AN: Hey Guys! I was just watching Season 2 again. The episode entitled ‘Need to Know.’ And in that episode, which is one of my favorites, is the hotel scene with Neal and Diana. I just love their interaction, and it inspired me to write this. Enjoy!
Also, a special thanks to ccluvshorses101 for your beta skills and story ideas.
Diana looked down at her companion. She was very worried about him. He was quiet and Neal Caffrey was not a person anybody who knew him would describe as quiet. The case had gone so unbelievably, horribly wrong that they were all still in shock. Neal’s cover had been blown, and he had paid for it. His ribs were broken and he had a concussion. He had been beaten and then left for dead when his tormentors heard the wail of sirens approach. Diana had been the first to find Neal. But now she and Neal were on their own. Charges had been set in the building and were, seemingly, going off at random. They were now, as much as Diana could figure, trapped. They were in a basement in a warehouse and their escape was now blocked by a huge pile of concrete, brick and twisted metal.
“There’s no way….” Diana coughed, the concrete dust in the air thick. She couldn’t finish.
Neal was still lying at her feet. He had started to cough also, aggravating aching ribs and causing him to hyperventilate.
Diana didn’t know what to do. She just knew she had to find some way to stop him from coughing. She tried to elevate Neal’s head, pulling him closer to her. She watched him as his coughing eased. She leaned her head back against the wall. They sat that way for a long while, until Neal finally spoke.
“Diana.” Neal said, breaking the silence.
“Shut up, Neal.” Diana said, wanting him to not talk any more than necessary.
“…too quiet.” Neal stated.
“You need the rest, and so do I.” Diana admitted.
“You…saying…talk too…?” Neal asked. He grabbed his ribs as he coughed.
“Only to excess.”
“Fine…a story.” Neal requested.
Diana looked at Neal unbelieving. “You are not five, and this is not your bedtime.”
“…I’ll…talk.” Neal broke into a coughing fit. He then groaned and shut his eyes, his chest hurt so bad.
Diana shook her head. “Okay.” She grumbled.
Neal seemed to relax a little more in Diana’s arms. He closed his eyes for just a moment as a wave of pain hit him.
“What kind of story are we talking about here?” Diana asked.
“Anything. ….you, Christie… first met,…first day…with Peter…anything.” Neal suggested.
“I…was nervous. Even back then, Peter Burke had a reputation. Out of the academy he had done so well. When he joined the bureau, he rose through the ranks quickly, youngest ever to be Senior Agent over a division. He was quite the agent, and everybody wanted to work for him. I had to wait in a long line. But he saw something in me. Some…I don’t know what. He hired me at my interview.” Diana stated.
“What do you know?” Diana asked, looking down at Neal.
“I know why he hired you.” Neal revealed.
“Why?” Diana asked, very curious as to what Neal would say.
“…loyal…good heart.” Neal replied.
Diana smiled at him, a little surprised by his answer. He was right, of course, but she was still surprised.
“Stop trying to get on my good side, Caffrey.” Diana warned, smiling.
“…am on…good side…speak…truth.” Neal replied.
“…like me.” Neal paused and began to cough as the dust entered his lungs again. “Admit it.”
“You’re a charmer. It’s your job to get people to like you.” Diana stated.
“…fell for it. …surprised you….” Neal replied.
Diana shook her head “I admit nothing.”
“…Peter…on his game… back then?” Neal asked.
Diana nodded. “He was, and I thought I told you not to talk so much.”
“…dust’s…not bad….” Neal replied.
“Anyway, I was so nervous. I kept calling him Sir. Yes Sir, Agent Burke. No Sir, Agent Burke. And he hated it. He hated the sirs. He…by the end of the day he had me calling him Peter. I...I was uncomfortable with that, and he could tell. I had never had a superior allow me to call him by his first name. I just…it was too weird.” Diana paused. “But he was also unlike any other supervisor I had ever had. He was human. I mean…a lot of bosses don’t let you get to know them. They want a professional distance and that’s it. He just…he talked about El and Satchemo from the start. A week later I met El. He dropped by his house to pick something up and he invited me in. It was strange, so I hesitated at first. And, over time, I got to know Peter and I got to know El. I had, I have more than a boss. I consider him a friend.” Diana explained.
“Aww.” Neal stated.
“Shut up, Neal.” Diana said, blushing when she realized she had revealed more than she had intended.
Diana thought she heard a noise. She was trying to listen as Neal began to speak.
“Shhh.” Diana said as she heard voices approach.
Neal heard them too and followed her lead. They both listened intently until they heard a single familiar voice.
