Alter Ego

Spoilers from the season and finale.
Whumpage etc etc

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Neal leaned against the passenger side door, hat pushed over his face as he sat there in a half slump. He woke up as the movement of the vehicle stopped and peered up under the rim of his fedora at the driver after looking out the window.

"Where are we? This isn't June's." His voice was sleepy and almost petulant. He stretched slightly continuing to peer at his friend. Peter did a little stretch of his own and opened the door.

"Sorry, getting some coffee at the corner store. Want anything?" Neal blinked then shook his head, pushing the Fedora back over his face and curling up against the door again. He heard the driver's side door close and a click of the lock as he fell back into a light sleep.

For the past three days, Peter and Neal had been on a stakeout for a recent case involving a cat burglar. They had finally gotten a break for the evening but Peter had to have his coffee so here they were. Neal snored softly until a loud rapping from the driver's side woke him up. He tried to ignore it but the rapping continued till he sat up slightly, hitting the unlock switch and turned with a slightly irritated voice.

"Peter, you have a key. Why don't you... use it." He turned to see that the driver's side door had opened and someone other than Peter stood there, a small automatic in their hand. Neal gulped slightly, staring at the person and trying to figure out if he was dreaming or this was for real. The man had dirty blond hair and was dressed in a black denim jacket over a dark blue polo looking shirt and jeans. His brown eyes glared at the young man with a burning intensity.

"Please exit the vehicle, Mr. Caffrey." Neal heard the doors lock as he nodded woodenly, sliding across the front seat towards the man and exiting on the driver's side. The man kept the gun on him, as he closed the door and motioned for Neal to walk away from the car. The man nudged the gun against the con's back and whispered:

"Don't do anything rash." Neal nodded unsure of what was going on. He turned briefly to see Peter heading back to the vehicle. He wanted to shout out to his friend but felt the gun stuck further into his ribs as they turned the building and they walked into a nearby alleyway. A black sedan sat there, lights coming on as they approached. Neal blinked at the bright lights and put a hand to his eyes.

"Can you tell me what this is all about? If it's my wallet you want, here..." Neal started to reach slowly down towards his pocket when something cuffed him on the back of the skull with a loud thud and he collapsed to the ground the wallet spilling aside and bouncing under a nearby dumpster. He felt his arms pulled behind him and tied securely as a rag was pushed in his mouth and tape pulled over his lips. Someone spoke as if from far away, vision tunneling to black.

"Criminals like you should be locked away forever! You waltz around as if the world owes you something, getting something for nothing!" Neal shook his head in an effort to stay awake despite the pain. His efforts were in vain as he felt the man kick him in the side as he continued to rant at him. Everything went black, the man's voice fading to a mere jumble of incoherent sounds.

(Dammit!)

Peter had to wait behind a man who argued with the clerk about paying with a bag of change. After what seemed the longest wait, he had paid for his coffee and a bottled water for Neal and started out of the convenience store. He fumbled in his pocket for the keys and walked back to the Taurus. He opened up the car, slipped inside and started to talk.

"Sorry I took so long. You wouldn't believe what just.. happened." Peter's voice trailed off as he turned for the first time, noticing the empty front seat and looked around in the backseat his expression quizzical.

"Neal?" Peter opened the door and stepped out of the car looking around the street. People were all around but none of them were his charge and partner. He was about to close up the car and start looking for the young man when he felt a buzz in his jacket pocket and pulled out his cell.

"Burke. What?! Where was his last location? Thanks." Peter locked up the vehicle and took a quick sprint around the block the same way Neal had been taken by the gun man. He saw the alleyway and peered inside. Something sat in the middle of the ground as the agent approached a nearby dumpster. He crouched down and stared at the object and cursed. It was Neal's fedora. Peter picked it up for evidence when he saw something roll out from underneath. It was the gps anklet.

"Neal... what have you done?" Peter muttered as he took out his cell and started to walk back towards his car, phone pushed to his ear. The number he dialed rang and rang till he heard a voice say:

"Just leave a message." It was Neal's voice sounding quite coy and condescending. Peter waited for the beep and spoke quickly.

"Neal? Neal... pick up. Where are you? This is Peter. Call me back." He hung up and dialed another number, his face flushed with annoyance at the situation.

"Jones? Hey, yeah I know it's late. I'm going to need some help getting some surveillance film. Neal's disappeared. Thanks." He gave Jones the details, hung up the cell and pushed it back into his pocket. He was still technically on the stakeout but on break. He didn't know how he was supposed to explain what happened with Caffrey to Hughes tomorrow. He sighed and slipped back into the Taurus.

