Disclaimer: I do not own White Collar.
"El?" Peter called out as they entered the door and walked through the entryway. "Must be upstairs." They walked into the kitchen and he helped Neal get settled at the table, "I'm going to go find, El. You going to be alright for a few minutes?"
Neal's head was pounding, he was slightly dizzy but he managed to smile at Peter and waived him away. "I'm good."
Peter eyed him for a couple of seconds before relenting and disappearing through the doorway, a second later Neal could hear him jogging up the stairs.
Neal sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose, trying not to hit the bandage on his forehead. He glanced across the table at a box Elizabeth had laying out. He reached across and brought it closer to himself, brushed some of the dirt off the top and opened the lid to find a pile of old pictures inside. The picture on top was flipped over and his eyes crinkled in confusion as he read the names on the back, Peter and Paul.
"Must be Peter's brother." He glanced back towards the stairs to make sure he was still alone before reaching in and pulling the picture out. He flipped it over and stared at it in shock, he had seen this picture before, in fact he had the same one at home tucked away in his closet. He stood up from the chair he was sitting in and stumbled backwards until he came to a rest against the wall. "That's not possible."
His hand was shaking as he brought the picture up to look at again, he closed his eyes, but when he opened them his younger self and his older brother were staring back at him. His head turned towards the stairs when he heard Elizabeth laugh. "Peter." He whispered. He flipped the picture over again and lightly traced his fingers across the writing, "Peter and Paul." He choked out as a tear slid down his face. "No." He shook his head and made his way back into the entryway; he let the picture fall to the floor and took off out the front door, slamming it shut behind him.
"Neal?" Peter called out as he jogged down the stairs, Elizabeth hot on his heels.
"What's this?" Peter bent down and picked up the picture Neal had dropped and handed it to Elizabeth. "What's this picture doing out?"
"Oh, no." Elizabeth put a hand to her mouth, suddenly knowing exactly why Neal had left and shocked at what it meant.
"We need to talk." She grabbed Peter's arm and pulled him into the kitchen. "Sit."
"I don't need to sit, El."
"Trust me Peter." She pushed him into the chair. "You're going to want to sit down for this."
She sat across from him at the table. "About a week ago I asked Nancy to help me find your brother."
"What?" Peter's eyes were laced with anger as they stared in Elizabeth's direction.
"I was only trying to help, Peter." Elizabeth pleaded for his understanding.
Peter crossed his arms. "And what did she find that I couldn't after searching all these years?"
Elizabeth took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "She gave me the address to the house you grew up in."
Peter sat back in his chair, a pained expression on his face. "And what did you find there?"
"I found answers." She paused and looked at her husband. "And more questions."
"My past is full of questions and very little answers, El."
She reached across the table and took Peter's hand in her own. "I know, but I think I've found an answer to one of your biggest questions."
Peter scrunched his face up in confusion. "What's that?"
She slid the picture across the table to Peter, the one that Neal had been looking at earlier. "I found him." She tapped the picture a few times where Peter's brother was standing.
Peter's eyes grew wide. "That's impossible."
A tear slid down Elizabeth's cheek and she brushed it away. "Mozzie came to see me and wanted to know why I had been visiting the house that Neal owned." She held up a hand to keep Peter from asking another question. "Yes, Neal owns a house. He owns the house that you grew up in."
Peter shook his head, and then looked down at the picture again. "What are you trying to say, El?"
"I'm not completely sure." She sighed. "But I believe that Neal is your brother, Peter."
"It can't be."
"Believe what you want." She tugged the picture out of her husband's grasp and stared at it fondly. "But why does Neal just happen to own the same house you lived in as a child and why did Neal leave in such a hurry after looking at this picture?"
Peter was silent for several seconds, unable to find an answer to Elizabeth's questions. His phone started buzzing in his pocket; he flipped it open and brought it to his ear. "Burke."
Peter sighed and scrubbed a hand over his eyes. "How long ago?"
"Thank you. Keep me informed." He shut the phone and stared at Elizabeth. "Neal cut off his ankle monitor."
Peter ran a hand through his hair. "I have to find him before they do." He shrugged. "I have no idea where to look." His voice filled with emotion as he struggled to deal with the implications that Elizabeth had presented to him.
Elizabeth stood up from the table and grabbed Peter's arm. "Follow me." She stopped in front of the door and handed Peter the car keys and the picture that had started the whole event. "You'll find him, where you lost him."
