?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
16 March 2014 @ 11:46 am
FIC: Bittersweet  
Title: Bittersweet
Author: pooh_collector
Rating: G
Characters/Pairing: Gen, Peter/El, Peter, Neal
Word Count: ~ 5,200
Spoilers: S5 finale
Warnings: Tissues will likely be required.
Summary: Written for Abduct-a-Palooza II at WhiteCollarHC. Neal is kidnapped and Peter never finds him. Five years go by, Neal is finally free and has made a new life for himself. And then he has an unexpected encounter.


Bittersweet

Peter stepped out of the Bittersweet Cafe and onto the sidewalk on Main Street. The sun was bright and the morning air was just a little crisp, foretelling of the autumn days that were on the horizon. Peter was beginning to see why El’s parents had chosen Colorado for their retirement. It was beautiful.

He turned north, looking up the street where small shops sat in a neat row. There was a barber shop just across the nearest side street complete with a red, white and blue striped pole. A man with dark hair, a slender frame and a cane was just walking passed it and Peter felt a chill creep up his spine, the touch of a ghost’s hand on his shoulder.

Unexpected tears pricked at his eyes. It had been a long time since he last thought he saw Neal in a crowd, or just around a corner.

When his former partner had originally been kidnapped, hardly a day went by that Peter didn’t see Neal somewhere, in a shop window, in a passing car, walking along the sidewalk. He had spent years searching for Neal and even more years still seeing the younger man out of the corner of his eye in both ordinary and the most unexpected of places, like walking down the street 4,000 miles from New York in a small town in Colorado.

Peter blinked away the wetness and looked again, but the man was too far down the street for Peter to get a good look at him. But it didn’t matter, Neal was gone.

***

There were hands holding him down with bruising force. He fought, pushing and pulling against them. He wheezed out a plea, struggling to bring the humid, warm air into his lungs. “Please, don’t. I won’t run again.”

“Now why would I take the word of a known conman?” Boots asked, this Southern accent drawing out every syllable. “I’m sorry sir, but there are no second chances here.”

He renewed his efforts, panic fueling his movements. The hold of his captors grew stronger. His right leg was pulled straight and tight. He tried to kick out, but the hands were too strong and then it was too late. The lead pipe struck his knee with blinding force and he screamed.

Nate woke from the nightmare fueled by memory with a start, his breathing ragged, his heart thumping wildly in his chest. Berthe didn’t even open an eye where she lay spinelessly curled on the end of the bed. She was used to her human companion’s nightmares. “Don’t let me disturb you,” Nate snarked, as he sat up against the headboard to catch his breath.

It was early, but too late to try to go back to sleep. Nate closed his eyes, rested his head against the headboard and took a moment to wash the vestiges of his dream away. Then he eased himself out of bed, grabbed his cane and stood. His knee protested, as it always did, but he ignored it and made his way slowly toward the bathroom, giving Berthe a rub behind her ears as he moved passed her. “Sharing my bed with a woman isn’t what it used to be,” he mused.

Thirty minutes later he left his small bungalow and headed the two blocks down to Main Street. It was a bright and beautiful late summer’s day with just a hint of crispness in the early morning air. A day very much like the one when he first came to Louisville almost two years ago.

As he approached Main, Nate swung into the back door of the Mercantile Building and made his way down the hallway to Vic’s.

When Jeannie spotted him she smiled. “Vanilla latte with almond milk, Nate?”

He nodded, returning the coffee shop manager’s smile. “Yes, please.”

While Nate waited he chatted amiably with a few of the regulars who were seated at the tables with their morning coffees, their laptops and their paperbacks. Nate never said anything much, he was a reserved man according to anyone who knew him, but he always had a smile and a hello or a word or two about the weather for his neighbors. He enjoyed being a regular guy with an ordinary life in small town America.

With his latte in hand, Nate left the shop, crossed the street and made his way down to the little framing store and gallery that he owned at the end of the shopping district.

