Author's Note: This chapter has an angel in it. I told my sister about this story and she said I should put a note in about it, just in case it offended some people.
*&%)&%( &*%*&(%$*&()%*)( %(%*)(% (*&%*(%*() %*&%*()%^ &*%%*&
*&%*&%%& &*%&%)&*(% &%*&%*)% &%)%&()%(& ^$&*($$^* )*%&)%)
Dreading the conversation that was about to take place, Neal answered the phone.
"Hey Peter." He said, trying to sound innocent.
"What the hell where you thinking?" Peter's voice hissed.
"I have to help her, Peter." Neal said.
"The Marshals called me." Peter's angry voice said. "Told me where you were and asked me if they should send out an armed unit to drag your butt back to prison. Now tell me how that would have helped Amy."
"I knew you would tell them not too." Neal admitted. "I knew you had my back." There was silence on the other end. "Peter?"
"Did you just admit the truth to me?" Peter's slightly surprised voice asked.
"Without me threatening you?"
"It's Christmas time."
"You really do take Christmas seriously, don't you?"
"I am still pissed."
"And this conversation is far from over."
"Be at my house in fifteen minutes, not a second later." Then the phone went dead.
^&&^$%*& ^&$%&$(% %*%*($*%*(*)$ %*$*$*)%))% &*$%*$*&%$&*$*(% %(*%&%*&%)% &*%%&*%*&)^ &*%*&%()^) )(*&%*^%)*% ^%)(^)^ &%()!
Neal stood nervously on the Burke's doorstep, working up the nerve to enter the house. He normally just barged in, mainly to irritate Peter. But right now, he did not want to agitate him any more then he already was.
Taking a deep breath, he rang the doorbell. A few moments later, El opened the door and stepped aside so he could enter.
"How mad is he?" Neal whispered. Then he saw the sadness in her eyes. "What's wrong?"
"Come into the living room." El said, gently placing a hand on his shoulder and leading him into the room. Peter was already there, and he too looked saddened.
"Neal." Peter said. "I spoke with Detective Mason a couple minutes ago, he believes that Amy Peterson is dead."
"What makes him think that?" Neal asked.
"He had a lead as too where Kent was holding her, waiting on Talbot to pick her up. When the police arrived, they found that the house had been set on fire. It was badly burned, but they could still tell that the house was shot full of holes before the fire was set. They found four bodies inside, all four were too badly burned to id yet. But the remains of one was the same height as Amy."
"The other three were probably Kent and the two other men he hired to grab Amy." Neal said. "I just assured a six-year-old that I would do my best to bring her sister home."
"You were trying, Neal." El said. "That's all anyone could do."
"Try explaining that to a child whose life is collapsing around her." Neal snapped, turning around and heading to the door.
"Neal." El said, walking after him.
"I need some time alone." He said, without stopping. Neal left the house, slamming the door behind him.
Peter chased after him, worried about the sudden outburst. Peter made it outside just in time to see Neal climb into he back of a taxi. With a frustrated sigh, Peter went back inside the house.
&%*&%*&) *$*&$%*%(*%* *&%*&%)*%& *&)%*)%(% ^&$($(&$ (^$(*^$*(
*&%*(%*)%)%)& &*%)*%*(%)*(&% )%)(*%*%()%%&() ()&%(%() )&%*)&%)
Neal sat in the back of the taxi and closed his eyes, trying to push back painful memories. He hadn't meant to snap at El, he was angry at himself for doing it. Neal's phone rung, but he didn't answer it. He just turned the ringer off, he needed to be alone right now.
The cab ride only lasted twenty minutes.
"We're here Bud." The cabbie said, as he parked in front of the entrance to a cemetery.
Neal paid him and climbed out of the cab, without saying a word. He walked into the cemetery and walked down a vary familiar path, stopping at the very back of the cemetery. He sat down on the ground beside one of the headstones and looked at it, his eyes watering.
