Adler watched as the young man he had hoped to manipulate threw his life away for nothing. He could have used such a resource as Neal Caffrey but it was obvious the young man didn't want to be his pawn. Caffrey was smarter than he had counted on.
"Come along, Jackson. We have a treasure to move."
Neal felt himself hit the water like a brick wall. He was stunned for a moment, floating limply there beneath the water before slowly dragging himself with some effort to the surface to take a breath. The water roiled dangerously around him as he saw only a hint of the black FBI cruiser below the surface. It was a good four feet below him as he took in a long deep breath and dove back under. It was hard to see anything with the water buffeting around him but he finally made it down with a struggle to the vehicle submerged below him. He tried to pull on the door but it was locked from the inside, the windows open a crack as he forced his fingers inside one and pushed it downwards. It took all his efforts but he managed to break the panel off, pulling himself inside the already water filled car. A figure slumped in the back, body floating slightly in the water as Neal moved to grab them.
Peter... Peter wake up!
He was thinking the thought when he saw a hint of brown eyes moving to look up at him. Bubbles escaped the agent's lips as he moved down to push his mouth to his friend's. He breathed a bit of his precious air into Peter's mouth, the agent rousing sluggishly as he quickly released him from the cuffs and motioned towards the broken window. Neal helped the agent out of the car and they fought for the surface against the turbulent waters that tried to yank them back underneath. It seemed like a lifetime before they reached the surface and tiredly swam towards a ladder and small metal walkway with stairs.
The agent nodded tiredly up at him, coughing up water and gasping for air as they lay on the small metal walkway catching their breath. They were alive but the water was still rising up as he stood up and helped the agent to his feet. They started up the stairs when a bullet narrowly missed them. It was Agent Dobson. Neal didn't understand why the man was shooting at them. Didn't he see it was them?
"Don't shoot! It's us!"
Neal cried out but another few shots just missed them and he heard footsteps nearing. He tried to look over again but Peter pulled him back, voice hoarse as he pushed his lips towards Neal's ear to speak.
"Dob... ssson... sss... with... with Ad... ler."
Neal understood, ducking down as the footsteps drew closer and he dreaded the inevitable. They were sitting ducks here on the platform, roiling water rising below and a rogue agent with a gun above. Neither had a way to defend themselves.
"FBI! THROW DOWN YOUR WEAPON!"
The voices of Diana and Jones were nothing less than music to both men's ears as the footsteps paused and they heard the sound of a weapon being tossed to the ground. Not long after, someone peeked over. It was Jones as he moved down to help the two men up. Dobson was being cuffed and pushed into the back of an FBI cruiser when they came over the top of the dry dock lip and saw the other agents there.
"Caffrey... Peter... what happened?"
The two men looked at each other then Neal spoke.
"Adler. Dobson left Peter in one of the cruisers down there and I jumped in after him."
He hadn't told Peter about Vincent's offer but it would wait. The treasure was close by and he could lead them to it if he could get away and make sure of its location. Jones nodded, taking Peter over to the car and sitting him down soaking wet inside. Neal shivered slightly from the water as he tried to think how he could find the treasure again and get Vincent caught. They couldn't have moved it all yet. Peter had leaned back with his eyes shut, brown hair plastered to his face and head. Neal feigned illness, rushing around the corner of a nearby building to supposedly throw up. Once he was out of sight he moved back the way he remembered Vincent walking him and found the door again. It was locked but he could probably pick it.
"Hard to stay away, isn't it? The siren's call of fortune and long lost treasures is hard to ignore. Have you reconsidered my offer, Neal?"
He turned at the man's voice wanting nothing more than to kill Adler but Peter was safe this time so he didn't care what happened to himself. Two men with guns stood off behind the millionaire as he smirked back.
"Your days are numbered, Vincent. All I have to do is yell and a hundred FBI agents will be here. They've already made the call for backup."
He saw the sweat forming on the man's forehead and wanted to laugh but kept his cool. Finally Adler shrugged.
"No matter. It's already on the truck and ready to move. Your dogs may come but they will find a dead master."
Adler made a motion, the men with guns cocking their pistols to shoot Neal when suddenly there was a terrifying explosion and the warehouse trembled as did the earth. Debris and flames shot out above them as Neal ran for the door and turned to Adler. His two goons looked confused if not afraid.
"Keys... we have to get it out!"
The man nodded at him, fumbling for the keys when suddenly there was one more trembling of the ground and they all ran for it, the explosion tossing them to the ground as the door flew over their head and more flames and smoke erupted from the building.