When he reached the old-fashioned barber shop a strange feeling ran through him, like someone was watching, a ghost peering over his shoulder.

He shrugged it off and continued down the block. It had been a long time since anyone had been looking for him, hunting him.

Nate spent the morning in the shop's workroom with the part-time college student who helped him with stretching and framing. Then he spent the afternoon finalizing arrangements with the caterer and the two artists whose show would be opening tomorrow night on the monthly art walk evening.

Nate left the shop a little early in the capable hands of his assistant manager Amy, walked home, grabbed his gym bag and drove over to the Rec Center. He spent 45 minutes in the pool swimming slow laps back and forth as he tried to clear his mind of the detritus of the day. It was difficult with his knee, but exercise had always been an important part of his life and he was determined to keep his body as honed as he could.

Back at home Nate opened a can of food for Berthe and then made himself something to eat. He wasn’t very hungry, but he was perpetually underweight these days so he made the effort to prepare himself something healthy and satisfying each evening.

When dinner was done and the kitchen was straightened up, Nate picked up his sketch pad and settled down in his small living room. He flipped to a clean page and began to idly run the pencil across the white space. It wasn't until he was halfway through the drawing that he realized he was sketching his former partner. The older man was standing in profile, a rueful smile gracing his lips. Nate smiled sadly. It had been awhile since he had let himself think about his life before Colorado. His memories of those days were still bittersweet. He missed that life and the people he had shared it with, but there was no going back. His life, what it was, was here now.

***

After a day of hiking in Eldorado Canyon with Alan, Peter was beat. The hike up the canyon's switchbacks had been worth it for the breathtaking views of the Continental Divide, but, there really was something to the whole climbing at altitude thing. Unfortunately, he only had a few minutes to rest before he needed to get ready to go some art walk thing and then dinner at an Italian restaurant that El's mom claimed was better than anything they could get in New York.

Main Street was hopping when they arrived just after five. They were forced to park a couple of blocks away on a residential street thanks to all the people already dining in the numerous restaurants and perusing the galleries and little boutiques. They started at one end of the business district stopping in almost every little store along the way looking at the knickknacks, art pieces and jewelry on display. They almost passed Creative Framing by, assuming that it was just a framing store, but El glanced through the large front window and noticed several painting on display.

Inside the small shop was packed. There was obviously an opening going on, some 18 or so paintings were arranged on both the actual walls and on movable panels. Guests were examining the art with a drink in one hand and a hors d'oeuvre in the other.

El and her mom were immediately caught up in the event and Alan spied a neighbor across the room and wandered off to chat, leaving Peter to his own devices. He spotted the small bar and the table with finger foods next to it at the back of the shop and began making his way in that direction. As he walked a small cluster of patrons moved away from the table opening up his view and Peter recognized the man with the cane he had seen yesterday, standing at the corner of the table, his back once again to Peter.

This close, Peter was visited again by the ghost of Neal Caffrey. The man before him was leaner than Neal, but the same height. He had the same wavy dark hair and the way he held himself, despite the cane was spot on Caffrey.

Peter's steps faltered. Even after all this time, and it had been just over five years since Neal had been taken, his heart still hurt to think about the loss of the man he had called partner.

A beer seemed like an even better idea than it had moments ago, so Peter made his way to the bar and ordered an IPA from one of the local microbreweries.

As he turned back to the room, Peter caught the profile of the man with the cane, a wave-like curl of brown hair arcing over his forehead, one full, dark eyebrow, the sweep of ridiculously long eyelashes, an aquiline nose, a perfectly sculpted cheekbone and a beard tinged with grey. The profile of a man who now could only be Neal Caffrey.

Peter's breath caught, his heart stopped and he blinked to make sure that he was not just a victim of his own longing and vivid imagination. He was not.

***

Nate sensed he was being watched and caught the shadow of someone standing just at the edge of his vision. Before he even turned to look, he knew he had been discovered, again, by the only man with a flawless record of finding him.

Nate turned slowly, making sure to balance his weight on his cane and looked directly into the eyes of his former partner and friend. "Hello, Peter."