Peter cocked his head to the side in confusion.
Elizabeth smiled and spoke again. "You'll find Paul, where you lost him."
Peter's eyes grew red and a lone tear slipped out of the corner of his eye, Elizabeth stood on tiptoes and kissed his cheek. "Go find your brother." She whispered.
Peter nodded. "You're an amazing woman, El." He kissed her on the lips.
"I know." She grinned, "Now go." She pushed her husband towards the doorway.
Elizabeth turned back towards the kitchen just as the phone rang. "Hello?" She smiled as she heard the familiar voice on the other end. "Nancy, it's so good to hear from you." She paused as her friends voice filtered through from the other end. "I think we should meet for dinner, Nancy. I've got some interesting news to tell you also."
Peter pulled into the driveway of the little blue house that he had lived in through his teenage years, the house he had only driven by twice since the day they had left. His heart started to race in his chest as he saw the lone figure sitting on the porch swing and he knew without a doubt that person was Neal.
He climbed out of the vehicle and approached the house slowly; Neal sat on the porch swing his head down and resting in the palm of his hand.
"You cut off your monitor." Peter inwardly cringed at his choice of opening conversation.
Neal slowly raised his head, his eye and the side of his face where the bandage wasn't covering already starting to bruise from where he had hit it earlier. He squinted towards Peter, his head aching as he stared out into the late afternoon sun. "So, where's the cavalry?"
"I told them I could handle it."
Peter walked a few steps closer to the house. "Can I come up?" He motioned towards the porch.
Neal slid over on the swing. "Sure."
The steps creaked as Peter stepped onto the porch. He made his way over to the swing, took a deep breath and sat down next to Neal.
"You left in a hurry." Peter said after a couple seconds of silence.
Neither person wanted to ask the question that had brought them here, but Peter knew it was inevitable, either Neal was his long lost brother or he wasn't. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the picture and handed it to Neal. "You know these people?"
Neal's hand trembled slightly as he took the picture from Peter and flipped it over. "Yeah, it says Peter and Paul." He handed the picture back to Peter.
Peter pushed Neal's hand away. "Take a closer look."
Neal shrugged his breath quickening as he looked at the two smiling kids in the photograph. "It's just two kids sitting on a porch, Peter."
"They're sitting on the porch of this house, Neal." He took the picture from Neal and ran his finger over it softly.
"And?" Neal turned his head away and looked out over the field and the neighbor's house down the road.
Peter sighed; Neal wasn't going to make this easy.
"And I think you know who they are."
Peter leaned back as Neal shot up from his seat on the swing, grabbing onto the railing for support as the world tipped around him. He reached over and grabbed the picture out of Peter's hand and pointed to the little boy, "This is me." He stared at Peter a dark look overtaking his features. "You tell me who this is, Peter."
The older man stood up from the swing, his heart thudding in his chest as he faced his long lost younger brother.
"It's me, Neal." The words were choked out and barely made it past his lips.
"I know." Neal spoke the words through clenched teeth.
The look on Neal's face turned to anger and Peter realized a second too late as Neal's fist connected with the side of his face, sending him sprawling across the porch.
Peter shook his head and rubbed his jaw, "You sure hit a lot harder then you did as a kid."
Neal squinted down at Peter, his head pounding as he leaned heavily against the railing. "How long have you known?"He absently wiped away a bead of sweat as it rolled down the side of his face.
"I just found out today, Neal." Peter pushed himself into a sitting position with a groan. "It was actually El who put all the pieces together."
"You bastard." Neal bent over and placed his hands on his knees for support as he took in deep breaths, the whole time staring Peter in the face.
"You told me you wouldn't leave." Neal's eyes rolled back and he pitched forward.
"Neal!" Peter managed to jump forward from his sitting position and just barely caught the other man before he cracked his head on the porch.
The bedroom door creaked open and Paul opened his tear filled eyes as his older brother walked into the room, closing the door behind him and shutting out the yelling between the two adults in the other room.
Peter took a seat on the edge of the bed, lightly placing his hand on the little boy's shoulders."It's going to be ok, Paul."
Paul sat up in bed and hugged the older boy. "Momma said." The little boy hiccupped and sniffled before continuing. "That she was going to leave."
Peter pulled his little brother close, "Nobody's going to leave, Paul."