"Hey, Mom." He said. "Sorry, I didn't bring any flowers with me today. I tried to make Christmas special, but I failed."
Neal gently ran a hand over the smooth polished service of the stone.
"It's almost Christmas, and some animal just murdered a teenage girl What's the point of trying? What's the point of loving Christmas, when most people see it as just another day?"
Neal sat there for several minutes, starring at the headstone. His mind was whirling with questions and doubts. Maybe he had been wrong, maybe his Mom had been wrong, maybe Christmas wasn't a time for love and kindness. Maybe Christmas was just another day, another day for lies and hatred.
"What do I do Mom?" Neal asked, his voice thick with emotion. "I want to still believe, but it's hard. How can I keep pretending that Christmas is so special? How can I keep lying to myself?"
Neal stood up, and turned to walk off. "I'm sorry Mom. I'm sorry I failed you." Then he walked away.
&^&^$%(%%*^%* (&^%$(&$(&$ ^&$&^$*$ $^&$($$*^^$ ^&$&*$$^ ^%&^ (&$&*$*& *%*%*%* %^*&%*%) )(*%*)% ^()^)(*^()*^ *&%*%) &*%*%*&
June heard the front door open and walked into the foyer and say that it was Neal. Peter had called her and told her what had happened, and asked her to keep an eye on Neal.
"Hello Neal." June smiled, noticing that the young man looked nothing like his usual self. His eyes lacked the spark of mischief that was usually present. "I was just about to bake some gingerbread cookies, care to help me?"
"Not right now, June." He said, walking past her and towards the stairs.
"Neal." June called out.
Neal stopped halfway up the stairs, but did not turn around.
"If you want to talk, I am here." June said.
"I know. And thanks. But right now I just need time to think." Then he continued up the stairs and to his room.
Neal walked into his room and frowned at the cheerful decorations. A large tree sat in the middle of the room, garland and colorful glass balls hung from everywhere, Christmas cards were hanging on the walls, and stringed lights outlined the fireplace.
Having been in prison the past few Christmas's, Neal had made up for it and went overboard with the decorations. That morning they had seemed beautiful, but now they seemed hollow and deceiving.
Neal grabbed a piece of garland that was hanging on the wall beside him and snatched it down, then he grabbed a glass ball and tossed it on the sofa. Within ten minutes, all of the decorations except the tree had been removed. Twenty minutes later, the tree was taken down and put away in a storage box. The room looked as it always had, with not a hint of the coming holiday.
"I'm sorry Mom." Neal whispered. "But I'm having trouble seeing the meaning of Christmas."
"I know, Honey." Neal spun around and stared in shock at what he saw. A young woman with long brown hair was floating a few feet off of the floor. She was surrounded by a white glow.
"M…..Mom." Neal said, in shock.
"Hello, my precious Neal." The woman said.
"B….but this can't be happening." Neal said, trying to make sense of what he saw.
"It is happening, son."
"You're a ghost?"
"No, I'm an angel."
"Angels don't exist."
"You used to believe in them."
"That was before."
"Look into my eyes, Neal. I have never lied to you."
Neal did as he was told and smiled at the love and gentleness that those eyes held. The same love and gentleness that he remembered from his childhood.
"I've missed you so much." Neal said, his eyes watering.
"I've missed holding you, and telling you how much I love you." She said. "I have been watching you, and I am very proud of you."
"I'm a con artist."
"An ex-con artist." She corrected him. "I know that you still do some things that are not quite lawful, but I also know that you are trying to be good. You are trying to change your life around. And I am so proud of you."
"I've lost the Christmas spirit." Neal said, as a few tears ran down his cheeks.
"You'll get it back." She said. "When your Father passed away, I lost my faith too. It took a little while, but I got it back. Just like you got yours back after I passed away. Remember, you spent a couple Christmases hating everything."