In turn Peter stood rooted to the spot, looking at Nate with shock and pain and astonishment in his eyes.

Nate went to Peter's side, took him by the elbow and led him from the gallery space and into a back room stocked with framing supplies and equipment along with a couple of large worktables. Nate shut and locked the door behind them.

They stood across from each other, just looking at each other for a couple of minutes. Nate felt his spine straighten and his defenses start to erect themselves in the face of Peter's scrutiny.

"Jesus, Neal," Peter finally said, his voice strained and soft.

And before Nate could do a thing to prevent it, he was engulfed in Peter's strong arms. Peter buried his face in Nate's neck and held him so tightly that Nate dropped his cane. The warmth of the hold and the obvious emotions behind it brought Nate back to another unexpected meeting on the parapet of a church in another country far away. He found himself doing the same thing he did on that day, slowly dropping his defenses and bringing his own arms up to hold Peter back just as tightly.

***

They stayed that way for a long time. When they finally parted Peter put his hand to his mouth, still dumbfounded by the fact, despite having just held him in his arms, that Neal was standing just before him.

"How?" Peter asked finally.

Neal shrugged. "I don't suppose you'll just accept it's complicated and let it go?"

Peter shook his head. "It's been more than five years. We looked for you, chased every lead, chased our tails around in circles. And, you've been here?"

Neal paled visibly. "No, not for long at least." Then he stumbled back to one of the drafting chairs that sat in front of the tables and sat heavily.

"What happened?" Peter asked again, pressing for information that Neal clearly didn't want to provide.

Neal shook his head again. "I haven't talked about it with anyone Peter. I'm not sure I can."

"You were kidnapped." Peter made sure the words came out as a statement and not a question.

Neal nodded.

"Who took you?"

"I never really knew. I had names that I called them in my head. But, they were careful. They never gave themselves away."

"Could you identify them now?"

"I could, but I won't," Neal replied steadfastly.

"Neal, we need to find them, arrest them," Peter argued adamantly.

"No, we don't. I'm not Neal Caffrey anymore and I don't intend to be ever again. If I press charges, identify my kidnappers, I'll have to go back."

"Neal, we can protect you."

"It's not about that, Peter, I'm not afraid of them coming after me." Neal sighed. This was the part he couldn't explain, the part he knew Peter would never understand. "I don't want to go back. I've made a life here. I'm Nate Connelly now."

Peter blinked, more confused by the sight of Neal before him than he was back out in the gallery. "El, Mozzie, June, Diana, Jones, we've been mourning you for five years, Neal."

"I know and I'm sorry about that, I really am." Neal took a deep breath and continued. "But, Neal is dead, Peter. He died in a five by five cement storage room in Kansas City four years ago. And, I want him to stay dead. I need him to stay dead."

“Neal…” Peter began.

Neal shook his head. “No Peter, you’re not going to change my mind. Neal Caffrey is dead and no one can know that I used to be him once upon a time. I need you to promise me you won’t tell anyone, and I need you to leave.”

Peter stared at his former partner, the man he had loved like an annoying younger brother, the man he still loved and still mourned every day. “Do you have any idea what you’re asking?”

“I do,” Neal answered. And, Peter could hear it in his voice, the truth and the sincerity. Neal had been mourning too. “And, I’m asking anyway.”

Peter nodded once and then walked to the door, unlocked it and left the room. El, her mom and Alan were waiting for him, filled with questions about where he had been. Peter brushed them off and then led them out of the store and down the street to the restaurant without uttering a word.

That night in the bed they were sharing in the guestroom of the nicely finished, recently constructed home El’s parents had purchased in a new development, El turned to Peter and asked, “What happened in the framing store, Peter?”

Peter sighed and stared into his wife’s beautiful blue eyes. They were so like Neal’s, or Nate’s. Peter wasn’t sure what to call him or whether he was going to be able to keep what happened today a secret from everyone who loved Neal and missed him so fiercely. “I’m not really sure, hon. And, I don’t think I can talk about it yet.”