Peter opened his eyes and looked around realizing something was off. He saw all the agents and then more coming in. Someone was missing but he couldn't think who until he heard Jones talking over his cell.
"Yes sir... we found Burke and Caffrey alive. Yes. They're both fine."
That's who was missing. Neal!
The agent finished up his call and moved closer to his boss, leaning over to see what he wanted.
"Feeling better, Peter?"
Peter nodded then shook his head.
"Neal... where is he?"
Jones blinked as if he hadn't thought about the con, his eyes sweeping around at the agents moving around the area and then back to where he remembered the young man disappearing to throw up. Peter saw where his eyes went as he rose and stood, squinting against the late day sun.
"He was feeling sick so he went off that way to throw up. I got a call and was coordinating things. I guess I lost track of him."
He looked very apologetic but Peter didn't blame him. Adler might have taken him or...
There was a loud explosion, the ground trembling and a huge black cloud rose over a nearby building. Peter's eyes lit up as he started towards it, Jones in tow and motioning other agents to follow.
"Give me a piece..."
Jones handed Peter his extra glock as the agent moved out and they separated to find Caffrey and figure out what just happened.
Neal felt like he'd been rolled over by an invisible bowling ball, painfully pushing himself to a sitting position. He looked up to find a gun pointed at his face.
Adler stood there motioning with a trembling hand and gun, the expression on his face far from charming. He was no longer playing games. The man was going to kill him. The goons were gone and it was just the two of them now.
"I said... GET UP!"
The man grabbed his arm and pulled him painfully up to his feet as Neal moved backwards and tried not to look too closely at the gun pointed straight at his heart.
"Vincent... the game is over. It's gone. Give it up."
He hoped to convince his former mentor to give himself up. He was tired and despite his need for revenge he just wanted to lay down. It was hard to believe all that treasure was really gone but it had to be. Nothing could have survived that explosion. Vincent cocked the pistol and looked between him and the now burning shell of a building.
"Somehow you did this! It's all your fault this happened, Neal! I thought of you as a son and you betrayed me!"
Neal felt his anger rise enough to growl back.
"You killed Kate! Whoever did this, you deserved it!"
He was playing with fire now, the man's finger pulling back on the trigger.
"You won't get away with this, Neal... I won't let you."
A cold feeling washed over him as he realized Vincent was going to actually shoot. He felt himself take a step backwards, hands up as if that would help...
Neal heard the report, his body stiffening in expectation but he felt nothing, his vision focused firstly on Adler. The man was looking at him with a white hot anger before Vincent's face went slack and he collapsed to the ground. Neal's heart was beating faster than he thought possible as he looked down and realized he wasn't just still alive but unhurt.
He looked up to see another figure he hadn't seen there, standing a few yards behind where Adler had been. A smoking gun was wrapped in their fingers but the man was trembling, a look of relief and horror there.
Neal didn't know how to react. This man who had spent three years chasing him had just saved his life from a man he had cheated and stolen from. His legs felt weak but he couldn't faint now.
"Burke... Caffrey... Everyone ok?"
Jones came around the corner with three other agents. Peter turned with what Neal sensed as uncertainty before he nodded.
"Yes... Make sure... here..."
Peter handed the gun and his badge to the agent, Jones looking at him curiously then back at Neal and the still form of Vincent Adler on the ground.
Peter was already walking away, Neal coming out of his own shock as he passed the body of his former mentor and quickly moved past to see how his new one was.
He found the agent leaning against the side of the building, his color didn't look good.
"Peter... come on."
The agent looked up at him then nodded as they walked in silence back towards the cars and other agents. Diana helped them to a car and Neal slipped in next to Peter who looked like he had just done the worse thing ever. He could understand completely and knew he was the reason why this had happened. Adler had deserved what he had gotten but to have put Peter through that experience caused the con to think his options over.
"I'm giving myself up, Peter. I can't do this. I've caused you too many problems..."
He felt a hand squeeze his arm and saw the agent glaring at him.
"No... you saved me, I saved you. I would have died in that car if not for you Neal. You did nothing wrong. I'll be ok."
The glare softened and he saw a soft smile appear in its place. It didn't make the con feel any better but he knew the agent was right. They had each other's backs. That's all that counted. Hopefully this was the end but his mind went back to that view of the room full of treasure. It was gone now for good but he didn't care. He felt someone muss his hair and frowned slightly.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Peter was smiling at him and he felt one form on his own lips despite the frown.
"The treasure was in there, Peter. I saw it! Adler offered me half..."