"Son, I know this is hard. I know life can be so depressing and scary that you want to close your heart. But if you do, you will miss out on a lot of joy."
"If my heart is closed, I miss out on the pain also." Neal pointed out.
"Is it worth it?"
"No." Neal admitted. "I want to believe, I want to love. I don't want to be alone."
"You are not alone. You have friends that love you. You have June, who is currently downstairs making your favorite dinner of pot roast and mixed vegetables to cheer you up. You have Peter, who is worried about you, who has stuck his neck on the line more then once in order to protect you and keep you out of prison. You have El, who is hurting because she knows you are hurting. And you have Mozzie, who has been your friend for the past ten years.
Neal, you have many people who care for you. Let them in. Let them help you through the hard times, and let them laugh with you during the good times."
"I know you're right." Neal said. "But sometimes it's easier to just put up a front and not let anyone past it. But I will try harder, I promise."
"That's my baby boy."
"No one's called me that in a long time." Neal smiled.
"You will always be my baby boy."
"I love you, Mom."
"I love you too, Neal."
"Will you do me a favor?"
"A young girl named Amy was murdered. Please look after her in Heaven."
"When Amy's time comes, I would be honored to watch after her. But Amy is not yet dead."
"Amy is still very much alive, but is in great danger."
"Where is she?"
"I can not say, but you must find her. She needs your help."
"I will find her."
"I know you will. Good bye son." She started to fade.
Mom, please don't go." Neal cried out.
"I have to, but I will always be with you. Remember that I love you and that I am proud of my baby boy." Then she completely faded away.
Neal stood there staring at the spot she had disappeared from. "I love you too Mom." He said. "And I will find Amy."
%%%%(%* %*&%$(*&*(% &*%*()&*% %^*$$&* &^$&^$&*$^ ^&$$& &^$&^
%&*%(*% * %*&%*(%*(% *&%*(&%*(%*(%* *&%*%*%( %*(%(*%*( &%
June heard Neal coming back down the stairs and walked over to the foot of them. She smiled when she saw the smile on the young man's face.
"I see you are in a better mood." June said.
"I am in a great mood." Neal replied, kissing her cheek and hugging her. "I've got to run, save me some of that pot roast." Then he hugged her again, and ran out the front door.
"How did he know I was making pot roast?" June asked out loud.
&%*&%*%&* *&%*&%*%(&% %*&%*(%*&()%*&%(* *%*&%*(% *&%*(%
*&^*(&% *&%%)*(%)&*% *&%*(&)%)(% (&%(%^*&(%(&%) &*%&*((* &*%
Peter was sitting on his sofa, when the front door burst opened and Neal rushed in.
"Amy's not dead." Neal said.
"How do you know?" Peter asked.
"I just do, I don't have time to explain it. But she is still alive and she still needs our help."
"What do you have in mind?" Peter had learned to trust the younger man's instincts.
"The house was shoot up, right?"
"My guess is that Talbot did it to get rid of witnesses."
"Makes sense, he probably doesn't know that he is already the police's prime suspect."
"Then we find Talbot."
"I don't know." Neal admitted.
Before Peter could respond, his phone rung. "It's Detective Mason." He said, putting the phone on speaker phone.
"Agent Burke." Peter said.
"It's Detective Mason." The voice said. "Just called to let you know that Amy Peterson may still be alive, the four bodies were id's. One was Kent. The others were David Franks, Mark Miller, and Denise Roberts. All three are known acquaintances of Kent."
"Any leads?" Peter asked, still curious as to how Neal knew.
"Yeah, but there's nothing I can do about it now. I learned that Talbot's sister owns an empty warehouse near the waterfront, but I'm having trouble getting a search warrant. His sister has no priors, not even a parking ticket."
"If there's anything I can do, give me a call."
"Will do. And thanks."
Peter hung up, then turned back around to talk to Neal. But the younger man was gone.
