Musings on a Broken Heart
Author's Note: The inspiration for this story suddenly came to me as I was re-watching Peter and Neal's meeting in prison in Withdrawal. Assuming Neal was allowed visitors aside from his FBI handler and attorney, this is what I imagine could have happened had Elizabeth decided to check in on him. I realize it's a bit after-the-fact to be posting this, but I just had to write this down or have the plot bunny pester me until I had done so. Please R&R!
On another note, has everyone watched the sneak peek for next week's episode, Unfinished Business, yet? All I can say is, OH-MY-GOSH!
Disclaimer: I claim no rights to anything White Collar, but a girl can still be in love with Neal Caffrey, right?
"Are you sure you want to do this, Elle?" Peter asked. He pulled the Taurus into the first open spot he could find, turned off the engine, and shifted worriedly to face his wife seated in the passenger seat.
"Of course I'm sure, honey. I haven't seen him since… well, since before all of this happened," Elizabeth answered, smiling softly. "The last time I spoke with him, he was saying goodbye. I'm sure he'll be happy to see a familiar face."
"Alright, but be careful. I don't like the idea of my wife walking into a prison on her own," Peter grumbled. Secretly, though, he was grateful that Elizabeth had decided to visit Neal. Last time he had seen Neal, he'd offered him his old deal: consultant for the FBI (on a tight leash). And Neal had said he'd needed to think about it. Peter couldn't understand what there was to consider, but he hoped that Elizabeth might talk some sense into Neal, if his attorney hadn't already done so.
"I'll be fine, Peter. Pick me up in an hour?" Elizabeth gathered her purse and opened the door, then leaned over to give her husband a quick kiss.
Peter nodded. "Tell Neal I said 'hi' and that I want him to take up our partnership again. Call me when you're ready to leave. I love you."
"I will. I love you, too." Elizabeth stepped out of the car and headed toward the entrance. She briefly glanced back to wave at Peter, then pulled open the door and stepped into the supermax.
Elizabeth had to admit that she was slightly nervous as she waited in the visiting room. She had never been inside of a prison before and though she felt sure that nothing would happen to her while she stayed in this one room, the discolored brick walls, barred windows, and hard bench did nothing to calm her nerves. But she was here for a reason, and thinking of the man she was visiting today forced her to forget her own uneasiness and focus on the anguish he must be suffering.
Suddenly, there were footsteps on the cold floor outside of the door to the visiting room. Elizabeth looked up from her purse and watched anxiously as the guard unlocked the door and led Neal Caffrey inside. He appeared surprised to see her here and she surmised that he had been expecting Peter again or maybe Mozzie. Nonetheless, he smiled at her and seemed genuinely pleased that she had taken the time to check up on him. She smiled at him in return.
As the guard gave Neal a routine pat-down by the doorway, Elizabeth tried to study him without openly staring, but what she saw made her heart ache. He was still irresistibly handsome and the charm could still be mustered up, but his entire person was… different. At first, she'd wanted to laugh and gently rib Neal for donning something so orange and clearly against his usually excellent taste in fashion. Then, her gaze had traveled to lock onto his own, and the expression in his impossibly blue eyes caused her smile to falter. His countenance had brightened upon seeing her, but the sadness and hopelessness in his eyes belied his true feelings. Oh, Neal…
Before she could stand up, Neal had walked over to the opposite side of the table and sat down, taking her left hand in his right and smiling gratefully at her.
"Elizabeth, I didn't expect to see you here," he said, maintaining that cheery expression, all the while knowing that Elizabeth could easily see through his façade.
She squeezed his hand. "How are you, Neal? I wanted to bring you some sandwiches, but Peter wasn't sure if they'd let me in with those. He says, 'hi.'"
"Tell him 'hi' back. And don't worry about me. I'm fine," Neal replied, though she noted that his smile was strained.
"No, you're not, Neal, how could you be?" He allowed his smile to slip slightly. "I'm worried about you. We all are. It's only been two weeks since – " Neal held up his free hand, effectively cutting her off, but she was thankful he had done so anyway. She hadn't wanted to finish her thought – It's only been two weeks since Kate died.
"Please, Elizabeth, let's talk about something else." He was irritated. She nodded. "How is everyone?"
"June and her granddaughter send their love, and Satchmo misses having you take him for a walk," Elizabeth supplied, satisfied at the small smile that graced his features. She worded her next sentence deliberately. "Everyone at the Bureau, including Hughes, wants you back, Neal."
"They do, do they? Knew they couldn't survive without me," he smirked, but his eyes were gazing at a point above her shoulder and Elizabeth guessed that he was thinking of the one person he couldn't survive without.
"Please say you'll consider your old deal again." She paused. "Peter needs his partner."
He glanced back to her face. "Maybe. But I was going to leave, Elizabeth. What sort of a partner does that make me?" He looked away, disappointed in himself.
"A good one," she countered, waiting for him to meet her eyes again. "Neal, you weren't betraying him or anyone else by trying to find Kate. Peter knows that, but he also knows that you can't stay in here forever."
She squeezed his hand again and stared into his eyes for a moment, trying to convey her sympathy and sorrow and love. Finally, she decided it was time to go, and he needed time to think. "I'd better get going. Peter's picking me up soon."
"Right." He stood at the same time she did and Elizabeth couldn't suppress a smile at the gentleman standing before her. She walked around the end of the table and, not caring that the guard sitting at the monitors was watching them, wrapped her arms around Neal and rested her face against his neck. He slowly returned the embrace, and she tried to hold back her tears as she felt the slight shaking of his tall frame.
She tightened her hold and whispered, "I'm sorry she died, Neal."
After a minute, he released her and she saw that his eyes were red and he was taking deep breaths. "Thank you for coming to see me, Elizabeth." He smiled and watched as she exited the room.
"I expect to be seeing you soon, Neal. Take care."
"How's Neal holding up?" Peter almost demanded as soon as Elizabeth was settled in the car. He noticed tear tracks on her face. "Elle, what's wrong, honey?"
She faced him and wiped away the last of her tears with the back of her hand. "I'm okay, Peter, and I think Neal will be, too." Her husband smiled hopefully without another word and turned away to maneuver their car back into midday traffic.
Elizabeth tried to relax in her seat and studied the passing scenery while Peter rambled on about his current case. She realized she was still sniffling, so she reached for a tissue in her purse and flipped open the car visor mirror to salvage her make-up. Only then did she notice a tiny, delicate pink paper lily nestled in the topmost button hole of her winter coat. She carefully removed the flower and placed it on the dashboard in front of her.
Comforted at last, Elizabeth began asking Peter work-related questions as her mind drifted to more peaceful thoughts of Neal. His heart was broken and he would be off his game for a long time to come, but Elizabeth felt certain that he understood that there were those who loved him and would be waiting with open arms to welcome him home.