Neal turned at the sound of his cell buzzing off the hook. He pulled it off the nightstand and pushed a few buttons, reading the new text.
(From Suit:) Made it to the cleaners. Expect a delivery. (end of message)
He laughed, rereading the text before putting the cell back on the nightstand. He'd been left behind for the meanwhile, June and Moz expected to return once they knew Peter had come out successfully. Looks like everything had worked out and he would be able to return to June's and his room.
Neal stretched, feeling his shoulder stiff and sore but atleast it was less painful than it had. Tiny had stopped by and said his infection had pretty much gone away with the antibiotics and he would be better in a week or so with rest. Neal was happy to hear that. He was looking forward to going out to the park and hanging with Mozzie and June. He'd lost some time searching out the music box and Kate. He wondered if she knew what had happened to him.
Neal mulled over the thought when he heard footsteps outside the bedroom door. He was about to call out when something felt wrong. The young man pushed the blankets aside and pulled the IV from his arm as he slipped out of bed and stood up shakily. He felt like he was learning to walk all over again even though it had barely been 3 days since he'd been hurt, his body reacted to the lack of movement and he felt dizzy, legs cramping up.
Neal fought the urge to sit and pushed some pillows under the blankets, set them back, grabbed his cell and hobbled quickly as he could to a wardrobe he'd noticed in the corner. It was the kind of furniture you found in really old homes, turn of the century perhaps, large pieces like the one in the children's book. Neal pulled the cabinet open quietly and slipped inside, closing the door behind him. He had plenty of room and he found a small peep hole in the side which made him think June's words about this being a safe house weren't far from wrong.
The bedroom door slipped open quietly, the knob barely creaking as it turned. A figure dressed all in black with a ski mask waltzed into the room, an automatic with what appeared to be a silencer on the end in their hand. Neal held his breath, watching the scene from the peep hole as the figure approached his bed and immediately shot three times into the bed, a slight red staining the sheets before turning and leaving as quickly as they had come.
The con shivered, staring at the scene a moment, staying hidden and feeling like he would never leave the safety of the wardrobe. It had been a lucky thing he had thought to spread a few of the grapes (red ones) around the bed thinking atleast that would give the illusion of a person if they hit the right spot. The red juices would cause someone to think they'd shot a body and luck was on his side.
Neal leaned back inside his small refuge, falling asleep at some point. He woke up some time later to the sound of voices outside the wardrobe. He heard Moz's nasally tone and peered through the peep hole to see June and Moz standing over his bed. They had pulled back the sheets, looking around the room in confusion.
"If he's not here, where could he be?" June's voice sounded worried. She peered around the room, her eyes falling upon the wardrobe curiously. Moz stared at the bed sheets stained by the grapes and full of holes, nose twitching.
"How did they figure out where this place was? I wonder if they could have bugged El's phone after all. I told him I didn't want my phone compromised!" His voice rose in a slight pitch of panic when June held up a hand and walked towards the wardrobe speaking softly.
"I'm sure Neal is ok. He was smart enough to get out while the getting was good." She kept walking towards the wardrobe as Neal watched through the peep hole.
"I'm feeling a wee bit cold. I think I left a shawl in the wardrobe over here." Neal heard her voice just outside the door, turning as the doors opened and she reached inside. She gave a little gasp of surprise as the young man peered up at her.
"Hi... no lions in this wardrobe." Neal smiled up at her coyly as her expression changed to that of amused relief.
"No, just a handsome young buck." He blinked back at her as she winked and offered him a hand out. Moz shuffled over and blinked in surprise.
"Neal. You're ok!" He twitched his nose smiling. Neal nodded back, easing himself out of the wardrobe with their help.
"Hey Moz! Yeah, I had a feeling it wasn't one of you. They were too quiet." He looked around as if for something or someone and June replied.
"Peter is home with Elizabeth already and Reese knows he's alive so we're just waiting to hear what happens." She turned to Moz and smiled.
"Mr. Honeycutt, you think Neal could stay with you again.? I don't think this place is safe anymore." Moz nodded and June smiled.
"Thanks. I'll help Neal pack up for the trip."
