oper_1895: Neal Caffrey in a suit. (Default)
[personal profile] oper_1895
Title: Put Away Wet
Author: oper_1895
Rating: pg-13
Pairing: Peter/Neal/Elizabeth
Words: ~4000
Spoilers: None
Contains: Panic attack, safe words, h/c
For collarkink prompt: Neal is captured while undercover, and is brutally restrained until he's rescued. He's mostly alright, not seriously hurt, and he's alright emotionally, except that when they try and put the anklet back on him he freaks out. Preferably friendship or P/N/E family type relationship.
A sequel to Perspective.

Many thanks to the ever wonderful [personal profile] jumpuphigh and [personal profile] bientot for their beta efforts. Any remaining errors are the fault of my meddling.


There were a lot of tense faces watching him as Neal picked his way carefully out of the building he’d been held in. Peter was hovering at his elbow, guiding him around the dangers for his still bare feet. Neal would have been annoyed but he found it difficult to come up with the focus required to avoid the less obvious obstacles on his own. Peter’s coat was still draped across his shoulders. It mostly covered the clanking manacles on his wrists, but Neal knew that the agents watching him wouldn’t miss that particular detail.

“Neal?” Neal blinked at the sound of Peter’s voice and realised that he had stopped walking. “Are you okay?”

Neal shook his head and started moving again, waving off Peter’s concern. “Nothing a bath and a meal won’t fix.”

“Hospital first, then I’ll put your order in with El.” Peter set himself at Neal’s shoulder again, close enough Neal could feel his warmth. Neal’s head was fuzzy with fatigue and fizzing with the remnants of his ordeal. Peter‘s helpful little perspective shift had given Neal something to focus on and a way to get through the immediate crisis, but now Neal was struggling with the aftermath. Something in the back of his brain thought it knew how this was supposed to go, now that the scene was over. He fought the urge to curl up in to Peter’s embrace and ride it out. That wasn’t exactly an option right now. Peter gave him a tight smile like he could see right through Neal, and let his hand linger on Neal’s shoulder as he helped Neal into the car.

Neal tried to get his head out of the floating haze and back into the game. He could crash later. “I want your pot roast,” he said as Peter climbed into the driver’s seat.

Peter raised an eyebrow at that. Neal tried for hopeful. “You said I could have anything I wanted. I want your pot roast.”

“A roast takes time, Neal.” Peter protested, gamely played the straight man for whatever weak banter Neal could manage.

“That’s okay. I can wait.” Neal settled into his seat, wedged himself into the corner. Time was exactly the point. Peter didn’t make it that often, because it took hours and someone had to stay home to keep an eye on it, while the house filled with delicious smells. It practically demanded a calm day at home, and Neal needed that so badly. He clung to the potential, hoping it would be enough for now.

“What time is it anyway?” Neal hadn’t had access to natural light in days.

”Just after 1.”

“Then you have lots of time.” Peter huffed, amused, and reached over to hold Neal’s hand. Neal shut his eyes and let the world pass him by.


Getting the chains off was an experience Neal would be happy to never repeat ever again. Peter was hovering at his back and they did their best to be gentle and careful and explain everything, but there really was no tender way to cut metal. Neal closed his eyes, and paid close attention to his breathing, while trying to ignore the rasping grinding noises and the vibrations rattling through his bones. When the final cuff fell away, relief came in a giddy rush of adrenaline. Neal slumped against Peter and rubbed at his wrists, soothing the abraded skin.

“Can we go home now?”

“Hospital first.” Peter helped Neal down off the work bench, kicking the discarded chunks of metal out of the way with a bit more force than was really necessary. “And I know that you’re fine. You still need to get checked out.”

Neal sighed, “Fine, but I’m sleeping in my own bed tonight. I don’t care if I have to break myself out.”

Thankfully the hospital visit was uncomplicated. The abrasions on his wrists and ankles had been tended and wrapped, his bruises had been prodded. He’d been pronounced slightly malnourished and dehydrated, but otherwise fine.

Neal shifted awkwardly on the hospital bed, aching both physically and mentally. Peter had since disappeared to get Neal released from the hospital and reclaimed by the FBI, leaving Neal to wait in the tiny private room he’d been granted. While Neal was grateful that Peter was dealing with the details, Neal’s brain was still jangling with the tension of his captivity. Left alone, without anyone to provide gentle support to keep him balanced, he could feel himself starting to slip. If he was going to wait, he needed a distraction.

Thankfully, distractions were plentiful. In order to convince other people, you had to at least half believe it yourself, and ‘fake it till you make it’ was a pretty good motto. Neal plastered on a grin and started working on the medical team who were in and out checking on him, on Diana and Jones who were standing around looking protective, and on anyone else who happened by.

