Author's Note: This story takes place during the episode 'Vital Signs', and has bits of the show in it. If you haven't seen the episode, it might not make sense. This story is also a continuation of my two previous White Collar stories.
You're the Only One
As Peter waited on the phone, he wondered if he should get his blood pressure checked. Working with Neal seemed to bring an added level of stress to his job.
"Is Neal in trouble?" Elizabeth asked.
"Yeah," Peter answered. "He's in a lot of trouble."
He heard the person on the other end of the line pick up. "Agent Burke, we have him located at 626 Williams Street."
Peter snapped his phone shut, with growing apprehension. He got out the business card Melissa had given him, and looked at the address. "Caffrey!" he said with anger. He looked at his wife and said, "I told him not to go to that clinic. I told him!" Tossing the card onto the kitchen table in frustration, he continued. "But he's Neal. He doesn't think."
He shook his head, and pulled on his suit jacket. "They're gonna send him back to prison for this. What I have to do is call Judge Shivero and get a warrant."
Not liking the sound of that at all, Elizabeth shook her head. "Why don't you just get someone to… I don't know, show you the place?" She picked up Melissa's business card and showed it to her husband. "If she invites you in, that's okay right?"
Peter considered that for a few seconds. Putting Neal back in prison was something he threatened often enough, but the longer he worked with the kid, the less inclined he was to actually do it. And if he were being honest with himself, he'd admit that it was something he would actively try to prevent. He took his jacket back off and took the business card from his wife. "Help me so she'll agree?"
Relieved that her husband was willing to try this instead of getting a warrant, she gave him a nod.
# # #
Peter had arrived at the building in record time, and quickly slipped away from Melissa, after she unintentionally helped get him past the guard. He wandered the second floor, and heard a distant singing. "Neal?" he mumbled, as he got closer to the closed door.
He opened the door a crack, and saw Neal laying on a hospital bed in restraints. "Oh my God," he said as he scanned the room, for other occupants. It was obvious that Neal had been drugged.
Neal sang loudly, "High on a…" and trailed off.
Once he knew they were alone, Peter came in, and closed the door behind him. "What did they do to you?" he asked, walking towards his partner.
"Hey buddy!" Neal said with an uninhibited smile."
"Neal." Peter said, trying to assess the damage.
"Hi," Neal said. Then as Peter was looking him over, he sang loudly again, "High on a windy hill…"
"Hey, sh, sh, sh!" Peter tried to shush him. Once Neal was quiet and somewhat focused on Peter's face, Peter said, "Alright, we have to get you out of these restraints."
"Oh you mean these?" Neal asked with a grin, and pulled his hands up in the air. The restraints fell to the floor. "What! Never met a lock I couldn't pick," he said with pride, but his voice took on a sullen tone when he added, "Except my anklet."
Pleased that he didn't have to take the time to get the restraints off his partner, Peter said, "Alright. Come on."
Neal continued as if Peter hadn't said anything, "I don't know what it is about…"
Peter put a hand on his arm, and started to haul him into a sitting position.
"You're strong," Neal commented, and then said to the air, "He's strong."
Peter started to put a hand under the kid's knees to lift him, but Neal pushed the hand away. "I got it, I got it." he said, as he pushed himself to standing, and promptly fell face first onto the floor.
Wincing in sympathy, Peter reached down and pulled him up. He put one of Neal's arms around his shoulders, and helped him walk out the door and down the hall. Neal tried to put one foot in front of the other, but his feet wouldn't do what he told them to do, and instead found himself singing again. Peter needed a few seconds to think, and snuck them into a conference room. He tried to situate the kid so he was sitting on the floor, but he fell face first again onto the carpet.
"Easy. Come on," Peter said, as he propped him up into a sitting position against the wall. Once Neal was sitting, the two made eye contact. Peter took one look at the innocent expression that Neal gave him and lost his temper. "I can not believe you! Why would you do something like this!"
Neal scoffed, "Peter. I've done sooooo many worse things you don't even know about."
Frustrated, Peter said, "Just shut up." Then after a pause he said, "Like what things?"
