STORY: Airport Aftermath (Peter, Neal, El, Reese, Diana)

Summary: We all know that Neal ended up behind bars after the plane blew up. What we don’t know is how much drama, how much hurt was happening, for almost all parties involved.

Notes: Written for gameofcards challenge #34 “Missing Moments”. Starts right after the screen goes black in “Out Of The Box”. Warnings for raw emotional pain (and maybe a lot more), as well as possible spoilers for the S1 finale.

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By the time Peter’s ears finally stopped ringing, some of the airport staff already had begun to put out the fire that not only had killed Kate and whoever else was on the plane, but also almost had claimed the life of one Neal Caffrey. Speaking of him…

Neal? Where was Neal?

Peter needed another few fleeting seconds to get the twister his mind was right now under control. Only then did he notice that, at some point since the explosion, he had ended up at the concrete floor of the hangar – and that Neal was still glued to his side, hanging on to Peter for dear life. Giving the younger man a quick once-over, Peter saw the tell-tale signs for shock – eyes still glued to the fire, as if he could reverse the events by sheer willpower, extended pupils, shallow yet (too) fast breathing.

“Come on, buddy, let’s get up from the floor!”

Peter tried, several times, but Neal was, more or less, dead to his surroundings. In the end, Peter made the decision for both of them and hauled Neal to his feet.

“Boss!”

As always, hearing Diana’s voice was a God-given gift. If nothing else, her presence meant for Peter that he could hand over the reins of professional FBI business and focus on whatever matter on hand instead – like getting Neal out of his shell-shocked state.

“Peter, what happened?” She took one look at Neal, who in turn didn’t even acknowledge her at all. “And what’s wrong with him?”

“The plane blew up.” Peter was surprised to hear himself saying it with so much detachment in his voice.

“Let me guess: Neal was supposed to be on board as well?”

Once again, Diana managed to get pretty much everything Peter couldn’t say in one sentence. Afraid that his emotions would finally get the better of him, Peter only nodded at her.

Around them, more and more people showed up, crowding the small airport with every second. Firefighters relieved the airport staff from their attempts, FBI agents and crime scene investigators began their work of collecting the pieces of evidence. And yet, with Neal still shell-shocked and silent in his arms, and Diana standing in front of them like a strong, physical wall to the rest of the world, Peter couldn’t help but feel like in a bubble where time stood still.

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Almost an hour later, they finally pulled into the FBI parking garage – Diana and Peter, that is. Both of them were seething and ready to explode, something that was manifested by Peter jumping out of the car even before Diana could bring it to a full stop in her parking space.

What had happened? Almost on Diana’s heel, two U.S. Marshals approached Peter and Neal at the airport, yanked the still silent con man from his arms, slapped handcuffs on Neal, stated something along the lines of Neal being a “fugitive” and a “suspect”, and were gone with him before any of them even had the chance to react. Now, here at the FBI, Peter wanted answers, and he wanted them fast.

In the meantime, the elevator car stopped at their floor, and like a mad man, Peter made his way through the bullpen, causing everyone else to scramble to get out of his way. Diana, following him at a slower pace, stopped at Jones’ desk, giving him a short summary of the recent events, while Peter continued up the stairs and into Hughes’ office, not caring for once that the other agent might not be alone in there.

“What the hell, Reese?”

“Peter…”

“Don’t ʻPeterʼ me now! Neal just had to witness how his girlfriend got blown to pieces, and instead of getting him help, or at least the chance to come to terms with it, you let the marshals whisk him away to God knows where!”

“Are you done, Agent Burke?” A new voice cut in, and only then did Peter realize that Agent Roe with the DOJ was with them.

“With all due respect, Agent Roe, I’m as far from being done as New York is from the South Pole, but please, give me your two cents.”

Hughes visibly cringed at Peter’s words, but Peter couldn’t care less. Roe was one of the biggest adversaries to Neal working with them from the beginning. He had an inkling of what might come now.

