Tag to episode 5x2 Out of the frying Pan
"I might have a different title, but I'm still the same old me." Peter declared, sipping at his coffee, trying to believe what he just said, very well knowing that it's not the whole truth.
Neal stopped walking and turned towards Peter, looking somewhat incredulous. "No, you are not, Peter."
"What are you talking about?"
"Peter, the only look I get from you since you are back to the bureau is one of suspicion, disbelief and resentment. There is nothing left from our good old days, solving crimes, being partners... being friends..." Neal added the last one under his breath.
"You are right." Peter looked everywhere but at Neal. "Prison did a number on me... but I'm working on it, El and I are seeing someone to help us both get over it... but it's difficult. I don't sleep well..."
"Nightmares?" Neal asked empathetically.
"Yeah." Peter answered, miserable.
"I know what you are talking about, and I'm sorry, Peter, but...you let me down, you know?" That's not the man I did this damned deal for to set him free. Peter has been strong, reliable, caring. Now he is a shell in an ill-fitting suit, broken and far too earnest. And he acts as if there never had been any partnership, not to mention friendship. We worked well together, but now he's in this new position and he gets all distant on me. I can't even remember when he called me "criminal" before he did the other day.
Peter looked up at Neal and seeing the hurt in Neal's eyes made him cringe. "I know I hurt you, Neal, I know that, but there are things I have to figure out from a new angle. Being your handler... being your friend... Neal, I couldn't go on like this. I needed a new perspective. After the case with the coins I knew that there was something going on and I still can't put my finger on it. I'm racking my brain over it but I can't figure it out."
"You think I did it?" It wasn't really a question but a statement.
"I don't know. I'm asking myself again and again, what would you need coins worth 1.8 million dollars for?"
"Would be a nice cash box, don't you think?" Neal smiled brightly, trying to cheer Peter up and distracting him somehow. He still had to figure out how to get out of this deal with Hagen. He knew he couldn't go on like this, because sooner or later Peter or this new handler, Seigel, would catch him red handed and then he would go in for life. But Neal didn't know what to do about it, he was stuck and talking to Peter about his deal with Hagen while Peter was in this state of mind and resenting him, not caring anymore about him as much as he did before hell broke loose, could only turn out to become the next disaster. Neal asked himself how Peter would react if he ever learned about the fake James-statement. If Peter was in a better mood and hadn't lost faith in Neal, although he once claimed that he would always have faith that what Neal did would be for a good reason, then Neal would tell Peter what was going on. But as long as there wasn't any sign of the "old Peter" Neal could not say a word.
"Yeah, maybe..." Peter smiled tentatively.
Glad about seeing Peter at least trying to smile at his joke, Neal said warily, "See, almost like old times. If we could at least establish some of the connection we once had, I would be happily working with this new handler and give you the time to regain your old self. But you have to promise me something, Peter..."
"What is it?" Peter asked, carefully suppressing the wave of suspicion.
"Could you please remember the presentation we did in front of all the agents and what you said to the host?"
Peter knew exactly what Neal meant and he was sorry that he really had lost faith in Neal but he couldn't change it. Too much had happened and although Peter didn't accuse Neal of being responsible for what James did, he didn't know how to cope with everything right now.
"I know what you are referring to, Neal, but I can't promise you anything right now. I can only assure you that I'm working on it and I'll let you know when I'm regaining myself again. Right now I have to cope with a new job, with a new agent, with Diana being about to give birth, with you having an uncountable amount of secrets, and I have a wife at home who clings to me as if she'd rather have me retired and being at home 24/7."
"Yeah, she didn't care much about your job, when we last talked..." In that moment Peter's phone beeped consistently and Peter, giving Neal an apologetic shrug, took the call. He ended the call, a deep frown on his forehead.
"We have to get to the office, Seigel got new intel on the black market trading."
"Of course he did. You only hire the smartest people for your team, don't you?" Neal smirked cheekily.
"Move it, Caffrey, we'll see how smart he is when the both of you are closing the first case," was the answer from his former handler, who had a slight grin on his face.
He was the puppet of a notorious convict, whose case had once been his get-out-of-jail-card. Neal heaved a sigh under his breath and got into step beside Peter, asking himself, if his life was ever going to be light and fun again soon and when he was going to get his partner and friend back. The talk they just had was hopefully a step in the right direction.