reposted 9/5/10 to add a missing word. Thanks for all the lovely reviews and additions to favorite story lists!
It was Friday evening after a long, eventful week. Catching Donovan had been quite stressful for Neal - while he had superior poker skills, there had been no guarantee that he'd get exactly the cards he needed at the right time, and that there was only one hand that could beat his, making it easy to question Donovan and use the tell Peter had discovered. Seeing Catherine and Ollie together afterward had been quite gratifying.
On top of that, there had been the stress of dealing with Sara, and getting arrested. Again, he'd been extremely lucky in the timing, that he was integral in bringing Donovan down, and that Sara also had a soft spot for children.
So Neal was anticipating a relaxing weekend; there was a gallery opening he'd been looking forward to, luckily within his radius. Peter had driven him home to June's, which was not unusual, but he had parked, grabbed his briefcase, and come in with Neal, which was.
Neal opened the door, stepped in, and stiffened. "Someone's been in here."
Peter nodded. "We'll get to that. You had a banner week." His tone was angry.
Neal looked confused. "Thank you?"
"Receiving stolen goods. Accessory after the fact. Whatever fraud you perpetrated to get the FAA to send that envelope to Sara's in the first place. Stealing $100,000 from the FBI! Neal, what were you thinking?"
Neal started to speak, but Peter waved him off. "No, don't. I don't really want to hear it. I'd be fully justified in sending you back to prison for the rest of your life. I'm not going to, this time, because you've shown you're committed to making a difference in people's lives, and your skills and expertise have been critical to putting away a lot of really nasty pieces of work. But you need to know that your illegal actions have consequences.
"I discussed this with Jones and Diana ..."
"Peter!" Neal moaned, "did you have to?"
"They came to me. They're as exposed as I am in not arresting you, and the three of us are uncomfortable with giving you a complete pass. We discussed several options, and came up with one that we felt would have the most impact on you."
"What? Are you going to spank me?" Neal attempted to be charming.
"Cut the crap. You're not a child. No. Solitary confinement. Or as close as we can get to it in this apartment. You're spending the weekend here, alone, and every weekend until I decide otherwise."
"Shut up. Did you make plans with anyone this weekend?"
"Not really, but Mozzie always drops by."
"I'll deal with Mozzie. We're giving him a pass, too, because it would raise too many questions, and because his part of this was about you and Kate. Mozzie and I will be having a long talk. OK, June and her staff will tell anyone that comes looking for you that you're unavailable."
"You talked to June?"
"It was necessary. Her staff thinks you have the flu." Peter began to unpack his laptop.
"What are you doing with that?"
"Bringing up your anklet's tracking website. We're going to map the perimeter of the apartment. Go stand by the door." A pause. "Go!"
Neal stood by the door as Peter accessed the website, logged in, and clicked around for a bit. "OK, now walk slowly around the edge of the apartment, as close to the wall as possible."
Neal just looked at him.
Neal complied. When he went to go around the bed, Peter stopped him.
"No. Shimmy across with the anklet close to the headboard."
Neal's jaw dropped. "Peter..."
"Do you want the bed to be off limits?"
Neal sighed, and complied. When he got to the doors to the roof, he looked at Peter questioningly.
Neal continued around the room, into the bathroom, into the tub and back out again, until he'd made a complete circuit of the room.
Peter clicked around a bit more, then shut his laptop. "OK. Alcohol is off limits. Is the wine rack the only alcohol in this place? Any cooking wine or anything else?"
"No, just the wine rack."
Peter got a roll of crime-scene tape out of his briefcase, and went to the wine rack. Neal gawked as he began running the tape through and around the wine rack.
"Peter, is that really necessary? I can promise you I won't..."
Peter turned to him, his voice hard. "Don't talk to me about trust right now. The only reason you're not in prison now is that you didn't even consider lying to me either time I asked you if you'd done it. If you violate these conditions, I'm going to know about it."
Peter continued to string the tape through the wine rack, so that no bottles could be removed without disturbing the tape. He then took out his cell phone, and took a picture of it. He moved to the kitchen.
"OK, food. You wouldn't get gourmet in prison solitary, and you're not getting it here. Elizabeth came by earlier..."
"You told Elizabeth too?" Neal moaned.
"Of course." Peter indicated a box that had been left on the counter. "You're restricted to the contents of this box, anything on the top shelf of the refrigerator, and these spices that Elizabeth took out of your pantry. It's enough nutritional content to get you through to Monday morning, but just enough, so plan carefully. Don't look at me like that. It's quality, healthy stuff, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. You're a good cook; it's much better than anything you'd get in prison."
Peter then took out the crime-scene tape and proceeded to drape tape around the freezer, all but the top shelf of the fridge, and the cabinets that contained food. Neal sat down at the table, not even protesting any more.
Peter snapped pictures of his handiwork in the kitchen. "OK. Pack up your laptop, while I get the TV. June said there was space in the hall closet."
When the laptop and TV were stored in the closet, Peter asked for his MP3 player. Neal went and got it, and put it in the closet.
"OK, cell phone."
"But what if...?"
Peter pulled a cell phone out of his pocket. "This is a VX-1000, intended for young children." The phone had 4 large buttons, numbered 1 to 4, with a large button between them with a red hand and a white cross. "This button ..." He indicated the center button. "... will call 911. Button number 1 will call my cell phone. Only if there's a real emergency... I'm the only one that has the number. None of the other buttons work, and it can't do texting."
Neal's regular cell phone went into the closet.
"Do you have a radio?"
"A clock/radio. It's my alarm clock."
"Get it. I'll give you a wake-up call Monday morning. Six a.m?"
Neal nodded, then went and brought back the clock/radio, and put it into the closet.