Smirking, Neal said, "You remember the Yinyack manuscripts?"
"You took those?" Peter found it hard to believe. "How?"
"Carrier pigeons. Think about it," Neal was clearly proud of himself.
Peter shook his head and realized they needed to concentrate on the problem at hand.
Neal continued, "Who cares though, Peter? It's not what's important," he needed to make sure Peter understood. Peter's opinion of him mattered, even if he didn't want it to. "It's not about money. It's about people."
"Good," Peter answered with a glare. He didn't understand how Neal didn't see how serious their predicament was. "Because you're going to be spending a lot of quality time with people in orange jump suits once I get you out of here."
Neal's expression did turn serious at that. "Right. I'm going down once they see those security tapes of me breaking in here."
Peter hadn't even thought about that. "Those surveillance cameras," he muttered to himself. His first thought was that he had to steal them. He was shocked by his own thought. It was his duty to uphold the law, not break it.
Before Peter could decide what to do, Neal looked up at him and said, "Before I go back, you should know this." He grabbed the lapel of Peter's suit jacket, and pulled him closer, wanting to be clear. "Out of all the people in my life. Mozzie… Even Kate, you know. You're the only one."
"The only one what?" Peter asked softly.
"You're the only person in my life I trust." Neal saw the surprise in Peter's face, and knew he'd gotten his point across. It had taken a lot of effort to get that idea out past his muddled thoughts, and now he leaned back against the wall to relax.
Peter closed his eyes for a second. He'd never forget the honesty and trust he'd seen in Neal's face as he said that. He opened his eyes, and saw the kid staring off into the distance in a drug induced haze. There was just no way he was going to let him go back to prison for this. He put a hand out and rubbed Neal's head once, before squeezing his shoulder in comfort to let him know he understood, and that he believed him.
Making a decision, Peter got his handcuffs out, and snapped them onto Neal's wrist. He snapped the other end to the leg of a chair. Neal looked at him with confusion, and Peter ordered, "Don't. Pick. This."
Peter left, and Neal looked down at the cuffs with a frown. It wasn't easy to gauge time with his muddled brain, but it seemed like Peter was taking a long time. Neal hated being cuffed. He hated feeling trapped. But Peter's orders kept invading his head, and kept him from doing what he normally would do.
Neal looked at the innocent looking cuffs and said, "I could slip you off. That wouldn't be picking. That'd be slipping. But…" The song popped into his head again, and he couldn't keep his thoughts focused.
Suddenly Peter was back with a little black tape in his hand. "What is that?" Neal asked.
"Surveillance tape," Peter said. He stuck it in his jacket pocket as he undid Neal's cuffs.
"Peter." Neal had trouble believing Peter had just broken the law for him.
"Let's go," he said, and hauled Neal up again.
"You stole that for me?"
Peter could hear a touch of pride, and hero worship in the kid's voice. "Yeah. It's a real Kodak moment. Now focus on walking so we can get out of here before they catch us."
# # #
Not quite able to believe they'd made it out of the building, Peter thanked his lucky stars that Elizabeth had given him this idea. After getting Neal in the car, and buckling his seatbelt for him, Peter called home.
"Peter?" Elizabeth answered with anxiety in her voice.
"I got him," he assured her. "We're headed home."
"They gave him some kind of heavy sedative."
"I'll have an ice bag ready." Knowing that she was setting aside her irritation with him to help him take care of Neal, made him love her even more.
By the time Peter had started the car, Neal was asleep. When he pulled up at home, Elizabeth came out to meet them at the car. Peter shook Neal's shoulder, and Neal woke up. He looked up at Peter and Elizabeth, and shook his head once, trying to remember why he was there. He instantly regretted the movement, when sharp pain shot through his head. "Ah!" he said, and put the heal of his hand on his forehead.
Peter leaned into the car, and said, "Come on. Let's get you inside."
Neal felt Peter's hand on his arm, and got out of the car. It was all coming back to him now. They'd drugged him. Peter had come to get him out.
Peter noticed that his partner was walking much better then before. The drugs were wearing off. As they walked into the house, Peter said, "Feeling better?"