And he’d managed that right up until Elizabeth arrived.

Elizabeth had taken one look at him and gently herded everyone else out of the room. She sat down on the edge of his bed, and gently drew him down to lie beside her where she could play absently with the his hair. Cheater, Neal groused mentally as Elizabeth scratched gently at his nape and Neal eyes fluttered shut. But he had to admit it was working. With Elizabeth refusing to respond to him with anything other than reassuring nonsense and gentle caresses, Neal finally felt the buzzing chaos settle into calm acceptance.

He was drifting and dozing when Peter entered, first speaking softly to Elizabeth. Neal pried his eyes open, “What’s the verdict?

“Guilty” Peter quirked a smile. Neal rolled his eyes, and Peter relented, took a seat on the other side of Neal. “The doctor will be by in a bit, then you’re all set.”

Not much longer then, Neal pushed himself up, away from Elizabeth’s soothing hands. He was ready to get going, but Peter kept him in place with a look. “Neal, do you need anything?”

That was a familiar query, and one that Neal knew better than to hedge around, it was one of the first rules of their relationship; We can‘t help you if you don‘t tell us what you need, we won‘t do this if we can‘t trust you to tell us what you need. Neal took a deep breath, and closed his eyes again. He was exhausted, woozy with from the deprivation. He ached all over, wrists and ankles a dull throb that stood out amongst the other more generalized pain, but all that would pass. Physically, he’d been through much worse.

Mentally, that was another question, that was the one Peter was really curious about. Neal carefully poked at the memories of his captivity. It had been… disturbing, being so completely and constantly restrained., with no chance at all of escape. Every once in a while he had managed to forget about the manacles, but that would only ever last until his next movement. They’d left him mostly alone, only visiting him to deliver him supplies and pick up his work. He had no way of getting the manacles off himself, no chance to talk his way out of the manacles. He’d been scared, he was willing to admit to that, and he certainly felt delicate right now. But he’d find his feet again, given just a bit of time.

“Just home” Neal let their warmth roll over him and wash away the experience, that‘s all he needed. “Bath, pot roast,” everything Peter had promised him.

“Just one thing then.” Peter produced the anklet, looking looking wary. Neal just sighed and kicked his leg free of the bedding so that Peter could get at it. Back to normalcy. It would be good, Neal tried to convince himself. It meant he was back with Peter, where it was safe.

But when he felt the anklet close over his ankle, all his composure disappeared in an instant. Neal could feel his heart pounding in his throat and his breath came in short sharp gasps. His body was rigid with tension as he fought for control. He was distantly aware of the alarmed voices and hands, but all he couldn’t process anything beyond how much everything was so very wrong right now. He couldn’t think, couldn’t focus past the mind-eating surge of adrenaline.

“Red” Neal gasped, forcing the word out past the panic. “Red, Peter. Red.” He couldn’t come up with any other words, wouldn’t have been able to articulate what was going wrong even if he could find the breath. But this was Peter and Elizabeth, and he knew that with them Red would make anything stop.

Then, there was a beeping noise added to the muddle of sensation he was experiencing. Someone, Peter probably, was running his knuckles rubbing up and down Neal’s leg, uninterrupted. Not grabbing, not holding, just reassuring. Elizabeth was trying to get his attention with soft hands on his face. He could hear now that the surge of adrenaline was fading. Elizabeth’s voice was reassuring him that it was off, he was okay, he was safe. Neal caught up one of Elizabeth’s hands, pressed it to his face. He reached for Peter with the other, needing to feel anchored.

Their voices lost the urgency when Neal reached for them. Neal clung to them, panting as Peter and Elizabeth discussed dinner plans, Satchmo, and a thousand other mundane topics that meant home, giving Neal calm safety to come back to when he was ready.

Neal knew he hadn’t been completely on top of things, but this was entirely unexpected. He felt betrayed by his body and the booby traps that now apparently lurked in his brain. Neal took a deep breath, let it out slowly and opened his eyes. By then the dialogue that Peter and Elizabeth had been holding over his head had turned into a monologue from Elizabeth. Peter was standing as far away from Neal he could get while still holding his hand and was attempting to yell very quietly at someone on the other end of his cell phone.

“Marshals,” Elizabeth whispered at Neal, when she noticed he was aware. Of course. They’d be calling about the anklet, the anklet he couldn’t wear anymore. That was going to cause problems.

Peter hung up his phone with a sigh, absently rubbing his thumb across the back of Neal’s hand.

