Neal was happy to be out of the office. Despite the last few months being good between Peter and himself, they still had some personality clashes off and on. Today was one of the few he could have done without, his stubbornness telling him to rush off in a mood without telling his partner and friend anything more than: I'll walk home.
The weather was cooler than he expected, his light jacket not helping the situation as he sighed and stopped by a bench in a park along the way to sit. It was nearly 7 now and he hadn't bothered to hail a cab, his anger making him walk it off until the cold and his now tired feet got to him. He gave a heavy sigh, pulling out his phone and sighing again when he had no message. Maybe Peter didn't care as much as he thought or maybe he was just being a child.
"Sounds like you have problems. Want to talk?"
He turned to see a shadowy figure just beyond some trees a few feet away. The man was dressed fairly normal in a worn navy blue windbreaker, jeans and boots. The man moved a bit closer revealing his face. It was a weathered tired face but one that was obviously still sharp and full of spirit. Neal kept himself wary sensing something about the man he didn't like but couldn't yet place.
Neal started to stand when he felt a hand on the back of his neck and shoulders. The man pushed down hard enough to indicate he could hurt him if he tried so Neal gave in a few more minutes until he could figure out what was going on.
"I think you would want to talk about your friend. He is the one that caught you, isn't he?"
Neal stiffened despite knowing he shouldn't give anything away, his blue eyes gazing up into dark green ones as the man moved around to sit with him. Now he was curious why the man was bringing up Peter.
"I don't know what friend you mean."
The man smiled back with bright white teeth, his short cropped brown hair reminding him of a military cut, a hint of early gray there. The man wasn't much older than Peter but there was some anger towards the agent and it worried him.
"Don't be coy, CONsultant to the FBI. You're Neal Caffrey. Everyone knows about you."
The man's words made the cold feel like ice was running through him as he realized he might just be in trouble. He was alone in a mostly deserted park and this man knew who he was and obviously had something against Peter. He could handle himself but this was starting to make his hackles rise in fear. Neal kept his facade up and calmly stood, he felt a little dizzy but otherwise he kept his ground.
"You know me. Who are you?"
He started to feel a bit warmer and relaxed but he wasn't sure why, his vision blurring ever so slightly as he kept himself upright. The man just smiled up at him.
"An old friend of Agent Burke's. I had your position once..."
The man's voice trailed off as the blurriness increased and Neal started to feel a bit spacey. What was going on? He hadn't felt sick before... before the man had touched him.
"What... do you... mean by... by that?"
He could barely talk now, his mind growing fuzzy as Neal started to feel himself grow faint, the man standing up to move closer. He wrapped an arm around Neal like they were old friends and started to lead him away. It would look like a friend leading his drunk pal home. Nobody would suspect a thing. Neal's mind raced through all the possibilities as he tried to fight whatever he'd been given although he wasn't sure how.
"Don't worry. I won't let him do to you what he did to me, Mr. Caffrey; although, I have to say you seem to be more friendly with him than he ever was with me. It's almost like he cares. Let's walk and talk, shall we?"
The man's voice was starting to echo and fade, Neal feeling drunk and dizzier as the man walked him down the sidewalk. Soon everything went from fuzzy to blank.
Neal couldn't remember how he got home, waking up with a start in pajamas as the alarm went off. He glanced around with a feeling like he'd had too much to drink as he sat up and rolled out of bed. The room seemed to swim around him as he moved through his apartment and back towards the rear hallway. His eyes adjusted to the darkness, turning on no lights as he passed by his closet and through to the bathroom. He switched on the light and blinked, adjusting to the change when he saw it.
There was a hairline gash across his forehead he didn't remember having before, a bit of blood already dried across it. He reached up to touch it and felt pain. This had happened recently but he couldn't figure out when or how. He was about to forget it when he saw something reddish on the white tiled floor by the shower. Neal moved closer, leaning over to see that what was there. It was blood. Not only that but now he saw he had a few bruises and small cuts on his hands as if he'd been in a fight or struggle. What was going on here? He opened up the shower and found his clothes from the day before soaking in a small tub of water, light evidence of old blood and some tears evident on them. What had he forgotten since his angry escape from the office? He noticed something stashed to the side from the bucket on the floor. A cell phone. He picked it up and realized it wasn't his but looked familiar. He opened it up and saw it was indeed a cell that he knew: Peter Burke's.
