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27 July 2012 @ 12:44 am
[fic: white collar] Love is a word too small  
Look at this, I've actually written relationship!fic. Eventually. I'm rather nervous about it.

Title: Love is a word too small
Characters/Pairing: Elizabeth/Peter/Neal
Genre/Rating: Romance, angst; Teen
Word count: 5300
Warnings: Not-very-explicit sex
Notes: This is my fic for ivorysilk in the wcpairings exchange, for her prompt "an OT3 love story".
Thank you to helle_d and rabidchild for the help!

This is basically my interpretation of their relationship from canon — I love the OT3 ship, but I don't see El and Neal wanting the same sort of relationship between them as El and Peter have, or as I can see Peter and Neal having. So this is my (slightly clumsy) attempt at writing that.

Summary: There are plenty of ways to be in love, and to be together. And there aren't always maps.

- - -

Elizabeth thinks she might have noticed the change in Peter's behaviour before he does. The awkward nervousness which means he's trying to hide something from her. (He's never been very good at it, which is something that she finds endearing.) The little worried frowns as he stares into space. She waits, at first, for him to tell her what it is.

"Talk to me," she says, at breakfast, when he doesn't.

"What about?" Peter asks, dragged out of the sports section. He puts down the slice of toast he's been holding absently.

"Something's been eating at you, these past few days." She reaches across for his hand. "What is it? Is everything okay?"

He looks at her, then at her hand on his, then back at her as his face flickers through half-a-dozen expressions, settling on a mixture of worry and guilt. "Nothing," he says. "I don't —"

"Is it work?"

He hesitates before shaking his head. "No. It's — El, I don't know. Just something I'm trying to work out."

El sighs slightly, knowing that by 'work it out' he means 'try to ignore it until it goes away'. But she can't force him to talk, even though it's lonely being kept in the dark. "Whatever it is," she says, carefully, "I'm here. You know I love you."

"I know," Peter says quickly. "I love you too, El. I love you so much."

His fingers squeeze hers tightly, verging on the edge of pain. Oh, she thinks, suddenly. Oh.

But a moment later his cell rings and he has to leave, and they've no time to talk after all. She sits and stirs her teabag in her mug, around and around.

- - -

It's easier to speak candidly in the dark. Easier when he can't see her face, when she doesn't have to school her expression. "Who is it?" she asks, very quietly. She doesn't think he's asleep, but she isn't sure. If he doesn't answer, that can be the reason.

"What do you mean?" he asks, not asleep. Not even close, by the sound of his voice.

"You know what I mean." If he denies it then she knows she won't be able to keep her tears back, but maybe the dark can hide them, too. "Peter, who is it?"

He's silent for so long that she's afraid he's not going to speak. Her chest is very tight, and it's painful to swallow. But it hurts more not to know.

"Neal," he whispers, finally.

Elizabeth lies very still. Just one word, but it seems to sound again and again. Neal, Neal, Neal. She hears Peter move, turning his body away from her, and then his breathing begins to hitch and she realises that he's the one who's crying. Not her.

She puts a timid hand onto his shoulder, but he shrugs her off. "No," he says. "No, don't, you shouldn't — I love you, El. I love you."

"And Neal," she says, quietly.

"Yes," he whispers.

She puts her hand back on his shoulder, firmly. She won't be shaken off so easily. He shudders from the effort of trying not to sob.

El knows — Peter knows, too — how this plays out. The jealous wife confronts the husband and wrings a name from him. Forces him to choose between her and — well, usually another her, but it doesn't make a material difference. Which of us will Peter choose? Hardly a question, really. She knows, with absolute certainty, that Peter will choose her; that he's been hoping desperately that what he's begun feeling (or begun to realise he's feeling) for Neal will conveniently disappear if he ignores it hard enough.

"You're in love with Neal," she says, sounding the words in her mouth. How they feel in that combination, this context.

"I'm sorry," Peter whispers. "So sorry."

"Shh," she says, and strokes his hair. He waits for her to say something. She waits for her, waits for herself to feel the surge of anger she's supposed to. But mostly she just feels sad, because things can't be the same again, after this, and no amount of pretending will make it so. She doesn't want to lose Neal as a friend.