"Damit, Neal." Peter grumbled. "What are you up to?" Then he smiled slightly as he figured it out. "It worked once, Buddy." He chuckled. "Let's see if it will work again."
*&%*&%*(%*(%*&%*&% %%(%*&%* (^$)%)*(^&$#(&^$)(*$ ^$(*$(*^$) (^$(
*^$*(&$%(*$ &*%*&%*(& *&%*&%*&(%*%%&* *%*&%*( &*%*(&%*&( ^
Finding the right warehouse was a piece of cake, and soon Neal was standing against the outside wall of the warehouse owned by Talbot's sister. He slowly rose and peered into the dusty window, smiling when he saw Amy Peterson tied to a chair. She was alive.
There were three men inside the warehouse, one he recognized as Talbot. The other two he assumed where his body guards.
"Okay, Peter." Neal said, as he pulled a knife from his pocket and bent down. "Come find me." Then he cut the anklet.
*&%*&%%%() &%(*%)&^%) %)(%*&%^(^ *(^()*^)*&%)% *%*&%*&)% &*
*&%*(%& &*%*&%*(%* %*&%*%)%& *&%)%) %*&%*(&% %*&%(*%( *
Amy was scared. First she was kidnapped by a man claiming to be her biological Father, then him and his three friends were killed and she was kidnapped by another man who wanted to rape her.
"Don't worry, sweet thing." Talbot said, leering at her. "As soon as the heat clears a little, we will go away somewhere alone."
"The only place I want to go is home." The teen said, as tears once again formed in her eyes.
"Don't cry, I assure you that you will enjoy it." Talbot knelt in front of her and rand a hand trough her hair. "A lot."
"Please let me go." Amy cried.
"Never." Talbot leaned closer to kiss her.
The door opened and everyone looked in surprise as a man entered the warehouse, holding his hands up to show he was unarmed.
"Who the hell are you?" Talbot demanded, as him and the other men aimed their guns at him.
"Name's Neal Caffrey." The man smiled. "I came looking for Amy."
"Kill him." Talbot said.
"That would be a very bad mistake." Neal said, wishing Peter would hurry up.
"And why is that?" Talbot asked.
"Because the police will not like that, they are on their way."
"You are lying."
"Alright, you got me." Neal smiled. "The police are not coming, it's the FBI."
"You are a comedian." Talbot said, pointing his gun to Neal's head. "I hate comedians."
The doors burst opened again, and several FBI agents and Federal Marshals flooded the room.
"Freeze!" Peter shouted, aiming his gun at Talbot. "Drop your weapons!"
Talbot grabbed Neal and spun him around, and wrapped an arm around the man's neck. Then he placed the nozzle of the gun to Neal's head.
"Smart move, Talbot." Peter said, not lowing his gun. "Caffrey's a known criminal, and a pain in my ass. You shooting him would actually make me happy."
"Peter, Please don't let him shoot me." Neal whined, locking eyes with Peter.
"Can it, Caffrey." Peter snapped.
"But I thought we were partners." Neal said, desperation in his voice.
"You thought wrong, I hate cons."
"Ex-con." Neal pointed out.
"Will you two shut up?" Talbot snapped.
"Shoot him." Peter said.
"No, shoot him." Neal pleaded. "Come on, wouldn't you much rather shoot an FBI agent?"
"Shoot Caffrey." Peter repeated.
"No, shoot Burke."
"I said shut up!" Talbot yelled, removing his gun from Neal's head to aim it at Peter.
As soon as Neal felt the nozzle being removed, he slammed his head back and caught Talbot in the face, then he threw himself forward and landed in the floor.
As soon as Neal was out of the way, Peter fired his gun and caught Talbot in the shoulder. He screamed in pain and dropped his gun. His bodyguards also lowered their guns and held his hands up in surrender.
"Neal." Peter rushed to the younger man's side. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah." Neal smiled. "Nice shot."
"I was aiming for you."
