Fandom/Pairing: White Collar friendship-mentor Peter/Neal
Summary: Peter lent Neal something precious. Neal's being stubborn about giving it back.
The book excerpts are from one of my all time fave novels, 'Going Postal' by Terry Pratchett. The man is a fracking genius, people. Read his stuff. You'll go ROFLMAO and never recover, I swear to God... and you'll learn a few things about human nature along the way. He's so good, you won't even mind the second part.
As Neal strolled nonchalantly into Peter's office, the older man glanced at the book he'd now been carrying for two weeks and noted that the bookmark still hadn't moved. Suppressing a grin, he looked back up to Neal's face and held out his hand.
Neal paused, frowned and dropped into the chair across from Peter.
"Not done yet."
"You'll never be done. You'll never get past page 96 and El wants to read it again. Give it." he commanded, quickly curling and uncurling his hand once or twice.
"How do you know what page I'm on?" Neal protested, pulling the hardcover book a little further away so it couldn't just be snatched. Peter tossed him a ' Duh!' look and dropped his hand. His young charge was gazing curiously at the baited hook. Now to get him to bite and swallow without suspecting what was actually going on.
"I've read the thing twenty times. I just thought you might enjoy the story. You like Douglas Adams. Pratchett has a similar style, so..."
Neal was silent for several minutes, staring at his friend and supporter with narrowed eyes, as though the other man had sprouted claws and fangs and intended to leap across the desk and do him great bodily harm. Peter held his composure and turned back to the paperwork he'd been puttering with when Neal had entered. When the younger man did finally speak, it wasn't exactly what Peter had been hoping for, but he knew he could work with it.
"Prove it." Neal demanded.
"Prove what?" Peter asked, lifting his gaze once more.
"Prove you read it."
"You want me to do a book report? This isn't third grade and I'm not nine years old anymore, Neal."
"Fine, you don't want your book back..."
Peter sighed and rolled his eyes, but inside he was laughing and dancing the Macarena.
"Never an easy day with you... what section?"
"I don't care. You pick."
"Okay. Yeah... one of the best parts, right at the beginning 'The first interesting thing about angels, Mr. Lipwig, is that sometimes, very rarely, at a point in a man's career where he has made such a foul and tangled mess of his life that death appears to be the only sensible option, an angel appears to him, or, should I say *unto* him, and offers him a chance to go back to the moment when it all went wrong, and this time do it *right*. Mr. Lipwig, I should like you to think of me as... an angel.' "
Neal went back to staring at Peter, though his expression had shifted from wary to wary and confused. After another stretch of minutes where Peter pretended to work and his ersatz partner sunk deep into unknown thoughts, the peace was again broken by Neal, this time much more quietly.
"What?" the agent replied distractedly, careful not to raise his head too soon. Eagerness was the one thing that might bring down the fragile structure he was creating.
"I may still be on that page, but I've read it over and over."
"Got the important concept out of it yet?"
Neal tilted his head down for a moment then opened the book where he'd marked it and read a short passage.
" 'I have never laid a finger on anyone in my life, Mr. Pump. I may be all the things you know I am, but I am not a killer. I have never so much as drawn a sword.' "
Peter allowed a little of his disappointment to seep through into his expression.
"Boy, the one time you give me what I expect... and it sucks."
"I know what you're getting at. I know, but..."
"Should I go through the whole speech or paraphrase? It is kind of long and not all of it applies."
"Damn it, Peter..."
"Whole hog it is. ' No, you have not. But you have stolen, embezzeled, defrauded and swindled without discrimination, Mr. Lipwig. You have ruined businesses and destroyed jobs. When banks fail, it is seldom bankers who starve. Your actions have taken money from those who had little enough to begin with. In a myriad of small ways you have hastened the deaths of many. You did not know them. You did not see them bleed. But you snatched bread from their mouths and tore clothes from their backs. For sport, Mr. Lipwig. For sport. For the joy of the game. "
His face now flushed brick red due to the powerful mix of anger, humiliation and barely acknowledged guilt pulsing through him, Neal hurled the book onto the desk, rose and stalked a few steps away.
"You're a son of a bitch."
"If that's what's necessary to keep you on track... fine with me. You know, the truth doesn't have to just hurt, kid. It can also heal. You should finish the book."
"I've had enough, thanks."
"I can make it an assignment. A five-hundred word essay, maybe... must include the theme and at least fifty words on the overall moral of the story."
In spite of his still roiling emotions, in spite of his vow never to let Peter win any argument, no matter how petty, Neal couldn't contain the laughter that bubbled out of him.
"Yes, Mr. Burke." He mocked.
" 'Bout time you showed me some respect." Peter shot right back and held out the book. Neal turned back, retrieved it from his friend's hand and moved away again. Peter halted him at the door, just for a moment longer, with one more question.
"Hey... you remember the second interesting thing about angels, right?"
Neal nodded, responded softly and exited the office.
"You only ever get one."