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Fic: Five Times Peter Burke Didn't Arrest Neal Caffrey, Part 2
Matt TNH 1
doctor_fangeek

See previous part for notes/rating/summary.
 

The fourth time, Peter has Neal Caffrey dead to rights, he’s sure of it.  All he needs to do is get a look in the case the man is holding.  “There’s nowhere to go, Caffrey,” he says.  They are facing each other across the lounge area of a hotel suite that is more than a little above Peter’s pay grade.  “So why don’t you just put the case down and step away?”

Still holding onto the black architect’s tube, Caffrey instead backs another step away from Peter, hands raised in a universal “I don’t want any trouble” gesture, and responds with a question. “How did you find me?” he asks.  He sounds genuinely curious, but Peter knows there’s more to it than that.  Something’s off here, but he can’t quite put his finger on it.

“We can talk about that,” Peter says, keeping his tone conversational.  After you give me the case.”

“Where’s the fun in that, Peter?” Caffrey asks. 

Peter just scowls in response. 

“Still no first names?  Don’t you think it’s about time?” Caffrey says.  He’s smiling now, and Peter sees where this is going just a moment before it happens, but too late to stop it.  And then Caffrey is slinging the case over his shoulder, slipping out onto the balcony behind him, and going over the railing…from the fourth floor!?!  Peter swears to himself and dashes out after him.  Peering over the balcony rail, he is just in time to see Caffrey drop himself onto the awning of the alleyway entrance of the hotel restaurant below.  Part of Peter is impressed, both with the planning and the audacity, but part of him is just annoyed, as he maneuvers onto the fire escape and gives chase.

Peter is more than annoyed when he loses his footing part way down and finds himself slipping, then falling, to land hard on the sidewalk below.  Pain shoots through his ankle, and he has just enough time to think that it is probably broken before his leg collapses under his weight and his head meets the concrete.  The next thing he knows, he’s flat on his back and he feels a hand in his coat pocket.  He reaches out instinctively, fingers closing around the wrist of whoever it is that is apparently trying to rob a man lying on the ground with a broken ankle, but he’s disoriented and in pain, and he can’t quite hold on.  He blinks once, twice, trying to get his bearings, and his eyes cut up to see…

…“Caffrey?  What do you think you’re doing?”

“Calling you an ambulance,” the other man replies, in a tone of voice that suggests this should be obvious.

Peter looks up at Neal Caffrey, who is standing over him, a concerned look in those startlingly blue eyes.  Peter isn’t sure what to make of that, and is having trouble concentrating to boot.  On top of that, the case that he wants so desperately to get a look inside of is leaning against the wall of the building a few yards away, safely out of reach.  None of this is helping Peter’s mood.

“It’s just a broken ankle, Caffrey,” he says, knowing he’s being at least a little unreasonable.  “I can still dial a phone.”

“You were unconscious, Peter!” Caffrey replies, shaking his head and looking a little exasperated.

“Agent Burke,” Peter grumbles, though it’s more a reflexive response than anything else at the moment.

Caffrey rolls his eyes at that, but he capitulates. “Fine, Agent Burke,” he says.  “But either way, you were out of it.”  And with that Caffrey – apparently done with the conversation – takes a few steps back before presumably dialing 911.  Peter, for his part, isn’t sure he has the energy to argue, so he just watches Caffrey make the call and listens as he gives the emergency operator their location, followed by a carefully edited version of what has just happened.  His voice is pitched to convey just the right balance of confusion and concern – after all, he just happens to have stumbled upon an injured stranger…

There’s a pause while Caffrey listens to whatever the person on the other end of the line is saying.  “I…I don’t know.  I don’t think so,” Caffrey says, and Peter is pretty sure the uncertainty is real this time.  Another pause.  “Steve,” he says, “Steve Carson.”  Peter would shake his head at that – another alias – but he has the feeling that moving his head too much is a bad idea.  Caffrey listens some more.  “Yeah, I can check,” he says, more confident now but still looking a little green around the gills.  He sets the phone down on the pavement at his feet and approaches Peter, who just watches him warily.  He’s not concerned for his safety, but between the pain in his leg, the apparent head injury, and Caffrey playing Good Samaritan, Peter is more than a little off-balance.

