Many people would say that the secret to a long and happy marriage was total honesty but Elizabeth Burke knew that was not true. Even so she was more than apprehensive as she waited in the visiting room at Sing Sing prison on that Thursday afternoon. She tried not to think what her husband's reaction would be if he knew his wife was in yet another prison visiting yet another prisoner - this time, his brother Philip, whose betrayal nearly caused Neal Caffrey's torture and death. Peter disowned his brother immediately after learning of this final betrayal; it cut so deep that he would not allow Philip's named to be spoken in his presence. And he specifically forbade Elizabeth to contact Philip in any way and yet here she was waiting for the guard to bring her brother-in-law to the cramped smelly visitor's room. If Elizabeth had anything to do with it, Peter would never find out. No, the secret to a long and happy marriage was not total honesty, she thought to herself. Occasionally a good marriage required a little deceit for its' greater good. In this case, the greater good was her husband's love for his twin brother, a love she knew would never die, no matter what the recalcitrant Philip did. She needed to find out if Philip was indeed beyond redemption before she could obey her husband's command. She had to give him one last chance.
Philip's betrayal had stung the bewildered Peter mortally and it seemed like the fallout was now dooming his relationship with Neal as well. Peter felt so acutely embarrassed by the whole fiasco that he could hardly stand to look Neal in the face. Neal, who did not evidence any anger over the misery and suffering he had been subjected to by Philip's lies to the CIA, grew irritated indeed after a few days with this "new" Peter. Their camaraderie was gone, their give-and-take, the intuitiveness between them, the humor they shared. Gone. Neal was left with a humorless shell who looked very similar to Peter but was nothing like him.
On the third day of working on their new case, around noon, Neal went up to Peter's office and sat down a chair in front of his desk. Peter glanced up from his computer screen, his brow wrinkled into an irritated puzzled frown. He didn't have long to wait to find out what Neal wanted.
"What have you done with him?" asked Neal, coming to the point quickly. He looked around Peter's office as though expecting to see "him" hiding behind the door or perhaps under Peter's desk.
"Who 'him'"? asked Peter, with annoyance. He had given Neal an assignment to get him out of the office, yet here he was back a half hour later. The pleasure he used to feel in talking to Neal was gone. Didn't he send him off with Jones? Where was Jones, anyway?
"Peter. What have you done with Peter?"
"Listen here," started Peter, sitting back in his chair. He was in no mood for inane conversation.
"No, you listen," countered Neal. "Either we get this worked out or just send me back to prison now. It would be more enjoyable there than working with you."
"You don't understand…" said Peter. He really didn't want to talk about this. Not now. Not ever. There was no way Neal could know what he felt. No one knew.
"You don't understand," Neal interrupted. "I was the one kidnapped in the middle of the night from my home, I was the one locked in chains, flown across the country, and tossed into an underground bunker for over a month. I was the one practically starved to death, the one chained up, the one left alone with no answers. For over two weeks, I heard nothing, I knew nothing. For 8 hours at a time I was in total darkness. Have you any idea what that feels like? You think I don't understand? What part of this don't I understand?"
Peter would have looked at Neal in astonishment at this lengthy monologue but Peter wasn't comfortable looking at Neal at all so he kept his eyes focused on the desk. He hadn't talked about Philip or his lonely childhood with Neal before. How could he discuss it now? How could he make Neal understand how humiliated he was that someone so close to him - his own twin - had caused those weeks of torment - and indeed had nearly accomplished Neal's death? What did that say about himself - Peter?
"This wasn't about you, Neal, even though you bore the brunt of it. This was between…my brother…and me. Philip did what he did for revenge against me. I had no idea…anyone…could hate me so much." Did that make sense? Not even to Peter's mind.
Neal stared at Peter and then shook his head in exasperation. "Peter," he said, his voice taking on a huskiness. "I understand Philip, probably better than you do. I too, have a brother. But my brother is the 'Peter' and I am the 'Philip' in our relationship.
