Peter didn't remember falling asleep. But based on how he felt when he woke up the next morning he could deduct that it wasn't that long ago.
Looking around the apartment, his eyes fell on Neal's hunched figure at the kitchen table. Peter stood up, strode over to the table and sat down in the chair across from Neal. Either Neal was ignoring him or so interested in the Sunday paper that he hadn't noticed Peter's presence. Peter was about to try for Neal's attention but the younger man gave it to him. Looking up from the paper he forced a wide grin on his face.
"Morning, Peter. Sleep good?"
Neal could have made anyone believe that the events of last night never happened and that he has never felt better. Anyone but Peter that is. Peter saw right through the grin as if it wasn't even there. His ears only picked up the wavering tone in Neal's voice instead of the words that he spoke. He noticed Neal tapped his fingertips nervously on the expensive wood the duo sat at. The only thing Peter couldn't understand was why Neal even tried to con Peter. He does realize I've caught him twice? I know him better than anyone. Peter gloated to himself.
"Ah, I've had better nights. You know, ones that include my wife." Peter smirked at Neal.
"Ohhkay! I don't need to know about that." Neal said quickly.
"But it definitely was an interesting night, wouldn't you say?" Peter asked, the agent in him coming out, which sent Neal over the edge. He was trying to be normal with Peter. Just be friends. Not agent and consultant.
"Which rules did I break this time Peter? Not enough bodily harm for you? Oh yeah I forgot, you prefer your miracles with a little more smiting and lightning. There's something I can't forge. So now what? You throw me back in prison? Throw me out to some other agent to be their pet convict for a while? Agent Rice seems like a good choice." Neal shot back angrily and giving a laugh.
Peter was furious and there was no way in hell he was letting Caffrey get away with his attitude towards him. He just spent the night on the man's damn couch for Christ's sake because Neal begged him too and he had been worried to death over him. Peter stood, towering over the table and Neal. He spoke softly but venom poured from every word so Neal would know just how serious he was.
"You listen to me Neal and wipe that damn smirk off your face. You and I both know it's only part of an act. I came here to check on you last night because Haversham told me that something was wrong with you. And when I get here, you are laying in a pile of broken glass and bleeding. Damn it Neal! I pulled glass out of your skin for thirty minutes!"
"Nobody asked you too!" Neal yelled.
Peter slammed his hand down on the table causing Neal to jump in his seat.
"Oh that's great. Nobody asked me too? Ha! You know why no one did? Because someone was passed out! But you know you're right. I should've just left you laying there. I mean after all I'm an FBI agent. I don't need this on my record. I should've just gone home to my wife and went on with my life. Left you here to rot or die. I mean after all your nothing but a pet convict right?" Neal was trembling and fighting back tears but Peter could see that the man was about to break and that's what Peter was hoping for. To make Neal angry enough to just yell at him and tell him everything that was going through his mind.
"You're right Peter! I'm nothing but some slave for the FBI to toss around! And you should've left! Why the hell are you wasting your time with me? I'm a criminal! A damn felon for Christ's sake! Why the hell do you care what happens to me? Oh, right! So you don't have to go around getting guns held on you or do boring paperwork. Just get a pet convict and you won't have to do anything! You're just like everyone else! Always out for themselves! …I hate you!" Neal screamed angrily at Peter. Now they were standing face to face with only the table separating them.
Peter took a step back and began pacing. Then he stopped and turned to look at Neal who hadn't moved.
"Is that what you think? That the only reason I care about what happens to you is so I don't have to do my job? You think I've made myself sick worrying about you so I won't have to do my job? You think that I get up everyday and try my best to keep you out of trouble, to keep you safe, to keep you OUT. OF. PRISON. So I won't have to do my job?" Peter paused. Not for Neal to respond but to let out a disbelieving laugh. He looked Neal in the eyes.
"Do you really think that?"
Neal didn't answer him and kept his head down refusing to look at Peter.
"Do you really believe I've done all of this for that selfish reason?" No answer.
"Answer me Neal!" Peter barked.
Neal waited a moment before responding so soft that Peter had to strain to hear him.
Peter turned to pace again but to Neal it must have looked liked Peter was leaving.
Peter stopped and looked at Neal, waiting for him to continue. Neal spoke so quietly Peter had to move forward to hear him.
"I- I…. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. I don't hate you. I just…I…. all of this…. " Neal stopped. He had so much to say to Peter but he just didn't know how.
"It's ok, Neal. Go on." Peter encouraged gently but sternly.
"I'm scared Peter."
"Of what?" Peter asked even though he already knew the answer.
"Of myself. I don't want to be a criminal anymore. I don't want to be the Neal Caffrey you chased for three years, Peter. I want to do good things with my life. I want to help people. You have given me the life I never thought I could have, but always wanted. It feels so good to catch the bad guy, but when it's over and I go home I realize that I use to be just like them. I was the bad guy! I'm a damn hypocrite Peter! What's the difference between me and them? What right do I have to work for the good guys? ….And there's always this temptation, this impulse in me to do what I've always done. Con and Run. But I don't want that anymore! But it's still there no matter how hard I try to get rid of it. It's there. And I'm scared that it will win. That I'll con and run. That I'll do what everyone warned you about from the start! And That…..that I'll let you down." Neal whispered the last part but Peter still heard it. Neal slid down the wall and sat on the floor with his knees up to his chest and his head on his knees. Peter walked over and sat down by Neal, their shoulders touching. Peter spoke next.
