(Chapter 5 / Epilogue)

He left Tuesday to run a few errands but now he was back. She had asked him to do this one last thing now that they had found Him. He had been scruffy looking and hungry, thinner than his usual self. She had been happy to find him as had he but their friend was less than well or himself. It had taken a few days but they finally had the whole story of what happened.

He sighed, knowing what he had to do. She had already taken care of one aspect and that had changed things slightly better although once it was changed you just sort of accepted it. You didn't really remember what the other way was like except for feelings and impressions.

A cell phone sat in his hands as he pushed buttons and then sent the text off, sitting down beside an indoor full-sized zen garden. He looked down at his handy work and smiled. There would be little memory of this event if all turned out ok. He shifted the glasses on his nose as he pushed the phone into his pocket and waited. Oysters sounded good about now...

()()()

She had cried the day she heard what happened. Her husband was dead, killed in cold blood. The FBI knew who had done it but one mystery remained. His partner had been a witness but vanished into thin air. Nobody could find him, not even his friend and although she had hoped He would come to her, he didn't and that had worried her more. He was like family and she worried for him like a son or brother but her loss of her husband took relevance first till she was able to concentrate on other things.

It was a rainy day when he showed up again: wet, tired and hungry looking. She was happy to see him, barely recognizing the man he had become. The glow she remembered in his eyes, that glitter was gone as he stared dully up at her. He still reminded her of a child even after all this time. He had leaned against her and cried finally, her own tears mixing with his as she finally had the closure needed. She had not just lost a husband that fateful day but a friend. This had to be fixed and somehow she was the one who knew how even though things had changed at least once before. How it was she had come to this knowledge was unknown even to her and she accepted it. Things had to be made right and their mutual friend agreed once he had become involved.

She had at least some memory of her husband with her now that she'd found him. Hughes was long gone and the other agents were either veterans still working or close to retirement. She'd tried to keep in touch with those that were friends as the years went on but He... she'd always hoped he would return and tell her what had really happened. This time things had to turn out right. It was her last chance to fix the rift before her own time came. The sound of the door opening interrupted her thoughts as she turned to see who was there.

"It's done. Oh and I brought you some Chinese for lunch. Bei's daughter is still running that place. I remember Neal saying the dumplings were the best." He shuffled into the house, the same one they'd had back when Peter was alive. She had never moved despite her family insisting but she always knew somehow He would be back one day and she wanted to be there for him. She looked upstairs a moment and nodded, moving to take the bag from him, but he shook his head, adjusting the glasses on his nose.

"How is he? Neal..." Mozzie was walking over to the dining table and placing the bag of food there as Elizabeth Burke followed him. She looked tired but happy.

"Sleeping. He still holds so much guilt but there's time still. You did it?" She looked at him expectantly and he nodded with a smile.

"You know it's just going to confuse the Suit... I mean Peter. He was always one to need to know who and why and where. Always the agent." Mozzie looked bittersweet if nothing else. He'd always held a mild annoyance for the agent being a Federal agent but in the end had given in to the fact that he'd cared as much for Neal as he did. That had been their compromise if anything. It had also been part of the reason he stuck with El when she came into the knowledge they were now using. Mozzie was always up for a good conspiracy type theory and this oddness just intrigued him as a great enigma.

"Well this it the last chance and if it works, we won't be talking like this. Well, we should be talking but under better circumstances. It was luck Keller was found by Sergev this time around. Thanks for that file search." She was smiling at him knowingly as he nodded back. He had already started to take the food out of the boxes when there was a slight sound from upstairs. Elizabeth made a motion and started for the stairs.

She paused before the guestroom, quietly opening the door to find him sitting up in bed. His blue eyes moved to look at her but they were still so dull and empty. He had gained some of the weight back, Elizabeth making sure he was eating if not sleeping. Neal gave her a ghost of a smile, reminding her of a much more charming brilliant grin he used to have. She walked towards him and sat on the edge of the bed, grabbing his hand in her own.

"How are you feeling, Neal? Have a good sleep?" She knew it wasn't the best question to ask as she noticed the look on his face and those bags under his eyes. He nodded but she knew he just did it to alleviate her queries. El nodded back, brushing at his hair till he relaxed some and started to close his eyes again.

"Mozzie is downstairs. He brought some Chinese from Bei's place. Do you feel like eating?" She hoped he would go downstairs for once but there was no rush. He'd only been back a couple of weeks and after he'd washed up, Neal had been sleeping almost continually with the occasional conscious moment to eat. He seemed plagued with guilt if anything and she knew that with this last effort, that should soon be a thing of the past. He shrugged at her.

"Bei... they had good dumplings." He didn't say anything else, his eyes seemingly going back to some memory as they stared ahead blankly. She ached at his despondency, gently brushing his hair again and telling him everything would be ok. There was no need to worry anymore. She could feel the changes taking place and soon this would all be gone and another future would take its place. A better one.

oOoOoOo

Author's Note: Hope this explained some of it. I wanted it to remain a bit mystical without too much explanation than it had to be. I went into the alternative future after the original one. This one is less depressing than the one with Nolan Franks. His was just a temporary one anyhow a kind of foreshadowing.