(Chapter 6)

Neal parked outside the same gate Jones had dropped them off at barely two days ago. He sat there a moment thinking about things and trying to wake himself up. He was still a bit hung over from the drug they'd given him last night. How he had driven so far without passing out, he wasn't sure.

He stepped out, closing the door and leaning back on the car frame. The world felt like it was swaying but he had to get over this. Peter was depending on him.

"You came! And you're alone. How sweet."

Neal turned to see Hartwell... Max standing there just off to his left by the gate. Soren stood off behind the man looking scarier in the daylight than he had during the robbery. His memory was starting to become clearer. Neal stood a bit straighter, his anger and worry giving him strength. They didn't need to know he was feeling poorly and he refused to let them see.

"Max... I see you bought your pet goon to oversee things. Where is Peter?" Neal put enough of an edge to his voice for effect although he wasn't faking for once. Impotent anger he had held back was leaking through, and in his current state he was not in control of hiding what he felt for once. He thought he saw Max blink a bit, slightly uncertain of what Neal might do.

"I see. Well I did get what I wanted and I promised you your friend." Max's tone was condescending as he turned and made a motion to Soren who picked up a walkie-talkie and spoke quietly. Max made a motion towards the tarmac.

"Your friend is over there, Neal." Max walked through the gate, holding it open for Neal who didn't hesitate but a second before passing through. He paused as Max made a gesture towards something glinting silvery in the daylight.

"You have but to walk over, untie him and you'll never see me again." Max smiled a little too cunningly, Neal nodding with a glare on his face. He turned to see a leer jet across the pavement, a sudden wave of cold washing over him. He felt his stomach lurch slightly despite his resolve. He heard a slightly chuckle to his side.

"Still thinking of Kate? Such a shame..."

Neal turned to look at Max if only a moment, moving forward suddenly as his rage took over. He only stopped short when he saw a gun pointed at him by Soren. Max's face looked a bit pale as if he hadn't expected Neal's reaction but still held his own smiling a little less confidently.

"Go to your friend, Neal. He's waiting." Max smirked, gesturing to Soren and they walked away leaving Neal alone. The young man continued to stand there unmoving, his rage and anger making him shake ever so slightly.

He looked up and saw the plane and someone moving inside of it. Suddenly his memory flashed to another scene.

Kate?

It was the same kind of plane she had been on. The one he was supposed to have boarded. The one that had exploded. It was a miracle he hadn't been on there. Peter had been there. Peter had stopped him.

He stared at the plane, still seeing a figure moving there just barely visible beyond the windows. He thought he heard sirens but they disappeared into the background of his thoughts as he moved slowly forward.

Neal moved a few more feet, his steps slow but deliberate. He kept seeing the figure on the plane but his mind was somehow going back to that day.

Kate?

He started to walk a bit faster, the sound of sirens growing but he was distracted by the figure on the plane. He started to move forward when someone grabbed his arm.

"Don't do it, Neal." The voice was familiar, breaking through his thoughts and daze he was still in. Neal paused despite his eyes remaining hooked on the plane head of him.

Kate...

"Neal, it's ok. I'm... ok."

That voice. He finally turned, his blue eyes meeting two brown ones. Those eyes were tired looking, exhaustion evident but still bright and smiling. He took in the rest of the figure, his eyes widening.

"She's on the plane. I have to..." He felt himself go blank a moment. What was it he was doing again? He had been doing something before he'd been stopped. The figure nodded, a sad smiled on their face.

"She was here but she's... gone now, Neal. Come with me. Please..." Peter's voice woke him up, Neal seeing the figure on the plane clearly now. It was a man but it wasn't Peter or Kate. Peter was beside him holding his arm, smiling softly despite a nasty bruise on his chin.

"Peter..." Neal barely said that when he slumped, collapsing to his knees. He felt strong hands catch him, barely conscious of the figures moving around them, shouting. Someone lifted him up, an arm curled around his waist as they supported him.

"Come on Neal."

