HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TIM DEKAY!
That's right. June 12 is Tim Dekay's birthday. In honor of this day, I offer my own gift to Tim DeKay: a birthday fic featuring the character he plays so well: Peter Burke.
Since I made a birthday fic for Neal, I find it only fair that I do the same for Peter.
Happy Birthday, Peter Burke
Work was over, the last file had been put away, all the paperwork was done, the sun had set, dinner had been eaten, the rest of the cake was back in the refrigerator, the basketball game was over, the TV was off, Elizabeth was in bed, and Peter Burke was sitting on his couch with a cluster of open birthday gifts spread out before him on the coffee table.
He was waiting for one last birthday wish.
His birthday had been quite the occasion at work. He had entered the office to a chorus of the "Happy Birthday" song sung off-key and with dissonance due to the ensemble of different voices at different pitches. It didn't help that some people sang faster than others resulting in a garbled, broken melody containing nearly indistinguishable words. The song ended with loud cheering and a round of applause for the agent who had turned another year older.
The office was simply decorated with a banner and a few balloons in Peter's office. Decorations were taped onto the lower level desks, adding festive color to the floor. And everyone wore a pointed birthday hat.
Peter walked into the room, a surprised and pleased smile on his face that refused to fade. The other agents came up to him, offering congratulations and pats on the shoulder, their voices clashing as they tried to speak over the other to ensure their message was heard by Peter. Jones waited for his turn to approach Peter and then heartily gripped his hand. Peter looked up quizzically at the hat on Jones' head, the unspoken question perfectly understood by Jones. He laughed with a shake of his head then jabbed a thumb back at the man standing beside Hughes at the top of the stairs.
Peter's gaze rose to the man lounging beside his boss. Neal Caffrey beamed back at him, looking oddly stylish despite the party hat strapped to his head. Between his teeth he held a party horn and blew it promptly, the curled tube unrolling straight out with a squeak. Peter laughed at the sight of his usually dignified CI playing with the party horn like a child. Hughes chuckled beside Neal and lifted his pointed hat in acknowledgement to Peter.
Then Diana came up with a hug and a special hat just for Peter. Hesitant to look like a fool, the other agents prompted Peter to join them in looking foolish with laughter and jeers and pleas until Peter finally complied and put on the hat to another round of applause.
After everyone had offered their congratulations, the agents returned to their work stations and discreetly removed the decorations from their desks. Party hats were removed and put away. It was time to be professional, serious agents again and focus on work.
Peter retired to his office, smiling at his personalized banner, and also took off his hat, placing it on his desk beside the picture of El. Back to business. He would celebrate more later. For now, he needed to work.
As the day wore on, Peter was visited by every agent on the floor. They would knock, be invited in and then leave a present on Peter's desk with a heartfelt "Happy birthday." Some thanked him, others complimented him. A few told jokes and the bold taunted him with smirks and winks about how he was nearly "over the hill." Then they'd wave with a final word and leave to go back to work. The pile of presents grew large until Peter had to move it to the corner of his office in order to have space on his desk to work.
Hughes came in towards the end of the day with a fresh cup of good (not from the office) coffee and a cupcake. Peter took a break from his work to sit and talk with Hughes for a while as they sipped at their coffee and exchanged reminiscent stories. When Peter looked at the clock again it was closing time. He wanted to stay longer and finish a few things but Hughes insisted he leave and go home to whatever his wife had planned.
Peter graciously agreed and, after a sincere handshake and a firm grip of the shoulder, Peter packed up his presents and started out the door.
Before reaching the elevator, he remembered something important and turned to look back at one of the closest desks. It was empty.
Peter frowned for the first time that day.
Neal Caffrey was gone and Peter hadn't been able to talk to him. He had been waiting for Neal to invite himself into his office to wish his partner a happy birthday but it seemed the other agents had taken Neal's opportunities. Peter had noticed a few times. Every time Neal stood in possible preparation to visit Peter, another agent would beat him to it. Instead, Neal retrieved a file and then sat down again. And now Peter was leaving and Neal was off on some errand. Neal would return to find Peter already gone.
"Don't worry boss," Diana said with a gentle smile. Peter shifted his gaze to the woman now standing beside him. She placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I'll let him know."
Peter nodded his thanks and moved into the elevator.
Then he had gone home to a delicious birthday dinner made by El's practiced hands especially for him. After dinner, she had sat beside him as he opened all the presents from his co-workers followed by El's. His spoils scattered on the coffee table in all their glory, he had then stretched out onto the couch with his wife lying beside him and they watched the basketball game, spending the commercials with gentle kisses.
At some point, El had fallen asleep and, when the game was over, Peter carried her to bed. He tucked her in and, at her sleepy questioning, explained that he was waiting for a visitor and would come to bed later. El just smiled knowingly and waved him away.
And now he still waited, looking at his gifts but anticipating a knock at the door at any moment.
He knew Neal wouldn't allow the day to pass without wishing Peter a happy birthday. If the ex-con was unable to tell Peter so during the day, Peter was positive he would stop by to say it during the night. All he had to do was wait.
To pass the time, Peter retrieved an old leather carrying case from his room (quietly so as to not wake Elizabeth). He opened it and fished out the three birthday cards Neal had sent him from prison during his four year sentence that had ended prematurely and resulted in the establishment of Neal as Peter's partner.
