Author's Note: This story was written for the March Madness Challenge over at 'White Collar Corrections'. This has specific spoilers for Season 4 Episode 5: 'Honor Among Thieves'. I'm not recapping the episode, so if you haven't seen it, you might not understand what's going on. This is Chapter 8 of my White Collar series, and there will be references to prior chapters. (Yes, I know I STILL haven't written Ch 6.)
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, and I'm not making any money from this story.
Warning: Non consensual disciplinary spanking of an adult by an authority figure.THE PRICE IS TOO HIGH
When Peter saw his CI, his friend, his partner, walking towards the exchange holding a bag of stolen art, the feeling of betrayal was so strong, he actually wanted to see the other man behind bars. He hadn't felt that way since before the first time he'd decided to dole out his own brand of justice on the younger man's behind. He had been certain that their relationship had moved past this point, but apparently he was wrong.
He called it in to the team. "The minute they make the exchange, we take them both down."
He'd expected those words to feel satisfactory, at least justifiable, but instead he felt his stomach twisting with regret. Then he heard that word coming out of his friend's mouth. Blackmail. Suddenly the tornado of betrayal that had been swirling in his stomach since yesterday started to die down. Then he heard the rest. I don't want it. The price is too high. Those words were a balm to Peter's abused trust. He wasn't sure how, but he would fix this. He had no choice but to arrest the kid, but he'd fix it eventually.
Then the phone call came, 'Abigail has the Pascal on her right now', and it was finally enough. Enough to sway Peter's decision on how to handle things. The kid would have repercussions, but they would be of a personal nature, not the legal kind.
Peter got out of the surveillance van and went to talk to the young man.
"When did you figure it out?" Neal asked. He should have known Peter would be one step ahead of him.
"After you left the office."
"You realized I wasn't on the security footage?"
"Yep." Peter looked over at his friend and asked, "Blackmail?"
"She planted some of my hairs at the Marshall's office."
Peter nodded in understanding. "I'm guessing that stroll around their building wasn't a solitary one."
"She set me up perfectly," Neal said, looking at his handler, and willing the older man to understand. "You wouldn't have believed me."
Peter pierced him with a look. "You should have given me the chance."
Neal couldn't keep eye contact when he saw the disappointment in Peter's face. His eyes examined his shoes for a moment, before glancing over to watch Abigail being put in the back of a car. He finally had the courage to look at Peter's face again, and asked with trepidation, "Am I going in the back of one of those, too?"
"We'll see," Peter said. He would do everything in his power to make sure it didn't happen, but there were no guarantees.
# # #
Back at the office, Neal was unable to sit still while he waited for Peter to give him the verdict. He wandered around, poured himself a cup of coffee, and then dumped the nasty stuff out half way through. He walked to the bathroom several times, and nervously paced the room, wondering if everyone thought he was ill. He certainly felt ill at the thought of going back to prison. He was talking to Diana when Peter's text came. Neal walked to the older man's office, trying not to let his hand's shake.
Peter was standing behind his desk, waiting for him. "Shut the door and take a seat."
Neal did as he was told.
Peter took a deep breath and said, "You were put in a difficult situation. I understand that, but you made the wrong decision."
Neal blanched slightly, and tried to explain. "I caused enough trouble in your life lately, I thought… well I thought I could protect you from it this time."
With a grim expression, Peter shook his head and said, "Lying to me is never protecting me."
Neal had no good answer to that, and cringed. They hadn't one of those discussions since he'd come back to New York, but if the expression Peter had just given him was any indication, it was going to happen today. Unless this incident had pushed Peter too far and prison was an option. "What about the Marshall's?" Neal asked.
Peter sat down. "I spoke with them. They are not happy that someone broke into one of their most secure buildings."
"Did they find my DNA?"
Neal looked down and nodded. That was it then. Prison.
Peter couldn't let the kid squirm anymore. "But they're not pressing charges against you."
Neal's eyes shot to Peter's.
"In exchanged for my keeping the news about the break in quiet," Peter said. "No egg on their face…"
"…No jail time for me," Neal finished for him.
Peter nodded, and Neal breathed a deep sigh of relief. Neal made eye contact "Thank you."
"This isn't a favor," Peter said in an almost condescending tone. "You didn't commit that crime, and the crime you did commit led to the arrest of a thief, and the safe return of an item." Peter pinned Neal with a serious look. "Even so, if you hadn't called me the second after you walked away from her…"
Neal jumped in. "I would be in jail right now, and I wouldn't blame you for putting me there."
