WC: Belief

Mar. 3rd, 2012 09:55 am
winterstar95: (Default)
Title: Belief
Author: dmk0064/winterstar
Rating: PG13 for language
Genre: angst
Warning: this is part of the Life Series where Neal suffered a spinal cord injury and is recovering
Summary: Neal faces a threat and weighs whether he deserves Peter’s belief in him.

Read the fifth story of the Life series here )


A/N: Other characters may appear in coming stories.

WC: Broken

Feb. 10th, 2012 01:26 pm
winterstar95: (Default)
Title: Broken
Author: dmk0064/winterstar
Genre: angst, hurt and comfort
Warnings: violence, AU
Summary: This is an AU take on the episode Pulling Strings (obviously spoilers here). Instead of just a quick fight, Neal gets stabbed. Peter tries to pick up the pieces.

a/n: Knowing that we are only a few weeks away from the season finale, I do foreshadow something big coming (though I have no idea what it is so it is spoiler safe at this point). This came out of rabidchild wish for an AU where Neal gets stabbed.

Read more here )
winterstar95: (JDay)
Title: Tatters of Life
Author: dmk0064/winterstar
Rating: PG
Warning: angst
Spoilers: post-series, so all and any
Summary: This is a story set in the Life series. In this part, Neal faces his fears.
Read story here )
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Title: Embers of Hope
Author: dmk0064/winterstar
Genre: angst
Warnings: none
Ratings: PG13 (language)
Summary: This is a much request sequel to Embers of Life. I am now calling this the Life series. There will be a number of related stories - short vignettes - centered on Neal's recovery from an attack which left him temporarily paralyzed. In this part, Neal comes home.
Read the story )

Go to -
First Story - Embers of Life

Third Story - Tatters of Life
winterstar95: (Default)
Title: The Dangers of Freedom
Author: dmk0064/winterstar
Genre: angst
Spoilers: Checkmate
Warnings: short fic with really no other plans to expand it, a Drabble like fic
Summary: just a fic that was inspired by the idea there is a lot more to Neal than meets the eye.

A/n doing this on my iPad have no idea if it will work, so I apologize in advance.
Read more )
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Title: The Veracity of Rare Things
Author: dmk0064/winterstar
Warnings: depictions of violence
Genre: angst, hurt/comfort
Rating: R
Summary: Who is believed and who is not worthy to be believed? Neal finds out the hard way.

A/N: This is a story of corruption, and worth. It looks at whether or not a criminal can be seen as innocent. It also answers the question whether or not we are all vulnerable to being corrupted. As a side note, this is a kind of casefic! I haven’t done one of those, really. But I hope you enjoy it.

PS Dedicated to the ladies playing in Chicago today! Thanks for always inspiring me to write in this fandom. I always feel a little out of place with my sci-fi/fantasy leanings!

Read the story here )
winterstar95: (Default)
Title: Embers of Life
Author: dmk0064/winterstar
Rating: PG13
Warning: permanent injury (or nearly) to a main character
Genre: hurt/comfort (heavy on the latter)
Summary: Inspired by many prompts on the permanent injury challenge but not one specifically (lj-h-c community). Neal shuts himself off from the world after a devastating turn of events. POST WC

Read the story here )

Go to the -
Second Story - Embers of Hope

Third Story - Tatters of Life
winterstar95: (planedown)
Title: Beyond the Garden Wall
Author: dmk0064/winterstar
Rating: R
Warning: graphic depictions of violence, torture, discussion of plastination, hint of sexual deviance
Summary: A mad artist is on the loose and Neal is his next model

Thank you to kanarek13 for the wonderful graphic that inspired this story. Please see it here: http://i1108.photobucket.com/albums/h417/Kanarek13/WC%20Forum/whumped.jpg
Read the story )

A/N: For more on von Hagens please see: http://www.bodyworlds.com/en/gunther_von_hagens/life_in_science.html It is pretty shocking, so please do not look if you are not ready to see some very disturbing images.
winterstar95: (Default)
STRAIGHT LINE plus EXTRAS
Author: dmk0064
Fandoms: White Collar, Stargate SG1
HurtComfort bites, rejection, self-harm, hospital stay, de-aged, septicemia, death, kidnapping, interrogation, mutation, first transformation, whippingflogging, forced soulbounding, scars
Fills here )
winterstar95: (Default)
So over the last few days, I've had some time off. Believe it or not, I had tons of plans to write all kinds of things, but I couldn't wrap my head around much of it. Finished one chapter for one SG1 story and that was it. How depressing is that? At least I learned how to do the under the cut thingie. Yay!

One thing I am considering - I am thinking I really do need to slow down on the fanfiction writing and turn back to the original stuff again. I have all these wonderful ideas for fanfiction but I am not concentrating on my original stuff at all. I need to pull back a little and refocus again. I will continue to write fanfiction but when I go back and look at all the effort - wow! I am amazed at how much I wrote this year (over 100,000 words in WC and SG1) - all in fanfiction!

If I can do that - why the heck am I not writing original stuff?

Okay I've been through this lament before and I will not bore you with it again. The summary of this is - I will write and I will focus on originals though fanfiction will not be forgotten. I just need to be a little less productive in the ff department and more productive in my original department. Okay?
winterstar95: (Default)
This is for DAY 3 of the Advent Calendar on whitecollar community

Title: The Hollowed Out World
Author: dmk0064/winterstar
Rating: PG13
Warnings: graphic depictions of sickness
Spoilers: post Countdown season 3 (assumes Peter and Neal have found a way to work together again)
Summary: I loved this prompt on whitecollarhc so I decided to write it for the advent calendar - Keller kidnaps Neal for whatever reason. He realizes Neal is sick. Really, really sick. Keller reluctantly tries to take care of Neal, but as Neal grows worse, Keller is forced to call Peter and tell him where he can get Neal so Neal could get medical treatment. It also covers the hospital stay square on my hc_bingo card. Three birds with one stone! Is that allowed?

Disclaimer: you got it, I don’t own it, Eastin and company do. Just having fun, I swear.


He finds a hollow in the world, but it is soft and yielding. He falls through it as if it is hole, a void in life. Plummeting he realizes he drops through the rabbit hole or even farther through a black hole toward the other side of time and space itself. He wonders where he will come out, what he will find, who he will discover. He considers if he will be himself or someone completely different.

Sometimes he hopes so.

As he plunges his side aches, even the slightest twist or motion to his side causes pain to streak through him like lights of fire, blinking on and off. The image of fireflies dancing into the early summer night flies through his head and he smiles. Why don’t fireflies burst into flames, little jets of flames? He knows why, has to do with green fluorescent proteins or some such, but he likes the idea of little rocket fueled asses on insects. He giggles again.

"You know, you're a pain in the ass when you’re sick?"

The voice rings in his head. He knows he should recognize it. There is a crunching sound to accentuate the words. It sounds like someone is chewing on an apple. Neal peals back his eyelids, but the light is too bright, too hard to see in. A shadow against the bare bulb stands over him. The shadow swings his arm up and the apple is bitten again.

“I’m not here to be your nurse maid, Caffrey, so snap out of it.”

He rolls over and hisses as his right side touches the floor. He slides onto his back again and tries to focus on the man above him. Glancing around, Neal surveys the area. It looks like a storage room or basement. The smell of rotten fish makes him gag. They must be somewhere near the markets. He shifts his left leg to get a feel of the tracker but there is an absence and his breath hitches.

“Yep, don’t go worrying about that.” Another bite of the apple, then a snicker is added. “I had a bit of a time trying to get it off. Sorry about the ankle.”

As the words are spoken, Neal realizes his leg throbs. It doesn’t just throb, it screams.

“I had to beat the hell out of that thing to get it to stop transmitting.” The shadow moves into the darkened area of the basement. Neal decides it must be a cellar or basement of a food market. “Silly me, I shoulda sawed it off before I tried to turn it off.” He shrugs and clicks his tongue. “Still had fun doing it, ya know.”

He struggles to sit up, to examine his leg but his side protests and he curls over his abdomen. Sweat blossoms over his brow and he puts a hand on his side. “Did you shoot me too, Keller?”

“You hurt me, Caffrey, you know that. You harm me.”

“I think you have that backwards, as usual.” Neal looks up at the man leaning against a packing crate.

The basement isn’t large, or at least the room they are in is only about 12 by 12 feet. Boxes and trash litter the area. Old newspapers are stacked in a corner, with packing materials cluttered over the floor. Only two windows with bars are near the low ceiling. Neal won’t have any trouble getting to the windows; the problem would be fitting through them. He frowns.

Keller laughs. “Ain’t no way out, just forget it, now. I know the famous Caffrey antics. You’re here, Caffrey, for one thing and one thing only.”

Neal keeps a hand on his right side, the pain intensifies if he shifts or moves. A chill shivers through him and he bites back a groan. The pain in his side and the one beating a rhythm in his leg fight for his attention. He only half listens to Keller’s monologue.

“You and me, see, we’re gonna talk about an arrangement.” Keller tosses the half eaten apple into one of the empty packing crates. “You have a nice deal working for you, don’t ya?”

Neal glimpses his ankle. It is swollen and ugly. The foot turns inward and he can’t move it or even feel it. When he reaches down to his ankle, his side tightens and he cries out.

“What the hell did you do to me, Keller?” He pants, trying to catch his breath. His side is on fire like a thousand of those damned fireflies exploded in his gut. The world vacillates indistinctly. He cannot make out the lights or the room for long minutes.

Hands are on him and he pushes them away. A bowl finds its way to his mouth and he pukes. He cannot stop the dry heaves from taking him but it wrenches his gut and he allows the pain to take him.

“Hey, hey, take it easy, Caffrey,” Keller says.

He realizes he is leaning against Keller. It is Keller’s hand on his back, Keller holding the bowl under his chin. He shoves a hand at Keller; it is weak and futile, but he doesn’t want Keller’s hands on him, doesn’t want the man who took Elizabeth and got away to touch him.

“Have it your way.” Keller drops the bowl in Neal’s lap and stands, wiping his hands on his pants as he walks away.

Neal grabs the bowl and sets it aside. He doesn’t know if he’ll need it again. He doesn’t feel right. It isn’t the leg, he knows that. He glances up at Keller as the man regards him. He tries to piece together how he ended up in a basement with Keller hulking over him.

He recalls waking this morning but feeling ill. He had called Peter and asked for the day off. Peter agreed but asked Neal to meet him for lunch so that they could go over the particulars of the case they were currently assigned. Neal hesitated. It had been months since Elizabeth had been rescued but Peter remained distant, keeping Neal at arm’s length.

Peter had said, “Come on, Neal, lunch. I’m buying.”

Sitting on his bed, Neal leaned against the pillows and agreed. Though he might not partake in eating the way he felt, Neal wanted their relationship to mend, and maybe this was a step. Peter was making a conciliatory move, Neal had accepted.

He closes his eyes. He never made it to the café. On his walk to the small restaurant, Keller had stopped him. As Neal had passed an alley, Keller’s voice pulled him in.

“Maybe next time, she dies,” Keller had said.

Neal went after him – and played right into Keller’s hand.

