Peter sighed, and then stood up. That's it, he needed a break; those cases on his desk weren't getting solved by him staring at them. He picked his coat from where it was hanging on the chair, and walked out of the office and down the stairs, stopping at Neal's desk. He stood there quietly for a minute smiling at how immersed Neal was in his work that he had yet to acknowledge Peter's presence. When Neal still didn't look up from what he was writing, Peter cleared his throat and had to stifle a laugh when the brunette in front of him jumped a mile in the air, startled.
"Peter! What are you doing here?" Neal looked up at his partner, who was grinning at him.
"I thought I would give the files on your desk a break by taking you to grab a coffee." Peter smiled when the CIs face lit up in a dazzling grin. "C'mon kiddo, you've been working for hours and that too behind a desk! You deserve a break."
Neal got up seriously and walked around the desk to where Peter was standing. He came to a stop right in front of the man and extended a hand, touching Peter's brow. "Hmm, nope, no temperature. There must have been something in the coffee…"
Peter slapped away his hand and rolled his eyes when he grinned. "You coming or not?" He asked, picking up Neal's Fedora, which had been lying on the desk, and handing it to the ex con who flipped it once and put it on his head.
"Since you ask so nicely…" Neal smiled, before following Peter out of the glass doors.
They had grabbed a coffee from the Starbuck at the corner, but instead going back to the office, Peter led Neal to the park. "Really, the day is too beautiful to be sitting behind a desk." He chuckled when the ex con did a double take and stared at him.
The day really was beautiful. Bright and sunny, it was exactly the kind of day to go to the park. Evidently, a lot of people thought so because when they got to the park, it was crowded. There were children running around, playing catch, and swinging on the swings; with their mothers calling out to them or silently watching them from the benches. After dodging several joggers, both the men decided that it was better for both them and the coffee cups in their hands if they sat down.
"So found anything interesting in all those files you were attacking the whole day?" Peter asked, turning slightly to look at Neal, who was sitting beside him on the bench and smiling at a group of children who were splashing in the fountain.
"Huh? No, nothing interesting." Neal replied after a moment. "Same old mortgage cases, I just decided that I would finish the whole lot so I won't have to see them again, at least for a week." He explained to Peter who was looking at him curiously. Peter nodded, and both of them turned to look at the children again.
They sat there on the bench, sipping their coffee in amiable silence for a while. Peter kept throwing glances at the man beside him, watching him observing the children around. There was an unguarded openness about the happy smile that graced Neal's face as he looked at the children. The smile was real, not the usual Caffrey Grin, intending to charm and con, but a simple small smile. It made him look so innocent that Peter could not stop the question that escaped his lips.
"How come you don't know how to cycle?"
Neal looked at him, startled. "I don't know, never tried it." He said, waving the question off.
"But you must've owned a cycle when you were a kid, right?" Peter asked, still not believing him.
"Nah, my mom thought it was too much of a bother. She said that it would be expensive and difficult to store in our studio apartment when I asked her once." The nonchalant way in which he said this made Peter make up his mind then and there. He would complete a small part of Neal's childhood by teaching him how to ride a bike. He just had to get Neal to be ready to learn first.
"Oh I was wondering," Peter started after a while, casually, "if you were free this weekend."
"Yes I am…" Neal replied cautiously. "Though if there's going to be a stakeout, I'll suddenly remember a prior arrangement."
Peter smiled. "No, no stakeouts. I just needed a hand around the house. There's some repairing work to be done which I've been putting off." He looked at his friend. "Care to help me with it?"
"Sure, though you will owe me one after I do." Neal said, looking forward to Elizabeth's cooking. What was a little repairing if it gave him an excuse to invade the Burke Dinner table and raid their wine cellar?
"Great!" Peter smiled at the young man. "Yup, I'll owe you one. Now let's get back to work, it's been fifteen minutes already."
Neal stood outside the Burke's house and hesitated for only a moment before ringing the bell. He had dressed down for the day, his usual crisp Devore replaced by a hoodie and designer jeans. Peter appeared at the door moments later, dressed casually too in slacks and a faded high school football shirt.
