Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!
HERE BE SPOILERS FOR "POINT BLANK"! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Disclaimer: Not mine. Although when I begin my career as a highly successful con artist, this is gonna be the first thing I steal. Mwuhahaha.
A/N: Okay, so, this is officially my first foray into writing for the White Collar fandom. I absolutely ADORED the finale (so long as it has the appropriate outcome where the lovely Moz is concerned), and I felt I had to write something. However, be warned, this fic is not so good. I'd say mediocre at best, but I figured I'd post it anyway (because mediocre fic is better than no fic at all, right?) and hope that I get better at WC fanfic with practice. (Btw, reviews help let me know what I'm doing right/wrong, *hinthint*) So, without further ado *drum roll*…
There were rarely any times in which Peter Burke felt helpless. As an FBI agent you quickly learn that there is always something you can do. Calm down a victim, interrogate a suspect, outwit the Bad Guy. There's a lead to follow, a clue to find, or a gut instinct to pursue. There is always something you can do, even if that something is simply calling for backup.
So that's what Peter had done. He called for backup.
And now he was waiting. Waiting, and pacing, and trying not to tear all his hair out as an overwhelming feeling of helplessness washed over him.
He knew it was irrational. He had nothing to feel guilty for. It wasn't his fault that the last few days (months, intermittently) had been Hell. It wasn't his fault Mozzie got shot. And it wasn't his fault it was breaking Neal.
Logically, he knew this.
That didn't make it any easier.
Peter tried not to look at Neal, but his eyes seemed to be ignoring that command, because he could barely seem to glance away before being drawn back to the sight of him.
It was pointless, at best. Neal hadn't moved in nearly an hour. Not since a nurse had uttered the words "critical" and "operating room", and Neal had collapsed on a bench, right there in the hallway outside OR. He lay curled up on his side, legs drawn up and pressed against his chest, and fists clenched tight like he was trying to keep something trapped inside.
He probably was. Peter hadn't failed to notice how Neal kept his breathing slow and even, but had yet to cry. His too-blue eyes were wide and dry and horribly vacant, staring at the opposite wall in such a way that even though Peter was not six feet away from him, he couldn't help but think "Where did Neal go?"
A clock at the end of the hall ticked away incessantly, obscenely loud. Where the hell was his backup?
Peter sighed, and continued his pacing.
He'd tried comforting Neal.
Comfort wasn't his strong suit. In fact, one may go so far as to say he was rather inept at it, if the instance with El's friend Dana was any indication.
That's not to say he didn't try. He did. Sometimes he was even relatively successful. Eventually. If directed properly.
It was barely a year into their marriage when El's mother passed away. Peter hadn't known what to do. Elizabeth kept crying, even after the funeral, and he couldn't figure out what set it off, or how to stop it. He brought her flowers, and cooked her dinner, and bought her presents, and tried everything he could think of to get her to stop crying and start smiling again. Then finally, two weeks after the funeral, for no reason at all that Peter could see, El suddenly burst into tears as he was doing the dishes, and that horrible feeling of helplessness made him snap. He'd flung his hands out of the dishwater, spraying suds all over the kitchen, and not caring as he ran soggy lemon-scented hands through his hair "How do I fix this El?" She'd startled at the volume of his voice, but he barely noticed. "I don't know what to do to make this better. Please, just tell me what to do."
Her face was shocked, and tear-stained and beautiful when she replied "Just be here," like it was the simplest thing in the world. So Peter ignored the dishes and sat next to her on the couch, and let her sob into his shoulder for an hour, scared to say anything and scared to move, and scared he was doing it all wrong.
He was happy but horribly confused when the next day she smiled like she hadn't smiled in weeks.
But Peter didn't know how to comfort Neal. He'd been there when Kate's plane exploded, but that wasn't about comfort then. When Neal turned to see the fire engulf the wreckage, he'd run towards it. Peter had known immediately that Kate was gone, and he knew that the logical part of Neal's mind did too. But as Neal frantically tried to get out of Peter's hold and to the flames, he realized it wasn't about saving Kate. There was nothing left of her to save.
It was about going with her.
Peter had already known that Neal would follow Kate to the ends of the Earth. He wished he could have been more surprised to discover that he'd follow her even beyond that.
Peter had held on tighter, tight enough that he was sure the kid would have bruises in the morning. He didn't care so long as it meant he got nowhere near those flames. It was Peter's job to make sure Neal kept to the terms of his probation.
And death was definitely outside his two miles.
So when Kate's plane exploded, Peter just held on like his own life depended on it, while Neal screamed like the world was ending. He screamed even as the firemen put out the flames, and another agent pried him from Peter's tired arms. He kept screaming as they put the cuffs on him, though his voice had gone hoarse from use.
That hadn't been about comfort. That had been about survival.
So when Neal first curled up on the bench, Peter hesitantly reached out to touch him, but ran his hands through his hair again instead. He tried to talk to him, to offer him some solace in words, but after "Neal, I-" he stopped, unsure what to say. He didn't want to make false promises of uncertain outcomes, or give him empty platitudes that were worth less than the breath with which they were spoken. So Peter had sighed, and called in backup, and paced.
And speaking of, where the hell was his backup? What was taking so long?
Just as he debated calling again, he glanced once more down the hallway and felt an enormous weight lifted from his shoulders.
Backup had arrived.
El looked beautiful as always, as she strode quickly down the hallway, her long coat flying back behind her, and her face etched with worry.
She met his eyes for the briefest of moments and must have seen his desperate plea of 'Help Me', and she brushed his shoulder with a gentle hand as she passed him by.
One glance at Neal, and she was crouched beside him in an instant, her face level with his, blocking his view of the wall.
She didn't hesitate when she reached out to cup the side of his face with one hand, as the other came up to brush through his mess of dark hair. "Neal?"
For the first time in over an hour, Neal's eyes focused, as he brought them up to El's face. She smiled at him. "Hey, Sweetheart." As soon as she had his attention she moved to sit next to him, and Neal came back to himself.
Peter watched as Neal's carefully crafted walls crumbled, his body trembling, and his breath coming in gasps, while his eyes overflowed and tears fell down delicate cheekbones. He reached for Elizabeth and she pulled him to her, letting him bury his face in her neck as he sobbed and clung to her like a child.
She rocked him, rubbing circles on his back, saying "I know baby, I know."
She didn't make him any false promises either, but maybe just being there really was enough.
Then again, maybe it was because like Neal said one day- "Elizabeth gives the best hugs".
Peter was still horribly confused.
But an hour later, Neal cried himself into an exhausted sleep, and lay with his head pillowed on El's thigh while she kept running her fingers through his hair. Both their faces were tear-stained, Peter noticed, when El brought hers up to look at him.
"Find him, Peter," she told him in a quiet but steely voice. "Find the bastard that keeps hurting Neal, and put him away for the rest of his God-damned life."
Peter met his wife's eyes and nodded. "I will."
The last of the helplessness faded away to be replaced by something else.
He would get the Bad Guy, and he would make him pay for what he's done.
After all, that was his job.
Peter smiled, and leaned down to kiss El's cheek.
Really, sometimes the best thing you could do is call for backup.