Whatever Keller hit him with it dulls his brain and blurs his vision. He feels a knot on the side of his head. He looks up at his assailant again and knows he has to piece together the macabre puzzle Keller has laid out for him. He flinches as he adjusts, but nods to Keller.

“If you’re going to kill me, get it over with,” Neal says. He glides his hand over his pockets, searching for the cell phone – but it is gone, removed by Keller.

“You are a little off today, aren’t you?” Keller snickers and squats down in front of Neal. “You’re looking kinda gray-green. Not a good look for the Caffrey charm.”

“What the hell do you care?” Neal turns away and groans as the motion teases at his side. The pain spears through him like ribbons of hot lava.

“I care, Caffrey, you see,” Keller says as he puts a hand on Neal’s shoulder. “You are my ticket to the final score.”

“You’re insane,” Neal says, but cannot stop his curiosity from peaking.

“Listen, Caffrey, you mighta lost out on the ultimate treasure, but not me,” Keller says. “And maybe, just maybe, I’ll cut you in on the deal.”

“Deal?” Neal has had enough with deals to last him a lifetime.

“The Nazi treasure is long gone, but you’re still sitting pretty at the FBI, right? Pretty good, got the whole FBI eating out of your hand.” Keller fingers his injured ankle and Neal muffles a cry. “How you pulled that one off, well, that is the best con I ever saw.”

He stands and paces in front of Neal. As he moves back and forth, the light behind him takes on a flashing quality and Neal grunts as nausea spills over him.

“So, you’re gonna start working with me, for me. Get me free access to what is going on in the White Collar unit of the FBI. With your inside knowledge and my freedom-.” He taps on Neal’s blood stained sock. “We’ll have everything we need.” Keller sits on his haunches again and says, “You do this and Miss Pretty will stay alive. You don’t, well, I’ll make sure to implicate you.”

A curse slips from his lips but he fails to form it. The searing through his gut takes hold and pulls his breath from him. He curves and crumples forward as Keller topples next to him.

“Stop the act, Caffrey.” Keller shoves at him and Neal curls further into himself. “This is low even for you.”

In panting breaths, Neal says, “What – did – you –do?” His ankle cries out as the burning in his abdomen ebbs and flows.

“I beat the hell out of your leg not your stomach,” Keller admits. He reaches out to Neal but he tries to slap Keller aside. “No, let me.” He touches Neal’s forehead. “Christ, you’re burning up.” He kneels next to Neal and tells him to stretch out.

“No, can’t.” Neal puffs out air.

Keller puts his hand on Neal’s right side and presses. The cry erupts, bursting in his ears and ripping from his throat.

“Crap, this ain’t good.”

“What?”

Keller shakes his head. “Okay, just relax. Maybe you ate something off?”

Neal hears Keller stand up but the tremors shaking his body deafen him to all else. Any motion to his leg and it battles the pain in his abdomen. He inhales in deep breathes through his nose, keeping his nostril wide.

A cool wet cloth is placed on his forehead and Keller bends over him, wiping his brow.

Neal stutters as his body is racked with fever. “I didn’t know, know you cared.”

Keller offers only a half smile. “Sometimes, Caffrey, you’re an idiot. You’re a pretty hot commodity, worth a lot to me.”

“Worth enough to hobble me, huh?” Neal says.

“Figured that one out, didja?” Keller lifts a shoulder. “Had to make sure you couldn’t run on me, the great escape artist.” He feels the back of Neal’s neck. “You got a fever, you know.”

Neal only murmurs an agreement to him. The crests of pain are building again and he tightens his fist around Keller’s hand. He is barely upright; he collapses into Keller’s embrace. He hears mumbles around him, quiet words of solace.

As the wave ends, Keller pats the cloth against his forehead and says, “Water, you think water will do any good?”

Neal can only shake his head. The pain blasts through him like a battering ram. He feels the world stretch, pierced through and hollowed out. A great vacuum absorbs him, forms a bubble around him as the pain encompasses his definition. Images juxtapose and he recalls Elizabeth in Peter’s embrace, finally saved from her ordeal with Keller. He remembers those first few weeks as Peter shunned him, then Elizabeth softening Peter’s reaction, and finally the slow thaw as the holiday season approached. He doesn’t expect gifts or cards, but the offer of lunch today with Peter was more than he could ever ask.

Through the haze of pain the electronic sound of a cell phone being dialed draws his attention. The words are a jumble but he hears an address. Keller adds, “Get here soon, he needs a doctor.” There is a pause and Keller whispers, “Oh and Burke, you follow me, I make sure he dies along with her.”

Neal glares at Keller. He feels like he is looking at a living paradox. “Why did you call Peter if you were just going to threaten him?”

Keller tilts his head and says, “Some motives are left unsaid.”

“I never thought of you as philosophical.”

“Don’t start now,” Keller replies but gently shifts Neal so that he is lying on an old pile of rags. He offers him the bowl and retrieves a bottle of water. He hands him the wet cloth. “Take care of yourself, Caffrey, you’re worth a lot to me.”

“Is that a threat?” Neal says through gritted teeth.

“Now, here I was trying to be nice,” Keller answers. He stands and backs away. There is a distance ring of a siren. “Saved by the bell. Gotta go, Caffrey. See you ‘round soon.” He salutes him and disappears into the shadows of the basement.

The siren sings in wails in his head; it opens up the hollows places in the world as the pain engulfs him. He doesn’t even care about the contorted leg, only the ache building to a crescendo in his belly. He’s bent into a curved arch and he thinks of the architecture of the Romans; how they figured out how to construct such lovely arches and viaducts. He wonders if the grand bridges and road works of Rome would span the holes punched in the world by the pain.

He realizes the pain has subsided, eased away and he smiles as someone yells, “Over here, he’s over here.”

There are hands on him, checking his leg, focusing only on his leg. The utter loss of the pain mutes his voice, makes him forget to tell them about the black hole in his belly.

Peter hovers over him as the paramedics work on his leg. “It’s all right, buddy. He’s gone.”

Neal only nods and smiles. The pain is fleeting but the thing inside him eats him alive. He doesn’t want to make Peter worry; he’s worried enough already, besides the pain fades away. One of the paramedics cannot understand why his temperature is elevated.

The team of paramedics hoists him for transport. As the sun hits his face, Neal grimaces and the tightness in his belly hurts. He groans, but they mistake it for the leg again. He grapples to tell them, but someone pats his arm and soothes him. It will be okay.

He calls out, “Peter.”

“Right here,” Peter says as he jogs up to the side of the gurney. The wheels roll over the bumps of the pavement and Neal moans. Peter grabs his extended hand, but his phone rings. He pauses to take the call.

From the cavern of the ambulance, Neal hears Peter saying, “What the hell do you want, Keller? Haven’t you done enou-.” Peter pauses and stops climbing into the ambulance. “What? What?” He disconnects and curses, “Neal, do you have a pain in your abdomen?”

“Did, not so bad now,” Neal says.

“Check him for appendicitis,” Peter orders the paramedics.

Neal cannot capture the activity around him. It is as if the thing devouring him has pulled all the light toward it, a singularity of pain and purpose. Someone is yelling and Peter grips his hand as the ambulance jolts forward.

He grasps Peter’s hand, holding on as the hole drags him downward. He wants to ask Peter not to let go, but words are pulled from his mouth and the gravity well of pain consumes him.

*oOoOoOoOo*
Neal doesn’t remember much of the next two weeks. Occasionally, consciousness blesses him and he hears words like peritonitis, another round of antibiotics. He thinks this cannot be good and tries to ask the white blurs scurrying around him, but they don’t hear him. At some point, he realizes there are things- tubes - in his mouth, eating his air. He wonders if they are trying to remove the void in his body, the hollowed out center inside of him.

By the beginning of the third week, Neal understands a cosmic singularity was never in him, but he doesn’t confess his doubts about this fact to anyone. They remove all kinds of tubes and wires and he nearly feels human again, only to lose that feeling when they haul him off to surgery on his ankle. It seems surgery is not such a great idea when your body is fighting off a massive infection. It is safe now to risk the surgery.

He spends two more days in a drug induced haze. When he climbs his way out of it, Neal believes he can count the number of brain cells he might have left. Peter sits with him, folding the newspaper in sections like his father used to do. Neal wonders why Peter doesn’t have a tablet to read the news. Peter notices Neal staring at him and shuffles the paper away.

“Any better?”

“I think.” Neal isn’t sure what the right answer is. He knows Mozzie would tell him to obfuscate, but then again Mozzie likes to use words people don’t say in real life, words only characters on shows like The X-Files say.

“It’ll be a few days until you’re released,” Peter says as he points to the ankle. It hangs in a contraption Neal thought only lived in cartoons. “Hughes has okayed your recovery without incarceration. It was just a formality.”

Neal isn’t sure if he should thank him or give him a sarcastic remark. He chooses to remain silent. Instead, he picks at the threads of the sheet.

“Why, Neal? Why do you think he did it?” Peter asks.

Neal glances up at Peter. The sun is low in the sky. It must be almost sun set, but it isn’t late. The winter solstice is only days away. The glow through the window gives Peter an almost ethereal aspect. It suits him Neal thinks, but then he realizes he is in shadow. The hollow still exists.

“He wanted me to help him,” Neal confesses. “He wanted me to give him information on the FBI cases.”

Peter shakes his head. “No, Neal, why do you think he called?”

Neal shrugs. “Maybe I was too much trouble.”

“Or maybe not enough,” Peter says. He stands and points a finger in the air. “He wants you alive, Neal. He values something you have.”

Neal stays silent.

“You say he wanted to use your knowledge of the FBI?”

He only nods.

“He’ll come after you again; he saved you because he’s determined.”

Neal agrees. “Keller always gets what he wants.”

“Not this time,” Peter says. “Not my wife and not my friend.”

Peter keeps talking, spinning strategies to apprehend Keller based on this new knowledge. Neal tries to follow the weaving of the plan but he cannot. He simply circles back to the words – not my friend. The hole shrinks, falls, contracts.

“You think we can pull it off?” Peter is asking him. He gestures to the cast on Neal’s leg. “Of course, after all this. Do you think you’ll be up to it?”

He has no idea what he is agreeing to, but Neal says, “Sure, Peter, no problem.”

“It’ll be a bit difficult to do, though.”

Neal shrugs. “I’ve jumped off skyscrapers in a single bound, Peter; I think I can handle it.” Whatever it is.

Peter stops and stares at him. “You have? Wait, wait, don’t answer that, I don’t want to know.”

The smile spreads and fills up every part of him. “No, you probably don’t.”

Peter looks up at the ceiling as if he is having a private conversation with God. He shakes his head and says, “You okay?”

Neal says, “I’m fine, good actually.”

Peter leans down and places a hand on his shoulder. “Good, good.”

Neal smiles again, and the void fills up while the hollowed out world descends and collapses away.

