Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: So I just found this little one shot in my files. I barely remember writing it, and I certainly don't remember finishing it. Nonetheless, here it is. Obviously, many people have written about the possibility that Cooper and Neal are actually the same person. This is simply my fluffy little take on that plot-bunny with a lot of Peter/Neal and a little Kurt/Blaine. I hope you enjoy! Jules
Peter Burke stared out his office window at the street far below. It had been almost two years since Elizabeth had been taken from him. It was two years almost to the day that she came home from the doctor with the diagnosis. Cervical cancer. It had spread so far so quickly that there was little the doctors could do. Less than two months later, she was gone.
All the while, Neal had been right there by his side. He'd done everything he could to help them both while Elizabeth quickly faded away. He'd done everything he could for Peter once she was gone. Neal had even arranged the funeral, following Elizabeth's wishes to the letter, when Peter was too broken up to do it himself. And afterward, Neal had stuck by him through his grief—even when that grief made him irrationally angry and he lashed out at the one person who was there for him unconditionally.
For two years, Neal had been Peter's rock. When Peter tried to thank him, Neal just brushed it off. "It's what you did for me after Kate. It's what friends do."
Friends. Peter supposed that they were friends. In fact, they had been for a long time. The two men had been working together for five years and they had built up a trust and understanding between them that went deeper than any professional partnership. It went deeper than just about any relationship Peter had ever experienced. The only relationship that compared was the one he'd had with Elizabeth.
It had taken a long time for Peter to get past her death. He had always assumed, because of his work and the difference in their ages, that he would be the first to go. He never expected to spend a single day without her. Now he had a lifetime of days and no Elizabeth. But he had gotten past it. Mostly. No, he hadn't started dating again, as Jones had suggested he try on more than one occasion, but he didn't sleep on the sofa every night anymore. He had finally sorted through her clothes and sent them to the Salvation Army. He had eventually even traded in the old TV for a huge flat screen that Elizabeth would have hated. She would have said that it took up too much room in their small living room. She would have been right, but Peter bought it anyway and mounted it above the fire place. Now he and Neal watched ballgames on that TV on Saturday afternoons when they weren't working a case.
Neal spent a lot of time at the house these days. In the beginning, Peter was sure it was because he was worried and wanted to keep an eye on the grieving widower. These days, it just seemed… right.
But lately, something was coming between them. Peter knew exactly what it was. In three months, Neal would complete his sentence. After that, he would be a free man. No more ankle tracker. He could go anywhere and do anything he wanted. Peter had mentioned numerous times that he could stay at the FBI as a consultant, but Neal hadn't said yes. He hadn't said no either. He just hadn't said anything. He could tell that Neal was still weighing his options and that made him nervous. Peter was nervous that he might lose the best friend he had. He was nervous that even after five years working together, he still didn't know for sure if Neal would stay on the right side of the law. He hoped but he didn't know. It was at times like that when he missed Elizabeth's quiet confidence the most. She would have assured him that Neal was a changed man and he would have trusted her even if he couldn't trust himself or Neal.
"Ready for lunch?"
Peter turned to find the object of his thoughts leaning against his doorjamb. "Yeah. You in the mood for sandwiches?"
Neal rolled his eyes. "Five years, Peter. After five years, you would think that you would know that I am never in the mood for sandwiches. I was thinking of Cuban. There's a great new restaurant in Chelsea."
Normally, Peter would object to going so far away from the office just for lunch, but today he gave in. It was not a day for arguing, not when everything was so uncertain between them. Besides, it was a slow day with no current case to take up their attention.
"Alright, but you're buying," Peter warned.
Neal grinned. "That's great."
Peter drove them uptown and parked near the restaurant. Parking in Manhattan could be a bitch, but having FBI credentials helped considerably. They walked the short distance to the restaurant and Peter got the door, but stopped when he realized that he had lost Neal along the way. He turned back to see Neal frozen in place and staring at a young man on the sidewalk nearby.
The kid couldn't have been more than twenty years old, but there was something familiar about him that Peter just couldn't place. He was shorter than Neal by a few inches and his hair was dark. It had been cropped short, but even with the length and the styling products that the kid used, it was obviously naturally curly. His eyes were hazel, but there was something there. Peter was about to say something when the kid seemed to come out of whatever shock he was in.
Peter frowned. Coop? Neal, meanwhile was frozen in place. Peter could see that he wasn't sure what to do. It was pretty surprising, really, since Neal always seemed to have a ready answer for any occasion.
