This is my first finished White Collar story. Inspired by Peter's words from S03E01 On Guard: "If I'm right and Neal's behind this, he goes down. And so will I." In combination with Neal being left with the Degas in S03E10 Countdown.
Warning: Contains spoilers for season 3, specifically S03E10 Countdown.
Disclaimer: I do not own White Collar or its characters.
(No) Sense of Consequence
Neal stands forlornly in the same spot as when Mozzie had said his parting words and walked out of his life. He doesn't know how long it has been as his friend's words reverberate in his head, "You're fooling yourself if you think this is who you really are." And the decisive conversation replays itself in his mind like a broken record, "Neal, I've been really patient but it's time for you to make a choice. Do you want to leave or not." "No."
He shakes his head to rid himself of the memory and turns around abruptly. His eyes wander aimlessly through the apartment and finally settle on the painting sitting on the easel. A hint of a smile graces his lips.
Mozzie has left him the Degas, the one Neal had admitted to have his eye on, and Neal knows his friend has done it purposely. He appreciates the gesture but in turn it just makes him feel worse. It is a reminder of the choice between his old and new life, one good friend over another. Consequently, causing the realization that he doesn't know where he belongs, for he has become too sensible to run with Mozzie, but he is still too reckless and unsure of the true goodness in himself to completely fit into Peter's world.
He turns his back towards the masterpiece and in an attempt to pull his mind out of its current loop opts for a long shower hoping it will wash away his doubts and feeling of loneliness.
Peter listens to his wife as she tells him to come home and he intends to but as he makes his way to his car, he decides to drive by Neal's place on the way home. After staring at the paperwork of the warehouse explosion and the relating Degas case all evening, going over every last detail, his gut is telling him he needs to visit the man he still suspects.
Fifteen minutes later, Peter smiles at June and thanks her when she lets him in and tells him that Neal is upstairs and to walk right on up.
He quickly climbs the steps to the top floor and knocks on Neal's door but there is no answer. Peter listens for any noises coming from within the apartment but all is quiet. If he hadn't talked to June, Peter would suspect Neal is not at home. However, because he knows differently, Peter knocks again, this time a little louder. As he again gets no response, slightly starting to worry now, his hand reaches for the doorknob while the other in an automatic reflex hovers around his gun. He lightly pushes the door open and cautiously steps into the apartment but one foot inside the door and he stops dead in his tracks.
Neal finishes off his shower and though he'd hoped it would make him feel better, as it has done in the past, it doesn't quite have the desired effect this time. He slips into a pair of jeans, which is a rare piece of clothing in his current wardrobe but he doesn't feel like dressing to impress right now, and a white t-shirt he often wears while at home. As he towels his hair dry he slowly walks out of the bathroom into the main living area but halts abruptly.
At first, seeing Peter sitting at his table startles him for no other reason than he hasn't heard him come in and was not expecting him at all. In fact, with Mozzie gone he isn't expecting unannounced visitors anymore in general.
But then as he takes in the way Peter is sitting with his back straight, shoulders tense, in combination with the death glare which is now aimed at him, his partner's presence in his apartment terrifies him.
Neal is acutely aware of the incriminating evidence which is in plain sight but he has a small sliver of hope the agent will assume it's a forgery, however unlikely it is. Nevertheless, he decides in a micro-second to play it cool and act casual.
"Peter," he greets with a smile as he again starts to dry his hair with the towel in hand, keeping his tone light he continues, "What are you doing here?"
Peter obviously doesn't fall for his act, not even for a second, and the man actually has trouble forming words in his anger.
"You did it, didn't you?" he finally forces out between clenched teeth.
"Did what?" Neal asks as he tosses the towel onto the nearest chair before raising his arms to accompany his earlier question, for he is genuinely curious what Peter is accusing him off specifically.
"Don't play with me, Neal," Peter warns angrily, his voice dangerously low. "You were responsible all along; you had the treasure this whole time."
"Peter, I don't have the treasure," Neal denies steadfastly and it is the God's honest truth. Mozzie had left hours ago, he would be long gone by now and so was the treasure. It had disappeared with him.
"But you have this," Peter counters, pointing towards the painting. Although Peter is no expert and Neal's forgeries are second to none, Peter's gut tells him this is the real thing. The obvious conclusion to discovering the real painting is that the art really hadn't burnt and furthermore finding the masterpiece in Neal's possession can only mean one thing; he is guilty of stealing the treasure.
