A Reason to Live

Disclaimer: White Collar belongs to Jeff Eastin and USA network.

Chapter 2

Elle pulled out her cell phone from her purse that she could just barely reach without dislodging Neal from her lap. She dialed the house number and June picked up on the first ring.

"Oh, Elle, I'm so glad you called I was worried, but I didn't want to intrude. How is he?"

"Not good at all. He fell asleep in my lap, but he seems exhausted and not himself. He threw an empty bottle of wine at the door and it shattered, but I'm sure he had no idea I was standing there. He felt horrible about it."

"Let me come up and we'll see if we can both get him back in bed."

It only took June a minute or two until she was standing by Elle's side giving her a worried look.

"Oh my goodness! Elle, you're bleeding!"

June hurried over to the sink and wet several paper towels and brought them back to Elle to help stop the bleeding from the cut glass that had torn into her skin.

Elle had been so focused on helping Neal that she hadn't felt anything. She hadn't noticed she was bleeding in several places, although nothing serious. Neal must have seen the blood and realized that she'd been hurt.

June dabbed at several spots on Elle's arms and face trying to be careful, although she didn't see any big chunks of glass that had embedded themselves in Elle's skin. She also checked Elle's long dark hair for any easily removable pieces of glass, but didn't see any.

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Elle wouldn't let go of Neal, but allowed June to bandage some of the deeper cuts on her arms, but not her face. She didn't want to be completely covered in bandages, because she knew it would freak Peter out. She also refused June's offer of driving her to the clinic just to make sure she was ok. She felt fine and didn't want to leave Neal's side.

June got out her broom and dustpan and swept up the remaining glass pieces from the bottle; throwing them in Neal's trash can before they even attempted to move Neal from his position on the floor.

Both ladies were trying to determine the best course of action to move the sleeping conman without waking him up. They finally admitted defeat as they simply weren't strong enough. Elle decided to stay on the floor with Neal; his head still in her lap.

"Thanks June…for everything. I just can't leave him like this. He's a danger to himself more than to us. Maybe I should call Peter and give him an update."

"Why don't you do that? I'll just be downstairs. Call me if you need anything."

Elle nodded gratefully as she reached for her phone again to call Peter. She got his voicemail, told him where she was and asked him to call her back. He was probably in a meeting and she wasn't about to leave a message describing what had happened.

Elle hadn't expected Peter to get to June's so soon, but June escorted him up as soon as he arrived and Elle was glad for the help.

Peter found his wife on the floor with several band-aids on different spots on her arms, dried blood on her cheeks with his partner's head in her lap sound asleep. He was furious when Elle told him about the wine bottle breaking right in front of her, and the state of mind his partner had been in when she had arrived at June's mansion. How dare Neal try to hurt his wife! Elle loved him like a son, and this is how he repays her?

Elle had told him they hadn't been able to get him off the floor, so Peter had scooped Neal up and dumped him on the bed a little rougher than he probably should have. The move didn't faze Neal at all though and he continued to peacefully snore while Peter walked back toward Elle and June.

Elle hadn't expected him to be so mad at Neal, but then again, it was Peter and he usually overreacted a bit with anything having to do with Neal; especially since she was involved and he thought she was hurt.

"Peter…Honey?"

Elle was trying to distract her husband from what she could see were turbulent storm clouds racing across his features.

"I know what you are thinking, but Neal didn't hurt me. I'm fine."

"Didn't hurt you? Then why are there band-aids and dried blood on your cheeks? What did you think I was going to say? You're not fine! This was a bad idea; I never should have let you come over here. I should have known this would be a problem. He was totally out of line today Elle. He disobeyed a direct order when I asked him to get up because we had work to do on a case. He covered his head with a pillow and told me he didn't care about the case, he didn't want your barbecued ribs, and it was my problem, not his. I had to cover for him with Hughes this morning. Now he goes and throws a wine bottle at my wife? That is completely unacceptable! I ought to throw his butt back in jail where it belongs."

Elle got up and started rubbing her husband's back between the shoulder blades to try and lighten the tension she could feel taking up residence there.

"Have some compassion, Peter. I know that's not your first instinct, but he has been through a lot. He just needs some time to heal. Losing Kate was very traumatic for him."

"He's a dangerous felon, Elle. I should have known this was going to happen. I should have known that he would stop at nothing to find Kate. Now he's not going to stop until he destroys himself grieving or getting revenge for Kate's murder. He's just dangerous Elle. You could have been seriously hurt. You don't know what he's capable of under these conditions."

"That's exactly why he needs help, Peter. He doesn't need to go back to jail, that will only make him more desperate and he'll escape again. He needs us, he needs someone to listen, someone to understand!"

Elle's voice got just a little louder at the end because she was beginning to get more than a little annoyed at her husband. Why couldn't he understand that Neal just needed someone to listen - not more punishment? She was convinced that Neal hadn't meant to hurt her, but Peter wasn't so sure.

"If I may contribute my two cents…"

June tentatively began hoping to reign in the situation before tempers really got out of hand.

"I agree with Elle. I think Neal needs someone to listen and not judge him; someone that cares about him no matter what he does. I know he would never intentionally harm either Elle or me, but we need to help him be more in control emotionally. He needs to feel safe; he needs to talk about it and he needs to know that we are not going to judge him for whatever he says or does. He doesn't need to feel threatened by going back to prison for this. Yes, he should probably apologize for his actions, but most importantly I think he needs to feel safe and loved. Somehow we have to make him understand he is not alone, and he doesn't have to deal with this alone. Any type of punishment will only alienate him and make him withdraw further."

"I think that was more than two cents…"

Peter muttered this to no one in particular, but Elle punched him in the shoulder anyway.

"Clearly that's why Neal doesn't feel safe. Why must you always have some degrading comment, and to June no less? Apologize right now or you're sleeping downstairs on the couch tonight."

Peter gave June a sheepish look.

"I'm sorry June, I don't know what has come over me, I think its lack of sleep. This case is driving me nuts, and Neal isn't helping matters."

"You're forgiven, Peter."

June said this with a smile on her face, as she patted his shoulder.

"We just need to make sure Neal knows that he is forgiven for his actions and that we love him and care for him. I don't think he's had anyone like us before and he isn't used to being cared for; he doesn't know how to deal with it. What we need to give Neal is a reason to live."