Peter opened the won and grubbily scuffed door to his apartment, the inside of which was only slightly less scuffed, and turned to perform the ritual locking of the door, which was an act of many locks, bolts and chains.
Not that he was paranoid, it was just that he lived in New York, and yeah, he was paranoid, never knowing when or where the next blow would could from.
Neal Caffrey was still out there, somewhere, but Peter no longer had the heart to hurt him, and, if he was honest with himself, he was too terrified to try.
Neal Caffrey had destroyed his life. Caffrey had taken it apart, piece by piece, and stomped on it, like a spoilt angry child with his toys. Which made sense, because they had only ever been toys to Neal, just toys in a game.
Peter had played and lost. He still had his job, but he'd been demoted, pretty much busted down to mail boy, and even though the case against him had mysteriously collapsed due to suddenly missing evidence, there had been enough questions raised to bust him down to the basement and red flag his personnel file. He was effectively finished, doomed to file work for the rest of his life.
And he didn't really care. He'd lost all heart. Filing and catching the occasional go nowhere case that nobody else wanted was about all he was up for these days. He was a broken man and a leper in the Bureau, a cautionary tale to be told to wide eyed young agents.
He'd been broken so low that even Mozzie had checked in on him a couple of times. He was never sure what Mozzie's game was, either, but Mozzie had seemed genuinely shocked at the sudden viciousness and thoroughness of Neal's betrayal. Mozzie had liked the Burkes, and had felt guilty by association. Mozzie couldn't understand it or explain it, and he'd seemed frightened, frightened of Neal perhaps, of what he could do or might do. Peter suspected that Mozzie had been burnt himself, though not as badly.
Peter at least had the comfort of knowing why. It was quite simple, really. To run, really run, Neal had needed to take out the only man who could find him. So he'd studied Peter, seduced him, and then sprung the trap. It had been perfect, no detail left to chance. Peter could still admire the artistry of it, the way Neal had boxed him in at every corner.
To be honest, Peter hoped he never saw Neal again, never heard from him again. Not because he was angry, he was over the whole revenge thing now and he was far too tired to maintain the rage. No, he never wanted to see Neal again because he never wanted to hear himself say those feeble and pathetic words: "I thought you loved me." That he could not bear to do, so if Neal was far, far away, good luck to him.
The only other person left in his life was Elizabeth, and that was more out of habit than anything else. They'd seperated, and he'd let her keep the house and the dog. Putting everything in her name was the only way they could keep it, as the FBI and IRS had been through every docket and document on account of Neal.
It had all been too much for Elizabeth and Peter couldn't blame her. He'd let Neal into their lives. It was only right that he paid the price, alone.
She still checked up on him, though. He must cut a very sad and lonely figure.
Peter scanned the room but nothing seemed to be touched. He'd do a thorough check later, with all the little tricks he'd learnt, just to make sure no one had been in his room. But first he had a bag full of groceries to unload. Lonely man groceries, all microwave meals for one and a six pack of beer.
He dumped them on the peeling vinyl counter and that's when he saw it, the shiny new coffee pot, and beside it, a packet of freshly ground French Roast.
He stood very still for several long moments. Then he managed to hook out one of the old chairs from the table and plonk into it before he fell over, because damn if his knees weren't about to give way. He was trembling, actually trembling. He guessed the fight or flight response had kicked in.
Neal was back in town, and Neal had found him.
He studied the coffee pot for a long while and wondered what it meant. And then the aftershock rumbled through him and he buried his face in his hands.
Peter walked into the office, eyes downcast, and was about to slink to his desk in the corner as usual when he caught a frission in the room.
He glanced up and there was Neal, in Hughes's office. Neal had shaved off the beard, cut his hair and was wearing a suit, not one of the old suits, but something very new and very expensive. They were having a very heated argument. The voices might be muffled but the body language was clear.
In a single movement they stopped and turned, seeing him. Neal looked flushed and upset. Hughes made a stabbing, summoning motion, not unlike Caesar.
Peter dropped off his overcoat and case and went up submissively. He glanced at Neal quizzicly and then waited to hear what they had to say.
Hughes cut to the chase. Neal had been working undercover all along, a double agent, a spy. He'd been set after the cabal who'd gotten their hooks into Kate and Fowler and everyone else they'd corrupted along the way. Working for Peter had been part of his cover, part of the deal, but Peter had gotten too close, and had watched him too closely. Peter had been too good an agent, too good a friend. He'd interferred, he had to be sidelined. Neal had hated to do it, but revenge over Peter's final rebuff had steeled his heart.