"You're right Neal. You were the bad guy." Peter paused and watched as Neal tensed up fearing what Peter was going to say.
"Listen to me, Neal. You WERE the bad guy. Past tense. For months now you've been on the straight and narrow…. given a few gray areas here and there. The right you have is the right you were given. You're in the FBI's custody. You are serving out your time the way the law allows you to. And as far as differences go…. You're a lot more upscale and a lot more trouble to put up with than they are." Peter joked lightly, but Neal didn't catch the humor. Neal leaned back, putting his head against the wall but keeping his knees to his chest.
"But the main difference between Neal Caffrey and an everyday criminal….. is the heart." Neal looked at Peter quizzically but hope shimmered in his eyes that Peter was being serious.
"They commit crimes for selfish reasons and never think of anyone else. They will do things humanity should never do and kill for what they want. That isn't you Neal. You're smarter than they are. You're caring. And sure, you've made some choices in life that aren't exactly noble. But as person, I have the utmost respect for you, but not for them."
Neal stared at Peter with amazement, taking in what the older man was saying.
"But what if I can't do it? What if I give in and run again?"
"You told me you didn't want to run anymore. So you won't."
"But what if I can't control it? What if whatever is keeping me here-" But Neal stopped realizing he had said more than he wanted too. Peter noticed Neal was clamming up again.
"What is keeping you here Neal?" Peter asked.
Neal didn't answer.
Neal looked up at Peter with nothing but innocence shining in his blue eyes.
Peter was expecting it to be because of the fear of going back to prison or even Mozzie, but not himself. Not that Peter was complaining. He was trying to think of something to say but Neal spoke again.
"I don't want to let you down. You've given me everything Peter. You trusted me against you're better judgment. Like you said, you gave me a chance at a better life. A life I never thought I could have. You have so much faith in me. More than I have in myself. Every time I think about doing something stupid I think about if you're going to be mad or not. I know… it sounds crazy that I would actually care what you think, doesn't it?" The both of them laughed. "Yeah it does."
"Well, it's true. And…."
"And what?" Peter asked, urging Neal to go on.
"And… I'm scared that…. when you leave…when you are gone… I'll go back to the way I was." Neal embarrassedly admitted.
Realization hit Peter full force. He finally understood. Neal was scared of losing the new life he has now. Afraid of losing the people he had grown to love and trust. Afraid of losing…. being loved. And what really got Peter was that Neal was afraid of losing him.
"Neal, who said I was leaving? You're stuck with me for three more years at least. And who knows you've made some good cases under my surveillance of course, the FBI might consider hiring you."
Both men laughed again. "Could you imagine Mozzie's reaction if I told him I was willingly working with the FBI?" Neal asked.
"The way I see it, you already are." Peter replied honestly.
Neal smiled the first real smile he had in the past two days.
"Does this mean that these four years count toward a ten year FBI pin?"
"Not a chance." Peter laughed.
Neal stretched his legs out in front of him but winced as the movement caused pain in his side.
Peter looked at him concerned.
"So, are you going to tell me what happened?" Peter asked gesturing towards Neal's side.
Neal looked down as if deciding if he was going to tell Peter.
"Let me rephrase that. Tell me what happened." Peter said sternly.
Neal was hesitant but complied.
"I was reminiscing." Neal gave a small laugh before continuing.
"I reached out to grab the bottle and…..missed. I guess I just…. couldn't handle it." Neal said with uncertainty.
"Was that the bottle that-" Peter started to ask but Neal cut him off.
"Yeah…. It was the Bourdeaux." Neal stated flatly.
"It's ok. Maybe it was for the best?" Neal asked sounding hopeful. Peter smiled at Neal and put an arm around him.
"Yeah, I'd say it was."
Silence fell over the duo, but Peter broke it a few second later.
"Hey, I heard there's a new coffee shop open on 3rd, if you're interested?"
Neal waited a moment and began to stand up slowly cautious of his injured side. Peter stood quickly helping Neal the rest of the way up. Then Neal looked at Peter.
"Meet you there in an hour? Gives us both time to look decent. Last one there buys the coffee?" Neal asked, his usual chipper self coming back.
"Be there in thirty or you're going to buy the coffee for the next three years." Peter stated amusedly.
And there it was, what Peter had wanted to see more than anything.
The most honest thing the ex-conman had.
Neal Caffrey's genuine, astounding smile.
AN: Wow! My first fanfiction complete! I'm actually surprised that it's over because I was planning on adding another chapter but as I wrote this it just felt that this is where it should end because I don't want to drag it out, you know? I hope you guys had just as much fun reading it as I had writing it! Being stuck at home sick is no fun, but when I used my time to write these stories it made the experience a little more bareable! haha! I want to thank all of you for welcoming me into the world of fanfiction and giving my stories a chance and being so loving and supportive! It means sooo much! Thanks again! I love all of you! :) :)