Author's Notes: This was something I did to reorganize my thoughts. The new episodes have causes a massive amount of new fic ideas. I'm beginning to frighten myself with how many ideas I keep coming up with. There are certain themes and moments in this that will reappear in mother fics. (The stuff with Moz will definitely come back.) This is meant to be read like an outline. (Think Dr. Manhattan's voiceover from Watchmen. ...Wow...I just made that reference.) Anyway, it's really a combination of various moments that explore the development of Peter and Neal's relationship. As far as where in the time line this is, well...I can be anywhere you want. Right after Neal gets released into FBI custody, a month after, a year after. It doesn't matter.

Interpret everything and anything that is vague as you would like.

Pairing(s): Peter/Neal

Rating: K+ for some smooching

Disclaimer: I own nothing! Not a thing! I'm not making any money off of this! And shame on me if I ever did!


Snapshots

The first month is the hardest.

Peter never stays the night. In the beginning Neal is grateful for this. He doesn't want to see Peter's guilt or his shame. He looks so pathetic when he gets dressed; trying to avoid looking at anything that will remind him of what he's done. Neal is always hit with a pang of disgust and he can't believe this pitiful creature is the one who caught him. While it's true that on some nights Peter's guilt makes him more enticing, it really only serves to remind Neal of his own. After Peter is gone, all he can do is walk over to the empty wine bottle and stare at it. Anger fills him and any sympathy he might have felt dissipates and he is left cold and alone.

They have trouble coping and connecting with each other. The sex is fast and rough. Neal is left sore and satisfied and empty with a bruise on his hip. He never asks Peter how he feels. They go to work the next day pretending nothing happened. Every day they expect to be discovered and every night they swear it's the last time. It's a pretty lie, but not one they believe and the days go on in what seems to be a never ending routine.

The second month introduces a little change.

Neal notices a difference. It's hard to explain and it's nothing big, but it's there. He finds that as the days go by he wants to be near Peter more often. He finds himself understanding Peter's guilt and feeling a growing sense of shame as his friendship with Elizabeth grows. He finds that it is becoming increasingly harder to sleep when Peter leaves. Before, he never wanted to be kissed goodbye, but now he longs for it. The nights are almost unbearable in their loneliness and it frightens him.

The third month is about being comfortable.

It's becoming harder and harder for Peter to leave. He hesitates at the door and looks back. Whatever he sees on Neal's face makes him sigh. It takes a few moments before he can muster up enough courage to open the door and walk through it. He still doesn't kiss him goodbye, but Neal knows why now. If he were to kiss him that one last time, he would never stop. And, while the prospect of kissing Peter for an eternity is very appealing, the consequences are not. The nights are not so bad now. Mozzie stays over more often and Neal takes comfort in his gentle snores, but he still doesn't sleep.

The fourth month is upsetting.

Mozzie discovers the truth. He walks in on them. It's their fault. It's the middle of the day and they didn't lock to door so, naturally, Moz just strolls in like he usually does. He is greeted with the sight of a very naked Neal Caffrey bent over the table by a very naked Peter Burke. The sounds they're making will stay with him for a very long time. He slips out of the room and bounds out of the house. It has become so difficult not to touch that they don't notice the creek of the floor or the slamming of the door. Neal's moans seem to follow Moz down the street and he walks until his feet ache.

He comes back hours later and just stares at Neal. Neal, for his part, has no idea what's going on and innocently asks if he wants to play a game of chess. Moz explodes. He demands to know what Neal is thinking, if he's lost his mind, if he's finally cracked. He pauses for breath and seems to rethink his position and turns his anger toward Peter, who's not even there to defend himself. He calls him every name he can think of. He accuses him of coercion and rape and Neal, who had vowed silently to suffer through this rant, can't hold his tongue anymore. He makes it perfectly clear that he has not been coerced or raped and that he was the one who originally initiated contact. He's shouting by the end of it and Moz just stares at him until something snaps and his face turns a terrible shade of red. He calls Neal a government whore and tears out of the room.