THE END
A/N: Just a note, I wrote this early in the week before I read a story just posted this week by Sahiya. Sahiya wrote a wonderful piece as well with Neal and appendicitis called The Mercy of the Fallen. It is highly recommended.
winterstar95: (Default)
CHAPTER 3
Something slides inside of him, falling apart and failing him. He gurgles against the blood bubbling up in his throat, but it is the hold on his arm that causes him to break open the suppressed cry. He is strong armed up; a hand on his right arm and another wrapped around his chest. The hand like a manacle on his right arm squeezes the old slash, the infected wound. It spears fire through his flesh and along his neurons. The one pressing his chest touches soft, wet spots and sends bullets of pain through his lungs, his breath spasms.

He realizes as he is dragged over the rough ground that he still holds the dagger in his hand. He tightens his grip and decides he has one chance. With the last of his strength, Neal musters a swing at Keller as he rotates his body in his enemy’s grasp. The dagger hits wide of its target; Neal’s aim is clumsy, off, faltering.

Keller seizes the dagger and clutches Neal under his jaw, choking him.

“Maybe I’ll just slit your throat here,” Keller smiles, a real hatred mars his features. His hand fists over Neal’s to pull the dagger away. Neal’s fingers weaken and give up their prize.

As Keller slashes downward, Neal thinks how the fountain of his blood may rise up and splatter against the sky. He wonders if Peter will see his painting in the sky then.


At Peter’s arrival, Jones joins him in a new search and they fan out along the base of the building. Peter studies the exits, examines the possible strategies Neal may have formulated. He would have escaped the gun fight, left through the closest exit, but gone where?

He turns on his heel and looks behind him toward the open areas. The warehouse is in a district where there has been a recent renaissance. Many of the old buildings are being cannibalized and converted to shops, restaurants, and apartments. The warehouse chosen by Caruso was one of the last one’s standing, a vestige of an old industrial age. It is farther placed than the others and he recognizes Neal would have done the smart thing – gone toward people. The shops and apartments are down the block, probably too far for an injured and sick man.

He takes off at a slow run, Jones is behind him. They both have their guns out. Diana is behind searching the other side of the building scoping out the area to find any new clues. Less than fifteen meters from the building and he glimpses something on the sidewalk in the drizzle of rain. The drops are bouncing on it, sprinkling the dome. Leaning down, he picks up the hat.

Neal.

He stands and scans the area. A small cove, a park converted from the reclaimed industrial factory’s parking lot. It is fenced in and he notes that the hat is closer to the gate than the small slot opening. He takes hold of the gate and opens it. The iron creaks in protest and he looks for only a moment. It is constructed out of scrap materials, probably from the factory which used to stand here. He lets Jones follow him into the gated area.

The enclosed park area has groupings of trees and open lawn areas. It is a miniature version of some of Olmstead’s best parks. He smiles and thinks Neal would appreciate it. It comes to him, then. Neal would be drawn here on a good day, but why now? There are not many people in the park; the rain has drawn them off, drained them away to indoors. There is music coming from a small pavilion not far away and there are hanging paper lanterns in the trees. They flicker in brilliant colors and as he and Jones take separate pathways with guns drawn, he notices how the lights reflect off the leaves, seems to glow in the sky. It draws him toward it.


As his makes his way through a grouping of small trees he hears a muffled cry and picks up speed. Weaving through the trees, down the pathway, he finds his way to a small picnic area. He sees a gap in the fencing and through it he catches a glimpse of the warehouse. Along the edge of the fence there is red paint. His mind stops, not red paint, but blood. This is how Neal entered the park, not through the gate. He dropped his hat and fumbled through the fence. The blood is only on the inside of the pole, easy to miss from the outside.

“Neal?”

Again, there is a sound as if there are two dancers struggling to lead. He whips around, sees it through the trees. He walks toward the shadows lurching in a terrible waltz and finds himself face to face with Keller. Neal hangs limp and useless from his grasp. Keller shoves the dagger against his jugular.

The rage of seeing Keller boils up in Peter, makes him taste metal and fire. He clenches the gun but forces his hand to relax, to not take a shot at the man who escaped after kidnapping his wife. He can't, he knows this fact, he has to bring him to justice, and he has to save Neal.

He isn't sure Neal is even alive. His body has no bones, no structure. The wan pallor of his skin scars Peter deep inside. His mind flips over it again and again. This was supposed to be a simple operation. How did it all go to hell?

Keller laughs at him, literally laughs, as if the thoughts assaulting his mind have actually originated from him. He lifts his chin at Peter then says, "Now you're getting it, aren't you?”

A mass of blood coats Keller’s hand, the one pressed against Neal’s chest. He has no idea if Keller has exacerbated Neal’s injuries or if the wounds he already received are that bad, that frightening.

“Drop it, Keller, drop it,” Peter says. The white of rage burns into his hands, blots out any color on his knuckles, tenses his muscles and tendons.

Keller flicks the dagger, almost imperceptibly and it scratches against Neal’s throat. For a second, Peter thinks he might have heard a whimper, a whisper of air escaping lungs. It can’t be, Neal is dead – so obviously and painfully dead.

“It ain’t never been about the dagger,” Keller says and slides a tongue across his teeth. He heaves Neal up and there is another shudder through the body, and Peter curses himself for hoping for the impossible. “It was always about him. Caruso, all of them, pawns. And you fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. Even the great Neal Caffrey.”

“So you do think I’m great.” The voice startles Peter in its aspect, in the weight of pain behind it. But it surges through him like a hymn, a chant.

Peter whispers, “Neal.”

Neal’s eyes lift to search for his face. When they fall on Peter, a shot of relief runs through his expression. The pain eases away from etching his features for a moment and Neal allows a peace to overwhelm him. Peter grabs his gun tighter, if that is possible, and swears, begs silently for Neal not to give up now. The music coming from the pavilion seems in mockery of the death dance they are performing.

“You thought he was dead,” Keller laughs. “Oh he’s almost there, don’t get me wrong. Nearly, quite nearly dead.” The dagger, perched at Neal’s throat, pierces the skin and a dribble of blood oozes.

“Keller,” Peter warns. “I will shoot you.”

Keller smirks, lifts the blade, and opens his mouth. He touches the blood stained dagger to his lips and tastes it. He smiles again, something dark and insidious curls in Peter. “Tastes like death to me.”

“Keller, drop it. You are surrounded,” Jones says as he appears from the trees behind Keller.

Without effort or precaution, Keller slides the knife back to Neal’s exposed throat. Neal reacts, tries to fumble away from the weapon, but the wound staining his jacket, his shirt stops him. He cannot support his own weight; fighting for purchase against Keller isn’t in the cards.

“Keller, again, I repeat for further penetration, I will shoot you,” Peter aims the gun.

The dagger presses and Neal coughs. Keller takes a step away, toward the opening in the iron fence. Jones tells him to stop, halt. Neal drags his feet; Peter realizes he’s consciously making an effort to slow him down. He damns himself.

As Peter decides to fire, as his gun’s barrel finds its target, a burst of sound and laughter interrupts him, jolts him out of his focus. A group of teenagers barge into the area, stopping only when they see the scene before them. One calls out if it is an action film being produced, but another stumbles back seeing the reality of the situation.

The movement draws away his attention, he needs to get his bearings to ensure the kids don’t get caught in the cross fire because he is certain Keller has a gun hidden and in quick reach. A mutilated cry turns his attention to Neal. Keller tows him toward the fence opening, the kids are too close. Jones yells at them to get down, get back. Peter fires at the same time Keller shoves Neal forward. Collapsing into a heap, Neal groans against the pain. Jones takes off after Keller while Peter crouches over his friend.

He hears one of the kids calling an ambulance and somehow that makes Peter feel as if the world might not be as ugly a place as he sometimes believes.

The drawing in the sky plummets and falls to Earth like Lucifer. It spreads out across the landscape in ever increasing ripples – a tide of red against a sea of dark. When the writing disintegrates from the heavens above, there is left a hole in the world. It begs and throbs and loses all semblance of substance. The world surrenders to the black hole and there are no more images to be painted in the sky.

CHAPTER 4
The city colors the sky in vast lights. The heavens are robbed of their luminosity, the radiance like a faded glory of past days. He wonders as he watches the heavens yield their beauty to the man made painting of buildings if there is any art left.

He lost himself in just minutes. But the world, the sky could not find him. He had called out to the one person who might.

And he is saved.


There are sketch books scattered over the mass of Neal’s bed. The linens are rumpled and the duvet is a mess. The pillows look like they’ve been beaten and flatted for no other reason but they’ve offered comfort.

Peter studies the scene and walks closer to view the sketches. The charcoal smears across the page, the lines are amateurish and stilted. He frowns, this is not Neal, this is not Neal’s talent. He sets the care package from Elizabeth down on the dining table and notes the chill seeping in through the balcony doors. He goes to close the doors and glimpses Neal leaning against the great stone. He stares out into the distance.

As Peter approaches, Neal does not move – his gaze still freezes on the cityscape before him. Peter realizes as he glances at his friend that in fact Neal is not looking at the steel jungle before him, but is ripping apart something inside.

It has been seven weeks since the park, since Keller, since the disaster of Juliet’s fake dagger with sham emerald to boot. They’d been played by Keller and Neal walked willingly into his trap. The only thing that saved Neal had been the infected cut on his arm. It had been a vicious infection causing him to run a fever. It also blessed him with the idiotic idea to escape during the fire fight but cursed him with the lack of strategy. Once Neal wandered away from the scene, the pain of the bullet wound to his chest and the fever already eating his flesh had taken over.

They’d nearly lost him on the way to the hospital and as the surgeon reported, they had lost him on the table. The infection from the gash on his arm nearly out did him again during his recovery. He’d spent days in a fevered delirium. Peter often wondered how Neal was able to function at all during those first minutes after the gunshot wound.

Now, Neal had a scar across his chest, and one on his arm. His recuperation had a long way to go, yet. He looks drawn, thin, and tired. Peter joins him at the edge of the balcony and asks him to come inside. Neal pauses, but nods.

He walks like one exhausted with life, with the struggle, with the definition of himself. Peter places a hand at his elbow and guides him to the couch and settles down across from him on a cushioned chair. The wind sweeps in from the balcony and Peter is reminded to close the doors and feed Neal the gourmet soup and bread Elizabeth packed. He warms it up and Neal sits huddled under blankets on the couch.

Setting up a tray, Peter places the meal on it and touches Neal’s shoulder once. Neal nods and like an automaton begins to eat.

“Any good?” Peter asks.

“Good,” Neal says and tastes the soup again. He looks up to Peter, but his eyes drift to the lights outside, the angry clouds in the sky. There is no Caffrey charm touching his voice.

Peter gets up and makes some coffee. He doesn’t offer it to Neal. The caffeine isn’t good for his heart, a heart that was nicked by shattered bone and wounded. Keller got away. Everyone in his life has been threatened or hurt. Someday, the bastard will pay. He glances back at Neal on the couch. Today, Neal has to learn to release the pain, otherwise Keller wins.

Taking a deep breath, Peter prepares himself. He’s done this before, with Elizabeth. As he sits down and starts Neal interrupts him.

“Don’t Peter, I’m not letting Keller get to me,” Neal says as he lays the spoon down. Only half of the soup has been consumed. “I was stupid. I wasn’t feeling well, I already had a fever by the time I walked into the operation.”

Peter nods, they’ve been through this before – many hours of it in the hospital. “Your game was off.”

