Disclaimer: I'm not USA or whoever else owns it, so I don't claim to own them.
Fandoms: White Collar
Warnings: Very Lightly Implied BDSM, Blink and You Miss It
Word Count: 6,400
Beta: sinfulslasher who was so helpful at the last minute and azraelz_angel who did a final glance
Written For: wc_reverse_bb based upon the awesome, awesome artwork by elrhiarhodan
Summary: Neal is about to start a new chapter in his life when a friend of a friend asks for some help dealing with a recalcitrant FBI agent on medical leave.
Artwork by elrhiarhodan; Click to View Her Post and Leave Her Feedback Too!
"Elizabeth! It has been too long, darling." Madame June's greeting drew a smile to El's face as she leaned in for a hug and light kisses to her cheeks.
"The business has been keeping me so busy, but I love the challenge. I plan to be solvent enough within the next year to hire two more assistants and then I can take a little down time."
"Knowing you, downtime will include working," Madame June chided. "Come, I've had breakfast set on the veranda. I know that it was your favorite place when you were here."
"Perfect," El said as she followed June to the loft apartment that had once been hers.
"Oh!" El exclaimed when she saw all the artwork that was littering the space. There was a mix of paintings and sculptures that could rival the greats of the art history world.
"They are lovely, aren't they?" June asked. She paused so El could study the pieces. "They belong to the latest to fill your former position. His contract just ended, but he's staying here until he wraps up the opening of his first gallery show in a few weeks."
"He will make a killing. I may have to check it out myself," she added as she eyed a few pieces to her liking.
Soon they were seated and enjoying a cup of cappuccino with a fine selection of pastries that came from a small bakery that was just making a name for itself. El had caught June up on the latest regarding her business while June had done the same.
"So what really brings you by, my dear?" June finally asked.
El sighed, unsure where to start. "I have this close friend named Peter and he's… He needs help."
"You want me to interview him for a position with us?"
"No, definitely not," El said, stifling a laugh. "Peter's actually an agent with the FBI working white collar crimes. Generally, his job is tame, but a month ago, he was shot in the line of duty."
"Oh my," June exclaimed.
"He's been on leave since then and he's folded in on himself. He's not doing the exercises the therapist says he needs in order to regain full use of his leg again. It's like he's given up on life actually. I can't get him to leave the house and he's started turning me down when I offer to bring him food. Yesterday, I showed up uninvited and the place was a wreck and so was he. I'm worried."
"With good reason," June said. "How do you think I could help when he won't even let his friend help?"
"That goes back to how I met Peter," El said. "When I left here, I was still working at the gallery while I got the business off the ground. We had a theft of one of the pieces and Peter was the agent sent to investigate. He was my type and it seemed that he liked me too, so I did the stalking and got him on a date."
"I take it the date didn't go quite as you intended as you're just friends now," June said with a knowing look.
"Actually, things went as intended that night. He came back to my place and was all for me being in control of the situation. He was really into it, to be honest. So much that it scared him. I don't think he'd ever had someone take control of sex like that and he panicked when he got hard as a rock."
"So he's scared of giving up control and now with his injury he has no control," June hypothesized.
"That," El agreed, "and I found out after he calmed down that he'd never gotten hard that quick with a woman. In fact, he'd had very limited sexual activity over his life."
"He's gay?" June questioned.
"Yeah," El said. "Apparently growing up in a Catholic family and being the star of his baseball team until he tore a rotator cuff in college didn't leave him any room to explore that avenue. And from that he went straight into Quantico and the FBI. After some long talks, with me talking and him mostly listening, I figured out that he'd never really had great experiences with women and zero experience with men."
"What are you looking for, Elizabeth?"
"I think he needs someone that can take charge of him for the time being. Maybe a week or two to get him back on track. He's not going to let me do it, but I thought maybe one of your guys could. And if it leads to something else, even better."
June looked thoughtful for a few moments. "Basically someone who could act like a nurse-slash-butler, but be forceful about it… I may have the perfect-" June was cut off by a man who breezed through the doors and greeted her with a kiss to the cheek.
"Good morning, Madame," the man said with a winning smile on his face. "And who is this lovely lady?" El was enchanted as he took her hand in greeting to place a kiss to the back of her hand.