Peter searched Neal's eyes, trying to find any hint of deception, but couldn't find any. He said, "I gave the drive back to the Marshall's."
Neal looked down at his lap, shrugged, and then said, "Good."
"Really?" Peter asked.
"Look, I said the price was too high, and I meant it. Your trust is too important to me." Neal hoped the older man believed him, because he meant every word.
Peter gave him a genuine smile. He was still going to have a private talk with Neal, but first he had to share some good news. Since Ellen had died, Peter had been frustrated that he couldn't find a way to help Neal to find Sam, but now he could. He pulled a thumb drive out of his desk, and held it up for Neal to see. "In case it's needed as evidence against Abigail, I made a copy of the file. Due diligence and all."
"Peter…" Neal said, wanting to hug the older man. He desperately wanted to avenge Ellen's death, and now maybe he could. He stood up to take the drive.
Peter stood, but before he handed it over, he said, "If you find any information that leads to Sam…"
"I will tell you." He felt the need to say it again as he took the drive. "I will tell you. Thank you."
Neal turned to leave the room, but Peter said, "Not so fast, Neal."
The younger man's shoulder's hunched slightly, and he turned back around to face Peter with false cheer.
"You're having dinner at my house tonight. There are some things we need to talk about in private."
Neal's fake smile vanished, and his eyes went wide with momentary panic. "In private?"
Neal shook his head no.
Peter held up his hand, and put a finger up for each item he listed. "Lying, trust, and stealing."
Neal shook his head again, and said, "But Peter, it was blackmail. Blackmail isn't something we've gone over before. There's no need for the…" Neal had to dart his eyes to the window. He couldn't bring himself to say the full blown version, and instead said, "…for a serious talk. Really there's not."
Peter rolled his eyes. "If you were the one doing the blackmailing, that would be something new. Today's events were all about trust. Again."
Peter held up a hand to stop him. He said, "We're not talking about this now. Get ready to go. I'll be down in a minute. I'll drive you to June's so you can pack an overnight bag, and then we're going home."
Feeling pretty close to tears, Neal nodded, and left the office.
Peter sat down, rubbed a hand down his face, and picked up the phone to call his wife.
# # #
The car ride to June's house was uncomfortably silent. Peter parked, and said, "You've got ten minutes."
With a sigh, Neal got out and went to pack. He shoved his laptop in his overnight bag, needing to see what was on that drive tonight. On his way back out, he ran into June.
"Neal," she said with a smile, "Would you care to join me for dinner tonight?"
"Sorry, June," he said with a forced smile. "I'm having dinner with Peter and Elizabeth. I'll take a rain check though."
Her eyes darted to the overnight bag, and she gave him a sympathetic smile. He'd only spent the night at the Burke's house twice before, and both times he'd had dinner with her the following day. During those dinners, he'd tried hiding a wince when he sat, and his entire demeanor had been subdued throughout the meal. She'd never embarrass him by telling him she knew exactly what Peter was doing to him, but it was pretty obvious to anyone who cared enough to keep a close eye on the boy. She reluctantly approved. She didn't want to see the boy back in prison, anymore than Peter did. She patted his arm, and said, "Tomorrow night then."
"Ah…" He couldn't think or a reason not to, other than he'd rather lick his wounded pride in private. He gave her another fake smile. "See you tomorrow." He cursed his luck as he walked to the car, and put his bag in the back seat. He had dinner with June roughly once a week, so how did it keep falling on the day after he'd been punished? Life wasn't fair.
Peter noticed the kid's excessive pout, and hoped that didn't mean Neal was going to put up a fight once they got home. This was going to be hard enough already. He turned up the volume on the radio, and pulled away from the curb.
The first thing Neal noticed when they arrived at Peter's house, was the absence of Elizabeth's car. He swallowed hard, cleared his throat and said, "Where's Elizabeth?"
"Taking Satch for a walk in the park, and picking up some dinner," Peter said while getting out of the car.
"Oh," Neal said, staying in the car.
Peter leaned down and stuck his head back in the car. He said quietly, "Come on Kiddo, let's get this over with."
"I was blackmailed," Neal said with pleading eyes.
With a sigh, Peter said, "Do I need to help you to the house?"