“I’m supposed to see if your head wound is bleeding,” Caffrey reassures.  Apparently Peter looks as uncertain as he feels.  What Caffrey is saying makes sense, though, and Peter nods his assent.

After helping Peter to sit up and ascertaining that no, he is not bleeding, Caffrey picks up Peter’s phone again and reports back.  Whatever the operator says next brings a frown to his face.  He takes a deep breath and seems, for once, at a loss for words.  Peter has the strange feeling that he’s missing a page of the script.  The pause in the conversation is longer this time, and he’s about to ask what’s going on when Caffrey starts talking again.

“I’m still here,” he says, and Peter can almost see the wheels turning in the man’s head.  “No, I understand.  Do you know how long it will take them to get here?”  Another pause, another deep breath, then, “Okay.  Thanks.”

Caffrey flips the phone shut, then closes his eyes and brings his free hand up to massage his temple.  When his eyes open again his expression is somehow both determined and disbelieving at once, and all of a sudden Peter just knows.

“Not that I don’t appreciate the help,” Peter says, waiting to make sure he has the other man’s attention, “but I would understand if you didn’t stick around for the final act.  Not in your best interest, really.”

Caffrey’s expression morphs into surprise at that, then cycles through to something Peter can’t quite parse – definitely amusement there, but he could almost swear there’s affection as well.  Must be the concussion, Peter thinks, and in any case it’s gone almost as soon as it appears.  Any uncertainty is gone as well, leaving behind the cocky grin Peter always finds himself wanting to wipe off the con man’s face.

“Your concern is touching, Agent Burke.  But if you had back-up they’d be here by now.”  Caffrey gives him a pointed look at that, as if to say, “Go ahead, deny it.”

Peter knows that Caffrey’s right, though it occurs to him that the other man can’t really be sure of it.  And even if someone from Peter’s team isn’t on their way, it’s still not terribly prudent of Caffrey to hang around waiting for the ambulance.  Of course Peter is in no shape right now to take advantage of Caffrey’s unexpected charitable impulses, even if he could.  He doesn’t have the energy or the presence of mind.  Come to think of it, Peter isn’t sure he has the energy to keep his eyes open at the moment.  So he just shrugs in reply before letting his eyes drift shut and his head tip back to lean against the wall behind him.

Except that apparently Caffrey isn’t supposed to let him close his eyes.  Okay, to be fair, he’s probably really just trying not to let him fall asleep, but Peter still isn’t happy about it.  His ankle is throbbing and so is his head.  It once again occurs to him that he’s being more than a little unfair, but he figures he has a right to be a little grumpy right about now.  So when Caffrey calls his name, sounding genuinely concerned, Peter just grumbles at him to leave him alone.  Caffrey, for his part, is undeterred, and somehow ends up managing to cajole Peter into opening his eyes and even having a conversation.  Unfortunately for Peter, he later finds that he can’t recall any useful details of said conversation, though he has a hazy memory of some sort of story involving a friend of Caffrey’s, a speedboat, and a private art collection in Venice.  Or something like that.  It’s a testimony to Peter’s state of health at the time that it’s only upon trying to remember the conversation later that it occurs to him to wonder about the identity of the “friend.”

In the end, Peter ends up in the hospital overnight for observation, after his ankle has been set and his head injury assessed.  It’s the day after he is released, and he’s supposed to be taking a few days off from work to recuperate.  This, of course, means that he’s set himself up in the living room with his laptop and a stack of files.  He’s not expecting anyone when the doorbell rings, but as soon as he sees the delivery person standing on his front stoop holding an extravagantly enormous fruit basket he heaves a sigh.  To his utter lack of surprise, the fruit is excellent and the card bears a get well message from one Neal Caffrey.

