Disclaimer: Nothing related to White Collar belongs to me. I'm just having some fun with Neal and Peter.


Caution: Happy Houseguest Ahead

By: Vanessa Sgroi

Peter Burke pulled his car up in front of his house, grateful that he'd managed to find a parking spot this close. He exited the vehicle and hurried around the hood to the passenger side where his CI and de facto partner, Neal Caffrey, was slowly and awkwardly attempting to open the door. Peter grabbed the handle and yanked the door open, saving the younger man the trouble.

"C'mon, music man, let's get you out of the car and inside the house before you start the next performance." Peter helped Neal from the car, steadying him as he swayed. An unfortunate run-in with two suspects a few hours earlier had sadly resulted in a dislocated elbow, broken wrist, and bruised ribs for the former conman, and his left arm was now in a bright white cast and nestled within a dark blue sling. A hefty dose of painkillers administered in the ER had made Neal loopy and quite vocal, and he'd spent much of the ride between the hospital and Peter's house singing at the top of his lungs. He'd finally stopped a few minutes ago much to the FBI agent's relief.

After gently nudging his spaced-out partner, Peter headed for his front door. It took him a few seconds to realize Neal was not following him and he stopped. Turning, Peter spied Caffrey standing near one of the trees in front of the house. The younger man was staring at the tree intently and was nodding every so often. Puzzled, Peter moved back to his side.

"Neal?"

Neal held up a finger, indicating Peter to wait a moment.

Peter frowned, looking between Neal and the tree. "Neal, what are you doing?"

The former conman glanced at Peter, his blue eyes luminous. A breeze ruffled his dark hair, a few stray strands falling across his forehead. "Ssshhh. I'm talking to your tree."

The FBI agent's mouth dropped open. "You're talking to my…" He scrubbed a hand down his face. "Oh, boy. You really weren't kidding about different painkillers having strange effects on you, were you?" he muttered to Neal whose attention once again on the tree. That actually was the reason Peter had brought Neal here instead of taking him home. A worried Neal had informed him rather gravely in the emergency room that he and strong painkillers simply did not get along well at all. Given that information, Peter thought it might be safer to bring his CI home for a couple of days where he and El could keep an eye on him.

After a few seconds, Neal reached out and patted the tree in what could only be a comforting manner. "I understand," he said in a low voice.

Peter cleared his throat. "So what's…what's my tree saying?"

"She is upset with you."

"Oh, she is, is she?" Peter smirked and crossed his arms. "And why, pray tell, is my tree upset with me?"

"She's lonely," intoned the CI. "She says that you jog right by her every morning and you never stop to say hello." Neal leaned closer to Peter and whispered, "She says it makes her want to cry."

Peter couldn't help it, he rolled his eyes. "I never stop to say hello—wait—how did you know that I jog by her—it—I mean, the tree every morning?"

Neal looked at the FBI agent and shook his head like that was the dumbest question he'd ever heard. "I just told you—the tree told me, Peter." He paused, glanced at the tree again and said, "All right, all right—I'll tell him." Neal huffed. "She says she really wishes you'd prune her more often 'cause it feels good and she likes it." Neal's cheeks pinkened and he scuffed a shoe against the concrete, looking for all the world like an embarrassed five year old.

"Ooookay," Peter muttered as he pinched the bridge of his nose, "on that note, it's really time to get you inside." Before Peter could make a move, Neal reached out and brushed at his shoulder.

"What the heck are you doing?"

"There's a blue butterfly on your shoulder."

Peter cocked his head to the side. "Oh, there is, huh?"

Neal frowned and repeated the brushing motion. "Yeah, but he refuses to fly away."

"Well, why don't you and I—and the butterfly—go inside." He took a hold of Neal's good arm and led him inside. He helped the injured man settle onto the couch. "Sit right there. And don't move. I'll be right back." Peter headed upstairs. He returned ten or so minutes later, speaking even as he bounded down the stairs. "I talked to Elizabeth so she knows you're staying a couple of days. I also made up the bed in the spare room." He reached the living room and found Neal staring fixedly at the television, whose screen was dark.

"What? Is the TV talking to you now?"

Caffrey looked up, blinked. "No."

"The couch?"

"No. But Satchmo is."

Peter grinned. "Okay, well, I'll let you two get back to it." Peter gestured with his thumb over his shoulder. "I'm going to get something to drink. Would you like something?"

"Wine."

"Wine? No wine. Water."

"Water?" Neal whined, turning up his nose.

"Juice then. Cranberry. Take it or leave it."

Neal nodded. "Juice it is. In a wine glass." He locked gazes with the dog. "Satchmo says he wants water. And food. The good stuff, he says."

Peter looked at the dog and playfully scowled. "Hey! When don't you get the good stuff?" He watched the dog's "eyebrows" twitch to and fro above his soulful dark eyes. He laughed and waggled a finger at his pooch. "Stop enabling the man high on painkillers over there." Shaking his head, he headed toward the kitchen.

Neal stretched out carefully on the couch and sighed as he got as comfortable has his injured arm would allow. After wiggling around a bit, he laid his head back on a pillow and looked at Satchmo again for a second before closing his eyes.

"You know, you're right, Satch—Peter IS a good human."

FIN