In a shocking departure from my normal shippy gen, this is gen-ish ship. (But mostly angsty h/c floof.)
Characters/Pairing: Established Peter/Neal(/El)
Word count: 1300
Notes: For love_82's prompt at whitecollarhc. This is so very plotless.
Summary: Some days are bad ones.
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It seemed a long drive from the office, traffic aggressive and colours overexposed in the still-bright evening sun slanting sideways between the buildings. Peter had already tried to talk Neal into coming back to Brooklyn, but Neal had almost flinched at the suggestion. "I want to be in my own place," he'd said, and Peter couldn't deny him, not with Neal trying futilely not to shiver from delayed shock and looking so close to flying apart.
Days like this one…
He sure as hell wasn't going to leave Neal alone, though, and Peter spent the mostly silent drive trying to work out how to make his case, while Neal's face remained turned away from him towards the window. But he still hadn't come up with anything by the time he pulled up outside June's. He switched the engine off and cleared his throat, glancing over at the passenger seat where Neal was sitting, taut with tension.
"You want to come up?" Neal asked, still without moving or looking at him.
"Yeah, that'd be good," Peter said, trying to match Neal's feigned casualness. He suspected he was doing every bit as bad a job at being convincing.
"Right," Neal said. He took a steadying breath, and finally opened the car door. "Right."
They walked upstairs silently, a little awkwardly, steps loud in the dim stairwell.
Neal's hands shook for a moment as he struggled to turn his key in the lock, but he recovered quickly, pushing open the door. "Grab yourself a beer," he said, and went for a bottle of wine, uncorking it and pouring himself a large glass while avoiding meeting Peter's eyes.
Peter sighed, and found a bottle of beer in the fridge. "Do you want to talk?" he asked.
"Okay. That's fine." It wasn't fine, far from it, but Peter knew Neal wouldn't respond well to being pushed. "Listen… you mind if I stay the night?"
Neal went very still for a second, although Peter didn't think it was because of reluctance. "I — Yeah. I don't mind." He took a gulp of wine, his fingers playing with the stem.
Peter stripped off his tie and overshirt, hanging them over the back of the chair on which he'd already draped his jacket. He wanted to reach out to Neal, to hold him tight and make sure he didn't renege and insist on being alone after all, but he didn't know how Neal would react. Neal leaned against back of the couch, glass held tightly between his fingers, watching him. "I'm just going to call El," Peter said, when he couldn't bear the silence any longer. "Let her know." And ask for help.
Neal just nodded, so Peter slipped out onto the balcony, where he could update El in private. "I'm worried about him," he finished with. "I mean, I'm not surprised there's fallout, the way this op went down, but he just looks so… lost."
El sighed, a rush of breath which sounded sad. "Give him time. Just be there for him."
"I'm trying," Peter said. "I just don't know how to tell if I'm doing the right thing."
"You are," she told him. "I love you, and I love Neal too. Make sure he knows that."
Peter ended the call, feeling better. He took a fortifying swig from his beer bottle and went back inside. Neal had moved to sit at the table, facing away from the windows, and had almost finished a second overfilled glass of wine. "Don't you think you've had enough?" Peter asked.
"You apparently think so," Neal said. He starting topping off the glass, somewhat defiantly.
Peter frowned, and pulled the bottle out of his hand. "Yes, I do. I'm cutting you off."
Neal made a failed grab for it. "It's mine."
Peter held the bottle out of Neal's reach. "You're on, what? Three units of alcohol in fifteen minutes? You're done." He carried the bottle over to the counter and put it down.
With a sigh, Neal slumped on his elbows over the table. "Are you just going to stand there and stare at me?" His head was bent over the wooden tabletop, but his eyes flicked towards Peter.
"Neal." It was as much of an invitation as he was likely to get. Peter pulled out the neighbouring chair and sat down. But he still didn't really know what to say. "Today was… rough."
Neal gave a little huff of a laugh, which cracked at the end, and dug his fingers into his hair. His face was slightly flushed from the wine, but at least it was better than the stark, deathly white of earlier, when Peter had found him.
Strengthened by that thought, Peter ploughed on. "I'm here for you, you understand? I'm always here for you." He put a hand tentatively on Neal's shoulder, then slid his arm around when he wasn't shaken off.
For several long moments Neal stayed as he was, shoulders rising and falling slightly as he breathed, and then he made a tiny, broken noise and abruptly half fell against Peter, who immediately wrapped his arms tightly around him. "Hey," he murmured, hand beginning to stroke Neal's back in slow circles. "Hey. It's okay."
"Peter," Neal whispered into Peter's neck, and then somewhat recovered with an effort. "Sorry. I don't know why I'm —" He started to pull away.
"It's fine," Peter said, keeping his voice low and steady. "You're still in shock, that's all. You'll feel better soon." He pressed his lips to Neal's cold forehead, and to his temple, feeling him shiver. "Come on, let's lie down."
Neal sighed in agreement, and swayed slightly on his feet in a way that wasn't all to do with the alcohol as Peter pulled him up. Peter steered him over to the bed and stripped down to his teeshirt and boxes. Neal took off his shoes and tie, and then fumbled at his shirt buttons with shaking fingers, frowning in growing frustration.
"Let me," Peter said, pulling Neal's hands away and holding them for a moment. He pushed Neal to sit and undid each of his buttons in turn, took out his cufflinks, and slid the shirt gently off. He unbuckled Neal's belt, and helped ease him out of his clothing. "There you go."
Neal reached for him wordlessly and Peter pulled him into the bed, making sure that the duvet covered them both. Neal's skin was still too cold and Peter held him close, Neal's cheek against his chest, trying to warm him. "It's okay," he whispered. "You're safe now. We're both safe."
Neal was still shivering. Not damping it down now, just letting it run its course. Peter pressed his face into Neal's hair, arms tight around him, and just waited until it finally stopped.
"I thought you were dead," Neal whispered, his breath soft on Peter's skin. Like he was admitting some deeply-held guilt. "I thought I was going to die too."
Peter pressed a firm kiss to Neal's head, wishing he could pour all his feelings of love through it. "We're safe," he repeated. "Both of us."
"I know," Neal murmured. "Just…"
Peter sighed, and hugged him tighter for a moment. "Yeah."
"Rough day, huh,"
It was Peter's turn to laugh quietly. The tautness between them had faded away. "Yeah. Rough day."
Neal was silent for so long that Peter wasn't sure he was still awake. "Peter?" he said, suddenly.
"Thank you. For this. Being here."
Peter kissed him again, gladly conscious of the familiar contours of Neal's body against his, skin to skin. "Of course I'm here."
Neal sighed out, letting go the last of the tension he'd been carrying, and shifting slightly to get more comfortable. "I can hear your heartbeat," he whispered.
Peter smiled against him, and closed his eyes, and Neal's breathing evened out and slowed as he drifted into sleep inside Peter's arms.
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