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Title: Hell to Pay
Fandom(s): White Collar
Pairing/Characters: Neal, Peter, and Elizabeth [family]
Word Count: 1,930
Rating: PG-13 (thematic material)
Warnings: Mentions of injury from a gunshot wound; some violence.
Disclaimer: I don't own them! I just borrow them.
Summary: He doesn’t like guns, though he feels using one would be only fair. One almost took Peter’s life away; another would surely be sufficient to put the man who’d shot Peter in the morgue. An eye for an eye. A bullet for another.
Notes: Written in the dead of last night for a comment_fic Lonely Prompt: White Collar, Neal Caffrey, The suspect put Peter in the hospital and Neal won't stop until he finds him and puts him in the morgue. Thanks, as ever, to my friend Caitlin for looking this one over to assauge my doubts, and for telling me she hated me but for forgiving me anyway.

No spoilers as long as you've seen through "Payback" (Episode 2x14).

Until now, he’s never seen Elizabeth cry.

He’s seen her worried, sure. He remembers how she’d been when Peter had been kidnapped. He remembers the relief on her face as she’d kissed him on the street, when she’d finally seen for herself he was safe and sound.

It’s getting harder and harder to remember what he’d seen of that kiss on the street, because he keeps flashing back to the way she’d kissed Peter on the forehead through her tears as they’d wheeled his gurney into the double doors leading to the part of the hospital allocated for operating rooms. He’d called her when it had happened and she’d been there to meet the ambulance; she’d ran four blocks from Burke Premiere Events to the hospital in high heels and hadn’t even noticed that one of them had broken. There’d been a frenzy in her eyes, far removed from the relief that had been there that other worst day.

There’d been blame.

He knew Elizabeth. He knew very well that she didn’t want to hate him; he knew because at times Elizabeth was the only one to believe in him, like the mom who insists her son can do it, he can ace that next math test, if only Dad believes in him, too. He knew that if it were any other scenario, she’d be on his side, or at least able to see it. Forest for the trees.

But it was hard for her not to blame him when she could look down and see Neal’s hands, clenched, shaking, pale white beneath patches of flaking dried blood he should have cleaned off somehow in the ambulance. It was hard for her not to blame him when he’d tried to hold her back from seeing her husband, because if Peter died, wouldn’t she rather her last memory be of him walking out the door that morning, instead of him on a gurney, bleeding out? It was hard for her not to blame him when they’d been on a stakeout together and Neal had gone for a short walk to relieve his cramped legs and escape the smell of deviled ham—because if he’d been there, in the car, when the shooting started, might he not have ended up in the line of fire? Might it have ended with him on the gurney instead of Peter?

Elizabeth loves him. He knows that. But on a day like this, he’s sure, that doesn’t mean a damn thing.

It’s been twelve hours and he’s washed his hands of the blood and changed his clothes. June had come with a bag from the apartment. Mozzie, he’s sure, would normally come for Elizabeth, but he’d gathered from June’s manner that she’d talked him down. The last thing Elizabeth needed in her head was Mozzie’s paranoia and constant questioning of the hospital staff. And June knows a thing or two about having a husband in mortal danger.

June is what Elizabeth needs. Not him. Neal knows that. So he stays very still and very quiet.

He plans.

He is still planning, still remembering lessons he’d never wanted with less than savory acquaintances he’d tried not to cultivate any further after said lessons, when Elizabeth finally emerges from a room where she’d been speaking with a doctor. In the corner of his eye, he’d noticed her going in minutes ago, but he’d held himself still, he’d sat on his hands, he’d told himself not to go over to her until she came to him. To be good. To be still and silent. To be as penitent as he could be without being sure if there was a God. If there were a God, they would not be in this hospital.

Elizabeth is saying something to June and he is across the room and cannot tell what it is. Her expression is unreadable this far away. He cannot be still forever, nor will he make her suffer the indignity of heading his way. He gets up. He walks over. He waits.

“How is he?” he asks before he can remind himself not to speak, to not do anything unless she asks.

June has embraced Elizabeth and it’s only when Elizabeth pulls away that she says something. “He’s sleeping. He came through fine, but he’s going to have to stay here for a week or so; the collapsed lung needs to heal. They don’t know how much pain he’s in yet, but it’s not… not going to be a small amount.”

He’s trying to stay silent, but eventually Elizabeth gives him a look and he takes that to mean she wants him to speak. “Call me when he wakes up?”

“You’re not staying?”

You don’t want me to. You shouldn’t.

He doesn’t say it, though he wants to. Instead, he tells another truth.

“There’s something I have to do.”

***

He doesn’t like guns, though he feels using one would be only fair. One almost took Peter’s life away; another would surely be sufficient to put the man who’d shot Peter in the morgue. An eye for an eye. A bullet for another. There’s poetry in that. Neal has always liked poetry.

