Author's Note: This story is a continuation of my other 4 White Collar stories. It takes place during, and has spoilers for, the episodes Point Blank, and Burke's Seven from Season 2. If you don't watch the show, you may not get the story, because I don't go over what has happened so far, or what happens after. Written July 2011.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, and I'm not making any money from this story.
Warning: Non consensual spanking of an adult by an authority figure.
THIS ISN'T WHO YOU ARE
Peter stared at the picture of the Music Box in the newspaper. He couldn't believe how disappointed he was in Neal's behavior. Storming out of the office, he beckoned to Neal with two fingers. "Get up here."
Looking somewhat smug, Neal casually walked up the stairs past Diana and into Peter's office.
Peter shoved the paper in Neal's hands and said, "You knew the Russians would want to show this off. You're trying to lure Fowler out."
"Someone is," Neal said, not even pretending to be surprised by the article.
"Oh, would you stop!"
Neal shrugged. "You could skip the viewing."
"Oh, no. I'll be there." Peter glared at the younger man. "But you won't. You're a liability. You're benched."
"You can't pull me off this Peter," Neal said, his face deadly serious with a hint of anger.
Peter shook his head at the kid's gall. "I can do what ever I want with you." They both thought about the truth in that statement. "You're lucky that I don't put you in lockdown. Get out."
Neal walked away, radiating anger. Peter almost hauled him to the bathroom for an attitude adjustment, but held back and let him leave. He did understand why Neal was angry, but he'd brought this upon himself. They'd gone over lying and trust too many times, and Peter knew if they had to go over it again, he was obligated to show Neal what he meant by the full blown version of a spanking. He shook his head and went back to work, hoping Neal wouldn't force his hand.
# # #
Neal immediately went to find Mozzie to get an update on the Music Box's code they were trying to crack. He found him at a pawnshop in China Town, where Mozzie was consulting with a colleague. After they talked, Mozzie went to the back room, and Neal was alone in the front of the store. He noticed an older handgun sitting right behind the counter. He was normally opposed to guns, hated them in fact, but he did know how to use them. His hatred of Fowler, his guilt over what had happened to Kate, and his anger at Peter for pulling him off the case all swirled around in his head. He grabbed the gun, stuck it in the back of his pants, and left the shop.
He was determined to find Fowler. He needed to confront Kate's killer once and for all, so he could put it behind him. By the time he made it back to his room at June's, he had a plan. He knew he'd get caught, that was a forgone conclusion, but the need to see Fowler and get a confession outweighed whatever negative reaction Peter would have. And he was irritated enough with Peter for pulling him off, that he told himself he didn't care if Peter punished him.
When he got home, he forged himself an invitation to the showing of the Magic Box, and dug out the key to his anklet that he'd stolen. He looked down at the little pug by his feet, and said, "Sorry Bugsy." He took the anklet off, and put it around the little dog's neck, making sure it wasn't too tight. Bugsy licked Neal's hand, obviously not minding the new collar in the least. Neal put him down and said, "I owe you one."
# # #
Peter didn't think his day could get any worse. Fowler had gotten past him, and was currently locked in a room on the second floor at the Embassy where they were showing the Music Box. Mozzie had just called to let him know that Neal had somehow gotten his anklet off, and that he was carrying a gun. And to top off his list of bad day items, Neal had gotten past Diana and was now in the building trying to get to Fowler before they did.
His day got exponentially worse when he heard breaking glass, and a gunshot in the room with Fowler. Panicked, he yelled, "Neal!" Terrified that Neal would either get hurt, or kill Fowler before he could get to him, Peter ran and got a nearby fire extinguisher to break the door with.
Diana came running up to him and said, "Caffrey's in there."
"He's with Fowler," Peter said.
When he got back to the door, he could hear two muffled voices on the other side of the door, and thanked God that there was still a chance to get to Neal in time. He started banging on the doorknob with the extinguisher, determined to get on the other side of the door.
It took longer than he'd hoped, but eventually, he broke through the door. He immediately dropped the extinguisher, whipped out his gun, and went in, with Diana right behind him. The sight that greeted him made his stomach clench with dread. Neal and Fowler stood less than four feet from each other, and Neal had a gun pointed directly at Fowler's face.
"Stay out of this Peter," Neal said without turning around. He needed to get the truth out of Fowler, no matter what, and nothing was going to get in his way. He'd come too far to back down now.
