?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
10 November 2013 @ 09:07 am
FIC: Hope Is the Thing with Feathers that Perches in the Soul  
Title: Hope Is the Thing with Feathers that Perches in the Soul
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: None
Genre: H/C, emotional H/C, friendship, AU, Halloween fic so some somewhat supernatural stuff.
Pairings: OT3
Word Count: ~ 6,300
Spoilers: Nothing specific. This takes places pre-Peter’s incarceration.
Summary: A response to a prompt from kanarek13 in the Halloween Mini PrompFest. The prompt is in the endnotes, because it may or may not spoil the fic a bit.


Hope Is the Thing with Feathers that Perches in the Soul

In Between

“Caffrey, your lawyer is here.”

Neal breathed a sigh of relief. The day was drawing to a close and Neal was running out of time. He didn’t think Mozzie would let him down, but unpredictable things happened, Neal himself was proof of that.

The guards shackled Neal and led him from his cell down to the visitation room. Mozzie was a sight for sore eyes sitting at the wooden table, dressed in his brown wool suit and maroon bow tie. His briefcase and a takeout container sat on the table in front of him.

Neal could smell the distinctive odor of the Colcannon and its potatoes, cabbage and onion from across the room. Despite the nausea that always plagued him on All Hallows Eve, the scent was welcome. Neal was never certain whether the nausea was a manifestation of his anxiety or a result of his precarious condition, but in the end he supposed it hardly mattered.

He was unshackled and then sat down across from Mozzie. “Glad you could make it,” he snarked. Neal was trying to keep it casual, but he could hear the tension he still felt leak into his words.

“I’ve been here for hours. Do you have any idea how hard it was to convince the guards that you would actually want to eat this stuff? Moz replied his nose crinkled in distaste as he pushed the Styrofoam clamshell toward Neal. “I’m amazed they didn’t shred the container looking for hidden messages or miniaturized keys.”

Neal leaned across the table toward his friend. “Don’t give them any ideas, please,” he whispered.

Mozzie glanced up nervously at the guard standing next to the door and then nodded to Neal.

“You cooked it in the usual way?” Neal asked softly.

“Of course,” Mozzie replied sporting his best offended look. “What would be that point of going through all this,” Moz indicated the prison visitation room, the reeking container and his no doubt scratchy suit by waving both arms around him, “if I wasn’t going to cook it according to the ‘recipe’?”

Neal shook his head and huffed in amusement at Mozzie’s comment. He could actually hear the quotation marks around the word recipe in Moz’s voice.

They talked idly for a few more minutes until their time was up. Then Neal wrapped his hands gratefully around the container. “Thank you, Moz.”

Moz simply nodded in response, unable to meet the appreciative gaze of his preternaturally pale friend. He understood the gravity of the situation, he had been there after all on that first All Hallows Eve, but it wasn’t easy to acknowledge that you literally held your best friend’s life in your hands.

On his way back to his cell, Neal held the small white container close to his chest and breathed a sigh of relief. He would have another year.

Then

“You do see the irony in all of this, don’t you?” Mozzie asked as he hovered over Neal’s shoulder.

Neal sighed and looked up from the handwriting sample he was attempting to recreate.

“Irony, Moz? I don’t really think that’s the word you were going for, coincidence maybe?”

Moz turned away and paced the small room for a moment considering Neal’s words. “I’ll grant you that it is certainly coincidental that we’re planning to steal the most famous manuscript about the undead on All Hallows Eve. But, you are totally missing the irony here, Neal.”

“Oh?”

“We’re stealing a book written by a dead guy, about an undead guy so that we can go on living… in the style that we’ve become accustomed to.”

“Considering that we frequently allegedly steal,” Neal corrected, “things created by dead guys so that we can continue to live in the style we’ve become accustomed to Moz, I don’t see this scenario as being particularly ironic.”

“Well, then clearly there’s irony in the fact that you don’t see the irony.” Moz concluded. “’The supreme irony of life is that hardly anyone gets out of it alive.’ Remember that mon frère.” Mozzie extolled as he gathered up his bag and headed for the door of the small apartment they had rented in the heart of Dublin. “I’m off to allegedly acquire a few supplies for our project. “

Neal rolled his eyes and resumed his task. This was the final stage in completing the forged manuscript that they would be replacing for the original 541 pages of Dracula, or as Stoker initially titled it The Un-Dead. He needed to get the hand-written title page correct on the first try or their quest to replace the real manuscript would certainly go awry.