He doesn’t like knives. Too messy. Too slow.

He doesn’t like killing. He’d remembered that the more he’d planned, sitting in that hospital chair, his hands aching from lack of circulation in their position beneath his thighs and from the need to do something, hurt someone, kill someone. Once, his hands had itched to steal; most days now, they itched to do right, even if he didn’t always know what right was.

Right is avenging Peter. Right is taking drastic measures. Right is ending the day with blood on his hands he actually wants there.

His hands. He can use his hands. There doesn’t have to be blood, when he thinks about it. He got good at hand-to-hand back in the old days, for occasions when he’d have to take out security guards who got closer to him than normal, or for the rare times someone he’d pickpocketed would catch on and come after him. He uses his hands on a regular basis to pull life from paint stagnating in tubes and clay that sits in lifeless lumps. He uses his hands to bring life; he can just as easily use them to take it away.

His legs have cramped again, this time from sitting in the bushes outside Gareth Davison’s apartment for the past three hours. The FBI has not caught him yet and Neal knows why: because they don’t know about Gareth Davison. Gareth Davison is another name for Scott Brady, and Scott Brady is the only name the FBI knows about. Surely Gareth Davison is on their grand list of criminals as well, but no one has connected him to Scott Brady. Neal has called in several favors with several of those less than savory acquaintances. Under duress, one of them had admitted it. Yes, he knew Brady. Yes, he could tell him his alias. What the hell did Neal want with it so badly? Did this have something to do with the fed getting shot; he’d seen it on the news?

He waits until Scott Brady has made his way up the steps to his front door. Scott is looking for his keys in his jacket pocket (the same jacket he was wearing earlier; no bloodstains for him, no need to change, somehow that makes Neal even more angry) when Neal goes up the stairs behind him and grabs him around the waist with one arm, holding him firmly, while another presses at the base of Scott’s throat. “Inside,” he orders in a dangerous whisper, his breath hot at Scott’s ear, and a key had never been found so fast.

There is a chair in the living room and Neal herds Scott into it. He unties his tie and uses it to tie Scott’s wrist to one chair arm. He reaches into his pocket and finds Peter’s tie balled within it; he’d removed it earlier so he could undo the buttons on Peter’s shirt to check the damage from the bullet, and to salvage the tie from bloodstains—it had been an anniversary gift from El, one of Peter’s favorites, a good luck charm he always wore on stakeouts. He uses it to tie Scott’s other wrist, tighter than necessary.

“Look, man, whatever you want, you can have it—” Scott is rasping, but Neal circles around behind him and gets him in a headlock, pressing his arm hard into the base of Scott’s throat.

“You can’t give me back what you almost took from me. A man almost died because of you!”

“What do you want me to tell you? It happens all the time, man!” Scott manages.

“Not to him!”

Scott is gasping, but Neal is breaking. There are tears thick in his voice and he chokes them down. “He has a wife.”

“So do I!”

“He has a son! That was my father!

He’s pressing harder now. Scott is no longer straining against the ties; his muscles are going slack and his head is lolling back into Neal’s chest. Any minute now, his fingers will stop clenching and go still and then—

His cell phone ringing breaks the stillness, the silence, harshly. He eases the chokehold and hears Scott gasp for air and he gives a warning jerk to let him know not to get used to it. He picks up the phone only because it might be news.

“El? Is he—”

“Neal.”

It’s not Elizabeth on the other end. It’s his voice. Weaker than normal, lacking that thrum of authority it has in the glass walls of the Bureau, but it’s Peter all the same. There’s concern. The type of concern Peter tries not to admit to, but that Neal knows he feels every day, because if Peter is his father, then he is his son. Fathers worry. Sons worry.

“Peter?”

“You thought I’d—let you off the hook?” A wheezing laugh, and the next words he speaks are labored. Laughing causes him pain. What else has Neal done that hurts him that way? “El said you were here—earlier.”

“I thought you’d want time—”

“With my wife? Of course. Always. But she’s not—the only one I want to see.”

“You want me there?”

“You thought I didn’t?”

“I thought she didn’t… I thought you’d…”

“Forget that you were the one who stopped the bleeding?” There is a Devore suit jacket somewhere in an evidence room stained with blood, hours old.  “Forget you were the one who rode in the ambulance? Called El so she wouldn’t have to hear it from some probie? … Neal. You can’t beat yourself up over this. It—would’ve—happened sooner or later. Whatever you’re doing right now… stop it.” Does he know? Does he suspect? “Come back here. There’s nothing to forgive, but—El forgives you. So do I.”

He hangs up after giving Peter a promise he’ll come back.

He calls in an anonymous tip from Scott Brady’s phone and is gone by the time the feds arrive.

Diana and Jones say nothing about the ties. They are quietly returned to their proper owners and no one ever asks Neal where he’d been for eight hours the day his boss was shot.