“Is this going to be a problem?” Neal asked hesitantly. He stared warily at the anklet discarded on the floor. He wasn’t sure which would be worse right now; going into custody or having to try the anklet again.

“Not really,” Peter sat back down. “You’re just going to have to stay with us for a week officially, instead of staying with us unofficially.”

“I‘m sorry.” Staying officially meant he couldn’t be left home alone, he’d always have to have someone watching him, someone responsible for him.

“Neal, it’s been all of 5 hours since we found you. You were there for 2 weeks, give yourself a break.”

“But-” You shouldn’t have to give up your lives just because of me.

“Were you planning on running?” Peter had that overly patient tone of voice that meant he thought Neal was being ridiculous.

“No.” Neal wasn’t going to be running anytime soon, especially not now, when the thing he wanted most in the world was time with Peter and Elizabeth.

“Then this changes nothing. I’ll talk to the Marshals later. We’ll figure something out, Neal.”

Peter seemed unworried about this development, but Neal wondered how much was bravado to make him feel better. Neal doubted a quick phone call would convince the Marshals to leave him anklet free for the indefinite future. There was no way that the vague explanation of ’panic attack’ was going to carry as much weight as Peter seemed to think it would in convincing them he couldn’t wear the anklet. “I think you have a rosier view of life than me. I think they’re going to look at my file and think ‘con man running a con’ with a side of ‘it’s all in his head’ and ‘would you rather be in jail?‘.”

Peter sighed, and Neal felt unpleasantly vindicated. “You’ve done good work for us, that counts for a lot. Hughes is on your side.”

Neal didn‘t bother to respond. He went through the release exam mechanically. He just wanted this over with.


Peter watched Neal stare blankly out the car window as they drove home. He wished Elizabeth was with them, but she‘d left early for groceries and supplies and would meet them at home. Peter felt helpless in the face of Neal’s perfectly justified brooding. He was sure that everyone at the FBI would vouch for Neal’s usefulness, and the reasonable likelihood of him staying around, but he could only hope that it would be enough. They’d cross that bridge when they came to it though. For now, Peter knew a lot of Neal’s distress came from the fact that Neal was crashing hard from the letdown of his ordeal. Once Neal had some time to process what had happened they’d be able to look for solutions. Until then, Neal needed as much warmth as they could give.

As soon as they got inside, Peter sent Neal upstairs to clean up, with the promise of food as soon as he was ready to come down. As much as Peter wanted to hover, to reassure both of them that Neal was okay, he knew that right now Neal being alone was more important. Neal was uneasy and defensive. If there was anyone to perform for, Neal wouldn’t be able to settle properly.

Peter heard the shower turn off and the tub start to fill as Elizabeth returned home, arms full of grocery bags. “I’ve got everything you need for your roast and,” Elizabeth held up a seperate bag, “perogies.”

“You’re brilliant, El.” Peter stepped forward to take the bags from her, and give her a kiss. He’d start the roast tomorrow, but for tonight the perogies were ideal; filling, warm, easy on the stomach, and easily re-heatable if any of their plans got derailed. The perfect comfort food.

“How is he?” Relieved of her burdens, Elizabeth dropped her purse on the hall table and followed Peter into the kitchen.

“Like he’s been ridden hard and put away wet.” Peter busied himself putting away the food while keeping an ear out for Neal’s movements, just in case.

“He’s home now.“ Elizabeth tugged Peter away from the counter, drew him into a hug. “We’ll dry him off and tuck him in properly.”


Peter was staring blankly at the TV when Neal finally wandered downstairs. He was wearing his usual sleep pants, one of Peter’s hoodies, and was carrying the afghan from the guest room. Neal wasted no time in curling up against Peter on the couch, lifting Peter’s arm to slip in as close as he could.

“Pushy.” Peter muttered fondly, settling his arm more comfortably around Neal’s shoulders. It was a good sign that Neal was willing to take what he needed.

Neal hummed happily. “Yeah, and don’t think I’ve forgotten about the roast you promised me.”

“Don’t worry, sweetie, I won’t let him forget.” Neal looked up, startled as Elizabeth came out of the kitchen bearing a tray.

“But for tonight, I brought the food-” Elizabeth set the tray down on the coffee table, and went back to her purse and pulled out a DVD. “- and the entertainment. Oceans 11. The original.”

Elizabeth popped the DVD into the player. “Do you need anything else?” she asked before he sat down.

“I’m fine.” Neal’s voice was quiet and calm, but his hand shook slightly as he reached out for Elizabeth. She took his hand and curled up against Neal’s other side as the movie started.