Neal shook his head, and scrambled out of the car. He grabbed his overnight bag, and followed Peter to the house.
Once they were inside, Neal headed towards the stairs with his overnight bag. Peter stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Just set it down by the stairs for now. This has waited long enough."
Neal set the bag down on the floor by the stairs, and put his hat on top of it, while Peter kept a hand on his arm. Once it was down, Peter pulled the younger man through the living room, and over to the dining room table. He let go of Neal's arm, turned one of the chairs around to face the living room, and started to unbuckle his belt.
Neal backed up a step and begged, "Peter, please! There should be a reprieve for extenuating circumstances!"
The older man doubled the belt over, set it on the kitchen table, and grabbed the younger man's wrist before he could back up anymore. Peter pointed a finger in Neal's face and said, "This is your reprieve for extenuating circumstances. If not for the extenuating circumstances, you'd be sitting in jail right now."
Neal couldn't keep his eyes on Peter's, and scowled at the belt instead. Peter sat down, and pulled Neal over so that he was standing between the older man's knees. Peter looked up at Neal, and saw his focus was on the belt. Peter took a deep breath and said, "I thought we'd moved past this."
Neal's eyes snapped to his. "What?"
Peter let some of the hurt show on his face. "You didn't think I'd believe Abigail was blackmailing you? Even after everything I did to get you back home?"
Feeling bad, Neal said, "I know you would have believed me if I'd come to you when she first showed up, but…" Neal shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "…by the time she told me she'd planted my DNA, it was too late."
Peter shook his head, and squeezed the kid's wrist gently. "It wasn't too late. I would have believed you, Neal. But you didn't give me the chance, so you've left me no choice. No matter how much I hate doing it…" Peter let go of Neal's wrist, and started to undo the younger man's pants. "…you've earned yourself a full blown spanking."
Neal's stomach clenched as his pants fell to the floor. Peter pulled Neal's wrist, and guided the younger man face down over his left thigh. He clamped Neal's legs between his own, to prevent kicking, and wrapped an arm around the kid's waist.
Being in the unfortunately familiar position, brought Neal close to tears before the first swat even landed. He'd kind of thought they'd moved past this too.
"How many times have I told you not to steal?" Peter asked, his voice sounding more tired than angry.
"I don't know. A lot," Neal mumbled.
Peter took aim, and put a firm slap in the center of the black boxer briefs over his knee.
"Ow." Neal complained quietly, knowing that was only the first of many.
Peter kept swatting, and said, "A lot. That's right. We've gone over this and over this. There's a reason you're not allowed in that museum without a chaperone. How do you think it makes me look when my own CI steals something right from under my nose?"
"I'm sorry." Neal said sincerely in between soft noises of distress. "I wasn't trying to make you look bad, Peter, I swear."
"But that was the end result, wasn't it?" Peter said, increasing the intensity of the swats.
"Ouch! Yes. Yes it was. I'm sorry!"
Peter finished up a round of twenty, and paused. "I've been thinking this one over. I'm inclined to be lenient with you about the stealing, and not give you any with the belt for it. You were blackmailed, and you did call me to get the Pascal back to the museum, but the last time I was lenient with you I came to regret it."
Neal looked back over his shoulder, and said, "I promise you won't regret it this time. I didn't want to steal it. I felt bad about it while I did it."
Peter believed him, nodded, and said, "Okay, then we're done talking about stealing. Let's talk about lying."
Neal turned back to the carpet a foot from his face, and scowled. "I didn't exactly lie, I just kept some things to myself to protect you."
Peter shook his head, and brought down a swarm of furious swats. "Don't even start with that, Neal."
"Ow! Ow, Peter! Wait!"
Peter's arm was relentless as he lectured, "You know I consider what you did a lie. You lied about your intentions for this case when you planned that robbery behind my back. And you clearly lied when we all sat together to review the video footage of you and Mozzie stealing the art!"
"Okay, okay! I lied! Ow! I'm sorry! Ah! Peter! I'm sorry!"
After he'd delivered roughly thirty swats, Peter stopped.
A couple of tears had slipped down Neal's face. He lay still, trying to recover from the sharp sting of that set of swats before the next round.
"I'm counting that as two lies, so that's four with the belt at the end."
Neal shook his head, and whined, "Nooo."
"Four is lenient. Time to talk about the big one. Trust."
