Title: Origami Soul
Author: Amory Puck (pucktheplayer on LJ)
Warnings: Slash, non-con, dub-con, angst, h/c, physical & mental torture
Pairings: Peter/Neal, Kramer/Neal, Other DC Agent/Neal
Author's Notes: It has been so long since I worked on this that I actually had forgotten the (very complicated) plot and had to rework it, which made this a difficult chapter to write! Hope that you like it, though! :)
o o o
Chapter 4: Bad News Bird
o o o
Peter gritted his teeth as he strained at the thin pieces of rope binding him to the chair. Considering that the twine had been wrapped around his wrists and ankles at least a dozen times, it was pretty much futile, but he tried anyway. It wasn't as if he had anything better to do.
Soon after Neal had been returned to his cell, a muscle man had come for Peter, dragging him down a damp, mildewy hallway and into a large, dark room that looked like some kind of basement. There were stairs leading up out of it, anyway, which confirmed Peter's suspicions that they were underground.
Neal's anklet had been cut, but by now the FBI would have traced the van's route along the CCTV cameras, narrowing down their location. After El had been kidnapped, Peter had installed a CCTV cam on his porch, so they would know what the van looked like. El had laughed at him for being paranoid at the time, but now he was damn glad he had done it.
Right now, all Peter really needed to do was stall. These guys weren't exactly professionals, with their noticeably creepy getaway vehicle and their ski masks. The Feds would find them soon. Peter just had to make sure that these guys didn't hurt him or Neal in the meantime.
From the way Neal had been acting, Peter was pretty sure they'd done something to him, or maybe drugged him up, because he hadn't been making much sense. Protecting Neal had to be his number one priority. He was Peter's responsibility, after all.
Peter yanked at the ropes again, glancing around the now empty room for something he could use to cut them. The only thing in the place was a small projector and a video camera set a few feet away. Maybe if he could shift his chair toward it, he could break the lamp set up next to it and use the glass to cut his ropes…
"Well, well, if it isn't Agent Burke."
Peter looked up sharply, scowling as the masked man in the suit descended the stairs slowly. He had come from the top, not from the underground entrance they had dragged Peter through, which was good news. If these guys were set up above ground, also, then it would be easier for the Feds to find them.
"What do you want from me?" Peter growled, more to waste time than anything. Behind the man in the suit were three other guys in ski masks, obviously muscle men. That wasn't good.
He could practically see the man grinning behind his mask, the bastard. "Why, this is an excellent opportunity, is it not? Having an FBI agent in our possession. Oh, think of the ransom!"
Peter snorted. "Excellent opportunity? You mean a suicide mission. The Feds don't negotiate with kidnappers, asshole. All having a Fed in your little dungeon will do is get you caught faster."
"How about you let me worry about that?" the man said, waving Peter's words away as he moved over toward the camera area and flipped on the lamp, pointing it at Peter.
Peter squinted at the sudden glare, grimacing as his eyes rushed to adjust from the dim shadows to bright lights. "You're making a mistake. A big mistake."
"You think so?" the man asked, though Peter could only see a dark outline of him now due to the light shining in his eyes. "I think we're doing okay, but then everyone is entitled to their opinion."
Despite the man's almost playful banter, his voice was still held an octave or two lower than normal, and his words had an awkward sort of tempo to them. Okay, maybe these guys weren't total unprofessionals. This one, at least, seemed to know how to make sure you couldn't describe him. His suit was a little too large, making it impossible to guess his real body build, and Peter had a feeling he might be wearing shoes with lifts, because he was awfully tall. Peter had no way of knowing anything beyond the fact that he was a caucasian male of average weight.
"Okay," the man said, stepping forward where Peter could see him clearly again. "I think we're ready." He walked over, settling a sheet of paper in Peter's lap. "We're making a little film for your fellow agents, Burke. Do me a favor and read it with feeling."
Peter shot him a look. "And why the hell should I do that? It won't do you any good. Like I said, they aren't going to negotiate, and they don't need to. My team will find you and rip you apart."
"Oh, I'm terrified," the man replied dryly. "Now read the paper." He stepped back behind the camera. "And, action!"
Peter glanced down at the sheet in his lap, then back up, scowling. "Why should I?"