()()()

Neal had fallen into a kind of haze, an after effect apparently of the sodium pentathol. The paramedics were checking him and Peter out saying Neal would be ok as the drug left his system. Peter had been luckier with his reaction although he was still dealing with the pain of the punch to his chin from Derek. The EMT gave the agent an ice pack for his discomfort, making sure he didn't have any of the same symptoms as Neal.

Peter sat beside Neal who lay on a gurney in the ambulance, eyes partially open and staring rather blankly ahead.

"Neal..." Peter's voice was just loud enough, Neal's blue eyes rolling towards the sound, focusing vaguely on its source. He nodded to the agent, closing his eyes a moment before opening them up again.

"How are you feeling?" Peter kept his voice calm.

"Tired. How did you... get free?" Neal tried to sit up but Peter pushed him back gently with a shake of his head. Peter gave a soft groan when he did that, obviously a bit off despite his being more conscious than Neal.

"Seizure... well faked one. Scared the two guards. One of them untied me and well you can guess what happened." He pointed out the back of the ambulance at a mean looking goon being dragged from the direction of the plane. Neal raised his head slightly to look, arching a brow.

"So you tied one up and put him on the plane? Peter... never thought you had that in you." Neal smiled ever so slightly.

"Well was already on the plane when it happened. They were going to..." Peter paused as if unsure what to say. It was still too soon after Kate's death to say what Max/Hartwell had intended. Neal looked at him curiously but luckily Jones popped in to interrupt them.

"Hey boss... Caffrey. Feeling better?" He addressed them both, Neal nodding ever so slightly. Peter grunted, ice pack still against his chin.

"Ah... well, you'll be glad to know they dis..." Jones' words stopped suddenly as Peter poked him. Neal looked between the agents, Jones looking confused as Peter nervously rubbed at the back of his neck with his free hand.

"Sorry, involuntary muscle contraction." He said it towards Jones with a forceful glance. The agent nodded.

"Uhm... they discovered Hartwell was one of the FBI's most wanted through an anonymous tip. He's been implicated and booked on the bank robberies, including last night's." Jones winked at Neal drawing a look from Peter as he whistled and walked away. The agent looked at Neal curiously, the young man blushing slightly.

"Is there something I should know? Wait! Don't tell me..." Peter figured he was holding out with not telling Neal what Hartwell had planned for them. It had been dumb luck he'd escaped and gotten the bomb squad there in time to disarm the jet. He shuddered to think how Neal would react to know what had almost happened.

"Peter, I'm glad you're ok." Neal's voice sounded rather forlorn, his blue eyes still a wee bit glassy. Peter nodded, patting him on the shoulder.

"You too. I heard he double crossed you. I'm glad you're ok." Peter watched Neal nod sleepily at him, suddenly feeling his own exhaustion hit him now that he was free to let it.

"Peter?" Neal's voice sounded far away as he nodded, eyes closed.

"Yes Neal, what is it?" Peter leaned back against the side of the ambulance, head starting to slump to one side.

"I'm sorry." His voice trailed off, the comment odd to Peter but he was too tired to give it much precedence as he felt himself fall asleep.

()()()

Three days passed between the meeting with Hartwell and all that had transpired. El had been absolutely terrified when she found out what had really happened. It took a couple of days for her worry to lessen, El taking some time from work to spend with Peter while he recuperated. He ended up with a nasty bruise on the side of his face but was otherwise ok.

Neal stayed in his room at June's, not having anything wrong beyond getting the drug out of his system. Dr. Monroe visited and kept him in bed until he quit having fainting spells. Neal slept and had odd dreams about walking down the tarmac towards the plane.

"Neal..." He turned from his path and faced the speaker. He blinked seeing Kate standing there.

"Kate?" Neal was confused. Looking at her, his back to the plane.

"I'm glad you're ok, Neal. I was... afraid." Her blue eyes looked watery, her expression sadder than he remembered. He reached to hug her but she stepped back.

