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Malfunction

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Since I so rudely had to pull the fic from this site, here - have a random deleted scene ;) I went a different direction with things and this isn't how it went down in the finished fic. But I was a little sorry to see it go.


“Okay.” Kasdan knelt down on one knee. “You know you can come out of here, right? I understand why you ran, and why you fought.”

Neal tried not to shiver. “Would you call me crazy if I said I felt safer in here right now? Idea of going out where I could be chased again makes me feel a bit sick, and I’m not sure I can walk.”

It was ten different kinds of messed up and awful and institutionalized and Stockholm-Syndrome-afflicted to want to be in a cell, but he did. This was the FBI. This was the safest place he could imagine being, especially with Kasdan and Reese Hughes around, and he was terrified that they might lose him. Or worse, send him away. All everyone seemed to want to do right now was lock him up. Was it so crazy to want to cling to a quiet, clean, safe cell watched by decent people in a building he sort of loved?

"Okay," said Kasdan again, standing. "We're here for you if you need anything. Peter'll be here in an hour or so."


“Neal. Neal.” Peter’s voice was gentle and worried as he stepped into the cell. “Neal, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Neal found himself fighting tears. “Peter-”

“Neal - I’m not always as sensitive as I should be. It’s one of my faults. Please, please forgive me. Your trust and friendship mean everything to me. When Agent Kasdan called me, I got into a taxi, went right to the airport without a scrap of luggage, and hounded every airline counter until they gave me a flight. Please at least give me a chance-”

Neal was in his arms, shaking, clinging to Peter like a little kid afraid of the dark before he even knew he was listening to Peter’s words. “I panicked. I panicked. I’ve never panicked in my adult life.”

“I’m sorry, Neal. I’m so sorry.”

“They were chasing me in the office, and it felt like a pack of hounds, or air strikes were after me, like I was gonna be torn to bits if they caught me, and then they did, and -”

“Did they hurt you?”

Neal shook his head. “The other Neil caught me. He - I can see in my head this recording of him doing it, giving me orders and pinning me and cuffing me, and I remember he was gentle and worried and trying so hard not to hurt or scare me. But what I actually lived was this make-believe nightmare of being beaten and lit on fire and screaming - for you. I was struggling, and it hurt, and Kasdan tried just holding onto me with his whole body so I wouldn’t hurt myself, but I’m stronger than him, and -”

“It’s okay, Neal. You’re safe. Kasdan cares about you, I care about you, so many people love you - you don’t even know. All of White Collar was burning up my cell phone, and Jones’ and Diana’s and El’s. Even that US Marshal who was at our house that night called me worried about you when your anklet went offline. You are so not alone to face this.”

Neal couldn’t stop shaking. “It feels like I have this - random torture device around my ankle that gets to decide when people are going to be allowed to come chain me up and-”

“Neal.”

“-force pepper spray into my eyes - that wasn’t the most damaging thing, but it was the worst, because it was so deliberately cruel-”

“Neal.”

“-they had to think of that because they wanted to inflict as much pain as possible - and try to kill me, and if I take it off the same thing’ll happen only you won’t rescue me-”

“Neal.” Peter shook him lightly by the shoulders, and Neal realized Peter had been trying to interrupt for a while now. Peter knelt down, removed the anklet, and tossed it aside.

“I talked to Reese on the way here. We’re pulling your anklet until these problems are worked out. He’s getting his boss to approve it with the BOP and the Marshals. You don’t have to wear it.”

“I - don’t have to wear it?”

“Reese said yes in seconds when I asked him to approve this. Neal, you’re important to all of us. We hurt when you’re hurt. When you’re scared, we’re scared for you. We are not the men who did this to you. None of us want to even think about risking that happening again.”

“I don’t have to wear it?”

“No.”


“Peter?”

“What?” Peter tried to blink the sleep out of his eyes.

“Can I have the anklet back?”

“What?”

“I just - woke up, and it wasn’t there, and I was afraid I was back in prison. Or - Riker’s”

“Security anklet?”

“Something like that.”

“I don’t actually have one here at the house right now,” said Peter.

Neal gave him a faintly amused little smile. “You don’t keep one in the cupboard with the spare plates?”

“Fraid not,” said Peter. He thought for a minute. He’d put one of the anklets on himself. It was light, and comfortable, but very much present. He went over to a cupboard and pulled out the first aid kit, found an Ace bandage, and tossed it to Neal. "Here. Have the dollar store version."