It was a cool, clear morning and Neal stared at the skyline of New York City. The roof of June's house used to be his favorite place to sit and think…about life and Kate and the future they would have one day. But all that changed two days ago… already it seemed like an eternity…when he waved at Kate, moments before Peter stopped him from getting on the plane…and the untimely fate that awaited him and the woman he loved. Two days of hiding and spiraling down into a black hole of self pity and hatred.
He knew Peter was trying to reach him as was Mozzie but he wanted nothing to do with anyone and he was thankful June had become his watchdog, keeping everyone away and knowing enough to leave Neal alone. He stood and walked to the edge of the roof, staring downward. Technically he was still a free man and he could go anywhere, but there was nowhere he wanted to go…he was in an open prison and it felt so much worse than the four years he had spent in jail. Then he had a reason to go on, a future with Kate, a life ahead of him and now, nothing.
"It's a long way down." Neal bristled at the voice, his shoulders tensing. Peter! The last person he wanted to see right now, as irrational as that was. Peter had held him that day, at first to keep him from the engulfed plane and then later, as the fight drained from Neal and his legs gave out, it was Peter that kept him upright, kept him protected and away from the authorities and then took him home, helped him get changed and into bed…and stayed, watchful and protective as Neal fretfully slept through the night.
And in the morning Neal had lashed out at Peter, angry that he was still alive and blaming the person who had saved his life. Peter stood there, square jawed and silent, absorbing the harsh words and accusations. When Neal was done, Peter quietly told his friend he would call later to check on him. Neal heard the door close and alone, he allowed the tears to fall.
Neal couldn't turn and face Peter as he heard the footsteps approach.
"Neal, I know you didn't mean what you said." Peter grasped the other man's shoulder, squeezing gently.
"Peter I'm sorry."
"I know." As Peter guided Neal away from the edge, the younger man kept his head lowered, unable to look Peter in the eyes.
"Hey" Peter said, once they were both seated. "Neal, look at me." Slowly, Neal glanced up, his eyes bloodshot and half mast. "I'm sorry" Neal whispered.
"You can't keep your friends away forever."
"Are we still friends?" Neal sounded so lost, so unsure of himself, as opposed to the cocky, arrogant know it all that drove Peter crazy most of the time.
"You can't get rid of me that easily" Peter answered. "Besides I still own you." He chuckled softly at the confused look on Neal's face. "The deal you had with Fowler was illegal. You still belong to White Collar and you need to fulfill the agreement."
"I was reinstated this morning" Peter said. "After the plane blew up, Fowler disappeared and the fact that you were supposed to be…" Peter shrugged. "Who better to lead the investigation than me?"
"I can't" Neal said, shaking his head. "I'm no good to you right now." Neal leaned his elbows on the table, resting his face in his hands, momentarily rubbing his eyes.
"Neal, we both go back on Monday. That gives you a few days to get some rest and…"
"And what?" Neal stood up so sudden, the chair fell behind him. "What? By Monday I'm supposed to forget about Kate?"
"No!" Peter shot out of his chair and grabbed Neal by the shoulders. "I don't expect you to forget about Kate. I don't expect you to be alright by Monday. But I also don't expect you to sit here and feel sorry for yourself. That's not you and we both know it." Peter released Neal's shoulders but kept one hand on the younger man, cupping the back of his neck.
"Neal I know how you felt about Kate. I know you're going to be overwhelmed at times… it's ok to cry." Peter saw Neal's eyes mist up and he bit his lower lip to keep it from trembling. "It's ok" Peter repeated as he wrapped his arms around Neal, pulling the younger man towards him.
Once composed, it didn't take much to convince Neal that he was tired and needed more sleep and for the second time that week, Peter put the younger man to bed and kept vigil while he slept.
On Monday Peter showed up early at June's house, and he sat in the car for a few minutes, thinking about the day ahead and what had transpired. He had talked to Neal the night before and the younger man seemed upbeat and ready to go back to work. Peter wasn't sure he believed him but it was best that they both kept busy and work would do that.
At the door June met him with a smile.
"How he is?"
"He's Neal" June answered and they both knew what that meant. The Neal mask was back on, the pristine, debonair young man that few people saw through.
"Good" Peter remarked. "He'll need it to get through today."
Upstairs, Peter found Neal on the roof nursing a cup of coffee.
"Don't fill up on that" Peter said as he neared the younger man. "We're stopping at Frieda's on the way to work, my treat." Frieda's was a small café that had a large selection of European pastries and though Neal wasn't much of a sweet's person, that was a place he couldn't resist.
"Cool" Neal said as he pushed his chair away, and stood up. June was right…if you didn't know better you would think that today was a normal day and Kate hadn't died a week ago. But Peter saw right through the fake smile plastered on Neal's face. But for today, it would do and he would pretend that Neal was fooling him, as he would everyone else he came in contact with.
"Let's go." Peter lightly slapped Neal's back as he walked past him, before following…both ready for work and whatever the day would bring.