“Well, you ever thought about Caffrey having planned it all? That being ʻshockedʼ was just part of his latest game? Wake up, Agent Burke, he’s a conman after all, not the saint you want to see in him, and to be honest, he’s at the only appropriate place for people like him.” With that said, Roe got up, shook hands with Hughes, ignored Peter completely and was out of the room.

“Reese, please tell me you don’t believe everything he just said.”

“Of course not, Peter, but are you really sure Caffrey didn’t do it?” Peter shook his head. If nothing else, Neal wasn’t a killer. His “weapons” were his charm, his appearance, his words, and so far, he even displayed an aversion against violence in general. “Think about it for a moment: if everyone considered him dead, he finally could start over, free from everything, including his past crimes.”

“By killing Kate and himself?”

“Maybe the explosives went off too soon. Maybe they were supposed to go off later, maybe at some point over the ocean, giving them enough time to get off the plane with parachutes.”

“Maybe, but it’s just a theory, that’s all.” At last, Peter finally sat down, feeling drained. “I need to talk to Neal as soon as possible. If anyone, he might be able to shine a light on it all.”

“Sorry Peter,” Hughes sat down again, “but I can’t let that happen, at least not right away.” He held up a hand, quelling every possible protest that he expected to come from Peter. “Just before you barged in here, Roe told me to suspend you for the time being. You will have to appear in front of a commission, and they will look into every single case you and Neal worked on. They think that you’re too dependent on him to see clearly…”

“They or you?”

“They, and with ʻtheyʼ I mean the higher-ups in Washington. I would even go so far to say there’s more to the picture than they let on, but I can’t say what.”

Peter took a deep breath. In the beginning, Hughes wasn’t Neal’s biggest fan, but just as so many times before, the older agent was willing to give him a chance and re-evaluate after seeing first results. Apparently, their constant stream of successes left an impression with him.

“So, what’s happening now?”

“With you or Caffrey?”

“Both of us.”

“You, Peter, will hand over your badge and gun. Standard procedure, and I will promise you that you will have it back soon. Neal is transported back to prison, and I will have a long phone call with the warden to have a trauma psychologist for Neal at hand. To be honest, I want that brilliant mind of him here, working for us, not rotting away in a prison cell.”

“Thank you, Reese.”

“Don’t thank me now, Peter, do it when both of you are back here working. And now, let’s get over with it, and you out of the office. Maybe you should take a little vacation with Elizabeth.”

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Two weeks later

As it turned out, Agent Roe had done everything humanly possible to keep Peter from contacting Neal in prison, even going so far as to give the guards at the entrance pics of both him and Elizabeth. In the last two weeks, they didn’t go on a vacation, but they remodeled the kitchen and dining room in their house.

Diana kept him in the loop with everything that was going on at the office, and true to Hughes’ word, the commission looked into every case they worked in the months since Neal joined them. So far, they came up empty, finding nothing but good, solid work. And even more surprisingly, some of the victims of their cases came into the FBI, handing over written statements about how the team and Neal approached the case back then.

Today, Peter would give his statement to the commission, and if everything went well, he would not only get his badge back, he also would be finally able to make a visit with Neal. From what he heard from the warden, Neal kept mostly to himself, but he worked with the new psychologist, a military-trained trauma specialist that Jones helped to get there.

As predicted, the hearing went as smoothly as hearings could go, and much to Roe’s dismay, Peter left the room with his badge back on his belt. Down in the lobby, he met with Diana, who told him about her misfortune with the data stick they took from Fowler, before heading out to the prison.

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When he left the prison afterwards, Peter didn’t know what exactly to make with Neal’s behavior back inside. As usual, the younger man wore a mask, keeping everything that could tip Peter off on the inside while being nonchalant on the outside. Neither the explosion nor Kate were mentioned, from any of them, and somewhat, Peter was grateful for that. He had the suspicion that mentioning anything related to that fateful day would throw Neal off-course, making him to crawl back in to the protective shell he had put up in the first place.

