Disclaimer: I'm not USA / Jeff Eastin / etc., so I don't claim to own them.
Word Count: 961
Beta: All mistakes are mine and mine alone...
HC Bingo Square: humiliation
Summary: Leading up to the election, Neal has a lot to learn in order to blend in to his environment.
It was part of Neal's nature to be able to converse intelligently with a diverse group of people. The skill allowed him to blend in with all walks of life and opened doors that he otherwise would have had to lock pick his way through. So when talk around the office turned to politics as the elections neared, Neal delved into the dearth of information on all the candidates. He would be armed and ready to carry on a conversation no matter if the other person were a liberal or conservative.
As expected, Diana was liberal in practically every way. Her sexual orientation and stance on women rights had formed strong opinions when it came to what kind of laws should exist to intrude on people's private lives. He did attempt a debate with her on gun control, but she was a definite conservative when it came to that while he was for stricter enforcements.
Jones seemed to be all over the place. He based his vote more on the candidate and not what their party represented. Neal listened attentively as Jones told him about providing campaign support to various politicians during his college years. Neal loved to learn knew things and he never knew when getting his foot in the door of a campaign would be useful.
Peter was mostly a conservative, which didn't shock Neal in the least. He would complain about how there was always one aspect of a particular conservative that he couldn't get behind when it came to support though. Most of it revolved around women's rights and with Elizabeth for his wife, Neal figured that Peter had to tow the line in that regard.
Through downtime in the office, Neal learned more than enough about everyone's political leanings. Even the new mail boy who was doing an internship would happily talk about his first chance at voting in a major election. Every word was like gold to Neal and he soaked it up.
Then came the day. While he had been listening and weighing in on every debate throughout the office, Neal hadn't actually thought about the day itself. When he heard Diana and Jones say they were taking an early day since they didn't have a case, he thought it odd. Especially when he noticed that the office was practically empty and everyone seemed to be taking partial days or long lunches. When Peter asked around two if he wanted a lift, Neal didn't question it. He just went along.
As they were leaving he parking garage, Peter asked the question that made Neal flush. "Which precinct do I need to drop you off at?"
For once, Neal couldn't think of anything to say. His face felt flush and the last place he wanted to be was in a car with Peter. Peter finally noticed his silence and looked over at him.
"Neal?" Peter questioned him, but Neal still couldn't talk. The humiliation that Peter of all Peter had forgotten was too much.
"Let me know which precinct you need to go to. You've been talking about this for two months, so I know you want to voice your opinion. Then I have to try to make it back to mine before the polls close. At least we didn't have a case. That happened a few years ago and pissed a lot of people off. Neal?"
Peter questioned again and Neal knew there was no way out of this. He didn't have a clue where any of the polling places where near June's, so pulling a con on Peter wouldn't work.
"I can't vote, Peter," he said softly, feeling his face flush yet again. Voting was a right that every American had, but his had been stripped away.
"What-" Peter started and then abruptly cut himself off. Neal winced when Peter pulled the car to a stop and turned to face him. "I forgot," Peter sounded disappointed in himself.
"You want to know the strange thing?" Neal found himself talking now, letting everything spill out in a rush. "I never really thought of it. I ran from home when I was eighteen and doing the things I'm alleged to have done doesn't lend itself to a permanent address, let alone registering to vote. In prison, it's not even a thought. The last thing you talk about in the yard or mess is what someone thinks about gun control. And now, everyone was talking about it, so I talked about it too. But with that still strapped around my ankle, there's no voting for me," Neal said as he jerked his hand toward the tracking anklet.
Neal hung his head, trying not to feel as embarrassed as he was. Logically, he knew that being a convicted felon would have repercussions, but he didn't think about the basic rights that everyone else took for granted. He looked up when he felt Peter's hand squeeze his shoulder.
"New York only limits your right to vote during your sentence and parole if I recall correctly. Once you get that anklet off, you can vote all you want."
"You really think I'll make it that far?" Neal asked.
"You can if you want to," Peter said confidently. "Plus, I'm here to keep you inline."
"More like clean up the mess I leave behind me," Neal said, a smile starting to return to his face.
"That too," Peter said. "How about you head to my polling place with me. See democracy in action."
"You do know that America is a republic, not a democracy, right?" Neal said perking up thanks to Peter's easy acceptance of his limitations. Neal silently made a promise to himself that he would finish his sentence just so he could vote. At least once, that is.