Still don't own anything, except a heart that loves White collar.


Neal's always been an artist mesmerized by the colors of the world, but for all of the colors he loves, all of the colors that have smeared across canvases and painted his fingers' desires, there's only one staring back at him. The brown of chivalry lays in heated irises despite the actions just taken against him by a man he trusts more than himself.

He staggers and under any other circumstance it would have been just a step back, but there's suddenly something eating his flesh and he reaches out for the back of a kitchen chair to brace himself against the intrusion. It's like an army of fleas, crawling up his neck, between his fingers, and they're all gnawing away at his facade to leave him standing in the shell of the man he really is. But he's already gasping like a lost fish for air that will not come and he knows that the fleas have already devoured it because he's been stripped down to bare bone and soul in only a matter of minutes.

He sinks to the floor while feeling the cool wood between his fingers glide across clammy skin before his slender digits release it so they can occupy the minuscule space between his shirt collar and his throat. He pulls and tugs, feeling more like a man with a violent streak than he has ever wanted himself to believe in, but even when he hears the sound of buttons busting free from stitching, it's not enough.

His fingers shake against the material between them, but he does his best to grip it more forcefully and pull, but it takes the muscles in his arms and legs to even do so, or so his mind tells him.

Laid out on hard wooden floor like he's apart of the termite infested foundation, he bucks wildly, thrashing and clawing at his own skin, because the millions of tiny teeth are now chewing at the edges of the only two things he has left. He squirms against the pain of losing his bones, though he screams when they start eating away at his soul but he makes sure he releases the one word he doesn't want them to take away, because Neal still believes that the man who poisoned him will undoubtedly save him, too.


As if the sight before him wasn't enough to make his stomach drop, the man's hand on his shoulder accompanied by the "Good decision, Agent Burke" makes Peter's blood boil. He spins around, gripping the syringe he'd just stuck his C.I. with even harder, before stabbing it into the man behind him, wishing that he had been stupid enough to be that close before he had administered it to Neal. The gunman, a suspect who had caught them off guard and put Peter between a rock and hard place, staggers back in shock before the agent gives him right hook after every left jab his muscles can deliver, until the man is on the floor squirming just like Neal.

His victory lasts for the split second it seemed to have took for the suspect to disarm Peter and deal an ultimatum that the agent couldn't ignore: Give Caffrey the poison, or watch him eat a bullet, because Neal is screaming his name over and over just like he yelled Kate's name at the airport on that horrible day a few years ago.

He ties the man up and runs to Neal.

They don't want him to speak so the fleas, termites, whatever else wants a piece of his ruined flesh, gag him like stuffing a cloth down his throat and he arches his back in protest, but it's useless because they press down on his chest, his head and hold him down on the floor.

Suddenly, the sound of churning bone between teeth turns to words muffled by a pair of lungs' desperate search for air. He can't control the level of either, or so he thinks until he once again arches and writhes against the pests eating him alive and the words, the voice, is suddenly much louder.

It's his name, over and over, in rhythm with the bites and he twists once more to get it out of sync at the very least, but the pressure on his head and chest gets worse and the voice gets louder, this time saying something other than his name.

Peter's hands hover over a writhing body and he swallows thickly against the bile his throat and the pain in his ears. He presses gently down on Neal's chest, but the wheezing he can already hear makes him move his hand down to the con's stomach and he uses his other to hold the kid's head still so he can't keep beating it into the floor.

"Neal," the name spills out of his mouth like a bag of rocks, heavy and gargled. "Neal. Neal!"

The younger man doesn't react despite the fact that Peter is answering the call of his own name ripping from between Neal's lips, and Peter has to do something for him, anything, even if it means letting go of his friend for only a moment.

"I'll be right back."

Peter stands and searches, rips the house down to studs in search of an antidote he prays exists, until he forces the other dying man to tell him exactly where it is.

He wastes no time except the moment it takes to wonder if the syringe in his hand will actually save his friend, or kill him quicker, but the sound of Neal's screams and body thrashing on the ground makes him realize either one is better than what's happening to him, before plunging it down into the boy's thigh.

He doesn't release all of it, but drops the syringe down beside him, paying little mind to where it rolls as he once again holds Neal as still as possible and tells him that he's exactly where Neal wants him to be.

Neal can't focus long enough on the voice to realize it's the thing he's been trying to scream for, but his attention is grabbed by something else entirely. There's a sharp pain, different from the now almost numbing quality of the other, around what once felt like his leg and he finally feels his body still, or stiffen at the very least, and the voice wavers in and out of his ears. He turns his head in search of a face, but he's looking blindly for something he knows is there and calls out for it just as another burning sensation takes him over, ripping a scream from his already raw throat.

Peter pulls Neal closer to him, despite the bucking and arching the younger man does, because no matter where Neal tries to go Peter always sets the boundaries. He stills the kid's head in the crook of his arm and against his bicep, rubbing a thumb on a cheekbone he's seen so many women swoon over and says, "Look at me, Neal. Come on, look at me. Stay with me alright." He holds on tighter when Neal can't help but squirm against the acting antidote or second dose of posion. "I got you but, you just gotta stay with me. Cavalry is almost here, just a little longer and you can sleep at least until tomorrow when Elizabeth is fussing over you, okay? Just look at me, Neal and breathe with me. That's it. Good, Buddy, just like that."

The fire licks him, but Neal's being held still by the only thing that could ever ground him. He stares at the man leaning over him, because the man tells him to do nothing else besides that and breathe and he'll at least get one of the two accomplished for the man who has let him do everything else.

The flames swell inside and he can't help but arch and writhe with it, but his eyes never leave Peter's and the man smiles at him for his efforts. He hears Peter say something about tomorrow, but never in his life has Neal had the chance to look that far, so he keeps his eyes on Peter and hopes that the lifeline he's chosen will take him there.

AN: Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think!