"Neal, put the gun down," Peter said. "Neal, don't do this!"
"You know he killed Kate," the younger man said, as if that explained everything.
"I didn't kill her," Fowler said.
"Who did?" Neal asked.
Fowler said, "I'm…" and then changed his mind about talking.
"What do you know?" Neal shouted. "Tell me what you know!"
"You wanna kill me Neal?" Fowler said. "Go ahead and pull the trigger."
Peter's gut did a dive at those words. He muttered, "Jesus Fowler, you're not helping this." Turning his focus on his friend and a partner, Peter practically begged, "Neal, do not do this."
"I know he killed her," Neal said. "He killed Kate."
"Listen to me," Peter said with a calm he didn't feel. "If you pull that trigger, you will regret it for the rest of your life, Neal. You're not a killer."
Neal's determination started to waver. "I want him to know how it felt. How she felt."
Peter heard the indecision creeping into Neal's voice. "Look at me," he said softly. "Look at me, Neal. Neal. Look at me, Neal. Come on."
The kindness in Peter's tone broke through to Neal. He kept the gun pointed at Fowler, but slowly turned his head to look in Peter's direction.
"This isn't who you are," Peter said with quiet authority.
Neal saw both compassion and disappointment in Peter's eyes. The gun felt heavy in his arm as the weight of what he was doing pressed in on him. He couldn't look at Peter and hold the gun on Fowler. He lowered it, and handed it to the older man. He walked towards Diana, and ran shaky hands through his hair.
Peter took a deep breath of relief now that the worst possible scenario had been avoided. Neal wasn't hurt, and he hadn't killed anyone. Reluctantly, Peter turned to Diana and said, "Cuff him."
Expecting this, Neal held his hands behind his back to make it easier on Diana.
"How are we gonna handle this?" Diana asked.
"Call Jones," Peter said, needing time to think. "You two can handle the official Bureau response." He nodded towards Neal and said, "Take him back to the office. And I'll figure out what to do next."
Hanging his head, Neal let Diana lead him out without comment.
Once they were alone, Peter turned to Fowler. "Did you kill her?"
"You're gonna tell me who did."
# # #
An hour later, after dealing with the local police and security guards at the Embassy, a worn down Peter arrived at the Bureau with Fowler in hand. He immediately noticed that while Neal was in his own chair, the chair wasn't at his desk. It had been pulled over to the side of Jones' desk. Jones was doing paperwork and ignoring Neal. Neal was fidgeting, and scowling, which lead Peter to suspect he was being forced to sit there instead of being allowed to sit at his own desk, so that Jones could keep an eye on him.
Neal jumped out of the chair as soon as he saw Peter. Jones stood as well, and Diana walked over from her desk. Peter handed Fowler over to Diana and Jones, and said, "You two take him up to my office for questioning. Neal and I will be there in a minute."
Feeling somewhat ill, Neal swallowed hard, as he watched Diana and Jones take Fowler up the stairs. He forced himself not to jump out of Peter's reach with difficulty.
Peter grabbed Neal's upper arm, and pulled him out into the hallway, and headed for the bathrooms. The younger man didn't put up any kind of protest when Peter ushered him into the unisex handicapped bathroom, and locked the door behind them. Neal didn't even try to put distance between them by backing away. He stood with his head down, and waited for Peter to start smacking him. Peter shocked him by pulling him into a strong hug instead.
"When I heard that gunshot," Peter said, "I thought you'd killed him." Peter's hug went from strong to bone crushing when he thought about Neal going to prison for the rest of his life.
After the initial shock, Neal felt his eyes filling with unshed tears. He wrapped his arms around the older man and mumbled, "I'm sorry."
With a sigh, Peter let him go. "You really went all out today, Neal. You ignored every single thing I tried teaching you since the first time I spanked you."
Wincing at the truth, Neal muttered, "If Elizabeth were killed, you'd do whatever it took to find her killer."
Peter put a hand on Neal's shoulder, and squeezed it. "I'd do whatever it took within the confines of the law. I would want to do whatever it took to find her killer, even if it was illegal, but I wouldn't. You know why?"
Confusion and disbelief showed on Neal's face. He shook his head.
"Because I'd be dishonoring Elizabeth's memory. She loves me because of who I am, and a big part of me is a lawman. If I lost sight of that to get revenge, she would hate it."