Neal is not pretending to be okay. He nearly throws a wine glass at the wall when he recounts the tale to Peter, who assures him that everything is going to be fine. It takes two week before Moz comes back with a bottle of wine and wheel of cheese. He apologizes and Neal accepts, though he can't honestly say if he's forgiven him yet. Neal forces him to talk to Peter. It's not so much a talk as the signing of a treaty. Peter tries to be courteous, but Moz is crude and eventually they all give up on civility. Moz stops sleeping over so often and not even the sleeping pills help.

The fifth month relieves some tension.

Neal is certain that Elizabeth knows. He is certain that there is no way she doesn't. He doesn't say anything. He would like to, but a part of him feels like it's not his place. Peter is too afraid to say anything. It's Elizabeth who breeches the subject over pie one night. She just blurts it out. Peter nearly spews pie on Neal who nearly dies choking on his milk. The guilty looks on their faces make her laugh. She comments that she's known since the beginning and if she'd wanted it to stop, she would have said something then. She says she understands. Peter looks like he wants to fall to his knees and worship her. Neal feels similarly. At this point, he doesn't know what he would do without Peter.

Peter takes Satchmo out for a walk leaving Neal and Elizabeth to clean up. He had always thought that things would be odd with El when everything came out in the open. Surprisingly, the whole affair is rather normal and calm. They talk about Peter and about boundaries. Their friendship is not going to suffer because of this. But, when El turns to him with fire in her eyes and tells him that if he ever hurts Peter she will personally see to it that he spends the rest of life in prison, Neal believes her. Her silent staring gaze makes him admit something he hasn't even admitted to Peter yet. El is satisfied and invites him to dinner on Saturday.

The sixth month is about the little things.

Peter starts to kiss him goodbye. He'll smooch him as he runs out or pull him into a deep kiss before reluctantly ducking out of the door. Sometimes Peter lets Neal pull him back into bed and they make love again. He still has trouble sleeping and Peter starts to stay until he's fallen asleep. He cradles him in his arms and strokes his hair and watches his young lover fall asleep. It doesn't work. Neal wakes up three or four hours later to emptiness and cannot get back to sleep. He starts to sketch in these early hours. He doesn't name anything he creates.

The seventh month proves to be slightly difficult.

Peter stays the night for the first time on a Tuesday. It ends up being a disaster. He makes love to Neal and they stay close the whole night. In the morning they make love again and don't bother to look at the clock before they drift back to sleep. Neal wakes up to a frantic Peter who is shouting about being late. Peter is forced to throw on the same suit he wore the day before and Neal doesn't have time for a shower. It makes them extremely self conscious.

The day is hectic and they are forced to run around the city in hopes of catching a murdering counterfeiter. The amount of urgency in the case doesn't allow time for comments about Peter's suit. Neal is conscious all day of the fact that he smells like sex and so is Peter. He inhales deeply every time they pass each other. Peter fancies he can smell himself on Neal halfway across the room. At the end of the day it's Jones who says something. To any outsider it's just a passing comment, but to them it's frighteningly obvious that Jones has figured it out. Peter doesn't spend the night again for some time.

The eighth month is productive.

They solve several high profile cases and it seems that they are constantly working. They spend more time at the office than they do at home. They spend one week separated by paperwork and newly developed sleeping patterns. They miss home. Peter has officially started spending the night and he keeps spare clothes at June's. Neal keeps extra clothing in the closet of the Burke's guest room, just in case. It all feels very domestic. For the first time in a very long time Neal paints. He thinks he'll call the piece "Overtime." It makes Peter laugh and kiss his neck. They are beginning to think everything is perfect.

The ninth month is, unfortunately, about death.

They bring down a huge counterfeiting ring the mob was using. Needless to say the mob is not pleased. They want revenge, but they aren't dumb enough to kill an FBI agent. They debate about going after the wife, but the appeal of cutting up the pretty boy who helped bring them down is overwhelming. They wait and they watch and they pick a night when he's been working for nearly 24 hours. They send in their man with orders to carve up his pretty hands.

