A Reason to Live
Disclaimer: White Collar belongs to Jeff Eastin and USA network.
A/N: So I don't think they've really given Neal any time to grieve. Hands shaking and a few distant stares don't cut it for me. If he really lost the love of his life, there would be major trauma and tears involved. I'm not saying he has to mope forever, but he should feel something. So this is my version of what might have happened.
Neal sat on the edge of his bed with his head in his hands seriously depressed; he couldn't even sleep. He had been passing the time he should have been sleeping pacing back and forth. He put his robe on and walked out on the terrace hoping that would help; it didn't. It wasn't that Peter, Elle, Mozzie or even June hadn't tried to cheer him up, but he just wasn't ready. He wanted to feel sorry for himself, sorry that he wasn't on the plane, sorry that he hadn't died with Kate in his arms… If only he could hold her one more time. He leaned back on the bed, closed his eyes and imagined he was holding Kate once more as tears slowly slipped down his cheeks and he finally fell into a restless sleep.
Elle snuggled closer to her husband, grateful for his warmth. She was also very thankful that Peter was still with her, and that he wasn't injured in the explosion that killed Kate and almost killed Neal.
"Honey, I really think something is wrong with Neal, he just isn't himself. I think he needs help."
Peter groaned softly as his wife brought up the subject he had been trying to avoid.
"There is nothing I can do for him Elle; he won't talk to me about it. You know I'm not good with this emotional stuff. I'm glad he won't talk to me, because I wouldn't know what to say. I don't think 'Cowboy Up' will cut it this time."
"You don't need to say anything, Peter. You just need to be there for him. Let him know you are there for him. That doesn't always mean having the right thing to say."
"I can't do that Elle, it is totally out of my comfort zone. I have bad guys to catch and he is distracting me. I need to be on top of my game, not commiserating with an ex-con. He hasn't had any helpful suggestions on this case and he's getting in the way."
"Peter! I can't believe you just said that, Neal is the best thing that ever happened to you and the White Collar unit and he's your friend. Why don't you invite him to dinner? Drag him over if you have to and I will see if I can talk to him. He needs to know that his world hasn't ended and that we're still here for him. Tell him I'm making barbecued ribs for dinner.
Peter was concerned that Neal wasn't waiting for him outside on the steps when he pulled up. He shut the car off and knocked on the front door. He was even more concerned when the housekeeper told him she hadn't seen Neal all morning. Peter walked up the stairs and knocked softly on Neal's bedroom door. When Neal didn't answer, Peter tried the knob, found the door unlocked and slowly opened the door trying not to let the hinges squeak. He scanned the small apartment and his gaze finally rested upon a sleeping figure sprawled across the bed. Peter tiptoed over and gently shook Neal's shoulder.
"Hey, buddy. You need to get up now; I need your expertise on a case. I can't do it without you."
Neal groaned and pulled another pillow over his head trying to drown out Peter's voice.
"Neal! I know you can hear me, you have to get up."
"I don't care about your stupid case!"
It sounded like Neal was yelling, but his voice was muffled by the pillow.
"Go away and leave me alone!"
Peter thought about threatening to put Neal back in prison, but remembering Elle's invitation, he decided he didn't want to face her wrath when (not if) she found out.
"Neal, Elle wants you to come over for dinner tonight. She's making barbecued ribs just the way you like them."
"I don't like barbecued ribs!"
"Neal, stop being ridiculous, of course you do, you do not want to make Elle angry by slamming her barbecued ribs. They are the best in town."
"That's your problem. Not mine!"
"I have half a mind to call her right now and tell her you said that. I am sure she would not hesitate to come over here and talk some sense into you! You're acting like a spoiled child."
"Elle has more important things to do than to worry about me. Just please leave me alone Peter! I just want to be alone."
"Neal, get out of bed right this instant or we're going to be late!"
"I'm not coming. You're not letting me sleep."
Aside from physically manhandling him, Peter knew there wasn't much else he could do. Peter moved away from the bed and headed toward the door, deciding he was not going to win this argument. Elle was going to have his head; and he'd have to tell Hughes Neal was sick, again.
As soon as Peter had walked out the front door, he called his wife to give her the bad news.
"How did it go with Neal?"
"Seriously I tried talking to him, but it was no use. He's too stubborn. He wouldn't even get out of bed this morning, and he had the audacity to tell me he doesn't like your barbecued ribs."
"That doesn't sound like Neal. I'm telling you something is definitely wrong. I can't come over right now because I have a meeting with a caterer at 10 am, but I will see if I can swing by Neal's place around noon."
"Thanks honey, I just…I don't know how to help him. He isn't listening to reason. He said he just wants to be alone. I think that's the worst thing that could possibly happen, but I don't know what else to do. He definitely didn't want me there."
"Why don't you just go to work this morning, and I will see what I can find out at noon. I'm sure you can manage without him. You do remember working without him right? He was in prison for four years, and you did have other cases before he escaped, remember?"
"Yeah, I know, I guess I just gotten used to him being there. I'll ask Jones and Diana what they've found so far. I'll talk to you later."
"Ok, I love you Peter."
"Love you too."
As Peter hung up the phone, he realized how much Neal had come to mean to himself and Elle. How had he ever functioned without Neal's opinion? It struck him that Neal was going through the same type of ordeal, but a thousand times worse. While Peter was missing his partner, Neal was dealing with the love of his life not only being gone, but obliterated by a bomb that was more than likely meant for both of them. He couldn't even imagine what that was like, and felt faint as his brain processed the possibility of him losing Elle. He couldn't go there…it was simply unbearable. Worse yet, he didn't have the slightest idea how to help Neal. He really hoped that Elle, the love of his life, would be able to get through to his partner and friend.