It was bad enough that they had taken the job on commission. It always made him nervous when a job wasn’t really his, his desire, his plan, his timeline. And, to add insult to injury their employer had insisted that they use his man, or woman in this case, on their team. Apparently, she had an inside track on the intricate security system in the old, large and apparently well secured Trinity College Library.

To top it off Aislinn turned out to be… odd was the best way Neal could describe her. When he and Moz met with her previously to work out the final details of their plan she had seemed anxious, distracted, and vague about how she planned to help them get past the security guards. Her long red hair hung in tangles around her fair face and her light blue eyes looked almost feral. The encounter did not fill Neal with confidence.

Neal shook his head to clear his thoughts and bent over his work trying to focus on the task at hand. He only had a few hours left to complete his forgery before he and Moz would meet up with Aislinn to acquire the famous manuscript.

Hours later, not long before midnight Neal, Mozzie and Aislinn were making their way to the Manuscripts and Archives Research Library in the West End of the Old Library. With help from Aislinn on the workings of the security system Mozzie had managed to bypass the surveillance cameras by setting up a feedback loop through the system’s main junction box on the exterior of the building even though it was well hidden behind the forest of ivy that scaled the old bricks.

Now their only, but unenviable task was to avoid the guards who walked the halls at regular intervals as they passed through the gift shop, up the marble stairs, through the heavy oaken doors at the end of the Long Room, down the stairs to the wood paneled West Pavilion and then up the lift to the First Floor. Clearly the building hadn’t seen the hand of an architect since 1592.

It was tricky, the timing intricate, but Aislinn was true to her word and they managed to make their way to the room that housed the manuscript without being spotted. There was a tense moment in the vaulted Long Room when Neal was certain that the guard passing through the other end of the hall had seen them, it appeared to Neal that he had looked right at them and then hesitated. Moz and Neal froze. Neal didn’t even dare to breathe. But, Aislinn waved her hand slowly before her and muttered something softly into the air. And then the guard turned away from them and moved out of the room continuing his rounds.

Moz looked at Neal, his eyes so large that Neal could see right through them to the wild theories about their accomplice that were bubbling up in his friend’s brain. Neal shook his head, now was not the time to let their imaginations run wild, even if it was All Hallows Eve and even if Aislinn really did seem to fit the stereotype of a modern day Celtic witch.

In the Manuscripts and Archives Research Library, Neal and Mozzie set to work, removing the glass case around The Un-Dead, carefully retrieving the manuscript, replacing it with Neal’s forgery and then replacing the casing. Neither man initially noticed when Aislinn slipped away behind some shelving. But, when they had completed their task and she was nowhere to be seen Mozzie looked panicked and Neal could do nothing but throw his hands up in exasperation.

“Where the hell is she?” Mozzie whispered in exasperation.

“I don’t know, but we need to find her now.”

Without further discussion they moved in opposite directions to scour the room and look through the stacks row by row. Just as Neal gave up the search and was turning back to get Mozzie to try to make their escape on their own, Aislinn appeared, her eyes bright, almost glowing in the dark library carrying a large and by all appearances very old book carefully in both hands. She had it pressed closely up against her chest but Neal glimpsed a title written in Gaelic on the spine.

Neal glowered and grabbed her by the arm pulling her toward Moz and their escape route. Obviously Aislinn had had her own agenda and Neal was furious that he and Moz had been kept out of the loop.
And, now the timing of the whole heist was screwed.

They made it to the ancient lift without a problem, but halfway between the first and ground floors it groaned to a stop with an audible grinding of gears and a cough from the pre-19th century motor. The lights went out immediately after.

Neal heard Aislinn gasp and Moz begin to mumble under his breath. But Neal didn’t hesitate. He grabbed the flashlight out his bag and the multi tool from his pocket and went to work on removing the control panel and exposing the lift’s wiring. It was as Neal suspected, obscenely old and he spent longer than he wanted to trying to figure out which wires were connected to the door mechanism. Finally he stripped the two wires that he needed to connect to override the circuit and touched them together.

The last thing Neal was aware of was a blinding flash of white light, a pain unlike anything he had ever known before coursing through his whole body and the smell of his own flesh cooking.