"This is Elizabeth," June said. "A former occupant of your current apartment, Neal."
Neal's eyes seemed to twinkle as he learned that bit of information regarding El. "Then I'm very pleased to meet you. Maybe we could swap trade secrets sometime," Neal said in a conspiring tone.
"Perhaps," El said with a smile as Neal joined their table. "I was admiring your work earlier. When is the show?"
"Two weeks from now and even though Mozzie, my gallery director, assures me it's all under control, I feel like the whole thing will come crashing down."
"Who's in charge of the opening?" El asked, curious about the competition that was out there.
"Mitchell Premiere Events," Neal said and El was flustered for a moment. "I've been dealing with Yvonne who is wonderful. She said the head of the business was tied up on some political event."
"That would be a fundraising dinner that the current Vice President is holding for his kickoff for the presidential campaign. I'm Elizabeth Mitchell, by the way. And you must be Neal Caffrey. Now I know why Yvonne's been scheduling all your meetings when I can't attend. She's keeping you to herself."
Neal laughed. "I've been told I have a way with the ladies, and, like I said, Yvonne has been perfect. Even if I can't decide on anything."
"Most clients can't," El said with sigh. "It's a hazard of the job."
"I didn't mean to interrupt," Neal said with a wave toward the remains of their breakfast. "I'm just at loose ends. Everything I can do has been done. Once the gallery collects the pieces I selected today, all I can do is sit around and panic."
"What if I gave you a distraction?" June spoke up. "I know your contract is over, but I think I might have the perfect distraction for you."
El turned a sharp gaze onto Neal, sizing him up from one end to the other. "You know," she said, looking back at June, "that might just work. He's practically me with shorter hair, a dick and balls."
Neal looked affronted and pleased by the comparison at the same time. "Just what are you two talking about?"
"Elizabeth has a friend that's in need of a little recalibration, so to speak," June said.
"Smart and leggy brunettes are his type," El added. "While I fit that bill, it turned out he really needs something of the male persuasion."
"So what's the catch?" Neal asked, glancing between the two women.
"One, he's never been with a man, repression is a nasty thing. Two, he needs a drill sergeant more than sex at the moment." El then went on to explain Peter's injury and lack of following instructions to get better.
"So basically, go in as a nurse, do a little buttling and maybe come out as his dom?" Neal asked contemplatively.
"Best case scenario," El agreed. "Worst case is that he kicks you out and I lose a friend."
"No pressure then," Neal said, looking determined. "No pressure at all."
Neal brushed nonexistent wrinkles out of his uniform and straightened the tails so they were hanging perfectly over his ass before ringing the doorbell. He'd spent the previous day with El learning everything he could about his new charge. To be honest, when she had shown him the picture of Peter Burke, Neal's heart had skipped a beat. The man appeared to be everything Neal had ever wanted in a partner, including his profession.
June had been the first to confront him regarding his daddy issues. Losing his father at such a young age had left its mark on Neal. He'd grown up with stories from his mom, Ellen and the other guys at the precinct telling him what a strong, brave and dedicated man his father had been. Neal had entertained the idea of becoming a police officer himself, but the realization that he was gay the night he sucked off the high school quarterback had nixed that. Instead, Neal left DC and tried to find his way in the world of art in New York City.
He was working part time for a gallery and was about to be evicted from his rat infested apartment when he'd met Madame June at a thrift store. The fact that he was a perfect fit for her late husband's clothes had been a sign, and he'd never looked back. Most would have scoffed at the idea of becoming what amounted to a high-end rent boy, but Neal thrived in the business. Not only did it give him the time to focus on his artwork without worrying where his next meal would come from, but he was also able to rub elbows (and sometimes more) with the movers and shakers.
Following his training, he'd agreed to a four-year contract with Madame June with the option to renew it if that was what he wanted. Now that it was coming to an end, Neal was looking forward to the next chapter in his life. The upcoming gallery opening was just the start of great things to come in his mind. Knowing that Elizabeth had once been where he was now eased his mind considerably that he would succeed.