"It's a forgery?" Neal tries in that tone of voice that feigns innocence but actually means he is guilty as charged.
"You want me to call in an expert?" Peter calls his bluff, recognizing Neal's tone and accompanying expression from previous instances.
"Who?" Neal dares to ask.
Neal visibly cringes at the name but Peter either doesn't notice or refuses to call him on it. Instead he steams ahead.
"He already identified a forgery today, he'll know if this is the real painting. It won't fool him. He'll know and it's all over," Peter continues to speak, his pace picking up mid-sentence only to slow down on his last words.
He takes a deep breath and as the true meaning of those words fully sinks in, he repeats, "It'll all be over."
For a moment neither speak, both lost in their own thoughts. Neal quickly tries to decide what his next move should be but all he can do is mentally curse Mozzie for leaving him the painting and scold himself for not putting it away and out of sight the moment he had discovered it. However, the shock concerning his own decision and the bewilderment of Mozzie's departure had shaken him and thus none of his usual instincts for taking precautions and thinking ahead had been activated. He doesn't always lock his door and thus leaving the painting for all to see had been utterly careless and just plain stupid.
All the while Peter can't help but think of the night before when he had told Ell that if he could just get his hands on the painting, he'd know the truth. He'd thought it would bring him relief, to simply know. Now the object in question is staring him right in the face and he has gotten his answer. Although, the situation they now find themselves to be in is exactly what he'd been expecting, it is also what he'd been dreading and had hoped with all his might it not to be so.
Nonetheless, the disappointment surges through him but soon makes way for the anger he is feeling. The longer he thinks about it, both of them sitting in silence with Neal not daring to speak first, the more his blood boils until he erupts and growls, "Dammit Neal, how could you do this?" He slams his hand on the table and shoots out of his seat so fast that it startles Neal.
Neal chooses not to answer; interpreting correctly it isn't a question Peter expects an answer to. Not that he really gets much of a chance to reply anyway because Peter barely takes a breath before he moves on.
"Do you ever think before you act? Do you have any idea how severe the consequences will be?" He paces while he speaks; short, quick strides which reveal his immense anger and anxiety.
Neal snaps up at that comment. "Yes Peter, I know," he spits back.
"Do you really?" Peter pushes, coming to an abrupt halt, hands on his hips.
"I do," he lashes out, eyes narrowing in anger, "How can I forget the spending the rest of my life in prison speech."
"Have you considered what it might mean for me?"
"Oh you mean you have to solve your cases all by yourself and you will have to do all of the heavy lifting instead of me?" he mocks, though knowing it's not a good idea to make the older man angry at this stage since his entire future is in the agent's hands but he can't help himself.
"No," Peter replies, angry daggers shooting out of his eyes, "I mean, the repercussions I will face."
"What?" Neal asks totally taken aback, the anger gone at once.
"Oh come on, don't tell me it has never crossed your mind," Peter says but Neal doesn't respond.
"Do you honestly think that what you do doesn't blow back on me? That there are no consequences for me when my CI, the person I personally vouched for to be a good and reliable asset, turns out to be involved in one of the biggest heists of the last decade!" he is nearly shouting at the end while Neal is still unusually silent. Not only because he doesn't know what to say but also because Neal honestly hadn't considered it and the fact that he hadn't realized what the consequences of his actions can mean for Peter's career, reputation and thus his life, turns his face red with shame and renders him speechless.
"I didn't realize," Neal finally manages, it is but a mere whisper and one Peter does not hear.
"I have risked my career to give you a second chance and I bet my reputation on that you'd do the right thing," Peter's gestures wildly with his hands and finally shakes his head in disbelief over his own stupidity.
"But I did," Neal interrupts, finally speaking up.
Peter snorts in disbelief and takes his seat again, feeling suddenly drained.
"I did!" Neal insists more urgently.
"I could have run tonight," he admits softly. He realizes this confession can get him into even more trouble than he is already in, however Peter already has enough to send him to prison for –most likely the rest of his life– so he figures it can't really get much worse.
Peter's breath catches in his throat from pure shock while he turns slowly towards the younger man. He leans in as if he hasn't heard Neal correctly but Neal doesn't repeat his confession and with difficulty Peter eventually says, "What?"
"Everything was all set up; I could have been out of the country already by this time," Neal continues and as he looks into Peter's eyes he says, "But I'm not."