"Hi! C'mon in." he stood back; allowing Neal to walk past then closed the door. "You know, El already called a maintenance guy so we don't have to work today." He said once Neal was seated on the couch after El had fussed over how thin he had become and rushed out of the door, saying something about aa important event.
"We don't? That's cool." Neal said, grinning. "Then what are we going to do the whole day?" he asked after a moment looking up at Peter.
"Well, El is out for some event of hers and won't be back till the afternoon. Let's do something constructive." Peter said vaguely.
"Constructive?" Neal groaned. "Like what?"
"You know, I've got an old bike of mine. Let's go out cycling." Peter said casually, like as if the idea had just popped into his head.
"Cycling? Peter you know I can't do that." Neal stood up, looking at his partner intently. Peter knew that if he gave him the chance, Neal would wriggle out of this in a moment. So he simply turned and walked out of the door, relieved to find the young man following him. He had taken out his bicycle from the basement the previous day and had left it besides his car in the morning. Now he walked straight towards it, before Neal could change his mind.
"Peter, there never was any repairing to be done, was there?" Neal asked, catching up with Peter, who looked at him with a semi- guilty expression.
"No, there wasn't. But I really wanted you to come." Peter said earnestly, hoping that the ex con wouldn't change his mind.
"But Peter, I really don't know how to ride a cycle." Neal insisted.
"Oh, that's not a problem. I can teach you." Peter replied, smiling at his partner.
"Why?" Neal was looking at him, confused. Why was Peter so willing to waste his time, teaching him something that won't help him in anyway at work?
"Because I want to." The simple reply made Neal blink. When was the last time someone wanted to do something for him? Shaking his head at the ridiculous question, he looked at Peter and nodded.
Peter gave him a huge smile and inclined his head towards the bike. Neal walked to it and swung one leg over it, mounting it.
"Now what?" He asked the fed once he was astride the bike.
"Now you've got to learn to balance." Peter said, clutching the handle bars tightly. "Put your feet on the pedals, I'm holding the bike so it won't fall." Neal did as he was told. Putting his feet on the pedals, he nodded to Peter, who suddenly let go. Neal wobbled for a second, before planting his feet back on the ground for stability.
"Good, see you had it balanced for a second there." Peter looked at him.
"Yea, for a complete second…" Neal muttered. What had looked easy at first suddenly seemed daunting.
"Hey, you just have to learn to let go and you'll be fine." Peter said, trying to encourage the young man.
"Let go? Peter I'm a con man, I don't let go. I like control." Neal protested against Peter's seemingly useless advice.
"Yup, you're con man extraordinaire. Where's your self- confidence?" Peter wasn't letting him get out of it easy. "Now, let's see you ride."
"But I can't balance it for more than a second, how do you expect me to ride it?" Neal asked his friend, convinced that this was some kind of cruel payback for all the times he hadn't obeyed him.
"I'm here, Neal. I've got you." Peter assured the young man. "You have to trust me to not let you fall."
Neal looked hesitantly up at his mentor for a minute, and then nodded. He put his feet on the pedals and gave a slight push. The bike crawled forwards and Peter, with one hand on the handlebars and the other on Neal's shoulder, walked along with it.
'C'mon, push faster." Peter encouraged the ex con. Neal, assured by Peter's presence besides him, pushed a little harder. Peter broke out in a jog trying to keep up with the bike.
Neal pedaled harder and the bike picked up speed. He was having fun. The wind was blowing in his face, through his hair, and he felt exhilarated. He pedaled with all his might and the bike shot forwards. Everything went past him in a blur. He was flying, leaving the world behind. Nothing could catch up with him, no problems, no worries… he was free.
Peter watched the young man ride down the road. He had done what his father had done almost four decades ago; he had let go. Neal hadn't realized that, just like he himself hadn't, all those years ago; and thinking that his fathe- Peter was still holding him, he had gained the confidence he had needed. Peter smiled, heart filling with pride at the sight of the young man pedaling furiously. But his smile faltered when suddenly there was a bend in the road and Neal, not able to balance himself to make the turning, crashed to the ground. Peter broke into a run, hoping that he hadn't hurt himself very badly. As he neared the bend, he saw Neal trying to get the bike off himself.