"You're nothing like Philip!" protested Peter, shaking his head. "You are nothing alike."
"We're more alike than you might think," contradicted Neal. "I know what it's like to be the 'black sheep' of the family. Why do you think I never visited Colin? I have…talents…that Philip doesn't. Without those gifts - who knows?"
"You're talking gibberish!" accused Peter, not accepting any of it. Neal and Philip were as different as two people could be.
"Peter," said Neal. "You had nothing to do with how Philip turned out. He chose his own path long ago. Just as Colin is not responsible - for me. Are you going to allow Philip to get away with his plan?"
"His plan?" asked Peter. "Obviously, he didn't get away with it. The CIA discovered what happened.":
"That wasn't the plan, I meant," explained Neal. "His plan was to hurt you. Why are you allowing him to do that? I am fine. Actually, I learned some good lessons. And I made reparation too."
"There are a few things I've done, a few people I've hurt along the way - that I regret. What goes around - that whole thing? I had a few bad things - coming my way. Well, that's over. I paid a price. My slate is - cleaner. I hold nothing against you. I don't even hold anything against Philip. He has enough to deal with. The courts are taking care of him. Why waste the time? It's over. Let's just get back to how things were, OK?" Neal's words were an olive branch held out to Peter, who sat for a moment trying to take it all in. This wasn't how things worked in his world. But Neal was right, and he was stupid. Why allow Philip to ruin their friendship? What was he thinking?
"OK," surrendered Peter. "If you can forgive him - so can I."
"Really?" asked Neal, not quite believing Peter.
"No, but it sounds good, doesn't it?"
Neal grinned. Not at Peter's words but at the hint of the old Peter he saw coming back.
"What did you do with Jones?" asked the Peter, suddenly reminded of the errand he sent Neal and Clinton on.
"I gave him the slip, somewhere around Columbus Circle," answered Neal, rolling his eyes.
"You shouldn't be doing that," said Peter, feigning exasperation. "Jones is up for a promotion. You should be helping him look good."
"Promotion! I didn't know. Yikes! I better get back. So - we're okay?" asked Neal, holding out his hand to Peter. Peter took his hand and shook it, a rueful smile on his face.
Meanwhile, in Sing Sing, Philip Buchanan was opening the door to the visiting room. In this prison, bullet proof glass divided the room and phones were on the sides of each small visiting partition. Just as well, Elizabeth thought to herself. Otherwise she would be tempted to strangle Philip, she was so mad at him.
An older, more tired image of her husband sat down in front of her on his side of the glass. It had been several months since Elizabeth saw Philip and she was taken aback by how much he aged and how unwell he looked. His skin had a yellow tinge to it and looked very dry and almost flaky. Philip picked up the phone and so did Elizabeth on her side.
"What do you want, El?" asked Philip, those same brown eyes staring at her banefully through the smudged glass.
"Don't call me 'El'", Elizabeth protested, "You lost that right."
Philip studied her and then looked away. "Why did you come here?" he asked, his gruff voice flat.
"I wanted to see for myself, to find out from you - why did you frame Neal? Why did you put him - all of us - through that? Peter's written you off. I need to know if there is anything worth saving in you."
Peter hesitated before answering. If he had ever asked himself that question, it didn't show. "What is it with you and Peter?" he asked. "Why are you two always trying to save someone?"
Elizabeth was at a loss for words. It had never occurred to her to save anyone. Family was very important and the thought of disowning a sibling was more than she could bear. But there was always the exception and she was beginning to wonder if she had found him.
"Are you sorry at all for what you did?" asked Elizabeth, forging on. "Neal could have been killed. And for what? Do you have a conscience at all?"
