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Fic - Awake My Soul
Title: Awake My Soul
Rating: PG-13ish
Spoilers: Pretty much all of Season 3
Characters/Pairings: Mainly just Peter, Neal and Elizabeth, pre-OT3
Summary: A sort of AU mirror of Season 3.0, where the jumping off point is, "What if Peter decided to talk to Neal?" at some point after he found the scrap of painting.  The rest sort of dominoes from there.
Word Count: ~19,600

A/N: This was written for the lovely, kind and generous elrhiarhodan, who, after I offhandedly commented on how I should get a paid account so I could edit my comments, just up and gifted me with one.  In my head I was all, "But I didn't get you anything?" and I decided that it would be cool to try to write her something as a thank you.  I was originally going to try to get a hold of some of her unused prompts for the wcpairings fest, but none of those were working for me.  Then I decided on a nice little "what if?" follow-up to the end of Season 2.  In my head it was maybe four parts long, with some angst and maybe a bit of emotional H/C, and a happy, pre-OT3 ending.  And then along came Season 3.  I hadn't been able to finish the story before the new season started, and found myself trying to incorporate various little details from the new episodes while trying desperately to catch up with canon and get my story finished.  At some point I decided that I just needed to draw a line and declare my story completely AU after some particular episode (in my case, it was going to be "As You Were").  Except that my very perceptive beta reader rabidchild told me that what I had ended up with was a pretty effective mirror to Season 3.0, and that she felt like the story would be missing something if I didn't follow through and deal with the events of "On the Fence" and "Countdown."  I decided I agreed with her.  And so after all of that my little four part story ended up with nine parts and over 19,000 words.  And got done just under the wire (i.e.before any more new episodes had aired)!  Thanks also to [info]hoosierbitch for a very thoughtful last minute reading.  Oh, and the title and section headers are all from Mumford & Sons amazing album, "Sigh No More."

And with that rather long and rambling author's note behind us, here's Part I:

You told me that I would find a home,
within the fragile substance of my soul.
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
and all the while, my character it steals.

“You did this. The fire, all of it. You did it.”

“I haven’t lied to you Peter. I’m not lying to you now. I didn’t steal the art.”

“I think you did.”

As Neal meanders along the streets of New York, heading in the general direction of June’s, he finds his last conversation with Peter is stuck on replay in his head. His nerves had already been rubbed raw, what with Adler taking Alex, and then himself and Peter as well, and then having to defuse the bomb and escape from Adler’s crazy Bond villain plan with the dry dock. And then seeing a warehouse full of priceless art explode, so many masterpieces destroyed. Peter’s accusations had been just the perfect end to a perfect day. Now a headache is building behind his eyes, and he can feel the adrenaline he’s been running on leaching out of him, but Neal isn’t ready to go home to his empty apartment just yet. It’s late afternoon, so it’s an easy enough task to find a bar that’s open but relatively empty, and he settles into a corner table with a scotch and soda. A couple of drinks later, and Neal isn’t feeling any better – if anything he’s more tired and frustrated – nor is he any closer understanding just what it is that happened between him and Peter today.

If Neal is honest with himself, he knows that he has hasn’t always made it easy for Peter to trust him. And it’s true that he hasn’t always told Peter the whole truth, has sometimes let Peter draw conclusions that might not be altogether accurate. But it’s also true that he hasn’t ever told Peter an outright lie. To some people that might seem like splitting hairs, but for Neal, it’s a pretty big deal. Neal knocks back the rest of his drink in one gulp and slams the glass back down on the table in front of him. For someone who seems to pride himself on his knowledge of all things Neal Caffrey, Peter is surprisingly ignorant on this score. Of course, if Neal is really honest with himself, he knows that as much as it hurts that there are things about him that Peter doesn’t seem to see, he is grateful for it too. Neal cares for Peter far more than is good for either of them. “Oh, and to whom are you telling half-truths now?” he thinks to himself. And for a con man of his not inconsiderable abilities, he’s disturbed by how often he finds himself slipping, how many times he’s caught himself looking at Peter with a longing that keeps working its way to the surface, no matter how hard he tries to bury it. But he keeps trying. He has to. Peter is his handler. His very married handler. His very happily married handler, whose wife is a wonderful woman and someone Neal cares about a great deal as well. And it’s not as if Neal hasn’t had plenty of experience longing for things he can’t have.

