A/N's: White Collar is a fantastic show. From charismatic Neal, to strong Peter to quirky Mozz to even loveable Elizabeth, everything about this series makes me want more, like that one last piece of candy you tell yourself you shouldn't have. But you do anyway.
Also, roman numerals are lots of fun.
I. Can I have this?
"Peter," Neal asks, "Can I have this?"
And his precious éclair is taken hostage right out his hands by a slippery thief before he can give permission or set dangerous traps in the five inches between them.
Giving jellybeans to Neal Caffrey is like giving peanut butter to a dog. Peter taps his chin, trying to look thoughtful but looking more smug than concerned.
"What was that, Caffrey?" he asks between a slight smirk.
The conman's sentence is composed of frantic arm movements, pointing, and a little sputtering in attempt to separate his jaws from the cemented gelatin between his molars, and Peter knows what he's trying to say, but poking fun at Neal's situation is too tempting, too humorous, and so very not a sweet thing for Peter to do.
"Did you say that you wanted another bag of jellybeans?" he says, and Neal's eyes grow huge.
III. Are you done yet?
Everything that Neal touched immediately became an art form, no matter how insignificant or how trivial it was. It was clearly a mistake to bring him to the new ice cream parlor, where the customer could be as fussy as he wanted with sauces, nuts, sprinkles, and fruit. The three-scoop plateau quickly became the tallest mountain on the planet as Neal pressed slender fingers against the clean glass and pointed to nearly every addition on display.
The worst part was that Peter was forced to sit across from him at the table and observe the conman's careful destruction of his masterpiece. It began with sucking the cherries and whipped cream on top, to swirling the strawberry sauce and nuts around his finger and popping it into his mouth, to licking the spoon with a delicate tongue and reddened lips.
"Neal," Peter said irritably after twenty minutes of this sweet torture, "are you done yet?"
IV. Sweet Tooth
Mozzie stares at him as if he is the scum of the earth - not because of his occupation, but rather his habits.
"You don't like sweets?" he asks, and the kitchen utensils might as well have icicles growing off the ends just from his arctic glare. It's bad enough that he's violating the pristine tile floor with his feet (and he really wishes that he hadn't picked the socks with a hole in one toe because the little man is also frowning at that), but to ruin the sanctity of the kitchen puts the icing on the cake.
At least Neal is making an amusing scene, waving his arms and shaking his head behind his friend's back to send silent messages of what not to say and where not to step. He's acting as if Peter can actually understand him, and the only signal that Peter has been able to decipher in this mess is that if he takes a step back, he'll fall into a snake pit thirty feet below.
"I never really developed a sweet tooth," he answers, and judging from Neal's hand smacking his forehead and Mozz's face showing all sorts of wrinkles, he assumes that he is in deep trouble.
V. One chocolate cake, please
Neal stares at him as if he expects Peter to inhale the entire cake right there and then, and maybe Peter's diet isn't as stable as it should be for his age, but he shouldn't have to suffer this torture even if it is their year anniversary of being partners (in more than one sense of the word). He makes the smart choice of scooping a gooey spoonful and drooping his eyes down low as he feeds it to Neal, and next thing he knows, he can't get Neal's fingerprint chocolate stains out of his tablecloth and El is laughing to hard to be of help.
VI. Are you kidding?
Peter doesn't need to look up from his newspaper to know what Neal's doing or attempting to do. He simply writes a few more letters into his crossword and then shoves his hand into the thief's face.
"Are you kidding?" Peter deadpans. Neal sputters and drops the dangling piece of licorice from his mouth, failing to get Peter to snatch it from his lips.
His sugarplum and lollipop dreams leave a pleasant taste on his lips in the morning, and they are even sweeter when an origami butterfly is left on his pillow when he wakes up.
VIII. Flying Colors
Neal's eyes are particularly enthralling when he has strawberry-flavored candies melting on his tongue. His lips turn shiny and flushed from them, making Peter shut off the sounds of the outside world and listen to Neal's every word.
"If you could fly anywhere you wanted to, right now, where would you go?" he asks, deep red lips curving into a sweet, glossy smile. The color is intense enough to make his pupils dilate.
"I suppose I would find a rainbow and then fly to wherever it takes me," he replies. In truth, he has no answer because Neal's colors are sending his thoughts into a frenzy, but his half-truth makes the conman's expression brighten anyway.
It's beyond embarrassing when his first attempt to kiss Neal misses by a milestone and he ends up kissing the cotton taste of the other's shirt, but Neal laughs and holds his face in his hands to guide him to the right place anyway.
Caffrey is naturally well-mannered, but sometimes Peter wonders how easily Caffrey can forget where they are and how to act in such an environment.