Much later Mozzie would tell him a fantastic tale of the elevator sinking down to the ground floor and the door sliding open, of a narrow escape from the university grounds, of witches and ancient Samhain rituals, of a dead conman returned to the land of the living through an incomprehensible magic. And because it was Moz, Neal would never really know how much of the tale was true and how much was the product of Mozzie’s sensational imagination, but he was certain of one thing, he had been dead.

He wasn’t sure how or why he was so convinced of it, he hadn’t found himself in any brightly lit tunnels, he hadn’t seen angels or more appropriately in his case demons, he hadn’t actually experienced anything at all. Maybe he had only been mostly dead, like Westly in the Princess Bride and that was why it had been possible to bring him back. He didn’t know, honestly he didn’t want to know, he just wanted to go on living. And the only way for that to happen was for him to partake of Colcannon prepared in the ancient way over an open fire in a skillet pot with a round bottom, three short legs and two ear-like handles every year at midnight as All Hallows Eve became Samhain.

Now

Neal couldn’t have been more excited when Peter told him that they were going to Boston. He hadn’t left the confines the greater NYC area since his return from his little island adventure. And, fall was an absolutely amazing time to be driving through New England with the crisp, clear blue sky and the leaves brilliantly painted in reds, oranges and golds.

He was almost too excited by the prospect to sleep the night before the trip, despite his position spooned between Elizabeth and Peter, the feel of her silken hair against his cheek and the warmth of Peter’s hand heavy on his hip. But, along with his excitement, Neal felt a flutter of worry. They would be leaving on Wednesday, October 30th.

It was planned to be a short mid-week hop. Thankfully, Peter didn’t want to be away from the office for long. The idea was to drive up in the morning and then give Neal the afternoon and most of the next day to examine an illuminated manuscript that had recently been donated to the Museum of Fine Arts to determine its authenticity. It was Celtic and supposedly dated to around the same time as the Book of Kells, 800 ACE.

The irony of the approach of All Hallows Eve and illuminated Celtic manuscripts was not lost on Neal.

He had to be back in New York before midnight on the 31st. Boston might be the center of Irish heritage in the New World but Neal still doubted he would be able to find a skillet pot and a place to make an open fire in the heart of downtown should they be delayed on their return.

The trip up to Boston was as lovely as Neal imagined it would be. The weather was perfect, the sky blue, the air crisp, the trees along the turnpike brilliant. Neal spent the entire drive with his eyes glued out the passenger side window.

They made excellent time and Neal spent the entire afternoon with his nose bent over the manuscript, his white gloved hands reverently turning each page as he examined the ancient text.

When they finished for the day, with promises of a full report on the morrow, Peter took Neal to a French bistro several blocks from their hotel. The moon hung heavy and brilliant in the night sky and Peter held Neal’s hand as they walked, an indulgence that he never would have engaged in in Manhattan. Neal reveled in the simple touch, the statement of love that Peter was willing to make in public, even if it wasn’t exactly their usual public.

They had a wonderful, leisurely meal where they talked, teased and laughed. Halfway through the main course, Neal had a sudden realization; this was why he was still alive. Peter’s eyes were glowing in the candlelight, a warm and very affectionate smile gracing his lips and Neal knew that this night with Peter, this love that they shared between them and with Elizabeth was why he came back from that awful night those many years ago.

He also knew that someday he would have to tell Peter and El the truth about what he was, whatever that might actually be. He would leave out the details of his alleged involvement with the theft of a certain original Bram Stoker manuscript, but the rest of what happened to him that night, they should know. Even if he was far too afraid of their reaction to this revelation to tell them yet. Their romance was not even a year old, this would in fact be the first All Hallows Eve that he would need to perform his ritual since they became them, and Neal needed some time to feel more secure with his place in their lives before he could give up that ghost.

After dinner, back in their hotel room, Peter took Neal. There was no other way for Neal to phrase the surprising way that Peter had dominated him, stripping Neal of his suit, pushing him down on the bed with an animalistic growl and covering Neal with his own body. Neal had no choice but to submit to Peter’s passionate persuasion. Peter owned him and not because of the anklet and a deal signed and sealed with the FBI.

