A/N: The idea for this wouldn't leave me alone so I decided to play with it. It should end up being around 3-5 chapters long with lots of awesome Anderbros angst and hurt/comfort.
Paint was splattered all down the white undershirt Neal had thrown on earlier. It coated his fingers and smudged across the exposed skin at his neck. Boredom had made him messy and careless with the brush strokes. Peter hadn't brought him in on a new case in weeks and he was starting to crave the excitement working brought him. Granted…he just didn't realize how exciting things were about to get for him…
With a sigh, Neal wiped his hands clean before picking up his cell phone and the television remote. He quickly scanned to see if Peter had sent him any messages, only to find nothing new in his inbox. He tossed the phone back down onto the table and clicked on the television. He rarely watched the thing, so he wasn't surprised when a random news station he barely recognized materialized onto the dusty screen. A pretty brunette wrapped up a story on something happening in the Middle East before shuffling her papers around and starting into a new story.
"In other news, documentary film maker Lee Hirsch is taking a stand and hoping you will too. With his new documentary, 'Bully', scheduled to open at the Tribecca Film Festival this April, he is hoping that people, especially younger members of the audience, will realize the impact of bullying. It is far reaching and shows up in even the smallest of regions.
"Why just this past week, small town Lima, Ohio reported a local teenager attempting suicide following bullying he experienced in school due to his sexuality. Throughout the country these cases…"
The rest of her words were lost on Neal as his focus zeroed in on that sentence. Lima, Ohio reported a local teenager attempting suicide following bullying he experienced in school due to his sexuality. The glass of wine he had picked up fell from his hands, staining the rug around his feet. He didn't pay it any mind. His throat ran dry as his mind just repeated those words over and over.
"Oh God," he groaned. He ran his hand through his hair, sending a few errant strands in various directions. By the time he turned his attention back to the news the story had ended and the girl was droning on about some celebrity in rehab. "Damn it!" He started to flip through a few other channels, but he knew it was useless. Stories like that were never on all the stations at the same time.
He cursed again and ran over to the table to grab the laptop Mozzie had procured for him. Neal quickly turned the thing on and got it connected to June's wifi. He scoured the news sites from the Ohio area, surprised he could still remember them after all this time.
In the end, he found nothing new. All the articles came up with the same basic details he had already heard. Some teenager in Lima, Ohio had attempted suicide due to bullying he had experienced at one of the local high schools. It didn't say anything about which school he attended or the name of the kid. Just that a homosexual Ohio youth had attempted to kill himself in his home.
Neal slammed the laptop shut and muttered a few curse words under his breath. He had to know. He couldn't just sit there. He had to do something, to figure this out.
He didn't bother to change out of his paint stained shirt, nor did he bother to grab a coat. However, he did pick up his wallet. His fingers slid into a small compartment and tugged out an old picture. It was crumbled and faded along the edges. Despite its appearance, it was one of Neal's most treasured possessions. His eyes settled on the curly haired boy captured on the photo paper wearing one of his old fedoras while his feet carried him to his door. The boy was smiling happily and his arm was blurred from where he had been waving at the photographer. This little boy couldn't be the one the newscaster was talking about…he just couldn't.
With his eyes still on the picture, Neal threw open his door and rushed into the hallway…only to run into someone in his haste.
"Oomph!" Neal groaned, nearly falling to the ground. He dropped the photo as his hand flung out towards the nearby wall to stop himself from falling.
"Geez Neal!" a voice squawked. Neal looked up to see Mozzie just as he was bending down to pick up the picture. "Where's the fire?"
Neal scrambled up, attempting to grab the picture but it was too late. Mozzie had it in his hands and was studying it intensely.
"Is this you?" Mozzie asked with confusion.
"No," Neal sighed.
Mozzie's forehead scrunched up. He took a good look at Neal's appearance. "You're going out looking like that?"
Neal glanced at his stained shirt and wrinkled pants. "I…well…"
"Neal, what's going on? What are you not telling me? If the Suit is up to something I can-"
"This has nothing to do with Peter," Neal snapped harshly before sighing. He took the picture out of Mozzie's hands and stared at it for a moment. His own hands shook a bit as he did so and he had to clear his throat to speak again. "Maybe you should come in. I'll explain everything…but we might need some wine for this." Neal ran a hand through his hair and turned to allow Mozzie inside the space.
"Why do I have a bad feeling about this?" Mozzie continued once he was seated at the table. Neal set the picture down onto its surface while he went to get glasses and the bottle of the dark liquid. Mozzie picked it up and studied it once more. The kid did favor Neal, but now that he was actually looking closely he could tell the boy couldn't actually be his younger friend. "Neal?"
