A little present for Easter.
Neal Caffrey wasn't expecting anything from the Easter bunny when he wandered the paths of Central Park on Easter Sunday. It just happened he stopped to watch some children running around for their annual Easter Egg hunt, sitting on a nearby bench enjoying the cool Spring breeze that played with his hair. He could finally take the coat off and enjoy himself in something a little more stylish and less confining. He was wearing a white linen shirt over a khaki pair of chinos. He had on some tan trouser socks tucked into comfy leather sandals. He looked like he should be on a cruise ship somewhere, not Central Park in April.
The children left after a bit and Neal stood up and stretched. They looked like they were having fun rooting about in the bushes and luscious lawns of the park for treats. He smiled at the thought of finding "treasures" of his own when he spied it. He figured it had to be something from the hunt the children were on. What else could it be? He walked over to take a closer look thinking he might just score a bit of free chocolate from the Easter bunny in the process. Couldn't hurt if it had jelly beans either. Neal strode towards the item glittering partially in the mid-morning sun and reached down to pick it up.
The item was rough at first touch making him wonder just what kind of Easter egg this was. He felt a bit of weight to it in his hands as he grasped the object making him wonder just how much candy was in the thing. Then he lifted it up to his face and nearly popped the eyes right out of his head in disbelief. He blinked at the item wondering how in the world... and then the fact none of the children had even found it... He kept looking at the item, it's glittery design making his eyes widen with not only thoughts of presents from the Easter bunny but other things like money.
Neal continued to stare at the item with dollar signs popping up over his head as he evaluated it. It had to be real! He couldn't see anything more than what it was... a Faberge' egg! He continued to gawk at the item and roll it gently, delicately around in his hands looking at the masterpiece and wondering who had hidden it here and why. He thought about showing El and Peter and that's when reality struck him. He looked at his hands holding the item and suddenly he paled about three shades and nearly dropped the item to the ground.
If the egg was stolen, he just put all his fingerprints on it and rubbed off any that may have indicated who had actually hidden it in the park. He cursed silently to himself and pulled out a handkerchief to hold the egg and rub it free of his prints. He could still show El and Peter but another thought struck him: If it really was stolen, no amount of him claiming he had "found it in the park" would make Peter believe he was innocent of NOT stealing it. Nobody would believe that Neal Caffrey, master art forger and thief could stumble upon a Faberge' egg by accident in Central Park on Easter Sunday. It would not only be considered one of his worse lies (considering it wasn't a lie and the honest truth of the matter) but to Mozzie and Alex he'd be considered a laughing stock. They would "try" to believe him but they would just insist he was being coy and finally just give him the brush off.
Neal sighed finishing rubbing off his prints and glancing at the egg sadly. Perhaps he could give it to a child in the Easter hunt but that would be suspicious.
"Where did you find this, Son?" Child looking up at parent.
"A man in the park gave it to me." Parent nods, has thing evaluated, finds out what it is (possibly) and Neal Caffrey is identified as man in park and given life for supposedly stealing something that should be in a museum. Big big sigh as he continues to look at egg and rub it as clean as he can of any proof he held it.
Once he's sure it's clean, Neal looks around surreptitiously and plants the egg back in the lawn of the park near a gazebo. He moves away from the area, his eyes scrolling back longingly at the Faberge' egg but knowing he cannot keep it with his current set up. He sighs deeply, moving away as he hears the sounds of children coming back to look for more eggs. He only perks up for a moment when he hears a child exclaim:
"I think my egg is broken. It won't open up!" He turns and sees that there is a small group of kids with one holding up the Faberge' egg. The other kids seem confused by the egg as well, all of them trying to pry it open like the other colorful plastic eggs in their basket.
"Maybe if I break it open?" Neal feels something akin to a stabbing pain in his heart as he thinks about the kid shattering a perfectly good antiquity. He quickly walks away so he doesn't have to hear the resulting answer.
(Sunday in the Park)
Neal is walking so quickly away from the scene he nearly collides with another figure.
"Neal?" The young man looks up to see Peter Burke standing there. The agent is wearing a white polo shirt with a tan collar tucked into blue jeans. He has on black socks tucked into white sneakers. The man looks comfortable.
"Hey uhm Peter. What brings you here?" He's not trying to be suspicious, but his hesitation and hurried nature brings a certain crook-eyed glance from Peter. Neal gulps trying to act as casual as he can but knows he's not doing a good job.