They fed Neal perogies, and kept up a constant commentary on the movie until Neal fell asleep between them. The movie came to an end, but Peter wasn’t particularly inclined to move. It had been two long weeks with Neal missing, and now he was perfectly content to just listen to Neal breathe beside him.

Elizabeth stirred when the movie menu finally stopped repeating and the DVD shut itself off. “You know we’re going to have to get him up to bed eventually.”

Peter looked down at Neal’s face, slack with contented sleep. “We can let him sleep a bit longer.”


Five days later Neal was sprawled out in the sun on the back patio, throwing a tennis ball for Satchmo. There wasn’t a whole lot of space for the dog to run, but Neal had figured out the best angles to hit the fences at in order to get the maximum amount of distance on each throw. It was getting easier as time went on; the ball now left a wet smear of dog slobber that he could aim at.

He’d been spending a lot of time out here since he came back. He knew it was a coping mechanism. He knew Peter and Elizabeth could see it as a coping mechanism. But, as Peter kept reminding him, he was allowed to take some time to help himself cope. On the other hand, he also wasn’t going to chance either going back to prison or putting Peter’s career at a risk. He’d given himself the first day or so to do little more than cuddle, then it was time to get down to business. No one was going to be able to fix this for him.

Neal scratched absently at his ankle, rubbing at the strap he’d tied around his ankle as an anklet substitute. It hadn’t been the thought of the tracker that had caused his reaction in his hospital, just the feel of it. So, all he had to do was create a new set of associations: sunshine, family, relaxation, safety.


Satchmo shoved his nose and the tennis ball under Neal’s hand, trying to get Neal’s attention again. “Fine. One more.” Neal held up the ball to get Satchmo’s attention. “Last time.”

“We’ve been trying to teach him ‘last time’ since he was a puppy. It hasn’t worked.” Peter stepped out into the patio looking amused.

“It works when I do it.” Neal jerked his arm as if to throw the ball, then hid it away as soon as Satchmo turned to run. Satchmo bounded into the yard, then stopped, sniffing around the yard for a while before turning back to Neal with a cocked head and sad eyes.

“Congratulations, Caffrey,” Peter said dryly, “you’ve successfully conned a dog.”

Neal produced a rawhide bone for Satchmo as recompense for the lost ball and smiled as the dog accepted the switch and curled up at Neal’s feet, thumping his tail happily against Neal’s leg. “How the mighty have fallen.”

Neal soaked it all in. He’d been wearing the pseudo-anklet for two days now, with no flashbacks and no panic. Well, if he was going to be completely honest with himself, it was with minimal panic, nothing he couldn‘t handle.

“Hey,“ Peter nudged his shoulder, jolting Neal out of his musings. “I was thinking of barbecuing some burgers. How does that sound?”

“I think I’m ready to try again,” Neal said, before the nerves had a chance to destroy his hard won peace.

“Okay.“ Peter sat down beside Neal, frowning and entirely focused on Neal. “Are you sure?”

Neal met his gaze openly. As much as he had been clinging to the potential of not knowing, this wasn‘t a situation where he could ignore it until it went away. The longer he was in this particular position, the harder it would be for Peter to convince the FBI that their deal was still worthwhile. Neal needed to give them an answer, one way or another. “If I… freak out today, I’m not going to be able to wear it by Monday. We‘ll have the weekend to figure out alternatives.”

“Neal.” Peter sighed, rubbing his hands through his hair. “After what you’ve been through, any agent would get more than a week off.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not an agent.” It came out a bit more bitterly than Neal had intended. Most days he could forget his exact status. Neal knew he did good work with the bureau, and most of the agents he worked with had gotten past his particular situation. But then something like this came up, and Neal felt like he was back at the beginning again, fresh out of prison and needing to constantly prove his worth.

“Neal-” Peter started, exasperated.

“I know.” Neal cut Peter off. He knew the FBI weren’t actively out to make his life miserable. And more importantly, he knew that Peter had his back if anyone decided to be more active.

Peter nodded, acknowledging that he knew where Neal’s attitude was coming from and got back on topic. “So do you want to do it now? Or after dinner?”

“Now.” Neal said. An empty stomach would probably be better, just in case. “You can’t help. I need to know I can do this myself.”

“Fine.” Peter agreed curtly. His tone softened as he continued, “but don’t push yourself. If this starts to go bad, I need to know you‘ll tell me.“

“I promise.” Neal smiled weakly, feeling the first frissons of trepidation as Peter went to get the anklet.

Peter was watching Neal carefully as he snapped the band around Neal’s ankle, then stood back just out of reach. Neal took a deep breath as the adrenaline hit, but less intensely that before. He was shaking, he could hear his blood pounding, but he could ride this out. If he could just get through this, he could go back to how things used to be. He let the reaction move through him. He didn’t fight it, just reminded himself of where he was, what was happening and what exactly he would achieve by doing this. The purpose was the key.