Peter blinks at him.
"I chose to stay."
"Why?" Peter finally manages.
"I have a life here," Neal answers simply, honestly.
Then as realization dawns on him, he adds with a sigh, "That is I did until a minute ago, before you came in here and saw that painting."
"You'll still have a life," Peter counters instantly in slight annoyance and without thinking to the drama in Neal's voice.
"Yeah, one that includes an orange wardrobe isn't much of a life, Peter," Neal responds, attempting to keep his tone light but the prospect is already weighing heavily on his soul.
It is only then that Peter fully realizes the meaning of Neal's words concerning his life being over because the life Neal is currently leading will most definitely come to an end once Peter slaps the cuffs on him and places him under arrest.
Peter knows that is exactly what he needs to do just like he has to call this in, contact his boss and drum up his team to escort one of their own downtown to be processed. Despite the fact that the agent thinks it is more than justified as Neal has no one else to blame but himself, the man cannot help but feel responsible. As if he believes he could and should have done more to prevent his charge from making such an incredibly poor life choice and overall stupid decision. However, he reminds himself that Neal is a grown man, it is his mess and he has to pay the price.
Nevertheless, despite this realization, the agent stands up with a heavy heart and pulls out his cuffs as he slowly makes his way around the table towards Neal. Despite fully intending to do it, Peter still hesitates as the moment reminds him of what his mentor had told him only a few short days ago. The man's words ring truer than he will ever want them to, "You're not slapping cuffs on a criminal, you're taking down a friend."
All the while, Neal sits quietly, compliant, and resigned, waiting for the cuffs to snap around his wrists. He doesn't look up and as Peter remains silent and still, Neal finally decides to ask what's been on his mind ever since he's been made aware of the situation, "If I go down for this…" he begins slowly, staring intently at his hands, "What will happen to you?"
Peter steps back suddenly and eyes the younger man. His first instinct is to think it's a con to distract him and an attempt to remind him of the consequences for himself so he won't go through with it, but Neal's tone seems genuine. Despite the fact that Peter's mind is telling him that Neal is a conman who can make anything sound genuine, Peter wants to believe he can spot the seemingly genuine from the truly genuine. Being convinced of the latter, he sits down in the chair at the head of the table, directly to Neal's left, lets the cuffs rest in front of him while still holding on to them and answers.
"Honestly, I don't know precisely."
"Do you think you'll be," Neal swallows hard, "You'll be fired?" He only briefly meets Peter's eyes.
"It's difficult to say, it'll depend on the severity of what you'll be charged with."
"Worst case scenario?"
"My career is over, I will be fired and lose my pension," Peter lists almost distantly as if he is not speaking about his own possible future. However, he knows it's not unlikely and he'd always been aware of the risk; realizing that if Neal really went off the wagon, he would pay the price as well.
Neal seems to curl into himself even further, flinching visibly. "Dishonorable discharge?"
Peter shakes his head, "That's the military Neal," he reminds him, Neal for some reason always got their policies and terminology mixed up.
"Oh," he simply breathes, not commenting further. Only after a moment, he softly asks, as if he's afraid to, "What is the best case scenario?"
Peter sighs, thinks it over, "I'm pretty sure I won't be able to keep my position."
Neal stares wide-eyed at the man sitting next to him; the idea of Peter Burke no longer being one of the head agents of the White Collar Unit was inconceivable. And worse yet, it was entirely his fault.
"They might demote or transfer me or I can be put on desk duty for a period of time or–" he pauses for only a second, "Indefinitely."
Neal gasps, "Desk duty, you mean paperwork?"
Peter nods, "For the rest of my career." Neal cringes, to him that has to be the worst form of punishment, well except for going to prison. But at least he deserves to go to prison, while Peter does not deserve the consequences he might be facing.
"I'm sorry, Peter," Neal apologizes and though his voice is quiet, the words speak volumes. For Peter can't remember ever hearing the other man speak so honestly or so openly before.
"I know it doesn't mean much but I never meant for this to happen. I never asked for it," Neal admits softly, "And honestly I don't think I even wanted it. I didn't think," he continues, pausing for a moment searching for the right words but they don't come to him, "I didn't think," he tries again but again gets nowhere, and Peter remarks,
"For a guy who is so smart you don't think enough about the important decisions."
A sigh escapes Neal's lips, "Perhaps," he admits wistfully and then grows quiet.