Thinking about Elizabeth, Neal found truth in Peter's statement, and hung his head in defeat.
Peter said, "Tonight you'll be getting the full blown version." Neal cringed, even though he'd been expecting it. Peter patted his shoulder and said, "But for now, let's go talk to Fowler." They left the bathroom together.
# # #
After half an hour of interrogation, they'd discovered three important things. Fowler had killed the person responsible for his wife's murder. Fowler was being blackmailed because of what he'd done, but had no idea who was blackmailing him. And it had been Kate's idea to put a bomb on the airplane, so that she and Neal could fake their own deaths, and live happily ever after, but it had gone off early.
While they were still questioning Fowler, Diana and Jones came in. Neal immediately noticed his anklet in Diana's hand. She said quietly, "Boss, the Marshals reset the key."
Peter and Neal looked at each other. Neal's eyes pleaded with Peter not to send him home.
"Put it on," Peter said to Diana. "Take him home."
"Peter," Neal pleaded, "Not right now."
"Go home, and stay there this time."
It was clearly an order, and any protest Neal might have had died in his throat.
# # #
Once Neal was dropped off at June's house, he checked on Bugsy, and then trudged up the stairs to his room. He took off his jacket, sat down at the table, and started to worry. He hated feeling helpless, and he hated knowing that Peter was still talking with Fowler when he wasn't there. He thought about Kate, and how he'd failed her. He wasn't any closer to finding her killer now than he was when the plane blew up. But mostly he thought about betraying Peter's trust, and the promise of a serious spanking that night.
Neal had no idea how much time had passed when he heard a knock on the door. He pictured Peter on the other side of the door, and rushed to open it, wanting to know what he'd found out from Fowler.
He opened it to see Alex on the other side. Before they'd had a chance to do more than exchange a few pleasantries, Diana and Peter burst into the room brandishing their guns. Once they realized it was Alex, the guns went away, and Alex made a hasty retreat, but not before Peter noted the silver around her neck. Neal cringed; adding one more thing to the list of wrongs Peter would be discussing with him that night.
"What's wrong?" Neal asked, wondering why they'd come in with their guns at the ready.
"We got a call." Peter said. "Mr. Tanaka was murdered, and the surveillance footage was frozen on the picture of you stealing that gun."
Neal's eyes opened wider. "I'm not the only one on that footage," he said, thinking about how much time Mozzie had spent at the pawnshop talking to Mr. Tanaka.
Immediately understanding Peter dug out his cell phone, and called in an APB for Mozzie. As he spoke, he beckoned Neal to follow him and Diana.
# # #
Three hours later Neal paced the floor of the emergency room, getting more and more uneasy as the time passed. Mozzie had been shot, and Neal couldn't help by think it was his fault. If Mozzie hadn't been trying to help him break the Music Box code, he'd be safe at home instead of lying on the operating table with a bullet in his chest.
Neal felt a hand on his shoulder, halting his movement. He turned to Peter and said, "Did you find anything out?"
"The nurse said she'd check, and get back to me in a few minutes."
"Do you think it's a bad sign that it's taking so long?"
"I don't know."
The front door opened, and Elizabeth came rushing in. She went straight to Neal and took his hand in hers. "I came as soon as I could. Have you heard anything yet?"
"No," Neal said. "It's nice of you to come Elizabeth. Mozzie would appreciate it, but you didn't have to."
She squeezed his hand gently. "Nonsense, we're family. Of course this is where I'm going to be."
Thinking he might cry if he thought too much about that statement, Neal focused on his frustration instead. "It's been a couple of hours now, and they haven't given us any kind of update. I can't stand not knowing what's going on in there."
She put her arm around his shoulders, and pulled him into a side hug. "We'll just have to hope for the best."
The swinging doors on the other side of the room opened, and Mozzie's surgeon came through. Peter went to stand on the other side of Neal, as if he and his wife could shield the kid from any bad news the doctor might have.
"He's stabilized for now. We got the bullet out, and put him in a medically induced coma to give his body time to heal. Barring any unforeseen complications, we expect a full recovery."
Neal felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off his chest, and he could breathe again. Elizabeth squeezed him, and Peter clapped him on the back a couple of times.
"Can I see him?" Neal asked.
The doctor nodded. "Yes, but only for a few minutes, and only two people at a time."
"You want me to come, too?" Peter asked Neal.