Neal had never been happier that Peter had agreed to that deal and that Peter and El had taken him into their hearts and their lives as Peter powerfully and steadily thrust his way into Neal’s willing body bringing him to heights of pleasure and fulfillment that Neal had never before known. He had never felt more wanted or loved in his life then he did in the moment that Peter came inside him crying out Neal’s name.

~~~~

It didn’t take long at all for Neal to complete his work the next morning and declare the manuscript to be authentic. It didn’t hurt the speed of Neal’s process at all that he was more than anxious to be back on the road to New York. Despite the feeling of security and warmth Neal had experienced only hours before in Peter’s arms, Neal woke with his usual queasiness and a stab of anxiety about the hours of driving they had ahead of them to reach the city before the day was done.

They were on the road by noon. This time Neal didn’t seem to have it in him to appreciate the scenery despite the beautiful day. His anxiety ate at him, making him fidgety and fretful. As he leaned over to play with the radio for the fifth time since they left Boston, Peter batted his hand away.

“Quit it. What’s eating you today?” Peter asked furrowing his brow as he glanced over at Neal.

“Nothing,” Neal replied, too quickly.

“You’ve had ants in your pants all morning. Something is going on.”

Neal sighed heavily and turned his head to look out the passenger window. “It’s nothing really. I’m just anxious to get back to New York. I guess I’m not in the mood to spend four hours trapped in the car today.”

Neal kept his eyes pointed out the window but he could feel Peter’s gaze burrowing into the back of his head as he scrutinized his partner.

They were on I-84 having just crossed from Massachusetts into Connecticut when Peter let out a quiet curse. “Damn.”

Neal pulled his eyes away from the view outside the window, his stomach flip flopping dangerously. “What?”

“The check engine light just came on.”

Neal swallowed hard.

“It’s probably nothing, I’ll get it checked out when we get back to the city.”

Peter seemed unperturbed, but Neal’s heart was racing and he had to swallow again to push down the bile that was rising in his throat.

Peter glanced over at Neal, his eyes searching. “You don’t look good.”

Neal rolled his eyes in an attempt to deflect. “Thanks, Peter. Love you too.”

“I’m serious, you don’t look well. You haven’t all morning. What’s going on?”

“I’m a little nauseated, okay? It must have been something I ate for breakfast.”

Peter looked skeptical. “I might buy that if you had actually eaten anything for breakfast.”

Neal scowled and turned his head back toward the window refusing to admit to Peter, or himself for that matter how difficult this day was turning out to be.

They drove in silence for another 15 minutes while Neal’s anxiety and the urge to throw up grew. Suddenly, what little he had eaten for breakfast that morning was rising up in his throat.

“Peter, pull over!”

Peter took one look at Neal’s blanched face and made for the shoulder of the highway. The car hadn’t even come to a complete stop before Neal was out of the door and leaning over the guardrail throwing up.

Peter quickly shut off the car, got out and circled around to his partner. He rubbed Neal’s back as the younger man continued to heave onto the ground beside the road.

Neal shook as he expelled what little was in his belly. His stomach clenched and then clenched again and one more time before it finally seemed to settle and he was able to turn away from the mess he had left in the grass. His pale forehead was coated in a sheen of cold sweat and he shivered. He made his way back to the car and plopped down on the side of the passenger seat, his legs still on the ground outside the vehicle, his head bent and resting in his cupped hands.

Peter knelt down in front of him placing his hands gently on Neal’s knees. “Neal, is this about last night?” Peter asked tentatively. “Did I hurt you?”

Neal looked up at Peter surprised that the older man thought that he had done anything at all wrong the night before. He covered his partner’s hands with his own in what he hoped was a reassuring gesture. “No, Peter of course not. Last night was unexpected, but wonderful in every way. I loved every minute of it.” He smiled at Peter, knowing it was a feeble imitation of his usual grin, but it was the best he had to offer at the moment.

Peter nodded, a small smile replacing his worried frown. “Let’s get you home.”

Neal sighed in relief and slid fully into the car. Peter closed his door for him and then climbed back in on the driver’s side. The keys were still in the ignition and Peter twisted them around to start the engine. And, nothing happened. Not a whine, a rumble or a purr. Peter grunted and gave it another try. Still nothing.

