Fandom: White Collar
Word Count: 862
Beta Credit: elrhiarhodan
Summary: What happens after.
Author’s Notes – Written for surreal_44 for the 11th day of my 12 Days of Christmas Meme. She requested “While the World Sleeps” as a timestamp to Proof of Life, Proof of Love. You don’t necessarily need to read that story, but it would help in understanding this one.
He woke in the shadows. The rains had passed, the clouds parting to let the rays of the moon paint silver beams across the hardwood floor. Rolling over, he felt Peter’s broad back radiating warmth. Safety. Resting his lips against his shoulder, Neal inhaled the spicy scent of Peter’s soap and his skin.
His lover murmured and shifted, pressing into him. Kissing him lightly so as not to wake him, Neal shimmied out of the bed. Pulling on Peter’s robe, he padded downstairs to the kitchen. He foraged through the refrigerator and found some leftover French Silk pie that Elizabeth had brought home from an event. Cutting a slice, he poured himself a glass of milk and started towards the stairs.
“Gonna share that?” Elizabeth’s voice came from the shadows.
“Fuck!” He almost dropped the glass when he heard her voice. She was sitting in the living room in the dark. “You scared me!” Putting his plate on the coffee table, he switched on a light and sat down next to her.
“Sorry.” She took a sip of her tea.
“What are you doing sitting in the dark?” Picking up his pie, he cut a piece and turned the fork to her, offering her a bite. Her eyes closed in bliss, a smile on her face as she tasted the chocolate. It reminded him of earlier, and his cock stirred at the memory.
“I couldn’t sleep. Needed some tea.” Her tone was off. There was more there, he thought – something underlying those simple words.
“Really?” He raised an eyebrow, looking at her skeptically.
“There’s nothing wrong.”
“Come here.” Putting the plate down, he gathered her into his arms and settled deeper into the couch cushions. “Remember, I know how to read people, Elizabeth, and I can tell that there’s something you’re not saying.”
She sighed. “Neal…”
“El….” He gently mocked her tone.
“Okay.” She pulled slightly away from him. “This afternoon…after we…you fell asleep.”
Neal ducked his head. “Yeah, sorry.”
“No, no!” Elizabeth chuckled. “You know Peter falls asleep right after sex, too. It was…something else.”
“What?” Neal was confused. Running through what happened that afternoon, he couldn’t think of anything that might have upset Elizabeth. “Did I do something wrong?”
“No, you didn’t do anything wrong…” Elizabeth paused. “It’s what you said.”
“What I said?”
“Yeah, you were half asleep and you told me you loved me.” Elizabeth’s voice was quiet.
Neal stilled. He remembered curling up against Elizabeth, weary and sated. He remembered Peter coming into the room and the murmur of their voices. He remembered feeling peaceful and whole and safe. He remembered….
I love you, Elizabeth Burke.
“Did you mean it?”
She turned to face him. “Did you mean it? Do you love me?”
Instinctively Neal opened his mouth to say something flippant – until he looked into her eyes. Open, honest, their color so much like his own it was like looking into a mirror. He needed to tell her the truth.
Her smile was like the sun coming up. “Good.” She leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss to he side of his mouth. “Because I love you, too.”
Wait. Elizabeth loved him? “You…”
“Love you? Yes, Neal. For a long time actually.” She took another sip of her tea.
Elizabeth chuckled. “I knew you were going to ask that.” She shifted, wrapping his arms around her waist and leaning back into him. “I’ve always had a bit of a thing for you, just like Peter has, but I think it was when you and Peter had to switch places that I realized I had fallen for you.”
Neal laughed, remembering how he’d teased and flirted with her when they were preparing to go under cover. She gave as good as she got that night and he’d been hard pressed to remember that she was his partner’s wife and that he couldn’t just whisk her off to a secluded hotel room.
“That long, huh?” He kissed the top of her head.
“Yeah. That long.” She snuggled into his embrace.
They were silent for a while. Neal marveling that this wonderful woman loved him, complete with his failings.
“I think I loved you from the start,” he began. “From the first day you let me into your house. I just didn’t know it.” He hugged her. “I realized it when Keller kidnapped you. I would have done anything, even kill Keller, to get you back.” Neal’s throat was tight. “I thought it was to bring you home to Peter, and it was. But it was also to bring you home to me. I didn’t want to admit that. I wasn’t ready to admit that - for a long time.”
Elizabeth turned and climbed into Neal’s lap. She cupped his face in her hands. “You were already asleep when I replied earlier.” She kissed him and he tasted chocolate and chamomile and love. “I love you too, Neal Caffrey.” She rested her head on his shoulder and he closed his eyes.
They stayed there for a long time, listening to the faint breeze ruffling the leaves as the rest of the world slumbered.