"I do have one regret," admitted Philip, leaning back in his grey aluminum folding chair. He gave Elizabeth a speculative look, and then continued spitefully, "I regret my plan didn't work." If he was trying to get a reaction from her, he succeeded. Her face turned red and her hands balled into tight fists. It was all she could manage not to give the window between them a good punch. But she didn't want Philip to have the satisfaction. She replaced the phone in its cradle, got up, pushed her chair back, picked up her purse, rose from her chair, turned around, and walked out the visiting room door at a normal pace. It was only when the door closed behind her that she slammed her fist into the wall. Unfortunately it was a concrete wall. Ohmygod, she cried out. Why did I do that?
A correctional officer came running over to her and if Elizabeth's face was red before, now it was positively crimson with embarrassment. "I am fine," Elizabeth said, trying to smile. "That was pretty dumb, huh?" she asked. "My brother-in-law…" and she shrugged her shoulders. The guard reached out to steady her, but she pulled back from his touch. "I am fine, really," she said, and turned to leave. The guard looked after her, shaking his head.
I am so not fine, thought Elizabeth to herself, holding her rapidly swelling hand in her good hand. She walked away quickly from the prison's arched front door, her mind a tumble of worries. Where was the hospital in this little town? What was she going to tell Peter? She decided to drive back into New York rather than waste time driving around looking for medical help. Now she wished she had driven Peter's car instead of her own old Honda, no GPS, no nothing. Ohmygod, this hurts, she thought to herself, trying not to panic.
A half hour later Elizabeth limped back into New York City, holding the steering wheel with the fingers on her good hand while her damaged hand, swollen and purple, she held up near her face. She had been trying not to think about her pain all the way back but that coping method was rapidly deteriorating. She hated having to pull over and call "911" and then have to explain what happened. "Cowboy up" she told herself, using a favorite phrase of Peter's. No one ever died from a broken hand. Death was rapidly looking more desirable, though, just as New York's Presbyterian Hospital came into view. Fortunately there was valet service and Elizabeth was glad to turn over the car keys to the young man who jumped out eagerly when she pulled up. At that point she didn't care if he took the car and drove it to Canada. Stop the pain! Now. Stop, stop, stop! Ohhh…even walking hurts.
Fortunately the ER was relatively slow and it would only take Elizabeth a couple of hours to be seen by a doctor if no shootings, bombings, or fires occurred first. At least they gave her a bowl of ice water in which to soak her hand and a couple of blue Advil-y looking pills to swallow before showing her to a small room with a narrow gurney surrounded by white cotton curtains. With her good hand she phoned Neal, ignoring the "no cell phone" sign pinned by her door.
"Neal, you're not with Peter are you?" she asked when he answered. It was already after 5:00 p.m. and she hoped they had gone home for the night. Fortunately she told Peter she would be getting home late from work.
"No, Elizabeth," said Neal. "He dropped me off hours ago. What's up?"
"I need you to drive me home," she said. "Not now. In a couple of hours. But you could come now, if you wanted to. Or I could call you. I don't know. What do you think?" Was that actually Advil they gave her, she was beginning to wonder. She felt so loopy.
"Elizabeth, where are you?" asked Neal, concern growing in his voice. "What's happening?"
"Presbyterian Hospital," Elizabeth said. Was there an acronym for it? She couldn't remember. "Is hospital two miles from here? Where you are?" Darn that 'two mile radius' – it was confusing enough when she was thinking straight but now her mind was rapidly going south. Two miles from where? Her mind grappled with the map in her head and then gave up. What had they given her anyway?
"What?" asked Neal, growing alarmed. "You're at a hospital? I need to call Peter…"
"No Peter!," begged Elizabeth. "No Peter, no Peter. Just you, Neal. Please. Come, come, come. Hand broke. They gave me medication, it's making me woozy. Woozy-wooz. Bye, bye Neal." With that she dropped her cell phone on the floor where it broke into a dozen plastic pieces, turned over on the gurney and fell into a deep sleep.
Neal phoned Peter immediately. "Hospital!" Peter exclaimed, leaping out of his chair, scattering the case files he was studying. "What happened?"
"I don't know, Peter," said Neal. "She said something about her hand being broke - and that she was very woozy from the medication."