"Cooper, what are you doing here?" the kid said and then he was throwing himself into Neal's arms and Neal hugged him back like his life depended upon it. Peter felt a quick flash of something unfamiliar in his gut, but pushed the feeling aside as his curiosity got the better of him. He let the door go and walked a little closer.
"I thought you were in LA?" the kid said, still holding on to Neal. "What are you doing here? Why didn't you tell me you'd be in town?"
"I…" Neal was still at a loss for words.
The kid looked up into Neal's eyes and took a slight step back. It was in that moment that Peter realized why the kid looked familiar. He looked like Neal. They could be… "Brothers?"
Neal and the kid both turned to him upon hearing his exclamation. "Peter… I…"
Peter shook his head. He got it. Neal had kept his childhood very well guarded. Even after five years on the same side of the law, Neal had never let Peter past that last impregnable barrier. He had respected Neal's wishes and hadn't pressed, assuming that Neal had a very good reason to protect his past. Looks like he had been right; he was protecting his brother.
"Peter, I'd like you to meet my brother, Blaine Anderson," Neal finally said. Peter could tell that it had taken everything in him to get that out.
"Peter Burke," Peter said and offered his hand. The kid shook it politely. "Cooper and I work together."
"So, you make commercials too?" the kid—Blaine—asked. "Are you a director?"
Peter shook his head. Commercials? "Uh, no. not exactly."
"Blaine, there's something I…" Neal shook his head and looked at Peter for help. Unfortunately, Peter didn't really have any answers to give him. Neal turned back to Blaine. "I'm not… I'm not a commercial actor. I'm not an actor at all."
Blaine frowned. "But… I've seen the commercials."
"A friend owed me a favor and…" Neal shrugged.
"Why haven't I seen these commercials?" Peter asked with some confusion. He thought he knew every scam Neal had pulled, even if he couldn't prove them all.
"They only run regionally," Neal told him. He turned to his brother again. "Blaine… I…"
"Why do I get the feeling that there's something you aren't telling me?" Blaine said with a frown.
"There's a lot I haven't told you," Neal said. "I'm not sure how to tell you."
Peter was bumped into by a pedestrian and he realized that this probably wasn't the best place to have this conversation. "Maybe we should find some place to talk other than the sidewalk."
Blaine and Neal looked at him and then Blaine nodded slowly. "I… I live a couple blocks from here. We could go to my place. Kurt will be shocked that I ran into you."
"So you guys are still together?" Neal asked as he followed his brother down a side street. Peter trailed behind, but stayed close enough to hear the conversation.
Blaine nodded. "It's been more than four years now. I just finished my second year at Julliard and Kurt finished his third year at NYADA. We love it here in New York. We plan to get married after I graduate."
"So you went for that music degree?" Neal asked. "I always said you should follow your dreams."
Blaine huffed. "Well, Dad's not too happy about it. He still calls me up at least once a month to tell me how I'm wasting my life. He thinks I should go to Yale for business so I can take over the company some day."
Neal snorted. "He's an ass. Always has been. Look at how he treated you after you came out. Just stick to your guns. Or better yet, change your number and don't give him the new one."
Blaine laughed at that. "Kurt says that every time Dad calls. But I can't. I… Mom…"
Neal sighed. "I know."
Peter wondered what about their mother changed the mood so drastically. It was like all the light went out of both of them at once. But they arrived at the apartment building and Blaine led them inside. It was a lot nicer place than anything Peter could afford when he was in college. It was a midrise building with a doorman and security that made all guests sign in. Peter noted that Neal signed in as Copper Anderson. That was not one of the known aliases that Neal used. It finally sank in that Cooper Anderson was Neal's real name. Not Neal Caffrey…Cooper Anderson.
"Nice digs," Neal said as they took the elevator up to the top floor.
Blaine shrugged. "Grandma's money. Dad couldn't take that even if he tried. I'm out of the will, by the way. At least until I 'see sense, forget that fag boyfriend and get a real job.' You might have a shot of getting back in these days." The voice the kid used made Neal laugh and Peter imagined it was an impression of their father. "I think he forgets just how much money grandma left to each of us."
"He hasn't forgotten," Neal said darkly. "He just chooses to ignore it because it means he can't threaten or manipulate us anymore."
Blaine stepped off the elevator first and into a private hallway. There were no other apartments on this floor. Given the size of the building, Peter had to guess that their apartment was pretty big. Sure enough, as soon as they stepped inside, he could see that this was not a cheap place. The foyer alone was larger than the living room at his house.
"Blaine?" a voice called out. Peter assumed it was the Kurt mentioned before. "Did you forget something?"