An hour later, Neal found himself at Mozzie's storage unit on the warehouse side of town. It wasn't the nicest side to be on but it was fairly private and convenient for what his friend liked. The young man looked around and noticed the pile of blankets from earlier had been replaced by an extra cot like the one he had been on earlier. Moz pointed at the extra cot and a small crate next to it.
"It's just temporary but I don't usually have guests over..." Neal nodded and dropped his stuff on the cot, sitting down gingerly on the edge. Somehow he had managed to survive being awake the whole day and travel while conscious without feeling too exhausted. His shoulder was stiff and sore but with the sling Tiny had given them, it had worked out. He had also received another text from Peter.
(From Suit:) Suit is out of the bag. Bird looks surprised but hasn't taken the bait yet. (end of message)
Neal smiled but a hint of concern filled his expression. Peter was out now but he would have to go through some kind of review with Hughes and some of the highers up including Fowler, since the agent was OPR. If they thought Peter was protecting Neal in some manner, he could be in trouble. It would be harder to prove Fowler was involved than that Burke had somehow succumb to some sort of Stockholm syndrome and was sympathizing with his captor. Neal shivered at the thought of all the things that could go wrong even though Peter was now out and about. They had both figured coming out would make things harder on Fowler but it looked like it would make things worse for Neal if it was twisted in the right manner. The young man notice Mozzie watching him curiously.
"Neal, you ok? You seem rather quiet." Moz twitched his nose and poked around in a nearby box, bring over a small bottle of wine and some glasses.
"Feel like a drink?" Neal nodded to his friend absently, his mind still working on the situation with Peter and how it would end up. He took the glass without looking up, a brief "Thanks" exiting his lips as he sipped at the red and thought things through. If Neal was made to look like some kind of mastermind who had undermined a federal agent, not only would Peter be through but there would be a manhunt for the con. His mind reeled at the thought making him cough as he choked on the wine. Mozzie hit him on the back.
"Neal, you're not supposed to breath it. You OK?" Neal nodded catching his breath and was finally able to reply.
"I was just thinking, Peter is out but it might not be as good a thing as we thought." Mozzie gave him another twitchy expression, pulling a chair up to sit near and leaned over.
"Why would you say that? The suit being alive means you didn't kill him and therefore you are innocent and can come out of hiding." Neal shook his head.
"Fowler is part of the review of Peter coming back seeing that he's with OPR. That basically means even if Hughes and everyone else feels Peter is telling the truth, there's still that doubt that perhaps I tampered with him and he's just sympathizing with me." Mozzie sipped at his glass then choked himself and his face seemed to reveal the same conclusion.
"Stockholm Syndrome? Oh geesh! I hadn't even considered that possibility. They could say because of your past experience and his apparently mentoring, he isn't thinking clearly and they'd still come after you." Neal nodded and sighed, sipping at the wine again.
"Moz, we can only hope it doesn't get that far and somehow Fowler or the gunman who shot me are implicated."
(Investigation and Revelations)
Peter stayed home and rested for 5 days before Hughes called him in for a review per Fowler and OPR. During his "vacation," the agent thought of many things but one of them lay heavily on his mind. If Fowler was a part of the review process, now that Peter was alive and well, then he could very well undermine whatever was said and try to make Peter out to be incompetent or compromised. The idea made him wince more than the memory of his gunshot and how this would affect Neal.
He eventually told Elizabeth about the idea as she cornered him one day, his face furrowed in thought. Her face showed the same surprise as his at the thought. If Fowler found enough evidence to point to some kind of "Stockholm" type syndrome between Peter and Neal, the con was as good as dead if not sent back to jail for life. El hugged him and told him they could only wait and see what would happen. Neal was safe for now they knew and would remain so. Peter trusted him not to run especially after all they'd been through.
Elizabeth accompanied her husband to the review, waiting out in the main lobby as he walked the length of the office and upstairs to Hughes. Fowler and his cronies from OPR were already there including the man he suspected of shooting Neal. The shooter was a large man, big shouldered and husky like a Marine with short cropped brown hair. He couldn't have been older than 30, but his face bore some scars that made him look older. The agent noticed Peter's glance and started somewhat which made him think Fowler hadn't told the shooter he was still alive. Perhaps this interview wouldn't be as bad as he thought. Hughes motioned for Burke to sit and someone closed the doors and blinds to the office for privacy. A large recorder sat in the middle of the table and the older man turned it on.
