tj_teejay: (Neal Peter - NY bw)
[personal profile] tj_teejay
Title: Desperate Deed
Chapter: 6 of 6
Author: TeeJay
Genre: Gen
Rating: PG-13 for language and violence
Full header in chapter 1

Chapter 6
- Until I'm Fine -

Neal had stayed with the Burkes for a week now, and things were becoming easier every day. He wasn't panting like a patient with heart insufficiency anymore after navigating the stairs, there weren't as many winces and moans and grimaces of pain as there used to be (or else Neal knew how to hide them better). He'd even taken Satchmo for a short walk to the nearby park on occasion.

Friday evening had both Peter and El coming home with lines of exhaustion on their faces. Peter and his team had finally wrapped up a complicated investment banking scam, and Elizabeth had struggled to get a reception organized for a particularly demanding client. Neal had surprised them with a three course dinner he'd cooked from scratch, and especially his asparagus cream soup found many admirers at the Burkes' dinner table.

With stomachs lavishly filled and napkins crumpled on the table, the atmosphere was relaxed and content. Peter got up after a while, clearing away the dishes with the words, "Let me take care of these."

Neal gingerly leaned back in his seat. "So, uhm... I've been thinking. Maybe it's time I went back to my own place."

Elizabeth fixed her gaze on him. "Are you sure? You know we love to have you."

He looked at her gratefully. "I know you do. But I think it's time I got my own life back. I mean, it's not like I feel restrained here, it's just..."

"I understand," she said sympathetically. "There's no place like home."

Home, Neal thought. Did he even consider his Manhattan apartment his home? If the answer was no, then it was surely the closest thing he'd had to a home in a long time.

"So you won't be upset if I moved back to June's?"

"Oh Honey, of course not. I just wanna make sure that you're ready."

"I think I am," he admitted.

"Well, then I guess it's settled."

Neal breathed a silent sigh of relief. He'd been a little afraid of this conversation, knowing Elizabeth's strong motherly instinct.

Both of them were silent for a long moment, and the awkward glance they shared was pregnant with meaning. They'd both known the moment would come, the moment where they'd have to broach the subject that had been hanging over them for so long.

"Neal..." Elizabeth started in a low voice.

"Yeah. I know," he simply said.

"We'll have to talk about it eventually."

"I don't want to," he said, his expression pained.

"I know you don't, but I think it'll be good. For both of us."

"What happened that day, it's... I mean, I wish I could go back and— And do something. Do something more."

"Oh Neal, what more could you have done? I mean, look at you. What you've done, it's unimaginable. You almost killed yourself to save Peter. To save me. I don't ever know how we can possibly repay that."

Peter suddenly spoke up, "Neal, why did you shoot yourself? Why would you do that?"

Neal lifted his head and realized Peter was now standing in the kitchen doorway, leaning against the doorframe, his eyes dark and intense. Neal swallowed, trying to find an answer that he could put into words. He came up empty, so he shrugged, lifting his hands helplessly. "I... I don't know."

"You don't know?" Peter asked. "How do you point a weapon at yourself and pull the trigger and not know?"

Neal raised his voice defensively. "I just don't know, all right? It all went so quickly. The guy almost molested your wife, Peter. He threatened to kill Elizabeth in front of your eyes, then shot her in the chest. I thought she was dying. He kept threatening you, and you were letting him get away. I had to do something!"

Peter now raised his voice to match. "You don't shoot yourself to let a perp get away, Neal—almost killing yourself in the process. Did you even realize how dangerous that was?"

Neal let out a hollow, cynical laugh. "Yeah. The thought had actually occurred to me. But you know what? Back then, it didn't matter."

Elizabeth's gaze was suddenly boring into him. "Neal, it was just shy of suicide. How could it not matter?"

He shifted his torso forward and lowered his head, idly picking at the light green napkin between his fingers. The admission came over his lips before he could stop it. "I... I know what you mean to each other, how much you love each other. And then there was Benson, and I saw everything going to hell, and suddenly it wasn't important anymore what happened to me as long as there was a chance to save you."

Elizabeth's big, blue eyes filled with tears, and she reached out with both hands across the table, taking Neal's in hers. "I should be angry at you for being such a fool, but I need you to know how much that... that—" she struggled with the words, the tears dislodging and trickling down her face.