She doesn't want to be a jealous wife.

"What does Neal think?" she asks, not altogether realising that she's going to until the words are already out of her mouth.

"What do you mean?"

"How does Neal feel about you?"

"I have no idea," Peter says, surprised, and she fully believes that it hasn't even occurred to him to wonder about that. It's strangely adorable, the depth to which Peter can push things into his mental box labelled not allowed. "Surely it doesn't make a difference."

El surprises herself by letting out a huff of laughter, and in that moment realises finally why she's so calm about this, why she isn't reacting at all as she would have expected. Subconsciously, she's been watching this moment approach for months now, not least in almost every look Neal has given her husband. Subconsciously, she's already come to a conclusion.

"What?" Peter asks, a little desperately. "What are you thinking?"

"I think you should talk to Neal," she says. "I think that — actually, I'm pretty sure — he feels the same about you."

Peter goes rigid under her hand. "You want me to leave," he breathes, almost inaudibly. As if she's landed a blow which has knocked all the air out of him.

"No!" El says. She jerks up into a sitting position. "No. Never." Don't leave me, oh please… "I'm saying… I want to you be happy, and… you and Neal. Maybe, maybe we could make that work." She's stumbling now, and Peter's silent. Is this an idea he's horrified at, after all? "He's important to me too. And… I want us all to be happy."

Peter sits up too, and touches her face gently, as if trying to feel the truth of what she's saying. "You mean that," he says, in a low voice. "Don't you?"

"Yes." She does. If you start with a strong enough base, you can build anything — she has always believed that.

"God, El," Peter says. "You're —"

She cuts him off by kissing him. He reaches for her, and returns the kiss fiercely, and she can taste the tears which have run down his face as she blinks back her own.

They make love in an urgent, almost desperate way, holding each other tightly, hands and lips moving over skin as if to memorise each other all over again. I love you, Peter whispers, and El whispers it back, and it becomes an echo passing between them. I love you, I love you, I love you.

- - -

It goes… not smoothly, exactly, but as close to it as it was ever going to be. They have Neal over for dinner three nights later. Afterwards, El walks determinedly into the living room with her half-drained wine glass in her hand, leaving Peter to tackle the washing up.

Neal's smile of greeting is immediately and genuine. "Elizabeth, thank you. That was a wonderful meal."

She smiles back (and hopes she doesn't look as nervous as she feels), and sits down on the couch beside him. "Neal, can we talk about something?"

"Of course." He casts a quick, mildly puzzled glance towards the kitchen. "What about?"

Her heart is hammering in her throat. She hopes he can't hear it. "Um," she says, and takes a breath.

"Elizabeth?" Neal is tensed, reacting to her own anxiety.

She could still not do this. She could. "You like Peter, don't you?" she says. The words come out too fast, and wrong — to herself she sounds like an accusing schoolgirl, and she cringes inwardly.

Neal goes pale, and freezes. His eyes flick to the front door.

"It's alright!" El says, quickly, before he can flee. "I don't mind — I mean — no, I mean I just wanted to be sure."

"You aren't supposed to know that," Neal says, hardly moving his lips.

She smiles slightly. "I love him," she says. "I guess that makes me good at spotting other people."

Neal drops his head down into his hands, and groans. "Does Peter know?" he asks, his voice muffled by his fingers.

El takes another sip of her wine. "Yes," she says, simply.

Neal swears, and then groans again. "I didn't mean — oh god, I had no idea he knew. That anyone did."

"You haven't talked to anyone about it? Not even Mozzie?"

He shakes his head, and she feels a sudden rush of affection for both him and Peter. And wonders how this would have played out were she not in the picture. If they hadn't had to worry about hurting her. "How long has Peter known?" Neal asks, without raising his face. Maybe all important conversations take place when one person can't see the other.

"Only a few days," El says. "Since I told him."

At that Neal does look up, a choked noise coming from his throat. He opens his mouth and then closes it before he can demand, Why would you do that? She can see him visibly make an effort to pull himself together.