“Neal…Diana.” Peter called.
It had taken construction workers two hours to break through the rubble. Peter could only hope that his agent and his C.I. were still alive somewhere in the structure.
Peter called out again. “Diana! Neal!”
Diana coughed and tried to answer, but her voice came out weak. She tried again. It was a little louder this time.
“Wait!” Peter said and the workman stopped. “I thought I heard something. Let’s give it another minute.”
Peter heard Diana’s voice again, a few seconds later.
“Diana!?” Peter replied even louder.
“…that Peter?” Neal asked.
Diana nodded. “I think so.” Diana called again. She was a little louder this time.
“There…over there.” Peter said, directing the men to start digging in another pile of rubble. “I think that’s where I heard them.”
“This is it!” Peter said as he heard Diana’s voice again. “This is it!”
The men broke through a few moments later. Peter climbed down into the hole the men had made when he saw Neal, bloody and immobile.
“He passed out a second ago.” She coughed out. “He was just talking.” Diana replied, not realizing Neal had lost consciousness.
Peter nodded. “It’s okay. We’ll get him out.” He looked at his agent. “Are you okay?”
Diana nodded, unable to speak from the cloud of dust the workers had stirred up.
Diana nodded again. “…scrapes and bruises. Neal took the brunt of it.”
Peter nodded again. Neal was on his way out of the hole, carried by the EMTs who had crawled in after Peter, as Peter helped Diana to her feet.
Neal had been unconscious for a full 24 hours. He had been placed in a medically-induced coma so that his body could heal from its injuries. Peter, El, June and Mozzie had all been with Neal at different times during that 24 hour period. They all knew he was not going to wake up just yet. But they couldn’t bear the thought of him being there alone. Diana, after getting checked out by the doctors, had even stayed with Neal for just little while before Peter convinced her to go home a get a little rest.
Peter paced the floor by the bed. He was going crazy waiting for Neal to wake up. Then he started to reminisce out loud.
“I was not too anxious to take your case, Neal, at first to be quite honest. You were kind of ‘dropped’ on my desk. There was no interest, I think everyone thought that you were so young, so inexperienced, that you would screw up soon enough. There was no real reason to spend any time getting to know you. We just needed to make sure we were there when you did, eventually, screw up. But, Neal, no one ever took into account your intelligence. No one really bothered to notice. And that was part of everybody’s mistake concerning you. You were so underestimated in the beginning. I…when I finally got to know you, I saw how smart you were. It took time to convince everybody else, it was an uphill battle. But I finally did, I finally made them see you the way I did. I saw a young bright guy that I almost admired. And I know what you would tell me right now. But it was not for your criminal skills, it was for your style. Now I would say your integrity. I know…it sounds weird, but it’s true. You have a heart. Look at what you’ve done for me, for El, and for June. You have a big heart, it’s just a shame you have all that…other stuff to go with it.” Peter continued his monologue as he paced the room. “It was strange. El told me she never thought I would cheat on her with anyone, much less a criminal. But that was the case, you followed me everywhere. I always had my wallet, and my cellphone on me. And, 9 times out of 10. I was carrying your file in my briefcase.” Peter smiled. “I think she was actually a little jealous. There were a lot of nights you and I would be up sitting at my kitchen table. Me sitting there, for hours, looking at your file, wondering what it was I had missed. I wondered how I could know you so very well and yet not be able to catch you.”
Peter paused his monologue as a nurse walked into the room. But she did give him a look as she looked around the room and didn’t see anyone else besides he and Neal. She checked Neal’s IV’s and bandages. She than cast Peter another weary glance as she left the room.
“Anyway,” Peter waited until the nurse was out the door and down the hall before he continued. “…then I met you. And you surprised me. I saw something the file could never tell me. I saw the person, true, I had begun to like you in the three years I pursued you. But then, when I finally got to meet you…you were just exactly what I expected and not at all when I expected or had come to know, all at the same time. I know that makes no sense, but it was true. It is true.” Peter smiled. “You still do things that surprise the hell out of me. But most of the time, and to your credit, they are good things.”
Peter paused for a few moments. He looked out the window as he collected his thoughts. He then turned back to Neal, his captive, unconscious, audience. “When you showed up at my house that first time, intentionally going outside your radius, I…I was ready to choke you…with my bare hands. And I probably would have, if Elizabeth hadn’t liked you so well. As you know, she is an excellent judge of character. She just…she liked you. Satchemo liked you. It was…it was hard to be angry with you after that. And I can’t believe she told you the story about the surveillance thing. I can’t believe she told you that.” Peter shook his head.