Diana rushed to the teenager's side and untied her.
"Are you okay, Honey?" She asked.
"Yes, thank you." Amy cried, relieved that it was finally over.
&*%*&%*&%%&% &*%*&%*(%*)( %*&%(*%*&*$ *$*(^#*) %&)^$* ($*($$*^ *)%*)&$*)$*&)%& * &*$*)&$%)**$ )*&%*)&%&)* $)*&$*&)&$ ^^^* &%&**(
Half an hour later, Peter and Neal were in the front of Peter's car. Amy was sitting in the backseat. They were taking her home. Neal asked Detective Mason for the job of bringing her back to her family and he readily agreed since it was because of Neal that the young girl was rescued.
"Hey Peter." Neal smiled. "Stop at June's for a minute, it's on the way."
"Why?" Peter asked. "Amy is anxious to get home."
"Please, Peter." Neal pleaded. "It will only take a minute."
"Okay." Peter said.
"I want to thank you two again for saving me." Amy said. "I was so scared, I thought for sure he was going to rape me. He would have if you hadn't showed up."
"You're safe now." Peter assured her.
Peter stopped outside of June's and Neal jumped out of the car. "Get up front." He told the teen, before he ran inside.
"What's up?" Amy asked, as she got up front beside Peter.
"With him, there's no telling." Peter said. Then he smiled and added, "But it's usually something good. Neal's a good man."
"I thought he was nuts when he burst into the warehouse alone." Amy said.
"Oh, he is nuts." Peter agreed with her. "He's completely insane."
"I have to concur." Amy said, staring out the window. Peter followed her line of sight and saw Neal running back to the car. He had pillows tied around his waist and was wearing a Santa hat. He was carrying the rest of the suit in his arms.
"I'm ready." He said, jumping into the backseat. He starting putting the Santa suit on over his clothes.
"What are you doing?" Amy asked, confused.
"Neal and I are part of the White Collar unit." Peter explained as Neal dressed. "Normally we don't handle kidnappings. But Neal was Santa at a children's Christmas party at the hospital and your sister was there."
"At the hospital?" Amy asked, alarmed. "Is she okay?"
"She's fine." Neal assured her. "She was just a little sick due to not eating or sleeping right. She was worried about you, but she's just fine."
"Emily asked Santa to bring her bog sister back." Peter said. "She said that was all she wanted for Christmas. So we got involved."
"Emily's a good kid." Amy smiled. "Last week we got into an argument because I told her Santa wasn't real, but she didn't believe me."
"And why did you tell her I was not real?" Neal asked, in his deep Santa voice.
"Because she went into my room and got into my makeup."
"Oh." Neal said, in his normal voice. "You had a good reason then."
"Might as well do this right." Peter said. "Look in the glove compartment and get the bow off of the box. Since you're a Christmas present from Santa, you need a bow."
Amy smiled and pulled the box out. "May I?" She asked.
Amy opened the box and saw a diamond heart shaped necklace.
"It's beautiful." She said.
"Not bad, Peter." Neal said. "I guess my great taste is actually wearing off on you. El will love it."
Amy placed the bow on her shirt.
Peter stopped in front of the Peterson house and they climbed out of the car, Neal was not fully dressed as Santa.
&*%*&%*&%*& &%*&%) %*&)%)*$)*&%*O %$*$%*$$^ %^$&*$&$ ^^$&^(
&%*(&%)* *&%)*(%*%) *&(%*&%)( *&%*&(% *&%*&(%*& *&)%*&( *&%
Harold, Ashley and Emily Peterson was sitting on the sofa, watching Tinker bell on tv. It was Emily's favorite movie, but the little girl was not interested in it. They heard the doorbell ring and Harold got up to answer it.
He opened the door and Santa standing on his doorstep. Then Santa lowered his beard slightly so he could tell it was Neal, and he smiled and stepped aside to let him in.
