Notes: Originally posted on my livejournal for a prompt on whitecollarhc. Spoilers for the beginning of Season 4.
Peter gave the best hugs ever! Neal had come to that conclusion pretty much the moment Peter had stepped right up to him and hugged him really tight - yet not too tight, with just the right amount of pressure and pats on the back. He held on just long enough that it wasn't over too quickly but didn't feel weird either, making Neal feel cared for and safe and basically all warm inside even though he knew he was in danger and had to think about the best way off the island.
Neal had realized the awesomeness that were Peter's hugs on some level right then and there, but he finally really admitted it to himself somewhere on the plane back home.
Come to think of it, the hug they had shared after Peter's kidnapping had been similarly reassuring and comforting - he just hadn't realized it because he had been as much a hugger as huggee back then, whereas this time, he had been so surprised by Peter's actions that it had taken him a while to even return the hug.
And that's when he also came to the realization that he absolutely had to steal some more of those hugs.
As the obvious solution of how to get Peter to hug him again was out of the question (cutting the anklet and running and waiting a few weeks till Peter found him again), he would have to come up with a more subtle way.
When they came back to Peter's, and El greeted them with a warm welcome, hugging Neal (she gave good hugs, too, but not quite what he was looking for), Neal wanted to see if he could grab another one from Peter. But Peter just had that stupid smile on his face and didn't seem in hugging mode, no matter how much Neal tried to give off a vibe of 'you know you want to' and to generally look huggable.
But Neal was anything if not persistent, and so, once he was alone again and could think about all the important things in life, he decided that operation 'con Peter into hugging him again' was a go.
What Neal learned that first week back at the bureau was that hugs were obviously reserved for a more special occasion than Neal helping Peter solve a case he'd been working on for decades. Granted, Neal's plan had included getting Peter his job back and maybe that's why he didn't get his hug. Because Peter had bailed on him, thus ruining his perfect three step plan that would have resulted in Peter back at the White Collar division as well as Neal wrapped up in a well-deserved hug - it would have been a win-win, really.
Neither did solving cases in record time get him the desired result. Even though he had made sure that word about his outstanding work would get back to Peter, all that had deserved was a pat on the shoulder, which just wasn't the same.
Maybe he should just wait for an opportunity to sneak hug Peter himself. Peter was the one who had started all the hugging in the first place! (Well, the one hug, but who was counting?) So the way Neal saw it, he owed him anyway. Neal hadn't asked Peter for a hug back on Cape Verde - so maybe he could get away with hugging Peter without asking, himself.
But what kind of con man would admit defeat that quickly? No, he still had a few tricks up his sleeve and he certainly wouldn't give up because of one little setback. He would just have to up the ante a little bit.
"You said I could always come to you if I needed help on a case," Neal said almost as soon as Peter had opened the door. "So, we have this undercover thing planned which should be fun and all, but I thought maybe you could come with."
"It's a party, Saturday evening; you wouldn't even miss work or anything."
"If you don't need two people undercover …"
"Oh, come on. It'll be fun. We could go as old friends who haven't seen each other in a long time. I'll already be at the party and then you can come along, pretending that you just recognized me …"
Peter narrowed his eyes. "Neal, what is this really about?"
"An undercover op. Weren't you listening?" Neal blinked at him innocently.
"Listen, I'm not going to get my job back by working White Collar cases on the fly."
"That's not even what this is about!" Neal protested.
"I'm going to keep a low profile and you should accept that already."
Neal nodded understandingly. "... So does that mean you'll go undercover with me?"
After carefully checking that Patterson was nowhere in sight, Neal entered the evidence locker and stepped up to Peter.
"Look, I bought you a Porsche." He smiled at Peter and laid the car keys down onto Peter's desk.
Peter's head snapped up at that. "What?!"
"Not from stolen money or anything," Neal hurried to assure Peter. "Someone owed me a favor and I thought maybe you could use a new car."
Peter sighed and put the file that he was still holding into the box in front of him so that he could focus his full attention on Neal. "Stop feeling guilty. I told you it's not your fault I got reassigned. - Also, you shouldn't be in here. If you want to help me, don't let Agent Patterson catch you lurking around."
"'Lurking'? I'm not lurking. Also not feeling guilty. Jeez, and here I just thought you might enjoy driving something with a little more … style."
"Well, thanks for the sentiment, but I like my car just fine, so you can take the Porsche back to wherever you got it from."
