Prompt: #9, Witness
Characters: Neal and Peter
Word count: 300
Summary: Peter has a question for Neal that he can't quite bring himself to ask.
Notes: Written for White Collar 100 Community; part of my My Old Man verse, which explores the father-son aspect of the relationship between Peter and Neal.
LINK TO PART ONE
Peter glanced over at Neal when his twenty minutes ended. The kid was curled up in the corner of the couch, sleeping. So much for Neal ordering him to bed.
He frowned. Neal had crashed on the couch before, but it couldn’t be comfortable. Besides, the kid had a perfectly good room upstairs.
Peter blinked, wondering when he had started thinking of the guest room as Neal’s room. Not that it mattered.
“Neal,” he said, his voice soft. “Come on--time to go upstairs.”
The kid muttered something, but made no move to get up.
Damn. If Neal was worn out, it was because he’d been so busy playing caretaker. Peter owed him. Recovering from the gunshot would have been much harder without him here to cook, clean and harass him into resting.
Peter smiled. Neal was a decent guy at heart. No, more than decent. He was brave, caring, creative, outrageously intelligent--why had he become a criminal? Who the hell had screwed up so badly in raising him? Peter wished he had witnessed Neal’s childhood.
Neal must have felt the weight of his stare, because he finally opened his eyes. “What’s wrong?” he asked through a yawn.
“Nothing. It's just my turn to wonder about you as a kid.”
Neal narrowed his eyes. Peter blushed. The kid was seeing straight through him.
“My childhood wasn’t bad,” Neal said at last, smiling. “I had good times.” He paused for another yawn. “But you--you‘re a great Dad, Peter. You don’t have to be jealous of the people who raised me. Now let me sleep, ok?”
Peter opened his mouth to defend himself against the charge of jealousy--that was ridiculous. But somehow he couldn’t force those words out.
“Ok,” he said instead. “Goodnight, Neal.”
To be continued . . .