"Elizabeth," he says, with a valiant effort at formality, "I'm so sorry. I promise you, nothing will ever happen —"

She puts a hand on his arm, stopping him. "Neal. It's okay." And, because it's the only sure way she can think of to prove her sincerity, she leans over and kisses him on his lips. Lightly. A gesture.

Neal returns it after a shocked moment, with equal gentleness, but stops the moment that she pulls back. He sits very still, hardly breathing. Trying to work out her angle, she is sure. He meets her eyes and stares into them, as if he's attempting to read her thoughts.

"I'm not sure I understand," he says, finally.

"I think you do," El says, and the quick flicker of a smile tells her that she's right.

"Peter's listening, you know," he says. Almost carelessly.

"I know. I'm waiting to see if he wants to cowboy up and talk for himself."

"That's not fair," Peter protests, from just the other side of the kitchen door. "I just… didn't want to interrupt."

El stands up and heads over there. "More wine?" she asks, sweetly, and pushes Peter bodily into the room with Neal.

Peter shoots her a look of panic. "What am I supposed to do?" he hisses.

"Talk to him, of course!" El hisses back, and bolts into the kitchen before he can protest further.

She leans against a counter and tries to calm the hammering of her heart. Is she doing the right thing? Or was this all a terrible, unworkable idea? She refills her glass and forces herself to sip the wine slowly.

Her expectations of how good Peter is at actually talking about things are — well, they're realistic. So she gives them a few minutes by the ticking of the achingly-slow clock (she changes Satchmo's water and checks that the pans are soaking properly, but it's the clock that has her attention) and then goes back through, bringing the rest of the bottle with her.

She's in time to see Neal lean forward, his fingertips touched hesitantly to Peter's jawline. Peter is holding his breath. Then Neal cautiously moves the rest of the way, closing the gap between them, and his lips press against Peter's. Just for a moment, then he draws back. Like she had done with him. A silent question. Is this okay?

Peter swallows. Neal makes to take his hand away, but Peter puts his own hand over it, keeping it in place. El wonders briefly if she should go (this is private, and hesitant, and there's a sharp, aching fear that she's intruding), but she doesn't move. Start as you mean to go on, and she started this, and however this works out, whatever happens, she means for the three of them to be a unit in this. An us. A relationship, belonging to them all.

So she watches her husband kiss Neal, deliberately, firmly, and Neal kisses him back, his face lit with something that makes her heart ache.

And then she moves forward, sits on the floor next to the couch and leans her head into Peter's lap, and he buries his hand in her hair.

Yes, she thinks. We can do this.

- - -

Neal sends her flowers at work the next day — a large bouquet, from a place she knows is expensive. There are more the next day. It's charming, although he really doesn't have to. She mentions that thought to Peter, who laughs and shakes his head. "I guess he thinks he owes you," he says.

"Flowers, though?"

"Just be glad they're something that's probably not stolen," Peter mutters darkly, and she swipes at him, grinning. "Maybe he's courting you."

She smiles. "People might think I'm having an affair," she says, coyly. She knows Neal isn't interested in her that way, but there's more than one way to be in love.

Peter catches her around the waist. "What am I supposed to do about that? Send you larger bunches of flowers?"

"Oh, you're competing?" El asks innocently, and enjoys hearing Peter splutter.

"You're terrible," he says, bending to kiss the back of her neck.

"Absolutely," she agrees. "Completely immoral. Facilitating adultery. Speaking of, will you both be free tomorrow evening? It's your turn to cook."

Peter laughs. "Don't I get a say in organising my own dates?" he asks.

She pokes him sharply. "They're mine too. Don't you forget that."

"I never will," he says, suddenly serious. "I promise."

- - -

The second date ends with them in bed. It's Peter who suggests they move upstairs, and although it feels slightly awkward to go up the stairs one by one (and this is something El makes a note to remember for the future — it's very easy for two people to get lost in each other, but harder for three), when they're all sitting on the bed together it feels right.

Neal's eyes flick around the room a little nervously, his posture tense. El takes his hand and holds it while Peter kisses her deeply, his fingers sliding up and unbuttoning her blouse, beginning to ease it off. There's a question in his eyes as he pauses.