"Well," the man said slowly, "because if you don't, we're going to take it out on your favorite pet criminal."
"He's not my pet criminal," Peter snapped, "his name is Neal Caffrey, and if you touch a single hair on his head, I will kill you."
"Oh, I think we're past that point," the man replied dryly. There was an audible click as the man hit a button on the camera, then a loud groan came out of the darkness.
"Stop," came Neal's voice, sounding panicked. A thud and then another groan. "Please, stop." The man hit the button again, and it went silent. Bastards had tortured Neal and *taped* it?
Peter stiffened, sitting up straight and glaring into the lights, teeth bared. "What did you do to him?" he said, voice furious.
The man chuckled. "Nothing serious. Just a few bruises. Nothing permanent. Neal will heal up fine. But that could change, if you keep being difficult. I suggest you do as you're told and read the paper." His voice was mockingly sweet. "It's your choice."
"Fine," Peter said coldly. "I'll read it. But you're going to be sorry you laid a hand on him, I promise you that."
"I'm sure," the man sarcastically, idly adjusting the angle of the camera. "And, action!"
Peter clenched his jaw, looking down at the paper in his lap. He really didn't want to give this prick the satisfaction, but what choice did he have? Obviously they had no qualms about hurting Neal. "My name is Agent Peter Burke and I—"
"I said with feeling," the man interrupted, sounding annoyed. "Put some life into it, Agent Burke, or poor little Neal will face the consequences."
"Okay, okay," Peter snapped. "What are you, president of the Thespian society?" He cleared his throat, starting again. "My name is Agent Peter Burke and I work for the White Collar Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York City. I was taken from my front porch, along with my consultant, Neal Caffrey."
"A little more feeling, Burke. Put some fire into it, or I might have to put some fire to your boy."
Peter's face went hot with anger and he yanked at his bonds again. "Don't you fucking dare!"
"See, that's what I'm looking for," the man said, and you could hear the smile in his voice. "Please continue."
Peter gripped tightly at the arms of the chair, wishing more than anything he could go all Hulk on this bastard. "I have been told by my captors that Caffrey is disposable." Peter's stomach churned at the words. "And that any bad behavior will be taken out of his ass." Out of his ass? How poetic. "If you comply by the following orders, my kidnappers will return us both safely, but if you mess up, Caffrey dies. It's that simple."
That simple, huh? Peter would show them 'that simple' when he got his goddamn gun back.
"They want one hundred thousand dollars in non-sequential bills delivered to the attached GPS coordinates."
A hundred thousand dollars? These fools had kidnapped a *federal agent* for one hundred thousand dollars? Were they out of their mind? They should have just robbed a goddamn bank.
"At the drop site, you will find a rock with six marks on it, making the shape of a diamond. There is a safe buried below it. Put it in the ground. Don't bother with any attempts to case the area before hand. My captor says that he is well trained, betrayal won't happen. Any pitiful attempts will be handled with extreme punishment."
Extreme punishment? This little dialogue was getting weirder and weirder. Peter supposed it was sort of theatrical, but it didn't make much sense. How did you hand the FBI "extreme punishment?" Well, other than offing their agent. Peter supposed that would fit the bill.
"If this turns into a mess, Caffrey won't be able to walk for a year." And yet another threat against Neal. Obviously somebody knew his weak spot. "Follow these directions exactly, or Caffrey is going to get hurt. Once the money is retrieved he will abandon Caffrey and I, and send you the coordinates of where to find us. I say to do this if you want us to live."
"Cut!" the masked man called out as he flicked off the lamp. "Good job, Burke. Very powerful. Deserves an Emmy, that one."
"You're crazy, you know that?" Peter said, glaring at the man. "Kidnapping a Fed for a hundred thou? That's insane. You're a fool."
"Says the man who spends every day hanging out with a felon," the man replied cooly. "But then I suppose you have him well trained."
"Damn straight, I have him well trained, so if you think you're going to get him to flip and help you, you're a fool."
"And here I thought DC was his new 'trainer." The man made quotation marks in the air. "Perhaps he's not as loyal to you as you think."
"How did you know that?" Peter asked, suddenly suspicious. This wouldn't be the first time he'd faced off against an inside man, after all.