He looked up and met her eyes. "It's okay," he said just above a whisper.

"No," she said in half a sob, half a laugh. "No, Neal, there is nothing remotely okay about this."

Peter took a step closer, standing behind Elizabeth with his hands resting on her shoulders, as if he wanted to form a connection to Neal through her. "Neal, you need to understand that your life is just as important as ours—as anyone's. And you need to understand that you can't pull a stunt like this ever again. Do you hear me?"

He looked up at Peter, briefly, his eyes flickering away again. "Yeah," he breathed.

"I need more from you than that," Peter insisted.

Neal pulled his hands away from Elizabeth's, leaning back in his chair. "What do you want from me, Peter? I've already bared my soul."

"I want for this to get through that thick skull of yours."

Neal's voice was suddenly bitter. "And here I thought I'd earned some gratefulness from you."

That hurt, and Neal knew it, regretting it almost the instant it had left his lips.

Peter let his hands sink down next to his body. His voice was suddenly thick with emotion. "Neal, I'm sorry. I am grateful. More than you can imagine. But it was just... watching you do that to yourself, the surgery, not knowing if you were going to make it—I don't... I don't ever wanna go through that again."

The silence that hung in the air was heavy, laden with unspoken words. Elizabeth self-consciously wiped at her tears and Peter turned away to look out the window into the back yard. Neal drew in a long breath that he held, getting up from his chair. It seemed this conversation was over, yet somehow it wasn't.

Elizabeth got up too, moving closer to Neal. "Neal..." she said, unexpectedly pulling him into a gentle hug. He held on for a few seconds before they separated. Her hand squeezed his upper arm reassuringly. "This has been hard on all of us. But we're glad to have you back."

Neal gave her a fond look, unsure what to say. He looked at Peter, who was eyeing him cautiously. Neal said, "I'm sorry, Peter. I didn't mean to—"

Peter stopped him with the gesture of a hand. "Don't, Neal."

"So... are we good?"

Peter gave him the slightest of smiles. "We're good. But if you want me to hug you..."

Neal chuckled. "No. No, it's all right."

"Okay," Peter said.

"Okay," Neal echoed.

And that was that.

+-+-+-+-+

The same evening, with Neal staying one last night in the guest room, Peter settled into his own bed where Elizabeth was already lying with the lamp on the bedside table on, reading one of crime novels she loved so much.

Peter shifted the pillow around, trying to find a comfortable position. He rolled over onto his side, trying to rest, then rolled back on his back. Elizabeth gave him a quizzical look.

"Honey, what's the matter?"

"Nothing."

"Well, that's a whole lot of nothing that has you tossing and turning."

"It's just... there was something Neal said earlier. Something about Benson almost molesting you. I mean, I know he hit you, but now it sounds like there was something more to it."

Elizabeth suddenly looked uncomfortable, putting the book away. "Honey," she started, then fell silent again.

Peter's sense of comprehension immediately flared, his face stricken. "No. God no, please don't tell me he—"

"No," she quickly interrupted. "No, he, he didn't do anything. I mean, he tried, but..."

"Was Neal there? El, please tell me what happened," he whispered hollowly.

"It was... before Neal got there. I— I'm not sure I really remember much. He just— One moment he was threatening me with the gun, the next he was all over me. I guess I must have struggled, I think I even bit him. He let go of me after that, and then Neal came, and..."

Elizabeth fell silent, and Peter looked at her, still shocked by what he was hearing. "My God, El, I didn't know."

"Look, nothing happened. It's okay," she said soothingly.

"But is it? I mean, what— What does that mean?"

"For us? Oh honey, it doesn't mean anything."

He studied her face, her blue eyes, and he suddenly wanted nothing more than to wrap her in his arms and kiss her, hold her, make it all go away. But instead he just stared, scared to do anything, to touch her.

Elizabeth must have noticed, because she gazed at him in a sadly loving way. She reached out and cupped his face with her hand, stroking his skin with her thumb. "Don't," she said. "Don't let this scare you. It doesn't change anything."

Peter wished nothing more. His hand came up, covering hers on his cheek. "What can I do?" he whispered.

"Just... be here," she simply said.

