WhiteCollar-Peter Neal hug

White Collar fic: Knife Edge

Title: Knife Edge
Fandom: White Collar
Word Count: 5100
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Gen
Warning: Angst, psychological torture
Summary: As prisons go, Neal thought, this was rather a nice one. At least, it started out that way.
Notes: For this prompt at collarcorner.
Cross-posted: http://archiveofourown.org/works/282652



As prisons went, this was a rather nice one. Certainly nicer than some that Neal had been in over the years. It could almost be mistaken for a sumptuous hotel suite, if not for certain alarming little details -- like the fact that the windows were boarded over.

He still had a stabbing headache from whatever they'd drugged him with, but thus far, he wasn't terribly worried. They'd missed several of his hidden lockpicks (the ones in the heel of his shoe, and the one sewn into the cuff of his shirt, at the very least; he hadn't had a chance to check the others yet) and he'd had a brief, cordial chat with his kidnapper, an underworld kingpin named Zyle. Zyle had apparently decided that he wanted his own pet forger. Since Zyle was flanked by two very large thugs during his visit, Neal made sure to smile in all the right places while never actually saying No or Yes. He wasn't entirely sure how much the FBI would let him get away with using coercion as an excuse, especially since Zyle hadn't really tried to coerce him yet. Peter was going to show up sooner or later -- more sooner than later, most likely -- and having Peter walk in on him in the middle of forging a painting for Zyle was something he'd really like to avoid if he could help it.

Besides, Neal didn't like it when people told him to do things. It always made him want to do the exact opposite.

Peter still hadn't shown up a few hours later -- Neal wasn't sure exactly how much later, since they'd taken his watch, but he was starting to get hungry and his headache had worn off. He'd come up with a number of escape plans, but most of them were dangerous, and while he was starting to get a bit stir-crazy, he wasn't desperate enough yet to take a chance on being shot or beat up by Zyle's goons. He knew he was being monitored, and entertained himself by finding three hidden cameras and two microphones. Nice gadgetry. He wondered if Mozzie knew Zyle's supplier.

Eventually Zyle showed up again, along with the usual complement of thugs, and he brought dinner. It looked excellent and smelled even better: a medium-rare steak, braised asparagus, a glass of a good red.

"Just give me a list of necessary art supplies and you can eat," Zyle told Neal with a pleasant smile that didn't touch his eyes.

Neal really, really hated it when people tried to blackmail him. On the other hand, there wasn't much to lose yet. For a moment he contemplated the potential benefits of refusal versus cooperation. At this early stage, he figured that cooperation was the more practical route, so he smiled back -- it didn't touch his eyes, either -- and scribbled a basic shopping list on the heavy, cream-colored paper Zyle handed him. He made sure to ask for the most expensive and hard-to-obtain brands he could think of. Not only would it take Zyle days to track it down, but maybe he could figure out a way to keep the stuff after Peter got him out of here.

"This is just a basic kit of supplies. I don't know exactly what to ask for until I know what you want me to paint," he pointed out, handing back the shopping list.

"We'll get to that stage once we've cemented our working relationship more closely," Zyle said, smiling pleasantly and placing the plate in front of him. "I'm looking forward to a long and fruitful partnership."

"Uh-huh." Neal forced himself not to look too interested in the steak; he was hungry, but not hungry enough to eat until Zyle left him in relative privacy. "Do you always lock up your partners? This sort of thing is the reason why I normally work alone."

Another cold little smile flickered on Zyle's lips. "But that was the old Neal Caffrey. You haven't worked alone for the past three years, have you?"

The bottom fell out of Neal's stomach, though he tried not to show it. He hadn't realized that Zyle knew how deep his association with the FBI ran. Suddenly he was acutely aware of the jaws of the trap around him. How much to admit? He tried to think how the "old" Neal Caffrey might have answered that question. "I made a deal to keep myself out of prison. Tell me you wouldn't do the same."

