Title: Five Times Neal Fell Asleep in Peter's Car
Genre: Friendship, H/C, Humor. Gen.
Characters: Peter and Neal
Word Count: ~4800
Summary: Five occasions in which Neal fell asleep in Peter's car. And the one time when he didn't.
A/N: In response to azertynin's prompt at the Collar Corner lj comm. Many thanks to Faye Dartmouth for being my beta, cheerleader, and general support system in life.
Five Times Neal Fell Asleep in Peter's Car
Most mornings, Caffrey is ready to go with a bounce in his step and an infuriating twinkle in his eye, standing - no, lounging - on the curb before Peter even gets there to pick him up. He'll often have the Times tucked under his arm and will be chattering about a new exhibit at the MOMA or the latest gossip surrounding the opera before he's even got his seat belt buckled.
Most mornings. But not today.
Peter is considering getting out of the car and banging on the door after waiting for five minutes, and is reaching to turn the ignition off when Neal finally stumbles out the door, looking fashionably disheveled. He drops into the passenger seat with a small groan, tilting his trilby forward over his eyes.
Peter snorts. "Rough night?"
Neal nods stiffly. "I need coffee."
"Well, we're running late, so you'll have to drink the sludge at the office," Peter remarks, changing gears and pulling out into an opening in the traffic.
Neal makes a small noise of despair.
"Yeah, well, if you were on time this morning, maybe things would be different. I'm not even going to ask what you were up to last night," Peter adds, though he's a bit curious, truth be told. A two mile radius doesn't sound like much, but Peter's done that math and that's a circle measuring over twelve and a half square miles that Neal can run free and get into trouble within.
"Didn't leave my radius," Neal mumbles, as if reading Peter's thoughts.
Peter snorts. "If you had, I'd have gotten a late night call from the Marshalls and then both of us would be tired and grumpy," he points out.
Neal just slumps even lower into the seat, with a posture that is sure to rumple his normally-impeccable suit.
"Were you with the little guy?" Peter asks, trying to make it sound offhand. If Caffrey was out late with a date, that was one thing, but an all-nighter with his partner in crime could mean endless headaches for Peter down the line.
"Just leave it, Peter," Neal murmurs, and it's pretty clear that Peter's not going to be getting any more out of him.
Peter sighs and takes the opportunity to turn the radio on and switch it to the replay of last night's game, since Elizabeth made him shut it off and go to bed during the sixth inning. For once, Neal doesn't complain, which is a welcome anomaly. They're halfway to the Bureau when the Yankees knock it out of the park and Peter cheers out loud, slamming his hand against the top of the steering wheel with a jubilant "Yesss!"
Neal doesn't so much as stir.
Peter steals a sideways glance at him then, and sees that Neal has his hat pulled down over his eyes, his lips slightly parted as he breathes evenly.
"Neal?" he asks, to no response. Caffrey is out like a light.
Peter feels a faint pang of sympathy. Neal obviously did this to himself, but the dark circles under his eyes are visible even under the brim of his trilby. Peter's pulled enough late nights on the job to know the misery of going to work running on empty.
And even felons deserve better than the Bureau's coffee, he reflects, making a left turn, then merging right on impulse...
When Peter's car door slams shut after he climbs back in, Neal jumps, blinking sleep from his eyes. "We there?" he slurs, pushing himself up in the seat.
"Not yet," Peter informs him, "but you have about five minutes to drink this." He pushes a styrofoam cup of Colombian roast, still steaming through the lid, into Caffrey's hand.
Neal stares at the coffee, then looks back up at Peter. "I thought we were running late?"
Peter shrugs. "Angelina's is only a minute or two out of the way," he says, putting his own cup into the cupholder and buckling in.
Neal takes a sip of his coffee and instantly seems to perk up. He looks over at Peter, then smirks. "Why Peter; are you taking pity on me?"
Peter raises his brows. "Who says the coffee stop was for your benefit?" he asks, taking a sip of his own brew with a vague smile. "Now wake up. We've got work to do today."
"You make me do a lot of profoundly tedious things, Peter, but I'm pretty sure this takes the cake."
"It could be worse. You could be with Jones and Diana."