"Neal, I can't stay. I just had to be sure you were safe." She sounded far away, her voice fading as he found himself looking at her walking towards the plane. Something made him want to follow but he couldn't move.

"Kate..."

Neal woke up, blinking as he sat up in bed and looked around. He was in his room at June's although he felt like he had been gone a very long time. Maybe the drugs had messed up his sense of time, his mind feeling a bit more rested if not clearer. He stretched and yawned, pulling the duvet aside and sitting with his feet hanging over the edge of the bed. Neal pushed himself to his feet sleepily, yawning as he trudged over to the bathroom and closed the door.

He exited a few minutes later having showered and shaved. Neal looked out on the terrace to see a tray of food and coffee already waiting for him, June apparently had snuck in to check on him. He smiled, pulling on a comfortable pair of jeans and a black tee before sitting down at the wrought iron table and enjoying the small feast before him. It was late morning, the sun sparkling off the nearby buildings. Neal was leaning back, enjoying a cup of June's Italian roast when he heard a cough from across the room.

"Mind if I join you?" Peter's face peered in through the partially open door. Neal nodded, pouring a second cup of coffee and pushing it near the empty chair across from him. Peter smiled, walking across the room, out onto the terrace and sat down in the empty chair. He was wearing a tan polo shirt tucked into brown dockers and looked rather comfortable. His chin was less bruised looking but there was still a bit of swelling visible.

"How's the jaw?" Neal pushed a plate of fruit over, Peter nodding and picking a piece of cantaloupe off.

"Sore. Feels like I had a root canal but the dentist said I didn't get any teeth loosened. Small miracle. You?" Peter took a bite of the melon, sipping at his coffee afterwards.

"Not quite so listless. Head still feels like I'm hung over though. Doctor said that's a common effect but should go away in another day or so." He paused, Neal taking a strawberry and popping it into his mouth. Peter coughed slightly.

"I heard that Hartwell was caught with an original copy of Da Vinci's manuscripts which includes the Vitruvian man illustration." He paused, looking at Neal curiously. The younger man glances back with a slight glittering of his blue eyes as he sipped at his coffee.

"He says he had someone steal it for him but the only fingerprints are from his goon Soren. I guess he picked the wrong man for the job." He sipped at his own coffee a moment, quiet growing between them. Neal shifted in his seat slightly, coughing.

"Perhaps the person he got to steal it did it for a good reason. An unselfish reason." Neal chewed on a piece of honeydew, his blue eyes averted ever so much. Peter glanced over.

"Perhaps." Peter said casually as he grabbed a piece of pineapple. Neal looked at him curiously.

"How's Elizabeth doing? I was out of it when she showed up that first day. I barely remember the past two days but I think I heard her talking to me." He furrowed his brow as he tried to remember, Peter nodding with a grin.

"She's well. Finally let me out of her sight. She was so scared when they told her what happened. They left out a few details since I didn't want her to completely freak out." His face went dark a moment as if he'd said too much, putting another piece of fruit in his mouth and chewing it slowly. Neal looked at his friend curiously, remembering the item he'd left out the other day and how Jones had hesitated on telling him what was going on. Peter was holding back which wasn't like him. Neal was going to have to find out what he was holding out on.

"Oh... I almost forgot. El wanted me to see if you wanted to come to dinner. She wasn't sure how you were feeling so she sent me as an emissary." He blushed slightly, refilling his cup.

"Sure. I'd like that."

()()()

Neal met Mozzie in the park later that day, his friend wanting to see how he was feeling and to get him some info on what had happened.

"It looks like OPR was involved with this, Neal. Did the Suit mention anything to do with the Bureau? They obviously want to close up the loose ends..." Mozzie sounded more paranoid than usual, his voice trailing off. Neal stared at him with a slightly pale glance.

"No he didn't but he did seem tight-lipped about something. I'm still trying to figure out what it is. So, any reason why they wanted this Da Vinci manuscript so badly? Soren nearly killed me stealing it from me." Neal shuddered remembering what happened and how close he'd come to getting shot. Mozzie took his arm and drew his attention back.