"Medication!" Peter actually yelled this time. "Elizabeth is sensitive to almost everything. What did they give her?"
"I don't know," said Neal. "And one more thing. She wants me to come, not you. But I couldn't…"
"She wants you?" repeated Peter. "It could be the medication. Anyway, I'll come by and get you. Be waiting outside." And with that he hung up and stuffed the cell phone in his pocket before dashing out the door, leaving his coat and gun holster behind.
Barely twenty minutes later Peter pulled into the parking lot of the hospital but there were no valets in sight. He jumped out of the car, ran around the other side, and tossed the keys to Neal. "Find a parking space…" he ordered as he took off.
"But I don't have a valid driver's license…." Neal yelled after his retreating figure. It appeared to be a moot point. Neal got behind the wheel and took the car out of "park" and slowly crept away from the entrance, keeping a look out for an empty parking space. He pitied the poor person who got between Peter and an ill Elizabeth.
Ten minutes later, Neal walked into the emergency room, searching for Peter and his wife. Fortunately Burke's voice guided him to the right room. "You gave her WHAT?" the voice was saying - loudly. Neal couldn't hear the reply, but as he approached the room a flustered young intern suddenly emerged and rushed past him, white coattails flying, mumbling un-doctorly words as he went.
Neal stepped into the hospital room and pushed the curtain aside. Elizabeth was on the gurney, unconscious. No, she was sleeping. Loudly. Peter stood by her, his face a study in concern and anxiety. One of Elizabeth's hands was wrapped in ice packs and gauze. Peter was clutching her other hand in his two, holding them to his chest, near his heart.
"How is she?" asked Neal. He saw the cell phone pieces on the floor. He crouched down and picked up the sim card, put it in his pocket, and then swept the remaining pieces of the phone under the bed. He would give it to Peter later.
"They don't know," said Peter, his worried eyes on his wife's face. "She can't take medication, it really sends her around the bend. Did they even ask her if she was allergic to anything? If something happens…"warned Peter.
"She'll be fine," Neal assured him, as the snores grew in decibels. If her snoring got any louder, he might have to look for ear plugs, he started thinking.
"How did she break her hand?" asked Peter. "Did she say anything?"
"No," Neal answered. "I don't know. But she was adamant - she only wanted me. She kept saying 'no Peter, no Peter'.
If Neal expected Peter to look hurt by this, he was disappointed. "She was doing something she didn't want me to know about," Peter guessed. He wasn't a FBI agent for nothing. "And I bet I know what it was," Peter continued, eyes narrowing.
"What?" asked Neal, who was beginning to wonder if Peter was psychic. Or is that just what happens when you're married to someone for ten years?
"She visited Philip, I bet anything she did," Peter said.
"But how did she break her hand?" Neal asked, not seeing the connection.
"Oh, El has quite a temper. You wouldn't know it as she works hard to control it. But I've seen her mad a few times. Believe me - if she hit something - she could do this kind of damage."
"Do you think she hit Philip?" conjectured Neal, happily trying to imagine the scene in his mind.
"No, she wouldn't have been allowed to visit him except in the room with the bullet proof glass. He said something to her that made her mad. I bet anything that's what happened!" Peter seemed quite pleased at his detective'ing.
At that point the young intern came in, giving Peter a nervous glance. Waving some x-rays around, he announced, "Your wife broke three bones in her hand. She needs surgery. We've called the hand surgeon in. He should be here shortly. Any questions?" He looked as though he desperately hoped there were no questions. Peter shook his head. He wasn't going to waste time talking to this kid.
"Well, I guess we wait then, huh?" asked Neal, looking around for a chair.
"You don't have to stay," said Peter, glancing over at him. "You're tired. Go home. I've got this."
"No, I am fine," insisted Neal. "I'll stretch out here and get some sleep. Then I can spell you. No problem."
"Neal - you don't have to…" but Neal already found a chair and sat down, pulling his long legs up on another chair opposite to it. His hat was over his face and he didn't reply.