Zyle raised an eyebrow. "That's all it is?"

"That's all. You think the anklet isn't a prison for me? It's just one that has a two-mile radius. The feds have me in their pocket, and I've hated every minute of it." He didn't have to reach very deep to dig up enough resentment to make his act convincing. Not deep at all. Rice. Fowler. That damn two-mile radius. Peter bursting into his apartment, or checking his tracker data ... He'd had no privacy, no real autonomy for three years.

Hell, maybe he should take Zyle up on his offer, at least long enough to slip the federal leash ... easier to get away from Zyle than from the entire federal government, not to mention Peter ...

But, no. He'd been down this road before. It was fool's gold that Zyle was offering him, no matter how tempting, and Neal just needed to put him off until Peter showed up. So. String him along.

"I've been killing time and playing nice until I get my leash off and can finally say goodbye to the bastards."

"Well, that's good to know." The corner of Zyle's mouth quirked up, and he rose and turned to leave. At the door, he turned back. "I wanted to check if there was any purpose to keeping my other prisoner, your current partner, for leverage. I see that there's not. Enjoy your meal."

"Wait --!" Neal began, springing to his feet, but the door clicked shut behind Zyle and his shadows.

He couldn't possibly have --

No. No way. Neal had been alone when Zyle's people grabbed him and cut his anklet. There was no way that Peter could be here too. Zyle wouldn't have been thinking that far ahead --

No. Zyle was exactly the sort of person who would think that far ahead.

Neal crossed to the door, raised a fist to pound on it and then lowered it, caught in indecision so powerful that it approached agony.

Think, Caffrey, damn it. Think. Think!

Look at it from Zyle's point of view.

Examine the angles.

Pretend, for a moment, that the worst-case scenario was true. Pretend that Zyle captured Peter as well, that Peter had a sumptuous prison of his own. (Or a not-so-sumptuous prison, a corner of Neal's mind whispered darkly.) What would Neal's reactions look like from Zyle's point of view? What should Neal do, to ensure the best possible outcome for both of them?

"I wanted to check if there was any purpose to keeping my other prisoner ... I see that there's not."

Neal's heart was beating so hard that it seemed about to batter its way out of his chest. I didn't just sign Peter's death warrant. I didn't. He's bluffing. Even if he had Peter here, there's no way he'd give up a bargaining chip like that.

But what if he actually believed me?

He took a deep breath, calculated the odds, and made a fast decision. Assuming that Zyle wasn't bluffing, that he really did have Peter, then Zyle considering Peter expendable was a far worse outcome than Zyle knowing that Peter could be used to manipulate Neal. If he tries to use Peter against me, it'll be bad. But at least we'll have time to figure out a plan.

If he believes that Peter has no value to me ... then we have no time at all.

It felt like giving in. It felt like playing into Zyle's hands. It was a concession. It was humiliating. But damn it -- he couldn't take that risk.

"Zyle!" he bellowed, pounding a fist on the door. "Zyle, let's talk! If you have Burke here, I want to see him. No deals at all if I don't see him!"

No deeper than he'd had to reach inside himself to find the bitterness that he swallowed every day -- his hatred of the FBI, his resentment of Peter for taking advantage of the anklet in small ways and large ones -- he didn't have to reach at all to find fear and anger enough to convince Zyle. It was right there, spilling out as soon as he let it free: terror for Peter, fury at Zyle.

"Zyle!"

He ranted at the door, but no one came. Neal took a deep breath, got himself under control, and sat down again, to stare at the congealing steak that he no longer had any appetite for.

Time to get out of here.

Fifteen minutes later, he'd dismantled all three of the surveillance cameras, used his tie clip to short out the power and plunge himself into darkness, and he was hard at work on the door with his lock picks when it swung inward, knocking him backwards.

Zyle had brought four thugs this time. There was a brief scuffle. He lost.