"I'd like to see him alone first, if that's okay."
Elizabeth let her arm drop from Neal's shoulders, and Peter said, "Of course. We'll be here when you're done."
Neal followed the surgeon back to the recovery rooms.
Once they were alone, Peter wrapped Elizabeth into a hug, and kissed the top of her head.
"How are you holding up?" she asked.
"It's been a rough day."
She led him over to the waiting room chairs, and said, "Tell me about it while we wait."
Peter sat down, leaned back, closed his eyes, and sighed. "Neal stole a gun, got his anklet off, and confronted Fowler with the stolen gun in a public place."
Elizabeth gasped, and put a hand over her mouth.
Peter opened his eyes to look at his wife. "If I hadn't been there to talk him down…" Peter shook his head, not wanting to finish that sentence.
Elizabeth put her hand in his. "You can't think like that. You were there, and you did talk him down."
"I honestly thought that I'd been getting through to him these past few months. That with my guidance, he was turning over a new leaf. And in one day, he shot that all to hell."
"Hey now," she said seriously. "Don't you dare give up on him now. This is when he needs you the most."
Sitting up straight at her tone, he squeezed her hand and said, "Don't worry, Hun. I have no intention of giving up on him."
After a few minutes of comfortable silence, Peter said, "I could use your advice on how to handle things now."
He looked down at their entwined hands, and said, "He really messed up El. I told him I was going to spank him, and that it was going to be worse than all the other times so far."
She winced in sympathy for both Peter and Neal, and said, "I may not like it, but I do understand why it's necessary, and so does Neal."
Peter kissed the back of her hand. "Thanks for the support. The thing is... now that Mozzie has been shot, I'm not sure if I should follow through. Neal's had a traumatic day in more ways than one, and I don't want to add to it. But then on the other hand, I wonder if the whole thing could have been avoided altogether if I hadn't been so lenient with him after Kate's death."
"I see what you mean." Elizabeth gave that some consideration. After a few minutes she said, "Neither one of us wants to visit him in jail. The best way to keep that from happening is to give him consistency, and let him know that extenuating circumstances don't give him a license to do whatever he wants. I think you have to go through with it, even though you don't want to."
"Yeah," he said with a frown, "I thought that's what you'd say." He kissed her cheek and added, "Thank you."
"Neal should spend the night at our house tonight."
"When Neal's done here, I'll get his key to June's and go pack him a bag, while you take him home and have that talk you're dreading. Give me a call when it's done, and I'll pick us all up some dinner on my way home."
"Why would he want to stay at our house after… that? Why would you want him to stay at our house?"
She scowled at him. "Because he has to know we still love him, and forgive him once it's done, or it won't be effective."
Seeing the scowl on her face, Peter said, "Okay, you win."
Ten minutes later, a nurse came out and said, "I'm sorry to bother you Agent Burke, but visiting hours are over, and Mr. Bliminse won't wake up until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest."
"Of course," Peter said, "I'll bring Neal back tomorrow during visiting hours."
"Well, that's the problem… Mr. Caffrey is refusing to leave."
Standing up, Peter said, "Thanks for letting me know, I'll take care of it." Turning to Elizabeth he said, "Be right back."
When he got to the room, Peter saw Neal standing by the window with his hands in his pockets. "Neal, we need to go." Peter said. "He's in a medically induced coma. There's nothing you can do for him in here."
Neal turned to look at him. Peter could see pain, guilt, and sorrow in his eyes. Peter said softly, "But there is something you can do for him out there. Come on."
Neal reluctantly followed the older man back out to the waiting room. Elizabeth walked over to them and said, "Neal sweetie, you're going to spend the night at our house." She held her hand out, palm up. "Can I have your key to June's please?"
Surprised, Neal turned to Peter. "I'm spending the night?"
"Don't look at me," Peter said. "You'll have to work this one out with my wife."
Turning back to Elizabeth, Neal said, "I don't think…"
Glaring Elizabeth cut him off. "You're spending the night and that's final." Softening her tone, she added, "We don't want you to be alone tonight."
With a sigh Neal dug the keys out of his pocket. He might have been able to argue the point with Peter, but there was no way he could refuse Elizabeth, especially when she was looking at him with concern. He put the keys in her hand, and asked, "Why do you need my keys?"
"I'm going to go pack you an overnight bag, so you and Peter have time to work things out."
