A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Disclaimer: White Collar belongs to Jeff Eastin and USA Network. My work is simply homage to some of the greatest writing out there.

Merry Christmas to everyone who is, like me, celebrating Christmas today! For everyone else, you can celebrate the last chapter of my story!

"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,"


Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;

All the king's horses and all the king's men

Couldn't put Humpty together again.

Source: The Dorling Kindersley Book of Nursery Rhymes (2000)

Chapter 4: All the Kings Horses and All the Kings Men

Peter awoke with a start. He sat up a little too quickly and felt a wave of nausea wash over him as he grasped the arm of the couch to steady himself. He looked up and saw a strange man sitting in a chair not too far away. Who was he? Where did he come from? Peter looked around and recognized the couch. It was his couch in his town home, the one he shared with Elle, his wife. Why was he confused? Peter specifically remembered someone telling him he wasn't married. Where had he been? What was going on? The last thing Peter remembered was seeing Neal unconscious while his own security guards were holding him back from saving him, and Keller was administering the antidote to Elle, because he had chosen her over Neal.

"Who are you? Where's Neal? Where's my wife? Keller said he would save her."
The man in the chair smiled slowly as if deciding what to tell Peter.
"My name is Harry. You had a little accident and your friend was very concerned about you. June called me, but don't worry, I was never here."
"You were never here? Are you another figment of my imagination? Am I still dreaming? Where did my office go?"
Harry ignored Peter's questions.
"Your hands will be fine in a couple days. I got the bleeding stopped and all the glass I could find out."
Peter looked down at his bandaged hands.
"Blood? I don't remember there being blood. I wasn't the one hurt. Neal was… Neal was hurt and I couldn't save him."

Peter said this slowly as his memory was slowly coming back to him, and then his face lit up.
"Elizabeth. I saw her. I couldn't save Neal because I saved her life. I chose Elle. She's my wife. Neal said she wasn't but I know she is. It wasn't real. It wasn't real. Where is she? I need to see her. Why isn't she here?"

Harry held up his hand to stop Peter's frantic rambling.

"Your friend said you had been hurt and wouldn't go to a hospital. That's as much information as I have."

Harry looked like he was going to say more, but he was interrupted by a knock on the front door. Before Peter could get up to answer it, Harry motioned for Peter to stay sitting.

"Let me get that for you."

Harry opened the door to find two FBI agents standing there. He let them both in and followed them back to the couch where Peter was sitting. Harry picked up his medical bag and turned to leave.

"I'll leave him in your care." Harry said to them. "If anything worse develops, give June a call. She'll know how to get in touch. There's nothing more I can do for him, but he does seem a bit confused. Maybe you can answer some of his questions better than I can."

Jones shook Harry's hand.

"Thanks for your help. I appreciate it."

"Don't mention it. Any friend of June's is worth helping."

Harry let himself out while Jones and Diana each pulled up a chair.

"Who was that?" Jones inquired of Peter.

Peter gave them both a strange look as if trying to sort things out in his mind.

"That was Harry, a friend of June's." Peter paused. "Let me ask you a question. So, I'm not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and I don't have a stable in the Hamptons, right? I'm an FBI Agent and you work with me, right? Please tell me that's right."

Peter looked at them with a gaze pleading with them to agree with him.

"Yeah, Boss. You work with us."

Diana looked puzzled as she was really becoming worried about Peter's mental state.

"Do you remember what happened? Neal was a little light on the details. He just said we needed to get back over here."

"You spoke with Neal? He's ok? I thought for sure he was dead."

"Dead? Neal?" Jones looked surprised. "Ah, no. I'm not sure where he is, but he sounded just fine. Did you want me to pull up his tracking data?"

"No, that's not necessary. I just… I remember talking to him, and then Keller came and then…"

"Keller was here, in your house?"

"What? No, Keller was at work. He was threatening me. He said he bribed the security guards."

"Keller bribed the security guards at the FBI building?"

"What? No. Now I'm confused. I do work at the FBI don't I? Something's wrong with me. Harry gave me something, didn't he? He drugged me. I can't think straight. I don't know what happened?"