The man laughed. "You would be amazed at what I know, Burke. For example, I know that Agent Phillip Kramer had an equal percentage of solved cases with none of the discipline problems. It seems to me that Neal's loyalty may have shifted during his time in DC."
"Kramer didn't do shit," Peter retorted, eyes flashing. "Neal has been my responsibility from the start, and he would never betray me. Who the hell are you? If this is an inside job, you should know that men who mess with me don't tend to hang around long."
The man walked over, stopping directly in front of Peter and bending down so they were at eye level. He had brown eyes with little wrinkles on the edges. Another feature for Peter's list. "Burke, I'm going to give you a chance here. You were right when you said it would be mad to kidnap a Fed for pocket change. You see, the video is simply something to feed your people, to buy us time. I don't want the money, not really."
"Then what do you want?" Peter asked in a low voice, narrowing his eyes. "What's this really about?"
"Your cooperation," the man replied, standing back up and crossing his arms over his chest.
"Not gonna happen," Peter shot back immediately. "You've got the wrong man. I'm not the sort of guy that can be bought."
The man laughed. "Relax, Burke, I'm not asking you to violate any of your precious morals. All I want is for you to take a good, hard look at Caffrey. I have a bone to pick with that man, a real old bone. That's real reason I took this job to begin with."
"What do you mean, 'took this job'?" Peter said. "Someone else is behind this?"
"Oh, Agent Burke, your naivete is refreshing," the man said, shaking his head. "Don't you get it yet? Caffrey betrayed you, just like he did me, a long time ago. That's what he is. A liar and a thief. No amount of crime fighting rehab can change that."
Peter's eyes narrowed. "Bullshit. Neal did not betray me."
The man nodded slowly. "Right… Because nothing seemed off about him in the airport, right? Altering one's appearance to the point of being unrecognizable is completely normal. And everybody sits out on the porch at nighttime when there's a little party in their honor going on inside. We just got lucky on that one—Neal had nothing to do with arranging the pickup. Totally a 'right place, right time' sort of thing."
Peter's lips tightened into a thin line, shoulders stiffening. No. It couldn't be true. There was no way. Yeah, Neal had seemed a little off and, yeah, he had been doing some strange things, but he wouldn't turn on Peter like that, not after everything Peter had done for him. Would he?
"Why the hell would Neal have arranged for us both to be kidnapped?" he shot back. "You're grasping at straws with this. If you think you're going to turn me on him, then you obviously don't know me very well."
"Or maybe," the man countered, "you don't know him very well. Think about it, Peter." He walked back toward the camera, but this time he hit the little projector beside it, lighting up the grungy wall. "I know you're quite the investigator. How about a little evidence?"
An image appeared suddenly, with a small time stamp in the corner. It was obviously from sort of security camera, so it was a little fuzzy, but Peter could make out Neal sitting hunched over at a small cafe table on the far right. His hair was even shorter than it was now, practically bald except for a few fuzzy patches, and he was wearing oversized sweat pants and a t-shirt the color of puke. Across from him was a large man in a suit that practically screamed 'agent.'
"Do you know what day this was taken, Agent Burke?" the man asked, continuing on without waiting for Peter to answer. "It's his first day in DC. Tell me, Peter… How did you explain this new look to yourself? That DC was so thrifty Caffrey had to pull his clothes out of a trash bin? That one night he got bored and took up shaving his head in the dark as a hobby? That the DC agents were such big old meanie heads they made him dress icky to make him all pouty?" The man chuckled at the last one. "I'm sure you came up with some reason that DC changed him so much. But the thing is, Peter… He arrived in DC like that."
Peter's brow furrowed. "What? No, he didn't. He was escorted onto the plane by two Marshals. I saw it myself. And he *didn't* look like that?"
"But did you see him get off the plane?" the man replied. "I don't know how he did it—maybe the Marshals just didn't care—but this photo was taken his first day with his handler. The time stamp proves that. Somewhere between here and Washington DC, the handsome and charming Neal Caffrey transformed himself into a bum."
"Why the hell would he do that?" Peter asked, shaking his head. "What's the point?"