Neal set down the wine glass in front of Mozzie before downing his own quickly. He picked up the laptop and brought it over closer to them.
"Neal!" Mozzie said more urgently.
"Blaine…that's Blaine." Neal opened the laptop again to find the ridiculously vague article from the Lima newspaper he had read earlier.
"Blaine? How very…John Hughes…Pretty in Pink…"
Neal bit his lip. "Mom always was a fan…"
Mozzie's eyebrows shot up quickly at that. "Mom?"
Neal sighed and poured more wine into his glass. "Yes…" He downed it in one go once more.
"I got that, Neal."
Neal started to pour another glass of wine but Mozzie took it away from him. Neal bit his lip, knowing that he had to go on. "He's…Blaine's…well…my brother…"
"You have a brother?" Mozzie's voice was much calmer than Neal ever expected it could be.
"And I'm just now finding out about this, why?"
With his hands still shaking, Neal spun the laptop around. Mozzie quickly read over the article.
"Neal, I still don't see how this all fits-"
"I'm originally from Ohio…just outside of Lima to be exact. I…I'm scared that he…it could be…"
Neal scrubbed a hand over his face and shoved the laptop away. He picked the picture back up. "You know this is the last one I ever took of him before I left? He was seven going on eight and I had just turned eighteen. I knew I was going to be leaving soon and I needed something to remind me of him."
"Were you two close?"
He shrugged. "As close as you can be when there's a ten year age difference."
"Neal, the chances that this is him are-"
Neal looked up at Mozzie as he interrupted his friend. "Before I left…the kids at his school were always picking on him. Normally because of his size. He was always so small. But…it was getting worse. It was different. They…I don't even think they knew what it meant yet. But a few of the bigger kids and their older brothers starting going around and calling him names. You know…because they thought he was gay."
Mozzie nodded sadly. "He was only seven?"
"Yeah. I mean, I questioned it some but I never knew if he really was. Wouldn't have mattered either way."
"So…you don't even know if your brother was really gay or not?"
"I was pretty sure he would come out to my mom and stepfather when he got older but I left before I got to see it…before I could help him. God! What if that really was him? What if he's the kid from Lima that…that did…that…"
"Hey," Mozzie said softly, "don't do that. We don't even know anything yet."
"But I have no way of knowing! He didn't succeed, so there won't be an obituary. He's still a minor so they can't release his name. And I don't exactly still talk to my parents. And-"
"I'll do some digging. Maybe…maybe I can find something about him. What's his last name?" Neal's brow shot up at the question. "Oh, come on! Don't look at me like that. I've always known 'Neal Caffrey' wasn't your real name."
Neal couldn't help but smile a little at that. "Anderson. Blaine Anderson."
"Alright…you said he's ten years younger?" Mozzie took the laptop back from Neal and started typing away at it.
"So he should still be in high school. Maybe there is something in the newspapers about him that is related to that. Did he play sports or do anything?"
"He loved soccer as a kid," Neal replied, rubbing the back of his neck. "And singing! He was always going around the house singing those old Disney movie songs." Neal's smile grew as the memories flashed through his mind of a curly haired Blaine who would jump around the furniture singing everything and anything at the top of his lungs.
"I think I may have found something then," Mozzie said, interrupting Neal's thoughts. He spun the laptop back to Neal. The screen displayed a story about some show choir competition from a few months ago. The group, New Directions from William McKinley High School, had placed first at a sectionals competition. Various pictures accompanied the article, including one of a young male singer on his own out in front of the group.
The kid's hair was gelled back and he wore a white suit jacket. He was all grown up, but Neal could still see the little boy who used to follow him around like a puppy. He could still see his baby brother. He didn't need the caption underneath to tell him it was Blaine Anderson in the photo.
An idea occurred to him as he stared at the photo. He pulled the laptop towards him and opened a new Internet window. Mozzie tried to peer over the top of the laptop to see what Neal was doing. Before he could see anything, music started to blare from the small speakers.
"When I was 17, I did what people told me, uh!
I did what my father said, and let my mother mold me
But that was a long ago
"That's him?" Mozzie asked with awe.
"Yeah," Neal laughed. "Yeah…he's so grown up! Look at him!"
As he watched his brother move around the stage, weaving in and out of the other singers, he couldn't help but think about everything he'd left behind. For the first time in a long time he allowed himself to think about what he'd given up. His little brother had grown up without him, and for all he knew he was the same kid he'd heard about on the news.