"I like Jones and Diana."
"In the van."
"Yeah, actually. Your car does smell slightly better, but beyond that saving grace..." Neal trails off with a shrug, then yawns. "Is it cruel and unusual if you make me die of boredom?"
Peter snorts. "Would you rather be back in prison?"
"Nng. They let me sleep in prison," Neal grumbles from the passenger side. "Do both of us really have to be here for this?" He yawns again.
"Any agent on stakeout has to have at least one other agent - or consultant -" Peter quickly adds when he sees Neal's eyes light up, "- on hand as backup. It's policy."
"I have a policy about sleeping every night," Neal says.
"Yeah, well, sorry to be cutting into your beauty sleep, Caffrey, but we have to keep eyes on both locations where Nakamura might show," Peter says a bit more sharply than he intends, facing front once more to keep eyes on the door of the townhouse up the street from their parking spot.
His tone may have been a touch harsh, but it serves to shut Caffrey up at least. For several long moments, there's peace and quiet.
Then Caffrey yawns. Again. And again.
"Are you doing that on purpose?" Peter asks after the third one, as he's trying to stifle a sympathetic yawn himself.
"I've been up for almost 26 hours, Peter," Neal points out. "You had me casing Nakamura's club, remember?"
Peter had forgotten, actually, and he does feel slightly bad, but he's been up for almost as long and isn't complaining. "Well, cowboy up, Neal. The bad guys don't have your schedule in mind."
Neal just yawns again, and shifts in his seat. And shifts again, squirming intermittently for the next few minutes as Peter struggles to ignore him.
"Neal..." he finally says, his voice a low and threatening growl that indicates just how thin his patience is being worn.
"Right. I need sleep," Neal snaps, undoing his seatbelt and reaching for the door handle.
"Caffrey!" Peter hisses.
"You don't need two sets of eyes to watch that door, especially when I can barely keep mine open," Neal remarks as he gets up and out of the car.
"Caffrey, don't you dare-"
"Relax, Peter," Neal says with a smile as he takes two steps and opens the back seat door. "I'm not going anywhere." He gently closes the passenger side door, then scoots into the backseat, closing the second door behind him. "Except hopefully to sleep." Pulling his knees up, he slides back along the seat to lie horizontally down along it on his side, knees bent and feet up against the door, his head cradled in the crook of his elbow.
Peter, leaning around in his seat, stares. "You're taking a nap on a stakeout?"
"If you need me, I'm right here," Neal says, shifting a bit.
"There's no way that's comfortable."
Neal gives a half-shrug, settling in and letting his eyelids droop. "Not the first time I've spent a night crashed out in the back seat of a car," he muses.
"Oh?" Peter raises an eyebrow.
Neal gives a soft chuckle. "I left home with no money when I was eighteen, Peter. It wasn't always cappuccino in the clouds."
Peter frowns. "You lived in a car?"
"Cars. Motels. Bus depots. Wherever. Let's just say, I was a man of far less discriminating tastes for a while there." Neal's eyes are mostly closed now. "The upside of which is I can fall asleep pretty easily. Wake me up if anything interesting happens, will you?"
Peter snorts, turning back forward. "You know, I have half a mind to just let you sleep through all the fun."
"Mmm. I'm okay with that."
And after a few moments of quiet, with Neal finally settling and the distant sounds of the city providing a lulling backdrop of white noise, Peter feels an insidious yawn creep up his throat.
Neal looks a bit peaky when he shows up at the office in the morning.
By his 10 am coffee run, he's pale and his hand shakes a bit as he pours himself a cup.
By the time they go out to grab lunch, he looks absolutely green about the gills and merely picks at his salad.
And by mid afternoon, Peter's decided it's enough.
"Grab your jacket. You're going home," he announces.
Neal looks up from the stack of files he's been working on, and his eyes are bright, his cheeks slightly flushed. "Huh?"
"You. Home," Peter repeats, doing the double-finger point. "You've got something and I'm not letting you infect the rest of the office."
Neal reaches up and rubs his eyes. "Peter, I'm... I'm fine. I don't get sick."
