Title: The Aftermath
Notes: Takes place after Peter saves Elizabeth and Neal from Keller.
Disclaimer: White Collar and all related characters are property of people who aren't me.
By the time Neal got home he was ready to crash. His head pounded unmercifully and this side and back were throbbing with pain. He didn't tell Peter because he deserved the beating he got from Keller. It was his fault that Elizabeth had been taken. With a sigh he grabbed a change of clothes and went to take shower.
Neal glanced in the mirror and saw some pretty decent bruising on his chest and abdomen. The coloring was impressive too. Moving slowly he turned on the water and got into the shower. He could feel his tense muscles relax but the water beating down on his already abused body wasn't as pleasant. He quickly finished and got out.
Once he was changed he glanced at himself in the mirror. He looked haggard and pale. Neal sighed shaking his head. He loved his life right now and he nearly screwed it up royally. He didn't care about himself so much but the fact that Elizabeth almost died was weighing heavily on him.
He closed his eyes briefly when he heard June's voice. Taking a breath he replied, "Be right there."
Neal heard a slight gasp coming from June when he came into the room. She immediately went to him and pulled him towards his bed. "Sit! I spoke with Mozzie. He told me what happened. Are you okay?"
He sat down and shrugged. Neal knew he was acting completely opposite his usual self but he couldn't be that confident. Not when Elizabeth... "Not really."
"Breath, Neal!" Blinking, he looked up from the bed to see June standing over him with a worried look on her face. "Goodness, you had a doozy of a panic attack young man!"
Neal tried not to wince as he sat up. "Sorry."
June crossed her arms. "I don't have any idea what you're apologizing for, Neal. And I also don't know why you didn't have anyone check you over."
He stared at the ceiling as he replied. "I did. I got stitches here," Neal said, pointing at his head.
"Pull the other one. My Byron had bruised ribs and concussions many times. I know the signs to look for. I'm going to call a physician friend of mine to check you over. No argument!"
June nodded. "Now get some rest and I'll bring you some tea."
Neal remained in the same position for a few minutes before it became a matter of necessity to use the restroom. He slowly got up and trudged along. Once he was finished he returned to his bed and carefully laid back down.
It took him a few minutes to find a comfortable position. By the time he did he was breathing heavily and June was standing over him with a frown. She placed the cup of tea on the nightstand. "Neal, maybe I should get you to the hospital."
"I'm okay, June. Your doctor will be enough, I'm sure."
She shook her head but left when she heard the doorbell ring. Neal glanced at the tea but made no move to even reach for it. All he kept thinking about was the fact that he knew about the treasure and didn't tell Peter. He wasn't sure if it would have changed anything but at least Peter wouldn't hate him like he no doubt does now.
It was his fault Keller took Elizabeth so it should matter what happened to him. Neal closed his eyes. If Peter decided he was going back to prison he wasn't even going to try to convince him otherwise because that's where he deserved to be.
"Neal, honey, this is Dr. Barrett."
He opened his eyes to see a kindly older man standing next to join. "Let's check you over, son," the man said.
Dr. Barrett was quiet as listened to Neal's lungs and checked for signs of a concussion. "Any nausea?"
"A bit but I haven't gotten sick."
The man nodded. "It's a mild concussion and you have some bruised ribs. Don't try to do anything too strenuous over the next week, Neal. In fact if you can stay home from work that would probably be in your best interest. Just get some rest. I'll leave prescriptions for some pain medication with June and I'm sure she'll go pick those up for you."
"Thank you, Doctor."
Neal sighed once the two were gone. He was already in hot water with Peter. Requesting time off was going to be difficult. He could tell the agent he'd been injured fighting Keller but Neal was vulnerable enough right now so he nixed that idea. No, he would be going into work despite what June said.
The next morning he was really stiff and, as luck would have it, June left early for a meeting she couldn't miss. So Neal took a quick shower and got dressed. He was finishing a cup of coffee when he noticed the time and headed downstairs.
Peter was pulling up just as went out the door. He barely acknowledged Neal as he got into the car. Neal frowned and just looked out the window as they drove to the federal building. There was more silence as they parked then headed up to the 21st floor.