Neal would have thrown up again, if he could. “Peter?” He breathed.

Peter patted Neal’s knee and said, “I’m sure it’s fine. I’ll go take a look under the hood.”

Peter popped the hood release, stepped back out of the car and disappeared from Neal’s sight.

Despite the traffic moving just outside the car on the highway, the only thing Neal could hear was his heart thudding rapidly in his chest and his shallow, ragged breathing. It was now just after two in the afternoon, they still had plenty of time to travel the remaining distance home, but Neal felt panic edging its way into his thoughts nonetheless. Everything was going to be fine, he just had to keep it together for a few more hours. Peter would find a way to get them home, he would perform his midnight ritual and then he would go over to Peter and El’s and ask his lover for an encore of last night’s performance. Everything would be fine.

Neal was trying to distract himself with memories of Peter’s hands and mouth on him when Peter jumped back into the car.

Peter looked at Neal critically, Neal’s cheeks had flushed in the short time he had been gone and the rosy color stood out in stark contrast to Neal’s otherwise ashen complexion. “Are you getting a fever?”

Neal shook his head. “What’s going on with the car?”

“No idea. I’m going to have a call for a tow.”

“How long is that going to take?” Neal asked trying to keep his anxiety out of his voice.

Peter shrugged and then lifted the back of his hand to Neal’s forehead. Neal’s skin was clammy, but cool. “I’m going to get you home as soon as I can, okay?”

Neal nodded, swallowing down his fear.

Peter pulled out his cell, searched for a local tow service and then made the call. It took three tries to find a service that would come onto the highway at all and then Peter nearly blew the whole deal when he yelled at the dispatcher over the exorbitant interstate upcharge.

Then they waited in the car for another 45 minutes for the truck to arrive. Eventually they got the Taurus loaded onto the back of the flatbed and Peter and Neal clambered into the cab with the driver.

“Is your friend okay?” The driver, Kenny asked as he started up his truck. “I noticed the throw up on the side of the road. I don’t want to get nothin’ communicable.”

Peter looked over at Neal, who had grown more and more miserable looking with every passing moment. The younger man was pressed up against the passenger side door of the truck, his head resting awkwardly on the window.

Peter didn’t want to risk getting them kicked out of the truck so he pulled a Neal Caffrey and smoothly prevaricated, “He’s fine, he ate some bad seafood in Boston last night.”

Kenny nodded, put the truck in gear and headed off to the repair shop.

While Neal sat in an uncomfortable molded plastic chair in the waiting area of the garage, Peter moved back and forth between his partner and the bay where the Taurus sat on the lift worrying about both of them enough to elevate his blood pressure into the stratosphere. Midafternoon gave way to late afternoon, gave way to early evening while Ron, the mechanic tried to suss out the problem with the car.

After a particularly long conference with Ron, Peter returned to the dingy waiting area that smelled like oil and burnt coffee where Neal sat alone. He was hunched in the hard chair, nearly folded in on himself while tears quietly streamed down his pale face.

“Neal?” Peter knelt in front of his partner and took one of Neal’s freezing hands in his own.

Neal looked up bleakly. Peter had never seen a look like it on the face of anyone he loved and he thought he would do anything to make it go away.

“Please Peter, please.”

“What Neal, what do you need?”

“Please take me home.” He murmured behind a stifled sob. “I don’t want to die here,” he continued, letting the truth slip unfiltered from his lips.

Peter couldn’t help himself, he didn’t care where they were or who might see, he put his arms around Neal and held him tightly. “Hey, nothing like that is going to happen, okay? I know you don’t feel well buddy, but everything’s going to be fine.” Normally Peter would have given Neal crap about the hyperbole, but at the moment Neal was scaring him.

His partner trembled in his arms as Peter ran his hand through the sweat soaked curls at the nape of Neal’s neck. “I’ll get you home, I promise.”

