Author's Notes: Hi all! I swear, I have not abandoned "What Remains". I'm struggling a bit with part of a scene, but it's slowly (really slowly) coming together to my satisfaction. To make up for that, I managed to write something for the kink meme in over in the livejournal "collarkink". I fleshed out the plot and added a lot to the story since I first wrote it."What Remains" will be updated soon!
Triggers/Warnings: Just a few things to mention. Child sex abuse is mentioned, but not shown. Also, there is some violence (a beating), a fire, and everyone's favorite: Neal whumpage.
Prompt: From the meme: Peter, his eyes dark and fiery, carrying a badly beaten Neal, wearing Peter's
coat. Neal's unconcious and cradled. Peter is refusing to let anyone
near Neal or touch him. He growls that he listened to them for too long
and he's getting Neal out of that damn 'House of Horrors'. There is
smoke and fire around. I love the emotion of Peter being very possessive and protective of Neal.
Final Thoughts: I hope everyone enjoys this story. I didn't quite get everything into this fic that the OP requested, but it comes close. Happy reading!
Neal smoked a cigarette in the alley where he was to meet his handler, Greg Everett, for this op. Neal closed his eyes as he breathed in the smoke, and let his mind wander. He didn't want to think about the warehouse right now. If he did, it might break his heart. He hadn't quite expected this to be so difficult; he'd gone on dozens of other undercover ops, but those had only lasted for a few days. This was entirely different.
He had been approached by the agent several months ago to work on a case that the FBI was trying to close out. They needed someone smooth enough to talk their way in as an employee so they could get enough information to send Lester Tomilin to prison for good. Tomilin and his crew were bad guys, into everything from racketeering to child pornography. It was impossible to get at his books for the real evidence of his crimes. They needed access to his accounts and shipments in order to convict the man. Neal didn't even have to finish the file to know that he wanted in.
Peter hadn't wanted him to go on this operation. He had thought it was far too dangerous. Hughes had been reluctant as well, but more supportive than Peter. Neal took a drag off his cigarette and grinned at the memory of Peter's response to Everett's request. His partner had paced around the conference room and done a lot of arguing against the thought of Neal going on a risky op that could take months.
Neal was touched by Peter's concern, but at the same time he was gratified that the FBI was letting him choose a case to work on. Hughes had given him the file, told him to go home and think about it, and let him know in the morning what he wanted to do. There was no threat of jail if he refused the case; nor was there pressure to walk away. After three years, he was finally allowed to choose his own case. In the end it was an easy decision, even with Peter and Mozzie joining forces against him. Neal went back to Hughes the next morning and told him that he was in.
It had taken a month of training before Peter was satisfied that Neal could go in and defend himself. Another three weeks was spent fishing to get him into the group. Eventually, Neal got an interview with Tomilin and impressed the man by convincing a reluctant buyer to pay up the money he owed. That was three months ago, and Neal had quickly worked his way up the system, while he quietly siphoned information back the Bureau.
He had enough information on them now to ensure that everyone in Tomilin's crew would be going to prison for a very long time. They could have closed out this operation three weeks ago, but it was likely Tomilin would have only received a fifteen year sentence. Now that a shipment of children from Russia had been brought in to be sold or used in his sick fantasies, they could put him away for life.
Neal texted Everett to let him know that he had gotten the information they needed to put Tomilin away for good, and that he had the paperwork trail to prove it. It only took five minutes for the agent to text him back; they would meet in Brooklyn for the 'sale' Neal had been working on.
And that's how Neal found himself in the alley, smoking a cigarette. He had to play the nervous, desperate, nicotine-addicted Steve Tabernacle, a wealthy businessman who had just gone through a brutal divorce. He hated smoking, but it was important to keep his cover. He never knew who could be watching. Everett had made it clear that Tomilin was constantly spying on his associates.
To be honest, Neal didn't care for the agent in charge of the operation. Peter and Neal had worked with him once before on a smuggling case. Greg Everett hadn't held it against Neal that he was a convicted felon. In fact, he saw Neal's skills as an asset. The problem Neal had towards the man was his attitude he was often uppity and rude – especially to those lower on the totem pole – but at least Neal knew that Everett wouldn't sell him out.
Peter had been concerned about Neal working for him because he thought that Everett was extremely arrogant. He had a tendency to not want to listen to other people's opinions about how things should go; so far he had been lucky, but eventually that cocky attitude would get him in trouble. Neal wasn't too worried; he knew Peter would be watching the operation every step of the way. Peter was a little over-protective at times but he meant well.
The sound of someone shuffling down the alley broke Neal away from his thoughts and he opened his eyes to see the familiar face of Greg approaching him. Everett was posing as an interested buyer of grenades and C-4. It was a handy cover to arrange for the occasional meeting. "Good to see you, Steve," Everett greeted him. Neal crushed out his cigarette and leaned against the wall.
