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Hurts like Hell

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When the CIA sent a request over the office to have a conference with Neal, the majority of the office assumed the worst.

After all, the CIA only gets involved with the worst of the worst, so whatever they happened to suspect Neal of probably wasn't legal.

A female agent by the name of Sarah Walker was sent for the meeting. She came to the office holding a black leather jacket and a badge tucked under her arm. Whatever she was here for was obviously important, considering the calculating cold look in her eyes.

Neal was sent to sit in the conference room to wait. Peter gave him a chance to admit to anything he might of done to attract the CIA’s attention, to which Neal denied any of the sort.

Although no one believed him as many caught the brief look of worry flash in his eyes before the walls in his persona as Neal Caffrey closed shut on any emotions he might let out, as he flashed a jaunty smile and a few cocky assumptions that the CIA might just need his refined expertise.

Despite his performance of absolute ease, they could see the stress laying heavy on his shoulders.

The years spent working alongside the reformed criminal taught them a lot about his tells, as many of the agents in the room had begun to see Caffrey more as a friend and colleague than a crook on a leash.

The blonde agent walked up to the conference room, closing the door behind her. The rest of the office looked up at the glass-paneled room with all attention present.

The looks exchanged between Neal and Agent Walker showed that they were at least familiar with each other in some way, possibly even friends if one looked close enough.

Although it was quick to see that the conversation was turning sour as the agent seemed to close off before sliding over an ID badge and the jacket she was holding earlier over to him.

Neal seemed stunned, which was not a familiar sight to many in the room.

Caffrey was a master at shedding and putting on emotions and personas like it was nothing, becoming someone else in a matter of seconds without anyone having a single question.

To see him expressing shock in a raw and unguarded fashion was concerning, to say the least.

Did they find an old alias of his?

Did he cause some sort of issue for the CIA years ago?

Is there something he's done recently?

These thoughts were murmured and muttered around the office bellow as many of them began to feel an irrational feeling of wariness fill the room,

After all, even though they considered Neal to be a friend doesn't mean that he hasn't done questionable things in the past, or the possibility that he could be pulling a fast one behind their backs either.

Although all thoughts of attempted crimes or allegations were ceased when a small gasp from Sheila, a probationary agent keeping her eyes glued to the conference room caused all heads to turn towards Neal and the agent.

The room fell into a hushed silence as they stared at an impossible sight.

“ Holy shit..” Diana said in a shocked whisper,

In the conference room above sat Neal holding the badge in a white knuckle grip, fingers digging into the sturdy material of the leather backing the frame of the ID, tears welling into his eyes.

Seemingly lost to the eyes watching his pre-breakdown, he seemed to ask the agent a question, looking desperate and sorrowful.

The agent herself didn’t look to be all that okay either, although her posture spoke that she had already come to terms with what she had come to Neal to talk about.

Her response seems to break something in Neal because he drops the badge as if burned by the material before grabbing the jacket off the table to look at it.

The tears welling in his eyes seemed to grow before the metaphorical dam broke as he began to sob into the material. Shoulders shaking as he lost his posture, closing in on himself as he held the clothing closer to his face while sitting down in his seat.

Agent Walker seems to want to offer some semblance of comfort but recoils at the last second as if unable to. Pulling a file out from her jacket, she leaves it out on the table before leaving the room.

She looks at the agents in the bullpen, and before a word can be spoken she cuts them off.
In a clear and concise tone, she states

“ As required of the CIA, all agents are given the option of a single contact to a trusted individual to receive any and all information pertaining to their health and situation should they face any issues on the field. In Mr. Caffrey’s case, he was the contact for his younger brother who was an ops agent sanctioned by the CIA. His younger brother was unfortunately killed in action during a recent operation, and as requested, Mr.Caffrey is to be given any and all possessions owned by the said agent in the case of his passing.”

Her voice void of any emotions, like all spooks, was usually known for.

The information hit everyone like a pile of bricks, although none of the weight hit anyone harder than Peter.

It felt like someone had dropped a semi-truck on him, and then dumped him into the cold rushing waters of the New York Bay during the freezing months of winter.

 

No one could have predicted this.

 

Walking towards the elevators, the agent looked back at the agents of the FBI office before looking solely at Peter.

Her eyes softened as a glimmer of sorrow leaked through her stone walls.

“ Take care of him... Please. He was all he had.”

She gave the conference room above a painful look, where Neal still sat sobbing into the sleek material of the jacket they now assumed was owned by his younger brother, before entering the elevator and leaving.

When the machine pinged of her departure for the second time, everyone seemed to snap out of their thoughts.

Peter looked up at Neal and felt a wave of grief fill himself.

His friend, his partner, someone he has grown to see as an extended part of his family, Neal suddenly didn’t look as young as he was. After all, thirty-two was still a considerably young age to Peter as he was slowly reaching his fifties.

Although as he saw his friend break into pieces over his brother’s death, it seemed as if decades had been added onto his shoulders.

“ Go.”

Dianas tight grip on his arm broke him from his thoughts as her dark eyes seem to encourage him to comfort the breaking man.