“Right,” Neal says. “But that’s not it. My game was off, but the fever. It made me think things.”

“Things?”

“When I saw Keller, for a moment, for just a second I thought it wasn’t about the dagger everyone knew was a fake, I thought it wasn’t about the jewel in its hilt.” Neal looks away, his pale cheeks reddening. “I thought it was about you, him, us.”

“Us?” The anvil drops to the pit of Peter’s stomach. He puts the coffee down since the smell makes him nauseous.

“I thought you set it up. I thought you made a deal with Keller to take me down,” Neal says, the breath of sound is nearly lost. “After Elizabeth, after everything.” He waves around to something imaginary that Peter can only guess at. “It seemed to add up to me.”

“Damn it, Neal.”

He rubs his brow and looks back up at Peter. “And after I wrote in the sky and you didn’t come, he did. I thought-.”

“Sky? What?” Peter is falling, the rabbit hole engulfs him.

Neal’s hands shake as he grasps his tea cup. He grabs hold of it with two hands to bring it to his lips. He shrugs, but even Peter can see the pain it still causes. He will be out of the bureau for another three weeks at least. It was all Peter could do to keep him out of having to recover in prison. He still owed a lot to Hughes for that one.

“Maybe it was the fever, or the gunshot,” Neal is saying as he leans back. He places one hand on his chest, right where the scar is. “I thought I wrote in the sky. I saw it. I wrote for you to come and find me.”

Peter closes his eyes, sees the first moments when Neal awoke in the hospital. His eyes were glazed, but held a certain clarity which terrified Peter for some reason. He couldn’t speak since the intubation tube was still in place. There was tubing draining his chest, tubing clearing his lungs. They still didn’t know if he would survive. Neal knew it; Peter read it in his eyes.

Even as he opens his eyes to study Neal now, an afterimage of Neal taking his first few steps from his hospital bed plagues him. Neal’s steps were hesitant, slow, and methodical as if he had to tell every muscle, tendon, and ligament what to do. It was the loss of that Caffrey grace which had recalled the moments before the operation when Neal slipped leaving the van. He had been so weak and still it haunts Peter.

“It was the fever, I know,” Neal says. “But-.” He drops off. He tries to bend forward to place the tea cup on the tray, but he winces at the pain. Peter jumps up and takes the cup.

“You know it wasn’t you, I wasn’t setting you up,” Peter asks.

Neal looks over at the bed, the strewn papers and charcoal. “I know.”

Clear, perfect, and a lie.

“Neal.”

Neal glances up at the ceiling, the skylights as if he is reading something, and then drops his gaze to Peter. “I do know, I just-.”

Peter knows in his bones the feeling Neal has. One of absolute betrayal yet one in search of an answer – one that would deny the betrayal and sent their relationship to rights again. He went through it when Keller took Elizabeth. For those days, Peter hated Neal, yet in the end he came to understand reality. Reality is never black and white; it isn’t even gray. It is muddy and dirty and not so beautiful. He accepted Neal stayed; that it was Keller’s hand that was responsible – treasure or no treasure. They’d put this behind them; found a comfortable place to exist together, work together.

The bullet shattering Neal’s breast bone and causing injury to his heart had destroyed that comfort zone once again. They sit in silence once more. He feels like he is back in the hospital watching the respirator breathe for Neal.

“Would you do something for me?” Neal asks.

“Sure,” Peter says, resigning himself to the fact there are some things about their relationship which will never been repaired.

“Sit for me?” Neal gathers up the blanket as a shawl and goes to the bed. He retrieves his charcoals and sketch pad. He sits back on the couch and prepares to draw.

Peter eyes him, not sure whether or not to feel easy about the proposition. He relents. “Okay. How do-.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Neal says. “Just sit.”

He flips open the pad and starts to draw. Light and shadow move into one and produce structure and foundation. From the foundation of simple shapes comes the more elegant creation of subtleties and form. As the drawing emerges the revelation on the page is discovered.

The writing in the sky settles on the paper as a covenant between them, an understanding as the portrait materializes. Peter examines it as Neal finishes. Even as he looks at the drawing, he realizes he is also looking at a self-portrait. He appreciates the truth of it, and he touches Neal’s shoulder. Neal covers his hand with his own. He holds Neal in place, holds him on Earth, keeps him anchored. Neal glances up at Peter. They have become parts of a whole.

THE END.
A/N: To my knowledge there is no such thing as Juliet's dagger, I made that one up. Thanks for all the support. Writing though a solitary pursuit is not meant to remain hidden. Your feedback - well it keeps me sane.
winterstar95: (Default)
CHAPTER 2
In the moments of stardust, he hears the music from the distant pavilion filter through the treetops. The rustle of the leaves adds to the whispers caught by the wind. He smiles as he listens and follows the drift and ebb of the sounds as they permeate the pain racking through his body, radiating from his shoulder, chest and head.

He jerks and moves the dagger up to clutch near his chest, near the open wound. There is a soft patter and he feels the first drops of rain sprinkle on his face. It is warm and light and he opens his mouth to taste it. The clouds have shifted over his canvas, blotted out the company of stars he has reached out to touch. Upon the evening sky, his writing dissipates and disappears. Peter did not hear; he closes his eyes and says goodbye.


Caruso sits like a stone in the interrogation room. Peter folds his arms and stares at him through the glass as Hughes tries his hand at forcing the man to divulge information. Rubbing his hand across his brow, Peter pushes the tension away. There was blood all over the scene. It started with accusatory words over the hidden microphone in Neal's watch and then the sounds of confusion. He keeps hearing the stutter of Neal's voice as he attempted to bring the situation under control. How could they have ever known Caruso's accomplice knew Caffrey?

They'd sent Neal in as the buyer, a buyer Caruso only communicated with via email. It was a simple exchange; they’d found the real buyer, offered him a deal. The email gave them some information but it was Neal’s dramatic acrobatic skills to find out when the exchange would take place without being seen. Caruso had indicated in the email string that they would secure a warehouse – Neal and Peter checked it out. It was Neal who crawled into a ventilation shaft into the rear office to listen to the phone call between Caruso and his accomplice. They laid the trap. It was a piece of cake, or was supposed to be. Now they had a missing dagger, blood smeared over Caruso, and a lost Neal.

It didn't help that during the meeting the watch Neal was wearing and was transmitting his location and information started to malfunction. Peter curses; Neal hadn't been right this morning. There had been a glazed almost feverish look in his eyes before he disembarked from the van. He promised Peter it was fine, he was fine, but just as he jumped from the van he slipped. He caught himself, but the Caffrey grace abandoned him. Peter had grabbed his upper arm and he winced with a sharp intake of breath. There hadn't been time to quiz Neal; Caruso was known to be a time stickler. Neal rushed off with only a quick backwards grin to Peter. That smile, that confidence had set him at ease. He was back in action and Peter felt they were about to close the deal.

The situation spiraled out of control within minutes of the start, shots were fired. A firestorm greeted them and somewhere in the melee Neal disappeared. At first, they worried he'd run, but the last true words out of Caruso's mouth froze Peter to the core.

"Your boy, he's as good as dead," he stated as they cuffed him and shoved him into the squad car.

When Peter tried to interrogate him, Hughes had to step in. The stains over Caruso’s shirt weren’t his own; there wasn’t a scratch on him. The blood was Neal's - everyone knew it but no one was saying it. No one else had been wounded. An FBI detail with NYPD support is searching every shaft, crawl space and cubbyhole in the warehouse. Nothing has been recovered, yet.

He frowns. It occurs Peter the that they didn't find a bloody trail. It means one of two things: either Neal wasn't injured or he was and tried to cover it so it wouldn’t leave that tell tales signs of a trail thus Caruso's men wouldn't find him.

How long could he hide something like that? The gray pallor of his friend, and his fevered look as Neal departed the van flashes in his memory. Not long, not long at all. On top of whatever injury Neal endured, he was ill, sick. He looks at Caruso, sees him in the glass box like a rat in a cage, captured but vicious.

"We're looking in the wrong place," Peter mumbles. Diana glances up at him from her seat at a laptop as she listens to Jones' progress in the search and recovery.

"Boss?"

"He isn't in the building; he must have gotten out during the fire fight." He gazes at their suspect but his focus internalizes. It feels right, he knows Neal. His fingers tingle with the sensation he always felt when he was closing in on Neal.

"Why isn't he here or contacted us then?"

"One of two reasons, he was sick today. I saw it, he knew it but we both ignored it. Feverish, shot, he's confused and not physically able to contact us, or-."

"Or?" Her normal steely expression softens as she realizes what he is about to say.

"Or Neal is dead." Peter digs in his suit coat breast pocket for his phone and presses the number for jones. On the first ring, Jones picks up. "Spread out your search. Neal isn't in the warehouse. Look farther out. I'm coming to join you." He disconnects the phone when he hears Jones relaying his orders.

Without thought, he swings open the door to the interrogation room and interrupts Hughes. Waving him out of ear shot of the convict, Peter states, "I have a lead on Neal."

Hughes eyes him, that critical eye like a hawk studying him, his body language, and his agitation. He nods but says, "Watch yourself, Caruso's accomplice is still out there."

He nods but takes off. Peter doesn't realize that Diana shadows him as he races down the hallway, as he punches the elevator button and rides it down. His singularity of purpose drives his focus, maybe to his own detriment. It isn't until they approach his car, that he realizes she is standing at the passenger’s door of the Taurus awaiting entrance. He smiles and flicks the lock.

He grips the steering wheel and pulls the car out of the garage. In seconds, he is out on the streets and retracing his steps from this morning. He chants in his mind, over and again. Just wait, Neal, I’m coming. I’ll find you.

There is no answer.

Arms cover him, embrace him in a soft caress. The movement of his body jars him awake and he moans. The pain streaks through his chest, his shoulder. He attempts to move away from the touch, but someone grabs hold of his jaw.

There is laughter, tough and tense. There is no empathy, no pity for him. He forces his eyes to open and he glimpses the man standing over him. He wants to call out, to make his wish come true. It won’t.

Neal has been found. He cannot make a sound, cannot form words.

“Now, see you’re laying down on the job again.”

The voice is clear and breaks through the spatter of rain. It sears through his pain.

He has been found.

By Caruso’s accomplice.

Neal finds his voice, and whispers, “Keller.”


TBC... The Art of Skywriting part 3 and 4
winterstar95: (Default)
Title: The Art of Skywriting part 1/4
Author: Winterstar/dmk0064
Genre: hurt/comfort; angst
Rating: R
Warning: violence
Summary: Neal suffers a gunshot wound and as he awaits help; he sees things more clearly. This is actually an answer to a prompt on the fever fest at lj white collar hurt comfort community: Neal gets sick while on assignment and wanders away. Preference is for much angst/drama trying to find him...in the mood for something very dramatic….I changed things a bit but I promise drama and lots of angst – so here goes. It is also a fill for bullet wounds on my hc_bingo card which will never be done.

