White Collar belongs to Jeff Eastin and USA Network. I'm just trying to deal with PTSD from White Collar withdrawal, which will only get worse as the daylight gets shorter!
This fic was inspired by canadianscanget who dared me to use the "countdown" drama, pedestrians in danger and a moose all mixed together and, yes, I do have personal experience with the last two. Although a moose walking down the street in the middle of traffic here would be considered more of a normal occurrence, I couldn't really see that happening in the middle of New York City, although I have to admit I've never been there, but desperately want to visit. I instead had to come up with something a little more plausible and funny to break the tension that is clearly apparent at the end of the "Countdown" episode. Peter's look just breaks my heart!
Open Season – Chapter 1 – No Talking, No Touching
Peter's head was spinning and his vision was blurring in and out; thoughts of Elle running through his mind. She couldn't be dead; she just couldn't be dead. She had to be alive, Diana said the neighbors had seen her alive. She couldn't leave him; he loved her too much to let her go.
His vision sharpened, and his senses heightened when he lifted his head and caught sight of Neal. The pressure building up inside him gushed forth like magma in a volcano, and there was no way Neal was going to escape the wrath.
"This is your fault, Neal. It's your fault Elle is gone. You can't blame this on anyone else. Your charm won't get you out of this one. I trusted you. How could I have trusted you? He took my wife! This is your fault!"
If Peter had been in a more lucid frame of mind, he would have noticed an authentic expression of sorrow gracing Neal's features, his eyes big blue pools of guilt.
"I'm am so sorry, Peter. I never meant for any of this to happen. You have to believe me; I never thought he would take Elle."
"I don't care what you think at the moment! Keller wants the treasure. He says you have it. You lied to me, Neal. All this time you've been lying to me. I can't do this anymore. I want the location of the treasure and then we're through. I'll deal with you later."
"Peter, please. I'm sorry. We'll get her back."
"Where's the treasure, Neal. I know you took it. Keller knows you took it and he's proved he's willing to do anything to get his hands on it."
Neal looked down at his Italian leather shoes, not willing to meet the fiery gaze Peter was aiming toward him. He started to mumble, afraid that if he spoke louder the rest of his world would come crashing down around him as well.
"I only know where the treasure was, Peter. I'm sure Mozzie is long gone with it, but we can check."
"So, you're pinning this all on Mozzie?"
Peter's fiery gaze turned into an expression of utter disbelief.
"Do you ever take responsibility for anything you do Neal?" Peter didn't really give Neal a chance to answer. "Never mind. Stupid question."
Peter gave Neal a look that made Neal's blood run cold; a look that shattered all the trust that had been painstakingly built up over the last two years. Even in all the time that Peter had been chasing him, Neal had never witnessed Peter having such a betrayed and furious look about him. Neal knew arguing was pointless, Peter had already made-up his mind, and there was nothing he could say or do that could fix it.
Peter snapped into agent mode, shoving emotion aside, and started belting orders to Jones and Diana to keep monitoring the road blocks and traffic cameras and keep him apprised of all leads before he switched his gaze back toward Neal.
"Neal, here's what you're going to do."
Peter preemptively held up his hand to stop Neal from interrupting, but then realized Neal wasn't opening his mouth for his usual retorts.
"Text Mozzie now to meet you wherever this treasure was kept. You're going to show me where it is, no questions asked! No funny business, and no excuses or lies!"
"I haven't lied to you, Peter."
Peter totally ignored Neal's last comment as he turned his back and stalked out the door, fully expecting Neal to follow him or else.
"Park over here." Neal motioned to an empty parking spot a few feet ahead of the Taurus. "We have to walk for several blocks because Mozzie would be completely paranoid if he saw your car anywhere around the building."
Peter parked the Taurus and turned the key off before looking over at Neal.
"If Mozzie's not here, I don't know what I'm going to do with you!"
"Sending me back to prison isn't your default option anymore?"