He had to figure this out. He couldn't let it go, not now. Whether he liked it or not, his past was slamming back into him quicker than he thought possible. And if he wanted to know about Blaine's well being, he was going to have to let it. He was going to have to face his past head on…for Blaine.
The morning sun shone through the windows, illuminating the various papers and notes scattered across the tabletop. Neal had bags under his eyes where he hadn't slept the night before, but he refused to fall asleep. He had to keep searching and planning. He had to figure out a way to get to Blaine…just to make sure the kid was alright. He didn't think he was going to be able to function much longer if he didn't.
For years, Neal had been able to push thoughts of his brother to the back of his mind. He'd been able to forget the way the little boy would toddle into his room to grab at the few fedoras Neal kept in his closet. And the way Blaine's eyes would light up when Neal joined him in one of his almost daily Disney sing-a-longs. And how in the last few years Blaine would come home from school with a new scratch or bruise…and how he would always come up to his brother's room for comfort…
Hoping to distract himself from those thoughts, he reached up and clicked on the Youtube video he had loaded. It was the same one he'd been replaying over and over throughout the night. He still couldn't get over how grown up Blaine looked.
While the video didn't distract him from his thoughts, it did manage to distract him from noticing his door opening and heels clicking.
"Wow, I didn't know you were a Michael Jackson fan."
Neal startled and looked up to see Sara making her way over towards him. He tried to slam the laptop closed, but she turned it away from him so she could see the screen.
"Or that you were into high school choirs," she sighed, raising an eyebrow at him. "What is this Neal?"
"Nothing I just-"
The door opened again and Mozzie entered. He held a notebook out in front of him and his eyes were drawn onto the pages. He never looked up and just started to talk. "Ok…so your brother appears to have quite the resume from what little I could gather. You know how the system always tries to keep minors out of the papers and all when it is big stuff…but the plaster their names everywhere when they are into sports and extra curriculars. So…" Mozzie looked up to see Neal's wide eyes and Sara's mouth agape. "Oh…Sara is here…"
Sara shifted, putting her hands at her waist. "Brother? You have a brother?"
"And don't even bother trying to deflect. You're going to be answering me. This is huge, Caffrey."
Neal flinched at the use of his last name. Lately Sara hadn't been using it unless she was particularly made at him. "I will," he sighed. He took the notes from Mozzie, smiling a bit when a school photograph popped out from the pages of the notebook. Mozzie had noted that it was a year old; it showed Blaine in what looked like a school uniform. "This is Blaine." He handed the photo over to Sara.
"It's the kid from that video…the one singing Michael Jackson."
"Yeah…he's…he's my brother."
Sara studied the picture for a moment before turning her gaze softly back to him. "You've never mentioned him before. Even when I was searching for you when you stole that-"
Sara rolled her eyes. "When you 'allegedly' stole that painting from one of my clients…I never saw anything about a brother or any type of family."
Neal took the picture back from her. "I've always kept them separate. They're my past. I left them behind when I became this. I never wanted anything to happen to him because of something I was doing."
Sara shuffled a few of the notes around. "So what's with all of this now?"
Neal ran a hand through his messy hair. "Here," he replied, handing her the article about the suicide attempt. "I saw this on the news last night. Lima…that's where I'm from originally. It's where Blaine still is. He was always bullied so much as a kid. I just…I'm worried that it could be him…"
Sara's hand found it's way to Neal's back as his words began to take on more of a panicked edge. She rubbed soothing circles along the tense muscles. "Can't you just call your mom?"
"I haven't spoken to here since I was seventeen. I don't even know their number anymore. I checked some websites but they look like they are unlisted. My stepdad is still working in Lima though…I found some ads for his company. And I found these videos of Blaine performing with the McKinley show choir this year. But I don't know…I just have a bad feeling about all this and I have to know."
"How are you going to get there?"
Neal was grateful that for once Sara wasn't trying to talk him out of a plan. "I haven't quite worked out the details yet. I know all the flights to Ohio I could use and all that, but I have no idea how I'm going to manage getting this damn thing off again." He kicked out his leg a bit, showing his anklet.
Sara knelt down, the hem of her dress brushing the floor. She inspected the anklet herself before smiling up at Neal. "I think I can manage that."
"What have you been keeping from us?" Mozzie asked with a smirk playing at his lips.
Sara returned the smirk. "A girl has to have her secrets doesn't she now, Moz?"
"Touché," Mozzie sighed.