The man put a finger on his chin, tapping it gently as he pretended to think. "Hm… Tell me, Peter, who is more of a threat? A well dressed, classy man with good looks, a charming manner, and high intelligence or a messy, dirty, trashy looking bum who spends most of his time sitting around doing nothing? Which one would you watch more closely?"
Peter sucked in a sharp breath, puzzle pieces starting to fall into place. He knew it was insane to listen to the person who had fucking kidnapped him, but this, at least, made sense. There was no other reason Peter could even imagine for Neal to do that to himself. In fact, it smelled a lot like his little plan to escape from prison.
"Next we have the DC office," the man said, clicking a button on the projector and bringing up a video of a large room crowded with men and women in suits, working away. Neal's desk was the closest to the camera, and unlike his co-workers, Neal wasn't typing or filing or reading. He was folding paper.
Long, nimble fingers carefully folded a sheet of newsprint, slowly forming some kind of bird. His eyes were narrowed in concentration, lips pursed as he slid his nails along a fold to make it crisp and neat.
Peter watched as the agent he had seen with Neal in the last photo walked up behind him, his hand coming down suddenly on Neal's shoulder.
Neal practically leapt into the air, eyes going wide as he immediately crumpled the little animal in his hand, shoving it under his desk as he looked up at the man with a nervous expression. What the hell?
The video froze, Neal's almost frightened eyes staring up at the agent.
"You remember the messages, don't you, Peter?" the man in the mask questioned. "Little origami birds and plants. Imagine if each one meant something unique. A complex code in such a simple thing."
Peter swallowed hard as an image of Alex Hunter flashed through his mind. Was she in DC? He hadn't heard anything about it, but she was a hard person to track. Either way, the animals had to mean something. Why else would Neal have looked so nervous when the agent walked up? If it was just a hobby, why had he tried so hard to hide what he was doing?
Peter bit his lip as he remembered the little flamingo Neal had given El. Had that been some sort of symbol, too, an inside joke on him?
No. No, that was crazy. Peter knew Neal, he trusted Neal. This man here had *kidnapped* him, for God's sake. Why should he believe a word the bastard said? Even if it did sort of make sense.
Seriously, why else would Neal wear an Oscar the Grouch tie if not for some kind of con? Peter didn't have a clue.
"You don't have to trust me," the man said as if he could read Peter's mind. "I'm not asking you to work with us. All I'm asking is that you take a good, hard look at the things Neal has been doing. I want the bastard put away, for a long, long time. I want him to suffer, the way I suffered. As of now, Caffrey has no idea that his little plan has gone awry. We've got everything set up so that it will look as if he gave us his part of the treasure in exchange for release, when in reality he just paid us to make it look that way and hid it somewhere. When this is over, he will honestly believe that you think it's gone. You don't even have to lie to him—you can just go along with *his* lies. Yet again he has betrayed your trust and put you in danger. Think about it, Peter."
The man clicked off the projector, gesturing for one of the muscle men to come over. "Watch him. I'm going to check to make sure the empty warehouse has enough traces of paint and gold to be believable. We want Caffrey to think Burke believes the treasure is really gone."
"Got it boss," the guy said, nodding.
The man started up the stairs then paused, looking back at Peter. "Just remember, Burke. The enemy of your enemy is your friend."
o o o
Neal looked up as the chain on his cell door clanked, shrinking down against the wall as one of the men in ski masks opened the lock. He pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them as tight as he could, like they were some sort of security blanket.
Man, he was pitiful, whimpering in the corner like a little dog, but he couldn't help it. That's what Neal felt like these days, a bruised and beaten dog, and he couldn't help but slink away. All his strength had been lost to Billings' big fists on his face and dick up his ass. Neal couldn't even remember what it felt like to be strong and brave. It was like he'd been useless and disgusting forever.
The cell door slid open and Neal stared at the man behind it with wide eyes. "Please," he said in a voice that came out whiny and desperate, "I'll give you the treasure. Just leave me alone."
"Hey there," the man said in a gentle voice, approaching Neal like you might approach a scared deer, hands extended and feet slow and steady. "It's okay, Neal. I'm not here to hurt you."
Neal let out a short laugh. "Because guys wearing ski masks outside the bunny slopes are always such stand up people."
The man let out a huff of laughter, shaking his head. "I guess you're right." He paused. "Will it make you feel better if I take it off?"
