This is a very out of character story that is dark and kind of sad. But the stupid plot bunny kept hopping around the room, throwing carrots at me. Obviously, I had no choice but to accept its craziness. Blame the bunny.
Just Another Life
Peter thought he had it all. He thought he took what he wanted, to hell with everyone else. He thought it was easy for him, one smile, a bat of the eyelashes over those baby blues and anyone, male or female, melted like gold into his hands.
But Peter didn't have a clue.
He didn't know about the lonely nights, staring at that damn bottle with tears rolling down his face. He didn't know about the pain that pulsed in his chest, twisted like the blade of a knife, tightened around his heart until he could barely breathe. He didn't know about the haunting memories that plagued his dreams about his childhood and his mother and the man he refused to call father. He didn't know about the fear that stilled his heart every moment that passed when he didn't have Kate safe in his arms, safe from the world and the man with the ring.
Peter didn't know because he didn't care.
He didn't care about the agents that sneered at him, insulted him behind his back when they knew he could hear. But what could he do? He was just the criminal stuck in the world of justice, a world where he didn't belong. And he didn't care that every case, every damn case, he faced guns and thugs and death over and over again. He didn't care that the careless looks and suspicious glances he threw him every day hurt him to his care.
Because he was trying, damn it. He'd had so many opportunities to run, so many chances to betray what little trust he gave him. But he didn't, he wouldn't. Not that anyone would give him that recognition.
Peter certainly didn't.
He didn't know how much he hurt, how tired he was. He wanted so badly to fall asleep and never get up, never open his eyes to the blistering sun, the fear and pain, the looks and hurtful words. He wanted to forget everything, to just let it end.
He tried so hard to hold on, for Peter, for Kate, for the dream of someday everything falling back into place, back to the way things were supposed to be. He tried to ward off the demons chasing him, the dark thoughts that circled his tired mind.
He thought of June, of Moz, of Elizabeth, but they weren't enough. Even the smallest approval from everyone in the world meant nothing if you only received disappointment from the one person you wanted so badly to impress.
So he did the one thing he could do.
He gave up.
He left the hat and the bottle on the table in his apartment. For a long while, he stood on the balcony, watching the city buzz and hum below him. He felt numb and just so tired. He looked down and sighed.
But it wasn't enough.
So he went to the roof. He ran his hands over the silk cloth covering the table and smiled as he fondly remembered the morning and evenings spent there with June and her granddaughter and Peter.
He frowned at the thought of him and closed his eyes, turning to the ledge. He looked out over the city and thought of all the people living their lives in the great city. How clueless they were, how oblivious they were to a world outside of their own little lives. Hundreds of people died each year in New York City, hundreds of lives snuffed out like a dying flame of a melted candle.
He placed his hands on the cold stone ledge, felt the cold seep into his flesh and wondered once more if anyone would give a damn.
Would the FBI pay for a funeral? Doubtful, though June might if she wasn't to disgusted with him. His thoughts darkened as he thought of how small the service would be. He doubted anyone would even show up. Moz would be there, angry and frustrated with him. June, maybe. He doubted anyone else would show.
He was a nobody. He had nothing to call his own, no one to care if he left this world. One moment here, the next gone. Like a candle in the wind.
He pulled himself up onto the ledge and stepped as close the edge as he dared. He stared down at the lights flashing and people running and cars moving. No one looked up. No one saw him.
Neal sighed and stepped forward.
Something was off. He felt it. Something was wrong, out of place. His stomach felt like he'd eaten undercooked chicken. His hands were clammy and shaking. He wasn't sick, despite the symptoms. But he knew, deep in his bones, that something was very wrong.
He couldn't explain it and didn't try to as he'd learned long ago it was a pointless exercise. For years he'd followed his gut and rarely had it led him wrong. So he followed it this time, wondering where it would lead him, who it would lead him to and why. He didn't even bother telling Elizabeth where he was going on the Saturday evening. He just took his keys, got in his car, and let his gut lead him.
He was surprised to end up in front of the mansion. Figures it would be Neal, come to interrupt his perfectly calm Saturday night.
He sighed heavily and parked on the curb, making sure to lock up before crossing the street. He shoved his hands in his pockets as his mind whirred with excuses to give Neal. How was he going to explain the unexpected visit? They weren't on a current case, nothing had come up. He was going to have to break down and tell him the truth. Not something he was looking forward to.
He was in the middle of the street when he felt the urgent need to look up. He saw lights, a helicopter hovering the city, and Neal standing on the ledge of the roof.