"Ah, I'm out of popcorn!" Caffrey says in the middle of the movie, and Peter rubs his forehead.
"Not so loudly, please," he hisses for the third time that afternoon. It seems to pass through the other's ears as Caffrey stands up and stretches, but he gets the message when someone from the back of the theater throws a piece of popcorn directly at his head.
XI. Hey, can I have…
Caffrey finds him during lunch, again, and Peter feels that almost all of his tricks and traps are no longer able to keep Caffrey away.
"Hey, can I have some, Pete?" the kid asks over his shoulder, and Peter refuses to look behind him to see the hungry look in Caffrey's eyes.
Almost, of course. He smirks around a mouthful of caramel squares - not all of his tricks are obsolete.
"Only if you call me Peter," he says, thinking he has the advantage here, but he does not foresee Caffrey swooping in and stealing a square through a round, sugary kiss.
He feels lame about it, but he should have known that Neal would notice his intense and focused gaze on a simple spot on Neal's face, and awkwardly question it.
It takes several minutes, possibly because Neal thinks Peter is just being weird again, but Peter definitely has the other's attention when he slides the tip of a finger over Neal's cheek and then pops it in his mouth like a cherry.
Neal gives him a look between horror and hunger, and Peter responds with a casual shrug.
"You had a smudge of chocolate on your cheek," he explains after removing his cleaned finger.
"Oh," says Neal, and his face twitches with a half-smile. "Thanks."
XIII. Shut up
Everything is a complete mess in his life with the latest case and Caffrey isn't helping by just sitting there and munching on his chocolate squares without a care in the world, as if the simplicities were more important than trying to figure out how to prevent him from completely losing it.
It's like taking a bite out of a poisoned apple, but if he falls asleep forever after taking every risk in the world by kissing Caffrey, it's not that big of a tragedy.
XV. Are you an idiot?
They're sharing a tub of cookie dough ice cream in Neal's room late at night without even El knowing, and Peter dreads the thought of what would happen if Mozz decides to pay a little visit at one in the morning, but Neal pays no mind and keeps pretending his spoon is a choo-choo-train and that Peter better open his mouth for the tunnel.
"This is amazing!" Neal compliments, swirling another cube of bread into the melted cheese. Peter shrugs as if it's nothing, but the comment sinks deeply into his skin.
"I went to some fondue parties with El a while back, for her weddings…" he says for conversation. He checks the fork that's holding his piece of meat in the oil to see if it's ready. "At these parties, it's tradition that if someone accidentally drops their bread in the cheese, they must go around the table and kiss everyone of the-"
Neal makes a noise and he has to stop there because Neal just lost three pieces of bread in the gooey cheese.
XVII. Let Go
Peter is on the floor with a bullet in his shoulder when Neal steps into his house, and the strawberry cheesecake slips from his fingers and splatters onto the floor when he runs over to him.
XVIII. Say cheese
"It reeks!" Peter cries out, his hands forming a protective cup around his nose.
"It's good," Neal defends, spreading the exotic cheese over a cracker. He has to bite his tongue to stop himself from smiling at Peter's reaction, and he almost does when Peter's eyes widen as he bites into the cracker with a sickening crunch. He eats the delicacy slowly and Peter wrinkles his nose at him once the cracker is gone.
"I'm not kissing you for a week," Peter mutters, but Neal knows that such a statement will only last for a few hours.
For being the world's best criminal, Neal blanks out on the strangest things, but it does lead to Peter laughing until his stomach hurts when Neal forgets to put the top on the blender and becomes a part of the raspberry smoothie mess in his kitchen with a bewildered look on his face.
XX. Do you mind?
Peter really has no tact for being a famous thief like him, which makes it easy for Neal to detect whenever the other man is watching him eat.
"Do you mind?" he snarls, teeth congested with crunched lemon drop pieces. His words send a breeze of sugar and lemons over his face and he shrugs stupidly as if hypnotized.
"No, not really," Neal answers.
"This!" Neal pokes him firmly in his ribs, not realizing how painfully strong his jabs are. Peter exaggerates his wince in hopes that Neal catches on, half-expecting the attempt to be futile anyway. "This is unacceptable, Peter! You need to change your diet."
"To candy and pastries so that my cheeks and hands are sticky every day?" Peter retorts with a raised eyebrow. Neal huffs and crosses his arms.
"You've never complained about it before."
"You're right." He leans in for a quick peck on Neal's cheek to thicken the sweetness over his lips, and walks away before the touch registers in Neal's mind. "I haven't."
It was so many kinds of injustice and unfairness. He cranked his neck to the side, glaring as fatally as he could to hide the unattractive scene in his mouth.