Thanks for the sentiment?! Not even a shoulder pat? He was getting farther away from his goal by the minute!
And he was running out of ideas, too. There should really be a manual for these kinds of things! 'Hug Stealing For Dummies' or '101 Ways to Get FBI Agents to Hug You'…
Oh well, he wanted to work on charming Agent Patterson anyway. Being banned from the evidence locker for the duration of Peter's sentence - reassignment - simply wasn't an option. So he plastered on a huge grin as he turned around. "Have a wonderful morning, sir." He grabbed the car keys off the desk and dangled them invitingly, "Porsche?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Peter put his head in his hands. Yeah, now would definitely not be a good time to try and get a hug from him.
"Hey Peter! Happy birthday!" He opened his arms invitingly.
Peter didn't even look up. "It's not my birthday."
Well, it hadn't been one of his best plans, but he was starting to get desperate. And Peter's birthday wasn't for another few months! Waiting for that long simply wouldn't do.
"Was there something you wanted?"
Yes! "… No."
Neal hated being threatened with a gun or a knife or any other kind of weapon really. He had lost count of how many times he had been shot at with bullets or arrows or - more bullets.
Not to forget the time he didn't get shot at, but actually got shot. Which hadn't been that long ago, thank you very much, so getting shot yet again within such a short period of time was more than bad luck - it was beginning to look like a streak. Because as far as he was concerned, the leg injury incident should be followed by at the very least a couple of years of almost getting shot.
Luckily, the bullet that had been aimed right at his heart, had only hit his shoulder. But that was just because Peter had shot Henderson in the leg right when he had pulled the trigger so that he had missed his target. And it kind of made Neal feel better that he was only hit in the left shoulder, while Henderson had to go through the whole hobbling around that Neal had had to do not too long ago. But that might just be the pain killers talking.
Either way, counting small blessings, Neal was glad that he just got a bandage and said pain meds and could be on his way.
"I really want my 'almost' back!" he told Peter because he really, really did. Almost getting shot beat getting shot any day in his book.
"Sure you do, buddy," said Peter, who was currently filing the paperwork that would get Neal released.
On the way to the car, Peter kept giving him sidelong glances, but Neal was too tired to figure out what they meant. Being shot really took it out of you. Or maybe that were just the pain meds, too.
When they got to the car, Peter quickly stepped to the passenger door and held it open for Neal.
Neal thought about making a comment about how he could open a damn car door, but he was feeling rather loopy already and so he just let it go.
Before he could get into the car, though, Peter suddenly had his arms wrapped around him, careful not to hurt him, mumbling something that sounded like "Glad you're okay". It still hurt a little bit, but it was totally worth it. It was a different kind of hug than he remembered - there was less back patting involved and also less pressure because of his injury. But it was still the perfect hug for the occasion.
And maybe that was Peter's superpower. Not just giving the best hugs ever, but knowing which kind of hug was the best for any given situation.
When Peter finally released him again, Neal thought of something and gaped at Peter. Seriously? That was what it took? "You realize I'm drawing the line at getting shot, right?"
"What?" Peter still had one hand on Neal's (uninjured) arm and frowned at him uncomprehendingly.
Neal tried to get his thoughts sorted out, which was rather difficult because he was feeling dopey and drowsy.
Still, he tried to clarify, "I mean I'm not getting shot again just to get a hug out of you."
"I said," Neal repeated, trying to enunciate more carefully, "I am not getting shot …"
"I heard what you said," Peter cut him off.
"Oh. - Then why're you asking?" Neal couldn't really understand the logic in asking him to repeat himself if Peter had understood what he had said the first time.
He swayed slightly. Good thing Peter still hadn't taken his hand off Neal's arm because he was there to steady him and then he also guided Neal to get into the car. Not that Neal needed any guiding. Guidance. Whatever.
Neal closed his eyes and hummed to himself. He heard Peter get into the car and then felt him reach over to fasten Neal's seatbelt but none of that was worth the effort of opening his eyes.
The car started - a low rumble that made him even drowsier.
But then he finally figured out why Peter had asked him to repeat himself. He hadn't really. He had asked for a clarification.
Neal, rather proud of himself for figuring that one out all by himself, mumbled, "Best hugs ever," right before he fell asleep. Which was why he didn't hear Peter laugh at that admission or see the warm smile slowly spreading across his face.