"But you can help?" Neal asked hopefully, wrapping his hand around hers.
"I'll have a key for you tomorrow. You can put the anklet on Mozzie. He'll just have to stay here while you are in Ohio."
"Hey! Who volunteered me for this?" Mozzie squawked. "There is no way I'm letting Big Brother watch me for-"
"I'll make sure he stays," Sara continued on, ignoring Mozzie's rants.
Neal bit his lip. "Why are you helping me?"
"I've told you about my sister. I know what it's like to worry about them…when you don't know if they are ok or not. " Sara stood up and straightened her clothes out. "But I think you should go to Peter and-"
"No," Neal bit out. "The less people that know about this the better it will be. I don't want anyone else to know about Blaine. I can't have someone hurting him."
She nodded. "Well then, we better get to work on all this." She took up a seat next to him and began to work alongside him. For the first time since the story first ran across his TV, Neal felt hope that things would be all right. Well…at least he did until Sara and Mozzie found the damn Free Credit Rating commercial he had done for some quick cash before leaving Ohio…
"So I think you have about two or three days," Sara whispered to Neal as they scurried through the airport. "I'll watch over Mozzie, so will June." Her hands gripped Neal's arm tightly. "You damn well better call me when you know he's safe."
Neal paused in walking towards the terminal, adjusting the leather jacket he had opted to wear. "You really care, don't you?"
"He's important to you…so yeah."
Neal leaned down a kissed her, pulling her against himself. "Thank you."
She smiled in return. "You better go." She rubbed his arm one last time before walking back into the crowd, her kitten heels clicking against the linoleum and echoing around the space.
With a sigh, Neal went off to board the airplane. He felt jittery and nervous as he took his seat in the economy class. Others started to sit all around him until the section was nearly filled to capacity. It wasn't his usual style, but he needed to blend into the crowd. He couldn't risk being noticed until after he reached Ohio. Granted, if he could stop his leg from bouncing or his hands from shaking that would be so much easier.
Luckily for Neal, the flight didn't last long. He was able to manage it with a few cups of coffee and a glass of wine. He landed in Ohio in just under two hours, and was one of the first ones to exit the plane. He breezed through the checkpoints and managed to make it out to the line of cabs in no time, even if he did most likely piss off a few people along the way in his haste. He couldn't afford to care. Not when he had to find his answer.
The cab ride would cost a fortuned to get him to Lima, more specifically to get him to the high school. But he didn't have a choice. He settled into the cab, thankful that the driver knew where the school was, even if he did have to hear all about how the guy's kid had taken the team to a state championship nearly a decade ago. It was worth it in the end when he stopped in front of the familiar brick building.
It was nearly noon by the time he was entering the building. Teenagers were crawling all over the place; it was obviously their lunch hour. He tried to go with the throng of students and teachers as he frantically searched for a glimpse of Blaine. When they were kids, he'd often search the boy out by looking for a curly mop of hair…however if those pictures he'd seen were any indication that would no longer be of any use.
"Oh my God!" a high-pitched voice squealed beside him. It was some blonde cheerleader type bouncing up and down in excitement. "You're Cooper Anderson!"
He felt the girl's hand on his arm and the stares of others in the hall all shift towards him.
"Holy crap it's the guy from that commercial!"
"I have to film this!"
Neal groaned to himself and mentally cursed that damn commercial he had done all those years ago. He wished he had found a better way to make money back then. There were tons of ways to make cash, as he now knew. But back then the stupid ad seemed like the easiest way to get the money to get to New York.
Now it was nothing but a pain in his ass. This was going to be awful to explain.
"Cooper Anderson?" a middle aged lady in a tracksuit exclaimed, poking her head out from a doorway. Before Neal could even process what was happening, she had crossed the hall and grabbed a hold of him. He anticipated her pulling him away from the kids and into an office. He did NOT anticipate her planting a kiss dead on his mouth. It lasted a few seconds before she pulled away, patting him on the ass. "From one local celebrity to another hot cheeks." With that, she took off as quickly as she came.
Neal just stood there stunned while a few more kids appeared, snapping photos with their phones. A few rubbed at his arms and tried to get into the photos with him. Some curly haired kid with thick glasses started shoving a camera and microphrone in his face and doing a running commentary. It was all absurd and completely ridiculous.
It was also freakishly distracting. Distracting enough that Neal didn't even notice when someone was grabbing his arm and pulling him away from the mob of students. He soon found himself being shoved into another dark room. He heard a door shut before the lights flickered on, illuminating his savior…his bow tie wearing, gelled hair savior…