"No," Blaine called back as he walked towards the voice. "I ran into someone."
"Who?" Kurt asked as he stepped into the wide doorway that Peter could now see led to a large living room. "Oh my Gaga! Cooper! What are you doing here?"
There were more hugs and Neal still looked extremely uncomfortable. "That's why we came up. So I could explain."
"Well, come in," Kurt said. "Settle down and I'll get drinks. Are you hungry? I was just about to fix a sandwich for lunch. It wouldn't be any trouble at all to fix a few more."
"Actually, I'm starving," Peter said.
"Oh, where are my manners," Blaine said. "Kurt, this is Peter Burke, a friend of Cooper's. Peter, this is my partner, Kurt Hummel."
Once the introductions were out of the way, Blaine led them into the living room and Peter could see that it was more than just the living room. The living room was actually sunken to separate it from the rest of the room, but there was a large kitchen and dining area to one side of the room and French doors that led out to a rooftop garden on the other end of the room. It was all tastefully decorated, and even Peter could see that the furnishings were not cheap.
Blaine went to help Kurt and Neal sat down on one of the large white leather sofas. Peter sat next to him. When he spoke, it was in a harsh whisper. "You have a brother?"
"Obviously," Neal said quietly with an impatient huff. "What the hell am I supposed to tell him?"
"How about the truth?" Peter suggested. "I get that you wanted to protect him from the things you got caught up in, but that's all in the past now. Isn't it?"
Neal slowly nodded. "Yeah. But… How do I tell him I've spent the last fifteen years lying to him?"
"Very carefully," Peter said.
Neal snorted in amusement. "You're a great help."
"Now this is a sandwich I could happily eat every day," Neal said. The sandwiches that Kurt and Blaine served were not the meat, cheese and mayo sandwiches that Peter usually got at the deli, but he had to admit that they were very tasty. They were made with sliced turkey breast that had been cooked in some sort of spicy marinade. There was a cranberry sauce, some sort of sprouts and goat cheese all piled on top of a whole grain roll. They served a delicious bean and corn salad to go with the sandwiches.
"I still like my deviled ham," Peter shrugged. "But this is good too. Thanks."
"Our pleasure," Blaine said politely, but Peter could tell that he was getting impatient to know why Neal was in New York. "So, you were going to explain?"
Neal swallowed and took a drink of the iced green tea with ginger that Kurt had served them. "Yeah. I'm not really sure where to start."
"How about at the beginning," Blaine suggested. "You said you aren't an actor. I always thought you should have gone into art, anyway. You were much better at that."
"He's actually very good at both," Peter said wryly.
Neal glared at him and shook his head before turning back to Kurt and Blaine. "You remember when I left?"
"Yeah," Blaine said quietly. "Dad pretty much made your life hell back then. I didn't blame you for running."
"Well, I was only sixteen," Neal said. "I didn't have access to grandma's money then. I had to find a way to live. I had no education, no job, no way to support myself. I came to New York, and tried making money selling portraits in the touristy parts of town. It was okay that fall, but no one stops for portraits in the winter. I ended up in a shelter."
"God, Coop," Blaine said. "I…"
Neal smiled ruefully at his brother. "You were six, kiddo. There was nothing you could have done. Anyway, I wasn't there long. I met up with some people who taught me how to use my art and charm to make some real money."
Peter snorted at this and both Blaine and Kurt looked at him. "They weren't exactly legal ways."
Neal nodded when Blaine looked at him with a question in his eyes. "Yeah, he's right. I got in with some shady characters. I started forging art and running cons. I was really good at it too. So good, in fact, that by the time I turned 18 and could get my inheritance, I didn't really want to stop. For the next five years, I stole, conned and passed off forgeries as originals. Until I got caught."
"By me," Peter said. "I work for the FBI white collar division."
Blaine and Kurt both were wide eyed as they turned back to Neal. "But… why?"
"It was a game," Neal said. "An addicting game. After the first few months, it stopped being about the money and it was all about being the best. I was always trying to outdo myself, each heist bigger than the last. Nothing seemed impossible."
"You said you were caught?" Kurt asked tentatively.
"Yes," Neal confirmed. "A few years ago, Peter caught me. Only on a minor infraction, but enough to put me away. I was only a couple weeks from getting out when my girlfriend disappeared, so I broke out to try and get to her. Of course that meant I had more time added to my sentence. So I asked Peter to arrange parole. In exchange I would help him catch other criminals. That's what I've been doing for the last five years."
"I don't believe it," Blaine said. He shook his head in denial.
Neal lifted his foot to the coffee table and pulled up his pant leg to show his tracking device. "This is real, Blaine."