"No," Neal said in a small voice, hunching down even further. "Because that would mean you're going to kill me."
"I'm not going to kill you, Neal," the man said softly, moving around to Neal's side and slowly lowering himself until he was sitting on the floor next to him. "That's not why we kidnapped you. Hell, we didn't want to kidnap you at all, but we couldn't think of another way to contact you without Burke being suspicious. If just looking at a colleague can get you a discipline mark, I can't imagine what talking to a total stranger would earn you."
Neal licked his lips nervously. "How do you know about that? How do any of you know about that? The first rule of training—"
"—Is that you don't talk about training," the man finished. "I know because I've seen the tapes, Neal. We've been inside Burke's computer, and he has a pretty big library about you going on in there." He shook his head. "He's a real sicko."
Neal bit his lip, not wanting to imagine why Peter kept tapes of Neal being tortured on his computer. "Please just go. I've already told you where the treasure is."
"Neal," the man said in a low voice, "we're not here for the treasure. We're here for you."
Neal looked up sharply, his brow furrowing in confusion. "Wh-what? Why do you want me?"
"Because we don't want what happened to you to happen to anyone else," the man said. "Did you really think you were the first one, Neal? Or that Billings, Kramer, and Burke are the only ones who do it? You were actually one of the lucky ones, working from the office. But most of their so-called informants get to spend their days in a cell with no windows, all alone, the only contact they have with the world when one of these bastard agents shows up and tortures them for information."
"That… That's not possible," Neal whispered, shaking his head. "I worked with Peter for over three years. If he did that, I'd have known about it."
"Why?" the man countered. "Everybody knew that you got your intel from your old contacts, but where did Peter get his?"
Neal shook his head, really confused. "F-from the Bureau."
"Neal," the man said gently, "Burke had an eighty four percent closure rate *before* he teamed up with you. Do you have any idea how amazing that is? There's a reason he's a senior agent. There's a reason that all of them are senior agents. The average agent has a forty-four percent closure rate, and do you know why?"
"Why?" Neal asked in a small voice when it became obvious that the man was waiting for a reply.
"Because they play by the books. Because they don't hurt people to get what they want. I told you, I saw the videos. Burke destroyed you." He paused, ducking his head. "And Neal, I saw it first hand, too."
"What do you mean?" Neal asked, feeling more lost than ever.
The man reached up and slowly peeled back his mask, looking Neal straight in the eyes.
"Agent Robin?" Neal whispered, not quite believing what he saw. The new probie in the DC office was one of his kidnappers?
"Agent Banks, actually," he said, giving Neal a kind smile. "Internal Affairs."
"Wait a second," Neal said suspiciously. "Since when do Internal Affairs kidnap people?"
"I told you," he said, "we had to talk to you, and we couldn't risk Burke being suspicious. See, this whole mess is big, real big. We don't even know how high up the ladder it goes. We need your help to figure that out."
Neal shook his head rapidly. "Me? I… I can't."
"Yes, you can, Neal," Banks said firmly, reaching out and gently laying a hand on Neal's arm. Neal had to grit his teeth to keep from flinching away. "I know they've done terrible things to you, but I also know that you are smart, talented, and capable. Not to mention as strong as hell. We need you, Neal. We can't do this without you."
"No," Neal whispered, dropping his eyes. "I'm useless."
"That's what people like Agent Burke want you to believe, Neal," Banks said in an earnest voice, "but it's not true. You're amazing, Neal. Amazing. Honestly, it's an honor to have the chance to work with you."
Neal's face reddened, a strangely warm feeling blooming in his chest. It had been a long time since anyone had said something like that to him. A really, really long time.
"But the other guy… He said he wanted the treasure, and that he wanted to frame Peter for stealing it then kill him." Neal's voice shook a little on the last words.
"I'm sorry about that, Neal," Banks said, "but we wanted to get a recording of us offering you the deal and you refusing so we can slip it to Burke at some point if he starts to get suspicious of you. We wanted it to sound real, so we didn't tell you about it."
Neal huffed with laughter. "And what if I had accepted?"
Banks gave him a tender smile. "We knew you wouldn't. You're a good man, Neal, and we appreciate you. Please, work with us."