"I love you," she whispers, which is permission. "Both of you."

Neal's hand tightens around hers. "I can't believe you're okay with this," he breathes.

"Peter, Neal doesn't believe me," El says, grinning. She giggles slightly. They're all a little anxious. "Do something about it."

Peter laughs, and cuts off Neal's I didn't mean it like that by kissing Neal instead, his hand moving from El to caress the back of Neal's neck. El keeps hold of Neal's hand, and with her free hand begins to undo the buttons of Peter's shirt. But she's still looking at their faces, and so she sees the exact moment when Neal stops thinking of this as a test, stops worrying, and gives himself over. To Peter. To Peter and her.

"Please," Neal says, breathlessly, after a little time has passed, and they've all moved tighter together. "Please, Peter, can we —"

Peter breaks off suddenly, and his eyes widen. "Oh. Um, I've never exactly —"

"I assume you know how the equipment works," Neal says, with a sudden sly grin.

El giggles again. "Sweetie, it's a little late for a sexuality crisis."

Peter actually blushes, which is adorable. Neal turns to El to ask, "He does know, right?"

Peter splutters, and puts his hand over Neal's mouth, which Neal doesn't look at all unhappy about. El continues to giggle, and helpfully unbuttons Neal's shirt, because he's far too dressed.

"Oh," Peter says, looking concerned again. "We haven't thought about —" He frowns, and looks between them, and El just knows he's trying to calculate the fairest possible order of doing things.

"El should —" Neal begins.

El shakes her head, cutting him off. "I get to choose. You two." She's been watching them all evening, watching how hungry they are for each other, both trying to hide it. Peter looks at her, and she raises her eyebrows at him. She's had over twelve years; she doesn't mind waiting for once.

Neal is, of course, going to argue, but then Peter pulls him closer and starts undoing his belt and Neal's half-hearted protestations stop. Peter guides him down onto the bed with a hand on his shoulder and lies alongside him, facing him. El settles against Peter's back and wraps her arms around him, running her hands over his chest and stomach, and she kisses his back and shoulders and neck as Peter kisses Neal, pressing against him.

"Peter," Neal whispers. "This is dangerous. For you."

"I know," Peter says. "We've talked about it, El and I."

"We trust you," El says. She meets Neal's eyes, and sees there that he knows the enormity of what they're trusting him with.

"You're sure?"

"Neal, you ever stop talking?" Peter demands, exasperated, and takes Neal in his hands.

Neal laughs, and then makes a noise which definitely isn't talking. His breathing begins to quicken and his fingers travel across Peter's body, ghosting over El's, before tightening around Peter's biceps as Peter's hands find their rhythm.

When Neal comes it's with a sharp, gulping intake of breath, tensing against Peter, and El keeps her gaze steady on Neal's face, is included within the intimacy of that moment as his wide-open eyes meet hers. Then he shudders, and goes limp, and Peter's arms come up to enfold him, and Neal rests his forehead against Peter's chest, where El can reach to stroke his hair. They lie like that for long minutes, silent, as if all of them are afraid of breaking some spell.

Then El reaches to Peter, encourages him to turn towards her as she wriggles out of the last of her clothing, and he cups her breasts in his hands, his fingers gentle and caressing. And the feel of him on her and inside her is blissfully familiar, and Neal is watching them with his lips slightly parted, watching them like he still isn't quite sure this can be real.

Afterwards, they lie nestled together, arms flung over and around each other. "You're both so beautiful," Neal whispers, and Peter's arms tighten possessively around the two of them, and El almost wants to cry.

- - -

A sliver of sunlight on her face wakes her, and El eases herself carefully out of the bed. She reaches for a robe — the days may be growing longer, but the mornings are still cool — and then she leans against the doorframe and watches the men sleep.

Neal has spent enough nights with them now that she's stopped consciously counting them. Enough that the newness, the strangeness, is wearing off, and it's beginning to feel almost normal. Enough that little traces of him are appearing around the house; an extra toothbrush in the bathroom, an upturned book on the table in the living room, a forgotten coat lurking on the rack.