"You didn't ever get caught before either, but as we both know there's a first time for everything," Peter replies, picking Neal's hat up off the desk and dropping it on to his CI's head. "You've looked like hell all day."
"It's nothing," Neal mumbles. "Just a bit tired."
"Uh-huh." Peter's not buying it. He reaches forward abruptly and presses the back of his hand to the front of Neal's forehead.
"What- Peter, what the hell?" Neal startles and swats his hand away, but not before Peter can feel the burning heat radiating off Neal's skin.
"You've got a fever and you're going home, Caffrey. Now let's go. You're done for today."
"I'm really close on the Kazinsky file, though..." Neal pauses and pinches the bridge of his nose. "I just need..."
"You were really close yesterday, you said," Peter points out. While he appreciates that Neal actually has a fairly solid work ethic for a criminal, now is not the time for him to showcase his dedication. "It's a cold case, it'll keep. Now let's go, Typhoid Mary."
Neal makes a show of putting away his files and standing up with a put upon sigh, and for a second, the sheer theatricality of it all has Peter wondering if maybe Neal actually is on the mend. But then he only gets about three steps away from his desk before he staggers and Peter has to step in and catch him.
"Fine, eh?" Peter asks with a quirked eyebrow.
"I've admittedly been better," Neal confesses with a grimace.
"Yeah. That's what I thought." Peter keeps a guiding hand on Neal's back as they head for the elevator, watching to make sure he doesn't topple over again. They make their way to the parking lot and a few times along the way, Neal's stride catches and his eyes glaze over as he draws unusually deep, tremulous breaths. He manages to stay upright, though, until he can finally collapse into the passenger side seat of Peter's Taurus.
"Right. I'm taking you home, and it's right to bed with you," Peter announces as he pulls out. "Do not stay up, do not pass go, do not collect two-hundred dollars."
"Bed sounds pretty good right about now," Neal agrees, laying his face against the glass of the window, which steams up around him.
By now, Neal looks like death warmed over, and Peter's feeling guilty for not sending him home sooner. He chews on his lip, debating on whether or not to stop at a pharmacy on the way to June's townhouse to make sure Neal has aspirin or something. He considers berating Neal further for not having said anything about how sick he was, but then thinks the better of it; there's no sense in kicking Neal while he's down, after all.
And, he realizes after a few blocks, Neal is definitely down and out for the count. The consultant's eyes are closed and he's limp in his seat, a faint sheen of sweat coating ashen skin.
Neal is a pain in his ass. Caffrey is constantly causing him grief, but only because, at the end of the day, he's Peter's responsibility.
He's Peter's responsibility. And anything that happens to Neal is on Peter's shoulders.
He doesn't realize the decision he's made until he's heading over the bridge toward Brooklyn; toward his house on DeKalb Ave, instead of June's. But he feels some of the guilt lift as soon as he does.
He lets Neal sleep the rest of the drive, and only reaches over to shake him when he's parked in front of home. Neal blinks blearily, looking up in confusion. "Where...?"
"My place. Come on. El will make you soup," Peter says as he hauls Neal up and out of the car, practically draping the CI's arm over his shoulders to hold him up.
"Peter, you don't..." Neal makes a face. "You don't have to-"
"You're my responsibility," Peter mutters with a grimace. "Now let's get you inside before El sends out a search party, okay?"
Neal hesitates for a moment, then sighs, leaning into Peter. "Yeah, okay."
And awkwardly navigating his way up the steps to the door, Peter Burke brings Neal Caffrey home.
Peter sighs as he gets back in the car, pocketing his phone. "Finally got a signal at the top of the hill. They'll have a tow truck out to us in a couple hours."
"A couple of hours?" Neal chokes, blue eyes wide with horror. "And we're supposed to what - sit here?"
"Well, we don't have many alternatives," Peter points out.
Neal slumps petulantly in his seat. "This would never happen if we hadn't left the city."
"I seem to recall someone being excited about leaving his radius in Manhattan for a weekend," Peter muses.
"Yeah, when I thought we'd be going somewhere nice in the Catskills and not getting stranded in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere upstate," Neal says pointedly. "Freezing to death wasn't something I really had in mind when I volunteered to come up here."