Neal had wanted happily ever after with Kate, would have gone legit to have it. And then his hopes for a life with her, maybe even a family, had exploded in a great ball of fire, his dreams turning to ash as he knelt on the cold concrete of the tarmac. He’d thought then about what Mozzie had said, how happily ever after wasn’t for guys like them. And he’d had plenty of time to think about it, after the numbness had faded. After he’d shouted himself hoarse and tried fruitlessly to break free of Peter’s grip so he could go to Kate, after he’d dazedly submitted to the EMTs who insisted on checking him out, after he’d still been too out of it to resist, or even to really care, when a pair of agents he didn’t recognize had shown up to take him into custody. He had been vaguely aware that Peter was still there, that he seemed to be arguing with the other agents, until Hughes had shown up and stepped in, speaking softly to Peter and drawing him away as Neal was cuffed and put in the back of a car. It wasn’t until later, some time after he’d been processed back into the system, that he’d come back to himself. By that time he was sitting on the bunk in his new cell, back against the wall and knees pulled up to his chest, and when the reality of what had happened hit him, it was like a weight on his chest, stealing his breath, making it difficult to think of anything other than the pain and the loss. And it occurred to him then, that maybe Mozzie was right. That it was foolish to believe that there might really be a happily ever after for him.

At the time, Neal was almost grateful for the mind-numbing routine that is prison life. As much as he had too much time alone to think about all the ways he failed to save Kate, it helped that he didn’t have to think about anything else, that he was told when to eat, when to sleep, when to exercise. He was surprised, though, by how much it hurt when Peter didn’t come to see him. Intellectually, he’d understood. Peter had already been under suspension before the mess with the explosion. But though Neal had often chafed under the restrictions Peter set for him, he’d also come to see him as something of an anchor, and he found himself missing it. And then Peter had put himself on the line for Neal, again, and when Neal got out of prison – again – and he told himself that he was sticking around to find Kate’s killer, it was true, but it wasn’t the only reason.

And so Neal tries to move forward. Time passes. Cases get solved. Peter and Neal manage to get past the disaster with Fowler. Neal hasn’t left his old life behind, not really, but there is a part of him that is changing, that is settling into the new life he is currently living. He’s lost Kate, but he is maybe, slowly, starting to fill the empty space in his soul. He’d meant what he said to Peter – part of him, at least, is tired of running. And there is much about this life that he would miss – the way June treats him almost like a wayward son, Sara, even though he isn’t sure yet what they mean to each other, the camaraderie of Peter’s team, Elizabeth, who is beautiful and kind and more often than not sees the good in him – even sometimes when he doesn’t deserve it. And then there is Peter himself…. Peter who, despite everything, keeps not putting Neal back in prison. Peter who seems to think that Neal can change. Who thinks Neal is worth changing. Peter, for whom Neal hadn’t thought twice about giving up the solitaire ring that was supposed to be Kate’s. Peter, who is the person Neal trusts most in this world. Neal made the deal with Peter to get out of serving another four years, and to have a chance of finding Kate, but somehow it became more than that. But whatever progress they had made was dealt a huge blow that day down on the docks.

“You can either be a con or a man,” Peter had said, not all that long ago. “You can’t be both.” But this time he had been a man, he’d turned down Adler’s offer, and all Peter could see was the con. If that was as far as they’d come, what was the point? Peter will never trust him, not really. Why keep fighting what Neal knew was in his blood? Sure, the anklet was an obstacle, but Neal could find a way around that.

And as his tired brain wanders off in that direction Neal suddenly recalls…Adler had forced Peter to give Neal the key, forced Neal to remove his anklet at gunpoint…and as far as Neal knows, it’s still in Adler’s limo, wherever that ended up. Neal must really have been off his game to have forgotten that little detail until now. Peter must have been as well, letting Neal walk off without his electronic leash, especially since he’d allegedly just stolen enough treasure to fill a submarine. Soon enough Peter would realize his mistake and who knew if he’d try to contact Neal or just skip right to calling the Marshals. Now is the moment, Neal thinks to himself, while Peter and his team are still occupied with the chaos of a crime scene centered around a huge explosion.

