Once again, many thanks to all of you who read the story !
Part Three: The Right Thing to Do
Peter hung up the phone. He had been talking all morning with his friend Walt from DC, to synch with the investigation starting over there. Most of the original files Ellen had made copies of were in the DC archives. Digging them up, from a time prior to the digital era, would be pretty tedious. Making sure to keep them from ill-intended hands would be a challenge too. But if they did their job properly "heads were gonna fall" as Diana had said.
Peter didn't get Pratt, but he had enough to arrest two members of his close staff who had followed their captain into Politics. The Senator from Illinois was going to take a fall too, and a few retired cops. Walt would build a discreet team of Agents of trust to investigate if the corrupted ring of dirty cops was still ongoing.
Callaway had been put on administrative leave while her implication in the whole affair was assessed. Bancroft would stay to supervise the "Box case" until it was closed.
They had a lead on James Bennett. A man matching his description had been sighted at a New Jersey bus station.
Neal had seemed tired this morning, but his smile was genuine enough to tell Peter he would be fine.
All this was pretty satisfying.
Except that this impression of guilt weighting on Peter's chest was still there. He had been rethinking about his conversation with Neal a good part of the night. His friend's words had reassured him he had been doing the right thing and Peter felt confident that in the end, that investigation would be a nice success for his team.
Peter rubbed his eyes with his thumb and index. His gaze lingered around his desk and stopped at the old photo of him and El. Peter loved Elizabeth's bright smile on this picture. She looked so happy and carefree. She hadn't been smiling like that in a while.
Peter tried to remember El's schedule for today. She said she would be working from home. That was perfect. Peter stood up and grabbed his jacket.
He knew what he had to do.
When he arrived home, El was seated at her little desk in the kitchen, by the window. One leg folded under her, her head rested on her hand, she was looking outside. The morning sun was illuminating her face with his soft light, casting warm colors in her hair. At first Peter thought she was absorbed in her thoughts, but as he approached, he realized she was watching at something in the garden. Looking from behind El, he saw two little birds dancing around, flying from one branch to another, rubbing their heads together, and taking off again to another tree. A peaceful smile was enlightening El's look. She was so adsorbed she hadn't hear him.
"Eh Hon," Peter said as softly as possible.
El startled, and turned around, surprised and delighted to see him. But her smile faded away, which made Peter's heart miss a beat.
"Hi, Honey. Something's wrong?"
"No, no, no." Peter pressed as he took her close, wrapping his arm around her.
Intrigued, El titled her head, and plunged her eyes in his, trying to read his mind.
Now that he was here, Peter wasn't sure where to start.
"El, I'm sorry." She frowned, confused. "I've been a terrible husband lately." Now, El raised an eyebrow.
Peter sighted. This was going nowhere. Images of El, vaguely pouting after Hughes's visit before the car accident, trying to hide her worries and tears, at the hospital, and against yesterday, were circling in his mind. He wanted to erase them, erase the fears and the tears, make it up for Elizabeth, bring back her wonderful smile, the sparkles in her eyes, the laugh in her voice. He'd been missing those so much, and he'd been a fool not to realize it.
He took his beloved wife by the hand and led her to the sofa, where they sat face to face. Peter cleared his throat as well as his mind. He took Elizabeth's hands in his.
"I've been too consumed in the whole Pratt/Bennett thing," he said, "and it'd blinded me. You were worried, and I ignore it. I didn't want to see it, because I didn't want to back off. You warned me, and I didn't listen, and I was wrong."
El squeezed his hands and brushed her thumb on his palms.
"It's okay, Peter," she said. "I know you had this case at heart."
"No, it's not okay. I see it in your eyes, Hon. You're worried."
El blinked, as if trying to hide her eyes from his piercing gaze.
"You're an FBI Agent, Peter, it comes with the job. Of course I worry about you. That's also who you are. You're passionate about your job, and that's also something I love about you."
Peter smiled. He really didn't deserve such a wonderful wife. And such a wonderful wife really didn't deserve all he had put her through lately. He pulled her in his arm and caressed her cheek before putting a kiss on her forehead.
"I don't want to be this kind of guy, too preoccupied by his job to look after his wife. You shouldn't have to hide your fears, and I should not ignore them. I always talk about doing the right thing and all, but the first and most important thing to do should be to take care of you." He cupped a hand around her chin to make her look at him. "I'm sorry, Honey."
Tears were appearing at the corners of El's eyes. She buried her head into his chest.
"I just don't want to lose you, Peter."
Peter continued to caress El's cheek. "And I don't want to lose you. So I'm going to make it up to you, El."
She pushed herself up to look at him, and tilted her head. Her eyes were sparkling tenderly. "Oh really?"
"I'm serious, Hon. I feel horribly guilty over it all."
Elizabeth kissed him tenderly on the lips. "So, what are your plans to get back into my good graces?" She asked.
"I was thinking about calling the Rusty Egret and see if they still had a room?"
"Hmmm. Good idea. We'll just make sure not to stop anywhere before we get there this time."
Peter grinned. "I doubt we'll fall again on the wannabee Bonnie and Clyde."
"I think we've already burned all our chances to get kidnapped for a lifetime…" Elizabeth agreed. "So, when do you want to go?"
"Hmm… In about an hour? Packing shouldn't take that long since you know where we're going this time."
"An hour – Oh you meant to leave today? But what about your case?"
Peter gently took El's head in his hands. "Case can wait." El's mouth dropped open. "I'll handle it to Jones and Diana. I'm sure the Bureau can survive without me for a couple of days."
El threw her arms around his neck, a wide smile on her face – that smile that meant so much to Peter he would do anything for it. "I love you, Honey," she whispered.
"I love you too," he answered tenderly.
Elizabeth had literally lightened up. She stood up from the sofa, and picked up her phone. "I'm calling Yvonne. Burke Premiere will have to survive without me," she cheered happily. She was smiling from ear to ear, and looked more happy and relaxed that Peter had seen her for days.
El hanged up and was heading upstairs. "So, one hour?"
Peter grinned. "Yes, one hour. On your mark, go!"
Peter took his own phone to call the Office, before calling the Rusty Egret. He was just as happy as El, his mind and heart finally at peace. He felt light. The weight in his chest was gone. This was the right thing to do.