The first had a large cupcake on it, the second a vintage automobile, and the third a cartoon of a witty dog. Peter knew Neal had sent the cards in part jest like a sarcastic joke running between the two of them, and part respect since Peter was the only man to capture him. The cards seemed to say that Peter was worth remembering and the sentiment meant a lot to him. The cards had proved Neal was a good man; more than a con man when Peter was considering taking Neal's offer as enlisting him as he FBI's CI.
He smiled as he reread them.
A knock suddenly sounded at the door and Peter was instantly on his feet. He walked quickly to the door and opened it to find Neal standing on the front step. His friend shot him that signature smile.
"About time," Peter said, his own signature smile in place, "I was beginning to worry you weren't going to come."
"And miss wishing you a happy birthday?" Neal asked.
Peter chuckled and stepped aside to allow Neal and the wrapped picture frame he was holding inside.
"Sorry I couldn't stop by today," Neal said as he sat on the couch, the frame resting by his feet. "You seemed busy. And I wanted to give you your gift when –"
Neal's sentence faded away as he noticed the cards on the table, the cards he had sent. Peter took his place on the couch beside Neal and also gazed at the cards.
"You kept them," Neal said slowly, still examining the cards in stunned fascination.
"Of course. For research," Peter lied with a shrug.
Neal shot a look at Peter, his eyes searching Peter's until a sly smile curled his lips up to match the smile on Peter's face. He laughed at being caught at the other end of the joke and his gaze slipped back to the cards.
"Can I ask why?" he asked tentatively.
Peter looked down hard at the cards, sorting out the words he wanted to say. "I guess you were the first person I put in prison to remember to wish me a happy birthday, and mean it." Peter looked up to meet Neal's gaze. "I guess I found you to be someone whose cards I wanted to keep." It was proof that Neal Caffrey was more than a criminal. It revealed a side of the con man Peter hadn't expected to be there: a side that Peter was attracted to and wanted to preserve. "Sorry. That doesn't make much sense does it?"
"I think I get it," Neal smiled and, for a moment, Peter was convinced that the ex-con had been able to read his mind.
Peter looked away and cleared his throat. "Hey did you want any cake? There's a slice or two left."
"No thanks. I can't stay too long. June's expecting me back soon." Neal pulled the picture frame onto the couch between them. "I just wanted to come over to wish you a happy birthday."
He offered the gift to Peter who accepted it graciously with careful hands. A card was tied to the front and Peter opened this first. Instead of the usual cards from the store like the last three cards from Neal had been, this one had a hand-drawn picture by the ex-con himself. It was a rough portrait sketch of Peter and his lopsided smile wearing the pointed hat he had been obliged to wear. Now there was proof of the moment in which he had made an absolute fool of himself.
Peter groaned at the sight of the picture exaggeratedly making Neal chuckle. He opened the card and read the birthday wish and gratitude inside. Just like the others, it was sincere and Peter could see that side of Neal that he saw in the cards before: a side that was coming out more and more to replace the con man.
He placed the card tenderly with the others and then tore back the wrapping from the frame. On the canvas, painted with extreme care and precision was a portrait of him and Elizabeth, smiling at each other. Peter held the frame tightly in his hands and ran his thumb over the painted cheek of his wife.
"Do you like it?" Neal asked after a silent moment.
"It's –" Peter began but lost the words. He swallowed and looked at Neal. "I love it."
Neal smiled as Peter propped the frame onto the table in the middle of all the other gifts, beside Neal's cards. The two of them gazed at it for a moment before Neal stood respectfully to go.
Peter walked him to the door and opened it, the two standing side by side as they look out onto the empty street dotted with beams of light from the lamps.
"Do you need a ride?" Peter asked.
"Nah, I can get a cab," Neal answered. He looked at Peter with a smile. "Happy birthday, Peter." He held out his hand.
Peter smiled and took it with a firm shake. "Thanks, partner."
Neal's eyes widened at the prospect of Peter calling him partner. It was always the other way around. His grin broadened and he gave Peter's hand a few extra enthusiastic shakes.
Then he walked out into the night.
"Good night," Peter called after him.
Neal turned. "Good night," he shouted back.
Peter stepped back and was about to close the door when Neal called him.
"What?" Peter asked, stepping outside.
"Be careful walking tomorrow. You're going to be walking uphill and it might get a little steep."
Peter's brow furrowed in confusion. There weren't any hills he was going to be going up tomorrow. He was just going to work.
Realization dawned a second later.
Neal laughed aloud and waved back at Peter, hailing a passing cab at the same time. He quickly jumped in in case Peter came running after him in his rage at being called old. And Peter was very close to doing just that. He was at the bottom of the steps and glared at the retreating cab.
With a sigh and an amused smile, he went back inside and returned to the coffee table. He glanced down at the four birthday cards from Neal, and smiled warmly. He carefully piled them together and put them back into the leather bag.
He finally had the birthday wish from Neal he was waiting for. He could go to bed now.
As he ascended the stairs, he couldn't help but confirm that this birthday had been one of the best.
I figured, since Peter's so popular and loved around the office, they would throw him a little party. The hats were all Neal's idea, of course. In real life, DeKay is 48 so I figured the "over the hill" jokes would be appropriate.
Hope you liked it and be sure to wish Mr. DeKay your own birthday wishes.
Happy Birthday, Tim DeKay and thanks for being the most amazing characters that is Peter Burke.