A/N: When I first watched this show, I started at 1x07-so I recently started rewatching from about that point. This is my tribute to Season 1.

The first rule of his trade is this: trust no one.

The first truth of life is this: everyone trusts someone.


"Your mind is a proverbial bag of cats," Mozzie says one day, exasperated but affectionate.

Neal is draped across the plush sofa in June's apartment. Neal is going round and round, Kate and the postcards and the man with the ring. There is a half-finished Picasso on the easel; it is almost perfect.

Life, and forgery, are never more dangerous than when they are almost perfect.

"Yours isn't?"

"I manage my cats," Mozzie retorts cryptically. Then he sighs, and says, much less cryptically, "You've got to at least consider the possibility that Kate…is at fault."

And Neal shakes his head, looking more certain than ever before in his life, and says, "She isn't, Moz. I know it."

(For a con to be truly great, you have to believe it yourself.)


"Happily ever after isn't for guys like us."

"It is this time."


Sometimes he stares at his hands. They felt so useless and stiff in prison—the sketches on his walls could not keep him busy. He could not write away his shame.

His trouble is that he has never believed that the game is over. Nothing can be lost forever.

Find the lady, find the lady.

He pressed his fingers to the glass when Kate left, as though he could hold her there by his useless hands.


They make a good team. It's the talk of the Bureau, and it's more than that. Neal's never had a home, not one that counted.

Now he has a desk, an apartment, dinner invites at the Burkes'.

He laughs at one of Peter's terrible jokes, and wonders if this makes them friends.

If it does, he wonders when and how he'll have to cut that tie.


He knows why Alex gives him the slip. He isn't quite sure why she comes back again, but he's glad. The look in her eyes when she leaves, the look that says she might still love him—that look still hurts.

Neal curls his hand into a fist, his fingers cramping. Goodbyes have never been easy; when you carry a bag of tricks, it's hard to let go.

He wonders if he has to.

But Kate has always been his siren song, and he dives in deep, untangling himself from the ropes that are thrown to him.


Peter, he trusts. Elizabeth, he trusts. Mozzie, he trusts. But for some reason, he can only say goodbye to two of them.

Peter, he tells himself, wouldn't understand. Peter, stubborn Peter, who's been wearing the same suit for the better part of a decade—Peter's feet are on the ground. Neal has always walked along a tightrope, no wires, no net. There's a thrill in the fall.

That's what he tells himself.


The second rule of his trade is this: timing is everything.

The second truth of life is this: time belongs to fate.


Neal turns one last time. The heel of his shoe scuffs the pavement, and he can hear his heart thumping in his ears, can hear the questions and reasons before they even rise to Peter's lips. The wind is rushing around him. Kate is waiting. He can hear her voice whispering her name, her laugh. These tiny sounds, these memories of sounds, all are vivid in a final moment of silence.

Especially when no one knows it's the final moment.

(The explosion brings him to his knees.)


If he lets himself think, he realizes that he no longer knows what he wants.

He only knows what he wanted.

Grief and tragedy let him stretch it to the final moment.

Reason and remembrance stop it short of that.

He didn't want to say goodbye to Peter. It wouldn't have been goodbye, if he'd tried.

He wanted to go, he wanted to stay, he wanted to run into Kate's arms and believe that she was blameless, he wanted to make Peter proud.

None of it matters, or perhaps all of it does.

The tightrope disappeared in a flash of flame and heartbreak.

(But Peter caught him when he fell.)


The first rule of his trade is this: trust no one.

The last rule of his trade is this: rules were made to be broken.