Taking a deep breath, Neal pressed the button for the doorbell, hoping that Peter Burke would be just the distraction he needed. He held the button in for a count of two and then waited. Not hearing any sign of someone coming to the door, he pressed the button a few more times. Elizabeth had told him that he would need to be persistent and hold strong with Peter, but Neal wasn't expecting to start before he even got his foot in the door.
Finally, after about five more rings, he heard the sound of crutches approaching the door. Neal stepped back from the door and flashed his best smile for when the door opened. Only it never did.
"Whatever you're selling, I don't want it!" a gruff voice shouted through the heavy door. "And if you're not selling anything, I'm an armed federal agent, so don't push me."
Neal snorted. Elizabeth had told him that one of Peter's coworkers had cleared his house of guns when the man was sent home from the hospital on heavy medication for the pain. Neal had been relieved because he wasn't a fan of guns even though Ellen had spent years teaching him how to use them.
Instead of shouting back at Peter through the door, Neal reached out and pressed the doorbell again. He smiled wider when he heard an exasperated sigh on the other side and then the clicking of locks and deadbolts signaling that he had won the first battle.
"You deaf?" Peter groused as the door opened and Neal got his first look at the man.
The injury and recovery, or lack thereof, had taken an obvious toll on the man. He was nothing like the picture that Elizabeth had shown him. The picture had been of a strong and smiling man. The Peter Burke in front of him had a face creased with stress and pain lines. He looked as if he'd suddenly lost a lot of weight. The waistline of the sweats he was wearing was barely hanging on his hips and the shirt declaring him property of the FBI was at least two sizes too big. The man was a mess.
Fortifying himself for a challenge, Neal stuck out his hand. "Neal Caffrey," he said. "I'm not deaf or mute, or Elizabeth wouldn't have sent me."
"Told El I didn't need help. And where'd she find you anyway? A catalog?"
"I'm an exclusive model. She said it would take a special order to get you straightened out. You going to invite me in?"
Two weeks had passed by so fast that Neal wasn't sure what had happened. Dropping into Peter's life had been the best thing to happen to him since meeting June. After a rocky introduction and Peter trying to kick him out of the house for two days, they'd clicked over a cold case folder that Peter was studying to occupy his time.
The case involved a forged Spanish Victory bond and Neal discovered the signature the forger had left behind, something the FBI's best hadn't been able to do. Peter's demeanor immediately changed from despondent to excited as he made phone calls to his team encouraging them to reopen the case and get him some more cold cases.
When Peter had finished his calls, he'd turned to Neal with a determined spark in his eyes that caused Neal's chest to tighten.
"I need to get off these crutches," Peter said, and Neal was afraid he would need to restrain the man to keep him from trying to walk on a leg that wasn't ready yet.
"How about we start with a good meal?" Neal reasoned.
The physical therapist had slipped Neal a dietary guide of what Peter was supposed to eat during the one session Neal had taken Peter to. Neal had figured out pretty quick when he looked at Peter's kitchen contents that the man wasn't adhering to those instructions.
"The delivery menus are all over there," Peter said, waving toward the dining room table.
"Actually they aren't," Neal said with a smile. "Moved them to a drawer in the kitchen when I cleaned. Don’t need them anyway since I'm going to cook."
"Really?" Peter asked, sounding intrigued.
"Yes. Cooking's just another form of art that I happen to excel at. I'm thinking lasagna."
After that, life had smoothed out and Peter improved by leaps and bounds. The physical therapist had even asked Neal what his secret was, but Neal just told the man that a magician never revealed his secrets.
The downside had been that Neal was finding it harder to hide his attraction for Peter as the man improved. The lines that had marred his face were leaving and the weight he was starting to put back on fit him in all the right places. When Peter had left his latest PT session with only a cane and no more crutches, Neal decided it was time to make a move.
With his thoughts occupied watching Peter's ass as they walked out of the building, Neal completely missed that Peter had asked him a question until he ran into the stopped man. Neal immediately wrapped his arms around Peter to keep the other man stable since the therapy session usually left him tired.
They stood together on the sidewalk for several moments with Peter held in his arms, and Neal wanted to stay like that forever. Reluctantly, he pulled back when he felt that Peter had his footing again. Neal couldn't stop the flush of color when he realized that Peter was staring hard at him.