Neal blanched and his eyes darted to Peter's. He took note of the steadfast expression on Peter's face, and knew his reprieve was over. Turning back to Elizabeth, Neal said quietly, "Could you please feed Bugsy, and take him for a walk too?"
Feeling bad for him, Elizabeth leaned in, and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "Of course sweetie," she said, while wiping the smudge of lipstick off his face with her thumb. She turned to Peter, and gave him a quick kiss on the lips.
"I'll call you later," Peter said.
The two men watched her leave. Peter put an arm across Neal's shoulders and said, "Let's stop by the office on our way home. I want to show you something."
"Okay." The younger man wasn't going to argue with that.
# # #
At the office, Neal was not only surprised, but touched by how many people came up to him, asking how Mozzie was doing. After assuring everyone that Mozzie was expected to recover, he and Peter went to Peter's office.
Peter showed him a picture of Julian Larson, and explained that he'd worked with Fowler in the military years ago.
"Is this who shot Mozz?" Neal asked, memorizing the man's face.
"Yes. He's the middleman for whoever's pulling the strings."
The two discussed how to draw Larson out, and had a plan formulated within a few minutes. Neal couldn't believe how much better he felt, knowing he was doing something to help catch the guy who'd hurt his friend. With a smile he said, "Let's get started."
Peter shook his head. "It's almost five o'clock. Your portion of the plan can wait until tomorrow morning."
Peter continued as if Neal hadn't spoken. "I'll tell Jones and Diana to stay late and burn all of Larson's known aliases. You and I are going home. We have things to discuss."
Swallowing hard at those ominous words, Neal stuck his hands in his pockets, and pouted at the floor.
# # #
The drive to Peter's house had been uncomfortably silent. As soon as they walked through the door, Peter had greeted Satchmo, and then let him out back, firmly shutting the door behind the dog.
Neal stood nervously by the couch, wishing he could be somewhere else at this moment. He watched Peter pull a dining room chair out, and turn it around, so it was facing the couch. But instead of sitting down, Peter unbuckled his belt, and pulled it through the loops.
Neal's hands went up in a placating gesture, "Peter, you… you can't mean to… to use that on me!"
Doubling the belt over, Peter set it on the kitchen table, within reaching distance of the chair he'd turned around. He looked Neal in the eye and said, "Yes, I am going to use it on you. Every time we have to go over a lesson more than once, I'm going to use it."
Shaking his head, Neal said, "No, Peter. I… I don't agree to that. It's too much! Your hand hurts plenty, believe me."
Peter rolled his eyes, "Like you've agreed to any of the spankings I've given you." He sat down in the chair, and beckoned Neal to him with two fingers.
Neal couldn't make his legs work, and shook his head no again.
With a sigh, Peter said, "If I have to come get you, I'm going to swat you every step of the way back here."
"Please, Peter, can't we… talk first?"
"Oh, we're gonna talk first, but you're going to be facing the carpet while we do it. Last chance to come over here."
Feeling ill, Neal walked over to Peter's right side.
Peter took Neal's wrist in his hand, but instead of guiding him over his lap, he used his other hand to nudge the younger man over, until he was standing between Peter's knees. Keeping a hand on Neal's wrist, Peter said softly, "I never wanted it to come to this Neal. I tried to be patient. I tried to guide you onto the right path, with some lighter spankings that were meant to teach, not punish. But now you've left me with no other option."
"I'm sorry." Neal's face was bright red with shame. He shifted his weight, feeling impossibly guilty sanding there looking down at Peter's serious expression.
Peter said, "I'm sorry too, but that doesn't change anything. You stole the key and the gun. You broke into a locked room at the Embassy by shattering a window. You lied to me about the Music Box, and about investigating Kate's murder after I told you not to. But the thing that hurts the most is that you didn't trust me again. After everything we've been through together, why don't you trust me?"
Tears fell down Neal's face. "I do trust…"
"No." Peter stopped him. "Your actions show that you don't."
"But I…" Neal couldn't look Peter in the eye and lie. "Okay, you're right. I don't trust you completely. And it's for the exact same reason Elizabeth loves you. You are a lawman. That's not just your job, but it's who you are. I'm a con man. That's not just my profession, it's who I am. We're on opposite sides Peter. I shouldn't trust you at all, but most of the time I do. Just not always."