His voice trailed off at the thought of all of those pieces disappearing into the ether. So much history but maybe it was for the best.
"It was blood money, Neal. You know that. The Nazi's murdered people for that plunder and..."
The agent hesitated but Neal already knew what he was going to say.
"Kate... I know. I told Vincent as much but he wanted me to succumb to the fever and I admit... I was tempted. Does that make me evil?"
The agent shook his head.
"I saw it in the sub and it was beautiful but I knew it wasn't something we could keep. It's pretty but it's just stuff. Remember that next time you get some hair-brained idea, ok?"
Neal nodded, the two men shaking hands before Jones came back to tell them he would take them home. Hughes wanted to talk to them.
A month passed since the explosion on the dock. Peter had gotten his badge back two days after the incident, Hughes asking why he had turned it in if the agent had shot for a good reason. El had been worried sick when Peter hadn't come home but glad to find him safe and sound. Dobson was put in prison along with Blackston and two of his agents who had been associated with Adler's backdoor into the FBI. There was a long interrogation of everyone involved and unfortunately, Neal had been sent back to prison temporarily while the case was figured out.
It was a depressing time for the con, Mozzie visiting him under the guise of his lawyer. The little guy had healed up just fine and seemed rather chipper he thought. There had been a change in his friend, Mozzie helping to keep his spirits up as did Elizabeth and Peter. It was another month before they renewed the contract with the anklet. Neal took it immediately although Mozzie seemed to be somewhat unhappy with the deal. He liked that Neal was out but not why or how. It was nice when he arrived back at June's, his benefactress leading him upstairs happily.
"I left it just the way you had it. Nothing's moved. Welcome back, Neal."
He was in shock to be back but it was nice to know he had come home in a sense. He was unpacking when someone knocked on the door. It was probably Mozzie so he yelled "come in!" as he finished his task. It was surprisingly quiet as he heard the door open and none of the usual quotes. Neal turned to find another familiar face there.
Peter's voice was quiet but comforting in it's own way. They didn't have to say much to get their point across to the other.
"Peter... Agent Kim brought me home. Guess you were busy at the office?"
He spoke as generally as he could, trying to hide his disappointment as he continued to unpack his bag. Neal kept his back to the agent till he felt a hand on his arm and turned. Peter stood there looking at him curiously.
The agent rubbed the back of his neck as a nervous gesture that got the con curious.
"I had to go help El with something at one of her events and lost track of time. She invited you for dinner if you're up to it. Thought you might want a home cooked meal."
Neal nodded, feeling a smile form on his face. It must have been obvious since Peter smiled a bit more securely back.
"Sure. Let me finish getting unpacked. We could get a... a drink."
The agent nodded back, walking around the familiar space and out onto the terrace. When Neal had finished putting his things away he moved to the French doors to look out at his friend. It was hard to believe they had gone from cat and mouse to friends but that's what had happened. Neal felt like maybe he had come home or at least the closest to it he had known in a long time. He moved closer to the agent, standing beside him as they stared out across the city. They were silent for some time before he felt a hand on his shoulder and a light squeeze.
"It's good to have you back, Neal."
Neal turned and saw the agent was sincere, honest brown eyes staring back at him for something. He had been placed in prison for a month not due to anything Peter had said or done but for the higher ups. Hughes had even stood up for him to his surprise as had Diana and Jones but until the investigation had been finished by OPR and the DoJ, Peter had been on leave and Neal placed in prison until they were certain of their decision. His only visitor the whole time had been Mozzie, a kind of resentment forming towards the agent until Kim had picked him up. He remembered the conversation now...
Earlier that same day:
He walked out of the maximum security prison into the sunlight, shading his eyes with one hand as he walked out with he few possessions. Neal had spent a month in a detention center until he'd heard he was finally free to go. He was still on work release, but he would be back in his old position. Neal saw a black Taurus drive up but was disappointed when Agent Kim stepped out instead of Peter Burke.
"Did you need any help with your bag?"
Neal shook his head, walking slowly to the vehicle and getting inside. He dropped the bag in the back seat and glanced down sullenly at his ankle. The light glow of green from underneath his pant leg made him want to cut the device off but it was more anger towards his so-called friend that made him feel this way. He must have expressed a bit of that sullenness as Kim started up the car and turned to him.
"Peter wanted to be here but they told him to stay away while they did their investigation. It wasn't his choice."
The agent gazed at him with what seemed to be honest concern, Neal nodding as he started to relax some. That was the news he wanted to hear. It had been hard enough knowing he was being sent back and might be moved to the super-max again but without Peter and El's support he felt he was being ignored and forgotten. Just another criminal that passed by and would be replaced.
