A/N: I know many authors have written about this..but I was re-watching 'out of the box' and this is my take on what should have happened. Also, to all those readers who are following my story 'Alone', my beta is busy with end-of-semester college work and I think education is the most important thing so I've told her to take her time with the last two chapters. I'm sorry for the long wait, please bear with me.

Also, this is un-betaed. So feel free to point out any mistakes.

Oh and the name of this story is taken from the song 'Keep Breathing' by Ingrid Michaelson which I was listening to while writing this.

DISCLAIMER: White Collar, unfortunately, does not belong to me. Neither does Neal Caffrey. If he did, I won't have been writing about it :P Please don't sue me, I don't have any money and I'm not sure whether you're allowed to take someones pets away if you sue them..

WARNING: Use of some strong words, because frankly speaking I felt the situation needed it.

It was so cold. He was so cold. His mind felt numb along with his body. He couldn't feel anything anymore. He didn't want to feel anything anymore. Not when he had nothing left.


"You said goodbye to everyone but me. Why?"

"I dunno."

"Yeah, you do. Tell me."

"I don't know!"


"You know why."

"Tell me."

"Because you're the only one who could change my mind."

"Did I?" The hopeful expression on Peter's face was literally breaking Neal's heart. Yes, he wanted to stay. Oh God, how he wished that he could stay In New York. To continue living the life he had forged for himself in the past few months. But he loved Kate. She was his Achilles heel, and she wanted to leave. She wanted him to leave everything behind one last time so that they could start over. And he had been willing to give up everything for her. He would make this final sacrifice, even as he felt the grief at leaving his home behind twist his heart. He loved her. Couldn't Peter understand that?

He had to turn around and leave before he said more than he needed to. This part of his life was over. As Shakespeare said 'All the worlds a stage and all the men and women merely players.' They were players, actors in this screwed up tragic comedy that was his life.

And then he was walking away from Peter, towards his beloved. But something stopped him. He had to tell Peter that if it were up to him, he'd stay here. Work with the FBI. Enjoy the comradeship he had been offered so easily, without much judgment. He wanted to thank Peter for believing in him, for helping him even when Neal had just been a criminal. He wanted to thank Peter for being his friend and ask nothing in return other than he change his unlawful ways.

"Peter-..' He started.

"'We feel free when we escape. Even if it be but from the frying pan into the fire.' Eric Hawford." Mozzie toasted.

"Into the fire." Neal had said, raising his glass.

But the Universe has a sick sense of humor, after all. He had said 'Into the fire.' And oh, how cruel fate was!

He got knocked off his feet. He didn't know the plane had exploded at first. Then the heat from the blast overtook his senses, he was burning! No, the plane was burning. The plane where Kate- oh God! His Kate was on fire and he had to help her. He had to save her.

He lost control of his body. He didn't remember screaming as he ran towards the burning aircraft, where the love of his life was being cremated alive. He didn't remember fighting against strong arms as he struggled to get out of the tight grip Peter held him in. He didn't remember Peter helping him down as his knees gave way and he sank down when the magnitude of what had just happened finally hit him.

"Neal, its okay. You're gonna be okay." Peter was holding him now, trying to comfort him. And he was numb. He supposed that he was should thank the man for saving his life, but he couldn't. Not when he wished he was on that plane at the time it had exploded. Not when he was not okay, he was never going to be okay again.


It was minutes or hours later, he didn't really give a damn anymore, when someone placed a blanket around his shoulders. His tears had long since dried and he sat, staring at the firefighters as they battled the hungry flames that had taken everything away from him. Peter had left him to talk to some agents and emergency services that had arrived a while ago and now he was making his way back towards him.

He supposed he had lost time because one second Peter had been a few hundred yards away and now he was kneeling in front of him gently shaking his shoulders. He wondered where Peter got his tie from. It was actually pretty good, Must have been Elizabeth. Peter had awful taste in clothes.

"-eal! Neal! Come on, kid! Snap out of it. Neal!"

"Your tie.." His voice was like sandpaper, but he had to know about the tie. He needed to know about the tie. He couldn't think about anything other than the tie. The tie was safe. He needed safe right now.

"My.. Neal, what about my tie?" Peter's forehead crinkled in unsuppressed concern, his grip on Neal's shoulder tightened to an almost painful level.

Neal reached out and straightened Peter's, his eyes slightly glazed as he patted Peter gently.

"El bought your tie. Its nice." It was a statement of fact. And it scared Peter more than the crying, screaming mess his friend had been just half an hour ago.

"Neal, listen. This medic here wants to examine you for any sign of injury from the blast."

Neal looked at him with a dazed expression.

"Sir,are you hurt anywhere?" The brunette was gently patting down the young man for any signs of injury.

"No, I don't feel anything. I'm fine"

Peter saw Hughes standing off in the distance gesture to him, the double-finger point. Peter somehow found comfort in the familiarity of the gesture.

"Neal. Stay right here. I'll be right back."

"Sure Peter, sure."


Reese Hughes mouth was set in a grim line as he stole a glance at the usually suave con man sitting so still. It was pretty obvious that the man was in shock. Which made him feel like the world's biggest jackass for saying what he did next.

"Peter, the Marshalls want to take Caffrey into their custody."

"What? Why, Sir? Project mentor was all legal. Neal has done nothing wrong here."

There was no easy way to say this. The whole situation was fucked up and if he hadn't felt bad before, he certainly felt like a dickhead now.

"Burke, Caffrey is being detained for the murder of his girlfriend. They're taking him back to prison."

"They can't do that! Sir, please! Look at him! He.."