But, as always, it's the sight of him in her bed which tugs at something inside her, something that's happy and hurting all at once. He's curled next to Peter, who's sleeping on his back, but not quite touching him.

Maybe it's the sunbeam stroking his eyelids which wakes Neal, or maybe it's the weight of El's gaze. He blinks at her sleepily, and smiles.

She puts a finger to her lips — let Peter sleep — and he nods understanding. She makes her way to the bathroom while he gets up, and then heads downstairs to put the coffee on.

Neal follows within a couple of minutes. "Morning," he says. Slightly shyly — but, then, they haven't really spent much time alone together since this thing started. Peter's always there for them both to focus around.

"Morning, Neal," El says, and pulls him into a hug. He hugs her back, bending to kiss her cheek. "Sleep well?"

"Peter kicked me," Neal complains.

El smothers a laugh. "Maybe he was dreaming about chasing you."

Neal pouts. She's certain he knows how adorable it makes him look. "That's not funny."

"Yes, it is." She pats his arm. "Come on, you can help me make breakfast. You should know where everything is by now."

- - -

It isn't perfect, of course. There are moments when El does after all feel rushes of jealousy, followed by fear that this will all break down, with her marriage being lost in the collapse. Times when Peter and Neal snap at each other over silly little things (or needle the other into snapping). Times when they all want their own space.

But they pull back together. They go for walks and visit museums and galleries which are outside of Neal's radius. El walks in the middle when they go out, holding hands with them one on each side of her. (Some things they don't dare to, can't afford to test, so they never try any other way.)

They share meals, and they watch movies together, El lying on the couch with her head in Peter's lap, and Neal leaning against Peter's legs and holding El's hand. Once, El falls asleep and wakes to find Neal sketching her in Peter's arms. The finished picture she puts on the mantlepiece — just her and Peter, to prying eyes, but to them Neal is in the picture, too, in every line.

There is very little awkwardness now. They touch each other as a matter of course, and the darkness is oddly quiet on the nights when the soft sound Neal's breathing is missing from his side of the bed.

- - -

It's the phone call she always dreads, has received too many of. Peter's in the hospital. Before the first time it happened she had already played it out hundreds of times in her mind, over and over. Afterwards, when there had been time to breathe again, she had wondered if the ever-present worry would now ease, now that it had happened and life had carried on, but it didn't.

Because next time she might get a knock on the door instead, an agent with a solemn face. Perhaps you should sit down, Mrs Burke…

But that time isn't now (Please let it be never) so she grabs her coat and checks that Satchmo has food and water, and drives to the hospital. Staying calm no matter what's going on is what she does every day for a living, after all.

Diana is waiting for her just inside the doors. "Peter said to tell you he's alright," she says, quickly, before El can sort though the jumble of questions she needs to ask. "He's having X-rays done — they think he might have broken ribs." She reaches for El's hand and squeezes it. "I'll show you where the waiting room is."

El holds Diana's hand tightly, grateful for the simple kindness of allowing her to avoid queues and receptionists. And for wasting no time in giving her the important news. "Is Neal here?" she asks.

"Yeah," Diana says, and she frowns again, pursing her lips anxiously. "He's pretty shaken up."

El nods. They're both okay, she tells herself. Be grateful; this could be so much worse. But she knows she won't be able to shake the terrible cold worry gripping her until she can see the evidence for herself.

Neal's leaning forwards on a bench, his head cradled in his hands. El sits down next to him and touches his shoulder. "Neal?"

He looks up, slowly. "El," he whispers. He doesn't have any obvious injuries, but he's dirty and rumpled, and his face is too white. Shock.

"Are you hurt?" she asks.

He shakes his head. "I should have been. Peter… he took it for me." He looks up at her, his eyes suddenly wide. "El, I'm so sorry."

El glances up, but Diana is nowhere to be seen. Tactfully gone on a coffee run, probably. "This isn't your fault," she says.

"You don't know what happened."

She smiles sadly. "I — don't want the details. Not right now." Not until I know you're both safe. "But I know this isn't your fault. Peter protects people; it's what he does. And you would never hurt him."