The next morning as the sun shone through the windows of Elizabeth's hospital room, she woke up. At first she didn't know where she was but then looking down at her bandaged hand, the memories came back. She met Neal's concerned blue eyes before seeing her husband asleep in a chair behind him. She smiled groggily. And then in a whisper she asked, "Does he know?"
Neal smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "He knows," he answered honestly. "You do live with an FBI agent, El."
She nodded. "Is he mad?" she asked apprehensively.
Neal shook his head 'no'. "All Peter cares about is you, Elizabeth. You should have seen him last night. He only fell asleep a half hour ago."
"Let's not wake him," Elizabeth advised, as she looked down at her bandaged hand. It was as big as a basketball and she wondered what lay beneath the gauze bandages. She could feel nothing except nausea from the medication. She still couldn't believe she broke her own hand. So many years trying to control her temper and now look at her.
"Why did you visit Philip?" asked Neal, ever curious.
Elizabeth's face flushed at being found out. "I was trying to see if there was any reason for hope that he would change," said Elizabeth.
"Is there?" asked Neal.
"No," said Elizabeth. She hated to give up on anyone. But Philip seemed to be the exception.
"I am sorry," said Neal.
"Me, too," replied Elizabeth. "Philip is Peter's twin. I don't care what Peter says, I know Peter. It's going to kill him to give up on his brother. If Philip dies and they're not speaking - I don't know what it will do to Peter."
"Is Philip sick?" asked Neal, surprised.
"He looks really bad," said Elizabeth. "His skin is yellowish. It could be a liver problem. Neither Peter nor Philip were ever much for drinking so I don't know what it could be - maybe cancer," Elizabeth added. "But if he's got something terminal and if he dies - well, Peter is going to be devastated. He loves his brother." Realizing what she just said, she reached out to Neal with her good hand. "I am sorry, Neal…"
"No, I understand," said Neal. "I have a brother. He isn't a twin. But I understand." He really knew more than Elizabeth realized.
"What are you two plotting?" asked a voice behind Neal. Peter got up stiffly and went to Elizabeth's side, his hair disheveled, his face puffy. "How are you, honey?" he asked his wife, giving her a gentle kiss. Neal stepped away from the bed, embarrassed to be present at such an intimate moment. He decided now would be a good time to track down the pretty nurse who was coming in every hour to take Elizabeth's vitals. Maybe she would like to know Elizabeth was awake. Maybe she'd like to go for coffee sometime.
Two days later, Peter returned to work. Elizabeth had virtually thrown him out of the house so reluctant was he to leave her. But she knew he needed to be working on his cases and not moping after her, trying his best to anticipate her every need and in the meantime driving her crazy. Neal, who had been working with Jones, was glad to see him back. Peter, being a senior agent, had more interesting cases than Jones did to work on. Besides, Neal wanted to talk to Peter about an idea that was forming in his mind. He thought it was best to have the talk in the FBI offices where there would probably be less screaming and yelling on Peter's part.
Neal gave Peter time to get settled back in his office, catch up on his email, and answer his phone messages. That all seemed to take about an hour so it was then that Neal climbed the stairs and knocked on Peter's door.
"How's Elizabeth?" asked Neal, settling himself into one of Peter's office chairs.
"She seems fine," said Peter. "Has a doctor appointment tomorrow for a check-up. But is dealing with the pain okay. Although it's making her a bit cantankerous, but don't tell her I said that," cautioned Peter. Neal shook his head he wouldn't.
"I would like to talk to you about something," began Neal. He had been practicing for several days different ways of broaching the subject with Peter, no approach seemed safe.
"I would like to make a trip - a short trip - out of my 'two mile radius'," said Neal. "Can I get your permission for that?" he asked.
"To where?" asked Peter, his eyes narrowing with suspicion.
"Er…Ossining," said Neal nervously.
