Author's Note: Awww…It's always sad for me when it comes to the end of the ride! Hopefully it won't be too long before the next one. I always love sharing these stories with all you kind folk who take the time to share your thoughts and offer encouragement along the way.
Now to help wean me off receiving all your amazing reviews that I look forward to reading so much, and to help you all feel happy again after reading this depressing tale, I am posting two fics that I wrote a while back for challenges. "Fun and Games" was posted on Jet's Fan Fics and "Taxi!" was posted on The Little Spanko's Site. (You may have read them already) Both of the fics are very light and a bit of fun but I must warn you, "Fun and Games" is about Peter and El being involved in roleplay adult fun and they invite Neal to join them. Please read the warnings very very carefully because it is only going to a suitable read for a select few! A Moppets fic it is NOT!
Finally, as you are aware, this story and A Hopeless Passage ran concurrently with just minor differences regarding Peter's handling of Neal. If you did manage to have a look at both, please be so kind as to let me know which one you preferred – I am most interested. Some of you already have and it's been fun to follow those thoughts.
Till next time, take care,
Locus Desperatus – A Hopeless Passage
Three weeks later, on a crisp wintery Monday morning, Peter found himself sitting on the concrete brick wall outside the front door of June's Manhattan mansion. Life had returned to normal, or as normal as it was ever going to be for Peter while his young wayward partner was a fixture in his life. Of course the agent vowed that particular arrangement would have no expiration date - Neal would be a part of his world for the rest of the days of his life.
They had brought Neal back to June's on Friday night under the condition that he would return to the Brooklyn home whenever he deemed necessary or whenever he just felt like a change of scenery. No reason would be required, the room, his room would always be there for him. Peter and El had stayed with Neal on Friday night to help him settle in and find his footing. On Saturday, June had promised to check in on her boy, several times throughout the night, which all but turned into her sleeping on the couch.
Monday, today, would be Neal's first official day back at work. Peter had taken him in to the Bureau for a few short visits to say hello to everyone, to thank Agents Holloway and Fench and to basically take in all that he'd lost in the eighty-three days he'd been absent. Today would be his first day back on the job. Peter wanted it to go smoothly. He didn't need any hurdles or road blocks, and as a result, found himself being overly cautious. He had told Neal he'd pick him up at eight thirty. Peter had arrived at ten past eight to be sure the young man wouldn't be waiting alone in 'the spot.' Neal was very punctual and Peter wasn't prepared to take a chance that no one was there when the kid came downstairs to wait.
During the weeks after venting his long withheld story, Neal had continued to display positive signs of getting back to how things were before his abduction. Of course, it went without saying, the healing of his physical scars were any easy fix by comparison to the mental ones. So far Peter had sat with Neal through a half dozen one hour sessions with Dr Turner and he was pressed to see any actual progress other than the fact that as the session went on, the kid seemed to be able to speak more freely about his troubled past. Peter had brought up his concerns with the young psychiatrist during one of his own therapy sessions - Andy had insisted Peter see the psychiatrist himself while hammering him on the basketball court. Dr Turner had told Peter that the first step would be to get Neal to admit that Jenny had actually taken her own life. Neal had made insinuations along those lines but was yet to speak the words. The doctor said that Neal would have to accept that Jenny had made a conscious decision to cut her own wrist before he could ever accept that he wasn't to blame.
Neal continuing to harbour the guilt wasn't Peter's only concern. At some point in the not too distant future, the agent accepted he would have to broach the topic of the cottage - primarily, its location and the eventual unearthing of the skeletal remains. It was inevitable that an investigation would be held into the deaths of Jenny and her father but Peter wasn't at all concerned that Neal would be held accountable. He would protect his partner from having to sit through any formal questioning and any subsequent inquiry would merely be a fact-finding mission, a matter of tying up loose ends. As far as Peter could ascertain, Neal had done no wrong. Well, he had admitted to breaking into a private club and attempted theft from the mob but the agent was happy to let that one slide.
"How long have you been waiting?" Neal asked with concern as he checked his watch.
"Uh, Peter spun around, caught off guard while he'd been busy with his thoughts. "Ah, not long…I was early."
"You should have called. I've been ready for over an hour."
