Disclaimer: I own nothing about the White Collar series, its characters or plotlines, including any recognizable dialogue. Why rub it in?
Spoilers: Free Fall (forgive any inconsistencies, as I've only seen the episode once)
Summary: "I didn't let you down." And his eyes speak volumes.
A/N: Yeah, so I lied. I'm completely obsessed with the show. :) Expect to see a few more fics, at least, within the next few days/weeks/months. One side note, though:
As stated on my page, only in very rare circumstances does the word ONESHOT or the "complete" tag on the story not mean that the story is, in fact, complete. I don't like feeling like I'm stringing people along, even though I've done everything in my power to assure them that there is no more story if it's marked 'complete.'
"I didn't let you down," Neal says, conviction and honesty dripping from the phrase, his eyes clear and open as he stares up from his seat. Peter holds that gaze, trying to find the answers to all the questions he has, all the suspicions that have been raised; something to replace the damn ocean of doubt he's swimming in now. The look in Neal's eyes speaks volumes, accentuated by the dingy cinderblock walls, echoing corridors, and almost bright enough lights buzzing overhead, by the lack of levity in those piercing blue eyes, the occasional sound of chains as he shifts in his seat, and the way that orange jumpsuit emphasizes the pallor and shadows on a face unaccustomed to them. But when those expressive baby blues -- so often a tool, as dexterous as his artist's hands -- fall away from his scrutiny, something within Peter splinters and the last anchor against his suspicions vanishes.
Incredulous, he shakes his head as he turns away, leaving heavy, cloying silence in his wake. He's gotten so used to Neal's presence at his side, he has to close his eyes and make himself continue out the doors into the sunlight without the younger man. He pauses on the threshold, eyes closed, head down, his thoughts a whirlwind with no distinguishable pattern and just one central theme: he wants the truth, regardless of source. And, since he can't (and is legally unable to) deal with Neal right now, he heads back to the office.
Later, when El asks him who he believes, he doesn't even hesitate, even as Neal's earnest blue eyes flash through his mind. "Neal says he didn't. I don't believe him." His inability to hold Peter's gaze is just too damning, even if the con man was too smart to have signed anything he put his hand to twice. He looks away from the searching look Elizabeth gives him, unable to face the questions in her eyes. It makes him think of Neal again ("I didn't let you down") and the comparison sends a wash of guilt over him. Frustrated, not knowing what to think, he grabs his coffee cup and heads to the kitchen.
He does his job, though with less enthusiasm than in the past. When dealing with Neal's exploits before, it had been a game and every new clue was an interesting piece in the puzzle, another hint of the man behind the legend. Now that he knows the man, has worked with him, spent time one-on-one with him, each new piece of incriminating evidence is further proof of Neal's involvement in the heist, making the feeling of being duped more pervasive, allowing anger to cover over any doubts about the situation.
But at odd moments -- a quiet break shortly after Jones announces that Neal's 'attorney' has requested his entire file, after learning Caffrey's purchased a bakery downtown -- he can't help but rethink his position and his conviction wavers.
"I didn't let you down."
He's not sure either way, can't decide if he truly thinks Neal did it or not. He decides, however, that he never wants to see Neal pull another stunt like this again as he stares up at the con man's familiar figure on the window ledge. He can't read Neal's intentions, not from four-stories away, can't think clearly with his heart in his throat as he watches. His jaw drops as Caffrey leaps gracefully off the ledge, falling carefully to land on the awning of the bakery -- the bakery -- below. Peter doesn't know if he's more shocked or worried after that foolhardy stunt. But when the kids drops to the ground a second later, all of the old challenge and daring in his eyes as he shrugs in mock-apology, he settles on exasperated and shakes his head at the risks Neal's willing to take. A smile plays at the corners of his mouth as he reads the full story in that blue gaze, so intense even at a distance. Suddenly he knows what and who he believes; Neal wouldn't pull a stunt as elaborate as this unless he's got a point to prove. He's inthevan-notinthevan in an instant and Peter lets his amusement show as he heads over, slowly, delaying the inevitable though his phone is in hand and the necessary number is already half-dialed. 'Cause he knows the only way he's getting the whole story is if he plays by Neal's rules. And playing by Neal's rules sometimes means bending everyone else's.
"I didn't let you down."
Time to break out the roadblocks and wanted posters, an illusion as effective as a magician's smoke and mirrors when the infamous Neal Caffrey wants to make an escape.