El leaned into him and kissed him lightly. “I’m here when you’re ready,” she said after breaking the kiss.

“I love you.” Peter said, pulling her into his arms.

“I love you too. Let’s get some sleep. This mountain air is exhausting.”

Peter chuckled. “It’s your parents that are exhausting.”

***

After the shop was closed and Nate was finally able to make his way home to the safety of his bungalow, he let himself break down. He dropped into the Queen Anne chair in his small living room and sobbed. After a few minutes Berthe came and sat on the arm of the chair, rubbing up against him with her furry cheeks. He petted her absently as the tears carrying his pain, regret, grief and anger poured from his eyes.

Eventually, the overwhelming sensation of hurt subsided back to the dull throb that seemed to constantly live inside him. He picked up Berthe and held her close for a couple of minutes letting her purring soothe him. Then he set her down and got ready for bed.

Sleep unfortunately was elusive. It used to be that every time he closed his eyes he saw the men who had taken him, the small room where they held him most of the time, the all too vivid image of the lead pipe smashing his knee, the taunting looks, the hope in his own eyes dying. But now all he saw was the look on Peter’s face just before he left the workroom. The last thing he wanted to do was cause Peter more pain. The last thing he wanted to do was cause himself more pain.

In the morning, instead of getting up and going to the shop, he called Amy and asked her to open up for him, telling her that he felt a touch of the flu coming on and that he would be fine by Sunday. Then he made himself a cup of coffee and a couple of pieces of toast and tried to quiet his mind with a book on the patio at the back of the house.

At 10:30 his doorbell rang. He knew who was there. He hesitated a moment and then realized there was no way he could avoid another conversation with Peter. He left his untouched breakfast and his book on the garden table, grabbed his cane and made his methodical way to the front of the house.

When the front door opened Peter was almost surprised. Part of him expected Neal to ignore any entreaties, part of him believed that Neal would be gone, having run to somewhere else in the middle of the night. “May I come in,” he asked when Neal stood before him with only the screen door separating them.

Neal pushed the door open and awkwardly stepped aside to allow Peter to enter.

The younger man looked different in the soft morning light filtering into the little house’s windows, tired and drawn.

“Have a seat,” Neal said as he made his way over to the loveseat, leaving Peter with the rocking chair or a straight-backed Queen Anne. The room was cozy, with a small fireplace, the three places to sit and two small tables strategically placed. There were bookshelves on two walls filled with volumes and more books piled on the floor in front of them. It was exactly the kind of place Peter expected Neal to live. Peter sat in the Queen Anne and looked over at Neal who was sitting straight, a defensive look gleaming from his eyes.

“How did you find my house, Peter?”

“I went by the shop, you weren’t there, so I made a call and got the address of Nate Connelly. I’m still an FBI agent.”

Neal nodded. “I had hoped you would have respected my request last night.”

“Did you really think I was going to be able to walk away so easily?”

“After the way you left the shop last night, I had hoped so.”

A black and white tuxedo cat sauntered into the room, jumped up onto the loveseat next to Neal and curled up against his thigh.

Peter took the new development as chance to change tactics. “What’s his name?”

Neal put a hand on the cat, scratching her cheek. “Her,” he replied. “Berthe.”

“Berthe?”

“After Berthe Morisot.”

Peter nodded and smirked. “You’re still Neal Caffrey.”

Neal turned and looked out the window on the side of the house. “No, I’m really not. I’m just a quiet man, living a quiet life, in a quiet small town.”

“And you’re happy here?”

“Yes,” Neal replied too quickly. He couldn’t keep the defensiveness from his voice.

Peter nodded in a way that made it clear he had heard it.

“Look Peter, I don’t know what you want to hear, what you need me to say to convince you that I have no intention of going back, of being Neal Caffrey ever again.”

“I don’t know if that’s really your choice, Neal.”