"You okay, Neal?" Peter asked and Neal could only nod. Peter seemed to accept it and then repeated the earlier question Neal had missed. "You mind stopping by the office with me? Jones left a message that they had another box of cold cases for us to thumb through."
Neal grinned when he heard Peter automatically include him in the reviewing of cold cases. Neal figured there was some legal faux pas they were making since he wasn't part of the FBI, but helping Peter dig into the cases was exhilarating.
"Sure," Neal said, trying to keep his excitement down. "As long as you don't try to stay," he added, waggling a finger at Peter. "Don't want you back on those crutches now that you finally got rid of them."
"Yeah, yeah," Peter said and then they made their way to the car.
Luckily, they didn't stay at the FBI office long, because by the time they made it back to Peter's place, the man was dead on his feet. Neal convinced him to go lie down with the promise that he would wake him up in a few hours. It was during those hours that Neal formalized his plan.
He had just lit the candles on the dining room table when he heard Peter start to move in the converted study the man had been using as a bedroom since it was downstairs. Neal stood nervously, unsure what Peter's reaction would be when he saw what Neal had done.
"Neal," Peter said as he stepped into the room, still rubbing sleep from his eyes. "Thought you were going to wake me-" Peter's voice cut off and Neal knew that Peter had seen him. Neal forced himself to stay in place with his hand behind his back and the corset showing nicely through his jacket.
"Mr. Burke," Neal said formally, trying to keep his voice deep and commanding. "May I seat you, Sir?"
When Peter didn't answer, Neal risked a glance at the man and saw his mouth hanging open and Peter's eyes darting up and down Neal's body. That part was the most promising thing to Neal.
"Mr. Burke?" Neal asked again.
"Yeah, uh, Neal?" Peter seemed at a loss of words as Neal walked forward and took Peter's arm. Peter then let himself be drawn to the chair that Neal pulled back.
"What's going on?" Peter was finally able to ask as Neal filled a glass with juice for Peter who was still not allowed to drink any alcohol.
"Dinner and maybe a little entertainment afterwards if you are up for it," Neal responded. He let his eyes wander to Peter's crotch when he'd said the word 'up', hoping that Peter would take the hint.
When the man shifted in his seat, Neal counted it as a win. He served the food to Peter first and then sat down to join him at the table with his own meal.
"How can you sit in that thing?" Peter asked, never taking his eyes off Neal's body.
"With short breaths," Neal said honestly. "But the best part is taking it off. Especially if I have someone to help me," Neal added.
They continued the meal in silence until Neal had served the pieces of red velvet cake. Peter had hardly taken his eyes off Neal and the man had been shifting in a way that was different from when his leg was in pain.
"What's the entertainment?" Peter finally asked.
"That's up to you," Neal said. "I-" He found himself struggling for words. "If you aren't comfortable with this, let me know. I can go change," Neal stood up and started to leave, but Peter grabbed his arm and held him in place.
"Don't," Peter said. "I need- I've never done this, but…" Peter let go of Neal's arm and leaned back in his chair. "Let me try."
Neal nodded and took a deep breath. If he was going to start something with Peter, he wanted to start it off the way he wanted to continue it.
"Stand up, Mr. Burke," he said with a soft yet firm voice. He watched as Peter battled with himself before the man pushed back from the table and stood, leaning on the cane he picked up.
Neal couldn't wait until Peter was fully healed, so they could really explore things. Of course that would only happen if what they were about to do was a success. Neal was going to do his damnedest to make sure Peter enjoyed it and wanted more of Neal.
"Let's take this to your room," Neal said. He took Peter's free arm like he had at the start of dinner and led the man to the room. When they got there, Peter stood beside the bed shifting his feet and Neal wasn't sure if it was soreness, nerves or anticipation. He was hoping for the latter.
Neal walked up to Peter and made a slow circle around the man, taking his time to really look. When he was behind Peter, he reached out and ran a hand down Peter's back. He could still feel the bone structure, but Neal's home cooked meals were starting to flesh Peter out again. When Neal's hand reached the small of Peter's back, Neal let it dip down to Peter's cloth covered ass. That caused Peter to turn his head around to look at Neal with a mix of longing and nervous energy.
"Face the front," Neal said sharply and was pleased when Peter's head whipped back around. "I like looking you over," Neal leaned in so he was speaking in Peter's ear. "Want to see every inch of you and know that you are mine."