Dedication: to rabidchild67 for always writing stories that I *feel*.
Disclaimer: Not mine, never will be, all I hope for is feedback


The wide expanse of the sky reminds him of a great canvas. It opens up before him like an invitation; welcoming him to create it. The blue swirls into endless strands of color mixing with the horizon in rippled waves. There is a beat to the colors; its rhythm reflects the throb of his heart. The hues of navy and violet spool together. He hopes he might one day write upon the stars, splash the colors of his design on the heavens.

He can see how Van Gogh saw the night, envisioned the long space above him. The canopy covers him like a blanket, yet it doesn’t secure him. He lies watching the sky transform above him as the soul of his body leaks out in ever increasing tides.

He wonders how long it takes to die from a bullet wound to the chest.


Chapter 1
“You never liked guns,” Mozzie says as he stands next to Neal on the balcony of his loft apartment. He plays with the wine in his glass as he regards Neal. It runs in smooth circles in the bowl of the glass.

The night promises to be cool as the summer releases its burden to autumn. Neal doesn’t answer immediately, but lets the smell of crisp, drying leaves encompass him. It is hard to smell nature in New York City. Like everything else, New York is a city with an overabundance of smells, fragrances, stenches and odors. Every so often, Neal picks out a scent that soothes him and is refreshing. This is one of those times.

Neal smiles at his friend and says, “No, no at all.”

“But the medieval swords?”

“An elegant weapon for a more civilized age,” Neal quotes.

Mozzie smirks at him and replies, “Obi wan you are not, my student.”

“Channeling Yoda?” Neal shakes his head and takes a sip of his wine. The woody taste lingers on his tongue. There are books scattered across the dining room table. Various different blades, daggers, and rapiers are catalogued. The subject comforts him in many ways. Swords and weapons of the blade are made with a certain artistry. He walks back into the apartment and flips through the pages of one of the largest books. It is amazing that the subject of medieval swords garners such a large volume.

“So I ask again, the medieval sword review?” Mozzie asks. He has stayed behind on the balcony. The night hangs behind him like a cloak of seduction, an offering to conceal his motives. He loves the night.

“A case, just a case,” Neal murmurs. He opens one of the books he tossed aside. It is a tome of unremarkable authorship with questionable references. Its claims are legendary. He smiles down at the book. He likes legends, especially those that can be manipulated.

“And the case being about long sharp objects of your affection?” Mozzie joins him in the apartment, slides down into a chair, crosses his legs, and toasts Neal with a raising of his goblet like glass.

Neal smirks and sends the dubious work of history over to Mozzie. “Ever hear of the Juliet dagger?”

“Letters to Juliet, yes. Juliet’s dagger?” Mozzie opens the book but doesn’t truly study it. “Not particularly. Is it worth anything?”

“Only if you believe in fairy tales,” Neal sits down and takes the book from Mozzie’s grasp. He searches the pages until it falls open to color plates of crafted daggers – each more beautiful and intricate than the last. “The myth surfaced about two hundred or so years after Shakespeare died.”

“So we’re talking about the Juliet from-.”

“Yes, Moz, that Juliet,” Neal says. “Anyway, the legend states that the dagger was found in Italy and has been linked to the real Juliet.”

“And we believe this why?”

“No, Mozzie, we don’t believe it.” Neal stands, winces a bit as he scrapes his upper arm against the back of the chair and adds, “And no the FBI doesn’t believe it either. The dagger we’re tracking is forged, probably by Vincent Caruso.”

“Oh the famous Vincent Caruso, he has an interesting history. So since it’s a fake, it’s the perfect way to move other valuables. No one is going to go after a fairy tale.” Mozzie examines the inlaid jewels on the hilt of the daggers depicted in the drawings.

“Exactly, we’re going after the emerald in the handle,” Neal says. “The emerald was stolen from a museum in Italy about twelve years ago.”

“Not you then.”

Neal gives him a face and says, “Not me. We get this guy; we have a trail back to a heist that includes a number of precious stones and gems.”

“When’s the take down?” Mozzie asks.

He slips out the door to the balcony and lets the cooling wind strike him. It feels good. His focus has faltered throughout the day. He swallows hard but hasn’t tasted his wine. He needs the fresh air, it settles him.

“Neal?” Mozzie asks again.

Closing his eyes for a moment, Neal takes a calming breath. “Tomorrow, later in the afternoon sometime.”

“Neal, tell me you’re not going into this without your head in place,” Mozzie asks. He opens his eyes to see Mozzie trying to catch a glimpse of him. “Caruso can be ruthless.”

Flaring out his nostrils to get a cleansing breath, Neal nods. “I’m fine, I’m good.”

“And the bandage on your arm?” Mozzie points to the wrapping around his upper right arm. It still hurts like a son of a bitch.

“Yesterday, cut my arm while in a ventilation shaft.” Neal shrugs. It tugs the healing slash and he bites back an intake of breath. “It was the best place to overhear when the exchange will go down.”

“What you do for the Suit. He doesn’t deserve you, Neal,” Mozzie says, gives a final salute with the glass, and drinks the last of his wine. “Remember, Neal.”

“What’s that?” He peers over his shoulder as Mozzie starts to leave.

“The Force will be with you, always.”

As he watches the sky turn over him and around him, he thinks about the Force and about daggers and lost loves. He wonders if Juliet realized at the end that giving your life for an impetuous fool like Romeo wasn’t worth it. He supposes she never did comprehend it, not in her short life or her even shorter love affair.

It mocks him though. Her decision to die for someone she never really knew. He thinks about Kate and who she was, who she turned him into. Mozzie once called her a ghost. As he lies there in a puddle of his own blood, he knows she was more of a figment of his creation than an actual person. She passed through his life and changed who he was. He cannot remember who he was before he met her or his motivations. They died together on the plane. Who Neal Caffrey was died the moment the fire ball exploded the fuselage and struck him down to the tarmac. He became someone different.

Someone who lies in the middle of a park with a crown of tree branches above him, framing the darkening sky. He cannot remember where he was, or what he was doing. He has a dagger clutched in his one hand and smears of blood trail down his face and cheek. The blossom of blood under him paradoxically keeps him warm as it spreads down his back and across his shoulder blades. He considers whether he can touch the sky above him. It seems so close as he falls away from the world, from life. He reaches up with his left hand; his right hand holds onto the dagger still. He cannot drop it, he has to hold onto it.

He scrawls a plea for help in the sky, writing out a name, calling out for help. His wish is silent and potent but has no power since he does not know the art of skywriting. He can see it; though in his mind’s eye as he drifts away allowing the tide under him to wash him away.

The twilight transforms above him as the stars shift and gather to call out – to cry out.

Peter, find me.


TBC... The Art of Skywriting part 2
winterstar95: (Default)
Title: Descending, slowly
Author: winterstar
Genre: hurt/comfort, angst
Rating: PG
Warnings: none
Summary: a feverish Neal paints; Peter worries – answers a prompt on whitecollarhc LJ: Neal paints while feverish -also fills the hc_bingo card square possession/mind control
Disclaimer: not mine, never will be, all I get is feedback which I adore!

The ghost sits at the table. It is drinking his best wine, and Neal frowns at this fact. He didn't realize paranormal apparitions actually drank and ate. He wonders how spirits get their food. Do they buy it at the store? Do they steal into households and consume whatever they want? This makes him laugh and he wipes away the sweat from his brow as he clutches the paintbrush. The perspiration makes him shudder; he freezes as he toils. His hand trembles; it is getting more difficult to concentrate. He is getting worse but he has to finish, he has to finish tonight. Mozzie will be over; he'll walk through the door and expect the masterpiece to be ready.

His fevered brain doesn’t question what he is painting, just that he needs to complete it. He doesn't remember what it needs to be ready for; his mind is too muddled. He thinks in colors and swirls like a dance in slow motion. It is beautiful and graceful yet it stretches and transforms as if his life has become a surrealist’s paintings.

He hears a cough and looks up. Joining his friendly ghost, Dali reaches for the wine bottle. Casper, otherwise known as Vermeer, hands him a glass. They salute one another and ease back in their chairs to watch Neal work. Neal thinks they make a strange pair - a Dutch master and a surrealist. He ponders what notes they would compare. They do not analyze each other now, but him. There are others crowding the background. Degas glares at him from the corner, while Pollock paces behind him. He knows Degas does not approve; he considers if ghosts hold grudges. Degas hates him, scowls at him. He notes that da Vinci is playing with his silver wear, constructing some strange miniature machine. Anytime he stops, the phantoms look up at him, expressions of disapproval on their faces.

The hacking cough rattles in his chest as he leans against the large easel. He feels the paint smudge his bare upper arm. He ruins the work; he has to start again. Wobbling, he fumbles and stands up right, blinking several times to get his attention on the canvas.

Pollock clucks behind Neal. He focuses back on the canvas, trying to ignore their eyes, their silent evaluation of his work. The brush touches the canvas with a lover's stroke, pulling the paint across the canvas. He shadows and lightens and works the colors. Vermeer shakes his head and takes him to task for the lack of under painting.

His paintings are of low quality; his form lacks understanding of the true nature of light and color.

Neal tries again.

"Still failing, Mister Caffrey?"

He jumps from the sound of the voice behind him. As he spins on his heel, the room tilts and turns as if he is on a child's playground ride. The tone of the voice stops him and he grabs onto the easel again to steady himself.

"You will never be a true artist , Mister Caffrey, not without innovation, not without your own vision!" the ghost of his once art teacher says.

Her eyes have always bothered Neal. Cruelty, jealousy and pain lurk there; discontentment and disillusionment darkened her features. She envied his talent, but never complimented him. Her arms hold scars, long dripping wounds. Her blood smears over the floor. He watches the pattern of the blood as it spreads in a stain over the floor. He remembers her suicide. It marked his young life. He would never earn her approval, though he always strove for it.

The ghosts whisper in his head.

Do you want to die penniless, do you want to be condemned by God.

He tries to make them be silent, but they will not let up with their barrage of insults. His teacher jabs at him, telling him he has no talent. He should give up. He will die unloved and alone.

The paint brush feels like it has melded to his hand but its weight is unwieldy. He can't get it to move and turn the way it should. It curves and spins with the crazy whirl of the room. He squeezes his eyes shut and tries to balance out the room. When he opens them the phantoms surround him. Their eye sockets are empty gaping holes. Their mouths open and colors leak out in a flood down their chests; it spews like vomit over him. He stumbles back to stagger and fall to his knees, then he descends slowly to the floor. They blanket him like a shroud and the last thing he thinks is that he can smell the metal of blood.

*oOoOoOo*
Peter climbs the stairs to Neal's apartment. He is fairly certain he will find Neal curled up in bed after having sent his CI home two days ago with a fever and chest congestion. He knows where Neal is, his tracking data doesn't lie - at least not normally. He should be in his apartment, but Peter always has to verify.

He taps on the door. When there is no answer he knocks again and calls for Neal. He pauses before he tries the door. June has been out of town, the house staff is at a minimum. He considers whether or not Neal can survive without a full service staff to wait on him. Peter frowns; prison does have some characteristics of being served. He shakes his head. He is getting jaded in his old age.

He raps knuckles on the door a third time and when no answer results, he twists the handle and the door swings open.

"Damn it, Neal," Peter says as he kneels down beside the inert form. He presses his fingers to Neal’s throat. He is alive but he is burning with fever.