Neal pushed himself up off of the sofa. “My name is Nate!” He yelled with more anguish than anger in his voice. Then he turned away from Peter, balancing heavily on his cane. “You can’t make me go back. Don’t make me leave Louisville. Don’t force me to run.”

Neal was shaking now, Peter could see his shoulders vibrating from where he sat. He stood and went to his former partner, placing his hand on his back gently.

Neal flinched, despite the softness of Peter’s touch, and looked even more unsteady. “Would you please sit back down? I don’t want you to fall and hurt yourself.”

Neal huffed out a shuddering breath, turned and maneuvered back down onto the loveseat. Berthe had abandoned her place when Neal had jumped up, so Peter took her former spot next to Neal. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have threatened you.”

Neal propped his arms up on his thighs and dropped his head into his hands.

“No, you had no right,” Neal replied.

Then Peter heard a muffled sniffle and Neal’s shoulders shook again.

Neal couldn’t help himself. Since his kidnapping, since the years of captivity and torment, his emotions had lived just below the surface and now with Peter sitting next to him, he couldn’t help but grieve for the life he was forced to leave behind, the friends and family that he was forced to live without. He cried hard and this time when Peter laid his hand on his back, Neal accepted the comfort, realizing that before Peter had held him just the day before, it had been five very long years since he had felt the touch of anyone who loved him.

Before he could stop himself he turned into Peter, tucking his head against Peter’s chest and let his tears soak into Peter’s polo shirt.

Peter wrapped his other arm around Neal and held him, shedding a quiet tear or two of his own while Neal wept. Despite the cane, despite the leaner more worn body, despite the drawn look to Neal’s face, it was only now, with Neal crying in his arms that Peter truly began to understand what Neal had gone through these past five years.

“I’m sorry, Neal, I’m so, so sorry for everything you’ve been through,” he muttered, as he rocked Neal gently.

Eventually, the tears stopped and Neal’s emotions settled. He held on for a few more minutes, letting himself absorb the memory of Peter’s arms around him one last time.

Then he sat up and grabbed a tissue from the box on the table next to him. He wiped his eyes and blew his nose and then looked up at Peter. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” Peter looked around the room and then back at Neal. “Explain it to me, please.”

“I’m not sure I can.”

“I deserve that much, if I’m going to keep your secret.”

Neal smiled gratefully. “You do.”

Neal settled back against the sofa and eased his bad knee out in front of him.

“Nate Connelly is a simple guy. He owns a small bungalow and framing shop. He’s kind to his employees and the regulars at his local coffee shop seem to find him amiable. He knows a little about art and likes to help local artists promote their work. He’s reserved but friendly and no one thinks about him at all when he’s out of sight.” Neal turned to look at Peter again.

“He’s not infamous. He’s not the kind of guy who has friends in all the wrong places. He’s not the kind of guy that anyone would ever think to kidnap, to hold against his will, to torture, to torment, to shatter his kneecap.”

Neal was crying again, silent tears sliding down from his red-rimmed eyes. “I’m safe here Peter. And as long as I’m Nate Connelly so are you and El, and Moz and June.” Neal wiped fruitlessly at his eyes. “I know it’s not the best life, but it’s the life I need.”

Three years ago, June had come to Peter and told him that she was going to hold a memorial service for Neal. She told him that she would always hold some hope in her heart that Neal was out there somewhere, but the fact that he hadn’t communicated with them at all in two years made her believe that it was time to let him go. Peter hadn’t agreed, but he had accepted her wishes and had gone to the service with El on his arm. Standing in front of a room full of people who had known Neal, and many who had loved him, he spoke about their long journey together and the memories his speech evoked along with the knowledge that he would never share another moment with the smart, sexy, infuriating, loyal and gifted man who was Neal Caffrey ever again broke his heart.

And, now sitting next to Neal on the loveseat listening to him describe who he had crafted himself to be now, the lonely life that he had willingly chosen, Peter’s heart broke a second time.

“Oh Neal,” Peter didn’t know what to say, how to tell Neal that he shared his grief, because Neal was right, Peter didn’t really understand, couldn’t understand, because he hadn’t had to live through the hell that Neal had.