Peter was loathe to let him go, but after a moment he pulled back and sat in the chair next to him. He pulled out his cell and searched for car rental agencies. It took a couple of tries before he found one that was open, that had a sedan that they could pick up that evening and return in the city. Then he worked out the details with Ron for finding the problem with the Taurus and repairing it. Peter would figure out a way to get the car back to the Bureau tomorrow. Then he found a taxi to take them to the rental car agency.

It was after eight when they were finally on the road home again. Peter breathed a sigh of relief as they merged onto the highway.

When he hit cruising speed, he reached over and took Neal’s cold hand in his own squeezing gently. “We’ll be home soon.”

“Thank you,” Neal responded so softly that Peter barely heard him. But he definitely felt Neal squeeze his fingers back.

It was going on ten when they reached the Whitestone Bridge. Peter had tried to convince Neal to stop for something to eat in Hartford, then Bridgeport and then Stamford without success. At a highway rest stop he managed to grab a burger for himself and a bottle of water for Neal. He was gratified to see that Neal had consumed most of it by the time they made the bridge.

Traffic was slow, but it kept moving, which kept Neal from freaking out completely. He tried to keep his eyes averted from the dashboard clock, but they kept wandering over to see how little time he had left of their own accord. Peter was taking him home and everything would be okay. He just had to hang onto that for a little while longer.

Traffic was oddly heavy considering it was Halloween. Peter thought that most people usually stayed home to take their kids trick-or-treating or to pass out snack-size chocolate bars, but apparently that was a misconception. He had noticed Neal continually eyeing the digital clock on the dashboard. It was odd how obsessively he seemed to be watching the time. But, so much of Neal’s behavior had been disconcerting today.

On the far side of the bridge, Peter said “I’m taking you to the house.”

Neal grabbed Peter’s arm, “No, June’s please,” he pleaded. Neal didn’t know why it hadn’t occurred to him that Peter would try to insist on taking him to DeKalb Avenue instead of June’s; he had simply assumed that Peter would just know he needed to go to Riverside Drive.

Peter was startled by Neal’s sudden move. “Neal, you’re sick. El would never forgive me if I took you to June’s. Please let us take care of you.”

“Tomorrow Peter, I promise. Tonight I need to go to June’s. Please.”

Peter looked at Neal carefully and then took the road that would lead him into Manhattan.

“Thank you, Peter.”

It was nearly 11:30 when Peter parked the car just down the street from June’s. Neal took off his seatbelt and got out of the car heading toward the mansion with a speed that Peter would have thought him too sick to be capable of minutes ago. “Neal, wait up.” Peter called out as a group of young people dressed in costumes got between him and his partner.

Neal kept moving, but Peter managed to catch up to him as he was putting his key in June’s door. “You don’t need to stay Peter, I’m fine now.” Neal stated without looking up.

“Sorry buddy, there is no way I’m leaving you alone right now.”

The door was now unlocked but Neal had yet to turn the knob. “I won’t be alone. June’s home and I think Moz is probably here too.”

Peter put his hand under Neal’s elbow gripping firmly. “Neal, not five hours ago you were crying on my shoulder, worried you going to die. I am NOT leaving you.”

Neal took in a deep, but ragged breath and then opened the door. “All right.”

Neal’s pace slowed again as they took the stairs up to his rooms with Peter’s hand protectively pressed against his lower back. Neal stopped in front of his door and turned to face Peter. He still looked impossibly wan in the lamplight. “You know that I love you, right?” He asked softly.

Peter nodded. “I do. And, I love you too.”

Neal stood there unable to find the words to explain to Peter what he was going to see in the next half hour. His cunning mouth didn’t know how to explicate or convince or connive or flat out lie so it did the only thing it could, it reached out to Peter and kissed him with love and longing and hope for a future with Peter and Elizabeth that Neal wasn’t certain he could lay claim to anymore.

Peter kissed Neal back, wrapping his arms tightly around him. When the kiss ended, Neal dropped his head onto Peter’s shoulder, buried his face in the junction with Peter’s neck and breathed in the musky scent that was pure Peter.

“Come on, let’s get you to bed.” Peter urged, unwrapping his arms from around the limp form of his partner and ushering him into the apartment.

