I really wasn't planning on getting into another show, and especially not committing myself to another fic, but so many ideas have been tumbling around that I had to start writing them down. Here's the first.
Duct Tape Repairs
Kate watches while Neal talks to Peter. She can see the conflict on his face from her vantage point by the airplane door, but she can't see the tears. Her heart skips a beat when Neal turns back around. It's the last thing she feels before the plane explodes.
Neal is thrown to the ground by the explosion. Peter, farther away, makes his move in the very next heartbeat. The younger man is quick, but not quick enough. He makes it to his feet before Peter grabs him from behind, wrapping his arms around his friend, holding him in place. "Stay here," he murmurs while Neal struggles and screams "No" over and over.
It seems like they remain that way forever before the wailing of sirens can be heard over the roar of the fire. "Neal, we have to get out of here," Peter says. He has to repeat himself several times before Neal realizes what he's saying. "Someone wanted you on that plane. We have to get you away before the fire trucks get here."
Neal resists only a moment. "Fowler wanted me on that plane," he says angrily through his tears, giving the raging inferno one last look before turning in the direction Peter is pulling him. "Fowler got what he wanted, why couldn't he just let us go?"
"There's time for that later," Peter reminds him. Something new, almost frightening, flashes over Neal's face. Peter's never seen that expression on the young con before, but he tucks his worry into the back of his mind, guiding Neal into the car and firmly closing the door before climbing into the driver's seat. He's thankful habit made him park in an out-of-the-way spot as fire trucks, police vehicles and unmarked cars whiz past. If luck is on their side, they will get out of there without anyone knowing Peter was even there.
The ride is quiet, almost uncomfortable, with Neal lost in his thoughts and Peter already planning his next move. Peter pulls up to the curb next to June's house and turns to look at his passenger. Neal's face is streaked with tears and soot, a distant look in his eyes. June must have been watching out the window, she's at Neal's door, pulling it open and him out before Peter can open his own door, "What happened?" she asks with concern.
"Kate's gone," Neal whispers.
June looks to Peter in confusion. "After all this, she didn't wait?"
Neal looks stricken, just shakes his head. "The plane was destroyed," Peter replies simply. "Let's get Neal inside so he can clean up and we'll tell you what happened."
"Of course," she agrees, already herding Neal into the house, leaving Peter to bring up the rear with Neal's bag. When Neal hesitates at the door, finally realizing where he is, she just gives him a gentle push. "You're still welcome here. You always will be."
Neal struggles to keep fresh tears from falling. He takes the bag Peter hands him, noticing the melted spots from being so close to the flames, then finally noticing his own less than presentable state. "I'm going to go take a shower," he says softly before making his way up the stairs. Peter and June watch him go.
"So what happened?" June asks when they hear the upstairs door close.
"I went to the airport to see if I could change his mind; he's made such a difference here. We spoke for a moment, and then it looked like he was going to get on the plane. He'd crossed half the distance, turning back to speak to me again, before the plane exploded. Kate was watching from the window by the door; she never had a chance."
"Who would do such a thing?" she queries, appalled.
"That's what we need to find out. I'm sorry, but for a while Neal is going to have to stay somewhere else. I didn't want to get you involved in this, but I knew he needed something familiar with good memories before he could really process everything." June nods her understanding, and Peter offers his first ghost of a smile since the incident. "Besides, I thought you'd want to know he was still here with us."
"Thank you, Peter," she says warmly. "He reminds me so much of my Byron, sure of himself and independent, but all I want to do is take care of him and protect him."
"I know the feeling," Peter says, almost too softly to be heard.
"I'm sure he's going to be a bit. Would you like some coffee?"
"I'd love some," Peter replies, smiling a real smile this time. "I need to call my wife; I'll be up in a few minutes."
Hughes is waiting for Peter when he finally arrives home. From the strained look on his wife's face, the older man has been there for some time. She excuses herself without being asked as soon as Peter walks in the door.
"I could and should have your badge for this, Peter. What the hell did you think you were doing, punching and then shooting Fowler?" Peter opens his mouth to explain, but Hughes holds up a hand to stop him. "If it weren't for Diana's testimony about what happened in the garage and the information she says you have, you would have come home to a much different welcome," he growls.
"Fowler's involved in something illegal hidden in legalities. The information I have is on a project called Mentor. I haven't gotten the chance to look at the drive yet. Would you like to see it first hand?" Peter asks, pulling the drive out if his inner suit pocket. Hughes nods, taking possession of the drive while Peter sets up his laptop. Elizabeth takes advantage of the silence to bring out two fresh cups of coffee, placing them on the kitchen table and retreating again without a word.
The two agents peruse the information on the drive for over an hour, not noticing when Elizabeth brings out snacks and coffee refills, automatically partaking in the offerings. The information is pretty damning, even without the presence of the encrypted file they still can't access. Hughes finally sits back, rubs his eyes and sighs.
"All right. Tell me your version of the events," he requests, much calmer than earlier.
Peter spills everything, starting with the reason Neal broke out of prison up to the point where he arrived at the airport to talk Neal out of going, leaving nothing out, knowing the smallest detail could still sway Hughes one way or another. Hughes sighs again at the end of the recitation, trying to fit the random pieces together like a puzzle without a picture. "You realize you're going to have to find Caffrey again, don't you," he says finally.
"Actually, I know pretty much where he is right now," Peter admits. He then drops the bombshell he'd been holding back. "Neal didn't get on the plane, which is a good thing as it exploded while we were talking. He's holed up with a friend."
"Pretty much?" Hughes questions. "We need to get that tracking anklet back on him so we know that he isn't going to disappear."
