"Explain to me again why. Why did I have such an extreme reaction to Pierce holding a gun on me? I didn't have that kind of reaction when the bible stopped that bullet." Peter Burke just looked up from enjoying his cup of coffee and reading another brief. "And what about when all of the oxygen was sucked out of that room?" Peter kept reading, and listening. "And that sedative from the clinic? How come I didn't freak out over that? That injection could have been far, far worse. Am I right? I mean, it could have been deadly."
"Take a breath."
Burke looked up from his reading material of choice and reiterated, "Take. A. Breath."
Neal Caffrey looked to his partner with disdain. He took a breath, as he'd been told, and then said, "Come on. Tell me why it affected me like that. I'm not. . .I don't usually. . ." Neal wasn't sure exactly how to phrase it, to describe how he was, or wasn't, usually, without sounding full of himself. He might be confused right now, but he knew how to keep from pissing off his partner. Apparently, Peter had no such qualms. He set the report down that he'd been reading and looked Neal in the eyes.
"This is pretty typical, Neal."
"What, going into shock? I don't think so."
"It was mild. Don't be so melodramatic."
"Peter, I've never experienced anything like that before. It was in no way typical."
"That's not what I meant," Burke countered as he savored another taste of June's spectacular coffee. The two men were getting a late start this morning, this day after capturing their quarry at Burke's house the previous night. They would be meeting with the Japanese later in the morning. Peter would have to let Neal know about the deal that Pierce had made for her reduced prison sentence; Burke had received the phone call about that while Neal showered. For now, though, Peter was happy to relax and listen to Caffrey blather on about the whys and wherefores of shock.
And when had it been exactly that Peter Burke decided he liked listening to his frustrating cohort?
"We seem to be a half-step off today," Neal grumbled.
"You think?" Peter asked as he looked up at Neal. The younger man had been pacing on the patio. Burke took a moment to marvel once more at June's view, and how Neal had happened on to such a good deal. The kid always landed on his feet. He wondered how a person like Neal Caffrey, with the danger he tended to draw to himself, could have never experienced what it felt like to be in true physical shock. He felt a slight chill as he thought of how much worse last night could have turned out.
"It is a little cold out here," Neal commented, ever observant. "Come on, explain it to me again."
"Neal, you're a smart guy. But it's pretty typical of you not to listen to me."
"Now that's not fair." Peter gave Neal his most perfect chagrined look. "Okay, I concede that I maybe have selective hearing where you're concerned."
"That's mighty big of you, Neal. Did it hurt?"
Caffrey finally sat down, not seeing the humor that Burke apparently did, took a sip of his now cold coffee, grimaced, and said with frustration, "Peter."
"Look," Burke calmly interjected as he looked over the top of his paperwork to the ex-con, "Neal," he added, emphasizing the name in a slight mocking of Caffrey's utterance of his own name, "as I said, there's often no telling what is going to cause an extreme reaction."
"Yeah, yeah, and maybe it was the accumulation of near misses. I hear that. But, you know, I think I'm pretty tough. . ."
Peter Burke listened as Neal Caffrey listed off all of the reasons why it wasn't logical for him to have had that reaction. Despite all of Peter's assurances that his reaction had been mild, and that he'd successfully fended off any of the worst of the ill-effects of shock, Neal still seemed hyper-focused on his reactions to the events of the previous night. What Burke knew about Caffrey was that he was, in all of the most important ways, tough. A little extra meat on his bones and a little less aversion to a certain weapon wouldn't hurt in his current line of work, but he was definitely made of stern stuff. Peter didn't doubt that Neal was hiding some hurt, deep down, but they were still a fair distance away in their relationship for Caffrey to spill those beans. It was just one more aspect of the young man's toughness that he continued to shoulder those worries all on his own.
"That's got nothing to do with it," Peter said mildly.
Neal sighed. "Then I don't get it. I'm usually able to grasp these concepts," he said in a near plea. He walked to the sink inside, poured the cold coffee down the drain, and then came back out. Peter watched him sit down again, dejectedly, and without a fresh cup of the delicious brew.
"You know what your problem is?" Peter asked as he stood and walked to the coffee pot. He poured a fresh cup for his partner and returned to sit in the fresh air of the cool morning, the sun just barely hinting at the warmth to come later in the day. "You're looking for a logical answer in a situation that is inherently illogical. Some of the best agents. . .the best men I have known have experienced some level of physical shock."
"Have you?" Neal asked, eyes wide at Peter's revelation.
"But you're not going to tell me about it."
"No, I'm not."
Neal smiled sadly. It looked like he'd be getting little satisfaction today in digging for answers. There was some comfort, however, that people like Peter had experienced something similar, and survived to tell of it, at least in the modest, minimalistic way that Burke had allowed. It frustrated him, though, that he still lacked the knowledge he sought on this. He was a man who thirsted for knowledge, who yearned for perfection, and who knew that all that he gleaned in life had made everything that he'd done in life that much easier. This time, that extra knowledge had saved his life. Morse code: a skill that he had learned in prison. Who would have thought that it would be the thing that saved his life?
Of course, it wasn't just that. It was also luck, the luck of having Peter Burke in his life, and now on his side. It was as though a light bulb came on for Neal Caffrey, the revelation of what Peter meant about finding logic in illogical situations. After all, where was the logic that Neal Caffrey and Peter Burke, adversaries for years, would now be partners? Would now be friends?