Neal doesn't notice the figure standing in the corner when he opens the door to his room. He's still laughing at something and when he turns he's not expecting a burly arm to lock around his throat. He chokes and struggles and lands a kick to the shins. He's free for a second before he's pulled back. Neal fights as hard as he can. He goes so far as to even bite his attacker. He manages to scream for Peter before a rough hand cuts him off.

Peter is the one factor the mob has underestimated. When he hears his name he flies up the stairs two at a time, leaving June gasping in fear, and bursts into the room gun drawn. In the dark and with the two figures struggling he can't see to get a clear shot off and he won't risk hitting Neal. He does the next logical thing. He grabs a wine bottle from a shelf, rushes forward, and slams the glass bottle down on the intruder's head. The man goes limp and as Neal gasps for breath Peter has him in his arms, their feet crunching the broken glass on the floor.

Neal's trip to the hospital is short lived. He doesn't have any serious injuries and they discharge him. Peter doesn't even ask if Neal wants to stay the night with him, he just drives home. It's two days before Neal can go back to his apartment. The first thing he notices is the broken shards of glass. Part of him is mourning all the memories that bottle had held. The other part doesn't care. When Peter apologizes for breaking it, Neal shrugs it off and kisses him. It saved his life after all.

The tenth month is about ruin and traitorous behavior.

There is a level of trust between Neal and Peter that neither of them has experienced before. This trust is flimsy at first, but it grows steadily with the bond between them. By this time, it is a strong and resolute connection that looks as though it could withstand a hurricane. But, when Kate comes back, Neal runs. The lure of answers is too much for him. Peter supposes he should have seen this coming, but the betrayal shatters something in him and he's not sure he'll be able to forgive Neal this time.

Reuniting with Kate is nothing like what he thought it would be. When he'd first gotten out of prison, he dreamt about meeting her again. This isn't anything like the warm and loving reunion that had filled his imagination. She is cold and distant and there is a ruthlessness to her that he has never seen before. She asks more questions than she answers. He doesn't feel the need to lie, not to her, not now. When they get to Peter, she whips around and glares coldly accusing him of never loving her. It doesn't take long for him to deduce that the anger in her eyes is not about being unloved, but about her loss of control. The conversation ends fairly swiftly after that and Neal declares that he doesn't want to see her again. She kisses him goodbye and he goes home with a bitter taste in his mouth.

The eleventh month is about fixing things.

In grand total he's only gone for about a day, but it's enough. When he gets back Peter isn't speaking to him. El slaps him and hugs him and then calls him an idiot. When Hughes asks to see him he's certain he's being sent back to prison, but Hughes just frowns at him and tells him not to keep pushing his luck. Lauren pities him and the only thing Jones says is, "Peter has sacrificed too much for you." It doesn't take long for Neal to figure out what he means.

Talking to Peter is easy; it's getting him to listen that's the hard part. There is no number of apologizes that will make Peter happy and Neal knows exactly what Peter has done to keep him out of prison. He knows just how devastating this could have been for his career. He knows he scared him. Eventually they settle for the calm comfortableness that descends between them. It will take a long time before Peter is willing to forgive him. The nights are restless and unwelcome.

The twelfth month is about confessions.

Peter confesses that the day Neal was gone was the worst day of his life. He confesses that out of some jealousy or selfishness he had wanted Neal to forget all about Kate. Neal confesses that he doesn't think he'll ever forget about her. He confesses that he never meant to hurt anyone, especially not Peter. He says he had to know. He admits that he made a mistake. Peter gathers him up and holds him close and kisses him slowly. They make love for the first time in too long.

As they lay in Neal's bed, curled around each other, Peter whispers "I love you" in his ear. Neal buries his face in Peter's neck and repeats it as many time as he can before his voice cracks and the tears start. He thinks back to that first night they spent together and how disgusted he had been with Peter and how holy Kate had seemed. He thinks about how odd it is that the roles have reversed. He cries and Peter holds him and soothes him and tells him everything is going to be just fine. He falls asleep knowing it's the truth.


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