He shakes his head mutely and she puts an arm around him, pulling him gently to lean against her. She's glad he's there; achingly glad for someone to hold onto, someone to look after.

"I was right there," Neal whispers. "I was right there and I couldn't do anything."

No wonder, then, that he's in shock. She notices, now, the red ligature marks on his wrists where his sleeves have slipped down. "Sweetie," she says, and manages not to let her voice shake. "Neal. It's okay."

"Thank you," he whispers. "For being here."

"Of course I'm here," she says. "For both of you. You're…" El trails off, fumbling for a word she doesn't have. They haven't attempted to find classifying words relationship yet for the relationship between them. Boyfriend sounds wrong to her, somehow, and not just because of the clear distinction it draws between husband. (Although there is a difference from what she and Peter have, of course, but… it isn't in that way. A difference in kind, not in strength.)

Neal looks up at her, with a ghost of a smile flickering on his face in response to her confusion. "We're… partners?" he suggests, and his smile becomes something real.

She smiles back, and kisses him quickly. "Partners. I like that."

A speculative look appears. "So will Peter."

"Not if you start using it to tease him at work, he won't." She pokes his arm, relieved that he's coming out of himself. "Be good."

"Yes, Elizabeth," he says, meekly. Some colour is finally beginning to come back into his face.

It's just then that a doctor appears. "Mrs Burke?" he asks.

"Yes," El says, quickly, and stands, Neal with her. "Neal's family," she adds, to forestall any questions.

He nods. "Your husband is going to be fine," he says, and El barely registers the rest of the words that follow, although she gathers the gist. Badly cracked ribs, a mild concussion, a whole lot of bruising — but they're letting him come home to them.

To us, she thinks, and then realises that this time she doesn't need to correct herself. Her first thought had been the right one.

Peter smiles broadly at the sight of them. He's clearly in pain despite the drugs he's been given, but he gets up anyway. He's wearing a scrub top.

"Oh," El says, unhappily, "I should have brought clothes —" but Peter cuts off her words with the press of his lips, and she puts her arms around him (carefully) and kisses him back.

"Peter," Neal says, slightly desperately, and he catches Peter's hand, their fingers tightening, clinging together like they never want to let go.

But they have to, because this is public and therefore not safe, and so Neal has to settle for hovering as close to Peter as he reasonably can through the interminable process of getting the discharge forms signed and meds picked up and everything generally being sorted out. Diana pats Peter on the arm, telling him to rest, and they have to deal with a couple of medical staff, but to El all other people are peripheral to the three of them; barely real.

They get Peter settled into the back of the car. Neal gives El a pleading look.

"Go on, get in," she says, giving him a slight push to make her point. Do you really think I'd mind?

But she understands, and she understands when Neal immediately takes Peter's hand again but the two of them don't do more than that, don't touch each other any more than that, the entire way home. Everything at the hospital had been a reminder to her (and how much more strongly to Neal?) that hers is the relationship which, in the eyes of the world, is legitimate. Is real. While what's between Neal and Peter would be classed as an affair at best, as something shameful and wrong by others. In every case, as something which would destroy Peter's career if discovered.

And between her and Neal… their relationship is sexual in neither action nor intent, and therefore would probably be considered to not even exist.

She's tired, and over-emotional, she tells herself, and wipes fiercely at her eyes.

It's only when they're all safely within the house, the rest of the world locked away outside the door, that Neal reaches to grip Peter by the shoulders and kiss him fiercely. "I'm sorry," he says, quietly and a little desperately, when they break apart. "You shouldn't have done that for me."

"Of course I should have," Peter retorts. "I'm not letting you get hurt. Either of you."

El puts her arms around them both. "I think we should continue this upstairs," she says. "Hon, you should probably be lying down."

Peter rolls his shoulders back and groans slightly. "Good idea."

They undress him together. El can't help her gasp of horror at the dark bruising across his torso.

"Sorry," Peter says, which is such a ridiculous response that she laughs, and then, without meaning or expecting to, begins to cry.

"Hey, hey," Peter murmurs. He takes her hand and pulls her to sit on the bed beside him, his other hand on her knee. "I'm okay. We're both okay, we're safe."

