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Disclaimer: Don't own, them never will. So far I don't mind this. Further on... we'll see if I have to storm in and claim neglect and attempted character assassination as legit reasons to adopt Neal and the others.

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Peter Burke was in utter shock. This wasn't supposed to be happening. He wasn't supposed to be sitting on frigid asphalt, watching flames rapidly consume a plane and whoever had been inside. He wasn't supposed to be fiercely holding onto his best friend, who he'd believed to be one of the strongest human beings on the planet, while said best friend cried, trembled, screamed and fought like hell to get to the burning wreckage. Freeing one arm, and tightening his grip with the other, he somehow fumbled his cell out of his pocket and hit the first speed-dial button

"El..."

"Peter? Honey, you sound awful. What is it? Who is that in the background?"

"Neal. El... we need you..."

"Where are you?"

"An airport... somewhere... I can't think, damn it. I'll leave my phone on. Call Jones, he'll GPS you right to us."

"Peter, what happened?"

"Just get here... please, El, just get here fast. I can't... I don't know what to do..."

"I'm on my way. Hang on, alright? Just hang on."

His hands shaking far too much to keep a grip on the small device, Peter finally let the phone drop to the tarmac and returned that arm to the one already cradling Neal. Despite the flood of comfort and succor in his ear, the smaller man continued to wail and sob and scream out his regrets and agony, as if the massive flames a few hundred feet away had spread to his soul. When the police and fire crews began arriving, Peter tugged Neal's head down into his shoulder and began rocking him back and forth, as much for extra support as to avoid anyone immediately rushing over to ask if they were alright. He knew it was bound to happen, but he wanted to put it off for as long as he could.

"Hush... I'm right here and El is coming. We'll get you home to June and Mozzie... it'll be okay..."

"No! It can't be okay! I promised her... I promised and now I can't say I'm sorry! God... Kate, come back... I have to say I'm sorry!"

"Promised her what?"

Neal moaned and clutched Peter more tightly. The sound, backed by the tears soaking his jacket and the nearly tactile waves of pain boiling off his young charge, came very close to breaking the hardened agent, but he breathed deeply and gathered his tattered composure.

"Neal... what did you promise?"

"God... she loved my art... said I could... make a good living with that alone... if I wasn't just as good at the game. It takes so much focus to do a job... once it was over, I used to get crazy sometimes... out of control... so she made me swear I'd never.... never break or... or rip up anything I made... not even sketches or drawings. The statue I made to get in the consulate..."

"... you hid something inside. Oh, Neal..."

"I would've apologized on the plane! I would have!"

"I know, I know. She forgives you, buddy. I'm positive of it..."

Suddenly there was another set of arms surrounding both of them, touching their faces and stroking their backs. Peter turned his head to look at his wife and finally allowed his own silent tears to begin falling.

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TBC.....