Neal dropped his eyes, tightening his grip on his knees. "I-I don't know," he said in a shaky voice. Just the idea of telling someone about training made him want to pee his pants, and the idea of betraying Peter… it was painful. Even after everything, deep down inside Neal still believed that Peter cared about him. "I could with Billings and Kramer, but I don't think I could with Peter."
"I know it's hard, Neal," Banks said, slowly moving his hand from Neal's arm to his back, rubbing gentle circles. "You spent a lot of time with Burke, and you thought you were friends. It was just a facade, though, Neal. A friendly manner to keep up while you were being a good boy. He could get more out of you that way. But the second he lost control of you, the real Burke came out, didn't it, Neal?"
Neal swallowed down the lump in his throat, eyes beginning to water as he remembered the first time he'd heard Peter's voice over the speakerphone, the way his heart had broken into a million pieces. From then on it had been finders, keepers, losers, weepers. Neal wasn't sure he'd ever be able to put himself back together. Still…
"He was my friend," Neal said in a small voice. "I haven't even talked to him about it yet."
"You really think he'll let you talk about it, Neal?" Banks said in a quiet voice. He reached into his pocket. "I didn't want to have to show you this, because I really, really don't want to hurt you anymore. You've been through so much. But you need to know, for real, how dangerous Burke it."
He pulled out a small tape recorder, his hand moving from Neal's back around his body, until he had his arm around Neal's shoulders, loosely enough that it didn't make him panic, but tightly enough that he felt oddly safe.
"Here we go," Banks said softly, clicking the play button.
There was a moment of crackling, then the monotone voice Neal recognized from the van spoke.
"Don't you think you should cooperate with us, Burke? We have your partner."
"Caffrey is disposable," came Peter's cold voice, and Neal stiffened, heart speeding up.
"For all you know, he's in this with us," the man countered, and Peter sort of huffed.
"Neal did not betray me. He couldn't. He is well trained, betrayal won't happen. Any pitiful attempts will be handled with extreme punishment, the kind where Caffrey can't walk for a year."
Neal let out a soft whimper, and Banks tightened his grip slightly, pulling Neal up against him.
"Yes… I heard about Kramer's little training program in DC."
"Kramer didn't do shit," Peter snapped back, sounding furious. Apparently he didn't like the other agent getting his glory. "Neal has been my responsibility from the start."
"It's an interesting system," the man continued on as if Peter hadn't spoken. "The whole discipline mark thing. Tell me, Agent Burke, aside from the whole kidnapping fiasco, how many marks has Neal earned today?"
"How did you know that?" Peter said, sounding suspicious.
The man laughed. "You would be amazed what I know. So tell me. How many marks?"
"Six marks," Peter replied gruffly, and Neal felt his stomach twist. "Bad behavior will be taken out of his ass."
Six marks? When could he have possibly acquired six marks?! He'd barely been off the plane an hour! Neal didn't realize he was making small sounds of panic until Banks gave him a squeeze and pulled him into a tighter hug.
"So you don't care what happens to Neal?" the man asked. "As long as you get out okay?"
"I say abandon Caffrey," Peter replied simply. "Return us both safely or not. I don't care if Caffrey is going to die."
Neal sucked in a sharp breath of air, a tear escaping down his cheek as the words stabbed at his heart. What an idiot he'd been to ever believe that Peter cared about him, to ever believe that anyone cared about him. They all left, didn't they? He was stupid and useless and worthless and no one cared. Not even Peter. Especially not Peter.
Banks hit the stop button on the recorder and wrapped his other arm around Neal, holding him tight. "I'm so sorry, Neal," he whispered as Neal began to sob into his shoulder. "I'm so sorry. The man's a dirtbag. Please, please help us take him down."
Neal's head swam as image after image hit him, fists and smiles and whips and laughs and hurt and happiness, all mixed together in a big pot of confusion and pain. His whole world was such a twisted mess. Neal couldn't even tell his friends from his enemies anymore, but he did know one thing for certain. If he'd gotten six marks in two hours, he wasn't going to survive a month with Peter Burke.
"Okay," Neal whispered, holding onto agent Banks like he was his lifeline, "I'll help you."
What choice did he have?