The looks Neal got as he entered the bullpen were not kind. No one even came up to him. Finally Peter spoke up. "Sit!"
Neal was not pleased that the first words out of Peter's mouth was to sit down. Especially the way he said it. Almost as though he were a dog and if he didn't listen he was going to be punished. He held his tongue, though, and sat down.
It would be another ten minutes before Hughes called him up to his office. Neal took a breath and trying not to wince as he got up. He knew he should have taken the medication before he left but he was worried about not be late to meet Peter.
He glanced into Peter's office to see he was pretending to be busy. He knew Neal was standing there. He shook his head and went into Hughes office. The older man had him sit down. Hughes looked up and Neal could see the disappointment in his eyes.
"Mr. Caffrey, that was a close one for everyone involved," he said.
"You realize what position you put Peter in professionally and personally, right?"
Hughes shook his head. "Peter thinks you took the treasure but you say otherwise, yet you knew where it was."
"I didn't take it and I didn't blow up with warehouse, especially adding my own paintings," Neal said. He hated the fact that he had to repeat himself about this. The next time he was asked he was just not going to answer anymore since it seemed like they already made their decision about it. "I knew where it was because someone left a card with a web address on it. When I logged onto it there was a video feed showing the treasure."
Hughes seemed to soften a bit at Neal's speech. "Why didn't you tell Peter about what you found?"
Neal was most likely going to hate himself for this. Once it was done there was no turning back and he would have no friends. "I... found out who took it."
"Your little friend. Peter told me about him."
"He did?" Neal asked, sick to his stomach.
"I'm afraid so," Hughes replied. "I know he's a friend so I won't ask you to betray him but if seen by any of the people in this division who know who he is, he will be arrested on the spot. Is that understood?"
Neal nodded slowly. He was pretty certain Mozzie was still going to hate him. He was fine with helping Elizabeth but his friend would not do well in prison. "Where does that leave me?"
"You're under review right now. You come here, you go home and that's it. There will be agents posted at Ms. Ellington's and the minute you step outside they will be there to escort you into holding here. After two week's we will reevaluate your situation."
He was quiet and wondered just how he was supposed to be an effective team member if Peter and the rest of the White Collar division were ignoring him. Hughes dismissed him and as he got up, Neal let out a hiss of pain.
"I'm fine, Sir," he replied. Hughes didn't look certain but let him go.
Once Neal was out in the hall Peter called his name. "Conference room. We have a case."
The thought of sitting in the uncomfortable conference room chairs was unappealing. He made his way into the room and went back to the only seat available, which was all the way in the back of the room. Again he hid a wince of pain.
When everyone was seated Peter began the briefing. Neal tried to concentrate, he did, but his ribs were really protesting at the position he was in. He didn't want to move because every time he did Peter would glare at him because the chair squeaked.
"Everyone have their assignments? Good, let's get to work."
If Peter gave Neal an assignment he never heard. He didn't get any indication from the agent that he wasn't paying attention. The man just picked up his files and walked out of the room. Now that Neal was the only one left he let the mask fall.
He was tired of everything. Neal was never going to be anything more than an ex-con, especially around Peter and his colleagues. He thought, for a moment, that maybe he could have something more like family and friends, but he ruined all that.
It took Neal a few minutes but he finally got to his feet headed down to his desk. By the time he got there he felt dizzy and ready to pass out. He attempted to play it cool and went to the restroom. Luckily no one was in there.
Right now Peter was still angry with Neal. He believed him when he said he didn't steal the treasure, now after everything that happened. Of course the man still knew about it and he knew who took it. He put Elizabeth's life in danger, hell he put his own life in danger!
He felt bad for not speaking to him, but Peter was pretty sure he was going to say something he regretted if he spoke. The talk with Hughes had helped but with Neal on review there wasn't much he could do so Peter didn't really give him an assignment on their next case. Not yet anyway.
Peter only started really paying attention to Neal towards the end of the meeting. He seemed very uncomfortable in the conference room chair. That was not like him at all. He swore he saw the kid wince in pain a few times as well.
