Chapter One: Terror
It was a look FBI Special Agent Peter Burke had never seen in the eyes of his young Confidential Informant, Neal Caffrey. His eyes disclosed a look of fear. In the three years Peter had chased Neal and the two years they have worked together, Neal's expressions showed many things, but fear of Peter was never one of them.
Two minutes prior, Peter had come barreling through Neal's apartment door, finding Neal sipping Pinot at his kitchen table. The bottle was nearly empty. Neal had jumped and looked in Peter's direction when he heard the door bang open. Then, seeing it was Peter, Neal had dropped his eyes back to the wine glass in his hands. This gesture infuriated Peter even more.
"It was you. You did this," Peter yelled, physically grabbing Neal by his white dress shirt and slamming him against the door frame of the kitchenette. "Those were your paintings in the warehouse. You can't deny that! It was you who conned Adler…and you conned us all, too!" Peter yelled even louder.
Neal's crystal blue eyes betrayed him; he was afraid.
Peter scrunched his brows together, realizing that the look in the young con-artist's eyes disclosed fear. He scanned his memory for any recollection of these emotions from the young man toward him in the past and could never recall seeing that exact expression.
Neal held his breath. Several seconds passed motionless and silent between the two. Peter then released his hands, causing Neal to slump slightly forward, drop his head, and take a breath. Peter then reached up in an attempt to straighten the crumpled dress shirt of his ex-con-artist friend. As his hand reached up, Peter saw again something he had never seen exchanged between the two in all of the years they had known one another: terror.
Neal had unconsciously flinched as his peripheral vision caught site of Peter's hand.
Neal caught himself and smiled up at Peter, trying to mask his fear.
Peter decided to allow his hands to press out the wrinkles on Neal's shirt but was obviously affected by his young friend's physical reaction.
They backed away from one another and said nothing for another 90 seconds.
Neal, still holding his wine glass, consumed in one mouthful the remaining spirits in his glass and made his way to the couch. Peter stood silently. He was angry and confused.
In their last conversation on the docks near the burning warehouse, Neal had told Peter to prove that he was the one who had orchestrated the entire con. Neal had known Peter could prove nothing. Neal had known he was innocent.
Neal had left the docks angry that the man he had come to consider his friend—and sometimes even his father—had immediately seen the worst in him. After all they had been through together, Neal thought to himself as he walked back to June's from the dock, how could Peter not trust him now? Besides anger, Neal had been confused about the other emotions that had surfaced in his mind. He was struggling to process these emotions as he walked. He honestly didn't know what they were or what they meant.
Peter took in a long breath and sat down on the couch next to Neal.
"They were your paintings. I saw a remnant of the Chrysler Building," Peter spoke quickly, focusing a majority of his energy on regaining his composure.
"I didn't do it, Peter," Neal responded. Neal could feel the note and key press against his leg still in the right pocket of his pants. He knew the German valuables had been taken to a warehouse and that he was now involved, but he knew he wasn't the one who had coordinated the con. He answered Peter as succinctly as possible.
Neal was always a master of the language. He toyed with words, using them to his full advantage at all times. Very little escaped his mouth without being screened by his brilliant mind.
Another minute passed between them in silence. Neither one knew what to say to the other. Peter knew that he needed to say or do something to prevent Neal was rebuilding the wall that had often been so prevalent between the two of them. He flashed on the numerous events in the past two years where, brick by brick, Neal had lowered the wall to allow Peter to see into his world.
He remembered the Houser Clinic where the drugged Neal had confessed that Peter was the only one he trusted.
He remembered his anger toward Agent Rice when she used Neal, calling him a tool. She had put Neal's life in danger, and that had scared Peter.
He remembered knowing that only Neal could get him out of the cell when he had been kidnapped by Jason Lang. Peter had sternly told his supervisor, Agent Reese Hughes, to put Neal on the phone.
He also knew Neal was a master manipulator of the language. In Neal's mind, however, he had never directly lied to Peter. This contradiction was what caused that tingle on the back of Peter's neck. Peter knew that trust from his perspective would never be 100 percent until Neal could learn how to talk without naturally manipulating the language.
It was Elizabeth who represented the trusting part of his psyche. She was the one who always hugged him from behind as he sat at their table trying to figure out the young con-artist. She always reassured Peter that he would do the right thing. El had 100 percent trust in Peter, and she loved Neal and believed that where her husband was concerned, Neal would do the right thing.
Unfortunately, she hadn't been there on the docks beside the burning warehouse to help Peter process his thoughts and emotions. Despite the fact that Vincent Adler was clearly a representation of the seedy underbelly of society, Peter felt conflicted for having shot and killed him. Peter had allowed his fear of losing Neal to Adler's gun to control his reaction. He had shot Adler in the back.
Finally Peter spoke, "I wasn't going to hurt you. I'm sorry. I was angry."
Neal bobbed his head up and down, unable to say anything in response. His emotions were too close to the surface. Even though he knew Peter was sorry, he also believed Peter would have physically hurt him in his fit of rage. This wasn't a slam on Peter; it was just how people had always responded to him for as long as he could remember.
"Hey, look at me," Peter spoke again.
Neal continued to stare at the diamond pattern on the rug under his couch and coffee table. Peter wanted to physically move Neal's face toward him but was afraid to touch him.
Something buried deep had resurfaced.
They sat in silence.