Peter paced the small quarters of his office. He cursed silently to himself, brow furrowed with worry, body tense. Someone knocked, opening the door. Peter turned to see Hughes standing there, his boss' face stern with a hint of concern.
"Peter, go home. When we find something out, you'll be the first to know." Hughes walked over and patted Peter on the shoulder. Peter looked at the older agent with an angry frown.
"I can't! He trusted me and this... I have to find him, Reese." Peter growled, his brown eyes flashing in anger at the situation. Hughes stepped back but his stern expression didn't change.
"It's not a request, Peter but an order. Don't make this ugly. I want to see him back too. Please, just go home. Calm down. I'll keep you informed. I promise." Reese's voice had dropped a bit near the end, his emotions evident. Peter finally nodded, but he still looked angry. He picked up his jacket and walked out of the office and went down into the lobby. Jones glanced up at him curiously as he passed but Peter was in no mood to socialize. He pulled the glass doors to the outer hallway open and took the stairs.
Peter trotted down the stairs quickly at first then more slowly as he started to calm down a bit. Halfway down he stopped and sat on the step, running a hand through his hair as he thought about what had happened.
It had started out as normal work day, Peter eating breakfast with his wife Elizabeth before going to pick up Neal from June's. Peter kissed his wife good-bye and took off in the Taurus. He made it to June's in record time and honked once, waiting. Ten minutes passed and still no Neal. Peter killed the engine and walked around to June's and knocked. June answered, opening the door with a curious glance.
"Agent Burke. What a pleasant surprise. Did Neal forget something?" She had a surprised look on her face, Peter blinking at her comment.
"I don't think so. Is he ready to go?" Peter had the feeling he was missing something important. June ushered him inside and closed the door.
"Neal already left with the other agents. You didn't know?" She looked worried now, Peter's face expressing confusion.
"Other agents. I didn't authorize him to go with anyone else today. Did Neal tell you anything?" Peter was upset now. Something felt wrong here. He saw June nod.
"He said someone else was picking him up from the Bureau. That he received a message saying you would meet him at wherever they were taking him. Neal looked surprised but not suspicious. They picked him up in a black sedan. I didn't notice the plates. I'm sorry, Peter." June paled slightly but he shook his head and smiled slightly.
"Not your fault. You couldn't have known something was wrong if it looked legit. I didn't text him though." Peter pulled out his cell and dialed a number. He heard it ring and then someone pick up.
"Peter? Hey I... What are you doing?" Peter could hear Neal's voice sounding a bit panicked, movement in the background, the sounds of struggling and then a click as the line went dead. He tried calling back but line kept coming up as busy. Peter cursed and called another number.
"US Marshall's." The voice on the other end was professional and to the point. Peter replied back quickly.
"FBI Agent Peter Burke requesting details on tracker 9305 Alpha. Neal Caffrey." He heard typing on the other end and then the voice reply back.
"Agent Burke, tracker 9305 Alpha has just gone offline. Do you request back up?" Peter turned and looked at June, her eyes wide with curiosity but he just shook his head, speaking clearly.
"No. Where did the tracker go offline? Is there a location?" He listened to the report, frowning.
"Thank you." Peter hung up and started back for the door. June stopped him, her hand gently grabbing his arm.
"Peter, is Neal ok?" Her voice cracked with emotion, Peter looking at her helplessly.
"June, I don't know. I'll call you when I know more." He felt her fingers release his arm, his own hand reaching to grasp hers.
"Don't worry. You know I'll find him." He gave her a fierce grin, her expression brightening some.
(Earlier that morning...)
Neal woke up early in anticipation of his ride to work with Peter. They had a new case that involved visiting the MoMA. It had him intrigued if not happy to visit a place he rarely got to see. He had barely gotten out of bed and pulled on his robe when he heard his cell vibrating. He picked it up off the nightstand and saw a new text.
"Neal, change of plans. I have a car coming to pick you up early. The agents will fill you in. - Peter"
Neal blinked, looking at the message briefly and shrugged. He jumped into the shower, groomed and picked out a dark blue suit from the wardrobe. He matched it with a dark pinkish red shirt and black skinny tie with reddish stripes. He looked in the mirror and smiled. Neal was excited about working, Peter giving him more leeway lately. He was learning to be more by the book although Neal still strayed when it helped to make things more interesting. Hughes seemed happy with him as well. He turned from the mirror as he heard a soft knock and the door open.
"I think your ride is here. Peter isn't picking you up today?" She looked curious, the young man shrugging.
"Apparently something came up. I think I'm meeting him there. He arranged for some other agents on the case to pick me up." He sounded a bit disappointed, flipping his hat up onto his head with his usual flair. Still he had a small frown on his face underneath that mask he wore. June gently brushed a bit of lint off his shoulder and straightened his lapels.