Diana was growing even more concerned and she reached over to feel Peter's forehead.

"You're a little warm boss. Maybe you're getting sick."

"I'm not sick. He drugged me. He gave me something. I'm sure of it. Where's my wife?"

Jones quickly looked over at Diana just to make sure she agreed that they should tell Peter that his wife was still missing. Diana shrugged back noncommittally, leaving the choice up to Jones, who grimaced before telling Peter.

"Keller still has her. We're looking for her right now. We've got as many agents as we can spare on it. We'll get her back."

"So, I was just dreaming I saw her wasn't I? It didn't really happen."

Peter seemed to deflate. He had really been hoping Elizabeth was safe.

"We'll get her back Boss." Diana encouraged. "Neal called a doctor because something happened to you. He didn't specifically say what. Do you remember anything?"

Diana put her hand on his shoulder in an attempt to calm Peter down.

"It's ok. Just calm down. First of all, do you remember why you cut your hands?"

Peter stared down at his hands. It didn't make sense. Nothing made sense.

"If Neal called a doctor, why didn't he stay? I don't remember."

"You must have said or done something to make him leave, Peter. I know you were angry with him. We all are."

"Would you mind reminding me why I am mad at him?"

Diana looked over at Jones and this time took pity on him and explained the whole situation to Peter.

"Keller took Elizabeth because he knew that Neal has the Nazi treasure. Keller is forcing Neal's hand into revealing the treasure and destroying your partnership with him while Elizabeth is paying the price for your friendship."

Peter pondered that for a moment.

"I think I remember. I think… Yes. There was a picture, a picture of myself and Neal. We were… We were wearing tuxes. I showed it to him and then…"

Peter stopped and Jones and Diana could see him pale a bit before he continued.

"That's what happened. I smashed the glass, and I ripped up the picture and… Where is it? It must be here. There was glass everywhere."

Both Diana and Jones looked around but seeing nothing, Diana reported.

"There's nothing here Boss. There isn't any evidence of anything broken. You're sure that's what happened?"

"Yes. Yes, I remember now. Neal was begging me to forgive him and I just couldn't. I was angry and I just couldn't listen to him. He promised that 'we' would find Elle, but I told him there was no 'we.' I told him we were finished, and then… Then he was talking to me about security and Keller shot him, said he had betrayed me. Keller made me choose and I had to choose Elle, and then I woke up and you were here. That doesn't make any sense. I'm rambling and I've lost my mind."

Jones put his hand on Peter's shoulder encouraging him that everything would work out no matter how bleak it looked.

"It's ok. Peter. We'll get this worked out. If Neal wasn't concerned about you he wouldn't have called for a doctor. Besides, if you haven't gotten a call from the Marshals then he hasn't run yet, so that is a good thing."

"I don't know if this can be fixed. He took the treasure and he lied about it. It's his fault Elizabeth was kidnapped. How can I ever forgive him?"

Diana had a sympathetic look on her face as she stood and started to pace around the Burke's living room.

"Maybe you can't forgive him now, but give it time."

"Time? What does time have to do with anything? I don't know how to fix this! How could I have let this happen?"

Diana stopped and sat on the edge of the couch still giving Peter plenty of space, but wanting to show her support.

"It will never be what it was; it will be different. It could be worse or it could be better, or even great if you let it. Yes, your relationship will have to change, but it doesn't have to be worse. There are always at least two choices. What happens depends on how you react as well."

Peter looked over at Diana and she was saddened to see Peter's pain filled eyes looking back at her. Peter whispered almost to himself.

"But he's been lying the whole time. This whole thing has been a con; once a con, always a con, and I was stupid enough to believe it."

Peter recalled his conversation with Kramer, his mentor, telling him how he knew this was going to end. "These are short term relationships…at best. It's hardwired in their brains." Kramer must think he was such a fool.

Two Days Later…

Hughes had granted Peter some sick leave, so he had stayed at home trying unsuccessfully to rest and waiting impatiently for any news or update on Elizabeth. Diana and Jones had been good about calling him with updates, but Peter still felt out of the loop, even though it was quite obvious his hands were still healing and he wouldn't be able to do much.