The hand he still had on Peter's ass felt the shudder that went through Peter's body. Neal decided it was time to up the ante. He walked back in front of Peter and took off his jacket, draping it on the desk chair that was in the room. Peter's eyes were locked onto his torso where the corset was snug against the white shirt he wore under it. Knowing that Peter was going to tire soon if he didn't get off his leg, Neal sat in the chair and spread his legs open, letting his hand rest over his erection that was bulging in his tight pants.
"I want you to strip and lie down on the bed," Neal said as he slowly started to rub his dick. Peter only hesitated for a moment before he sat at the end of the bed in order to pull his pants off without falling over.
Neal lazily stroked his dick as he watched the layers being peeled away from Peter's body. The man was built and Neal couldn't wait to see him back in his prime. Soon, all Peter had left was a pair of simple boxers. Neal found himself wondering what Peter would look like in a pair of black briefs and vowed to get the man a designer pair, maybe silk.
"All the way," Neal said when Peter seemed to pause at the boxers. As encouragement, Neal made a show of opening his pants and slipping the head of his dick out. He ran his thumb over the tip of it, collecting a bit of the pre-come that was collecting there. Peter's eyes were locked to Neal's groin as he started to slip his boxers down.
Neal was finally granted with a view of Peter's cock. It was sticking in the air and Neal could already see moisture gathered at the tip, so like his own. Neal saw that Peter was breathing hard and realized that Peter likely hadn't done much of anything since the shooting. Deciding he needed to move things along for Peter's sake, Neal stood up and stripped off his own pants. Then he undid the cuffs of his shirt and rolled up the sleeves.
He saw Peter's eye glaze over when Neal revealed his strong forearms and tightly muscled thighs. Neal might have been leaner than Peter's form, but he kept his body well-toned in all the right places. Neal all but stalked toward the bed, glad that Peter had moved back so that he was stretched out with his upper body propped on some pillows.
"You'll let me do all the work tonight," Neal said as he let his hand lightly caress the still healing scars on Peter's leg. Peter just nodded his consent as he stared at Neal's jutting dick.
Neal decided to work his way up, so he settled on the bed at Peter's feet and let his hands run up and down Peter's legs, getting closer to Peter's dick each time. It was a bit difficult with the corset fit so snuggly to his chest, but Neal was determined. Finally, he reached up and ran his hand along the length, giving a nice stroke, before letting it go again. He was graced with a groan from Peter.
"Don't worry, Mr. Burke, I'll take care of that for you," he said, giving Peter's dick a few light pats with his hand. Neal loved the way it bounced from the light touches and the way Peter's breath hitched.
Filing that away for later, Neal moved so that he was straddling Peter's legs. Then he leaned forward from his hips and sucked on one of Peter's nipples. Peter's hand landed on Neal's back, trying to hold him in place, and Neal pulled back.
"Now, now, Mr. Burke," Neal teased. "I'm taking care of you tonight." And he pushed Peter's hands back down where the man immediately grabbed a fistful of sheets.
Neal returned to Peter's nipple and alternated between the two for several minutes. When he finally pulled back, Peter's eyes were dark with desire and he was all but panting.
"Please, Neal," Peter finally begged, and Neal smiled. It was what he had been waiting for.
"Please what?" Neal asked back as he leaned down and pressed his lips very lightly to Peter's in their first kiss. He pulled back slightly and watched the desire spread across Peter's features.
"Anything," Peter huffed out. "I don't- anything."
"What if I want to ride you, Mr. Burke? Would you let me?"
Peter just nodded, struggling to keep his hands where Neal had placed them. The fact that he was doing this pleased Neal to no end. Neal moved back down Peter's body and took Peter's erection in his hand, lightly stroking it. With his other hand, Neal reached down and massaged Peter's balls, enjoying the sounds that this brought from Peter's throat.
"Did you know that I prepared myself before you woke up?" Neal asked Peter as he continued to stroke. "I did it in your bathroom, thinking about having your dick up my ass tonight."
"Please," Peter choked out.
Deciding it was time, Neal spread his legs and settled over Peter's cock, using his hand to guide it inside. Neal didn’t stop until he was fully seated on Peter's dick and they both let out a groan.
