Tanner was lounging comfortably in June's living room, Mozzie sitting next to him. They had both received news about Neal and Peter being recovered and taken to the hospital. Mozzie seemed the most relieved of all.
"I keep telling Neal this consulting thing isn't good for his health, but does he listen to me? Nooo." Mozz stood up, gesticulating somewhat more than usual as he walked over and grabbed a cup of coffee. The housekeeper had come and dropped a tray a few minutes earlier but the two had been too into their conversation, neither had grabbed a cup yet. Mozz sat back down and breathed in the freshness of the brew. Tanner did the same after a moment.
"I could get used to this. It's a shame I won't see my folks much anymore. They seem to think I have a grant to study overseas. Where do you think they'll place me in witness protection, Mozz?" Tanner sounded a bit concerned, his green eyes glittering curiously. Mozz shrugged, looking around before he whispered:
"If it were me, I'd just run. Still… you are in danger. I think they might be able to place you somewhere safe but you'll be a tool of the government. I wouldn't doubt they'd try to sucker you into working for them." Mozz was all conspiracy, Tanner chuckling as he ran a hand through his blond hair.
"Working for the government, doing what I do, might not be a bad thing. I'd have to hold off on the conning but that was just for fun anyhow. Not like I was getting rich off it. Maybe this is a good thing." He watched Mozzie nearly spit the coffee out and chuckled again.
"You are too easy, Mozz. Seriously though, it's a great opportunity. I can be a whole new person." Tanner seemed rather excited by the idea, Mozzie looking him up and down curiously.
It was close to 6 days before Neal was released from the hospital. Peter was released the day before, his arm in a sling from being dislocated although he kept insisting it was fine. Both of them looked slightly worse for wear once they met at June's that following weekend.
"Settling in?" Peter had knocked and peered inside as Neal turned. Neal waved him inside, nodding as he sat on the edge of the bed. He was dressed in pajama pants and a white tee, his ankle still wrapped from the slight injury. He noticed Peter's sling.
"Does it still hurt?" Neal felt guilty for having hurt Peter although it had been unintentional while catching him mid-fall. Peter just shrugged.
"Actually no. The meds they gave me help and I keep taking it out the sling unless I'm around El. She insists I wear it." He pointed down at Neal's ankle. Neal shrugged.
"Twinges. I can walk on it but yeah, the meds. They gave us some good stuff at the hospital. I'll say that much." He was smirking, Peter joining in as he walked over and sat beside him on the bed.
"I heard Tanner went into witness protection. I was hoping to meet him. Everyone had nothing but good things to say about him, even El. She said she'd never met anyone like him before. Reminded her of you only younger." Peter saw the young man blink.
"Mozz liked the kid so he must have had some redeeming factors. He doesn't like just anyone." Neal would have said more but the door swung open suddenly and Mozz stood there in the entrance, huffing and puffing. He looked upset, correction… he looked terrified. Neal stood and walked over to the little guy and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Mozz, what's the matter?" Neal could see his friend was afraid of something, his mouth about to speak when he saw Peter and stopped himself. He just pointed at Peter and had this look on his face of absolute fear. Peter blinked, looking around the room and then back at the two in confusion.
"Why is he pointing at me like that?" Peter sounded concerned, walking over but Mozz took a few steps back as if he was scared. Neal held onto him and turned to Peter.
"Maybe you should wait downstairs while I figure this out." He whispered. Peter nodded, walking around them and out the door. Neal shut it and eased Mozz out of the corner and over to the sofa.
"Mozz, what's going on? Why are you acting weirder than usual?" He watched the little guy catch his breath, turning to be sure Peter wasn't there he guessed, then he pulled closer to Neal and spoke in a hushed whisper.
"Tanner… he's… dead!" Mozz said little else, Neal's eyes widening at the revelation. Isn't that the hacker friend they were just discussing? He understood now why Mozz was acting so weird but still, why would he send Peter away for this news. It didn't make any sense.
"I'm sorry, Mozz. What happened? And why were you so concerned with Peter not being here?" Neal waited to hear what he friend had to say, Mozz standing up and pacing a moment. He turned and stared straight at Neal.
"You have to run, Neal. I wouldn't normally tell you that… well no, correction, I have been telling you that, you just won't listen to me. I think you're in danger. Tanner was just a message. I don't want to see you end up like him." Mozz came back and sat beside Neal, his eyes adamant and pleading.
"I can figure something out. We'll leave the country and they'll never find you. Peter doesn't need to know. Besides your anklet is off till your ankle stops swelling. They'll never know." Mozz watched Neal stand, walking across the room and then back again. His blue eyes were flashing, face conflicted.