Neal looked sorrowfully at Peter, but Peter just shook his head.
"You could have told me. You lied to me. You betrayed me. You destroyed my life."
Hughes tried to put himself between Burke and Caffrey.
"Peter, you'll be restored to your former position, your record will be cleared."
Peter shook his head in disbelief.
"Not good enough. Not even close. I can't - I can't be here." He turned and walked away, not looking at Neal, not looking back.
He made it as far as the men's room and found it mercifully empty. He leant on the wash basin, arms trembling. He wanted to be sick but nothing would come up. He splashed water on his face and looked hard at his reflection in the mirror. His skin was grey. He looked old. Old and fed up.
The door swung open and he turned quickly. It was Neal. Of course it was.
"Shave and a haircut. New suit. Everything back to normal, is that what you think?"
"I put your life back together, that's what you wanted."
Neal actually sounded confused, like he didn't get it.
"You were the one who smashed it to pieces. You really think you can fix it, just like that? Even if you can stick all the pieces back together it won't hold water, there'll always be cracks."
Neal shook his head. "I'm the world's best restorer. It will hold."
"You think we're broken toys, a bit of glue and we're ready to play again."
Neal looked distressed.
"You said you wanted this. I broke cover to do this. Hughes was furious."
"I saw. Boo hoo."
Neal was really getting upset now.
"I thought you loved me."
Peter exhaled and shook his head, smiling in a nasty fashion.
"That's what makes it so horrible. After everything you did, I still love you. You betrayed me, you broke my heart, and I still love you. I hate you more than anyone I've ever hated before, and I still love you. It's pathetic."
"Peter," Neal started, and stepped towards him.
It was too much. Too many times. Peter punched him, hard, and sent Neal reeling against the sinks.
Neal gasped and held his head to his face, shocked, his eyes wide, his hair falling forward.
Peter was on him in a flash, grabbing him by that fancy suit and shoving him up against the tiles.
Neal's eyes flashed dangerously and it was on. They brawled viciously, punching, kicking, tripping and throwing, slamming each other against sinks and mirrors and tiles and falling in and out of cublicles. Somebody heard the commotion but Peter slammed Neal up against the door, trapping him in as the door thumped behind him and they suddenly grabbed each other and kissed each other with a ferocious passion, a kiss that went on and on as the door thumped behind them and then the door really thumped. They must have brought in reinforcements. Peter grabbed Neal and sent him spinning back across the bathroom with a punch that actually floored him. And then Peter just straightened his tie and walked out, walked past the gaggle of stunned agents who crowded in the open doorway staring agape at Neal who was sitting up against the tiles, smiling to himself and dabbing fingertips at his bleeding lip.
Peter kept on walking and didn't stop until he got home, still without his case or overcoat, or keys, he remembered.
Elizabeth let him in when she found him on her doorstep, shocked at his appearance but guessing the cause: Neal.
Peter didn't want to talk about it. He just grabbed a beer from the fridge and went out to sit on the patio.
Elizabeth swung open the door and there he was, clean shaven, stylish, somewhat sombre and sporting the beginnings of some very nasty bruises.
"Did my husband give you those?" she asked, already knowing the answer, so Neal stayed silent.
"Good," she announced and turned away without inviting him in, but leaving the door open, essentially leaving him to please himself.
"Honey, your stalker is here," she called through the open door to the patio.
Peter had just enough time to school his features before Neal walked through that open doorway.
Peter gave him a look of disbelief and displeasure.
"Give me a good reason why I don't shoot you where you stand."
"I'm unarmed," Neal offered with a slight shrug.
"Better than that."
Neal dropped the air of confused innocence and met Peter's eyes as an adult. Because he knew Peter wouldn't shoot. Because he'd called Peter's bluff so often he knew he would never shoot.
Peter glanced away, knowing he wasn't in control here, not even in his own house.
Neal dropped down in the seat beside him, uninvited.
"I thought you might have got it out of your system." Neal spoke softly, voice slightly brittle with frustration.
"Not even close."
"I said I was sorry."
"Coming from you? It means less than nothing."
Neal leant slightly closer.
"What do you want me to say?"
"Oh, I don't know," Peter's voice arced around for a punch. "How about adios. Or aloha. Aloha's good."
"Aloha also means I love you," Neal explained softly.
Peter shook his head, smiling darkly.
"You always have to have the last word. I tell you I never want to see you again, and yet here you are. Now I know how Kate felt. You can never take the hint."
That had been a low blow. Neal's chair scraped back and he stood up and left.
Peter watched him go, curious, and maybe a little sorry.
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