Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, but I wish I did!
Summary: Neal's got the shakes. Peter's more than a little concerned. Tag to the season two premiere.
A/N: I haven't written a fanfic in ages now but I was definitely starting to miss it! This is my first attempt at writing a story for a show other than Supernatural, so hope you like it and please review!
Peter Burke wasn't blind. In fact, he was quite the opposite. The FBI in him helped to keep a close eye on Caffrey, picking up on every twitch and sound that was out of the ordinary. The friend in him wondered how long he'd be willing to pretend he hadn't noticed the changes.
When Neal had zoned out in his office earlier, Peter was willing to chalk it up to lack of sleep. It was clear from his red-rimmed eyes that Neal hadn't been getting his eight hours in lately, but that was to be expected after what the poor guy had experienced.
Peter knew Neal was lying to him when he had insisted that he was holding up. What Peter didn't understand was why Neal wouldn't just come clean and admit that he was a mess. It wasn't like anyone would blame him for feeling that way. After all, it had only been two months since the explosion; two months since he lost the woman he loved.
The more he watched his consultant struggle, the more he worried about him. He knew if Neal kept spiraling out of control that he would have to say something to him, but he was hoping his friend would feel comfortable enough to approach him first. Until then, he'd continue trying to distract Neal with their new cases.
Glancing up from the Architect's file strewn all over his desk, Peter's gaze immediately locked onto Caffrey across the FBI office. To the untrained eye, Neal seemed to be adjusting back into his old role just fine. But to Agent Burke, his young friend was coming apart at the neatly pressed seams.
He frowned as Neal attempted to copy the Architect's customized signature and was forced to relinquish his pencil when his hand refused to cooperate. Neal quickly tried to cover up the noticeable shaking by clasping his hands together in front of his mouth, hoping the semi-casual position wouldn't draw any unwanted attention.
Even from Peter's distance, he could see the barely contained panic in his friend's eyes. But instead of admitting that he wasn't ready to start working again, Neal opted to give himself a mental pep talk, shook off the dregs of his flashback, and returned his focus to the job at hand.
Peter had seen enough. Clearly throwing work at the guy wasn't going to be enough this time around, and he wasn't about to let Neal continue suffering alone. Picking up his cell phone, Peter made a quick call to their mutual little friend, setting up a time and place to meet that afternoon. He wanted to get the full story before confronting Neal, and if he was going to stage an intervention, he knew he'd need all the help he could get.
After jumping through Mozzie's ridiculous hoops, he finally got the inside scoop. Neal was an emotional wreck, and not just because he had lost Kate. He was also terrified that the bomb had been meant for him and that there was still a target on his back.
It's one thing to know who your enemy is, and an entirely different thing to know you have an enemy but no identity to attach to it. Anyone on the street or even in the office could be a suspect, and that heightened sense of paranoia was enough to drive anyone insane.
Neal was doing his best to put up a façade and pretend like he had moved on. But his biggest mistake was underestimating how much Peter cared about him. He wasn't about to sit idly by and let his friend self-destruct. It was time he had a little chat with his consultant friend.
When Peter stepped back into the office after his "lunch break" with Mozzie, he made his way to the upstairs balcony, called Neal's name to get his attention, then proceeded to give him the double finger point.
"Meet me in my office."
Neal put his pencil down once again and rose, a bit unsteadily, to his feet. "Comin'."
Peter nodded, then went to sit behind his desk and wait. He knew what he had to do, but interrogations were much easier when you didn't know the person being interrogated. He looked up as Neal made his way into the room.
"Still working on that signature?"
"Yeah, sorry. I'm almost done though."
"Did you eat lunch yet?"
Neal was slightly thrown by the seemingly random question but he shook his head. "Nah. Wasn't hungry." When Peter shot him his patented frown, Neal quickly went on the defensive. "I'll eat later, Peter. What's the big deal?"
"Close the door."
Now Neal had a look of apprehension on his face. "Why?"
"Because you and I need to talk."
"That doesn't sound good…" Nevertheless, Neal did as he was told, though he stood right in front of the closed door just in case he needed a quick exit.
"Take a seat." Peter wasn't about to allow Neal to turn rabbit and run on him.
Neal stubbornly held his ground, wanting a few answers first. "What's this about, Peter?"
"Anonymous tip," Peter supplied vaguely, thinking back over his meeting with Mozzie.
"A new case?" Suddenly Neal's interest seemed more piqued but he refused to let his guard down without further information.
"More or less," Peter hedged.
"What about the Architect?"
"We'll get to it. When we're done."
"Take a seat and I'll tell you all about it." A little give, a little take.
