Frith (frith_in_thorns) wrote,
Frith
frith_in_thorns

[fic: white collar] With You Through The Dark

Okay, I THINK I'm done with tags for this episode now!

Title: With You Through The Dark
Characters/Pairing: Neal, Peter; canon Peter/El
Word count: 2800
Warnings: SPOILERS up to 5x04
Notes: For the "Arrest" square on my hc_bingo card.
Summary: Missing scene between 5x03 and 5x04. Peter visits to check on Neal.

~

Siegel's funeral had been that morning. In DC, where his family were. Peter had flown down at an ungodly hour to attend, and then flown back again in the afternoon. He fully expected to be cursing how much paperwork had piled up for him even during one day, of course, but he'd had to go. He had owed it to the bright, cheerful, promising agent who had looked up to him, and who hadn't deserved to die alone on a New York street in the rain.

No one deserved that.

Neal had asked to come. Peter had said no, which Neal had to have been expecting, but he had still looked disappointed, and upset. But flying a CI to a different state to attend the funeral of his murdered handler… Peter knew he could never justify that. And agents who had known Siegel but not Neal would have no compunctions blaming Neal for what had happened. Best not to create an air of hostility at a time like this. Best for Neal to stay behind.

It was hard on Neal, though. Peter couldn't stop thinking about that as he drove back from the airport; the quiet desperation in Neal's eyes. Something had been going on with Neal recently, and this on top of whatever it was… he couldn't keep Neal on house arrest forever, but right now it was a relief that he knew exactly where Neal was. He was safe there.

El didn't hover when Peter got in, which he was grateful for. She hugged him tightly, and reminded him that she had an event. It had slipped Peter's mind completely.

"You look beat," she said. "Have a quiet evening, okay?"

"I'll try," he promised.

She touched his face gently. "That would be more promising if I didn't know you, hon."

Peter laughed wearily. "Yes, well. Love you, El." He held his coat for her as she slipped into her shoes.

"Love you too." She reached up for a kiss and a last brief hug on her way out of the door.

The house felt very empty without her, even though Satchmo was nuzzling up to be petted. Peter put away his funeral clothes and showered, and then found himself checking Neal's tracking data once he was dressed again. Neal was at home. Of course.

On impulse, Peter dialled Neal's phone. It rang a few times, and then went to voicemail. It could mean that he was busy, or with Mozzie or June, but Peter felt uneasy all the same. He could probably have gotten El to talk him out of his worries, but she wasn't there.

He could pick up some takeout food on the way. Neal might not have eaten yet — it wasn't all that late for dinner.

~

June's house was dark as Peter climbed the stairs, although he could see a sliver of light from under Neal's apartment door. He shifted the carrier bag to his other hand and knocked, waiting. There was no sound of footsteps, and he knocked again. "Neal? It's me."

Still no answer. Peter frowned, and pulled out his phone to again check Neal's anklet signal. It insisted that he was inside. With mild trepidation, he tried the door handle, and it opened freely.

The apartment was dimly lit, with only a couple of table lamps turned on. At first glance Peter couldn't see Neal at all, and had a moment's panic that he had figured out a way to slip his tracker without setting off any alarms. Then he noticed the figure leaning on the balcony beyond the open terrace doors, and breathed a sigh of relief. He turned the main lights on. "Neal?" he called, setting down the takeout bag on the table.

"Yeah." Neal's voice was heavy, and he didn't make a move to come inside. But nor did he tell Peter to go away.

Peter took that as encouragement, and helped himself to a bottle of beer from the fridge. He badly needed one. Then he ambled out onto to the terrace. Neal was facing away from him, resting his elbows on the stone parapet, and Peter hung back to lean on the door frame, giving him his space.

"How was it?" Neal asked, breaking the silence. He was speaking quiet and slow, almost reluctantly.

Peter sighed. "I think he'd have hated the service. His family were running it; all the speeches were about how he could have done so much, with the subtext of if only he hadn't joined the Bureau."

"You knew about his family?" Neal asked.

"I like to know the backgrounds of people working in my team," Peter said. He was momentarily surprised that Neal clearly had known about Siegel's private life — but then, he was Neal. Of course he'd found out. "The agents he worked with took me for a drink afterwards, and that was better. Much more him. He had a lot of friends there."

"Good," Neal said, contemplatively. Something clinked against the stone; a glass tumbler which Neal had been nursing. He picked it up again a moment later, sipping from it.

"He was a good agent," Peter said. He felt like he had been repeating those words for days. He was a good agent. A good man.