“I’m sorry. I know that isn’t much, isn’t nearly enough, but it’s true.”

“It’s not your fault, Peter.”

“If I had found a way to get your sentence commuted…”

“Stop. I don’t need you to take the blame. I don’t need you to try and come up with some scenario where my kidnapping could have been prevented. I took that route a million times over while I was imprisoned. It didn’t help then, it won’t help now. It’s done. But, I won’t let it happen ever again. I won’t go back.”

Peter nodded. “Can we talk about other options?”

Neal sighed. “I’ve spent years looking at this from every angle. I know I wasn’t fair to you or anyone I left behind, but I did what I had to, for all of us.”

“But we can figure out a way to keep in touch. And, I can tell June and Mozzie and El at least that your still alive and that you’re okay.” There was no way Peter could let Neal go completely out of his life again, not knowing how alone Neal was, how fragile.

“This is why I prayed you would never find me.” Neal replied.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have moved to the town Money Magazine named best place to live in America three years running.”

Neal snorted. “I thought that might bite me in the ass one day.”

“Neal, I’m not going to abandon you.” Peter said with defiant conviction, breaking the momentary lightness that had fallen on the room.

Neal smiled sadly. “You didn’t abandon me Peter. And, you’re not now. But, I need you to forget about Nate Connelly. I need you to let Neal Caffrey rest in peace.”

“Please, don’t ask me to do that.” Peter begged.

“I don’t want to, but it’s the best thing for all of us.”

“I can’t believe that Neal, that you’re better off by yourself, with no one.”

“Maybe not, but it’s the way I need it be.”

Peter took a deep breath. Clearly there was no talking Neal out of his convictions. But, he knew where Neal was, what his name was now, and he had the resources at his disposal to keep tabs on him, make sure that he was okay, contact him if he needed to. Hell, he had Google. So he would keep his peace for now. “I don’t like it. But, I’ll accept it.”

“Thank you, Peter.”

“Can I ask one thing in return?”

Neal shrugged noncommittally.

“El and her parents went off to spend the day in Rocky Mountain National Park. They won’t be back for hours yet. Can we have lunch, and just be with each other for a little while.”

Neal smiled, a genuine Neal Caffrey smile. “I would like that.”

They spent the remainder of the morning and most of the afternoon sitting outside on Neal’s deck reminiscing and getting Neal caught up on the comings and goings of everyone in New York. There were more tears and a lot of laughter in those hours they were together. It was the best time Peter could remember having in more than five long years. As 5 o’clock approached, he finished the glass of wine he had been nursing and stood. “I should be going. El and her parents will be back soon.”

Neal nodded and stood too. They walked back through the house together to Neal’s front door. This time it was Neal who took Peter in his arms and hugged the older man tightly. “Thank you, Peter, for everything.”

Peter nodded into Neal’s shoulder. “Goodbye, Neal.”

***

Two days later Peter and El returned to New York. He didn’t tell El that Neal was still alive, he didn’t tell anyone as much as it pained him not to. But, true to his promise to himself he started keeping tabs on Neal. Creative Framing had a facebook page to advertise their openings and exhibits, and he checked the feed every couple of days. There was also the occasional random check on property sales in Louisville, which were part of the public record.

Peter didn’t want Neal to know that he was keeping an eye out, but he needed to know that Neal was okay, or that at least he still had the sense of safety that he needed. It was torturous to keep his knowledge of Neal’s whereabouts to himself, but he hoped that one day, with time, Neal would feel secure enough to contact him, even if it was just an anonymous email. It would be a start.

Two months after his return from Colorado, the week before Thanksgiving, Peter’s hopes were dashed. Creative Framing’s facebook page announced that the shop was under new ownership. Peter quickly opened a new browser page, went onto Louisville’s .gov website and looked at the property sale listings. The sale on Neal’s little bungalow had been closed two days previously. He was gone.