Neal wasn't a fool. The tension in the room was palpable and he just wanted out. He hitched a thumb over his shoulder, indicating his desk. "I really should be…"
"Neal. Sit. Now."
"Sitting." Neal shuffled forward with his head down, sitting stiffly on the edge of one of Peter's chairs. It was obvious that Neal was uncomfortable and more than a little tense. Good. More often than not, that was how you wrung a confession out of someone.
Peter stood and made his way to the front of his desk, leaning against it to close the gap between himself and Caffrey. Neal sat back slightly, his right knee jiggling up and down and his hands wringing in his lap as he tried to hide the shaking that had started up again.
Peter took pity on him when his friend refused to look up from his lap. He reached out and put a steady hand on Neal's knee, bringing his restless leg to a halt. "Hey. It's okay."
Neal swallowed, then nodded with a forced smirk, no where near the classic charm he tended to exude. "So uh… What's this new case about?"
Peter sat back, giving Neal a bit more space to collect himself. "A good friend of mine witnessed a terrible crime. Turns out a trap may have been set for him and someone he loved died in his place."
Neal's eyes dropped back to his lap again and he clenched his jaw to keep that from trembling as well. He balled his hands into fists so tightly that the skin around each knuckle had turned white.
"Worst part of the case is that whoever set the trap was never caught."
Any hope Neal had been clinging to that this "case" was just a horrible coincidence vanished after Peter's last statement.
The agent leaned forward again, keeping his voice low. "Neal, we're going to get them. I promise you that. And I'm going to keep you safe."
So he knew. Somehow Peter figured out what had been haunting Neal for the past two months. But how? He had only discussed his fears with one other person. Understanding suddenly dawned on him.
"Your so-called anonymous tip… It was Mozzie, wasn't it." When Peter didn't respond, Neal scoffed with an annoyed shake of his head. "I can't believe you two have been talking behind my back."
Burke sighed. "He's worried about you, Neal. We both are."
"Well don't, cause I'm fine."
Peter quirked a skeptical eyebrow at his friend. "You're fine?"
"Yes." Neal put as much conviction behind that one word as he possibly could, but Peter was staring at him in such a calculating way, he knew the agent would see right through it. Neal reluctantly dropped his gaze again.
"Yeah, I'm not buyin' it."
Neal was starting to feel trapped and his heart was pounding ruthlessly in his ribcage. "I…I've got more work to do." Neal started to stand up but Peter placed a hand against his chest in warning and gave him a light shove.
"Don't even think about it. We're not done here." Peter was taken aback by the intensity of his friend's heartbeat against the palm of his hand.
Neal dropped back into his seat, on the verge of an emotional breakdown. "What do you want me to say, Peter? Huh? That I wish it had been me on that plane instead of Kate? That if you hadn't shown up, I'd have been splattered all over that tarmac too? That the idea of someone out there wantin' me dead scares the hell outta me? What exactly is it that you want to hear so badly?"
"The truth, Neal! Not this 'I'm fine' bullshit! If you're not ready to be back in the field, I need to know cause if you freeze up out there it could mean life or death."
Neal glanced up at him again, a hurt expression on his face. "You know I'd never jeopardize you or the team, Peter."
"It's not the rest of us I'm worried about," he responded pointedly. "Listen to me, the fear and the pain you're dealing with aren't going to go away just because you ignore them. You need to talk to someone, Neal. We've got perfectly qualified people working here that…"
Neal was already shaking his head. "I can't."
Peter took a steadying breath to rein in his frustration. He had to remind himself Neal was the victim in all this and losing his temper wasn't going to help anyone. "Why not?"
"What if it had been El?" The words were spoken so softly Peter wasn't sure he had heard correctly.
"What if it had been Elizabeth on that plane, Peter? Could you sit in front of some stranger with a notepad and openly discuss all your thoughts and fears?"
Peter tried putting himself in Neal's shoes. "No, I suppose not. But you've got to talk to someone, buddy, or it's just gonna keep eating you up on the inside. What about Alex? She seems like the type to throw in her two cents. Or Haversh…"
"I trust you, Peter."
Peter wasn't sure why, but he was taken aback by the unadulterated conviction behind that comment. It wasn't the first time Neal had said that too him, but to be fair he was pretty out of it last time it happened thanks to Nurse Ratched and her mystery drugs. But did Neal really trust him more than all his friends? There was only one way to find out.
"Okay then. Go grab your coat and hat. Give me a minute to talk to Hughes and I'll meet you by the elevator."
"Where are we going?" There was uncertainty and trepidation mixed in with the curiosity of his question.
Peter smiled. "Guess you're just gonna have to trust me."