Except that running on the spur of the moment is probably not such a good idea. Sure, Neal has contingency plans, and he can be ready to leave at the drop of a hat, if he needs to. But it’s hard. And potentially dangerous. If he leaves now and makes a mistake, there’s pretty much no going back. No, better to bide his time a bit, see how things play out. He’s just playing it safe, he tells himself. It’s not the case that as frustrated and angry as Neal is right now, he’s just not ready to run. And it certainly hasn’t got anything to do with any feelings he might have for his FBI handler. The man who put him in prison. Twice.

Sigh no more, no more.
One foot in sea, one on shore.
My heart was never pure.
You know me….

Neal Caffrey is caught between two lives, and it’s more than a little draining trying to lead both of them at once. Mozzie is getting frustrated with him, he knows. He’d understood why Neal had given up their first escape plan after Lawrence had been ready to kill Jones. And the whole thing with Mr. Jeffries had reminded him, at least temporarily, of ties that he himself had failed to completely sever. But with each new setback, Moz gets more and more anxious. Neal can’t really blame him, as the longer they draw this out, the more chance there is for something to go really wrong. Neal knows that Peter suspects the two of them. And then there’s Sara. Maybe it was just a growing suspicion, Neal tries to tell himself, but he knows it’s not true. He’s fairly certain she knows his secret, and that that’s what is behind their breakup. So far she doesn’t seem inclined to share that knowledge, but it’s a dangerous game Neal is playing. And still, he can’t commit to leaving. Moz knows it, and whatever he says, Neal isn’t convinced that he really understands. Despite the circumstances, Neal has put down roots here. The anklet chafes at more than his skin, bothers him more than he lets on, more than Peter realizes, he’s certain. Yet somehow, against the odds, he has begun to make a life for himself in New York, and a part of him wants – more then he’ll admit even to himself – to keep living that life, to see where it takes him.

Then again, it’s not as if Neal is committed to staying either. Yes, he’s made a life for himself here, but he finds himself wondering sometimes if it’s not just a house of cards. Part of him still longs for a different time, a different life. He still isn’t sure what he was thinking, trying to bring Sara into that. At the time, they were still more casual lovers than anything else. But he’d gotten caught up in the moment, in the rush of what they’d been doing – the shopping spree, the fancy clothes, having someone to spend all that money with. And then he’d come crashing back to reality. Sara’s words when she’d left him had only reinforced what a mistake he’d made. And if Sara, who was willing to color outside the lines more than most of the “good guys,” was telling him how he lived in the clouds, surely there was no chance that anything would ever come of his feelings for…. No, he wasn’t even going to think about that. And really, as much as he sometimes thinks he’s changed, he’s not sure he will ever be the man Peter wants him to be. He’s not sure he’s capable of being that man. And honestly, he’s not always sure he wants to be that man. Maybe he just needs more time to work through what he really wants to do.

Except Neal’s dilemma only gets more confusing and difficult the longer he stalls. He doesn’t want to break into the Burke’s, to violate their home. But he does. It goes smoothly, just like old times. Until the photo of the white collar unit brings him up short. And Peter…does he have some sort of sixth sense, calling Neal at just that moment? Neal knows that Peter still suspects him of having something to do with the treasure even if he didn’t steal it. And yet he’s also still concerned about Neal. “I think you deserve some happiness,” Peter said. And he was totally sincere, both in his concern and his willingness to help. Neal finds himself thinking about that conversation far too often, and sometimes when he thinks about it, he imagines himself telling Peter the truth, telling him just what he could do to make Neal happy. And then he reminds himself that nothing good can come of that, and he doesn’t want to see the shock or the rejection on Peter’s face, so he slams the door on that fantasy.

