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White Collar Fic: Make Christmas Bright

Title: Make Christmas Bright
Author: dennih23
Rating: G
Characters: Neal Caffrey, Peter Burke, Elizabeth Burke
Pairings: Gen
Word Count: 2860
Disclaimer: Not mine, White Collar is creation of Jeff Eastin
Beta: winterstar95, but all mistakes belong to me

Written for the White Collar Hurt/Comfort Advent 2014

                                                                                                                                                                    make christmas bright

Neal leaned back stretching his legs. He rubbed his eyes and returned to watching the monitors.  His mind began to wander as he observed Peter pacing back and forth on the dock. Snow was swirling around his partner, Peter’s breath billowing skyward in the crisp winter air. He watched as Peter wiped the snow off his collar and rubbed his hands together in an attempt to stay warm.

“How you holding up, Frosty?” Neal quipped into Peter’s earpiece. Peter shot a glare in his direction that was almost as icy as the weather. Neal took a sip of his coffee and grinned. Today, he was happy to be in the van.

Five minutes later Jensen arrived. The man was suspected of selling stolen Krugerrand coins, and Peter was a prospective buyer. Jensen glanced around the area before approaching Peter. Jensen stopped about six feet away from Peter. “You Harper?”

Peter nodded, “Call me Peter. I hate to be rude, but let’s get down to business, it’s freezing out here.”

“Don’t push him.” Neal whispered.

Jensen circled around Peter. “I agree let’s make this quick. Do you have the money?”

Peter patted his jacket pocket. “You have the coins?”

Jensen rocked back and forth on his heels, continuing to scan the area as if he was looking for something or someone. “I haven’t decided yet if I want to sell them. I think I could get more from someone else.”

Peter was angry but kept himself in check. “Look Jensen, you know I’m offering you a fair deal. I thought we had an agreement. I’m keeping up my end, but my buyer isn’t willing to pay more money. Are you sure we can’t work this out? If you’re really not interested, why come out here in the freezing cold?”

Static blared through the headset and Neal didn’t hear Jensen’s response. Peter and Jensen were visibly arguing. Jensen kept bouncing around, moving from one foot to the other, and Peter appeared to be losing patience. Abruptly Jensen turned and walked away from Peter. Jensen got back in his car and drove off. Neal watched as Peter shrugged in the vans direction and yanked out his earpiece.

Neal had a sinking feeling that Peter needed to get off the pier now. Jensen should have taken the bait. The deal they offered Jensen was good; the only reason for Jensen not to take the deal was if someone had tipped him off. If that was the case Peter was in danger. Neal tossed off the headphones and jumped out of the van.

He approached Peter, “What was that about?”

Peter shook his head, “Don’t know, Jensen seemed nervous. He finally decided no deal, and took off.”

The sound of screeching tires caught both men’s attention. Jensen was driving in their direction. He stopped at the end of the pier. Jensen jumped out of the car and shouted, “I knew it, you’re FBI, Caffrey you bastard!” Jensen pulled a revolver from under his coat, turned, and opened fire in Neal and Peter’s direction.

Time stood still as shots echoed across the deserted area. Peter pushed Neal down out of harm’s way. Neal crashed to the ground. Turning he felt helpless as he watched Peter fall backwards off the landing into the murky water. Agents began converging on the pier where they’d been standing.

Diana tackled Jensen and had him down and handcuffed. Everyone else was shouting, calling for Peter and scanning the surface of the river. Finally Jones spotted Peter bobbing up and down gasping for air. Peter tried swimming in their direction, but couldn’t as the current was pulling him in the opposite direction.

Peter was struggling to stay afloat. Neal watched as his partner slowly started to sink. He felt helpless as Jones and Blake pulled off their winter coats and jumped into the icy water, swimming in Peter’s direction. They grabbed him just before he went completely under water. Between the two of them they hauled Peter to shore.

Other agents worked in unison pulling Peter out of the river and laying him on the ground. Neal swiftly took off his scarf, tying it around Peter’s shoulder, and applying pressure to the bullet wound.  Peter flinched and hissed as pain overwhelmed him. Neal shifted slightly out of the way as the Harvard Crew began covering Peter with their coats to keep him warm until the ambulance arrived. Even bundled in layers Peter started to tremble and his teeth chattered.