Peter heard a ding and after several repeating dings, he finally realized it was the doorbell. He realized he must have fallen asleep on the couch in front of the TV. Peter carefully got off the couch, trying not to put too much pressure on his injured hands and slowly opened the door to find Diana standing there with a package and an envelope in her hands.

"Diana. Please, come in."

Peter seemed a bit surprised to see her, but then stepped back to let her in.

"I didn't expect to see you in person. Do you have any news about Elizabeth?"

"Jones is shadowing Neal right now while he's meeting with Keller. We'll get her back. It shouldn't be long now. I didn't want you to be alone."

The FBI Agent in Peter got a chill up his spine as he was mentally finishing Diana's phrase with 'in case something bad happens.'

"I found these by your front door. I didn't know if you knew they were there or not."

"I didn't hear the doorbell ring, but I had apparently fallen asleep because I woke up when you rang the doorbell just now."

Diana extended the package and the letter.

"Your hands look better, did you want to try and open these?"

"No, I think I'll pass for now. They are still really tender. You may have the honors."

Diana set the package down on the coffee table and carefully opened the envelope.

"This looks like Neal's writing." She commented as she looked at the flowing script before she started reading.

"They say 'A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words' and I'm sure by now you don't want to hear any words I might say, so I wanted to show you. I know our partnership is probably non-existent by now, but I wanted to make sure you know that I am sorry. I know you don't think I have changed, but every day I see more and more pieces of you in myself and I know it's a good thing, I'm just not all the way there yet; please don't give up on me. I'm sorry I left, but I didn't think you would want to see me when you woke up and I needed to put a plan in place. I knew that Harry would take good care of you.

I promise I will get Elizabeth back to you no matter what. If, after this note, you still feel the need to rip up a picture, please don't destroy the painting. Could you rip up the picture from the security camera instead? Just please don't hurt yourself this time.

I know you have no reason to trust me anymore, so I'm not asking for our partnership to be reinstated. I know it can never be what it was, but I am asking for your forgiveness and a chance to be a better person. I can't do it without you. I hope the painting can bridge the gap between us for now, and I meant what I said on the painting. I truly hope it's worth a thousand words of apology. Neal."

Diana put the letter down.

"He sounds very sincere. Do you think this is another con?"

"I don't know. Maybe we should check the package."

Diana carefully opened the package and withdrew a small frame. She gave a small gasp when she pulled the painting out. Neal had glued some of the larger fragments of the ripped tux picture onto the canvas and painted around them with white lines; promoting a ripped effect. He had then finished the images of himself and Peter outside of the white lines and then added in drawings of Jones, Diana, Elizabeth, June, Sara and Mozzie. Neal even had Satchmo reclining at Peter's feet. The painting was entitled "My Family" and Neal had even signed his full name in the corner. No hidden initials anywhere for them to find, but out in plain sight, clearly taking ownership for the work. Diana was so taken in by the photo that she didn't even hear Peter until he had said her name twice.

"Diana." Peter said again, wondering what would have possibly drawn her in. "Would you mind turning it around so I could see it?"

"Yeah, sorry Boss."

Diana turned the picture around and carefully set it on the coffee table so that Peter could study it without having to hold it. She noticed that Peter didn't say a word while looking at the painting, but eventually she noticed a stray tear running down his check. He didn't even bother to wipe it away. She wasn't sure what he was thinking, but remembering Neal's letter, she asked.

"So, is it worth a thousand words?"

Peter still remained quiet for at least another minute, and Diana was feeling rather awkward wondering what Peter could be thinking. It wasn't your normal portrait. Neal had definitely given it a ripped up, almost destroyed look with the white lines drawn around him and Peter, but it still amazed Diana how much it actually moved her. She was touched that Neal had thought to include her as part of his family as well. She shifted on the couch slightly when Peter finally looked up at her and smiled with tears still in his eyes.

"It's perfect."

~~~~~~~ The End ~~~~~~~