Peter shifts in his seat and brings up his right hand to massage his neck in order to get rid of some of the tension which is causing a headache to form. The movement of his hands causes the jingling of the cuffs and its sound echoes through the apartment, seeming louder than ever in the silent room.
When Peter looks up, he notices Neal's eyes are fixated on the metal objects but the younger man himself is still sitting completely still and his hands continue to rest, palms down, on the table.
Because Peter assumes Neal is mentally preparing himself to be arrested and taken back to prison, realizing it will be inevitable, he startles when the younger man looks up to meet his eyes and begins to speak in a voice that is full of control and determination, "Do you think if I'll confess they won't hold you responsible?"
Peter is taken completely by surprise and it takes a few moments before the words register in his mind. He cannot express the shock he is feeling and it is with trouble that he can only note one thing, "Neal, you never confess."
"I know but if you… you know," Neal acknowledges and while he does not finish his sentence, Peter instantly understands his reasoning.
Peter doesn't know what to say, but Neal's selfless offer does remind him of the good in this kid as much as it reminds him of the reason why he'd even agreed to the deal in the first place. Despite the fact that Neal Caffrey can be extremely frustrating and obnoxious beyond belief, he is compassionate toward others, especially the ones he cares for. It almost makes Peter feel bad for assuming Neal was playing him when he'd asked what would happen to Peter if Neal were to be arrested, earlier in the evening.
"Wait," Peter realizes suddenly, "You said you didn't steal it."
"I didn't," Neal confirms.
"Then who did?" Peter asks, though he has his suspicions, he cannot resist posing the question now that Neal is so forthcoming. Perhaps Peter can get an honest answer out of him.
However, Neal's gaze becomes troubled almost instantly; torn between winning the trust of one friend and betraying another. "Peter," he pleads. That is all Peter needs to know, his suspicions confirmed. He holds up his hand and nods his understanding.
Silence again fills the room. Neal is staring at his hands while Peter studies the younger man, and wonders what he's going to do with the kid. Peter is still angry at Neal for being so stupid, for getting himself wrapped up in all of this, and for all of his scheming and plotting over the past couple of months, though Peter actually doesn't even know the half of it. Peter feels incredibly disappointed in the younger man, hoping against hope that he had changed only to find out that he has not. However, in a way he has. Neal, as he had pointed out, had not run away when he obviously had the chance. He had managed to fight his first impulse to run and instead had chosen to stay. Peter has to admit that does count for something.
The hint of a change Peter sees in Neal along with the man's selflessness, his offer to confess in an attempt to save Peter's career, sways Peter to consider a course of action he would otherwise never have even given a moment's thought. Although, Peter had done certain things since he began working with Neal which he'd qualified as belonging to the gray area they often operate in, what he is thinking of to propose they do now definitely pushes the limits of said area. Consequently, the law enforcer in him protests who believes Neal deserves to be punished for breaking the law. However, his human side aches when he looks at Neal and imagines him spending the rest of his life behind bars.
All he can think about is what a waste it will be, to have a man with Neal's intelligence and unique skill set fill his remaining days by pressing license plates and tallying the days he's served on his walls until he runs out of space. But he also has to admit that he is thinking about his own life and career as well, for both will certainly be less interesting not to mention almost unimaginable without Neal being a part of them.
"So, what do we do now?" Neal finally asks when the silence stretches on too long, though he's hesitant to hear the answer.
Peter is still lost in his own thoughts.
"I really don't want to go back to prison," Neal confesses softly and it almost pains him to speak so openly despite his complete trust in the older man.
Peter sighs and as he purposely moves the cuffs to the side he finally makes his decision, his heart conquers his duty as an agent as he says, "There might and I say might be a way we can avoid that."
Neal perks up immediately, "How?" he asks eagerly, almost sitting up like a dog that is offered a treat.
"But," Peter says holding up his hand, stopping the younger man from getting too excited and Neal hates that word right now but spurs him on to continue with his intense eyes, "It depends on you."
"Okay," Neal accepts questioningly.
"There are conditions," Peter cautions, deciding to keep the solution to himself for the moment. Although, he knows it is cruel to leave Neal hanging with his life in the balance, Peter needs assurances first.
Neal nods in understanding, fully realizing that Peter is holding all the cards. Nonetheless, he prefers hearing the solution before agreeing to any conditions, however knowing it's not an option, he asks with slight trepidation, "Like what?"