Peter's gaze drifted uncertainly around the room before settling back on his brother. "Yeah, I promise."
"Mhhm." Neal groaned as his eyes became adjusted to the light shining down from the ceiling above him. He raised himself up on his elbows and wondered briefly how he had come to be lying on the couch in the living room.
"Peter?" He called out, but his only answer was the silence echoing around him.
Neal sat up and was relieved that the room wasn't spinning around him anymore as he wobbly pushed himself to his feet. He walked to the front door, turned on the porch light as the evening was quickly fading into night and could clearly see Peter's vehicle still parked in the driveway.
He jumped when a voice came from the direction of the porch swing. "Good to see you're still alive."
Neal snorted as he stepped out onto the porch. "How'd you get me inside?"
Peter scooted over to make room for the younger man on the swing. "I dragged you by your feet."
"You did not." Neal huffed as he took a seat next to Peter.
Peter laughed and shook his head, and then immediately sobered. "I didn't leave you because I wanted to Neal."
Neal nodded and took a deep breath. "I know."
"Do you?" Peter shot back. "Did you know that the day after we left I stole a car and drove back here for you?"
"We were already gone."
"I know." Peter stared out into the night, his mind replaying the memory of his younger self sitting in that same driveway for over an hour until he gave up and drove back to his mother.
"Where'd he take you, Neal?"
Neal sniffed and swallowed several times. "A couple different places before he finally dropped me off at grandma's house."
"I never met his mother." He turned his gaze towards his younger brother. "Was she good to you?"
"She was." Neal sighed. "Dad ended up in jail, grandma changed our names and then we disappeared."
Peter shook his head. "I'm so sorry, Neal."
"It wasn't your fault, Peter."
"I've been thinking about that night over and over again all these years, Neal." Peter ran a hand over his face. "I should have done something."
Neal turned to Peter. "You came back for me, Peter, that's all that matters."
"I was too late."
A tear ran down Neal's face as the memories from his childhood flooded back. "You might have been too late for Paul." He pointed a finger at his older brother's chest. "But, you saved Neal."
Peter felt a small piece of himself start to heal at his brother's words; he laid an arm across Neal's shoulders and pulled the younger man close. "Thanks Buddy."
"She didn't want to leave you, Neal."
Neal quickly raised a hand to stop Peter from talking anymore. "I don't want to talk about her right now." His jaw was set and determined. "I just want to keep the few good memories I have of her, just for a little while longer." He explained as he turned a pleading look towards Peter.
A sad look crossed Peter's face before he nodded. "I understand."
Peter drew in a breath and stretched his arms out before him. "We should be getting back before Elizabeth starts to worry."
Neal nodded and then yawned, the day's events finally starting to catch up to him. Peter smiled and slapped him on the back. "Are you staying the night?"
"Sure." Neal said as Peter stood up and offered him a hand.
"Good." Peter laughed. "Because once El sees your face, she isn't going to let you leave."
Peter smiled as Neal groaned. "Go get in the car, I'll turn off the lights and lock up."
"Thanks." An exhausted Neal mumbled as he walked down the porch steps and in the direction of Peter's vehicle.
The older man stepped into the house and rested his hand against the light switch as he gazed around the room.
A younger Peter was sitting on the couch when his mom and step dad came home from the hospital, carrying his little brother.
His mother sat down on the couch beside him, "Do you want to hold him, Peter."
He grinned and nodded eagerly.
She laid the little bundle in Peter's arms. "Make sure you cradle his head."
Peter did as he was told and stared mesmerized at his little brother. "He's so little."
His mother grinned as she ran a finger down the side of Paul's face. "You're the big brother now, Peter, you need to protect your little brother."
"I will." He whispered.
Peter shook the memory away and flipped off the light, "I will protect him, and never again will he be alone."
He shut and locked the door behind him.
Neal climbed into the car, put his seatbelt on and close his eyes with a sigh.
"Daddy if we leave how is momma and Peter going to find us?"
The older man chuckled. "They're not coming back, don't you get that Paul."
Paul shook his head. "Peter will come back, he promised."
"Peter doesn't care about you, neither of them do." Paul jumped back when the car door slammed shut.
"You're wrong." The little boy said, hot tears streaming down his face. "Bubba will find me."
Neal's eyes shot open when Peter got in next to him and shut the door. "Ready to go?"
Neal straightened in his seat and nodded. "I've been ready for a long time."