Peter shook his head. "You're wrong kid. Deep down, you're not a con man. You're an artist. You just haven't had someone in your life pointing you in the right direction, and helping you make the right choices."
Neal frowned, and wiped the tears off his face with his free hand. He did consider himself an artist, too, but he'd never considered ranking that description of himself above con man.
Tightening his grip on Neal's wrist, Peter said, "I'm going to take your slacks down."
"What!" Neal tried to step back, but Peter held tight, and yanked him across his left knee. Neal fell forward, and his hands shot out to stop his fall. He felt Peter's hands wrap around his waist, and before he could put up much of a struggle, his slacks were down around his knees, and Peter had clamped both of his legs in place with his right leg.
Squirming with embarrassment, Neal kept his head down, and tried not to start crying again.
Peter pushed the tail of Neal's white shirt up to the middle of his lower back, bunching up Neal's suit vest, and further exposing his gray boxer briefs. Once Neal was in place, Peter said, "Tell me why I spanked you that first time."
"For stealing the painting." Neal hated how vulnerable he felt in this position, and waiting for the actual punishment to start was excruciating.
"What did you steal this time?"
"The key to my anklet, and a gun."
"And?" Peter prompted.
"And?" Neal asked confused.
"It still counts as a punishable offence in my book if you have one of your friends steal something for you."
"That's not fair." Neal said.
Peter gave the younger man's bottom a light warning smack. "It is fair. Especially when you divulge pertinent information on how to find it."
Squirming again, Neal said, "The Music Box."
"That's three things," Peter said. "Three times when you knew I wouldn't approve, but you did it anyway. That means six with the belt when we're all done with our discussion. But for now, let me show you how unhappy I am with the choices you made."
Neal felt the first hard swat land dead center on his butt, and jerked forward at the impact. He supposed he should be grateful for the protection of his underwear, but mostly he just felt sorry for himself. He tried to be stoic, but little grunts of pain escaped when Peter started spanking the same spot twice before moving to another.
Peter doled out twenty-five firm swats, and then stopped. He said, "What was your second spanking for?"
Neal groaned. Peter had spanked him four times before, and if they were going to go over each one like this, his butt was going to be in serious pain before Peter even used the belt. "It was for lying."
"Not just for lying."
Shifting his hips, Neal said, "Also for manipulating you, not trusting you as a partner."
"Right. What did you lie about this time?"
Neal wanted to argue that technically he didn't steal the Music Box, so it really wasn't a lie, but that logic hadn't worked out for him yet, so he forced himself to say what he knew Peter wanted to hear. "I lied when you asked if I'd stolen the Music Box, and I lied when you asked if I was looking into Kate's death on my own."
Pleased with that answer, Peter patted Neal on the back and said, "Good. What about manipulating me, and not trusting me as a partner?"
"I faked an FBI file to get you to look into the Spanish Silver, because I knew it would draw Alex out."
After a pause Peter said, "What else?"
"Um… I'm not sure?"
"Putting the anklet on June's dog to make me think you were home." Peter saw Neal's head nod, and said, "That's two lies and two manipulations, so that's eight more with the belt. For a total of fourteen so far."
"Noooo," Neal whined, adding things up in his head.
"I'm afraid so," Peter said with some sympathy. He started swatting again, and kept count in his head.
Neal struggled and kicked in anger. "It's not fair!"
"I think it's more than fair," the older man answered, and continued swatting.
"Owww!" Neal yelled, still angry. "It's not! It's cruel and unusual punishment!"
Peter finished off that round of twenty-five, and said, "Cruel would be sending you to jail, and spanking isn't that unusual. Fifty percent of American parents still do it, and when you're over my knee, I tend to think of you as a son or a younger brother."
"Parents spank little kids!" Neal yelled. "Not adults!"
Peter opened his mouth to say 'Most adults don't act like they're ten!' but decided that wouldn't go over well. Instead he said, "Look at it this way Neal, I've only been thinking of you as family for a couple of years now. Maybe once I've thought of you that way for ten years, I'll think you're too old for it."
"Screw you, Peter! I hate you!"
"Fine by me." Peter said, trying to hide how much that hurt. "Hate me all you like, but it doesn't change anything. What was your third spanking for?"
"I don't want to do this anymore!" Neal yelled, kicking the floor with one foot.
"I'm sure you don't, but you're not getting up until we've gone over everything, no matter how much of a tantrum you throw. What was your third spanking for, Neal?"