 

The fifth time, Neal Caffrey is actually in custody, but Peter isn’t the one who arrested him, and though he’s frustrated and angry, it’s not at Neal, for once.  And when did he start thinking of him as “Neal,” anyway?  In any case, Peter had actually been at home having dinner with El when he got the phone call.  He arrives at the hospital, his FBI credentials clearing a path to Caffrey’s room and past the NYPD uniform at the door.  Peter favors him with a glare.  Sure, Caffrey is a pain in the you-know-what, and too clever for his own good.  And Peter is determined to put him behind bars.  But he knows Neal doesn’t carry...doesn’t like guns, and now some trigger-happy city cop has put a hole in him.  Peter pushes the door open, steps inside.  Caffrey is propped up in the bed, but his eyes are closed, his breathing even.  His left arm is in a sling, the shoulder swathed in bandages, his right hand cuffed to the bed rail.  He looks pale and young and vulnerable, and Peter is taken off-guard by the protectiveness rising in him as he looks at this man he's been playing cat and mouse with for over two years now.

Peter crosses the room to stand on one side of the bed.  He looks down at Neal.  It’s unnerving to see the younger man so still and quiet.  Peter heaves a sigh, shaking his head in frustration.  “Neal,” he says to himself.  “What have you gotten yourself into this time?”

“Peter?”  Neal says.  His eyes blink open, but his gaze is unfocussed and he sounds a little woozy.  Peter suspects whatever drugs they’re giving him for the pain.

“Yeah, Neal, it’s me.”

The amused snort Peter gets in response is unexpected.  “Neal?” he asks, genuinely confused.

“If I’d known this is what it would take to get us on a first name basis, I’d have gotten myself shot sooner,” Neal says with a smirk.  Which is replaced by a grimace of pain a moment later when he tries to lever himself into a more upright position in the bed.

“On second thought,” he grits out, clearly in pain, “I take that back."

“Here,” says Peter, closing the rest of the distance between them.  “Let me help.”  Neal just nods shortly, and his silence speaks volumes.  Peter helps him slide forward and rearranges the pillows behind his back, then locates the control for the bed so that he can raise it up a bit.  He steps back again and waits, watching as Neal gathers himself, closing his eyes and pulling in a couple of deep breaths.

“Do you need anything?” Peter asks.  “Should I call the nurse?”

There’s no response for a moment, but when Neal opens his eyes again the pained expression is mostly gone and he just looks tired.

“No.  I’m okay.”

“You sure about that?”

“Yes, dad,” Neal says, and the sarcastic quip does more to convince Peter that Neal is at least more or less “okay” than anything else.

“So, you want to tell me what happened?” Peter asks, with a pointed look first at Neal’s shoulder, and then at where his other hand is shackled to the bed.

“Not really,” Neal replies, sounding almost petulant.  “Besides, I figure you’ve already gotten NYPD’s version of events.”

Part of Peter is amused at the usually cock-sure Neal Caffrey pouting, but part of him is still trying to deal with the fact that Neal is lying in a hospital bed.

“You got lucky, you know,” he eventually says.

Neal’s eyes go wide at that.  “I was shot, Peter,” he snaps.

“You were shot in the shoulder, Neal,” Peter replies evenly.  “It was only a matter of time….”

“Peter, you know I don’t even like guns,” Neal interrupts, but Peter holds up a hand and shakes his head, cutting off whatever else Neal was going to say.

I know you, Neal.  But not every LEO out there is going to take the time to read all the files.  Not everyone out there has the time to read all the files.  All it takes is one misunderstanding.  Or even a shot that goes off target – it’s dark, you’re running, they’re running…next thing you know it’s a bullet in the back instead of the arm.”

“I’m sorry, Peter, but ‘you got lucky’ is still a hard sell to a guy who’s handcuffed to a hospital bed with a bullet wound in his shoulder.”

Peter wonders if Neal is really listening.  He knows he’s more invested in this than he should be, but he really doesn’t want Neal Caffrey to end up dead in the street somewhere.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t know what else to say, so he turns away in frustration, running a hand through his hair with a sigh as he heads toward the door.

“Peter.”  It’s just his name, but the tone of Neal’s voice is serious, and Peter turns back.  “I get it,” Neal says, “I really do,” and he’s looking Peter in the eye now, his voice steady.  “But this is who I am.”