"That's it, then. Back into the apartment. I'll be here Monday at 7:30, and I will check that you've complied." He nodded, turned, and left.
Neal stood in the doorway forlornly as he watched Peter leave, and for a long moment after. He then sighed and shut the door, then leaned back against it.
He decided to change his clothes; there was no point in staying in his suit when he would not be going out again. He put on his sweatpants, then paced around the room.
After a while, he sat at the table, and stared out at the city that was being denied him. It was a beautiful night, and he'd been so looking forward to taking advantage of it. His anger at the unfairness of it all grew, and he got up and started pacing around the room again, looking for something he could throw. But everywhere he turned, there was something of June's that he wouldn't risk breaking. Finally, he gave up and sat down again.
He realized that he should be hungry. He wasn't, but he figured that checking into the food situation might distract him from his misery. It was better than he'd dare hope. Elizabeth had a good idea of what he liked and disliked, and she'd gotten a fair amount of the former, and none of the latter. And she'd mercifully included some very good ground coffee. At least someone cared about him.
Unlike Peter. Peter had used him all week long, even after the "alleged" crimes, putting him into dangerous situations while planning to stab him in the back. Although, to be fair, this week no one had pointed a gun at him, or threatened him, and they'd only pretended to beat him up, which had actually been a lot of fun. No, he didn't want to think about the good stuff right now. Peter had screwed him, and he was pissed.
Except, of course, there was no "alleged" about the things he'd done. If Peter wanted to, he could easily prove all counts in a court of law, and take down Mozzie too for B&E. Neal didn't really regret the FAA stuff, but taking the money had been stupid, stupid, stupid.
Neal decided he needed to distract himself, because he wasn't ready to give up his anger at Peter yet. Perhaps he could read a book. But he found himself just staring at the page, reading the same paragraph over and over again without absorbing any of it.
He decided to lie down for a while, even though he wasn't remotely sleepy. Lying down reminded him of the way Peter had made him shimmy across the bed, and he grew angry all over again. He just lay there, staring at the ceiling for a while, then rolled on his side and curled into a ball. He stayed like that for about an hour. Finally, his appetite reawakened, and he got up to fix himself dinner.
Elizabeth, bless her, had included a variety of ingredients that he was sure Peter wouldn't have considered necessary: garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, some other condiments. Neal boiled some pasta and stir-fried some chicken and fresh vegetables, which he poured over the pasta. For dessert, he had some fresh strawberries. It was basic, but much better than anything they'd served in his four years in prison.
Prison. Where Peter had sent him. The anger came rushing back. He started pacing around the apartment again. Then his art supplies caught his eye. He grabbed a sketchpad and a good soft 5B pencil, and sat at the table. The first few lines were angry and raw, undirected, but soon Neal realized that he was doing a portrait of Peter. His hand moved smoothly and surely, lightly laying out the outlines of Peter's features until the proportions and shapes were just right, then adding detail, shading, nuance. It took considerable time before Neal decided he was satisfied with it.
He sat for a long time looking at it. It was some of his best work. It was not pretty. It was a portrait of Peter as he'd been earlier this evening, seething with anger and disappointment. Peter's eyes bored into his.
Peter. Who'd sent him to prison. Then rescued him from it. Who was putting him through this so he wouldn't have to make him go back. Who treated a convicted felon like a partner and a friend. This was the man he'd let down. Again.
Neal sat at the table and sobbed for a long time.
Finally, spent, he looked at the portrait one more time, and had an idea for another. This one he'd do in oils. He'd start first thing in the morning - he was much too tired, and his eyes were too bleary to start now.
Neal suddenly had plans for the weekend.
Peter called Neal promptly at 6:00 Monday morning. Neal answered, and Peter hung up without saying a word.
Peter knocked on the door, again promptly, at 7:30. Neal let him in, dressed and ready for work.
Peter stopped him, holding up a finger. He went to the table, pulled out his laptop, and sat down. He called up the GPS tracker website, then started watching a sped-up replay of all of Neal's movements since he'd left Friday. He glanced up curiously at where Neal had spent so much time Saturday and Sunday, noted that Neal had set up his easel, and there was a canvas on it, though from this angle Peter couldn't see what he'd been painting.
Satisfied that Neal had not left the apartment, Peter went to the wine rack, and pulled up the picture he'd taken on Friday. He repeated this in the kitchen.
"OK. Are you ready to go to work?"
"Peter, I have a present for you."
Peter looked a little taken aback, then looked back over to the easel.
"Yes, the painting. You can't take it yet; the paint's not dry, then I need to varnish it and have it framed. But it's for you."
Peter moved to go look at the painting.
"Wait, I want to show you this other one first."
Neal opened up the sketchbook which he'd left on the table, and showed Peter the portrait with the angry, disappointed expression. Peter's eyes widened. He knew Neal was talented, but this was incredible. It perfectly conveyed everything he'd been feeling Friday night.
"I'm keeping this one, as a reminder. I don't ever want to see that expression again. I want to be able to pull this out when I'm tempted to do something stupid, to remember what Friday night felt like." He closed the sketchbook. "OK, you can look at the other one now."
Peter walked around to the front of the easel, and gasped. It was magnificent. Peter and Elizabeth, embracing, faces turned toward the viewer, eyes looking at the viewer. The faces were joyful, the eyes full of love and approval.
"Neal, it's ..." Words failed him.
"Thanks. I thought it turned out well."
"Well? It's a masterpiece. Are you sure you want me to have it?"
"Positive. If I want to see that expression again, I'm going to have to put it on your face for real."
They stood side by side for a long moment, looking at the painting, until Peter's phone rang. "Burke ... Yes, Neal and I will be there soon." He hung up. "Get your cell phone from the closet, and we'll be on our way. Oh, and about next weekend..."
"Go ahead and make plans."