Neal lay flat on his face on the carpet with his arm twisted behind him and someone's knee pressing into his back, and spat blood while contemplating his mistakes. Maybe he should have gone with the faking-illness plan, but the timing was too suspicious. Or the flood-the-room-and-collapse-the-floor plan ...

The lights came back up. Zyle's polished Italian leather shoes appeared in Neal's field of vision. "Let him up," Zyle said. "Be careful."

Neal was allowed back to his feet, aching and bruised and trying not to show it. He permitted himself one swipe across his mouth with the back of his hand to get rid of the worst of the blood -- though more trickled down to replace it; he was pretty sure his nose was bleeding too -- and then tucked his hands into his pockets and tried to look as if Zyle didn't concern him at all. "I thought we were partners," he said, stretching his mouth in a smile.

"I thought you had decided to cooperate," Zyle responded, coolly unmoved.

Neal drew a breath and let it out, striving for calm, his stomach churning. "I think you and I are working at cross purposes right now. I'd like to get us back on track. First, I want to talk to Peter Burke."

Zyle's shallow smile flickered briefly. "That's going to be difficult. We'd just dumped the body when you decided to cause trouble up here. You really should have said something sooner."

"You're lying!" The words were ripped from him, his facade of calm shattered.

One of Zyle's thugs restrained him with a hand on his chest. The others had their guns out. Calm, Neal told himself, it won't help anyone if you get yourself shot; he's lying, he can't prove it -- "Proof," he said in a voice that he barely recognized as his own. "I want to see proof."

Zyle shrugged. "How vulgar. But if you insist. Would an ear suffice? A hand? Perhaps his head ..."

The image was all too vivid. Neal closed his eyes, swallowing, forcing his emotions behind a wall of steel. He had been in control. He'd figured that he could hold out easily until he escaped or was freed, and best-case scenario, he'd eventually have Zyle eating out of the palm of his hand. How did everything spin out of control so quickly? Because you let him know where you were weak. And he jumped on it. Stupid. Stupid.

"In any case," Zyle said, "if proof you want, proof you shall have. I'll bring it to you myself. But I think we need to move you somewhere more secure in the meantime, since you've proven you can't be trusted with nice things." He glanced around the room: the cameras with their guts ripped out, the furniture knocked over from Neal's struggle with Zyle's bodyguards, the glass of wine pooling on the thick carpet like blood. "You can have this level of trust again, Neal, but you'll have to earn it."

Neal recognized exactly what Zyle was trying to do -- make the prisoner believe that punishment is their own fault and that everything good comes from their captor; Stockholm Syndrome 101 -- and at the same time, he was too furious to care. "Go to Hell," he breathed.

He was hustled down the hallway with his arms twisted behind him. This was his first opportunity to get a look around, and he tried to make it count, tried to take in everything, but his brain kept whiting out on a litany of Peter, Peter, Peter. They took him down a narrow stairwell, and he got the impression that he was in a large house. He strained his ears for traffic noise, but couldn't hear anything. Either the walls were very well soundproofed, or they were out in the country. Either option made him shudder at the possibilities.

Slowly the awareness of just how thoroughly Zyle had screwed his defenses began to creep over him. He'd been supremely confident in two things: Peter coming to get him, and his own capability to escape on his own if he had to. From this confidence, he'd drawn the security to bat back Zyle's attempts at manipulating him. But now ... now he'd just failed in his first escape attempt, and his belief in a rescue from Peter's direction was badly shaken as well. Lying. He's lying. He has to be. You haven't seen any evidence yet. Keep your head, Caffrey, damn it; don't let him throw you off so badly...

They went down two flights of stairs to a much more utilitarian part of the house, a basement of some sort. "I know exactly where to put you," Zyle said smoothly. "We'll keep you where we kept Burke. And, yes, I'll be back shortly with the proof of his death that you asked for. While I'm gone, however, I'd like you to reflect on the fact that you're going to be my guest for quite some time. Things could become so much less pleasant for you if you don't cooperate. Think about it."