Peter raises an eyebrow.

“What, Peter?  Are you going to stop being an FBI agent because you might get shot?”

“That’s different,” Peter wants to say, but he realizes that while on one level it is, on another perhaps it’s not, and certainly not to Neal.  Still, he makes one last pitch.

“No,” he admits.  “But then again, it’s not somebody’s job to shoot at me or lock me up.”

Neal just shrugs at that, as much as he can with one arm in a sling and the other chained to the bedrail, and studies the blanket on his bed

Peter pauses, gathers his thoughts.  “Look,” he says, “I shouldn’t even be having this conversation.”

Neal’s blue eyes cut up to Peter’s face, the question clear in them.

“Do they have anything that will stick?” Peter asks, nodding in the general direction of Neal’s handcuffed wrist.

Neal’s smiles broadly, and that’s almost answer enough.  “NYPD?” he asks, just a trace of derision in his tone.

“They’re not all idiots, you know, Neal.”

“Fair enough, but if they were going to shoot me they could have at least done it when they had a decent case.

Peter, as has so often happened in his dealings with Neal Caffrey, is simultaneously amused and exasperated by the response.

“So that’s a no, then,” he says drily.  “Neither do we, yet, but you probably knew that already.”

“I assume you’re going somewhere with this,” Neal says, but Peter clearly has his attention.

“Look, Neal,” Peter replies, trying to inject a note of urgency into the conversation.  “We’re getting closer.  I will catch you one day.”  And he means that.  “And you will go to prison.  That is if some trigger-happy cop or some bad guy you got the best of doesn’t get to you first.  Turn yourself in.  There must be something you can plead to that’s only worth a few years.  I can help.  You keep going down this road….”

Peter shrugs, not really wanting to end that sentence.  He looks at Neal, who had gone back to studying his bedclothes partway through Peter’s speech.  It’s Neal’s turn to sigh, and when he looks up again Peter thinks he can see a trace of uncertainty in the younger man’s eyes.  It only lasts a minute, however, and then the cocky con man is back

“I appreciate your concern, Peter.  It’s touching, really,” Neal says, with a trace of sarcasm.  “But I won’t be confessing to you or anyone else anytime soon.”

Peter wants to be angry at the flippant reply, though part of him wonders how much of it is deflection.  Mostly he’s just frustrated that his words seem to be falling on deaf ears.

“Your choice,” Peter says, and he knows he sounds disappointed.  Disappointed, but not really surprised.  Trying to rein in Neal Caffrey is…well there’s probably some terrible cliché he could use involving wind or maybe a wild animal.  The bottom line is that it’s not happening, at least not today.  Peter is not at all surprised a few days later, when he gets word that Neal Caffrey has disappeared from the hospital.

 

When Peter finally does arrest Neal, it’s surprisingly anticlimactic.  There’s no big chase scene.  No Neal spinning some tale to explain how Peter actually has it all wrong.  The requisite squad of armed agents swarms into the warehouse, and this time Neal is still there, and there really is nowhere to go.  By the time Peter steps through the door behind his men, Caffrey is standing in the middle of the room, hands behind his head, warily eyeing the multiple guns pointing at him.  As Peter approaches, however, Neal’s eyes cut away from the nearest weapon and over to Peter.  Peter swears he sees just a hint of a smile on Caffrey’s face before it’s quickly replaced by a look of resignation.

“Agent Burke,” Caffrey says.  It sounds surprisingly conversational, despite the situation and Neal’s use of Peter’s official title, but little that Neal Caffrey does surprises Peter anymore, so he just plays along.

“Neal Caffrey,” he says, “You’re under arrest.”

 


Excellent story, I enjoyed it very much. It is so much in-character and I can totally see this having happened. My favorite part is the scene in the hospital (and not only because I'm a sucker for Neal!Angst).

Thanks for stopping by and for the great feedback. It's always good to hear that the characters seem "in-character." I'm not actually sure which part is *my* favorite. Hmm.

This is terrific. I always adore pre-series stories - and this is one of the best I've read. I love the way you've woven the bits we know into a pre-series world that feels completely and utterly authentic.