"Neal, that's the least of your worries." Mozzie's tone made him blink, narrowing his eyes at his friend.

"Least? I don't under..." Mozzie interrupted him.

"They were going to kill the Suit. When you got on that plane it was going to explode. You were lucky he escaped and got the bomb squad out there so quickly." Mozzie looked absolutely terrified now at the thought, Neal picking up on the paranoia. They wanted Peter and him... dead? He stood, looking a little more tense than he did. Neal also felt a bit of anger. That's what Jones had been about to say: disarmed the plane not discovered Hartwell's secret. Peter was protecting him again, the fact he wasn't told bothering him. They didn't think he could handle the truth?

"He didn't tell you? Neal... I'm sor..." Mozzie stopped when he saw the look on Neal's face. It made him gulp a bit.

"It's ok. I know I've been a bit... off. Why would he tell me about that when I just lost..." Neal trembled slightly, turning around and walking away. He didn't even say good-bye to Mozzie, his mind replaying what his friend had said.

They were going to kill the Suit. When you got on that plane it was going to explode.

He shivered, walking without looking till he realized he had walked back to June's. He paused outside, unsure what he wanted to do until he heard a honk and turned to see Peter pulling up in the Taurus. Neal stared at the vehicle, his mind awash in thoughts. The passenger side window lowered as the car pulled aside and parked, Peter peeking over.

"Hey, I was just coming to pick you up. Are you ready?" Peter sounded casual but blinked a bit as he noticed Neal's expression. Neal nodded vaguely as he held up a hand. He walked into June's and quickly made his way across the large foyer and up the stairs to his room, closing the door and locking it behind him as he leaned against it.

Neal felt his nerves jangled as he slid down to the floor and sat there, back to the door. He was thinking about what Mozzie had said and remembering Kate's death. It had almost happened again only he would have lost Peter and his own life if things had progressed. He sat there shaking, the thought of what had almost happened affecting him till he couldn't cope.

He must have sat there longer than he figured because he felt more than heard the knock as someone rapped on the door.

"Neal? It's June. Peter was wondering if you were coming downstairs." He started at the sound of her voice, embarrassed as he wiped at his eyes and started to stand. He unlocked the door and opened it slowly, June's face peering at his with motherly concern. He could just see the figure of Peter downstairs looking upwards.

"June... Sorry. I was freshening up. I didn't mean to take so long." He sniffled a bit, wiping at his eyes, her expression blank but he could tell she knew better.

"It's ok, dear. Should I send him up?" Her voice had that extra tone of concern in it but he just nodded.

"Sure. Thanks." He watched her smiled softly, as she turned and started down the stairs, Peter coming up soon after, his footsteps obvious on the wooden stairs. Neal was standing over by the French doors which were closed and curtained. He heard the door close, someone walk across the room and then a hand on his shoulder. He started ever so slightly before he turned.

"Neal... are you ok? You look like you've seen a ghost. If dinner's a bad idea, I'm sure El wouldn't mind a rain check." He looked a bit disappointed but more worried. Neal shook his head.

"I think we need to talk... about what happened." Neal motioned for Peter to follow as he moved to the sofa. Peter blinked but followed, sitting down across from him.

"You hesitated that day I went to find you. Something you weren't telling me but I was so out of it I didn't really think about it till today." Neal spoke firmly, looking at his friend.

"We already solved the case, Neal. I don't need to hear..." He stopped as Neal held up his hand.

"I stole the manuscript because Max said I had to or... I just couldn't see myself telling Elizabeth what happened. I didn't think she could forgive me or I forgive myself." Neal wrung his hands in his lap nervously, looking up after a moment to see Peter smiling if only in a big brotherly sort of way.

"I knew that. Jones told me. We left that detail out when Hughes asked because there were no fingerprints to implicate you at the scene. Apparently you did good for once and Hartwell didn't expect that when he tried to put blame on you. He has a longer record than you do so that helped as well." He winked at the con, patting him on the shoulder. Neal just blinked at him, his face a bit less pale.