"Agent Burke, I think you know Agent Fowler from OPR." Peter nodded at his boss and then a bit more curtly towards Fowler and his men. Fowler had the usual confident smirk on his face as if he had just eaten the canary and it had been worth the trouble. Peter turned to the suspected shooter and stared a bit more, noting the man shifted uncomfortably in place and beads of sweat had suddenly formed on his brow. Yep... this guy was the shooter or he was guilty of something else. Peter turned his attention back to Hughes who had started speaking again.
"Agent Burke, this is just a preliminary review. We understand from what you told us in your initial comments that you don't remember much about what happened after you were shot?" Peter nodded to Hughes noting Fowler taking notes.
"Can you please tell us again what you remember of the night in particular?" Hughes pushed the recorder closer to Peter.
"As I mentioned before, I came into my home and received a call soon after that Neal had cut his anklet..." He was interrupted by a slight chuckle from Fowler. Hughes glared at the man motioning for Burke to continue.
"... I ran up to my bedroom on the second floor to grab my gear when I heard the cock of a gun. I turned..." He gave a quick glance over at the agent he suspected of being the shooter before he continued.
"and saw a masked man with a silver automatic pointed at my head. Then someone pushed me out of the way." Hughes interrupted him at this point, looking at Peter curiously.
"Do you know who pushed you out of the way of the bullet, Agent Burke?" Peter nodded with a smile.
"Yes, Neal Caffrey. He was bound and gagged but he managed to push me out of harm's way and was shot in the shoulder." Peter would have gone on except for a cough from Fowler.
"Agent Burke, are you saying that Neal Caffrey was not the shooter and there was a third person who had the gun with both of your prints on it? Can you describe the shooter?" Fowler's smirk grew even larger as he made the comment. Peter gave a smirk of his own back looking over at the person he suspected of being the shooter.
"The person was wearing a mask so I can only go by what I recall of his size and shape. I'd have to say he was ... Agent, could you please stand up?" He pointed at the suspicious man he'd been eying, the one he'd seen at the hospital ER before with El and Jones. The agent looked rather surprised, face a bit pale, a few more beads of sweat on his brow. Fowler looked suddenly very livid but hid it for Hughes' sake.
The agent looked from Peter to Fowler and the latter nodded at him curtly so he stood up and moved away from the table, a slight nervous shudder as he stood there. Peter nodded, turning to Hughes.
"My assailant was atleast as tall as this young agent, same build, but they had a mask and gloves so I couldn't say what their face looked like. Thank you agent." The young man kept standing there, shaking a bit, eyes nervously looking around before Fowler made a hiss at him to sit and he did so quickly. Peter wanted to laugh. This was the mastermind Fowler used to get to him? Poor kid was ready to scream "I'm guilty!" right here and now without even saying it out loud. The only problem was proving this was the person who shot Neal. Fowler would be harder to get but if he could atleast get this one... Hughes nodded and made a motion for Peter to continue.
"Well, someone hit me on the back of the head, the shooter I think, but I did hear other voices around me when I was stunned on the floor. Someone moved me and I heard the gun go off again and felt a burning pain in my chest. I passed out so I don't know what happened after that. My memory's a bit fuzzy." He stared at Fowler briefly but long enough to get a "I know it was you" expression across. Hughes turned off the recorder and nodded.
"I guess that's it for now. I know you're still recuperating, Agent Burke. We'll call you in if we have any further questions. Thank you." Peter nodded to his boss, then another curt nod of the head towards the OPR people before he stood and walked out of the office and back to his wife in the lobby below. Elizabeth looked a bit surprised when he came up to her with an oddly out of place smile on his face.
"Honey, you look like you just discovered a cure for cancer. Everything went ok?" He nodded and smiled almost cockily as she took his arm and helped him outside to the elevators.
"I think I found Neal's shooter. The poor kid looked so guilty when he saw me, I thought he was going to faint." She gawked at him.