Neal was shoved into a small room with cinderblock walls. The smell hit him like a punch in the face: the stomach-turning copper reek of blood. "No --" he began, and spun around as the door -- metal, heavy, unyielding -- slammed shut behind him.

Neal looked around, wild-eyed, trying to breathe shallowly, through his mouth. Trying not to breathe at all.

The room was lit with a naked light bulb. The walls were unpainted cinderblock, the floor concrete. There was a large metal ring sunk in the floor, with a chain attached. And there was blood -- blood everywhere. It looked as if someone had taken a bucket of it and splashed it onto everything around the metal ring and the chain. When Neal took a step backwards, his shoe came off the floor with a sticky pop. He'd been standing in more of it.

Neal became aware that he was on the verge of something he'd never experienced before: a full-blown panic attack. He sank down with his back against the door and, pressing his forehead to his knees, struggled to shut out his awareness of the room and its grisly decor. It was hard: he could close his eyes, but it wasn't so easy to block out the stink of blood. His heart battered his ribs and his stomach kept trying to climb his throat. He focused on his breathing, a meditation technique that someone had taught him years ago -- Kate? Mozzie? -- and slowly, slowly began to calm.

"Sonovabitch is lying," he said aloud, through clenched teeth. "Don't believe it until you see the body. This is fake. He's lying."

He struggled back to his feet, holding onto the door, before opened his eyes and forced himself to confront the room. His stomach lurched again; he swallowed it back. It's only blood. It can't hurt you.

Peter's blood, the darker part of his brain responded, and his imagination, always too vivid, offered up a flood of imagery as to just what, exactly, might have happened in this room to result in those tacky swathes of blood, that spray pattern there, those scattered droplets -- Neal doubled over in a sudden dry heave.

Lying, he told himself, and opened his eyes again, almost as furious with himself as he was with Zyle. Lying. Lying.

He turned his back on the room, on the horrible story that it told, on the fear that was turning his legs to water, the awful growing certainty that Zyle wasn't lying, that Peter had been tortured and died here while Neal was upstairs enjoying Zyle's hospitality in comfort. Leaning into the door, Neal pressed his forehead against it and breathed deeply. The stench of blood was almost drowned out by the door's rusty-metal smell. Almost.

He left you here to break you, and you know it. If you keep dwelling on it, you'll not only end up as crazy as he is, but you'll give him exactly what he wants.

He'd lost most of his lock picks in the scuffle with Zyle's guards. He was rapidly running out of assets. After a moment's thought, he popped off his tie clip again. The hinges were on the outside of the door, but the concrete was crumbly and poor-quality -- he might be able to chip away enough of it to unlock the door or knock off the lock plate. Long shot, he told himself, but long shots were all he had.

The steady, repetitive activity, the growing pain and cramping in his fingers, gave him something to focus on. He poured himself into it. The pain was ... welcome, actually. Right now, anything that kept him from too much thinking was welcome.

He slipped and cut himself, the edge of the tie clip sharpened like a knife blade on the grinding surface of the concrete. Neal gritted his teeth, pressed his thumb against the cut until the bleeding stopped, and went back to work.

Footsteps outside. His half-numb fingers fumbled the tie clip; it clattered on the floor, and he hastily picked it back up. No time to clip it back on -- he dropped it into his pocket instead.

There was a rattling and clicking as Zyle unlocked the door, and a dark certainty crept over Neal that he couldn't just stand here, waiting to find out what Zyle considered "proof" of Peter's death -- "Would an ear suffice? A hand? Perhaps his head ..." He slipped a hand into his pocket and fingered the tie clip, inadvertently sharpened into an impromptu shiv. As knives went, it was pathetic -- less than two inches long. But men had done more with less. He'd seen a guy in prison stabbed to death with a sharpened toothbrush. He'd heard of another guy who slashed a guard with a shard of broken mirror, no bigger than this.