I think my favorite one is the fourth, where Neal gets the ambulance for Peter, but all of them are just delightful.

Thank you for writing, thank you for publishing and I really hope to see a lot more from you.

Thanks, as always, for your very thoughtful comments. I did want to try to work in elements of what we know, and I'm pleased that it worked for you. I'm enjoying hearing which parts were people's favorites.

(Deleted comment)
I am pleased to hear that you giggled. It was meant to be amusing, and it's good to know that I amused someone other than myself. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Very on target. I don't think the preseries episode is going to joss you at all.

Thanks for writing.

FYI, I think my thinking in terms of being jossed comes in part from one of the promos that somehow gave me the feeling that before Peter arrests Neal the two of them didn't have as much interaction with each other as fan writers often give them. On the other hand, that is mostly speculation on my part. :-)

Oh that is just adorable. And totally believeable :)

Well done. I can totally see each of these scenarios happening :D

Thanks. Hearing things like, "I could see this happening" is always nice.

This was delightful, thank you for sharing.

You're welcome, and *thank you* for reading and taking the time to comment.

LOVE THIS!!!

The dialogue is particularly great - very in-character for both. The fourth one is my faavorite - you present the beginnings of their respect for each other and their eventual friendship so well. I can't help but think that I will be a bit disappointed in how this is portrayed in canon; there's no way it'd be this satisfying.

Excuse me while I flail around a bit after reading that last sentence....

Okay, I'm back. :-) Some of the dialogue pretty much wrote itself, while there were parts that took a bit of hammering out. I'm really glad you enjoyed it, and it's always gratifying to hear from authors whose work I really like (so thanks for commenting).

Btw, while I'm writing, apologies for not giving more feedback during your 12 days marathon - it was great and I was impressed by your ability to write that many good stories in such a short time.

Oh, wooooow. I love these little encounters and Peter's reaction to Neal's... Neal-ness. This was a hugely fun ride that I couldn't tear myself away from even though I know I have things that need doing.

Oh, Neal. And his "Neal-ness." Gotta love him. I am so glad that you had fun reading. And while I don't necessarily want to keep you from things you need to do, I'm extremely flattered. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

Ohh, I really enjoyed these -- it's such a lovely progression, and Neal is so wonderfully Neal. ♥ ♥ ♥

Hey! Glad you stopped by, and glad you liked it. Also, I was really thinking about the progression from part to part - in a couple of ways - so I appreciate the comment. Thanks so much.

This is fantastic! I love that second to last scene especially, with Peter trying to convince Neal of what's in his best interest. Very IC, I think.

Re: here via china_shop

Thanks for reading, and for commenting. Glad you found it in character - that's always great to hear.

I really enjoyed reading this.
I adore it and can actually see this happening.
Their love is uncanny!

Belatedly catching up on your comment. Thanks for stopping by. I always love "I can actually see this happening" type comments - glad you thought so. :-)

Oh, this was really cool! I love this look at their friendly-yet-intense cat-and-mouse game, and Neal stopping to help an injured Peter is particularly nifty (and particularly him).

Glad you liked it, and thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

I loved this! I wish the show had gone in this direction: letting the two men come to know each other before Peter had enough evidence to arrest Neal.

I love the way Neal stays with injured!Peter, even when it endangered him. I love the way Peter tried to tell Neal how this would end. And the arrest itself was brilliantly anticlimatic--exactly as it should be.

Well done!

Thanks! I think a lot of fans had that idea, that there would have been some sort of encounter (or encounters) between them before the actual arrest, and I certainly liked it. I'm still not sure which part is my favorite.

I appreciate the feedback!

This story is absolutely perfect - personally I shall consider all the encounters you wrote canon from now on. :D
Spot-on characterization for both of them; I especially love Neal's cheek in sending pizza and flowers etc.
Thank you for writing this!

Not sure how you found the story (it's been a while since I posted it), but I'm glad you did, and very glad you liked it so much. "Spot-on characterization" is the sort of thing I love to hear. Thanks for the comment!

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