"No, not better. Worse. Much, much worse."
Elizabeth had the couch set up with a pillow and a blanket, and gestured for Peter to help Neal sit down. Once Neal was sitting, Peter let go, and Elizabeth took over. She said, "Let's get you comfortable," and started to take off his jacket.
Neal's head hurt too much to protest. Soon he was in his tee shirt, and slacks. Elizabeth said, "Lay down."
Somewhere in the back of his head, he thought he should protest, but didn't have the strength. He lay down, and felt someone take off his shoes for him. They covered him with some blankets, and then he felt a cold bag being put on his head. He took a deep calming breath, and let himself relax completely. He could hear Peter and Elizabeth talking above him, but had trouble focusing on anything other then the pain in his head.
"Should we give him something for his headache?" Elizabeth asked.
Peter shook his head. "I don't know what they gave him, so he'll just have to wait for it to wear off."
Peter looked down, and could tell Neal would be out of it for a while. He steered his wife into the dining room, and pulled out the tape he'd stolen. "I need to burn this."
"What is it?"
"They had surveillance footage of him sneaking in."
Once she realized what that statement meant, she said, "I'll get the matches."
# # #
Neal woke to the sound of voices. After a few months in prison, he'd learned not to open his eyes when he first woke up, especially if there were hushed voices near you. It was always better to figure out what the people were talking about while they still thought you were asleep.
He heard Elizabeth's hushed whisper; "Don't you think he's suffered enough?"
"He wouldn't have suffered at all if he'd listened to me in the first place," Peter whispered back.
Neal didn't like the sound of that. I have suffered enough, he thought, and then realized his head didn't hurt anymore. He felt normal again, and he was sure the drugs had worn off.
"He's trying to help June," Elizabeth pointed out. Neal thought, That's right. I am trying to help June. I had a good reason to go in there. Peter will understand that.
"And I'm not?" Peter hissed.
"That's not what I meant and you know it!" Her whispering was getting louder.
There was a sigh from Peter, and then in a much more controlled tone he said, "If we'd been caught today, he'd be back in prison, and I'd be out of a job or in prison with him. This can't happen again."
Neal felt his stomach lurch. He'd heard that tone from Peter before, and it didn't bode well for him. He decided sympathy from Elizabeth would be his best bet. He opened his eyes, and let out a groan. "Ohhh."
Elizabeth rushed to the couch to check on him. He reached up for the bag of melted ice that was on his head and said, "My head is killing me."
"Neal?" she said, getting his attention. "Are you alright?"
He shook his head no slightly and forced a wince.
"Hey, what about me?" Peter said. His wife hadn't asked him once if he was okay since getting home. She'd fussed all over Neal, even while he slept, and had done nothing but argue with him.
Her eyes snapped to his, and she said, "There are some dishes that need to be washed. Mr. Magic Hands."
She looked back at Neal and said, "Do you want some more ice?"
Peter cringed, as he realized his wife was still irritated about Melissa's comment. Well really about the fact that he'd rubbed Melissa's back, and hadn't exactly told her about it. He wondered how much of Elizabeth's arguing on Neal's behalf had been tied into that. And he wondered how much apologizing he'd have to do before she forgave him.
Neal gave Elizabeth a wide-eyed pathetic stare, and nodded yes while holding out the bag.
"Okay. I'll get you some." Her voice was dripping with sympathy.
Peter took a good look at Neal, and knew he was playing it up. Once his wife was in the kitchen, Peter and Neal made eye contact. Neal didn't like the glare Peter was giving him. Peter sat down on the coffee table and said, "You'd better have found something."
Neal held onto the thought that Peter would calm down once he proved the trip had been worth it. "I saw a list full of wealthy clients. All of them willing to pay for organs if the time comes."
"Be nice if we could prove it," Peter said.
"Maybe we can. There was another list. Hundreds of names and blood types."
"Your fax." Peter picked it up from the coffee table. "That's what this is."
"Must be the donors Powell's been targeting."
Once Neal got a look at the paper, he said with disappointment, "Only for names came through?"