If you've really killed Peter, you bastard -- if you've really done THIS to him -- I will cut your throat. I'll rip it out with my fingernails if I have to.

He'd only experienced this depth of anger and hatred once before: standing face-to-face with Fowler after Kate's death, pointing the gun at his forehead. Neal flexed his bruised, aching fingers. He lifted his chin and forced his lips to stretch into a cold, pasted-on smile, tugging at the dried blood.

The door swung open. Neal started to move, aborted instantly when he saw who was on the other side, and clipped his shoulder painfully on the doorframe, spinning him in a half-circle. Peter reacted too, starting to swing his gun from the "ready" position to the "pointing at the bad guys" position and changed his trajectory in mid-motion, banging his elbow against the door.

Peter said "Ow!" and then stared at him. Neal stared back at him, his mind a perfect blank, all white noise and no thought possible.

"You look --" Peter began and then apparently thought better of it. He looked past Neal into the room, blanched and looked hastily back at Neal, eyes tracking over him fast, looking for damage.

"It's not --" Neal's voice emerged as a croak. "Not mine."

Peter nodded and holstered his gun. "Well, I suppose that would explain the extremely disturbing purchase of five gallons of pig's blood, though ironically, that's what led us here." To someone outside the room, he called, "All clear. I've got Neal." Then he took a slow step into the room, keeping his eyes on Neal. "So," he said carefully, and reached out to put a gentle hand on Neal's elbow. "Want to get out of here?"

"I'm all right," Neal said hoarsely.

"Uh-huh." Peter tugged lightly on his arm. "I'm guessing you'd be even better outside, so why don't we go there, huh?"

"They didn't ..." Neal hadn't been able to breathe; now his breaths were coming faster, so that he could barely speak through them. "They didn't actually hurt me. This --" He gestured to his face. "I got this trying to escape."

"Do I want to know what the other guy looks like?"

"He looks ... fine, actually." Neal tried to grin, but somehow didn't quite make it there.

"Really? Maybe we should've paid for that combat training after all."

It was the sheer normalcy of it that undid him. It was the fact that he'd thought he'd never have this again -- and he'd known, known it wasn't real, known Zyle was lying, and yet, and yet ... He took a step forward, and his leg buckled, and Peter caught him, all Neal's weight sagging against him. Neal let go of the shiv at last, dropping it on the floor with a clatter, and fisted his hand in Peter's jacket, hanging on with all the remaining strength in his bruised, bloody fingers.

"Someone get a paramedic down here!" Peter snapped over his shoulder. "Damn it, Neal, I knew it was worse than it looked, I knew you wouldn't say anything --"

"It's not," Neal managed. His face was squashed against Peter's chest, intensely uncomfortable and embarrassing and somehow -- comforting, at the same time, because Peter was so very warm and solid and here. Peter had him completely, both arms around him, the one thing standing (literally) between him and the floor. "It's not, I don't, I really don't need that, Peter, I'm okay." His teeth were starting to chatter, and he tried to make them stop, because, really, if he wanted Peter to know he was all right, this wasn't the way to go about it. "It's just that Zyle said it was you," he tried to explain, because he needed Peter to know that he was all right, although he had a feeling it wasn't coming out entirely the shape it was in his head.

"Said what was me?" Over his shoulder, Peter snapped, "Belay that, Jones -- get everyone upstairs, would you? Yes, it's all right, we'll be up in a minute." His voice dropped softer: "Neal, what happened?"

"Said it was you down here." Neal took a long breath, realized the depth of the emotional precipice that he was dangling on the edge of, and managed to yank himself back. "I didn't believe him," he said, and his voice was steadier. "It was just -- a shock. Seeing you there."

"A shock. I bet." Peter shifted his grip: one arm around Neal, supporting him in such a way that it would be possible to get back upstairs as long as they took it easy. Neal found that his legs were mostly working again. "Didn't believe him, huh?" Peter said, taking one last, long look around the room.

