evening_bat: Bat in flight, silhouetted against the moon. (Default)
[personal profile] evening_bat
Title: Mistakes Made By Another
Author: [personal profile] evening_bat
Pairing: none really but feel free to put on your slash/OT3 goggles
Rating: PG
Word Count: ~ 1480
Warnings: none
Summary: The marks of someone else’s life hard-lived.
Notes: Response to this prompt over on [livejournal.com profile] comment_fic, since [livejournal.com profile] poestheblackcat asked so nicely. XD Title from the Indigo Girls’ song Galileo.


Mistakes Made By Another


At first, the idea of bringing Neal back to the house with him had seemed a good idea. They were both soaked to the skin and covered with muck, the fallout of a foot chase on a rainy night. The house was closer, there was no need for Peter to be drenched and miserable for the time it would take to drive Neal back to June’s and then home. This way, they could both get warm and dry - and fed, since there was no way El would let Neal leave without feeding him after seeing him looking this bedraggled - before Peter dropped Neal off for the night.

Unfortunately, Peter had forgotten to take into account the fact that a wet and muddy Neal was a whiny Neal. By the time they reached his house, only the fine tremors running through Neal’s spare frame had kept Peter from indulging in more than a wistful daydream of tossing him out into the rain to make his own way home.

“I think I should be entitled to hazard pay,” Neal was complaining as they walked up the front steps.

“Hazard pay,” Peter scoffed as he opened the door. “I don’t get hazard pay, why should you?”

“You make a lot more than I do,” Neal retorted, fussing with his clothes and looking down at the growing puddle around his feet with dismay.

“Oh wow,” came El’s voice as she came out of the dining room to greet them. “You two look like you’ve had quite the night. Let me go get some towels.”

The next few minutes were blissfully free of Caffrey complaints, Neal being thoroughly preoccupied with fending off Satchmo and towelling himself dry as best he could without actually stripping in the entryway. El vanished upstairs while they blotted away enough water that they could walk further into the house without constituting a major danger to the furnishings and floorboards, reappearing just as Peter deemed them sufficiently dry to proceed.

“The shower’s warming up now, it should be just perfect by the time you make it upstairs,” she declared briskly. “Peter, I’ve laid out some clothes for your on the bed - you can go pick out something that will fit Neal. Neal, honey, you’re practically turning blue so you get the first shower.”

Neal glanced up from his attempts to finger comb his wet hair into some kind of order, an automatic protest rising his lips. “No, I couldn’t-”

“You can and you will,” Peter said firmly. El wasn’t far off about Neal’s colour and he was still shivering.

“Well, if my gracious hosts insist,” said Neal, giving El a muted version of his usual charming smile and shooting Peter an indecipherable look as he trotted upstairs.

Peter was pretty sure that smile was supposed to have come off as smug but Neal had evidently been too miserable to entirely mask the gratitude.

El shooed Peter off to their room when he tried to help her mop up the water they’d dripped all over the entryway, snapping a towel at him when he persisted. He backed away with a chuckle, holding his hands up in surrender as he left her to clean up and keep Satchmo from tracking through the puddles. His amazing wife was as good as her word; there were clothes and a fresh towel waiting for him on their bed. He hastily shucked his wet suit and patted his damp skin dry before climbing into the sweats and shirt she’d left out for him. A quick rummage found another pair of sweats and an old t-shirt that would do for Neal. They’d be big on him and he’d no doubt have plenty to say about their lack of fashionability but he’d deal.

The shower had stopped running by the time Peter made it to the bathroom. He knocked briefly at the door before pushing his way inside. He wasn’t trying to catch Neal in his skivvies but Peter had seen him take a tumble earlier tonight - wet pavement and dress shoes were not a good combination - and he didn’t trust Neal to say anything if he’d been banged up. Neal had all the shame of an alley cat; he’d survive if Peter got an eyeful.

“Clothes for you,” Peter announced as he opened the door. “I don’t want to hear a word about how they’re not - Jesus Christ, Neal! Are you okay?”