Neal sits on her other side and puts an arm around her shoulders until her breaths have stopped hiccupping. She wipes at her eyes, embarrassed. "I know. I know you are. I don't mean to —"

"It's okay," Peter reassures her, again. "Don't worry."

"Stop getting into danger, first," El retorts, and Neal chuckles.

"Come on," he says. "Let's get into bed, before Peter goes to sleep sitting up."

"If you want to talk about reactions to painkillers…" Peter grouses, but he breaths a sigh of relief once he's lying down in the centre of the bed. He gazes at the two of them through eyes already half-closing as they change and slip under the covers with him. "Love you both," he murmurs.

"So do I," Neal says.

"So do I," El agrees. She nestles against Peter's side, where she can feel his breathing. "I love you both so much."

She and Neal hold hands across Peter's stomach ("Are we hurting you?" "No, 's nice."). The three of them together, as it should be. Soon first Peter's, then Neal's breathing smooths into sleep, the sound and presence of each of them distinguishable, comfortable. Safe.

El lies there with them, and listens to them, and loves them. So much. It warms her from the inside, filling her up.

This isn't how love stories are supposed to go, maybe. But this is their story, her story, and she knows it's just as real. All three of them know that.

- - -

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/67508.html with comment count unavailable comments.
RabidChild's Fic: OT3 - maniprabidchild on July 26th, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC)
I haven't even read it through yet, but I'm so thrilled to see this published! Will be back later with something coherent, I swear.
Frith: White Collar - El - happy phonefrith_in_thorns on July 26th, 2012 11:58 pm (UTC)
I have genuinely spent the entire day editing it XD
ivorysilkivorysilk on July 27th, 2012 12:38 am (UTC)

I am -- wordless. Like, without words. This is stunningly beautiful, and wonderful, and adjectives I will think of later.

Thank you so, so much for writing this for me.

Frith: White Collar - Neal - blue shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 27th, 2012 01:10 am (UTC)
Eee, I'm thrilled that you like it! :D I was really nervous about whether you would or not. *does a happy dance*

Thank you :)
Hello, yes, I am Briam: whitecollar-ot3b&wlionessvalenti on July 27th, 2012 01:21 am (UTC)
This is lovely. I like how the coming together isn't easy. It's awkward and a sometimes a little painful. I love Peter actively trying to push down his feelings as not to hurt Elizabeth. It actually shows the complications. But, of course, I also love the sweet ending.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on July 27th, 2012 10:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I did very much want to show realistic sides of non-traditional relationships, where they're messy but work anyway. I'm really happy you enjoyed this :)
Winter: NealPeterwinterstar95 on July 27th, 2012 01:52 am (UTC)
This is one of the best things you've written, seriously this is completely wonderful in its pain at first, then seeking, then acceptance and beauty. You did a fabulous job.
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - boysfrith_in_thorns on July 27th, 2012 10:40 pm (UTC)
Aww, thank you so much, seriously! I went way out of my comfort zone writing this, so your comment makes me really happy :)
The Gauche in the Machinechina_shop on July 27th, 2012 04:22 am (UTC)
Ohhhhhh, this is gorgeous! I love it. Beautiful El POV!!! <3 <3 <3
Frith: White Collar - El+Neal+Peter - familyfrith_in_thorns on July 27th, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm really glad you enjoyed this :)
daria234daria234 on July 27th, 2012 05:34 am (UTC)
This is superb. I love the realism, the fear, Neal and El's relationship, the beautiful sense of longing.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 27th, 2012 11:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm really glad this felt realistic to you, and that you enjoyed reading :)
kanarek13: prom pickanarek13 on July 27th, 2012 05:49 am (UTC)
Oh, my! Wow, this is so, sooooo wonderful. It's definitely going on the favorite ot3 stories list :D Love it that you've written it from El's POV and made her go through the doubt and fear and uncertainty before they managed to find their place in the world as a threesome. This made it feel so, so real and totally believable and overall a fantastic story with a perfect ending :D Yay \o/ Thank you!
Frith: White Collar - El - happy phonefrith_in_thorns on July 31st, 2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! :D I was trying really hard to write their relationship believably, so I'm very pleased that you thought it was. I'm really happy you enjoyed reading!
sahiya on July 27th, 2012 07:23 am (UTC)
This is really beautifully done. Some of the best OT3 I think I've read and in this fandom that is saying something.
Frith: White Collar - El+Neal+Peter - familyfrith_in_thorns on July 31st, 2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, thank you so much! :D
elainasauntelainasaunt on July 27th, 2012 01:10 pm (UTC)
What a lovely and real-feeling story.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on July 31st, 2012 10:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm happy you enjoyed reading :)
batgurl10batgurl10 on July 27th, 2012 02:54 pm (UTC)
Had to drop you a line to say how much I enjoyed reading this story this morning with my coffee!!! XD

