doctor_fangeek: (Matt TNH 1)
[personal profile] doctor_fangeek
Title: Second Chances
Author: [livejournal.com profile] doctor_fangeek
Rating: G
Characters/Pairings: Neal, Peter
Word Count:1330
Warnings: None
Summary: Filling the gap between when Peter turns down Neal's work-release idea & when he arrives at the prison to pick him up.
Authors Note: My [livejournal.com profile] runthecon Round Two contribution, for the prompt "low batteries" from [livejournal.com profile] vexed_wench. The comm is a flash writing challenge, where participants post their fic and tag the next person, who then has 24 hours from the time of the tagging to write and post their own story. The round two theme was "New Beginnings." I was somewhat liberal in my use/interpretation of the prompt, but this is where it took me and if you look closely you'll hopefully see it in there.


Neal Caffrey hated the infirmary. Really, truly, hated it. Not that he liked prison, of course. Truthfully, he’d been far more frightened then he’d let on in those days just after his sentencing – to Mozzie, who’d first offered to help him escape before he could be transferred and then cautioned him to keep his head down, or to Peter Burke, who’d shown up unexpectedly and given Neal a “just do your time and stay out of trouble” speech that had somehow been both oddly sweet and somewhat irritating at the same time. But Neal was good with people (very, very good), and it didn’t take him long to figure out the system and how to work it. Prison was dull. The food was bad and the coffee worse. Being at the mercy of someone else’s often ridiculous rules took some getting used to. But it was all survivable.

The infirmary, on the other hand…well, it was survivable too, of course. But it was also all the things that were unpleasant about prison, only magnified. If spending most of your day in a six by eight foot cell was unexciting, spending 24 hours a day cuffed to a bed was downright mind-numbing. And if what passed for social life in the general population left something to be desired, try spending your days with only a handful of inmates who spent most of their time complaining or asleep, and the harried, overworked nurse who had to deal with them, for company.

And not that there was ever a good time to be stuck in the infirmary, but having even more time with nothing to do but wonder what had driven Kate away, or if there was more than that going on (what if she was in trouble?), and to kick himself for thinking the straight-laced, by the book Agent Burke would go along with Neal’s anklet idea? That was adding insult to injury. Why did he have to get sick now, Neal found himself asking. He was usually extraordinarily healthy, often managing to escape unscathed when some bug or another swept through the prison population. “What are you, the Energizer bunny?” Bobby, one of the night shift guards, had asked him once, when Neal was working out while the rest of his block was down with the flu. But now, at the worst possible time, Neal’s long stretch of good health had come to an end.

Okay, so there was a possibility that the two things were not entirely unrelated. Neal had told Burke that he didn’t care that he’d get another four years for the escape, and, in that moment, he’d meant it. He’d been so out of it, and through the trip back to prison, and the first few days spent in solitary, he was pretty much on autopilot. But being back in his old cell was another story. And a few days later, after watching as Peter Burke smiled at him before patting him on the shoulder, saying, “Nice try,” and walking out the door, after starting another whole set of lines to mark the days, the reality of the next four years hit Neal like the proverbial ton of bricks. So maybe he’d been a bit less interested lately in things like getting enough exercise, or eating well (as much as one could given the menu in the dining hall). And maybe a good night’s sleep had been a little bit harder to come by. And maybe all of that had left him a bit more vulnerable than usual.

Whatever the case, he’d started feeling run down, and a couple of days later the sore throat and fever had kicked in. He’d managed to convince Bobby he was okay – or at least okay enough to be left to his own devices and over the counter medications. Until his coughing had the other inmates complaining and Bobby worrying about the sound of it, and off to the infirmary he’d gone. If he were completely honest, the first day or two actually had him grateful, to Bobby for ordering him to go, and to whoever had given him the extra blankets and the medication that had finally quieted his cough and helped him sleep through the night. But now, now he felt fine, or at least significantly better, he wasn’t coughing anymore (at least not very much), and he was well and truly sick of this bed, and of the snoring of his nearest neighbor. He was more than ready to go back and finish licking his wounds, so to speak, in his own cell. Unfortunately, the doctor disagreed, and now Neal was stuck here until at least the day after tomorrow, when he’d be “re-evaluated” and possibly released. That meant another two days at least stuck in the same bed, frustrated and bored, and with too much time for berating himself for an escape that took two days too long. Which is why Neal was more than a little surprised when a guard came for him first thing the next morning to tell him he had a visitor. No one had ever visited him before, other than Kate, and that one time, early on, when Mozzie had shown up in a surprisingly good toupee and a surprisingly ugly suit, to make sure that Neal didn’t want him to plan a jailbreak. And being in the infirmary meant no visitors. Unless, it turned out, they had a badge and an FBI ID. Neal sat down at the table opposite Peter Burke, who gave him an uncomfortably assessing look before pushing a typed document across the table.


Peter Burke still wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing here, or why he was going through with this crazy idea of putting a known escape artist on a tracking anklet. But he could still see Neal Caffrey, looking painfully young in that ill-fitting, garish orange jumpsuit, the hope in his eyes turning to despair as Peter laughed off his proposal. And now the Dutchman case was stalled – again. And Elizabeth thought Neal was a romantic. And Peter, if he were honest with himself, had to admit that her explanation made as much sense as any. Okay, it probably made more sense than his nebulous, ‘There’s some side angle he’s playing’ theory, which Peter reminded himself of again while he waited for Neal to be brought over from the infirmary. The kid had apparently been deemed well enough for this meeting, though Peter wasn’t entirely sure he agreed when a pale, tired looking Neal was escorted into the room. The guard unlocked Neal’s cuffs, and Neal shuffled over and sat down at the table. Peter took another look at him. There were bags under his eyes, which had a bit of a glassy look to them. Peter quashed a pang of guilt as Neal from their last meeting flashed in his memory. He pulled out the work release agreement and put it on the table, pushing it over to Neal. Neal looked down. His eyes started skimming over the first page, then shot up to look at Peter. The smile that broke over his face made Peter think of a kid on Christmas morning. He quashed that thought too and fixed Neal with a hard look. He needed to do this right.

“Read it,” Peter said sternly. “Better yet, have your lawyer read it. Be sure you can follow the rules, or you’ll be back here for the rest of your sentence.” Peter paused, then added, “You run on this, it’ll be a lot longer than that.”

Peter wasn’t sure how much of his speech Neal was processing, despite the nodding and the assertion that he “got it.”  They’d get there, though. Maybe it was crazy, but Neal’s relieved joy was hard to ignore, and Peter’s gut was telling him he’d made the right decision. Second chances like this didn’t come often, but maybe, just maybe, he and Neal could make this one work.
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