"I'm sure it's nothing. Just behave yourself. Ok?" She winked at him, Neal grinning back.
"You know I always do, June." He bent down to kiss her on the cheek, walking arm and arm down the stairs with her. At the bottom she hugged him gently and watched him leave. When he walked over to the official looking black sedan, he turned briefly seeing June there in the doorway waving at him. He waved back and smiled, only turning back when one of the agent's coughed impatiently at him. Neal narrowed his eyes at the man, slipping into the back seat, another agent slipping in after him. He stopped halfway, another agent already in the back seat when he entered the vehicle and two more in the front including the one who had coughed at him. It was cozier than he expected.
"So, Peter sent you to take me to the Museum. What's keeping him?" Nobody said anything, both agents on either side of him staring ahead or out the window silently. All of them wore sunglasses, another factor that made Neal slightly nervous. He liked seeing people's eyes. Eyes were the window to a person and right now he was feeling like someone had boarded up the windows so he wouldn't see something he needed to. He glanced up at the rear-view mirror as the driver coughed.
"You'll be meeting up with Agent Burke soon. Just sit back and enjoy the ride, Mr. Caffrey." The agent's voice was terse and to the point, Neal nodding but feeling that something was going on. Why would Peter have this many agents pick him up? He wasn't going to run. He twitched slightly as his phone vibrated in his pocket. He pulled it out and answered.
"Peter? Hey I... What are you doing?" He had barely answered the call when the agent to his right grabbed the cell, Neal fighting him for it. The agent on the left grasped one arm around his waist, his other hand held something metallic. Neal didn't have time to react as he felt the item touch the back of his neck. The taser stunned him, the first agent successfully taking his phone and throwing it out the window. Neal felt the taser hit him again, the young man slumping against the one who had taken his phone.
"We meant to ask you nicely but if Burke's already calling you, we don't have time for niceties." Neal tried to raise his head but the agent on this right pulled him close, pushing a cloth over his nose and mouth. A sickly sweet smell filled Neal's nostrils as he fought weakly then felt the world swirling into a deep black hole. He heard one last thing before he passed out.
"This is Agent Thomas. Yes, turn it off. Thanks."
Peter knew that the vehicle that had Neal would already be gone from the last known location of the tracker. He drove straight to the office, calling Jones along the way to let him know what was up.
"So he didn't run. I was going to call you but when we got the report they said you had already checked in as it happened. How did you know?" Jones sounded curious. Peter just sighed.
"I didn't. June told me Neal had been picked up by some 'other' agents. I called him and he barely said two words before his captors took out his phone if not him. Something stinks here, Jones. I'll be there soon."
Peter looked over the data on the screen showing Neal's path from June's to the last known spot before his tracker went offline. Jones looked confused as well. They pulled up the traffic camera information but it seemed the car had managed to avoid any obvious tracking by taking routes that only showed side views if not overhead views of the vehicle. There was nothing remotely distinctive about the car other than it was a plain black sedan. Peter cursed, slamming his hand on the desk. Jones jumped as did a few other agents.
"Peter calm down. We'll find out what happened." Jones would have said more but there was a cough from behind as Hughes walked up. Peter turned to look at his superior, the older man reaching out to put a hand on his shoulder.
"Burke, I need to talk to you in my office." Hughes saw Jones standing up and motioned for him to sit back. Peter whispered quickly.
"Find me those phone records, Jones. Thanks." He followed Hughes up the stairs to his office, Hughes closing the door behind them and closing the blinds.
"This is in strictest confidence I tell you this. I've already scanned this room for bugs before you got here. You're not going to like this, Peter." Reese sat in the chair nearest Peter and motioned for him to sit. Peter sat, his eyes on Hughes.
"Reese, what's going on? Why all the dramatics?" Peter was upset, his manner tense. Reese held up a hand.
"Peter, remember Neal made the deal with OPR and Fowler?" Hughes sighed tiredly.
"It wasn't legit. Neal's supposed to be working with me here as a consultant. Why is this coming up again?" Peter was about to stand but Reese pushed him back down.
"Peter, they decided to make it legit. Someone involved with that operation took him. That's all I know. I have it on good authority they mean to use him under the workings of Operation Mentor." Hughes watched Peter rise, his face flushing red in anger.
"They kidnapped him? They sent a message to him as me! He didn't know what he was getting into, Reese! I need to find him!" Peter was angry, hitting his hand on the desk before he dropped back into the seat, hands gripping the armrests in impotent rage. Hughes reached out but Peter shrugged him off.
"I can't sit here, Reese. They took my partner! I have to find him." Peter tried to move past but Hughes stopped him.