Neal’s rooms were brightly lit and one of the balcony doors stood open, letting the cold evening air filter into the space. When he approached the doors Peter could see Mozzie out on the balcony bent over what looked like a small witches’ cauldron that sat atop a brazier that Peter recognized from his anniversary date with El two years past. A fairly horrible smell accompanied the sight.

Peter had long since ceased to be amazed by any circumstance in which he found the little man who was Neal’s best friend. In fact he was more surprised by the lack of black cloak and pointed witch’s hat than by what he did see. “Mozzie?”

Mozzie turned toward the open door his eyes bulging. “Finally, and with barely a minute to spare. “ Mozzie looked past Peter to Neal. “I assume the suit has been briefed.”

Neal swallowed and shook his head. “No.”

Somehow Mozzie’s eyes grew even larger. Neal shook his head again. “Not now Moz, please.”

For a moment it looked like Mozzie was going to go on despite Neal’s plea, his mouth opening and then shutting with a snap. Then he turned back around, picked up a bowl from the patio table and began filling it with whatever was in the large, round-bottomed, black pot.

Neal had moved to sit at his dining table. He had taken his dark grey suit jacket off and was struggling with his tie when Peter moved from the French doors to join him.

“Can you get me a glass of water?” Neal asked.

“Sure,” Peter replied moving around Neal to the kitchenette.

Mozzie deposited the bowl and a spoon on the table in front of Neal just as Peter returned with the requested water. The stuff smelled even more rank up close and personal. Peter made a face, scrunching up his nose and said, “You’re not actually going to eat that. You’ve been sick all day.”

“What time is it?” Neal asked, deflecting.

Peter glanced at his watch. “Eleven fifty-five.”

“Mozzie, would you mind cleaning up outside?” Mozzie looked from Peter to Neal and then back again. Then he nodded and returned to the balcony, closing the door behind him.

Peter sat down next to Neal. “Now would be a good time to tell me what’s going on.”

Neal nodded as he picked up the spoon and the bowl. “This,” he said pointing at the concoction in the bowl with the spoon, “is Colcannon.”

“It smells like overcooked potatoes and cabbage.” Peter replied.

“That’s because it is, Peter, along with some onion.”

Neal’s hand shook as he lowered the spoon into the bowl, his face was covered in a thin sheen of sweat and he looked like he was going to vomit again any second.

“Buddy, I really don’t think you should be eating that. Let’s just get you to bed, okay?” Peter said placing his hand on top of the arm holding the spoon.

“I have to eat it Peter, right now.” Neal replied as he gently shrugged off Peter’s hand and put the first spoonful in his mouth. It was hard to chew and swallow past the lump of anxiety and fear of rejection lodged in his throat. But Neal managed. He followed the first spoonful with another and another as the clock reached midnight and another All Hallows Eve turned to another Samhain.

Peter didn’t understand what was going on. Neal looked so fragile; if Peter didn’t know better he would almost say that his larger-than-life partner looked insubstantial. Peter knew he needed to trust Neal and wait until the younger man was ready to talk, but it was as struggle to do nothing but sit in silent support.

Eventually, Neal finished the contents of the bowl and placed it and the spoon back on the table. When he looked up at Peter his remarkable eyes were wide and his irises were the crystal blue that instantly made Peter hard. But the pale frown on Neal’s lips held Peter’s libido completely at bay.

Neal pulled out his phone and checked the time, releasing a sigh of relief to see that it was 12:06 AM. He would have another year. He hoped it would be a year with Peter and Elizabeth.

“I need to tell you a story.” He began. “It’s pretty fantastic, there are parts of it that even I don’t believe,” he continued humorlessly, “but it’s true.”

Peter nodded. “Okay.”

Neal picked up his glass of water and drank from it trying to loosen the tightness in his throat. “Exactly eight years ago, I got into a little bit of trouble.”

“Statute of limitations kind of trouble?” Peter asked, trying to lighten the mood slightly.

Neal shook his head. “It’s more complicated than that I’m afraid.”

Peter took Neal’s free hand in his and looked into Neal’s eyes. “Whatever it is Neal, it doesn’t have the power to make me or Elizabeth love you any less.”

Neal squeezed his eyes shut allowing the moisture that had been gathering there to fall. When he reopened them he returned his lover’s steady gaze and began to weave the very true tale of a young con man who had died and was brought back to the world by Celtic magic on a dark All Hallows Eve in Dublin.