Neal wasn't able to get back to sleep after Peter left. He felt guilty because Peter had said he needed his help, but he just didn't feel like he had anything to contribute. Even worse, if he actually went to the bureau, he was sure he wouldn't be able to control his emotions and probably would embarrass himself or take out his frustrations on one of his co-workers. He was sure Peter could solve the case anyway; why was he needed? Did he really have any useful advice to offer? His head was hurting; he just wanted to go back to sleep, but the memories of the plane exploding kept running through his head.
He excavated himself out of his den of blankets and pillows, slipped his feet into his slippers and shuffled into the bathroom. He really had a headache and his nose was stuffed up; maybe some allergy medicine would help. It couldn't hurt, right? Neal fumbled with the child proof cap. Why did these things always have to be so difficult? He finally got the bottle open, and quite a few spilled out into his hand. He decided that two wasn't going to cut it. He settled on four and put the rest back in the bottle. Hopefully he could go back to sleep and forget about everything. He padded over to the kitchen pill bottle in hand. He noticed a bottle of Merlot on the counter. Wait…was there some left? He realized there was. He picked up the bottle, not bothering to find a glass and emptied the bottle to help with the pills. He slowly shuffled out onto his patio. A ten million dollar view of New York and he couldn't even appreciate it right now. He couldn't appreciate the breeze through his hair, the sounds of the city, or the bustle of the people on the street below. He had lost his reason to live; nothing mattered anymore. He couldn't even enjoy the thrill of chasing a suspect, figuring out how it was done and slyly figuring out how he could have done it better. It just didn't matter anymore. He slumped down in the chair and put his head on the table.
Elle finished her meeting with the caterer a few minutes early, and decided that the plans for the upcoming gala could wait another afternoon… she really felt the need to go check on Neal. She took a taxi over to June's mansion since Peter always had the Taurus. She hurried up the steps and rang the doorbell impatiently waiting for the housekeeper to answer. The door swung open to reveal June standing there.
"I'm so relieved to see you Elle, I've been getting worried about Neal, he hasn't come down yet, and it was very quiet up there until about 15 minutes ago or so, when he started yelling. I wasn't sure what to do. I was just about to call you."
"Peter had mentioned he wasn't doing well this morning, so I thought I'd swing by on my lunch break. I'll see what I can do."
The door was slightly ajar when Elle reached the top of the stairs. She could hear Neal screaming at the top of his lungs.
"Why? Why did she have to die? I loved her!"
She could hear him pacing back and forth on the floorboards. She knocked lightly, but was fairly certain Neal hadn't heard her. She pushed the door a little farther open and was startled when a wine bottle came out of nowhere and smashed into the door jam at chest level, sending shards of glass everywhere. Fortunately, she was still wearing her sunglasses which protected her eyes, and she was wearing a long skirt and boots which helped to protect her legs.
Neal came into full view with a look of horror on his face, and for just an instant Elle was terrified that he was actually going to hurt her for barging in on what was obviously an intensely private and painful moment for him.
The look of horror remained plastered on Neal's face for what seemed like an eternity before he collapsed to the floor with his head in his hands, mumbling something unintelligible. Elle skillfully avoided the remnants of the broken bottle and knelt beside him. She became increasingly concerned when she touched his shoulder and didn't get any response or acknowledgement from him.
"Neal, its Elle. I'm here to help you. Peter asked me to check on you because we are both concerned about you!"
There was still no response from Neal, save for a low groan.
"Neal, what's wrong, what's happening? How can I help?"
Elle decided this might take a bit longer so she sat down on the floor, took her sunglasses off, and set her purse down within reach. She pulled Neal into her lap and cradled his head with her arms.
"Neal, I know you loved Kate, I know you did, but sometimes we just can't understand why things happen the way they do. I don't know why some people survive accidents and others don't. I don't have all the answers. I know Peter and I don't go to church much, but I do believe there is a higher power at work in our lives. I just can't explain it, but I do know what it's like to lose someone you love. We are both here for you to help you through this - no matter what. That's what good friends are for."
Neal finally opened his eyes and looked at Elle.
"Peter's gonna hate me. He's never gonna trust me again. He's gonna think I'm a danger to society, and he's right. I don't know what I'm capable of at the moment. I just got so angry and I couldn't control it. You could have been seriously hurt Elle. I…I hurt you. It's all my fault. You…Kate…all my fault…How…How can I…I live with myself? You have to leave Elle, leave before I do something else. Peter will never forgive me."
Elle could see tears streaming down his cheeks as he begged her to leave.
"Please…Please just go. I never wanted to hurt you, you have to believe me."
Elle shifted Neal's head still cradled in her arms so that she could look down in his eyes. She was horrified at the look of absolute despair wallowing in his eyes. She had never seen him look so defeated. Despite him begging her to go, Elle couldn't force herself to leave him in this condition. She realized that he was as much a danger to himself as he was to her, and she would be very upset if he did something after she left that could have been prevented. No, there was no way that she could leave.
It was not the first time that Elle had realized Neal brought out those motherly instincts that she thought were buried deep down. Despite the fact that she and Peter had never had kids, she had a definite mothering instinct for anything having to do with Neal. She let out a soft sigh while trying to figure out the best course of action when she heard soft snoring and realized that Neal had fallen asleep in her arms.