Title: Hotel Lobby Revelations
Summary: Neal and Peter are waiting in a hotel lobby, and there's this grand piano, waiting to be taken for a spin.
Written for: kanarek13 as a response to the LiveJournal collarcorner community Prompt Fest #2
Prompt/Request: Peter somehow finds a beautiful old piano and can't resist the urge to play it. He plays some classical masterpiece (Chopin, Beethoven, it's up to you, dear writer) and Neal is literally speechless, because he always thought that Peter is not interested in any kind of art and beauty.
Would Like: Lots of friendship, admiration, Neal truly touched by the beautiful music and Peter happy that Neal enjoyed listening to him playing.
Don't Want: Peter bragging, showing-off.
Characters/Pairings: Neal, Peter
Author's Note: A big thank you goes out to the ever wonderful rabidchild67 for beta-reading. I'm really glad I found her! Have I mentioned I love the White Collar fandom?
Disclaimer: White Collar, its characters and its settings belong to Jeff Eastin and USA Network. And, guys? Your characters are not only welcome, they're wonderful. I'm just borrowing, I promise.
The hotel didn't look like much from the outside. Its 3-star rating did it justice, even on the inside. A brown concrete block with large glass windows next to a busy road. Another one of those unremarkable places where uninformed businessmen and women stayed because their assistants figured the location was convenient.
Neal wondered why they had to schlep out here to New Rochelle in the first place, but he didn't argue with Peter over trivialities such as meeting places with other CIs. As a bonus, the drive there offered him a welcome opportunity to see beyond his 2-mile confinement. Way beyond.
They'd arrived ten minutes early. Peter was a stickler for being on time, and he'd expected traffic to be heavier than it had been. And then he'd gotten a call on his cell—and just like that, they suddenly had an hour to kill in a place that didn't offer much in terms of distraction.
If Neal had been alone, he'd have gotten a room and taken down a picture or two to add his own artistic touch to the room. A secret he'd been taught by Diana once. But this wasn't just Neal, and Peter was way too no-nonsense to participate in anything as self-indulgent as that.
So they sat in the lobby and waited. Peter soon got bored with the New York Times and started pacing. Neal sat in one of the dark brown imitation leather chairs, fingers steepled, eyes drooping languidly as a result of Mozzie-induced late night research on things Peter better not know about.
Peter had noticed it from the corner of his eye while walking past it, but it wasn't until now that he actually took in the open grand piano in one corner of the lobby. He cautiously looked around, but at just after 11 AM, there was no one there but him and Neal.
It was impulsive and so not like Peter Burke, but he slid onto the stool and placed his fingers on the keys. It had been a while since he'd actually played a piano, because there was no room for it in the Burke's living room, and in the guest room it had just become another case of 'out of sight, out of mind'. Still, learning to master an instrument for more than ten years left a mark, and Peter's fingers started to move automatically, his right foot feeling for the pedal.
Neal's eyes suddenly flew open at the first sounds of the piano. His gaze searched for the source, and he did a double-take. Peter Burke could still surprise him, and he'd studied the man meticulously. For years.
The melody had a melancholic, haunting tone to it. He sat and watched how Peter closed his eyes and just played, hitting each note perfectly, the tune reverberating softly off the wooden surfaces, mingling perfectly with the gentle light and earthen colors.
This was a side to Peter that Neal had never seen. He knew him to be a stand-up guy, smart and straightforward, caring but never openly emotional. And Peter had always struck him as a man who preferred a good game on TV over a visit to an art exhibition. He'd never mentioned an interest in classical music, and Neal could not recall any talk of concerts or musical instruments. Yet, the tune that Peter elicited from the piano was deeply touching, and Neal listened in wonder.
A minute into the piece, Neal realized it sounded vaguely familiar, and then a sudden memory resurfaced in his mind. Of all the classical piano music out there, Peter had to pick this. The thought crossed his mind that he had chosen it on purpose, but Neal quickly dismissed it. There was no way Peter could know this. He closed his eyes and reveled in the images playing back in front of his mind's eye.
Peter played the full sonata from memory. When he finished, there was only silence, the last notes fading quickly into the spacious hotel lobby.
Neal could see that Peter suddenly felt very self-conscious. He watched as Peter turned sideways on the piano stool, looking at him expectantly. Neal's face was still filled with wonder. The kind you saw on kids' faces when they encountered something that appeared to them to be pure magic.
He met Peter's gaze, and his mouth opened, then closed again before he spoke. There was no mockery in his voice. "Wow, that was... I didn't know you could play."
Peter smiled modestly, somehow relieved. "Yeah, well, seven years of hardcore piano lessons, another three of playing just for the fun of it. Then I met Elizabeth, and I guess some things just became more important than others."
"Still, it's... I don't even know what to say."
Peter got up from the piano stool and moved to sit down in the armchair opposite Neal. "Look at that. I managed the thing I almost thought impossible. Neal Caffrey is lost for words."
"Don't sell yourself short, Peter. That was amazing. Schubert's Piano Sonata in F sharp minor. Brings back memories."
"You know it?"
"Yeah," Neal said, lowering his voice just a notch. It had an earnest tinge to it. "Kate used to play it whenever she had one of those days."
"She played the piano?"
"No. No, I mean on CD."
Neal suddenly smiled, his mouth curving into a rather mischievous grin. "It would almost always lead to the most amazing cheer-up sex, though."
"Whoa. Stop right there. Too much information." Peter quickly lifted his hands to fend off the images that were flooding his brain.
Neal's grin turned more cheerful, and he flashed his teeth. "What, you and Elizabeth don't have music like that?"
"Oh, we do. Trust me."
"So which one is it for the Burkes?"
Peter shot him a look. "There is no way you will ever know."
"You remember when Mozzie de-bugged your house? He went through your CD collection. And he has perfect recall. This won't be much of a challenge."
"Yeah, well, good luck with that."
Neal nodded towards the piano. "Care to showcase more of your repertoire?"
"Come on, Peter. We have, what? Another 45 minutes to kill?"
"Why don't you give it a shot?"
Peter thought he saw a hint of chagrin cross his features when Neal admitted, "Regrettably, playing an instrument is one of the few art forms I have never mastered." After a short pause, his face lit up. "I can sing, though."
"Oh no," Peter interjected quickly. "There will be no singing in public places."
"We could form a duo, you'll accompany me on the piano. The Amazing Caffrey & Burke. Bookable at an hourly rate of—"
"Fine." Neal puckered his lips in a mock pout.
"And no pouting either."
"Peter, you're no fun."
"We're here to work. This isn't supposed to be fun."
"Technically, we're on a pre-work break. For another... 43 minutes. Are you hungry?"
Peter narrowed his eyes, not sure what Neal was getting at. "A little."
"This place must have a restaurant. A bar at the very least."
"You think they'll have deviled ham?"
Neal just groaned.