A/N: I'm creating some short stories from my Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger verse, so if you haven't read that story, I'd recommend you read it first. I'm also working on developing a longer story, a Christmas one in time for the holidays. I hope to have something posted in the next week or so, but am not sure yet.
Since there is no precedent for these types of stories in White Collar, I will do my best to keep everyone in character. As always I am open to suggestions, comments, or ideas for shorts. I selected the title based on the popular series of "… for Dummies." Thought it would be cute to write stories based on the different chapter titles since Peter and El are new to parenthood.
All characters from the show belong to the amazing Jeff Easton and I gain nothing from writing these stories, except hopefully a nice sense of accomplishment. Enjoy!
Parenting for Dummies
Neal knocked on the door of Peter's office and walked in before the agent could tell him otherwise. He raised an eyebrow as the man glanced up startled and then slammed shut the book he was reading, opening some files on top.
"Can I help you Neal?" Peter carefully smoothed the papers down, grabbing for a pen and knocking over the penholder in the process. The agent swore under his breath and tried to gather the pens back up and get them back in the cup. Neal chuckled and picked up the single ballpoint that had dropped onto the floor.
"Just thought you'd enjoy the pleasure of my company."
Peter glared and snatched up the pen that Neal offered. "I'm really busy right now, so unless you need something important, get out."
Neal looked away for a moment, as if relenting, then in a deft movement, reached forward and yanked the book Peter had hidden, from under the file folders.
"Hey," Peter yelped, grabbing for the book, but was unsuccessful at getting it back from Neal.
The other man turned it over in his hands, first pursing his lips and then laughing. "Parenting for Dummies. Wow Peter… Is this an admission of guilt?"
Reaching across the desk, Peter managed to catch the book in his fingers and rip it back out of Neal's fingertips.
"It's not anything. El and I are just new to this whole parenting thing." The agent flipped the book over so the cover was facing down. "It never hurts to know what I'm getting myself into."
"Right." Neal steepled his fingers together, staring at Peter from over-top. "So…"
"What have you learned?" Neal took a deep breath, and then bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. He didn't want Peter so upset with him that the man threw him out of his office before Neal got some good dirt.
Peter just shrugged for a moment, looking around at everything but Neal. "It's useful. I guess. I mean, it deals more with infants and Ender well, he's you know… Six. But yeah… Hopefully that later chapters will have lots more good information. Because I'm feeling a bit lost right now." He drummed his fingers on top of desk, still not meeting Neal's eyes.
"Is he crying?" Neal asked. If Peter didn't like crying women, it stood to reason he'd also have difficulty with crying children.
"Yes." Peter leaned forward, a look of consternation on his face. "And then El got all upset with me when I told him to cowboy up the other day." The agent looked exasperated by this. "He's a boy. You're supposed to be hard on them. It toughens then up. You know how it is." He placed his hands flat on the desk and studied them for a moment. "But she says I need to be more understanding."
"What was he crying about?"
There was a pause and Peter flexed his fingers in the air looking bewildered. "No idea." He looked up. "He wasn't hurt, he wasn't sick…" The agent shook his head. "Some days he's like this perfect little miniature adult, and then others he's a clingy, nervous wreck."
"And his room." Peter eyes were wide.
"A mess?" Neal took a guess based on Peter's face.
"No, it's beyond perfect. It's like he used a ruler to space out his closet. I've never seen anything like it."
Neal just shrugged. "Sometimes when you don't have a lot of control in your life, you try to find order any way you can. It's human nature. Either that or he's just really organised."
"I guess." Peter looked around again. "I just thought parenting would be easier. On television the couple adopts the kid and they're just so happy to have a family that everything works itself out. They hug and that's right about the time the film ends," his voice trailed off like he was considering that aspect of the film's timing.
This time Neal couldn't hold back the chuckle. "Agent Peter Burke trusting something he saw on a television show? Either pigs are flying or hell has frozen over."
The agent shook his head. "I just want to do this right. I want to be a good father. But it feels like there's so much I don't know. And what I am doing isn't enough."
As much as Neal thought it was funny that Peter would resort to pop culture books for tips on parenting he knew from that statement Peter was serious in trying to do the right thing.
"Peter, you adopted a child who spent the last year of his life being forced to steal by a sociopath who threatened his and his friends lives if he didn't do what she wanted. I think there'd be something wrong if he wasn't at least a little messed up from the experience. Considering everything he went through I actually think he came out pretty undamaged, if some crying and an overly neat room is all you're dealing with."
"But what do I do if I can't say cowboy up?" Peter looked desperate. "What's wrong with cowboy up anyway? It works for you."
"I should cry in front of El and she if she gets mad at you for saying it to me."
"Next time I'm over there, I might have to conduct a little experiment. You know how much El adores me." Neal smirked.
"Ever heard the expression, do that and I'll give you something to cry about?"
Neal's eyes suddenly went wide and he placed his hands on the desk. "Threatening your CI? Peter, I'm impressed. You are not the moral, upstanding agent I once thought you were. Want to rob a bank together? I heard American National is upgrading their security system."
Peter stood up and pointed towards the door. "Out."
"We could do it with Ender. It would be a great father/son bonding activity."
The agent just pointed at the door again, more forcefully this time.
"All right I'm going." Neal jumped up and headed for the door. "Enjoy your reading material. The title is definitely fitting for you."
At the door he turned back around. "Oh and if you change you mind about that bank, Mozzie was just telling me…" Neal started to say, then ducked as the book went flying at his head.