"Ah, but you did volunteer," Peter notes with a wry grin. "And stop being such a drama queen. You won't freeze. It's not even that cold out."
"It's snowing, Peter."
"Yeah, which means it's still warm enough to snow. When it gets really cold, the stuff doesn't even fall anymore."
Neal stares at him for a long moment, as if he might be crazy. "That doesn't make me feel any better."
Peter sighs. "Well, I'm sorry. But we're stuck here. It'll only be a couple hours, though."
"So you said." Neal wraps his arms around his chest, rubbing warmth into his sides.
Peter doesn't miss the visible puff of breath that escapes the con man's lips, and he feels a brief pang of pity. The jacket Neal brought with him for their sojourn upstate to question a reclusive person of interest is stylish and well-tailored, but hardly warm enough for the storm that rolled in off the lakes. Peter is snug in his heavy wool overcoat that El made him pack, but it appears that Byron's wardrobe wasn't quite as practical.
"Hang on a minute," Peter says, opening the door again.
Neal's eyes widen. "Peter? Where are you going?"
"Back in a second," Peter says, shutting the door. The snow is already up over his ankles as he trudges to the back of the car and hits the latch on the trunk to pop it open. He rifles around for a moment - there's an ice scraper he'll probably need later, some windshield fluid, an umbrella, a first aid kit, and a few other sundry items that have been left in the back over the years - and then he recovers what he needs. He shuts the trunk and makes his way back to the front, brushing away the snow that has already accumulated on his shoulders and hair as he climbs back in.
"Here," he announces, pushing the blanket at Neal.
Neal looks at it in confusion, taking it tentatively when Peter shoves it at him further. "What is this?"
"It's a blanket."
"I can see that. Why do you have a quilt with a fire truck pattern on it in your trunk?" Neal asks as he regards it critically.
Peter shrugs. "El put it in there so Satchmo wouldn't scratch up the upholstery when we took him with us to see her cousins on vacations."
Neal makes a face. "You're giving me a dog blanket?"
"You're the one who complained about being cold," Peter huffs, feeling a bit annoyed.
Neal hesitates, then nods, forcing a smile. "You'll have to extend my thanks to Satchmo, then, for letting me borrow his blanket," he says, taking the blanket and shaking it open, making only the briefest of faces at the slightly stuffy smell.
Peter makes a small noise of appeasement, though he's still a bit irked at Neal. The irritation fades, however, at the sight of Neal bundling himself up with a fire-truck patterned blanket pulled up to his chin.
"What?" Neal asks after a moment when he notices Peter's smirk.
"You look ridiculous."
"It's your blanket," Neal remarks, snuggling down into it. "And if anyone can pull this look off..."
Peter grins. "Comfortable?"
"Surprisingly," Neal admits. "The smell leaves something to be desired, but it's a general improvement overall." He looks at Peter and offers a genuine smile. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," Peter answers as he hunkers down in his seat and bundles his own coat tighter around him.
He waits until Caffrey's breathing evens out until he pulls his phone back out of his pocket and steals a snapshot of his CI, the always dapper and fashionable Neal Caffrey, snuggled up and fast asleep in a patterned dog blanket.
Peter's day might not be going so well, but he's pretty sure the photo will make Jones' and Diana's...
The screech of tires is met with a blaring of car horns as Peter skids around a corner so hard he nearly loses control. He grips the wheel so tightly his knuckles ache as he bears down on the gas, weaving dangerously through the midday traffic.
"If you don't slow down... we're both going to die," Neal gasps from the passenger side.
"No one is dying today," Peter snarls as he squeezes in between two cabs, ignoring the resulting honking and swearing. "Not on my watch."
Enough has happened on Peter's watch today already.
He takes another hard turn, and Neal hisses a sharp intake of breath, bracing himself against the car door. Peter's gut clenches in response, but he can't afford to slow down. Neal can't afford for him to slow down.
"Peter..." Neal says, voice strained, and when Peter steals a glance at him, his face is pinched and white. Normally, Peter would love to blame it on Neal's carsickness.
But the crimson splotch growing across Neal's shirt tells another story.