He scooted closer and enveloped her in his arms, holding her close. "I'll be here. For as long as you need me."

They fell asleep in that position not too long afterwards.

+-+-+-+-+

It was a strange sensation for Neal to be coming back here, back to the White Collar office building. Everything felt familiar, yet strangely not so. It had been, how long since he'd last set foot in here? Eight weeks? Nine?

Walking longer distances still tired him, and he breathed a little too heavily for his liking when he reached the elevator in the lobby. He drew in a breath that he held for a moment as he got in and pushed the button to the 21st floor.

Too soon, he elevator emitted a bing, signaling it had arrived at its destination. Exiting through the sliding doors, he put on a brave face, even though he was coming back with mixed feelings.

Outwardly, he liked to appear as if nothing could sway the suave, confident Neal Caffrey, but inwardly, it was a whole other matter. He'd have to lie if he said this whole incident hadn't shaken him, and he couldn't help but wonder what being back at work would be like. He'd been put on a restricted schedule for now, and he already knew Peter would (however subtly or not) make sure he took it easy.

He pushed open the glass doors to the office, trying to act as if nothing had changed, as if this was just any normal working day. He walked over to his desk, nodding at the agents who looked at him, sinking down in his chair to fire up his computer. Everything was as if he'd never left.

A surreptitious look up into Peter's office told him Peter had seen him coming in, and sure enough, Peter got up from his desk and walked out to stand at the top of the gallery, looking down into the bullpen.

"Neal, come over here a minute," he called, and as Neal, unable to suppress a small groan, stood up from his chair, so did all the other agents in the bullpen.

They formed a semi circle as Neal walked up, and started clapping—a tribute to Neal's selfless, heroic act, his painful recovery, the triumph of coming back.

Neal was completely taken by surprise. He looked into his colleagues' faces who were smiling encouragingly at him, some even in awe. This was... He was at a loss for words, and he felt his eyes filling with unexpected tears.

He looked up at Peter who was now coming down the stairs, his face positively radiating pride and admiration.

Neal smiled through the tears at the people around him, feeling very self-conscious. "Enough, enough," he stopped the last remnants to applause ringing through the office.

He lifted his arms in a grateful gesture. "Wow, thank you. I... I don't know what to say. This, uh... This means a lot. I guess, I... Well, let's just say I'm glad to be back."

There were murmurs of, "Hear, hear," all around.

Peter came up to him, giving him a good-natured but gentle clap on the shoulder. "Glad to have you back, Neal."

Neal grinned at him. "I'll remind you you said that the next time you wanna throw me out the nearest window."

"Yeah, can we maybe work towards not approaching that point in the first place?"

"Well, we can certainly try."

"There you go, your first assignment of the day."

A voice piped up from the group of agents, and Neal identified it as Agent Yu, one of the more outgoing personalities who always had a joking remark at the tip of his tongue. "So, where's the comeback cake, Caffrey?"

"Cake?" Neal feigned ignorance. "No one told me about comeback cake."

"Well, you own a bakery, do you not?"

Neal chuckled. "Yes, I guess I do. Okay, a round of 'the greatest cake' from me for everyone tomorrow. I promise."

There were cheers and whoops all around. Peter looked at his team, then ushered everyone back to their desks. "All right, enough idle standing around. Back to work, people. Let's solve some crimes."

Neal looked at Peter. "Well, I guess that includes me."

Peter gave his shoulder a gentle tug. "If you come with me, I think I may have just the thing for you. If you're up for it, that is."

Neal gave him an honest, affirmative smile. "Oh, absolutely."

And he was, suddenly realizing that he had actually missed this. He was glad to be back, and, all of a sudden, immensely thankful that Peter had given him this opportunity. Four more years in prison might not have gotten him shot, but he knew they would have been a lot harder than this.

No, life was about as good as it got right now. Or as good as it got when you were wearing a tracking device on your ankle that had a two-mile radius. Neal knew to count his blessings. And that, he did.

+-+-+-+-+

THE END

- 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 -

Profile

tj_teejay: (Default)
tj_teejay

July 2011

S M T W T F S
     1 2
345 678 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
171819 2021 22 23
24 25 26 272829 30
31      

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 19th, 2017 10:31 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios