A/N: Okay. Some things you need to know to read this story:
1. Burma Shave Sign(s): a uniquely successful advertising idea utilizing a series of small, unobtrusive roadside advertisements which formed a witty jingle.
2. To view an example of Burma Shave Signs, copy/paste this link and take out the spacing. - w w w . d i g i t a l d e l i f t p . c o m / I m a g e s / B H E v e r y d a y _ l r g . g i f
3. YES the Burma Shave Signs actually have some relevancee in this story. ^-^ Read on and you'll understand.
4. This is White Collar territory! O_O
. . . Hehe. Enjoy! :)
Elk Are Large
"Do you know who Francisco Goya is?"
"Yes Neal. Was born in 1746 in Spain and died in 1828. Famous painter of Maya Nude."
"Oh. Well, did you know that he's buried without his head?" When Peter was silent, Neal continued on cheerfully, "He died in France, was buried there, but was later moved back to Spain re-buried in a church under one of his frescos. In the process of moving the body, his head was stolen and has never been found."
"Fascinating, Neal." Neal grinned at him, not showing any signs that he picked up on Peter's sarcasm. Part of Peter wanted Neal to shut up and sleep, so at least one of them would be coherent when they reached the scene. The other part knew that he desperately needed Neal to stay awake; Neal's steady flow of mindless chatter had kept Peter awake for the past 2 hours.
"Hey, did you know-"
"Neal," Peter interrupted, gripping the wheel so tight his knuckles turned white, "How about we search for landmarks so we can figure out where we are?" He couldn't resist adding the jab, "Since you got us lost."
Neal, with an indignant look, opened his mouth to defend himself but quickly snapped it shut at Peter's glare. It said, I-know-you-like-poking-the-bear-but-this-time-you-poke-the-bear-it-will-eat-you-and-spit-out-your-bones. And Neal did not feel like being eaten. So he turned his eyes to the scenery whipping by outside his window and pretended that he didn't hear Peter's sigh of relief.
And for the first time in the very long car ride, Neal was silent. Peter would've closed his eyes in relief, if he weren't driving. They drove in silence for an hour as the sun completely disappeared, leaving them in darkness, their only lights coming from the headlights on the car and the radio on the dashboard, which was playing softly in the background.
Peter glanced over and smiled softly when he saw Neal curled up against the opposite door, eyes still peering into the darkness. He repressed the urge to pat the kid on the head and turned his eyes back to the road. It wasn't long before Neal broke the silence.
Peter sighed, "Yes Neal?"
There was a brief moment of silence before Neal answered in an odd voice, "Elk are large."
Peter didn't even glance over at his convict. Neal had been spitting out facts the entire car ride long. On this horrible road trip to the meeting spot of a bond forgery hand off, Peter had learned the unfortunate fact that one side effect of a sleep deprived Neal Caffery is that he won't shut up. Out of habit he said, "Yes Neal."
There was a brief moment of silence before Neal continued on in that same odd voice, "In herds they run."
Peter did glance over at his charge that time only to find Neal's eyes fixed on a point outside the windshield. He was mystified until he saw the next sign.
"Across the highway." They read together, Peter in confusion and Neal in glee. His blue eyes were lit up like Christmas lights and his grin was bright enough to match. He no longer looked dulled by sleep deprivation or weighted down by the memories of Kate, which had been hanging over him for months.
"Don't hit one." Neal managed to choke out the last sign before practically collapsing in a fit of giggles in the passenger's seat.
Peter stared at Neal for a moment before laughing himself. Soon Peter was laughing so hard that he had to pull the car over. Neal giggled and snickered while Peter barked out laughter. They tried to stop several times, but they were thwarted by the other every time. Every time Peter tried to calm down it would only take one look at Neal's grinning, tear streaked face to set him off again. Neal only needed the image of FBI Agent Peter Burke dying of laughter next to him in the front seat of the car to keep himself in stitches. Every time they attempted to talk, it would end up being something like this:
Neal chortling, clutching at his side, "That sign . . . and your face . . ."
Peter gasping, "And the elk . . ." And they would be smothered in laughter again.
The fact that they were both sleep deprived and feeding off the other's hysteria didn't help matters. It took a good half hour for both of them to calm down. Peter stared at the ridiculous green sign in front of them and counted back from ten while Neal hiccupped at wiped at his eyes.
Peter closed his eyes for a second and rested his hands on the steering wheel before slowly opening them and returning his gaze to his partner's red face.
"Neal . . ."
"We are to never speak of this to anyone?" Neal interrupted, a knowing smile on his face. He was a little sad not to be able to tell the story of a completely ridiculous Peter Burke, but he also relished the idea of having an inside joke with the man.
Peter nodded, "Agreed." He started the car and pulled back out onto the deserted road. Neal leaned against the door and looked out the window, no doubt searching for more signs. Peter felt a small smile creep its way onto his face and it stayed there the entire night.
7 hours later
"Damn it!" Peter snapped as he slammed his fist down on the table, his eyes pinning his three equally tired colleagues.
"Peter," Jones started, his voice rough from constant use.
"No! Why the hell can't we catch this guy?" He raged, his tired brown eyes jumping from person to person before landing on Neal. He raised a finger to point at Neal, "He's almost as slippery as you."
Neal attempted a weak smile, "Almost."
"Peter," Dianna began, her dark eyes underlined by purple bags, "Maybe we can . . ."
"Maybe we can what? What have we not done yet?" Peter yelled and with slightly glassy eyes, started towards the door.
"Peter?" Jones asked with a slightly muffled voice as he watched his boss wearily from where his head was pillowed on his arms.
"I'm gonna go get this guy." Peter all but growled as he shrugged on his coat.
Dianna blinked, but before she could say a word, Neal had jumped up and grabbed Peter's arm before he got to the door.
"Neal," Peter snarled, "If you don't get out of my way . . ."
"Elk are large." Neal blurted, his blue eyes unsure as he watched his partner.
Peter stared at Neal in confusion for a moment, frozen the position he had been in when Neal had confronted him. After his tired and foggy brain registered the comment, he visibly relaxed, his brown eyes going calm and collected as he remembered the memorable moment that he and Neal shared.
Neal searched Peter's face, making sure that Peter wasn't going to stalk out the door the moment he let go. When he was satisfied with what he saw, he released Peter's arm, although reluctantly.
"Thanks partner." Peter sighed as he combed through his hair. He sat down wearily and stared at the table.
A grin suddenly appeared on Neal's face, but disappeared just as quickly. "We'll find him, Peter." He said, his blue eyes suddenly serious.
Peter looked up and serious sapphire met tired mahogany. Suddenly, Peter's lips quirked up in a small but genuine smile.
"Don't hit one?"
At the looks on Jones' and Dianna's faces, Neal's grin reappeared, wider than the first.
A/N: This little ficlet is dedicated to my two favorite uncles. The first part of this story is based off of a road trip they took once. xD I'm not even kidding. I have the greatest family EVER! My mom re-told the story the other day to my sister and I TOTALLY imagined Peter and Neal in this situation. I could not resist.
Thanks for reading guys!