It's been so long, I forgot this in the first part: I don't own any part of White Collar. I promise I'll put them back where I found them.
Thank you to those who have reviewed. I enjoy reading your comments, even though I do stubbornly stick to my own ways. I also apologize for the delay. There has been a very nasty virus going through the area I had the non-pleasure of acquiring, which caused even more problems. The virus is finally beaten – said with fingers crossed – and we're working on the others, so I'm hoping the last part won't take anywhere near as long for me to finish.
A Careful Application of Super Glue
"What are you doing here, Neal?" Peter asks, pulling the back door open revealing his unexpected visitors.
"I'm here to help fix what I broke."
"You already got Elizabeth that impossible to get event. What more do you possibly need to do?"
Neal holds up the manila envelope he rescued from his luggage. "I thought this might be of use."
Peter plucks the offering from Neal's hands as he and Mozzie slip past him in the doorway. "What is it?"
"Mentor. What Fowler gave me in exchange for the music box."
Peter's head jerks up from opening the envelope. "You realize he isn't expecting these to make the light of day. It's even more imperative now that no one knows you survived the explosion."
"How long do you expect me to hide? I can't just sit by in Mozzie's 'apartment' and wait for something to happen. I need to help. None of this would have happened had I listened to you about Kate. I'm still not sure what to believe there, but if I'd just let her go…" Neal looks down at his shoes.
"If you'd just let her go, what?" Peter presses.
"She'd still be alive, you wouldn't have been suspended, and Elizabeth wouldn't be struggling to put her catering business back together."
"I think we're way past that, Neal. You know as well as I do that Fowler has been after me for some reason; just because he's using you to accomplish it, doesn't mean it's your fault."
"He didn't show up until you got me out of prison. There has to be some kind of connection there."
"Perhaps. We'll look into it."
Mozzie has been prowling during the conversation, keeping one ear on it and one ear attuned to any other sounds in the house. He completes his circuit, stopping by Neal and reporting in a loud whisper, "Neal, the suit has company."
The agent sighs. "It's Jones, Cruz and Diana. They volunteered to help out off the record."
"Is that why you don't want our help? Because you're afraid one of your people is in on it?" Mozzie asks directly.
"It's not that I don't want your help…"
"Wait," Neal cuts him off. "Diana's here? I thought she was in DC."
"I needed someone not connected with me to look into Fowler," Peter confesses. "She also downloaded everything he had on Mentor from his computer."
"Isn't that illegal?" Neal recalls many times Peter wouldn't allow him to gather information because of that very roadblock.
"Not when you have a warrant."
"Do you know how she managed that?"
"Not a clue," Peter sighs. "She won't reveal her sources either."
"I guess all that matters is that she did get the information. Are you sure you don't want another couple pair of eyes looking over it?"
With Peter's hesitation, Mozzie understands. "You haven't told them Neal is alive, have you?"
"No," Peter admits. "I wanted to see where we got before announcing that news. Right now the only other person who knows is Hughes."
"So we're back to the question of how much you trust those three."
"With my life," Peter replies without hesitation.
"But not mine?" Neal asks, a little hurt. He thought they had worked together long enough that they were a team. Hadn't Peter said he was at the airport as his friend?
"It's not that. Going after Fowler is going to be dangerous. He's already tried to kill you once."
"Why did you say what you said?"
"What?" Peter asks, confused by the change in topics.
"That you were at the airport to stop me from leaving as my friend?"
"It's the truth."
"You also said I should stay because you thought I had done and could do more good here. Why did you say that?
"It's also the truth."
"So you say you're my friend, and you think I can do a lot of good here, but you don't want me to help bring down Fowler because…? You can still keep your secrets, but I trust Jones, Diana and Cruz won't betray that I'm still alive. And I'm willing to trust you to do the right thing. It's your call, Peter." Neal steps back to the door, placing his hand on the knob, ready to leave if that is the decision Peter comes to.
Much like the decision Neal ended up not having to make at the airport, Peter has a tough decision to make. "Why didn't you say goodbye when you were planning on leaving with Kate?"
Neal knows double talk isn't going to get him out of this one this time. He briefly contemplates walking out the door and leaving the question unanswered once again, but the answer to the question itself is what keeps him from doing so. "Respect. Trust. Friendship. Any one of those, or all of them. You were right; I was doing something good here, but I thought what I once lost outweighed what I had. I could have been wrong, but I'll never know because someone took that decision out of my hands. I believe it was Fowler, but whoever it was, I'm going to find out, with or without your help." He turns back to the door, once again ready to leave. "I'd prefer if it was with," he says quietly enough that only Mozzie hears.
Mozzie has been watching Peter rather than Neal, wanting to see the agent's reaction rather than his friend's face during this confession. What he feared was happening, that Neal was getting too cozy with the suits, but at the same time, he realizes he is a bit relieved. Despite working the shadier side of the street, he realized some time ago that he trusted Peter to do what he thought was right. And it scares him that someone has that kind of influence over Neal at the same time he is relieved someone can reign him from some of his riskier actions. And although Peter tries not to let it show, the look on his face at the young cons confession is one of both shock and a fatherly kind of pride.
"You've changed from the confident con I arrested – twice – to someone I'm pleased to have as a partner," Peter confesses. "I should respect your right to make your own decisions. I'll ask Elizabeth to make some more coffee. Are you joining the party?" he asks his partner's strange friend.
A glance at Neal reveals nothing except this decision is his own, not one Neal is going to make for him in light of the presence of several agents of the FBI. "Someone has to keep an eye on the suits and make sure they don't try to dangle you as bait," he says with his usual conspiracy theory directness. "And how could I turn down El's delicious coffee?"