"What am I doing with Peter's phone?"
He had barely whispered the query to himself when he felt a sudden rush of nausea, his head swimming as he saw a quick flash of something in the back of his mind. He was holding something shiny, someone talking to him. No several voices were speaking when his hand rose up and suddenly the episode ended and he rushed from the shower to the toilet and threw up. When he was done he picked up the phone again and stared at it, cold washing over him but he didn't know why.
"Neal? Are you in there?"
It was June. He felt a sort of panic he didn't understand, closing up the shower and shoving the cell into a nearby drawer as he heard her footsteps nearing. He was standing there trying to look normal when she knocked and he moved over to open the door. Maybe she knew what he was feeling or maybe he just thought she did as June smiled at him in her usual way.
"You're up early. I was just going to drop off some more towels for you."
Her tone was calm but there was an almost curious query to it as if she were uncertain how to ask something. Neal tried not to think about anything but being normal as he nodded.
"Yes. Peter and I have a big case we're working on. Need to get to the office and finish up some reports. Has he called?"
He wasn't sure why he threw that in but it seemed to make her braver at asking what she was avoiding, her manner worried suddenly.
"No but Elizabeth called wondering if he had stayed with you. He never came home last night."
Her words made him feel even colder as he felt another flash of memory wash over him like a sock to the face.
He won't care for you once your usefulness is over... There are no second chances with him.
The words were cold, dark and foreboding as he snapped out of the memory and moved to the toilet again and threw up. He felt June at his side trying to calm and hold him up as he knelt there and felt exhausted as the episode ended. She was gently feeling his forehead and tut-tutting at him.
"You can't go to work if you're this sick. You don't have a fever but you're obviously ill."
June was walking away when he grasped her hand and held it tightly.
"I'm fine, June. Really."
He slumped back against the wall but didn't try to get up as she looked down at him with a dubious glance.
"Neal... you have to rest. I'll call Agent Jones. I have his number..."
She pulled her hand free without effort, his grip loosening as she moved out into the hall, footsteps fading into the distance. He heard her on the phone in his room talking quietly, his eyes closing as he relaxed and felt another memory he didn't recognize rise to the surface.
Why... why are you doing this?
Because of him. Now you'll know what betrayal feels like.
His face crinkled, eyes shut tightly as he heard the two voices speaking. He recognized one but the other... he wasn't sure but he had heard it recently.
Don't make him do this.
This is your fault, Burke. He's just as much a pet to you as I was. Sometimes you get bit...
The scene was dark, blurry and he saw little if anything but then there were eyes, brown frightened eyes staring up at him. Peter was looking at him in fear and he didn't understand why.
Neal... don't listen to him. Please...
Suddenly the memory ended and Neal felt his body shake as he slumped further to the floor and his eyes rolled back. His whole body trembled violently, the image of his hand raising with something shiny in it. He tried to see what but it was still too blurry as he watched it come back down and heard a cry of pain. Peter was in pain and then Neal passed out.
I don't know what's wrong with him. He was just suddenly very ill and threw up.
He heard a voice speaking quietly, June's he realized followed by another he recognized.
Poor Neal. I'm glad you called. I still haven't heard from Peter and nobody seems to know where he is. He isn't answering his phone...
There was a pause before June replied.
There has to be a reason for his illness. He has bruises that weren't there yesterday when I saw him. I don't even remember hearing him enter the house. I only heard him moving around upstairs this morning and came to check on him.
The voices kept talking as he lay there in the darkness, Neal realizing that he was hearing both June and Elizabeth speaking. There was a sound of someone getting up and then footsteps leaving the room as the door shut and he was left in silence. His mind remained active but his body wasn't responding as he lay there trapped in the darkness of his mind and trying not to think of the memories from earlier. He didn't understand them but Neal knew something bad had happened whether he wanted to remember or not. He remained in the darkness, his mind fighting against whatever made him forget what had happened the evening before. He had left work... then everything went fuzzy and blank.
This is your fault, Burke. He's just as much a pet to you as I was. Sometimes you get bit...
