Need To Know: The story is a missing piece in "Home Invasion," and follows the scene where Peter tracks down Neal and Pierce at his place. Even with the power back on, Peter wouldn't have stayed in the midst of a crime scene that night, so I'm assuming he ultimately went back to June's.
References to June's house are also 100 percent authentic. The Schinasi Mansion is more than 100 years old and is located on Riverside Drive in Manhattan. The building has a truly fascinating history, so I hope you find the details as educational as they are fascinating.
Everything else comes from my imagination, including the bits and pieces of Neal's background. And to be perfectly honest, I've never had a ham and pineapple sandwich :)
Peter pushed the door open slowly, expecting to find Neal in the throngs of slumber despite their hectic evening. The man could be held at gunpoint, taken hostage, believed on the run from the FBI and stand his ground while a swat team closed in around him, and at night still close his eyes and surrender to the dark as if it simply wiped the slate clean in the morning.
Yet the agent didn't find his charge where he expected. Instead, after a visual sweep from right to left, his field of vision narrowed to the open door leading to the outdoor patio. The cold air crept in, giving Peter a chill, so he couldn't imagine why Neal had chosen to star gaze sans coat, hat or gloves on a 37 degree evening in New York. His elbows rested on the marble ledge, his gaze drifting to the nearby Hudson River.
"All the space in this house and you're always hanging out on the roof."
Neal turned and gave him a tight smile. "After living in a 9x12 cage, sometimes 12,000 square feet seems a little intimidating."
The older man nodded his understanding as he caught the light reflecting off the green roof tiles, and a comfortable silence settled between them. Neal remained stationary, his body wracked with light shivers as the cold crept through his sweater. Peter, on the other hand, moved around the area like he was seeing it for the first time, his fingers running across the copper cresting. The immense scale and design of the place was something he'd truly failed to appreciate the last time he'd been up here with Elizabeth.
"You know there's a hidden tunnel under this place," Neal told him. "Haven't found it yet, but June was told by the last owner it runs straight out to the water."
Peter sighed. "The next time you cut your tracker I'll remember that."
He'd meant it as a joke, but Neal immediately spun on his heel and brushed past him, slamming the door as he entered the house. As Peter watched the retreating form, he noticed June standing just inside with her arms crossed, her brow furrowed in disappointment. She called out to Neal as he stormed off but never attempted to stop him. When he was gone, she beckoned Peter inside.
"You know he's a good kid," June told him. "This house just wasn't the same with my Byron gone, but then Neal showed up. He showed up with that ankle bracelet and that beautiful smile … so full of self-preservation but so full of life. And you know what, Peter? He didn't ask for the fancy house or the Italian Roast coffee, and he certainly hasn't tried to swipe my paintings or expensive jewelry. I invited him into my home, into my life. I let him in, but with you he's still standing on the front porch."
"You don't know him like I do," came the reply, more harsh than Peter had intended. "You haven't chased him across the country following a string of thefts and forgeries. You haven't wrapped handcuffs around his wrists or watched him jump from a third-floor judge's chambers at the Federal Building with your heart in your throat."
"And because of that, when you look at Neal all you see is a felon," June chided. "You don't see him, and you certainly don't know him."
Peter scoffed. "Of course I know him. I spent years chasing him."
"You spent years chasing a file, Agent Burke, and you've yet to look beyond the page," June responded. "Tell me what you know about his childhood. Tell me what his favorite food is. What his favorite color is."
Peter dropped into a chair and looked at her, bemused. "His favorite color? No, I don't know it. Or his favorite food, or his favorite children's book. He's a grown man, June, not a child. I don't care if he likes macaroni and cheese or macaroni and lobster."
"His favorite color used to be Steel Teal, because it rhymed with Neal. He was 11 when that color was released as part a limited edition pack of Crayola Silver Swirls. He stopped liking steel about the time he really started disliking guns. Make of that what you will. His favorite children's book was A Wrinkle in Time because he fancied himself to be Charles Wallace Murry, curious and loving and perhaps the most vulnerable of the novel's human characters. His favorite food is still a ham pineapple sandwich, which he likes with Dijon mustard and swiss on a Vienna roll."
Peter tilted his head and regarded her carefully. "He's told you these things?"
June nodded. "When he wants to talk, I listen."
"And where do you two talk?" Peter inquired.
June smiled. "He's quite fond of the library. It's got East Indian teak panels and an oval dome of lacquered gold. There are nights he's come home and spent hours in that room. That's when we talk."
Peter ran a hand through his hair and pulled himself to his feet. "You know this isn't easy. He's like a puzzle I'm still trying to put together."
She pulled a beer from the fridge, then poured a glass of wine and placed it in Peter's other hand. "Maybe it's time you started seeing the whole picture, Agent Burke, before picking up the pieces is your last best option."
Peter noticed the mahogany door to the library was slightly ajar, and he found Neal exactly where June had predicted -- at a table beneath the dome, the color giving off a warm glow despite the late hour. The young man's shoulders tensed but he greeted the Fed with an air of confidence, and a statement so typically ... Neal.
"The iridescent colors cause this crazy optical phenomenon, so no matter where you sit in the room the hue changes when you stare at it."
Peter looked up, the liquid peace offering still in his hands, and noticed the reflections from the multi-layered, semi-transparent surfaces above him. "It's beautiful."