AN: I don’t recall the series mentioning anything about Diana’s previous law-enforcement experience. So this is all my creation and completely AU.
Diana sat down at Neal’s bedside again. She had been home and rested, and now she was back. The doctor said it could be as long as three days that they would keep Neal in his medicine-induced coma. He had been so badly injured. And that had been before the building had fallen on him.
“You owe me a story, Caffrey, a true story. I’m giving you fair warning.” Diana paused. She looked down at the man she had come to consider a friend. It hurt to see him so quiet, so still. She hoped she would get the vibrant man she knew back. She was missing those beautiful blue eyes.
Diana sat down, and then she was up again, pacing. “I didn’t quite tell you all about Peter and I. I kind of left something out about our first case together. I am telling you now because I promised you the whole story. Also, I’m hoping you won’t remember this conversation when you wake up. And if you do, and you repeat it, my standard threat still applies. I will break both your arms.”
Diana stopped pacing. She went over to the bed and slipped her hand into Neal’s. She stood looking at him for just a second before she began to speak. “I was…kind of new to law enforcement and procedure when I started. True, I had been through Quantico, But, it’s…all the simulations…all you read about what you should do when. When you get out on the streets all that just sort of flies out the window.” Diana started to pace again. “I had collared my first criminal; things were going according to plan. By the book, you might say. Then I…then the guy ran.” Diana paused smiling. “And I’m standing there thinking. ‘Hey, that is not what you’re supposed to do. That was not in the manual.’” She chuckled at her own inexperience before continuing. “It took me another second, and then I took off running. I saw him round a corner, and I was right on his tail. I rounded the corner and WHAM! I ran right into Peter. I was shocked. I staggered back a few steps from our hitting each other. I dropped my gun. The damned thing went off.” Diana paused again. “Peter was hit in the leg. The gun discharged when it hit the ground.” Diana had now walked over to the window and was staring out. “So…there I am, still shocked I had literally ran into Peter. And now he’s on the ground in pain, moaning and groaning, after being shot in the leg. I…at that moment I hoped the ground would just open up and swallow me.” Diana turned back towards Neal’s bed and sighed. “Peter was helped up off the ground by some other agents at the scene. And I had the task of driving him to the hospital.” Diana smiled. “I expected to be given the riot act. I expected to be fired on the spot. But instead Peter and I talked. We talked all the way to the hospital; it was a short trip, just about a block away. But he forgave me for my screw up. He told me its how a person handles themselves when things are at their worse that reveals their character. I’m sure there’s some famous person somewhere who said it much more eloquently than I just did. But you know what I mean. He admired the fact that I didn’t try to run away from the situation, and that I took responsibility for my actions. I had told him in the car that I would completely understand if I no longer worked for the FBI.”
Neal’s only response was the sound of his ventilator and heart monitor.
“I know why you kept talking when we were trapped. I don’t like admitting I’m scared to anyone. And I know you felt that. I know you picked up on it. And I know you talked to keep my mind off my fear.” Diana paused and wiped her eyes, glad Neal was not awake to see her do it. “You were hurting so much. You had been injured so badly. But you were concerned about me, my fear. It…it speaks, a lot, to your character. And I just want you to know how much I appreciate that.”
El had brought a magazine with her. She had even brought her work with her. But she could not keep her mind on any of it. The still, quiet figure in the hospital bed had all her attention. She stood up from her chair and went over to the bed. She slipped her hand into Neal’s.
She hated to see him like this. The man was far too quiet. And he was far too still. “When I first met you I thought you had a lot of nerve showing up at my house, our house, especially when Peter had just arranged to get you released. And you surprised me, your pictures didn’t do you justice. You are so much more handsome in person, by the way. And those blue eyes of yours...a person could get lost. I can see why women fall for you so easily, Neal Caffrey.”
El paused. She went over to the window and stood for a moment before she continued to talk. “I liked you almost immediately. And it seemed wrong somehow. Criminals are not supposed to be nice people. They are not supposed to have any redeeming qualities. But you did, you do. And I found, when I looked, that the good outweighed the bad.”
El sighed. “In those three years that Peter spent looking for you I felt like he had a mistress. He was cheating on me with your case file. He took it everywhere. He would be up for hours, some nights, looking over your file. I know he was wondering how he could feel as if he knew you so well, but yet, not be able to catch you.” El turned from the window and paced the room. “Then when he did catch you and you went to jail, I got a reprieve. I got my husband back. He no longer had his mistress. You were in jail and all was right with the world, for a little while.”