"You too!" exclaimed Peter, temper quickly rising. "I don't believe it! Does the whole world have to make the pilgrimage to visit my brother?"
"I just want to talk to him. I was the one he put through hell. Can't I at least talk to the person responsible?"
"But why?" asked Peter, exasperated.
"Closure," said Neal. "I need closure. I need to look into his eyes. I just need to. Please, Peter?"
Burke sat back in his chair, he gazed at Neal for a long minute as he pondered the request. "Fine," he said. "Do what you want. Jones can drive you up there. But I don't want to hear about it when you get back!" warned Peter.
"You won't," promised Neal. Getting up, he left Peter's office to go find Jones. Neal wasn't looking forward to another visit inside a prison but there was no other way to accomplish his goal.
Two days later found Jones and Neal on their way to Ossining in Jones' 1957 Ford Fairlane. Neal had rarely seen such a car much less been in one before and he was blown away by the care Jones had put into restoring the Fairlane to its' former glory. Neal had no idea that Jones liked to tinker with cars and that working on this one was his joy. It was beautiful with a cream white paint job and bright cherry red real leather seats. The retractable hardtop turned it into a convertible with a touch of a button. It was quickly obvious that the car was a total 'chick magnet', after awhile Neal lost count of the number of pretty girls who honked as they drove by. Neal understood now why Jones went on so many dates with so many beautiful women.
Fortunately the novelty of the antique car made the trip go by fast and soon they were approaching Sing Sing again and Neal could feel the familiar nerves start up. Actually not quite as bad as last time he was here. Perhaps his weeks in Lompoc had desensitized him to prisons? When he shared his observation with Jones, the young agent was surprised.
"Really?" commented Jones. "I've always heard Federal prisons were the best and much preferred over state prisons."
By now painfully familiar with the entrance routine at Sing Sing, Neal made it through without too much trepidation although the pat-down was still disconcerting. But it was tolerable compared to what he had experienced in Lompoc. He wanted to get his mind off that. He had a mission to accomplish. Neal thought Jones was going to stay in the car or at most shoot the breeze with the guard at the gate but he insisted on tagging along and finally admitted that Peter ordered him to stay close.
So it came to be that exactly one week after Elizabeth visited Philip, Neal found himself in the same stuffy visiting room with the same prison smells he had experienced in Lompoc. "I want to do this alone," Neal told Jones.
"I have my orders," Jones protested.
"Please?" begged Neal. "I have to do this alone."
Afraid of disobeying Peter as he was, Neal's con artsy skills carried the day. Jones had seen what Neal went through first-hand, Peter had not. Jones could sympathize with Neal about his need for closure. After extracting a cross-my-heart-hope-to-die promise from Neal not to tell Peter he left his post, Jones reluctantly agreed to park himself outside the visiting room.
Neal waited five minutes alone, his tension mounting. He knew so well what it was like to be on the other side of these glass walls. His thoughts went back to Kate and …
The door opened on the other side and a correctional officer pushed Philip Buchanan through and closed the door behind him. The older man stood and stared at Neal for a full minute and then lumbered over to the chair in front of the glass partition and sat down. The first time Neal met Philip he was startled how much the twins resembled each other, even in middle age having lived such different lives. But now the change in Philip was evident. As Elizabeth said, Philip did look quite ill and his skin had an odd yellow color to it. But the facial features were the same although Philip was heavier and more puffy than Peter. The mannerisms too were near identical and gave Neal the same jolt as he felt last time. It was always an odd experience to meet the twin of someone you knew well.
"You're looking good," observed Philip, looking Neal up and down through the glass partition.
"No thanks to you," Neal replied, leaning back in his plastic white chair.
"So Elizabeth was here last week, now you. Can I expect my illustrious brother to show up soon?" asked Philip with a touch of sarcasm.
"I wouldn't count on it," advised Neal.
'I am not," answered Philip. "I stopped counting on anything a long time ago. Why are you here, Caffrey?" asked Philip with disinterest. He would have glanced at his watch had he had one.
