Author's Note: Title is from Kavinsky's Nightcall, as heard in the movie Drive. It fits the story quite nicely, listen to it while you read.
Also, I love Peter, and I love that finale scene, which I found beautifully heartbreaking for both our boys. This might help you understand Peter, and if not, please refrain your nasty comments. He doesn't deserve any.
It's hard to explain.
Peter hates himself. Neal's hurt face haunts him all the way down the 3 flights of stairs of June's house. He can still hear the bitter tone of his friend ringing to his ears. A criminal, Neal had repeated. Neal, the friend who just had gotten him out of jail. Peter can't help feeling that he's given up on Neal.
Peter gets in his car but doesn't start the engine. He is that close to run back to Neal's apartment, explain himself, say he is sorry.
Except there's his giant Caffrey-detector flickering its bright red light at the back of his head. And for once, just for that one time, Peter wished he had a switch to turn it off. But he doesn't know how to stop it. His mind keeps replaying their visit to the firehouse. Neal spent an awful long time looking for that blanket, and precisely in the room where they found the empty tank. Not to mention that convenient distraction created by the stove fire, which started precisely when Peter left Neal alone to make the phone call. Add to this Neal's tracking data, staying uncharacteristically still just at the time of the gold coin heist…
Peter sighs and slowly pushes the ignition button of his brand new car. Cars don't even have keys anymore these days. Peter doesn't really like this BMW. It doesn't look like him. It's too flashy to be the car of a Federal Agent. He misses his good old Taurus. He misses the good old times where things were simpler, easier.
Peter tries to block the conclusion his brain is formulating. He knows exactly where this is leading and he doesn't want to think about it. Not just yet, not so soon, or ever. He's been there before, and it was painful enough that first time. He doesn't want to investigate his friend. He doesn't want to see Neal as a suspect. Hell, he doesn't want to see Neal as a criminal. He doesn't want Neal to go back in jail. And more than that, he doesn't want to put Neal back in jail. Catching Neal isn't fun anymore. 2-0 is a nice score. Let's call it a game. Peter is tired. He doesn't want to play anymore. All he wants is do his job, catch real criminals, without fearing his world to collapse on him at any moment.
It's late, and the streets are mostly empty. He grips the wheel so tight that his knuckles are white. Why did he have to take that one case, of all the cases piling on his desk? Peter lets go a bitter snort. Why? Because he thought Neal would like that one. It was a clean job, obviously thought through, a perfectly executed smash-and-grab. And now that case would become their worst nightmare…
As the new ASAC, he won't be in charge of the investigations anymore. He might have to explain a drop in the closure rate, but maybe, if he recruited a not so bright Agent, and knowing Neal's care for spotless crime scenes, the gold coin thief would never be found… 2-1 might not be that bad. Peter smiles, but his heart is heavy.
He feels suddenly exhausted. The euphoria of his restored freedom and the relief of seeing his life resuming its normal course are fading away and the extreme tension of the past six weeks are finally catching up on him. His body demands rest, his mind needs peace.
As he drives back to Brooklyn, Peter knows peace won't come to his mind until he's figured it all out. He tries to distract his mind from the case, tries to think about his new job, his new life, a new start for him and Elizabeth. But at the back of his head, one question keeps nagging at him: why? Why Neal would do that?
It was not even a particularly high stake, nor a truly worthy challenge in Caffrey standards. So why? There has to be a reason. Neal always has a good reason to get himself in troubles. Was he covering someone? Protecting someone? That would be just like Neal Caffrey to risk a smash-and-grab to help a friend. Peter makes the mental not to check the whereabouts of the usual suspects first thing in the morning. Maybe Alex is back in town… Maybe one of Neal's associates got into big troubles and Neal…
Peter slams on the brakes and the car stops short, in front of his house. Protecting someone. Yes, that would be exactly like Neal. Peter didn't ask how he convinced his father to give his testimony, and Neal didn't elaborate.
He suddenly feels lightheaded. Peter bends over to rest his head on his hands, still holding the wheel, and closes his eyes. His heart his burning inside his chest.
"Neal, what did you do?"