"For one, house arrest," Peter begins, starting to count off the conditions on his hand, "Two months, you can go to the office and accompany me while we are working a case, but that's it."
Neal nods in acceptance despite the fact that he can't stand being cooped up inside for long periods at a time no matter how lovely his apartment is. However, he is very aware that the view of New York City could have been easily replaced by prison bars and unimaginative concrete walls.
"Second," Peter continues, raising a second finger, "No art exhibits for the next four months."
Neal's expression is one of misery but Peter cannot pity him, not under these circumstances. Peter gives him a warning look and Neal is smart enough not to protest.
"And third," Neal almost sighs there is another one, but Peter continues without fail, "I can impose new rules as well as extend the period of your house arrest if I believe it to be necessary during the entire duration of those four months and it will go into effect immediately."
"Okay." Neal's reply is almost instant; his answer simple, soft, and accepting.
"Now," Peter moves on, his tone indicating he will discuss the practicality of the situation, "I can't go through official channels because I'll have to explain the reason why I'm limiting your radius so your anklet won't be reprogrammed but I'll check your data every day."
At this stage, Neal is starting to feel like one of those dogs which are perched on the backseat of a car, he's nodding so much.
"So help me, Neal, if I find out you break these rules…" he cautions.
"I won't," Neal promises instantly and wholeheartedly. Then as his sincere blue eyes lock onto Peter's still slightly suspicious brown ones, Neal adds, "I give you my word."
"You better mean that," Peter says almost wistfully instead of the strict tone and strong warning he'd been going for, as he's taken aback by Neal's official vow to follow the rules.
Neal nods again before finally allowing a sigh of pure and utter relief to escape. However, he isn't out of the woods yet, Peter still hasn't told him what his solution is.
"So," Neal starts slowly, "What do we do now?" A short pause. "About that," he adds still a bit nervous, gesturing in the direction of the painting.
Peter draws a deep breath and Neal notices he is holding his as he waits for Peter's answer.
Finally, what seems like hours to Neal, Peter begins to speak, "You did not invite me in and when I nonetheless entered I gained illegal access to your apartment. Therefore, anything I have come across has not been legally obtained and thus cannot be admitted as evidence."
Peter knows he will not have to explain further for Neal has learned a great deal about working within the law and is thus familiar with the FBI's rights and privileges as well as its limitations during an investigation. Simultaneously, Peter is also certain Neal will be aware of the enormity of the life line Peter is throwing him. And the older man is right as soon after the words are spoken, Neal's eyes widen in shock.
"Peter?" Neal asks for clarification by just saying his name in a certain way, making sure if he's certain he wants to do this.
Peter gives him his answer by responding in a similar manner, just one word, "Neal." The name spoken in reassurance and encouragement; he's sure.
And to underline his decision, Peter purposefully reaches forward and takes up the handcuffs, which though they had been pushed aside earlier still remain in sight and continue to serve as a reminder of the other possible outcome of the conversation.
Neal's breath catches in his throat as Peter holds the cuffs in his hands, then as the man carefully tucks them away in the back pocket of his pants, Neal both figuratively and literally feels like he can breathe again. And the smile comes easily; he is absolutely and genuinely beaming.
When finally the smile gradually disappears from his features, he grows pensive for a moment, then shakes his head, "So simple," he comments.
"Huh?" Peter wonders clueless for a moment, having been lost in his own thoughts, unsure where Neal's had led him.
"Your solution," Neal clarifies, then still in slight disbelief he adds, "How did I not think of that?"
"I guess you were distracted by having incriminating evidence and an FBI agent in the same room," Peter reminds him, his words accompanied by a smile.
"Hmm," Neal acknowledges, shrugging one shoulder. "Possibly."
"Speaking of which," Peter says, nodding towards the painting.
"Oh right." Neal quickly gets up, carefully picks up the painting and disappears through the door next to the kitchen into the back of the apartment. He knows he'll soon have to find a more permanent solution for the stolen painting, but for now simply storing it out of sight will suffice.
Peter watches him go, he swears he notices a definite spring in his step and he smiles.
Neal returns only moments later and suddenly seems full of energy, practically bouncing around the room from both happiness and relief.
He simply stands there behind the chair he had vacated most of the evening before drawing in a deep breath, then slowly releasing it. "I don't know about you, but I could sure use a drink," he admits on a lighter note. Peter concurs.