Peter closed his laptop, turned his back to the glass windows overlooking the bullpen and let his grief well over. When it finally eased, Peter looked out over the New York skyline. He was thankful now that he had known Neal Caffrey, that he had chased him, and jailed him and had made him his partner. He was thankful for Neal’s friendship and for his loyalty, his sharp mind and his clever wit. He was thankful that he had had the chance to get to know Nate Connelly, the quiet man, with a quiet life, from a quiet town and that he had had the opportunity to share a warm, late summer’s day with him. They were gifts, the times he had spent with these two men that he would always keep with him.

 
 
 
kanarek13kanarek13 on March 16th, 2014 06:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, God, you weren't kidding with the tissue warning... damn *sniff*

It's so beautifully written and so heartbreaking, I will be crying whenever I read this story again or just think about it, awwwww. But I also take comfort in the fact that at least Neal is alive and he is free and maybe he will finally find his happiness.

Awwww *cuddles her tissue box*

Such strong emotions, awww. Thank you so much for posting ♥
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on March 22nd, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC)
THANK YOU!!!

I'm so glad you liked it, even if you did need tissue box cuddles.
ascendmeplzascendmeplz on March 16th, 2014 06:15 pm (UTC)
Omg... *sobs*

That was equally beautiful and heartbreaking. Need h/c fluff in 3...2...1...
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on March 22nd, 2014 08:38 pm (UTC)
LOL!

So glad you liked it.

Thanks for reading and commenting.
elrhiarhodanelrhiarhodan on March 16th, 2014 06:33 pm (UTC)
Damn you, you little bear! Is this payback for all the times you've made me cry?

/hugs you

It's so beautiful and plausible and I can see this happening. The grief is just perfectly under the surface, waiting to come up and bite.

I can only hope that someday, Neal will feel safe enough to come home to the people who love him.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on March 22nd, 2014 08:40 pm (UTC)
THIS IS PAYBACK!!!

Thank you for the wonderful comment. I really value your thoughts.

To sequel or not to sequel? That is the question.
angelita26: Neal Sadangelita26 on March 16th, 2014 07:00 pm (UTC)
Oh, no. Come back Neal! Please! Or Nate - I'll call you Nate, I promise. Just don't disappear again :(

I'm so sad right now for so many reasons. I'm glad that Neal was able to escape his kidnappers, but I wish he hadn't had to choose a lonely life for himself. And I wish that he'd let Peter keep in touch.

I love how you got them together again though - a chance meeting during an art walk. That's just so perfect. Loved, loved, loved it.

But I'm still sad. *sniffs*
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on March 22nd, 2014 08:42 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry I made you sad sweet ang!

But, I'm glad you liked it and that some of the touches spoke to you.

Thank you for reading!!!!
algeibanalgeiban on March 16th, 2014 07:18 pm (UTC)
So sad and so beautiful.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on March 22nd, 2014 08:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading and commenting!
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelfembroiderama on March 22nd, 2014 09:57 pm (UTC)
This is beautiful but GAH so heartbreaking. It feels very realistic that Neal would keep himself apart from his friends like that but at the same time I so want everything to be fixed. I'm not sure who I'm saddest for--Neal being alone or Peter bearing the burden of that knowledge or the others who still think Neal is dead. *sigh* Fantastic job!
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on March 29th, 2014 02:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!

This was a tough one to write. I cried for both them during the process.

I'm glad you thought it was realistic. And, I'm glad that you like it.
Kerstinkerrylang on March 29th, 2014 11:46 am (UTC)
My heart's breaking for Neal and Peter. I thought, okay, Peter can still keep tracks on Neal but then you made Neal run again :(. He was okay there in Louisville, where did he go now?

I would love a sequel, maybe not a Neal comes back to NYC and everything is okay again, but at least something that makes it all better.

But with or without a happy ending, this story is woderful and really bittersweet, thanks for writing and sharing.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on March 29th, 2014 02:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

I'm still wavering on whether or not I'm going to write a sequel. But, I'm thinking about it.