"Clearly it didn't teach you anything the last time or you wouldn't have stolen the treasure and been lying to me for the last several months!"
The word came out more as a plea for understanding, but Peter was not in the mood to listen.
"Not a word, Neal. Not one word!"
Peter motioned with his index finger to emphasize the point.
"Do you understand me? Not one word. There is nothing, nothing you could possibly say to me that would make things right. Everything that comes out of your mouth is a lie."
Neal wanted to argue with Peter. He wanted to plead his case and explain that he hadn't stolen the treasure, but he knew his actions since then wouldn't exactly qualify him for citizen of the month, and Peter was not in a forgiving mood.
Neal reached for the door handle of the Taurus, anxious to get out of the car quickly. He was feeling trapped in the closed space with a man that now presumably hated his guts, and was fairly justified in doing so. Neal heard rather than saw Peter getting out on the driver's side, and silently waited on the sidewalk for Peter to walk around the front of the car. Peter completely ignored Neal and started walking past him toward the stoplight, looking down at the address Neal had written for him on a scrap of paper. Neal followed a few steps behind thinking how easy it would be to just turn and run. Peter was so intent on getting to the storage unit Neal wondered how long it would take for Peter to even realize he was missing. Neal wanted to run, he wanted to run so badly, but he knew he owed it to Elle to get her back safely. If there was any hope of rescuing his partnership with Peter, Neal knew that Elle would have to be safe, and he knew that Peter couldn't find her without him. No matter how pig-headed or stubborn Peter tried to be, they were a team – arguably the best cop and robber team out there, and Neal knew that teamwork was the only way they were going to catch Keller.
Peter was several steps ahead of Neal, completely ignoring him and busy thinking of any angles that had not been covered by Jones, Diana or the rest of the team. He stopped suddenly realizing the light was red, and an orange hand cautioned pedestrians from crossing the street. Neal had been so lost in his own thoughts trying to figure out Keller's next move that he failed to see Peter had stopped suddenly; running directly into him. Peter jumped back trying to prevent himself from falling into traffic; a scowl appearing on his face, a reprimand forming on his lips.
"No touching! No talking, no touching! Stay away from me."
Neal didn't say a word, he just let out a long sigh before he realized Peter probably heard it and 'no sighing' would be added to Peter's list of forbidden items.
Neal glanced over at the pedestrians crossing on his right, trying to avoid looking at Peter. His eye suddenly caught on a sweatshirt a guy crossing the street was wearing. "Watch out for moose droppings" was screen printed across the front of the sweatshirt while an embroidered moose stared out at Neal looking like he meant business. Neal was sure he didn't ever want to tangle with a moose, but the thought of moose droppings just seemed incredibly funny to Neal. He remembered seeing people with big scoops following the big Belgian horses after a big parade, and couldn't even imagine what a moose could possibly produce when given a chance.
The thought of the size of moose droppings so amused Neal that Peter's admonishment to be quiet never even crossed his mind. Neal started laughing, almost hysterically. He was too overcome to notice that the light on his end was now green andwas displaying the image of a person walking. Neal stood rooted to the spot, still trying to catch his breath because he was laughing so hard.
Peter, meanwhile, was intent on getting to the storage unit that Neal had directed him to. He heard Neal laughing uproariously behind him and Peter felt anger rising to the surface once again. How dare Neal be laughing after what he did; did he have no shame? Peter fumed silently to himself regretting in the knowledge that it was a rhetorical question. He had let himself be conned again. He was an FBI Agent, a professional trained to take down criminals, but somehow Neal always managed to be on step ahead of him.
The second the light changed Peter started across ahead of the few other people still waiting to cross. Peter was so caught up being angry with Neal for his apparent disregard of the serious situation they were in that he failed to notice a yellow cab that had decided it could make it around the corner at the light that had just turned red without getting caught.
Completely forgetting about Peter's 'no talking, no touching' rule, Neal yelled at his friend as he saw the cab speeding up to make it around the corner, too late to close the distance between them and unable to push Peter out of the way.