"Peter, calm down! You don't think I'm not angry about this? Go home and cool off. I'm waiting for some calls about who might have him." Hughes was being reasonable, Peter nodding sullenly as he left the office and walked next door to his own. He closed the door, closed the blinds and paced, cursing to himself.
This wasn't fair to Neal. Peter had promised him protection after what happened and now he's been taken by the people who most likely killed Kate.
Neal woke up to the sound of people talking around him. His head hurt, temples throbbing, ears ringing. A slight nausea overcame him but he held it back, feeling something like cloth stuffed in his mouth. His lips were sealed with what he thought must be tape. Neal continued to lay there, vertigo making him feel like he was laying on a huge spinning wheel, even though his eyes were still closed.
"Burke is smart. He'll figure out what happened. This was a dangerous move!"
Their voices were soft, hushed whispers but near enough he could still pick up enough of their conversation. Neal tried to move but felt himself securely strapped to some kind of cot or gurney. He tried to get his eyes to open but his eyelids felt heavier than normal.
"Burke knows nothing. Besides, we have permission to put him out of commission if necessary. It has to look like an 'accident,' ok?"
Neal felt himself stiffen at the comment, trying to move his body but still unable to respond. He stopped struggling, what little energy he had leaving him. Neal shifted slightly hearing a soft creak as he moved. The voices went quiet a moment.
"He's waking up!"
Neal heard hurried footsteps nearing. Suddenly a hand grasped his chin and turned his head to one side, baring his neck. He struggled weakly, someone dabbing his neck with what smelled like alcohol. Soon after he felt something jab his skin, warmth emanating from the site as the drug took effect. Neal felt them let go, his head lolling to one side as he felt consciousness fade to silence.
He heard someone calling him. He struggled to wake up.
"Neal... wake up."
The voice sounded somewhat annoyed. It was familiar.
He opened his eyes and found himself looking up at several blurry figures in suits. He shifted as much as he could against his bonds but they drew closer, his vision beginning to focus on their faces. They wore masks, each person dressed as someone he knew. One of them looked like Peter, another like Hughes and the last one like Jones. He looked up at them curiously unsure of what to think. The one that looked like Peter suddenly punched him hard in the stomach. Neal gave a muffled groan through his gag when the other two started to take turns punching him in the chest and stomach as well.
Neal couldn't do anything to defend himself as he lay strapped to the gurney. Nobody spoke but he just saw those blank faces, the masks that looked like his friends and coworkers pummeling him as he fell into unconsciousness.
Neal woke up sometime later, eyes staring blankly as he twitched against his bonds. There were electrodes connected to his head and body, along with several IV drips. His body shuddered in response to something traumatic, several men in white suits approaching him, one of them baring his neck as another swabbed it and injected him with a syringe. Neal continued to twitch until whatever the drug was took effect and his eyes rolled back and closed. His face contorted slightly as if he were in pain, eyes moving beneath closed lids.
"He's not reacting well. If he's going to work for us, we need him to follow directions. He can't refuse orders." A man in a dark suit spoke to one of the physicians in white coats. He seemed to be in charge. The Dr nodded.
"We're doing what we can but his history shows him to be non-violent. I can't guarantee a change in something that is vital to his character." The doctor saw the man in the suit nod stiffly.
"Just do what needs to be done."
Everyday, they came and beat him up. He was helpless to do anything as he lay on the gurney. The one that had Peter's face liked to pinch his nostrils so he couldn't breath. Neal could do nothing to fight them, his brain beginning to think Peter and those he trusted had really come to kill him. He had nightmares about Peter chasing him, Hughes standing on the sidelines with Jones ready to join in on the torture. He winced at the thought, the pain incredible and yet someone was there to help him. He didn't know who but they had a kind voice. The man said he wouldn't let his friend's hurt him anymore if he just listened. Neal wasn't sure what the catch was but after several days he didn't care. The man seemed more than happy to help him. Neal could only just see the man's shape, his face hidden behind a white mask.
"Who are you? Why are you helping me?" Neal croaked after a particularly bad session. He could barely speak but the man brought him water and tended his wounds as he lay there. The man just shushed him, calming him down, the gold ring on his finger (an FBI pin forged on a band of gold) almost a security when he saw it. Neal came to look forward to the man's arrival. Then one day the man came to talk to him one last time.
"I'm going to have to leave you for a while, Neal." The man's voice was final, Neal struggling to free himself but the man touched his forehead gently, the cool metal of the ring comforting against his skin. He calmed down a bit, leaning back against the gurney. Neal was exhausted. The man had a small vial in his hand, opening it up and holding it to Neal's lips.
"Drink this and you'll forget till the time is right." Neal nodded at the man's words, trusting him as he drank the bitter liquid. The man gently caressed his hair and spoke to him softly.