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"Hughes, someone blew up the plane he was supposed to disappear on. Putting him back in the tracking anklet will simply lead them to him. They've shown they can tamper with the tracking data at will; surely they can use it to find him. Besides, this way they don't have any idea he wasn't on that plane. As far as they're concerned, he's dead."
Hughes thinks things over. "I don't like this, Peter. What if he runs?"
"He won't," Peter replies with conviction. "He has nothing to run for. It was all for Kate before and I saw her on that plane right before it exploded. She's gone. He has no reason to leave...and every reason to stay," he adds meaningfully.
"All right. You know him better than anyone else and he was released into our custody under your supervision. But don't forget - he's your responsibility. If he runs, you'd better be prepared to track him down." With Peter's confident nod, Hughes continues. "What kind of resources are you going to need on this?" he asks. "It can't be an official investigation until you turn up some information other than what you swiped from Fowler's computer, and even then things will be tricky. I'll back you as much as I can...I don't like to see my people messed with." The two men discuss and make plans until the early morning sun begins to peak in the windows. "Get some sleep and then talk to the others. They have to understand this is voluntary."
"Absolutely," Peter agrees, shaking his boss's hand before the older man opens the door. "Hughes, thank you."
"Don't thank me yet," he cautions. "Your neck is still on the line should anything go wrong. And don't forget, you're still suspended for two weeks. Watch your step."
Peter nods in acknowledgement, closes the door and leans against it, eyes closed. Elizabeth emerges from the kitchen and joins him, picking his hands up and holding them in her own. "How can I help?" she asks.
"Make the most of the opportunity Neal offered you," Peter replies without opening his eyes. When she tries to pull her hands away in anger, he holds on tighter. "For now, that's all I can ask, but I'm sure there will be more when we get going with this." He opens his eyes and looks deeply into hers. "I know you heard everything. You know I don't have a plan right now, so there really isn't anything for you to help with yet. When the time comes, we'll ask. I promise."
Neal wakes to darkness. Darkness all around to match the darkness in his heart, soul and mind. A light flicks on with his first movement, illuminating the space around him. "Feeling any better?" a voice asks in the darkness where the light does not yet reach.
"Got it in the first try. I need to work on that."
"What's going on? Where are we?"
"Are you going to tell me you do not recognize my humble abode?"
"Your humble…how did I get here?" A pause and then, "Wait, never mind. I remember."
"I was surprised the suit wanted you to stay with me. I was more surprised he didn't return you to your tether before handing you off."
"My tether?" Neal realizes the anklet is still missing from its customary position. "Peter knows I won't run."
"And why would he believe that?"
"Kate's gone. I want the person responsible. Simple as that."
"Revenge doesn't become you."
"I didn't say I wanted revenge, I want justice."
"Neal Caffrey on a crusade of justice," a new voice comes out of the darkness. "Somehow that doesn't sound as ridiculous as it would have a few months ago."
"Alex? What are you doing here?"
"Confirming my suspicions that you wanted the music box for Kate. No matter, I still didn't want it to be goodbye like that. I'm sorry she took advantage of your trust…"
"She didn't take advantage of my trust. Someone killed her."
"What?" Alex obviously hasn't heard the entire story.
"We were to leave together. The plane exploded before I could board."
"What held you back?"
"What makes you think anything held me back?" Neal hedges.
"Come on Caffrey. We all knew how you felt about her. What kept you from being on the plane when it exploded? I assume you were to be on board as well."
"I was. Peter was trying to talk me out of going. Had he not been there…"
"Had he succeeded?"
"Had he succeeded at changing your mind?"
"I don't know."
"You would have gotten on that plane had he not shown up, correct?" Moz asks.
"You know I would have."
"So why didn't you when he did show up?"
"We were talking. I didn't have a chance to make a real decision."
"Yet you still didn't get on the plane," Alex points out.
"He wanted to know why I hadn't said goodbye to him."
"And I don't know. I couldn't."
"You said goodbye to everyone else. Why was it so hard to say goodbye to him?"
"You know, as amusing as this is, I'm getting tired of the furniture tag-teaming the questions. If you want to talk to me, come out of the shadows and talk."
Another light is flipped on; this one illuminates the entire room. Alex is curled up cat-like in a chair by the door; Mozzie is hovering surprisingly close to the couch where Neal is laying. Neal blinks a few times until everything comes into focus, rubbing the crust of dried tears away along with the sleep from his nap. The familiar cramped confines of the storage unit are somehow comforting.
Now that he's completely awake, the memories flood back. "Moz, where's the bag I had with me?" Neal asks.
"The suit thought you'd want it," Moz digs around. "Here it is."
Neal practically snatches the bag from his friend's hands. He slides the front zipper open and pulls out a manila envelope. "Peter's going to want to see this."
"Whoa. After all that's happened you're still going to trust him?"
"Alex, I'm sorry I lost the music box. I really did intend to give it to you when I was done with it. But you know what? Peter isn't responsible for any of this. He tried to make me see the truth, something I stubbornly denied. He put himself on the line for me and his wife was dragged into it too. They don't deserve this. I have to fix what I broke and helping him catch Fowler is part of it. You don't have to help, just don't get in my way." A glint of the old Neal Caffrey has started to peak through the darkness that has surrounded him since he woke.
"After? Then we'll see what we have left and go from there."
Moz and Alex exchange a glance as Neal straightens his clothes. "Good luck. You know how to get in touch with me if you need me." It's as much and more than Neal could have hoped for. He flashes her a smile before he strides past her, Moz right behind him. "It would have been awfully dull around here had you left," she says once the door closes behind them.