That voice. He had heard it recently but where... he couldn't recall where it came from. It wasn't one that he knew but he had heard it not too long ago. Neal fought to get at the source of the speaker but his head began to hurt, a low moan escaping his lips as he started to come to. There was a quick flash of memory, Peter's brown eyes staring up at him in fear and then suddenly he was awake.
He whispered the name, glancing around the room without sitting up, his body feeling worse than it had before. He ached all over and his head hurt worse of all, a deep throb of pain in both temples and behind the eyes. He felt drugged as he rolled over onto his side and pushed his face into the pillow.
Did you think he wouldn't hurt you? I doubt he likes being trapped in a 2 mile cage of your making. He's a con and a person but you... you're playing God with his life as you did mine. Why didn't we become friends, Burke? Was I not smart enough for you?
The voice was vindictive and cold, a hint of unreleased anger ready to explode at any moment. Neal wanted to see the person's face and figure out why they were talking like this. Why did they hate Peter so much? Neal turned his mental view up towards the speaker when he heard a horrible sound, his eyes turning to see Peter in pain, brown eyes pleading up at him. Neal saw his hand on the agent's shoulder but there was something else there. He tried to focus on it...
His eyes flashed open again, turning to find Mozzie staring at him from across the room. Neal nodded without a sound, doing his best to sit up as a groan of pain escaped his lips. He was feeling the results of something he didn't understand as the older con came to sit by him.
"June and Mrs. Suit were worrying about you downstairs."
Mozzie looked genuinely worried, eyes scanning him until they widened at the sight of him. Neal wasn't sure how to answer, his throat a bit dry as he swallowed hard and licked at his lips.
"You look like someone beat you up! Neal... what's going on? El said she hadn't heard from the Suit."
He held up a hand, moving to get out of bed but falling to the floor when he tried, Mozzie helping him sit up and lean against the bed.
"I don't... don't know. My head feels... fuzzy. Thirsty..."
He still had a taste of bile from before although several hours had passed since he'd first woken up. The sun was higher in the sky indicating it was closer to noon but still late morning as he slumped back against the bed frame and closed his eyes.
"Just a second..."
Footsteps moved away as Mozzie left him briefly, returning with a glass of water when he opened his eyes again. He took a long sip, swallowing hungrily until his thirst had been sated and he closed his eyes again exhaustively. He felt a hand on his forehead tentatively taking his temp then a sigh of relief.
"You're not feverish... let me see your eyes."
Mozzie poked him when he didn't respond right away, Neal opening up his eyes tiredly as the little guy peered closer.
"You've been drugged. Your eyes are dilated, Neal. What's the last thing you remember?"
Neal glanced at his friend incredulously but that seemed to make sense despite all his attempts to figure out what was wrong. He had left work and then...
"I don't know... I had an argument with Peter. Left in a huff and then... everything's blank until I woke up here a few hours ago."
He wanted to say more but there was a knock on the door. June and El were there, both carrying small trays of food as they noticed where the two men were sitting.
"Neal, are you ok?"
Both women moved over to help but Mozzie held up a hand, helping Neal up to the bed again as they put down the trays to assist. El looked like she really wanted to speak to him but was holding back as he was settled again. She had to be worried about Peter and he didn't blame her for wanting to know what he might remember if he could recall anything. June placed a small bed tray on his lap and they placed the food there.
"Do you think you can eat something, Neal? I brought some chicken broth up and Elizabeth brought you some tomato soup if you're hungry."
He nodded at them, attempting to smile but uncertain he could considering what he did know. Someone had drugged him and he had been in some kind of altercation possibly involving Peter's disappearance. There were too many holes in his memory to recall much of anything at the moment as he looked down at the food and tried to eat it. Mozzie remained nearby, protecting him it seemed or maybe waiting to talk more once the ladies had left. June left first to answer the phone downstairs but Elizabeth remained behind, sitting nearby as she watched him eat. They spoke very little, just chit chatting as Mozzie looked impatient to speak to him alone but left long enough for her to come forward.
Her voice was soft... tentative as she tried to broach the topic he knew she was wanting to speak with him about: Peter.
"Peter... he didn't come home last night. Nobody at the Bureau knows where he went but he left early from the office."
She left it open, her tone indicating she thought maybe they had left together or he might be able to finish the sentence for her but he shook his head unable to tell her what he wanted.
"He wasn't here. I wish I could tell you he was..."