That was three days ago. Peter sailed through the surgery to remove the bullet in his shoulder. However, the grimy, cold water had caused complications. Pneumonia and infection had set in and Peter had spiked a fever of 104.7 degrees. The doctors had Peter on a high dosage of antibiotics and oxygen therapy.

Because of the pneumonia, the doctor’s wanted Peter to cough as much as possible whenever he was awake. El would hold him through the difficult coughing fits, rubbing his back and encouraging him to cough. It was painful just to watch Peter in that much pain. After Peter would fall right back to sleep. Neal wished he could do something to help.

El continued to hold Peter’s hand and murmur “I love you” to him as he slept. Neal slid alongside her, “Don’t worry, he’ll be okay. He’s strong.” He laid his hand on Peter’s arm. He hoped he wasn’t conning himself. Peter had to get better. He didn’t want to lose another member of his family.

Neal stayed close in case El or Peter needed anything. It wasn’t much, but it was something he could do for them, being in the hospital was a terrible way to spend the holiday season. Christmas was only two days away, Peter and Elizabeth were supposed to be on their way to visit her family. It had been Peter’s idea to spend Christmas with her parents this year. Instead of enjoying the holiday with her family, Elizabeth was living in the hospital, a constant fixture at Peter’s bedside, wanting to be there for him whenever he was awake.

Neal sat scrutinizing Elizabeth. His heart dropped as he noticed the worry lines digging deeper into her face. She always smiled when Peter was awake, not letting him know how trying this was for her. While Peter was sleeping El often cried quietly at his side running her fingers through his hair or with featherlike touches would run her hand gently down his cheek. It was almost impossible to get her to leave Peter’s side. Diana and Jones along with most of the rest of the White Collar unit were stopping by and taking El for lunch or dinner, making sure she ate before heading back to the hospital room.

He pulled Elizabeth towards the small couch in Peter’s room. “You need to get some rest.” He sat at one end of the couch and motioned for her to lie down. He laid her head in his lap. She closed her eyes and drifted into a fitful sleep.

Fatigue called and Neal also wafted off to sleep. He woke to the sound of Peter coughing. He extricated himself from the small sofa leaving El sleeping. He raised the head of Peter’s bed and waited for Peter to catch his breath. He felt helpless watching the coughing fit as Peter hugged a pillow trying to ease the pain in his ribs. Neal wanted to hold Peter but knew it would be an awkward situation for both men. He settled on squeezing Peter’s shoulder. As soon as Peter stopped coughing Neal offered him a glass of water.
Neal let his hand drop to Peter’s arm, “You okay?”

“Fine.” Peter’s voice was raspy and barely above a whisper. He watched as Peter glanced around the room and frowned.

“What’s wrong?” Neal asked as he followed Peter’s example looking around the room.

“Not very festive is it? I wish I wasn’t here; El should be home enjoying the holidays. Plus I still hadn’t …” Peter paused and shook his head.

Neal knew Peter. “Peter, what’s wrong, what didn’t you do?

Sheepishly Peter looked at Neal. “I still haven’t bought a gift for El, and now …..” Peter’s voice vanished as he glanced over in her direction. Neal watched his friend and worried, Peter was beating himself up.

Another sound came from across the room as El stretched and came over to her husband.

She leaned over and kissed him. “Hey Hon, feeling better?”

Peter just nodded in reply.

Lightning struck giving Neal an idea. He excused himself saying he would be right back. Heading out the door he grabbed his cell phone to make a few calls.

He returned to the room twenty minutes later bearing two lukewarm coffee-looking liquids for Elizabeth and himself. They sat in companionable silence watching the game on the television until Peter floated off to sleep again.
They were watching the evening news when Diana poked her head in the room. “Hey there, hope I’m not interrupting anything. I thought maybe El would like to take a break and come to dinner.”

El hesitated, but Neal finally convinced her to go, he would watch over Peter. He winked at Diana and mouthed “Thank you” as she ushered El out the door. Neal flipped open his cell phone and sent a quick text message – “All’s clear.”

He started shuffling things around the small room when June and Moz opened the door and peeked inside. Peter was still sleeping so they crept into the room. Both of them carrying bags and boxes. June walked over to Neal and gave him a quick hug. “How’s he doing?”

“About the same. He wakes up for a few minutes at a time, but he is still in a lot of pain. He wanted to give Elizabeth a special holiday. I’m hoping this will help. Did you bring everything?”

“Yes dear, we did. Moz and I will help you set things up. We’d better hurry before Peter wakes up.”