Neal sighed. "Why're you here?" he asked. He didn't sound annoyed, or even particularly curious.

"El had to work," Peter said. "I thought I'd come see how you were holding up."

Neal shrugged. "Fine. Still here."

"Well, I can't argue with your second point." Peter took a swallow of his beer. The moroseness of Neal's answers and the way he wasn't even bothering to put up a front spoke against the first, however. "I brought Chinese with me. Have you eaten yet?"

"Not hungry," Neal said.

Sighing, Peter abandoned his give Neal some space plan and came over to lean against the parapet beside him. There was a strong smell of whiskey from Neal's almost-empty glass. He swallowed the last of it as Peter watched.

"It doesn't seem like you to be drinking alone," Peter commented.

Neal shrugged. "Seemed apro-priate." He stumbled over the word. It was the first definite sign he'd given of not being sober, and it made Peter look at him sharply. But Neal was turned away, his expression closed off.

"Neal," Peter said. "Look at me." He waited until Neal did. "You know I'm here for you to talk to, right?"

Neal nodded once, silently, but didn't seem about to elaborate.

"Things are rough right now. But they'll get better." He wasn't going to apologise for confining Neal to his apartment — he couldn't, not when things at the Bureau were such a mess. Keeping Neal out of sight, mind and trouble was the best he could currently do. "We'll catch whoever did this to Siegel."

Neal grunted half-heartedly. Peter drank more of his beer. Coming over like this was beginning to feel like it had been a bad idea, but he didn't feel like he should just leave. Not when Neal was obviously in no better a head-space than he himself was.

"I'm going to go eat," he said, finally. "Come join me if you feel like it."

Neal just shrugged, so Peter headed indoors where he unpacked the bag of food and seated himself at the table. There was an untidy stack of papers on one of the chairs, suggesting that Neal had swept everything off the surface in frustration not long ago. Peter glanced at it, telling himself that he wasn't really looking, but everything was face-down anyway. He resisted the temptation to go poking in it, even if he strongly suspected that it might contain clues as to what was going on with Neal. Besides the obvious.

He had less appetite than he'd thought, and there was still plenty of food left when he felt full. Peter grabbed himself another beer and was considering whether to go back out and see whether Neal could be persuaded to talk to him yet when the crash of breaking glass came from the terrace, followed by swearing.

"Neal? Are you all right?" Peter called, already leaping up to help.

"Fine," Neal called. "Fine…"

Peter had been hurrying over anyway. He found Neal clinging grimly to the back of one of the metal chairs. There was broken glass and alcohol all over the paving. Peter hadn't realised that the whiskey bottle had been out there too. He would probably have tried to bring it in with him if he had.

Neal groaned on seeing him. "Please. Go away."

"I don't think that'd be a good idea," Peter said, trying to sound normal. "How about you come inside?" He wanted to go over and haul Neal out of the way, having visions of him slipping unsteadily and falling onto the sharp glass shards. But he doubted that would go down at all well, so he hung back and watched Neal think about it.

Neal's progress to the doors was undeniably weaving, but he made it out of the glass without incident, and hung onto the frame for a moment before stumbling over to the table. Peter shut the night out and went over to the sink to pour a glass of water.

In the light, Neal's face was flushed and his body was slumped in the chair. It was only the darkness which had stopped Peter from realising how obviously drunk he was. "Here," Peter said, putting the glass of water down in front of Neal. "Drink this."

Neal made a face, but sipped at it. "You weren't supposed to be here," he said, mutinously.

"Yes, well, I can't say I'm sorry."

Neal looked at him — really looked at him. "Peter, you look like hell," he said.

Peter found himself giving a dark chuckle. "Yes, well, two flights in a day and a funeral will do that to you."

"I'm sorry," Neal said. He reached out to pick at one of the spring rolls. "I'm sorry I couldn't be there."

"We went over this," Peter said, with a sigh. "You —"

"No," Neal interrupted. "Sorry you had to go alone."

"Oh," Peter said. Neal's expression was softer than usual; more relaxed. There was a sad earnestness in his eyes. "That's… Thank you."

Neal nodded, staring now at the surface of the table. Peter pushed a fork and the container of rice towards him; he wasn't sure how much Neal had eaten, or how much whiskey he had had, but something to soak it up certainly seemed like a good idea.

"He shouldn't have been alone," Neal said, quietly, and Peter didn't need to ask who he was talking about.

"No, he shouldn't have," Peter said. His heart ached. "We still don't even know what he was doing out there. I wish he'd come to talk to me…"

"It's not your fault," Neal said.

"He was my responsibility," Peter said.