"Just hang in there, buddy," Peter tells him. "Only a few more blocks." At the time, it had seemed like the quicker option to drive Neal in to the hospital himself, rather than waiting to try to get a hold of a 9-1-1 dispatcher and then sitting around for an ambulance to get to their location. But right now, Peter wishes he had a siren or something so he could get everyone else the hell out of his way. He makes do with laying on the horn as they encounter a snare in traffic, cursing beneath his breath as a sedan cuts him off. "Goddamn idiot."
"I didn't mean to get shot," Neal muses, a slight waver in his voice. His breathing is getting noticeably more erratic, the breaths coming quick and shallow.
"Not you," Peter quickly amends. "You did good."
"Right up... until I got shot?"
"Right up until you got shot."
"Mmm." Neal moans and squirms in his seat, fighting back the pain. "Sorry... by the way..."
Peter almost rear-ends someone out of surprise. "Sorry for getting shot? Neal, you don't have to - we should have got in there sooner after you said the panic word-"
"No, not... that..." Neal waves a hand dismissively, and it doesn't escape Peter that his fingers are slick and red. "Sorry about your car."
"My car?" Peter sees an opening between a taxi and a delivery truck and takes it, squeezing through into the turning lane.
"I'm afraid you're gonna... have a hell of a detailing bill to... get all this out," Neal gasps, the lightness of his tone belied by the labored quality of his breathing as he indicates the pools and smears of blood that cover the passenger's side.
Too much blood. Way more blood than there had been a few minutes ago.
"I'll send the Bureau the bill," Peter says, fighting to keep his voice steady as he takes a wrong-way turn down a one-way alley as a shortcut.
"They'll probably have... to gut out all the upholstery..."
"I can live with that," Peter tells him. He doesn't want to think of what he might end up living without if he can't get through this damn traffic.
"-May not be covered... in your warranty -"
"You're more important than the damn car, Neal!" Peter interrupts, almost shouting. When he looks aside at Neal, his CI's eyes are wide in surprise, the brilliant blue the only splash of color in his stark white face, except for the garish smear of blood on his jaw. Neal honestly looks stunned. Like he doesn't quite understand.
"Dammit, Neal, it's just a car, okay?" Peter says, almost choking on the words. "You just hang in here with me until we get you to that ER, alright?"
"Yeah..." Neal breathes, then forces a feeble smile. "Guess I'm just used to people... getting pretty upset about their stuff... when it comes to me..."
"If you were boosting my car, I might feel a bit differently," Peter confesses, gunning the gas pedal.
"But bleeding on it is okay?" Neal asks with a grin. It's a typical Caffey grin, only somehow more wan... faded. The life is going out of it.
Peter's gut roils. "If you could bleed a little less, I'd appreciate it."
Neal chuckles, but it turns into a cry of pain as Peter makes another jarringly hard left.
"Sorry, sorry," Peter says, cringing. "I'm so sorry, Neal..." And it's not his driving he's apologizing for anymore. He's apologizing for being late. He's apologizing for not busting down the door before shots were fired. He's apologizing for sending Neal in with armed jewel thieves, knowing there was a risk. He's apologizing for the fact that Neal has a bullet in him and is bleeding out all over the inside of Peter's car, and it's his fault.
"It's... s'okay..." Neal murmurs, his words beginning to slur. His eyes are glassy from the pain, and he's starting to tremble as he lets his head fall back against the window with a thunk. "Not... your fault..."
Peter snorts. "Yeah, right."
"I mean it," Neal says quietly, almost too quiet to be heard over the cacophony of Manhattan rush hour. "It's... okay..." he swallows. "Thank you."
Peter's heart skips. "Oh no. None of that now. You're not doing the whole 'noble goodbye' thing, Caffrey. You're gonna get patched up, and then you're gonna milk it for all it's worth at the office when you're back on your feet, you hear me?"
"Mmm." Neal's eyes are drifting closed, and the blood glistens over everything.
"Neal! Stay with me!" Peter shouts, panic rising. "Neal, open your eyes, that's an order!"
Neal doesn't respond. His breath comes in small, wet pants that hitch in his chest every third breath or so, which comforts Peter somewhat by proving that Neal is still breathing, if nothing else.