June removed a small Christmas tree from one of the boxes. She set it up in the corner of the room in front of the window. She added a string of white lights and a few small red glass ornaments. She added a red felt skirt around the bottom of the tree and some wrapped packages.

While June was setting up the tree, Moz and Neal were busy hanging strands of lights and garland around the room. They hung a tiny wreath and added a lighted angel next to the tree. Soon the entire room was outlined in small blinking colored lights giving the space a holiday feel. Neal turned off the overhead lights in the hospital room allowing the space to bask in the blinking lights. Neal beamed, feeling warm inside, he knew El would love this.

Neal turned to see Peter awake and watching him. He ambled over to him and shrugged, “I just thought the room needed a little cheering up. There’s even a few presents under the tree. I hope you don’t mind but I had a few things picked up for El and signed your name.”

Peter glanced around the room and smiled at the three people decorating the hospital room, “Thank you for this. I’m so lucky that El and I have such good friends.”

June walked over and kissed Peter’s cheek, “Anytime Peter. You rest and get better. When you get out of here we’ll have a big holiday celebration at my home.”

At that moment the door opened and El stepped back into the room gasping as she looked around the small area. Tears ran down her face as she walked over and hugged Peter. The hug fest continued as she wrapped her arms around Moz, June and Diana. Finally she came over to Neal and engulfed him in a huge hug and whispered, “Thank you so much for this, it’s perfect.”

Neal melted into her hug and whispered, “Anytime, you and Peter deserve a little bit of Christmas.” He was so happy to see her smile he couldn’t say any more. He turned away so they couldn’t see the tears he was wiping from his eyes. Their happiness made him happy.

They all visited for about an hour before Peter began to visibly fade. Moz and June left first, off to their book club. Diana excused herself since she needed to get home to Theo. Neal lingered a little while longer. Finally he gave El one last hug and gave Peter a quick squeeze on his foreman before heading out the door. He still had a few more errands to run. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve and he had a few more things to arrange.

Neal arrived at the hospital mid-morning on Christmas Eve day with June’s Italian roast for Elizabeth. He also had three trays heaped with Christmas cookies and bars from the Greatest Cake Bakery. He set one plate at the nurse’s station and another in the general area for visiting families. The last platter was set up in Peter’s room for anyone who stopped by.

As he placed a couple more gifts under the small tree he noticed that more wrapped presents had appeared overnight under the small tree. He saw his name on a couple of them.

Neal plopped in the chair next to Peter’s bed glad to see that his partner was not as pale today and was sounding stronger than yesterday. The doctors had determined that Peter was winning the battle against the pneumonia and there was a real possibility that Peter would be sent home in a couple of days.

Neal hung around for a few hours, chatting with friends stopping by to check on Peter. Most of Peter’s neighbors and the Harvard Crew stopped, June stopped, and even Moz made a brief appearance. Peter was getting tired and Neal took leave too, giving El and Peter some privacy to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. He still had one more surprise planned.

He returned again in the evening with dinner for all three of them. He had asked June’s cook to prepare a meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, biscuits, and pumpkin pie. He wanted this to be a good memory for them and not just the year they spent the holidays in the hospital. They had done so much for him in the past he wanted them to be happy.

Peter lifted his head as Neal unloaded the trays of food, sniffing the air, “Neal, this smells terrific.”

Elizabeth agreed, “This does smell delicious.”

A moment later Peter’s stomach growled and they all laughed.

Peter shook his head and smiled at Neal, his brown eyes a little watery.  “I don’t know how you managed all this”, he waved his hand around the room and pointed towards the food, “but I’m glad you did. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am.”

Neal blushed at the compliment. Moz was right, he did consider the Burkes his surrogate family. He quickly wiped his eyes, he wasn’t one to express his feelings, so he put on his best conman grin. “It’s Christmas Peter – let’s enjoy this delicious food before it gets cold.”

Peter nodded knowing that both men were thinking the same thing. “You’re right, let’s eat, I’m starving.”

 After dining on the wonderful food the three of them relaxed and watched “It’s A Wonderful Life.” As the movie ended El yawned and leaned back in the recliner that Moz had arranged be put in Peter’s room. It wasn’t too long before soft snores drifted from her direction.
Neal watched as Peter glanced in El’s direction. The fuzzy warm feeling filling him again. It was getting late, he yawned, “Well, I better be heading out now.”