Peter glances around the room as he grabs for his cell phone from his jacket pocket. Scattered over the floor are unopened water bottles, paint tubes, Neal’s palate and brushes. A large canvas sits on the easel. As he speaks to the emergency operator and calls for an ambulance he stands to examine the canvas.

It is a self portrait. The dichotomy of Neal’s life crosses over Neal’s face as the features are transformed either into Peter’s or Mozzie’s. It chills Peter to look at it. The vibrant splashes of colors and boxed shadows that haunt Neal cause an illusion of both beauty and pain. Something in Peter breaks open.

He goes back to Neal’s side and whispers, “Neal, I got you now.”

*oOoOoOo*
He fears opening in his eyes. He doesn’t know if they will be there, the specters of his dreams, of his nightmares. The world stills as he opens his eyes and looks around the room. He is lying alone in a bed.

It is dark with odd lighting and sounds. Degas stands in the corner and curses him while da Vinci notes it is always best to study anatomy of a human subject to understand the true form and function – to represent the truth in human form. Structure follows form and function. To comprehend how to draw one must know the science hidden beneath the flesh.

Several of the ghosts crowd around him and they tug down the thin sheet covering him. He shivers and gropes for it. Dali laughs and slaps his hands away. He waves his hands over Neal’s torso with a flourish and da Vinci raises a scalpel.

They carve away at his skin to expose the muscles, tendons and ligaments.

He screams.

*oOoOoOo*
The next time Neal wakes he refuses to open his eyes, though he feels the warmth of sun lay over his body. The exhaustion plaguing him makes it difficult to lift his arms or turn his head. His eyes burn even though they are closed. His chest hurts while his ears ring.

Over the constant fogginess, he hears a slight murmur of voices. It must be them – the phantoms. They will open up his flesh, tear away his skin again and render away at his muscles and tendons as if he is a corpse ready for autopsy. He fists his hands and tries to go back to sleep but the urge to cough brings him to a higher level of consciousness.

His chest explodes as he coughs and curls into a ball on the bed, but there are hands on him, holding him. He struggles, but the weakness in his bones prevails and he falls back.

“Hey, hey, Neal, calm down, buddy.”

Neal rubs at his eyes and looks at Peter bent over him. There are no ghosts huddled around his bed. He scans the room; he is not in his bed but a hospital room. He stops; Degas lurks in the corner of the room.

“Peter?” Just talking takes his breath away.

“You have a very serious case of pneumonia, Neal.” Peter helps him shift and sit more comfortably in the bed. “I told you to call if you needed anything. God, I thought it was just a bad flu. The paramedic said you were dehydrated, though you had about a half dozen unopened water bottles all over the floor.”

“Couldn’t get them open,” Neal says.

“You should have called,” Peter answers. “Your fever was dangerously high. We’re talking in the hallucinations range.”

“That explains da Vinci,” Neal whispers.

“What?”

Neal gestures for him to forget it.

“Your lungs are so congested and you were coughing so much you had phlegm and blood lodged in your throat when I found you,” Peter says. “You were barely breathing, Neal. You could have died.”

“So, will I live?” Neal asks. He winces as the slight change in position sends a bolt of pain through his chest.

“Oh, you’ll live - you haven’t completed your end of the deal.” Peter considers Neal and says. “You were painting.”

Neal nods.

“Self portrait.”

Neal doesn’t look at Peter, but nods again.

“You know you can talk about it, I want to help you, Neal.” Peter has his hands on his hips and his jacket looks disheveled. Worry lines crease his face.

The ghost in the shadows glares at him. Neal gazes at Peter for a moment and asks, “Do you think Degas hates me?”

“What?”

“I think he hates me,” Neal says. The effort of talking drains him of his energy.

“I think your fever is coming back.” Peter places a hand on his forehead. “Okay, that doesn’t explain it.”

“Pretty sure I’m right,” Neal comments. The pain in his chest blossoms outward like walnut oil over a canvas; it works its way into him and blends all the parts of him into one.

“He only hates you because you’re better than him,” Peter says.

Neal lifts his eyes and says, “Yeah?”

Peter smiles. “Yeah.”

The shade of Degas fades away and Neal smiles as he closes his eyes to sleep.

THE END.
winterstar95: (Default)
Interlude II
After Neal leaves with his anklet securely locked in place, Peter works late that night. Neal is safe from Wilkes, the Gless girl is home. All is right. He lets out a sigh and sits back in his chair. Spinning around, he settles to watch the night lights glimmer over the city. The glow mimics the sky above and it seems to Peter that the stars dimmed in the heavens above by the city lights have dropped down and shine from the streets and buildings. New York City has stolen the heavens. He smiles and decides it might be time to call it a day, a night, whatever. When he starts to wax poetically, he knows it is time to just surrender for the day. Elizabeth is waiting.

He packs up and, as he leaves his office, looks back one more time at the city. It holds secrets but it glitters and the shine hides all its faults and promises. He nods and turns off the light in his office, departing the sanctity of the Bureau for the day.

As he opens his car door once he's entered the garage, he considers if he should check in on Neal. No, he won't do that, not tonight, not now. Trust has to build somewhere. Making a foundation begins with the simplest task - believing in the solidity of the ground beneath your feet. He smiles, yes definitely time to go home.

The ride is quiet and slow, but he makes it on time to say good night to Elizabeth before she drifts off to sleep. He turns off the light and leaves the bedroom. Stopping at the top of the staircase, he glances at the empty guest room. Images of those moments years ago materialize and he recalls Neal’s fractured cry as the pain cut through him. He looked so young and so broken, Peter thinks, he may have made the right decision - though there have been times throughout the years, he has thought differently.

There is a light knock on the door and Peter leaves his thoughts behind to go downstairs and answer it.

It is Neal.

They stare and say nothing.

There is a nod between them, acknowledging the past; the secret is still concealed and unspoken between them.

Neal offers his hand, Peter takes it. The seal remains unbroken.

Part 3: After
What startles him awake is the suppressed moan and a yank at his hand. He shifts and releases his hold when he sees Neal struggling to sit up. He's blinking and squinting at Peter as if the light from the new day hurts his eyes. His fever broke half way through their second day together, but Neal slept most of the rest of the hours. It is early Thursday morning.

It takes a moment for Neal to recognize him; there are questions in his eyes but he doesn't ask them. Instead he says, "Need the bathroom."

Peter leans over and gathers Neal over his shoulder to help him down the narrow hall. They’ve done this before but he doubts Neal remembers since he was dazed with fever. Half way there, Neal sways and nearly topples over, but a hand to his chest steadies him. Neal throws his hand out and braces himself against the wall. Peter stops and allows him time to settle as the pain eases away.

"Okay?"

Neal nods and they make their way to the bathroom. There is a moment of awkward silence as Neal hops into the room and Peter stays at the threshold, then Neal flicks the door closed and Peter waits. He stands in the hall, wondering what the hell he is going to do with a freshly aware con-man in his house. Damn it, what was he thinking?

It seems to take forever, and that leaves Peter considering his motives and why and where and what he should do. All things he has been trying to avoid the last few days, but now are prominent urgent issues.

Neal opens the door to the bathroom and turns the light off. He has cleaned up his face and his hair is damp. Peter didn't hear the shower; perhaps he should offer him a shower, new clothes. Damn, what is he thinking?

"I'll get out of your way now," Neal says and turns toward the stairs. He weaves a bit and, if it isn't for Peter's arm clutching him, he would plummet down.

"I think you can stay a bit longer."

"Just a bit," Neal says, obviously strained from the short walk to the bathroom and the clean up.

When they get to the bedroom, Neal drops on the bed and sits with his shoulders slumped. He looks up at the discarded intravenous line, the empty bags of antibiotics littering the floor, and considers Peter. "A man of many talents, Agent Burke."

"I have quite a few," Peter says and helps him back onto the bed, lifting his wounded leg onto the pillow. Neal groans and holds onto the side of his torso. Cracked ribs will do that to a person.

"Yes, you are a man of mystery," Neal says and Peter thinks he might ask him why, but he doesn't. He regards him with a critical eye as if Peter is a painting that Neal is systemically taking apart to understand the methodology of its creation. "Great mysteries," he adds after a moment.

"Rest," Peter says. "I'll get you something to eat."

For a moment it looks like Neal might protest but it dies on his lips when he lifts his head and falls back defeated by his own weakness. Peter waves him off and goes to make him some soup and tea. He figures the kid hasn't eaten in weeks. When he was taping up his ribs, he noticed the depleted look of Neal's muscle and body tone. The kid had been held and tortured; that much was clear. By whom, Peter wanted to know. Neal usually ran in circles Peter would normally call the criminal gentlemen's world. He wonders who Neal pissed off and how to get beaten, starved and shot.

Satchmo sits by him as he stirs the soup. He frowns at the dog. "This is between you and me, boy. I'll give you the leftovers if you don't rat me out."

The dog whines and licks his lips. It is enough for Peter to give the dog a double take before he finishes up the soup, ladles it out and set up the tray with the tea, crackers and the bowl. Climbing the stairs, Peter tells Satchmo to stay to no avail; the dog follows his nose. By the time he enters the spare room, Neal has fallen asleep; it is a restful slumber so Peter decides not to bother him. He sets the tray aside, sits and picks up his book to read. After only a half hour, Peter is interrupted by Neal.

"Nice dog," Neal comments. Satchmo is guarding the tray with the food on it near the end table.

Peter chuckles and says, "Satchmo would win best guard dog if it was all about the food." Neal smiles but his eyes drift back to the tray and a yearning moves over his features. "It's probably cold now, do you want me to heat it up."

"No, no, please I don't mind," Neal says as he pushes himself up into the pile of pillows. His eyes look like huge blue stains within the hollows of his face. He's seen those horrific pictures of starving kids in developing countries, the hunger in Neal's eyes is nothing like that despair, but the eagerness kicks him in the gut, makes him realize how frail and on the edge of society some people live.

He situates the tray on a pillow next to Neal, but has to reprimand Satchmo when he attempts to get on the bed. The dog sulks off. Before Peter can close the door on the dog, Neal has half the soup eaten and all of the crackers. He moves off and goes downstairs to make a sandwich which he silently hands Neal on a plate when he returns.

"Who did this to you?" His hands are on his hips as he stands over Neal.

"Why am I not in jail?" Neal counters.

"Touche," Peter says. He moves off and sits in the chair as Neal eats the last of the sandwich. "Really, Neal, whoever did this is a menace. He's dangerous."

Neal smiles. "Not anymore."

"You killed him?" The world zones in and out for a moment. Maybe Neal Caffrey isn't who he thinks he is.

"What?" Neal drops the crust of the sandwich. "No, Agent Burke, I didn't kill him." He lowers his gaze then looks back up. There is a smirk hidden under his carefully sculptured neutral expression. "Let's just say he has a lot less assets and people to work with than he normally does."

"You conned him?" Peter asked. "And he beat the crap out of you and tortured you."

Neal sips the tea and makes a spinning motion with his index finger. "The other way around. He tortured me first, and then I made sure he had a little less assets to work with."