Of course you have! Peter was well aware how keen the young con was to get back to work, a sure sign he was ready to re-enter his life from before. "Here," Peter indicated a spot beside him on the wall, "sit down for a minute, I want to have a little chat before we head in."
Neal eyed the spot on the wall before looking around for an alternate arrangement and even took a step in the opposite direction, but Peter appeared unmoving. It was important the kid was able to sit out on the wall, wait without getting distressed because undoubtedly there would be times when he would have to wait by himself. Peter needed to know he could do it. "Neal…"
After a beat, the young man complied and reluctantly sat himself down on the stone wall. "Yes Peter, you wanted to give me a pep talk. Remind me of the rules, your expectations, oh by the way, this new tracker," Neal hitched up his pants, "real cool, love the colour, black goes with everything you know."
Peter knew the kid was being sarcastic and he was happy about it. The old Neal was filtering back in and nothing pleased the agent more. "That's great Neal, but I'm not here to lecture you. I wanted to tell you something…" Peter dropped his head and kicked a rock with his shoe unsure of how to continue.
"Peter," Neal grinned, "Am I hearing you correctly, not only are you passing up a golden opportunity to lecture me but you're lost for words. Did you bang your head in the shower this morning or something?"
"No," the older man shook his head, smiling up at his friend. "No, Neal…" Peter placed his hand on his partner's shoulder… "I can't help feeling Neal that had I been a better partner, a better friend, a better 'father figure' to you, you would have confided in me a long time ago what you had been through and you wouldn't have had to go through this… all these memories on your own."
Neal looked sincerely into the older man's eyes, "Peter, you remember me telling you a while back that my dad died when I was two?"
"Yes…" It was not something one would forget.
"So I grew up without someone to count on, someone to pick me up and dust me off when I scraped my knee, someone to appease my nerves when I hit puberty, to tell me everyone feels awkward at that age, someone to rein me in and take me in hand when I was sent to Juvie the first time for shoplifting from Macys. Sure, Mom was there, but Mom had her own problems so she left me to mine. By the time I was an adult," Neal pointed a look a Peter that said, 'don't start!', "I'd given up on the idea of ever having anyone to fill that role in my life." Neal dropped his head, "I was wrong. You filled that void Peter. You charged into my life, stepped into those parental shoes and never looked back, all without asking mind you!"
"Really, you think I should have asked?" Peter wondered how that would have gone down with the young reckless con.
"Nah, I would have rejected the offer. Best that you took it out of my hands and placed it in yours – I'm talking about 'poor' choices I've made Peter, not implements suitable for wielding I'll have you know."
"I get it Neal," the older man chuckled.
"Anyway, what I'm saying Peter is you weren't there earlier on….I wish you were, I wish a lot of things…You can't change the past but you can make a difference with everything that comes after it, and that's exactly what you've done. You made a difference Peter. I dread to think where I'd be without you. I don't even want to consider it for a second."
"You're channeling my wife! You two have spent way too much time together!"
"You're telling me! She made me write those words about not being able to change the past fifty times last week after I made a harmless comment about what a failure I'd been!"
Peter rolled his eyes and shook his head choosing to ignore the last part of the boy's statement. "Anyway," Peter returned to the topic. "I'm glad you're okay with the way El and I see you as part of our family."
"I wouldn't have it any other way, 'Dad'."
The older man laughed along with the joke before asking seriously, "Neal, you called Jenny's father, 'Dad'. Is that something he made you do?"
Neal shook his head, "No. Apparently 'Dad' had wanted to erase all memory of his past. There were no documents in the house with his name-"
"Not even the prescription bottle of sleeping pills?"
"No, the name label had been removed. Jenny didn't know her dad's name, he never told her, so I would refer to him as 'your' father, 'your' dad. Eventually I just dropped the 'your' and it became just Dad. It didn't mean anything. To me it became his name, not his title, it meant nothing.
"Like a moment ago when you called me Dad?"
"No, nothing like that at all. That one meant a lot."
"Oh," Peter was taken back and left momentarily speechless. He began to fiddle with the medallion hanging around his neck. Usually he had it tucked under his collar but this morning it was hanging freely.
Neal reached out and examined the ornate charm. He had wanted to do that a while back. He sighed deeply remembering that day all too clearly when he was first brought into the hospital, when he was first rescued by Peter. "I knew you'd come."