"Peter, enough! I know that Caffrey didn't kill his girlfriend. The kid can be an annoying twit but he doesn't have a violent bone in his body, one of the only reasons I approved of his deal with the FBI in the first place. But he is a convicted felon at the site of a major crime scene. The Marshalls will detain him. He will be questioned and when he will be found to be innocent, well then we'll see about getting him back."

Peter turned around to look t his CI. Neal was sitting where he had nearly collapsed forty minutes ago. He just stared ahead at the plane, his face blank. Not moving. His eyes not seeing anything, just looking straight ahead.

"Peter, you're still suspended. I think it will be best if one of your agents escorted him to prison along with the Marshalls."

Peter nodded numbly. Neal had just lost the love of his life. She had literally gone up in flames in front of the man. And now he was being thrown back into prison at a time when he needed his friends the most. The universe was playing a really cruel joke on the young man. He took out his phone and made a call.


He was looking at the sky, ashes floated lazily in the air. Falling lazily towards him. Ashes of the plane, and Kate. His Kate was floating everywhere now, she surrounded him. How he wished he would be floating around with her right now, playing with her long, silky hair as she danced around him.


Agent Jones had known Caffrey for several months now and had built a sort of comfortable companionship with the CI. They weren't friends, no. But he thought they could be, sometime. After receiving Peters call, he had left for the airstrip immediately; bringing Diana along as his boss had requested. Peter had told him that the plane had exploded, that Kate was dead. That Neal was being sent back to prison and that he would prefer it if his own people took him there. To make sure that he was safe so they could get him out after proving his innocence.

He expected to see a grief-stricken man, mourning the loss of his beloved. What he didn't expect was a pale Neal Caffrey sitting calmly as he stared into middle distance, his face completely blank as Peter sat next to him. Peter said something to the younger man and he turned his face to look at the new arrivals. And that's when Jones knew that Neal was a broken man.

His expressive blue eyes were dull as they met his own and he felt his heart clench in sympathy at the agony the young man was going through.

Peter stood up as they approached.

"We'll get you out, Neal." His voice held the promise as he helped the con man to his feet.

Neal just gave a weak nod in answer.

Jones cleared his throat. "Peter, Neal. We're ready when you are."

Peter wrapped his arms around the man he now considered his partner and whispered something in his ear. Neal didn't respond to the hug or whatever Peter just said, simply making his way towards Clinton and holding out his hands to be cuffed.

Jones felt like punching someone in the face for making him cuff a man who needed to be surrounded by love and support instead of being thrown in prison.


Diana had met Neal on one previous occasion. When the FBI was pursuing Curtis Hagen, trying to put the Dutchman behind bars. She found him to be an extremely smart, ridiculously handsome man with boyish charm. And if she had been an average, straight she would definitely have been flattered by his efforts to flirt with her. Only she wasn't and his flirting and antics could get a little annoying. She had wished that he shut up and sit still and let the 'adults' do their job and told him so all those months ago.

It was weird how she could remember that moment now. Neal had made his way quietly with herself and Jones towards the transport vehicle which was going to take him back to prison. He had stumbled once. Then the two agents came up on either side of him, gently gripping his arms as if by some silent agreement, giving him the support he needed. He said nothing as they steered him towards the car and sat him down in it.

Jones was sitting up front with the Marshall who was driving them towards Rikers and she sat in the backseat next to Neal. She felt like reaching out and hugging him as he sat still, his forehead leaning against the cold glass window.

Neal hadn't said a word on the ride over to prison. He said nothing as he was processed, subjected to the humiliation of a strip search followed by a communal shower. Diana was worried about the man's mental state. He had gotten caught to meet Kate; he had broken out of prison because he had thought that she was in danger. Neal had nearly had his happy ending, when it had all gone up in smoke before his very eyes. She didn't know what she would have done had that happened to Christie, God- she didn't even want to picture it. It hurt too much. And now Neal had to face this alone. She had listened enough of her girlfriends talks about PTSD to know that Neal was in shock. And he was being thrown into prison instead of getting a chance to grieve.

"I'm so sorry." Her voice wavered as she walked besides him as he was lead to his room in solitary by guards. He turned to look at her, his eyes looking dazed and she felt her heart break for him as they locked him in.


June strode confidently behind the warden as he led her to Neal's cell. He was in solitary but he was the FBI's most valuable asset and Reese Hughes had pulled a few strings, as had she, to let her meet him in his cell. According to what Bobby had been reporting, Neal hadn't been eating well for the past three days and the prison doctor was getting worried for his health. Another reason why the warden had bent the prison rules and allowed this visit.

When the door swung open, she saw a pale man sitting on the bed. Dark circles around dull blue eyes as they looked at her. It was then that she realized how much of Neal's charisma was part of a carefully constructed mask. She barely recognized him as she reached her arms for his, sitting next to him.

"June?" he croaked and she couldn't stop the single tear that rolled down her face.

"Neal, sweetheart." She enveloped him in her arms.

"She's gone, June." He whispered as he buried his face in the crook of her neck.

"I know, darling. And I am so sorry." Her voice broke as more tears ran down her cheeks.

"I don't know what to do." He sounded so lost, she wanted to take away all his pain, protect him from all the hurt he was experiencing.

"All you can do is keep breathing." She said, stroking his head where it lay on her shoulders.

"She's gone." His body shuddered as he finally gave in to the grief, hot tears falling from his eyes and soaking into her clothes.

She turned her head to place a light kiss on his head.

"I know, sweetheart."

And she held him as sobs of anguish made his body shake; she would hold him for as long as he needed her to before he could put the pieces of his shattered soul back together.

A/N: Thank you for reading! I wasn't really sure about this fic but I couldn't sleep till I had written this. Please leave a review and let me know what you thought. Its 3 am where I live so there may be several errors. Please point them out if you see any!

The part of the story in bold happened earlier in the episode and I couldn't help but think, "How ironic."