honestly, Ive never been in a fandom with a poly pairing. That was awkward at first and made me stretch the boundaries of what Im willing to believe. The slash has to be "somewhat believable for me to get into a ship. Chemistry something....so, thank YOU White collar for making me believe this x3 ship. Your fic explains in beautiful detail how its not perfect, and El has doubts as any woman would, but somehow they make it work and I love it. Not too many men would be able to handle two lovers, but dam it, Peter Burke can!!! I love how once Neal is settled, you show how easily he fits and how much Peter loves him. I love your El--you make her real and believable. Totally Awesome all around!!!! XD Thank you.
batgurl10batgurl10 on July 27th, 2012 02:56 pm (UTC)
I forgot to mention that the scene in the car where theyre bringing Peter home from the hospital teared me up cause your description of how an outsider would view their relationship was Perfect!
I love stories that deal with that reality and doesnt paint everything as Roses and ponies cause thats not Real and it jars me out of a fic quicker than anything.
Frith: White Collar - El+Neal+Peter - familyfrith_in_thorns on August 4th, 2012 07:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for your comments! (And sorry for the slow reply; I've been moving house.)

I really like reading about non-conventional relationships, so this is a really fun fandom for me! And I'm very glad that you liked how I wrote the characters here, and especially that their relationship felt realistic -- that was very much what I was hoping for :)
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf: White Collar - El coffeeembroiderama on July 27th, 2012 09:29 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful! I love that you allow the awkwardness to exist without magically being fixed but still show how much they all care about each other.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat stepsfrith_in_thorns on August 4th, 2012 07:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm very happy you enjoyed this; it was a challenge for me to write, but a fun one :)
oh these heroes come and go;: [wc] ot3;;micheleeeex on July 27th, 2012 09:35 pm (UTC)
I loooove this!
Frith: White Collar - Neal - smile hatfrith_in_thorns on August 4th, 2012 07:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :D
Oh no! It's the Very Comforting Banshee!: SPN: Jared peepingtheoret on July 27th, 2012 10:14 pm (UTC)

YOUR EL POV IS PERFECTION, OKAY. I love that she doen't love them the same but she does love them both. And I love the tentativeness at first, growing into the casual comfort and affection and love as the relationship settles. *__*
Frith: White Collar - El+Neal+Peter - familyfrith_in_thorns on August 4th, 2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
The characters just all love each other so much. It's my favourite thing about the show. And I'm really really happy you liked this! El is the BEST.
Sally M: white collar 8sallymn on July 27th, 2012 11:36 pm (UTC)
This is lovely, absolutely lovely - I adore the awkwardness, the difficulties, and the almost desperate need they each have to do the right thing by the other two, not to hurt them, no matter what...

This is my first and pretty much only OT3, and yes, I totally agree that's what's between Neal and El - though they adore each other - is very different from what each has with Peter. You got it spot on.

(PS - I forgot to say, I'm utterly amused by how many icons I see that are different versions of the same picture - the ones I used too, yes :)

Edited at 2012-07-27 11:38 pm (UTC)
Frith: White Collar - El - happy phonefrith_in_thorns on August 4th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
I love how much the show itself pushes the OT3, especially with promo pictures like that one XD

And thank you very much! I definitely see the relationships between the three of them as each being different, but that doesn't mean they're less important, or that the relationship as a whole can't work -- although I thought some awkwardness at first would be inevitable! :)