"You saw the shooter? You're sure?" They were whispering back and forth and stopped as they saw Fowler and his group coming down the aisle towards them. Peter whispered out the side of his mouth:
"Tall young man with short cropped hair." El gave a furtive look and squeezed his arm to let him know she saw as they stood there. The OPR group had barely made it towards the glass doors leading out of the offices when the suspected agent stopped and stood in the aisle looking around. Fowler paused at the doors as everyone else stood near the elevators and turned, calling to the young man.
"Jenkins... come on!" Fowler sounded frustrated, the tone making the young agent back up and look around even more nervously. Peter didn't like the looks of this and gave a little push towards his wife hissing:
"Stairs!" She looked at him with wide eyes but obeyed as they moved towards a large potted plant and a door just beyond it. It was a good thing too because Peter saw Jenkins pull his service revolver out just as they rounded the palm and entered the corridor leading to the stairs. With the glass door held open by Fowler a few words could be heard.
"You said he wouldn't live... It would be easy and everything would fall into place!" Jenkins was screaming this to the air, Fowler's face pale with fear and the smirk long wiped off his face. The young agent waved his gun around the room, agents falling behind their desks in fear and drawing their own weapons in defense.
Hughes came out of his office and was quickly pushed back behind one of the walls by Jones. Jenkins continued to scream.
"I didn't want to do this... this is not what I joined the FBI to do... I didn't want to shoot him! I'm sorry..." Jenkins pressed the gun up against his chest but another agent had already anticipated the action and jumped him, the gun missing anything vital and only grazing the crazed agent in the arm. He started crying as other agents came to the rescue and helped to handcuff and secure the man.
Peter slipped down to the floor inside the staircase door and looked about ready to faint. El crouched beside him and hugged him close.
"You were right!" She hugged him tightly and whispered.
"I think it's time we called Neal out of hiding." He looked up at her and nodded with a smile.
Neal was dreaming about sitting out on the balcony at June's. He was in the clothes she gave him, a nice set of gentleman's silk pajamas in purple and blue with a matching robe that was warm. He was sipping at a cup of the usual italian roast she made which tasted just this side of heavenly when someone woke him up.
"Moz... what is it?" His voice was a bit testy even for him as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and looked up from the uncomfortable cot and found himself looking eye to eye with Elizabeth. She was smiling down at him warmly. Neal covered himself up with the blue flannel blanket Mozzie had given him and tried to sit up as best he could in the cot.
"Elizabeth? What are you..." She pulled up a chair from the card table, her smiling never leaving her face as she sat down.
"I came to give you some wonderful news!" Mozzie stood behind her peering over her shoulder with a bit of a relieved look. Neal wondered what was up.
"News? Speaking of which, how's Peter feeling? I hadn't heard a peep out of you guys this past week." His voice sounded concerned if not a bit sad at being out of the loop. Elizabeth kept smiling, nodding her head at him.
"Good good. They found the shooter." Neal blinked, grabbing her hands in his.
"They found the shooter? Not Fo..." She shook her head and frowned a bit.
"No but the one who shot you. It was enough to convict him and he admitted to yours so they just assumed he shot Peter as well." The young man nodded at her words his eyes deep in thought.
"That is good news I guess. A shame they couldn't get Fowler aswell." She nodded to him and stood as she heard a sound from the other side of the storage unit. Peter came around the corner. He was dressed in a beige polo shirt tucked into brown chinos with a matching beige izod golfer's jacket over it all. The agent stopped as Neal and he met glances.
"You look better than the last time I saw you." Peter strolled over with only a slight limp and held a hand out to the young man who took it and smiled back.
"You don't look too bad yourself. Good to see you again. I was beginning to worry I was going to be stuck here for a while." He saw Mozzie look at him with a hurt look, nose twitching. Peter shook his head.
"Nope... we're moving you back to June's. Get dressed or something and we'll meet you outside. Anything you want me to take?" Neal looked around seeing the small bag June had packed for him.
"Just this. I'm pretty much ready to go now." He looked down at his sweat pants and tee he had been brought in. Hadn't been time for him to really do much clothing-wise while he was recuperating . Peter nodded, grabbed the bag, and Elizabeth left ahead of them as they walked out. Mozzie followed close behind.
"Moz, thanks. I don't know what I could have done without you." Neal gave his friend a brief hug and smiled at him. Moz looked a bit taken aback but nodded with a twitch of his nose.
"So long as I can keep visiting you and June, I won't ask for any rent money from you." Neal chuckled and nodded. "Anytime." They shook one last time and Neal sat in the back of the Taurus. He watched Mozzie standing outside the storage unit as the car drove away and headed into the city.
It wasn't long before they reached June's and Peter helped the young man from the vehicle. Neal looked around at the house and street and felt like he was finally home. It was a strange feeling but he was happy to be back. They walked around to the door and June was there waiting to let them inside. She gave the young man a tight little hug as if she were his mother, her eyes wet with something.
"It's good to see you again, Neal." He smiled at her shyly, face slightly blushed.
"It's good to be back." She wrapped her arm around him in a gentle hug and walked up the stairs with him as Elizabeth and Peter followed closely behind.
"I left everything the way you liked it. There's some food in the fridge if you're hungry." Neal blushed a bit. He wasn't used to anyone being this nice to him and it just made him feel somewhat guilty. He hugged her back gently and his eyes felt warm and wet.
"Thank you, June. For everything." She nodded and pushed him away gently, a knowing smile on her face.
"I'm going to talk to Elizabeth a moment if you don't mind..." She looked from Neal to Peter and lead El downstairs, closing the door behind them. Neal turned after he had wiped at his eyes a bit and faced his friend.
"Peter... uhm..." He wasn't sure what to say. For the first time he was pretty much speechless, a tiny smirk growing across Burke's face.
"Wow, a first. Neal Caffrey speechless. I never thought I'd live to see that." Neal blushed and smirked back, arms crossed in mock annoyance across his chest.
"I blame the gunshot for that." It took a moment but they both burst into a mild fit of laughter before Peter motioned the young man over.
"I told them it was you who pushed me out of the way. At the review. You should have seen Fowler's face. He was absolutely livid." Neal sat down beside the agent on the sofa and smiled.
"Really? I wish I could have seen that. But you did catch who shot me just not Fowler..." Peter nodded soberly, his expression darkening.
"The shooter was one of OPR. Young guy. He was nervous as hell when he first saw me and he matched the size and height of what I recalled the shooter looking like. I used him as my example and that just made it worse." Neal perked up and listened.
"His name is Jenkins. He's going away for a long time. Didn't help he panicked on the way out after the review. Tried to kill himself but Ruiz and the rest jumped him. Fowler never saw it coming and somehow Jenkins admitted to doing it all on his own although I did mention hearing others. It's a start." Neal put a hand on his friend's shoulder and squeezed gently.
"I'm sorry." Peter shook his head.
"Not your fault. Fowler's just a bad guy. He'll get his just desserts... speaking of which. I brought you a gift." Neal blinked at the agent.
"Gift? I really don't deserve anything..." Peter just held up a hand and smiled as he pulled a nicely decorated box from behind him and handed it to the young man. Neal blushed.
"If I knew it was coming to this, I'd have gotten you something in return. Thank you, Peter." The agent smiled and shook his head.
"I just know how much you like to be well accessorized and thought this would help. Neal nodded opening up the box and peering inside through the paper. His face turned bright red and he just kept looking down at the item as if he wasn't sure what to make of it. Finally Peter poked him gently.
"Come on... try it on." Neal looked up at his friend, his expression like that of a little boy who just go socks for Christmas.
"Do I have to?" Peter's expression was bright but stern. Neal sighed and pulled out a new GPS anklet from the box.
"Just what I always wanted." Peter smiled and took the anklet from him.
"Let's see how it looks." Neal reluctantly held up his ankle and Peter put it on with a smiled.
"There! You look dressed now." Neal made a face like he was wearing a pink bunny suit.
"I swear Peter. I don't know sometimes where I stand with you. I was gone for a week with Moz and never ran and yet..." He gave a frustrated shrug of his shoulders and sulked in the corner of the sofa. Peter patted him on the shoulder.
"I know I can trust you, but for now this is how it has to be." His voice was kind and apologetic making the young man turn and eye him curiously.
"You trust me?" Peter nodded at the young man and Neal smiled, looking down at his anklet.
"I guess if it has to be, it has to be."