"God, you feel so good," Peter all but shouted.
"You, too." Neal moving and reached down to grab Peter’s hands. “Undo me.”
Peter complied by moving his hands to the laces of Neal’s corset and Neal could feel the pressure in his chest easing as the laces were loosened. Neal picked up speed fast, enjoyed the sound of his skin slapping against Peter's as he pressed downward. It seemed like an eternity, but in reality it wasn't long before Peter's hips started moving sharply to meet his own movements and the hands were digging into Neal’s back through the corset’s strong material.
"Almost," Peter said and Neal sat down hard, meeting Peter's spilling dick. He kept rocking against Peter until he felt the man softening a bit, lax from his release.
Neal let his body roll to the side as he reached out and petted Peter's chest. He enjoyed the feeling of his fingers trailing through the fine chest hair Peter had. Then he was drawn from his actions when he felt a tentative hand on his still raging cock.
"May I?" Peter asked and Neal nodded.
It didn't take long for him to shoot ropes of come across Peter's belly as Peter stroked him to completion. Exhausted, Neal collapsed beside Peter and curled into the other man when he wrapped his strong arms around him.
"Thank you," Neal heard Peter murmur just before he fell into a deep sleep.
Neal wasn't sure what woke him up, but he smiled when he realized that he was still in Peter's arms. It was the best feeling he could ever recall. It was as if everything in his life was finally coming to fruition. He was about to make a splash in the art world and he had the man of his dreams holding him. So when he turned to kiss Peter, the angry face that greeted him was the last thing Neal had expected.
"Get the fuck out," Peter said in a voice that Neal had never heard from the man, even in those first few days.
"What?" Neal asked, not believing what he was hearing. He had expected to wake up with some kissing and maybe even some more sex if Peter felt up to it. Not this hostility.
"You conned me, Neal Caffrey, and if I could I'd lock you up for it," Peter ground out. "Get your shit and get out of my house."
Neal was shocked when Peter pushed him out of the bed. He hit the floor in a daze and then stood to fumble for his pants from the night before. His breathing felt tight and constricted and Neal knew that it was from the hurt in his chest at Peter’s sudden actions since the corset was hanging loosely on his body.
"What happened?" he tried to ask, but Peter just glared. Not wanting to risk angering the man any more, Neal tugged his pants on, grabbed his shoes and vacated the room.
Once in the living room, he ran his hand through his hair. He knew he couldn't stay, but he didn't want to leave Peter alone. He'd just gotten off the crutches and with all their activity from the previous night he might be hurting. Neal ran upstairs to the room he'd been staying in and hastily tossed things in his bag and pulled a sweater over the loose corset not caring what people would think when they saw him.
With his bag in hand, he left Peter's house and pulled out his cell phone to call Elizabeth. If anyone could figure out where he'd gone wrong with Peter, it would be her. Neal just hoped that the breaking he could feel in his heart wouldn't last forever.
Neal stood silent in his finest suit as the guests milled around his artwork. The night was supposed to be his happiest moment, but instead he was missing Peter. In just a few short weeks, Peter had become everything to him. He had never met someone who could keep up with him. They had just clicked in a way that Neal had never had with anyone else.
Then he'd blown everything and scared Peter away forever. Their night together had been perfect and he knew the butler uniform over his corset had been flawless. The way Peter's eyes had glazed over when Neal had given the first command had been a rush so great for Neal. He'd fallen immediately into the dominating space of his mind that had always been a struggle to reach with new people.
Peter followed every order and responded beautifully. Neal wasn't sure what had triggered the moment. When he woke up wrapped in Peter's arms, Neal had leaned in to kiss Peter's slightly puffy lips and everything went to hell.
Neal had found himself pushed from the bed and then pushed out of the house. The only saving grace was that Peter had given him a chance to grab his clothes. He hadn't heard from the man since and Elizabeth wasn't getting anywhere either. His new life as a known artist might be starting, but his personal life was in the toilet.
Neal was suddenly startled by a hand touching his arm. He looked up to see Elizabeth's concerned eyes looking at him.
"How are you, sweetie?" she asked.
"Okay," he said with no feeling behind it. "Have you heard from him?"