"Not for a minute," Neal assured him.

***

The FBI team had an ambulance with them, but the medic looked over Neal and declared him basically unhurt -- bandaged his hands, gave him a wet-wipe to clean his face, and told him to take painkillers and call if he had any of a laundry list of unpleasant-sounding symptoms that might indicate worse damage than a few bruises from Zyle's goons' attention.

Peter drove him home.

"We'll take a statement in the morning," he said, as they sat in the Taurus outside June's. "But it can wait until morning. Zyle's in a holding cell. None of this is going anywhere."

Neal tried to muster up the energy to open the door. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been this exhausted, and he hadn't even really done anything. He'd been a coiled knot of adrenaline in Zyle's cell; now it had all drained out, leaving him feeling limp and flattened.

Peter cleared his throat. "He was just trying to get to you, you know," he said awkwardly. "That whole charade with the blood -- just trying to get inside your head and manipulate you. He doesn't have any power over you unless you give it to him."

"You think I don't know that?" Neal snapped, more harshly than he'd intended. He pressed his bandaged, throbbing fingers to his forehead. "Emotional manipulation is my stock in trade, remember?" he said in a softer voice, drained of anger and withered to a thread. "I know what he was doing. Knowing it isn't as much help as you'd think."

"No. Probably not. Sorry." Peter hesitated and then cleared his throat again. "If you were an agent, you'd be required to see the department shrink after something like that. It's not mandatory for you, but I can make an appointment --"

"No."

"She's nice enough," Peter offered. "I talked to her after the thing with Adler. Hughes made me. But it helped," he added quickly.

"No," Neal said again. "I just ... need to sleep."

He fumbled with the door, his bandaged fingers slipping on the handle. Peter reached over him and got it for him. "You know, you could come back to El's and my place tonight. If you want to."

Neal shook his head. "I'd like to be someplace ... familiar." Safe. Comfortable. He wanted to wrap it around him and shut out the world.

"I get it," Peter said, and from the tone of his voice, he really did. "Mind if I walk you up?"

Neal thought about refusing, then decided he was too tired to care. "Sure."

In his apartment, he shed his suit jacket and looked down at it in surprise -- a rumpled ruin, gray-white with concrete dust and splattered with his own blood. Looking up, he realized he'd left grainy, bloody handprints on Peter's shirt.

"Yeah," Peter said. "You're kind of a mess. Sorry to tell you."

"Shower," Neal said, and stumbled off to the bathroom.

He took two aspirin, then found a box of rubber gloves under the sink, used them to cover the bandages, and showered the hell out of himself with the hottest water he could stand. When he emerged, wrapped in a bathrobe and feeling almost human again, he was startled to see Peter sitting on the couch, leafing through one of June's art books.

"Thought you'd be back home with El by now," Neal said. He paused and stared at the wine bottles for a moment, too tired to even decide if he wanted a drink or not. The red wine was almost exactly the color of blood. Perhaps not.

"Yeah, about that." Peter raised a hand; a new tracking anklet dangled from it. "You forgot something."

Neal cursed softly; he couldn't help it. "Forgot," he said.

"Yeah." Peter smiled lopsidedly. "It's been a day."

Neal proffered a bare ankle on the coffee table, and Peter snapped the anklet into place. There was something about the weight that was, if not comforting, at least familiar. It was a prison, but also a promise, one that said I'll always find you, no matter where you go. Neal flexed his ankle and twisted his foot, checking the fit.

"Comfortable?"

"As much as it gets," Neal said.

Peter nodded. "Also," he added in a too-casual voice, "I called El and told her I wouldn't be home tonight." He perched on the edge of the couch, looking uncomfortable. "Though, if you'd rather have the place to yourself, I'd be fine with that."

Neal looked up from the anklet. Through his emotional torpor, he realized that he was both startled and touched. "No," he said. "That'd be fine. Blankets -- well, you remember where the spare blankets are."