And life continues to go on, and Neal continues to be these two people, and he’s getting more and more tired of it. It’s actually worse, now, he thinks, because he’s betrayed both sides, lying to Mozzie at the same time he keeps the truth from Peter. But he doesn’t see a way out. He’s told Moz the manifest wasn’t in the safe, so he can’t very well just produce it out of thin air. And if he comes clean to Peter? He won’t implicate Mozzie, but he may well lose him anyway. And at this point it’s hard to see that road ending anywhere but with Neal back in prison for a very long time. If he leaves, he’ll lose Peter (and June, and El, and Jones and Diana, and any chance he might have for a life without running). If he stays, he’ll probably lose all of that anyway, and probably Mozzie to boot.

“You can either be a con or a man.” Peter’s voice echoes in his head far more often than he would like – or is probably healthy. And yet here he still is, almost paralyzed by his inability to truly make a choice.

It’s empty in the valley of your heart…

As frustrated and angry as Peter is after the explosion at the warehouse, he has a job to do. And throwing himself into it will, just maybe, distract him from thinking about Caffrey. The crime scene needs to be secured, and whatever evidence has survived the blast needs to be collected. There will be a mountain of paperwork. Although Peter is a hands-on kind of boss, he’d normally delegate a lot of the nuts and bolts to Jones and Diana, who are more than capable of running a crime scene. This is probably why Diana gives him surprised look when he wades in and starts organizing things himself, but she’s sharp, and she knows him well, so it only takes a moment before Peter can see that she gets it. Peter can’t completely bury his jumbled thoughts about Neal and the treasure, but he’s very good at his job, and he knows how to focus on what is in front of him. It’s some time later, after things are wrapped up at the scene of the explosion, when Peter starts to think about the fact that he’ll have to talk to Hughes soon, to give him an update on the situation, and that he has no idea what he’s going to say. This thought makes him suddenly very angry, though he’s not sure if it’s with himself or Neal. Probably both. Because despite everything, his instinct is to try to protect Neal. He should have logged the piece of canvas from Neal’s painting into evidence. He should be bringing Neal in for questioning, not trying to decide whether to tell his boss about his suspicions.

And then Jones comes up to him, and the look on the younger agent’s face tells Peter that whatever his news, Peter’s not going to like it.


“Do I want to know?” Peter asks, pretty much already knowing the answer.

“We found Adler’s limo.”


“We found this in it,” Jones answers, and holds up Neal’s anklet.

“Dammit. How did we all miss that he just walked off without it?” Peter says, but it’s a mostly rhetorical question. His other question, “After what happened earlier, did Neal just keep walking?” goes unsaid, but the very real possibility of Neal running jumps straight to the top of Peter’s list of concerns.

“You want me to call the Marshals?” Jones asks.

Peter’s first instinct is to say no, that he’ll take care of it. Which is what he would most likely have said before this afternoon – before he found himself wondering if Neal had been running a long con on Peter, like he’d planned to do to Adler. But now? Peter almost gives Jones the go ahead. But really, if Neal has run, the Marshals aren’t going to have any more luck finding him if they get the call now or in an hour. No sense calling in a false alarm. Instead, Peter calls one of the probies back at the bureau, in case – and yes, he realizes it’s almost surely wishful thinking – Neal actually went back to the office. When his query brings the expected no, he sends Jones over to June’s house, with instructions to let Peter know immediately if Neal is there or not, and to sit on him if he is. Peter heads back to the office, his mind still in turmoil, a headache building behind his eyes. He hates how relieved he is when he arrives to find Hughes has been called out of the office for the rest of the day. He doesn’t even want to think about how relieved he is when he gets the call from Jones, telling him that Caffrey is at home. And a bit later he decides not to analyze it when he decides not to head over there and pick Neal up himself, but instead instructs Jones to put the anklet back on and then bring Neal in for a polygraph.