In the end, those eight hours don’t matter to Neal. What matters is the three he spent in Peter’s hospital room before visiting hours were over, and all the hours after that that Peter will ever live.

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
misachan
Feb. 17th, 2012 12:09 am (UTC)
Oh, Peter! I love him still looking after Neal from his hospital. Thank you for the fill!
haveloved
Feb. 17th, 2012 12:59 am (UTC)
You're so welcome--thanks for the great prompt! I love Neal and Peter's relationship, and I could very easily picture Neal snapping in a way he wouldn't normally if someone hurt the man who's become a father to him. I'm so glad you enjoyed it; thank you! :)
sholio
Feb. 17th, 2012 01:18 am (UTC)
Oh, this was really lovely! I felt that you kept Neal very much in character despite having him go a little darkside, and I really enjoyed seeing Neal in protector/defender/"don't hurt my Peter!" mode here, and Peter pulling him back from the edge, even after just coming out of surgery. And Diana and Jones looking after them, too, in their own way. :)
haveloved
Feb. 17th, 2012 01:32 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for the words about Neal--I was nervous about writing him like this, since he's shown in canon how averse he is to violence, and I couldn't get a grasp on him being violent! Like I said above, though, I felt that if anything would make Neal snap, it would be someone hurting Peter. I'm so glad you liked it; thank you!
love_82
Feb. 17th, 2012 10:14 am (UTC)
I really like this. I agree that even though Neal is non-violent he has to have a breaking point. I think that he, like most people could snap if someone hurt someone he loved.

I love Peter looking out for him too even from his hospital bed.

I love the family relationship between all of them and like how you've displayed it here.
haveloved
Feb. 17th, 2012 12:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm really glad you liked it!
pipilj
Feb. 17th, 2012 10:25 am (UTC)
This was really great. Loved protective Neal and worried Peter. Neal being a bit angsty but stopping after the call.
haveloved
Feb. 17th, 2012 12:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it!
winterstar95
Feb. 17th, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC)
Peter has an uncanny ability to read Neal's mind at times like this, nicely done.

Thanks for sharing.

Donna aka winterstar
haveloved
Feb. 17th, 2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
He really does, which is why I think they work together so well. Neal can be reckless, but Peter can anticipate that and rein him in; it's exactly what a good boss (and father figure) should do!

Thank you for reading! :)
a_phoenixdragon
Feb. 17th, 2012 08:24 pm (UTC)
Perfect...They need each other so much - Peter getting injured like that put Neal in a bad way. You could actually SEE it. This was gorgeous. GORGEOUS!!

*HUGS*
haveloved
Feb. 17th, 2012 09:29 pm (UTC)
I didn't know you watched White Collar! That's awesome! :) Besides DW, it's my favorite show at the moment.

They really do need each other. Neal needs Peter's sense of order to help guide him, and Peter needs Neal (and El!) to help him think outside the box, at times. With how close Neal has grown to Peter, I think the thought of losing him--the strongest tether he has to the life he wants and the man he'd like to be--would hurt him badly. I'm so glad you think this worked; I'm not kidding when I saw it was one in the morning and my best friend had to keep egging me on over AIM, LOL.

Hugs to you, too! Thanks so much! :D
sanuye12
Feb. 21st, 2012 07:57 am (UTC)
Excellent story. I really enjoyed seeing Neal as Peter's protector (what a nice change!) and Neal taking action for revenge. Naturally, Peter would be the one to stop Neal though and just in the nick of time. (Also like Jones and Diana quietly returning the ties.) Well done.
haveloved
Feb. 21st, 2012 04:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I agree it is a nice change; some of my favorite moments come when Neal is the one to protect Peter, like in 2x08. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
neontiger55
Feb. 21st, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
*Very* nicely done. I loved how you worked in all the little details, giving us snatches of what happened. The image of Neal sitting on his hands contemplating how to get revenge was particularly striking. And I have a real thing for dark!Neal, so, thank you ;)
haveloved
Feb. 21st, 2012 04:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked that image; it was one of the things I really labored to get right, because so many times, Neal just has those childlike mannerisms--like sitting on his hands--and I tried to filter those through his self-loathing and need for revenge. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
(Deleted comment)
haveloved
Feb. 23rd, 2012 02:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it! :D
Ferryboat George
Apr. 7th, 2012 04:28 pm (UTC)
Wonderful look at Neal being all protective, and Peter still looking out for him.
haveloved
Apr. 7th, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
livejournal
Jun. 30th, 2012 12:58 pm (UTC)
The Peter!Whump Master List
User kanarek13 referenced to your post from The Peter!Whump Master List saying: [...] Peter explains the contents. A story about Peter’s past. (Gen) (added 6-30-2012) Hell To Pay [...]
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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