Peter was beside him in an instance, hauling the bike off him and helping him up. "Hey, you alright? Did you hurt yourself? Is anything paining? Your chin's bleeding!" Peter fired question after question at the ex con, looking all over him for any bruises or wounds.
"Peter! Relax, I'm fine!" Neal assured the man, grabbing his hand to get his attention. Peter looked at the young man to find him smiling. "Really I'm alright, but did you see that? I was riding!" Neal exclaimed with such jubilant innocence that Peter's worry subsided and he grinned.
"Yeah buddy, I saw. You were amazing!" Peter his friend's hair, and wiped the cut on his chin with the back of his hand. "You want to try that again?" he asked as Neal mounted the bike.
"Yup, this time I start myself too." Neal said, grinning at Peter.
Peter nodded. "Whenever you feel like you are losing your balance, don't start to panic thinking that you're going to fall. Just picture me holding you from behind and you'll be ok."
Neal nodded and took a deep breath. "Right, thanks." He moved his feet to the pedals and starting peddling right away. Peter watched the bike and rider wobble for a second and started to rush to his side, but stopped when Neal became steadier and picked up speed. Neal let out a whoop of joy which made Peter grin from ear to ear. The boy always was a quick learner.
Later, after three hours of cycling, they decided to go inside. By now, Neal had gotten pretty good at keeping his balance and only after a couple more falls he had made the turnings without even slowing down. Both of them were spent. Neal from peddling and cycling and Peter from running to Neal's side whenever he fell and worrying about him.
Drenched in sweat they made their way inside the house to find El already home and in the kitchen, preparing lunch. "Wash up, boys! I'll get lunch ready in half an hour!" she called out to them.
Peter gave El a quick kiss on the lips as she came out of the kitchen, and went upstairs to wash up, beckoning to Neal to fellow. Neal looked at Elizabeth and she smiled at him. "You can wash up in the guest bathroom so you won't have to wait for Peter, he's sure to take ages." She grinned at him.
Neal nodded and made his way upstairs. After a quick shower, when he came out of the bathroom, he saw a T- shirt lying on the bed. He smiled and quickly put it on, his stomach growling at the exquisite smell which seemed to be coming from downstairs.
When lunch was done, Neal took his leave from the Burkes, not wanting to intrude on their weekend any longer than he already had, but Peter offered him a ride back home, and despite the former's insistence that he can take a cab, he got his keys and ordered him to 'say goodbye to his wife and get his ass in the car.'
Neal grinned cheekily at the older man, then smiled and hugged El goodbye, thanking her for the wonderful lunch. He got out of the house and in the car with Peter following close behind.
"Buckle up." Peter gave his usual order as soon as he got in. Neal rolled his eyes and did as he was told. As they pulled out of the driveway, he closed his eyes and leaned back, tired. Peter noticed how quite the ex con had become and when the silence persisted for five minutes, an abnormally long time considering the fact that Neal Caffrey was involved, he grew concerned.
"Hey buddy, are you alright? You must be hurting." He asked the young man who was startled out of his daydreaming by the question.
"Yea? Yeah I'm fine. Just a little tired." Neal brushed off Peter's concern, and then looked at his friend. "Peter, today was amazing." He said, suddenly wanting to tell this man what today had meant for him.
"Yes it was." Peter agreed, smiling. "Though I doubt you'll be saying the same thing tomorrow, with your legs aching from the exercise." He stopped the car at a red light and turned to face his partner.
Neal shook his head and smiled. "Thank you, Peter." He said earnestly, looking into the eyes of the older man, hoping to convey the gratitude he felt in those simple words. Thank you for taking the time out, for giving me something without expecting anything in return, for being there, for giving me a cherished memory.
Peter nodded, understanding what he was trying to tell him. "Oh next weekend, we'll go to the park with the bike." He said enthusiastically. "That is if you want to…" he trailed off, letting Neal know that it wasn't an order, it was an invitation.
"I would love to!" Neal sat up and looked at him eagerly. Peter smiled and extended and arm to ruffle the young man's hair but he dodged out of the way, grinning.