurt."
"I'm not hurt. I'm just taking a break."
She makes a vague sound of assent. "Thanks to Peter. And me, really, because he is hopeless with women. You were almost at the mercy of his 'magic hands.'"
"I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it sounds like there's a good story behind it."
"Oh, there is. We'll save it for later, after your break." She smiles sweetly. He grumbles, curious now, but she ignores him and reaches for the nearby quilt instead, covering him with an almost maternal sort of care. "Just close your eyes…"
Apparently it's a direction he can't ignore. She retreats to the kitchen, and soon the domestic sort of sounds combined with the steady cadence of Peter's voice in his phone conversation are lulling Neal into a pleasant haze.
When he wakes, he's disoriented and confused about where he is for about half a second. That's how long it takes to spot Peter. He's seated in a chair pulled up beside the couch, chin propped in his hand. There's no television on, no papers in his hand; he's simply watching Neal. He says nothing, though he must notice Neal is now returning the stare.
"Peter," he offers cautiously.
He reaches up absently to tug the now-soggy compress off his head. "Anyone ever tell you that staring thing is a little creepy?"
"It's called surveilling. Got to keep an eye on you, after all."
"Right. I can't walk on my own, but you're worried about me making a run for it."
"Your faith in me is underwhelming," he shoots back lightly.
He's expecting a snappy retort, possibly even something serious about faith being earned by following directions. So he's surprised when Peter just asks abruptly, "How much do you remember?"
"About our heroic escape. You seemed a little fuzzy on the details."
"Well first, a more accurate description would be your heroic rescue. Thanks for that, by the way."
Peter waves away the gratitude. "Yeah, sure. How much?"
"Oh, I'm good right up until they put the needle in my arm. Then the next thing I'm really clear on is being here, on your couch." He blinks at Peter, trying to figure him out. Having no immediate luck, he purposefully looks around as if taking stock of his surroundings. "How did I get to your couch?"
"I dragged you in here. You're heavier than you look."
Neal gives a little huff of laughter. "I think there may be a compliment in there somewhere. You must be stronger than you look."
"You know, it's common courtesy not to return a compliment with an insult."
Neal doesn't really hear him, preoccupied. His own words seemed to have provoked a fuzzy sort of flash—the room spinning crazily as he sat up, Peter solid at his side doing most of the work. "Wow, you're strong," he murmurs.
Something changes in Peter's expression as he apparently recognizes the phrase. He crosses his arms and settles back in his chair, sounding almost wary as he asks, "Coming back to you?"
He tries to focus, to hang onto the elusive images. "I have vague memories of you dragging me around the building. That's about it," Neal answers honestly.
"You were pretty out-of-sorts."
"Did something important happen?"
"You mean other than me saving your life?"
Neal squints at him. "I said something, didn't I? Something that's upsetting you." There are a multitude of crimes he could have inadvertently confessed to, but this feels different. He studies Peter. 'Upsetting' might not be the correct term. It's definitely affecting him though, whatever it is. "You're wondering if I was playing you."
They share an uncomfortably long, intense moment of silence. Neal knows he could just ask what it was that he said, but if Peter doubted him drugged up and inhibition-free, he probably won't believe any assurance now. Still he holds his ground; lets Peter look for whatever he's trying to find in Neal's eyes.
Thus it's Peter who finally breaks the moment, clearing his throat and glancing away before he says, "I just wondered if you remembered the singing."
It's too light-hearted and definitely not what he was wondering, but Neal lets him take the out for now. "There was singing?"
"Oh yeah. You know, you keep surprising me. You can actually carry a tune. I don't know if you can do it coherently of course, but…"
"Thanks, I think. What was I singing?"
"Something about 'man, I feel like a woman…'? It was a little discomfiting."
It startles a laugh from Neal. "You are making that up," he accuses.
There's a telling little smile playing at Peter's lips. "I'm not the conman in this partnership, remember? I don't make things up."
"Embellishing the truth, then." He knows there's a stupid little grin on his face, but he doesn't care.
"What?" Peter asks suspiciously.
"I like it when you call me 'partner.'"
Peter rolls his eyes, but doesn't even bother denying it as he stands. Neal's grin grows.
"Since you're clearly feeling better, so let's get you off my couch." Peter offers a hand. Neal takes it quickly; a little surprised Peter didn't just manhandle him upright again. He only wavers for a second once he's on his feet, Peter's hand on his elbow until he's steady. He moves to fold the quilt as Peter retrieves his jacket.
"Peter?" he ventures when they're ready to go.
"I honestly don't remember what I said. But whatever it was—I'm pretty sure that at that point I wasn't in any state to be making things up either."
The probing stare is back. Neal meets his eyes again, holding still. Finally, Peter nods. "Okay, then." He turns and heads for the door.
Neal blinks at his back. "Wait, you're seriously not going to tell me?"
"I think I'll keep this one to myself."
"But…I was drugged against my will! Withholding information about my missing time can only add to the trauma."
"Right. And whose fault was it that you were in a position to be traumatized in the first place?"
"Mine," he confesses, pouting a little. Peter always responds to Neal's pout, though he'd undoubtedly deny it. "I was just trying to help."
Sure enough, Peter steps a little closer and softens his tone. He probably doesn't even realize he's done it. "So was I, when I told you not to try to run things yourself. You want me to treat you like a partner? Then return the favor."
A mischievous smile crosses his lips. "Shall I swear on my badge?"
Peter huffs. "Why didn't I buy the cereal with the toy car as the prize?"
Neal beams at him. "Because you were thinking of me. It's sweet, really."
"Let's go, Barney Fife. We've got bad guys to catch."