"He didn't die on a field op. You didn't send him there."

"No," Peter agreed, "But that doesn't make a difference. Actually, it makes it harder. This seems so random."

Neal nodded, looking away. "He was just lying there," he murmured. "All alone. Just…"

He abruptly went white, and pushed himself up, clapping a hand over his mouth.

Peter took his elbow, supporting Neal as he stumbled down the hall to the bathroom. They reached it just in time; Neal dropped to his knees on the tiles and vomited into the toilet.

Peter hung back while Neal dry-heaved, but when he stopped Peter crouched down behind Neal and rubbed his back. Neal was shivering violently, and his face had gone clammy and an unhealthy shade of grey-green. After a minute he vomited again, and then dropped his head on his folded arms, groaning.

Peter reached past him to flush the toilet, and then got up to fill a glass of water from the sink. There was a bathrobe hanging on the back of the door and he retrieved that too, draping it around Neal's shoulders. "You done puking?" he asked.

"Maybe," Neal said, miserably.

"Well, you should try and drink some water."

Neal leaned back, which had him resting against Peter. He was still covered in cold sweat and shivering. He sipped very cautiously at the water, and closed his eyes. "Sorry," he whispered.

"You don't need to apologise."

"I do," Neal insisted. His teeth were trying to chatter, and controlling that was adding to his slur. "You shouldn't be dealing with this. With me. Not today."

Peter sighed, and pulled the robe further around Neal. "Believe me," he said, "I'd far rather know what's going on with you — even if I don't like it — than be kept in the dark."

"You keep saying that," Neal accused.

"Yes, I know," Peter agreed. "It's because I keep meaning it."

He waited hopefully, but Neal was unforthcomingly silent.

"How're you feeling?" Peter asked, after a minute. "Still nauseous?"

Neal made a so-so gesture with his hand, so Peter shuffled around a bit to lean against the side of the tub. Neal didn't so much move with him as slump bonelessly so that he didn't stop leaning against Peter. He closed his eyes.

Peter put his arm around Neal, holding him loosely. There was some more colour in his face now, but he still looked ill, and was no doubt going to feel absolutely awful in the morning. And he also looked… young, and vulnerable, with his face relaxed and his hair in disarray.

After a while the hard floor began to make Peter's legs hurt. He shook Neal gently, getting a sleepy protest. "Come on. Time to get you to bed."

Neal submitted to being hauled to his feet, and didn't protest Peter's guiding hand on his back. There were pyjamas on his bed already and Peter turned away to give Neal some privacy as he changed. He refilled the water glass Neal had been drinking from earlier, and also found a plastic basin for if he got sick again in the night.

Neal was in pyjamas when Peter brought the glass and basin over to the night-stand, sitting on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands. He looked up groggily at Peter's approaching footsteps.

"Are you going to be all right if I leave you here?" Peter asked. "Where's your phone?"

"I'll be fine," Neal said, bending to retrieve the clothes he'd let fall onto the floor. He found the phone in a pocket, and put it next to the glass of water. He looked up at Peter, his expression suddenly fragile. "I didn't want you to see me like this," he said.

"I know," Peter said. "But I'm rather glad I was here." And much as he wished Neal hadn't decided to deal with everything by drinking himself into a stupor, Peter couldn't find it in himself to judge him for it. He patted Neal's shoulder. "Go to sleep. And tomorrow, make sure you drink lots of water."

Neal grunted assent, and did a sort of controlled flop into the bed, pulling the covers up over himself. "Night, Peter," he mumbled.

Peter switched off the bedside lamp. "Goodnight, Neal."

He was halfway across the room when he heard Neal say, quietly but sincerely, "Thank you."

"Any time," Peter said, pausing by the door to switch off the main lights. He considered repeating the offer of I'm here to listen, you know, but Neal could hardly fail to know that by now. He settled for saying, "But consider not doing this again?" and was answered with a soft laugh as he shut the door.

Peter left the house quietly, and was deep in thought all the way home. He was more convinced than ever that Neal was mixed up in something; something he felt he couldn't share. It worried him. A lot.

He needed to get in touch with Mozzie — he would do that in the morning, through El if necessary. Neal needed someone to talk to. And he shouldn't be alone right now.

El was just hanging up her coat when Peter got in. She took one look at him and pulled him into her arms, letting him hold onto her tightly. He pressed his face into her hair, letting the slow rhythm of her breathing calm his.

None of them should have to be alone.

~

Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/107920.html with comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: angst, fanfic, fic: white collar, gen, hc, hc_bingo
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