"He'll come for you again," Peter notes. "You're in danger."

"I'm in the custody of a federal agent. I don't think so."

"You're not in my custody, Neal." Peter crosses his arms and realizes the gesture telegraphing his closed state on the subject.

Neal tilts his head; the smile - that confidence man smile lurks near the surface. "Interesting, Peter Burke. And what are you looking for? A nice too expensive piece of jewelry for your lovely wife? Or would you like a bit of cash to set up your early retirement."

Blood warms his face and he glares at Neal like he's turned into a devil. He jumps up and jabs at him with his finger. "What the hell are you talking about? What are you accusing me of, you little-." It occurs to him in the middle of his rage that Neal might not understand that some people do things for altruistic reasons, not to get something. It isn't always a bargain. He deflates. "I don't want anything from you, Neal. I'm not even sure I'm asking you to turn yourself over into my custody."

Neal sets the tray aside and studies him. "Should I be asking for my lawyer?"

"Not if you don't want us both arrested."

"Okay, deal, I think," Neal says. His face pales as he sinks back into the pillows. The force of the discussion has sapped him of his energy.

"Rest a little more," Peter says but grabs the bottle of antibiotics. "Take one of these, best after you eat something. Won't upset the stomach as much." He hands Neal the pills.

He glances at the intravenous line hooked up to a nail scavenged from a discarded framed photo on the floor. "Should I ask where the medical supplies came from?"

"Best not," Peter says and drops the pills into his open palm.

Neal downs the pills and closes his eyes. "You are a surprise, Agent Burke."

Peter stands over him and waits; his sleep is nearly immediate. Peter reaches down and cups a hand over his forehead. He still feels a little warm to Peter but he's no longer in danger. The oral medication should relieve the rest of the infection but he will need stitches and while Peter has some medical knowledge his expertise does not extend that far.

He keeps repeating to himself as he leaves the room, one step at a time, Burke. The problem is, he has no idea what the next step is.

For the next day, Neal sleeps, and only wakes to eat and take medication. They do not talk again that day, and Neal spends most of his time alone in the spare room as Peter weighs the possibilities. If Neal would tell him who did this to him, if the perpetrator is someone important, Peter might be able to cut a deal for Neal. There are possibilities, but he knows he'll have to sacrifice his reputation for some of them. He is slightly aghast that he is fine with the repercussions.

When he brings dinner to Neal, he finds the con-man curled up on the bed with a copy of one of Elizabeth’s art history books. His nose is nearly pressed to the page as he examines a painting. Peter sets the tray down and tells Neal to roll over so he can check his wound. It surprises Peter that in certain things Neal is so compliant.

He looks away as Peter opens up the gauze, tugging at the tape. He cleans the wound with some more antiseptic, but he’s pleased no further infection has manifested in the hole. He checks the exit wound and gives that a positive report as well. Glancing up at Neal, Peter sees Neal panting through clenched teeth. The brilliance of his pain is written on his face. He keeps his eyes closed as Peter finishes up his task of changing the bandages.

“Dinner?”

Neal makes a low note of acceptance but says nothing.

“Okay?” Peter asks.

“Yes, sure.” His words come out breathy and small. Peter sets him up with the tray and gathers his meal and waits as Neal starts to eat. “Are you going to eat?”

“Already did.” He sits down in the chair and opens the bottle of beer he brought. He thinks it would be nice to put on a small buzz, but knows that is an impossibility.

Once Neal begins to eat, Peter says, “He’ll kill you next time.”

Neal shakes his head. “I don’t think so.”

“You’re awfully confident for a man whose just been tortured and starved for, what was it two or three weeks?” The beer dangles from his fingers.

“It was two, but who’s counting?” Neal shrugs his shoulder and regrets it. He bends over his bruised ribs and holds on as the pain shivers through him. Peter watches the muscles vibrate against the tremor. “He understands commodities, and once he comes to his senses he’ll realize he’s better off with me alive.”

“You worked with him?”

“Tried to, our styles are different.” Neal continues to eat. The pot roast is pulling a disappearing act. “Don’t worry, Peter, I might be a lot of things but I’m not into physical violence.”

“But you are into art?” Peter lifts the bottle to indicate the art history book.

He grins. “I have some talent.”

“I would say so,” Peter nods.

“Do I need my lawyer?” Neal asks again as he drops the fork. The plate is nearly clean.

Peter drinks down the last of the beer then answers, “Not now, Neal. For now, it’s just you and me.”

“Why? What’s in it for you?”

The glow in the room from the lamp reminds Peter of stage lighting. The circle of light surrounds Neal, making him the central figure in the room. Peter feels like an auxiliary, or a supporting cast member. This is always how it is for Neal, Peter realizes. The spotlight is always on him; he is the focus and the center of every stage, every scene. He relishes it, Peter knows yet he recognizes for once Neal has to understand the ramifications, the long term consequences.

“Maybe, it’s just a little intervention on my part for you,” Peter says. He leans forward, both hands clasping the beer as he places his elbows on his knees. “I’ve seen what you can do Neal, I know your talent. What you have to offer isn’t the con, but something better. I wonder why you don’t see it.”

“Things aren’t that simple as black and white, Agent Burke. Not everyone has the American dream,” Neal says. “What I do fits; it fits who I am.”

“Then you’re selling yourself short, Neal.”

Neal laughs and goes to move the tray off the bed. Peter jumps up to help him. He holds the tray as Neal leans back on the bed.

“You are a very difficult man to read, Peter.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Peter says as he exits. He stops and looks back at Neal. “Get some sleep, Neal. Think about it, you deserve better. I don’t know why or what happened to you, but I can read a person, pretty well. You’re something better than a con, a fake.”

He leaves then to clean the kitchen, feed the dog. In the quiet of the night, Peter takes Satchmo for a much needed walk. He always feels as if the dog is short changed when Elizabeth isn’t around to mother the pup. The night chills him; he keeps his hands shoved deep in his pockets with Satchmo’s leash tied around his right fist. By the time he returns, his ears and nose are freezing. He feels the nip of winter in the air.

He closes the door and locks it, but as he turns knows he’s made a mistake. There is a note tucked behind the newel post of the railing. Deep in his chest, he aches as he flips open the paper.

The handwriting is beautiful and strong at the same time. The words are simple yet punch him hard in the gut. He folds the paper and slips it into his pocket. He goes back to work the next day and says nothing to his fellow agents.

The secret is safe.

Denouement
Peter and Neal spend little time talking of what happened. They have a glass of wine and sit in silence before Neal begs off and thanks Peter. It is later in the night when Peter watches Neal leave that he retrieves the years old letter. He opens it and reads it as if it is an echo to a dream or a prelude to the future.

He touches the lettering and smiles.

“Someday. Someday, Peter, I’ll stay.”

He lets out a sigh but it is not one of pain or angst but of satisfaction. The secret holds its power but their bond is unbreakable.

THE END
winterstar95: (Default)
Interlude
He closes his eyes to shut out the image of Neal frozen on the screen. Given over as ransom to save a girl, Neal had been missing for nearly twelve hours. They found him, though, outside a travel agency. Peter can no longer deny it, though, and he opens his eyes again to stare at it. The concern etched over Neal's features, the harassed look does not disguise the fear lurking underneath that Peter detects. The monitor's image gives nothing back to him, but a cold feeling spreading through his veins, his nerves.

The words continue to echo releasing secrets from their hidden depths.

The last time he saw Wilkes - 'when was the last time you saw Wilkes, Neal'.

The pause haunts him and builds the tension as Neal answers - 'when he tried to kill me'.

The secret between them remains, untouched yet potent and pulsating like an open wound, like an infection. They both leave it behind that day, but now it bleeds out before him.

Neal's life is in the hands of his tormentor, and Peter's life is poised on the edge of a secret.

Part 2: During
His hands shake as he readies the needle. He learned how to do this years ago, but practice at Quantico feels like a different universe when faced with reality. The needle slips into the vein easily; he feels the slight tug then release indicating that he's in and slides it further into the vessel. A quiet moan issues from his patient, but he only pats his shoulder and whispers for him to settle.

Perspiration beads across his forehead and he wishes he could open a window to cool his guest bedroom. He cannot; the fever ravaging Neal's body is bordering on critical. He wars with himself as he continues his work. Neal should be in a hospital, not stretched out on his wife's good down comforter in their spare bedroom. In very little time, Peter could have a dead man on his hands and the entire wrath of the Bureau on his head.

He opens up the intravenous line and allows the antibiotics to flow. He has connections, ways to get things he needs including medical supplies. He knows if this goes wrong, if Neal dies on him, he won't be able to explain his actions to any reasonable person, least of all Hughes. He doubts he has enough clout in the Bureau to stop the loss of his badge and possibly his freedom. He’s putting his life, his relationship with Elizabeth in jeopardy.

Cursing under his breath, he peels open the bandage on the bullet wound. Neal had been lucky. It was a clean shot, hitting soft tissue but not cracking bone, and exiting without massive damage. The problem still remains, a raging infection that heated his leg and burned him with fever. Peter debrided the wound but he had to relent to give Neal some of the Percocet he'd taken some months back for shoulder surgery. Washing away the layers of grime and dirt, cleaning out the festering bacteria nearly sent him over the edge. He had to stop and walk away several time to ease the need to vomit.

After he had finished his work on the main wound, he had examined Neal and found boot marks across his torso, bruised ribs and probably a crack or two there. He used his field medicine knowledge to its maximum. He bound up the ribs and washed away the filth.

Neal remains pliant and murmurs softly in his troubled sleep. He repeats that he found Friday even though Peter assures him it is Tuesday. He opens his eyes and stares at Peter; there is no recognition. He only whispers names Peter does not know. He feels like he is intruding, like he is a peeping tom looking into a window and watching someone else's life unfold before him. Neal never cries for his mother.

Peter covers the man and walks out of the room. He grabs onto the bannister of the staircase and damns himself. What the hell is he thinking? A tremor hits him deep inside and he hangs his head. At least Elizabeth is not here to see him in his stupidity, in his fall from grace. She's visiting her sister upstate and isn't due back until next week. He has time to set this straight, but it is so twisted and contorted he isn't even sure he knows how to find the pathway to making it right.

He hears Satchmo barking in the yard; he needs to bring the dog in. He needs to call the office and tell them he'll be out sick for a few days. Swearing again, he cannot believe he is actually considering doing this, following through and harboring a criminal. He keeps thinking of the wild eyed gaze of Neal's, his broken cry for help.

Is it because the reputation of the James Bond of the criminal world will be forever tainted if he is brought in, arrested, beaten, wounded and bloodied? Or is it because Peter cannot stand to think of giving up the challenge of Neal Caffrey? Or is Peter so vain he wants the take down to be spectacular and reliant on his assumptions and fine strategy instead of a tip given to him by one of his most unreliable sources?

None of these reasons seem to fit. He tugs at his tie and pulls his collar open. A button pops off and flies down the stairway. He ignores it. No, he thinks, it is none of these.

The answer blinds him as he gazes into the stream of sunlight breaking through the front door window. It is none of these reasons. It is simple and it is right - damn protocol and law and requirements.

Neal deserves better.