"You are I are more alike than you think," said Neal. His con-artist ways had long ago engrained in him a strong sense of self-discipline which he was finding very useful now. He could only imagine how frustrated Elizabeth had become, trying to talk to Philip.
"Yes, I can see the resemblance," said Philip with sarcasm.
"But there's one way we differ," observed Neal, ignoring Philip's remark. "For all my - misdeeds - I still have a soul. I am willing to repent. I am not so sure that you do."
"So this is why you're here?" asked Philip with a hoarse laugh. "You want to save my soul? No wonder Peter and Elizabeth have taken you in as one of their own - you all have this weird obsession for saving people."
"I am not here to save you," Neal assured him. "You hold no interest for me. I don't even have enough interest in you to be angry at you for what you did to me. But you're right - I am interested in 'saving' someone. And it's going to destroy him if he doesn't make peace with you before you die."
"Who says I am dying?" Philip snapped, his sunburned yellowish face turning even redder.
"It's obvious your liver is failing," pointed out Neal. "And you've known it for a while. That may have been a factor in turning me over to the CIA. One last poke at Peter before you go."
"That's no business of your's," snapped Philip, irritated. "There's nothing you can give me that I want."
"Yes, there is," answered Neal confidently. He had done his research well. "The family plot."
"What?" asked Philip, interest stirring in his near dead brown eyes.
"Peter will have you buried in the family plot if you two are on good terms when you die. You'll be buried next to your parents - and your sister. Your remains will be treated with respect. You'll have a proper marker, a proper funeral." Neal had confirmed all this with Elizabeth. "Otherwise, your ashes won't even be picked up. They'll end up being scattered over the hard ground in the back of the prison. You'll be here until the world ends. You decide." Neal sat back with satisfaction after making his case.
Philip was quiet for awhile, thinking it over. Neal could see he was taken aback to discover that there was still something he wanted out of life. Now that he was so close to death. Neal waited patiently while Philip thought the deal over, his mind trying to weigh the angles.
"What do I have to do?" Philip finally answered with a tone of resignation.
"That's up to you," Neal said. "There are no stipulations. You and Peter just have to be on good terms when you die. You figure it out." With that Neal stood up and pushed back his chair with the back of his legs. Despite what he had gone through in Lompoc he felt sorry for Philip. He knew what it was like to be the 'black sheep', as he told Peter. This could very well be me, he thought to himself. Thank god Colin had not made off with all the good genes.
Later in the car on the way back to New York Jones asked Neal if he had obtained the closure he desired.
"Not yet," Neal admitted. He didn't say anything else about his visit and Jones didn't ask.
A month went by with nothing heard from Philip and Neal's initial hopefulness began to fade. Maybe he misjudged Philip; his radar was pretty good but dealing with another con artist was always tricky. His own intuition had been known to fail on occasion. Rarely - but there had been some embarrassed moments which he didn't like to think about.
Then one morning when Neal arrived at the FBI offices, Peter wasn't there yet nor had he arrived an hour later. This was very odd, Neal thought. Peter was rarely late to work. He went to ask Jones who shrugged his shoulders and said Hughes told him Burke called in with a 'family emergency'.
"And you didn't tell me?" asked Neal, slightly offended.
"Neal, I hate to tell you this - but you're not really family. I mean - Peter and Elizabeth haven't adopted you or anything - have they?" asked Jones.
"Well, no," admitted Neal. But he was still consumed with curiosity and when he could stand it no longer he dialed Peter's phone, only to have it go directly to voice mail. The same with Elizabeth's phone. What was up here, he wondered? This was very strange indeed. He could barely concentrate on the job Jones gave him which of course had to be a boring mortgage fraud case that any accountant could have solved in five minutes. Why was the FBI getting saddled with such things, anyway? Neal thought the day would never end and when Jones finally let him go home at 4 p.m. he grabbed his hat and coat and dashed to the elevator.