"But… why?!" Blaine asked angrily. "Why lie to me all this time?!"
"To protect you!" Neal retorted. "There were some really not-nice people after me. And I don't mean Peter or the FBI. I couldn't… I couldn't lead them to you."
"I guess I know why I only saw you once in the last ten years," Blaine said. "And you had to sneak in and out of the window to avoid Mom and Dad. Do they know?"
Neal shook his head. "No. Peter didn't even know you existed until today. I couldn't let my past and my present… it was safer for everyone."
"When you came to visit three years ago, you were on parole?" Kurt asked.
Neal shot a guilty look at Peter but nodded. "Technically. I just… I needed to see Blaine. I was running—for a lot of complicated reasons that I can't really explain—and I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to come back. I wanted to see you, Blaine. You're the only family I've got that doesn't hate me."
Peter understood when Neal was talking about. It had been a very uncertain time for everyone then and the result had been that Neal had gotten time added to his parole rather than the hoped for commutation. "Wait, where did you visit?"
"Lima, Ohio," Blaine said. "That's where Kurt and I were going to high school."
Peter huffed a laugh. "Ohio. I never would have guessed Ohio."
"Wait, you caught him right?" Kurt asked. "So wouldn't you know all this stuff about him?"
"I never could get anything on him before he turned eighteen," Peter shrugged. "Never knew his real name before today."
"Real… so what do you call him?" Blaine asked.
"Neal Caffrey," Peter said. "I know of about thirty other aliases, but that was the one that he used most with his associates."
"So you don't live in LA," Blaine said finally, his voice steely. "You live in New York. And for the past two years we've been in the same city but you haven't once thought to come see me or call me? I thought we were past this shit! You said…" Kurt grabbed Blaine's hand and he seemed to have a calming influence. Peter wished he could do the same for Neal. He knew how hard this was for him.
"I told you, I wanted to protect you!" Neal said defensively.
"That was when you were out stealing stuff from bad people," Blaine countered. "You've been with the FBI for 5 years, so I don't think that story really holds."
Neal stood and began to pace the room in front of the French doors. "I'm sorry. I was ashamed. I didn't want you to think…. I didn't want you to know that your brother is a conman. I wanted you to be proud of me. That's why I made those stupid commercials. That's why I taught that stupid class when I was visiting. That's why I made up that shit about the Transformers movie. I just wanted to be a brother you could be proud of."
There was silence in the room for a long minute while Neal stood staring out the window at the garden. It was rather beautiful, but Peter would be surprised if Neal even saw it.
"I am proud of you," Blaine said quietly. He got up from his spot on the sofa. "I'm proud that you got out of that house and away from Dad. I'm proud that you found a way to survive, even if it wasn't the best way. I'm even more proud that you've turned your life around and are helping people now."
Neal turned to find Blaine standing right beside him now. There was no hesitation when Blaine wrapped his big brother into a hug.
"He seems like a good kid," Peter said as he drove Neal back to June's. They had never made it back to the office that afternoon.
"I have no idea how he turned out as great as he did," Neal said. "Not in that house. He… I got out, but he didn't."
"He said things were really bad before you left?" Peter said with an enquiring tone.
Neal nodded as he stared out the car's window. "Our father was… is… a very powerful man. But he's not very tolerant of anyone who doesn't agree with him. He'd get drunk and get abusive. Me… Mom… He never touched Blaine. At least not back then. Blaine told me that he never has, but I'm not sure I believe him. Dad doesn't like the fact that Blaine is gay."
Peter growled. If there was one thing he couldn't stand it was a man who abuses his family. "He should be in jail."
"Too late for me," Neal said. "And Blaine won't even tell me if Dad hits him, so I doubt you'll get him to testify. And Mom… she thinks she deserves it."
Peter was quiet for a moment and then asked, "How did you manage to keep in touch with him?"
"Mozzie, mostly," Neal said. "Before he left, he set up an email account that couldn't be traced back to me. And every once in a while I'd write a letter to him and have an acquaintance in LA forward it on with the postage cancelled properly. That and Moz set up a burn phone that only Blaine has the number for."
Peter grunted. He should have guessed. "What about those commercials?"
Neal groaned. "God, those things are awful. Some guy I know does the marketing for a credit report company in the Midwest. I got him to shoot a series of commercials with me in them. He releases a new one every six months or so. Has been for years."
"I have got to see these commercials," Peter said with a snort.
"Please don't," Neal pleaded. "They are really bad. I mean, really bad."
"That's why I want to see them," Peter joked.
