A/N: Written for a prompt submitted on LiveJournal in Collar Corner by kanarek13. For a multi-sensory experience, listen to Alexander Rybak's version of 'Secret Garden', Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' (especially the third movement), and piano/violin duet of 'Canon in D'. Enjoy! =)
To Neal, ever since his time with the FBI began, this had always been the best part of solving a good heist, especially the ones that had taken place in a museum. The serene and peaceful moments, after the case files had closed and the criminal had been taken away, when he was allowed to amble through the place and appreciate the gallery's collection. During his earlier cases, this was a rare opportunity almost always accompanied by a chaperone, whether it was Peter, Jones, or Diana. Now, as he continually proved himself to be more and more of an asset to the team, as well as part of the family, Neal was trusted to wander about the exhibits alone, as long as Peter was somewhere in the museum with him.
This evening, he wandered through the halls of an old music school turned museum, where various instruments had been laid out for students and enthusiasts to learn about their progression throughout history. Neal entered the strings exhibit, and couldn't help but pick up an old violin made of spruce and maple, stained a beautiful mahogany red. Childhood memories of music class and concerts flooded back, and he ran his fingers over the wood forlornly. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed this. A bow was resting nearby, and after expertly cradling the instrument on his shoulder, Neal lifted it to the strings and played a few notes. Despite recognizing the violin's desperate need for a tuning, the few notes turned into a melancholic melody, as the finger positions arose from somewhere deep in the young man's remembrance, dusty and unpolished but beautiful all the same.
Peter, having heard the music from a few rooms over, appeared in the doorway, unnoticed by his consultant. He hadn't known Neal to have musical skill, but it didn't surprise him, and looking over at his friend, Peter could hardly fathom that a man with such artistic talent could be a criminal. The young man's cerulean eyes were closed, and his dark hair ruffled and out of place as it danced across his forehead with Neal's motions. The music was rich and despondent and faultless, conveying into wordless sound the emotion of whatever memory this moment was resurfacing, and Peter felt privileged to see Neal so unguarded and blameless as his slender fingers slid effortlessly up and down the neck of the instrument. Unwilling to take this moment from his friend by allowing his presence to be realized, Peter quietly walked away, leaving the young man and his hidden talent to his own accord.
Neal wasn't sure how much time had passed when he finally took the violin from his shoulder and replaced it in its case, but he was sure he had played longer than he intended. Shrugging off the residues of emotion left by the memories and melody, Neal moved on to the next room, hoping to find Peter before he got too annoyed with his lengthy stay. He wordlessly passed by Diana, who was looking at a display in a room undoubtedly within earshot of Neal's impromptu performance, something he had hoped to avoid when he first began to play. When he didn't find Peter in any of the rooms on this level, Neal bounded down the ornate red-carpeted staircase to the first floor, stopping as he reached the bottom because of what he heard. He followed the sound of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata to a circular room with full-length glass windows overlooking some kind of botanical garden, and his eyes centered on Peter, sitting at a beautifully antique grand piano in the middle of the room.
Peter's eyes held a focus unrivaled by any other moment Neal Caffrey could remember of his friend, their normal hues of a strong and independent russet giving way to a softer honey colored shade. His customarily clumsy and fumbling hands swept over the ivory keys with a certain majesty and grace that comes only with many years of practice and a hearty dose of natural talent. His feet worked the pedals in an expert manner, and his posture was impeccable as his fingers glided to each note with perfect precision and timing. Neal's mouth slightly gaped open when Peter transitioned into the second movement, a lesser-known but equally beautiful part of the composition, and the young man could only watch in awe as the next few minutes progressed. Not once did Peter look up to indicate he was aware of Neal's presence; instead, he kept his eyes firmly concentrated on the keys in front of him. Eagerly anticipating the abrupt switch in tempo and sound that came with the sonata's third movement, Neal was not disappointed when Peter's focus breached a whole new level of intensity. The rigidly proper posture and methodical sweeps of his hand were now lost to his friend as he hammered away at the keys, controlled only by his emotion, and the resulting sound was astounding. The dynamic melody bounced off the walls of the circular room and reached Neal's ears, coming alive and retaining its boldness in all of its magnificence.
Peter played on and on, the antique piano singing a masterpiece of such intricate perfection that Neal had to believe that only Beethoven himself was allowed to be this good. When the older man finally did cease to play, the conman could do nothing more than stare in wonder at what had just transpired. Here sat Peter Burke, the very same man whom he drank coffee with each morning, whom he had discussed uncountable numbers of art exhibits and ball games with, and whom he spent nearly every day of his past few years with, and not once had he ever imagined that this man had the talent to take a piano and make it come alive with such conviction that it could render Neal speechless. Peter momentarily looked in Neal's direction, and their eyes met for the briefest of seconds. It was enough for Neal to realize Peter's discomfort at being caught in the midst of his secret talent, and for Peter to catch the look of admiration and respect in Neal's young blue eyes. The warmth that filled Peter when he realized how deeply his talent had moved Neal was unparalleled.
Both men turned quickly to Diana as she stepped into the room, her face equally as stunned as Neal's, but smiling as she held out the violin to him. Neal took it cautiously, suddenly insecure about his own rusty talent as he stood before his mentor who had mastered Beethoven in all its refined beauty. Peter looked at him and nodded as he began to play the first few notes of Canon in D, and Neal moved the violin to his shoulder and raised the bow to the strings. He chimed in with perfect timing, and the partners created something whose beauty went far beyond the sound of the music. Peter played without looking, instead, his eyes focused on his friend, again honored by the chance to see a grounded and genuine Neal Caffrey lost in the passion of a song. And Neal played on with his partner, eyes closed, pouring every emotion into the piece that he could not allow himself to express in words. It was a poignant conversation, replacing their normally light and humorous banter with something much more beautiful, something that indicated that this arrangement had progressed far beyond just a mutually beneficial work release program and into the realm of a friendship that had changed the other's life. Diana smiled as she watched the two play, pondering how they were so much more alike than they even knew. The notes danced across the air, each harmonizing and accentuating the other instrument's beauty, completing the sound in a way that would be lost if either instrument attempted the piece alone. This characteristic undoubtedly would not be able to be recreated in another pairing's performance, and it was a testament to the completion each friend brought to the other's own life. And when they finished the song, they stood up silently to depart, bound by an unspoken vow to leave these emotions and passions and feelings in the music, clandestine and understood only by the two who shared the partnership. There would be more time to play and express and feel later; for now, they needed to relish in this exchange and mull over their newfound common ground. Yes, one never ceased to surprise the other, but they were more alike than they could ever know. Their lives appeared different in a number of distinctive ways, yet they had harmonized and intertwined to bring each other a completeness that was unmistakably manifested in the sound of musician's masterpiece.