His phone began to rang, and brought Peter’s current train of thought to a halt. Looking at the display, he saw Elizabeth’s name flashing back at him. His lovely, very understandable wife was on Long Island today, finalizing the deal for a huge wedding.

“Hey hon, how did it go?”

Sometimes, Peter couldn’t help but wonder where his wife found all this positive energy she was displaying, almost all the time.

“Not so bad. I have my badge back, which means you finally get me out of the house again.”

“You saw Neal already?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah?” she echoed, and Peter could see her forehead wrinkle in confusion, even across the distance and the phone line. “That’s all I get, after listening to your enthusiasm of finally seeing him again for the last few days?”

“Well, I’m not sure of what to make of his behavior. On the one hand, it’s typical for Neal to wear a mask of indifference, to keep his true emotions hidden from everyone, but on the other hand, I can’t shake the feeling that it’s all about to crumble.”

“Paired with the knowledge that you can’t do anything for him at the moment, it’s about to kill you inside.” Of course, El could read him like a book, and she got better and better at that with every day they were married. “Tell you what: Why don’t we meet at our favorite Indian restaurant for a late lunch? You always feel better when we’re there.”

Peter agreed to her plan (to be honest, doing anything else than that was close to suicide. El Burke with a plan and determination was a scary thing), and so he only could pull out of the parking lot of the prison, heading back to the city.

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Later that day, Peter and El already had turned in for the night when Peter’s cellphone began to ring. Giving the clock on his nightstand a glance, he saw that it was close to 1 o’clock. Who on Earth dared to call him that late at night?

“Burke.”

“Agent Burke, Warden Robinson speaking.”

Hearing only the name of the warden of the prison where Neal was kept at the moment sent cold shivers down Peter’s spine. What the heck had happened?

“Please tell me that Neal has escaped again.”

Peter attempted to make it sound like a joke, but not even he himself could find anything funny about it. And apparently, so did the warden.

“No, Agent Burke, he didn’t escape. Believe me, I would take that over what I’m about to tell you at any given day.” The warden took a breath, apparently steeling himself for the news he was about to give Peter. “Two hours ago, Neal Caffrey attempted suicide. A warden found him with his wrists slit in his cell. We took him to the infirmary for triage, but Doctor Grange explained that it would be better if we get him to a real hospital as quick as possible. We called for a medivac and he was transported to Lennox Hill. Doctor Ratchford, the new psychologist, is with him.” Another pause. “Agent Burke, I’ve seen some suicide attempts over the years, but I’ve never seen so much blood like with this one.”

Before Peter could say anything, Robinson hang up, leaving Peter to his thoughts.

“Hon? What happened?”

El’s sleep-laced voice brought him back to reality, and somehow, he managed to relegate the sad news to her before getting dressed and heading over to the psychiatric ward of Lennox Hill.


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The End (for now)

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Awwwwwwww, poor poor Neal, omg! Yes, this is exactly something my brain agrees with as far as the time between s1 and s2 goes!!! You know I'm a whump and angst junkie, so this story definitely makes my whump-craving heart bit a lot faster :P

I cannot wait to read more! Soon, pretty please :P
*HUGS* thank you!! As I wrote in a reply to Sherylyn on AO3, I had to stop the story where I did. I wrote it in under 2 hours, and writing at that speed drains you. Nonetheless, I already have an idea on how to continue. There will be an happy end (sorts of, as in Neal getting better), but the road is still a rocky and painful one.
Yeah, I can imagine there is still so much hurt and angst ahead for poor Neal... but I also know Peter is gonna be there for him every step of the way :D I'm so looking forward to reading this :D \o/

Oh man my heart <////3 Thank you for filling in this missing scene! Neal definitely deserves the time to grieve after everything that happened (-- although I can understand why the show would want to fast-forward through that as well).

I'm really really looking forward to the sequel!! <3

thank you!

Sequel #2 is already up on both my blog and on AO3; Sequel #1 is in the works, but like with this story, it's tough to write it (that, and I have to do a bit of research)