"Four is enough. We can start with them."
Elizabeth came back out with the bag full of new ice, and handed it to Neal. "Thanks," he said.
"Do you want something to drink? Some tea maybe?"
"Some tea would be great. Thank you."
Elizabeth went back to the kitchen, and while Neal watched her leave, Peter searched the kid's face for signs of pain. Once Elizabeth was out of the room, Neal turned back to Peter, and knew he was being scrutinized. He forced another wince for Peter's benefit.
Peter shook his head. This time had been more obvious then the last, and now he knew without a doubt that Neal was faking it. He stood up abruptly, and muttered, "Be right back."
Peter went to the kitchen, and the door swung shut behind him. He went to Elizabeth who was filling the teakettle with water, and whispered, "He's faking it."
"Faking the headache?" she whispered back.
"Do you think he overheard us? Maybe he knows what you're planning to do once he feels better."
"But that's just it. He's a con man. If he really wanted me to believe that he was in pain, he wouldn't be slipping up the way he just did."
"Maybe the medication hasn't worn off all the way."
"Maybe," he took a second to consider that possibility.
"Oh," Elizabeth said.
She put a hand on his arm and said, "Or maybe he wants you to see past the con."
"Think about it. He said he trusted you more then anyone else in his life right?"
Peter's expression softened, "Yeah."
"He's nervous that you're going to be upset with him for what he's done, and his gut reaction is to con you into believing that he's still hurt."
Peter nodded, following that logic so far.
"But he can't pull it off, because subconsciously he doesn't really want to. He trusts that you'll be fair and consistent with him even when you're angry. He trusts you to see it when he's trying to hide something. And he trusts you to tell him about it when he's in the wrong."
Shaking his head, Peter said, "If he trusts me that much, why not just be honest?"
"Because he doesn't want you to spank him, even if he knows he deserves it."
While Peter thought that over, she put the kettle on to boil.
In the living room, Neal was anxiously trying to convince himself that Peter wasn't considering spanking him. I didn't steal anything, and I didn't lie to him. He can't expect me to just sit buy and do nothing when June's granddaughter needs help. But he gave me that glare, and he had to break the law to get me out of there. Damn it! Why did Elizabeth have to call him Mr. Magic Hands in front of me! Like I needed that reference in my head, when I'm trying to avoid thinking about his hands.
He heard the teakettle whistle in the kitchen, and closed his eyes, trying to put a little tension in his eyebrows to convey pain.
Elizabeth and Peter came out together. She set the cup of tea on the coffee table and said, "Here you go."
"Thank you," Neal said, and moved deliberately slowly to sit up, and winced again.
"Wow," Elizabeth said. Now that Peter had pointed it out, it was obvious to her that Neal was faking it.
"You see it too?" Peter asked.
Neal froze, and his eyes darted between the two people standing above him. He watched Elizabeth nod to her husband. "What?" Neal asked nervously.
Elizabeth sat down next to him, and rubbed a hand up and down his back. "I've got to leave for a meeting, but why don't you stay for dinner tonight. I'm sure you'll feel more like yourself again by then."
"That's a nice offer," Neal hedged, "but it might be better for me to go home and sleep it off. Maybe you could even give me a lift?"
"He'll be here," Peter said.
"But I…" Neal started to protest.
Elizabeth shook her head, and gave him a slight frown.
He trailed off, and looked up at Peter. His arms were crossed, and he had a look of disappointment on his face. Neal instantly realized that they knew. He wasn't sure how they knew, but it was clear that they did. He pouted, and looked down at his lap. "I guess I'll be here."
She patted his back once, and stood up to go. "I'll see you two tonight."
Once she was gone, the house grew silent. Neal kept his face turned to his lap for as long as possible, but less then five minutes later, he looked up and said, "I had to help June."
Peter gave him a noncommittal grunt, and turned towards the stairs, "Satchmo!"
The dog came bounding down the stairs towards them. Peter walked to the bathroom, pointed towards it, and said, "In here, Boy."
Satchmo went into the bathroom, and Peter shut the door behind the dog, before turning back to Neal.