"Why are you bringing this up again, Mozz? I can't run. You know that. I still have to find out what happened. Peter can help me do that. Besides, I owe him. I can't just leave." Neal left it at that, standing across from Mozz, the coffee table between them. The little guy stood up and walked over and grabbed his arms, shaking him.
"The Suit might be your friend but he's going to get you killed, Neal! THEY killed Tanner." Mozzie's words were open-ended, Neal just blinking down at him till he realized what he meant.
"The Feds? But why… he was in witness protection. Why would they kill him?" He looked at his friend incredulously but Mozz shook his head.
"The Feds you know, didn't do it… it was Him. You don't think it was convenient how you were both taken? That they tried to separate you both and take you? I know… I did some digging and He was behind this. He still wants the music box and he still wants whatever skills you possess." Mozzie's tone had grown menacing, Neal pulling away unable to listen to this.
"Peter knows. He's helpless to do anything as a Fed. His hands are tied. You have to leave. If they got to Tanner during his transport, He'll find a way to get to you too. The Suit can't protect you, Neal." Mozz was tugging on Neal's sleeve but the young man had turned away, looking at the terrace doors and trying to sort what his friend was saying.
"You don't think I know what you're saying is true." Both of them turned as Peter reappeared. He had opened the door quietly without them noticing. His curiosity had gotten the best of him and he had been eavesdropping. Mozz looked at him like a frightened rabbit while Neal just stared at him blankly.
"I figured out who it was when they tried to get rid of me and take you. I wasn't going to let them do it. Neal, you know I'd do everything in my power to keep you safe." Peter walked over and patted the young man on the shoulder. Mozz just stood to the side looking nervous.
"Mozz, if I thought running was the thing to do, I'd have let him go. That's what they want. They want him free and loose. They want him easy to catch with nobody there to help him. I'm not going to let that happen. Hughes and the rest of our crew know what the consequences are. We're going to protect him. You have my word." He was sincere without resorting to his Agent persona, Mozz looking at him with a bit less timidity.
"So Tanner was a fluke? What happened there, Agent Burke?" Mozz sounded accusatory now, Peter frowning as he thought about what Mozz had said to Neal.
"This is the first I've heard about this. I've been out of the loop since the incident. If any of my people were on it, I'll be able to find something out but I'm betting you it was another unit. My office isn't the only one operating out of this area. I'll make some phone calls. We'll figure this out." He saw Mozz look at him with a lack of belief that made Peter sigh. Neal put a hand on Mozz's shoulder and looked over at Peter with an expression of utter trust.
"Mozz, if Peter says he'll look into it. He'll look into it. Trust me." Neal saw Peter blink at him then smile.
"I'll call Jones. If anyone knows about the transport he would. I was told he was investigating our kidnapping and worked with Tanner. Just don't tell El or June yet. I don't want them to worry." Peter looked between the two and they both nodded. He smiled ever so slightly, pulling out his phone and walking out onto the terrace to make his call.
Mozz pulled Neal aside, looking over at Peter.
"Neal, I know you trust him but he's just another Suit. He's limited while he trusts in the bureaucracy. He's compromised even if he doesn't realize it." Mozz saw Neal stare down at him then back at Peter. He shook his head.
"No, Mozz. He nearly died for me. If that's not proof enough he's on my side, I don't know what is. He's taken too many chances and I don't want to see those go to waste. It would be too easy to quit now. I have to see this through." He combed a hand through his hair, looking out at his friend on the phone. Peter saw him and smiled back, turning after a moment as he continued with his call. Neal sighed.
"If I leave, I won't know that I'm safe and I won't know that they won't try to flush me out by using Peter or anyone else I care about. I don't want to see anyone else hurt. Here… I can at least try to make a difference. We'll find out who the Ring man is." He stopped, Peter walking back quickly. He looked upset.
"Jones says nobody from our crew was on the transport although Jones had volunteered as a thank you gesture. He was refused." Peter took a deep breath, something Neal knew wasn't a good sign, before he continued.
"The official story is that the transport van blew a tire, lost control, hit a utility pole and blew up. Everyone was lost. Nothing extraordinary. No signs of any incendiary devices or timers. It was just an unfortunate accident." Peter looked pissed, walking over to the sofa and plopping down exhaustedly. Neal joined him, Mozz standing nearby.
"Peter, I'm sorry. How many agents were lost?" Neal put a hand on his friend's shoulder and the man shrugged slightly, leaning back against the sofa, eyes closed.
"Four men. Two of them were rookies. I'm guessing they didn't know anything about what was going to happen." He gave a deep sigh, opening his eyes as Mozzie spoke.
"I'm sorry, Peter. I know you're one of the 'good' guys but you have to understand my point of view…" Mozz trailed off, Peter nodding to him with a sobering expression.
"If I failed to see it before, I understand it now. I'm going to do what I can to take these people down. Don't worry about that."