At least for now.
"Dammit, Caffrey, I am not prepared to deal with the paperwork if you die," he mutters, accelerating recklessly.
Peter's not prepared for a lot of things. And losing Neal Caffrey is one of them.
So he breaks a dozen traffic laws and speeds like a demon out of hell until he peels in to the Emergency Room lot with a shriek of rubber on pavement, leaping out of the car and shouting for a paramedic. He helps them load Neal's motionless form onto a gurney and follows it in. He waits for the doctors to come with news - any news - of Neal's condition.
And Peter doesn't give up. Because he's not losing Neal.
Not on his watch.
And One Time Their Places Were Reversed
There's a thrill about a flawless takedown that never gets old. A rush of adrenaline, a surge of pride, a sense of triumph; Peter lives for that moment.
The paperwork that comes after, not so much.
After the bad guys are led away in handcuffs, after the scene is cleared and the evidence documented, after Peter's spent hours upon hours filling out forms and taking statements, he's finally got the paperwork done. Or at least, the essential paperwork. There are mounds more of peripheral documentation to go through tomorrow, but the urgent stuff is neatly filed away and submitted to the appropriate departments, and considering that he took down a major insider trading ring before lunch, Peter's willing to call it a day. Checking the clock on his desk, he groans. It's well after six, and everyone else from the White Collar division has gone home before him.
Well, he notes at the sound of a hand rapping on his door - almost everyone else. Neal is hovering outside the office, smiling hopefully at him through the glass.
"I'm coming," Peter tells him, reaching for his jacket and kicking back his chair.
"So... good day today?" Neal asks as they get into the elevator, pushing the ground floor button.
"Pretty good day, yeah," Peter agrees with a tired smile. "Long day, mostly."
"Mmm," Neal agrees.
The elevator dings at each floor as it descends from the 21st.
"You know, El was making lasagna tonight... I'm sure there's plenty, if you want-"
Peter stops at the sight of Neal's sheepish grin. "Yeah, she already texted me," he admits as the doors open and they head out.
Peter rolls his eyes. "Of course she did."
"And you know, El's lasagna is really good."
"Yeah, it really is," Peter agrees, grinning through a yawn.
"Way better than your pot roast."
Neal grins cheekily as they head into the parking lot.
Peter sighs. "I guess I'm your ride tonight then, huh?"
Neal shrugs. "I mean, unless you're willing to let me drive..."
There's a second's pause as Peter considers this. Neal often teases about driving, but Peter insists on maintaining control and being behind the wheel. Except...
Neal stops, eyes wide. "Hold up, you're not actually...?"
Peter makes up his mind. He reaches into his pocket, pulls out his keys, and tosses them to Neal. "Catch!"
Neal snatches them out of the air, then stares at them in surprise. "You're letting me drive the Taurus?"
"You've proven you can damage my car even if you're not driving it, so why not?" Peter remarks as they approach his car; one of the only ones left in the lot.
Neal gives him a pained look. "Oh, come on - that restoration service got all the blood out, and you can hardly even tell the upholstery is new on that side."
"Yeah, yeah, just don't ever do that to me again," Peter says, circling around to the passenger's side and noting how counter-intuitive it feels. He pauses, brow furrowing. "Hang on - you do have a driver's license, right?"
Neal grins. "I have three!"
Opening the door, Peter groans. "I didn't want to know that, Caffrey."
"Shouldn't have asked, then."
Neal takes a few seconds to orient himself around the driver's side, adjusting the mirror and buckling in before turning the keys in the ignition. "I still can't believe you're letting me drive. You never let me drive."
"Mmm," Peter hums noncommittally, adjusting his own seatbelt as Neal pulls out into the street. "Well, I've learned one very important thing from our time working together, Neal."
"Oh yeah?" Neal asks, raising an eyebrow but keeping his eyes on the road.
Peter smiles, then grabs the seat controls and tilts it as far back as it'll go, lounging back and closing his eyes. "Yeah; the passenger's the one who always gets to take a nap."
And as Peter lets the sound of Neal's laughter and the New York City traffic lull him to sleep, he feels his rest is long coming and well deserved.