Neal could hear Satchmo whine, and had to agree. "What's going on?" he asked, while pushing himself back against the couch cushions, and away from Peter.
"I think you know," Peter said, and hauled him up off the couch by his upper arm. Blankets spilled to the floor, as Neal scrambled to keep his feet under him.
"No, Peter! Wait!" Neal said, while Peter pulled him towards the dining area.
"If you'd just give me a chance to explain!" he said, as he watched Peter take one of the chairs out and turn it around to face the living room.
Peter kept a hand on the kid's arm and said, "What did I say about going to that office?"
Neal swallowed convulsively. "They were shredding documents. By the time the FBI had access to the records, they'd be clean."
Peter sat down and pulled Neal face down over his lap in one move. "What did I say about going to that office?" he repeated while he secured Neal's legs between his own.
"I said we should check it out, and you said one word. Can't." Neal spit the last word out, obviously finding it distasteful.
"So by can't you thought I meant; go get us some information illegally, and while you're at it, why don't you get yourself caught and drugged?"
Neal refused to comment, even though he had plenty of biting retorts.
"You knew that I'd told you not to go, but you did it anyway."
"Guess that means I can, doesn't it." Neal regretted saying those words the second they were out of his mouth. He knew they weren't going to help his situation, but it was all so frustrating. He'd been trying to help June, and he didn't see how Peter could just overlook that.
Peter couldn't believe Neal had just given him lip while in this position, and started spanking the seat of Neal's slacks.
"Ow!" he complained.
Peter could clearly hear annoyance in Neal's tone, and not much in the way of repentance, or even pain. He decided that anymore discussion could wait until the kid had a better attitude, and concentrated on laying down heavy swats.
Neal hated being stuck over Peter's lap even more then he hated being handcuffed. At least with handcuffs he had a chance of getting out of them. He 'owed' his way through the first twenty swats, and found himself getting angry. "I won't apologize for trying to help my friend!" he yelled.
Peter paused and looked down at the back of Neal's head. "That's not what this is about."
Squirming in frustration, Neal tried to get his legs out from between Peter's, but Peter just held him tighter.
"Hey, look at me."
Neal looked over his shoulder, and glared at him.
Striving to keep his voice calm, Peter said, "I am not spanking you for trying to help June. You brought me this case, and we're doing everything we can legally do to help her out." Peter saw the kid's glare falter. "I'm spanking you, because you didn't trust me."
"What?" Neal immediately shook his head in protest. "I do trust you. I told you that you're the only person I trust… or did I imagine that?"
"You didn't imagine it."
"Then you just don't believe me?" There was hurt in his voice.
"I believe that you trust me more then you trust anyone else. But actions speak louder then words, and your actions say you don't trust me."
"I trusted you enough to bring the case to you. I trusted you enough to fax that information to you. I even trusted you enough to not to slip the cuffs off."
"And that's a positive start, but you didn't trust me enough to tell me what you were planning last night. And you didn't trust me to find a way to bust Powell without you putting your neck on the line."
The two men kept eye contact for a few seconds, while Neal thought that over. He broke contact first, and turned back to the floor in front of him. "If I'd told you what I was planning, you would have said no," he muttered.
"You're damn right I would have told you no!" Peter emphasized that with six hearty slaps to Neal's backside.
That's more like it. Peter finally heard honesty and regret in Neal's reaction. He continued to lecture, ending each sentence with six swats to show his displeasure. "I already told you no once, I shouldn't have to say it twice. I said no, because I'm trying to keep you out of prison. You won't be any good to me, or to June, rotting in a cell. If you know I'm going to say no to a plan, then you should come up with a new one. If you'd put enough trust in me to tell me about the plan, after I said no, I would have helped you come up with a different plan."
Neal yelled, "I'm sorry!" during the last round of swats. The pain was building to intolerable levels, and the guilt was sneaking its way into the front of his brain.
Without pause, Peter kept on lecturing and swatting. "But even if we hadn't been able to come up with a different plan, and even if they had fixed their records, I wouldn't have stopped trying to catch Powell."
