Disclaimer: This is an original story based on the characters of White Collar. No profit will be made from this story and no copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This is something I thought of when I watched the season premiere of White Collar. Peter's feelings as he tries to find Neal. Enjoy!
He had never even known until he was 12 years old that he had an Uncle Joey.
He had never known there was a reason he was Peter Joseph Burke.
He had never known why his dad disappeared every April 22nd and why when he came back his eyes were red and his face was sad.
And then one day, when they were coming home from one of Peter's baseball game, his father turned and headed up the road to Robie Creek. He had only known Robie Creek as a place of fun and picnics, and he was excited for a trip with just his dad. But then his father took him to a place he had never been…to a small fishing hole with three big birch trees. And then he had told him how this was where he came every April 22nd, because this is where they had come as children…his father and his Uncle Joey.
He did not ask, because he couldn't bear to see his father in pain, but his father told him, told him about the accident, how he had pulled his 17 year old brother from the wreck with a broken arm himself, and how his brother had died in his arms as the ambulance pulled up. His father had put his hand on the back of Peter's head, and bit his cheek the way he always did when he was trying to keep from crying.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner Pete," he said quietly. "Something happens to you when you lose a brother. It's like a part of you gets cut off or broken, and you can't ever get it back. I just…couldn't ever talk about it before."
He had simply said, "I'm sorry Dad" and then just followed his dad's lead as his dad took off his shoes and put his feet in the water. They just sat there quietly, until his dad got out of the water and said was time to go.
He hadn't understood what his dad what his dad had meant then, but that day had weighed heavily on his mind lately. He thought about it as he sat in Neal's empty apartment, when he walked absent-mindedly through the halls of work. He thought about it when he remembered how his heart had broken a little as he had seen Neal's face and realized what he had to do, as he signaled to Neal that his dream wasn't going to happen. Neal was there one moment, looking up at him, and the next he was gone. And then his heart had broken a little more when he had read the transcript of Neal's testimony at the hearing.
"I have a good job, a partner, and best friend."
The sleepless nights started after Collins came in the picture. El, bless her, stayed up with him, listening to his theories, and most of all, comforting him.
When he had found E. Parker and especially after she had turned Collins away, he felt as though he could breathe easy for the first time. The door slamming in his face brought back the nagging fear.
He would not know until much later that his "good cop" had brought Ellen pictures of Peter and Neal together. She had told her of an extraordinary friendship that had changed the lives of both men. He would not know until later that Ellen had listened to stories of the criminals that Neal had helped bring down, and how tears had filled her eyes at the thought of Neal in a way, fulfilling his first dream of catching bad guys. So she had come to talk to his Peter Burke, even though she still wasn't sure if it was the right thing.
As he sat there in the living room, trying to connect the dots, trying to piece at together, she got more nervous and as she stood up to leave he became desperate. He had to make her understand. And so he told her what he had done, he told her he had told Neal to run and why. Even as he spoke the words, he felt the pain of them. He had in that single moment said goodbye to all the stake-out talks, the deviled ham, sharing a beer on the balcony. This unusual partnership had come to mean so much to him that work seemed hollow now. He had known it was right to set Neal free, but that knowledge did little to ease the pain of seeing him there one moment and then gone the next. It did not ease the pain of knowing he would likely never even see Neal again, let alone be there to watch him change and grow. The ache in his chest grew as he told her about Kramer's role. In the course of one day he had lost his mentor , and his partner…his best friend…his brother.
And as he told her about Collins, his voice caught in his throat because for the first time he understood…"Something happens to you when you lose a brother, it's like a part of you gets cut off or broken and you can't ever get it back."
"For the love of God," he thought, "please understand"
"Ellen," he pleaded, "If anything ever happened to him," and he bit the inside of his cheek, just like his dad, "I don't think I could live with it."
There was something in her eyes that told him that she did understand him. And suddenly he felt a kinship with her as he remembered that she had also had a partner and a brother and knew what it felt like to lose him. She not only agreed to help Peter, but understood his loss as well, and he loved her for it.
When she left that night, Peter gently kissed her cheek, promising her again to take care of "their boy."
His hands shook a little as he dialed the number and then put the phone down.
He felt the comforting arms of his angel El, around him.
"Come on Buddy," he whispered, "Come on."