Neal passes the polygraph. Within a week, El gets the results back from the gallery, telling them that the scrap of painting Peter found outside the warehouse is from the mid-1930’s. The bad guy’s been arrested, the money recovered, and Neal, despite being off his anklet for the better part of the case, is still here. Peter, despite all of these things, is not convinced – either that Neal was not involved in the theft of the art or that he’s not on the verge of running. And he doesn’t know what to do about it. They clear their next case, solving a treasure map made of forged wills and getting a little girl back from her kidnapper. They thwart an attempt on a journalist’s life. Neal actually comes clean to Peter about Mozzie so that they can try to protect him from the Detroit mob. Cases are still getting solved, and Neal is still here. But despite what Peter said, about how he was glad things were back to normal, his gut tells him that they’re not. Peter learned a long time ago to trust his gut, but he’s trying to let the feelings of unease go. Things do go back to a pretty good approximation of what has passed for “normal” since Peter took Neal on as his CI. Peter is shocked and angry when Neal goes off the reservation when a bank’s servers are hacked, even more so that he drags Sara with him. Still, he figures that she’s better for him than another fellow con, and any relationship that makes him more likely to stick around is probably a positive. And then Sara breaks up with Neal. Peter doesn’t know why, and Neal isn’t saying much so far, but Peter worries. He doesn’t think this is a positive development in terms of reasons Neal might not run. He tries reaching out to Neal, offering an ear if the other man needs to talk. Peter knows that talking about emotions is not his strong suit, but his gut is saying that this is a dangerous time, and he thinks maybe he should listen.

His gut is also why he’s awake far too early on a Saturday morning several weeks later, sitting and staring at Neal’s tracking data. He’s still in the sweatpants and t-shirt he wore to bed, a mug off coffee in front of him. The report on the scrap of painting El had analyzed for him and some notes on the Lawrence case are scattered about on the table, along with the partial manifest from the U-boat. Nothing new has turned up on the treasure, but Peter continues to worry. He’s lost in thought when Elizabeth comes up behind him to look over his shoulder at the computer and papers spread out in front of him.

“Want to talk about it?” she asks, leaning in to give him a quick kiss.

“Thanks, Hon,” Peter replies, “but it’s bad enough this is keeping me awake at night. I shouldn’t drag you into it too.”

“I already took that piece of canvas in to get it analyzed for you. I think I’m already involved. And speaking of which, didn’t the test show that it wasn’t Neal’s painting?”

Peter sighs heavily. “Yeah,” he says, “it did. And the day after you dropped that canvas off at the gallery, Neal ditched the tail I had on him, claiming he thought it was Lawrence, and went who knows where. To do who knows what.”

“Don’t you think he might have thought it was one of the bad guys following him?”

“It was Jones, El.”


“Yeah. And then there was the whole dinner party.”

“Dinner party? You’re right, Hon, that sounds really nefarious.” El replies, laughter in her voice.

Peter just frowns.

“Okay. Sorry. Tell me about the dinner party."

“I sent some evidence home with Diana to be translated, something whoever took the art from that sub would want. And not twenty-four hours later, Neal had apparently convinced Diana’s girlfriend Christie that he and Sara should come over to their place for a dinner party.”

“So you think he set the whole thing up so he could search for whatever this thing was Diana had?”

“Yeah, El. I do. And that case with the stolen Federal Reserve money? How did Neal and Mozzie just happen to have a plane ready and waiting, just in case Lawrence got spooked and wanted to ditch the plan Neal sold him in the first place? They’re up to something.”

“He’s still here, though, isn’t he?”

“He hasn’t been out of his anklet since that first case. He knows I’m keeping an eye on him,” Peter says, then pauses to gather his thoughts.

“Even if he didn’t steal the art, he knows where it is. He’s probably only still here because whatever the original plan was, something happened and he had to stay.”


“He’s going to run, El,” Peter says, reaching up to massage his temple and knowing it won’t do anything to ease the tension. “He’s waiting for his chance, and when he thinks he has it, he’s going to run.”

“And?” El prompts him again.

Peter drops his head in defeat. “And either I’ll catch him again, and they’ll put him away for good, or he’ll disappear and we’ll never see him again.”


“And? What else is there to say?”

“I know you’ve put a lot of time and energy into trying to keep Neal from ending up back in prison,” she says. “But I think there’s more to it than that.”