Neal made a serious attempt at standing up, and Peter had to wrap his arm around Neal's waist to keep him in place. After a few seconds of struggling, Neal slumped down defeated, and teary eyed.
"The longer you fight me, the longer this lasts, kid. What was your third spanking for."
"Not trusting you," Neal's voice was thick with emotion.
"Doing something after you told me not to."
"Yep, and what did you do to get spanked this time?"
"I went behind your back to try and find Kate's killer on my own. And I went to the Embassy after you told me I had to stay home."
"That's two with the belt for each act of disobedience, which brings your growing total to eighteen."
"And the only reason I'm not adding about eight more swats for not trusting me multiple times during this whole fiasco, is because you did trust me when I told you to give me the gun."
Peter started another round of twenty-five swats with his hand, and lectured while he spanked. "When I tell you not to do something, I mean it, Neal. I'm sick and tired of being lied to, manipulated, and disobeyed. I don't lie to you, and I don't manipulate you. You should at least show me the same respect that I show you in that regard."
Already sore, the new swats brought tears to Neal's eyes. Being scolded on top of that made them spill over. "Oww! I'm sorry, Peter! Aaaah! I do… Oow! …respect you!"
When Peter stopped again, he realized this was now new territory. With those last twenty-five swats, he'd now given Neal more swats than during any other spanking, and he was going to continue to spank him even though he was crying.
Neal tried to conceal his tears, and get himself under control, but it was no use, because he knew they weren't done yet.
"What was your last spanking for?"
"B… breaking and entering."
"And what did you do this time?"
"I b… broke through a window to g… get to Fowler." Neal wiped at the tears on his face.
"That's two more with the belt, brining the total to twenty."
Neal's crying got noisier with that pronouncement.
Peter started swatting with his hand again, aiming all the swats on Neal's sit spots. He lectured as he gave Neal the last twenty-five. "I was lenient with you the last time you got into trouble, and now I'm thinking that was a mistake."
"Noooooo!" Neal shook his head while he cried, and put a hand back to block the blows.
Peter paused long enough to clasp Neal's wrist, and pull the hand away. He wrapped his arm back around Neal's waist, holding Neal's hand under his own stomach where it couldn't get in the way. He started swatting again and said, "Rest assured I won't be making that mistake again in the near future."
"Peter! Please stooooop!"
He did stop, but only long enough to reach back and pick the belt up off the kitchen table.
"Please don't!" Neal knew what was coming, and desperately wanted it not to happen.
Keeping his voice firm, Peter said, "You held a gun on Fowler today. I'm doing this, because that can't happen again."
Peter slapped the doubled over belt down onto Neal's underwear at a quick pace, not wanting to draw this part out. By the fourth slap the younger man was struggling in reaction to get away from the pain. Peter wanted to stop, but didn't. Ending the punishment early would send the wrong message. He forced himself to keep going, even when Neal's tears turned into pitiful yelps and broken sobs of regret.
Lost in the sharp biting pain, Neal writhed under the onslaught. It took a couple of seconds for him to realize the spanking had stopped, but once he did, he slumped down over Peter's lap crying.
Sighing with relief, Peter set the belt back on the table, and let go of Neal's wrist. He loosened his legs so that Neal's legs were no longer trapped in place, and smoothed the younger man's shirt and vest back into place. He patted Neal's lower back, and said quietly, "I'm done."
Neal was too upset to speak yet, but he immediately pushed himself off Peter's leg, and worked on untangling his slacks from around his ankles. He pulled the slacks up with him when he stood, and found he was a little dizzy from the sudden change of position. Peter stood as well, and helped steady Neal with a hand on his upper arm, while Neal buttoned and zipped his pants.
Neal wiped at his face with his sleeve, and tried to stop crying. The immediate pain was quickly dying down to an unpleasant but tolerable level, but his eyes kept leaking anyway. He put both hands on his rear and gently rubbed at the pain. His emotions were all over the place. On the one hand, he hated Peter for what he'd just done. But on the other hand, he wanted the older man's forgiveness, and his reassurance that things were going to be okay between them. He'd never admit it to Peter, but he knew the spanking was justified, even though he'd hated every second of it. Peter had clearly warned him exactly what was going to happen if he didn't heed the lesson of a first spanking.