"Emily." He called out. "Santa's here."
They heard running footsteps, then Emily rushed into the room and smiled at Santa. Her Mom followed at a slower pace.
"Merry Christmas." Neal boomed. "I have a present for all three of you." Then he stepped aside and Peter and Amy walked in.
"Amy!" Emily squealed, throwing herself at her big sister and nearly knocking her down.
"My baby." Ashley said, as her and her husband hugged her. All four had tears in their eyes.
"Not bad." Peter said, as him and Neal watched the family reunion. "Remember this scene when Hughes is ripping your head off."
"That's an understatement."
"I knew you could do it, Santa." Emily said, running to Neal and hugging his legs. "Thank you."
"You are welcome, young lady." Neal said.
^%^&%&^%%&*( &^$&^$^&$*&^ &^$&^$&$&^$( ^&$&($$(^ &$(^$($ ^&$(
*%*(&%&% *&%*&)%) &%)(&%)( &)%)(%(_)(&% &%*&%^&%)* *(&%*()%*
Neal walked into Hughes office and swallowed hard when he saw the look of fury on the older man's face.
"What the Hell were you thinking?" He demanded, but went on before Neal had a change to answer. "Of all of the idiotic stunts! Do you realize how many laws you broke?" Again, he continued before Neal could answer his question. "I should throw you back in prison! And I will if you ever pull anything like this again! Is that understood?"
Neal expected Hughes to continue, so he didn't answer.
"I said is that understood?" Hughes boomed.
"Yes Sir." Neal answered.
"You may be a valuable asset to this department, but I will not hesitate to send you back! We solved quite a few cases without your help, and I'm sure we can solve quite a few more! Understood"
Hughes sighed and lowered his voice, his eyes took on a calmer look. "Come here."
"Sir?" Neal asked confused.
Neal walked around to the other side of the desk and stood beside Hughes' chair.
"This is my family." He nodded to the pictures that covered his desk. He reached out and picked on up. It was of a young girl, around seventeen. "This is Sandra, she's the same age as Amy Peterson."
"She's a very pretty girl."
"I know." Hughes replaced the picture and looked at Neal, his eyes were soft and so was his voice. "You did a good thing, Neal. You brought back a girl to her family, before she was hurt. You saved her, you are a hero."
"So you aren't mad?"
"No." then his voice turned stern. "But it is my job to protect the integrity of this department, and I was not playing when I said I would not hesitate to throw you back in prison. It that understood?"
"Then get out of my office."
Yes Sir. And Merry Christmas."
&*&$*%*&%*( *%$*(%*(%)*)%& *&%*(%*& *%*&(%*)%(* *&%*(&%*)%
*&%*&(%*& &*%*&(%*&( &*%*)(% *&%*(%( &*%*()&% *&%*(&%) *^
On the ride back to June's, Peter glanced over at Neal. "So, what is it with you and Christmas?"
"My Dad passed away when I a baby." Neal explained. "It was just Mom and me. she was a waitress, worked at two different restraints trying to provide for us. She loved Christmas, she always said it a time for fresh starts. No matter how little money we had, she always made Christmas good.
We would decorate the house, bake cookies, sing Christmas carols, the whole nine yards. She was always happy, even when things were bad. But she was especially happy at Christmas time."
"She sounds like a wonderful woman." Peter said.
"She was. She passed away when I was thirteen, and for a couple years after that I hated Christmas. Hated everything."
"I realized that Mom was right. I realized that no matter how bad things got, Christmas was still a time of peace and love."
"You're Mom would be proud of you." Peter said.
"I know." Neal smiled. "I know."
&*&%*($(*$%*& *&%*&%*&% (*%*(%*)% $(&^$(*$^ (^$($$ %#$(&^$^$ *&%)*(&%*)% *&$%*) $%)*& %)*%)* % *)&%)*&% *&%)*)&&* &*%*%)
Please let me know what you think.