He went to bed, but lay awake and listened to the little rustling sounds of Peter making up a bed on the couch.

"Night, Neal," Peter said softly.

Neal thought about pretending to be asleep, then said, "Good night, Peter."

The aspirin had battened down the worst of the bruises, but his hands still ached. He rolled over onto his side, one arm flopped in front of his eyes. Slowly he closed the bandaged fingers into a loose fist, as if around a makeshift knife. Tested the feel of it. It didn't sit comfortably there, but he could still feel lingering vestiges of the anger and bitter grief that would have driven his hand.

I could have done it, he thought. Would I have done it? I don't know ... if there had been cause, then maybe ...

But that reminded him all too strongly of that tiny bare room -- the stifling air, the stink of blood. Neal closed his eyes, inhaling the familiar scent of his pillow. He heard a creak of springs as Peter rolled over on the couch, trying to get comfortable, and then Peter's slow breathing, evening out almost immediately into soft snoring.

Neal realized that his eyes were open again, the lashes wet with tears. He touched his face in the dark and wiped it away.

It doesn't matter. I didn't have to.

He opened his hand and let go of the invisible knife. Centering himself on the sound of Peter's soft, rhythmic snoring, Neal let it hold him, talismanic, to this place, not that other place, not that room.

Eventually he slept, too deep to dream.

~

This entry is also posted at http://sholio.dreamwidth.org/395075.html with comment count unavailable comments.
Knife Edge
Loved the story. It would be great to continue. What happen if Zyle get out and goes after Neal again. Will he be able to deal with it. Thank you for the great read. Happy Thanksgiving!
Re: Knife Edge
Thank you very much! :) Yeah, there are actually a lot of loose ends left hanging; I may pick them back up at some point ...
Wonderful, just wonderful. I loved how Neal was so easily undone by the mere possibility of Peter being dead, even without concrete proof, and that Neal went through so much emotionally because of it, and the draining and overwhelming relief that followed knowing Peter was alive. Now that's what I call some fine, fine angst ;)
Thank you! :) I'd actually been juggling this prompt for a while, because I really wanted to write it, but couldn't come up with a way for the bad guys to convincingly fake Peter's death that Neal would believe (writing smart characters, it's hard, man *g*). But then I realized that I didn't have to; as long as there was enough plausibility to the scenario, he didn't have to be 100% convinced in order to have the emotional reaction to it. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed it! :)

Edited at 2011-11-24 09:10 pm (UTC)
Wow. I loved this--I loved the psychological torture that Neal will never again admit to, and I love that Peter didn't fully understand, but he understood enough to try to help anyway as best he could. Brilliant and satisfying.
Thank you! :) I'm glad it worked - I don't write psychological torture and heavy angst (well, heavy for me *g*) all that often, and I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Thank you! I am such a sucker for presumed-dead myself. :D And yeah, poor Neal, I really put him through the wringer on this one ...
Aww, poor Neal. But it was wonderfully done - the hurt and the comfort... One of my favorite tropes as well.
Though I'm kinda curious about Peter's POV when he found Neal like this...
Thank you! I love the presumed-dead trope ... obviously. *g* And Peter's POV would've been interesting too (all he knows is that Neal's been missing and in the bad guys' hands for hours, and then he finds him in a room covered in blood -- poor Peter!).
Whoa. This was really powerful, and really believable, and you had me wibbling so hard for Neal. And the ending is perfect.
Thank you! :) I'm glad it worked ... I don't really write the angsty/psychological fic all that often, so this was an interesting one for me to do ...
I enjoyed reading this so much! I'm a big fan of emotional whump and you did such a wonderful job with it in this story.
I love how Neal is his clever self with spotting the cameras/microphones, having hidden lockpicks on him (of course! *g*) and different escape plans. And despite it all, his attempt at escape fails, which was very believable, and it wouldn't have made sense if he'd magically been able to make it out of there. Also, he hadn't really been thinking straight at that point and it was more of an act of desperation, either way. I especially liked his realization of the hopelessness of the situation he finds himself in: “He'd been supremely confident in two things: Peter coming to get him, and his own capability to escape on his own if he had to.”
Most of the story had me either on edge or go awwww, but in the beginning there were also these sentences that made me laugh: “Besides, Neal didn't like it when people told him to do things. It always made him want to do the exact opposite.” - yes, that's our Neal, all right! Or later, when he gives Zyle a list with the most expensive items he can think of *g*
As for the cuteness of the story, I especially like the scene when Peter comes to the rescue and Neal confesses to him what it is that has him so shaken up. Their reactions in that scene are perfectly them. Also the moment when the stress and tension finally leave Neal's body all at once came across really well and it's so sweet that Peter is there for him in the comfort part of the story. :)
Thank you so much! :D Yeah, I definitely wanted Neal to be clever and resourceful and doing his best to get out on his own, not just passively waiting for help. (Heh, one of the things that makes this show challenging to write for is that the characters are so very competent, smart and resourceful -- I have to devise scenarios in which they are not only trapped, but so trapped that they can't think their way out of it, which is HARD!)