Neal focused on his breathing until his heartbeat started to slow down, then started to consciously relax his muscles. It wasn’t so different from learning to handle heights. You didn’t want to discover panic reactions when running for your life, didn‘t want shaking limbs interfering with a job, so you had to address that before it was an emergency. It was a matter of exposure and careful circumstance until leaping off of window ledges was practically routine.

Eventually, his body accepted that there was going to be no new trauma, and Neal was able to relax. He grinned, flush with accomplishment. Success. The anklet was on, and Neal was still functioning. “There,” he grinned up at Peter, “as easy as jumping off a building.”

“Yeah, I didn’t particularly like watching you do that either.” Peter groused stepping forward to rest his hand on Neal‘s shoulder. “How are you feeling?”

“Somewhere around chartreuse.”


“You know, mostly green with a tinge of yellow.”

Peter snorted. He was trying to look unamused, but Neal could see him fighting a smile. Neal tilted his head into Peter’s hip, “Now that the threat of emotional trauma is over with, how ‘bout those burgers?” It wasn’t the smoothest redirection but Peter accepted it for what it was and went to get the food out of the kitchen.


Elizabeth came home to the smell of burgers and the sound of Peter and Neal bickering over the proper way to cook burgers while Satchmo whined for scraps. “You two look like you’re having fun.”

“We’re celebrating.” Neal said, looking actually relaxed for the first time since they got him back.

“A very cautious celebration.” Neal rolled his eyes at Peter’s interruption, not letting Peter’s more measured response interfere.

“And what’s to celebrate?” Elizabeth felt herself smiling. Neal’s happiness was infectious, even with the tinge of wariness lingering in his eyes. It was nice to have that presence back in their house.

Neal beamed and tugged up his pant leg to display the tracker. “The renewal of my vows.”


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Date: 2010-10-25 03:36 pm (UTC)
faemouse: (Default)
From: [personal profile] faemouse
That last line was just absolutely perfect. Love!

Date: 2010-10-25 06:39 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This one and it's prequel were very well written. Thansk for sharing! I don't have a Dreamwidth ID. On LJ I'm Sonia6349.

Date: 2010-10-25 08:13 pm (UTC)
yamx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yamx
Beautiful story. I love how caring and protective Peter and El are. Neal's so brave.

Date: 2010-10-26 12:06 am (UTC)
china_shop: Neal, Peter and Elizabeth hugging (WC - OT3 awwwww!)
From: [personal profile] china_shop
I really love this. I love how well Neal knows himself and how to manage his reactions, and that Peter and El are wise enough to give him space to do that, but not too much space. There is so much love here. <3

Date: 2010-10-26 12:39 am (UTC)
smokexscribbles: (Default)
From: [personal profile] smokexscribbles
I can't even tell you how much I loved the use of Neal's safeword. GENIUS.

Date: 2010-10-26 01:26 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
*****So many awesome lines! But I think I like these two the best:

“Like he’s been ridden hard and put away wet.” Peter busied himself putting away the food while keeping an ear out for Neal’s movements, just in case.

“He’s home now.“ Elizabeth tugged Peter away from the counter, drew him into a hug. “We’ll dry him off and tuck him in properly.”

*****going to have to go back now and read what else you've written. This was very well done.

I'm Deej1957 on LJ.

Date: 2010-10-26 02:04 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Oh, yay! I was hoping for a sequel, and this was fantastic! Thank you!


Date: 2010-10-26 04:17 am (UTC)
sahiya: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sahiya
That last line is killer. Awesome job.

Date: 2010-10-28 12:24 pm (UTC)
secretsolitaire: (white collar neal)
From: [personal profile] secretsolitaire
Love this! Neal is so brave. I like the way he finally is able to work through his fear; it makes sense that that skill would be one of his many. And Peter and El's support was lovely.

Date: 2010-11-04 02:26 pm (UTC)
lizzledpink: (gwen has thoughts)
From: [personal profile] lizzledpink
That last line was a masterpiece.

I'm very similar to Neal in that I know my own mind and fears, so I completely love how he works through things in this, because I'm sure it's about what I would do. I can really feel him struggling. Brilliant an heart-warming!


Date: 2010-11-27 08:59 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Excellent story - this is a new series for me and I can't wait for November to be over so I can read all of it!


Date: 2011-04-30 03:25 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] mangst
“The renewal of my vows.”

Perfect last line. :)


oper_1895: Neal Caffrey in a suit. (Default)

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