"Interference of the reflections modulates the light," Neal explained. "You should see it during a thunderstorm. You'd swear the lightning was going to come straight through the ceiling, except it's purple and pink and then just a bright yellow ... like being seduced by a rainbow."
Peter set the glass down in front of Neal, then gestured to the empty chair next to him. "Mind if I sit?"
Neal shrugged, his body language more resignation than indifference. He noticed Peter give him a brief look, a sizing up glance, but chose not to comment, his gaze still locked on the ceiling even as his hand tightened around the wine glass.
"I don't feel like talking," Neal told him, swirling the liquid before taking a small sip. He stared at Peter and Peter stared right back, seeing not fear or hatred. It was, he concluded, an underlying sadness and exhaustion in those normally bright blue eyes. The conman's cool facade was starting to show cracks, and that frightened Peter more than anything.
"I trust you. You need to know that," Peter told him, and the statement hung in the air as Neal gazed out at a night that seemed to be closing in on him.
"You're a bad liar, Peter," Neal responded in an annoyed tone, but the agent wasn't done.
"I trust you when you're thinking with this," Peter said, poking Neal in the chest right above his heart. "It's when your brain is going 200 mph that scares the crap out of me, Neal. Because you need to pull back on the throttle, and you don't. You're impulsive and reckless and that ... that I can't trust. Not when lives are at stake."
"You thought I ran." It was a statement, not a question, but one Peter answered in the affirmative.
"For about five seconds, yeah, the thought crossed my mind. I mean, don't you get it? It's perception. Jade missing. Con man on the run. It would play well in the papers, especially after your swan dive out of the judge's chambers. 200 million reasons to run. You get away safely and the FBI looks like the Federal Bureau of Incompetence. Not a great headline."
Neal chuckled despite his anger, and the tension lifted. "That'd be a fantastic headline."
Peter smirked and figured he'd had that one coming. A silence then filled the room, so he took a pull from his beer before setting it back on the table. "Neal, we just can't leave it like this."
"Things can't be like this between us. Not out in the field. That's when people get hurt, and I take that personally whether it's you or Jones or Cruz or anyone else on my team."
Neal did an eyebrow hike and watched Peter closely. "You seriously don't put me in the same category as those two."
"No, I put you above them. We're partners, remember?"
"Partners give each other space and room to operate," Neal said stubbornly.
Peter looked amused, if unimpressed by the response. "Oh you've got space. You've got 12 bedrooms, eight bathrooms, five kitchens and two miles of Manhattan. That's a lot of space, especially if you slow down and actually walk through it."
"Peter, that is so not my speed."
The older man laughed, then sat there with his eyes closed, trying to put in perspective much of what had happened over the last few months. When he opened them he saw Neal staring at him, an unspoken question between them.
"Why'd you really get me out of prison?"
Peter smiled tighly, unsure how to answer the question. Suddenly, a voice floated across the room. "Because you're strong and you're smart and you're loyal. You have the gift of making people want to root for you, Mr. Caffrey. You're a real people person."
They both looked at June until Neal shrugged, pulling to his feet and sticking his hands in his pockets. "So that's all it takes, huh? Good looks and charm."
Peter also stood, blocking Neal's exit. "You know it comes with a price, Neal."
"It could all come crashing down again," June warned. "Nobody wants to see that happen."
Neal turned to Peter, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry, June. This guy will never let that happen."
Peter shook his head. "No, because this guy is still going to be checking up on your late-night visitors and tracking your location if he feels the need to. But he'll also try harder to extend the same trust you've put in him."
Neal took a deep breath and clasped Peter on the back. "Peter, you wouldn't be you without the suspicion. I'm learning to live with it."
"And you wouldn't be you without making me suspicious."
June left the room and Peter moved to follow, his hand on the light switch. He turned back, though, and watched as Neal made a quick sketch on a small easel sitting in the corner. Four lines. A long one intersected by two perpendicular ones at each end. There was also a short line in the middle.
Neal finished and dropped the charcoal only to find Peter looking at him quizzically.
"What is it?"
"It's the Native American symbol of spiritual protection," Neal answered. "The left line means winyan, or woman. The right is wicasa, or man. The center line is the wakanyeza, or child. Not a perfect example but … it works. Sort of like we've found a balance."
Peter nodded in understanding, then watched as Neal turned the tablet sideways. "Same symbol, but now it holds a different meaning -- the Universal Law of Truth. The upper line is heaven and the bottom line is Earth. The middle line is the creation of innocence. It has no right and no wrong. It results in truth."
"We're getting there -- slowly," Peter told him as he finally extinguished the light and headed for bed. But when Neal didn't follow he crept back to the door, flipping the switch back on.
Peter smirked. "That was a nice little power play tonight at my place, don't 'cha think?"
Neal rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Does everything with you have to be a sports analogy?"
"C'mon, let's head upstairs," Peter urged. "Rangers are on the West Coast so we might be able to catch the end of the game."
Neal smiled, extinguished the light. "There are 12 bedrooms in this place, remember? I'm sure you can find somewhere else to watch the game."
"Are you kicking me out?" Peter asked, though he couldn't suppress a laugh.
"Nah," came the reply. "That can wait 'til tomorrow."