Peter sat there a moment trying to figure out what could have happened. He knew Neal hated stakeouts but he hadn't been any more unhappy about the assignment than usual. Wasn't worth cutting his tether just to do something like go home and sleep but Neal had done sillier things. Something stunk here and Peter just couldn't put his finger on it. He finally started up the car and took off back to the stakeout, something telling him he needed to put a little more effort into this search for Neal.

(Vigilante)

His head ached and a throbbing rhythm pounded in his ears and temples till he thought he was going to be sick. What had happened. Where? He could hear voices in the distance.

"He's a criminal! Don't argue with me! This is the right thing to do! They think they can get away with something and just waltz around with the FBI all buddy buddy. I don't think so! He's going to disappear and they can think he ran. Plain and simple." The voice held venom and anger but towards who...

"He's waking up! What do we do?" This voice sounded a little less certain than the first one, a hint of reason in their tone.

"Give me the gun." He heard the cocking of a pistol, his eyes opening to mere slits. There was little light and the figures were murky at best. He could just make out movement and one of the shadows held something that glinted metallic in the dim light.

"I'll end it quickly." He saw the metal object pointed at him, a flash of light and tried to move but something hit the side of his head. More pain and burning and then nothingness.

(A walk in the park)

Days went by maybe; He wasn't sure what time had passed but he woke up to the sound of birds singing somewhere nearby and the damp feeling of grass against his face. He moved slightly unsure of himself, arms weakly attempting to push himself up, legs unresponsive at first then slowly kicking at the ground to gain some vantage. He rolled himself onto his back and tried to catch his breath. It was early morning, a few stars still twinkling overhead as the sun started to rise in the twilight sky. He blinked till the stars were mere pinpoints rather than large blurry hazes and then sat up against a nearby tree. He glanced around himself and wondered where he was. It looked familiar...

He felt ill. Nausea washing over him and he pushed himself to his side and began to throw up. After a while he crawled away behind some bushes, wiping absently at his mouth. His stomach hurt making him curl up into a ball in agony. The sun was rising slowly but it was still dark enough he was hidden within the small copse of bushes, his groans barely audible in his weakened condition. He lay on his side, knees pulled to his chest as he fought against the pain and tried to get around it.

He must have fallen asleep at some point, waking up to the sounds of people walking and talking nearby. He opened his eyes and looked around. He was behind some shrubs so they didn't see him. A couple of kids, teens from the look of it, sat in the bench and chatted while listening to their mp3 players and texting on their phones. He managed to pull himself up out of their sight and stumble away before anyone could notice him. He kept out of sight as much as possible finally ducking into a small building marked "men." He locked the door and walked over to a stall and threw up again. He flushed the toilet and stumbled back towards the sink and washed his hands glancing briefly into the mirror. He shrank back at the pale, blood-stained face that gazed back at him. The whole left side of his face was splattered with streaks of blood in deep contrast to the pale olive tone of his skin. He slowly ducked his head down to the sink and began to wash his face and hair until no more red washed into the drain. He pulled some paper towels from the roll and dabbed at the side of his head where the blood seemed to come from. It stung and burned but he was able to clean most of the clots and red from the wound before he left.

He walked back into the sunlight and blinked, visoring his eyes with his hand. He wavered slightly, the world seemingly tilting on its axis as he stumbled along. He found a shady park bench and sat down thankfully. Something poked him in the side as he slumped against the bench rail. He reached inside his pocket and found a cell phone, screen and case partially cracked. He stared at it and pushed the buttons but nothing happened. It was broken. He pushed it back into another pocket and curled up feet and all onto the bench, closing his eyes. His mind was blank of anything other than basic things. He knew how to use the cell phone but he couldn't think of his name. He pulled his jacket tighter around him and tried to sleep.

"Mister... Hey Mister. You ok?" He looked up to see a scraggly old man in baggy clothes with a shopping basket looking at him. He nodded at the man and closed his eyes again but someone poked him in the arm.

"Hey, Mister... you don't look so good." He opened his eyes again feeling annoyed despite everything and felt around for the cell phone again. He handed it to the man who smiled broadly.

"Thank you. I hope you feel better!" The man started away, the basket squeaking quietly on the pavement till it faded away. It wasn't like the cell phone worked and the man could sell it for food. Plus now he was gone; he could sleep again. He curled back up again and tried to rest but suddenly his stomach started to hurt again and he gave a little groan. He sat up and looked around for some bushes and ran to them, throwing up again. He had no more to give, only a little clear liquid leaving his lips as he spit and heaved. His mouth felt dry, his tongue thick as he collapsed to his knees in the grass and panted. He needed to go to a hospital or something. He knew that much but something kept him from going.

