Rating: FRT - FRM / will vary by chapter, but gradually more intense and involved m/m between Peter and Neal.

Disclaimer: Don't own the pretty gentlemen and ladies and I haven't made fundage off this piece of fiction. Sue me, and you'll get a bunch of tie-dye t-shirts, some Cosby LP's, a Partridge Family greatest hits cassette and 53 cents in change. Why bother?

ONE DAY POST- "WITHDRAWAL" :

"Neal. My office?"

Phrased as a question, an offer, the words didn't raise Neal's hackles as much as they otherwise could have, so instead of snapping at Peter or resisting, Neal slowly got to his feet and followed his handler into seclusion. Once the young man chose a seat, Peter closed the blinds over the windows and the glass in the door and crouched down in front of Neal. "Hey." He said gently. "How about a progress report, hmmm?"

"You've been with me the past few days. You tell me."

"As much as I want to, I can't be there all the time. C'mon. Just talk to me. A few minutes is all I ask."

Neal hesitated, but eventually he nodded. In response Peter smiled lightly, rose and pulled over another chair. "Okay, go ahead."

"I'm better. Mostly. My focus, concentration... it only stalls out on me once in a while, now."

"You did really well on this last job. Walker never saw it coming when we went back to his place."

Neal snorted faintly.

"I could get to love wiping smug looks off arrogant faces. I wasn't sure I was ready to get back out there, but... I made it."

"Hell, you've barely started the grieving process. It'll be a while yet before you stop wanting to kick ass from here to Jersey and back. You've got full access to the gym downstairs. Free weights, running... you never know what'll help."

"I'm actually hoping there's a driving range in my radius. Hitting that golf ball felt..."

"Cathartic?"

"Yeah. Exactly."

"Obvious that you've played before."

"A long time ago."

"Couldn't have been that long. Your swing was pretty good."

"Muscle memory is a wonderful thing."

"You coming over tonight to work on the statue?"

"Probably."

Peter turned a grim, remorseful expression on his partner.

"Then I need to see."

"No."

"I said I wouldn't let you fade away, damn it, and this is part and parcel of that commitment. If you want anywhere near my garage *or* those tools... you show me."

Neal scowled and stared Peter down, but the agent didn't relent. Finally, Neal surrendered and rolled up both his sleeves.

"Good... okay... Nothing but the original bandage. No pain from that, right?"

"No." Neal spat, shoving his sleeves back down and re-buttoning the cuffs. "Why can't you just believe me when I say I'll never do it again?"

"Because for years it was your default stress reaction and right now you're in the one of the most stressful situations anyone can go through."

"I didn't have options then. I didn't have June or Mozzie or El or Jones... and most importantly I didn't have you."

Astonished, Peter didn't stop to think about what he should or shouldn't do. Instinctively he reached out and cupped Neal's face, lightly moving his thumb over the cheekbone. The other man, just as amazed and confused, held very still for a few moments then slowly shifted his body away. Realizing what he'd done, Peter was immediately flooded with guilt and he rapidly pulled back, acting as if he'd punched Neal, not petted him.

"Neal... God, I'm sorry..."

"It's okay. I... I don't think I minded. I'm not sure..." Neal replied with an uncertain smile.

"I was just... you kinda floored me, saying that. I try to be there for you, to be a friend. I'm not always convinced you trust it, but giving up's not my style, so..."

Neal's chuckle and grin were more natural and relaxed this time.

"If it was I wouldn't be here."

"True. Are we..."

"We're good, Sundance."

"Thanks, Butch. I'll see you tonight for dinner, then?" Peter asked, standing and replacing the chair.

"What's on the menu?"

"When I left this morning El was planning filet of sole, cheese and cauliflower mousse, Caesar salad and raspberry brownies for dessert."

"Toffee black walnut ice cream?"

"She said she'd pick it up when she hit the grocery store this morning."

Neal's eyes widened and his eyebrows shot up as he also stood, moving toward the door.

"I need to get back to work. Gotta get the reports finished so I can leave on time."

Peter laughed, but his mirth didn't last much beyond Neal's exit. The minute the younger man was back at his desk, Peter picked up the phone.

"Hon... no, he's fine. No more marks, no band-aids. Good. Yeah, he asked about the ice cream, just like you predicted. Look... you remember the talk we said we'd have? The one about what I want Neal to be? It's time..."

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FORWARD -