He headed to the door but Peter waved him over and patted the edge of the hospital bed. Neal complied and sat where indicated. Peter reached over and put his hand over Neal’s and whispered, “Thanks Neal, for this, for making today special.” Then to his surprise Peter reached over and wrapped his arm around him in a one arm hug.

Peter then pointed to the stack of gifts under the tree. “Neal, I know tomorrow is Christmas and you have lots to do so I want you to have your gift from me tonight.”

Neal moved over to the presents and found an envelope addressed for him from Peter. Slowly he opened the envelope to reveal a voucher for a trip to any art gallery or museum of his choice outside his radius. He looked up at Peter who shrugged, “When I get out of here, I’ll take you to any gallery or museum, my treat. Dinner also, my treat, and I may regret this, but wherever you want.  You decide where you want to go and let El know, she’ll arrange everything. Of course, I will probably have to bring her with, and you are invited to bring a guest. Thank you for everything, for being such a good friend.  Merry Christmas, Neal.”

Neal tucked the envelope in his pocket, “Merry Christmas Peter.”

thank you for reading!

Cross posted at AO3


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 1st, 2014 12:43 pm (UTC)
Lovely H/C fic. Neal recruiting Diana, June to help out the Burke's, loved the idea of the little tree.
Dec. 2nd, 2014 10:36 am (UTC)
Thank you – I can imagine Neal recruiting everyone to bring a little Christmas to Peter and El. He would want the people around him to be happy.
Dec. 1st, 2014 03:34 pm (UTC)
Awww, perfect Christmas whump... and for Peter for a change, heeee.

This is awesome, love it how Neal recruited friends to help and give Peter and El at least some of the Christmas back ♥

Aww *smishes them all*
Dec. 2nd, 2014 10:41 am (UTC)
Thank you – I think Neal would gather everyone together to add some Christmas spirit to Peter hospital stay. Neal likes to make people happy.

Also, I couldn’t resist giving Peter a little whump – I am sure Neal will get plenty of whump the rest of the month – I thought Neal might need a little break :D
Dec. 3rd, 2014 10:27 am (UTC)
Oh, Neal will definitely need a break this month, heee. I can almost feel his half-pouting glare in general direction of the fandom :D

That being said, I'm a bit late with this, my creative output is a bit behind with its schedule due to stupid work...

Anyway, I made you this: https://dl.dropbox.com/s/6i028kn00r4ndxv/mxb.png?dl=0
Dec. 3rd, 2014 12:59 pm (UTC)
***** HUGS ******

What a wonderful surprise in my inbox this morning! WHEE!

Thank you soooo much **HUGS** **HUGS** and **HUGS** again!
Dec. 2nd, 2014 02:21 pm (UTC)
Awwww how sweet :-) lovely story!
Love that Peter is worried he didn't get El a present
Dec. 3rd, 2014 12:47 pm (UTC)
In my head, Peter always find a perfect present for El, just he is always waiting until the last minute to go and get it for her. I imagine Neal would help Peter out by finding something special for El – Peter probably would not even complain on how much money Neal would spend :D
Dec. 3rd, 2014 08:11 pm (UTC)
What a lovely story. It is nice to see Neal putting his sneakiness to good use and getting everyone to help in surprising Peter & El with a decorated hospital room. :)

Dec. 4th, 2014 12:38 am (UTC)
Thank you, Neal can be sneaky but he does care about his make shift family and would do anything to make them happy.
Dec. 7th, 2014 01:30 am (UTC)
Love this bit of Christmas whump, and seeing how Neal took such good care of his Burkes. Thank you!
Dec. 7th, 2014 09:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks – I think Neal will always be there for Peter and El (at least in my mind :D).
Dec. 7th, 2014 09:43 pm (UTC)
This was really sweet. And I can totally see Peter not having gotten/picked up El's present yet, and how upset he'd be about that. And Neal, orchestrating the sneaky decorating of the room. Lovely start to the Advent!
Dec. 8th, 2014 12:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I imagine that Peter either forgets or what’s until the last moments to pick up gifts for El. Neal will always be there in some way for the Burkes – it’s his little adopted family.
Dec. 18th, 2014 08:25 pm (UTC)
Aw, that was great. I love the image of them stealthily decorating the room while Peter was asleep. They make perfect elves!
Dec. 20th, 2014 11:10 pm (UTC)
Yes, I think Neal would make a perfect Santa’s Elf :D
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )