She had fallen for Neal Caffrey. Really, truly fallen for him. When they'd first gotten involved, she tried her hardest to keep her distance from him, to simply enjoy the challenge he was offering and nothing more. Constantly, she reminded herself that he was a criminal. Hell, her own testimony had helped put him in jail!
But then she met him, the real Neal Caffrey. The one who hid behind Neal's ever-present mask and deflections. The one who was apparent in his eyes late at night. The one who actually desired to do good, but felt as though he's too far gone to do so. The one who would sacrifice just about anything for his new, improvised family. The one who pulled off his greatest con of all - stealing her heart and conning her into loving him.
She wasn't sure when she could really say she fell for him. Probably somewhere between their rooftop dinner and lending him Sterling's voice-simulation software. Definitely by the time she offered up her vacation to chase down some leads for him (not that she'd ever admit she did it for him). He unearthed desires in her she thought had died with her parents, desires of a family and someone to come home to at night. A desire for someone to know Sara, not the cold insurance investigator. A desire for someone to love and to be loved in return.
And of course, these desires scared her shitless. She'd been completely alone in the world for so long that finally trusting someone (a criminal, no less) was more terrifying than anything else. But now she's here in these musty archives, searching with the resident conspiracy theorist for some man named Wagner in 1946. Neal isn't even here and she's still content to do whatever he asks. God, she's got it bad. She's been there all day, no coffee, no dinner. On any other night, she'd be at home by now, curled up with a glass of wine and a romance novel she would never admit to owning. Instead, she's surrounded by old documents and silence as she ponders what the hell she's thinking.
She hears him coming down the hall, can tell it's him by his gait (she know his footsteps by heart?) and finishes skimming the page as he walks through the door. He's got one arm behind his back, hiding something. She greets him and is delighted to find that he's brought her leftovers from the party. Only Neal Caffrey could turn a tinfoil package of hors d'oeuvres into a work of art that makes her heart skip ever so slightly (it's aluminum foil, Sara, not silver. Pull yourself together). The lights drop out and he mentions something about blackouts across the city. She reaches for the lantern Mozzie had brought her a few hours ago and she freezes for a moment as she registers his hand far too low on her hip to be purely platonic. She straightens up without bringing the lantern with her and they both mutter worthless apologies.
In her heels today she is even with him and she gazes for a moment at his eyes, and then his lips. She hesitates (what the hell are you waiting for, Ellis?) and lets him come to her for the first move. He tastes like fine wine and chocolate, remnants of the party but somehow entirely unsurprisingly Neal, and suddenly her hesitation is shot completely to hell. He turns them and lifts her to the ledge. Her heels crash loudly against the paneling and then the floor as they fall. In the back of her mind, she thinks that they should probably be quiet as to not be interrupted by his spectacled friend, but he deepens the kiss before she can say anything. He's pulling the sheer sleeves of her sweater down her arms and she's laughing, unbuttoning his shirt as he untucks it. In the next moment, she's shoving his shirt from his shoulders and he's rucking her skirt up to her hips. There's a very uncomfortable piece of paneling poking between her shoulder blades, but when his hands hit her hair, she decides she'll deal with the bruise.
He pulls away as the lights come on and she searches his eyes for regret. She's afraid that if she finds what she's looking for, she may never recover from the humiliation of misreading the situation. She apologizes in a breathless voice that embarrasses her just a little. But what she sees in those intense blue eyes is not regret but awe, as if he can't believe that he's just kissed Sara Ellis. As if she's what he's been looking for. And she has to admit, that brief moment definitely felt like what she's been searching for, for what seems like an eternity. She entertains the thought that maybe he has been just as lonely as her, and that they could be each other's remedy to the malady of a life of solitude. He tells her not to be sorry and kisses her again, and she forgets that they're in a musty building on a mission.
And then Mozzie calls for her. As the moment abruptly ends, Neal pulls away from her, putting his shirt back on. She hops down from her perch, pulling her shirt sleeves back into some form of array, attempting to tame her hair into a fashion that doesn't scream that she's just been thoroughly kissed, asking Mozzie what he's found. Being Mozzie, he addresses the elephant in the room in the most awkward manner possible, but continues on to say that their mission has been successful. As they look over the files, she's hyper aware of his solid chest against her back, can feel his uneven breathing. Mozzie points out that her unfocused attempt to re-button her shirt has gone wrong and she feels herself flush again. He tells them that there's a living relative named Alex Hunter, and for a moment she's hopeful at the sound of this new lead. When she registers the change in the tone of Mozzie's voice and the matching worried looks crossing the faces of both men, she feels less hopeful and more worried. Then Neal is explaining that she's an old acquaintance and her intuition is telling her that there's a hell of a lot more that he's leaving out, and she won't admit to herself that it stings more than she thinks it should.
A few days later (mixed in with nights spent dreaming of Neal's hands in her hair once again), she finds herself at the FBI ready to get back to work on Neal's case. She brings up their fleeting moment with Neal and admits to him that she was more turned on by it than she originally let on. When Alex Hunter is mentioned again, the worried looks cover the agents' faces and she knows her intuition was right. After the meeting, she tells him not to be sorry about his past, but makes sure to leave no room for lies in whatever happens next with them. She won't put herself through that. Not again.
When he misses their lunch meeting, she's worried. Even more so when Mozzie expresses his genuine concern for his friend. Agent Barrigan calls and Sara's stomach drops in a way that it hasn't since her family was alive. She agrees to meet them with Mozzie and search for their missing crew members (it's been a long time since she worked with a team). As they pull into the shipyard and the agents exit the van, Sara finds herself praying to a God that she hasn't spoken to in decades that Neal and Peter will be unharmed. After the gunshots cease, she and Mozzie curiously leave the van in search of their….she's not sure what to call him. When she spots him in the arms of Alex Hunter, she cringes internally. And when he sees her and she reads the guilt written openly on his face, she feels something else that she can't quite name.
Back at the FBI, after everyone is safe and sound, she finds herself drawn to talk to Alex. She wants to see if she can pinpoint what drives Neal to continue to return to this woman (she wants to see if she can match up to the competition). Alex is apprehensive at best, but kind enough in light conversation. Neal comes over, cautiously feeling out the two women he's found himself between, and she excuses herself from the group. Might as well get out before she lets herself feel any emotion not on her pre-approved list.
She finishes up with the agents, giving her statement before trying to make a clean escape. Naturally, she runs right into Neal on her way down the stairs, and she does her best to backpedal out of what she knows will be an awkward conversation. Peter interrupts them and demands their presence, at Elizabeth's wish, to what feels suspiciously like an intimate double date. They sit in uncomfortable silence on the Burkes' couch, each drinking their wine while absorbing every molecule of Peter and Elizabeth's domestic bliss. Sara knows that this is what she wants for herself eventually (right now, with him) and has a nagging suspicion that Neal does too.
After a delicious dinner, the first one in a long time that didn't come from a menu, she finds herself on the couch with the very gracious and hospitable Elizabeth. They talk about Peter and knowing who the other half of a relationship is before you actually embark on the journey of the relationship. She contemplates what Elizabeth is saying, how Neal deep down is the most trustworthy kind of person. Sara looks over to the men, envying the smile that hit Peter's face once they walked in the door and has yet to vacate its place. She's not sure she's ever been so happy, not sure she's ever felt as if she belongs as much as she can tell Peter feels in the comfort of his home. Elizabeth leaves the room with Peter in tow, and suddenly she's alone with Neal, the one who has occupied far too much space in her thoughts and dreams as of late.
Neal apologizes in his own way for Alex, and she knows that he's being completely sincere, something she's very recently come to see that he is capable of. She decides to leave the ball in his court with a chaste kiss and a reminder of the lunch he robbed from her. She leaves the Burke residence feeling lighter and more hopeful than she has in a long time. Maybe Neal Caffrey could be tamed. And maybe she was just the one to do it.