El went to Neal’s bed and took his hand in hers. “Then I heard you had escaped, that you were on the run. And I told myself that I couldn’t handle another three years. I didn’t want him to take up with his mistress again, but he did. He did and I became ‘the FBI wife’ again. And I hated it. And I hated you for making me feel like I was second in my marriage. I had to wait for Peter to deal with his mistress first. And I resented the hell out of it.”
El sighed again. “Then I met you and I suddenly understood just a little of my husband’s obsession. You were…you were a person I felt like I would be friends with. You were someone I genuinely liked from the first moment I met you.”
El paused again. She just stood for a while, looking out the hospital window. She took Neal’s hand before she spoke again. “Now it’s like…you’re family to me, to Peter. We…I never had a brother, and Peter and I never really wanted children. Now, it’s kind of like we have both. A wayward son and a pain-in-the-ass little brother, all rolled into one. Having said all of that, you’ve made my life, interesting, challenging, chaotic, and a little scary, at times. But I don’t regret meeting you, getting to know you.” El paused. “The ‘real’ Neal is someone worth knowing.” El bent down and kissed Neal’s cheek. “Just get better, Sweetie.”
Reese Hughes found himself in Neal’s room, again. He would never admit to anyone how much he liked the boy. But he did. He really, really liked him. And at times that scared him. Reese wanted to think he was immune to Neal’s cons. But at the same time, he had to wonder, was he falling under the conman’s spell? Was what he was seeing the real Neal Caffrey?
All he knew, right now, looking at the still figure in the bed, was that he didn’t like it. He didn’t like to see the man so still. And he didn’t like that the FBI had not protected Neal. Reese was glad Diana had been with him, but still. He should not have gotten beaten. And Neal and Diana definitely should not have been trapped in that exploding building.
Reese watched the monitors as they displayed Neal’s condition. He watched the heart monitor as it registered each beat. He listened to Neal’s breathing. He hated the look of the ugly machine, the ventilator. But he was equally as grateful that Neal had the machine to aid him. He just hoped the young man would be off it all soon and back to his old self.
Reese put his hand on Neal’s arm. He stood there for a long moment before he said anything. “I’ve worked with a lot of C.I.’s in my time, Neal. And I mean a lot. I just…you’re the first one I have actually…liked.” He patted Neal’s arm. “We need our best conman back in the office. Get well soon, Kid.”
Jones had, intentionally, not gotten close to Neal when he first came to White Collar. Jones had figured that a criminal was a criminal. And as hard as they tried, they just could not keep from breaking the law. So Jones figured that this arrangement with Peter would last a few months, maybe 6 months, at most. Then Neal would be back in jail, and they could get on with their lives. Jones had never worked with a Confidential Informant before. He didn’t know what to expect, and he suspected Neal was unlike most C.I.s.
The six months had passed. Not without its problems, of course, but it had passed. Then, almost before Jones knew it, a year had gone by, and Neal was still there. Neal was still there, and Jones had found himself liking the young man. Jones watched Peter, he had watched Peter’s and Neal’s relationship grow. At first he had thought Peter a fool for letting the conman get that close. But there was something…genuine about Neal. Jones didn’t know what it was, or how to explain it. But it was there, and he recognized it.
Jones kept going back to Neal’s visit to him apartment. He had been surprised to open his door and find the conman there, and bearing gifts, no less. Their conversation had been nice, nothing too heavy. And Jones had to hand it to the man, smiling at the memory, Neal knew when to make an exit. He had immediately made himself scarce when Jones’ ex had shown up.
“You’re not at all what I expected in a criminal, Neal. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But it is true.” Jones said, voicing his thoughts. “I’ve never met anyone like you. And that I do mean as a compliment. When you first made your deal with Peter I felt it was just so you could get out of jail. And that was the only reason. But that wasn’t true. I saw that pretty quickly. I could see, in your interactions with people, the way you conducted yourself, that you had a heart. I know most people in our office believe you do the ‘kind’ things you do to stay out of jail. I know that that’s part of it. But I also believe you…there’s more to it, Neal.” Jones paused. “I don’t’ remember exactly what I told you. But I think it went something like this. You’re living the dream with an anklet attached. I still believe that, Neal. I really do. I have enjoyed working with you. And I hope, even after your anklet is off, that you’ll want to be a part of White Collar.” Jones paused again. “But right now you just need to get well.”
June had been sitting with Neal for hours. His ventilator had been removed, but not the heart monitor. The doctors brought Neal out of the coma, but he had not woken up yet. He was not showing any signs of waking. June was alternately pacing the room and sitting in the uncomfortable plastic chairs. She had been ushered out of Neal’s room a couple of times so that the nurses could check their patient over.