"Excuse me?" Peter had also been following the younger man's fingers while he fiddled with the medallion around his neck.
"I knew you'd find me. Even though I'd given up on living, I knew you'd never give up looking and eventually you'd find me."
"I'm sorry I couldn't find you earlier, Buddy."
"Peter," Neal warned, "do you want me to go quoting Elizabeth again?"
"Noooo," Peter held his hands up in surrender, "please, I won't bring that up again."
"Good," Neal smiled satisfied with the result and indicated the medallion with his eyes. "Where'd you get that? I had never seen it on you before that day in the hospital."
Peter ran a nervous hand through his hair, uncertain if he should proceed with an explanation. He knew the young con would only become increasingly curious if he didn't so he took a deep breath as he prepared to regale his partner with the tale. "It was while…you were away-"
"During the time I was held captive, you can say it Peter." Neal encouraged.
"Yes, during that time…you were held captive…I had some bad days and one of the things I'd do to take my mind off what was happening was to head down to the foreshore and breath in the sea air. The bureau doctor had insisted I do some type of meditation, deep breathing exercise but mostly I just sat there wondering where else to look, where else I could hope to find a lead. As I said, some days were worse than others and this one particular day, I broke down, just lost it completely. I put my head down on my lap and allowed weeks of built up emotions flow freely from my eyes. I…I wept for ages. I wept until I had no more tears to shed. Finally, I sat back up and realised this old woman was sitting on the bench beside me gazing out to the water. I was a little embarrassed knowing she'd been witness to my breakdown but I only had myself to blame, it was public area and I really couldn't have cared less when I first sat down."
"But once the emotions had cleared from your system?"
"Yeah, I felt my cheeks redden slightly. Anyway, I turned towards her after drying my eyes and she was still staring straight out. I wasn't going to say anything. I had decided to cut my loses and run but then she placed a hand on my thigh."
"Oooo, bet Elizabeth was jealous."
"Yes, I'm sure, cause when you think of Elizabeth you can't help seeing her getting upset about an old woman, possibly in her eighties touching my leg."
"Fair point, please continue."
"So anyway, when she touches my leg she speaks in a thick Eastern European accent I can barely understand telling me, 'You lost someding my voung fviend?' I was shocked. I opened my mouth but didn't know what to say. How did she know? Why would she say that? Did she have some connection to Holmes? My mind reeled in every direction, I had so many questions but all I could get out was, 'Yes'.
So then she took her arm off my leg and began to fiddle with her necklace. Peter re-enacted the moment. He reached back and removed the medallion from around his own neck. "She held out her necklace but instead of handing it to me, she secured it around my head." Peter leaned forward and latched the medallion around his young partner's neck. Neal picked it up in his hand and rubbed its beautiful ornate surface. Peter continued with his tale, "Then she said to me…. 'I lost someding once too… but I neder lost faith. You vill find vhat you are looking for and den…you won't ever looz it again.'"
Neal flipped over the medallion and examined the engraving of a young robed man holding a child. Neal read the inscription, "Saint Anthony."
"The Patron Saint of lost things…that was you my friend. Lost." Peter gave time for those words to sink in while studying the miracle sitting across from him. Twice the kid had survived what many would be unable to. Peter reassured himself, there would not be a third. "Neal… You lost your independence, you lost your confidence, you even lost your voice." Peter picked up Neal's wrist and rubbed his hand along the fading cuts. "You even lost your spirit for a little while… I never want you to lose it again." Peter reached out and took the medallion out of his partner's hands and tucked it in safely under his collar. "Don't 'pick' that!" the agent ordered.
Neal smiled, understanding the true meaning of those words. "Peter…" Neal held up his hand to his lips and pulled away. Next he held up his hand and lowered the two middle fingers. Peter smiled. Finally the kid touched his thumb to his forehead, moved his hand out about an inch, and then touched it back to his forehead again. Peter didn't know that one; he'd have to check with El later.
Peter responded to the loving words with his own hand movements. Like Neal had done, Peter held up his hand with the two middle fingers held down. Then he squeezed all three middle fingers down leaving just the thumb and pinky sticking out. He moved this 'Y' shape back and forth between Neal and himself. I love you too.