"Hey Lance," Neal responded easily. Everett looked around to make sure one else was around. Neal had long ago earned the trust of Tomilin to go to meetings alone, but it didn't hurt to be careful. Tomilin had been edgy the past few days; Neal wouldn't have been surprised to 'bump' into one of his associates from the crew in this area of town.
"You ready? Tonight's the big night." At Neal's nod of confirmation, Everett grinned and dug something out of his coat pocket. It was a small, crescent-shaped object. Neal gave him a questioning look. "It's our latest toy. A mini receiver-transmitter. Completely undetectable. Put this in your ear so we can keep track of you when we bust down the doors."
Neal popped the tiny device in his ear. He couldn't even tell it was there. Everett checked to make sure it was well hidden, and clapped him on the shoulder. "Good man. When we come charging in at four, drop to the ground and give yourself up, you got it? That's all you have to do. Then we can go out for drinks after."
"The cargo is in warehouse two," Neal said as Everett handed him an envelope of money. Neal counted it off as he spoke quietly. "They're cordoned off with wire fencing. Two guards, both armed with Glocks and shotguns."
There was a flash of anger in Everett's eyes. "I'll get them out, don't you worry. See you at four." Everett clapped Neal on the back before he walked off. Neal pocketed the money and drove back to give Tomilin the good news about his sale. The exuberance Neal showed Tomilin when he told the older man that he had closed the deal on a weapons and C-4 sale wasn't an act.
Neal couldn't wait to sleep in his own bed, wear his own clothes and have dinner with Peter and Elizabeth. He missed everyone, from Mozzie all the way to the cute girl that worked the counter at the deli near the office. It would be nice to work on something really boring for a while. Mortgage fraud cases would be fantastic. That way he could focus and try to forget some of the things he'd seen since going undercover.
Four o'clock came and went. There was no sign of the feds, and no one had contacted Neal to let him know what was going on. He couldn't ask because Tomilin had dragged everyone into a meeting. He seemed worked up about something, because they had to sit through an hour of discussing security and how breaches were handled.
Fuck Neal thought. Lester had been spooked – or warned. At five the meeting broke for a short dinner. Tomilin wanted everyone back in forty minutes to continue the discussion. Definitely spooked. Neal decided. He would have to try to contact Everett –
" – move out tonight," Tomilin was saying to Ernest Trout. Trout was one of Lester's strongmen. He was not a nice guy, and Neal avoided him as much as possible. The other strongman, Wolfe Gutstein was talking on his cell phone. Neal lingered, trying to find out what was up. "Too dangerous to move the kids. We'll have to get rid of them," Tomilin said. "It's not like I can't get more." He chuckled, and then spotted Neal.
"Tabernacle!" he said in a jovial tone. "I've been meaning to congratulate you on a job well done. You certainly have earned your position. Come, let's get dinner." Refusing would raise suspicions, so Neal dutifully followed Lester to his private office in the warehouse. Trout and Gutstein trailed after them. He wasn't sure whether to be relieved when they continued on their way. He needed to stall. Everett couldn't be much later, could he? Those kids were going to die soon if the FBI didn't show up soon.
"Twenty to thirty minutes, Neal," the voice in his ear startled him. It was Everett. "Sorry for the delay…we had a situation. Can you stall them? We'll be there soon." Then the link went silent. Neal wondered how much Everett had been able to hear. It was going to get very ugly in a few minutes, so he hoped the agent appreciated his efforts tonight.
Lester gestured for Neal to be seated at the polished oak table, where two plates of food already waited for them. Neal sat across from Lester, who gave him a broad smile. "You, Steve, are going to go far in life with me as your backer," Tomilin said. "You've got a real future with us. I want to offer you a bonus for all your hard work."
Neal took a small bite of food and returned Lester's smile with a bright one of his own. Twenty minutes was a long time. What the hell had happened to delay them? "Thank you, Mr. Tomilin. I really appreciate it. But I think there may be something we need to discuss first…"
"Neal! Neal, damn it, answer me!" the voice was irritating. Neal groaned and tried to lift an arm up to swat at Peter, and tell him to go away. He couldn't move his arms. Neal blinked his eyes open. Well, his left eye opened. His right eye was swollen shut. Where…oh. Right. He had confessed to being an informant. Tomilin was furious; he had called Trout and Gutstein back to help him take care of things in his office. Neal couldn't remember much after the blow to his jaw. He remembered being on the floor, and getting kicked in the gut and ribs several times. His world had gone black thanks to the boot that connected with his skull.
"Get up! Come on Neal, I know you can hear me!" it was Peter again. Neal grumbled and tried to wiggle out of the ropes that bound his arms together. Searing pain shot up his arm and he let out a yell, too woozy to try to fight the sound back. It took him far too long to get his hands free. His left wrist was definitely broken, so he could only use one hand to get loose. He had nearly passed out twice, but Peter was persistent. He kept yelling at Neal every time he started to drift off.
