He still wakes up trembling sometimes. He'd buried it before prison, with Kate and Moz and the perfect facade of Neal Caffrey, but prison tore it wide open and made everything bleed again.
They called him Caffrey in prison, and called him hundreds of other things, and touched him and fucked him, and he bled so very much...
But he's out now, he's with Moz again, and trying to find Kate (he knows they're done, knows she got whatever she wanted, knows she was never what he thought), and Peter, Peter—
Peter put him in prison. Peter locked him there and never checked on him. Neal thought about escaping every day, but he deserved to be punished (for a million things, tiny crimes that didn't hurt anyone, all those people he's never seen who did get hurt by whatever he did, and for-for-no, no, not thinking about it) he deserved to be punished, so he stayed in prison until Kate left, and then Peter caught him again.
And he has Peter now, Peter who is gentle or rough depending on what Neal asks for, because he gives Neal a choice, and if it aches every time Peter calls him Neal or Caffrey, well. What else should Peter call him? Peter knows a dozen fake names and thinks Neal Caffrey is the true one.
He's not boy in Peter's bed, or anything else he got called in prison.
Best of all, he's not son.
But this guy, this guy, Peter's mentor, he doesn't know. He's a good guy, and Peter loves him, but he doesn't know. And he says, So, you adoptin' stray convicts now, Pete? and he's laughing, clapping Peter on the back, and he says, Gonna name him Neal Burke? and Peter's smiling at him, at this old man who doesn't know, and he says, Could do worse than Pete here for a new dad, Caffrey, and Neal…
Bolts. Out the office, down the stairs three at a time, through the doors to the emergency exit, and is gone.
He doesn't cut the anklet.
He's five years old and Daddy's angry, screaming about whores who spread their legs for anyone, and he's hungry and he's thirsty and Mama's not moving, and Daddy turns to him.
He's eight and Daddy's friend is back again. He doesn't even cry anymore.
He's twelve and the bastard's friend has a gun, and he's done with this, he's done with the pain and the blood and the fear, and he hasn't fought in so long no one expects it when he does.
He's fourteen and the streets aren't kind to boys as beautiful as he is, but this guy, this short and rambly guy, he's different. So he goes home with the guy, and the guy doesn't fuck him, and no one else fucks him without consent until he's tossed into prison.
He's thirty and he's Neal Caffrey, and he's wedged into a closet in Peter Burke's house. And Satchmo is whining at his feet, and Elizabeth is sitting out in the hall, just talking, and Peter's crouched in the doorway, hand in the air, waiting for Neal's move.
So Neal takes a deep breath, and he says, You're not my father.
Peter smiles at him and says, I'm not.
Neal nods. You're a good man, Neal says. Like Moz. You both saved me.
He doesn't mention prison. He closes his eyes, clutches Peter's hand, and shoves everything back into the box, locks it away tight, and breathes.