His voice was as calm as he could keep it, that sense he was lying to her without knowing it making him feel guilty and sick inside. He had no memory of the time after he left work so may not have seen Peter although those flashes told him otherwise. Neal watched her nod back, her hand gently taking his in her own as she smiled back sadly.
"I believe you. I just hoped you had seen him. Jones and Diana said he was in a hurry when he left but that was it. Did you see him go?"
She asked the one question he wished she hadn't, his mind going back to the argument. Diana and Jones were out at the time, the office nearly empty when they'd been fighting. Only a few rookies were around, Hughes out at a meeting so few witnesses to what had happened other than raised voices and Neal leaving the office looking annoyed if not angry. It had been a stupid argument now that he thought about it but still he had to have the final word as he stormed out, regret evident as he put down the spoon and shook his head.
"No. I didn't."
Once Elizabeth was happy he was doing better, she left. Peter had not been answering his phone but Neal knew why as he thought back to pushing the device into a drawer in the bathroom linen closet. Could he tell Mozzie without the little guy freaking out on him about running? He still wasn't sure why he had the cell as he heard footsteps and Mozzie appeared again.
"About time we were alone... so, what do you remember about yesterday?"
Mozzie was going to push at him and Neal had no answers. He slowly stood, easing himself over to the kitchenette for more water as his friend followed him. He was feeling a bit better now, sipping the water slowly as he tried to relax despite the obvious glances of concern from his friend.
"Staring at me isn't going to help my memory, Mozz. Why are you here?"
He was feeling annoyed, mostly with the fact he couldn't remember anything and worrying that he knew what had happened to Peter. The little guy shrugged.
"I came to tell you there was something poking around in your background recently. I only just got the word but it seems they were looking up information pertaining to you and the Suit."
Neal turned to look at his friend, their eyes meeting as he tried to figure out what the connection was here.
"Who was it? Anyone we know?"
He moved over to the sofa and sat down with a heavy plop, head leaning back tiredly against the back of it as he tried to relax. Mozzie sat beside him a bit more leisurely.
"Ex-Con but nobody on our radar. Henry Burkiss. He was arrested by the Suit just before you came on the scene. Apparently he was a C.I. too but something happened and he was sent back for another 10 years. I'm still getting all the facts as I find them."
Neal took the information in as Mozzie recited it to him, his closed eyes beginning to show him a fuzzy scene. He saw a park bench and himself sitting there, a darker figure in the background moving closer. The man's face was still unclear but green eyes shone back at him as he tried to focus on the details. He felt a nudge, opening up his eyes to find Mozzie looking down at him worriedly.
"Maybe you should go back to bed. You're looking a bit peaked, Neal."
Mozzie seemed more than worried about him but he shook his head, the image still there only fuzzier. He was trying to hold on to the faint memory, seeing himself at the bench and sensing a sadness in him at the time. He had been sorry for that argument but that's as much as he could figure out as the scene faded away again.
"I almost... remembered, Mozz. I can trust you to keep this between us?"
The little guy looked at him curiously, nodding with a slight hesitation as Neal tried to think back. He had been in a park brooding over his argument with Peter and then... then a man had showed up.
"Sure, Neal. You know I won't squeal on you to the man."
Mozzie sounded sincere as Neal nodded back and sat up a bit straighter.
"Peter and I... we were arguing yesterday. I stormed out and went for a walk. I think I may have stopped in a park along the way but that's all I recall for now. There was a man there..."
He stood up, walking to the door and locking it before he motioned for Mozzie to follow. They went through the back hallway into the bathroom and Neal showed him the clothes in the shower and the phone. Mozzie's eyes widened with an almost fearful revelation of what it was he was showing and telling him.
"So you think somehow you met up with the Suit and may know what happened to him? Neal... you have to let El know! Wait... maybe not. I mean... You don't remember what happened but you have his cell. This won't look good for you if he turns up..."
Neal held up a hand for his friend to shut up as he shook his head.
"He's not dead. I'm certain of it but someone has him captive and I think I was the bait."
Author's Note: Mysterious disappearances and people from the past who don't like Peter. Uh oh... what's up for Neal and what has he forgotten about the day before? Should he tell Elizabeth and June or just work on this on his own with Mozzie? Stay tuned!