"I could ask you the same thing but I guess it's Easter. Everyone's in the park apparently." Neal turns as Peter points to the children running around looking for eggs. Neal just frowns, a sick nauseated look on his face. He's thinking about the kid shattering a valuable item and crying on the inside. He feels a nudge from Peter and turns.
"Hey you don't look so good. Need a ride home?" Neal nods, his mind only thinking about the egg and the loss of it. He starts to follow Peter when he feels something akin to nausea sweep over him and finds the nearest bush to run behind. He comes out after a moment and takes a quick drink from a water fountain to clean his mouth. Peter is looking at him with a concerned expression now.
"Neal, what's wrong?" The young man holds up a hand and just mutters:
"Home..." Peter nods, helping his friend to the Taurus. Neal can only think about one thing though: that Faberge' egg but he holds back being sick since he's in Peter's car. He notices suddenly that they've stopped at Peter's house.
"This isn't... June's..." He can barely say that, pushing the door open quickly, releasing his seat-belt and leaning over a nearby bush along the sidewalk to throw up again. He just can't stop thinking about that damn egg! He's no longer crying on the inside as he kneels on ground and shakes noticeably. Peter locks up the car and runs over to his friend looking more worried than ever.
"Hey... Neal?" Neal just looks up with a pale, blank look, the egg consuming his thoughts. He passes out right there on the sidewalk, the last thing he sees is Peter looking at him with a puzzled but concerned look.
(Night of the Lupus)
Neal's dreams consisted of nothing but nightmares concerning demonic Easter bunnies who left valuable Faberge' eggs in Central Park to torment the young man. He could hear them laughing in the background. They each carried a huge basket of eggs, all rare and valuable, as he tried to run away from the temptation to keep one. He was tripping over the things as he wandered the paths of the park and felt himself about to scream in horror if he didn't get out.
He woke up with a start to the sound of someone shaving. Neal sat up and rubbed at his eyes and realized he was still at the Burke's in their guest room. He was fully clothed but his shoes were neatly beside the bed. The young man yawned despite everything and pushed himself to his feet, slipping on his shoes. He didn't feel good at all but he was over the worse of his depression at least. The thought of Faberge' eggs in the park just didn't bother him anymore. It had to be that way or he would definitely be sick again. He deluded himself he was ok as he took a deep breath and opened up the door.
Neal peered down the short hallway and across to the stairs. He could just make out the form of Peter Burke shaving in the bathroom down the hall to his left through the partially opened door. Neal tiptoed in the opposite direction and quietly snuck down the stairs. He was going to go home before he got any more depressed about the egg thing.
"Neal?" He turned to see El looking at him with a smile. He smiled back or hoped he did cause he was starting to feel guilty about trying to sneak off.
"You're feeling better? Want something to eat?" He just wanted to leave but he smiled as charmingly as he could since it was El and let her lead him into the kitchen. Had it been Peter...
"El, Neal's not in his... Oh!" Peter suddenly notice Neal sitting at the kitchen table, face pale and nibbling at his food like a picky child given broccoli instead of chocolate ice cream. The weird thing was, this was El's egg salad sandwiches and Neal never passed that up. Something was wrong. Peter sat down at the chair nearest Neal.
"Feeling better?" Neal didn't reply, his eyes just staring ahead blankly as he chewed on the same bit of sandwich. He seemed to be kind of spacey. Peter finally nudged the young man and he jerked to a standing position scaring both El and Peter. He had dropped the sandwich to the floor, looking at it almost sadly.
"I'm sorry." Neal just flushed slightly and ran out of the kitchen and up the stairs, Peter not too far behind. Neal ran into the bathroom and closed the door. Peter paused as he heard the sound of retching from inside. He cursed worriedly to himself, leaning on the frame but not entering. After a few minutes, he heard the sound of the toilet flushing and running water. The door opened soon after, a ragged looking Neal Caffrey stumbling out. Peter caught the young man and led him back to the guest room. Neal didn't seem to mind, clinging to Peter like a little boy.
"Make them stop, Peter. Please!" Neal was delirious, his eyes glassy and wide as he stared at things that weren't there. Peter was concerned for his friend's sanity, laying him across the bed as he removed his shoes and tucked him in. He felt Neal's forehead but there was no fever.
"Make who stop, Neal? What's wrong?" Neal grasped Peter by the arms and just stared blankly at him.