They arrived at June's and Neal paused before getting out of the car. "You want to come up for a beer?"
Peter turned off the car. "Sure."
A few minutes later, he was resting on the sofa sipping a beer while Neal sat beside him with a glass of some fancy wine that Peter wouldn't be able to identify if the label was right in front of him.
"So, are there any other secrets you're hiding from me?" Peter asked teasingly. "I mean, now that I know about your acting career, I might as well know everything."
Neal flushed, but shook his head. "Can't give all my secrets away. How else will I keep your interest?"
"You've had my interest for 12 years," Peter said semiseriously. "I doubt that will change."
Neal sighed. "You never know."
"Tell me about this inheritance," Peter said.
Neal rested his head against the back of the couch and looked up at the ceiling. "I was wondering when you would remember that. Well, like I said, my grandmother left some money for me, but I couldn't touch it before I was 18."
"How much?" Peter asked. "If what I saw at your brother's place is any indication, it looks like a lot of money."
Neal chuckled. "Blaine's place was pretty conservative, actually. Let's put it this way, I could buy June's house, buy a place in the Hamptons, never work a day and still have plenty to squander on expensive clothes and restaurants."
Peter frowned and took a swig of his beer. "Then why live with June and wear hand-me-downs? Why not tap into that money when I left you at that roach motel?"
Neal shrugged. "That money belongs to Cooper Anderson. Not even Mozzie knows who that is. I couldn't touch the money without providing a link between my two lives. I've only touched that money once since I turned 18."
"When was that?" Peter wondered.
Neal glanced over at his friend before staring intently into his wine glass. "I flew in a couple specialists from Europe to see if there was anything they could do for Elizabeth. The doctors here were so… I just wanted to be sure."
Peter closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "Thank you."
Neal nodded. "I don't suppose there's any reason not to get that money now. Moz is long gone." There wasn't as much pain in his voice when Neal talked about Mozzie's disappearance as there had been right after it happened. Peter supposed that Neal had finally accepted that his friend wasn't coming back. Mozzie had left a note explaining that he realized the Neal was never going to go back to his old life, but Mozzie just couldn't give it up. Peter just hoped that they never had a reason to go after the funny little man. It would tear Neal apart and Peter wasn't sure which end of the law Neal would wind up on.
Neal was still talking. "You know about Cooper now. And I think my days of running are over."
"Oh yeah?" Peter said.
Neal swirled the wine in his glass around for a minute before nodding. "Yeah. I have to stick around to make Blaine proud."
"That the only reason?" Peter asked tentatively.
Neal looked up at Peter and it seemed like they both held their breaths for a minute before Neal whispered, "No." And then they were both leaning forward and their breaths mingled for a second before their lips finally met.
Long minutes later, Peter pulled away slowly. "Does that mean I should start processing the paperwork so you can become a real consultant?"
"As long as I'm working with you," Neal said before pulling Peter to him again.
Two Years Later
"I still can't believe my baby brother graduated from college," Neal groaned as he leaned back in the booth. They had all just left the ceremony and were at one of Blaine's favorite restaurants to celebrate the big day. "And he already has a better paying job than me!"
"Give it up, Coop," Blaine said with a teasing air. "You know you love your job. You get to play pretend all the time and show everyone how much smarter you are than the criminals."
Peter smirked. "He's got you there."
Neal shoved Peter playfully. "And how many of those criminals would you have caught without me? Besides, honestly, what could be a better job than writing and recording music all day? My little brother is going to be a rock star."
"I'd like to think that starring on Broadway is a rather great job," Kurt huffed.
"It is, honey," Blaine said soothingly. "And have I told you today just how proud I am of you?"
"Starring?" Neal asked. "You got the lead? Wow! That's really great Kurt!"
"Thank you," Kurt said with a smug grin. "I love your suit by the way. Is that Armani?"
"Of course," Neal said. "Nothing but the finest for my brother's graduation dinner."
They were all drinking champagne in honor of the occasion and Peter lifted his glass. "Well, since everyone is sharing big news…"
Neal grinned. "We have some of our own. We're getting married."
Kurt squealed and immediately began demanding to be allowed to plan the big event. Meanwhile, Blaine was busy hugging the life out of his brother and Peter in turns.
"I'm so happy for you guys," Blaine said.
"So does that mean you're finally going to buy a bigger place?" Kurt wondered.
"No," Neal said and shared a look with Peter. "That house has some very good memories and we're comfortable there. But it does mean I can finally force Peter here to buy some better suits."
"I can't wait for you to try," Peter said with a smile and then kissed his fiancé.