~~~~

In the morning Neal woke early enough to see the sun come up through the balcony doors. It was a beautiful and very reassuring sight, made all the better by the warm weight of Peter’s body stretched over him, anchoring him to the bed, to this life.

He would have another year.


Endnote:
Prompt: Neal died a long time ago but found a way to get a second chance among the living. The tricks is, every year on Halloween he needs to complete a specific task (up to the author - maybe eat something or be at a specific place) in order to stay alive.

Well, now that he is working with Peter, of course things go south and it becomes a race against time for Peter to save Neal :P

P/N, OT3, gen - all's good with me :D

Also:
The actual manuscript for Dracula was strangely found in a barn in northwestern PA in the 1980’s. A rather inauspicious place to find a masterwork. It was then sold to Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Presumably it’s sitting on a shelf somewhere in one of his houses. Did I mention something about inauspicious?

And, the title is thanks to Emily Dickinson.

 
 
 
kanarek13kanarek13 on November 10th, 2013 08:46 pm (UTC)
Squeeeeeeeee \o/ OMG, you have no idea how happy you made me \o/ Oh, thank you, thank you!

This is perfect, exactly what I was hoping for, awwww. And you even made it Ot3 and with P/N bringing the rating to NC-17 - it's like a dream come true :D

Awww, poor Neal, sooner or later his luck had to run out (I'm surprised it didn't happen in canon :P), but I love it that you have tied his "coming back" to Samhain and Celtic magic ♥ And now it actually made me wonder what does Colcannon taste like :D

Peter is wonderful here, trying to provide as much comfort as possible without having a clue of what is going on. And the moment when Neal just begged him to take him home because he didn't want to die in the repair shop - OMG, that was so heartbreaking!

And the ending... ♥ Sometimes I think Neal really ought to trust Peter more when it comes to the strength of his love for Neal. With Peter and El it really is forever and ever \o/

Yay, again thank you soooo much \o/ I love this, luv, luv, luv ♥
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 12th, 2013 06:51 pm (UTC)
YEAH!!! I'm so glad you're happy with it.

I was afraid I was going off in a direction that wasn't really what you were expecting. It got crazy with with the h/c.

Thanks for your wonderful comment!
angelita26: OT3angelita26 on November 10th, 2013 10:46 pm (UTC)
I was so excited to see this posted today! It's so good! I really felt for poor Neal, frantically trying to get back to the city while feeling so bad, and also for Peter, who didn't understand what was going on. I'm so glad that Neal was honest with him and let him in on the secret. I love them so much, and you wrote them and their relationship so well here. LOVED IT!

Also, that Colcannon stuff does sound like it would smell horrifically but could be tasty (and I'm not usually one for cabbage!).

I'm so glad Neal gets another year to be with his loves!! Thank you for sharing!
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 12th, 2013 06:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks ang, my dear!

I'm so glad you thought the story was true to their relationship. It's what make the WC world so wonderful to me.

"I'm so glad Neal gets another year to be with his loves!!" Me too!!
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Hard Sell Peter Nealsholio on November 11th, 2013 05:59 am (UTC)
This is a really neat idea, and so sweet. :) I love Peter's concern for Neal and his earnest efforts to help even though he doesn't understand what's going on.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 12th, 2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
Kanarek gets the 'blame' for the idea. :)

I'm definitely a comfort junkie so I really enjoyed writing Peter's side of this tale.

Thanks for reading and commenting.
elrhiarhodanelrhiarhodan on November 11th, 2013 04:16 pm (UTC)
Love it!

Poor Neal, forced to eat Colcannon on Halloween... of all things!

The story is beautiful and strange and unexpected. Thank you for writing and for sharing with us.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 12th, 2013 06:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks Elr, I'm glad you enjoyed it! It was my first foray into something strange in WC. I kind of liked it and I think I may do it again.
elrhiarhodanelrhiarhodan on November 12th, 2013 06:46 pm (UTC)
You need to keep finding the strange and wonderful...
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on November 12th, 2013 06:58 pm (UTC)
I'll do my best. :)
a rearranger of the proverbial bookshelf: White Collar - Neal angstyembroiderama on November 30th, 2013 02:07 am (UTC)
Wow, this is awesome! I can't believe it took me this long to read it--WTF, me?--but I love it a lot. The cranking up of Neal's sickness and anxiety as midnight approached and they weren't home was really well done.
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on December 4th, 2013 11:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks E!!!

It was new for me to venture out into the AU world, but I thought this particular prompt providing a way to really play into that tension and anxiety. And, it was fun to write.

I may even try something similar again someday.
elrhiarhodanelrhiarhodan on October 21st, 2014 07:38 pm (UTC)
Loved having the chance to read this again!

It still makes me shiver and marvel and even laugh, because Neal eating Colcannon...
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on October 23rd, 2014 10:09 pm (UTC)
Awwwww, thanks Elr!

I'm glad the second time around was as good as the first!
Turtlebabyturtlebaby_02 on October 22nd, 2014 06:49 am (UTC)
Thanks for linking to this again! I read it originally and selfishly didn't leave a comment, so I'm trilled to get another chance!

It's, well, awesome. It's amusing in its seriousness, I that makes sense at all. A trip to the stranger side that I've enjoyed both rides through! :D
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on October 23rd, 2014 10:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I'm glad you enjoyed it the second time, AND the first! And, thanks for commenting this time. It's always appreciated.
sapphire2309sapphire2309 on October 25th, 2014 04:16 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I don't remember reading this, but it's so scary and so good and I love it! :DD
pooh_collectorpooh_collector on October 25th, 2014 07:15 pm (UTC)
Awww, thanks sapphire. I'm glad you enjoyed it!