"Were you worried about this that whole time? I'm sorry. I should have said something sooner but I didn't think it was necessary. I knew you didn't run. Derek admitted he screwed with your anklet. He was the inside man now that Fowler is gone." Peter frowned slightly at the thought, rubbing at his chin and sighing. He heard a cough from Neal and looked up.

"I got the impression Jones was going to say something before you nudged him in the ambulance. I was too far gone to ask what but I was curious what he would have said." Neal's voice was pointed and a little tense. Peter looked at him with a narrow glance as if trying to figure out what was going on.

"What do you mean? Jones said he discovered Hartwell's past..." Peter looked at Neal without blinking. When he didn't say anything else, Neal stood and paced a bit then turned back.

"Mozzie told me about the plane, Peter. Hartwell knew." Neal's voice was firm now, angry. Peter looked up at him with a wide eyed glance before he finally shrugged and stood beside him.

"Mozz knows everything... I should have guessed." Peter looked a bit unhappy if not guilty.

"I didn't mean to withhold anything from you, Neal. I just thought... after the other day when you reacted to the plane... I didn't want to see you like that again so I didn't mention it and I made sure Jones didn't. I'm sorry I didn't trust you more." Peter held out his hand, Neal looking at him with a relieved look before taking it.

They were quiet a moment before there was a knock on the door and June poked her head in.

"Oh... I'm sorry did I interrupt something?"

Both men shook their heads, June moving aside and opening the door as Mozzie came in. He saw the look on Peter and Neal's faces and knew what had happened.

"Maybe I should come back..." Mozzie looked about to run when Peter waved a hand for him to come in. June and he exchanged a glance before Mozz walked back reluctantly inside. June smiled slightly before closing the door again.

"Mozz..." Peter started but stopped, a grin on his face despite everything. The little guy smiled back nervously, shaking his head.

"Whatever it is, I didn't do it and you can't prove it!"

Neal and Peter both blinked, suddenly breaking into a tension easing laugh. Mozz looked at them as if they were crazy. Neal shook his head as he stopped laughing and sighed.

"It's ok Mozz. We... we've unburdened ourselves. Isn't that right, Peter?"

Peter nodded, his brown eyes glittering as he pushed his hands into his jacket pockets.

"Yup... sounds about right. So... who's up for dinner. I'm sure El wouldn't mind setting another seat." Peter was looking at Mozz who was blinking back at Neal as if he was in the midst of the greatest enigma.

"Was I just invited to dinner by the Suit? I'm dreaming... right? This is another of my weird lucid dreams."

Neal shook his head.

"No, he really DID invite you Mozz. In fact... he's on the phone right now calling El." Neal grinned as he glanced over, Peter having shuffled off to the corner to call El and make arrangements.

"I invited Mozz; is that ok? Oh... Sounds good. Love you, honey." He hung up his cell, realizing he was being watched.

"El said we're having rotisserie chicken from a new place she's thinking about using for some of her events. You like that, Mozz?"

Mozz nodded vaguely, still looking as if he were dreaming. Peter looked between the both of them, walking to the door.

"Shall we?" Peter opened up the door, stepping through, Neal following with Mozzie behind them, muttering softly.

"Why would the Suit invite ME to dinner? Feels like a set up..." His voice was a low mutter and just audible, Neal turning to glance back at his friend as they walked down the stairs. He felt a hand on his shoulder, turning his attention to Peter.

"Is he going to be ok? Should I worry about having invited him?" Peter actually sounded a bit concerned, Neal shaking his head and smiling.

"No, he's good. He doesn't get invited out that much. I think he was just uhm... what's the word... touched?" Neal shrugged as they reached the bottom and started towards the door. Peter nodded, a slight grin on his face.

"Touched is definitely accurate at the moment."

(The End)

Author note:

Not sure why, but I couldn't figure out how to end this so that's why this chapter is the longest. It just kept going and going and finally I got it to resolve itself. Sorry for the delay!