"Hey Mister..." He turned seeing the old man again standing there looking concerned.

"Leave me... alone." He mumbled, curling up again in the grass and fighting against the pain. Someone poked him, a shadow crouching over him. He turned and saw the old man looking at him, staring but smiling.

"I know someone who will patch you up. No questions." The old man grinned, pulling on his arm. Reluctantly he rose and let the old man lead him to the basket. He leaned against the handle and tried not to fall over, the old man still smiling.

"Patch you up. Nice people. Give you food and shelter. Come..." He just followed the old man, pulled along by the basket and its wobbly wheels. He wasn't aware of what or who he passed till the old man stopped and grabbed his arm with a child-like excitement. He turned and saw himself in front of a shabby little building on the corner of a street. A sign overhead marked it as "My Brother's Keeper Shelter." It had glass doors like a convenience mart with a sign on the inside of the glass indicating they had beds available and the nurse was in. The old man pushed him towards the door, smiling. He nodded vaguely at the older man, pushing the door open, only peering back when the man yelled:

"I'll see you later, Mister." He gave a weak wave back and entered the building looking cautiously around. He entered a dimly lit hallway that opened up into a small gymnasium looking room. Beds covered a good portion of the floor arranged with small lockers beside each one. One corner had been cordoned off with cloth dividers making a small clinic area. Three people in scrubs sat at a small desk near the front talking to a short line of people who were in need of medical services. He continued looking around seeing a kitchen area built into the corner nearest him with a soup line like you see at a buffet or school cafeteria. He was vaguely aware of a combination of scents mingling within the building: chicken soup, sweat and a sterile aroma of alcohol and bleach. It made his head swim. He turned to leave the way he came when someone coughed near him.

"May I help you, sir?" He turned shakily and looked at a young woman in blue green scrubs smiling at him. He shook his head, taking a few steps back when he felt a tinge of pain in his stomach and keeled over. She caught him and walked him to a chair.

"You're in pain. Where does it hurt?" He looked up at her, breath panting as he tried to speak.

"Stomach... keep... vomit...ing." He bent over again, his temples throbbing in rhythm with his heart. He felt her touch his forehead and gasp.

"You have a fever. I need help over here!" She had turned and called to someone, his face contorting with pain. He gave a low groan and rolled out of the chair to the floor with a thud. She was crouching beside him cradling his head when he saw her eyes widen. Her fingers were red with blood. He didn't care, his vision tunneling to black as she shook him gently.

"Sir... sir stay awake. Sir!"

(Search)

Peter had barely made it back to the stake out when Hughes called to ask him what was up with Neal. Peter blinked at the cell.

"I want you to go find Caffrey, Burke!" He had to pull the phone away from his ears but then pushed it back when his boss settled down.

"Sir? I'm on a stake out." He pulled the cell away from his ear and nodded at what his boss said.

"Not any longer! I'm sending out a replacement. Find Caffrey. Understood?!" Hughes sounded angry, Peter holding the phone away from his ear again.

"Yes Sir. No problem." Peter hung up the cell relieved and put it away.

Fifteen minutes later he heard a knock on the window and saw another agent there. Peter rolled the window down.

"Hey, Jared. What brings you here?" The other agent looked rather confused shaking his head.

"Hughes called. I'm your replacement." Peter blinked.

"That was fast. Sorry for making you come out Jared. Little emergency." The other agent nodded waving at Peter as he started his car and pulled out. He made his way back towards the freeway, using his cell phone to call someone on the car console. The cell rang and rang till finally someone picked up and he heard silence and then some light breathing in the background.

"Mozzie, I know you're there. It's Peter Burke." He heard the breathing pick up a bit to a wheeze then a nasally voice.

"Do you know what time it is, Suit?" Peter tried not to scream into the phone since he needed the little guy's help to find Neal. He tried to think calm thoughts before he spoke.

"Mozzie, have you heard from Neal?" He waited hearing more silence. His patience was wearing thin and maybe the man sensed it because suddenly he blurted out:

"No, he's on a stake out with you. He told me himself earlier today when I called him. Why?" Peter realized the little guy wasn't diverting for once. This meant what he thought was true. Neal hadn't run.

"I let him go early but I needed to ask him something and he's not answering his phone. I guess he could be sleeping." His voice trailed off but not before Mozzie interrupted him.

"Yes as I had been when you called. If that's all the interrogating you have for me. Am I free to go now?" Peter blinked and nodded to the cell.

"Sure, but... well Night Mozzie." He heard a muttering in the background and the line went dead. Peter hung up the cell and then dialed another number.