Elizabeth looked conflicted for a moment.
"Yeah," she admitted. "He yelled at me about hiring a- you know," she said, editing the word 'whore' out. "Then I yelled at him for a while. I don't know if anything I said got through to him or not. I tried to tell him that you weren't paid and that anything that happened between the two of you was just that, but…"
"Yeah. I get his point of view. Especially since he's law enforcement. Even though it's legal, it's frowned upon and seen as a sin, like many things apparently. I don't even know how he found out. He was fine the night before and he just flipped when we woke up."
"Another agent saw you with him and knew who you worked for," Elizabeth said. "Apparently he got a text just before you woke up."
"Oh," Neal said with sad sigh. "I never really thought about working for June as being a bad thing or that it would cause issues for me. I mean, the art world is generally accepting of all kinds of lifestyles, but I guess for FBI agents it's different."
"How about you stop hiding in the corner and come greet your guests. From what I've heard since arriving, your art is the best thing since sliced bread. You need to bask in the glow a little even if you aren't feeling it."
Neal let himself be pulled into the crowd and tried to forget Peter Burke and the feelings the man stirred within him. He managed to go through the motions and it was nearing ten o'clock when the crowd thinned out. He stopped short when he saw the back of a man that was standing with a cane in one hand.
"Peter?" he said tentatively.
The man turned and it was Peter Burke. Neal stared at him and noted that his face looked as troubled as Neal felt.
"I wanted to talk," Peter said softly.
Neal just nodded and tilted his head toward the back office area that he had permission to go to. Peter followed close behind and Neal could practically feel the presence of the man burning into his back.
Once they were away from the remaining guests, Neal turned back toward Peter and waited. He wanted to know where the other man's head was before he said anything.
"I want to apologize," Peter said in opening. "I'm not very good with new things. I like everything to be in order and learning things about myself now is not part of the natural order."
When Peter seemed to clam up, Neal decided to take over. "I tend to disrupt the natural order of things," he said. "Ask anyone from my past and they'll tell you that I tend to ruin everything. When I was five, I wanted a candy bar so bad that I threw a temper tantrum and made my dad go into this convenience store. He was an off duty cop and didn't hesitate to act when some drugged up punk tried to rob the place. My dad got killed and I had to watch it all because I wanted a damn candy bar."
Neal winced when he realized what was spilling out of his mouth. He had never talked about what preceded his dad going the store that day. Not even to his mom who had spiraled into a depression so deep that she had never come out of it.
"I was on my way to being just like that damn punk when June found me," Neal said quietly. "She got me cleaned up and helped me find several things I was good at. The sex was fun, but that out there was my passion," he said, waving his hand toward the gallery. "June gave me a work ethic and helped me build up to tonight. My contract with her business actually ended the day before I met Elizabeth. I was just doing it to help a friend of a friend. I didn't even think sex would be a factor until I got to know you."
When Neal stopped talking, Peter reached out and wrapped his strong hand around Neal's arm. "I made a snap judgment that morning. In theory, federal agencies are supposed to be accepting of everyone. Hell, the second on my team is a lesbian and I could care less. But when Fowler sent me that text, he also called me a fag whore lover. I saw my whole career tank and I went into damage control."
"So where does that leave us?" Neal asked. "I don't think I can be a hidden secret. I want to be able to have someone at my side when I have events like this. I want to be able to meet your friends too."
"I can't promise it'll be smooth, but if you're willing to give me a second chance, I'm willing to try. I have years of repression and Catholic guilt to overcome according to El."
"I've heard that the nuns in Catholic schools like to dish out corporal punishment," Neal said, a true smile showing on his face for the first time since he'd awakened to Peter's face. "I can help you with that."
"I might be willing to let you," Peter said, smiling back. "Can we start with me taking you to dinner tomorrow after my PT session?"
"Yes," Neal said eagerly. "And maybe we can end it with me massaging your pains away."
"I'll hold you to that," Peter said and then he looked like he was steeling himself up for something big. "But first, I interrupted something the other morning and…"
Peter stopped talking and pressed forward into Neal's mouth. Neal kissed him back without hesitation. This was the man that he'd been searching for his whole life and he was never letting him go without a fight again.
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