Neal starts to walk to his own selection of whines but he changes his mind half-way there and stops. "You know what, let's go get a drink," Neal suggests instead while turning abruptly to face Peter.
"You have alcohol here."
"Ah, but I don't have any beer," Neal regretfully admits, though not even bothering to check the fridge.
"Hmm, how about that," Peter replies, already sensing where this is going, Neal isn't being very subtle, he realizes. And surely enough, Neal proposes, "Let's go out for a drink."
"Neal," Peter reminds him, a warning in his voice, "You're on house arrest."
"Can it start tomorrow?" Neal dares to ask with his eyes full of innocence and hope. He can sense it is the right time to jest, considering the tension between them has abated somewhat and consequently the overall mood is lighter.
Peter takes his cue as he shakes his head in mock despair and notes, "It nearly is tomorrow."
And as Peter responds to Neal's teasing remark with one of his own, Neal smiles happily. Because ever since the beginning, when Peter had accepted to take Neal up on his offer and had gotten the younger man out of jail, the exchange of light and playful remarks had defined their relationship and showed how comfortable one felt with the other. Therefore, their current bantering makes Neal's heart soar for it is an indication that even after everything that has happened between them, including the rather emotional and heavy conversation of that night, their relationship is not irreparable. And although, he knows they cannot simply forgive and forget, it is a good start.
The smile still on his face, Neal just stands there, waiting, bouncing on the balls of his feet, hands in his pockets, while looking at Peter expectantly. "Come on, Peter." He's like a kid waiting for permission, begging a favor of a parent.
The older man sighs and though he doesn't know exactly what it is about Neal that makes him give in, he eventually does cave, "Fine, let's go." Then as an afterthought he cautions, "Just tonight." A reminder, in not so many words, of the consequences which will go into effect the very next morning.
Neal nods and goes straight for his hat, just because he's wearing jeans and a t-shirt doesn't mean he can't make the hat work. He walks to the door while Peter rises out his seat, meeting Neal at the door. The young man reaches for the doorknob, ready to turn the handle completely but he pauses mid-twist and turns half-way to face Peter, saying softly but heartfelt, "Thank you, Peter." And it's all he has to say.
Peter smiles and nods curtly, knowing full well Neal's gratitude goes far beyond Peter simply agreeing to go out that night.
For some reason, the moment triggers a memory for Peter, namely that of Kramer's assessment of Neal; after he'd admitted he might have misjudged the young man, he'd said, "I can't say with conviction he's reformed yet, but I can tell you he wants to be here."
Although, Peter's mentor had been proven right about a number of things concerning Neal which Peter had wished he'd been wrong about, he is elated that this particular observation is spot on.
Because, perhaps Neal is not completely reformed yet, and he might not ever fully change, but at least he's making an effort and he truly wants to be here. That's good enough for now.
Having said all that needs to be said, Neal proceeds to turn the doorknob completely and opens the door, allowing Peter to go first before following the older man down the stairs.
Only half way down the first flight, Peter continues right where they had left off in their bantering as he says over his shoulder, "Just so you know, you're buying me a beer."
Neal rolls his eyes, "Fine."
"And I want Heineken."
"I thought you hated imported beer."
"I don't when you're buying." Peter smirks.
"Imagine that," Neal comments dryly.
"Besides there is this great bar down on 69th which doesn't only serve Heineken but the drink comes with these little fried snacks and they are delicious."
"Fine," Neal accepts easily, as they reach the end of the final set of stairs and moments later step out into the cool night air. "You know," he begins, suddenly seeing an opportunity he cannot pass up, and with a twinkle in his eye he casually suggests, "As we're going in that direction anyway, there is this art exhibit I've been meaning to check out and I know it's open until midnight…"
Peter's reply is immediate and as predictable as he had expected, "Neal," he begins, the familiar warning tone, then simply adds, "Don't push it."
His face a mask of innocence, Neal denies playfully, "I would never."
Peter just looks at him pointedly, "Yes, you would."
Neal grins and with a nonchalant shrug admits, "Yeah, I would." Then more seriously he adds, "But you'll be there to rein me in."
Peter nods with a smile that has both a reassuring and warning like quality, "Count on it."
A/N I do not know the law so forgive me if I stretched it to make this work and get Neal off the hook. My reasoning: if Neal can get away with attempted murder, he can get away with theft.
I enjoyed writing this story, hope you enjoyed reading it.