"We're here, Neal. Where are you?" Peter asked. Neal untied his feet and rubbed them. Dimly, he noticed that he'd been stripped down to his underwear when he'd been unconscious. That was a little disturbing. Neal stumbled to his feet, and was immediately thrown back to the floor as an explosion rocked the building. The room spun, and he struggled to remain awake. The unpleasant scent of gasoline and smoke hung in the air…and something else. There was screaming in the distance that died off quickly with a last agonized wail. "Neal! Get moving!"
Neal groaned and muttered a complaint against Peter. As he opened his eyes (when had he closed them?), the sound of sirens and gunfire filled the air. Thank god…the cavalry had arrived. Neal chuckled with relief and imagined what Peter would say to him when he found him.
Peter would get that little frown on his face, and his brows would draw together. His eyes would narrow, and that voice would be filled with a mixture of fond exasperation and anger. No doubt Peter would lecture him on how he hadn't taken the training seriously enough. Or that he shouldn't have been the one to go in undercover. Or maybe he'd just make fun of his suits so he could hide his relief that eventually Neal would be all right.
A coughing fit hit him as the smoke finally reached the area he was in. Not good, he thought, and dragged himself to his knees. Gotta move now. If he could find the other fire exit in the warehouse, he would be all right. Hopefully. He didn't let himself think about the children - Hopefully they'd been found before Tomilin and his crew had gotten a chance to torch the other warehouse to hide the evidence.
"Don't stand, Neal. Crawl," Peter instructed him. Imaginary Peter; Peter wasn't anywhere near here. He was glad for the company, even if was pretend. Neal let out a hoarse laugh, and was rewarded with another coughing fit for his efforts. He dragged himself to his knees and began crawling. He couldn't use his left wrist without sparks dancing up in front of his vision. Pain slowed him down, and Neal's vision wavered. When it cleared, he thought he saw Peter standing near him, his black trench coat flapping in the breeze like a cape. Hallucination, Neal decided. There wasn't a breeze in the area, and Peter was just watching him. Real Peter would have helped him up by now.
"You're an idiot, Caffrey," Imaginary Peter said. Neal didn't mind; Peter's insults were a mask to hide his true feelings. Imaginary Peter wasn't doing a stellar job of keeping the worry from his voice, however, and Neal told him so between coughs. He was disoriented in the dark, and he had a feeling he was going in circles. There were a lot of little cubicles and pallets that divided the place up. It was like a maze, and…
"Move faster Neal. You've got to get closer to the exit" Imaginary Peter urged him on. Neal started coughing again. He groaned as his ribs ached. They weren't broken, but they throbbed. He crawled a little farther, following the image of Peter. He was so close…he knew he was…and then his arm gave out. He lay on the floor, dazed, listening to the crackle of flames as they worked their down the aisle of crates. He had to get back up, but he was so tired, and his head hurt so much...
"I'm almost there, Neal," Peter said and Neal suddenly realized the voice was coming from the device he'd place in his ear. Miraculously it had not been damaged when he had the crap kicked out of him. "Come on, I'm almost there! Move away from the fire, Neal!"
He wanted to get up. Cool air blew around him, soothing the heat on his skin from the fire that was getting closer. He was barely able to breathe; his eyes burned and watered. He managed to crawl a few more feet, but then he accidentally put pressure on his broken wrist. With a hoarse cry, Neal slumped to the floor. He couldn't go any further. His vision threatened to melt away completely as he saw a figure approach him. Real Peter was walking towards him, lit up by the hungry flames racing along the wooden pallets. It was too dangerous to be there, and Neal tried to warn his partner to get out, but all that came out was a sad croak.
"Oh Neal. What did they do to you?" Peter said, his voice catching as he quickly checked Neal over for damage. He could feel Peter's hand on his hair, his cheek, and he finally felt safe. Peter helped sit him up. Neal winced as his chest burned with pain. "Easy, I have you," Peter said, and wrapped something around his shaking body. "Come on...we have to get out of here," Peter said as something exploded close by. "Can you stand?"
Neal tried to respond, but ended up coughing instead. Peter held him tightly for a second, waiting until the fit had ended. Then he stood, pulling Neal to his feet. It was too much – Neal's head spun and his legs buckled. Peter caught Neal before he could fall, and cradled him in his arms. Neal wrapped his good arm around Peter's neck and rested his head on his partner's shoulder. He was glad that Peter had come looking for him. He wanted to thank Peter for saving him again, but as they stepped into the cool night air, another coughing fit hit Neal. He wheezed and gasped as the world dimmed. He couldn't catch his breath. The pain began to fade as his eyes slipped shut and he sank helplessly into darkness.