Peter’s head jerks up in surprise. Elizabeth has that look on her face, the one that says she knows what Peter is thinking, even if he doesn’t realize it himself, or perhaps doesn’t want to admit it. Peter’s brow furrows as he tries to figure out just how this conversation has gone off the rails like this. Elizabeth just looks at him calmly. There is no judgment there.

For a moment neither of them speaks, Peter struggling to put his thoughts in order, Elizabeth waiting patiently.

“You care about him,” El prods gently. It’s not a question, and they both know it’s only part of the truth.

“Too much,” Peter says. “Damn it, El! Every time I feel like Neal’s making progress, he pulls some kind of stunt. It’s one step forward, two steps back, over and over again.”

“People don’t change overnight,” Elizabeth replies.

“I know. But if he runs now, it’s all over. I don’t want to lose him, El,” Peter says, and the words are out of his mouth before he realizes just what he’s said. “Where did that come from?” he thinks to himself, looking up at Elizabeth in a panic. But she is just looking at him fondly.

“Then give him a reason to stay.”


“I’ve seen the way he looks at you,” she says, “when he thinks no one is watching.”

Peter is momentarily speechless. He wants to tell Elizabeth that she’s wrong, but there’s a part of him, buried deep, that realizes she is right. And that is perhaps doing a little cheer right now. Except that it doesn’t matter, really. Neither one of them is going to act on whatever it may be that seems to lie unspoken between them.

“Even if you’re right,” Peter begins, trying to drag the conversation back onto safer ground, but before he can go any further Elizabeth interrupts.

“I’m right,” she says, but it’s more of a gentle prodding than anything else. “And it's not just Neal.”

Peter’s head snaps up to look at his wife. This is wrong. All wrong.

“El. No,” Peter replies. This is happening too fast. He loves his wife. He feels more for Neal than he should, but he’s not ready to put a name to those feelings, or even to think too hard about them. Probably wouldn’t be dealing with them at all if he weren’t so worried about Neal leaving, and if Elizabeth weren’t prodding him into it. Which doesn’t make much sense. Why would Elizabeth be encouraging this…whatever this is?

“I love you,” he says, looking steadily at Elizabeth. “I would never do anything to hurt you.”

“I know, hon. I love you too. It’s okay. I don’t want to lose him either,” Elizabeth replies.

Peter isn’t entirely sure what’s just happened here, but he feels a spark of hope. He tries not to think too hard about whether he’ll truly be able to convince Neal to stay, or how they will deal with the stolen art if he does. One thing at a time, he tells himself.

Link to Part II

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Dang! Got sidetracked ordering some stuff on amazon. Great first part to set the scene and cover the basics. If anyone has missed any of season 3.0, this will catch him up! Also, establishes that you are unequivocally in the p/n/e or p/e/n or whichever camp. I'm still good-nauredly pulling *cough* for a p/e friend n setup, but I know I'm outnumbered. And despite early Hollywood to the contrary, the odd man out has to have a girl, n'est-ce pas? Well, let's bring back Alex. She is classy!!
I smelled a really large mouse when Peter insisted on N and S going to dinner. It took N out of the way for awhile, true. Also Moz is missing. But where did Hughes go all that time? Was the Bureau going to let a building full of explosives and treasure just sit there all night unsupervised and unfound? Very thin. I have starts of several specs on that with no motivations.
Also N's pics. He had Nazi-spoil look-alikes (the problematic French impressionist sress-reducer, the nightmare Chrysler). Everything just dovetailed too too too, m'dear.
And Moz grew fangs.
But you are handling it all as well as it can be handled.

Thanks for taking the time to comment!

I must admit to a bit of confusion, though, as most of your comment seems to be about the actual Season 3.0 and not my story. :-)

It also sounds like you were caught off guard by the P/E/N nature of the story? I hope not. I did label it "pre-OT3." I should mention, btw, that I'm not really in *any* "camp." I happily read (and write) P/E with Neal friendship as well as P/E/N, Neal with other female characters, etc.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy the rest.

My apologies. Lack of sleep does all of the above to me. No offence intended. You had to lay the groundwork. And of course I knew it would be OT3. I think I was just flailing around for something to say, and I knew better than to do that when I fifty years younger than I am now.

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