Neal quickly started talking before Peter could. "I know I should have told you about the blackmail. I know! And I wanted to, really I did. But I just… well I was scared you wouldn't believe me."
"That's the problem, isn't it?" Peter said. "It seems like every problem we've ever had centers around the issue of trust. We've saved each other's lives. We've both done illegal things to help the other. I don't know what else I can possibly do to prove myself to you. But I do know that every time something like this happens, I lose a little of the trust I put in you."
Those words stabbed at Neal's heart, and made more tears spill down his face. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
"Yeah, I know you're sorry now, but sorry isn't always good enough. Six with the belt for not trusting me again for a total of ten."
With a shaky voice, Neal nodded and said, "Okay." He hated getting hit with the belt. The line of fire left from each strike was overwhelmingly painful. But nothing could be more painful than hearing he'd lost some of Peter's trust.
"Okay?" Peter asked with surprise. Neal never agreed to any stage of a punishment. This was new ground they were covering.
"I… I deserve it."
Peter's eyebrows went up in amazement. He couldn't help but wonder if this was some kind of con, but the kid sounded genuine. He used his spanking hand to pat the kid's back a couple of times, and said, "The fact that you can admit that to me, goes a long way towards earning my trust back."
Peter tightened his grip on the younger man's waist, and started spanking with his hand again. Neal cried and yelped through it, but didn't beg Peter to stop, or try to put his hand back. Pleased with Neal's compliance, Peter stopped at twenty. He shifted and grabbed the belt off the kitchen table. Neal felt the movement, and whimpered.
"Give me your right hand." Peter said.
Neal put his right hand behind his back for the older man. Peter grasped Neal's wrist in his hand, and held it at the small of Neal's back to keep it out of the way. Peter lifted the belt up high, and snapped it down. He did the last ten quickly, moving from the top of Neal's behind down to his sit spots.
Neal let out a loud wail, and his captured legs tried to kick him away from the pain, as the belt landed again and again.
When it was over, Peter set the belt back on the table, let go of Neal's wrist, and loosened his grip on him. He rubbed the kid's back, and waited for him to calm down.
As soon as the sharp blows stopped falling, and his wrist was free, Neal's involuntary struggling ceased. His taught muscles slowly relaxed, and soon the top of his forehead was resting on the ground. He wiped at his face with his right hand, and tried to get his tears under control.
Minutes went by, and Peter started to worry. The longer Neal stayed over his knee, the more concerned Peter became. The kid was usually very eager to get out of this position, but here he was still prone, even though his tears were all but gone. He said, "You okay?"
"You forgive me right?" Neal whispered in a rough voice.
Suddenly understanding, Peter was quick to reassure him. "Yeah, I forgive you, Kiddo."
Neal pushed himself up and off Peter's lap. He grabbed his slacks from around his ankles, pulled them up, and fastened them, while Peter put the chair back in it's spot under the table. Neal rubbed his butt with both hands, and thought about the past few days while he watched Peter put his belt back around his waist.
"It's been a horrible week," Neal said, new tears slipping down his face.
Peter knew that Neal was adding it all up. Ellen getting killed, not having a way to contact Sam, getting blackmailed into stealing the Pascal, and then getting caught and spanked did add up to a horrible week. He pulled Neal into a strong hug, and said, "I know, it's been a tough week, but maybe things will start looking up now that you have the thumb drive."
After a few moments of mutual comfort, Peter said, "Why don't you go put your bag away, and get cleaned up."
Neal nodded, and stepped out of the older man's embrace. "Okay."
Peter watched Neal head to the stairs, and said, "Don't take too long, El will be home in half an hour, and we're supposed to make dessert for later."
Neal raised one eyebrow. "We're supposed to make dessert?"
Smiling, Peter said, "You know how El gets when you stay in your room to pout. She's just trying to make sure that doesn't happen."
With a shocked expression, Neal said quietly, "My room?"
Peter grinned, and shrugged, "But if you don't mind my cooking, I'll be happy to make the dessert all myself."
"No!" Neal quickly picked up his bag, and said, "I'll just put this in my room, and then I'll come help. Don't start without me."
Peter smirked as he watched Neal rush up the stairs. Maybe he'd never have one hundred percent of Neal's trust, but he was confident that if he kept working at it, he could get ninety-nine percent, and maybe that was good enough.