"Peter? How is the stake out going? How is Neal?" She sounded rather cheerful and he was upset he was going to destroy that happiness by telling her it looked like Neal had run. He swallowed hard and then spoke.

"El, Neal uhm... He's sleeping actually. Stake out's going good but it's slow." He hated lying to her but until he knew what was up, he didn't want to worry her. He would just go back to the office for now and look over the tapes Jones found and see what he could find.

"Well tell him I'm looking forward to him helping me at the luncheon tomorrow." Peter nodded into the phone and blushed a bit as she blew him a kiss over the phone but he did the same back and the call ended. He sighed, feeling like he was a class one heel lying to his wife but he didn't know at this point what had happened to Neal. There were no signs of anything having happened to indicate anything other than the young man may have run for whatever reason could have popped into his head.

Peter sighed again, slamming a hand on the dash, his brow furrowing into a frown as his lips curled downward.

Neal had been through quite a bit since Kate's death but recently he had seemed to be doing better, sincerely happy to get back to work and he had stopped the little bit of moping he had been capable of. Overall the young man had acted distant more than mopey which had surprised the agent.

At first there had been the occasional bursts of anger that Peter had been surprised to witness but that had soon been replaced by a cold distant young man who spoke little if any. In the interim, Neal had lost some weight but not so much with June around to fatten him up and keep him busy. She had done so much to keep him involved and make sure he had activities to occupy his mind and spirit along with Mozzie and El. Everyone had rallied around Neal and kept him as much in the loop of living that he couldn't spend too much time mourning beyond the norm.

Peter looked at the back seat where he had dropped the anklet and fedora and wondered how they had gotten in the alleyway. What could have made the young man suddenly cut his bonds and run? Could something have happened? Peter hadn't been in the convenience store more than 20 minutes.

He sighed trying to figure it out as he parked his car in the FBI lot and got out. He locked up the car and made his way to the elevator. It was late so he had to put a key on the panel to get the car started and going up to his offices. The emergency lights were on in the main lobby and a single desk light on the floor showed a figure hunched over a screen along with a couple of other agents. Peter pushed the glass doors open and made his way into the lobby and stood behind them. Jones turned and smiled sleepily.

"Peter..." The young agent looked tired. He pointed at something on the screen and moved aside to let his boss see. Peter peered at the screen and whistled.

"He was carjacked? Any better shots of the assailant, Jones?" The young man shook his head as Peter felt both relief and worry wash over him. Neal hadn't run, he'd been taken by force.

"There weren't any other cameras except in that one corner for the area and the mini mart ones were from the inside so they didn't reach far enough to see the car." Peter nodded grimly, finding a chair and sitting down. Someone had kidnapped Neal and removed his anklet. He combed his hair with his hand and nodded to his subordinate as he stood up again.

"Thank you Jones. Get the best print you can of the perp and pass it around the wire... then everyone go home. I'll see you in the morning." The agent nodded as did the others and Peter made his way up to his office and turned on the desk lamp and PC. He sat there in the soft glow of the lamp and screen and frowned. It didn't make any sense! A random thug wouldn't have had a reason to remove the anklet much less know it was there. This sounded like an inside job. Someone had followed them and then grabbed Neal when he was out of Peter's view. But why? He slammed a hand on the desk, opening up a file on the PC and digging around through the program for information.

"Peter?" Jones stood in the doorway looking at him curiously. Peter waved him inside as he continued to dig around on file he had opened. Jones sat across from him and peered over curiously.

"I sent out the APB and have a few people checking airports, hospitals and such. Need anything else before I go?" Peter shook his head vaguely then looked up.

"Clinton... I'm worried. Whoever this was that took Neal, they knew about the anklet." A deep frown set itself firmly on his lips as he rubbed tiredly at his eyes.

"It does seem suspicious how you found the items in the alley. Almost like someone was trying to tell you something. Any ideas?" Peter shook his head, his frown deepening.

"Go home, Jones and thanks." The younger agent nodded.

"Well find Caffrey, Peter. Don't worry." Peter nodded slightly trying to smile but not feeling it.

Once the office was quiet again and he was alone, Peter leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He was worried. If this was the doing of OPR and the ring man... he felt himself grow livid at the thought. He stood up, turning off the light and PC and made his way out of the office. He pulled his cell out again and tried calling Neal once more.

"Just leave a message." Neal's voice message was brief before Peter heard the beep and spoke as plainly as he could.

"Whoever you are... if you harm a hair on his head... Just expect pay back." He didn't say anything else, trying to calm his anger when he heard the beep again and another message:

"If you would like to page this person or change your message, please press 3 or hang up now."