"Them... the rabbits! They taunt me and try to lure me in but I won't do it! You won't believe me about the egg and neither would Mozzie." He starts to laugh almost hysterically before passing out into an exhausted sleep, face twitching ever so slightly. Peter just stares at his friend turning at the sound of footsteps. El is in the doorway looking worried.
"Peter, what's wrong with Neal?" Her voice is soft but concerned. Peter shakes his head.
"I have no idea. He's rambling about "rabbits" and "eggs." It was just Easter but still. It doesn't make any sense to me." He just sits there by Neal's side, his hand locked in the young man's. Neal had grasped it as he passed out and it was still in a bit of a death lock. El nods, walking over and brushing a bit of hair from Neal's face.
"Rabbits and Eggs... I don't get it." She keeps brushing at Neal's hair gently.
Neal wakes up later that day feeling a bit better. His dreams this time around were only partially concerned with rabbits and their not so legal Faberge' eggs. One of them had turned a few into one of El's famous egg salad sandwiches but Neal just didn't have the heart to eat it. He thought he was going to be sick again but he managed to tell the Rabbit to do something impolite with itself before he turned his back on it and told it to take it's wares elsewhere. The creature had cried, pleading for him to listen and be taken in but Neal was tired and he just wanted to sleep.
"Hey sleepy head." Neal blinks as he wakes up to find El sitting on the edge of the bed smiling at him. He's staring around the room and starts to remember where he is and what happened. His cheeks flush red and he buries his face in the pillow.
"Oh geesh... I'm sorry. I should have just... Damn I'm sorry!" His face is still buried in the pillow and his fists are hitting the bed in frustration. El just gently brushes his hair.
"It's ok. Want to talk about it?" Neal looks up and shakes his head but sees Peter behind her in the doorway and sits up. Peter blinks walking in.
"Hey... just came to see how you were. Had to let Hughes know why we didn't go to work today." Neal nodded, cheeks flushing more at the thought of missing work. Peter deserved an explanation.
"I'm sorry... I..." El shushed him gently and gave a look to Peter.
"It's ok, Neal. Just tell us when you're ready." She was still brushing at his hair gently and it seemed to calm him down. Peter sat down on the edge of the bed, trying to look casual. He looked thoughtful a second and then snapped his fingers.
"Neal, I heard something curious you might enjoy." Neal stared at the ceiling, letting El ease him into some semblance of normalcy as she brushed at his hair.
"Yeah?" He was barely aware of himself answering, half listening at best.
"Well apparently the cops gave a local kid quite a bit of reward money for turning in a lost item." Neal just didn't care but he tried to act like he did.
"Oh really? That's nice... what for?" He just felt himself starting to fade away, most of his attention on El brushing at his hair. It felt nice and it kept the rabbits away.
"Yeah, the kid found a Faberge' egg in the park during an Easter egg hunt. Nobody can figure out how it got there but he turned it in after his parents figured out it might be something valuable. Funny huh?" Neal was staring at Peter now. He opened his mouth to speak then started to bawl. El looked shocked as did Peter. She hugged the young man to her and looked at her husband in confusion.
"Neal, honey... what's wrong? Neal?" El just let him lean against her shoulder and cry his eyes out. He looked up after a moment, staring at Peter again and sniffled.
"That was... I would have... but... and you... " Neal buried his face into El's sleeve again and started crying again. Peter looked confused.
"Neal, what's wrong? You need to tell us." Neal just kept crying, El shushing him like a little boy. Finally he came back to himself and buried his face in the pillow. El kissed him on the forehead and left to get him something to drink making a gesture at Peter to figure out what was going on. Peter nodded with a "I'll try" kind of shrug and sat a bit closer to the young man.
"Neal? You know I'm your friend. Please... tell me what's wrong. I'm worried about you." Neal started to speak but his voice was muffled by the pillow. Peter tried to listen but it wasn't coherent.
"I don't understand..." Neal turned around, sitting up and rubbing at his eyes.
"The egg... I found the egg!" He turned back around and cried some more, Peter blinking at the back of his head. He scratched at his chin.
"You... what do you mean you found it? Neal?" The young man turned and rubbed at his eyes again, sniffing like a little boy.
"It was in the park. I saw it when the kids were doing their egg hunt. I thought... Oh geesh..." He buried his face again this time just cursing muffled words and hitting the bed till he turned and looked right at Peter.