"That really sucked, Peter," Neal said, darting his eyes to Peter's for a brief moment.
Peter pulled Neal into a hug, and said quietly, "I hope you plan to avoid the full blown version from now on, because believe it or not, tonight sucked for me too. But Elizabeth and I don't want to have to visit you in jail, so if I have to make things unpleasant to keep you on the straight and narrow, than that's what I'll do."
"You'd visit?" Neal asked, sounding about ten.
"Of course we would." Peter held him tighter.
Neal finally took his hands off his bottom, and wrapped his arms around Peter too. He said softly, "I'm sorry."
"I know, kid, and as far as I'm concerned the slate is wiped clean."
They both heard Satchmo barking at the back door, and Peter let Neal go. "Why don't you go get cleaned up, while I let Satch in, and call Elizabeth."
Neal nodded and headed for the downstairs bathroom to wash his face. Walking was uncomfortable. Each step chafed, and made him pout with self-pity. As soon as he shut the bathroom door, he looked at himself in the mirror. He was a mess. His hair was wildly out of place, his face was pink with emotion, and his eyes were red and puffy. He ran cold water over a washcloth, and held it against his face. Wondering how he would ever be able to face Elizabeth tonight, he berated himself for not arguing when she told him he was spending the night.
# # #
An hour later, Elizabeth arrived home, to find Peter and Satchmo sitting together on the couch watching TV. He got up and took the large sack of Chinese food out of her arms.
"Where's Neal?" she asked.
"Upstairs in the guest room."
She looked up the stairs and then back at her husband with her eyebrows raised.
Feeling defensive, Peter said in a hushed voice, "A few minutes after it was over, he told me he wanted to lay down for a while. I haven't seen him since. I figured he needed some space."
Elizabeth frowned, and gave Peter a gentle push in the direction of the dining room. "Go set the table. We'll be right down."
Upstairs, the guestroom door stood open. Neal lay on his side, facing away from the door. Elizabeth hovered in the doorway, for a moment, trying to figure out if Neal was asleep.
"Hi Elizabeth," Neal said softly without turning around.
Feeling a rush of sympathy and concern for him, she walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. She patted his shoulder and said, "Hey there. I thought maybe you were asleep."
"No. Just thinking."
"About what?" She pushed the hair back from his face.
"Everything. Peter… Kate… Fowler… Mozzie." He swiped the back of his hand over his face and sniffed.
Nodding to herself, Elizabeth made a decision. She patted his shoulder once before standing up. "Come downstairs, have some dinner, and tell us about 'everything'."
Staying where he was, Neal shook his head. "I'd rather not."
His body tensed at the tone of her voice. "Yes?"
"I didn't tell you to stay here tonight so that you could stew alone in the guest room." He voice softened. "I know the past couple of days have been emotionally draining for both you and Peter. You'll feel better if you come have dinner with us."
He didn't think he'd be feeling better any time soon, but rolled over, and stood up for her. "Doesn't sound like I have much of an option."
"Not really," she said with a smile. She wrapped her arm around his, and the two of them headed down to eat.
Dinner was tense at first, but after they'd all had a glass of wine and some food, the atmosphere slowly slipped towards normal. By the end of the night Neal realized that Elizabeth had been right. He did feel better, even if he wasn't sitting comfortably while they watched an old movie on TV.
At ten o'clock, when the movie ended, Elizabeth announced that she was going to bed. Once she was gone, Peter clicked the TV off. Neal stood and said, "Guess I should head up too."
"Yeah." Peter got up, and tossed an arm across Neal's shoulders, walking both of them towards the stairs. "I'm glad you're staying tonight."
With one eyebrow up, Neal smirked and said, "So you can keep tabs on me?"
Peter laughed. It was nice to know that Neal had recovered enough to make jokes. "Nope. I'm just glad to have you around."
Flushing with pleasure, Neal murmured, "I'm glad to be here."
They made it to the spare bedroom, and Peter squeezed Neal's shoulder before letting go. "You can stay with us anytime you want, Neal."
Neal gave him a wide-eyed look, not quite believing what he'd just heard.
Peter smiled and said, "Get some sleep, kid."
Neal watched Peter walk down the hall to the master bedroom, while those casual words of acceptance replayed in his head. You can stay with us anytime you want, Neal. Neal smiled and promised himself that he would start trusting Peter with everything, before heading into the guestroom to get some sleep.