Anyway, I'm very glad you liked it! :) I did enjoy writing this a lot, especially the scene in which Peter finds him, and then tries to figure out ways to help him ... in his Peter-ish sort of way. *g*
(Anonymous)
Awwww!
Thank you so much for filling my prompt! Just what I wanted, intense and satisfying. I love me some shaken up!Neal and supportive in his own way Peter. And I so LOVED scene when Peter found Neal!
Thank you!
Oh, I'm so glad you liked it! :D Thank you so much for the awesome prompt! It was a lot of fun to write. :)
I love psychological twists and have a soft spot of diabolical bad guys that screw with a character's head. This was top notch. What really sold it was the vivid imagery of the blood spattered room and Neal's panic attack from the odor. From my limited exposure to the show, I really love how you capture all the nuances of a character. I felt like I was in Neal's head from his thoughts and reactions, to the way his mind thinks.

I also enjoyed Peter's concern and the way he dealt with Neal after the situation. Very ell done.
Thank you! :D I'm delighted that you liked it, even without a lot of exposure to canon! I don't write a whole lot of this sort of thing (psychological torture and messing with characters' heads) and I'm very glad that it turned out well; thank you very much. :)
Great story! Lots of angst, but delicious angst. I like how you balanced Neal's knowledge that Zyle would be trying to manipulate him with his freaking out over Peter's wellbeing. And Peter oh-so-casually staying with him later was perfect.
Thank you! :) Mmm, delicious angst. Yeah, one thing that makes these characters hard to write is that they're very smart, and very good at thinking around corners -- he wouldn't just fall for someone's ruse, but at the same time, the uncertainty is its own kind of torture.
Oh, this is so, so good. The intensity of it, built up to that level in such a believable way... Just excellent, and made perfect by such a heartwarming end. Absolutely loved it. <3
I love this story. I too love the whole presumed dead but not thing. You did a such a good job with this. And yes I agree poor Neal. I loved the end with Peter staying to help in his own way.
Thank you! I am such a sucker for presumed-dead. I'm very glad that you liked it! :D


Oh boy, that is one awesome fic!

I could feal Neal's desperation and panic when he was in the room in the basement.

Love Peter holding on on Neal in the basement and then afterwards staying with him.

Thank you! :)
There were so many of my favourite tropes in this story! I adore psychological torture fics and there was just enough uncertainty to keep me unsure of whether Peter was alright or not - Neal's reaction in the room with the blood was just ouch. And I loved Peter being there for him in such an understated way afterwards. Lovely! :D
Thank you very much! :D This was something a little different for me -- I don't normally do heavy angst, but, well, couldn't resist. And presumed dead is something I just can't get enough of.