Peter sat in his hotel room with the TV on, his tie off, and his papers spread around him. The hotel room had everything he wanted, but there was something missing — or rather, someone. Peter was lonely. But he couldn't decide if the "someone" he was missing was Elizabeth or Neal, or possibly both.
Peter was still troubled by how close he'd come to losing Neal that night. He and his team had burst through the door of the house just as Pierce Spelman had been about to pull the trigger on Neal. A split-second later.... It didn't bear thinking about.
He'd seen how frightened Neal was. The younger man had literally been shaking. Neal didn't like guns; Peter knew that. He'd wanted to comfort Neal, but he'd refrained because of the presence of the other agents. He also wasn't sure exactly how he could comfort Neal. Neal didn't seem to have any compunctions about touching Peter, but it wasn't like they had ever hugged each other or anything like that.
Holding Neal in his arms would have made both of them feel better, Peter thought, because part of the problem had been that Peter had felt in need of some comfort himself. The idea of something happening to Neal terrified him.
It wasn't the first time Neal had been in danger, but the previous times, Peter had been able to go home to El and talk to her about it. This time, El wasn't there to go home to, and Neal had arranged for Peter to stay in this hotel rather than spend another night at June's house.
He looked at his phone and sighed. It was too late to call Elizabeth tonight. It was too late to call anyone. He himself should have been in bed at least an hour ago.
What about Neal? Who would Neal turn to for comfort? Neal let few people in. He'd said that Peter was the only person in his life he trusted, but he'd proven that he didn't trust even Peter completely. He'd hidden the book with information about the music box, and he hadn't told the truth about the woman named Alex.
There was a knock on the door.
It couldn't be. Could it?
"Who's there?" he asked.
"Peter?" came a shaky voice from the other side of the door. "It's me. Neal."
Peter opened the door to see his agitated-looking partner on the other side. He put a hand on Neal's shoulder and gently guided him into the room and over to the couch.
"I.... I'm sorry to barge in on you like this," Neal apologized. "I know it's late."
"Couldn't sleep?" Peter asked sympathetically. "It's okay. I couldn't either."
Neal nodded. "I keep seeing that gun. She was going to shoot me, Peter. If you guys had been just a minute later...." He shuddered. "When I close my eyes, I can hear the gun go off."
Peter put an arm around Neal's shoulders and gave him a gentle side-hug. "It scared me too," he admitted. "I was afraid we wouldn't get there in time, and we almost didn't. Between that and what happened in Phillips's vault, I've come way too close to losing you recently, and I don't want that to happen."
The words drew a slight smile from Neal. "You really want to keep me around?" he asked, sounding hopeful.
Peter turned so that he was facing the other man. "Neal, over the last few months you've become very important to me. Since I started working with you I've actually been looking forward to going to work every day. I like having you around, and I don't just mean on the job. This relationship we have...." He laughed softly. "It's certainly not a conventional one, but I wouldn't trade it for anything."
"You really mean that?" Neal asked.
"I really mean it. I don't know what I would do without you, and I don't want to find out." Peter put his hands on Neal's shoulders. Not even really thinking consciously about what he was doing, he leaned forward and kissed Neal.
At first Neal stiffened in surprise. Peter was about to pull away, but then Neal put his arms around Peter's neck and returned the kiss.
When they broke apart, Neal took a deep breath. "I was definitely not expecting that when I decided to come over here."
"I wasn't expecting it myself, until it happened," Peter said. "But I don't regret it."
Neal grinned. "That's good, because I don't regret it either." Then his expression became serious.
"Is something wrong?" Peter asked in concern, wondering if Neal was thinking of Kate.
"I think I owe you an apology."
"What for?" Peter wanted to know.
"I know I haven't been completely honest with you — about Kate, about Alex, about the music box. I told you I trusted you, but I haven't been acting like it, have I?"
"Go on," was all Peter chose to say.
"My only defence is that I'm just not used to trusting anyone. I habitually hide things from people, even my friends. It's a form of self-protection. If no one knows all my secrets, then no one can betray me. I know up here," he pointed to his head, "that you would never betray me, but that information hasn't quite made it down here yet." He pointed to his heart. "I can tell you that I've been more honest with you than I've ever been with anyone, but I know that's not enough."
"I'm not completely innocent in that regard myself," was Peter's reply. "I didn't tell you that I'd met with Kate. I didn't tell you that I had a copy of the picture of the man with the ring. I ran Alex's prints without saying anything to you about it."
"I know I haven't given you a lot of reasons to trust me," Neal sighed.
Peter took Neal's hands in his. "I'm trying, Neal. I'm still getting used to seeing you as someone other than a criminal that I put in prison. And even though I know up here," he pointed to his own head, "that you're not going to run away, part of me in here," he pointed to his heart, "is still terrified that one day I'm going to come to pick you up, and you'll be gone."
"I wouldn't do that to you, Peter. I promise you, with all my heart, that I won't run away. More than that, I don't want to run away. You said you like having me around; well, I like having you around too. I've never had anyone like you in my life before — someone I can rely on to be there when I need them. I'm not going to give that up. I'm not going to throw away this relationship that I have with you." He yawned.
"Do you think you can sleep now?" Peter asked gently.
"I'm not sure," Neal admitted. "I feel better than I did before I came over here, though."
"Do you want to stay here tonight?"
"On the couch?"
Peter shook his head. "I was kind of hoping, actually...." He looked at the bed. "No, I'm not propositioning you," he added quickly. "But I'd really like to hold you tonight."
"That sounds wonderful," Neal said with a smile.
Standing, Peter offered Neal his hand. "Let's go to bed."
Neal stood and took Peter's hand. "I thought you'd never ask."