"Ow! Peter! I said I'm sorry!"
"When I tell you not to do something you need to trust that I have a good reason."
"Okay! I will! Owww! I will!" Neal could felt his eyes filling, and desperately hoped Peter would finish before they spilled over. "No more, Peter! Please! I'm sorry!" But the last swat sent him over the edge, and a tear slipped out.
Hearing sincerity in Neal's words, Peter stopped for a few seconds and looked down at his head. He heard a few sniffles from the kid, and watched him wipe at his face with the back of a hand. With a loud sigh, Peter said, "Do you have any idea how scared I was today?"
"Scared?" he asked, as he wiped his face again.
"Scared that you'd get sent back to prison." He unconsciously gripped Neal tighter around the middle. "Scared that they'd hurt you before I could get there."
Overwhelmed by his emotions, Neal felt more tears run down. He took a shaky breath, and choked out a very sincere, "I'm sorry."
"Never again," Peter said.
While rapidly nodding in understanding, Neal tried to quiet his crying.
"Okay then." Peter let go of Neal's legs, and helped him to stand. From his seated position, Peter caught a glimpse of the kid's face before he had a chance to turn and hide it. He'd looked miserable, and Peter doubted he'd have to go over this lesson again.
Needing to get away for a few minutes so he could compose himself, Neal said, "I'll go let Satch out."
Understanding, Peter said, "Okay," and busied himself putting the chair away and putting the blankets back on the couch. A few seconds later, Satchmo came and rubbed his head against Peter's leg and whined. Peter reached down and scratched him behind the ears and whispered, "I agree."
Neal stood in the bathroom, and tried to talk himself into facing Peter again. He'd gotten the crying under control pretty quickly, and then he'd rubbed his butt until the immediate sting was down to a dull throb. But now he found it nearly impossible to go back out to the living room. Staring at himself in the mirror, he didn't like what he saw. He was in his undershirt, gray slacks, and black socks. His hair was mussed, and his eyes were red and puffy. He groaned, wishing he had his suit on to help him feel more like an adult.
A knock on the door startled him. "You okay in there?" Peter asked.
"Be right out," Neal said, wishing the bathroom had a window he could climb out of.
Taking a deep breath for courage, Neal opened the door. He found himself face to face with Peter. Neal felt himself blushing, not just because he was embarrassed about the spanking and the crying, but also because he was ashamed of what he'd done.
Peter surprised him, by putting a companionable arm across his shoulders. "Feeling better?" he asked, as he started them walking towards the living room.
Thinking that was a pretty stupid question, Neal said, "What do you think?"
Squeezing his shoulder, Peter said, "I think you should help me look up the names on that list."
Happy to turn his thoughts towards work, Neal nodded in agreement. When they got to the couch, Peter let his arm drop. Neal looked at the couch with disdain as he thought about sitting, and grabbed his button down shirt to put it on.
Peter sat and said quietly, "You know I'm going to do everything I can to help June, right?"
"Yeah, Peter. I know. If I didn't think you would, I wouldn't have told you about it in the first place."
Satisfied with that answer, Peter nodded and booted up his laptop.
Once Neal was fully dressed again, he felt better. He frowned at the couch, but went to sit down next to Peter. He tried to cover up his wince when he sat, and felt Peter's eyes on him. He saw Peter's amused smile and pouted. "You're laughing at me?"
"You'd laugh too, if you'd seen your face when you were pretending to have a headache. Completely different from your face now."
"Hey, I've fooled plenty of people before. I was just off my game from the drugs."
"Could be. Or maybe you've just never trusted anyone enough to fake it so badly before."
"What?" Neal's expression clearly said that he thought Peter was crazy.
Peter handed him the list of names and said, "Read me the first one, and let's see what we can find."
Neal took the paper, and read the first name. While Peter looked it up, Neal worried about Peter's statement. The more time he spent with Peter, the less he was able to lie to him or con him. He didn't know if that was because he was growing to trust Peter, or if it was because Peter was growing to trust him. But whatever the reason, it would make things much harder if Neal ever felt the need to run.