Something about the kid tells him, he deserves more than what he's been given in life. Something's cheated Neal; something's scraped away at his sense of right and wrong. Peter feels as if one good offering might change the course of Neal's life, might make him reconsider, might save him one day. He thinks if the world would show Neal there are better ways to live, to use his talents, he might take a risk and chance a normal life. Peter would like to be there, someday, when Neal makes that choice.

This is a first step.

He tries not to question his decision again throughout his vigil by Neal’s side during the rest of the day. Neal drifts in and out of consciousness and Peter wonders how long it has been since he’s been fully aware. Even as he dragged Neal from the hell of the motel room, he slipped and fell into a fogged state. It amazed Peter how trusting Neal was when he picked him up from the heap on the motel room floor. How he gave over his life so easily to Peter. He wonders if Neal has ever truly trusted anyone in his life.

By evening Neal wakes long enough for Peter to offer him water. He drinks it as if he is on fire and Peter thinks he literally is. When Neal slumps back into the bed again, his gaze is weary and drained. He glances at Peter as if he might say something, ask a question but instead he closes his eyes and turns away. His body shivers in response and he fists his hands against the pain.
Peter grasps his hand and uncurls the fingers, feeling the tension. He tries to rouse Neal again as the strength in Neal’s hand relaxes, but unconsciousness claims him again.

He stays for the rest of the day into the night. Neal continues to mumble and claw at the sheets throughout the twilight. Peter changes his dressing after he cleans the wound again. When the phone rings a little after eight o’clock, Peter convinces himself it is Hughes telling him the FBI is coming to arrest him. Instead, he finds Elizabeth on the line.

After the pleasantries, Elizabeth finally says, “Hon, you’re distracted. What’s up?”

“Distracted? No, no. I’m not distracted.” He stands in the doorway of the guest room, watching the street lamp’s glow filter in through the window. The light casts a hue over the sleeping occupant of the bed. It softens the harsh lines and the shallow look of Neal’s features. The kid has been through hell in the last few weeks.

“Is the game on? I didn’t think there was a game tonight,” Elizabeth is saying.

He jumps back to the conversation at hand. “No, no game, just lots of work. Working.”

“It’s Neal, isn’t it?”

“W-What? Caffrey? No.”

“You’re not working on his case file now?” Elizabeth says.

“No, yes. I mean, yes I am working on it, but not sure how it is going yet.” He frowns. She has an uncanny sense of his state of mind, even hundreds of miles away.

“Okay, then since you’re distracted,” Elizabeth starts.

“Not distracted.”

She giggles a bit and says, “If you say so, hon. Love you, talk to you tomorrow.”

“Love you, too.”

In moments, Peter is left alone listening to the dial tone. He turns the phone off and walks back into the room. He wishes he could have spoken to Elizabeth, could have told her about it, could have asked what she would do. He considers what Elizabeth would do and walks back into the room.

He sits down in the chair next to the bed and waits. He knows what his wife, his loving wife would do. He follows her lead and remains with Neal throughout the night. Peter holds onto Neal’s hand when the fever battles his sanity, when the pain overcomes him and he wants to cry. He stays the night.

TBC... Part 3
A/N: I wrote this three times. I tried different scenarios, I hope this works. I am not sure if it is OOC for Peter to make this decision. I decided Peter has the capacity to act out of the boundaries of the law since he's done it in the series (as influenced by Neal). Let's just say this is the first step in that direction for Peter!
winterstar95: (Default)
Title: The Secrets of Past Lives part 1/3
Author: Winterstar
Rating: PG13
Genre: Hurt/comfort, angst. Pre-series
Warnings: disturbing descriptions of injuries, destitute conditions, descriptions of violence
Summary: answer to a prompt at ljwhitecollar hurt comfort community: AU - Peter didn't catch Neal the way he does on the show; he regains Neal's trail after having lost him for several months, finding him in a certain fleabag motel in New York, dangerously sick and clearly having been unwell and underfed for quite a while…..see original prompt here: http://whitecollarhc.livejournal.com/19850.html#comments

A/N: Pre-series but fits nicely into the series – once you read through the entire story.

BTW this also answers the infected wounds square and the forced to rely on enemy rival square on my hc_bingo card (I think).

Disclaimer – not mine, never was or will be. Happy to play for nothing.


Prelude
Echoes of past lives whisper through the air.

He stares as Rice goes over the case; his gut clenches as he watches Neal for any signs. None are present, of course. Neal is a consummate confidence man. He can play any part, take on any role. He sheds skin like a snake. His confidence shines in perfect opposition to Peter’s hidden fears.

The echoes reverberate; seem to shake the floor under his shoes.

The secrets are there of past lives – of what was required in conflict with what was right.

The secrets persist of past lies – of duty and loyalty against compassion and forgiveness.

The secrets will bring him to ruin.

PART 1 – Before
As he opens the door, the hinges creak in protest. Peter studies the crumbling, faded architecture of the once grand building. The stench of sweat and urine hits him and burns his nostrils when he enters the lobby. He makes his way across the stained carpet, noting the tattered curtains, and ripped, sagging furniture.

His intel has to be wrong; the place reeks of the destitute, the lost ones of society. He cringes when he spies a woman sitting in one of the filthy chairs near the front desk. Her eyes are dazed but she’s still aware enough to slip a hypodermic needle under her shirt as if to hide it from prying eyes - his prying eyes. He stands out; his suit, his carriage, everything about him screams federal agent. The few people in the lobby back into the shadows of the dank room.

Ignoring them, he approaches the front desk. He shouldn't be here without backup, but he is sure his sources are wrong. This cannot be the place. There is no way. His prey loves the best places, dares crown princes in games of cards and flies first class paid only with a dazzling smile. He hits the bell on the desk and waits for the man watching a small television set to put down his soup he's slurping from the opened can.

"Yeah?" The man is really more of a boy; his frame thin, tall and rail like and his features gaunt and hollow. He thinks sixteen, possibly seventeen. Something aches in Peter as he watches the kid pull out a cigarette to light it.

Peter takes out the photograph and puts it on the counter. "Have you seen this man?" He places his badge next to the picture. It glitters against the nicked and grime laden wooden surface.

The boy startles when he sees the badge but recovers and points to the photo. "Yeah, he's in room 2B." Turning he grabs the duplicate key and slides it over to Peter. "Don't make no mess, I ain't got no good staff to clean up after no feds."

"You're sure? This man?" Peter points to the photograph. The lines, the sculpted face with startling blue eyes stare back, captured in his most capricious of moments.
"It's what I said, ain't it. Him, he's in room 2B. I ain't seen him in days but he came in on Saturday, got the key and went upstairs." The kid points to the narrow staircase. "Go on and see if you want. I ain't here to escort you around."

There's grumbling behind him and Peter considers whether he should call for back up now that he has some confirmation. He peers over his shoulders and the hunched figures pause for a moment. There is a space where time stops as Peter and the two men size one another up. The spell is broken when the boy behind the counter says, "He ain't one of the regulars. That room is usually rented by the dentist."

"Dentist?" Peter turns back to the boy. He notices the stubble posing as a beard covers an aggravated case of acne.

The boy just shrugs and looks to the staircase as if to invite Peter to investigate. He nods and crosses the room without a glance to the men huddled in the lobby. He breathes a sigh of relief when he realizes no one follows him. Once again, he weighs whether or not he should call for back up. He's sure now, though, that the tip was erroneous. Some dentist has rented the room. Why his prey landed here is still a mystery but Peter thinks he's safe to take a peek at the room to find clues.

As he mounts the last step he notices an out of order elevator with no car sitting open. He shakes his head and searches the floor. Some doors are locked with noises both innocuous and not emanating from the rooms. He continues down the hallway and finds 2B. The door is a jar.

He knocks once but there is no answer. With a slight push of his shoulder, the door whines and he surveys the room. There is a bed to the side of the room. Clothes and blankets are heaped on the bed. The window near the bed is open letting in a cold stream of air. The fresh air, even the city air is a blessing since the overwhelming odor of something rotting mixes with the generally tainted smell of the motel and makes his eyes water. He slips into the room and scans his surroundings. There is no television, but a lamp near the bed. The shade is torn and crooked as if someone tried to turn on the light but failed. The carpet is thread bare and it catches on his heels as he walks across the room.

He has his gun clenched in his hand and his belly twists. He keeps the wall to his back and goes to examine the small bathroom. A trail of blood stains both old and new lead the way. He grimaces half way to the bathroom. He should call, damn it. He should call for back up. He chokes down a gag as the smell in the room intensifies when he passes the bed. Wads of bloody red gauze litter the rug and make a path to the bathroom. He shoves the door open with his gun and looks inside. Blood drips from the cracked porcelain sink. Long red brown stains stream like a river over the curve of the bowl and onto the floor. It looks like someone was trying to treat a wound - a very bad wound. There's a receipt on the tiled floor next to a discarded bag from a local pharmacy. Medical supplies scattered from the bag clutter the floor. He kicks the bag away and examines the receipt. The date on the receipt is stamped Saturday. It is Tuesday. Four days ago. The kid at the corner said the man in the photo had been here on Saturday.

Is this a murder scene? Had he come here to kill the dentist?

No, that didn't fit his M.O. None of this did. The puzzle pieces don't fit. It feels like he has several different puzzles jumbled together and he has to figure out which pieces go with which puzzle. He turns around and starts back to the main room when he hears a slight intake of breath followed by a rasp of a moan.
He clutches his gun and swing around to the bed. The pile moves and he realizes it isn't a mountain of clothes and blankets - but blankets and a man. A man suffering with glazed eyes and pasty skin stares at him. His eyes look too big for the sunken flesh of his face. Sweat smears over his face, plasters his dark locks to his forehead.

He cannot see, Peter realizes as he grinds his teeth and says, "Moz?"

The blanket falls away as the man shifts on the bed and groans against the pain. His right thigh is exposed and Peter glimpses the attempted first aid taped to the leg. It seeps blood but nearly gags him as he moves closer. The smell – the rotting flesh – oozes from the wrecked flesh.

He takes a step closer and the man shuffles up toward the head of the bed. His glossy eyed gaze still blind to Peter’s identity yet leery. “Friday, I came to Friday.”

Peter knows the man isn’t dangerous, not in this state but remains vigilant. He points the gun at the criminal’s chest. “Hands in the air.”

For the first time the man focuses and fear startles him into action. He tumbles from the bed, grabs hold of the window sill as if he might launch himself to freedom. Peter crosses the room in two strides and blocks his way.

“You don’t want to do that,” Peter says. The gun hasn't dropped. Peter won’t hesitate.

A tremor shivers through the man as he grasps at the window frame. In a bare and whispered voice, he says, “Peter, help me.”

He collapses to the floor, unconscious and vulnerable. There is something destroyed about him. His filthy hair, the damaged leg wound, the fevered flesh. Peter touches the pocket with his phone but stops and listens.

He is not unconscious, Peter realizes. Tears wept in silence christen his face as he begs, “Help me.”

Dropping to one knee, Peter reaches out and lays a hand on his shoulder. He promises, “I’m here, Neal, I’ll help you.”

TBC
The Secrets of Past Lives part 2/3

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