He wondered if Neal was more injured than he first thought. Peter's main concern was for Elizabeth's safety and he was so pissed at Neal he didn't really feel like talking to him. When felt ready to leave the conference room, Peter would stop him.
When he got back to his office his cell phone rang. "June, good morning. Neal? He's here, why? Is everything okay? That bad? No he didn't say anything but I was just wondering if something was wrong. Of course I will. Thanks for letting me know."
Peter looked down into the bullpen but there was no sign of Neal. Apparently the kid had been hurt pretty good by Keller but he decided not to share that information with anyone except June. The only reason he was able to get into work today was because June hadn't been home to stop him.
"Diana, have you seen Neal?"
"He just went into the bathroom. He looked a little gray, Boss. Is he okay?"
Peter frowned. "Not sure yet," he replied, opening the door. Neal was leaning over the sink apparently trying to take deep breaths. "Neal?"
Neal slowly lifted his head and looked at Peter. "Damn it, Neal! I just spoke with June. Why the hell did you come into work today if you felt this bad?"
"Didn't want... want you to be any angrier at me."
"Well, just for the record, I'm not," Peter replied. "Let's get you home."
It took Neal a good ten minutes to get up the stairs to his room at June's. She was shaking her head as Peter helped him into bed after getting more comfortable clothes on. "You didn't even take any of your medication, Neal."
"Didn't want to be late and didn't even think about it."
She placed a hand on his shoulder. "Dear, nothing is more important than your health. Not even work. I think even Peter will tell you that."
"She's right, Neal. I may have been upset with you, but I never want to see you in pain."
Neal eyed him for a moment before replying. "May have been?"
"Okay still am," Peter replied. "We are going to talk about it but not until you're feeling better. Also you are not to leave this home."
He sighed. "I know I'm under review."
Peter shook his head. "That's only part of the reason. The other part is that I don't want your bruised rib to crack and have it perforate a lung."
"Believe me I have no desire for that to happen either."
"Good, not get some rest," Peter replied. "Elizabeth is going to stop by for a bit to check up on you."
Neal started getting sleepy as the meds kicked. Yawning, he said, "Thanks, Peter."
He woke up to see Elizabeth on the couch reading a book. Neal felt sick to his stomach when he thought about Keller holding her hostage. He closed his eyes and took several breaths to calm himself. At least the pain wasn't as bad as earlier.
"Neal?" He opened his eyes and she was next to him, holding his hand. "Hey, it's good to see you awake. How are you feeling?"
"A little sore but not as bad as earlier."
Neal frowned. "What?"
"It's been about 24 hours since Peter brought you back to June's," Elizabeth replied. "What I want to know is why you didn't ask for help sooner."
He looked up at the ceiling. "I didn't think I'd get it. Peter was so pissed and he was scared that he almost lost you. It was my fault that Keller took you. Besides I'm used to taking care of myself."
"Well you don't do a very good job of it when you're injured, Neal Caffrey."
Neal shrugged. "It's not like anyone cares. All they think is that I'm going to fall back into criminal mode. I won't lie and say I haven't thought about it, but I talk myself out of it every time because of Peter. Because of you and June. If run or do whatever I lose all of you. You're all the only family I've had in a long time."
He trailed off still stunned that he revealed all of this to Elizabeth. Neal realized that she reminded him a lot of his mother. Someone he wished he could see again. It was unbelievable how much he needed someone like that in his life.
"Oh Neal, of course we care. I think Peter is so hard on you because he wants you to turn completely away from that life. He knows you can be so much more and so do I. He wasn't angry at you, just the situation. He knows how much of a temptation that treasure was for you."
Neal was nodded feeling very grateful. He suddenly yawned surprising even himself. "Sorry. I guess I'm a little more tired than I realized."
"No need to apologize," Elizabeth said with a smile. "Just get some rest and Peter and I will be back later tonight with some dinner."
"Thank you, El. I appreciate it. I appreciate everything you and Peter have done for me."
Elizabeth placed a kiss on his forehead. "That's what family is for, Neal."