Peter felt his heart drop to the pit of his stomach like a block of lead. His blood froze in his veins and rendered him immobile, paralyzed in the middle of the street. A car braked in front of him and blared its horn. The sudden noise was enough to jolt Peter out of his trance.
He raced across the street and barged through the door. He heard June cry out in shock, heard the door slam into the wall and heard something worth more than he made in a year shatter, but he didn't stop. He took the steps three at a time and bounded down the hall, slamming into Neal's door. It was locked.
Peter stepped back and kicked out, aiming just below the lock. The door shuddered and moved but didn't give. He kicked again and ran through the doorway as the door hung off its hinges. Peter ran for the stairs in the center of the apartment, knocking the precious bottle to the ground. It landed with a heavy thump.
Peter burst onto the roof, panting heavily, begging his heart to slow down for fear it would explode. His eyes went to the ledge where he'd seen Neal last and his heart stopped completely as he stared at the empty spot.
"No, no, no!" Peter cried.
He ran for the ledge and fell to his knees, unable to look over it and down to the street. He didn't want to see the body, lying at awkward angle that no body should be in, lying in as pool of blood, surrounded by passer bys and curious by standers. He didn't want to remember him like that. He didn't want to see the proof that he'd been too late.
Peter laid his hands flat on the cold stone and wept.
He let the tears fall, heavy with guilt and grief, down his face to the rooftop. He wanted to be angry. He wanted to be indignant and hateful, but all he felt was overwhelming sorrow. All he felt was deep seeded loss and agony.
He'd failed. He hadn't seen the signs, hadn't taken the time to look. He'd just assumed everything thing was fine because it was Neal. Nothing could touch the young man, nothing could keep him down. He bounced back like a damn rubber ball with just as much zeal and earnest as before.
But something had knocked him down. Something had weighed him so far down that he couldn't rise above it and no one had reached out to help him. Peter hadn't been there.
Peter sobbed hard, choking on the lump in his throat, swallowing the tears that burned his throat. His chest constricted against his heart as he wept. The silence surrounding him was all consuming.
Until a quiet, broken voice said, "Peter?"
Peter lifted his head, daring to hope his grieving mind wasn't playing horrible tricks on him. Slowly, he looked to the left, to the dark corner a few feet away from him. Through the blur of his tears, he saw the lone figure, crouched in the shadows.
Neal looked back at him, solemn and pale. The wind whipped his hair from his face, revealing tear filled eyes and the confused expression.
Peter inhaled sharply and, after a moment's hesitation, stumbled across the roof to Neal's side. He knelt beside him and cautiously, as if he were afraid Neal would vanish should he touch him, Peter rested his hand on the man's shoulder. He felt the warm, solid flesh beneath the thin coat and choked on a sudden sob.
He quickly pulled Neal into his arms and latched onto him tightly. Neal tensed at the sudden contact and tried to pull away, but Peter wouldn't have it. He only tightened his hold and closed his eyes.
"You stupid son of a bitch," Peter breathed out, "God damn it, Neal."
Neal furrowed his brows, his confusion deepening.
Peter pulled away but kept his hands firmly on Neal's shoulders. He looked the man in the face, "What the hell were you thinking?"
Neal stared at him, uncomprehending. He didn't understand Peter's anger, or the embrace, or the tears. His mind was tired and it could follow the quick changes in emotion.
"I can't believe you would be so stupid as to…" Peter let the words die in his throat, "Do you have any idea what that would do to so many people? Huh?"
Neal just stared at him.
"How the hell would I tell Elizabeth? She'd be devastated, Neal. And, good God, I can't imagine June walking out her front door to see what all the commotion was only to find you dead on the side walk! Damn it, Neal."
Neal frowned, "What about you?" he asked quietly.
Peter glared at him, "What do you mean, what about me? Did you or did you not just witness my complete breakdown?"
Neal looked past him to the spot where he'd witnessed Peter falling to his knees and weeping. Was that really for him? But then that would mean that Peter actually…
Neal turned back to Peter, "I'm sorry."
"No, I'm sorry," Peter said quietly. He pulled Neal back to him, clenching his hands in the man's coat, "I'm so sorry, Neal."
Neal didn't tense or pull away. He relaxed in the warm embrace and held on tight. He closed his eyes as the first sob escaped.
"We'll get through this," Peter whispered to him, "Whatever this is, we'll get through it. I promise. You don't have to do this alone."
Neal nodded, choking on his tears.
Around them, the world buzzed and hummed as if another life hadn't almost ended, as if another life hadn't just been saved.
If you hated it or it totally depressed you, I'm sorry. Just remember, Blame the damn bunny.