June kept reminding herself of what the doctor had told her. That it could be several hours before Neal wakes. She had told everyone she would let them know as soon as there were any signs. But there had been no reasons to make any calls just yet.
“Oh, Darlin’…” June said, pacing the floor. “…we’re waiting on you. We need you back. It’s been a horrible few days. I’ve missed your voice and those beautiful blue eyes so much. I never expected to come to care for you so much. You’re…you’re more to me than a tenant. You’re a dear friend. And I…when you first came to live in my house, I just figured I was doing a favor for a young man, fresh out of prison. I know how hard that position is to be in. I know from Byron’s stints in jail how people look at you. I know the prejudices against you. There were prejudices against me, as a con’s wife. I was looked on with almost as much suspicion and distaste as him. Guilty by association, I guess. I don’t know. I never really cared too much. We were in love, and I knew the kind of man Byron was under all that.”
June paused as she looked out the window at the city. She seemed lost in thought. But when she started speaking again, she picked up where she left off. “I know him as a kind, considerate husband, and a devoted father.” June shook her head. “…never missed a birthday or an anniversary. And that was even after the kids had grown and grandkids had come along. He just added to the list.” June said.
“But there was that part of him. That part of him that…that enjoyed…no, lived for the con. We had our good times in that life, Neal. But there were plenty of bad times. It’s…it was hard for him. He knew what he was doing to us. It’s so much harder with a wife and kids and he knew. He had to know, what that life was like for me and the kids. I wanted our kids to have a normal life, Neal. And we both knew what that was like, Byron and I, growing up. We had really good childhoods, carefree childhoods. I missed that with our children. I just….” June paused. “…when I met you I saw pain in your eyes, Neal. And I…I just wanted to be able to help you. I….”
June looked down at Neal when she heard him moan. He looked around the room, not really focusing. He closed his eyes again. She slipped her hand into his and pressed the button for the nurse. He opened his eyes again and looked up at her.
Neal mouthed “Hi”, then he closed his eyes again.
The nurses arrived quickly, and ushered June out of the room. She took the opportunity to make her phone calls and spread the good news.
AN: This will be the last chapter.
And, as always, thanks to ccluvshorses101.
Neal had been back to work a little over a week. He had not told any of his hospital visitors that he remembered what they had said.
Neal hugged June one morning as he headed out the door to meet Peter. He then stood back and looked at her, still holding her hand. “You have helped me, June Ellington. You gave me a home. And you let me know I was worth caring about. Not a lot of people have done that for me in my life. Thank you.” He hugged her again before he headed out the door.
June was speechless as tears streamed down her face.
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“Peter.” Neal said, getting Peter’s attention. He looked up from the file he was studying.
“I kind of…I kind of thought, maybe nobody had wanted my case. I got that impression when I asked you the first time.” Neal stated. “But I’m glad you took a chance on me.”
Peter grinned, realizing Neal had heard him.
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The case wrapped up quickly. Neal and Peter had been called to Hughes’ office and congratulated. Neal waited for just a second after Peter had left and returned to his office.
“What you said, Reese, it…it meant a lot.” Neal replied, then paused, smiling. “Am I really the best?”
Reese smiled and shook his head. “Back to work, Caffrey.”
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Neal stopped Jones on the way out of the conference room. He waited until everybody else left before he spoke. “Thanks for reminding me. And I agree with you. I am living the dream with an anklet attached.”
Jones didn’t know what to say. He was so surprised Neal had heard him.
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“Excellent, El, as always.” Neal said, putting his napkin down on his plate. He then took a sip of his wine.
El stood and started to gather the plates.
Neal stood up also. “Let me help.” He took his own dishes and followed her into the kitchen. He sat the items carefully in the sink.
“What is it, Neal?” El asked.
“I guess, if my only choices are a wayward son or a pain-in-the-ass little brother…” Neal stated. “…I’d rather be the pain-in-the-ass little brother.”
Tears filled El’s eyes as she hugged Neal, surprised and glad he had heard her.
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“What are you doing, Caffrey?” Diana asked when Neal planted himself on the corner of her desk.
“You said you wanted a true story.” Neal replied. “I’ve got a great one.”
Diana smiled. “You heard me?”
Neal nodded. “But you’ve got to tell me something first.” Neal started to chuckle. “How fast were you running, exactly, when you smacked into Peter?”
Diana couldn’t help but laugh. “Shut up, Caffrey.”