He’d surprised Neal at the mirror, one towel wrapped around his hips as he rubbed at his hair with another. On another night, Peter might have allowed himself to privately enjoy the view but he couldn’t look away from the ugly red marks on Neal’s chest and side.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Peter demanded, hastening to Neal’s side. He practically threw the clothes on the counter, hands reaching reflexively to assess the damage.

Neal flinched away from him, left arm dropping to cover the blotches. “I’m fine,” he answered. “No reason to get so agitated. Or completely violate all my basic expectations of privacy,” he added aggrievedly.

“Fine?” Peter repeated in disbelief. “Then what the hell are those?” He pointed at the lurid red curve on Neal’s chest, just visible over the edge of the towel he held protectively over it.

“They’re nothing,” Neal insisted, shifting uncomfortably under the weight of Peter’s stare. “Do you mind? I’d really like to get dressed, if it’s all the same to you.”

“Not at all,” Peter responded promptly, folding his arms over his chest. “Go right ahead.”

“I think I can manage this part on my own, Peter,” Neal told him dryly.

“I read somewhere that most home accidents happen in the bathroom,” Peter said blandly. “I wouldn’t want to be remiss in my custodial duties.”

Neal sighed in defeat, then let his hand fall away from his chest. “If I let you convince yourself that I’m not about to bleed out here and now, will you let me change without an audience?” he asked.

“Deal,” Peter promised, taking a step forward for a closer look.

He was relieved to see that Neal hadn’t been lying. Alarming as they looked, the discolourations marring the skin of his chest and side weren’t the open wounds Peter had taken them for.

“Are those scars?” he asked, unable to keep his tone even.

There were two of them, one midway down his chest, just left of centre and one lower down on the same side, below his rib cage. They were ragged, vivid circles of flesh and Peter found himself touching one before he realized he’d moved. Neal’s skin twiched under the light contact but he held still under Peter’s fingertips. Peter let out a slightly relieved breath when a light touch proved the marks were as smooth as the surrounding skin, rather than the roughened ridges he’d half-expected.

“Birthmarks,” Neal corrected tightly.

“Look an awful lot like gunshot wounds, for birthmarks,” Peter muttered as he backed away, putting a more comfortable distance between them.

Neal shrugged, glancing down at his chest. “I’ve had them as long as I can remember. What else would you call them?”

Good to hear that Neal hadn’t actually been shot up sometime before Peter had caught him. That hadn’t been a pleasant thought, no matter that he’d have long since healed from any such injury.

“I’d call them distinguishing marks,” Peter rallied enough to return. “Why aren’t they anywhere in your file?”

Neal’s absent smile turned sharp. “There are ways to cover them up.”

And prison medics to bribe. And records to forge, Peter added mentally. Among other things he didn’t even want to think about.

“And speaking of covering up,” Peter said abruptly, “you mind taking those clothes and getting out of here? Go change in the spare room - I want my shower.”

Neal rolled his eyes, though his expression was as amused as it was annoyed, and scooped up the bundle of clothes Peter had carried into the bathroom. “Gladly.”

Peter let him retreat from the bathroom without comment. He considered locking the door behind him, wary of retribution for barging in earlier, but the bathroom lock wasn’t going to keep Neal out if he decided he wanted in so he left it. He drew a deep breath of the still-steamy air as he got ready for his own shower. Now was not the time to be dwelling on Neal’s skin, distinguishing marks or otherwise. But prudent or not, Peter thought it was going to take some time to put aside the image of those vicious-looking discolourations.

Neal was here and safe, Peter reminded himself as he lathered up. Whatever genetic quirk that had daubed him with those horrifying not-scars was neither a sign of past violence nor a warning of things to come. Peter would make sure of it.

Fin

End Notes: Technically a crossover with Chuck by way of Matt Bomer characters - Neal Caffrey (White Collar) bearing the marks of Bryce Larkin’s deaths (Chuck), as per the prompt. Which is kind of hilarious to me, since even my (thus far) single White Collar-only fic is still a crossover with Chuck.

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