It took a minute or two for Neal to hail a cab and soon he was on his way to Peter's house, his ankle turning from a green light to red about midway there. The Marshall's office had been clued in not to report if Neal was going in the direction of Peter's home, which he did quite often. Of course, he had to stay on a pretty tight course there and back in order not to get in trouble. Once he had made a small excursion to a wine shop and there had been hell to pay from Burke.
Arriving at Peter's little house, he was disappointed to see the windows dark. He was about ready to hail another cab when he spotted a small light glowing in the back room. He took the stairs two at a time and knocked on the door. Loudly.
Neal thought he heard a noise and just as he was wondering if he should get out his lock picking tools, the door opened to reveal a tearful Elizabeth. Unexpectedly she fell into his arms and hugged him tightly, her tears staining his suit. Ohmygoodness, this isn't good, thought Neal. Did something happen to Peter?
Elizabeth pulled Neal inside, and then still clutching his hand, her other arm in a sling, walked him to the back of the house where Peter was hunched over in front of their small fireplace where a few flames were showing through the iron work grating. Peter glanced up, and then shook his head at seeing Neal, whether he was pleased to see him or not, Neal couldn't tell. The small light from the fire reflected on Peter's face and Neal could see undried tears shining on the FBI agent's cheeks. Peter quickly wiped them away with the back of his hand and turned his face away.
"It would be you," observed Peter, his voice uncharacterically hoarse.
"What happened?" asked Neal, anxiously, looking back at Elizabeth, who was, oddly, still grasping his hand. She gazed up at him with an expression of sadness mixed with gratitude. She hugged him again before letting his hand go. She resumed her seat next to Peter in front of the fire and pulled a wooden three-legged stool over for Neal. He sat down uneasily, trying to figure out what was going on. For a few minutes the three of them sat there, staring into the fire, before Elizabeth finally was able to speak between sobs.
"Philip died this afternoon," Elizabeth told Neal. As soon as she got the words out, she started crying again, her shoulders shaking. She turned her face away as she reached down to pull a Kleenex out of a box on the floor.
"Oh, I am sorry," said Neal, surprised. Now he felt definitely awkward at intruding on this personal family moment. "Er…I'll go…"
"No, Neal. Stay," said Elizabeth, reaching over to take his hand again, pulling him back down to the stool. So they sat there, the three of them, looking into the fire, each with their own thoughts.
"Philip asked for Peter last night," Elizabeth told Neal after a few moments, composing herself. "He knew he was dying and wanted to make amends. The warden called us and told Peter he could come into the infirmary, since he was a FBI agent, and say good-bye to his brother. I was there too," she added. "His death…was so beautiful. All the…Philip-ness…was gone. He was just Peter's twin brother again. All the years, the hurts, everything - just faded away. It was so strange. Peter was holding him when he died." At that Elizabeth broke down again, the tears flowing anew at the memory.
Neal was seldom at a loss for words but he didn't know what to say. It turned out there was nothing for him to say.
"Thank you Neal," Elizabeth told him, drying her reddened eyes. She looked into Neal's face with a gratitude he had seldom seen from anyone.
"Me?" he asked, startled. "I didn't do anything."
"Philip wanted you to know," Elizabeth said. "He was sorry for what he did to you. He told me to tell you that."
"No, no," Neal protested, "Please - "
"Neal, be quiet," Peter ordered, speaking up for the second time. Neal shut up and looked back into the fire. Elizabeth had been right after all. There was still some good in Philip. He would have his proper burial. And Peter's life-long rift with his twin was healed at the end. His friend was at peace. Gazing into the flames, Neal decided his ordeal was a small price to pay for this ending. The young con artist also realized with a shock - he would have paid more had it been asked. That's what Peter meant to him.
This story is dedicated to Jeff Eastin, whose imagination and wonderful skill in casting has given me many hours of pleasure both in watching White Collar - as well as playing with the characters when they're not working on the show. Thank you, Jeff!