"I wanted to keep it but I figured it was stolen. And even if I had only found it, nobody would believe me. Not even Mozzie. Everyone would assume I stole it and if not, that I had someone else steal it for me. There... are you happy?!?" He turned back to the pillow and cried again, sound muffled by the material. He felt a firm but gently hand on the back of his head, brushing at his hair gently. He turned and saw Peter smiling at him.
"Is that what this was all about? You thought I wouldn't believe you?" Neal just stared at his friend a moment then nodded with a chagrined look. Peter frowned, running a hand through his hair and sighing.
"I'm sorry... Really. I thought... well I can see how you would think how you did." Peter looked uncomfortable now. Neal nodded his head unhappily.
"See, you're already thinking about how you wouldn't believe my story." Peter blinked and shook his head then sighed.
"I guess it would have sounded a bit odd under the circumstances having the infamous Neal Caffrey claiming he found a valuable object rather than stole it." He saw Neal stare at him devastated at the comment but Peter held up a hand and shook his head.
"I was just... I'm going to shut up now. I'm sorry. Neal... I do trust you. You know I do." Neal just scowled a bit thinking of his last comment and glaring at the floor.
"Neal I brought you a glass of... water." El looked at the two of them and then poked Peter.
"What did you say to Neal?" Peter blinked and started to say something but stopped and stood, staring at Neal's glaring face and left the room looking a little sick himself. El handed the glass to Neal and patted him on the arm.
"Sometimes he forgets he can't be an agent all the time." Neal just sipped at the water and looked at the doorway.
"And I forget that my past is a part of how people see me." El hugged him gently.
"Honey, that's not all that defines you. I heard what happened. I'm sorry." She kept hugging him, brushing his hair gently.
"You're a kind and gentle person and I think Peter would have understood if you had come forward with the egg. Trust is a two way street, Neal." He saw her look at him with sincere concern and realize she was telling him the truth.
"Feeling better now?" He nodded, handing her back the glass. A small smile formed on his lips and he sighed.
"I guess I panicked. Even now after all this time, I just don't think people will believe me. I never had that option before Peter. Or you." She smiled at him and gently touched his nose with her finger tip.
"So... I think the two of you need to..." She turned as someone coughed by the doorway. Peter stood there, expression contrite.
"Neal, I'm sorry. Sorry if I ever made you feel you couldn't come talk to me." He held out his hand, El blinking at her husband in surprise and turning to see the same look mirrored on Neal's face. The young man nodded dumbly, starting to reach for his hand but shaking his head.
"No... you shouldn't have to apologize. I'm the one with the past... I'm sorry." Peter blinked this time, El looking between them with a small sigh.
"Neal, I was in the wrong. Please, I'm sorry." Neal shook his head, standing up and crossing his arms over his chest.
"I can't accept your apology till you take mine." El started to say something but they kept trying to out apologize each other till she just left the room, arms thrown up in defeat. Peter turned to see what was wrong with his wife and Neal stopped long enough to blink after her.
"What's wrong with El? She looked upset." Neal looked worried. Peter shrugged.
"Who really understands how a woman thinks." Neal shook his head at Peter's comment with a slight smirk.
"Well I know you don't." Peter turned and was about to say something when he caught himself and laughed. Neal just looked at him like his friend was crazy.
"What?" Neal looked confused. Peter laughed a bit then sat on the edge of the bed and caught his breath.
"Demonic rabbits throwing Faberge' eggs... Sorry. I just realized what you were talking about earlier. Conscience got to you." Neal looked like he wanted to be upset with Peter but then he realized what they were discussing and started to smile slightly. His face turned red. Peter chuckled.
"Oh come on, Neal... it's funny." He stood and slapped his friend on the back and Neal finally laughed.
"Yeah, I guess... after the fact. But would you have believed me if I told you I had found that egg? Honestly, Peter. I need to know." Peter smiled and sighed.
"What do you think? We've been partners and friends long enough. You tell me." Neal smirked.
"Fine... be that way." He held out his hand and Peter shook it.
"Now... can we eat dinner? I'm starving!" Peter sounded petulant.
"I guess El thought maybe you were at fault?" Peter didn't answer but his eyes told another story.
"Oh... want me to bail you out?" Peter shook his head.
"No... I just want to eat." Neal nodded, pushing his friend out the door.
"I'll tell her we're playing nice... ok?" Peter smiled.
"And I promise I won't tell anyone about your Faberge' Easter bunnies from hell." Neal blanched.
"Are you blackmailing me, Peter?" The agent shook his head.
"Not so long as I get my dinner."