"How is it that you eat all of my candy and I'm the one with cavities?" Peter growled between the globs and cotton in his teeth. Neal gave a nervous smile and twiddled his thumbs innocently around his cartoon hat.
"It's not that bad, Peter," he tried to comfort. "Maybe this way, you'll lose those five pounds you gained."
He was well ready to get up from his chair and defend his waistline, but the dentist swooped in and stretched his jaws open before he could do so.
Caffrey has the most horrified look on his face when his butter-finger grip sends his glass of strawberry juice crashing on the floor and soaking into the Burke's cheap blue carpet. It's near impossible to get the kid to stop sputtering and throwing all ranges of apologies and promises right in his face, so he sends Caffrey to the kitchen and instructs him to settle down with another glass of juice while he takes care of the mess himself.
The twisted, circular lollipop was so huge and colorful that it made Neal's eyes go wide, and Peter wondered what the kid would do in front of a real, colossal rainbow.
XXV. Can I, can I?
He's torn over whether to love or despise Caffrey's eyes because if anything, it can get him wrapped around Caffrey's finger in an instant. He gives the other a flat look, not about to give in without a fight.
"Can I?" Caffrey asks again, big red eyes wide and innocent but so very, very strong.
"No," Peter deadpans, and nearly smacks himself when that makes Caffrey resort to using a trembling bottom lip.
Neither of them is very sharp in the art of cooking, but Neal insists it's worth a shot and no one can actually burn cookies. There's a mess of flour everywhere and how El managed to make an elaborate stack of dishes that high in the dishwasher is something Peter never wants to know, but they manage to get their chocolate-chip concoctions into the oven and bake them a little too crisp for Peter's tastes.
"I hardly think they're supposed to be this brown," he says with a frown, picking a crusty piece off a warm cookie. Neal fidgets with his fingers and sighs.
"They could still be good!" he says - optimistic as ever, Peter thinks. He rips the piece off and offers it.
And he can't help but stare when Neal slowly closes his eyes and opens his mouth to take the burnt cookie bit and Peter's fingertips into his mouth. There's gentle traces of tongue and teeth against his fingers, and he just barely recognizes how warm it is inside before Neal pulls away and takes a hearty bite.
"It's yummy," he says with a smile and crumbs between his teeth. Peter blinks as if he doesn't believe it, but tests for himself by licking his fingers clean.
It is good.
The crumpled note hidden between his latest case file informed him to be at the café one hour after work. There was no name and no indication that the writer even bothered to consider that perhaps he had work to do once work ended - but the writer was lucky enough to pick a day where Peter had no afternoon plans.
It was likely against his better judgment, and the fact that he was counting the number of sugar spoonfuls Neal was dumping into his coffee was surely a sign of that.
"I hope this isn't interfering with any plans; I didn't think of that until after I slipped the note in," Neal informed sheepishly, failing to notice the twitch in Peter's eyebrow after the seventh spoonful was sacrificed.
"No, I had nothing scheduled today," he replied. He was about to babble on about the last night's game or the weather or anything to keep his mind off the spoonful tally. It worked well enough until Neal finished stirring the twelfth spoonful, gently set his spoon aside, and brought the poisonous cup to his lips.
Peter's fingers clenched the tablecloth as he watched the lethal coffee go into Neal's mouth, and he half expected his partner to drop dead right in front of him on the table.
XXVIII. What's happening?
His heart is racing and he can't help but look confused because they can't do this, no matter how sweet and pleasing the thought is on his tongue. He grabs Peter's arm before he can run and hide, fingers clenching almost too tightly and he can feel the other's brittle bones too easily.
"What's happening?" he demands pathetically, the taste on his tongue turning sour.
Peter finally faces him, and Neal's never seen him look so tired. The spirit in him rushes again just from that look; Neal swallows to keep it down.
"It's not worth it," Neal bites bitterly. The air is stale and he just wants some clarity, but that doesn't stop him from pulling Peter closer, refusing to let go.
XXIX. Won't you get tired of...
Neal always takes the chance to kiss him whenever Peter is eating sweets, no matter what the flavor or texture is, no matter how many times Peter gets the same thing; he loves it all.
Peter opens his eyes after having another kiss stolen from him, and frowns into Neal's soft eyes.
"Won't you get tired of this?" Peter asks, avoiding a thousand points in his question but wanting to know anyway, because he's had enough of not understanding the world in his life.
To his relief, Neal's thief-honest smile appears and past it, he replies, "Never."
The sweetest things his lips have ever touched are as follows: lemon drops, golden caramel, dark chocolate, strawberry tarts, and Neal's sugar-sticky mouth.