He returned to the present when he heard the agent cough. Peter was staring at him worriedly.
"Sorry, just thinking about stuff. Let's go get that drink."
Peter nodded as he slapped him on the back and they started out of the apartment. Neal paused to grab up his jacket looking around and thinking he could plant roots here.
Peter was upset when they sent his consultant and friend to prison. They hadn't worked together very long but they had built up a kind of trust between them. The con he had fought so hard to capture had shown himself to be a remarkably clever foil in solving cases and brave. Neal had put his life on the line for himself, El and the people they worked with. Peter knew he couldn't let the young man rot in jail. Neal didn't deserve that. He worked with Hughes and his own connections to do what he could to get the paperwork back up and running for their deal. The higher ups had insisted he have little contact with the con since the agent had been too close to the case. Mozzie had brought them news as had other agents who had contact of how the young man was doing. Peter hoped that Neal would understand why he hadn't visited and now that they were face to face again he sensed that he did.
After dinner at his home, they sat around and talked, El excited to visit with Neal and ask him about some foods and art she had planned for an upcoming event. They talked shop while Peter listened and threw in his own two cents when it was relevant. Soon it was late enough the agent needed to drive Neal back to June's. The ride back was quiet but they chatted off and on about this and that.
"Hughes said you can start work again on Monday. I'll pick you up at 8 am sharp."
Neal nodded with a smile as he moved away from the car and Peter drove off. He looked in the mirror to see his consultant watching him leave before going inside June's.
It was only the first day but he was already feeling like everything was falling back into place. June was absent as he let himself into her home with his passkey and made his way across the large, dimly lit foyer and up the stairs to his apartment above. He opened up the door to his room, closing it behind him when he noticed the light over the dining table reflecting off a small white envelope sitting on the ebony surface.
Neal walked over, jacket in hand and picked up the envelope, opening it to find a note about the size of a business card, bright white, linen blend with a very distinct typewritten message.
You'll thank me.
He blinked at the message uncertain who could have sent it when he turned it over to find a key taped to it and a web address. Neal hung up his jacket, moving over to his laptop with the card in hand. He typed in the address not certain what to expect when he got a loading icon. Neal waited, the little blur of a circle spinning till finally an image faded into view and his eyes nearly popped out of his head.
On the screen was a distinct view of the treasure he had seen in Adler's warehouse. Everything appeared to be there and confirmed as the camera automatically panned around. He didn't understand how or why till he heard a cough and turned to find Mozzie peeking in from the terrace.
The little guy seemed different but he wasn't sure how. There was a bit more strength in him he hadn't seen before. A hidden confidence.
Neal looked back at the monitor and nodded but a certain sense of insecurity fell over him. Everyone had been certain the treasure had been blown up but now... Mozzie had somehow saved it and he could see it on the screen. He glanced down at the key in his hand.
"Next time you're off your leash, go check it out. It's much better in person."
Mozzie was smiling broadly obviously happy they had managed to finish the con on Adler and win even more than the original stash but Neal's conscience was kicking in. Peter trusted him and now he had this secret. They were supposed to be partners but he couldn't rat out Mozz. He felt conflicted as he moved away from the screen, flipping the key between his hands nervously.
"Say something Neal. You're making me nervous!"
He couldn't speak but he knew he had to express his feelings.
"How? I thought they took you back to the Bureau."
Mozzie blinked up at him then shrugged.
"The agent was a rookie. He didn't know how persuasive and evasive I could be. I asked to stop and use a bathroom and called a few friends. They have their share but now we have ours. We can leave like we wanted to, Neal. No more anklets or Federal handlers. Freedom is ours!"
The little guy sounded so different than the Mozzie he knew but it had been his idea for the con all along. Neal had just been the right person at the right time. He liked the idea of going but he also like the idea of staying. He sat down and sighed.
"This complicates things. Peter trusts me. I'm working as his consultant. You should have warned me, Mozz."
He wiped a hand over his face as he turned back to look at the camera panning over the collection only a few knew about. Technically Peter and the Feds thought everything had exploded. There was nothing to the contrary to say otherwise. He could sell it off with Mozzie and no one would be the wiser. Once it was gone, they could leave but did he want to?
(To Be Continued...)
Author's Note: Finally got it to the conclusion I wanted and starting up with the alternative for season 2 finale and the opening to season 3. I will come back to this eventually and add more of Season 1 and 2 cases they worked on but for now it's finished and kind of open-ended. Let me know what you think. :)