 

Rushing up the room with an undeniable fury to offer any and all assistance he could to his partner, he opened to door to the room before stepping in.

The intrusion was seemingly unnoticed by Neal.

“Neal?”

His head rose from the jacket he cradled in his hands in a fragile grip, his hair disheveled and parted down framing his face rather than perfectly smoothed into its carefree but perfect craft, eyes rimmed red as his cheeks and nose were flushed.

Although that’s not what hurts the most, what hurt the most was the look in his eyes that felt like a batting swing at the knees.

They were so dull.

Like everything that made Neal... Neal just vanished.

Kneeling down to Neal’s sitting level, Peter took a shot at offering comfort to his friend.
“ Are you okay?”

Peter flinched at the question’s lack of eloquence, god El would be so much better at this.

The question seems to bring forth some type of reaction in Neal because he begins to speak,

 

“ He can’t be dead.” His voice hoarse and brittle like glass.

“ He c-cant be.”

“ he promised me he’d come back, he - they- he promise me he’d come back to me.”

His ramblings seemed to gain volume as they continued on.
His hands gripping his head tight.

“ I let him go- I let him go because he promised me peter, - I let him go…”

His words seem to only get louder, the scene beginning to resemble a panic attack. Peter began to try to bring Neal back down, trying to soothe him with comforting words and gentle denials, Diana and Jones rushing into the room as they could hear the signs as well from the bullpen below.

“Neal please try and calm down.”

Dianas words seem to have fallen deaf upon his ears as his mantra repeated,

“ I let him go, I- I let him-- -i-its my fault.”

His fingers seemed to dig into his scalp as he tugged at the clumps of hair he tangled his fingers into.

His breathing becoming more rapid and sharp,
“He’s dead because of me.”

The confession bringing a flood of tears out.

“ - I-I killed my baby brother.”

 

The claim seemed to break the man down as he began to shake while Peter wrapped his arms around him.

The three agents in the room looking shocked by the turn of events and pained by the accusations Neal threw undeservingly at himself.

The three began offering their support in any way they could,

Peter holding Neal tight denying his insistent babble of self-hate, Diana rubbing soothing circled onto neals back in comfort, Jones gathering tissues and water from the concerned agents down bellow, trying to manage the crowd of worried agents who had heard the panic-induced ramblings Neal had voiced.

It took possibly an hour before they were able to usher Neal out of the office,

His steps empty and off. As if his whole being was on autopilot, his head buried into Diana’s shoulder as he was walked to peters car, while Peter explained everything to Hughes, who gave him the all-clear to take as much time off as he needed to care for Neal.

Diana and Jones helped put Neal into the Tarrus before telling Peter that they handle the office for him, so as long as he gives them updates periodically about Neal’s condition.

The drive to Peters house was quiet, Neal silent as his mind drifted off in its post-panic attack fortress of a million mental walls and barricades.

Ushering Neal into the house was a struggle but Elizabeth opened the door with a rush as she gathered the empty man into her arms.

Allowing peter some time to take his shoes off, she sat Neal down on the couch as she offered sweet apologies and gentle mothering touches while squeezing him tight, already aware of the situation from a quick call from Jones.

Normally Neal would have glowed at the attention, giving Peter a good-natured smirk.

Although all that he could do was place a hand on her back as his other hand gripped his brother’s badge and jacket in one hand, as he had for the whole ordeal.

Peter looked at the scene with a forlorn expression, this would take a long time to come back from.

 

But he knew they could.

 

Because Peter knew that he and Elizabeth alongside a whole army of people Neal had met and created a bond with will be there for him every step of the way, and help him heal.

And they did.

It took days to get Neal to talk a bit about what he was feeling, It took weeks to get him to get the ability to get out of bed in the morning on his own, it took two months to get him back in the office.

But even then he wasn’t okay.
But that was okay.

The whole office took steps to help Neal get back on his feet and for six months they everyone played a role in helping Neal come out of the Mental fortress he locked himself in.

June made sure he ate breakfast every morning and night he wasn’t at the Burke Residence,

Mozzie made sure he never drank himself sick after a disastrous situation and offered his support to his brother in all but blood,

Diana and Jones took him out to galleries and lunches, offering their support whenever they could,

The office and other divisions seeing past the bravado persona and offering him assistance and respect like any other colleague in the Bureau.

And it took a total of 7 months before they saw the Neal Caffrey they all knew and loved come back to life,
Sure he was a bit subdued, but that was to be expected.

The topic of his brother was not one to be spoken of, in comparison to his brother’s death, Kates was almost nothing.

Only a handful of people knew who and what his brother meant to Neal.

And things returned to normal a few months,

Until one night while sitting down for dinner at Junes loft, a knock was made at Neal’s door.

Opening it up, he looked up to the just slightly taller man before him and saw an almost identical looking face to his own stare right back at himself.

A shaking hand rose up to cup the man’s cheek, it was warm.
It was impossible, it had to be.

“ -Bryce.”

A cheeky smile rose to the younger man’s face, and undeniably Bryce looking smile.
“ Hey Danny, sorry for the wait. You know how traffic is.”